Thursday, June 09, 2005

The Movie - [Fargo]

Personally I like this movie. The story goes like this: a timid and apparently over-stressed middle-class husband desperately needs a large sum of money to finance his brilliant investment project. He decides to get the funding in a most absurd way: hire someone to kidnap his homely wife and get the money when his rich father-in-law pays the "ransom". Just like in a real life, things don't go exactly the way you want, and an avalanche of disasters are bound to happen.

The movie is modest paced, not too fast, not too slow, just the way it should be. It is also wonderfully directed with certain black humor elements here and there. The overall character acting is amazing. Everything just feels right. William H. Macy (Main Character) and Frances McDormand's (the pregnant sheriff) performances are especially worthnoting. (Frances McDormand laterly on won the Oscar that year.) The movie honestly shows you how things get out of hand fast whenever you cross the line.

I have to warn you though; Fargo may not be the movie for everyone. It has certain graphically disturbing scenes that some may not appreciate. These scenes are not at the level of Reservoir Dogs yet, but it's getting close. Well, you get the idea.

What I like the most about this movie is its punch line: "There is more to life than just a little bit of money." This is so true. This movie did a superb job to get this message across. Definitely there are times during the movie I sighed "come on, you don't have to do that for just $80,000." It is sad that sometimes people are overly preoccupied with the idea of wealth creation that they end up sacrificing too much for too little.

Fargo is an entertaining thriller that will definitely keep you interested for the duration of the movie. I highely recommened it, especially if you are a fan of Quentin Tarantino. BTW, regardless what it says in the beginning of the movie, Fargo is, in fact, not based on a true story.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Book - [Dune]

Finally I finished this legendary book after hours of reading on the subway. (FYI, I only read book when I am riding subways. For some unknown reason, subway and book really have some kind of magic on me.) Dune, a Hugo and Nebula Award winner, is considered by many as one of the most famous and successful science fiction novels ever written. I simply can’t agree more. Dune is a masterpiece that is hard to top.

Dune tells us the story about House Atreides’ fate on the newly acquired Arrakis (appointed by the Emperor), a deserted planet that has nothing but the ferocious sand storm and precious spice. In order to control the spice, a vital material that is not only essential for interstellar travel but also addictive for personal pleasure, the rival House of Harkonnen (also the previous governor of Arrakis) ambushed the House Atreides, killed the old Duke, and left young Paul Atreides and his mother Jessica in the deep desert to be devoured by the mystic giant sand worms. Will Paul and Jessica survive? Will they be able to revenge the pain that Harkonnen has inflicted on them? Read Dune and find out the answers yourself.

Dune is full of suspense. The plot involves almost all aspects of human societies, including politics, military, economics, culture, religion, family, and romance. The storyline is intriguing and contains tweaks within tweaks. The universe that it creates is unique, consistent, and believable. The characters are sophisticated, real, and full-fledged. Some of the concepts that Dune introduces are simply fascinating, such as the gigantic sand worms, water preserving stillsuits, the addictive spice that tastes different every time you try it, the Bene Gesserit "witches" who are expert with voice and sound, the Mantat who can see the future, the Reverend Mother who has the wisdom of two minds, and etc,.

Final words: Dune Series is simply too good to pass by and I highly recommend it to any sci-fi fans. Read it at all costs!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Movie - [Madagascar]

To be honest, I am utterly disappointed at this movie. I had high expectation going to the theater but felt empty in my stomach afterwards. This movie doesn't even stand a chance against other Hollywood animations that I've seen in recent years, including Finding Nemo, The Incredible, and Shrek.

Don't get me wrong though, I am not saying this is not an entertaining movie, it really is. It has eough stuff to make you laugh from the beginning to the end. It has some interesting characters (or animals), such as the Pengiums and Raccoons. However, this movie has its deadly shortcomings. Here are its seven sins:

1. The underwhelming grahpics
Madagascar's graphics are arguebly even worse than Toy Story 2, which was made 6 years ago. Go figure.

2. Ben Stiller's uninspiring voice
Ben Stiller is never famous for his voice. In fact, his voice is barely reconizable. His vocal lacks command and depth for a powerful lion.

3. The Hippo that doesn't belong
Well, except for the purpose of having a female character in the movie the Hippo has virtuely no active parts in the movie. Her character is ill-defined and does not serve for a purpose. She is not even as funny as Giraffe, another character that's in the movie for the sake of being in the movie.

4. The story.. or the lack of
For more or less, a movie is about story telling (unless you are talking about porno here). The story that Madagascar is trying to tell is extremely simple: it's about how a lion becomes a sushi-lover. Oh, boy.. I am not kidding.

5. The substanceless laughs
I actually laughed quite a bit during the movie. However, most of the laughs does not involve your brain. Witty jokes are far and few. Somehow I felt like I was watching "Friends". People laugh only because Ross or Joey act silly. That's why I always think "Friends" is more like a circuit than a comedy.

6. The ending that really sucks
I will not discuss any detail for now, just in case you still plan to watch the movie.

7. The absence of a true spirit
This is actually my biggest complain. Any good animation has some sort of spirit, or essence. The original Gundam is an anti-war masterpiece. Shrek tells us how to judge a person, not by outside but rather by inside. Finding Nemo shows how family love gives us strengh and courage. Spirited Away demonstrates how greed consumes people. What about Madagascar? en.... It's not really about friendship... it's not really about pursuing your dreams.. it's not really about challenging yourself to the extreme... it's really about how a lion becomes a sushi-lover... great... how inspiring!!!

Final words: Madagascar does not warrant your hard-earned $10. You may rent it after it's on DVD.