Predators and Despicable Me

Despicable Me movie poster
Despicable Me

Me being me, I like variety. Plus, I must be the only person who can visit Bangkok for a day and spend 4 hours of it in a cinema…

Predators

“It’s a trap”

The original came out in 1987, the sequel with Danny Glover not much later (I saw it again recently – it was pants). Finally, in 2010 we get a proper sequel to Arnie’s alien shooter. It’s been given the Aliens treatment, hence the pluralised title, in that there is more than one predator. In fact, as the movie progresses you’ll find out there are quite a lot of them.

The opening’s pretty swift. No messing about with the fact this is an action film and one where the characters and audience begin without a clue as to what’s happening. Assuming you’ve not seen the trailer anyway. For those who want some background:

Eight people (well, 9 – you’ll see the ninth very early on) are kidnapped from earth and wake up as they drop from a significant height towards a jungle. Each of these people is a member of an elite fighting force or similar. Except one, who seems to have been “lifted” by accident. Work together, or go their own way? And who’s kidnapped them? And why?

Predators doesn’t take long to get going and the large cast get whittled away in no obvious order. The predators themselves are very close to those from the original film, which is welcome. No huge changes as there were with the aliens in the third and fourth films in that franchise.

For those who’ve read the comics and books, there is no great surprise in the way the alien hunters have developed. Some credence is given to the two Aliens v Predators films as well.

The rag-tag bunch aren’t played by any “big-name” actors which makes the order they’ll be plucked off slightly less predictable than usual. Still, just by looking at the bunch from the beginning it’s not difficult to make an educated guess as to who the last handful will be.

While not a classic, this certainly isn’t a bad update on what was – at the time – a classic action/sci-fi film. Building more on the original than any of the sequels was certainly a good decision and I’d certainly be interested in seeing where a sequel could go from here.

Despicable Me

“Curse you, tiny toilet!”

I love my cartoons and this one was great, even though I was forced to watch it in 3D which it really didn’t need, or use very much. Well, except for the end credits which you do need to st through.

Steve Carrell voices Gru, a supervillain. Well, OK. More of a crap villain. Getting on in years and being upstaged by younger villains, Gru sets about the Plan Of The Century – stealing the moon. Trying to stop him is new villain, Vector (Jason Segel), who has stolen the shrink ray that Gru himself pinched.

Thrown into the mix are three little orphan girls who slowly soften Gru down while the stars of the show are without a doubt the “minions”. Countless little yellow guys who are used as experimental objects, punching bags and so forth. They even make the same “waaaaaaaaawww” noise in unison as the little three-eyed aliens from Toy Story. Cute as.

It’s a nice simple plot, the voice acting is superb (with one exception) and the laughs are plenty. Adults will enjoy a few very subtle bits of humour – check the out the former name of the Bank of Evil as Gru enters.

Definitely recommend, but save your money and see it in 2D if you can find anywhere presenting it in that format. I couldn’t.

Oh, and the poor performance? Russell Brand who voices an aging professor. It just doesn’t work. Besides, will people stop hiring this man? He’s a complete funt-wit. Let him vanish into the obscurity he so richly deserves.

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Getting tee’d off with WordPress

WordPress
Love it... but it's annoying me

Just a quick whinge to see if anyone else is having this issue. I’ve trawled the WordPress support groups and posted myself, but had no responses.

Since upgrading to v3.0, my “Add New Post” dashboard won’t remember where all my widgets are placed. I drag and drop them, create a new post… and next time I go back, they’re back in “default” positions again. Yes, I’ve tried disabling plug-ins and I’ve had no joy.

It happens regardless of browser (tried Chrome, Firefox and IE – on multiple machines) and operating system (Windows and Ubuntu). I’m running two blogs on v3.0 and the issue is the same on both.

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Sorcerers and Dreamers

I’m in Pattaya, Thailand‘s sex capital. So obviously I spent the evening at the cinema escaping from the rampant lady boys.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

“This is crazy! But it is fun…”

First film up was the new Nicolas Cage vehicle which I missed the first minute or so of, as I was flipping hungry and ran to A&W before it started. I didn’t miss much, just the “story so far” synopsis which was easy enough to catch up on. It goes something like this:

Back in the day, Merlin (James A. Stephens) was pretty much king of all that is wizardly. However, Morgana (Alice Krige) had plans to defeat him and destroy the world by raising many evil wizards from the dead. Merlin’s understudy Balthazar (Cage) saved the day by trapping Morgana in a Russian doll. Over the years he added “layers” to the doll as he captured other nasty magic-wielders, while searching for the Prime Merlinian – an individual who can cast spells without a magic ring and who is the only person capable of destroying Morgana.

Quick switch to the 21st century and Balthazar finds Dave Stutler (Jake Cherry then Jay Baruchel as the character ages), who turns out to be this Prime Merlinian. A fortuitous find as Dave releases Horvath (Alfred Molina), one of the Morganians who sets out to release and aid Morgana.

OK, plot over. This is an effects-driven movie and said effects are superb. I loved the link between magic and physics – very briefly explained, yet nice and simple. It lends a touch of realism to a fantastical film, and it’s refreshing to hear the things being flung around by magicians being referred to as “plasma”.

I’m gathering that the reviews aren’t that great for this film and that’s a surprise. It’s hugely entertaining. Cage is great in it, obviously having fun, and Baruchel’s not annoying as a young actor can be in films like this. The humour level is spot on, with everything from snappy dialogue to fart gags.

Oh, and not to forget the little film references in there. It’s made by Disney, so there’s a Buzz Lightyear at the start and a very obvious Mickey Mouse-inspired sequence which just had to be included given the film’s name. Even the “hypnosis” moment which instantly made me think of Alec Guinness is name-checked a few seconds later.

This is an ideal popcorn film and something kids and adults alike can enjoy. I just don’t get the poor reviews and attendances. Films are supposed to entertain and this one does the job perfectly.

Inception

“I just want to understand”

A complete counterpoint to the magic of the first offering, Inception is a high-brow sciencey thriller. It’s also a bit of a brainscrambler, often leaving you wondering what the hell’s going on – just like diCaprio’s last outing, Shutter Island.

Leo plays Cobb, a “dream thief”. In this world, people can share dreams and the skilled individual can even create an environment for a third party to explore – so realistic that they don’t know that they’re dreaming. Inside this fake world, others can effectively explore the victim’s psyche and gain information.

The next step is to implant an idea in someone’s head, something regarded as near impossible. This is the “inception” of the title.

Cobb is after one last job to allow him to return to his family in the United States and Saito (Ken Watanabe) offers him this chance. He wants the son of a business magnate to break his father’s companies down into smaller shareholdings to reduce their grasp on the world. To achieve this, the team Cobb forms work out that they will need to “layer” the dreams – one within another within another. This brings about risks – that Cobb is already all to aware of.

As the movie progresses, we not only get a decent twisty plot and some excellent special effects, we also find out a lot more about the history of Cobb.

It’s not that hard to follow once you work out what’s happening and the opening 15 minutes do a good job of explaining it, despite seeming like a short film in their own right. There are plenty of twists and reveals as the two hours plus roll on and it does feel a little long, but that’s a minor complaint.

Told in a good way with extra layers being added as the film progresses, this is definitely a good science fiction film. It also has the best environmental effects since Dark City. Which, if you’ve not seen, you should.

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Reasons to be cheerful

This may seem like a bit of an egotistical post, but it’s not meant to be. More a list of positive things about myself I can always rely on to make me realise I’m not a complete failure. Feel free to rip the idea for yourself.

1) I have an awesome immune system

2) I can manage on 2-4 hours’ sleep a night

3) I never get a hangover

4) I know what it is like to be completely, deeply and amazingly in love with someone. OK, it didn’t work out but I know what it felt like – so I know what I need to find again.

5) I have no problem coping with extremes of temperature and humidity

6) I very, very rarely get stressed about anything

7) I’m really good with kids of all ages

8) I’ve done so many things I never thought I would, so I have some excellent memories and stories

9) I have a very analytical/logical mind which goes well with most of the jobs I’ve ever had

10) My weight seems to be fairly stable so I can get away with eating loads of crap

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The Last Airbender

The Last Airbender
The Last Airbender

With a day off courtesy of the typhoon currently dissipating on the east coast of Vietnam, I used the time to check out M. Night Shyamalan‘s latest work.

The Last Airbender (3D)

I gather the reviews of this film haven’t been overly favourable and it definitely has its faults. The plot and storylines aren’t amongst them, though. Based on the TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender, I gather it’s close to the original.

Taking place in a world where people are divided into four “Nations” of Earth, Air, Fire and Water the story follows the reappearance of an Avatar – a spiritual leader who vanished over 100 years ago. This one person was the only one capable of keeping the world in balance. During his absence, the Fire Nation have taken control of the world by force.

Discovered by two members of the South Water Tribe – Katara (Nicola Peltz) and Sooka (Jackson Rathbone) – Aang (Noah Ringer) rapidly becomes the subject of a manhunt by the Fire Nation. They can’t kill him otherwise he’ll be reborn and their search will start all over again, so capturing him is the only option.

There are a couple of good sub-plots, in particular one involving the cast-out Prince Zuko (Dev Patel) and the film looks very impressive. I particularly liked the North Water Tribe’s city and the warships of the Fire Nation.

The biggest let-downs are the acting and the dialogue, which is more stilted than that in a Dan Brown novel. Characters say things that just sound silly at times. Cheese? Gorgonzola. With a sprinkling of mature cheddar.

Did I enjoy it? Yes. The story was pretty good once it got going and I definitely want to see the next part of the story. I only hope that the actors improve by then. I had similar feelings towards the Harry Potter films – the first one was dreadful with amateurish performances from the young cast, but as they’ve progressed there is no denying they’ve improved.

3D is well used. It doesn’t seem to have been added as an afterthought, rather the special effects have been designed with the added dimension in mind.

It’s certainly not a classic in any way, shape or form. But it’s not as awful as some reviews have made out.

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