Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Ant-Man (Movie Review)

Marvel has done it again. They've taken another one of their lesser-known comic-book heroes and brought it to wondrous life on the big screen. Last year it was the Guardians of the Galaxy, this time around it is Ant-Man, a hero whose powers come from a suit that enables him to shrink down to the size of an ant (as well as communicate with/control the ever-present ants), all the while retaining his full, human strength.

The movie opens in 1989, where we see a scientist known as Hank Pym (the original Ant-Man and creator of the Pym Particle) refusing to let his shrinking technology get militarized. This results in a rift between him and his protégé, Darren Cross, the movie's villain, who in the present day is in charge of Pym Technologies and has managed to replicate the technology in a shrinking suit of his own, the Yellowjacket.

This prompts the present-day Hank to recruit a new Ant-Man, the much younger Scott Lang, a skilled burglar who is fresh out of prison and determined to turn a clean slate for the sake of his young daughter. His plan is for them to steal the Yellowjacket suit from a heavily-protected vault deep inside the Pym Technologies building. They are aided by Hope van Dyne, Hank's estranged daughter, who is working with her father to foil Darren Cross, despite seeming loyal to him on the surface.

And that right there is the basic premise of the movie. So in other words, you can think of it as a heist movie with a superhero twist, one that works as both a standalone movie and a bonafide addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It also works as a family comedy of sorts, and as such, is one of the funnier entries in the MCU, even though it is nowhere near as quirky (read: brilliant) as Guardians of the Galaxy.

Paul Rudd does a more than decent job as the titular character, bringing to the table his distinct flavor of comedy gold. But I think it is ultimately Michael Peña, who plays Luis, the talkative former cellmate and friend of Lang's, that garnered the most laughs in the cinema where I watched the film. The biggest highlight of the movie though was the shifting perspectives, and I think this is where the movie truly shines.

Whenever Ant-Man shrinks, we are treated to a view of the world that makes the typically mundane seem grand or epic. So while the action (and the movie as a whole) might be taking place on a way smaller scale than other movies in the MCU, it is nonetheless visually-stunning and breathtaking, in a refreshing sort of way.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

IWSG: Getting Social, the Professional Way

It's the first Wednesday of the month, and time for members of the Insecure Writer's Support Group to share their writerly insecurities. The group was started by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and those interested in joining in can visit for more information.

Recently, I've found myself spending a lot of time on LinkedIn. And for the two or three people out there who don't know what that is, it is yet another social network where writers tend to hang out; just think Facebook, but instead of friends, you've got connections, the professional kind. I opened an account years ago, but I'd never really been active on the platform, until now.

What was it that rekindled my interest you ask? Well, the answer to that question has more to do with advancing my career prospects than with writing, not that I don't consider writing a full-time professional endeavor in it's own right. I've heard stories of people being poached by giant tech companies based solely on the strength of their LinkedIn profiles. And between you and me, I feel like I could really use some giant-tech-company love right about now, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, so I've been on LinkedIn these past few weeks, trying to grow my professional network, all in a bid to hit that 500+ connections that is supposedly meant to signify how well-connected you are. And since most of my early connections were writers themselves, basically 95 percent of the requests and suggestions I've been receiving are writers as well. I presently have over 800 connections, but you are more than welcome to add to that number by sending me a request:

Contrary to how it might look, I am not just trying to gather as many connections as I can. I genuinely feel that I've learnt a lot from the writers in my network, just by reading their posts and observing their various interactions. Granted, some of them were too busy shilling their wares to say more than a cursory hello. But even that is being done in a professional, non-spammy way, which is more than can be said about their counterparts on Facebook and Twitter.

What about you? Are you on LinkedIn? If so, then what has your experience been like since the day you joined? And if not, then what other social networks do you tend to gravitate towards, and why?

Monday, 15 June 2015

Jurassic World (Movie Review)

Yep. The poster says it all really. But as preposterous as the scene depicted on the poster might seem, the latest entry in the Jurassic Park series proves that watching a bunch of dinosaurs running loose and causing havoc is still as fun today as it was 22 years ago, when the first movie was released.

Jurassic World is the fourth movie in the franchise, but it serves as a direct sequel to the original film, choosing to ignore (for the most part) the events of the second and third movie. According to its timeline, a second dinosaur theme park (the titular Jurassic World) has been in operation for several years, but it has recently come under the threat of declining attendance levels, as the novelty of having a park full of living, breathing dinosaurs continues to fade.

This prompts the owner of Jurassic World to seek out a way to rekindle public interest in the park, by asking his chief geneticist to engineer a new breed of dinosaurs that would do just that. Their answer to the problem is the dinosaur dubbed Indominus Rex, a dinosaur hybrid that was specifically engineered to be the most ferocious of its kind. And the dinosaur lives up to that claim when it breaks out of captivity, to appropriately spectacular and chaotic effect.

It didn't take very long for me to realize just how closely this movie has been modeled after Jurassic Park. Much like the first film, this one starts slowly, taking the requisite amount of time to establish its premise and introduce its key players, with lead actor Chris Pratt failing to make an appearance until about thirty minutes into the film. But once the chaos begins, the action never let's up, and we get to experience the same level of tension we saw in the first film.

And therein lies the movie's greatest shortcoming, that sense of déjà vu that seems to pervade every other scene. Some might call it simple fan service though, and if that is the way you choose to look at it, then the movie-makers have achieved precisely what they set out to accomplish. They've created a worthy successor to Steven Spielberg's original vision, and a viable starting point for a new chapter in the Jurassic Park saga.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

IWSG: Under the Weather

It's the first Wednesday of the month, and time for members of the Insecure Writer's Support Group to share their writerly insecurities. The group was started by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and those interested in joining in can visit for more information.

I am writing today's post from the confines of my bed, and as I write, the rainclouds hang heavy in the sky. This serves as a perfect metaphor for how I am feeling right now. I'd been nursing a cold for about a week, which turned into a full-blown fever over the weekend. The good news is I am already on the mend, but I still have to endure the side effects of the drugs I have been taking.

Needless to say, I haven't gotten any writing done recently. But don't worry, I won't be whining about that today, as tempted as I am. The funniest thing here is I am feeling too lightheaded at the moment to feel bad or beat myself up about it, all thanks to the aforementioned side effects. So I guess that every cloud does have its silver lining.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road (Movie Review)

It is barely one month into summer and we are already being treated with one of the finest action blockbusters to come along in a long time. I am of course referring to the latest installment in George Miller's post-apocalyptic series, Mad Max: Fury Road. It's been 30 years since the last movie, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, was released, and as such the new movie serves as a soft reboot of sorts.

To prepare myself for the movie, I had spent the last few days revisiting the original trilogy. That said, I don't think anything could have possibly prepared me for the edge-of-your-seat awesomeness that is Fury Road. The action grabs you by the throat even before the title card is shown, and it doesn't let go until the credits roll. Who knew that life after the apocalypse could be that intense, or look so stunning?

The movie opens with Max (now played by Tom Hardy, who replaces Mel Gibson in what was essentially Mel Gibson's breakout role) being chased by the War Boys, a gang of pale-skinned psychopaths. He is captured and taken to their hideout, the fortress-like Citadel, where we are introduced to their leader, Immortan Joe. We are also introduced to Imperator Furiosa, a hardened one-armed woman whose decision to steal Immortan's "five wives" in a makeshift armored tanker kicks things into gear.

The bulk of the movie is spent on the titular Fury Road, as the women, aided by a reluctant Max, try to elude capture by Immortan and his army of road warriors. And it is here that the movie truly shines, as we are treated to the aforementioned action, which takes place across a beautiful post-apocalyptic desert landscape. The stunts are simply insane, and the fact that most were done practically makes them even more so. The only exception to this was one breathtaking scene that took place inside a sandstorm.

The movie isn't all high-speed chases and explosions though. As simple as the story sounds, it is amazing how much depth it allows its characters. This is especially true of Furiosa, who is played by Charlize Theron in what is sure to be yet another landmark acting role in her already highly-regarded acting career. Tom Hardy also does a more than adequate job as Max, as well as Nicholas Hoult who plays the overzealous War Boy, Nux.

Overall, the movie manages to blow all recent action movies out of the water, and should stand as a template/standard for all future reboots; I can't recommend it highly enough.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Blood, Boobs & Carnage

It's time for the Blood, Boobs & Carnage blogfest, hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh and Heather Gardner. As a participant, I am required to post about a movie, book or TV show renowned for its depiction of, well, blood, boobs and carnage, or any combination of the same. And so I have chosen to highlight a movie that exemplifies all three facets of the blogfest, the 2005 graphic novel adaptation, Sin City.

The movie was directed by Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller and Quentin Tarantino. It starred an ensemble cast which included Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Mickey Rourke, Brittany Murphy, Devon Aoki, Benicio Del Toro, Alexis Bledel, Josh Harnett, Michael Clarke Duncan and Elijah Wood. It was not only renowned for its depiction of sex and violence, but for its stylish black-and-white visuals which was often punctuated by dashes of color to mesmerizing effect.

This came as a direct result of the movie's source material, which was itself a sort of homage to film noir. The movie was shot entirely against digital backgrounds, much like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow before it. From the very beginning, director Robert Rodriguez had sought to recreate the look and feel of the comic books, and the result is an almost frame-for-frame replication.

Praise for the movie extends beyond its technical achievements. In terms of acting performances, the actors all did a great job in bringing their various characters to life, especially the point-of-view characters, most of whom tended to launch into monologues which were more often than not laden with strong metaphors. But I feel the show was stolen by Elijah Wood, who plays a cannibalistic serial killer named Kevin, a character that failed to utter a single word during the entire movie.

Ultimately, it is the directors that should be given most of the credit for Sin City's nearly flawless transition from comic book to silver screen. They successfully translated the comics' singular vision, without losing any of its essence along the way. I have always had a soft spot for movies like this, with enough blood, boobs and carnage to satisfy my unending appetite for the same.

Friday, 15 May 2015

True Colors (Music Review)

We're barely 5 months into 2015, and already the year is shaping up to be an awesome year for electronic dance music, or EDM as it is more popularly referred to. We've had impressive debut albums in the form of Hardwell's United We Are and Madeon's Adventure, which dropped in January and March respectively. And now, True Colors, the eagerly-anticipated sophomore album by Zedd, appears to be the next in line to set the clubs and dance floors across the world on fire.

Those of you who happen to know me should already know my affinity for the music of Zedd. His debut album was shortlisted as one of my favorites in 2012, and he was more recently highlighted as my final entry for the 2015 Blogging from A to Z Challenge. So needless to say, my expectations for his second album were high. Thankfully, having listened to the album about a dozen times now, I can categorically state that it not only met my expectations, but exceeded them too.

True Colors manages to feel both familiar and progressive at the same time, showing the level of growth that is to be expected from a sophomore effort. Zedd is clearly not afraid to juxtapose more standard EDM anthems like the album-opener, Addicted to a Memory, with his more somber, introspective songs, like the title track, which finds Ke$ha at her most vulnerable as she declares, "I won't apologize for the fire in my eyes," against a backing instrumental that wouldn't feel out of place in a Sergio Leone western.

I especially love the song, Papercut, which features guest vocals from Australian actor/musician, Troye Sivan. At 7 minutes and 23 seconds, the song is the longest on the 11-track record, but that length is put to good use as the song gradually builds up to its awesome climax, with plenty of time to breathe thereafter. I also love how some of the songs segue into one another, a trick that while not particularly novel, is still used to wonderful effect here, easing the transitions from up to down-tempo and vice versa.

True Colors is slated for release next week Monday, but has been on pre-order for about a month now. So if you like EDM or you're into one of its many sub-genres, you should definitely check this out as soon as you can.