Tag Archives: reviews

Orphan Black — S01 Review

22 Apr

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I am addicted to Orphan Black. This is a show I’ve heard many good things about but never got around to watching until the last  3 days.  I knew from the commercials that it’s a show about cloning but what I didn’t expect is how completely unprepared I was, because it is nothing short of phenomenal.  Those of you looking for something new to watch show be for-warned about this one – the re-watch factor is high. The show is sleek, hilarious, endearing, dark, and thrilling all at the same time, yet I can’t compare this to anything I’ve seen. One minute you’re charmed by bantering, the next minute you’re a nervous wreck gripping the edge of your seat in fearful suspense.  The show is a perfect tease of tropes and archetypes – sometimes it plays into it, sometimes it’s completely off-the-charts-bonkers in the most delightful way.

The best thing about Orphan Black is that the writers didn’t set out to write the main character, Sarah Manning, as a woman or a feminist. They wrote her as a human being with proper depth and motivations, who, incidentally, just so happens to be woman, a mother, a clone, and a badass (I’m only using the protagonist, Sarah, as an example since this applies pretty much to all the clones, minus the mother part).  I can’t write much beyond this without dropping massive spoilers; however, another thing that I’d like to praise is how fascinating it is to see the clones physically and verbally interact with each other (and believe me, it happens more often than you would think), not only due to the technology behind accomplishing such a task but also because the clones are so drastically different from one another. So much so that it’s easy to forget they’re all clones of each other, much less clones played by the same actress.

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Sure it’s easy to attribute this to make-up and wardrobe (btw, friggin’ love the clothes on this show) but those to do so simply have not seen Tatiana Maslany in action. Dual roles are mentally and physically demanding for anyone, but there aren’t many who can pull it off as half as convincingly as Maslany does – keep in mind, she plays… multiple (yes, lets just go with multiple) fully fledged characters – so major kudos to her!  The subtle differences in mannerism, posture, accents and speech patterns all done so succinctly that I can’t help but wonder why she’ s not a household name yet. Still don’t believe me? You need to watch a scene of her being a clone impersonating another clone.  I can’t even call her an actress because that woman is a chameleon.

In the pre-season two special, Orphan Black: The Cloneversation, Maslany explains her process a bit when she talks about learning her characters’ internal rhythm and how “if you change the song that’s inside of you, it changes how you walk, how you express yourself, how you speak; even your dialect changes.”  She tells the host that having a fantastic cast to work with also helps immensely: “As a actor you respond to what you’re given, [...]. The dynamic is inherent because of how the actors respond to me,” and she could not be more right about that.

I wish I would find a better photo but this show is so visual to begin with, it’s near impossible to find one of the entire season one cast without leaking spoilers.

 

The entire cast has the type of natural chemistry that is rarely achieved before a show’s second or third season.  I love that all secondary characters actually interact and create bonds unique to each other.  This is certainly not a show where girls fight over boys (which is refreshing given its predominantly male cast), nor is this a show where viewers get battered over the head with endless rounds of  exposition after exposition.  If actions speak louder than words, then show-runners of Orphan Black have mastered the art this medium.  The serial would rather let viewers formulate our own opinions rather than waste time telling us what to think, how to feel, or who to root for in this giant conspiracy.

CONCLUSION

I rarely give a show such a high rating, but season 1 of Orphan Black gets at least a 9.5/10. The casting is perfectly done. The characters are so multifaceted and complexly written that as a viewer, you can’t help but second-guess the plot-twists at every turn, only to be delighted when things go completely off course. The best description that I’ve come across in regards to the writing is that the show is “[taking] the fiction out of science fiction,” as cast member Dylan Bruce proudly describes. The dialogues are sassy and to the point; the sets are extremely diverse… Did I also mention that this show takes place in Toronto? (“Scarborough? That’s practically local!”) Many big production television shows and Hollywood films have been shot in Canada but little to none of them actually take place here plot-wise, so it’s especially thrilling to get a shout-out like that.

Simply put, this show does not play around. Those of you who have seen it will undoubtedly agree that the re-watch factor is high – the show is fast paced (no fillers), highly suspenseful, funny, and endearing all at the same time. As for those of you who haven’t experienced this yet (whatareyouwaitingforthisshowiseffinamazing), I highly recommend you put aside an entire weekend to do so because you won’t be able to stop yourself from binging the entire season (10 episodes) from the get-go. This is the type of show where if you don’t get hooked from the first 10 minutes (and I’m being overly generous here since most people are already reeled from the 3 minute mark) then this is probably not your cup of tea since things will only snowball from there. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

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FYI:  Season 2 just began over Easter Weekend.

Writers of the show have confirmed that “season 2 is like season 1 on crack” –

I certainly hope so because the final few seconds of the latest ep. me cheering ecstatically.

Will Wheaton chats to the writers of Orphan Black on The Cloneversation

Forgotten Invention: The Revolver Camera

30 Jan

“Revolver Camera (New York, 1938). Colt 38 carrying a small camera that automatically takes a picture when you pull the trigger. At the left: six pictures taken by the camera.” [source]

This is quite possibly the coolest camera ever.
Although I have to wonder, where does one load the film?

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FYI, this is off topic but Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is a really entertaining movie.  It’s worth the extra bucks to see it in 3D since it was actually meant to be seen that way — mind you, this is coming from someone who usually hates 3D movies since the glasses never sit right on top of my own frames.  This time around however, there was a lot more depth in visual effects (it doesn’t look like Paper Mario) and the 3D is apparent throughout the entire movie (and not just a small segment like in Harry Potter).

Overall, I kind of felt like the movie’s too short since I want to see a bit more character development but you know what, if that means sacrificing all the crazy gory fights and blood spewing decapitations then forget it; this movie’s awesome for what it is.  It was never meant to win any Oscars or Academy Awards for being a thought provoking film; characters accept their fate, they deal with their problems and move on, end of story.  Honestly, I wouldn’t be opposed to a sequel if they’d expand on the character-team dynamics a bit more.

Oh and be sure to check out the concept art for the witches because they are fantastic!!  Go! Go! Go!

WICKED: A New Musical

6 Aug

I just came back from seeing WICKED: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz at Place des Arts and omg… I want to see it again!

I don’t quite remember how I first learned about this Broadway musical but given that it’s been referenced in two television shows I watch (Ugly Betty — I don’t remember which season this is in but they showed glimpses of a few scenes when Betty was watching it; Glee — I love Chris Colfer & Lea Michele’s cover of “Defying Gravity”) along with its outstanding reviews from critics, my interest was piqued.  I confess, I wasn’t too impressed with The Wizard of Oz when I saw it as a child (it might be a combination of not understanding the plot and dialogue since my schooling was done in French at the time) but I do remember liking the songs.

Last year, I finally got my hands on the book Wicked, by Gregory Maguire, just to see what the big deal is.  The first segment was quite tedious to get through since it’s about Elphaba’s birth and toddler days — way before she became known as The Wicked Witch of the West.  It’s not that children are uninteresting but it was difficult to see what the point of it all is and where the story is going.  Things start to pick up when she attends Shiz University but it’s everything that occurs afterwards that truly define who she is.  It’s amazing how all the details, conspiracy, politics, and characters  all come together in the end.  You can’t help but gain a whole new appreciation and understanding to characters in The Wizard of Oz because Maguire’s prequel gives them such depth and complexity — far beyond what the film portrays, which is so biased and shallow to begin with.  To my delight, the book exceeded my expectations in nearly every regard.

Book Versus Broadway

Like all adaptations, there are differences but in this case I actually prefer the Broadway version to the book.  The tweaks give the ending a whole different tone.  I’ll stop here since I don’t want to ruin it for anyone interested in reading/seeing Wicked, but I will say this: the show really does live up to all its hype.  It’s funny, dazzling, heartbreaking, thought-provoking, passionate and inspirational.  The cast is incredibly charismatic (Christine Dwyer & Jeanna de Waal are amazing); the sets are fantastic (I love how they change scenes); the costumes are so colorful and detailed; the choreography and songs are captivating; the singing is phenomenal… oh the list goes on!

You don’t have to read the book to appreciate the Broadway show but there will be minor details that you’ll miss out on such as the structure of the stage:

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You can’t really see it but there are cogs and spools all along the sides, framing the stage behind the dragon (very steampunk-ish, lol).  And yes, the dragon does move.

It’s a reference to “The Clock of the Time Dragon” in the first part of the book (which the musical omitted) when the origins of evil is discussed.  It’s interesting because the “clock”‘s arrival sets certain vital events in motion that will ultimately change the fate of prominent characters.   In the musical the origin of evil is introduced much more concisely since we jump right into it.

Is It Worth Seeing?

If the staggering standing ovation is anything to go by, then its a big YES!  I don’t know if this is the norm but people were clapping and cheering enthusiastically after every song and dance number; quite a number of us got teary-eyed near the end as well.  The troupe is currently on tour so if you’re lucky enough to live in one of the cities where they’re performing, I highly recommend you  go see it.  It’s worth every penny.  Even my friend who normally doesn’t like musicals became enraptured by it.

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[edit] I must apologize for the lack of posts lately.  We’re doing a bunch of renovations at home right now so it’s really inconvenient for me do to anything on my laptop.  There’s so much stuff piled up in my room that I feel like I’m one of those people on TLC Hoarders.  >___<

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

14 Dec

I just came back from watching The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn and I am happy to report that the movie did not disappoint!  Those of you who are fans of the graphic novels and the TV show probably know the plot already but one of the greatest thing about watching the movie in 3-D (yes, I watched it in 3-D even though I despise the medium) is seeing how fantastically they’ve rendered the texture.  It’s beautifully achieved — the hair, the fabrics, the dust, the water, the wood paneling, etc… are all so incredibly detailed and realistic.

Evidently, this film is made with 3-D effects in mind because the visually, the focus is just right.  It’s always obvious when the effects are added in as an afterthought because: the depth perception would be completely off (too sharp in the foreground and so blurry in the background that nothing can be seen);  there aren’t enough frames in between to optimize the effects when it comes to action shots so it’s not as smooth as it should be; and all the details get lost because the “camera” is moving so quickly yet everything is pop-ed up and highly pigmented that your center gets thrown off because your eyes don’t know where to focus.  With this movie however, I didn’t feel any of that.  Graphically, the only thing that’s lacking is the texture for  skin but since Tintin a cartoon character to begin with, it doesn’t bother me that much.

In short, it’s worth the extra $3 to see this movie in 3-D even though I did spend a fair amount of time trying to adjust the 3-D glasses on top of my own.  The film is action packed, gripping,  hilarious, and a great reminder to why I fell in love with “the adventures of Tintin” in the first place.

Men With No Shadows 不速之約

11 Oct

Heavily inspired/borrowed by the Japanese manga-turned-anime called Death Note, Raymond Lam plays the demon in 不速之約 (Men With No Shadows), who torments Bobby Au under unusual circumstances.  Bobby, upon realizing how unfulfilled his life is, pleaded relentlessly for a second chance to make things right — confessing his love to the woman of his dreams (Tavia Yeung), finishing his lifelong medical research to cure her extremely rare form of allergies, and getting a chance to ensure that everyone in his family is well off and taken care of after he’s gone.  Amused with such trivial concerns, the devil grants him a second chance at life; however, it doesn’t take long for Bobby to realize that the devil’s new-found generosity is not without consequences.

Thoughts & Review

There is only one word to describe Men With No Shadows: annoying.  TVB must really hate Raymond Lam — I don’t think any leading man of his fame and stature has ever, in the history of TVB, done so many consecutively terrible series.  I had to re-watch the last two episodes thrice because I kept falling asleep in the middle of them.  I am so disappointed because the ending feels like such a cop-out after how great the first half of this series is.

It makes me wonder whether or not TVB purposefully gives him terrible scripts to work with — because of his stature (pull in ratings for a bad series) or because somewhere along the way, he offended someone on top of the TVB pyramid.  Men With No Shadows proves that Raymond Lam can act when he’s not obsessively posing for the camera.  In fact, his role here allows him to show more emotional range then all the work he’s done in the past 2-3 years combined, but the script is wretched!  It’s such a waste of talent because the cast is fantastic.  Near the middle, it seems like everyone involved is simply doing the best they can with what they were given with.

The plot is painfully drawn out — full of clichés, plot holes, and pointless family drama that has nothing to do with the story.  I am so disappointed because we finally get to see Raymond in an evil role, yet the producers had to inject him with some humanity.  There are various aspects that are illogical, and the attempt to explain these incidents, although makes sense, completely voids the allure of the initial concept.

By the end of it, all the characters are so annoying that I just wanted to give up entirely.  The writers could have gone in so many interesting directions but they chose to box themselves in from the beginning and ruin everything.  Tavia’s and Power’s character has been reduced to nothing more than a victim and a puppet; Bobby is an angry, bitter weakling;  and Raymond is a sobbing mess.   Only in the last ten minutes of the finale does the show somewhat redeem itself, but even then it comes across as trite and typical of TVB’s happy endings.  There are a lot of serious, underlying issues that are never dealt with; everyone just took the easy way out and pointed fingers, blaming Raymond, when all he did was manipulate them with what was already there.

Conclusion

Overall, you’re not missing anything if you skip this one.  Men Without Shadows is worth watching if you are a fan of Raymond Lam but be warned, the overall themes and conflicts are banal at best.  You can avoid this if you are a fan of Bobby Au, Tavia Yeung or Power Chan since they’ve had significantly better roles in the past.  The only character who I consistently enjoyed watching is Sire Ma’s, but she needs to work on her delivery —  she sounds really whiny sometimes, especially when she’s suppose to be angry.  Those of you who love Death Note can steer clear of this as well — nothing can beat the original.

Captain America: The First Avenger — Review

29 Jul

It’s a good movie.  Granted, the way the main villain was vanquished seems relatively simple in light of everything that happens.  As such, he was more like a villain-of-the-week kind of guy — not that I’m complaining since this is suppose to be a lead-up to The Avengers movie coming out next year.

So what can you expect out of Captain America: The First Avenger?  Well, for one thing, you should brace yourself for a lot of American pride coming your way, which can be overbearing if not done properly.  It works well for the film though since it does take place during WWII.  The CG isn’t quite at par sometimes; you can they’ve used a green screen for some of the scenes, but the humour makes for it.  There’s quite a few good laughs, especially from Tommy Lee Jones (he has some of the best lines in here), coupled with some pretty outrageous, yet ridiculously funny action sequences (not quite as extreme as Die Hard, but enough to warrant plenty of whoops and cheers when the credits roll up).  There’s plenty of consistencies and references to Iron Man and Thor, which I love.  Props for the cool (non-stereotypical) Asian guy and language-savy Black guy.  Lastly, of course, Samuel L. Jackson‘s pretty bad-ass and Stan Lee‘s adorable as usual in their brief cameo.

It’s interesting but the more of these Marvel movies I watch, the harder it is for me to decide which of the heroes I like best.  Although Captain America does come across as one of the most simple-minded of the group, it’s his selflessness and his attitude towards heroism and fame that I love.  He shrugs it off with awkward, yet confused “Thanks but I don’t understand why you’re making such a big deal about this.  I just did what I had to do under the circumstances.  Anyone would have done the same thing” type of mindset.  And his reaction at the end of the movie — omgosh, such a sweet-heart!

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NOTE:

In contrast to the other Marvel movies, this one doesn’t have any special clips at the end of the credits — a lot of people (almost half) actually walked out when it started rolling up and walked back in halfway through (so the theaters was 3/4 full), but there really is nothing at the end except for a brief line that says “Captain America will be in The Avengers” or something of the like.  So disappointing…

Anyways, I can’t wait for The Avengers!!  Joss Whedon is directing it!!!

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Similar Posts:
Thor — Review

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 — Review

21 Jul

In a word...

I don’t think there has ever been, in the history of film releases, ever been a movie quite as globally monumental and highly anticipated as Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince: Part 2.  I’m a believer that a huge aspect of any movie review stems from what kind of mindset and expectations the reviewer is burdened with prior to watching said movie, particularly if the movie if the reviewer has read the book beforehand.  As such, HBP2 both, in many ways, exceeds and falls-short of my expectations.

WARNING:  HERE BE SPOILERS OF ALL SORTS FROM  BOOKS AND MOVIES.  YE BE WARNED.   Continue reading

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