Eagle Eye (D.J.Caruso, 2008)

One needs to be prepared for familiar sights while watching Eagle Eye, thanks to abundant references to other movies. Some old school viewers will think of Hitchcock’s North by Northwest; Kubrick’s enthusiasts will recall HAL9000, the self-aware computer from 2001:A Space Odyssey ; or whether the Three Laws of Robotic in Asimov-inspired’s Will Smith starred I, Robot is relevant to this movie. How about me? I think the fast paced, fuel by paranoid ambience seems to be in the same mold of Tony Scott’s Enemy of the State. You may complain Eagle Eye borrows from other superior movies, but hey, don’t you have heard of the phase, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?

In this non-stop action techno-thriller, Jerry Shaw, a university dropout cum slacker (played by Shia LaBeouf) and a single mother (played by Michelle Monaghan) are threaten by an unknown female voice, by way of connecting to their cellphones, order them to carry out a daunting task, i.e. to assassinate the President of the United States. From there, the two strangers are thrown into a series of unbelievable metal crushing cum cling-clanging mayhems involving train, cars, crane, aircraft. They are often forced to do what they are told, the mysterious female voice (AKA Aria) seems to know everything happen around them there and then, literally forcing them to react swiftly. Example, an under interrogation Jerry was told to duck himself 10 seconds before a self-activated tower crane smashing into FBI office building. There are moments where Jerry refuses to board a specific train, and to his horror, the people around him instantly receive calls telling them about Jerry being a terrorist! Both of them are basically in You-are-damned-if-you-do, and damned-if-you-don’t-scenario.

Hot on the heels of the innocent duo is Billy Bob Thornton who play the role of Thomas Morgan, a FBI agent with ease, surely he was handed a handbook on how to do a Tommy Lee Jones together with the movie script. The wisecracking Thomas blurts out the most quotable lines in the movie, (to field agents)”If you're staring at me, it better be because I'm the suspect. If not, get back to work or I swear you're all demoted to something that involves touching shit with your hands!”

The movie does not reveal the protagonist until halfway through. But if you happen to know who it is prior to that, you will probably believe that our current advanced technology allow authoritative figure to tab on civilian in whatever methods we can think of: cellphones eavesdropping, bank accounts, computer’s files, GPS satellites tracking…. essentially whatever under the sun connected via networking and internet are expose to the surveillance of government. Call me a paranoid, call me a technophobe, but I think we are paying the price of heading towards the age of Big Brother. Besides, I disagree after reading some of the reviews that I came across, citing Eagle Eye as a dumb popcorn movie full of implausible scenarios. I admit that it contains some plotholes, but generally it is nothing too severe to throw off your interest in Eagle Eye.

***Spoiler ahead*** To me, Aria is not really a bona fide villain. We need to understand that the super computer ‘react’ based on the earlier pre-credit scene, where the US president misjudged an air strike target, which later causing a series of terrorist-style bombing in retaliation. Thus the head rolling operation of President and his Cabinet is deemed by Aria as justifiable. ***Spoiler end***

Lastly, the following are types of people who must avoid this movie at all cost:
- Technophobes
- Shia’s haters.

1 star = Pathetic, SowYau feel ashamed of watching it
2 stars = Off the mark material, approach with caution
3 stars = Generally good, you should watch it if it's your favourite genre
4 stars = excellent, strongly recommended
5 stars = A classic status? only time will tell. But it is definitely in SowYau's Hall of Fame List


Hancock (Peter Berg, 2008)

Having watch one too many superhero movies these few years (not that I complain though), it’s refreshing to see an unconventional superhero movie.
Will Smith played John Hancock, as the obnoxious superhero who always “saves the day” with a heavy price. Unlike Superman and Iron Man, he can fly at supersonic speed without a cape or an iron suit. The problem is his landing, he will smash uncontrollably into the ground (feet first of course), therefore damaging the roads. He got super strength, invulnerable, can easily thwart robbery attempt, but along the process, causing public millions dollar in damages. He is cocky, he lived like a bum, he drinks like a fish. Above all, he is the most hated person in the city.

One day, he saved Ray from train accident, he is a Public Relation consultant played by Jason Bateman. To return the favour to Hancock, Ray managed to convince him to change his public image to a likeable superhero. Ray’s wife is played by the stunningly beauty, Charlize Theron.

About halfway through the movie, the story dramatically change it course from a comedic superhero theme to a likeness of Greek myth, the relationship of the married god and goddess - Zeus and Hera. Never a movie has divide the story in half so evidently, in fact watching it remind me of Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket or Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn. But to discuss the second half of Hancock without spoiling anything seems like an uphill task, once again, all I can say is: it
is reminiscent of Zeus and Hera, the god and goddess in Greek Myth.
The movie defies the traditional superhero versus supervillain plot, think of Man of Steel versus arch nemesis Lex Luthor. Kudos to the script writer for avoiding such cliché and the movie studio for having balls to finance the movie.

As usual, the charismatic Will Smith carries the movie almost on his own. He may act like jerk, but deep inside he is a sympathetic lonely person who has no memory of his past. One of the earliest memories he has, is when he was discharged from the hospital (after suffered from amnesiac), the nurse asked him to put down his “John Hancock” on the discharge note, and he thought his name is John Hancock! Curiously, I notice the movie director, Peter Berg (of The Kingdom fame) choose to portray the actor/actress’ face in close-up shots countless of times.

***Heavy spoiler ahead*** The ending is rather weak, suggesting that the original script was revised to a clearly forced happy ending. I would prefer it ended with the demise of either Hancock or his partner, Mary, hence create a stand out, downbeat ending just like a tragic Greek myth *wink* ***End of heavy spoiler***

bullet point summary:
- it’s a refreshing, non-traditional superhero movie;
- the plot split into half, akin to Full Metal Jacket;
- Will Smith is likeable as usual; - The words “John Hancock” is a metaphor of a person’s signature. Example: I need you to put down your John Hancock on these legal documents.

1 star = Pathetic, SowYau feel ashamed of watching it
2 stars = Off the mark material, approach with caution
3 stars = Generally good, you should watch it if it's your favourite genre
4 stars = excellent, strongly recommended
5 stars = A classic status? only time will tell. But it is definitely in SowYau's Hall of Fame List


The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep (Jay Russell, 2007)

Free Nessie!

What are the resemblances between Water Horse and What Lies Beneath (2000), a thriller/ horror movie directed by Robert Zemeckis? The answer is….. they have a similar movie poster! See below, a white colour background? check! A same P.O.V. of bathtub? check! A main character is shown in the bathtub? Check! The said character’s hand / pectoral fins are holding the edge of bathtub? Check please! I suppose the tagline for Water Horse - “Every Big Secret Starts Small” can be applied on What Lies Beneath but sadly not vice versa.

There have been other movies and documentaries on the subject of Loch Ness Monster. For instance, there is a family-oriented flick starring Ted Danson aptly but dully named Loch Ness. Also I can recall in an episode of season 3 The X-Files TV series, where Agent Mulder and Scully try to track down a pre-historic creature in a U.S. lake town, after a several reported cases of death and disappearance.

The creature in Water Horse: LOTD is based on one of the most famous subjects in cryptozoology – i.e. Loch Ness Monster or affectionately called Nessie. The movie open with present day’s small Scottish village in Loch Ness, whereby a tourist couple discover a vintage framed photo on the wall of a pub, well known as “The Surgeon’s Photograph” (see left). An old man (played by Brian Cox) told them that the making of that photo is a prank, but there is indeed a plesiosaur-like creature living in Loch Ness. And there begin his story told on how a young boy, Angus stumbling upon an egg with the size of an ostrich’s egg near the shore. It was no ordinary egg of course; instead a cute slippery baby Water Horse named Crusoe (named after the famous namesake) was hatched and subsequently nurtured by Angus.

Angus has been in the state of lonely and somber due to his father being enlisted in the Royal Navy to fight in World War II. Angus spent vast amount of time alone by himself, counting the days of his father’s return from national service. We are shown several tender flashback scenes involving Angus and his father. His mum (Emily Watson) hired Lewis, a handyman (Ben Chaplin) with a mysterious past, to help out household work in their huge mansion. In the meantime, a troop of British troop led by Captain Hamilton (played by David Morrisey, somehow I cannot shake off his masochism expression from Basic Instinct 2) came and set up their defense base against a possible invasion from the German’s submarines.

Lewis eventually became a temporary father figured to Angus, helping him to hide his aquatic pet from his mother and the military troops. Bigger problem ensured when the bathtub is no longer able to contain Crusoe. It grew into a gargantuan creature and has to be set free into the nearby loch. Hostility erupted when Crusoe almost accidentally kill a soldier, in return, they retaliated with artillery weapons. Although in the end, the movie reaches a pleasing full circle, it perhaps paves the way for another adventure i.e. a sequel.

What I like about The Water Horse: LotD is the breathtaking scenery, the picturesque landscape, apart from actual Loch Ness, it was in fact, largely filmed in Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand. The setting of WW2 era in this movie is admirably fitted in this movie. Bizarrely, this family oriented movie (adapted from a children’s novel) sometimes can be unusually scary for small children’s viewing, namely, there is a time where the grown Water Horse - minus the cuteness, react uncontrollable, with full of violent anger after it was attacked with cannon bombardment, not to mention, it ate a British Bulldog!

The narration does not fully allow the boy to convincingly develop an affectionate relationship with the Water Horse. From the egg hatching moment to the effort of hiding the creature; from an adorable slippery baby transforming to a huge grunting beast. It should be a platform for the two of them to express their inseparable bonding, just like Jesse and Keiko the killer whale in Free Willy (1993), a movie with the same premise as this one, which managed to pose an aching catch-22 situation for audience: do we want them to be together, although the beast may have to forgo its freedom (or perhaps its life)? Or, hoping the beast to leap to its freedom, but abandon its friend?

1 star = Pathetic, SowYau feel ashamed of watching it
2 stars = Off the mark material, approach with caution
3 stars = Generally good, you should watch it if it's your favourite genre
4 stars = excellent, strongly recommended
5 stars = A classic status? only time will tell. But it is definitely in SowYau's Hall of Fame List


Aliens vs Predator: Requiem (Colin Strause/Greg Strause 2007)

Again, Our Earth Is Their Playground

The most significant discrepancy from the original AvP compare to this sequel is the added violence and gory elements. Also, we won’t have to suffer from the sight of the lead woman character and the Predator in AvP running together side by side in slow-motion. That scene show them sort of like "buddies" was plain pathetic, I mean what on earth are you thinking of, Mr Paul W.S. Anderson??! (of the original AvP’s director cum writer). By the time the predator show her how to use the Alien corpse’s head as a shoulder shield, I was about to cough green Predator blood.

Ok, let’s not dwell on the past, this time, Aliens Vs Predator: Requiem (abbreviation as AVPR), is no longer a pussified version, if you pardon my language. It’s full of violence and gore right from the beginning. The plot continue from the 1st movie where the Predator spaceship depart from earth to return to their planet, unknowingly to the Predators, their dead partner that they bring onboard was impregnated with Alien inside. Very soon a new hybrid species called PredAlien is born and burst from the corpse’s chest, start to kill off the Predator one by one. The spaceship is forced to crash onto a small town in Colorado, U.S. The dying Predator managed to send a distress S.O.S video call to his comrade in their distant home planet. The said comrade picked up the call and travelled all the way to our Earth to clean the mess by trying to stop the Alien infection which happens at an alarming rate.

Do you notice the movie title? The plural in Aliens and singular in Predator. It is refers to lots of Aliens who are slaughtered by the only one Predator. It was never meant to be a balance fight between these 2 creatures, Predator is the predominant species here, how about human characters, you may ask? Forget about them, I said. They are purely ornament in this fightfest. Anyone who is longing for extensive human characters’ development can look elsewhere.

The Predator is a kick-ass veteran warrior unlike in the first installment, 2 or 3 rookies Predators who took part in a rite of passage. He is affectionately named as The Wolf, as in Pulp Fiction, Harvey Keitel’s Winston “The Wolf” Wolfe. He is a 'cleaner', a specialist in cover up any extreme lethal threat. He needs to be relentless and often require quick thinking decision, although his target shooting rate leave a lot to be desired. He manage to kill a lots of Aliens but along the way, get rid of some stupid humans as well. With the aid from some magical blue liquid, he methodically carry out the task without leaving any trace. The new hybrid species, PredAlien plays the role of Mother Alien. Unlike the latter, it is capable of impregnated a host (human) to create its offspring without using facehuggers.

Basically, there are 4 things that I like about this movie:

- The violence and gore.
- The predator AKA The Wolf
- Earlier in the movie, we have the chance to catch the glimpse of what look like the original planet of predator.
- The cameo of Miss Yutani!! Nice to meet her at last and congratulate on her newly acquired extra terrestial technology. I dare you not to have a goosebump when you see her! If you don’t know what I am talking about, then I am wondering whether you should watch this movie in the first place.

If you ask me which AvP movies i like most, it will be like asking me which way I would prefer to die from, fall from 20 storey building head down? Or drown in the sea? I am reluctant to answer but for the sake of this blog, the answer is AVP:R by a nose. Although honestly i have read some home appliance DIY manual instructions that were far more entertaining than the dialogues in this movie, and the Dawson’s Creek-style subplot is a turn off for me too. But as a fan of both franchises, I felt AVP:R is still a serviceable movie compare to the awful first installment.


Cloverfield (18-01-08)

How convenient for SowYau to put up the heading like above, 01-18-08 is also refer as Cloverfield’s promotional title as well as per the date of SowYau watching the movie.

Is the title Cloverfield, a military codename for the monster? SowYau seems to read it at the beginning of the movie. It also mentioned the video clip that we are about to see was retrieved by military from a site formerly know as “NYC Central Park”. The movie is about giant monster create havoc New York City, was shot by using hand held videocam, from the perspective of a group of young people. First of all,Let SowYau assure u that this piece of writing does not contain any spoiler unless stated, but a few things you ought to know about Cloverfield before queuing up for the tickets.

The movie is ENTIRELY shot hand held style. Shaky, jumpy, nauseating, out of focus, extreme close up, tilted sideway, tilted upside down……. If you are a regular First Person Shooter (FPS) gamer like Halo or Half-Life, then it won’t be a problem for you, however, old-timer like SowYau need to choose the best seating available to avoid motion sickness, and that is 2nd row from the back. Luckily he did!

The opening first 15 minutes let SowYau adapt to the jumpy camcorder style, and gradually get used to it. SowYau noted a couple sat beside him walk out 30 minutes into the movie, subsequently SowYau spotted a few patrons did the same and very likely never came back (never so sure being too focus to the screen). Did the dizziness got the better of them? Maybe. So, folks, be forewarned.

This flick is best described as a cross between Hollywoodized and critically panned Godzilla (made by Roland Emmerich in 1998) and The Blair Witch Project (another 1st person perspective filming made in 1999). In fact, Cloverfield used the same viral marketing as per The Blair Witch Project to generate enormous buzz and anticipation among internet users months before the movie release. The image of the monster is never reveal in any of the promotion effort, even the first teaser trailer online didn’t have any movie title on it. The clever marketing campaign continues from the fictional company websites to the popular MySpace profiles of the movie’s main characters.

Further to the viral marketing: There are a lot of connection between the rise of the monster and the company that Rob (one of the movie’s main character) is going to Japan to work for, called Slusho, it is the fictional brand of beverage also appeared in Producer J.J. Abrams’ TV series Lost and ALIAS. Slusho is one of the subsidiary company of Tagruato Corporation who specialize in deep sea exploration. ***Minor spoiler ahead*** Could it be one of their deep sea expedition woken up the monster? Or could it be their satellite equipement which was seen near the end of the movie, crash into the sea and woken up the monster? ***Minor spoiler end***

If you worry about having motion sickness after watching this movie, think of this way instead: Imagine a highly classified footage was shot by someone during a monster attack incident, and since was found and now belongs to the government with the stamp of CLASSIFIED on it. Somehow your friend, managed to nick a copy and pass it to you. SowYau is sure you will love to see it no matter how grueling is the viewing session, right? :)

You complained that there is no real plot, but that’s how an authentic home-made video is about, right? You also complained that there are no proper explanations in many incidents. Again, SowYau need to emphasize that this is a home-made video. You also complained that you can’t see the monster clearly, only some glimpses here and there. Well, to tell you the truth, in the midst of watching, SowYau actually half-heartedly expect that the monster won’t be distinctly shown. But at the end, we manage to see it, what a magnificent beast.

Cloverfield managed to become one of the very few movies that lived up the hype and exceeding SowYau’s expectation. The breath of fresh air by making this in a deliberate amateur technique is always welcomed. Garnish that with the usual gripping and intense moments throughout the 80-ish minutes screen time, and here it is, the first and hopefully not the last “Oh my god!” movie in 2008.

A little quiz: How many “oh my god!” have u heard during the movie? More than 30 times SowYau reckon.

1 star = Pathetic, SowYau feel ashamed of watching it
2 stars = Off the mark material, approach with caution
3 stars = Generally good, you should watch it if it's your favourite genre
4 stars = excellent, strongly recommended
5 stars = A classic status? only time will tell. But it is definitely in SowYau's Hall of Fame List