Review The Wandering Earth / 流浪地球 (2019)

The premise and production value of The Wandering Earth is otherworldly stunning; while the well-intended movie isn’t without flaw.

Dubbed as the first ever ‘proper’ Chinese interstellar blockbuster, Frant Gwo’s The Wandering Earth flaunts more than just an ambitious spectacle; but, the entire industry’s pride in orchestrating a cinematic milestone. Adapted from Cixin Liu’s award-winning novella, this kind of “cancelling the apocalypse” (borrowing the term from Idris Elba’s character in Pacific Rim) can only be a massive production or nothing at all. And, this adaptation opted to go the former way and, since then, it becomes a mega-hit. Before long, Netflix picked it up and The Wandering Earth really wanders to flaunt its extravagant ambitions.

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Review Hellboy (2019)

Neil Marshall’s Hellboy is truer to the nature and style of the source materials compared to the versions it reboots; however, that doesn’t make it a better movie.

There is a common defense for the new Hellboy: it is truer to the nature and style of the source material, Mike Mignola’s Dark Horse comics. That argument seems to undermine how imaginative and romantic Guillermo del Toro’s idyllic 2004 fantasy-adventure, which also spawns a sequel in 2008. Fact is, the reboot by Neil Marshall is a darker R-rated rendition with more profanities, more binge-drinking and more blood-gushing moments.

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Review Dumbo (2019)

While Dumbo is visually likable, it wasn’t charming, let alone magical.

Call it Disney’s New Wave. As the Mouse House has been pretty busy in the recent decade with their project of revamping their classics into cash live-action adaptations, they have created an unwieldy atmosphere of family blockbuster. In terms of reception, their rosters of live-action adaptations had been hit-or-miss, even when most of them were box office hits. In this kind of atmosphere, visionary director, Tim Burton—who had previously worked in a loose adaptation of Alice in the Wonderland—returns for another gig: Dumbo, a live-action adaptation of the 1941 animated classic about a baby elephant that can fly. While his latest work is delicate, it belongs to the lukewarm side of Disney’s live actions.

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Review Captain Marvel (2019)

With fuzzy narrative and alienating plot-points, Captain Marvel can still deliver a blast along with profound empowering message.

Ever since Thanos wreaking havoc in Infinity War, the wave of expectation about the real ‘avenger’ to avenge The Avengers hasn’t even plummeted down. Audiences seem to take the thing seriously and, since that emotionally relieving post-credit scene of Marvel’s most emotionally draining movie yet, expectations are soaring high. Only if Captain Marvel—the studio’s first solo female movie—could level up to the altitude, will those expectations be quenched.

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Review Isn’t It Romantic (2019)

Even when Isn’t It Romantic? fell into the subject it tries to criticize, it’s still uplifting. Thanks to Rebel Wilson.

At the beginning of Isn’t It Romantic, young Natalie was smitten into Pretty Woman when her mother scolded her and indoctrinated her to despise romcoms of any kind. To her, life isn’t like romcom; to her, all the happy endings in romcoms are merely a start of an unhappy life. She grows up being a love cynic (portrayed by Rebel Wilson, all-in with the Australian accent) making a living in New York as an architect who constantly bashes romcom premises until some sh*t happens. She hit her head during a confrontation with a mugger and she wakes up in a romcom… a PG-13 romcom.

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Review Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

Robert Rodriguez’s latest visual bonanza, Alita: Battle Angel, is a sci-fi epic that immediately sparks immediate déjà vu to James Cameron’s Avatar. Such allegation isn’t without a root or apparent proof. The striking visuals—especially that attention-demanding anime eyes of the titular character and, later, the detailed mo-cap technology (that Cameron has revolutionized back in 2009 along with the CGI-laden world, the complex mythology in back-stories, the larger-than-life action sequences (including the inventive weapons and the fighting styles), and the nature of the protagonist (living someone else’s body) are in a way or another channeling its inner Avatar.

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Review Buffalo Boys (2018)

Buffalo Boys rides a furious, highly-decorated buffalo in an ambitious blockbuster, but the road is too bumpy for even the most furious buffalo.

Movie review Buffalo Boys (2018): Mike Wiluan’s directorial debut, Buffalo Boys, breathes the same air as Kim Jee-won’s The Good, The Bad, The Weird in the sense that both brings out Wild West virtues in Far-East settings. If the latter transposes cowboy bonanza into ol’ time Manchurian landscape, the former introduces Western tropes to fictionalized Dutch-occupied Indonesia setting. It’s a full-fledged, faux-historical Western fantasy where English-speaking Dutch colonialism recreates diabolical Southern-slavery as if it’s American Civil War period.

The plot revolves around a straightforward homecoming-slash-revenge mission carried by the titular boys—Jamar (Ario Bayu) and Suwo (Yoshi Sudarso). When their parent and their homeland perished during Dutch’s assaults, the boys were brought into exile to the real Wild West by their uncle, Arana (Tio Pakusadewo). Once the boys are physically and mentally ready, Arana brings them back to the land of the dead, to settle the score once and for all. At least, that’s the plan.

With stunning production value—including unique mix-and-match of architecture, costumes and comic characters making peculiar blend of Indonesian Western. For what it looks, Buffalo Boys is undoubtedly an ambitious Indonesian blockbuster (among the first in its ranks). The premise, the character designs (that also counts a troupe of over-the-top outlaws) and the local twist of American cowboy—hence the title—suggest that the film is directly translated from video games or comic books. Please note that, while being similarly branded as ‘Western’, Buffalo Boys is in different hemisphere as Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts). When the latter is a more grounded arthouse rendition of Western spirit, the former literally imports the Western blockbuster style and mixes it with local wisdom. As reflected in the protagonists’ background,  it isn’t a simply-inspired-by-Western-movie product, it is the Western product through and through. Continue reading “Review Buffalo Boys (2018)”