entertainment

Mad Max: Fury Road

WOW.

WOW.

WOW.

I’m utterly blown away. What a film.

I heard that it was scoring really well on Rotten Tomatoes, and every critic that’s seen it seems to be completely enamoured by the film. Given the craziness of the trailer and all that praise, it wasn’t a difficult decision for me to pop by the cinema and watch what must be the most EPIC piece of entertainment featuring a post-apocalyptic world EVER.

There’s so much to gush about. The fantastic practical effects where actual vehicles were used whenever possible; the crazy stunts, the insane car designs, the beautifully barren sceneries, the simple yet enthralling plot, a director that dared to kill the good guys, the believable yet utterly mad action sequences…it’s just a fantastic action film all around. If only other Hollywood films were this good.

But as great as the action was, there’s something else that stood out by MILES.

The characters.

How can a movie with a relatively big cast of protagonists manage to squeeze in so much character development???

Every single protagonist has a different, unique viewpoint; every single one had a moment to establish themselves in the film as much more than just a plot device. The diversity of the characters was what got me; not a single one of the protagonists was the same as the other. And it wasn’t even through stupid tropes like what The Expendables used to define each character; it was nuanced, intelligent character development that wasn’t racist, stereotypical or derogatory.

And while the film is called Mad Max, Max is only one of many protagonists. Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron, was pretty much the most kickass character in the entire film, and nowhere in it was she ever portrayed as a damsel in distress, or as a sex symbol, or any of the sexist tropes that Hollywood revels in. But she wasn’t merely a token ‘female who kicks ass’ either; she was steeped in emotion, filled with personal motivations, striving to fulfil others’ aspirations. And all that in a mere 2 hour film. Suck it, Marvel.

The girls she tried to rescue, my word. Sure, they are referred to as beautiful in the film, but nowhere in it were they objectified other by the antagonists. They were damsels that got themselves out of distress; characters dared to be more than just a plot device for the men to fight over.

Then there were the last people from Furiosa’s former home. Watching older ladies riding motorbikes and fighting and winning for a greater purpose was just amazing to watch. Other than the opening scene, the movie is dominated by women of all sorts, an amazing spread of different characters that stole the screen from the men every single time.

Other than being the ultimate feminist movie, the male characters were quite good too. I thought Tom Hardy was brilliant as Max, the anti-hero who found something more than just his survival to fight for. Sure, there were moments when Tom Hardy used his Bane voice, but it was a stellar performance from the guy.

Nicholas Hoult was also amazing as Nux, who grew from his role as a crazed fanboy of Immortan Joe to become something so much more. I especially loved how the love story between him and Capable developed. The first tender moment they shared felt so honest and real I was honestly quite stunned that something like that was possible in an action film.

The only criticism I could level can only be at the development of the antagonists. They felt more like a product of the settings rather than independent characters. But it’s always so much harder to make a nuanced, interesting protagonist than a villain, and I adore the attention George Miller placed on the protagonists rather than the antagonists. Let all but Immortan Joe be faceless enemies; give me more of that kickassery from Furiosa.

Mad Max: Fury Road came out on the same weekend as Pitch Perfect 2. The latter has scored a far bigger box office so far, and will probably rake in the dollars. That’s no surprise since it appeals to a far wider audience. But as nice as it is to see a film that focuses on women, the original Pitch Perfect never grew beyond the same stereotypes of women that feminists decry. Instead, it’s Mad Max the action film that can really call itself a feminist, a movie that gives women the fascinating characters they deserve.

Favourite movie of the year so far. Second favourite film EVER, after Memento. I can’t imagine any movie except Star Wars: The Force Awakens topping this one in 2015 for me.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron – Teaser Trailer

NERDGASM ALERT!!1!1

Not sure about having Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch around, but crap, that looks AWESOME. Struggling Bruce Banner. Hulkbuster. Action AND feels. The creepy music is also pretty apt; it gives a really moody and dark feeling to a film that the rumour vine says will end with massive, total destruction. Destruction that will lead to Iron Man’s push for the Superhuman Registration Act and Phase 3 of Marvel’s plan.

It did leak one week early though. Love Marvel’s tweet to ‘rectify’ the issue. They’ll need all the humour they can get to counterbalance the darker nature of Avengers 2.

The Lego Movie

I looked forward to watching this, the moment the first trailer popped up. And while it wasn’t a über-blast, it was funny, witty, and satirical, and it fulfilled every expectation I had of it.

The satirical nature is seen throughout the film, making fun of tropes and clichés of the entertainment industry…and in fact, any form of entertainment. The first bit already made fun of the idea of prophecies and having ‘chosen ones’, a mockery of the ideal hero concept, where they take an unknown who was picked by a higher power to fulfil a great role.

Then there was the poking of modern living, where we all do the same things as society demands of us. Maybe it doesn’t apply as much to the US, but it’s a brilliant reflection of Singapore. We study to get a degree, we get a degree to get a job, and we get a job for money to get the 5Cs and whatnot. It’s all very orderly, very regimented. There’s no real environment for creative expression, but we can legitimately claim to be fairly successful; a premise of the movie, where order is prized over creativity, as that is how things should be, and what makes things work.

Of course, it wouldn’t be mocking modern culture if it didn’t make fun of Starbucks and their overpriced drinks, as well as pop culture and the TV industry (which, to be fair, is pretty spectacular in the US; Singapore TV? Pshaw). Then, as expected, there’s the whole 1984, Big Brother reference, with cameras watching everyone’s movements.

And that was just to set things up. When Lucy showed up, it gave Emmett the opportunity to gush over her. Which I took to be referencing the lack of strong female leads that aren’t known for their beauty. Emmett became the stereotypical heroine, swooning over the opposite sex. Lucy was the stronger character, and it’s nice to see a female character that’s not shallow. And a male lead being generally useless; that’s also pretty rare 😉

The movie also makes fun of how convenient things can happen for protagonists in all forms of entertainment, making Batman the tsukkomi as first the pirate ship rescued them from the middle of the ocean, then the Millennium Falcon popped up to ‘give’ them a hyperdrive. It’s pseudo 4th wall breaking stuff, and that’s brilliant.

Of course, there are some other moments like Bad Cop drawing Good Cop back on himself, a well-tread road (along with the good-cop-bad-cop routine itself); plenty of bad guys find their humanity in the end. Also, when Vitruvius died, he died before giving his message; another arrow at the cliché of a last message delivered at deathbed. When he said he made the prophecy up, it was like a huge nod to those who realised the mocking nature of the film.

Then there are the numerous references to other characters from other worlds, thanks to the Lego toys covering the spectrum of them. Batman pulled out that famous quote that Commissioner Gordon used; Vitruvius came back as a ghost mentor, in a homage to Obi-Wan Kenobi; Lord Business had his super stilts built with each step, like Iron Man; and the robot workers were Terminators, which of course then refer to Lord Business as SkyNet. Vitruvius was even a hipster, claiming to have liked Emmett before he was cool.

Beyond the fun and the satire, there’s also the emotional aspect. It’s not the best scripted, but it tugged at the heartstrings a little, as the entire movie was effectively an allegory for the controlling nature of a father who wants his perfect Lego world, which stifles his son’s creativity. And it’s what we sometimes see in the real world, with Tiger Moms and Dads.

Education should be helping children build a platform to express their talent and creativity, not to stifle it in the bid for good grades, degrees and a cushy job. Let the children be explore their potential.

Looking deeper, we can also see the aversion people have of socialist ideas. This may seem contradictory after all that I’ve said about expressing oneself and individuality, but socialism isn’t Communism. When they had to find a way into the tower, Emmett convinced them all to work together. That’s the key; society can have creative individuals expressing themselves, but there should be an overarching goal for everyone to move towards, a goal towards the betterment of humankind.

Other than the deeper implications behind such a cute film, what really won me over was the self-awareness of the film. The characters and the settings were unashamedly Lego, and that fact was referenced overtly and implicitly. Every plot device they pulled was done in such an obvious way, it was clearly meant to make fun of the device itself. That Emmett saw the world above and beyond his, was another moment of self-awareness.

I’m so glad this is getting a sequel.

Hercules – Trailer

Well, this version certainly looks more interesting and macho. The Rock looks the part, and showing the Twelve Labors? That’s awesome. Less of that hero development stuff of the other film. Just action and manliness. I’m glad they went this way for the film. I’m sick to the teeth with all the ‘hero’s beginnings’ movies that try to usher in a new movie series. Not everyone can do an origin movie as good as Nolan, so stop copying him!

Zack Snyder and the West Should Stop Killing Ancient Persians

Well, it’s not like there isn’t an entire entertainment industry that is completely Western-centric, sometimes American-centric even. I mean, of course aliens will first attack Manhattan. There’s nowhere else better to attack on planet Earth.

Asians are also creepily smart but wimpy, using their talents with computers to hack their way to billions of dollars or something. It’s totally true, and not a stereotype at all. Nope, the Far East is now a weird dichotomy, filled with ancient stuff and super high-tech stuff.

Or something.

TIME

Shortly after the 2007 release of 300—Zack Snyder’s computerized gorefest about the ancient Battle of Thermopylae—the Iranians issued an angry response. Then President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not take kindly to the film’s garish depiction of hordes of feral Persians, swarming and dying around the famous band of Spartans whose last stand 2,500 years ago briefly checked the Persian Empire’s advance into mainland Greece. The film was “an insult to Iran,” said one of Ahmadinejad’s spokesman; it was “part of a comprehensive U.S. psychological war aimed at Iranian culture,” said another.

The current, more diplomatic Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has yet to react to the movie’s sequel, 300: Rise of an Empire, which made $45 million on its first weekend in U.S. cinemas. But he surely won’t be pleased. Like its predecessor, the new 300 presents a spurious clash of civilizations. The muscled, taciturn Greeks—this time fighting on sea—carry…

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Watch ‘Secrets’, The New Game of Thrones Season 4 Trailer

I really need to read the books, so I won’t get so hyped up over the TV adaptation when it comes out…

Oh, who am I kidding?

TIME

As HBO continues to ramp up the hype for the upcoming season of Game of Thrones, they’ve released a third teaser trailer for season four, called “Secrets.”

As we saw in the series’ two previous trailers (here and here) political tensions are rising in Westeros and the events of the Red Wedding are weighing heavily on several characters’ minds. Many of the characters can also be seen questioning their positions. Note Cersei Lannister asking new character Oberyn Martell, “what good is power if you cannot protect the ones you love?” What good, indeed.

April 6th can’t come soon enough for GoT fans.

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Fame

Time to dosh out some criticism with impunity.

I can’t say I don’t want to comment on the stupid things that famous people have been up to recently, because here I am, blogging about it. But it’s nothing that really concerns me, and I’m pretty sure most fans of these celebrities either wilfully ignore their terrible behaviour, or are educated enough to see that these people aren’t role models.

Bieber: I’m not sure I’ll be like Bieber if I were rich and famous and desirable at from age 16. I suppose it could get to me, as would anyone, but who doesn’t want to take the moral high ground and say that they won’t do the same?

At least I won’t visit strip clubs or brothels. Logically speaking, too many STIs floating around. I’m planning to live to a ripe old age swimming in my millions, not suffer endlessly from medicating to suppress AIDS. And it’s a waste of money given that I would have an attractive lady by my side.

I wouldn’t go crashing my spanking new sportscar (Aston Martin DB9 for the classiness) or racing it recklessly, because that would be wrecking a work of art. And I do like to obey the law, because without law, there would be anarchy and a collapse of civilisation (as much of a slippery slope argument as that is).

Tattoos? Not my thing, and enduring too much pain for a permanent thing you might regret? No chance. Drugs? Again, danger to the health. Graffiti? I don’t have any artistic talent, so nope. I suppose I’ll be careless with my money, spending it freely, but I doubt I’ll get up to his antics.

Is this all because of poor parenting? I always regard parenting as paramount to the growth of a child. Without good parenting, you won’t find sensible kids around. Should the Bieber family rein him in? Right now, I think he’s too far gone, and will need to crash and burn before he’ll wake up. By then it’ll be too late.

I think I’ll be happy with a decent, middle-class life. Fame and fortune sound stressful in their own ways.

Miley Cyrus: I’ve heard of compensating, and usually that applies to men with big cars and small packages. Why Miley Cyrus has turned her back completely on her Hannah Montana/Disney roots is unclear, though I suspect it is a form of compensating for her childhood being stolen from her, forced into a perfect mould for children to model themselves after.

And she likely wants a reputation, good or bad, to sell albums. While she has similar claims to Beyoncé in that she’s apparently a feminist and does what she wants, I don’t really buy that. There’s showing that you can be who you want to be, and there’s stuffing a fan’s thong in your mouth. That’s unhygienic, and being a terrible role model for all the thousands of fans who look up to her.

I’ve heard theories that it’s a poor family background that’s leading to her ‘lashing out’, rebelling against the establishment and doing all sorts of unsightly things. Her father doesn’t seem the most sensible person around, and she is young, so it could really be a phase. But if it’s not, then it’s a bloody waste of talent.

It could also be competition against Lady Gaga (and now Katy Perry, who seems hell-bent on being weird too). Gaga sold the weird factor to us a long while ago, and frankly, her songs are pretty good (and one can even dig deeper to find meaning). Katy Perry has rather simple songs, but again, some are meaningful. Miley has probably one or two decent songs, and I’m guessing a lot of the rest have something to do with sex, weed, and alcohol.

Well, unfortunately, vices sell, and Miley is intent on selling as much of it as possible.

Shia LaBeouf: The last of the 3 famous people in the news recently. I’m not sure if all of this is a publicity stunt (which it feels like), a real emotional thing for Shia (which is retarded if so), or some wacky artistry (that I can believe, but don’t want to understand). But it looks ridiculous, even more so than his acting in Transformers.

But what’s more ridiculous is the 5-hour long queue to see Shia for 5 mins, wearing a paper bag on his head and crying. If it’s a publicity stunt, he certainly succeeded in capturing the attention of the world. Even me, as ashamed as I am to admit it.

C’mon, Shia. Be like Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence. Just take a break from Hollywood. Doing things like this won’t garner any more fame than you already have. Geez.

Beyoncé – Partition

I can’t say I really enjoy Beyoncé’s songs, because let’s face it, I’m inclined towards rock. But what I can is appreciate what she’s done for feminism.

However, the problem with Beyoncé is that while she has lovely songs that speak for women empowerment (and she’s a model of it too), the patriarchal society that we live in highlights her sexuality. There’s nothing wrong with being sexy; heck, it can even be construed as another form of empowerment. But there’s always the negative view on attractiveness, that it’s sinful and a bad influence.

Admittedly, letting your daughters grow up watching Beyoncé music videos (amongst other female artists) will probably lead them to believe in the need for sexiness to succeed in life. That has led to plenty of cases of anorexia/bulimia, not to mention bullying and fat-shaming. But isn’t that the job of the parents to educate otherwise? That looks isn’t everything for a woman, that hard work plays a role? Parents should be highlighting the hard work Beyoncé puts into her performances, and showing their kids the lyrics and explaining the meaning behind them. Blaming the industry won’t solve any issues, even if it’s easy to do so (and frankly, it does need to take some responsibility).

And why not educate the kids about Adele, or any other singer who doesn’t use overt sexuality to sell albums? Paramore’s Hayley Williams is good looking, but she’s a rocker and doesn’t try to appeal via her looks. Nor does Amy Lee of Evanescence. Jennifer Lawrence is a whole ‘nother debate, but her candid views on fat-shaming and the ridiculousness of the demands of society is quite refreshing (on the surface at least).

Again, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good. And the recent case about the Duke university undergrad who does porn and feels empowered by it? Sure, why not. Empowerment doesn’t have to be in the fields where men currently dominate. Empowerment can come from many other places, places where only women can venture. Heck, I think women have plenty of power over men, especially with regards to sex.

It’s about taking the right view. That women can be just as successful, just as capable as men in whatever field they choose to be in. That’s my view on feminism. If they enjoy working in porn, should we tell them that it’s dirty? I don’t think it’s any worse than any other job. I think being in the military and having to kill other human beings is a dirtier job. Spying and stealing information is dirty. Porn is consumed by so many people everyday, all around the world. Given the health and safety regulations they probably have in place, I’d wager the porn industry is probably safer than working in a sweatshop.

We just have a fixed mindset that sex is bad, and so we avoid broaching the subject. It becomes an albatross around society’s neck, strangling it. We need sex to reproduce (although in vitro births do exist now). We use sex to build intimacy with partners (which is important in a largely monogamous world, populated by creatures that instinctively wish to be polygamous). Why should it be embarrassing and shameful to be involved in something so widespread and common throughout the world?

I don’t agree with radical feminism, because I’m all for equality, not a matriarchal society. That’s not chauvinism, that’s just a preference. How a female-dominated society will be better than a male-dominated society is up for debate. But equality is desirable, and equality is what we should strive to achieve. And women should be allowed to reach that point via whatever means they choose. Be it in politics (Angela Merkel, Aung San Suu Kyi, Yulia Tymoshenko) or in entertainment, we should be supportive. Men sell their physicality and masculinity in sports. Why can’t women sell their sexuality?

(Although there is an argument that female Olympians are feeding the anti-feminists ammo by doing so.)

Feminism takes on many forms. Beyoncé is just one of them.