Sunday, February 27, 2011

Movies in general

I had to drive my car a fairly long trip this weekend, while driving I was thinking, what are the things that make a movie good? Is it the plot? Directing, editing, CG or other screen work? Famous actor or actress? Is it enough that the movie is "just" entertaining, or does it have to have some kind of a deeper thought in it? The list goes on forever.

What kind of features do you like in movies?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Infernal Affairs III (2003)

The Infernal Affairs movie series, directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak, is a story about an undercover police officer Yan, played by Tony Leung, whose mission is to find information about the illegal drug and weapon marketing of a Triad society. At the same time, the Triad leader Sam, played by Eric Tsang, has got their own moles in the police department. Both having the same objective to gain intelligence advantages compared to the rivalling party. After a few failed police missions and the Triads attempts of drug and weapon trades, both parties learn they have a mole inside their organisation. This leads to a race between the triads and the police to find out the identity of their moles.

The first movie basically tells the main points of the plot. The story might be more widely known from the American remake "The Departed (2006)". The second movie is a prequel, which concentrates to the events before the first movie, how Yan managed to get in the high positions in the criminal organisation and what was the police superintendent Wongs, played by Anthony Wong, old mission to catch the Triad leader Sam.

*spoiler warning*
Infernal Affairs 3 is basically a sequel to the first film. It rotates around the background events of the first movie and what happened afterwards, revealing some details in certain events. The main story concentrates on the police inspector Ming, played by Andy Lau, who is struggling to keep his past connections to the Triad society hidden. He discovers that he wasn't the only mole Sam had in the police department, and so he starts his desparate mission to dispose the other moles to avoid his own identity to be exposed. The police department has been put under heavy surveillance by a Security Division because of the past mole issues. This causes difficulties for Ming to complete his intentions.

This movie isn't one of those straight-forward action clips, it actually has a very few action scenes and almost all of them have a long tension built before the scene. The story telling is a bit straggling, especially in the beginning of the movie. It's very hard to catch up with the story if you haven't watched the previous films in a while. Some of the scenes in the beginning are totally lacking a "time stamp" which could tell the viewer if this scene is in the past or in the present time, and this time-shifting happens alot. In very short scenes here and there. In most cases the movie simply assumes that the viewer know which time period is going on by looking at the characters. Knowing who's alive after the first film helps quite a bit though. On the other hand, some scenes has a huge label stating the year and months after/before a certain event.

Since both movies, Infernal Affairs 2 and 3 were made within one year, the time spent on planning and editing these movies might have caused the lack of integrity, who knows.

The main roles acting performances are good in most cases, but the supporting casts acting feels very stiff. The same issue repeats in dialogues, most of supporting cast's dialogue just doesn't feel natural. I can't really confirm this, because I don't know anyone who'd know Chinese. The poor dialogue might also be caused by the translation of the subtitles.

As a sequel, Infernal Affairs 3 turns out very well, revealing deep plot points and answers some mysteries of the previous films. But as a separate film, for someone who hasn't seen the first two, this movie doesn't offer much and might be a complete mess, because this movie doesn't fully introduce any of the characters, unless you pay very close attention to the scenes and flashbacks. Practically you just have to know their backgrounds beforehand from the previous films.
If you like crime/thriller movies, as a whole Infernal Affairs is definitely a movie series worth watching.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


I think I should get a proper background image for this blog, to create some kind of a theme for the layout. Tried to find some ideas yesterday without any result. Any suggestions?

ps. Writing reviews has turned out a challenging task! It's surprisingly difficult to convert your thoughts into text.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Alexander (2004)

This text includes some spoilers of the movie.
Okay todays movie is called "Alexander". A partly historical film about a legendary conqueror, Alexander - played by Colin Farrell, who invaded Persia, Egypt and Asia within 15 years.
The film has got a stunning cast, filled with famous names such as Anthony Hopkins and Angelina Jolie, who no doubt do a good job in their roles. I actually don't have much to complain about the acting of this movie, it's good overall. The only weak moments are in the scenes where there are many people arguing, most of the time, the arguing is just funny, instead of being threatening.

The film itself isn't very consistent. The beginning of the film shows a few very short moments of Alexanders youth, a strange mythology lesson in a cave, and people talking in poetic phrases. The old storyteller, and a narrator of the movie, Ptolemy - played by Anthony Hopkins, does pull the mess together, a bit, but most of the time the movie is jumping from one time period to another, then back to the "present" time, and then moving into a flashback again. For example, after the short briefing of Alexanders youth, where his father is still clearly stated being alive and holding the crown, there's a scene where Alexander is arguing with the current king and practically gets disowned by him. In the next scene the movie tells Alexander is suddently the king and has conquered all the lands around Mediterranean Sea with an army of 40 000 men! What happened? This evokes a hundred questions: "How did he become a king?", "Where is his father?", "Where did he get this army?", "How did he invade all these nations?", "Why did he go for this conquer journey in the first place?", "Why everyone speaks in poetic phrases?".
It's like the movie forgot to tell something. Luckily though, the movie notices this, and explains what happened to his father in a flashback! Yay, not less than one and a half hour later. As if the editors forgot to put the scene earlier in the film and just threw it into some random gap.

The first battle scene is pretty decent, it has a long tension built to it and the action is satisfying. Although the movie seems to take this battle very seriously, but I just couldn't stop myself from laught at the Persian leaders' way of giving orders only by waving his hands and looking straight into the camera without moving a muscle in his face.

Sadly, the battle scenes go downhill afterwards. They become messy, fast paced and difficult to follow. Not to mention, there are very little explanation to any of them. Who are they actually waging war with? No idea, some Indian tribe it seems, they have elephants.

What I'd have liked to see in this movie, was what actually led them into these battles? Surely there weren't an army ready waiting for them in the middle of a desert or a jungle. How did they arrange the battle fields? How did the two parties communicate with each other? How does everyone know english (greece?)?

I don't want to go any further with nitpicking all the details about cliches, nonsense scenes and Jared Leto, because this text would become too long to be read by any sane person.
But as a conclusion, the movie is actually pretty entertaining, as long as you have prepared with proper amount of booze. It has got many good moments, nice sceneries and tense action, but the rest of it is easily forgotten.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The reason for the lack of new entries, I wasn't at home on weekend so I couldn't access to Blogger. Now when I could, I totally forgot what I was going to write about. I'll probably wake up in the middle of night when I remember it. Annoying.

So anyways, I was planning on writing about a few movies on this week. I haven't watched them before, so can't tell how good or bad they will be. Hopefully I can come up with a decent post about each.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Album releases 2011

This year seems to be great when it comes to new albums!

To name a few:
Tool (?)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

To be a good song

What makes one band better than another? Most answers are something like "this band has this awesome guitarist/drummer". In some cases ones liking of a certain artist might only depend on these over complex guitar riffs in their songs. I'm not saying it is a bad thing to be skilled playing an instrument, it's a good feature in a bands music. But the difficult guitar riffs itself doesn't make a good song. A very simple tone might sound spectacular if the performance is set right. Yet a very difficult and complex one might sound just horrible.

Oh, and ridiculously fast guitar shred or drum blasting doesn't fit in the definition of "skill".

Not to mention instrumental solos in songs. It seems it has became some sort of a standard for every damn song to have a guitar solo. Sometimes a solo might be a good way to identify or promote a certain song, but having a solo in every song on an album is overdoing it. Very often I've come across an album where the solos doesn't have any variety, causing all the songs remind each other and making the whole album repeatitive and boring. Even worse when the solo doesn't fit the actual song at all! Completely ruined.

tldr: fast guitar shred nonsense ≠ good music, and solos must fit in the actual song!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Today I happened to visit a (metal) music related forum. I couldn't read more than a few topics before I had to close the browser to avoid losing my mind. The first topic I opened was about defining one bands music into some sub-sub-sub category of metal music, and even arguing why it does/doesn't belong there. I mean, having one word + "metal" is still tolerable definition, if you really have to use something else than just the word "metal". But having every single aspect of the bands music and objects that appear in their promo pictures to include the name of the "genre", is just stupid.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Review: Moonsorrow - Verisäkeet (Blood verses)

Alright, I'd like to start off with this album, Moonsorrow - Verisäkeet (Blood verses). Compared to the previous releases of Moonsorrw, this album had a dramatic change in the style of the band. The old "pagan referring" viking swords and armoury had practically ended into a trash can and the band took a huge (also a risky) leap forward becoming a more serious music artist. As Moonsorrows members had said that their previous album already got everything the genre has to offer, so it's necessary to make something different. I'm glad they did.

Where the previous album, "Kivenkantaja", had a very bombastic pagan metal soundscape, Verisäkeet had ditched nearly all the previous concepts and took a step towards thrash and black metal, yet still being true to the bands own description of itself "epic heathen metal".

When this album first came out in 2005, I didn't really know if I liked it or not, it definitely wasn't something I had expected, but it sure was still Moonsorrow. It probably took me a few listen-throughs to get a good image of the songs, and the album. A challenging album, with a playtime of full 70 minutes.

The first three songs work as the main emphasis of the album, by creating the atmosphere and establishing the theme, being dark, heavy and brsitly. Even the songs are quite long in comparsion, they never feel repeatitive or tiresome, rather keeping the listener interested in listening the song from the beginning to the end. I have to admit, managing to create songs like this one after another must require some serious composing skill and devotion.

The first 43 minutes of gruesome melodies passes surprisingly fast, as the song "Dark" begins to fade, it gives the listener a little time to take a breath. "Jotunheim" begins the calm section of the album, yet still reminding the listener of what he went through before, with a very strong grasp. It does well tieing up the storm of the beginning and ending it with a respective outro. There's a long silence between Jotunheim and the final song, a fully achoustic "Kaiku", which is a nice exception, giving a relived ending to the whole. There's a new day after the long night.

As a conclusion, Verisäkeet is one of those albums which you might not like at first, but later on find it being one of your favourites. In my opinion, it definitely is a very good and solid album and stands on its own position in the Moonsorrow discography, but because it is a result of a radical music style change, it has a faint experiment -type of feeling in it.

-Edit note: filled some details in the review and conclusion part.