Alita: Battle Angel (dir. Robert Rodriguez, 2019) – With no memory of her past but a stunning set of combative skills, Alita sets out to unravel the mystery of who she truly is.
Slick visuals and fantastic world-building drive Alita towards her becoming, making the dreary bits worth trudging through.
Neither genres nor audiences can bound Robert Rodriguez. To date, the Desperado director and Splat Pack member has delivered well-loved entertainment in almost every realm of cinema, from the gore galore of Planet Terror, to the family-friendly franchise of Spy Kids.
Alita: Battle Angel thus seems a neat fit for his directorial versatility. Set in a futuristic albeit dystopian future, the manga adaptation aptly treads a delicate line between crowd-pleasing action and almost alienating grimness.
For one, Alita knows nothing her combative skills, made ready for an action-adventure of mass appeal. But her big, shining eyes can be deceptive. Darkness lurks in her history, as well as the post-apocalypse society of the future that has no place for the innocent.
Polar (dir. Jonas Åkerlund, 2019) – Hitman Duncan Vizla is about to go into retirement, but his employer has no plans of letting him settle down in peace.
Emotionally distant and distractingly explicit, Polar may leave one feeling ice cold following the heat of the action.
Former musician Jonas Åkerlund has long since established himself as a big name in the making of explicit music videos. Known for his unbridled depiction of sex, drugs, and violence, the man was responsible for the party visuals behind Rammstein’s Pussy, The Prodigy’s Smack My Bitch Up, and other aptly named greatest hits.
Who then would expect anything more from him than a no holds barred show of exploitative hyper-violence and abundant butt close-ups? It is indeed no surprise to see Polar serve up another one of his trademark cocktails, where the hard-R trinity shows up in gratuitous excess.
December may just be the best season to avoid the heat in Chiang Mai. Temperatures typically hover around 30°C in the day and 20 at night, which is as good as it gets here. With Day 1 spent away in Chiang Rai, we were down to four days in the city. Thankfully, there was plenty else to do.
Temples visiting was a given. If you have never been to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, you have never been to Chiang Mai, so say the locals. And so we took a songtaew up the steep mountains and arrived at the stairs towards the pagodas, a sight worth every of the 309 steps.
This is a sacred site to the Thais, and is considered to be one of the holiest pilgrimage spots for Buddhists. It has the scale to show for it. Awash in royal gold, the temples and shrines are pure displays of grandeur and magnificence.
Looking for a starting point to Chiang Mai was indeed a daunting task, with an impressive 300 Buddhist temples lining the streets of the capital. The place thrives on tradition, instilling a rare sense of calm and peace in its visitors – a stark contrast to the modern bustle of Bangkok.
Research led my sister and I on a day tour towards Thailand’s northernmost city, Chiang Rai. Tour pictures flaunted its most well-known temple, covered in a breathtaking blanket of white. Turns out, real life did live up to fantasy. As though shrouded in snow, Wat Rong Khun (also known as the White Temple) was as beautiful as one might imagine.
Construction began only back in 1997, when artist Chalermchai Kositpipat had painstakingly designed and constructed the artistic site with his own funding. And his work is barely done. The already grand architecture is still a work-in-progress, and will be till the year of 2070.
The Magicians (Lev Grossman, 2009) – Quentin Coldwater learns that magic, along with the land of his childhood novels, is real.
Magic for young adults has never been more angsty and tedious.
Part Harry Potter and part The Chronicles of Narnia, The Magicians is an amalgamation of fantasy clichés. Young teenagers walk through the proverbial wardrobe and emerge in Brakebills, a boarding school for magic, where they finally find their sense of belonging.
Well, sort of. Magic in Lev Grossman’s world is not that easy to love. It is low on the sense of wonder, difficult, and painfully dull. Tons involve the tedious learning of various languages, repetitive spell-casting, and constant barrages of self-doubt.
Aquaman (dir. James Wan, 2018) – To preserve peace between land and sea, Arthur Curry must find the trident that will prove his worth as the King of Atlantis.
The Atlantean King’s first solo outing gets inundated with one too many villains, including a leaden script.
It was never Arthur’s intent to vie for the throne. But he soon finds his hand forced when the next heir in line threatens to wage a dangerous war. Having left his world behind at a young age, the late King’s firstborn son must find a sacred weapon, which will prove his worth to rule a world in disarray.
The to-be King is no heir of Camelot, but borne of the Atlantean Queen and a mortal lighthouse keeper. As the son of star-crossed lovers from two worlds, Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) knows better than anyone about unity. It takes little convincing for him to get his quest for peace started, as his initial reluctance quickly washes off to make room for explosive underwater action.