Top 5 Movies To Look Forward To In 2012

•February 10, 2012 • 2 Comments

I’ve always had a strong passion for film. While 2011 was certainly a disappointing year for movies, I certainly expect 2012 to be a great year as there are multiple movies I am looking forward to watching as the year progresses. I could only hope they won’t disappoint.

1) Avengers

I’ve watched Captain America, Thor, and if I ever had time would probably watch Iron Man. Superheroes never really fascinated me much, though Thor had certainly impressed me, despite its lack of marketing. Perhaps that was the reason why I had low expectations that was easily fulfilled in the end of the movie. Captain America wasn’t half as bad, either. Those two films both have a separate and unique ending that, purposefully, links towards this imminent movie named Avengers, where superheroes assemble together to, spoiler alert, fight the forces of evil. I am certainly looking forward to this movie, and am interested in knowing and experiencing how well the directors could execute this movie to its finest.

2) Chronicle

A found-footage style film addressing the issues and the events of a group consisting of three teenage boys discovering their superpowers, and illustrates their mental struggles as they decide to use their powers for good, or evil. The trailer was definitely quite intriguing, and it actually just opened last week, receiving virtually all positive reviews. Looking forward to watching this.

3) Amazing Spider Man (Spiderman IV)

I’ve heard of a reboot of Spiderman, with the characters being replaced as Andrew Garfield (notably from The Social Network), and Emma Stone (certainly you’ve heard of her). At first I had to admit I wasn’t that intrigued, I had always been a “fan” of the Spiderman series, as it kinda grew it with me. The fact that they’re making a reboot is simply great news, despite the fact that the previous actors will not appear. And I wasn’t really following the news of this movie until recently during the Superbowl. Though, this oughta be on my checklist.

4) The Hunger Games

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen reluctantly enters the Hunger Games, an annual event in which one boy and one girl aged 12 to 18 from each of the 12 districts surrounding the highly advanced metropolis of Capitol, are selected to compete in a televised battle in which only one person will ultimately survive. I heard the book was great. I don’t have time for books. The movie will do fine. 🙂

5) The Expendables 2

Mr Church reunites the Expendable team for what would otherwise be a piece-of-cake mission, but when one of the men are murdered during their mission, the team seeks revenge. The original Expendables was great. The Expendables 2 has Chuck Norris. Need I say more?


When Winter Chimes

•January 9, 2012 • 2 Comments

You never notice it if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

A slow, gradual change undulating down in the background; it’s only evident that it’s Winter when the first breezes stroll, when the last leaves fall, descending to the floor.

To some, it may mean the season of death. Animals prepare food and shelter in advance, for their hibernation during the disastrous weather that Winter brings.

To some, it may mean the season of love, the opportunity to spend time with family and loved ones, spreading warmth and love in the coldest of times.

And to some, it may mean the season of hope. After all, the end of the year is just around the corner.

Winter has a special way of communicating with us. I had never really given a second thought to these subtle, negligible changes that occur simultaneously in the background of our everyday lives. Never had I noticed the signs that stood right in front of my eyes, foreshadowing the changes in season.

Year by year, my definition of Christmas changes. I remembered looking at the photographs of me as an infant, playing in the snow. Apparently, I crapped my pants and had to be sent to a hospital — don’t ask. My father would bring me up to the top of a relatively steep, smooth, and short slope, letting this little baby experience skiing for the first time. But these are all just that: photographs. I don’t actually recall any of these events ever happening, nor have I ever experienced, or ever will experience, Christmas through the eyes of innocence once more. And assuming that this child in the photograph, indeed was I, it is evident that Christmas has ever since left an imprint in the depths of my mind. Despite the fact that I could never draw back to these events, they must have left a significant influence to what I perceive as Christmas today.

Then there’s the year when I was in my childhood years. I was no longer the only child, for a baby was born. My sister, Chelsea. Indeed, she quickly became my new best friend, and little did I know then the significant impact she’d have on me. My parents and I were watching television on the sofa, with my sister sleeping in the cradle in her room. Just after I had to take a leak, something occurred to me. I turned around, wiped my hands clean on my shirt and checked it again. I was right. Something is in the Christmas stockings in the door of my sister’s room! I think I almost screamed to the extent that my parents told me to lower my volume to prevent my sister from awaking. But it was all that a 6 year old could do. “Santa came here” I yelled. My parents exchanged knowing smiles, “perhaps through the window?”. We lived on the highest floor of a 35-floored building.

And I remember when I was 10. It was after a movie, my family and I went to this nifty place for dessert. The topic of Santa got involved, and now the tables have turned — I was the one exchanging knowing looks to my father as he described Santa to my sister. And here’s the turning point, my parents revealed the truth of Santa to both of us. I smiled. I’m not always right, but I’m never wrong.

And now today, I’ve been spending time less with my family due to studies and have mostly diverted my time to spending with friends. The holidays allowed me to treasure every moment I had with my family. It’s Christmas, but there’s no Christmas tree. There’s no stockings, no Christmas pudding, or presents decorated with a ribbon and a bow. There’s just my family and I. And it’s only when you sit in this most comfortable place you know as home, where everything was as it were every year before, that you finally realize: you were the one who changed.

Only then, you notice what you’re looking for: Love.

Remembering Steve

•November 24, 2011 • 4 Comments

For a month, I have struggled to find the words that exactly describe my intricate feelings for revolutionary designer Steve Job’s death. Initially, I’ve pondered whether I should actually even address this issue — the fact that there were over millions of tributes and dedications to the innovative genius already, I reckoned mine wouldn’t make a difference.

Steve Jobs shows off iPhone 4 at the 2010 Worl...

Image via Wikipedia

When I first learnt of Steve Job’s death, I was on a train just like any other day. A typical routine day of me, just another normal person living the busy lifestyle of Hong Kong. At first, Steve’s death was announced in Chinese. To the best of my knowledge then (and the fact that I didn’t register Steve Job’s Chinese name immediately), I understood that a man died at the age of 56 years, and logically I assumed this man must be of great importance to even make it on a news show regarding his death. Logically, more assumptions continue to arise that match Steve. 56 years old – Check. Famous and of great importance to make his death on the news show – Check. Familiar Chinese translation of a name – Check. The fact that Steve was already diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer and is on the brink of his death – Check. Still, for some unknown reason I continued to ignore it. I doubted it. Then I got back on the grid.

Steve Jobs at the WWDC 07

Image via Wikipedia, Steve’s famous face back in the years when he was a healthy young man was on display in a black-and-white style resembling that of a dead person., a generous gesture from one of Apple’s leading competitors and rivals, displaying Steve’s name (which redirects to on their home page — one of the websites which generate multi-millions of traffic per day. Then it was everywhere. Blogs were being made. Dedication videos being created. It was as if I was seeing the internet community coming together to remember this great genius who once stepped into our world — with so many problems — and changed it, and fixed it. The fool, the rebel, the misfit who fit the round pegs into the square holes. He was the one man who was crazy enough to think that they can change the world, and at the end of the day, he was right — he was the one who did so.

Image representing Steve Jobs as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

Over the last month, for some unknown reason, I am happy. I really am. I had a new outlook on life, I became naturally more optimistic. And if there’s one thing I learnt from Steve, it was this:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.

Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.

And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

From this I had a new positive outlook on life. I think I achieved somewhat of a balance, a sense of happiness. And at the end of the day, with all those blogs and dedications claiming the tragedy of Steve Jobs, I want to end on a positive note.

Jobs on stage at Macworld Conference & Expo, S...

Image via Wikipedia

Thanks Steve. Thanks for all you have done in our world. Whether you are an Apple fan or not an Apple fan, there is no denying the fact that this man has changed our world. As a freelance graphic designer myself — Steve; your complex and judgmental attitude to the precision and detail of a product has changed me. It was since the day you have left our world, that I recognize the impact one man could have to our world — and from that day on, I vowed to make a difference, starting today.

Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Review

•November 18, 2011 • 2 Comments

Skyrim is perhaps one of the most anticipated role-playing games, if not THE most anticipated, of 2011. With virtually all positive reviews such as from “Wired” scoring it a 10/10, claiming “Boundless Skyrim Will Become Your Life”. Then “Machinima” scoring it a 9.5/10 saying “Quit your job. Divorce your spouse. Give your children up for adoption. Do whatever you need to do to find the time to play Skyrim.” It is simply too tempting for me to review this game.

Skyrim is the fifth installment of the Elder Scrolls, although playing previous installments will help in appreciating the story even better, I believe it is not required as it only loosely relates to the previous storylines. For instance, at parts you will notice some recurring characters from previous installments of the game (set 200 years before Skyrim), where they, of course, died already.

In terms of storyline, I have played towards what I believe is 40-50% of the main story line, and although the story is not that interesting in the beginning, you will slowly discover that, like many films and stories, it is building into something massive. I, currently, am building towards this and honestly, the story is the only factor that’s keeping me playing the game. 5/5

Then there’s the graphics. With ultra settings set, the graphics are simply impressive and completely immerse the player into the world of Skyrim. I previously had my computer run the recommended settings, but once I converted to the Ultra settings (testing the boundaries of my computer), I was simply blown away by the lighting, the art, and simply saw the world through different eyes. What really impresses me is the water, how it reflects land surfaces, particles, objects, cities, and most importantly sunlight. I’m surprised I’ll even say this, but Skyrim sure looks better than real world — and perhaps this is one of the main selling points of this franchise. It simply causes the player to prefer the world of Skyrim than our real world. 5/5

In terms of gameplay, it is bearable to some extents. Although I may have my expectations set high, or perhaps simply due to the fact that I am not as proficient as a role-playing-game player as I might think, I believe the gameplay is one of the very few flaws that Skyrim has. For instance, during some parts of the quests, the tasks and objectives may not be completely evident and apparent to the player. As a game designer, I am aware of the importance of the strong intricate relationship and communication the game must have to the player. In some ways, the game must communicate with the player in a very effective way in order to fully exhibit the potentials of the game. There were some parts of the game where there was a door right behind a rock, or a lever camouflaged on a wall — some crucial elements of the game that if not fully observed, stop the player from enjoying the momentum the story and graphics are building towards. As a word of advice, I personally believe that setting some objectives to perhaps glow and emit some light will catch the player’s attention, especially for novice players such as I. This, of course, could be a alternate option and could be toggled for veterans who wish to take the extra step in exploration. Likewise, in terms of gameplay, the physics simulator is very inaccurate and glitchy at times, although this does not irritate my gameplay much, it is still a flaw and must bear mentioning. 4/5

Music. The music is both subtle, but also encourages the change in mood, and overall affects the experience of the player. The transitions are very subtle and almost noticeable, for instance, listening to a music of tranquility in a city could very smoothly, almost unnoticeably, transition into a epic fight scene while the player slays a dragon. The sound effects are likewise impressive, and although I strongly encourage to watch the behind the scenes as it shows how the team of Besthesda Productions acquired and generated these realistic and mood-changing sounds. 5/5

Finally, on a side note, what really impresses me is how they compressed all this — an entire world for god’s sake — into a 5GB file. To put into perspective, my entire iTunes library has around 2000 songs, and already occupies 12GB. Skyrim has over 4000 soundtracks, and just the soundtracks alone — without the graphics, the engine — already defies our normal expectations of data storage.

Ultimately, Skyrim is one of those must-play games for role-playing game lovers, and something that should definitely be checked out by non-gamers as well. To simply immerse yourself in the world of Skyrim is not only breathtaking, but very inspirational. Though, be warned, it is best if you clear the homework or tasks on your plate — as this game is extremely time-consuming and addictive, perhaps one of the reasons why this game is just so much rewarding in the end.

(I apologize for the lengthiness of this blog post — Skyrim is simply very impressive and what I have said only briefly scratches the surface)

“In Time” – Movie Review

•November 11, 2011 • Leave a Comment

In Time, a sci-fi, action drama was introduced into the cinemas in the recent weeks And since its recent release, it has received positive reception and was well-acclaimed among movie-reviewers. I highly recommend watching this trailer, before proceeding with this blog post, as many complex ideas will be introduced.

Brief Overview

The movie introduces a new concept into our real world, where time is money — literally. Where people do not age beyond 25 years old. Those who are suffering from poverty diminish in their early years, while those who are living the wealthy lifestyle could live forever. This concept is very relatable to the economic lifestyle of our modern culture — where time equals money figuratively. A second wasted is a potential opportunity lost to close a business deal, so to speak. In Time solely relies on the basis of this concept, and draws onto the inner desperation in our modern, busy lifestyles, and allows us to appreciate the time we have, and live in the moment as opposed to being overwhelmed and fully consumed by the economic, repetitive lifestyles many modern people possess.

The first half of the film, as with many other films, introduces the concept and the current world we live in where time is both linear, and is the controlling force of the communities in the movie. Examples given were where coffee costs 4 minutes, crossing a border could cost up to 2 years, purchasing a meal could cost 8 minutes, etc. As the film slowly progresses, the darker sides of this virtual world progressively becomes more evident. Where in our real world we have black markets controlling the flow of money, the virtual world of “In Time” has mafia attempting to steal the time away from one, essentially killing the owner due to the fact that “their time is up”, literally. Where in reality we have police and the government governing the prices and the distribution of money, the virtual world has “Timekeepers” who govern the distribution of time (for instance, when there is a sudden incident where a community has access to a previously-restricted capsule of time, the timekeepers govern and collect the time back).


This is all very confusing, I know. But now that we’re on the same page, what mostly interests me is the close relationship the movie has to our real world. And what’s even more striking is that the virtual reality resembles on the basis of our modern world‘s principles and economies.

For instance, time symbolizes money. Using this as the basis, the director addresses the issues of our globalizing economy and the economic gap between the rich and the poor of our world. This is represented with various borders in the virtual world, where to cross a border would cost up to 2 years. Crossing the border is essentially a symbolic representation of migrating from, for instance, Africa, to the North America — a developed country.

Another instance of the director addressing the same point is the personality difference between the wealthy and the poor. It is highly evident that the wealthy moves very slowly, as they have “all the time in the world”, literally. Whereas those who are living in the ghetto struggle to survive every single day. There was a scene where the mother of the protagonist could not afford a bus fare (which costs 15 minutes), and therefore must run to her son before its too late. Unfortunately, her time ran out and she died only seconds away from her son.


Overall, this movie is a must-watch, and has very much an impact on me in life. Very few movies have done this in the past, and it allowed me to gain a new perspective on the essence of time, and the importance of it in our real world. In fact, just writing this article led me to many laughs and references to our real life. But most importantly, this movie allows the watchers to understand and appreciate the importance of time, and to take a break from the “reality” where statistics, science, numbers and money is all that matters.

“Portal: No Escape” Film Commentary Analysis (Part 2)

•November 4, 2011 • Leave a Comment

“Portal: No Escape” Film Commentary Analysis (Part 2)


If you find this post to be irrelevant in the context of this blog post, please read the first post as of here:





In the beginning, there was a moment of total darkness to suggest the silence and blankness of the protagonist — an unnamed woman. This silence breaks at sharply at 0:07 with the woman’s gasp, and her facial expression shown bewildered, waking up. This effect allows Trachtenberg to introduce us to the protagonist, and through the woman’s facial reactions, we as the audience are able to relate to the main character due to the fact that we are just as unfamiliar to the environment and the event that brought her here; as she is. It simply began with darkness; which suggests that she, similarly, could recall only blankness. In addition, it could be noticed that there is a blurred, glowing line possibly due to the flare of the background lighting, illuminated on the camera’s lens. It is unlikely that this was not intentional, and presents as a symbolic meaning to the character’s blurred, unfocused state of confusion.


The following series of shots show the woman standing up. This symbolic gesture suggests the female rising to power. In addition, it is noticeably darker in the area where the women stood up; and the transition from a darker shaded environment to a illuminated environment similarly suggests the transition away from the dark beginning, to the more vivid events imminent.


Following from 0:47-0:55 is a series of short cuts. Trachtenberg chose to minimize the duration these clips are shown to emphasize on the fast, rapid movements of the character, implying a sense of panic from the female’s mind. These series of short cuts also serve similar to a comma, or a final breath before the final revelation (0:57), the woman being imprinted with some technological chip. In addition, this effect allows the audience to gain an understanding of the complexity of the events as they are broken down into individual, short, scenes.


Immediately after the events, (1:02), there is a scene where the woman presumably sits down. This moment serves as a full stop in the film, allowing us as the audience — similar to the woman — a chance to compose their thoughts. Moreover, there is a brief transition in focus and depth of field to emphasize the “drawings” in the background. These “drawings” serve similar to a code, and foreshadows the events later revealed in the film.




Scene 2 composes of a montage of the woman working out, and of a series of footage from a security camera. These two serve as a basis of building up the momentum of the film, as opposed to the slow beginning. In addition, the repetitive monotony of the events suggest that a large amount of time has passed since the beginning of the film. Trachtenberg also chose to include this in the film to build a subtle gesture of the two distinct sides — the woman, and the mysterious, unknown person imprisoning the woman. This is achieved by creating a sequence of repetitive and patterned shots. For instance, the woman’s consistent workout and exercises suggest her rising to power and adaptation. Whereas, the continuous, uniform sequence of security camera shots indicates the presence of a greater power watching and monitoring her. The higher angle of these camera footage also suggest the fact that this greater power does not value the woman more than what a scientist would value a lab rat.


These sequence of shots slowly begin to end at 2:28, where the “drawings” mentioned beforehand are further emphasized. An over-the-shoulder shot is shown to allow the audience to view this “drawings” from the protagonist’s perspective for the first time, and the following medium shots of the character suggests that she has reached a recognition or revelation of the hidden meaning behind the “drawings” (although not expressed clearly to the audience). The music also fades down from the relatively intense music beforehand, effectively allowing the audience to prepare for the change from an introduction to a pre-climax.




At 2:37, the woman is shown to adjust her bed to reach a hidden container behind the wall, revealing the Portal Gun. Trachtenberg has chosen to devote the following minutes of film to introduce the Portal Gun to audiences unfamiliar with the concept, or are simply watching this video out of context. This allows a connection between the film and the audience and further allows us, as the audience, to view the events from the protagonist’s perspective — as we, are just as unfamiliar as the character is. Although these sequence of shots are relatively simple, it is essential to form the bridge between the film and the audience, constructing a relationship and understanding of the Portal Gun through an inclusive scene.




At 3:52, a food tray enters the woman’s prison cell. This food tray is a recurring motif as indicated through the previous repetitive sequence of shots in Scene 2. The reappearance of this gives the impression that there is a change in this monotony, and it ends now. The following shot is an over-the-shoulder shot of an guard. This changes the perspective of the audience, and introduces us to the first character other than the woman. The woman generates two portals to allow the bed to fall through the portal (with force applied through a kick), coming through the other portal, and dropping down onto the guard. She then leaps to a dark corridor. The recurring motif of darkness once again suggests her state of confusion and unawareness to her unfamiliar surrounding environment. The narrowness of the corridor furthermore presents a claustrophobic view, suggesting the fact that she was essentially walking away from the planned events, and changing the course of events — putting herself in control. The linearity of this corridor also presents the idea that there is only one way out, and the fact that she could not return to her cell due tqo already wounding, if not killing, an guard, presents the idea that there IS no way out without successfully destroying those in her path — further emphasizing her rise in power and increase in determinedness.


Following is a short montage of the woman using clever portal arrangement techniques to maneuver across the guards. It is also noticeably brighter as the montage progresses, emphasizing the connotation of hope and contrasting with the idea of being trapped back in her cell.


The woman makes it to the roof at 4:30, the roof being the first representation of the outdoors, contrasting greatly with the previous events in the cell and hallway. A slow motion sequence is then presented with the woman deliberately jumping off the roof. She falls through a portal and with the gravitational acceleration/momentum she possessed during her fall, she shoots through the other portal at the same velocity. The purpose of the slow-motioned sequence is to allow the audience to gain an understanding of the events, as opposed to being overwhelmed by the complexity of the events if played in real-time.




The final scene begins immediately after the ending of Scene 4, with the woman having reached the other end of the roof, inaccessible and unreachable to the guards. The music slowly becomes a less intense mood, and the woman is shown walking slowly towards the city — only to be revealed as a artificial hologram presented as she slams her fist with disgust. The camera then orientates slowly to reveal the back of this hologram, showing a dark hidden capsule with storage cubes, and other visual references to the Portal game. The film finally ends with the credits.


In addition, to wrap up, not a single word was spoken throughout the entire film. This allows the film-maker to communicate these complex ideas through film language or visual representations to a diverse community as opposed to speakers of one specific language, allowing people from any cultural background to understand these concepts, and appreciate the depth of this film.


(1377 words)

Battlefield 3 – Review

•October 28, 2011 • Leave a Comment

One of the most anticipated games of 2011, if not THE most anticipated. Since 2008, Battlefield and its competitor, the Call of Duty franchise, have been released with a yearly gap between them — though this year, 2011, Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, are being released relatively side-by-side, with the former being released 5 days ago, and the latter being anticipated within 2 weeks. It is about time that the two leading rivals of the first-person-shooting experience, come into “close contact”.

Unrivaled Destruction

Battlefield 3 offers great improvements in gameplay. Sporting the new and improved, Frostbite 2.0 engine, gamers will experience more freedom and realism in gameplay. For those who don’t know, Frostbite is a game engine which allows a sandbox-style gaming experience, as the player you are in control of the world around you, shooting bullets on a wall will (as in reality) cripple the wall. But what sets Battlefield 3 aside from its competitors is how far EA has gotten to the engine, allowing objects from the smallest particle to the largest star having its own physics and its responsiveness to the player. In this area, no FPS comes close to the freedom Battlefield 3 gives.

Graphics and Performance

Although the requirements to play the game is relatively high, raising the bar to the gaming experience in the 21st century, those who are qualified to play the game will discover that it is well worth to invest on a new computer. The graphics are truly mind-blowing, to a degree I have never before seen in a FPS. For instance, lighting effects will have a certain gaussian blur to them, whereas swift movements from players or objects will have a motion blur embedded to them, allowing a realism in the game as well as a dynamic movement between the interactives of the environment. It is almost as if you are experiencing the environment first-person, as opposed to being in a game.


Battlefield 3 features very intuitive gameplay. Firstly, ranging from battling across opponents with a fictionalized team. Although the team is only consisting of NPCs (non-playable-characters), it is evident that the game producers have put into a lot of though behind the characteristics of the characters, giving them a real depth and emotion as if they are in the war with you. Moreover, game-styles features from aero-nautical-navigation, to turrets and tanks, giving the player a round up experience of warfare.


Unlike many others, the storyline is what caught me the most. It surely has the most strongest story compared to other FPS games I have played before. Although the story is relatively simple, this allows an area for the game developers to professionally execute these simple concepts and ideas into the overall experience of the player — and certainly they have done just this. They have used a parallel storyline — or rather, an intertwining storyline — allowing the player to play various characters in the game. Some of the playable characters are minor, while most are major characters. Some don’t make it until the very end, featuring a very tragic and significant death, while others meet up together (thus, rather more appropriately named intertwining storyline than parallel). This allows for some moments where the player him/herself may gain a recognition of how various facts and events portrayed in the game come into relation with each other, and slowly one would finish the puzzle pieces together to form a bigger picture of the climatic moment of the story (where I won’t reveal due to spoilers).


Battlefield 3 was truly an amazing experience. Although many believe it is short, on second thought I believe it was well worth my time. The story was also very dynamic as well as the gameplay living up to the standards they have set in its predecessor, Battlefield 2. Overall, this game deserves a 9/10 , simply from the campaign mode. I highly recommend FPS-loving players to give this game a shot. Literally.

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