3 More Things That Will Make Marvel’s “Black Panther” A Success

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In recent years, Marvel Studios have not only made killer superhero flicks for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but they’ve also learned how to effectively market their films to both hardcore fans and casual movie-goers alike. The studio took big risks with Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange – all “lesser-known” superheroes to the casual movie-goer – and managed to make them all a success. This in part due to the aggressive marketing and promotion done by Marvel.

Black Panther is another one of those originally “lesser-known” superheroes. A couple of months ago, a teaser trailer was released and caught everyone’s attention like a hungry prey. Now, a full trailer has been released, and there’s definitely a different vibe that can be felt and expected from Black Panther. From the blazing hip-hop soundtrack to the intense heist scenes and even Lion King-ish moments, this trailer seems to posit Black Panther as a gangsta version of Batman.

However, as good as a trailer can be, they can be misleading. There are many cases where the trailer ends up being far better than the actual film (e.g. Batman VS Superman). Previously, I wrote about the 3 things Marvel needs to do to make Black Panther a success, as a reaction to the original teaser trailer. Now that the first full trailer is out, here are 3 more things that need to be done to ensure the feline’s survival.

3. Stormy Relationships

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Okay, so Storm (from X-Men) probably wouldn’t be Black Panther’s wife in the MCU, due to the whole Fox/Marvel thing going on, but that shouldn’t stop Marvel from making the feline-loving superhero’s love life and personal relationships stormy. Having a lot of personal conflicts can give a lot of character, personality and most importantly, motivation for the otherwise cold and ruthless T’Challa. In the upcoming film, T’Challa’s former lover, Nakia, serves as part of Wakanda’s special forces and sort-of his bodyguard, so some conflict of interest could make things interesting.

Also, he shares a lot in common with Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne – huge wealth of resources, loss of parents, etc – but those two can be somewhat empty emotionally, due to their upbringing. It would be really exciting to see some emotion going on, especially since the lost of T’Challa’s father was rather recent compared to Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne who loss their parents at a young age. Plus, at least T’Challa has a stepmother and half sister still alive!

2. An Intense 3-Way Battle

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Erik Killmonger and Ulysses Klaue serve as the villains in Black Panther, which is quite interesting, because in the comics, Killmonger and Klaw don’t exactly get along well (Klaw is kind of the reason Killmonger and his family was exiled from Wakanda in the comics). Also, the titular hero and the two villains all have different perspectives on Wakanda – T’Challa newly inheriting the throne, Killmonger wanting to “burn everything”, and Klaw eying Wakanda’s supply of vibranium for weapons. What would make things really interesting is if there is some serious backstabbing or even temporary alliances formed during the conflict. Another interesting thing would be if all three of them had points which the audience could relate to, making it a real conflict for the characters as well as the audience to choose sides.

1. A Killer Plot

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It goes without saying a that a good plot can really drive a film. It’s possible to have the best cast and director, but if the plot is lacking, it can really drag the entire film down. Black Panther has the heavy task of pulling off two things with its plot – to be stellar as a standalone film, and to be important in the whole Infinity War saga. There needs to be a solid story to tie things in place. Why is Black Panther important in Infinity War? Why does Killmonger want to take over Wakanda so badly? If these two questions can be addressed well in Black Panther, there is no doubt the film will be nothing short of stellar.

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Review: Marvel’s Inhumans

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Today, Marvel is a powerhouse. Be it the many superhero films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) or their insanely good miniseries on Netflix such as Daredevil and The Defenders, Marvel has always been about people with superhuman abilities and gifts dealing with super difficult situations. Then, we have the Inhumans, which seems to have received rather inhumane treatment compared to other Marvel releases.

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Movie Review: Dunkirk

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It used to be a fact that historical war films aren’t exactly appealing. They are often plagued by the same set of problems: historical facts which are not exactly accurate, and the addition of unnecessary romance which never existed in real life which almost always feels like a way to attract viewers to what would otherwise be a dull, boring history lesson. So, when it was announced that Christopher Nolan would write, co-produce and direct Dunkirk, it definitely raised many eyebrows. Christopher Nolan is no featherweight, having directed possibly the best version of Batman (The Dark Knight trilogy), and he certainly doesn’t shy away from experimenting with crazy ideas, like in the literally mind-blowing Inception. With such an impressive resume to boot, will he be able to make a historical war film shine in a time when superhero flicks and rom-coms rule the silver screen?

Dunkirk, fortunately or unfortunately, isn’t the film you’d expect it to be. That’s because it isn’t a film. It’s an experience, one that feels so real, though you might not totally understand what’s going on.

Continue reading “Movie Review: Dunkirk”

Teacher Teacher: Tenses

This article was originally featured as part of Englishjer‘s “Teacher Teacher” column.

Hello world! As promised last time, we’ll be looking at something which might have made us tense for a long time: tenses!

The mere mention of the word “tenses” can send shivers down one’s spine. Even those who speak good English would turn pale when you ask them to describe what tense is being used in a sentence. But there’s one question that often gets asked in any tense discussion of tenses (pun intended): why? Why do we use this tense and not the other tense? And why does English have so many subcategories for each time context?

We won’t really discuss the time context for tenses in this column. The past, present and future tenses are not that difficult for us to grasp. After all, Bahasa Malaysia does have them, with words like sudah, telah, sedang, tengah, and akan. And in Malay, it’s so easy: Just add a tense word to a sentence, and voila, you’ve changed the time context of an entire sentence! It’s almost as easy as adding hot water to instant noodles!

E.g. Dia makan (no tense)

Dia sudah makan (past tense)

Dia sedang makan (present tense)

Dia akan makan (future tense)

Rather, it’s the variation of each tense which seems really daunting. Simple tense? Continuous tense? Perfect tense? So many subcategories! And to make matters more confusing, it becomes challenging to explain and understand when you attempt to translate the English tenses into Malay. Ever tried translating “He ate nasi lemak?” and “He had eaten nasi lemak?”? You’d be scratching your head figuring out what’s the actual difference between the two and when to use each tense. Seems like English tenses are complicated, right?

However, the reality is that it’s not as complicated as it may seem at all! It’s actually pretty simple. Terms may seem scary at first, but every term is given that name for a reason. When we know what the name really means, everything suddenly falls into place. Just like that moment when you discover the name of someone you’ve been really admiring for a long time.

The simple tense is used when we’re simply talking about things. Why have such a tense? Notice when we’re engaged in a conversation (especially when you’re gossiping about your favorite celebrity or trying to brainstorm for ideas), we mention a lot of things in passing and never really do anything about it? That’s what the simple tense is all about. So when we say “He ate nasi lemak at the warung”, we’re just simply mentioning it, without actually having any concern about the lucky chap we mentioned in our conversation. Whoever he-who-must-not-be-named is, we simply don’t care, and we’re simply just talking about things!

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The continuous tense on the other hand is used when there’s an expectation for the listener to do something about what you’ve just said. Maybe that lucky chap you were talking about is actually David Beckham, who was eating nasi lemak at that warung behind your school, so you told your friend who happens to be his die-hard fan that “David Beckham was eating chicken rendang at the warung”. When the action of eating chicken rendang is still on-going (perhaps because he took too much gravy and needs time to adjust to the heat!), you’d be crazy not to at least want to rush to the place to witness him eating chicken rendang, no?

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Next, the perfect tense is used when things are done and nothing can be done about it. We use it to give a sense of closure, or to be a bit dramatic, to say there is no more hope. Let’s say Chris Evans ate at that warung before David Beckham was there, and you were too late to tell your friend about his presence in your neighborhood, but either had to tell your friend about it or you don’t want your friend rushing to the warung, you would say “Chris Evans had eaten kuih bingka at that warung”. That way, you get to save your friend from any disappointments or potential heartbreak from not seeing Chris Evans. 😉

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Finally, the perfect continuous tense is used to explain observations. From these observations, we then try to find conclusion. Perhaps, you wonder why a certain person likes to whisper a lot, then you observed the person or asked around and discovered a certain habit. You would then say “He had been eating dates ever since he was a kid”. Now, that explains a lot!

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So there we have it, the secret behind understanding tenses! All that really matters is for us to actually understand any given term or category before deciding if it’s difficult. Once you know why something was named that way, it really becomes easy, no?

Hope that has shed some light on the topic, and hopefully that would guide you to use the right tense without actually feeling tense! In our next column, we’re going to get a little cheesy without needing to order any wedges – we’ll be dipping into the wonderful flavors of rojak, I mean, Malaysian English and Manglish! Until next time!

Disclaimer: The author has no connection whatsoever with (in order of appearance in this article) Lord Voldemort, any instant noodle brand, David Beckham, Chris Evans, and Yusuf Taiyoob.

Teacher Teacher: Language Sense

This article was originally featured as part of Englishjer‘s “Teacher Teacher” column.

Hello world! Previously, we discovered that having a “sense” of language is needed to be good at English. In this week’s entry, we’ll look more into what exactly this “sense” is. Is it some sixth sense, or is it something beyond that? How exactly do we obtain an excellent command of language aside from doing traditional grammar exercises? There has to be some other way, right?

The key to uncovering the secret of this “sense” is by understanding how we first learned language. How did we even learn language during our infancy, when we never attended any classes at the age? And it’s amazing how we can be so good at the first language or dialect we learn, without doing any exercises at all! For example, if a child was born to a family of Kedahans, would the child ever be given a textbook saying that “ayaq” is water? No. And yet every Kedahan child would say the word “ayaq”.

The answer lies within us. We’re born with something special.

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Way back in the 1950s, a young linguist by the name of Noam Chomsky (by the way, he is still alive, still writing books and still giving talks!) found that language is innate – it is a part of us. We were born with language before we could even attend any classes or do any exercises!

What’s fascinating is that our brain has this ability to mentally sort out and organize the words we are exposed to during our infancy. So basically, when we were kids, we were unconsciously eavesdropping for words to absorb into our brains! The brain goes on a step further and begins to mentally categorize these words, figuring out how each word should be used, what words can go together, and so much more.

Once there are enough words absorbed, the child can then begin to speak. This is the basis of what is now known as Universal Grammar. It has nothing to do with the grammar we learn in school, by the way! The word “grammar” in Universal Grammar here simply means system of language, nothing more. All that matters is that we’re exposed to language usage, and our brain will work its magic.

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However, over time, the brain loses this ability to easily absorb and process words. Chomsky’s pal, Eric Lenneberg, found that there’s a time limit to learning language. Apparently, that time limit is puberty. Puberty has never hit anyone so hard, and apparently it hit us so hard that language learning is affected!

Does this mean that we’re doomed after we hit puberty? Does that mean there’s no hope to learning language, and the English language in particular?

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Not entirely. Just because we lose the natural ability to acquire language doesn’t mean we aren’t able to acquire new languages. The only thing is that the way is entirely different. There are many ways, but one of the ways to acquire language after puberty is through passion.

Wait, this is beginning to sound like a love story…

In all seriousness, love literally does help in acquiring language! There have been many instances in which people have been able to effortlessly acquire the language of their loved ones because of passion. There’s a reason why the most hardcore anime fans can easily pick up Japanese words. There’s a reason why some K-Drama fans can pick up the Korean language without really needing to attend classes. Love really does conquer everything, after all. At the risk of sounding cheesy, if it’s true love, language easily gets acquired.

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In case that sounds farfetched, here’s a video of Tim Doner, a young guy who is so passionate about learning languages, that he speaks so many languages! Passion really does push you to go that extra mile.

Hopefully these facts inspire you to discover more about the English language! In the next article, we’ll be covering something all of us have been pretty tense about when learning English: tenses! Until next time!

Movie Review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

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“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” is a proverb that needs no introduction. As human beings, it is natural for us to admire the works of others and attempt to emulate or copy the things which inspire us before eventually coming up with something distinct and original which we can call our own. This can be also be said in the film industry, with many great films building upon their predecessors by copping various elements from them.

However, the late Oscar Wilde expanded on the renown proverb, having famously said “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness”. People end up imitating others to the point of being mere mediocre imitations with no soul or originality. Unfortunately, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is one such example of that mediocrity.

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In many ways, the film seems to copy too much from many of its contemporaries. The visuals in Valerian are pleasing and by no means shabby, but one would be forgiven for mistaking the first 20 minutes of Valerian for the beautiful world of Avatar. Everything, from the looks of the Mul race to the lush landscapes look too similar to James Cameron’s masterpiece. The film also attempt to imitate the work of another famous James – in this case, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy – by copying the supposed swag of the characters, but without the swag.

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When Valerian isn’t busy trying to imitate others, it totally under-utilizes or even misuses its assets. Dane DeHaan plays the titular character and despite being a magnificent actor, his potential is only hinted at in this film. There’s not much depth in his character and even the whole playboy persona which he is supposed to have feels more like a label rather than actual trait, as nothing he does in the film shows he is one or was one.

Then, there’s Rihanna…

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Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for having someone big or famous being featured in films. Oftentimes, the star attraction does add a lot to a film. However, in Valerian, the only moments we see her in human form is in the form of a rather cheapskate discount pseudo-strip-ish-tease/dance thing which is largely forgettable and annoying. It’s so annoying that even the supposedly playboy-ish Valerian looks disgusted and disturbed. When Rihanna is not busy being awkward, she spends her remaining screen time as a blue blob, which doesn’t warrant her inclusion in the cast. In fact, the scenes are so unimportant that the film could have been way better if she wasn’t in it, so that the money used to pay her could be used to develop, say, a better script or story.

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There are also a lot of elements in Valerian which scream potential, but every moment the audience anticipates something, the film just kills the joy and moves on to something else. The whole part where they had to find the convertor creature thing and that whole inter-dimensional interaction scene in that part is beyond amazing, but that’s the only part of the film they explore it, when the creators could have easily cashed on it. There was so much potential with how the Muls were slowly incorporated in the middle part of the film, yet the creators had to kill things with a Star Wars-inspired alien brothel nonsense. Really, the producers seem to be better at producing teasers rather than an actual polished product.

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It’s such a pity, because Valerian has a decent cast, an amazing director, amazing graphics, and even some amazing concepts with huge potential, yet the title seems to hint at this film’s biggest problem. When you have a city of a thousand planets and so much at your disposal, the one thing you’re absolutely going to lack is focus. This film lacks the focus needed to tie things together to create something special. Instead, there’s too much focus on trying to copy to the point where it feels like a rip-off.

Perhaps the best way to enjoy Valerian is to mute the audio. After all, when you have a vast city with a thousand planets, things can get pretty noisy, and noise can ruin the fun. Plus, in the first place, sound was never meant to travel through space.

Rating: 4.5/10

 

Teacher Teacher: English Myths and Facts

This article was originally featured as part of Englishjer‘s “Teacher Teacher” column.

Hello world! In this multi-part article, we’ll be looking at fascinating aspects of the English Language which your school teacher never told you about. We’ll also cover some unusual but convenient tricks to write and speak in this language, useful for beginners and seasoned pros alike.

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For this very first entry, we’ll uncover some of the myths about English which may have stopped us from improving. We might think we know the language, but you might be surprised and realize you don’t really know it after reading the following!

#1 – Myth: English is from England. Long live the Queen! Fact: English didn’t come from England, nor did it come from America!

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One of the original languages spoken in England was actually Cornish (which isn’t corny in any way, by the way!). So, where did English come from, then? Believe it or not, English was originally a German dialect, spoken by three tribes from East Germany: the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes. Ever wondered where the term “Anglo-Saxon” came from? It came from two of the three tribes which first spoke English! Whatever happened to the Jutes, nobody really knows! When the tribes invaded the land that is now known as England, they brought English with them, and the rest is history.

So what does this mean to us? Some of us may be told that English is “bad”, because it came from the UK or the US. Worry no more, because it never came for those countries! Also, this shows a unique trait of the English Language: it is not owned by any country or race anymore. Instead, it is owned by the community which uses the language. The community is then free to make English their own. That’s why we have so many different flavors of English in the world, each with their own unique quirks, embellished with different pronunciations. Speaking of varieties…

#2 – Myth: Only British are American are “standard”. You’re either a fan of Benedict Cumberbatch or Brad Pitt. Choose only one!  Fact: There is no real “standard” version of English!

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You might have heard people arguing that we “must” study British English because it is supposedly the standard. You might have also heard people saying we should use American English because the media is dominated by American news and entertainment. Which one should we use? Come to think of it, what kind of English is being used in Malaysia?

In reality, we aren’t even studying British English AT ALL in Malaysia (I may write an entire article about this at a later time!). It’s actually Malaysian Standard English (MSE, not to be confused with Manglish, which is basically Bahasa Rojak!), and it uses pronunciation which is neither British nor American – it’s Malaysian! MSE is a version of English with words only used in Malaysia – you would never find terms such as “K.I.V.” or “medical certificate” used outside our region! We do, however, adopt British spelling. That, along with the fact we were once colonized by the Brits, is the only thing that is remotely British about our English.

What makes it fun is that our English is truly unique. It’s so unique, linguists (basically, experts who study language for a living) worldwide actually consider Malaysian Standard English as a distinct variety of English. How about pronunciation, then? As long as we don’t make a glaring mistake such as pronouncing the “k”, “g” and “h” in the word “knight”, we’re fine! And to those with thick accents from states such as Kedah, Kelantan or Sabah, don’t be afraid to flaunt your accent and add a unique flavor to your English – it’s perfectly fine to have a local accent when pronouncing words! Try saying “close the door” the Kelantanese way! Hmmm, so if accents don’t really matter, then what’s important?

#3 Myth: Grammar is important! Grammar police, arrest the offenders! Fact: Grammar is not THAT important!

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Whoa, wait a minute that sounds like total blasphemy! Imagine the pain, the embarrassment, the shame, all your life… Everything that we feel when we made that mistake in tenses or subject-verb-agreement…

AND NOW YOU’RE TELLING US GRAMMAR IS NOT THAT IMPORTANT?!?

Relax. Inhale. Exhale.

Linguists have long found that knowing grammar simply means you know the grammar of a language. Nothing more. It does not reflect your actual intelligence or thinking capability. It is actually common for people to have perfect grammar and still talk complete rubbish. To illustrate this, let’s look at the following sentence:

“Our laptop is pregnant.”

Grammatically, it’s superb. Subject-verb agreement, check! But meaning-wise, it’s absolute rubbish. While it would be awesome for laptops to be pregnant one day so that we no longer need to buy new laptops when they’re old and obsolete, in reality, the sentence just doesn’t make sense. And that’s what’s important about any language – a sense of what is acceptable and what is not. Why do we say “Siapa nama kamu?” in Malay and “What is his name?” in English instead of “Who is his name? (which is a direct translation of the Malay question)? It’s because we just have that sense of what’s right and what’s wrong. And we can only obtain that “sense” of the language by regularly using the language. Just relax, English jer!

Hopefully these facts inspire you to discover more about the English language! There really is a lot to know about language, and that just makes things even more fun. In the next installment, we’ll be looking at even more fun facts, and we’ll learn ways to get better at English without needing to do endless grammar exercises. Until next time!