As the nation gloriously reeled from another Pacquiao victory, I took it upon myself to stretch the adrenaline rush. I was midway to the sofa, a cold beer in hand, when Pacquiao knocked the living daylights out of Hatton. It was one of those rare moments when I consciously indulged in a national experience that was quite macho and it was over even before I had a sip (gulp?) from my macho beer. I wanted more action. I wanted broken bones. I wanted blood. Grr.
Fireball ( ท้า/ชน), sans subtitles, makes a winning case that action---high kicks, knuckle-busting punches---speaks louder than words. The plot is quite easy to follow, though reading the synopsis ahead can help a great deal. Director Thanakorn Pongsuwan is committed to the lean, but surprisingly meaty in characterization, storytelling and makes no apologies to the brutality of the action. Fireball, the game, is more than a hybrid of muay thai and basketball. The inhuman, feral skills on display is simply superheroic in nature.
Pongsuwan's action scenes make the violence of Watchmen look like child's play. The sequence where Tai (Preeti Bank Barameeanan) and his ragtag team goes up against thick-necked roids with metal pipes could arguably be the only segment where basketball and muay thai are equally combined to a thrilling, visceral effect. Though I would sometimes hope that the camera would pull out so I could see full-body shots of the action, the tight shots and quick cut-to-cuts do make me feel like I am a part of the action. Oftentimes, I would duck (and spill my beer) while screaming Foul! to the screen.
The short vignettes that peek into the lives of the players are insightful enough to make the characters easy to sympathize with, making the tragic moments a little more emotional than one expects in an all-out action flick. And though language is a significant barrier to a fuller appreciation of Fireball, the defiance in the violence---passionate, breathtaking---is as tangible as any scripted dialogue and saves the movie from a hollow, forgettable existence. Here's hoping for a Region 1 release.
And speaking of forgettable, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, with all its loud explosions and serviceable special effects, lacks the power to surprise. Good thing I grabbed a cup of coffee before I walked in the cinema. The first 30 minutes were promising enough. It was great to see Daniel Henny's Agent Zero in action, all sinewy and deadly. I'm not a fan of the Deadpool character but after following his relaunch during Marvel's Secret Invasion event, I understood why he was a fan favorite; he's the crazy, accidentally funny assassin underdog whose unpredictable nature makes him one of the more engaging anti-heroes. We only see hints of Wade Wilson/Deadpool's comic characterization here, and the ending of the movie totally messes up the character.
Wolverine is to Marvel as Batman is to DC. And if you're a comic book reader, you're kind of tired (well, I am) of seeing him everywhere; he has four ongoing titles, he is in all 3 of the 4 (?) X-men books, he is occasionally in the New Avengers. The movie doesn't offer anything new to Logan's much explored history; Victor Creed (Sabretooth) who is revealed right from the outset as Wolverine's brother in Marvel's movie universe is difficult to buy because the character was portrayed as a mumbling, dim-witted opponent in the first X-Men movie.
It is undeniable though that Hugh Jackman is the perfect Wolverine, a rare casting coup and second only to the late Christopher Reeve's Superman. So watch it for Jackman and the amazing Liev Schreiber. Watch it if you want to see Gambit throw kinetic cards (which he does only once). Watch it if you want to see younger versions of Professor Xavier, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Toad and Dust. Otherwise, you're better off watching X-Men 2 again.