Proving That The More Things Change….

ad to the bone – The Executive Coloring Book

Huo Yuan Jia (2006)

Huo Yuan Jia (2006)

This is being released here in the States as – Jet Li’s Fearless.

At the request of my wife, I’m going to see if I can get back in the saddle and start reviewing some movies. At some point I took a break and now the back log is crazy (it didn’t help that I saw three this weekend).

What is all comes down to is this – it’s Saturday afternoon and you wife asks – “Hey do you want to go see the new Jet Li film?”

I ask you – is there any other answer than “Yes”. Sure they can be a little over the top, but you have to give him some credit – he knows how to throw down on some serious ass kicking.

This seems a lot closer to Hero than to Cradle to the Grave. The move away from the modern to the more historical is a good choice.

That’s the thing about this movie – it is apparently based on a true story. How closely it stays to its historical roots – I have no idea. All I know is that in the first few minutes of the film they tell you the ending – or at least it appears that way.

This is the story of a guy who can seriously fight. He’s good at it, and it is all he knows. In a lot of movies that would probably be enough plot (see the new movie The Marine).

Some people are going to say that they got too much non-ass kicking in this Jet Li movie. I mean don’t get me wrong – there is a lot of serious fighting – but there is a good 20 minutes where no one gets punched or anything.

This ends up being a more mature and rounded film than I expected. You get to see the character develop and understand where he fits into the greater cycle of life.

The main plot centers around the West’s oppression of China. And there is a lot of pro-China nationalism in the film. Since this is from an era before communism you can see it as simply a people standing up for themselves – or you can see it as pro-China propoganda. I didn’t end up worrying to much about either and just took it at face value.

In the end, I walked away from the movie that acutally did a good job of showing the spiritual side of the martial arts. All to often films focus on the hero’s ability to break objects and people. This film shows how important the understanding of the true goals of studying martial arts.

This is especial important because this is supposed to be his last martial arts film. It is a good way to go out, but a shame that just as he seemed to really hit his stride he’s decided to focus on other things.

Bottom Line: Li’s last role, solid (if schmaltzy) plot, combined with great action means go see it in the theater where the kicks and flips can truly be enjoyed!

Why 2007 Will Be A Great Year For Movies

This summer has been a let down – or at least I think it has – I just haven’t been moved to see that many movies – thanks to this list for 2007 – I’m actually kind of excited – a nice mix of new and franchise stuff

FirstShowing.net » Why 2007 Will Be A Great Year For Movies

Clerks 2 commentary … in theaters?

File under – things I should have know about months ago :)

Clerks 2 commentary … in theaters?

Neat Lost Clip Of Starwars


Makes me wonder what else they cut out of the original

Batman Begins (2005)

Batman Begins (2005)

This one had been in the queue for so long – I was actually suprised when it showed up. As usual, it is time for a little disclosure. I never really read Batman. It was a DC comic and I was a straight up Marvel fanboy. So to a certain extent my sense of Batman was shaped by friend who were seriously into him as well as tv and the films. So although normally I’m pretty knowledgable when it comes to the costume super hero – this is an area where I suppose I’m wll short of Otaku status.

That being said – let’s get on with the review. Batman was a movie that was anticipated in its day. No one believed that Micheal Keaton could be batman. Over all I would say he did a fine job in the first movie. Truth be told, my favorite Batman movie was the second one – Batman Returns. I really loved that film for three reasons. 1. The villans were well played and fun to watch. 2 Tim Burton displayed a Gotham so dark that he got thrown off the franchise. 3. You already knew who Batman was and why he was so they could just get down to business. The third one was so bad I didn’t go see any other ones. This one seemed to get favorable word of mouth so I figured I would give it a chance.

So let’s contrast my favorite Batman movie with this one. The villans are good in the sense that they were more about ass kicking and less about being freakshows. That is actually pretty consistant with the overall feeling of the film. You can tell that they wanted you to believe that everything in the movie was possible with only a small bit of suspension of disbelief as opposed to the large truckloads that were needed in earlier incarnations. In a way, this reminds me of when they introduced Timothy Dalton as a bond. The villans went from Goldfinger to some drug lord. In that case, the transistion didn’t work out so well. In this case it does. It was kind of refreshing to see Bruce Wayne cut, bruised, and generally hurt but still willing to go out and fight crime. So this is more than passable.

Ok – darkness – this movie has. The overall asethic is very dark. Not quiet Blade Runner – but they defintely make Gotham seem like the entire city is inside a subway tunnel. This ends up being quite a contrast to wayne manor. Which is so elegant and pristine. Since Bale is Welsh it did seem he fit the aristocratic mold much better than previous Batmans (even if he is forced to affect an American accent for the film). I think overall the city doesn’t really get the play that it deserves but I suppose if you are going to cut somewhere – it makes sense to cut back on fleshing out the city. I just noticed that the guy who wrote and directed this wrote and directed Memento – so he does know something about the darkness of the human heart.

Ok the last point – the starting out business. I knew going in that they were going to explain – again – how Batman became Batman. If you’ve read my reviews for long you know this is my big pet peeve with super hero movies. I will admit that they do a good job of making the build up much better in this incarnation of Batman. They develop more of a sense of how driven and serious Wayne is about becoming a force for justice. That plus the fact that instead of being boring it actually gets you kind of pumped to finally see him become Batman.

Before I wrap up – one last comment


Ok look this isn’t much of a spoiler. There is only one female character in the film. It’s played by Katie Holmes. If you don’t know she is the love interest five minutes into the movie when her name shows up in the credits – you’re an idiot. That being said, they do something that probably would have been more suprising and impressive if it didn’t seem like they were ripping off (paying honor to) Spiderman by having the hero forsake the love interest at the end – in favor of going off to fight injustice (which is exactly what happens at the end of Spiderman). I guess there is no way out of the cliche now. You go with the girl like we expect or you don’t and rip of Spiderman.


Bottom Line: Finally a Batman who works well in costume as well as in a tux. One of the better super hero flicks out there. Watch it quick before they put out a bad sequel.

V for Vendetta (2005)

V for Vendetta (2005)

Just some small background before we get to the film. The original story come from Alan Moore. He is one of those writers who is credited with really broading the scope of what a comic book (in the western world) can be. Frank Miller (the source for Sin City) is another fine example of this.

“V for Vendetta” was originally published in the ’80s. It was a reaction to the Thatcher conservative government. I read Moore’s Watchmen and decided to buy V. I read it and didn’t like it. I left it on my bookshelf for years. Since I knew I would be seeing the movie around the release date, I decided to dust off the V graphic novel and re-read it.

This time through, I’ll admit I liked it better than when I read it earlier in my life. I still like Watchmen a lot more. By the time I finished it, I thought – “How the hell are they going to turn this into a movie?” – Mostly because there are a lot of complicated subplots and so much monologue – which frankly works better in comics than it does on film.

I also found out that Moore lost the film rights at some point and was going to get some triffle sum like $7,000 from the movie production – so he wanted to no part in the making of the film.

All of this lead me to the conclusion that this movie was going to suck. I mean be seriously bad. I kept thinking – how can they make a movie about a hero who really just wants revenge and expouses true anarchy as the solution.

The movie opens and I go see it with my fiancee and brother. Neither of them have read the graphic novel. I brace for that moment where the film is so bad that neither of them will let me pick a movie for 6 months (Yes this actually happened when I got people to go see Dude, Where’s My Car?)

And then something happened, I watched the film. It didn’t suck. Actually, it was pretty good. Now if you want to rate a film based on how true it is to the source material – well then on a number of levels it sucked. But I think that is the wrong way to think about film. As a film, it is really good. They cut a lot of the sub plots out. The re-arranged the characters a bit ( Evey (Natilie Portman) goes from being a first time prostitue to being a production assistant at a television studio). They dropped some of the terminology and totally amped up the Big Brother vibe. Mostly by making sure that John Hurt is almost only seen from the neck up (sometimes just the mouth) instead of seeing him as a person.

Frankly with all this editing and modifing I’m not suprised Moore wanted nothing to do with it. To a certain extent I’m not sure all of it would have been possible if he had been involved.

The film itself it great. It moves along quickly. It avoids some of the very far out ideas in the graphic novel. You are able to sympathize with Natile Portman which actually makes her the center of the movie.

Her casting still strikes me as a little odd. The entire thing takes place in England. All the actors in the movie are British – except Portman. Maybe they thought she was perfect. Maybe they thought they needed an American to sell tickets. Maybe they thought that would guarantee the geek market. Who knows?

The most interesting thing to me is the discussion this film spawned in realtionship to our current situation with terrrorists. Here is a film which actually shows that if your government is totalitariam – terrorism is ok. It is in fact a good thing. I suppose this is one of those – it depends on who write the history books. Since one man’s revolutionary can easily be another’s terrorist.

I just checked out the box office for the movie and it looks like it just broke even domestically. (Assuming that the marketing cost is rolled into the production budget ). I was going to say something about breaking even and then I realized it hasn’t even been out a month yet. So there is probably still hope for people to find this movie and enjoy it in the theater. Which by the way – I totally recommend seeing this in the theater. There are a number of scenes that are improved by having the seriously big screen.

Bottom Line: It’s not the comic book – but it turns out that is a good thing. If you want a little thinking in your sci-fi – you’ve found it.

Nueve reinas (2000)

Nueve reinas (2000)

Warning – This movie is not in English. I’m hoping that doesn’t scare you away, but just in case…

Good, you’re still reading. The name of the movie is “Nine Queens”. I would consider this a con game film. Basically it is about a couple of con artists who are trying to swindle a rich politician out of a large sum of money before the politician is deported.

The film is really well paced. Things get more and more complicated as the two con men try to adjust to the limited amount of time that they have to pull off the swindle of a life time. By the end of the film, I was excited to see what was going to happen next. The main actors do a wonderful job of developing their characers, which is saying something since I watch the film with subtitles.

Bottom Line: This is a great example of genre of con-men films. If you like suspense and drama – you won’t be dissapointed.

Ringers: Lord of the Fans (2005)

Ringers: Lord of the Fans (2005)

This is basically a documentary about the Lord of the Rings and its fans. Right off this ends up being a little weird for me. I’ve watched a couple of documentaries about fan communities. And truth be told, most of the time I was on the path to become a super fan before I took a turn towards sanity. That wasn’t ever the case with LOTR. I was never really a fan of the material itself. I read the Hobbit, but not much more. I saw the movies and liked them but I’m not sure when I’ll watch them again. I have enjoyed the work that has been inspired by LOTR more than LOTR itself. That made this whole thing a little strange to be looking into this other community. (This must be what it is like when people watch documentaries about D&D geeks, Trekkies, and computer programmers)

The film does a very good job of covering a lot of history for the LOTR, and talks a lot about the many ways it has influenced popular culture. It also manages to talk about some of the reasons that LOTR has had such a capacity for reaching out to new generations.

Personally, I wonder if the films were really good for that. On one hand, there is no doubt that they brought more people into fold. On the other hand, since they were so big and successful I wonder if that puts a cap on the film interpretations of LOTR. (Recently a musical was released based on LOTR so maybe there are still interpretations to be had)

Bottom Line: If you like fan docs – this is a pretty good one. If you like LOTR – you should defintly see this to get a heck of a lot more background than you know what to do with. Otherwise, I would say stick to this this

The Buddy Holly Story (1978)

The Buddy Holly Story (1978)

This got to the top of the Netflix queue (I’m assuming that my fiancee made the mod to balance out the films I was putting in there). I remembered hearing that Gary Busey did all the singing in the movie (Which is true – and he does a good job of it – with the exception of hitting those crazy high yodelling notes that are a trade mark of Holly). Having seen him recently in Entourage and Celebrity Fit Club, it is very strange to see him in this movie. If for no other reason, than the fact that he is actually acting in the film.

For now we’ll ignore post motorcycle crash Busey, to focus on this young, energetic Busey who does what seems like a fine job being Buddy Holly. The story moves a long at a good pace. The one thing that struck me as a little odd was that when they go into playing a musical number, they play several songs instead of just one. It turns out I like more Buddy Holly than I realized, but from a movie perspective the scene where they play music pause the story and interrupt the flow of the film.

That combined with his very short life, end up making you feel like they filled in a lot of extra detail just to make it into a feature length story. One of thing is that this is a bio pic, which means you most likely know the ending. I’m sure it’s too modern for 1978, but I can’t help but feel it might have been a better movie if you moved the ending to the front and started telling the story. Just to renforce how much Holly’s life and career were cut short by that tragic plane crash.

Bottom Line: It’s a fun movie with a lot of music. If you like Buddy Holly, you should watch it. If you don’t – I’m not sure that this will change your mind.

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