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Disappointed in this film
I'd heard a lot about "Shiri" (aka "Swiri") and how this Korean action film compared favourably (or perhaps even exceeded) recent US action films. So it was with high hopes I sat down to watch this movie.
Perhaps it was a result of the hype, but I came away feeling very disappointed in this film. There are some very strong scenes in this film, don't get me wrong - the training sequence at the start, the suddenness of the assassinations, for example - which help add something different to this movie, and the technical aspects of "Shiri" are definitely better than average, but in many ways this film falls short.
The big issue for me was the disconnect between the 'realistic' political aspect that provided the motivation for the movie and the over-the-top gun play in the action sequences. At the very start, the training sequence makes the movie look like it will have a more realistic portrayal of violence, but this dissipates in a hail of bullets during the shoot-outs. Apparently the South Korean Special Forces suck, because they put thousands of rounds from MP5s in the direction of their heavily outnumbered North Korean adversaries and continually miss, while the North Koreans just need hand guns (Berettas, possibly) and one shot to gun down large numbers of armoured opponents.
I don't mind cartoon-ish violence in live action films, but it has to be kept consistent. The ability of the North Koreans to avoid large numbers of South Korean bullets exceeded my suspension of disbelief and undermined my acceptance of the political motivation. I can handle the plot holes and the bad science, but just can't reconcile the supposed realistic political themes with the absurd action sequences.
As for the love story aspect - well, it was something a bit different for this genre of movie (especially the phone message at the very end of the film - that would have been heartbreaking for the characters involved), but not enough to make this film any more than a curiosity for those who want to see what Korean action films are capable of.
The Proposition (2005)
A good film that falls short of being great
The Australian film industry is having one of its periodic surges, with a number of interesting films popping out at the same time (as opposed to inane comedies that no-one goes to see, of which there are plenty). One of these is "The Proposition", an 'Australian western' written by singer / writer / ex-PJ Harvey boyfriend Nick Cave.
In short, brothers and outlaws Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) and Mike Burns (Richard Wilson) are caught by Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone). Stanley gives Charlie a proposition - either he goes and kills his older brother, Arther Burns (Danny Huston) or his younger brother Mike will hang in about a week's time. Arthur is responsible for an atrocity that happened to some landowners who were friends of Stanley's wife; Stanley wants revenge for what happened.
Everything else in the movie falls out from this proposition. Charlie wrestles with his task (well, to some degree) while Stanley starts to come apart under the strain of keeping the secret from his wife (Emily Watson) while under increasing pressure from the community to do something with the Burns brother he has.
All in all, this film lacks that certain "something" that would make it a great film. The acting is superb, the set-up interesting, the landscape is incredible and some of the dialogue is great. However, the pace of the film is very slow through the second act and you can't help wishing something would happen. This movie is very much a tragedy in that the audience can see things aren't going to go well for the characters from the very beginning - the only question is how far wrong things will go.
Also, I'm fairly certain that some more sophisticated audiences will find Cave's screenplay to lack any subtlety - some scenes just scream, "hear what that character just said? FORESHADOWING!!!". "The Proposition" also contains a fair amount of gore, so if you feel that seeing someone's head explode isn't for you, then you should probably stay away.
I'd recommend seeing it for those people who are big fans of westerns (in the mould of "Unforgiven" rather than "Calamity Jane") and want to see what another country's take on the genre is like, those who want to gain some insight into the insanity of the British for colonising outback Australia and those people who like their revenge dramas slow and bloody.
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
Enjoy the ride!
"Kill Bill" is an interesting film in that it's in a genre I consider a guilty pleasure yet many other people consider incredibly stupid or without merit... until a name writer / director does it, then it is valid to enjoy. If QT wasn't attached to this project, there would not be the cry of "ART!" that seems to surround "Kill Bill".
Incredibly brutal in parts, sometimes tinged with black humour, "Kill Bill" is an experience I enjoyed very much, but will need to see the conclusion before being able to decide exactly what to think of this movie. At the moment, it is certainly not a masterpiece. Personally, it is more like a rollercoaster - thrilling, shocking, enjoyable - but hardly high art.
For all its fans, this movie is just another blockbuster albeit done with style. QT's talents at framing scenes is working perfectly and there are some very memorable moments, but it's a martial arts film. For all the talk of homages and referencing, there isn't any real soul to this movie. You get on, enjoy the ride and get off, not once stopping to think about the greater ramifications of it.
I am certainly looking forward to seeing Volume 2; let's hope it is worth the noise that has surrounded the decision to split it.
The Italian Job (2003)
Caper by numbers
"The Italian Job" is a caper movie done by the numbers. Riding on the back of every caper cliche, it rises to no particular heights and will be a movie footnote by about the end of the month.
The biggest problem is that "The Italian Job" possesses no imagination at all. I've seen it all before and done better then. The acting is fine the cinematography is completely acceptable, but this film breaks absolutely no new ground.
Let's tick off the cliches:
- "old-school" criminal father figure and his protege
- another gang member jealous of protege
- a double-cross
- only bad guys use guns while good-guy criminals don't have to
- good criminals always outwit the bad guys
And that's about the first fifteen minutes. Everything is so predictable. Even the heist and car chase scenes, supposedly the highlight of the movie, seem pretty ordinary. This is especially true since they appeared in the trailers for the film so I already knew what to look for.
For me, a caper film works only if it has an element of realism - that maybe, just maybe, it could be pulled off without relying on a deux ex machina or "just because" moments. Parts of "The Italian Job" just throws that out the window, with computers doing things that computers can't do, the good guys not hitting anyone with their driving (especially going down the stairs) and not one single police car responding to street explosions, recklessly driven minis or even a low flying helicopter. Must be a heck of a city for these things not to rate a response.
The acting is passable, with the crew (Seth Green, Jason Stratham and Mos Def) being at least fun to watch. Mark Wahlberg is just too smarmy as the "nice guy" hero while Charlize Theron is about the only actor called on to display some kind of range. Donald Sutherland is a class act as always and shows up Wahlberg's deficiencies every moment they are together.
Overall this is a pretty uninteresting film. Given the IMDb ratings, it's the girls that really love this film, which I can understand to some extent, but there are such better caper films out there - even the vapidness of the recent "Ocean's Eleven" outshines the non-event that is "The Italian Job".
At the conclusion, take a moment to think about what is going to happen to Norton's character. Are we meant to be cheering the good guys for causing his demise, especially since it would appear to be long and painful? He didn't deserve that, simpering creep that he was.
Angel Heart (1987)
A slow but worthwhile noir film
It's been a little while since I saw "Angel Heart", but it is a film that sticks in my memory as interesting and challenging. Although slow in parts and lacking explanation for many of events in the narrative up until the final scenes, it is superbly crafted and very well shot. The acting is excellent for the most part and "Angel Heart" has one of the most memorable endings on film I've seen.
As stated, this film does drag in parts, so those of you who love the "run and scream and stab"-style of horror would probably be disappointed with it. However, those that can sit through to the end will receive a reward well worth the effort invested.
The first time I saw "Angel Heart" on television I only caught the final half hour, but the final scene was so great I immediately went and rented the film. It's a movie I consider worth owning and will be buying in the near future.
Good Taste Made Bad Taste (1988)
An interesting look into P. Jackson's budget film-making
I saw this documentary about the making of "Bad Taste" shortly after seeing the film itself, so the link between the two was very strong. It shows Peter Jackson as a very committed, slightly egotistical and quite talented film-maker even at this stage of his career.
Given the limitations that surrounded "Bad Taste" - the lack of budget, the amateur cast and crew - it is amazing to see the product they produced and how the high-quality special effects were done. Most of the time is spent talking to Jackson and showing off his special effects work. Some time is spent on Jackson's early films, but they are more just a curiosity than anything that is of great import.
Of most interest is watching Jackson's parents talk about their son. They appear so white-bread boring that it's amazing to see them in connection with such a gross-out film!
Center Stage (2000)
I saw "Center Stage" as something to pass the time on television. Now, I'm fully aware I'm not the demographic for such a film, but it was just laughably terrible to watch.
You've got cardboard cut-outs of characters, dialogue that just dies and dance routines that are probably quite hard to do but just don't look that impressive. Saccharine coats everything heavily. Some of the more veteran actors do try to pull something out of their parts, but they really don't have much to work with.
I got quite a few laughs out of "Center Stage", so it wasn't a complete waste. Mocking a film like this can indeed be an enjoyable experience!
Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)
One of the better ST:NG films
For my money, "Star Trek: Nemesis" got unfairly pounded by a lot of fans and critics. Is it high art? No. It's Star Trek which, for all the cult behaviour that surrounds it, is based around being entertaining. "ST: Nemesis" is definitely entertaining and a good way to pass a couple of hours if you are a casual fan of the series.
Is it the best NG movie? No, but I believe it is a strong second behind "First Contact". If you watch ST long enough you will see innumerable plot holes and weird character actions. These are apparently ignored when shown on television but becomes unforgivable when put up on the big screen.
The narrative is a bit predictable and some things are glossed over a bit, so there are areas that lack a bit of polish. But for a couple of hours of sci-fi escapism, "Nemesis" fits the bill better than most of the other competitors out there, both ST- and non-ST related. The NG actors were right to feel proud of their involvement in this film.
A standout comic-character film
You will either love or hate "Hulk". If you haven't already worked this out by the difference in opinions left by other posters on this board, keep it in the front of your mind when watching this movie.
"Hulk" is a very different comic book film. It stands out in the field by making the "Hulk" a decidedly non-heroic character. Bruce Banner (underplayed by Eric Bana - decide for yourself if he is playing a repressed character or just can't act; I think the former) certainly isn't someone you'd envy. He has just broken up with his girlfriend (Betty Ross played by Jennifer Connolly who actually makes a believable scientist) but still has to work with her. His experiments aren't going well. A potential suitor for both Betty and Banner's research is lurking around the laboratories (Talbot - an obvious bad guy as portrayed by Josh Lucas). Someone claiming to be his father appears, claiming Bruce's life to be a lie as he knows it. On top of this Banner continues to have nightmares that have plagued him all his life. Bruce is under pressure.
As expected, an accident in the lab causes Bruce Banner to be bombarded by gamma radiation which in turn leads to his transformation into the Hulk. The best scenes in this movie involve the Hulk. For all the lashing out the Hulk does at whatever is striking him, this film does a fantastic job of showing that all Hulk / Banner really wants is some peace. It is in these touches of soul that "Hulk" shows itself as an exceptional comic-book adaption.
This isn't to say that "Hulk" isn't flawed - it has moments that run too long, while some of the dialogue just doesn't flow. It also isn't the action film that some fans expect with the climatic battle at the film's end being perhaps unnecessary. But these are small points if you can enjoy the rest of the film. If you don't enjoy the rest of film though... well, there are enough negative user comments on this board to tell you what to expect.
Ang Lee has managed to direct another amazing film that looks at a genre in a unique way. The Hulk CGI will date, but works very well in the scenes environments and looks believable. Although "Hulk" won't be the blockbuster hit of the summer, it has cult written all over it and will talked about long after "Daredevil" and "T3" have become mere footnotes of 2003.
The Core (2003)
A good B-grade disaster film... for what that's worth!
My advice - go out and see "The Core" for a brainless evening if you like disaster films and / or b-grade films. It meets the criteria for both and generally moves along fast enough that you don't stop stop to think how stupid some of the dialogue and ideas are.
"The Core" does the right thing by hiring good actors to deliver terrible dialogue. The special effects are passable and there are plenty of unintentionally funny moments (like a room full of people cheering after the announcement of "We've got central flow!").
A dumb film that is pretty forgettable, but the ride itself delivers everything you'd expect. Just remember to disengage your brain before watching!