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Tian jiang xiong shi (2015)
The future of movies
What this film showed more than anything else is how China will soon have their own Hollywood, with movies pushing the propaganda of their nation just like the American movies do for the US. The story, while being about a tragically peaceful man who wants everybody to get along, somehow ends into all Asian nations fighting the Romans and the modern archaeologists deciding to not disclose a discovery of an ancient city so that it remains purely Chinese.
Also to be noted is how actors like John Cusack and Adrien Brody get to star in a Chinese movie and how epic battles between tens of people have been achieved with a fraction of what it would have cost in Hollywood.
But enough with the politics. The movie was, unfortunately, amateurish. The rushed first half, the completely pointless modern archaeology subplot, the kind of weak characterization, the epic motivational music that moves no one and makes the film sound like a Communist propaganda piece, the direction, even the acting. The worse sin of the film was not finding a rhythm and keeping with it. It's a messy thing that oscillates between trying to be a historic film and being a character story piece, and really doing neither.
Bottom line: Jackie Chan is still awesome at 61 years old. When our parents and grandparents are considering retirement, he is kicking ass. However that doesn't save the clumsiness of the production of this film. While I am sure this is only the beginning and the Chinese movie machine will become better and better with time, they are not quite there yet. The film was partially entertaining, but it is pretty much made for a Chinese audience and their sensibilities.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Better story, fantastic special effects, completely impossible to suspend disbelief
The reason why Mad Max was great was because it was all new. Low budget film created in an era that just started getting over movie censorship with completely unknown actors by completely unknown film makers and in a different style. It shocked the studios, it brought Mel Gibson almost accidentally in the film business and shot George Miller through the stars. The reason why it all happened in the desert was that it was an Australian film and because it was cheaper. It showed guts, originality and created true art in an otherwise classic revenge scenario.
The sequels were different, better budgeted, more post- apocalyptic, more action packed, with more action and, frankly, that is what most people remember about Mad Max, unfortunately.
Mad Max Fury Road is better acted, better written and better directed by the same George Miller. The huge budget allowed for all types of wacky things. But it was nothing but a rehashing of the two sequels. It was not a reboot of Mad Max, but a reboot of the mad tribe car chase wacky races.
All the well designed characters, all the wonderful scenes filled with tension and nitro, all the epic scenes of people worshiping the guy who gives them water by pouring it on the dry rocks, they all fail when one imagines Dastardly and Muttley in one of those cars chasing "the war rig". The various weird vehicles and attack methods were just rehashes of scenes from Mad Max 2 and 3, even the bad guy was a rehash, from the original at least. This might have worked back then in '81 and '85, but it doesn't work now. It all looked so over the top that it was impossible to feel any real thing. It was just like watching cartoons.
Bottom line: the movie entertained me and it was better than average, but I have to penalize it for wasting obvious talent in writing and acting on pointless scenes of ludicrous road carnage and on rehashing the silly part of the Mad Max universe. It gave people what they wanted, but not what they needed and turned Mad Max into yet another comic book character.
Hunter Prey (2010)
Really good and entertaining
This is more of a performance piece, just look at the cast, there are basically only three actors with any significant role. The entire film is carried by them and the story, which has to be good enough. And it is!
People compared this with Enemy Mine, but that's silly. The only similarity is that it's about two guys from warring species stuck on a planet. However, this feels more like a medieval piece, two knights who need to finish a fight, and the sci-fi portion of the film is quite irrelevant. Both lead actors did their job very well, I liked the costumes, the ambiance, the sound, almost everything.
A problem I had was with the basic plot, the underlying reason for the conflict. It felt a little bit forced. However, it was not really important for the story. Also the fighting prowess of the various people was really inconsistent, in order to serve the story. I am sure they could have done a better job there.
Bottom line: a movie like movies should be made. You start with a good story, you get a team together then you pour your soul into the film. I liked it and I would gladly watch a sequel.
It is aberrantly bad
I think I haven't rated a movie so low in years. It is badly written, badly acted, badly edited, has bad sound, even the song at the end is horrible and played out of tune, no direction that I could discern, yet it is not in any way so terrible that it would be funny. It doesn't even have scantly dressed teens in it.
Indeed, this is the biggest movie sin that one can think of: it is completely boring! It brings nothing to the table. After seeing this you can be certain you will regret wasting the time you spent fast forwarding to look for any scene that has any emotional or intellectual impact on you (and found none). This movie is the blandest film I have ever seen in my life.
Bottom line: Avoid it like the Aberration it is.
Guilty pleasure horror-parody
This is not really a movie, it's more like an one hour and a half long joke. It starts with the most skimpy dressed young girls I've seen outside porn movies going to this cabin in the woods and getting attacked by zombie beavers. There is some fun, impressive acting considering the subject and probable budget of the movie, rather decent practical effects and a ridiculous plot.
I did enjoy it, but mostly on fast forward. The scene when the girls were examining the dam and said they were looking for beavers and the hunter replies "Ain't we all?" was the funniest, though. The rest was just running around from undead puppets. It's worth a watch, but a bit of alcohol wouldn't hurt the viewing.
The girls were really cute and at least two of them had regular jobs in TV and film. The Kaplans seem to be more musicians than writers and Jordan Rubin doesn't seem to have a lot of experience as director and it shows. Basically, this is a fun practice movie and it is obvious everybody involved had fun. Unfortunately, I believe they had way more fun that the people who would watch the film.
Wait until after the credits to see a hint of the sequel: Zombees! That will get very confusing, I am sure.
Kung Fury (2015)
The most over the top movie of all time!
One can hardly believe that such a movie can be done with 200000$. It is filled with special effects, fun dialogue, ridiculous puns, wonderful references and it is completely utterly ludicrously over the top.
David Sandberg writes, directs and acts in this film which covers kung fu, Adolf Hitler, machine gun viking chicks on dinosaurs that shoot laser out of their eyes, Thor, 1980's hacking and time travel. The guy looks very familiar, so either he has a lookalike or I've seen him in something else on the web. IMDb is so unreliable when it comes to "unofficial" video productions.
Really loved the short 30 minute film. I especially respect that it is a fun production done with money from Kickstarter and released for free, on YouTube and other places. Haven't had so much fun since Star Wreck.
Update: I remembered the face now. I thought he was Milo Ventimiglia for some reason.
Blue Valentine (2010)
Slow paced flaying of a relationship
The film is a merry-go-round between the start of a relationship in which the beautiful smart girl falls in love with the handsome rascal and the end of it, where life as a married couple and parents of a little kid has lost the magic induced by romance. The actors do a great job, the writing and directing is raw and emotionally scarring, by all accounts this should be a great film.
However, it is not completely so. The pace is slow and it takes two hours to expose an otherwise simple story. Characters are not that consistent, starting as certain types of people and turning out completely different, without a trauma or clearly defined pressure to do so. In the end the film has to move from the "then" and "now" versions of the people, because this remains the only way to tell the story.
In absence of the real story of their marriage, not just the beginning and the end, I cannot really call this a great achievement, but the film was good and it makes one think. At least for the review they need to write afterwards.
The rating this film has on IMDb does it no justice. It is well written, well directed and well acted. More than that, it has a true chance for an intelligent sequel, which is more than I can say for the vast majority of films.
It is this kind of film that I like best: a nice blend of sci-fi and horror, without any of them getting the upper hand. While it is true it has borrowed from movies like Alien and The Thing and even Solaris, it does this with style, paying homage rather than ripping off. Also, while it can be attributed to a lower budget, the film is not so rich in special effects, keeping them at a bare minimum to carry on the story. And here is the great part of it all: this movie has a story, one that is being told continuously and consistently from start to end.
Given all this, I can only extract one star from the perfect rating for the inconsistent pace which goes from slow to very fast and can't quite find a rhythm. The acting is good, the props nice, the story quite interesting without it being overly complex. I liked it a lot.
Tale of the Mummy (1998)
In some ways, better than The Mummy and certainly better than its rating
I don't understand why this movie has such a low rating on IMDb. It has a stellar cast (with a bit of an annoying bait and switch), it has an interesting story, characters that are actually developed and it is a UK coproduction, so you know it is better than a normal US movie from the start.
The film starts with an Egyptian dig (how else) where the likes of Christopher Lee are excavating the mysterious burial place of Talos, the cursed Greek who came to Egypt and learned forbidden magic. Then Lee dies. Several years later, his niece comes to check the dig out, accompanied by the likes of Gerard Butler and Sean Pertwee. Butler dies immediately and Pertwee continues to appear randomly as a slightly insane person. This is annoying if you started to watch the movie because of the cast, but I didn't so it didn't bother me.
Present time, stuff happens and two detectives, played by none others than Jason Scott Lee and Jack Davenport, need to investigate. Add to this the two British hotties Louise Lombard and Lysette Anthony and the movie is interesting on that alone.
The film lasts for almost two hours, which is a bit too long for the level of tension that the movie manages to maintain, but in no way is it a bad story. While the reasoning of the Talos mummy are not revealed until the end and seem stupid, they become believable at the end with the extra information.
Bottom line: a TV movie that appeared a year before The Mummy. If you take the special effects (which were not bad, but certainly were cheap in Talos) out of the equation, the only possible reason why The Mummy would be better is Arnold Vosloo and a slightly more fleshed out (pardon the pun) character for the mummy. While not really a horror film, it is a good paranormal thriller, even with the silly twist at the end.
Three decent short horror story, with a nice cast
Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Payne, Richard Lynch, David Warner, they all lend both weight and goofiness to the movies they play in. In this loosely Lovecraftian anthology, they don't disappoint. The stories have various degrees of quality in writing and acting, but the low budget high impact special effects and the overall atmosphere of the movie is quite satisfying.
Written, directed and acted by different people, the three parts are basically different short films, wrapped around by a silly story of Lovecraft reading the Necronomicon in order to gain inspirations for his writing. Jeffrey Combs is playing Lovecraft. Just recently having seen another TV movie based on Lovecraft, it was fun to see him play another character in that one, as well, 16 years later.
I recognized the second story as Cool Air, but it was kind of difficult to recognize The Rats in the Walls and The Whisperer in Darkness in the other two. While I deplore the low quality of the scripting, I applaud the attempt to adapt the material, rather than follow it exactly like it was written.
Overall it will never be a great movie, but for a TV film inspired by Lovecraft, it is OK.