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Campy Over-the-Top Cartoon Fun!
1 October 2004
I'm astonished that there were so many negative reviews here...

This film is OBVIOUSLY not meant to be taken seriously. It is very clearly intentionally a "joke" of a film. That people would complain about bad acting, strange dubbing, and/or a convoluted plot just leaves me flabbergasted.

From the very beginning, it should be evident that a big part of the point of the film is its own self-deprecating humor. Jackie loses his memory and is picked up by a primitive African tribe. The chief asks him, in an unintelligible language, "Where do you come from? What is your name?" to which Jackie replies (not understanding the questions) "What am I doing here? Who am I?" This is a JOKE, folks.

A few minutes later, Jackie saves a snake-bite victim with an IV he improvises from a COCONUT! When he's returned to "civilization," the doctor is impressed with that tactic, saying, "That coconut IV technique is only used by elite military units!" Is there any way to even dream of taking the plot/dialogue seriously at this point?

The acting is "bad" by design. The actors were obviously told to ham up everything they did. The meeting of the American intelligence officials is a completely ironic reference to the same sort of scene you'd expect in any James Bond movie. Dialogue is intentionally absurd, plot developments are intentionally obvious. The "Morgan" character is played perfectly (and hilariously) as a crooked CIA operative out for his own gain while feigning loyalty to the USA.

Yuki is a master stunt-driver with the naivete and wide-eyed innocence of a schoolgirl. Christine Stark is a completely laughable "reporter" who fools Jackie only as a result of his head injury; after she's "exposed," she rescues Jackie in an golf cart that can't seem to move faster than an electric wheelchair.

That the villains actually join each other in a verse of song ("Friendship, friendship!") near the end should serve as a good reminder of just how camp this picture strives to be. To criticize it for this as a "failing" seems to me to profoundly miss the point. Did the same viewers dislike that "Hot Shots: Part Deux" was absurd too?

Overall, the strengths of the film deserve the attention: it is a very funny parody of the overplotted "action/intrigue" genre, it has a terrific car chase, notable action sequences, and a terrific Jackie-Chan-Style fight scene at the beginning of the film's climax.

Perhaps I enjoyed this movie because I had grown up watching the "GI Joe" cartoon series, and had always been rather insulted by the fact that it managed to be both preachy and stupid at the same time. If you're looking for a great 100 minutes of parody and HUMOR, I'd recommend this movie. If you're more interested in believability and suspending your disbelief, this film will definitely not work for you at all. Inappropriate expectations would be the only "problem" I can imagine that would reduce one's enjoyment of this film.

If you want a more serious Jackie Chan film, you might try Drunken Master II, or Police Story. But if you're looking for an enjoyable and sardonic 100 minutes, this is truly one of Jackie's great vehicles.
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Hulk (2003)
Great Stuff...for a MOVIE!!!
18 June 2004
OK, there are too many comments, and WAYYYY too many comments from people just saying "suck suck suck." So I'm going to do my best to present a different view.

First off, anyone who went to the theater expecting a moviefied version of Bixby/Ferrigno is a fool. Good grief. I liked the TV series too...when I was about 8 years old. I never really got into the comic book myself, but I'm sure it's fine. Overall--is there ANY kind of limit to the entertainment value of an indestructable green giant smashing everything in sight, or is that all you folks wanted?

Second, the visual editing truly is a form-changing step. Sure, split-screen stuff has been done before, but NEVER in a way that really advances the point and feel of the story. This is the first time I've seen the technique applied skillfully, and quite frankly, if it was too much for a viewer to deal with, I'd advise sticking with Looney Tunes.

Third, it's TERRIFIC that the filmmakers managed to construct a movie that does not "require" a sense of adolescent nostalgia to enjoy. I've seen the movie several times, I've recommended to friends of mine who have never picked up a comic book, and they've really enjoyed the meaning and value of the work. Why? Because they were open-minded about the presentation and NOT just looking for 100 minutes of a green guy breaking things.

I'll give the movie a 9.5 out of 10. Not so much because it's on par with stuff like Apocalypse Now!, The Third Man, or Star Wars, but because it was a movie that made NO apologies for what it wanted to be. It was envisioned as MORE than a stupid summer action blockbuster, and the filmmakers succeeded. I feel very confident in saying that "Hulk" will be something that people will look back on in a decade and say, "This is actually a pretty good movie," in complete contrast to the plot-driven action "genre" that Hollywood has been passing off on a market of teenagers for the past few years.

I doubt it'll become the franchise that it deserves to be, but what can you do? There's no way to make a comic-book movie without a large majority of the viewing audience getting the wrong idea, so I really can't fault Universal for applying the same promotion style used for Spiderman and X-men...both enjoyable and entertaining comic-strip movies with absolutely ZERO staying power.

I deduct that last 0.5 point mainly because I thought the end of the Hulk/Partaking-man fight was somewhat underdone. There really could have been a BIT better sense of closure there.
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PTA's Best Movie Yet
18 June 2004
I should point out that the summary above is not exactly "glowing" praise.

PTA strikes me as both overly intellectual AND insufficiently challenging to be called a great artist or a brilliant filmmaker, but I confess that this film does a terrific job of highlighting the director's strengths. (He is pretty young, after all.)

What PTA really seems to bring to his work is a sense of "compassion for the pathetic." While Boogie Nights was a feel-good hack-job in which it is difficult to care about ANY of the morons he depicts, and Magnolia was an overdrawn "angst" film in which the most natural response is to despise the characters, Punch Drunk Love did a reasonable job of making Barry Egan into a "real" person. He is pathetic, lovable, and unfulfilled through no fault of his own.

I definitely got the impression that a good bit of the film was occupied by filler. The harmonium's introduction adds nothing, the color blocks are not presented in any coherent way, and the brief conversion of Egan into a superhero seems to be severely out of place.

HOWEVER...

This is a completely allegorical and poetic picture. The meaning of the film is very uplifting. Despite the numerous failures and flaws of our protagonist, there is a glimmer of hope that he might somehow find happiness--in fact, perhaps the entire story is about the first successful dating experience PTA had.

Generally speaking, I'd rank Hard Eight above this one, but given that PTA lacked a great deal of directorial control over that film, I'd call this the best job that he personally has pulled off so far.

More than anything, I appreciated the technical approach. The fact that almost every "rule" of cinematography and/or editing is broken repeatedly in this picture makes it pretty clear that it is not to be taken too literally.

More filmmakers should jump at the chance to break the rules when it truly contributes to the structure and meaning of their work--I'd rather see the back of Sandler's head and non-literal interpretations of physical space in this kind of film than see a sterile and clinical "presentation" of the events depicted.

7 out of 10.
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Homegrown (1998)
Oddball NON-COMEDY Entertainment
18 June 2004
Well, it's a weird movie. That Stephen Gyllenhaal seems to LIKE weirdness, really.

The fact that the film is billed as a comedy should not be considered an indictment. A film is made because someone decided to try to share this particular story with you--NOT because he wanted to add another movie to some given drawer/shelf in a video rental store, nor because he wanted to make things easy for the marketing department.

I know the film wasn't well-promoted, but looking at the movie itself, I think it's actually a pretty innovative piece of work.

What really makes the film work is the ambiguity and (ok, I admit it) PARANOIA of it.

If you've found yourself wondering what any particular scene adds to this movie, I fear you've fallen victim to lack of imagination. The characters never know "who knows what," and that is the single most essential premise of the movie. The film uses a far stronger perspective of first-person perspective than such bubble-gum fare as the Matrix. When the hapless dope-growers meet the first distributor they're looking to do business with, they don't know whether he's "in on everything." When BB Thornton talks to Sienna, he has no idea what SHE knows about the situation...and in fact, no matter how you choose to interpret that particular scene, you really ought to acknowledge that perhaps the "reality" (cinematically speaking) is the complete opposite of what you first thought when you watched it. Almost every meaningful dramatic scene in the film is completely ambiguous in possible interpretation. At least up until the climax.

This is a film that truly does get better with repeated viewings, IF you have the patience for a movie that doesn't spell everything out for you. If you want a heavy musical score and a didactic moral "point," stick with Spielberg. He'll never disappoint. If you want to WONDER what the characters are really up to in a film, check this one out.

The cast is terrific, the story is novel if not earthshaking, and the polish and presentation are first-rate. It has a few minor editorial flaws--I could've done without Lithgow's late appearance, or some of the "feel-good" moments laced into the script early on, but I certainly don't think someone else would have done a better job with the concept and script...unless Kubrick or Fassbinder were still alive.

8.5 out of 10.
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Irreversible (2002)
Trite Ideas Not Aided By Poor Photography
10 June 2004
Yeah, OK. So the flick's got some really brutal and graphic violence in it.

That's cool--I like unflinching examinations of the pathos of humanity.

But what's the story? Is this just a real-time (albeit reversed) exploration of a few horrific events in the lives of the characters? Is there ANY kind of cohesion to the killer's apparent sexual inadequacy and his willingness to beat a stranger to death, or is that just a coincidence?

For whatever it's worth--Noe really should have made at least two minor efforts to make the film more watchable. Most of the drifting camera does little but annoy the viewer. I've seen better video of Las Vegas shot by drunken

gamblers than the majority of this picture. And of course, the torment of

watching movies that are inadequately LIT cannot be justified by the "brutality" of the content--if the filmmaker has decided to put it on screen for you, has he not ALSO committed to presenting it in a format that permits you to SEE THE

ACTION?

All in all, I'm sure there are a million good reasons for giving this film a good review, but I regret to confess that I am unable to think of a single one.

If you're the sort of person who likes amateurish presentation/polish of a "dark brooding theme," this may be the film for you. If you expect a bit of literacy with your misanthropy, don't bother.
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