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Mei man ren sheng (2006)
Singapore Dreaming, a powerful film
*Spoilers* The film centers around a Singaporian working class family who have dreams of living a better life. You got a mom, dad, worthless brother and hard working married daughter. The dad clips out of the newspaper clippings that depict swimming pools, flashy cars and the like as well as purchases lottery tickets in the hopes of striking it big. Mom's an old school homemaker who isn't sure of her role in her children's lives, but loves them anyway.
The brother just got back from the U.S. after attending school for an IT degree(and not finishing), but has been bumming money off of his parents for years. The brother's girlfriend also has been loaning him money and patiently waiting for him to marry her. And the daughter is pregnant and married, working hard just to stay afloat. She feels neglected by her parents, who fawn over the brother and worries about her husband's insurance selling job not working out. The daughter is also an overworked and under-appreciated secretary. They worry about money every day. Then the dad does the impossible and wins the lottery. After that, everything begins to unravel. The whole family is so concerned with saving face and keeping pace that it's only sad.
*End spoilers* The film touches on many themes that are universal to all human beings everywhere. For one, it talks about how the pursuit of materialism hurts otherwise stable families who feel like they have to keep up with the Joneses to survive, instead of being happy with what they have. Also, it dealt with people who floss (this can be anyone of any race living in any neighborhood, folks). What I mean by flossing is folks who are more concerned about looking good right now with the nice car, expensive clothes and the outward trappings of success than they are of preparing for the future financially. You see this when members of the family spend more than what they have on a funeral in order to put the deceased away nicely, or the dropout son buying an expensive car, or even the dad getting 5 credit cards before making sure that the lottery money is in his account.
This film reminds us about how money (or even the promise of it) can change people. It also makes us look hard at ourselves. What is really important, as we strive to become more than kids living in Mom's basement? Will our lives really be better with the house on the hill, the custom built Alienware computer, the celebrity significant other, the huge TV with HD DVD/Blue Ray and the money in the bank? Is it really worth trying to floss for people that we don't like, that don't give two craps about us if we don't look prosperous, who are terrible bores to talk to and who will forget our names in 10 minutes? Is the old adage really true "He who dies with the most toys wins", or is my sister's quip more accurate, "Even if you die with the most toys, you're still dead." Find this film and rent it. Or watch it on LinkTV. Or something.
A very excellent twist on the usual terrorism movies
Don Cheadle is a former Army man and a devout Muslim who is now living in the Middle East, selling weapons to the highest bidders. Then he gets caught up in a counterterrorist raid and is thrown into prison (even though he never actively participated in any terrorist acts). Cheadle gets out with the help of some actual terrorists and decides to help them. He begins to build bombs and train suicide bombers in future attacks. Meanwhile, Guy Pearce is an FBI agent searching for answers to the elusive Cheadle's suspicious activities and the questions Pearce has are "Is Cheadle a dyed in the wool terrorist? If so, where will he strike next?" If you're looking for a film that is like 24 (where Jack Bauer runs in and kills all of the terrorists in 24 hours), you're looking in the wrong place. This is more along the lines of Syriana or Body of Lies (where nothing is cut and dried). Most of Traitor is from the perspective of the terrorists, instead of the counterterrorists. This move by the producers was very gutsy and unique. Second, the notions of Islam ranges from the fundamentalists to the moderates to the hypocrites. Islam isn't painted with a wide brush, and every Middle Eastern is not a terrorist. Even agencies of the US government in Traitor have different agendas, and are all jockeying for their piece of the pie instead of fighting terrorists in a coordinated fashion. There are some plot holes and confusion, but Traitor gives a lot for you to think on. It deserves a watch, at the least. Cheadle is the heart and soul of this film, and helps to carry it along masterfully.
Could have been so much more...
Will Smith as a superhero. That alone made me plunk down 9 bucks. He's practically homeless and hits the bottle pretty hard. Then when he tries to save the day he winds up messing up the city even worse. Everyone hates his guts. Then he runs into Bateman, a publicist who fixes images. Bateman and Smith butt heads for a while, and Bateman's wife (Theron) swears that Hancock can't change.
First of all, I didn't really go off of the critics for this one. Usually superheros are supposed to be so good and noble, a sterling example of what we should be like. Thankfully, the superhero movies in the last few years (Spiderman trilogy, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, The Incredibles, Batman Begins) have been exploring the inner turmoil of superheros. Hancock seems to break the mold. Will Smith's character is a mess. He doesn't even try to pretend otherwise. This is a role that you don't usually see in superheros.
Second, he's a black superhero. But people don't have issues with him being black, they have issues with Hancock being such a jerk. So it started off good, and touched on some important superhero questions that are rarely dealt with:
1. Who do superheros go to when they have mental issues and drug addictions?
2. Who can really punish and arrest a superhero if he/she breaks the law, especially if there's only one superhero in town? Second, how could you keep a superhero locked up? Could you really count on his/her word that they will stay in prison? What jurisdiction do superheros fall under in a city? Are they like private investigators, reserve police officers, citizens or just outlaws?
Then it all went backwards. Hancock is all of a sudden nigh immortal and can't remember squat before 80 years ago. Amnesia rarely works as a worthwhile plot device in movies, people. Remember that. Also immortality kind of places Hancock even further out of touch with the people. Then you have Theron displaying superpowers. Say what? That makes no sense. And the explanation that Theron and Smith get weaker when they are close to each other seemed kind of disjointed. First, the immortality and amnesia hadn't been worked through, and now you throw in a half baked explanation of how all the other heros died off due to wanting true love? Say what? Too many ideas and too little time to flesh them out.
Second, there was no main super villain. How are you going to not have a super villain? Or at least the opportunity for a super villain...like have Theron say that there are more people like them in hibernation or in hiding or something like that...Or make Theron out to be the true arch nemesis that wants to move Hancock away because she's wanting to do something diabolical, they fight, Theron loses but vanishes for the time being. That's your second lesson, people. Always leave some room in your film for a sequel.
Thirdly, why did Hancock have such average powers? Flight, super strength and invincibility. Hancock had the seeds to be so much more, but bad writing damaged it. Maybe if they do a sequel they can retcon a lot of this nonsense. Or do a reboot like Batman begins or The Incredible Hulk.
Excellent piece of action film...
Wanted(2008)- Jolie, McAvoy and Freeman make awesome assassins. McAvoy plays Wesley Gibson, a cubicle dweller who gets clowned on by everyone, from his boss (who treats him like crap), his girlfriend (who is nailing his best friend) and takes pills for anxiety attacks. In short, a complete wuss. The worse part is that he doesn't even have the sense to fight back. Until Angie Jolie shows up and informs him that his dad just got killed, and that Wesley's dad was one of the most hardcore assassins on earth. Wesley then finds himself caught in the crossfire of a gunfight, kind of like in most anime series.
Wesley wants to know more about his dad, so he joins The Fraternity, the assassin group that his old man was part of. Morgan Freeman is at its head, so you know its going to be good. What happens next defies description. What I just said is not really giving away the plot, since you can see this in the trailers.
Timur Bekmambetov, a director I never heard of came out of seemingly nowhere and weaved magic. He took bullet time and made it unique again. Bullets fly around objects with reckless abandon, people perform seemingly supernatural feats and everyone looks so cool while doing it. Jolie played the typical hardcore chick with a sensitive side to the tee, and McAvoy plays both a wuss and a killer with equal parts efficiency and gusto. One of the few worthwhile rappers, Common, is in there as well.
*comic book spoilers* Wanted is based off of a comic book series, but changed dramatically. I think that some of the changes made in the transition from comic book to film were for the better. In the comic book, Wesley was more of a sick and demented antihero committing disturbing acts with very little accountability (acts disturbing to a person who still has a soul), and the Fraternity was just as wicked as the people they killed. You kind of wonder about the creator of the comic book, and what points he was trying to get across. In the movie the Fraternity plays more of a heroic vigilante role and Wesley becomes a warrior seeking justice for himself and the world. These changes are for the better, in my opinion. If they had filmed Wanted as the comic book was, you would have protests in the streets and an automatic NC-17 rating. There are plot twists that you might see coming, and then again you might not. *end comic book spoilers*
In short, what the heck you're waiting for? An invitation? Go see Wanted!
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
A zany film that won't be repeated in this century...
Yeah. Laugh at me. I have never seen the whole thing through and through until 2008. I'm like 20 years behind? Genius. A world where cartoons and humans coexist. An interspecies murder. One reluctant detective, one dumb Roger Rabbit and his hot wife. Jessica Rabbit....Lord have mercy.
But I digress. Who Framed Roger Rabbit fused film noir, hardboiled detectives and homages to old school cartoons. I want to see the contracts that the lawyers made up in order to have all those cartoon characters in there. Cameos galore. I bought the VHS copy for a dollar at my library. They told me that the DVD's had edits on it, and I didn't want that. Censorship for the sake of censorship is not good. You knew the stuff was risky 20 years ago, and now you want to try to rectify the (supposed) mistakes? Get real. It won 4 Oscars and deserved every one of them. I wish they had created a sequel. But this one stands the test of time.
Cloverfield has distinct possibilities
So we got the beginning of the movie saying "Property of the Government." Then this kind of drama show begins with a group of Friends clones. It didn't get good until the monster touched down. Then those kids started to run. Run, chumps run! Of course, they acted just like movie characters act in monster/horror movies, not using their heads. Then again, if everyone had sense then there would be no movie. I wish for a sequel because I like the concept of Cloverfield. That monster has a lot of possibilities. He could become American's answer to Godzilla. Picture it. Godzilla vs Cloverfield. I'd buy tickets to see that. The filming the movie with a hand held camera would have been cool in parts, but it was used way too much. One thing that amazed me was how Cloverfield was shot with just 25 million. That's what I call good budgeting and good use of unknowns. I anxiously await the sequel, just without those Friends clones and the hand held cameras.
The insane return of Rambo!
Stallone brought back Rambo in a big (and gory) way! Rambo is living in Thailand, doing cool things like catching fish with a bow and arrows, capturing cobras and working out to keep an awesome looking physique. You know, manly things that I wish I could do so that I could have muscles(well, except for the cobra catching). Rambo minds his own business until these missionaries come to him asking to borrow his crappy boat so that they can help the natives in Burma. After some hesitation of sending them into a war zone (and the entreaties of one lady missionary), Rambo consents to this mission of mercy.
On the way down the river, things get hairy, Rambo does his thing and gets the missionaries to their location. Then a few days later Rambo finds out that the missionaries got captured by some really bad military forces in Burma (who also kill, rape and terrorize innocent civilians for some demented reason). So our man is commissioned to take a group of mercenaries to try to get the missionaries out of harm's way. A whole lot of killing ensures. This movie kind of is a shock to the system, even if you have been watching gory action films for years (just because of how civilians are messed over). There is so much blood and gory scenes, you kind of wonder how in the world did Rambo manage to get an R rating. Stallone explained in an interview that he was trying to draw attention to the plight of civilians in war torn regions (especially Burma) and that is why he intensified the violence.
I read on IMDb that freedom fighters in Burma fighting the corrupt regime quote lines from Rambo and bootleg copies circulate widely (despite the penalty of 10 years in jail for possessing a Rambo film, or so I heard.) Rambo was kind of too short (at 80 minutes) and ended in a weird but necessary way. I thought it was a good film, talked about some social issues and Rambo is back! I hope Rambo 5 comes soon.
Weird little film
Midnite Angels 3- A group of special agents work to take down a group of suicidal assassins who aim to kill some world leaders. The story makes no sense, and there's supposed to be like two other films in this series. And its dubbed. But there's a lot of martial arts in the movie. Some of the craziest fights ever committed to celluloid are in this film. Even if they were acting, all of the actors fought with reckless abandon. The fights were interesting, and all of the main characters got to shine. Then there was an end gunfight that had a really high body count. People were getting eliminated left and right. Nice mindless fun with dumb gadgets.
Hero Wanted (2008)
One of the best that Cuba Gooding has done in a long time...
A recent direct to DVD starring Cuba Gooding Jr and Ray Liotta. Cuba Gooding Jr. is Liam Case, a garbageman who aimlessly does his job and drinks a lot. He drinks because he remembers how his wife and their unborn child drowned in a car accident several years ago. Liam tried his utmost to save both of them, but failed to do so. One day Liam is walking along and sees a flaming car. A little girl is trapped inside. Without thinking, Liam rushes into the car and saves the child's life. The city loves him, and Case feels like he has finally found a calling as a hero.
However, people have their 15 minutes of fame, and then the world moves on. Case is no exception. Everyone forgets about the garbageman after a while, and Liam crawls back into another bottle. Then he's in a bank trying to cash a check and the bank gets robbed by a band of crooks. Liam tries his best to stop the robbers and gets shot for his troubles. Also, a bank teller is shot as well. While sitting in the hospital, Liam decides to find the robbers and dispense justice upon them. Easier said than done. Just because fighting bad guys looks easy on TV doesn't make it easy in real life.
Again, I haven't given away anything that you wouldn't see on the back of the DVD cover. Then it gets crazier. Cuba Gooding Jr. has his highs and lows in his film career, but Hero Wanted is one of his best roles to date. His portrayal as a troubled garbageman and his attempts at heroism remind me of Tobey Maguire's portrayal of Peter Parker and Spiderman. I kid you not. One moment, Gooding is all mild mannered and sad, the next he can be kicking butt with the best of them. There are some brutal beat downs as well. Plus there's a plot twist that you usually don't see in these kind of films.
Its a crying shame that Hero Wanted did not go to the movie theaters, because its a sleeper hit. Its not the best film on earth, but it could have stomped a lot of this crap that came out this year if it had a shot in theaters. Go rent Hero Wanted if you can.