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Would be quite sad for those soldiers if truly based on true story
17 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The movie is OK. Just the story is so f-d up - the big brass wanted to make themselves look good so they bet the whole troop plus some to risk their lives for much of nothing. I don't know if any Spaniards still want to join their force after watching this movie. Do they really worth so little in their bosses eyes? If not for all the lucky brakes the whole troop plus the second wave rescue choppers and the empty tiger choppers could all have been swallowed up by the Talis. The big brass watching on big screen TV in real time, with no back up plan of any kind. Just let the poor soldiers fend for themselves. What kind of crap is this? Did the colonels and generals got court marshaled afterwards? The whole thing started with two light wounded soldiers and ended with almost losing almost everybody involved. Gees, what a f- up? And this supposed to be a heroic story? I thought only the Spanish economy sucks...
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Walk of Shame (2014)
Banks pulled this one off big time!
22 April 2017
Always loved Liz Banks. Not very common to have a picture perfect face with a even better skill to back it up. Ms Banks is clearly one of the few such lead actors. Honestly, the story line has holes you can fly choppers right through them. But hey, it's comedy, right? But without Ms Banks, I don't think this could have worked. She has the thing to pull the viewer in and ride alone with her with sympathy and lighthearted fun. No Oscar stuff here. But this movie is smart, sexy, and fun. Love it!
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Manglehorn (2014)
Frankie and Johnny 20 years after :)!
10 February 2016
Reminded me so much of another great movie also with Al "Frankie and Johnny". The story is different and Al is quite a bit older. So the story this time around is edgier and darker too. Al is just fantastic, can't think of anybody else pull this one off without overshooting it. He's right on the spot! Holly Hunter is a complete surprise for me. Instead of the quick wit smart mouth woman, she's, well, you have to watch the movie for yourself. She is simply GREAT! I can't think of Streep doing any better than her here. This is the kind of film you can breath with it and smell the dust as well as the fragrance in it. It's movie at its best and most powerful - seeing the things most us seeing everyday, but with the beauty and meaning most of us missed. Only thing is the ending seems to me a bit hurried.

It's great to know that not everybody is out there making Superman Forever and good film is still made.
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The Wave (2015)
Hollywood clone with a beautiful view
21 December 2015
Never been to Norway. The scenery is impressive for me, just like I heard from the famous piano concerto. The as a movie, it offers little originality, other than a half decent mosaic from the several more famous Hollywood disaster movies from the past. The hero is always the hero, nothing can touch him with the almighty always on his side all the time, etc, etc. Guess for many of us non-Norwegians, the draw of the movie is primarily the scenery. For that, I must say it delivered for me so I am good there. Over all, this movie really feels more Hollywood than European. Even the main guy drives a Jeep! Talking about soft power:) Made me proud from this side of the pond...
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Tell No One (2006)
Pretty good movie but not great
19 December 2013
Beautifully shot for a thriller. It's even pretty at times. The actors did pretty good except the super eager and dumb deputy and evil politician master mind, the movie tried to break away from the typical thrillers. It's pretty good movie with strong casting. Having Ms. Thomas in the mix is always a plus for me. But over all I think this movie is perhaps a few decades too late - it tried to make the plot complex for the sake of it and ended up contradicting itself, maybe a plot by a committee? (some mentioned the age difference of the leads, the Latin "killer" alive and well, etc).

And I don't believe the male lead has anything on Mr. Hoffman. There's only one Hoffman, period.

In all, I think the movie is not a masterpiece by design, but ended up pretty good by execution.
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Tiger Spirit (2008)
A Quiet flick that resonates deep
22 April 2011
No politics, no finger pointing, no loud music, no grandstanding, no extraordinary figures and beauty queens, no fantastic dramas either. Yet, this film let the real people to tell their real stories that resonate to one's spinal core. You don't need to know much about the history to appreciate this film. It's all there for any one with an open mind and kind heart to see. People do what they do and believe what they believe, time flies and life moves on. Life is not fair, but perhaps for too many on this planet, it's simply too tragic, whatever the causes may be. This is a story of an entirely manufactured human tragedy of historical proportion. Wonder what the Korean history books will be saying 100 years from now - if our collective stupidity still prevail then.

It's film carries so much insight, humanity, and sensibility without fanfare and propaganda that I can't believe none of the mainstream media in the West has pick it one up onto the top of the pile. Maybe true insights are indeed dangerous and bad for business. I am thankful for the film makers for making this happen and for all of us to see.

After watching this film, suddenly the lyrics of a popular Chinese kid's song came to me. It's called "Two Tigers" and roughly goes like this: Two tigers, two tigers. One has no eyes, one has no tail. So funny, so funny.

Maybe it's no as funny if you happen to be one of them, or even just watch them closely, like this film crew did.
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City of Ember (2008)
2 stars for the ciniematographer.
5 October 2010
This is the reason why I don't like about the sci-fis these days: bad science with not much of a fiction.

Everything is predictable - the good guys always got away and the bad guys got nailed. There's no pretty girl in this movie though. Indiana Jones is a silly movie with lots of fun. This is a wanna-be 'serious movie' without fun.

Oh, the special effects - awful! So fake and obvious, making those lousy computer games look real in comparison.

It puzzles me why folks like Robbins, Landau and Murray pick a loser like this. They must be too old already.

The only thing moderately interesting about the film to me is the cinematography. It's very pleasing to watch. This is not unlike those submarine movies - need to be spacious enough not to be claustrophobic but not too much to be unreal. I love the rusty dim lit color theme as well.

Alas, this is the 21 century, with all the early education through the web, wii, and everything else above and beyond, today's youngsters are no Indiana Jones fans any more.

And this one, is quite a few cut below that classic. Or shall we say, not even close?

Time wasted. Sad.
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The Narrows (2008)
A good try...
24 January 2010
It would have been better had they casted a different lead in this movie. The story is way too soapish and too straight-to-DVD - everything is so typical and predictable that it's boring. It's a 6 because of the father's acting, and perhaps the mob boss as well. He's so much better than in "Law and Order", which really is insulting his talent as an actor. The son probably is the only actor that really fits this movie - a straight to DVD/soap opera type of role with matching talent for it - too obvious, too superficial, and too enthusiastically played out. I completely disagree with the other reviewer - I won't miss this guy's acting in the future at all.

Try The Bronx Story by De Niro et al. Now that's a worthy movie with real interesting story to tell.
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The Other Man (2008)
Great acting, thoughtful and unique plot, but...
18 January 2010
There've been so many movies about love relationships, good bad and ugly. This one certainly is unique in its angle of view on things. Very smart and intriguing to me. I liked the film! Only thing is that, to me these A list actors don't seem to look the part: the artistic shoe designer or a software designer... In fact I didn't know what Liam's role did for living till the very end and being in the silicon valley for so many years, I simply wasn't convinced he could be a major software guy. Maybe like everything else the Brits do things differently :) And his wife simply isn't artistic enough to be a world class shoe lady either. "Zolo" is way way too classy and smooth for a janitor. With his level of talent, he'd have no problem taking up a VP slot on this side of the Atlantic, so why a janitor in Milan? Is Milan that good? I really reserve my doubt.

The movie could have been a lot more convincing with a different cast. My two cents.
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Powder Blue (2009)
Cinematic poet from Vietnam at it again
21 August 2009
This movie is nothing like "Crash" - it's not about race and politics, period! BTW, I am not all that impressed by "Crash" or other politically charged movies like it at all This is another attempt at the real life poetry in the most unlikely places in life, like the director has done in the past in "The Three Seasons" and "The Green Dragon". The cast is perfect! And so is their acting.

The only gripe I have with this movie is that it gives me the impression that this movie tries too hard to pull too many strings at the same time. Too many impossible characters from the far edge of life all converge in the most impossible circumstances ... The end result is a bit over the top and I feel numb half way into it. It also makes the drama feel forced as well. It really doesn't have to be this way I thought. As I remember this director didn't use this many exclamation marks in his previous movies.

But regardless, this movie is like the directors other movies, poetic and beautiful in a very unusual way. Too bad the top notch cast and performance can't really carry this one into a master piece as they should have - sometimes saying less actually is more. This movie tried to say too much too loud. Just my two cents.
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The World (2004)
Charlse Dickens of China through his movie camera
24 July 2009
It's not a hit movie, it will be a cult classic over time, like many of his other works. Poor folks want to watch "Who wants to become a millionaire" while the limo-democrats want to patronize the 'disadvantaged' by throwing other people's money at the government bureaucrats. But once in a while there comes along a true genius who comes from down below but with a true gift to show to the world what really is like down there in the real world. Jia is one such genius. He's the only Chinese writer director I truly feel proud of.

Only thing about the movie that is kinda disappointing is that I thought the ending of this movie actually betrayed the writer/director's unique style of low key and moderation/ showing something through nothing. To me the ending is really not necessary - I thought the real suffering is in the living not the dead. Maybe Jia ZK wanted to show us he can jerk tears as well if he likes to? Anyway, I was a bit disappointed by this ending really - or the death of the construction worker. Maybe Jia is the new China's Dickens. His movie language is disturbing and profound. What we see through his lens in China is not pretty, but real, excruciatingly real. China is often shown as the high rises in the city, or the shanty towns on the fringe, Jia is the gifted few who show everything else in between as what they really are - and that is the real China most people don't care to see or don't want to see. When you are stuck in between, you don't always get good choices...
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24 City (2008)
Best yet from Jia Zhangke
7 July 2009
This movie is by far his best IMHO. The flow is engaging and natural while the 'empty' spaces in between narrations are not unlike those quiet passages in Chopin's piano pieces or the white spaces in the classic Chinese paintings.

I used to think Joan Chen only as a pretty face. But her performance here, even though short, changed my view completely. She can really act and act well! And she's still beautiful more than ever. Gawd bless her! The other pro actresses have proved their mastery in acting long ago and didn't disappoint here either.

But the most credit has to go to the writer/director Jia - these short stories never really intertwine with each other as a plot, but together they are so strong and compelling that makes any smart and coy plot pale in comparison. Jia again nailed the pulse of the real life drama right on without wasting much of anything.

I can't help but feel sympathetic to those who can't get 'it' because of the lack of background knowledge about the modern China. Only it's ironic, or even rather sad that, for such an iconic Chinese master movie maker with such a quintessential Chinese story telling, only found his fame mostly outside China today.

Once a famous jazz critic wrote that if you remove all the names of the white jazz players from its history, you haven't changed jazz a single bit. IMHO, by the time the outside world gets tired of the curiosity of Jia, over time his mastery will establish itself in China and only then will he find his real audience.
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Toto the Hero (1991)
Hollywood ending?
28 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The only gripe I have with this film is the ending? Does it really necessary to make the rich kid with the 'good life' to envy the less fortunate one's for his 'freedom'? To get the protagonist killed to prove a point? Maybe the writing here is more of self expression than depicting human condition in general? Loud volume doesn't make the music more significant. Perhaps something could have left unsaid to the audience's imagination...

I always liked the French movies for there seemingly understated fashion over the dog barks of moral debate and preaching of the Anglo-American types - assuming the viewer is deaf and dumb. Well, the movie's ending is a bit surprise to me. Instead of letting the actors barking at each other, it chose to create a big bang with its twisted story line in the end. I certainly saw it coming after the middle point of the film. But still, I'd have no problem giving it 10 had it not been for the forced ending. I thought the biggest tragedy for people like Toto is that they never got anything right and nobody cares what they do or do not do. Therefore, to force Alfred to 'envy' Toto in the end and let Toto leave with a bang instead of a wimp is certainly gratifying to the audience, Hollywood style. But it feels very concocted and unnatural. Trying to force a tragedy into a comedy really is pointless. Because life really do sucks for folks like Toto.
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The Italian (2005)
A true master piece!
27 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
In the great continental tradition, the story is told in a rather subdued and understated fashion, without so much preachy debate and shouting match as the Anglo-Americans like to do. A lesser movie maker could have easily made this into a cheap tear-jerker. Comparing to movies such as 'Cider House Rules', this one is far more 'realistic' and down to earth. You can't help finding yourself following the boy's steps or even in his jacket with his every move. That is the power of great movies like this. The French movie 'Rosetta' comes to mind. But if that is a shiny gem, this is a field of diamond! It has a sustained power that stays with you and absorbs deeper as the minutes goes by. One other great point about this movie is that people are not black and white, humanities are abound despite the harshness and cruelty all around, perhaps with the only exception of the orphan trader herself. Then again, maybe that is what it takes to make a living like that anyway.

I gave 9 instead of 10 because I am not convinced that Vanya could have mastered all the necessary reading skill in that short period of time at his age (5-6). Understanding the stuff from a formal document is not the same as guessing some short phrases from a 'Winnie the Pooh's book. Of course he could be a true genius. But this 'exception' feels forced comparing to all other characters and plot elements since there's nothing else that requires ostensible exception in life - all could have really happened. Even the weather was made to appear 'natural' rather than following the characters mood in the plot like less movies would have done. I can't help feeling that those who asked why the driver let the boy go were brain washed by the 'black/white good vs evil' Hollywood fairy tales (nonsenses) for too long. In real world, most people do have hearts. And it shouldn't take a Russian speaker to figure this one out.

This is not a dark movie despite its plot line seems to suggest at the first glance. The true power of it lies in the beautiful warmth of humanity in many of the unlikely places, unseemly characters, and unfortunate moments. Life can be hard for some, but worthwhile if they try hard enough.

No dramatic beginning or ending here. Everything just happened. But of course, all the details are there to make it all feels so natural and smooth. That's what the masters do.
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Zozo (2005)
Passionate and personal. The sound track is captivating and bone chilling
25 November 2007
The plot is rather predictable and on the simplistic side, whether it's the accidental tragedy of Zozo's family, or his later cultural shock. The acting and cast are good. But I was especially spell bounded by the music and the photography of the film. The film looks low budget and didn't pretend to be otherwise. But it attempted to draw on its strength in the forgotten tragedy in Lebanon and the strong acting and cinematography. And movie succeeded for the most part IMHO. As I was watching the film, I couldn't help but thinking in the back of my head of the more recent tragedy in southern Lebanon, perhaps more death and destruction this time around? How many Zozo were created this time? Marx said that history repeats itself the first time is tragedy, the second time farce. To those who were unfortunate enough to be part of it, it always will be just tragedy.
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Good good movie, stale premise, questionable moral
9 November 2007
Mixing the almighty rich losers from the US of A with the hopelessly pathetic poors and helpless Indians from the opposite side of the planet plus some over the top sketch, you have a strong soup hard to ignore. Ironically, this movie reminded me of "the war on terror" and its "decider" - rich loser squanders seemingly endless resources (blood and money) not of his own making to try to find non-existing meaning in his empty life. The only thing I could take away from the movie is - life is pointless and senseless for the rich as well as the poor. But at least the rich gets the chance to mess up the poors and expects the poor to thank him for 'saving' them. Arrogant maybe, but that seems to be the way the world works today. Sad but true. I have little sympathy to the 3 brothers and their empty life and hollow emotional journey. But the acting is mostly good. Then again, this movie is far from unique in its angel of depicting the 3rd world countries as just some far off play ground for the white Americans to make a mess and have fun with. The locals are just bunch of invisible animals and creatures to be used for prop, consumption, or practice targets. The poor maybe poor, but they are not necessarily more pathetic than the rich. Remember it's Owen Wilson who wants to kill himself. Right, life is just that 'boring' for him. And that is just too bad, because it says a lot about the 'human condition' today.
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Chinese Box (1997)
One of the best movie IMHO
10 April 2007
Jeremy Iron, Ruben, Maggie are fantastic in the movie. Gong Li worked hard at it. She's got the look but I have to hold my breath every time she tries to act... It's quite exhausting to watch her act in this role. Hope it's just me.

But the story writing fits perfectly with the title "China Box". You have to have enough background knowledge and sensibility to appreciate it. The movie never falls into the cliché of east-meets-the-west. Instead, it uses the historical sea-change in Hong Kong as the back drop, as the grand orchestra accompanying the extraordinary solo of the age old story of love, a man and a woman. Nothing is obvious, and nothing gives away in the middle and the tension keeps building till the very last moment. I first saw the movie when it came out in theater. But 10 years later I saw it again on tape, it blew me away like no other. I'd give it a 10 if not for the rather limited acting skill from Gong Li. There's got to be someone else out there among the 1.3 billion who can really act. Maggie can act but she certainly falls short in her natural beauty for this role, in comparison to Gong Li. One other thing I thought was bit of a drag is Maggie's almost perfect English. I thought a character from the very bottom of Hong Kong society with limited education probably would be more convincing if she has more local accent. That's my past experience with folks from Hong Kong. Only those from the privileged the class in Hong Kong would speak like her in the movie... I am so disappointed by the featured review on IMDb here. Because in the past this web site has consistently picked a more sensible review for other movies I ran into. I felt rather compelled to write something to clear the bad rap of this great movie, as much as I can. For those who cares, Maggie Cheung was in another great movie "In the Mood for Love" (2000). But that movie was more limited in scope and more nuanced in its presentation, a more oriental romance. This movie clearly more European is breadth and depth in its attempt. Some might find the political overtone - a rather negative focus on the 1997 handover (suicide, etc), a bit predictable and cliché. But in this particular movie it does set the mood for the over all theme of the movie - after all, this is a rather a sad romance. No happy endings for any one. Only human spirit triumph. For that, I thought the movie title is a bit off actually. IMHO, China Box is only a clever device that is seemingly simple but capable of endless intrigue and twist. That title would be much more fit for a thriller. This one I thought is more about the ultimate triumph of the unyielding human spirit for truth, for real meaning, and for love as the word originally meant, overcoming all odds, even the limitation of one's unavoidable mortality.

It's a master piece.
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