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Hanover Street (1979)
I knew this was a romantic movie upfront, but the WW2 stuff seemed interesting enough to take a look.
I must say that I watched the whole thing through, and it kept my interest. Its pretty predictable, but the characters stay rather true to themselves, and although the ending is predictable, its not necessarily obvious.
I will give credit for the locations/effects. The film never looks cheesy, and you can tell that effort was made to be authentic. It certainly is a war movie, there is blood and gore aplenty, not Saving Private Ryan gory, but enough to remind you this is war.
The movie has 2 parts, the romantic story in England, and then the adventure part in France. This split makes the movie go by rather quickly, I was kinda surprised this was not one of those WW2 miniseries that were so popular at the time.
I can't say that I would overwhelmingly recommend this movie, but if something about it strikes your interest, one of the actors perhaps, or in my case the setting of WW2, then I would check it out.
Strange Wilderness (2008)
It really is that bad...
There are some funny moments, I maybe laughed about ten times. Steve Zahn is NOT funny, Jonah Hill is horrible, that fake accent is even worse. It looks like the cast was really stoned in most of the takes, and not in a good funny way either. I saw this movie for free otherwise I would be angry at the money I just wasted.
This is a case of good ingredients, but a horrible meal. But it shows a lack of effort more than anything else.
Main reason I am posting this is to warn people away. I went on IMDb before going, saw the cast, looked at some pictures, figured it would be funny. I am now coming back to say NOT FUNNY. Seriously. Watch Suberbad or Knocked Up again (or even for the 10th time) I guarantee you will laugh more.
The Queen (2006)
Its not easy to make this kind of movie. The plot was followed by most of the audience as it occurred in reality, and has been analyzed and re-analyzed in the years since. For the most part the principal characters are all still alive, and active in the public eye. Our familiarity with them makes the actors jobs much more difficult as every viewer has the ability to critique the performance in terms of accuracy.
The makers of the film overcame these obstacles. The acting is wonderful, and the film progresses at a good pace. The use of archive footage, and how it is edited into the film provides an interesting counterpoint to an otherwise conservatively filmed movie. This technique gives the audience some insight into how the royals must feel, a formal audience one second, and blur of flashes and images assaulting you the next.
Helen Mirren is excellent. Her queen is an heir to a thousand year old tradition that is being slowly backed into a corner by the people. She wants to hold on to the very few things left to her, tradition and proper decorum, and even those are stripped away from her one by one. At the end we see her transformation, her realization that the institution of the monarchy is more important than its details. And perhaps even though she symbolizes a by gone era, she chose to tread in new territory in how the royal family would act in its role of the symbolic head of the family of Britain.
The DVD adds two excellent commentaries which greatly enhance the film. First is the director and writer, giving their perspective on the making of the film, while the second is by a royal expert, who points out departures from reality that the creative process took, as well as putting events and actions into context and explaining their importance or relevance.
Make sure this is your cup of tea
I don't usually watch these types of movies, and had my friend not wanted to see it ('it got good reviews') I would have never watched it. I freely admit my bias. Objectively speaking, the acting was excellent, and I was impressed by the way the film was shot.
Problem is I was bored out of my skull after about 15 minutes. This movie seemed to drag on with no conclusion in sight. Seeing now that this was based on a short story, I am of a strong opinion this would have made a good short film. But there really did not seem to be enough plot to fill the 90 minutes, especially as one left the cinema. Halfway through the movie I was wishing it was set in May 1940 just for the sake of an air raid.
The other reviewers have showed quite well what is good about this movie, and what one can enjoy in it, and if you like that sort of movie, then by all means watch this one. If you're on the fence and don't like really slow movies, you might want to reconsider this one.
Muyeong geom (2005)
Its hard out there for a prince...
So you're the last heir to an usurped throne in 10th century Korea, you got one hot chick out to protect you, an equally hot chick out to kill you, and all the men around you look like Captain Jack Sparrow (apparently the eyeliner/dreadlocks look is older then previously thought).
The plot isn't much, but this movie is great eye candy. The film quality is very good, the sets and costumes are very colorful, and the fight scenes are excellent. The CGI effects are nice and enhance a lot of the scenes without being overbearing.
The acting is pretty good, with a mix of drama and comedy, not too melodramatic. The villains of the Killer Blade Army get extra style points for sinister appearance and for being generally evil, with the monk earning best of show for his tattoos.
Overall not an earth shattering movie, but very enjoyable visually as well as full of action. Recommended for fans of the genre.
Du bei dao wang (1969)
Just when I thought that I was out they pull me back in.
After my somewhat lackluster experience with the first One Armed Swordsman movie, I was very happy to find that the sequel far out shined the original movie.
The movie begins with our hero Fang Gang awkwardly practicing his left handed farming technique, when a pair of visitors ask him to attend a sword fighting competition. He demurs, only to be visited later by an old man who fills him in on the whole situation. Apparently an octet of evil villains have set up shop and are attempting to crown themselves kings of swordsmen in the local area. Faithfully keeping his promise to his wife to stay out of the martial arts world Fang Gang says he will not go. The old man sets out to the competition but not before instructing his sons that should this be a trap, and they will need to seek revenge, to unite with other schools in their plot, and most importantly to seek out Fang Gang's help. The competition, as predicted, is really a trap, and as the invited martial artists attempt to leave the contest, they are hunted down by the evil octet, each employing unique martial arts styles and weapons.
The remaining students are then sent letters by the villains instructing them to cut off their right arm so that their fathers and teachers may be released. The students instead seek Fang Gang for advice, and after some soul searching, our hero takes on the mantle that will later be carried by the likes of Louis Gosset Jr. in the Iron Eagle series, and helps the youngsters in their quest.
From this point on the movie becomes virtually a non stop cavalcade of action full of fights, ambushes, betrayals, and much butt kicking.
This is a really fun movie to watch, full of interesting characters and original fighting styles and weapons. A very good Shaw Brothers production that is highly recommended for fans of the genre.
Duo she (1997)
Be careful what you promise someone
An interesting HK comedy with a good dose of action. The main premise of this story is the ability for a soul of a human to enter the body of another person, and live on in that manner.
The movie starts off with a woman jumping off the top of a tall building, something she somehow manages to walk away from as the police stare in amazement. Next we see Chicken, played by Danny Lee (the cop in The Killer) a rather inept criminal get shot up in a robbery gone wrong. During this same robbery we encounter Tommy, a policeman who becomes a paraplegic as a result of a losing battle with a speeding car. As Chicken lies in a coma, Tommy becomes disenchanted with using a plastic bag for a bathroom and being unable to enjoy the physical relationship with his fiancée. He goes to the woman jumper we met at the start of the film, and asks her how he can become reincarnated as she did. One thing leads to another and Tommy ends up in Chicken's body, but only after making two promises to Chicken's soul. The first is that the body will only be borrowed in order to avenge Chicken's shooting, and the second is that should Tommy attempt to use Chicken's body to take advantage of any of Chicken's women things will be over before they get started.
Tommy then awakens as Chicken and starts to live Chicken's life. He discovers that Chicken had a less than stellar reputation and character, and yet somehow managed to keep two mistresses in addition to his wife. To this mess throw in Chicken's sister who takes a special liking to her newly transformed brother, and Tommy's quest to right the wrongs in Chicken's life become more convoluted.
This movie is a good mix of comedy and action. Danny Lee play two rather different characters in this movie, and is particularly funny when (as Tommy) he comes to grips with Chicken's life and problems. Its premise is different from the usual HK action genre, and worth checking out.
Du bei dao (1967)
Sometimes losing an arm is a blessing...
Plotwise this is relatively standard fare. Student suffers a personal defeat , goes into recovery and training mode, then redeems himself.
My beef with this movie was the Qi/Chi sword style. The evil villain devises a special technique, complete with a custom sword to defeat the Qi sword style. And the Qi family is completely unable to defeat this new technique. They push forth like lemmings, each one dying in the same fashion as his predecessor. When their self preservation instinct raises a notion to perhaps team up and take advantage of their 20 - 3 numbers to defeat their enemies, the main villain chides them to keep fighting one on one. As self preservation once again takes a step back, they continue fighting and dying one at a time, until the timely arrival of our handicapable hero who uses his new style to quickly dispatch the villains.
If our hero kept his arm, he no doubt would have died too, as the Qi sword style is apparently completely incapable of improvisation. This really killed the enjoyment of the movie for me, as by the time the 10th Qi student died IN EXACTLY THE SAME FASHION, I would have figured that someone would have tried something new. At no point did Bruce Lee's critique of the rigidity of Chinese martial arts ring more true.
If this particular problem does not bother you as much as it did me, then this can be a quite enjoyable late 60s Shaw Brothers experience. But if seeing fight after fight resolve itself in exactly the same fashion begins to grate on you, then perhaps look elsewhere.
Qing dian da sheng (2005)
...and then the movie got really weird.
If the description:
...then the angel flew into the tree demon's mouth, and her golden staff turned into a gatling gun wielding robot which proceeded to shoot down the evil demon birds...
sounds intriguing, then this is a movie for you!
This CGI infused tale travels between the realms of fantasy and science fiction with a very confusing, but ultimately enjoyable result. The plot follows the exploits of a young monk traveling with an ugly demon, and the love that blossoms between them. Their quest to rescue one of the monk's companions takes them from earth to heaven through time and space.
The story is fairly confusing, mainly due to the ever stranger plot twists, so its best just to sit back and watch without trying to make too much sense of things. The movie relies heavily on CGI effects, but no more than the Matrix or Star Wars movies. The two leads are likable, and they encounter many interesting characters along their journey. There are a few tongue in cheek moments, but thankfully the characters don't interact with their audience.
Make no mistake, this movie is often very weird, and goes beyond the realm of 'serious' fantasy movies, but it stays away from being too silly, making it a pretty enjoyable experience.
The Day of the Jackal (1973)
Excellent portrayal of two professionals
The plot of this movie involves two men. One man is out to kill De Gaulle, and the other is trying to stop him. Both are professional, and they carry themselves in a professional manner. This is the greatest strength of the movie. Neither Lonsdale or Fox "act" in this movie. They don't go for any overblown dramatics or make any big speeches. They focus on the job at hand, which is to portray two men who are solely concerned with their job.
This movie is a chess game, played between two professionals at the top of their game. The movie is shown from the perspective of both men. We see the assassin planning and executing this mission, and we see the policeman unraveling the plot, and later pursuing the assassin.
There are no leaps of logic or unbelievable coincidences. We see the value of meticulous preparation and of detailed police work. The only lucky break the police get is in the initial discovery of the plot through the abduction of one of the conspirators, a break needed to set up the plot of the movie, but this is the only time that the police get such a break.
This movie is well worth watching, not only for the enjoyment of the movie and plot itself, but also to see an excellent example of restrained film making. This is a top notch thriller, one of the best examples of the genre.
Wu ji (2005)
Mediocre plot, gorgeous eye candy
This movie is very pretty. Beautiful colors, costumes, scenery and actors. But that's about it.
The characters are not very well fleshed out, and you really don't care much for any of them, with the exception of Kunlun. And the only real feelings you have for him is pity at his naiveté and oft too abused good heart.
I'm not sure what the audience was supposed to feel for Princess Qingcheng. A few adjectives come to mind. I personally had no issue if she ended up with General Guangming, Kunlun was too nice of a person to end up with her. Wuhuan was decently played, a bit over the top, but at least Nicholas proved he can act without the aid of a lighter and cigarette. Snow Wolf was a good character, with some some decent background to explain his actions.
This movie is somewhat indicative of Asia's trend over the last five or six years to match Hollywood in its overuse of special effects. This movie is really gorgeous to watch, right on par with recent Asian flicks, but something is missing in this one.
I'd recommend renting this one just to enjoy the film's beauty, but probably does not warrant a second look, unless sappy predictable tragic romances are your cup of green tea.
Decent gangster flick
This HBO production documents the rise and fall of John Gotti, portrayed by Armand Assante. A decent gangster flick, populated by the usual suspects of the genre.
The movie paints Gotti as an old style gangster who refuses to play by the rules, which is what brings him to the top and then brings him crashing back down. The movie rolls along well until the Castellano hit, but as Gotti rises to the top of his family, some cracks in the plot begin to appear.
Perhaps due to being spoiled by the drawn out plots of the Sopranos, I found the dissension that breaks up the family in the second half to be rushed. The characters turn on each other because that's how it went in real life. On the other hand, we are dealing with multiple murderers, so asking for deep reasons for them to kill each other may be asking too much.
Unlike the protagonists in other mob movies, I did not find myself liking Gotti too much. The media image of Gotti was of a smiling gangster, and you could see a lot of his charisma. Assante does not give off the same sort of charisma, so my attitude towards him was rather lukewarm at best. I'm not sure who would have made a better Gotti, but to me the casting of the title role in this one ultimately relegated this movie to mediocrity.
Overall a decent flick, and its fun to see the regular crew of mob actors assemble for yet another go, but it adds nothing new to the genre.
Home Room (2002)
Well made film
A film studying the aftermath of a Columbine style school massacre, it shows that a well made film does not have to break any new barriers in cinema in order to tell a good story.
Not so much a story about the killings themselves, the focus of the film is the relationship between one of the victims, a goody two shoes honor roll student who sits alone in the hospital, and a outcast loner, the only witness to the event that claimed the life of the gunman. It treads down familiar paths on getting to know a person on the inside, and how deep down inside we're all the same, but it does so in a touching and interesting manner. The two leads take on these role with a good amount of depth and emotion.
The main other theme in this film is the community trying to make sense of what and why, but the film doesn't give any answers on that topic, other than this is just a challenge of our times that we have to face. It also touches on issues of the alienation that teenagers feel in this increasingly busy and fast paced world.
The message of this film seems to be to face the problems instead of hiding from them. Its because people do not want to admit things like this can happen in their communities, not just shootings, but drug use, pregnancy, suicide, that they ignore the warning signals until its too late, and then just seek to place the blame on someone. Until it happens again.
A good study of our changing times, and excellent performances. Definitely worth watching.
Nil by Mouth (1997)
An unpleasant slice of life
I have a very hard time watching this movie. This is not a movie to put in for a relaxing night at home, as its very painful to watch. This is reality. These are situations that are happening right now in homes across the world.
This movie is extremely powerful in its portrayal of a working class British family, as the struggle with problems such as drug and domestic abuse. The acting is simply amazing. It practically transcends acting and you feel that you are watching real people struggle through these things. Its a reality show in which the people don't know they're being watched.
This film is a tough journey to take, as its very painful and emotional, but it is ultimately rewarding to sit through it and reach the conclusion.
Very highly recommended, but be warned, this movie pulls no punches and shows you life as it is.
Czterej pancerni i pies (1966)
Childhood memories revisited
I used to watch this as a little kid, and this was by far the coolest thing on TV. But all I had were my memories of 20 years past and a book with a few photographs. Getting the DVD set as a present was a wonderful surprise, and it allowed me to revisit the series again.
The show, made in the late 60s, covers the adventures of a tank crew, and its dog, part of the Soviet-backed Polish army, in their march from the borders to Poland all the way to Berlin.
The 21 episodes are divided into two main parts. The first part of the series, 8 episodes, shows us how the crew is assembled, its baptism of fire, and its fight to liberate Poland. Although there are a few situations in which they fight on their own, overall they fight as part of the army. The second part of the series, 13 more episodes, show the crew as they enter Germany, and are usually shown to fight on their own due to various twists of fate. The two parts are differentiated by some crew changes brought about by the fortunes of war.
For a series made at the height of the Cold War it does have moments of heavy handed socialist preaching, but overall shows a fairly realistic portrait of war. The cross-section of the crew is rather interesting. Its various members consist of a Russian of Polish descent, a Silesian who escaped from the German army, a native Pole who somehow ended up in Siberia, a Georgian (with an amazing grasp of Polish) and a somewhat naive Polish country bumpkin. The varied ethnicity of the crew is often a source of much of the humor, but never in a mean spirited way, rather to show how people from different backgrounds can unite together to accomplish a common goal.
The show is filmed in black and white. The locations are excellent as are the props, although this being only 20 years after the war, its a good possibility that a lot of the props were genuine equipment. You get to see T-34s, Tigers, Panthers, and a lot of Soviet and German artillery and small arms. The series faithfully sticks to the languages spoken, so the Poles speak Polish, the Russians speak Russian and the Germans speak German.
The plots of the episode are rather creative, but our heroes always pull through with a mix of cleverness and luck. Their dog, a German Shepherd named Szarik, often bails them out of a tough situation. A few of the plots are rather far fetched, but they make an interesting diversion from standard war movie plots of taking or defending a town.
The series has moments of exciting action, but is also a very funny show. Granted there is a lot of wordplay and puns that makes a knowledge of Polish a necessity to fully appreciate, but the chemistry between the crew members is genuine, the nonstop ribbing never overshadows that they really care for each other. There is some sentimentality when an unexpected family reunion occurs, and the protagonist is never bereft of female attention, especially of his love, the Russian medic with whom I fell in love a long time ago.
Polish people are all familiar with this series, but I would highly recommend this for others, especially WW 2 buffs, as a counterpoint to what was happening on the other end of Germany while the 101st was storming across Germany and France. A good TV series with an excellent cast, great action and a lot of comedy.
The Boys from Brazil (1978)
Good concept, wasted possibilities
I vaguely remember reading the book a while ago, but I have never seen the movie until now.
The concept, of course, is excellent. What would happen if Hitler was cloned? Take it a step further and incorporate a heinous Nazi scheme to reproduce the psychological conditions that created Hitler, and you have an even better plot. But what may make for a good read (book doesn't seem to have made much of an impression on me though), doesn't really make for a good movie. Instead we get a rather weak thriller where the audience figures out the plot pretty quickly on, those with some familiarity with Hitler even faster than others. And once you figure out the plot, waiting for the protagonist to realize it becomes more of a frustrating chore of "come on, NOW do you get it?" And of course once the plan becomes known, we realize that it never will be stopped. (I must admit I never had any notions that Lieberman would kill the proto-Hitlers, so maybe that killed some of the suspense for me.)
Had Mengele's plan included the focus on just one boy, with the organization taking a more detailed interest in psychologically nudging the young man, perhaps Mengele feeding him quiet whispers to stir his hate, it might have been more compelling. Seeing them trying to replicate the exact details of Hitler's life over the years would make a cool movie. Engineer his series of failures and rejections, foster his hatred of Jews, that would be a scary film. There seems to be too much focus that just the death of the father would drive the child to become like Hitler. Hitler was far more a product of his times, than a product of the death of his father. Placing these children in prosperous families of western nations is hardly the circumstances that would replicate post WW I Germany.
To me the best part of the movie were the few minutes at the end. The scene in the hospital bed was probably the only thought provoking part of the film, asking the question, which Spielberg touched on in Munich, does the end justify the means? The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Thankfully the character of Lieberman was wise enough to see down that road and closed that path right away.
The death of Mengele was another good scene, although also kind of a miss. Having Mengele whine as he died, showed him to be a less calculating and chilling villain that originally imagined. A sharp mind would have figured out what sort of impact the psychological trauma of having a child order an intruder mauled to death by his dogs would cause, and relish his death would help create the next Fuhrer rather than die in screams. Perhaps this was done for the sake of the audience to get some kind of positive resolution that the villain who caused so much pain got his comeuppance, but it would have been far more chilling to see that even in death Mengele was trying to accomplish his goal. Perhaps I'm seeing too much of The Emperor in this, daring Luke to strike him down, knowing the consequences.
Great concept, but the movie was weak in and of itself, and the idea could have been developed in a far more chilling fashion. With the current crop of "lets understand the evil" films on Hitler you'd wonder how this film would be made today, probably focus more on psychology and less on a thriller plot.
OK film to watch, but more enjoyable for the personal thoughts on "what if?" that it spawns.
The Rat Pack (1998)
The price of social advancement
This movie chronicles the exploits of the Rat Pack, focusing on the election of 1960 and its aftermath.
The central theme of this movie is the price of social advancement. The central focus of this story are the stories of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, and Peter Lawford, and the heavy price they pay for social advancement.
America is a place where you have the opportunity to become anything you want, as long as you know your place, and all three characters learn that lesson the hard way. Each one rises above their station in life, through connections, talent and marriage, but each one realizes the price he has to pay to for their advancement. Frank becomes a fixer, Sammy becomes a joke, and Peter becomes a messenger. Each one realizes the price they have to pay, some take it better than others. Everything has a price in this world, especially that which you crave the most.
Good commentary on life in the 60s, and perhaps today. Another excellent HBO production worth watching.
Very thought provoking documentary
This is a very interesting documentary to watch, not only for the topic it discusses, but in discussing the very nature of scholarship, especially dealing with homosexuality.
As far as the documentary itself, its pretty well done. It covers how a heterosexual German historian tries to prove his claim that Hitler was homosexual, and, in a refreshing change in a documentary, it has other historians commenting on his findings and theories. In the end it does not really prove much, mainly owing to a dearth of evidence, and reliance on some rather dubious, and unverifiable sources. A good point of the argument revolves that any records confirming his homosexuality would have been destroyed by Hitler, so you're starting to delve into JFK-esquire conspiracies and cover-ups. One also may note that the stigma of homosexuality, with its negative connotations may be used simply to slander an individual, so any second hand accounts need to be examined in that light as well.
But the greatest point the documentary raises, and continues in its DVD extras, is the topic of scholarship and homosexuality. Because this is such a polarizing topic, and evokes strong feelings among both straight and gay historians, it becomes very clear that retaining objectivity in this field of study is very difficult. In fact, the attempt to be objective and not let personal biases, either for or against, is probably the greatest struggle of the historian. Coupled with the fact that evidence is rarely cut and dry, gaining the truth about a person's sexuality often has to go by inference and assumption, a very dangerous minefield for any historian.
The reason I gave this documentary such a high score is that it really makes you think. By having gay and straight historians, with proponents and detractors on the theory on both sides give voice, it really is one of the few documentaries that lets the viewer draw his own conclusions. The DVD extras which then discuss the very process of such scholarship further challenges the viewer to re-examine the very conclusions they just drew after the documentary's conclusion. A very highly recommended view for people with an interest in history and scholarship.
All the President's Men (1976)
No guns, no car chases, no fistfights
That's the reason I never watched this film when I was a teenager. I tried, but sometime after the first hour I just lost interest.
Having actually watched it for the first time from start to finish I was very impressed with this film. The battles in this movie are fought with minds and words. A chess game in which two pawns begin their steady march towards the other side of the board, passing layer after layer of conspiracy.
This movie, most importantly, shows us that its not the end result, but how you get there that is important. I could not help, like other people, compare this movie to JFK as I watched it. Its clear that Stone wanted to make a movie like this one, but he missed the main point (as did Garrison). Even if you "know" what happened, you have to take the proper steps to prove it.
As Deep Throat said, you start at the edges and work your way in. The two journalists had a good idea from the start of what happened, it was how to prove in a honest and legal way that was the problem. And that was the journey they took us on.
This movie could be perceived as being boring by some, but the cause of that is not the movie, but ourselves. The villain is not confronted at the rooftop after a long chase, to have him deliver the grand explanation with a dramatic speech, only to have him jump off the rooftop as a final gesture.
It shows us how two men, with little power and no authority, helped topple a President. Its very appropriate that this movie came out in 1976, as it showed that the Constitution is a document that still provides for checks and balances in our government. This movie shows us the strength of our 1st Amendment. The government did not like what was happening, and put pressure to stop it, but at no point did you see police or army march into the Post to shut it down, something that would still happen this day in many countries around the world.
This movie reminds us that our right to pursue stories such as this one, the right to argue endlessly about politics on message boards, or even to post blogs about what you had for lunch, is one of the greatest strengths of this country. The media is not what it used to be 30 years ago, but it still has that potential.
Wonderful film to watch, think and discuss.
Much much better than I expected
I must say that I had my doubts about seeing Frodo enter the Football Factory, but I decided to check it out.
I had my doubts like everyone else about just how an American would be integrated into a firm, but having him be a cousin to the leader of the firm, very well played by Charlie Hunnam, made the story very plausible. Elijah Wood plays an expelled student who struggles to find himself, and his identity, delving into the realms explored by Fight Club, tapping into his more primal self.
Unlike Football Factory, this movie shows a much less glamorous side of violence. The absence of firearms in the UK, unlike with American gangs, lessens the death toll, but the cycle of revenge and retaliation does exist, especially when people take the fight to a more personal level. At the beginning its explained that its about the buzz of the fight and maintaining your reputation, but as the violence progresses we easily see how it can go beyond this, and get personal, often with tragic results.
I generally dislike movies in which an American protagonist comes in to save the natives, but this movie rarely treads into that territory, no doubt due to the casting choice of Wood. He serves as our guide into this realm, but he knows his place. He is a participant, but he's not the knight in shining armor. This movie has a message, but its not preachy, the meaning is very clear.
I did not expect to like this movie, and while the story is time tested and true, the setting is good, all the characters are well played and with depth to them, and the movie's pace is very exciting. I honestly enjoyed this movie, more and more as it went on. As the film ended, I found myself thinking back to the end of the Football Factory with Tommy asking himself "Was it worth it?" This movie answers this question as well.
This movie is definitely worth watching if you have an opportunity to do so.
A lot of CGI does not a good movie make
I happened to come across this film after watching Shogun's Samurai for the first time and re-watching Ninja Scroll. It made an interesting combination, with overlapping plots and characters. But I would have to rank this movie third out of the group.
This movie has pretty good action sequences, but it has very minimal character development and a rather weak plot. Unfortunately its over reliance on CGI really dulled the fight scenes, as someone pointed out, there were no real sword fights. There were definitely a lot of good characters in this film, and their unique powers were pretty cool, but they were rather wasted in the setting of the fight in the forest.
This movie would have been a lot better in an urban setting against the setting of a deeper plot. The shape shifter, the immortal, the poisoner, their powers could have been used to advance the plot instead of just providing another fight in the forest. It seems that the producers first came up with the fight sequences, and then crafted the plot around it.
Overall its pretty good eye candy, but when compared against similarly themed Japanese films, its weaknesses are rather glaring. Ninja Scroll is a far better film, both in terms of action and plot.
Inspired by true events
Some movies make the statement they are based on true events. Others claim the title to be inspired by true events. Stone attempts to do the former, but ends up doing the latter.
This is a good movie. An idealistic man tried to unravel the conspiracy of the assassination of a president, and ends up being thwarted by the conspirators at every step as they cover up their tracks. Stone is a very good director and this movie is no exception. The historical accuracy of this film has been debated by very knowledgeable and passionate people, and I've read enough to find its credibility lacking, so I am judging this movie as a work of historical fiction - inspired by true events.
The death of JFK was taken as a shattering of the myth of Camelot, the end of the 20 years after WW2 when America reigned supreme and basked under the sun of its military and economic might. Stone plays upon this sentiment very well, presenting us with a series of "what if's" focusing on what would happen if JFK had lives. An idyllic utopia in which there was no Vietnam, where civil rights miraculously spread across the land, and several other unrealistic, but very appealing notions. As a Vietnam veteran, one can understand Stone's passion in making this movie. Its rather obvious that he associates the death of JFK with the start of events that led him to a series of unpleasant events in his life. Just as one mourns the death of a child because of the potential and hopes of the future, so we mourn the death of JFK based on notions of what could have been. Whether or not JFK could have accomplished these things is another matter, but we can hold this belief inside that had he lived things would have been better.
Stone plays for his audience and his time very well. The Cold War had just ended, and we no longer needed the same government that kept the Evil Empire at bay. Documents became declassified, and there was an overall backlash against the shadowy government - X-files, alien autopsy reports, etc. It was not difficult for Stone to feed upon this climate of distrust of the government in presenting his conclusions in a very appealing manner. There is no proof because the conspirators destroyed the truth. For a public just finding out a lot of the things that its government did during the Cold War that was subsequently kept quiet, the killing and cover-up of a president seemed very realistic.
As a piece of storytelling, this movie is great. It sucks you in and keeps going at a mounting pace until its eventual climax where all is revealed, and nothing is proved. As a piece of political propaganda its a masterpiece, and should be studied by every filmmaker and politician as how to take disjointed facts and coincidences and twist them together to paint a compelling story that the public would love to swallow up.
Did these events happen as shown on the screen? Its possible. Stone himself admits he took dramatic license in several events, which, if you are trying to show a factual and historical story pretty much kills your credibility from the beginning. More and more time has passed for any one of this apparent legion of conspirators to come forth and make a deathbed confession, and so the veil of conspiracy and cover-up wears thinner and thinner with each passing day. Surely Cancer Man must be getting tired eliminating witness after witness, document after document.
Watch the movie, think about it. There is plenty more to learn about what happened outside the movie, the JFK movie board itself, and the links provided in and of themselves will provide you with more information that you can imagine. But in the end, this is just a movie - inspired by true events.
Siu ngo gong woo (1990)
First class ingredients make a first class movie
This movie has all the ingredients needed for a great martial arts movie: The base for this movie is that a powerful martial arts scroll has gone missing and everyone and their eunuch is out to find it.
Throw in several clans, each with their own unique martial arts style.
Stir in a shifty official with an even shiftier underling.
Add several dashes of mistaken identity.
Several betrayals and double crosses add a touch of spice to the film.
Quickly add an old martial arts master, snake throwing poisoners, and a mysterious birthmark.
To top off add a song bellowed by two old men that will never leave your head, and you have the best movie in all the Five Ranges!
If none of these things made sense, then watch the movie as soon as you can, it will all be very clear.
Jing wu ying xiong (1994)
Come for the fights, stay for the movie
A remake of Bruce Lee's Fist of Fury, this movie gives us amazing martial arts sequences, with good plot and acting in between.
The fights are spectacular. A lot of martial arts movies incorporate wonderful movements and acrobatics, designed to show off the skill and grace of the fighter. However in a life or death struggle, these sometimes seem out of place. This is a "realistic" martial arts movie. You almost feel yourself cringing with each hit. As the man said: "These lads are out to hurt each other." This is fighting in its purest, taking cue from Bruce Lee's personal style, where the aim is to defeat your opponent in the most efficient manner possible. The opening fight of the movie sets its style right away and continues to its climax.
But what made this movie go above and beyond a martial arts flick is the storyline and plot. This movie deals with themes of racism, tolerance and acceptance not only between the Chinese and Japanese, but within each group as well. Here Jet Li shines in his performance. While events cause him to lose his composure and give in to his feelings, at the core you see that he is a righteous person. When he realizes the correct course of action, either by himself, or when it is pointed out by others, he does what is right. And we see the people around him learn from his behavior and they seek to emulate it.
The movie also tries to present a rather fair view of both the Chinese and Japanese. Neither side is portrayed as good or evil, rather as normal human beings, running the whole spectrum from selfish to noble, from hateful to kind.
As a martial arts movie, this is one of the best ever made, but it stands on its own as a good film, one dealing with a historical subject that has a very strong resonance even today.
Führer Ex (2002)
Interesting, but lacks depth
The story of the rise and redemption of a neo Nazi leader in Germany, this movie lacks the emotional depth when compared to American History X.
We first see the two characters of Heike and Tommy as miscreants in the waning days of Communist East Germany. Typical of many youths of the era they know that the state ideology rings hollow, and spend their days committing minor acts of vandalism and drinking beer.
A minor run in with the law lands Tommy in prison, and upon his return the two hatch a scheme to escape to the west. The plot fails, and they end up in the slammer.
The first part of the movie was pretty good. We see Heiko as a rather naive and well meaning kid, albeit one without much of a backbone. His mother has a rather distant relationship with him, and we see a rather interesting rotation of her male visitors throughout the movie. Unfortunately the film does not really touch upon his feelings on that matter much. Heiko hooks up with a rather wild girl, whose impulsive behavior causes some problems, but he seems to be rather quick to move past the situation.
The character of Tommy is much stronger than that of Heiko. We see he's the more daring of the two, but at the same time has much more strength to his personality than Heiko. Tommy is bad because he wants to be, whereas Heiko is just along for the ride.
Their stay in prison opens the second act of the movie, and here is where the movie hits its peak, and quickly deflates. Prison in East Germany is no different than anywhere else, with the usual plot elements. Heike ends up joining the Nazis for protection, while Tommy manages to escape to the west.
And here is where the movie completely falls apart.
We cut to Tommy returning to East Berlin after the fall of the wall, where he encounters Heiko leading a Nazi rally. Tommy rejoins the movement, and he is somewhat bothered at Heiko's attacks against the Turks and other enemies. There is a death, and the disenchanted Tommy abandons the movement. Heiko is sent out to remove the traitor, and the movie reaches its somewhat predictable finale.
The movie has Acts I, II, and IV, but act III is missing. We have the set up of the story in the first part, the experience of Tommy and Heiko in prison, and then cuts to them reuniting outside of prison. I wanted to see Act III, what happens to Heiko after Tommy escapes, how his indoctrination into the Nazi philosophy takes place, his release from prison, his adjustment to the new Germany, his relationship with his girlfriend and mother as this goes on, etc.
Instead we practically cut from Heiko walking funny in prison to Heiko torching a kebab stand. Before and after works well for diet commercials, but not movies of this sort. The whole point is the process of transformation, and for some reason the director chose to omit this. In American History X this is accomplished through the prison narrative from Derek to Danny. We miss that part here.
That being said, there are a few reasons to see this film. The character of Tommy is well played, Aaron Hildebrand bearing a striking resemblance to Freddie Prinze Jr, which makes it kind of fun to watch. The setting is pretty interesting as well, a time and place gone by.
But overall this movie is missing that certain something to make it rise above mediocrity. To non-German audiences this might be worth while to watch for the sheer novelty value, but if you're looking for some emotional depth to a film, American History X is much better in that department.