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Fun fantasy adventure
I really enjoyed it, it was a fun action fantasy romp, and I love the various Journey to the West stories. I didn't see the first Monkey King, it had such poor reviews so I didn't bother. Anyway, Monkey King 2 completely feels like its' own entity, it is a different story from the book and the Monkey King origin story has been told many times before.
Aaron Kwok is a delight to watch. I can't say how he compared to Donnie Yen but he's so lovable. It's FUN, often funny. Gong Li is very hammy, and couldn't chew the scenery more, but it's within the tone of the film. It really is a riveting family adventure from start to finish
It contains the usual overabundance of CG which all these Chinese blockbusters have, but the quality isn't awful this time! Much better than some of the video-game level effects I've seen recently in others. There is a lot of practical wire-work amidst the wash of particle effects and glowy things. Most importantly, the charisma of the stars shines through it.
I saw this on a trip to China, I don't know if it received, or will receive a release in the West, but it should. It will probably turn up in the Netflix graveyard at some point. It's better than most cookie- cutter American fantasy blockbusters, with, of course due to the nature of the source text, much better lessons and values sitting underneath the action than 'yet another Hero's Journey story' as Hollywood pumps out again and again.
Le cinquième élément (1997)
The fifth element is a mess. The art direction is great, great vision of a future new york with a vertical society - clean air at the top and smog at the bottom. The effects work is that perfect period before CG completely took over, a mix of model work and CG which I love. Together with the Gaultier costume design there's a perfect 'real-world only slightly grittier' Jetsons vibe to it all.
So many ideas, nice premise and potential greatness is served by a mess of story. It veers between serious sci-fi and bawdy french comedy in an instant, only in a way which isn't satisfying. The stars aren't sure what film they're in either... Bruce Willis is Bruce Willis, Ian Holm is in a late 70's sci-fi, Gary Oldman is a Saturday morning cartoon hammy villain chewing the scenery. As just a few examples.
For me, it doesn't hold together, it's just annoyingly schizophrenic, although I can see why it's become a cult favourite.
Welcome to Me (2014)
Welcome to Me isn't without its problems, but it's a curious and earnest satire which I enjoyed very much.
Superb performances, I was surprised to see just how versatile Kirstin Wiig is. The theme felt like a pretty good commentary on the narcissism and share-everything culture we're in the midst of right now, but that was backgrounded by by something more personal in the form of character.
It has the sheen of a Hollywood comedy, applied to what is in fact a pretty tragic character story. Clean, commercial look, plenty of jaunty background music, tragic underneath.
I can't decide whether this is a good or bad thing yet. I can see how some might see such style as nice irony, it may also be the means by which the makers felt they could find an audience, but equally i felt a lot of scenes and important character moments ended too soon or weren't explored as much as I'd have liked.
It was all a bit glossy start to finish, I can't help but feel the character's low points could have been more raw, without sacrificing the comic value highs. I was invested in her character and wish it would've gone a little deeper. On the other hand, you could say it was refreshingly upbeat about a serious condition, where a more 'serious' filmmaker might have made it overbearing. And it's great to see people with BPD related to the character positively, as that was a question I had leaving the film.
No real spoiler, but I'm glad it simply ended without fanfare and without everything being perfectly wrapped up.
It doesn't seem to have been a success either way, but it's well worth your time.
Beijing, New York (2015)
So bad it's bad
I was unlucky enough to see this on a trip. I watched it because Chris Doyle. How do you get one of the world's finest cinematographers to shoot such inept, materialistic drivel???
Charisma-free supposedly-broke Chinese girl in NY pouts a lot and somehow has a pretty nice apartment and manages to look chic-poor at all times. For some reason despite her having no personality at all, a 'downtrodden' trust fund ex-stockbroker (way to get us to like a character!) artist is obsessed with her while moaning because he lives in a giant fancy downtown loft. We're supposed to like them but we don't because the script and acting is awful. Love-triangle-completer new-money Chinese guy is also in love with her because they were childhood friends.
The dialogue is 100% superficial exposition where the characters state their feelings in every line or mutter inane hallmark-card quotes about life and love. Seems to be some state-funded propaganda about America now being the underdog on the world stage in there too. It's like the Director saw only the stylistic surface of In the Mood for Love, and tried to rip it off without having any understanding of what made the film actually tick.
Stories We Tell (2012)
I think the marketing blurb had hyped me up to expect something this wasn't. I'd read of bold playing with form and reality, the nature and recall of memory etc... I enjoyed Away From Her very much too, so was hoping for something unusual here. I can't agree with the other reviews here.
I didn't find it particularly courageous or bold in its form, or content matter. Some scenes are recreated, it's as clear as day, not formally bold, and I'm perplexed by the reactions.
I didn't come away feeling I'd learned much about the human condition, it was more like going to a friend's house, only, a friend I'd only just met and had no connection with, and having her life story relayed to me. There's nothing shocking in the family timeline, which is fine, but there was no great emotional question I could relate to and wanted answered either. It feels more self-indulgent than the personal insight I was expecting.
Not a particularly fascinating life or universal family story. Just one girl's pretty-average story. Not to take away from what the Director feels or demean her life experience, but honestly, it felt precious and narcissistic. I find some aspects of my family history equally as interesting but I know no-one would want to see a film about it.
Der Räuber (2010)
I loved it. Simple and economic storytelling, The Runner moves forward with a constant, adrenaline-fuelled momentum. It's thrilling without resorting to action film clichés.
The film is always in the present, we're right there with him. The camera style and movement is compelling and tied so close to our lead we can't see another perspective. He's a great anti-hero. It's a survival film, the lead character (superbly played) can't stop, he keeps moving forward like an untamed animal, acting in the only way he knows how. And I appreciate the filmmaker's restraint in not revealing every little motivation he has.
This is based on a true story, which I wasn't aware of going into it, clearly the filmmaker understood the essence of the character was most important, not every minute detail, and I feel that's captured and conveyed brilliantly. I'm looking forward to checking out his other films
There was a time when every single distributed film didn't need to be a perfect lesson in character psychology, motive and naturalistic behaviour. I'm as bored of it in indie films as blockbusters.
Thankfully someone in the Netherlands still has a sense of absurd humour. I don't need reasons for everything, thanks. I don't need to align a symbolic meaning with everything I see (I bet this drives some people nuts trying to interpret every image) I can make my own mind up, and appreciate this Director for giving me the space to do so.
Stuff happens. It's funny. It's dark. Borgman himself is a great existential force of remorselessness - the character will stay in your head for a long time, despite not understanding who he is or why he does what he does. I have my version of events, you'll have yours, just enjoy it.
I saw this the same night I watched Dogtooth. What a night! Great double bill. Would go well with Holy Motors too.