23 September 2008

Dragons Forever

I've never been able to find this on video (locally), but I did watch three of the fight scenes on youtube... and wow... oh wow... are they good.

I take back what I said about Who am I? The fight at the end of this movie is beyond amazing. Yuen Biao even looks better than Jackie does, which explains why he's taken out half-way through the fight.

Sadly, Wa Yueh gets very little use in the final fight, despite being his usual hilarious self. Check him out on imdb. He's done almost 150 movies.

Go to youtube and watch the boat fight scene at least for Dragons Forever. Awesome.

22 September 2008

Drillbit Taylor

I've said many times on here that I don't like Judd Apatow's films, but when he's just the producer on a film, he gets results.

Drillbit Taylor is much funnier than I expected it to be, and the lack of adherence to a formula makes it a little more fun to watch, although the third act does start to crumble a little in typical Apatow fashion. But, that's not why you'd watch a movie like this.

You're not watching for structure and pacing and logic... you want to see kids getting hit, hitting each other, and lots of crazy stunts.

And beer. Lots of beer.

Except this movie lacks beer, but once again has a skinny kid and fat kid as best high school friends, living at the bottom of the high school social ladder, ala Superbad and everything else with Apatow's name on it.

Redbelt

This is not David Mamet's best work. Known as someone who writes and writes and writes, he's had a history of stinkers.

Redbelt is somewhere in the middle.

Mired in a sloppy opening 30 minutes, the movie finally finds it's stride when Mike Terry — played effortlessly and perfectly by Chiwetel Ejiofor — starts to engage more of the world around him.

And Mamet finally directs a movie without the super, super stiff acting he normally asks for (see State and Main, Spartan, and the Heist for more examples of this). Everyone delivers (except for the regular cast of con men associated with his thick-witted patter) and even Tim Allen is a good — if not odd — choice as the aging actor looking to make a score.

Sadly, none of the “con” is necessary in this film, but I don't think Mamet even knew that until he was done filming and editing. For instance, Ejiofor plays a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu instructor who holds tightly to his near-samurai ethics, even if it means being destitute. And the ending perfectly captures the emotion and sentiment behind Ejiofor's character… completely ignoring the complicated and over-developed story that has brought him here.

Mamet could have chosen any number of paths to the third act. Hundreds, if not thousands of options were available to him. Instead, he chose the most convoluted series of cons I've ever seen put to film. I won't bother explaining it. Watch for yourself and then ignore it, because the last 10 minutes do too.

Burn After Reading

A cross between the darkness of Fargo and the comedy of the Big Lebowski, this certainly another hallmark in the great litany of Cohen brother movies.

It starts slow, but once the big SHOCK hits, the movie never slows down.

And the ending is fantastic. Hilarious, even.

You can see them having fun with this one, instead of worrying about exact camera angles and stoic mood in every frame. The story, dialog, and characters drive this one, not the very deliberate direction found in No Country for Old Men.

ASIDE: I really enjoyed seeing George Clooney and Tilda Swinton flipping the roles they played in Michael Clayton. I'm curious if this was a planned action on the Cohen brother's behalf...

21 September 2008

Righteous Kill

As a post-structuralist, one would have to hate this movie. It feels like any other film of it's type, the directing is uneven, and the acting is phoned in.

As someone who loved Inside Man, and wanted to see what a budding new writer was going to do, this movie is awesome.

Without spoiling the ending, let me say that the ending isn't surprising, but it's a GREAT cheat. If you liked how Inside Man tricks you, then you'll love how you think one thing is going on the entire time, but it's something else.

Damn. Maybe that does spoil the ending.

Overall, this movie is forgettable, unlike Inside Man which is highly rewatchable. What should have been directed as a gritty, real-life on the streets, cop drama is nothing more than Miami Vice in Manhattan (or the Bronx, I've already forgotten).

Frozen River

Despite the awful acting of the authentic Native American populace in the film, the first 3/4th of this movie are really, really good.

Sadly, a lack of experience with movies (or a lack of love of movies) drives the final moments into the “we can't act or read good lines contrivance.”

The real problems with the end are four-fold.
  • Too much forced plot
  • Too much exposition and not enough real dialog
  • Every is rushed — we don't get a chance to understand the decisions that are being made nor do we agree that a mother would do something like that
  • The Mohawk cop scene didn't need any dialog at all. Music over the entire scene would have been great.
I was extremely impressed that the movie had no “leading men” roles in it, and didn't feel like a chic-flick. Very cool.

Watch the movie and then write your own ending, I say.

Who am I?

I am probably the only person who has seen this movie, but let me assure you… this is Jackie Chan's best movie.

One of the last he made in China before coming to the states, it sort of disappeared onto VHS (yes, it's that old) and was shuffled into the back shelves of rental stores. So, very few people even know about it, let alone where to get it — deepdiscount.com — but it is a diamond in the rough and a must-see.

While the opening 20 minutes are very slow (and admittedly stupid), once the chase begins, this movie is off the chart good. The final fight is one for the books and the car chase is something no one has copied... they've tried, but not really very well.

Ignore the bad dialog when it crops up, but enjoy the rest. Really. You won't be disappointed.

Police Story

Containing some Jackie Chan's finest stunts, this movie is slower than I remember, but that doesn't stop it from having some very very sweet action.

In order of quality
  • The famous bus scene
  • The mall brawl
  • The fight outside the witness's apartment
  • The car chase through shanty town
Even listing them like this, doesn't really address how ground-breaking Jackie's work was in the early 80s. It would be years before Americans would see this movie. While Chuck Norris was killing the Vietnamese, Jackie Chan was throwing more punches in 20 minutes that entire year of American action films.

I'm about to review Who Am I, and it's going to sound a lot like this one.

Towelhead

I'm not sure how much to praise this film, because it does so many things well. But let me assure you this movie is more than just a diatribe about race relations.

Without telling you too much, let me list the themes of this film.
  • Racism (all of types)
  • Coming of age
  • Virginity
  • Rape
  • Parenting
  • Culture divides
  • Child molestation
  • Narrow-mindedness
  • Patriotism
  • Liberalism
  • Awkwardness
I cannot recall the last time I was this awe-struck with a movie. From beginning to end, the director nailed it… everything. Framing, pacing, acting. If you're not comfortable with films that address these themes, avoid this movie. There are portions of the film that were just awkward beyond belief.

And I loved it.

I'm slowly becoming addicted to these kinds of films and cannot endorse this film any higher than I have here. Rotten Tomatoes didn't like it much, but I suppose people with weak constitutions don't like anything that doesn't end with explosions and people wrapping their children in flags.

This movie does not have a happy ending, nor does it care if you like what it has to say. And I love that about this film.

The God that Wasn't There

A short (very short) documentary questioning the existence of Jesus (not necessarily of God) that basically makes a great case in the first 30 minutes and then runs out of steam, very very very quickly.

The ending is very stupid and you can see the director's bias all over it at this point, completely invalidating anything good he was trying to say with this work.

Go read a book on Christ, instead.