Saturday, July 28, 2012

Review: Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

Kung-Fu Deer Fighting

There's occasionally a moment in an otherwise dull or middling film that almost completely justifies your time commitment. Detective Dee is one such film containing one such moment. For over an hour, it's a visually engaging but narratively so-so film. It's a brave attempt at creating a Hollywood style blockbuster with a distinctly Chinese perspective, and it's one that makes a valiant effort while clearly lacking the resources to pull it off seamlessly. It's harmless, relatively diverting stuff: nothing more.

Then there's a scene where Andy Lau fights a herd of deer.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Analysis: The Dark Knight Rises

Warning: I don't feel I can adequately express what I want to say about The Dark Knight Rises in a standard review. So, if you haven't seen the film (and, who are we kidding, you're probably going to no matter what a review says) then be warned there are massive plot details divulged below. I don't want to use the word spoiler, but yes, some twists will be spoiled. It is a very good film, and well worth checking out. For the rest, hopefully you'll find some insight buried in the ramblings that follow.

I am very fond of the phrase 'accidental trilogy'. For me, it refers to as a trio of connected works that were never intended as a cohesive whole (which rules out stuff like Lord of the Rings), but became widely perceived as a trilogy through any manner of reasons. It's an irregular enough phenomenon, and it's rarer still that it's pulled off convincingly as many stumble, usually during the third film. Toy Story is a good example of a series that achieved the improbable, with each film building on the themes of its predecessors to compelling, and often tear-jerking, effect. You could also probably refer to Ingmar Bergman's Silent of God films as a further example, but they're three films that happen to be tightly linked thematically.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Review: Mitsuko Delivers

Up the Duff

Mitsuko (Riisa Naka) is heavily pregnant. The father is her American ex, but an unfortunately timed break-up has forced her to return from California to Tokyo. The reasons for her pregnancy aren't elaborated upon further, because that's not what the film is about. Unwilling to let her pachinko-parlour owning parents find out about her situation (they think she's still in America), Mitsuko instead decides to hide out in a run-down and old-fashioned tenement where her family once spent a few months due to some financial troubles when she was but a young lass. Overflowing with pre-natal energy, Mitsuko makes it her business to sort out the lives of her old neighbours, including struggling restauranteur and childhood sweetheart Yoishi (Aoi Nakamura).

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Review: Brave

Brave and the Bold?

Words cannot describe how disgusted I was at Cars 2, but in the absence of a sufficiently hyperbolic descriptor, disgusted will have to do. To see my beloved Pixar - easily one of the most likeable multi-billion companies out there (top five, at least) - resort to such crass, cynical trash was hugely depressing. Even Cars 1 had that reliable Pixar charm, albeit in comparatively limited amounts. But Cars 2... as said, words don't really cut it. So I refused to let myself get overly hyped up for Brave, especially when some initial reviews veered worryingly towards the middling.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Review: The Amazing Spiderman

Deja Vu

In the opening paragraph of my Goodbye, First Love review a few months ago, I commented on a strange, potentially ironic, scene that coincidentally summed up many of my issues with the film (and I'm sure those of others too). In the opening paragraph of my Amazing Spiderman review, I'm going to repeat myself (which is an appropriate sentiment for the film in question, as I will subsequently argue) and make a similar observation. In the second-to-last scene of the film, you see, Peter Parker's teacher gives a brief spiel about how many claim there's only 'ten stories', but she believes there's only one: the 'who am I' story? It is unlikely to be director Mark Webb's intention, but this misguided comment sums up one of the major issues with this reboot / remake / reinterpretation / restart or whatever the fuck you want to call it. Watching this film, you're into believing there is only one story, and it's one you've seen before. Apparently 'Amazing' is an unintentional synonym for Mediocre, Redundant and Over-Familiar.