Saturday, July 31, 2004

Movie talk: A break from the festivals to talk of Conspiracies

Ah, what would the world be without the X-Files, Conspiracy theories and countless postings of the 'truth' on the internet? Why it would be like the world shown on TV in 'The Manchurian Candidate'!!!

This 1962 remake is updated to incorporate recent world events. The movie starts off with the 1991 Gulf War (why it is called a war is a mystery, it should be more like arranged appeasement) right up to the present day of colour coded terror alerts and constant warnings of rogue states with dangerous weapons. Jonathan Demme does a good job of incorporating Orwell's 1984, present day political stupidity and the role of presidential assassins (think Kennedy) into this multiplex movie. Denzel Washington, who always have a good screen presence, plays his role of Ben Marco in a restrained manner. His acting is never over the top and works well for this movie. Meryl Streep steals the show with her role as the caring mother and ruthless senator. Liev Schreiber is effective in his role as the conflicted, controlled Ray Shaw. The movie is interesting enough but contains few problems -- a few scenes are poorly edited while certain others are shot with terrible camera angles (some of the close-ups do not achieve the intended effects). And then some aspects of the script are contrived and simplified, most likely to keep the movie flowing. At the end of the day, it is still a commerical movie. So the script flaws are understandable.

Is the movie worth a watch? Sure, why not. It is better than recent Hollywood flicks.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Too many movies to talk about!!

So many movies, so little time! It has been a while since the last update. So brace yourself for quite a few reviews:
1) PTU (Police Tactical Unit) by Johnny To – This Hong Kong movie will surely be remade into a Hollywood version.  It came highly recommended to me but I found it disappointing.  The story is simply enough – a cop loses his gun one night through his own fault.  The cop’s friend in the PTU agrees to help him find his gun until dawn, and after that this incident would have to be reported.  What follows is a glimpse into the night life underbelly of Hong Kong – the mafia, the tensions/distrust between the Police, the CID and the PTU.  One thing is for clear – anyone out on the street at 4 am is a member of the Mafia, the Police or a petty thief. 
2) Double Vision by Kuo-fu Chen – This movie starts off really well.  A series of mysterious deaths puzzle the local police – a man is found dead on the 17th floor of his office building, his body is frozen and the autopsy indicates he was drowned, yet he never left his office; a woman is found burned in her apartment but nothing else is damaged. The story has all the elements of an X-File, and even has David Morse playing an FBI agent flown into Hong Kong to help unlock the case.  Where this movie fails is in the last 20 minutes – the mysterious deaths, the cultish story could have been a good material but the ending, argh!!! The ending ruined everything.
3) Love Actually – I didn’t mind this sugar coated candy at all.  What made it worth watching was the single scene of the British Prime Minister standing up to the American President. Good show, jolly chap.
4) Infernal Affairs by Wai Keung Lau & Sui Fai Mak – That is not a typo, it is Infernal not Internal.  This Hong Kong movie is being remade by Hollywood, and that comes as no surprise.  I am sure some Hollywood exec sold this movie as ‘Donnie Brasco meets Heat’.  We have seen moles in Mafia gang stories, we have seen criminals hidden within the police force.  But this movie combines these two elements – there is a mole in the police force and one in the Mafia.  And both the Mafia head and Police Chief come to the conclusion at the same time during a face to face meeting.  They take it as a challenge and plan to continue their regular business while trying to sniff the mole out.  What follows is a cat and mouse game.  And the person who guesses wrong, dies.  The movie was highly successful in Hong Kong and has led to two Sequels.  It is worth the watch.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Film Talk - Festival and Commercial Ones

1) EuroTrip -- 'Stupid Fun' describes this movie. Good thing I am not offended by this movie, as there are scenes which are sure to cause some people to take offense. The movie is surprisingly not as bad as it looked. The movie is not crude as American Pie but has its moments of craziness. The most hilarious scenes involve the British Soccer Hooligans, led by the effective Vinnie Jones, and the robot mime fight.

2) Love Actually -- Actually, this movie is not that bad. Sure, it is dripping in sugar, but the one scene where the British Prime Minister (played by Hugh Grant) stands up to the bully American President (played by Billy Bob Thorton) makes this worth it. Over the top near the end, but candy coated entertainment.

3) Wu Jian Dao (Infernal Affairs) -- You know a movie is good if Hollywood comes knocking to buy the remake rights of the film. The original 2002 Hong Kong movie is a sure fire thriller indeed. We have seen many movies of moles within gangsters, or moles inside the police force. But this movie has moles in both the gang and police world. And when the respective gang boss and police head find out that their group contains an insider, they simply challenge each other to see who will smoke the traitor out first. The bet is simple -- whoever loses, dies. And what follows is a cat and mouse game, a slow steady chess match.

One can see a Hollywood exec. selling this movie as 'Heat meets Donnie Brasco'. Will it work? Probably. But the original is interesting enough. Infernal Affairs 2 and 3 have been released in the last year as well.