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Archive for January, 2005

Review: Hero

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Hero I don’t really feel like writing a full review of it right this moment, but I will say that you should do yourself a favor and rent Hero is you haven’t seen it. I think that for all the hype that surrounded Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon touting it as this amazing blend of artistic acheivement and Hong Kong martial arts action (much deserved hype, by the way), I think I actually enjoyed Hero more. I don’t think Hero was a better movie, but I enjoyed it more, if you get the fine distinction I’m trying to draw there.

Hero (2002)
Grade: A-
Directed By: Yimou Zhang
Written By: Feng Li Ben Wang Yimou Zhang
Starring: Jet Li Tony Leung Chiu Wai Maggie Cheung Ziyi Zhang
Studio: Miramax (US Distribution)

Director Zhang Yimou composes every shot in Hero with the utmost care and deliberation–the movie is simply stunning visually. The martial arts sequences boast some spectacular choreography and the Matrix-style visual flourishes add to the film’s almost otherworldly beauty. (Those shots work all the better for the fact that they’re not overused.) And while Crouching Tiger had the desert flashback that dragged the movie to a painful halt for twenty minutes, Hero doesn’t have any similar such lulls.

Making the movie even more impressive to look at: not only did it feature the luminous Ziyi Zhang (a woman definitely on my list of Ten Hottest Actresses on the Planet), but also the classic porcelain beauty of Maggie Cheung. (For you female and gay male readers: not so much for you to look at, sorry. Jet Li gets most of the face time, and he ain’t real pretty.)

Ziyi Zhang The one complaint I had about Hero really wasn’t a complaint at all and would have actually been subject to high praise had I not seen Crouching Tiger (and listened to the soundtrack CD on a regular basis). Tan Dun’s orchestral score for Hero sounds way, way too much like his score for Crouching Tiger–to the point where it sounded like he’d lifted entire passages from the earlier movie and recycled them into the later. I’m sure he didn’t do that, of course, but it was an indication of how alike the two scores sounded.

Written by Allen

January 30th, 2005 at 10:23 pm

Looking Back at “Back to the Future”

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Don’t worry, I’m not abandoning this thing already. Just haven’t had the time to post anything the last couple of days.

I will throw this out there, though: watched Back to the Future last night, start-to-finish, for the first time in fifteen years, easy. I was suprised, honestly, at how well it holds up as entertainment. I did want to point out a couple of things:

  • The Old Lady noted something that I hadn’t been paying much attention to at that point: the preponderance of advertising in the movie, far out of proportion to that found in most movies from 1985. Product placement in movies is all too common today (not to mention the obnoxious numbers of ads shown in the theater before the movie even starts), but BTTF was ahead of the curve on that trend. In addition to shilling DeLoren, Aiwa, Nike and JVC, that movie was part of Pepsi’s endorsement deal with Michael J. Fox, then at the crest of his wave of popularity. Pepsi products are scattered throughout and are even worked into one of the movie’s jokes, though these days when we see Marty ask for a “Pepsi Free,” I’d imagine even those of us old enough to have seen the movie first time around have to scratch our heads a bit to remember that particular Pepsi spinoff.
  • Speaking of Fox at his peak, it’s more than a little bittersweet to see the easy fluidity with which he moved back then–Fox always had an athlete’s sense of comfort with and confidence in his body (much like Tom Cruise does). That’s something that’s hard to fake… you can usually just tell when someone knows exactly what his or her body’s capable of and trusts that it will do exactly what they tell it. And now his body has now absolutely betrayed him because of the Parkinson’s Disease taking away so much of his muscular control. Just really sad.(And no, I don’t have a man-crush on Michael J. Fox. Too short for me. But he is cute, though.)
  • Many of the effects, and there were far fewer of them than you might have imagined for a big-budget science-fiction-y movie, are still passable, though it’s really noticable just how far chromakey technology has come over the last twenty years (most notably when Marty and Doc are standing on the DeLorean’s tire tracks o’ flame).

Written by Allen

January 21st, 2005 at 10:35 pm

Posted in General

Spoiled?

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We’re just about four months away from Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (incidentally, a title several orders of magnitude better than that of Episodes I or II) and the tidbits of news and stills from the movie–plus several truckloads of conjecture–will be flying harder and faster as we move ever closer and closer to May 19. I’d imagine that most fans will be trying to avoid spoilers as much as possible, though some thrive on finding out everything about a movie before it’s ever released.

Me, I’m somewhere in between– I know that I shouldn’t try to find out the details of what’s going to happen before I get to see the movie, but I’m weak. Sometimes I just can’t help it… I just have to click on that message board topic or follow that link and see pictures from the set that reveal some essential plot point that might’ve really knocked my socks off it I’d just seen it unfold as part of the story.

But SW3 is a real oddity when it comes to spoilers, or what fans might think of as spoilers but aren’t really. Since this is the third part of a six-part series, we know what’s come before and we know what comes after; logically, there’s certain things we know must happen in some way in Episode III, and some things we can guess with some degree of certainty are likely to happen.

(And I’ll say this now, just in case: Be warned that there might be “spoilers” below. I know nothing concrete about the plot of the movie; this is all educated guesswork on my part. But just in case you haven’t seen any of the other Star Wars movies and want to go into this one absolutely blind, just stop reading now. Thanks.)

So, what do we know?

  • We know that Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader. Duh. We also know HOW, because twenty years ago, in Return of the Jedi, we were told what happened to him. I see lava in his future. And skin grafts.
  • We know that Amidala has to give birth to twins, Luke and Leia. We know that somehow, Senator Bail Organa ends up with Leia and Owen Lars ends up with Luke. We can speculate that this means Amdiala bites it somehow, since she never appears in later episodes and one would presume she’d be raising her kids if she weren’t worm fodder. Her death would also provide a great catalyst for Anakin making that last leap into Darthville.
  • One thing we don’t know: at what point during the movie does Anakin first put on the black? I’d always just assumed that it would be one of the last things in the movie, but I’ve started to think differently–if you have a villain as “loved” as Darth Vader and you know this is both his origin story and the last time you’re going to get to do something with him, it seems to me that you’d try to have at least one ass-kicking lightsaber battle between him and some Jedi.
  • I don’t know for sure that this topic will be dealt with in Episode III, but we know that the Jedi are essentially disbanded before Episode IV–Obi-Wan goes into exile (self-imposed or not, i don’t really know) on Tatooine and Yoda ends up the same on Dagobah. But there’s about twenty years time between III and IV, so this might not be addressed.
  • Along the end-of-the-Jedi lines: I’d imagine that Sam Jackson’s Mace Windu takes the big dirt nap since, again, there’s no reference to him in any of the “later” films.
  • Darth Sidious has to live and become Emperor Palpatine. He obviously has to seduce Anakin to his side at some point. And that probably doesn’t mean good things for the ridiculously-named Count Dooku, since “there can be only one student and one teacher” and all that.

If anyone else has any theories of things they think will likely show up–only logic and guesswork, I don’t want anything you know to be a spoiler–I’d love to hear ‘em.

(Though really, does any of this matter? There’s only one truly important thing about Episode III: Wookiees. Friggin’ CHEWBACCA. I mean, c’mon… what more does the movie really need?)

Written by Allen

January 18th, 2005 at 10:37 pm

Posted in General