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Monthly Archives: April 2010

Kevin Costner–The Postman–Refuse and Return to Sender.

Despite several fine performances, like in “Bull Durham” and, of course, the must-be-mentioned “Dances with Wolves,” Kostner’s been in some serious duds. I didn’t know he could make any thing worse than “Water-World,” but I was dead wrong.  “The Postman” takes the cake, hands down.  I can’t believe the film industry exposed itself to such an embarrassing work knowing full well Costner’s limitations behind the camera after that “Water-World” fiasco—and I believe I am being charitable here using the word fiasco.

The “movie” is based on a novel about post-apocalyptic America when towns exist in desolate and remote communities, constantly raided by the new Generalissimo General Bethlehem (played by Will Patton) and his flock of mercenaries.  Costner’s character wanders about and is drawn into this gang, only to run away later.  In his effort to scam a town into accepting him, he enters incognito as a postman (finding a corpse complete with mail and a uniform en route).  His raison d’être to unite these scattered towns via the U.S. mail against the evil Generalissimo follows.

But wait–here is the most laughable part:  the Postman unites this rag-tag bunch of naive and stupid kids against the Generalissimo’s merciless battle- hardened killers; the execution is so poor, that I could not watch it all.

A couple of side notes.  Has anyone been to or dealt with the post office or a postal worker in the past decade?  There is no way I believe that people trust those providers of fine and efficient service with their packages—opting instead for any number of private carriers—much less with leading an insurrection that’s coordinated using mail against an outgunned, out-skilled, and outnumbered force.  The only possible scenario to win here is that as a postman, Costner could have truly gone “postal” (meaning becoming extremely agitated and uncontrollably angry, often to the point of violence, and typically in a workplace. “Going Postal” derives from a series of incidents from 1983 onward in which United States Postal Service (USPS) workers shot and killed managers, fellow workers, and members of the police or general public in acts of mass murder, often after being laid off or unemployed for long stints).  Yet he never went postal, so what hope could his cause possibly have had?

This is a long movie (almost 3 hours), and to be frank, I almost made it through the first two hours, but that was enough.  I just could not take the pain anymore.  In short, “The Postman” is a three-hour-long, torturous experience, replete with brainless dialogue, bombastic symbolism, and self-glorification.  I even felt pity for Tom Petty; his cameo in this movie is supposed to be funny, but it was just as moronic as the rest of the movie.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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Dr. H & JP Collaborate Again on Walking Tall (1973) the Original—Not That 2004 Garbage.

Dr. H & JP Collaborate Again on Walking Tall (1973) the Original—Not That 2004 Garbage.

“Walking Tall” is based on the true story of Buford Pusser, a Tennessee sheriff who returns to his hometown after many years away only to find it’s morphed into a corrupt den of thieves.  He single mindedly takes on the Tennessee version of the Mafia, including the justice system, and pays a huge, personal price for it.

This film can be described as brutal, with a straightforward conflict waged between right and wrong.  Clearly this is not a movie for the faint of heart. Joe Don Baker gives us quite a powerful performance as a country boy’s homecoming turned nightmare.

The violence is real and amplified by the sheer brutality of the villains and the ruthlessness of a corrupt justice system.  The setting offers the viewer a near time capsule for anyone who wants to know what America looked like in the 1970s.

It is truly a sledgehammer of a movie—no pun intended.

What makes this movie more than a walk down memory lane is its true authenticity set in a real time.  Furthermore, this is a must-see for anyone who wants to know how a bad remake can be produced, and without too much trouble.  It’s accomplished by squeezing the dramatic narrative out of an original and making a sequel based upon simplistic present-day perceptions and sensibilities.  For example, in the remake, the professional wrestler in the original becomes the war veteran; the quaint small town is portrayed as vice-laden casino.

Moreover, in the 2004 version, the film makers made other horrible decisions. One was to take an R-rated movie and turn it into a PG-13 mind-candy film with reliance on-over-the top action scenes to replace the original hardcore, gritty violence.  The practice of including extreme and gratuitous action as a means to distract the viewer and provide cover for a lack of substance has become all too familiar in Hollywood today.  The transformation from the original’s stomach-churning experience into a clock- punching, “entertaining” action movie is hideous—to say the least.

The “Walking Tall” of 1973, when compared to its sequel, teaches us why remakes of great movies should be made sparingly if attempted at all.

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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We take a look at Once Upon A Time In China

My new partner in crime at http://silveremulsion.wordpress.com and I have decided to collaborate on some of the finest Asian movies we’ve seen and give you, the reader, our thoughts on these films so you can make an informed decision on whether to view them or not.  Also, if you have seen any of the movies we decide to collaborate on we would love to hear your comments on the matter.  Again, this is one in a series we are going to do together so stay tuned for some great Asian movie reviews from two movie connoisseurs.

China has had a very tumultuous history, including hundreds of years of civil war, a humiliating defeat in the opium war and a bloody occupation by Japan.  It was during the dark times between the opium war and the Japanese occupation that a Chinese folk hero, physician and martial arts expert was to emerge — Wong Fei-hung (1847-1924).  Wong Fei-hung, a legendary figure, would, among other things, later inspire his countrymen to endure even bigger ordeals in the last century.  The legend of Wong Fei-hung has also inspired dozens of films.  In my opinion the best is Once Upon a Time In China, a 1991 Hong Kong kung-fu epic directed by Tsui Hark.  This film had five sequels and was among the first to introduce Jet Li as its main star to Western audiences.  Li as Wong Fei-hung provides the viewer with a fine performance especially given that role was played very early in his career.

The plot:  On the surface the movie seems simple enough, as my colleague said, almost Shaw Brothers simple, but in reality the story is very complex and transcends the many martial arts films whose plots can easily be summed up in a single sentence.  Wong Fei-Hung, like his countrymen, is forced to endure the humiliation of American slavers, local gangs, a renegade martial arts master and even his own wayward (but well-intentioned) students.  As if these problems were not enough, he has to contend with his growing affection for Aunt Yee (Rosamund Kwan) which is important as to movie is set around the end of the 19th century when there were great social changes in China.  This is typified with his relationship with his “Aunt” Yee (who is not related to him by blood), as she would be taboo to marry.  The fact that this is a series of films allows the relationship to develop slowly also setting it apart from many Hong Kong films where romances are very fast-moving and unrealistic.

The action sequences are superb, which is unsurprising considering that they are choreographed by Yuen Woo-Ping, though dim-witted critics who can find fault in anything point to the wire-work and use of doubles.  The final showdown is a stunning success of editing as Jet Li was injured and had to be doubled for many of the shots that weren’t above the waist, but his extraordinary  fist techniques make up for this.  The film has a long running time for a martial arts movies so for once there is plenty of time for story and action.

Hong Kong movies don’t come much better than this.  Anyone who is a fan of wire-work and/or the likes of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon should hold this movie in high esteem—either that or they are a communist.  I could not agree more with my new partner in crime at Silver Emulsion.  You must check out his take on Once Upon a Time In China at http://silveremulsion.wordpress.com — you would be a fool not to.

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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Mike C Comes in With Some Thoughts on Red Cliff.

Red Cliff Part 1 & 2:

I’ll say this much about the movie – I hope they recycled those arrows. No wonder we worry about the green house effect and global warming! How many trees did the battle scenes take to produce all those arrows?

If this is based on a true story, then this event certainly reduced the human population of China and saved all of us from over population! I mean, if that many soldiers died, imagine what the world would be like today if they hadn’t!

Overall great movie. I don’t often like reading subtitles, but I gave it a shot. Lots of action. Lots of arrows.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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Harlem Nights: Smell the Rose Not the Dung

Back in the days when Spike Lee complained that no African Americans on their own authority could make movies in Hollywood, he was proven completely wrong, (at least in one instance), by the film “Harlem Nights,” which was written and directed by Eddie Murphy.  Harlem Nights has an all-star cast, including Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Red Fox, Della Reese, Arsenio Hall, Michael Lerner, and Danny Aiello.  With this kind of talent, it would be difficult (if not impossible) to make such a movie be anything but terrific.  Much to my chagrin, however, many movie critics and reviewers trashed the movie for reasons such as it was too profane to take place in the mid-1920s, and that every white man was portrayed as a racist. To that I respond: (a) did you actually expect a movie starring Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Red Fox to be easy on the profanity, and if so, you’ve had your head buried in the sand for quite some time (although I must admit that the word “fuck” or a derivative of the word was said approximately 133 times throughout the film), and (b) that all white men were cast as racists–give me a break; it was 1930s Harlem. I don’t think the portrayal is too off base or out of line.

As usual, I take a completely different position on this film.  I thought it was hilarious and had a great story, as well as some fine performances by exceptionally funny actors.  One of my favorite (yet relatively unknown) actors, Michael Lerner, played the villain Bugsy Calhoun and provided a stellar performance.  Though I must say my favorite Lerner character was “Jack Lipnick” in the Cohen Brothers classic Barton Fink—but I digress, and that is for another day.

“Sugar” Ray (Richard Pryor) is the owner of a very successful illegal casino and has to contend with the pressures of a vicious gangster and corrupt policeman who wants to see him be driven out of business.  Eddie Murphy plays his young, firebrand partner, and Redd Foxx is their sage mentor.  Della Reese is the Madame in charge of the “ladies of the evening.”

The evil gangster’s night club is losing business.  While Sugar Ray’s club is only frequented by African American customers and the gangster’s club only by whites, helped by the corrupt police detective Phil Cantone (Danny Aiello), the gangsters try to make Sugar Ray go out of business.  Of course, it is only natural that you feel sympathy for Sugar Ray and his nightclub gang, especially when you see how detective Cantone operates.  Eddie Murphy, “Mr. Quick,” wants to fight his way out guns a-blazing and suggests killing the gangsters in a clichéd gangster war a la “The Godfather.”  But Sugar Ray, being older and wiser, has a wittier, more clever plan to ruin the gangsters.  However simple and predictable the plot may seem, there is a wonderful twist in the end.

The clip I have picked is a great scene in which Eddie Murphy gets his butt whooped by Della Reese.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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The Black Hawk Down Experience.

Black Hawk Down is one of my favorite movies of all time—no question about it.  The film was directed by Ridley Scott (who also directed Gladiator starring Russell Crowe) and was based on Mark Bowden’s book, Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War.  I was lucky enough to read the book before seeing the movie.  According to conventional wisdom, reading the book first usually leads to being disappointed with the film and its content and portrayal of events.  However, I have never been much for conventional wisdom.  Bowden’s book is outstanding and so is Ridley Scott’s film.  As far as I am concerned, in the inevitable book vs. movie comparison, it is a horse apiece.

Black Hawk Down creates what veterans of the battle describe as a very realistic representation of combat conditions.  Because the film puts you the viewer in the middle of  the battle experience,  the harsh violence of the movie seem all the more realistic and also justified, not gratuitous.  One of the most remarkable things about Black Hawk Down is that in spite of the chaos created by what many have termed “the fog of war” represented on screen, the film vividly maps out the soldiers’ strategies and tactics.  Director Scott frames the action so precisely, and through such perfect camera angles and placement, we are able to follow all of the action on screen, almost as though we, ourselves, are participating in the battle.  Most, if not all other directors, could not pull off this kind of controlled chaos–chaos that would have led to a very baffling movie experience.  Clearly, every last detail of this film has been thoroughly choreographed and intricately planned.

The film is based on the true story which takes place in Somalia, 1993: A small team of Army Rangers and Delta Force Troops on a peace-keeping mission, attempt to help avert mass genocide and to protect Somali citizens from barbaric acts of violence and the various militias that run the country.  When one hundred American soldiers are sent into Mogadishu to arrest a handful of influential militia leaders, they find themselves in the midst of a battle no one anticipated or envisioned.  Each soldier is confronted with the realities and horrors of combat as they protect each other from the surging ranks of hostile Somali forces.  Black Hawk Down is a relentless, harrowing, and true story of bravery, in the face of war.

Black Hawk Down comes from a genre that has brought out some of the best in directors, writers and actors, yet against all of this competition, the movie is easily the best war movie ever made.  Yes, I know it’s a bold statement, but I said it, and it’s out there now.  Also, what many “non-believers” of the Black Hawk Down experience seem to forget, among other things, is that the film did win an Academy Award for best sound.  I can’t believe I didn’t mention that earlier.

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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