Archive for the ‘TITLE T’ Category

THOR

2011/05/10

 

http://thor.marvel.com/

USA 2011  Directed by: Kenneth Branagh  Written by: Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Don Payne  Produced by: Kevin Feige  Cinematography by: Haris Zambarloukos  Editing by: Paul Rubell  Music by: Patrick Doyle  Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings, Idris Elba, Colm Feore, Tadanobu Asano, Rene Russo

I never saw the appeal of Thor as a comic-book hero. Actually, if picky, I’d say Thor is not even a superhero by any means. He’s a Nordic mythical deity cast to Earth by his father Odin. And, with his red cape, ironclad armor and a little gold, winged helmet housing a set of goldilocks, he’s borderline a Halloween mascot.

“Thor” the movie is an attempt to make the character less kitsch – red cape, ironclad armor, and long flowing goldilocks for all the females to swoon over. Chris Hemsworth (Thor) took a lot of time working out for the ladies. Outside his armor he’s a pin-up for Levi’s commercials…at times where it would barely hold on to his tight derrière. His piercing blue eyes could raise your body temperature to tip the mercury.

But, “Thor” is a superhero comic-book adaptation. And it’s mostly for boys. What bright idea was it to make it into a romantic comedy? Sure, there were moments of clashing and flying fists and bodies. Of course there was a ton of CG effects that required a small nation of computer animators. But for the most part, the story somewhat circled around Thor and his love interest, Jane Foster, played sappily by the recent Oscar doll, Natalie Portman. However, the fault doesn’t lie with the actors, considering there are a few more big-screen heavyweights aside from Portman – Anthony Hopkins (Odin), Stellan Skarsgård (Jane’s senior yet timid colleague), and cameos by Jeremy Renner and Sam Jackson. It’s just that all the crucial stakes raised by the characters weren’t…all that crucial.

Thor’s an arrogant god born with invulnerability. Because of his hard head that put his realm in danger of going back to war with its nemesis, the frost giants, Thor is stripped of his powers by his father and cast to Earth as punishment. There, he meets Jane, by accident, and struggles to regain his senses and worth for his triumphant return. But then, the film segues to Jane and Thor getting acquainted for a really long time, leaving all the action and plots to the curb. Somehow, Thor (a daft god) finds Jane (a geeky, squeaky astrophysicist) really interesting. But, unlike other sensible action movies where at least the distressed dame would be the cause for the hero to go berserk and blow things up, Jane was just there to have coffee talk with Thor. And for the final battle, she isn’t even really in harm’s way; accept maybe stubbornly tiptoeing into crossfire.

Throughout the film, one character stood out sincerely, Kat Denning’s sexy, pouty Darcy – Jane’s intern, who found Thor, Jane, and the entire scenario to be a farce. It made a lot of sense on paper to point Kenneth Branagh to the director’s chair…for the amalgamation of theatrical period-costumed figures with modern-day countryside simpletons. But the delivery missed the target by a long shot. “Thor” was handled with little sensitivity to the comic-book genre and over-saturated melodrama that left it out by the backdoor like a wet dog. So despite the thunderous disputes and whirlwind high-school crush, Branagh hammered the last nail in Thor’s coffin.

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SHAOLIN a.k.a. THE NEW SHAOLIN TEMPLE [XIN SHAO LIN SI | 新少林寺]

2011/02/13

http://www.emp.hk/title.php?film_id=66

HONG KONG 2010  Directed by: Benny Chan  Written by: Chi Kwong Cheung, Cheung Tan, Alan Yuen  Produced by: Benny Chan, Albert Lee Cinematography by: Anthony Pun Editing by: Chi Wai Yau   Music by: Nicholas Errera  Cast: Andy Lau, Nicholas Tse, Bingbing Fan, Jackie Chan, Jacky Wu, Yu Xing, Xin Xin Xiong

Armies march, bullets fly, monks pray and fight, evil lords say evil things while Jackie Chan provides comic relief – all orchestrated by Benny KILLER CLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE Chan.

SHAOLIN or THE NEW SHAOLIN TEMPLE is an update of Jet Li’s debut from 1982, but is mostly related by name and concept, not so much through storyline or characters. Released closely to Chinese New Year 2011 it is one of the less commercial almost-CNY-films, however tries to draw in the crowds with household names (Andy Lau, Jackie Chan et.al.) and big PR (concentrating on budgets, locations, stars etc.). So how did it turn out?

Let me answer this question by going into a few details. SHAOLIN is, in principle, supposed to be a martial arts movie, and I believe that is what most people who know the Jet Li film or any of the other Shaolin-themed flicks of the past decades expect. What sense does it make therefore to cast an ageing star and non-martial-artist (Lau) as the hero, an ageing martial arts star solely as comedian (Chan) and a few younger, more capable fighters as cannon fodder? None, right. Also, you wouldn’t expect SHAOLIN to be primarily an epic tale of rival warlords and the westernization of China, repeating pretty much what last year’s blockbusters have featured well enough. SHAOLIN pays relatively little attention to Shaolin, the monks and the martial arts heritage, instead loses itself in confusing plot threads, personal feuds and vaguely developed characters who mostly contribute nothing to the development of the story, which by the way would work quite as well without the Shaolin.

As expected, Benny Chan’s direction has no focus, resulting in a movie that seems randomly assembled, with various units filming all kinds of scenes and a failed attempt to patch things together. One again Mr. Chan proves to be a stranger to coherence as much as a stranger to the more traditional martial arts cinema, as well as having little eye for details. The extensive wirework feels outdated and repetitive, frankly speaking it’s unimpressive, the way the action scenes are captured lacks verve and inspiration, the extensive use of doubles is too obvious and many special effects seem out-of-place. What I found most lackluster is the fight choreography, as the film passes by without a single original idea to beef up the action. And the training sequences of the monks are a bit funny to watch, as their positions and movements never seem aligned correctly – the choreography of any Lady Gaga show is more precise than those training sequences.

Thematically, SHAOLIN is by the book, featuring ideas like brotherhood, hierarchy, code of honor, love, trust and betrayal in A-Z order, ticking off one by one from the must-have-ingredients list. The most remarkable message of the film, especially bearing in mind that Chinese New Year was around the corner, is that materialism and pursuit of money shouldn’t be our main goals in life (SHAOLIN doesn’t really answer the question what should be instead, though). So in light of the ever money-centered CNY SHAOLIN tries to make a point, but I am not sure if the audience will really get it or mostly miss the one or two respective lines of dialogue by Andy Lau’s character.

I don’t know what others have seen in SHAOLIN, but as far as I am concerned SHAOLIN is an exceptionally uninteresting film, a whopping two hours of boredom, a revue of incoherent scenes and plot threads leading nowhere, a mixed bag of whatever sprung the makers’ minds. What were they thinking? Armies march, bullets fly, monks pray and fight, evil lords say evil things while Jackie Chan provides comic relief.

J.

 

 

 

 


THE GREEN HORNET [REVIEW 2]

2011/02/11

http://www.greenhornetmovie.net/

USA 2010  Directed by: Michel Gondry  Written by: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg  Based on The Green Hornet by: George W. Trendle, Fran Striker  Produced by: Neal H. Moritz  Cinematography by: John Schwartzman  Editing by: Michael Tronick  Music by: James Newton Howard  Cast: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz, Cameron Diaz, Edward James Olmos, Edward Furlong, Analeigh Tipton, David Harbour, James Franco

So Seth Rogen is a movie star. And he’s made to where he is through a string of formulated comedy roles. Let me rephrase this: he’s made it to stardom by walking through a series of films playing himself. Which is fine, he did what he did. As Woody Allen famously said, “If you cast right, then actors won’t need to act.” And, because of Rogen’s own belief of his star power, he’s decided that he’s got enough audacity to write and produce a feature film. And looking at the resources pool, what better story to tackle than to jump on the bandwagon and reprise a bygone TV series onto the big screen. And, I mean big; so big that the studio had dropped $120 million into making “The Green Hornet.” Otherwise, in Hong Kong, back in the ‘70s, also known as “The Kato Show,” due credit by then an unknown Asian actor named Bruce Lee.

Now we’re getting somewhere. As camp as it was and lasting only just a season, “The Green Hornet” garnered cult status. Not because the show was fantastically scripted or well-played. It simply rode on the shoulders of the lightning-fast, and charismatically enigmatic little Bruce. No one had seen anything like it back then. The kids loved it… Seth Rogen may have been one of those kids. Although probably by a decade later, seeing it on reruns.

The platform was great: a cult show, money to burn, a movie star at the helm (Rogen); add on a few more stars from other parts of the world, and voila, a movie golden egg is laid.

Not quite.

To start, Rogen is not a character actor, he’s a personality. The title character is supposed to be a millionaire mastermind that orchestrated all the fights and heists, and required someone with a bit more depth and believability. Think Christian Bale’s Batman. As a matter of fact, the Green Hornet “is” a carbon copy of Batman. Bruce Wayne (Batman’s alter ego), a billionaire playboy that is a masked vigilante by night. And plug in Kato in place of Batman’s sidekick, Robin, and there’s your springboard TV show. To be precise, both “Batman” and “The Green Hornet” were airing at the same time back in the day as TV series. Both equally kitsch.

Fast forward to today, as producer, looking at what the neighbor’s doing – Nolan’s “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight,” I’d probably want to jet the other way too. Except, where Rogen knew which road not to head down, he didn’t figure out which way is right. So “The Green Hornet” seemed like a hodge podge of action and reaction, with the missing ingredient of intention.

Seth Rogen wasn’t completely blurred by his fame. Somebody probably told him to curb his enthusiasm and holster his desire to gobble up every second of the hero scene. And so, Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou was called in to play a masterful Kato, an ass-wupping McGuyver – a multitalented gadgets engineer – and a helluva coffeemaker. I suppose it’s a good way to get away from Bruce Lee’s version, who was just a butler with really, really cool moves. But, again, the formula didn’t work here. No Asian sensation worked well playing in the Hollywood sandbox, aside from Jackie Chan doing silly comedy routines. But Jay Chou’s Kato wasn’t supposed to be silly. Sometimes, he reminded me of an Asian Leonardo Dicaprio, with a lot less acting chops and a whole lot more verbal flops.

Adding to this confusion cuisinema is Cameron Diaz as Rogen’s wishful love interest, who actually fell for Chou (just to be safely non-prejudice). She looked like she’d stepped out of the original TV show – a dozen wrinkles older than both Rogen and Chou put together; her involvement in the whole story was…thinking back, didn’t really need to be there. That’s how much money the studio had coughed up – enough to spill it on an A-list starlet just for laughs. Finally, they thought a serious Oscar-winning foreign heavyweight was needed to round off this bowl of badass: Christoph Waltz. But even his menacing Nazi Doberman fangs from “Inglourious Basterds” didn’t pinch a reaction here. Not one moment was he convincing as an organized crime kingpin on a ruthless path to monopolize the city.

“The Green Hornet” was a continuing series of moments waiting for a punch line that would never surface. Its editing looked far better in the trailers than the actual scenes. The dynamics between its cast were often awkward without development. A few clips of innovative fight sequences got me sitting up, then only put me back down with nonsensical car crashes. And there were lots of them. So, in the end, was this tribute to Bruce Lee, or to the fan-boy fantasy, or just to Rogen’s own ego? Maybe the sequel will tell. Let’s just hope the studio will run out of money for a trilogy.