Wednesday, July 23, 2014

300: Rise Of An Empire

300: Rise of an Empire (2014)

41% on Rotten Tomatoes (out of 165 reviews)

Runtime: 102 minutes

Directed by: Noam Murro

Starring: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headley, Hans Matheson, Callan Mulvey

From: Warner Brothers/Legendary Pictures

Yep, as typical most of this review is from my Letterboxd review. It explains how I saw this movie on the big screen last night and how even to my surprise I gave it 4 out of 5 stars, a full star more than the first 300.

The plot courtesy of the IMDb: “Greek general Themistokles leads the charge against invading Persian forces led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes and Artemisia, vengeful commander of the Persian navy.” It takes place at the same time as the first movie.

So, I saw this movie last night on the big screen. If you're wondering how, AMC Theatres has a promotion all summer where Monday through Wednesday nights they show one slightly old film for only 3 bucks and all the proceeds go to charity; it's a cool concept and most of the films are genre efforts like this. As I heard some surprisingly strong praise for this movie from reliable people, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to see it on the big screen.

I am sure people are wondering why I would rate this a full star higher than the first 300, or why I'd rate it so high in general. I realize it's not a popular opinion and I am OK with that. While this movie has some of the same issues as 300 (historical inaccuracy, general stupidity, goofy dialogue) I thought this definitely had less of the “douche-y bro-ness” of the original film, the story was generally more interesting to me (getting to know the antagonists better does help) and it has some memorable visuals, a cool musical score from Junkie XL and a lot of bloody violence.

To me I got a sleazy exploitation vibe from it. There are some gross elements and it only takes approximately one minute to see a topless lady. Speaking of women showing their breasts... Sullivan Stapleton (from the TV show Strike Back) does a fine job as the hero but honestly, who steals the show is Eva Green as the villain. What a gonzo role it is; she has to do some pretty crazy things and yet she went all in and she was great as an obsessed woman looking for revenge and everything revolving around her is oh so memorable, including an unforgettable scene with Stapleton.

Before the movie came out (and I did think it was very stupid how it suffered from the awful trend of studios pushing back a film's release date many months and at the last moment) I never would have thought I'd enjoy it as much as I did, but I am thankful I gave it a chance as I really did enjoy it.

I'll return tomorrow night.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

300

300 (2006)

60% on Rotten Tomatoes (out of 226 reviews)

Runtime: 116 minutes

Directed by: Zach Snyder

Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headley, David Wenham, Dominic West, Michael Fassbender

From: Warner Brothers/Legendary Pictures

Yeah, there is a reason why I watched this last night. It'll be revealed when I return tomorrow afternoon. Now, I'll talk about this film, and how I only saw it one time before, shortly after it came out on disc. I know I watched it but I really don't remember it and it didn't leave much of an impression overall, so I was interested in seeing how I felt about it in 2014.

Here's the plot description, from the IMDb: “King Leonidas and a force of 300 men fight the Persians at Thermopylae in 480 B.C.” But I am sure we all knew this already, along with how the movie is quite loosely based on fact, as I imagine the Persians didn't have special warriors who wore weird metal-looking masks, or had giant mutant things running around, or had elephants show up out of nowhere.

I really didn't remember the film, it turns out. The rest is from my Letterboxd review.

I had only seen this movie once before, back soon after it came out on disc. As I have it on Blu-ray in a 3 pack I got for real cheap, I figured it was about time I saw this again. Plus, soon I'll see the sequel, which got stronger reviews than I expected.

The movie is definitely historically inaccurate, never really makes a lot of sense, has goofy dialogue all around, the super-stylized thing isn't really my thing, and the bro douche-y meathead vibe is oh so strong with this.  There sometimes being narration that usually isn't needed is also a thing. What helps is that the world does look visually interesting, the slow-mo is actually done and used real well, and the action stuff can be fun to watch. The fact that the pace is pretty quick and it' never boring is an asset too... I also dug the closing credits and their style.

However, I think I'd prefer a serious historical documentary of what actually happened at the Battle of Thermopylae to the nonsense with this movie, where you have giant hulking mutated creatures, Persians that are effeminate, all the homoeroticism, and all the overall nonsense you see and hear.

Like I said I'll return tomorrow afternoon.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Blah

I hate having to do another postponement, but I am sure everyone would understand why I wasn't in the mood yesterday to watch any film when you know that someone I knew from my old hometown in Illinois, someone from my graduating class and someone who I talked to before and had classes with, unexpectedly passed away. Hearing that made me very sad so I decided to take a break from watching any motion pictures, but I'll try to tonight so hopefully tomorrow afternoon when I'll return it'll be a movie review you will be reading.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

So Yeah...

What I decided to do today is to rewatch a film for Letterboxd and rewrite a review for the site as the old one I had up was very short. Of course, I am going out and about a little later so I have no time to waste trying to deal with that site not working properly (like what happened for much of yesterday) so of course that is exactly what's happening now... hopefully late tonight I am able to post my review of The Warriors, but who knows... at least I'll return Monday afternoon.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Fantasy Mission Force

Fantasy Mission Force (Mi Ni Te Gong Dui) (1983)

Runtime: 89 minutes

Directed by: Yen-Ping Chu

Starring: Brigitte Lin, David Tao, Yueh Sun, Jimmy Wang Yu, Jackie Chan

From: Cheung Ming Film

It's become the norm by now: most of this review is from Letterboxd. That portion will start after I give the IMDb plot description to what is a well-known film... known because it's so weird.

The plot from the IMDb: “Similar to "The Dirty Dozen" or one of that nature. Japan is trying to take over the world and the generals of the allied forces trying to stop the Japanese have been taken prisoner. A force of loners and fighters is put together to try and rescue the generals and save the war effort with the promise of gold and/or pardons of past crimes.” That makes things sound somewhat normal; trust me it isn't.

Here's another case of me watching something extremely bizarre because I heard about it on a forum, and it's also a rewatch of something I first checked out like 8 years ago or so. Even back then the film had a reputation. People talked about this movie and it sounded so strange it needed to be seen. I found a VHS copy at a mom & pop store that was going out of business (true story) and indeed is really strange.

The film is always billed as starring Chan (for obvious reasons) but he's just a supporting character; after the fact I heard that allegedly Chan only appeared in the movie as a favor to Wang Yu for old Jimmy helping him out against the Triads early in his career. Also, this movie is both from Taiwan and Hong Kong, making it appropriate for my foreign film watching month.

Let me tell you about the first few minutes of the film. It's pretty much set in an alternate universe. I mean, the evil Japanese capture the generals at a meeting. The American one looks like Stonewall Jackson and yet he refers to himself as “Abraham Lincoln”. There's a meeting with the good guys where they discuss who should lead the mission to rescue them. Drawings are shown of Roger Moore's version of James Bond, “Snake King” (Snake Plissken), some Hong Kong characters I did not recognize, and even Rocky Balboa. They then decide on a general, played by Wang Yu. After that... a musical number! Yes, the movie has a few of those. This one has an odd-looking dude in a suit and top hat. And that's just in the first 10 minutes.

The other highlights in this mesmerizing genre-bending film include:

* Hopping vampires, which are a part of Chinese lore; yes they squeezed horror into this
* The Japanese villains... also Nazi's... who ride around in 70's era muscle cars!
* Cannibal Amazonian people are also involved
* Music is ripped off from American movies; two noted examples are the original Planet of the Apes and the original Halloween; also, scenes from popular films such as Raiders of the Lost Ark are blatantly lifted
* A self-proclaimed escape artist is part of the motley crew and he calls himself Grease Lightning

There's more but I don't want to spoil everything. Really, this is a difficult movie to rate. It's so random, so free-wheeling, so willing to change tone and styles at the snap of your fingers... and yet despite it making no sense and having crap happen at random, if you shut your brain off you may enjoy the insanity like I did enough to where a 3 star rating seems reasonable. And hey, if nothing else it's one of only a few movies to feature both Chan and Yu.

I'll return on Saturday; if it's not in the afternoon it'll be in the evening.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Dry Summer

Dry Summer (Susuz Yaz) (1963... or 1964; I've seen both)

Runtime: 90 minutes

Directed by: Metin Erksan

Starring: Erol Tas, Hulya Kocyigit, Ulvi Dogan, Alaettin Altiok

From: Hitit

Here's me continuing my foreign movie watching. This time it's from Turkey and it's not one of those really bizarre films from the 70's or early 80's where they rip off American properties to the point that they illegally stole footage and music from those movies. I am not fully sure why that scene became so bad you had such a thing going on for years, but note that not all cinema from there was like that. Sometimes it was serious too, such as this film, which was on the Criterion box set Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Project.

The plot description from Letterboxd: “A scheming tobacco farmer sets out to ruin his competition by diverting the local water to his own property.” Well, actually... a pair of tobacco farmers (they are also brothers) own a piece of land that has a spring; the water from that is used by the fellow neighbors of that part of rural Turkey. Suddenly, a drought happens and the older brother (Osman) becomes a humongous dick and despite the protests of his younger brother he decides to dam up the spring water so his neighbors are restricted from getting that water.

At first I thought this movie was repetitious with the conflict you see. Then, the lurid melodrama aspects kick in and I really began to enjoy it. The younger brother has an attractive young wife and Osman becomes a really disgusting person, constantly leering at her, doing some incredible things which I won't spoil her, and is a Peeping Tom to boot. Osman is quite the character due to how repentantly evil he is, doing awful things from beginning to end and having no redeeming qualities. 

The movie is filmed well and the story of water being so important is an evergreen topic (look at what unfortunately is going on in California) but it's Erol Tas doing such a great job as Osman that makes the film. It's unfortunate that things happened in the Turkish film industry and you got the wackiness in the 70's, and even the director of this had to do what's known in most places as “Turkish Exorcist”.

Now, if only this movie didn't have those horrific moments of animal cruelty... you have been warned there. I'll return tomorrow night.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

On Second Thought...

I got wrapped up in doing other things and they had to get done tonight, so my plans changed and I'll instead watch something soon and I'll review it for tomorrow afternoon. That is a guarantee.