The roaring twenties spring back to life in a visually and aurally dazzling assault on the senses from Romeo & Juliet/Moulin Rouge director Baz Lurhmann that is both exhilarating and exhausting yet the veteran director’s decision to essentially flip the traditional movie structure by revealing all his cinematic tricks in the first act is a decision that will come back to haunt him as the movie has nowhere to go but down and with each passing minute finds itself quickly decelerating until the point where what should be the emotional climax ends up feeling empty, inert and ultimately disappointing.
Supposedly Jackie Chan’s “last full-length action spectacle” Chinese Zodiac certainly marks the end of an era yet does Chan go out on a high note or does he embarrass himself silly? For the most part, Chinese Zodiac is a return to form that exemplified Chan’s Chinese movie output circa the 1980s and early 1990s before Rumble in the Bronx propelled him to make a slew of average Hollywood movies. This basically means that Chan has returned to making a lighthearted hokey film where the focus is clearly on innovative physical action sequences featuring Chan doing all his own stunts at the expense of plot, characterization and pace. At the same time Chinese Zodiac features one horrendous misfire by including a totally pompous and preachy morality angle where characters often lurch into long patriotic diatribes that have as much subtlety as a giant mallet to the face.
I’m going to do something I almost always do not and that is to pen a review of an on-going series that has not even reached its half-way point. The show in question, as you might have guessed by now, is the remade Space Battleship Yamato 2199 which I briefly blogged about as coming soon last year. Well, now that the first ten episodes are out I figured that it was about time I gave some of my impressions of perhaps the most famous anime to hit Western shores in the 1970s. Sure, Robotech aka Macross, was more popular in the early 1980s but it is definitely Yamato which captured the imagination of many a fan and looking back today it is staggering to realize its influence considering it was released in 1972 a full five years before George Lucas launched his seminal Star Wars.
A modern reworking only very loosely based on the 1975 Shaw Brothers film this new installment of The Guillotines (2012) by director Andrew Lau is completely D.O.A. with a completely impenetrable patch-work plot, cardboard characters and a lack of guillotine-inspired action. Lau is no stranger to the action genre having helmed some of the biggest Hong Kong films of the past few decades including Young and Dangerous, The Storm Riders, A Man Called Hero and the entire Infernal Affairs trilogy making The Guillotines’ total lack of action acumen a mystery on the level of the location of the Lost Ark of the Covenant.
The Darkest Hour oozes cheese at every turn from cut-rate special effects to a script that surely numbers a scant few pages to the oftentimes groan worthy dialogue this is a film that screams straight to video or TV movie of the week. It is nigh dumbfounding then to realize that the film opened wide in theatres during Christmas Day back in 2011 giving money paying moviegoers one big lump of coal as a gift in exchange for their hard-earned dollars.
Treasure Hunter is a film so inept that it defies explanation and begs the eternal question, “What were they thinking?” It is almost as if the entire cast and crew got together at the start of production with one goal in mind to make a movie so abysmal that it would give eternal whipping boy Battlefield Earth a run for its money as one of, if not the worse, movie of all time. This is one of those films that leave a foul odour in its wake and all involved should be supremely embarrassed by the end product so shockingly dire that they should count themselves lucky if they ever are employed in the industry again.
Thermae Romae (2012) has got to have one of the most absurd setups I have ever seen about an Ancient Roman bathhouse engineer named Lucius Modestus (Abe Hiroshi) who one day stumbles upon a method of time travel utilizing mystical whirlpools at the bottom of baths that whisks him between Rome circa 128 AD and modern day Japan. Using this funky “hot tub time machine” Lucius learns to appreciate and then incorporate Japanese bath designs into his own with the help of a local aspiring manga creator named Manami ( Aya Ueto). As his renown grows back in his own time period Victus eventually meets the current Roman Emperor Hadrian (Masachika Ichimura), a kindred spirit who also believes that a good old bath experience will somehow enhance the morale of the Empire that is currently under duress from threat of a Barbarian invasion.
Skyfall (2012) is the James Bond movie you never knew you wanted full of awe-inspiring cinematography, gripping performances and a return to classical filmmaking devoid of any excessive use of shaky cam or nausea-inducing editing that has plagued modern action films which includes the awful previous Bond installment, Quantum of Solace. Director Sam Mendes has managed to keep enough of the core Bond elements intact while fusing them with a viscerally riveting cinematic experience that works wonders as never before precisely because the film does something totally unexpected by focusing on talking over action.