Saturday, February 12, 2005

A trio of film reviews... SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

.:Film Review: The House Of Flying Daggers:.

The House Of Flying Daggers
Should've been the “House of Flying Logic”

Lots of people were saying that this film was far better than “Hero” or “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, but I definitely disagree with that. Truth is, the former two films had quite a good story going for it, while this film was too focused on twist after twist after twist, and when you strip the story down to its bare essentials, it becomes quite disappointing. Hades, even their fight scenes weren't half as splendid as that of “Hero” or “Crouching Tiger...”.

In any case, this film is about Xiao Mei (Zhang Ziyi. One of the few reasons Koreans haven't completely eradicated the Chinese from my books. Just kidding.), who was a blind woman who seemed to be the daughter of the leader of the revolutionary Flying Dagger sect. In order to kill the leader of the sect, the constable conspired with another agent in a different area to rescue Xiao Mei from prison and help her get to the sect's hideout and fulfill their mission.

Along the way, the constable's feelings seem to be getting in the way of his progress, and Xiao Mei likewise seems to be taken in by the constable. Beneath all of these emotions is a web of deceit, as nobody knows who's playing who by the end of it all.

It turns out that the constable was led into a trap. Xiao Mei was not blind, and the agent the constable conspired with was a spy for the Flying Dagger sect. Apparently, the agent has loved Xiao Mei for a long time, but along the way, since Xiao Mei falls for the constable, a crease in the well-laid plans becomes clear. This leads into a fatal confrontation between the trio, leading into a tragic ending.

First of all, this love story was convoluted at the least, and bordered on out and out lying to the audience, considering the interaction between the agent and Xiao Mei during the first scene at the brothel. Moreover, the twists were coming one after the other to the point that it didn't make sense anymore what was going on. The only nice thing about the movie were the “dagger time” sequences, and some of the fight scenes, but as I said, I've seen far better fight scenes. These ones were nice, but not enough for me to overlook the glaring shallow story. There was no room for philosophizing, no room for political commentary, as the focus on the love story was put in a shallow light.

And Zhang Ziyi is one of the biggest teases ever. :P

Marcelle's “Fun” Evaluation: B+
Marcelle's “Critical” Evaluation: B/B+

.:Film Review: Lost In Translation:.

Lost In Translation
Found a great movie.

If there's one thing I could say about this gem of a film, it has to be the fact that it's a film that I've been dying to see for the longest time, after having heard so many good things about it. Watching the film has not disappointed my expectations one bit.

Lost In Translation is a film set in Japan, where Bob Harris, an actor who was once famous in Hollywood, was slated to do an advertising campaign for a whiskey. While finding himself stuck and alone in Japan, a deep and, I'd daresay metaphysical longing strikes him from the blue, and he is forlorn in his stay in Japan for the most part.

At the same time, Charlotte, a woman who married a photographer, was also in Japan and she likewise feels a numbing loneliness as her husband gets increasingly busy with work and further neglects her completely. When two lonely people get together, you just know sparks are going to fly.

While the film made no blatant attempts to put Bob and Charlotte together as a couple, the underlying insinuation and the sheer romantic tension that was being insinuated in between the lines said it all. Bob and Charlotte were both married to different partners. They were both in Japan for only a temporary time, and they had rather different personalities that is no concrete indication of their compatibility.

Despite all these things, the whole story of two lonely people finding each other in a different country where they manage to develop a special kind of relationship is just a touching premise in and by itself. The fact that Scarlet Johannson and Bill Murray are no slouches when it comes to acting talent further accentuates the beauty of this movie.

I really liked the way they played off of each other. There was just something about the onscreen chemistry between Murray and Johannson that really clicked and made you wish they'd just end up together, although that possibility was left open, nonetheless. It's a very sly poke at infidelity that doesn't in any way offend one's sensibilities, which is testament to the subtle ingenuity of Sophia Ford Copolla in making this film.

I like it a lot, although I must say that you have to take this film as a whole to appreciate it. It's not meant to be a film taken in doses, and it's an acquired taste, for the most part.

Marcelle's “Fun” Evaluation: B+
Marcelle's “Critical” Evaluation: A+

.:Film Review: Please Teach Me English:.

Please Teach Me English
Don't mind if I do.

As you can tell by now, I'm quite a fan of the Korean romantic comedy genre. That being said, this is one of the more comedic than romantic films I've seen in that genre, and it genuinely works.

This is the story about Candy and Elvis (I'll use their American nicknames for clarity's sake.), two Koreans who cross paths in an English tutorial class because both of them want to learn how to speak English, for varied reasons. Amusingly enough, Candy is of the geeky yet not-so-smart archetype: she wears glasses, has weird hair, and gushes over Elvis the first time they meet. Elvis, on the other hand, is aggressively flirting with their American teacher, Cathy. Add in a few other Koreans who have their own reasons to want to learn how to speak English, and you have the makings of a whole mess waiting to happen.

The romance is built up very slowly. At first, Candy likes Elvis, but Elvis is fixated with Cathy. Slowly, Elvis notices Candy, and they become good friends in spite of Candy's horrible progress with speaking English. Soon enough, things really get good between the two of them, but a misunderstanding tears them apart, and Elvis, now completely in love with Candy, moves heaven and earth just to find a way to make things right between the two of them. Well, sort of.

You see, this is a movie you watch to feel good after seeing it. You don't see it to find the deeper meaning of life, or to find for yourself acting par excellence. I personally found Candy's acting to be a bit on the hammy side, if only for how over the top her acting can be for the most part, as she reminded me strongly of Abby Yao's “Michiko” character in those two Bobby Bonifacio short films.

Elvis, on the other hand, got his role down to pat. I really like the way he mixes being sweet and obnoxious, and being romantic yet insensitive at times. The whole line about saying “I love you” in English instead of Korean was also a nice touch, especially when he ended up saying it to Candy in Korean at the end anyways.

This is a nice film, no question about it. It's just that I've seen much better from Jeon Jihyun, so I'm not exactly a big fan of this film in particular, although I certainly enjoyed it, for what it's worth. The girl was cute, for one... in a geeky kind of way.

Marcelle's “Fun” Evaluation: A-
Marcelle's “Critical” Evaluation: B/B+

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