Tuesday, March 08, 2005

.:Two Film Reviews Again:.

By now, you know the drill. SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

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Meet The Fockers
What the fock?

I stand by my evaluation of Ben Stiller as a hit or miss kind of a comedian. When he hits, he hits it big (Dodgeball, Something About Mary...), but when he misses, boy, it gets forgettable (Along Came Polly, Envy...). I certainly liked “Meet The Parents” when I saw it before, and I was watching “Meet The Fockers” with mildly high expectations. To say that I was disappointed would be wrong, but to say that this is the best comedy I've ever seen from Ben Stiller isn't quite apt, either.

In this sequel, Greg Focker (Stiller) and Pam Byrnes are all set to be married, after Greg finally won the reluctant approval of Pam's father, Jack Byrnes (Robert de Niro), a retired CIA agent. The only piece of the puzzle left to deal with was getting both sides of the family to finally meet, as the Byrneses have yet to meet the Fockers.

What follows next is a madcap weekend of Fockerizing a baby, a party with fifty Fockers with names like Randy and Orny, as well as good old slapstick comedy. The moment you realize that Dustin Hoffman is a lawyer who takes up capoeira for fun and Barbara Streisand is a sex therapist, you begin to realize the sheer amount of comedy they could dig up from that.

Now, I don't feel like spoiling much about the film mainly because the gags aren't that spectacular, except for when Jack's grandson, little Jack, learned his first word. For the most part, the comedy was trite, and didn't provide the kind of laughs you'd really expect of a good Ben Stiller film, but it wasn't exactly horrible, which is what you'd expect from a bad Ben Stiller film. Calling it “mediocre”, I believe, would be an injustice to all the films that celebrate mediocrity far better than Greg Focker's parents do.

If there's one problem I found with the whole film, it's the fact that other than Barbara Streisand and little Jack, the entire cast was simply underwhelming as a whole. The best laughs I had came from these two main characters, and Barbara Streisand's acting chops reminded everyone why she was referred to as the “funny girl”. Not even the truth serum scene, which was supposedly one of their funniest parts, worked for me.

If you saw the first film, there's a good reason for you to catch this sequel. Otherwise, if you really insist on a Ben Stiller film, there are quite a few other films of his that I'd recommend above this one.

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


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No wonder they call him “Beat” Takeshi. He kept on “beating” people up.

One of Takeshi Kitano's films in the late 90's, “Fireworks” is a very subdued yet intense film of a man's descent into despair.

Kitano plays Detective Nishi in this film, a good cop who had a wife suffering from a supposedly terminal illness. While things weren't going so well for them as their daughter also died recently, Nishi's partner, Detective Horibe, suggested that he drop by his wife at the hospital and leave the stakeout to Horibe.

It turns out that this was a near-fatal mistake, as Horibe then gets gunned down in Nishi's absence, and Nishi ends up blaming himself over it. To further compound things, Nishi and two of his colleagues attempted to capture the gunner, who manages to kill Tatsuya, another cop, in the line of duty. Nishi snaps, and shoots the killer in the head, before walking up to the corpse and unloading the rest of his revolver into his skull. Nishi then resigns from the force, and things begin to go downhill from there.

While Horibe didn't die, he was as good as dead. His wife and child left him as he had to live on in a wheelchair, and after a suicide attempt, his only refuge was painting. Nishi, on the other hand, was down on his luck and had to start borrowing money from the Yakuza, and he was beginning to be quite ruthless, even robbing a bank at one point in the film to give some aid to both Horibe and Tatsuya's widow, as well as to take his wife on a trip.

Over the course of the trip, little is said between Nishi and his wife, but you can feel the emotions running through them. What I find impressive about the sequence of scenes in the trip was how subdued their acting was, yet it conveyed a very strong undercurrent. While they were on their trip, Nishi's violent tendencies kept on surfacing until it got to a point where he killed the leader of the Yakuza chapter he owed money to in a shooting incident inside a car. His ruthless attitude showed his steady descent from the time he was a cop to the point he had to be arrested by his own former colleagues.

In the final sequence, Nishi had a gun with two bullets on him when his former colleagues asked him to come with them. He asked for a moment, then a girl with a kite asked him for help in flying the kite, yet he didn't let go of it when she was already gathering speed, which resulted in a ripped kite. While the policemen were waiting in the car, watching Nishi, he then went to his wife and took her to his side in a tranquil moment, only to be punctuated by two gunshots and the puzzled look of the girl with the kite at the end of the film.

I found the movie disturbing in a subtle way. While the violence was definitely there, the perversion wasn't very manifest. Nishi's actions, no matter how brutal, almost seemed normal, given his background. Nishi seemed like the perfect example of what an antihero is, except that he was bordering on being a villain far more than most other antiheroes do.

The film's pace was slow but methodic. I think they made the film in that subdued manner not to be boring, but to show the gradual degradation of Nishi's soul, as I really think he started off with quite a high degree of dignity, given the respect his colleagues had for him. I think what did him in was the guilt that he felt over being unable to save the three people that meant a lot to him: Tatsuya, who could've been his protege; Horibe, who was his partner in the force; and his wife, whom he apparently loved very much. Though we never saw his late daughter, I think that would've played a factor, too.

Moreover, I liked the effect of using Kitano's artwork as a symbolic means of advancing the parallel plot of Horibe's gradual acceptance of his fate. After his suicide attempt, while he may have been despairing over what has happened to him, he was still serene about it, and his continued attempts at artwork practically saved him from going down the road Nishi did. The irony of Horibe's redemption and Nishi's damnation is underscored by the fact that the former was supposed to be unlucky and miserable while the latter still had things going for him if he only made the right choices.

The film is a very deep film, from its psychological to emotional subtlety. I'd recommend the film to anyone who likes Kitano's work, but might not recommend it to people who are used to more flair from Asian films, as European films tend to corner the market in subdued intensity for the most part.

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

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