5-Word 365 #341 – The Courier

My Eva Mendes retrospective came to an unexpected end due to the fact that Netflix ran out of Eva Mendes flicks. Instead, I took the old dartboard approach and picked today’s movie entirely at random. Won’t be doing that again.

Read More

5-Word 365 #327 – Flying Swords Of Dragon Gate 3D

I should have left this flick to the end of the year. Everything else is just going to be boring now.

Flying Swords of Dragon Gate

Bonkers story, but who cares?

At this point, I would usually summarise the plot of the film. A couple of sentences just to give you a bit of a primer on what the flick is about. That’s not really going to be possible today. I have just watched this movie twice and I’m still not sure exactly what I saw. There was something about a Palace courtesan who didn’t want any women getting pregnant except her so she had her favoured eunuch kill any pretty maids, but one escaped. And there was a group of master swordsmen who travelled around the countryside rescuing people, and a mythical city full of treasure out in the desert, and there was an inn that was pretty much a wretched hive of scum and villainy.

There is a reason for this uncharacteristic confusion however. Flying Swords of Dragon Gate may be the single most visually astonishing film I have ever laid eyes on. From the first shot to the last it is a two-hour spectacle of dazzling colour, dizzying camera moves, and the finest use of 3D since Avatar. Legendary writer/director/producer Tsui Hark is the first filmmaker to attempt to translate the wuxia genre into the third dimension, and to be honest, everybody else should just give up and go home. I can’t see this being bettered anytime soon. Wuxia movies are of course characterised by their magical fight scenes, and the action assembled for this film is nothing short of jaw-dropping. Everything is a weapon, from the usual swords and flying daggers to ropes, logs, even golden thread in the thrilling climax.

I have a sneaking suspicion that this fella might just be the bad guy.

Flying Swords ostensibly stars Jet Li as the great fighter Zhou Huai’an, but it is really more of an ensemble cast. Tsui has brought along two of the three leading ladies from his modern romantic comedy All About Women, Zhou Xun and Kwai Lun-mei, and there is a dual role for Chen Kun as the evil eunuch and his lookalike. Kwai was the highlight for me, playing a Tartar warrior princess who is quite capable of killing everyone around her just for fun.

Trust me, you don’t want to get that thing around your neck…

Technically a sequel to Tsui’s own 1992 picture New Dragon Gate Inn, which was itself a remake of the 1966 Dragon Gate Inn, Flying Swords is an original story that doesn’t require prior knowledge. The story may be overly-plotted and confusing, the characters may be rather thinly drawn, but today none of that matters. This is all about the spectacle, and what a grand spectacle it is. If you have a 3D TV, Flying Swords of Dragon Gate belongs in your Blu-ray collection. If you still think it’s all just a gimmick, this is one of the films that might just change your mind.

Excuse me, I’m off to watch this again.

5-Word 365 #322 – Bobby Fischer Against The World

I was briefly in the chess club in high school. Now that that embarrassing revelation is out of the way, let’s talk about someone else who used to play a little.

Bobby Fischer Against the World

Not just for chess nuts.

From award-winning documentarian Liz Garbus comes the first film to examine the life of the mercurial chess genius who fought for years to become World Champion, only to disappear into self-imposed exile and deepening mental illness.

Moreso than any other chess player in history, Bobby Fischer has achieved immortality. Hailed by many experts as the greatest player who ever lived, he was a prodigy as famous for his outspoken opinions and erratic behaviour as for his prowess at the board. This film is a gripping look at the man behind the legend, made up from extensive archive footage and fascinating interviews with his fellow players, friends and notable figures from the time.

The crux of the film is of course Fischer’s epic 1972 match in Iceland against reigning World Champion Boris Spassky. As someone who wasn’t there, the closest parallel I can use to describe its depiction here is as a real-life Rocky IV; the precocious American in one-on-one competition against the powerhouse of the Soviet Union. I half expected Hearts On Fire to pop up on the soundtrack. That’s not to say that Garbus isn’t respectful of her subject. Of course she is, but not to the point of lionising him. The film does not shy away from showing the uglier aspects of Fischer’s personality, such as his increasing anti-Semitism and anti-American viewpoints in later life, particularly after his return to the public eye for a controversial rematch with Spassky in 1992.

The man, the legend, the jumper. Bobby Fischer in Iceland, 1972 (photo by Harry Benson)

Liz Garbus has managed to obtain unprecedented access to documents, photographs and film clips concerning Fischer, which she uses to paint an insightful and captivating portrait of one of the last century’s true tortured geniuses; the Mozart of the chess board.

5-Word 365 #321 – Alpha And Omega

Sometimes I am really concerned about the level of intelligence that the makers of films for children assume of their audience.

Alpha and Omega

From Easy Rider to this?

Two wolves from a pack living in Jasper National Park, Canada are captured and taken to Idaho to repopulate a park there. Kate is an alpha, destined to become the leader of the Jasper pack, while Humphrey is an omega. Think princess and stable-boy. Anyway, Kate and Humphrey decide to make their way back to Jasper to rejoin their pack and halt a brewing invasion from a rival pack. Will they fall in love on the way? Does anyone care? Did this really have to be Dennis Hopper’s last movie?

I don’t enjoy being mean about the films I watch. Okay, sometimes I do, but occasionally I feel like I’m shooting fish in a barrel. Tranquilised fish, in a really shallow and well-stocked barrel. With a rocket launcher.

This is not a good film. The animation is of a standard that would disappoint me in a Saturday morning cartoon. The story is trite and predictable with nothing new to say about class struggles or forbidden love. The actors – including Hayden Panettiere as Kate and Justin Long as Humphrey – don’t seem to be enjoying themselves, with the possible exception of Larry Miller as a French-Canadian, golf-playing goose named Marcel (yes, really). Danny Glover and Dennis Hopper both just sound bored as the rival pack leaders, Winston and Tony.

Setting aside for a moment that he can manipulate his feathers to grasp a golf club, Marcel also has a caddy. Named Paddy. That’s what we’re dealing with here.

If you have any five-year-olds at a loose end, then they might find something to keep them entertained here, but I wouldn’t recommend it for much else.

5-Word 365 #320 – Leap Year

I believe it was Einstein who defined insanity as carrying out the same action repeatedly and expecting a different result. On a entirely unrelated note, I’m still looking for a decent romantic comedy.

Leap Year

Top o’ the mornin’, begorrah!

Bostonian Anna Brady is keen to get engaged to Jeremy, her boyfriend of four years. After hearing from her father about an Irish tradition that a man cannot refuse a proposal from a woman on February 29th, Anna heads to Dublin to join Jeremy at a conference and ask him to take her up the aisle. Unfortunately, she gets a bit lost on the way, and ends up falling for the rugged charms of Declan, the innkeeper she hires to drive her across Ireland.

I think I’ll do this one as a list. I know it’s a bit of a cheat, but I really need to get some sleep.

The good:

  1. Amy Adams (as usual)
  2. Amy Adams’ contractually-obligated underwear shot (short but sweet)
  3. um…
  4. Ireland looks very pretty (well done, Newton Thomas Sigel)
  5. Adam Scott, as Jeremy, gives good smarmy git.
  6. They got the weather right.

Oops. Spoiler.

The bad:

  1. Matthew Goode’s “Irish” accent
  2. The sense of geography that puts a woman in Cork when she’s trying to get from Wales to Dublin (check a map if you can’t picture it)
  3. The distinct lack of comedy. Frankly, I expected better from the writers of Can’t Hardly Wait and Josie and the Pussycats.
  4. The fact that John Lithgow only gets one scene.
  5. All the wonderful cultural stereotypes.
  6. Pretty much everything else.

One scene! It’s shameful, so it is.

And my insanity lumbers ever onwards.