Monday, May 28, 2007

Curse of the Golden Flower (2006)

Gong Li has an awesome rack. In fact it is so amazing that it's completely distracting in every scene it appears. The girl who plays Chan the serving girl also has an awesome rack but Gong Li's is like a Chinese National Treasure. She is also an amazing actress. I first saw her in Raise the Red Lantern and Farewell My Concubine. Her work in The Emperor and the Assassin was top notch. Unfortunately she was in Miami Vice and that Hannibal Rising movie. I do want to see her in 2046 but that's because I want to see 2046.

Chow Yun-Fat is also in the movie and it's great to see him acting and being as awesome as he can be.

Curse of the Golden Flower is not as thrilling as Hero or House of Flying Daggers but it is visually staggering. After an hour I started to wonder if the colors were actually on the screen or if my skullcap tincture was freaking me out. I found myself wondering how they create those colors and layers of texture. It was pretty cool.

As for the story there's an Emperor and a crazy Empress and the blah, blah, blah plot, three sons, intrigue, Gong Li's rack, golden flowers, crazy talk, crazy talk, battles, tears, sumptuous colors, blah, blah, blah plot, battles, tears, everyone dies. The end. What'd you expect? It's Chinese high epic melodrama.

Off Limits (1988)

Willem Defoe and Gregory Hines play plainclothes military police in Saigon during the Vietnam War. Someone starts shooting whores, serial killer style. The guys are on the job but why is their investigation meeting trouble at every turn? Why is Amanda Pays playing a French nun? Why is Fred Ward so loveable? Has Scott Glenn ever had a starring role? Can VC fly? Is Defoe going to fuck that rice or eat it? All these questions and more are Off Limits.

All kidding aside I think that the last time I saw this movie I must have have been in junior high. There was a long stretch of time in the late eighties and early nineties when grim Vietnam movies were a dime a dirty dozen. Most of them were pretty bleak, grim, and depressing movies: Platoon, Off Limits, Casualties of War, Full Metal Jacket, Born on the Fourth of July, and various straight to video actioners. Off Limits isn't the best of the bunch but it certainly isn't the worst. Defoe and Hines have a great rapport and some of the dialogue is great. This is one of those movies I really enjoy but some reason don't feel the need to sell people on it. Either you're gonna like it or you're not. Though one selling point is Scott Glenn's performance. It's great.

Apocalypto (2006)

It's understandable why people were so confused/conflicted/shock'n'awe'd by Apocalypto. It's a pretty solid kick ass action movie only set in a nearly unrecognizable - for this Anglo - Central American past. While yes the movie was not historically accurate - I thought that Cortes and the Spaniards showed up on the Aztecs watch, oh wait they did - and yeah there were a couple of moments I actually said, "Hurry up with the killing." but all in all Apocalypto was exactly what I wanted to watch on a Sunday afternoon by myself while eating leftover pizza.

The acting was perfectly reasonable, the story was perfectly reasonable, the cinematography was excellent, the set and costume design was even better, and except for a couple moments of shaky cam the direction was right on. One thing I was surprised by was how un-graphically violent it was. Saving Private Ryan is far worse. I wasn't disappointed but I was a little let down. I checked out a couple of reviews and people were whining about the violence. I did like the hand to hand combat sequences. People just beat the shit out of each other, no kung-fu but bad ass throws and grapples and good old fashioned ass kicking.

I would like to see more movies about the Aztecs - in particular I'd like to see a big budget Cortes vs Montezuma movie - lots of blood in the sand. I think there are a couple of Spanish flicks from the 60s that I remember seeing on TV a million years ago. Worse comes to worse I'll just have to reread Bernal Diaz's The Conquest of New Spain again.