I'm getting current at last!
KUNG FU PANDA: * * * *
Another request from Liana, of course. She's taking a "kung fu" class after school one day a week - which, as near as I can tell, mostly means they do lots of jumping exercises that vaguely resemble parts of some of the basic forms - so she's interested in the subject. Fairly cleverly done, enough so to be a decent kung fu film in its own right. I look forward to introducing Liana to the more light-hearted and bloodless classics of genuine Chinese cinema someday. (Maybe DRUNKEN MASTER…?)
ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA: * * *
I had never gotten around to seeing this classic, even when I was taking in a ton of Chinese cinema in the late 90s. It has some great moments, little bits of humor and slice-of-life, but the way it's edited or something left me feeling like I was missing a lot of whatever was going on. It didn't flow, it sort of jumped along, and there's an inconsistency to the look and feel (different film stock? second unit directors?) that furthered the disconnectedness.
COWBOY BEBOP: THE MOVIE: * * *
The Spike-heavy emo episodes of the regular series were always my least-favorite and, unfortunately, the movie is comparatively Spike-heavy. Faye is fine, but Ed has little function other than a couple of info-finding moments and Jet does virtually nothing the entire film. So, on the whole, a bit disappointing.
DRIVE: * * * *
I didn't love this the way many of my friends did. It hints at emotional depth but ultimately feels sterile. Laurenn McCubbin put it perfectly: It's beautiful but sort of empty. Appropriate for a Los Angeles movie, I suppose, but I wanted to feel like there was real change by the end and, other than a bunch of people being dead now, it's sort of back where it started. "And then he just drives away forever."
SUPER 8: * * *
JJ Abrams pretty much captures Steven Spielberg nostalgia in exactly the way you'd expect. Doesn't really add anything to the mythos that ET didn't accomplish first and better, and it gets increasingly sloppy for the sake of excessiveness as it gets toward the end. And one thing I *really* hate is a space-faring and supposedly technologically superior alien being who somehow can't behave any more carefully or thoughtfully than a rabid panther.
THE TEMPEST: * * * *
A very nice adaptation. The switch of Prospero (father) to Prospera (mother) really changes the tone of the story in a way that… I wouldn't say is "better"… but is certainly worthwhile seeing. The visual implementation of Ariel was sort of WTF at first, but as the film moves along it really grew on me. On the other hand, while I can see the direction (I think) they were thrusting by casting Djimon Hounsou as Caliban - effectively making race the thing that makes him "monstrous" in the eyes of these Europeans, instead of actual bodily hideousness - it didn't work quite as well as their other choices. (You just can't make that dude plausibly into a monster, though I guess it enhances Caliban as a sympathetic character.) Russell Brand is quite enjoyable as a mash-up of the Trinculo character and his own effected persona.
LILO & STITCH: * * * *
A bit different for Disney fare. Liana quite liked it, though on re-watchings she needs to skip the part where the whole house gets trashed - it's a bit too anxiety-inducing for her.
LONDON BOULEVARD: * * * *
I thought this would be another fine Fiasco story, but it's a little different than the usual caper gone wrong. I found the love story a bit implausible, though, as it sort of comes together very quickly and without a lot of good show-not-tell evidence to support the supposed chemistry. Colin Farrell impresses again; this would be a fine double feature with IN BRUGES (* * * *). Ray Winstone also excellent; this would be a fine double feature with SEXY BEAST (* * * *).
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON: * * * *
While in London, C and I met up with most of my London friends crew at the Slaughtered Lamb, in Clerkenwell. What's the first thing anyone mentions about the Slaughtered Lamb when it comes up? "It's the pub from AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, you know." We're cabbing over there and the driver mentions it. Then he and I experienced a bit of reverie over Jenny Agutter and our respective boyhood crushes (his from THE RAILWAY CHILDREN, mine from LOGAN'S RUN * * * * *). So when we got back, of course, I had to watch it again. Every bit as goofy and weird as I remember. What I'd forgotten was how beautifully well done the torn-up and decaying Griffin Dunne makeup was. Rick Baker is the freakin' KING.
STALKER: * * * *
"If SOLARIS was Tarkovsky's Soviet version of 2001, STALKER is his Soviet take on WIZARD OF OZ." When you hear about this film, it almost always involves lavish praise for the crazy, toxic, desolate landscape in which the film takes place. And I always thought, yeah, okay, two and a half hours of nothing happening in a marvelously apocalyptic ruin. Yeesh. But I finally decided to bite the bullet. Holy cow, STALKER is a beautiful film. One of the most beautifully-shot films I have ever seen, I think. Yes, virtually nothing happens through the entire film, but it was still very much worth seeing. I might even watch it again someday, just to soak in the setting and the way in which it is captured. I would honestly like this film even more if it had less dialogue. The best parts of the film are when nobody is saying anything at all.
For consideration: not really sure what the next ten are going to be; more Disney for Liana, certainly, and a couple more nostalgic movies from thirty years ago for myself, I think