Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Flashpoint

Once again, kung fu legend Donnie Yen (Hero) and director Wilson Yip (SPL) team up for a second collaboration. Unfortunately, while th film made me discover Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), I thought that the film missed something in the script. Of course, the film is entertaining, but when you're past the half part of the film, the story starts to look more and more like a Western taking place in a society where there's no law. Anyway, SPL was way better than this as far as I'm concerned.

Detective Ma (Donnie Yen) has a partner, Wilson (Louis Koo), who went undercover in Hong Kong's most ruthless crime syndicate. As many evidences are gathered against this crime syndicate, other witnesses and Wilson are to testify in courts so that the criminals can be imprisoned. Unfortunately, these "evidences" are destroyed as Wilson is the only witness alive. In order to protect his partner, Det. Ma decides to personally take down the crime syndicate.

Although the film is not that bad, the problem that it has is that it's trying to do so many things at the same time. Hence, the feeling that the script is somehow incomplete although it has a lot of potential. For instance, while the movie's pace is a little bit slow at the beginning, Flashpoint seems to explore a rather interesting avenue: 1) Det. Ma's lack of qualms to beat criminals to a pulp to crack his cases and 2) his superiors' reservations for these kind of methods even though they admire Ma for being the cop with the most complete investigations in Hong Kong. As we see it, this is the reason why Ma is summoned before a discipline committee at the beginning of the film.

However, as we're in Flashpoint's captivating second half, the scriptwriters didn't elaborate that much on what the main characters think about police ethics. In fact, as many witnesses - who are to testify in a trial against a member of the crime syndicate - die, the scriptwriters are more preoccupied to display Ma's obvious desire to personally take down the crime syndicate. Nonetheless, at that point, we wonder if Det. Ma still believes in traditional justice, that is gathering evidences (through witnesses) to imprison criminals. Therefore, this film doesn't have the dramatic tension that you found in The Dark Knight in which the characters test their belief in traditional justice versus vigilantism.

While he's not necessarily an incompetent director, Wilson Yip (SPL) approaches the story only to focus on Flashpoint's entertaining nature. In fact, in the movie's second half, the storyline ceases to develop the tough relation between Ma and his superiors. Secondly, we don't get to know that much about Ma's superiors ambivalent attitude toward him. Anyway, that's what happens when your dialogues are thin and your story is more action-driven than character-driven.

Finally, for all that's right about the film, the performance by the cast is rather okay - given that the script needed a little bit more development - and the fight scenes will amaze you. No wonder choreographer Donnie Yen won this year's Hong Kong Film Awards for Best Action Choreography! All in all, if you leave aside these elements, Flashpoint is just one of those movies that could have been a little bit better. By the way, the final fight between Donnie Yen and Collin Chou is probably one of the best fights I've ever seen.

Rating: 2.5/5


Flashpoint
Hong Kong (2007)
Length: 88 minutes
Genre: Police drama
Screenplay: Tang Lik-Kei et Szeto Kam-Yuen
Director: Wilson Yip
Starring: Donnie Yen, Collin Chou and Louis Koo

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Spirit

Here's one friendly advice: avoid this film - unless you like action scenes - and watch Sin City instead. While Frank Miller wanted us to enjoy this The Spirit, he, in this case, seems to be taking viewers for idiots. In fact, although the movie pretends that it has a story, it will make you laugh mostly because of its uninteresting characters. Too bad that it isn't as good as the trailer would like to make you believe given that the movie is shot mostly on green screen!

Based on a comic book strip by Will Eisner, the story is about Denny Colt, a dead police officer who was "resurrected". Now known as "the Spirit" with his eye-mask and his red tie, he "spies" for the policemen so that Central City can be a cleaner city. However, he has one desire/obsession, that is to kill The Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson), a criminal who wants to get hold of a vase containing Heracles' blood, which gives immortality to anyone who drinks it.

Make no mistake, this is the kind of movie that you should avoid even though the film uses more or less the same filming techniques than Sin City. In fact, there's certainly a premise that the movie exploits, that is the Spirit's desire to kill The Octopus. However, each of the main characters seem to be a mere ornament. This means that they're extremely stereotyped and one-dimensional. Moreover, their presence is only a way for Miller to have fun shooting action scenes and making an eye-candy film through its impressive gallery of beautiful actresses (Scarlett Johansson, Eva Mendes, Sarah Paulson and Stana Katic).

Obviously, although The Spirit is visually stunning without being as gritty as Sin City, it just has an extremely weak dramatic value. For instance, the character of Plaster of Paris (Paz Vega) appears shortly without being of much use to the story. Given the lack of dramatic interest that the movie generates, we can say that for most actors, their performance (i.e. their character's attitude) oddly seems to remain the same during all the film. The only actor who tries to stand out from the rest of the cast is Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction), but his character (who almost changes costumes as much as Canadian singer Nathalie Choquette does in her shows), doesn't remind you of what you probably saw in Pulp Fiction.

With that said, the problem with The Spirit, is the fact that the cast - despite its obvious enthusiasm at work - doesn't have characters who have nuances in their psyche. As if it wasn't enough, when there's no action scenes, the film gets so dull! With that said, despite being entertaining thanks to its action scenes, The Spirit's story is simply pathetic. Add to that the long periods, disconnected scenes and mindless dialogues. If you want to make a "nice investment", just avoid this film unless you like stories involving a good guy running after a bad guy without many elaborated reasons.

Rating: 2/5


The Spirit
USA (2008)
Length: 103 minutes
Genre: Action drama
Screenplay: Frank Miller
Director: Frank Miller
Starring: Gabriel Macht, Eva Mendes, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Sarah Paulson and Stana Katic

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Changeling

The film Changeling may not be Clint Eastwood's (Mystic River) best directorial achievement because of some loopholes in the script. However, one shouldn't be dismayed by the performance given by the cast. Besides, after she starred in so many questionable flicks, it was - pardon my language - bloody time that Angelina Jolie was offered a role allowing her to showcase her talent.

Based on a true story, Changeling takes place in Los Angeles in 1928. On March, 10, Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie), a single mother, reports the disappearance of her son Walter after she returns home from work. After five months of investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), Capt. J.J. Jones and Chief James E. Davies affirm to Christine that her son was found and a reunion will be organized with the presence of the press. However, as Christine expresses more and more her conviction that the boy is categorically not her son (i.e. three inches shorter and circumcision), she looks for the help of Gustav Briegleb, a preacher with a radio show who wants to expose the LAPD's corruption. Besides using the newspapers to label Christine's negligence of her "son", the LAPD also throws Christine in an asylum because another investigation shows that Walter might still be missing.

Obviously, the script shows Eastwood's knack for unearthing good stories. Unfortunately, the storyline suffers from scriptwriter J. Michael Straczynski's historical bias, so to speak, toward the LAPD. While we get to know about Capt. J.J. Jones' desire to throw Christine in an asylum through what his words suggest during a trial, the movie doesn't explore thoroughly the 5 months investigation. Sure, we know that the young boy brought to Los Angeles from De Kalb, Illinois, is definitely not Christine's son, but the movie doesn't explore the LAPD's perspective to answer this question: why was the investigation so sloppy given the look on Capt. J.J. Jones' face on the day when the young boy is "brought" back to Christine?

In the end, speaking about that investigation, viewers are only left with things that revolve around Christine and Detective Lester Ybarra, a LAPD officer who believes her and who's impeccably played by Michael Kelly (Generation Kill). Thus, Changeling will probably not win (nor be nominated for) the Academy Award for best movie because of this minor flaw in the script: the one-sided portrayal of the corruption that is sullying the LAPD.

Despite that, Angelina Jolie performance seemed well to me given that she has, most of the time, starred in questionable films over the last - let's say - ten years. However, just like Norma, I hardly think that Jolie is the appropriate person to play her character, because the real Christine Collins wasn't that beautiful if you look into the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Database. Nonetheless, Jolie deserves recognition for her work and she's well supported by other members of the cast, especially Michael Kelly and Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone), who plays a fellow inmate.

Finally, Changeling is a rather effective drama from Eastwood, as a director. In fact, analogically, if wine gets better by ageing, Eastwood, on the other hand, seems to always be able to astonish us as time goes by. However, this film is certainly not perfect. Besides, if this film doesn't get at least some Academy Award nominations concerning some cast members' performance, then Eastwood can accuse the Academy of robbing him.

Rating: 3.5/5


Changeling
USA (2008)
Length: 141 minutes
Genre: Thriller
Screenplay: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Jeffrey Donovan, John Malkovich, Michael Kelly, Colm Feore and Amy Ryan

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Nitro

Along with movies like The Art of War or Passchendaele, this film is an attempt by Canadian movie makers to play more and more in sandlots usually reserved to Americans, some wealthy European countries (ex: France and the UK) and some Asian countries. While the entertainment factor makes us forget how small the movie's budget was, Nitro's script is not exempted of flaws. Nevertheless, this film is a The Fast and the Furious with a minimum of brain thanks to its slightly unpredictable story.

Max (Guillaume Lemay-Thivierge), a former street racer, is a construction worker who now lives with his wife Alice and their son Théo. When Alice (Myriam Tallard) needs a heart and that one is not available, Max is willing to do anything to save her. At that point, he gets back in touch with his troubled past by seeing the Lawyer (Martin Matte), a crime boss who promised him that he'll have a heart in 48 hours, and afterwards, Max seeks the help of Morgane (Lucie Laurier), a former street racer (turned into a professional racer) that he once loved.

Although the idea behind the script makes Nitro a little bit more interesting than the movies from the series The Fast and the Furious. Unfortunately, the problem that the script has, it's the incoherence of many situations that only seem to be there to speed things up in the evolution of the storyline. Obviously, one wouldn't complain about the quick pace of Nitro. Nonetheless, with many sequences of car chases and parkour, one wonder how can a heart (kept in a backpack with ice bags) be in such a good state?

Despite that flaw, the performance by the cast - which is simple - keeps us even more in the film. Guillaume Lemay-Thivierge's (Le matou) charisma makes him a sympathetic hero (despite what he does) at the point that you absolutely believe in his race against the clock. Lucie Laurier (La grande séduction) elegantly adds some attitude to the film given that she's normally seen in movies as a very nice woman.

Finally, Nitro shouldn't dismay you too much thanks to its action sequences. However, as Canada produces more and more action movies, our movie makers must understand the importance to make a script that has sense rather than acting like an excited teenager (who has sixteen years old) driving a Porsche (or any other prestigious car) and who crashed it. Besides the action scenes, the performance of most members of the cast should please you.

Rating: 3/5


Nitro
Canada (2007)
Length: 106 minutes
Genre: Action drama
Screenplay: Benoît Guichard
Director: Alain Desrochers
Starring: Guillaume Lemay-Thivierge, Lucie Laurier, Martin Matte, Myriam Tallard

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mon oncle Antoine

Just like my fellow Canuck Norma, I've also heard about Mon oncle Antoine. However, I heard about it in a cinema class when I was in Grade 7. Although I found the movie a little bit boring (i.e. slow pace), I still objectively believe that Mon oncle Antoine is good, but doesn't necessarily deserve to be called the best Canadian film ever made. So to be honest with you, I just watched this movie out of curiosity.

In the 1940s: In a small mining village of Quebec, Benoît (Jacques Gagnon) works at his uncle's general store. On the eve of Christmas, many villagers gather in the general store to socialize. Through these people, Benoît will try to make a transition between teenagehood and adulthood despite not being an adult yet. On the other hand, we also follow Jos Poulin, a mine worker, who can't stand the fact that the area's economy is controlled by American and English Canadians.

If you have enough patience to watch it, you'll be seduced by this film simple storyline. Although the film doesn't give many details through dialogues and its story's evolution, it's amazing how characters are canvassed through few things. With few details, the movie displays its hidden depth and also most of the characters' back stories: how they feel about life, their joy and even their personal misery. Besides, with these hidden details, we witness Benoît's maturation and Jos Poulin's problem with Anglo-Saxon economic authority and power (and his way to deal with it). However, despite being considered as one of the best Canadian films ever made, the movie focuses on too much stories (do you consider two stories too much?). In fact, the scriptwriter could have chosen to only focus on either Benoît's coming of age or Jos Poulin's miserable life. Moreover, add to that the long periods at the beginning and in the middle of the movie.

Finally, despite the flaws you may find to it, Mon oncle Antoine still remains a movie that you should watch if you're curious about Canadian classics. However, as a movie that doesn't necessarily focus on a specific story (but rather through the daily life of its characters), I just don't think that it is as entertaining (don't expect too much from the National Film Board) as Falling Angels. Hopefully, if the story is not that great (because of the long periods), the cast's modest performance (especially from Jacques Gagnon and Lionel Villeneuve) makes up for it.

Rating: 3.5/5


Mon oncle Antoine
Canada (1971)
Length: 104 minutes
Genre: Drama
Scriptwriter: Claude Jutra and Clément Perron
Director: Claude Jutra
Starring: Jacques Gagnon, Jean Duceppe, Lyne Champagne, Olivette Thibault, Hélène Loiselle, Monique Mercure, Lionel Villeneuve and Claude Jutra

Friday, December 12, 2008

Transporter 3

Seriously, French director/writer Luc Besson should be ashamed of this film. For someone who once had a relatively solid reputation, he's becoming too "Hollywooded" as time goes by. In short, Transporter 3 is just a movie with a thin script that would just make you want to watch it only for the action scenes if you just watch movies for entertainment. If you're looking for some serious action movies, just skip this one.

An "environmental" corporation that wants to do business in Ukraine abducts Valentina (Natalia Rudakova), the daughter of the Ukrainian minister of Environment (Jeroen Krabbe). Afterwards, Frank Martin (Jason Statham), a professional "transporter", is pressured by that same corporation to transport Valentina from Marseilles to Odessa, in Ukraine, on the day when Ukraine's Environment minister signs a deal with the corporation. Besides, to make sure that Frank fulfils his mission, Mr. Johnson, the boss of the corporation, locks a bracelet on Frank's wrist. If Frank steps 75 feet away from his car, he'll explode.

I haven't seen the Transporter 2, but all I can say is that this film shows many signs of a much more exhausted franchise. Besides, the first movie had the merit of having a few flesh around the script. In this case, the extremely thin storyline is a deplorable excuse to pile up as much action scenes as possible. Therefore, Transporter 3 dully focuses, during most of the running time, on Frank's mission/trip across Europe: what's he's told to do, a few action sequences here and there, and ultimately a load of bland and pre-fabricated dialogues.

While the film tries to entertain us, it lamentably fails to give itself any credibility at the end. In fact, the love story between Frank and Valentina seems too contrived and you could see it coming from many kilometres away! Which makes me wonder if scriptwriters Besson and Kamen (Kiss of the Dragon) wanted to throw at us this corny love story just to give us the feeling that something is happening after all these dangerous situations involving the two main characters. Anyway, this is the last thing Transporter 3's script needed, because halfway through the film, we just don't know that much why Frank has reservations about his missions and his speech about not getting emotionally involved in his missions looks more like a made-up tape.

Finally, if you're looking for a good action film, just don't waste your time with this one. After all, Transporter 3 is just a forgettable film that only tries to take your breath away with its countless action scenes that serve no purpose. Besides, add to that the very simplistic performance by the cast.

Rating: 1/5


Transporter 3
France (2008)
Length: 100 minutes
Genre: Action
Screenplay: Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
Director: Olivier Megaton
Starring: Jason Statham, Natalya Rudakova, François Berléand, Robert Knepper and Jeroen Krabbé

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Falling Angels

Haven't not read the novel from Barbara Gowdy, it's sure that there are things that I couldn't get about the movie. Nonetheless, while I'm not a big fan of independent movies mostly because of their slow pace, I'll still recommend it to anyone who is willing to try something different from mainstream movies. Moreover, if you appreciate good performance, Falling Angels shouldn't disappoint you.

Set in 1969, the story follows three sisters coming of age, who a part of a dysfunctional suburban family that has a bomb shelter in their backyard. Lou (Katharine Isabelle) rebels against her tyrannic father (Callum Keith Rennie), Jim, and even decides to try LSD (without developing an addiction for it) with her boyfriend. Sandy (Kristin Adams) is looking forward to become a perfect mom. Norma (Monté Gagné) is obsessed with the death of her brother and doesn't feel well because of her bad look despite being good in trade skills.

While many may not like this film, Falling Angels has the merit of trying to offer a different kind of movie experience. In fact, the movie doesn't seem to have a story per se that follows a leading premise. In other words, we get the feeling that this film is like one of those documentaries from the National Film Board of Canada that follows the life of an average family. Despite that, that gives, in my opinion, to scriptwriter Esta Spalding (The Republic of Love) the occasion to built a simple character-driven story that focuses on their relation between each other. Add to this a focus on how each of the main characters react to what characterizes the 1960s: Cold War, sexual revolution, drugs and feminism.

All in all, watching this movie is like watching The Osbournes (PS: I never watched it, but I know what it is).

However, if the three girls' relation with their oppressive father and their views on feminism are well shown, there are few things that could have been developed a little bit more. In fact, although the character of Norma may not be the most interesting of all the three sisters, Spalding could have seized the occasion to bring us further into Norma's ambiguous fascination for (and also her friendship with) Stella (Ingrid Nelson), a blond girl that Norma seems to envy for her looks. After all, if Norma hypothetically represses her lesbianism, anyone would certainly like to know how she tries to deal with it given that the movie takes place in the 1960s, a period of "rebellion" against social conformism.

Finally, without being the best Canadian movie ever, Falling Angels is definitely a cute movie with its share of dramatic and humorous moments about a suburban family that tries to deal with its own problems and keep up the appearances for honour's sake. Although some aspects of the script are thin, Falling Angels is nonetheless well served by the well-chosen cast performance. To that matter, kudos to Callum Keith Rennie (H2O), as a father who firmly believes that the man should always dominate the roost, and Katherine Isabelle (The Englishman's Boy), as a girl who staunchly questions that belief.

Rating: 3.5/5


Falling Angels
Canada (2003)
Length: 100 minutes
Genre: Dramatic comedy
Screenplay: Esta Spalding
Director: Scott Smith
Starring: Miranda Richardson, Callum Keith Rennie, Katherine Isabelle, Kristin Adams, Monté Gagné and Ingrid Nilson

Monday, December 8, 2008

Saving Private Ryan

Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan is one of those war movies that I enjoyed watching when I was in high school. In fact, I even saw it as a blueprint for making war movies. As I got older, I still like this film and I'll watch it again just for the depiction of the Normandy landings at the beginning. Nonetheless, this doesn't mean that the film is exempted of flaws.

After he took part to the Normandy landings (in the Omaha sector) as an American ranger, Captain John Miller receives another mission. With seven other men, Miller must find a soldier from the 101st Airborne Division called James Francis Ryan and escort him until he's brought back to the USA. Besides, Ryan must be brought back home, because three of his brothers were killed at war.

You'll certainly remember this movie for its intense depiction of the Normandy landings at the beginning. In a moment that nearly last for half an hour, Spielberg does combine an excellent cinematography and a stunning editing that doesn't spare us from the horrors of war. Aside from its intense action scenes, Saving Private Ryan has a rather conventional script about courage and sacrifice that shouldn't dismay anyone. In fact, unlike war films like Pearl Harbor or Passchendaele, this film has the merit of actually focusing on a specific thing, which is the mission of Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks). Add to that the fact that movie centres on Miller's squad. Therefore, don't expect to see a rather complex story in this film. In fact, between two action scenes, it's surprising that the script does minimally develop the main characters. Therefore, it even allows us to see how these characters feel about war and also the mission itself without being stereotyped.

Secondly, although there's no actor that stands out from the cast, let's admit that its performance is uniformly impeccable. Some will say that this movie doesn't represent Tom Hanks' most intense performance up to date, but he does a very good job in leading all the cast. Besides, he's very well supported by his colleagues whether it's Edward Burns, Matt Damon, Barry Pepper or Jeremy Davies, for instance.

Finally, anyone who likes war movies should be pleased by this film. However, there were times when I found that the movie was a little bit too long, which were the scenes the character-building scenes. Nonetheless, Saving Private Ryan is still a good entertainment. Enough said, just enjoy the film!

Rating: 4/5


Saving Private Ryan
USA (1998)
Length: 169 minutes
Genre: War drama
Screenplay:
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper and Tom Sizemore

Monday, December 1, 2008

Quantum of Solace

As a die-hard fan of James Bond, I thought that I would get to see a movie that unashamedly tries to be as serious as any Oscar contenders. After all, wasn't Casino Royale a critical and public success worldwide? The truth is after one year of waiting, Quantum of Solace turns out to be a joke (not that I laughed while watching the film). All in all, if you're in for gunfights and explosions, then this will certainly be your cup of tea.

The film continues where Casino Royale left off. While he's thinking about avenging the death of his girlfriend Vesper, James Bond (Daniel Craig) has to track an organization that seems to be everywhere. This leads him to Dominic Greene, a business man, who wants to topple the Bolivian government (with the help of the CIA) in order to bring to power general Medrano. In fact, by doing it, Greene wants to be assured that he can control Bolivia's water. However, as Bond's mission goes on, he'll ally with Camille, an agent who wants to avenge the death of her parents at the hands of general Medrano.

While Casino Royale contained a few good surprises, Quantum of Solace, on the other hand, obeys too much to the old formula of the franchise. With that said, we're left with a storyline that blandly evolves through different levels: Bond finds something, goes after it and kills people. That's it. That's all. However, while we look at the final version, this formula was brought to an unfathomable peak of ugliness.

Therefore, any exploitation of a premise literally seems to be absent from the movie. In fact, between two explosive action scenes, the development of Bond is unfortunately one-dimensional. So, director Marc Forster (Monster's Ball) can say whatever he wants, but his minimalist approach doesn't work, because neither the extremely thin dialogues nor the over-abundance of action scenes manage to convey with nuances Bond's inner feelings. Besides, add to that Forster bad directing which makes Daniel Craig (Munich) unable to express Bond's inner feelings through his poker face (no play on words intended).

With that said, the only thing that seemed to count for the three scriptwriters were the action scenes. If you want to judge the movie's bright side, at least, you'll be satisfied to see that Daniel Craig is in a better shape than ever. To that matter, Roger Moore (The Spy who Loved Me) wasn't wrong when he said that involving ourself in an action sequence of a James Bond movie is exhausting (and dangerous)!

While Daniel Craig doesn't have much margin of manoeuvre in this film to showcase his real talent, Olga Kurylenko (Hitman) surprised me at the end when we saw the fear in the eyes of Camille when she faces (and even after it) general Medrano. Unfortunately, the script doesn't place a smart emphasis on the ambiguousness of Kurylenko's character. As for French actor Mathieu Almaric (Munich), although he's trying to be near the character of Auric Goldfinger (who was played by Gert Frobe), I wasn't really convinced that he plays the bad guy. Of all the actors, only Judi Dench (Die Another Day), as M, seemed to be the only character who can display feelings.

Finally, Quantum of Solace, as a movie, displays the symptoms of a franchise that inadvertently came back to its bad habits inherited from the Brosnan era (starting with Tomorrow Never Dies): focus on the action scenes and few (if not none at all) attention to the dramatic aspect. Although this film shamefully surfes on the prior success of Casino Royale, it still remains a must if you're only in for the action scenes. However, it's not because a film has a lot of action that it's smart. Above all, if you like James Bond movies, just watch it and judge it for yourself. Moreover, since when does James Bond refuses to say "My name is Bond, James Bond" in a movie?!?!? I want my money back! Ok, I forgot to tell you that I had a ticket that gave me the right to see this film for free.

Rating: 2.5/5


Quantum of Solace
UK/USA (2008)
Length: 104 minutes
Genre: Thriller
Screenplay: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis
Director: Marc Forster
Starring: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Almaric, Judi Dench and Gemma Arterton

Friday, November 28, 2008

So Close

With this movie, director Corey Yuen (The Transporter) just confirms that he's able to give us mindless movies as well as fairly good ones. Because this movie involves a decent scriptwriting, So Close is not just a mere action movie that you watch and forget; it's Asia's smart response to Hollywood's Charlie's Angels. All in all, So Close has a focus in the script (minus the humour) and a good performance by the cast. Besides, it's definitely a movie that should please to men with its three beautiful stars and also to women especially for the action scenes.

Lynn (Shu Qi) and Sue (Zhao Wei) are two sisters who inherited of a worldwide computer surveillance system. Because of that, they're the best killers for hire in Hong Kong. However, after having killed a shareholder from an investment company that would make Norbourg look like a bedtime tale, a client wants to eliminate them. Besides, add to that Hung (Karen Mok), a cop who is on their tail while investigating two murders related to the investing company in question.

With its attempt to look serious, So Close's script takes quite a lot of time to be clear cut. In fact, the movie's script strangely evolves, at the beginning, like a TV series' episode with its sub-plots converging toward a central point. Hopefully, once this is done halfway through, we're left with an exciting and fairly good story that takes avenues that are associated with thrillers. I don't want to reveal any more, but if you liked John Woo's The Killer, the plot twist - which is So Close cornerstone - at the end will amaze you.

Although Corey Yuen has never been really known to make serious movies, this time, I was surprised to see his clear attempt to show a back story for the three main characters, which shows a little bit of maturity in his style. However, this creates the movie's weakness as Yuen brings us back into the past of Lynn and Sue. Indeed, although we know what brought them to become killers, the script doesn't mention how they got trained. In the end, going into such a detail wasn't worth it, because you'd have to justify any detail. This means that we could've had a story that just doesn't mention how Lynn and Sue became killers.

Hopefully, let's say that Shu Qi (Millennium Mambo), Zhao Wei (Shaolin Soccer) and Karen Mok (Black Mask) manage to show their thespian ability. However, of all these actresses, it's Zhao Wei who delivers the most interesting performance because its looks so natural. If Shu Qi can be seen like a femme fatale with ass-kicking techniques, Mok, on the other hand, brings a little touch of masculine roughness with her tomboyish character.

Finally, the movie does make you forget any blockbuster films that dismayed you in the past. Its spectacular fights and its slow-motion gunfight scenes always eject us from our seat. As a matter of fact, choreographing fight scenes just like Yuen did is a hell of an exploit given that Shu, Zhao and Mok are not the martial artists they seem to be on the screen! Moreover, this movie is a proof that once in a while, blockbuster movies can be taken a little bit seriously.

Rating: 3.5/5


So Close
Hong Kong (2002)
Length: 111 minutes
Genre: Thriller
Screenplay: Jeffrey Lau
Director: Corey Yuen
Starring: Shu Qi, Zhao Wei, Karen Mok, Michael Wai and Wan Siu-Lun

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Anthony Zimmer

[Warning: Spoilers ahead.]

Jérôme Salle's Anthony Zimmer would certainly please to many lovers of gripping police films. Although the movie is okay, few people would appreciate it because this is the sort of movie that you must watch twice to thoroughly understand it. In fact, I dare to say that this movie is not my cup of tea. Other than that, the film is stuck with a few incoherences in the plot. Hopefully, the acting is there.

Since many years, the French customs agency has been trying to arrest Anthony Zimmer, an international criminal who knows how to make dirty money gets into Europe through legal fronts. However, things are rather complicated, because Zimmer changed his face (and even his voice) after going through a heavy make-over. Despite that, Det. Akerman (Sami Frey) intends to use Chiara Manzoni (Sophie Marceau), one of his agents, to arrest him. When on mission, Chiara randomly meets François Taillandier (Yvan Attal), because she believes that he's Anthony Zimmer. How right is she?

Of course, the movie does a good job when it comes to simultaneously entertaining uswith its rather quick pace and its twist plots. What is rather astonishing, is that Anthony Zimmer manages to keep a certain plausibility. Even though the script is a little bit complicated, we have here an effective thriller. However, as the movie evolves, one may believe that the movie has some plot holes that can be seen in the dialogues, because we never get to fully know what is the link between Chiara and Anthony Zimmer/François Taillandier. In fact, while the movie focus correctly on Det. Akerman's attempt to arrest Zimmer (and he uses Chiara to do it), scriptwriter Jérôme Salle missed the occasion to deal - at least slightly - with the corruption within the French customs agency through Chiara.

Even though the movie leaves off some important details that could have augment the depth of the script, the performance of the cast won't dismay you. Whether it's Sami Frey (La fille de d'Artagnan), Yvan Attal (Bon voyage) or Sophie Marceau (The World is not Enough), just expect to see a contained, but well controlled performance. With such a control, the cast manages to suggest a lot of things through their words or even through their silence.

Finally, if you like thrillers that don't contain much action scenes, then you should probably like this one. After all, even though this movie has a little plot hole, I'm sure that Alfred Hitchcock would have liked Anthony Zimmer.

Rating: 3.5/5


Anthony Zimmer
France (2005)
Length: 90 minutes
Genre: Thriller
Screenplay: Jérôme Salle
Director: Jérôme Salle
Starring: Sophie Marceau, Yvan Attal, Sami Frey, Gilles Lellouche, Daniel Olbrychski and Samir Guesmi

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Rebel (Dòng máu anh hùng)

After one year of waiting, Vietnam's biggest box-office hit (and also first action movie ever) finally comes to Canada on DVD! With a budget of about $3 million US for this film, Vietnam has no lessons to receive from other Asian countries and even less Hollywood on how to shoot action sequences. However, lower your expectation, because The Rebel is not a masterpiece like Hero, Ran or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon when you look at the script and the acting.

1922: Vietnam is under French colonial rule and anti-French rebellions occurs nationwide. To deal with that, the French use Vietnamese agents, like Cường (Johnny Nguyễn), to track down the leader of a nationalist movement. However, as Cường gradually becomes inspired by Thúy's (Ngô Thanh Vân), the daughter of the leader in question, patriotism after an encounter he fights back against the French and Sỹ (Dustin Nguyễn), his superior. Nevertheless, Sỹ follows Cường and Thúy, because he has a hunch that they will lead him to the leader of the rebels.

Obviously, the film shouldn't bore you because its pace is quicker than that of Tran Anh Hung's movies. Besides, The Rebel's script doesn't resort to mindless plot twists. All in all, we're left with a simple storyline meant to be used as a feel-good movie. However, since the scriptwriters seemed to be in quite a rush, the development of the characters is a little bit sloppy. In fact, the scriptwriters give us the feeling that all they want to do is to lead us as quickly as possible to the movie's finale. Unfortunately, by doing so, they leave us with a relatively incomplete character development, because, for example, Cường's change of allegiance is too sudden. After all, we don't get to know much about Cường's own critique of the French colonial system or even his perception on Vietnamese nationalists (the same thing can be said about the Vietnamese villains in the movie).

Although the script is fairly good, the performance of the cast is a little bit unequal. Indeed, those who play our two heroes, who are Johnny Nguyễn (The Protector) and Ngô Thanh Vân, sometimes display stiff emotions in normal scenes of conversations despite all their efforts. In short, this is when you see their obvious lack of experience for playing scenes that are supposed to be dramatic and to convince us about the chemistry between them (if there's any). As strange as it might look, those who play the bad guys, be they French or Vietnamese, manage to be more convincing, especially Dustin Nguyễn (Heaven & Earth). Well, from what see, it must not be that hard to play a caricatured villain!

Anyway, if the unequal performance dismayed you a little bit, well, there's always the action scenes if you like entertainment. In fact, for us, Canadians (if not Westerners), this is a rare occasion to see Việt Võ Đạo, a spectacular and beautiful martial arts that is rarely seen here. Of course, what would a Việt Võ Đạo movie be without those strangling scissor kicks!

Finally, let's hope that the film will at least entertain you with its fight scenes (especially those at the beginning and the end). Although the development of the characters is thin, the actors do their best to play them. So, to describe The Rebel in a few words, it's a simple, entertaining and a little bit clumsy mix of martial arts and historical drama that hopefully isn't stupid. So, The Rebel is neither a masterpiece nor a trash.

Rating: 3/5


The Rebel
Vietnam (2007)
Length: 104 minutes
Genre: Action drama
Scriptwriters: Johnny Nguyễn, Charlie Nguyễn and Dominic Pereira
Director: Charlie Nguyễn
Starring: Johnny Nguyễn, Ngô Thanh Vân, Dustin Nguyễn, Nguyễn Thắng and Stéphane Gauger

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Die Another Day

To celebrate his 40th anniversary, the creators of James Bond promised us an outstanding movie that would change the franchise. However, while the film itself tries to be something, it gives us the feeling that it just came out straight from a Hollywood studio after we've gone halfway through Die Another Day. Here's one word to describe the film: action.

James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is sent in North Korea in order to find a link between the smuggling of conflict diamonds and colonel Moon. Betrayed and held in captivity by the North Korean regime for fourteen months, he's set free but is traded for Zao (Rick Yune). After he's released, Bond goes after Zao and is led to a millionaire, Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens), who possesses a satellite that can project a laser beam.

At the beginning, one may have many hopes that Die Another Day can be the best movie of the franchise. After all, we had the right to expect it given the bitter taste left by Tomorrow Never Dies and The World is not Enough. With that said, we expect in this movie more character development just to see how James Bond lives his post-captivity period, because the movie obeys too much to the same formula that has been applied in previous James Bond movies. Therefore, this movie just confirms that scriptwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade should have been fired a long time ago. In fact, while the story is extremely exciting, everything tends to become quite predictable in the middle. Besides, add to that the excessive focus on action scenes. In the end, while the movie progresses, one wouldn't care that much for the characters, but would rather wait for the action scenes to come.

Of course, one would probably say that few people watch a James Bond movie for a sophisticated script.

Hopefully, the performance delivered by the cast is just what you would normally expect from a James Bond movie: a very ordinary performance. Pierce Brosnan (GoldenEye) manages more or less to find a balance between a humour à la Roger Moore (The Spy who Loved Me) and a roughness à la Sean Connery (From Russia with Love). All in all, you should just expect Brosnan to display a line of incisive lines and shooting some bad guys. Halle Berry (Monster's Ball), who plays Jynx, just looks more like an ornament who delivers an ordinary performance.

In the end, if you really like entertainment, this movie should appeal to you. However, while Die Another Day is entertaining, it certainly won't revolutionize the franchise. After all, here are what you should expect from this movie: bland vilains, amazing action scenes, a thin script and an ordinary performance by the cast. All in all, Die Another Day is also a proof (before Casino Royale came out) that the franchise is getting exhausted and needs a reality check (because of its formula).

Rating: 3/5


Die Another Day
UK/USA (2002)
Length: 132 minutes
Genre: Espionage
Screenplay: Neal Purvis and Robert Wade
Director: Lee Tamahori
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rick Yune and Rosamund Pike

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

La peau blanche (White Skin)

Don't expect to see something as quick and terrifying as an Asian flick! For a first movie, Daniel Roby did his best to adapt Joël Champettier's novel and keep as smartly as he can the combination of sensuality and horror. In the end, we can say that his mission is accomplished. However, to call a cat a cat, this film, in comparison with the novel, does have a few plot holes.

Even though Thierry (Marc Paquet) met Claire (Marianne Farley), a girl with red hair, for a very short period of time, he madly falls in love for her. Indeed, he loves her even though Claire has a very pale skin (something that Thierry doesn't like). Although Claire implores Thierry to stay out of her life, they're both attracted to each other. However, as Thierry discovers that Claire's young sister savagely attacked Henri (Frédéric Pierre), his roommate and best friend, in a hotel, he starts wondering who Claire really is.

Strangely enough, La peau blanche takes a little bit of time to take off, that is to get to the story's point. Nonetheless, when the storyline gets to its point, that is the first time when Thierry meets Claire, the story becomes extremely interesting. Indeed, it even leaves some space for some unpredictable situations that avoid being idiotic in themselves. However, the execution of the script seems slightly sloppy, for the scriptwriters often take the easiest ways to make the movie progress: instead of relying on elaborated dialogues between Claire and Thierry during their first meeting, the scriptwriters make them fall in love for each other in a sudden way with few explanations. Besides, add to that the few plot holes that don't emphasize enough on who Claire and her family, in comparison to Thierry, really are unlike what we saw in the novel.

Despite the flaw in the script, La peau blanche manages to stay on track thanks to Joël Champetier's talent to build coherent, incisive and also deep dialogues in most parts of the movie. From that, comes the solid performance of the well-chosen cast. In fact, what is surprising here is that the actors, especially Marianne Farley and Marc Paquet, play their character in such a natural way that we feel disarmed. All in all, with a performance that renders just correctly any emotion, there's no need to ask more from the cast!

Finally, although one may find that La peau blanche doesn't contain a particularly memorable or scary scene per se, it's a movie that should be taken for what it is. In a few words, it's a relatively troubling "horror" movie that focuses more on its script (that can be a little bit predictable and thinly developed at times) instead of absolutely trying to frighten viewers and eventually fall into sheer stupidity. However, be reassured: if you like small-budget horror films and a fairly good script, I'm sure that this one will keep you pinned to your seat until the very end. Oh, and for the information, the DVD title of this film in the USA is Cannibal.

Rating: 3.5/5

La peau blanche
Canada (2004)
Length: 92 minutes
Genre: Thriller
Scriptwriters: Daniel Roby and Joël Champetier
Director: Daniel Roby
Starring: Marc Paquet, Frédéric Pierre, Marianne Farley, Jessica Malka and Julie LeBreton

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Spider-Man 3

With a third movie arriving in the franchise, the bar was already extremely high for this film. This can evidently be explained by the fact that the second instalment of the series met success both in the box office and worldwide critics. This third chapter of the Spider-Man is amusing to watch, without a doubt. Unfortunately, it’s not amusing for good reasons. Despite trying to look good, Spider-Man 3 is nothing more than a movie that could have been better.

While being in the midst of his glorious days, Spider-Man is being more and more appreciated by New Yorkers. During a night with Mary-Jane, Peter absorbs, without knowing it, a black substance from space. Moreover, when the substance takes effect, Peter notices that his powers are "enhanced", but his relatives notices that he's become more arrogant. Are Spider-Man's ideals (justice rather than vengeance) and Peter's relations threatened?

I certainly wanted to say to myself that Spider-Man 3 looks more mature than the two previous movies because of the theme that it deals with. To draw a comparison with the position of force occupied by the USA in world politics, Spider-Man 3 can be seen as a metaphor about the destructive effect of power. In the case of the movie, Peter Parker/Spider-Man becomes stronger after he absorbs a black substance coming from the space. However, Peter Parker does look like a brat who doesn't know how to use his power for good reasons. Of course, such a theme gives to the well-chosen cast the chance to push their thespian skills into deeper psychological abyss, especially when we think about how Peter's relatives react to his erupting arrogance.

Unfortunately, this is only the movie's beautiful façade, because the script hides some flaws. The first flaw is that the movie tries to have such a sombre tone that near the end, Spider-Man 3 becomes a little bit laughable. Secondly, while the film progresses too slowly toward the climax, we just feel that some of the main characters are over-developed. For instance, nobody needed to see the scene in which Peter dances in the street with black clothes, because we don't need to be told twice how arrogant the character is. Seriously, that scene could have been removed so that we can move on the to the climax! Aside from that example, the movie drags some long periods that add no dramatic interest to the film.

Finally, one may not like this film as much as the second instalment of the franchise. Hopefully, while the script has difficulty to progress smoothly, the cast's performance delivers a fine performance. To that matter, let's think about Thomas Haden Church (George of the Jungle), as Flint Marko/Sandman, who plays an interesting character always torn between the desire to hurt nobody and to unleash his brutality.

Rating: 3/5


Spider-Man 3
USA (2007)
Length: 140 minutes
Genre: Action/Fantasy
Scriptwriter: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi and Alvin Sargent
Director: Sam Raimi
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace and Bryce Dallas Howard

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War


While Taegukgi: The Brotherhood deals with the Korean War (1950-1953), the movie captivates us for its presentation of its historical topic and its extremely well-shot action scenes. Nonetheless, no matter how good the movie is, Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War is not necessarily a masterpiece because of some minor flaws in the script. Despite that, it still remains a watchable war movie.

The story follow two South Korean brothers. Jin-tae, a shoemaker and the elder, dropped out from school in order to work and to help his young brother, Jin-seok, to go to university. However, when North Korea invades South Korea, both brothers are compelled to join the army. On the battlefield, Jin-tae will do his best to protect his young brother. However, their bond will be tested by war.

Obviously, Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War is shot in the tradition of Hollywood's war movies (in the good sense of the term) because of its visual and technical aspect. However, unlike what we may think, the presence of some scenes - that are a war movie's trademark and adapted to the South Korean context - doesn't plague the movie: a soldier watching the picture of his girlfriend, a bunch of soldiers introducing themselves during a break, a student who joined the army out of patriotism, a radical anti-communist, etc. After all, American producers don't hold the monopoly on the right to re-create as realistically as possible the life of soldiers on the screen!

However, speaking about the script, the real weakness of the film is actually its attempt to be a little bit like Saving Private Ryan and especially Band of Brothers. In fact, while the script writers bothered to apply nuances in the evolution of the two brothers, we're left with a bunch of supporting characters (the South Korean soldiers who accompany Jin-tae and Jin-seok) that are almost as useful as Christmas ornaments. As a result of that, there are too much supporting characters meaning that we can hardly have any interest for them. Nevertheless, despite being bland on the edges and all made-up, these supporting characters are competently played by their respective actor.

All in all, Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War is one of those historical movies that you'd rather imagine as a miniseries.

Hopefully, scriptwriter Kang Je-gyu avoids to display exaggerated heroism on screen by actually showing how war can unfortunately instill violence in a soldier's mind. Although the movie mostly shows the South Korean point of view, Kang's script shows a lot of maturity by being relatively impartial. Therefore, don't expect a line to be drawn in order to say who are the bad and the good guys. In fact, the movie also shows bad behaviours coming from some South Korean soldiers: intending to kill disarmed North Korean soldiers or even violently mistreating them, for instance. In the end, although the film is not a documentary, I'm sure that it'll please to history buffs and action lovers alike.

Rating: 4/5


Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War
South Korea (2004)
Length: 140 minutes
Genre: War drama
Scriptwriter: Kang Je-gyu
Director: Kang Je-Gyu
Starring: Jang Dong-kun, Won Bin, Lee Eun-ju and Jang Min-ho

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Alphabet Meme

I thank Blake, from Bitchin' Film Reviews and Norma, from the Flick Chick, for tagging me in their own alphabet meme. In that game, which started here, you pick your favourite movie for each letter of the alphabet. Afterwards, you tag people to do it. Personally, I'd have liked to tag my friend SC if he had a blog. As you can see, I just don't recall seeing any movie beginning by "V" in the past ten years. As for the letter "P", since I'm a fan of war movies, my heart told me to put Passchendaele, but my personal judgement told me that Pulp Fiction should be there. Ok, here's my list and I hope you'll find something to watch for your week-end if any of these movies interest you:


B- Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

C- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

D- Dernier tunnel, Le


F- Face/Off

G- Grande séduction, La (Seducing Dr Lewis)

H- Hero

I- Infernal Affairs (2002)

J- Jurassic Park (the first movie)

K- Killer, The

L- Last Samurai, The

M- Maurice Richard (The Rocket)

N- No Man's Land (2001)

O- Ordres, Les (1974)

P- Pulp Fiction

Q- Quiet American, The

R- Road Home, The


T- Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War

U- Untergang, Der (The Downfall)

V- ?

W- Where the Truth Lies

X- X-Men 2: X-Men United


Z- Zwartboek (Black Book, 2006)



For the challenge, I tag:


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Curse of the Golden Flower

This could have been Zhang Yimou's finest film ever had it not been because of a minor flaw in the script. On a bright side, Curse of the Golden Flower is Zhang's visually most beautiful movie. After having tried to at least smartly entertain us with House of Flying Daggers, director Zhang Yimou (Hero) stays loyal to his newly built reputation and his first days as a director of the "Sixth Generation": giving us in a balanced way entertainment and sophistication.

Based on Cao Yu's (1910-1996) play Thunderstorm, the story takes place during the Tang Dynasty. On the eve of the Chong Yang Festival, the emperor (Chow Yun-Fat) and his second son, Prince Jai (Jay Chou), unexpectedly returns to the palace. The emperor wants to celebrate the holiday with his family. However, given the cold relation between the empress (Gong Li) and the emperor, the former secretly plans something to humiliate the latter and also to contribute to his downfall...

Unlike some of his movies from the 1990s, Zhang manages to set the tone right from the beginning with this story that takes place during the Tang Dynasty, a period of "glamour" and artistic ostentation. Thus, the movie follows the premise that behind gold and jade, there are rot and decay just to paraphrase an old Chinese proverb. Therefore, the movie actually evolves in a way that the main characters' secret are shown in order to illustrate the polarization that prevails within the Forbidden City.

However, the only thing that can be reproached to Curse of the Golden Flower is a mere plot hole. In fact, although the plot about the Emperor's first wife is used by the Empress as a tool of humiliation, we just never to thoroughly understand the back story between the Emperor and his first wife. Although the Empress has her own reason to want to prove that the Emperor has always been a bad husband and a liar, we just never understand what caused the "divorce" between the Emperor and his first wife. All in all, even though the movie wonderfully illustrates how divided (and dysfunctional) the Imperial family is, we get the feeling that some details are missing.

Hopefully, the performance by the cast is top notch. While Chow Yun-Fat (The Killer) is authoritative on screen, Gong Li (Farewell my Concubine) plays with a lot of nuances a manipulative woman who lives without regretting what she does. Moreover, add to that the breathtaking cinematography by Zhao Xiaoding (House of Flying Daggers) that reminds us Christopher Doyle's (Hero) style. As strange as it might look, the cinematography slightly masked the bitter taste left by the movie's plot hole.

Finally, Curse of the Golden Flower could have been Zhang Yimou's finest movie. However, anyone who appreciated Zhang Yimou's movies from the 1990s movies shouldn't be too disappointed. As for those who are looking for a martial arts flick, this movie is not recommended for you for there are not a lot of action scenes.

Rating: 4/5


Curse of the Golden Flower
China/Hong Kong (2006)
Length: 114 minutes
Genre: Historical drama
Screenplay: Zhang Yimou, Wu Nan and Bian Zhihong
Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Gong Li, Jay Chou, Liu Ye, Ni Dahong, Qin Junjie, Li Man and Chen Jin

Monday, October 27, 2008

Passchendaele

With a budget of $20 million (which makes it the most expensive 100% Canadian movie ever),* this epic film is rather well-balanced: not a masterpiece, but hopefully not lame. Yeah, let's be proud of it! Since last year, the movie came with high expectations. However, if there's any flaws at all, they're mostly in the middle of the movie.

The movie follows Sgt. Michael Dunne (Paul Gross), a member of the 10th Battalion (whose members were historically recruited from Calgary). After he's got diagnosed with neurasthasia, Michael is sent back to Canada to work as a recruiter. Moreover, he also meets Sarah Mann (Caroline Dhavernas), a nurse whom he falls in love with. However, when Michael learns that David (Joe Dinicol), Sarah's younger brother, joined the army out of patriotism, he also decides to go back on the battlefield to look after David.

Although Passchendaele might not win the Genie Award for the best movie, it sure rivals with Saving Private Ryan and Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War! Forget the Second World War (1939-1945), the Vietnam War (1964-1975) or the American point of view on any war: should this movie be released in other countries, Passchendaele could fill a void.

If we momentarily forget how the script is built, Passchendaele is an original movie and looks like it could have been a power house judging from the trailer. After all, how many films have you seen that deals with the First World War (1914-1919) or rather the bloodiest battle of that war? However, while the script is fairly good overall (despite being predictable at times) thanks to its breathtaking ending, its middle part slightly mars the film.

As a scriptwriter, Paul Gross doesn't seem to have the sense of priority when he deals with the movie's main plots: 1) the love story between Michael and Sarah; 2) David's burning desire to join the Canadian army. Indeed, while too much focus is put on the first plot, the second one is not as developed as it should have been. This makes us feel that the love story is a little bit corny at times since it is clumsily introduced to us. Besides, this kind of excessive attention given to the love story creates some long periods. A little bit of attention could have been given to illustrate even more the social pressure that young men, like David, faced to join the army at that time, in my opinion. Hopefully, while the story is the movie's heart, it's not as cheesy as the one in Pearl Harbor.

Obviously, if the cast did a good job with the lines they had, the performance were clearly unequal. While Paul Gross (Slings and Arrows; H2O) and Caroline Dhavernas (Hollywoodland) - who forms a wonderful couple on screen - shined with their performance, Joe Dinicol's (The Virgin Suicides) character is unfortunately victim of a one-dimensional treatment during most of the movie. In short, one may notice Caroline Dhavernas's talent to play a a character who represses a family secret (that partly explains David's desire to join the army).

Finally, Passchendaele is a movie shot in the pure Hollywoodian tradition (in the good sense of the term). The final battle scene alone is worth the price of your ticket! Moreover, for those who are not familiar with the First World War, the movie's finale shows us quite well how, at that time, people still fight - albeit with a few variations - like in the 19th century, this means having battalions fighting face to face.

Rating: 3.5/5

*: One may say that Nouvelle-France, with a budget of $33 million, is the most expansive Canadian movie ever. Nonetheless, unlike Passchendaele, Nouvelle-France is a Canadian, French and British co-production.


Passchendaele
Canada (2008)
Length: 114 minutes
Genre: War drama
Screenplay: Paul Gross
Director: Paul Gross
Starring: Paul Gross, Caroline Dhavernas, Joe Dinicol, Jim Mezon, Meredith Bailey and Adam Harrington

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Young People Fucking

Here comes the review of the most talked about Canadian movie of this year. That's the type of movie that you rent just to laugh after a day at work. What is there to say about this film that came out on DVD on the day of the Canadian federal election (October 14, 2008)? The title does contain a vulgar slang. Despite that, this movie is graphically nothing compared to Atom Egoyan's Where the Truth Lies.

Shot in Toronto, the movie interwines the story of four couples and a threesome. Matt and Kristen are best friends, but on one night, they both end up in bed. Abby decides to make love with Andrew, her husband, on his birthday, but he doesn't seem to be in the mood for it... Mia and Eric meet up for a one-off after having broken up some time back. Jamie brings Ken in her apartment. Gord and his girlfriend Inez invites Gord's roomate, Dave, to have sex with Inez while Gord watches.

The movie Young People Fucking was presented at the Toronto International Film Festival, but the former hopefully doesn't try to take itself too seriously. Even though Martin Gero's first flick is better than some American comedies, we shouldn't expect this film to be a masterpiece. In fact, Young People Fucking is, at best, a chain of funny lines that will obviously make you laugh. Moreover, these lines - while some of them are not necessarily original - avoid being simplistic and vulgar. Indeed, the beauty of Young People Fucking's humour probably lies in a sort of effect that you expect from some of Quentin Tarantino's movies: you just don't see these lines coming because they may look like a conversation that you may have had!

However, while the movie doesn't contain that much dramatic moments, it distinguishes itself from most of its American competitors by dealing with its topic in a mature way. In fact, how many movies (maybe with the exception of Kinsey) have you seen that deals with all the problems related to romantic relations and sexuality? However, the main weakness of the movie lies in the relatively thin development of the characters, which looks quite contrived at times just to deliberately make all kinds of situations happen. For instance, in the plot involving "The Exes", who are Mia and Eric, the scriptwriters don't elaborate that much on the feelings that these two characters still have for each other despite having broken up.

Despite these flaws, the movie is well served by Martin Gero's competent directing and the cast's performance that shows a lot of enthusiasm at work. However, if the actors do play quite well, it's definitely not because the lines are hard to play! Of all, the actors I really enjoyed the performance of Kristin Booth (who deals with the psychologically most elaborated character), Aaron Abrams and Carly Pope (who are both great in mastering the humour behind their lines).

Finally, for all those people out there, while Young People Fucking openly deals with sex, don't expect to see a XXX movie! If you want something better than most American comedies, then rent this film and you wouldn't regret it if you do like to laugh a little bit.

Rating: 3/5


Young People Fucking
Canada (2008)
Length: 90 minutes
Genre: Comedy
Screenplay: Martin Gero and Aaron Abrams
Directed by: Martin Gero
Starring: Aaron Abrams, Carly Pope, Diora Bird, Callum Blue, Sonja Bennett, Josh Cooke, Kristin Booth, Josh Dean, Ennis Esmer, Natalie Lisinska and Peter Oldring

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Que Dieu bénisse l'Amérique

With this movie, Quebecker director Robert Morin (Le Nèg) remains loyal to his reputation: while wanting to provoke, the story he came up with is average. Moreover, this movie is not much of an effective thriller.

September 11, 2001: In Laval, a suburb to the North of Montreal, Pierre St-Roch, a men who's taken for a paedophile, is thrown out of his house by his wife to whom he claims his innocence. Pierre faces the silent and negative judgement of his neighbours. Moreover, they fear him even more given that a list of sexual delinquents is illegally pinned on street lamps. However, things don't look too good when three of the five listed sexual delinquents are brutally killed and maimed by a vigilante...

As you read the movie's summary, you probably feel interested to rent this movie. With an interesting premise, Que Dieu bénisse l'Amérique had a chance to be a worthy precursor of the outstanding Canadian TV series Durham County. However, from the beggining to the story third quarter, this film is almost a flash in the pan mainly because of the approach used by Morin to deal with the story's subject, that is criminality in the suburbs. In short, this film is an example that looks (i.e. the cover) can be really deceptive.

Obviously, Morin doesn't seem interested to closely deal with the movie's premise. As a result of that, this film seems to get away from what ought to be its chief purposes: dealing in a balanced way with 1) vigilantism against sexual delinquents and 2) a neighbourhood's reaction toward a criminal of that kind, given that the suburbs often give us the feeling that nothing wrong can happen. In addition to that, as a movie that is supposed to be a thriller, there's actually no suspense that grips us and the film often looks like a satire that fails to make us laugh.

In fact, the story excessively focus on the characters' reaction (while knowing that they may be living near a criminal) by looking at the most insignificant aspects of their life (i.e. shopping, driving, etc.). As a result of that, we get useless sub-plots that create many long periods since the movie has way too much main characters per se. Moreover, these sub-plots give us the feeling that the criminal investigation (i.e. looking for both the mysterious vigilante and the sexual predator) is ignored thanks to most of the dialogues that are not appropriate for the movie's context. All in all, the ideal method would certainly have consisted in focusing a little bit more on the two cops who are quite well played by Gildor Roy and Patrice Dusseault.

Despite these flaws, the movie's finale seems to be the only moment when Que Dieu bénisse l'Amérique is interesting at all. However, the identity of the mysterious vigilante seems to be given away so that the movie can end. Hopefully, one may regret a little bit less renting this movie. In fact, the performance of the cast is good even though their characters form a caricature of suburbans.

Rating: 3/5

***

Que Dieu bénisse l'Amérique
Canada (2006)
Length: 105 minutes
Genre: Dramatic thriller
Screenplay: Robert Morin
Directed by: Robert Morin
Starring: Gildor Roy, Patrice Dusseault, Sylvie Léonard, Sylvain Marcel, Marika Lhoumeau, Gaston Lepage and René-Daniel Dubois

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A New Orientation for this Blog

As you're all aware, I've been questioning since this summer my interest for politics. Where am I after all of this? Obviously, though I still keep myself posted about what's going on in politics, I'm just not as interested by it as I used to be. This in part due not just to the way politicians tarnish politics, but also to the way our media covers politics as a whole.


Speaking about the media, what makes me less inclined to share with you my opinions on politics? Here are the main reasons:


  1. Bad research. While political journalism and "columnism" (if that word exists) in English Canada is relatively top-notch, the same thing can't be said about Quebec's media. In fact, most of Quebec's political columnists, though they can be better, don't do enough research to support what they say. Here are some examples. In Quebec, most political columnists think that Canada is a secular country (let me laugh!). Secondly, in a footage of Radio-Canada (the French-speaking equivalent of CBC), while Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, was labelled by a journalist (not a columnist, mind you!) as a "progressist", Michelle Bachelet, the president of Chile, was labelled as a "moderate progressist". I'm sorry, but is state interventionism at all cost - no matter what you do - an absolute requirement to be seen under a nice day? Thirdly, many Quebecker journalists believe that no movies and TV series are produced in English Canada (no offence, but those who said that should give me their journalism certificate). Fourthly, while some newspapers and media outlets of English Canada took the time to expose Obama's and McCain's political ideas, Quebec media (no surprise here) concentrated mostly on Obama's public image (i.e. charisma).

  2. Excessive focus on polls. Seriously, do I need to read at least three times a week in the same newspaper how "popular" a political party is? Unlike a hockey column where you may say whatever you want on a team (its offencive or defencive improvements or regression, for instance), the same thing can't necessarily be said about an analysis of a poll. For instance, what explains the "popularity" of the Liberals, for example? Well, it seems that the only explanations that pollsters can give you is this (a fictitious broadcasted dialogue): "You know Pierre [Bruneau], says Jean-Marc Léger, the Liberals are extremely popular in the centre and the West of Montreal (no, you're kidding?!!??). However, as you move outside of the Island, you notice that the Tories put up a good fight. Besides in some rural areas, Harper has a good chance of making a breakthrough." Dude, I don't give a business about a party's regional popularity; is it too much to ask from our "pundits" to analyze a party's ideas?

  3. Excessive focus on insults between politicians. Whether you read an English Canadian or a Quebecker newspaper, you often see a big coverage of an insult that a politician threw at the other. Is it seriously important? As far as I'm concerned, insults thrown between politicians should only be the object of a small snippet.


So, I hereby announce you that my blog will now be a cultural blog. Ha, ha, I can hear some people say that they'll no longer read my blog. Rest assured, when I'll feel like doing it, I WILL post something on politics. Thus, what should you mostly expect from me in the future? Movie reviews along with news on what's going in the movie and the television industry. Of course, from time to time, I will share with you a few thoughts on what I've read (books).

Finally, let me tell you that although my interest for politics did wane a little bit, it's always been a pleasure for me to share with you my views on politics. Of course, even though that blog has often created some controversies, I will always be thankful to my friends Léonard and SC (and other unmentioned people) for 1) always expressing their disagreement without making hasty judgement of personal values (ex: You advocate French-style secularism? Rot in hell, you @$£*& Jacobin!); and 2) showing their support for this blog (even though they mostly don't agree with the content).

To all my readers (present and potential), welcome to the second version of my blog. I hope that you'll like the new orientation that the blog took. Who knows? Maybe a movie review of mine has the potential to make you react more or less the same way some of my political views do ;-)

Yours friendly,

Anh Khoi

Friday, October 10, 2008

Stardom

Without its interesting premise Stardom wouldn't be worth watching. However, the movie might displease many people.

Despite his talent, director Denys Arcand is also able to give us questionable movies. With the approach that he used, he thought that he'll come with a great movie.

The story follows Tina Menzhal (Jessica Paré), a girl from Cornwall (Ontario), a small Canadian town. During a hockey game, Tina is spotted by a sport photographer. As her picture goes around the world, Tina instantly becomes a celebrity. On her journey, she becomes the protégé of Bruce Taylor (Robert Lepage), a worldwide-known fashion photograph. However, as she knows fame, Tina's intimacy is constantly under attack, which will lead to her fall as a star.

One would have the feeling that Stardom plays very well with its premise. As a matter of fact, through this mildly funny film, Arcand proposes a rather strong reflexion on how our imbecile consumer society worship celebrities like any products. As a satire, Stardom is shot like a "mocumentary" that mocks talk show animators, entertainment journalists and the media as a whole. From Tina's visits and the opening of clubs, talk shows (in the like of Oprah Winfrey's) or appearances in fashion magazine, the mass media's flaws are well shown, albeit in a very exagerated way.

Nevertheless, no matter how funny it might look, Stardom is rather a failed "mocumentary". Indeed, unlike some - let's change the genre - a docudrama like Michel Brault's outstanding Les ordres, Stardom hardly seems to have a story and is a little bit too predictable. Just to give you an idea, Stardom is nothing more than a slide show of scenes that are only here to ridicules mass medias. Unfortunately, this slide show does not necessarily serve the purpose of building of coherent storyline, for some scenes don't have a logical link between them.

With that said, Stardom suffers in the execution of its script. While we switch from the "interviews" of characters (as we can see it "mocumentaries") and the story's scenes, all we see, from our own point of view (as a viewer), is what Tina is living during a moment (being interviewed by journalists or chased by paparazzis, for instance). Unfortunately, it's surprising to see that Arcand doesn't actually focus on Tina's feelings.

As a result of that, we see that Arcand doesn't seize his chance to propose us a reflexion through the development of characters. Indeed, even though Tina do say that people sees her as a product without caring for her humanity, she only does it through bland dialogues/monologues. Besides, she often repeats the same remarks on her feelings throughout the movie. In the end, we don't get to see how Tina feels when she becomes a celebrity and how she lives her fame. In a nutshell, Arcand seems better in capturing shocking scenes rather than telling a good story.

Hopefully, one might find solace in the incredibly funny performance by the cast. However, let's have in mind that their performance is just a caricature that still can't make the movie an enjoyable ride.

Rating: 2.5/5

***

Stardom
Canada/France (2000)
Length: 103 minutes
Genre: Comedy
Screenplay: Denys Arcand and Jacob Potashnik
Starring: Jessica Paré, Robert Lepage, Dan Aykroyd and Camilla Rutherford



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