Archive for May, 2011

Happy Fun Super Hard Boiled Review Show…

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Hard Boiled is a Hong Kong action movie that to be honest, if I’d seen it in the shop, I probably would’ve passed over it. However, both my teacher (I tend to trust his tastes) and my friend recommended it to me, so when I saw the budget version I had to pick it up. It was only a pound, after all. Although I was aware of John Woo as a name in the directing world, and I was aware of the references to him and this movie in Hot Fuzz, somehow I missed watching the movie itself before this.

Wow. I was not prepared for it at all.

There is one shot that comes in early that tells you exactly what kind of movie this is. It’s also when you get an idea of how impossible some of this stuff must’ve been to think of, never mind shoot. The main shot that will have you screaming “WHAT.” at the screen is a shot of Chow Yun Fat (who, incidentally, has gotten a more oval head with age) sliding down a bannister while firing two guns at the same time in the first five minutes.

The movie is about a typical cowboy cop known as Tequila (I’m not sure why). His friend dies in a raid on a teahouse (where the aforementioned bannister-sliding takes place) so he decides to take his revenge on Johnny Wong, the crime boss. Who for some reason (apparently it was due to a subplot that got abandoned) has his base in a hospital, leading to the famous hospital shoot-out.

On the opposing side is an undercover cop named Tony (I think) who is obviously conflicted about what he does, and the fact that people who should be his colleagues want to kill him. There’s nice banter between the main characters as they get together, leading to a Buddy Love scenario (the friendship type, not the ‘Nutty Professor’ type).

The story doesn’t really matter that much though. You come for the standard story, and stay for the explosions and gunplay (or you come for the explosions and gunplay and stay for those elements; in that case I applaud you for knowing where your priorities lie), which at times looks like smoothly choreographed ballet – perhaps an inspiration for the “Gun Kata” of Equilibrium? The sequence leading up to the ending, where the place explodes, is nothing short of masterful.

Something that adds a hilarious layer to the film is the really obvious dub from Mandarin Chinese to English. Actors’ mouth’s flap long after they’re finished talking and I’m pretty sure the villain has a British accent at some point. My teacher told me not to watch the dubbed version (apparently there’s a subtitled version out there) but arguably the poor dubbing quality makes it better. It’s about as funny as my girlfriend’s copy of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which for some reason couldn’t decide whether the characters were saying Peking or Beijing. (The subtitles said one thing while the characters said another.)

Much like Die Hard, this is definitely a guy movie; one to watch with your mates and occasionally riff on. This is a movie that makes aspirations at delivering life messages and being deep, but they knew exactly what the casual viewer wanted. And by God the filmmakers gave it to them with both barrels. This comes absolutely recommended; two guns up.

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Why I Prefer Doing Film Or DVD Reviews…

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

The main reason that I prefer doing film and dvd reviews is a commitment of time involved. With a DVD or film, it’s fairly easy to watch and review quite quickly. It generally just requires a free day to watch the item in question then write a review about it. Whereas with books, you are asked to commit yourself to long periods of time to actually finish the thing (because I don’t want to be one of those reviewers who does the bare minimum in terms of research) and then have to write a review about it. Indeed, this is the main reason I used to not do them at all. There was a period of time when I had 2 book reviews on my blog and maybe 3 on Blogcritics. Then I started reviewing a lot more books, one of which I’ve just put into pending. I think I have about five coming my way at the moment, all in all. Doing reviews for publishers outside of the normal process is a good way to get in their good books so I oblige every so often and sometimes some genuinely good books come along (see my reviews of 33 Days, Riding The Alligator or Ultimate Regeneration).

I also vastly prefer the DVDs I get sent generally, as among other things that I’ve been able to review for Blogcritics, I’ve reviewed Doctor Who Series 5, The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air Season 6 and the rather excellent Buried.

The other reason that I don’t like doing book reviews as much is that the author is a lot more likely to read the feedback than a film-maker, because those are typically offered through representatives (one company, Noble PR, seem to exist solely to send me horror movies). However, self-published authors interact with me through email when they’re actually sending me the books. Obviously I don’t like hurting people’s feelings but I appreciate that sometimes it has to be done in the name of honesty. I think I’ll be the worst kind of reviewer when I stop caring about other people’s feelings. And I’ll be honest, quite a lot of the time I get sent crap, although that ratio is starting to even out as I get better at picking out the good ones.

(Incidentally, I almost never do music album reviews at all. I just appreciate the free promos.)

It Was His Sled…

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

Just for my WordPress (and Facebook) readers to coincide (near enough) with its 70th anniversary, here is my exclusive review of Citizen Kane, a movie with one of the most famous spoiler endings in history. In fact, it’s so well known, it’s no longer a spoiler!

Commonly hailed as one of the best movies of all time, it’s not really surprising that the newcomer might be a bit intimidated. However, I think I am hardly alone in saying that this movie is not the best of all time (although reviews are subjective). Good, certainly, and very well made, but not the best of all time (in my mind, that honour belongs to The Man From Earth or Star Wars Episode IV). The film is hard to describe in one sentence, but if I had to, I’d say it’s “a film about a reporter trying to find out the secret of a newspaper mogul’s last word (“Rosebud”) through flashbacks”. Actually, I think I did admirably. An appreciation of classic film is needed, as it might not hold the attention of viewers used to explosions, gunfights and the comedy of Jack Black.

Interesting fact about Rosebud as a name. The film took inspiration from William Randolph Hearst (whose daughter held up a bank in an example of Stockholm Syndrome), whose nickname for his mistress’ clitoris was, you guessed it, Rosebud.

There are good performances all round, and I have to say that my personal highlight was seeing Old Jed in the nursing home, when he keeps asking for cigars on the sly. Not forgetting the performance of Welles himself, of course. (Incidentally, I’ve heard a radio talk that he was in with H.G. Wells in 1942 or so. One was a potential Darth Vader, and the other sounded very much like Droopy from the Tex Avery cartoons.)

However, where this film excels is the use of filmic techniques. The first shot of the film is a fade into the house of Xanadu, with the light from one of the same windows always in the same place in the frame, no matter the angle, which is an impressive achievement. He also mimicked one of the old-style newsreels and made it look authentic. What films don’t do enough of nowadays is the one-shot, a continuous shot throughout the scene. Cuts are preferred instead and are easier to do as you can cut between them in the edit suite.

This movie is best appreciated as a study on cinematic techniques, what came afterwards and how people improved on the ideas developed here. It also helps that it is an interesting story and that Orson Welles has one of the best voices I’ve ever heard. Seriously, the man could have been paid to read the phone book. It’s not like he was shy about taking voice-over work in his later years. If you’re ever on a film studies course, this film is a must. As it’s a classic, it shouldn’t be too hard to find (I believe it’s on iPlayer for the next day or so). Comes recommended from your friendly neighbourhood reviewer.