Sunday, 30 August 2015

CHINESE FILM REVIEW: DRAGON BLADE 3D


4/5

It is 48 BC and Huo An is a disgraced head of so-called SILK ROAD PROTECTION SQUAD. As brave as he is kind hearted, he fights for the benefits of the others. When faced with Roman General and his squad, escaping Rome after a coup, he lets them into the GOOSE GATE, a ruined fortress he is forced to rebuilt as a punishment for a crime he did not commit. Here he makes a great friend in the face of Lucius (John Cusack). Together they work hard to rebuild the city. But the Roman legion, led by villainous Tiberius (Adrian Brody), approaches the GOOSE GATE. Will a handful of warriors be able to stand against the army of Rome?

The correct translation of the movie is “CELESTIAL GENERAL, HEROIC ARMY”, it is more suitable name to this giant epic deserving an IMAX screen. The enjoyment of DRAGON BLADE requires total suspension of disbelief. One of the characters calls the story of Huo An “an engrossing fairy tale” and this is exactly what it is. If you want a historical movie - look elsewhere. But if you love good conflicts, some great good acting and impressive battle scenes   - DRAGON BLADE is your sort of a movie.

Jon Cusack and Adrian Brody are English speaking Romans, but as believable as it could possibly be.  Both characters are charged with charisma, which gives in particular Adrian Brody’s villain an unexpected depth.

DRAGON BLADE is a perfect adventure movie. It is long, its impressive, and it is never boring. Jackie Chan as Hua An, a kind hearted but tough protagonist, seem to slip into his character, like into a well worn shoes - it is not easy to portrait an innocence of a middle age warrior and be believable in the role.

On the down side, the films message of how we all have to try to understand each other to end all wars, is harshly and relatedly pushed down our throats.

DRAGON BLADE has many attributes of a family movie, but on the other hand it is full of bloody violence (not the type we see on GAME OF THRONES, but still). Many choreographic and singing moments in the film are welcome, but there are plenty of flashbacks to them - which can get tiresome. While I did not mind the movies lengthy screen time, but they could have cut out a fifteen minutes or so to speed up the action.


Overall DRAGON BLADE does not need to prove anyone anything. With 65 million budged it did double in china alone and only opens in America in September. This is a fantasy epic Chinese style,  and can be compared to the final in THE HOBBIT trilogy: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES. With brilliant cinematography and larger than life story telling, it is one film from China not to be missed this year.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

KOREAN MOVIE REVIEW: THE SILENCED


4/5

The year is 1938. Young Korean girl Ju-Ran arrives to a remote boarding school. She is sickly and unlikable and is not accepted by her classmates, until one of the girls shows her kindness and becomes her friend. Together they try to unravel the mysterious happenings at the school. Are the ghosts to blame for the disappearance of their classmates, or something else, even more sinister is going on?

Like many Korean films THE SILENCED is a bit of a genre blend, with gothic motives prevailing, it starts as a coming of age drama with a mystery twist, and succumbs by its end to a full range mayhem the type seen in Carrie.

This movie is all about style: the costumes, the details, the surrounding - all dreamlike and fascinating. The photography is stunning and every frame is a pleasure to look at. The atmosphere is also spot on, and the menace lurking in the air is almost delicious. Building the anticipation to something staggering to be revealed in the end, the film;s explanation for the “supernatural” is a little disappointing, but done right. 

The characters are well defined. The friendship between the two abandoned girls, which is the focus of the film, is touchingly authentic. But the real reason to watch THE SILENCED is Um Ji-won as a headmaster. She commands every scene she is in and her enigmatic smile is as beautiful as it is psychotic. Her performance defines a perfect thin line between charm and insanity.


THE SILENCED has one problem - it is not at all scary, and while it will stir your emptions and make you care, it is hard to find much suspense here. Targeted at a younger audience, THE SILENCED is an engaging ride, but is too timid for a horror movie.

Friday, 28 August 2015

MOVIE REVIEW: ATTACK ON TITAN



31/2/5

A hundred years from now creatures called TITANS had destroyed the world, pushing humanity behind the giant walls. Eren Jaeger is twenty something young man who dreams of one day leaving his home country and see beyond the walls. He does not believe in the existence of the Titans. But that is all about to change as the wall is suddenly breached, letting the monstrous creatures in…

Attack on Titan is an incredibly popular manga and anime series and created a huge following all around the world. While movie remains true to the story’s major check points, it re-imagines the original plot in many ways. Just like in the source material, we get the usual trio of young, wide-eyed innocent friends, who face unimaginable horror sand have to become a part of the fullscale war against the dangers they don’t fully understand. But the movie leaves out most of melodramatic moments, focusing on action and horror.

This year’s MAD MAX showed us the new ways of establishing characters and conflicts through action, but this is not what happened in ATTACK ON TITAN. The young actors stumble awkwardly into their roles of cliché characters: a hero, a hero’s side kick, a hero’s girlfriend and so on.  The show stealers here are monstrous TITANS. While using plenty of CGI TOHO studios made a decision to use real people (similarly it happened in the early GODZILLA and GAMERA movies).  Titans look extremely realistic, but also weird, as if child’s awkward drawings had come to life. The kills are very gory with tons of CGI blood splattered across the screen and as a horror movie ATTACK ON TITAN is quite unique.  But the action is stalling a little - the flying devices the soldiers use to battle TITANS may have worked in the animation series, but hardly seem realistic in this live action adaptation. Coming unchanged from the pages of the original manga, these weapons just do not seem practical enough and should have been re-imagined a little to make them more believable.

If you look at ATTACK ON TITAN independently from its original source, you will get a rather “cool” movie, a sort of Japanese “WALKING DEAD” with giant zombies. For the unprepared the movie’s ending is a “jaw dropper”. The crazy twist will be left unexplained, so get ready to see the second film.


Overall ATTACK ON TITAN is a rather interesting horror movie, with some innovative technics and style, but it lacks “the epic feel” that was expected from the beloved anime and manga, and can hardly stand alone without its follow up to be released later this year.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

MOVIE REVIEW: AMY


4/5

Amy Winehouse had been a wild child even before she made the news or number one charts around the globe. What lies beneath her incredible talent? When we get up close, who are the judges when a young person's destiny is on the scales? And despite Amy's great talent and riches, those scales are not tilting in her favour.

There is an important thing that the documentary by Asif Kapadia had achieved, and it is making the audience to identify with a legend. The doubts, the pain, the happiness and the magical moments of being on top of the world - it is all real in a clever composition of family archive videos, rare footage and recordings. 
While Amy's father Mitch Winehouse referred to the film as "preposterous", the documentary is a treasured portrait of a disturbed and vulnerable artist, who had travelled a long journey from being a club singer to the great heights of the world's fame. This documentary's deceptively simple layout and cinematography gives you a cinematic understanding, what it was like to be Amy Winehouse and a better comprehension of the outcome of her life.

With a single criticism of being too long, AMY is a better biopic than an acting re-imagining could afford. Gearing to a heart wrenching final, the tragedy will not leave you unscarred. There's little could be done to change the flow of the events in Amy's life, and without greater focus on higher topics, the film touches lightly upon inevitability of fate.

As the choices are made and the dust is settled, we get one raw life story and a legend to aspire to. With its focus and precision, AMY is a hallmark of documentary making, that gives us the portrait of this great artist the way she deserves.