Watching this film the other day, I was amazed that it was made just four years after the end of World War Two – the most destructive and devastating war in history. Many veterans of the conflict, especially those who were lucky enough to have survived the Battle of Iwo Jima, would have seen this in the theatre when it was released. I wonder what they would have thought of it? Obviously, given the year that it was made, the film couldn’t portray the horrors of war with realistic intensity like many modern day films do, or even portray the real attitudes of the men who fought in this theatre (Just watch how the men talk and act in this, and then watch the same men in Tom Hank’s “The Pacific”). “Sands of Iwo Jima” stars John Wayne in a typical stereotypical role as the tough-as-nails sergeant John Stryker, who has a drinking problem. He receives a batch of new recruits to train in the Pacific, before they head off to Tarawa and later, to the infamous and iconic battle of Iwo Jima, in which over 5,000 Americans lost their lives for a small volcanic island.
One thing I’ll praise this film for is how it handles it’s romantic subplot. Usually, war films from this period in history deliver soppy, unrealistic and distracting love subplots. But the romance here, which happens when Stryker and his men are on R&R in either Australia or New Zealand, is handled well and doesn’t burden the rest of the movie. The romance in question is between Conway (John Agar) and Allison (Adele Mara).
The fighting on Tarawa is done very well, thanks to some real footage that was edited in really well. In takes almost an hour for battles to start, and Iwo Jima is only during the last twenty minutes or so. I give “Sands of Iwo Jima” a high rating because I consider it to be a fine war film considering how the WW2 was only over about five years when it was released, and it did manage to deliver some realistic war scenes and most of the characters were realistic enough. Their attitudes and actions may be a bit fake, but come on, it was the 1940’s. The American people couldn’t see how their men really felt while fighting the war (“The Pacific” portrays the real attitudes and actions, I believe), but instead a gung-ho and extremely patriotic movie headed by John Wayne was what was needed to add to the glory of the Allies triumph in the war. The last line of the film, delivered by the most unlikeliest Private, certainly got emotions and patriotic emotions flowing back in the day – “Let’s get back in the war!”
Something of a touch from random that allowed to take this single picture, almost without any previous preparation as improvised it was the feeling on it with a leaned flag, observed by an infinite stand on the land of the battle with the corpses and the wounded imposing the framework of the composition, inspiring plenitude and the strength of tired muscles after great losses of human beings there in that war. It became one of the few most popular photographs of the WWII, the moment of high intensity and dramatic tension also on this movie and too a great chance for the almost anonymous survivors in it, as though in statuesque kind of stressing immobility for a second by a single imperfect shot and quite dark on the bottom of the slope, because the mental foolish of the death toll in it but bypassed by a few men up and down as mere working boundary of living.
Lundgrun is an American who was raised in Japan while Lee is a Japanese raised in America. This actually makes an interesting mix as Lundgrun expects Lee to have a lot of traditional Japanese traits, where the only traits he has is fast food and fast cars and Lee sees Lundgrun as somebody who is caught up in pointless tradition that should be thrown away in exchange for fun. Lundgrun is also the cop that can’t keep partners, and we expect Lee to be the naive new cop on the beat, and then we find out that he is actually a lot like Lundgrun, a cop that can’t keep partners. As such they get on really well, and the dialogue that jumps between them in this movie is very well done. It is a shame that Brandon Lee’s career was cut so short by the accident in the Crow because Lee is actually quite a good actor. As I said in Legacy of Rage, if it wasn’t for the stupid action sequences at the end, the movie would have been quite good. From what I remember of the Crow, he acting ability was actually very good.
This enforced the funny tongue and cheek dialog between them which makes it enjoyable to watch. That particular element, the writing, I found to be written well. Together, these two “officers” of the law are trying to rid L.A. of the vicious Yakuza of Japan led by Yoshida (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa). Tagawa was a great choice as the leader, he has a truly menacing presence when he’s on screen. It’s also appropriate that he plays that role because Tagawa is Japanese. Though it is funny how this isn’t the first time Lundgren has fought the Yakuza either. He also did it in The Punisher (1989),…do they have something against him?
Like any Dolph Lundgren movie though, there’s bound to be plenty of fist and gunfights. What may surprise people even more is how heavy some of the action scenes are. Apparently the 79 minutes of running time was the cut version, meaning the uncut version was much heavier (lengthier too). It actually stunned me a little to see such a lighthearted duo face off against such a brutal enemy. Tango & Cash (1989) was rated R but even the violence there was light compared to this. That’s not to say it wasn’t entertaining – far from it. I also liked David Michael Frank’s score to the film. It’s definitely no orchestra but he creates a main theme for the film and even it gives it a Japanese like feel to it, which was much appreciated.
Going back to the running time though, this movie should’ve been left uncut for release. The movie plays out very well yet the story feels so rushed like there were parts that were supposed to be included in the story (which their were, but were cut). This film could have had that and its frustrating when a good film is lowered in quality when the important parts are cut. Perhaps audiences could have seen even more development between Lee and Lundgren, that way this duo would be just as memorable as any other buddy cop duo. It’s not to say they acted badly but there’s always room to grow.
Judging animated films is significantly more difficult for me than other films because there is this inherent sense that animated films are made for children, as opposed to for adults. And that in reviewing animated films, standards should be different. Now while I do think that it does make sense for animated films to follow different criteria, I also think that at its core all films should have the same standards for quality based on some fundamental aspects of storytelling.
My problem with Big Hero 6 is that it does not push the genre in any new or novel direction, unless you count giving your characters Japanese names a step towards globalization. Which on a side note, is probably the only thing Japanese about them. Now this might seem a little unfair, but this revolutionizing quality does consistently happen even in the field of animation. For example, Japanese animation greats such as Hayao Miyazaki or Satoshi Kon have been able to imbue their films with wondrous worlds and impeccably novel plots. We also see this in American animation such as in the films of Pixar, like Wall-E or Up or the Toy story series, in that they create fascinating narratives and fill them with insanely memorable characters. Even within Disney’s own canon, they’ve been able to make some pretty good animated films. I wasn’t a big fan of Frozen, but it did side step the trope of the princess needing a happy ever after with a man, so that was something.
Instead, Big Hero 6 decides to be a cliché-filled franchise-potential-heavy superhero movie. Think: animated avengers but with teenagers and gadgets. Take the best and worst things about Disney and Marvel, and cram them into one movie, and that’s Big Hero 6. While that does sound pretty cool when I say it like that, the plot does get exceedingly predictable and stale. To be fair though, Big Hero 6 does also do some things pretty well . The alternate world of San Fransokyo that the animators create in the film is really gorgeously animated, and so are all the other environments that Hiro and his gang explore throughout the film. Even the technology in the film, in Japanese fashion, is very meticulously designed and fun to see. And in terms of memorable characters, Hiro Hamada is a pretty distinct protagonist, in that he isn’t like the normal passive character trope that is so common in animated films. I’m not that familiar with the original Big Hero 6 comic that this film was based on, so I’m not sure how much of Hiro’s character was directly pulled from the comics, and how much was new for the film. The problem though is in the supporting cast, with every other character, especially the ones in Hiro’s group, devoid of any characterization at all, apart from some silly nicknames.
But what truly elevates this movie from being just a decent one is the character of Baymax. And he really is one hell of a character. If you guys have seen the trailers, Baymax is the name of the fat white marshmallow like blob machine thing that acts as Hiro’s main companion throughout the film. I don’t want to spoil anything, but Baymax steals every single scene that he is in, and there are a lot of funny gags and sweet moments that center around his character, in a sort of similar way that Groot did in this year’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Baymax has a couple of similarities to Groot, not only in his function in the film as a show-stopping side gag, but partly also in his role in the plot in the second half of the film.
The album Biophilia was release a couple of years ago, met with rave reviews. In her acclaimed concert tour, with a mini narration by David Attenborough, Biophilia not only conquered in portraying the artists latest album, but ranged into a back catalogue of tunes. Adorned in an exquisite outfit that mirrored both extra terrestrial and interstellar life, yet honed in on the earthly elements, Bjork performed with enough passion that enthused out of the Icelandic singer’s vocals. Awash with a sea of an affectionate and excitable audience, all cheering along to the set list, this was a concert movie unlike any other.
Nature, music and technology are melded together is the sound of Biophilia. For the concert filmed at Alexander Palace Björk is joined on stage by a percussionist, a tech guy, a menagerie of specially designed instruments and an Icelandic choir. These instruments were especially designed by the singer for the recording and performance of the album. These are wonderful inventions – Gravity Pendulum Harp, Sharpsicord, MIDI controlled pipe organ, Gameleste and musical Tesla coil. I’m a bit of a geek about musical instruments so I could have just watched these for the entire film.
The fabulous live show not only looks amazing but sounds it too. There are very few artists like Björk who can capture and captivate such a large live audience through her charisma and stage presence alone. The images, going out on huge screens above the stage during the concert, are periodically merged in with the performance. The weakest point is when they take centre stage. The images themselves are not strong enough as a whole to command the attention, and you feel like you’re missing out on the live action. Indeed, the most powerful and beautiful moment is when Bjork is on stage to perform Solstice just supported by the Gravity Pendulum Harp.
The concert footage is superbly filmed, using great angles and perspectives to augment inclusiveness of the venue. Resplendent in cobalt blue make-up and a colorful afro wig, Björk is a truly enchanting performer. I’ve seen very few concert films which can hold a torch to Biophilia Live.
A professional poker player falls deep into underworld when he takes an unexpected wager from a mysterious high roller. Eads is Jack, a professional gambler and expert at just scraping by. His talents also include constantly disappointing his ex-wife and daughter, as well as running up huge debts to the wrong people. Jack’s primary debt is to Carl and the amazingly named Paulie Trunks. These two barely-in-the-film heavies could have been uninteresting stereotypes, but the casting of Jones and Seagal livens them up immeasurably – even just because they become amusing. Carl is an MMA trainer who calls everyone “son”, while Seagal play his mob boss as some kind of guru. Think Brando if he grew a ponytail and took yoga too seriously.
And while we’re learning about Jack and his lifestyle the film manages to keep your attention with a likable performance from George Eads. Jack may not be the most dependable person in the world but behind the wide-boy image and cheeky banter is a heart of gold and Eads manages to sell us on Jack very easily and quickly, and once he meets up with Duffy the film steps up a gear and the heart of the story is revealed.
However, once the the pivotal moment occurs the film slows right down and begins to lag as the aftermath of Jack’s actions plays out. Ted Levine is introduced as Lewis, another part of the criminal gang Jack has crossed, and adds a little bit of off-kilter menace but the story seems to fall back on convention as Jack mooches around trying to figure out his next move. Even the late-in-the-game second appearance of Steven Seagal doesn’t do much to shift things along, his generic mob boss voice providing a little humor but whether that was intentional or not isn’t quite clear. Vinnie Jones is always better when he does his quiet intimidation act rather than shouting and swearing his way through any given scene and that’s what he does here, although if he wasn’t in the film at all it wouldn’t really make that much of a difference.
For the most part Gutshot is entertaining enough and having Steven Seagal and Vinnie Jones in supporting roles instead of being in the thick of the action was a wise move. Production-wise the film looks great with some slick and colorful visuals, the acting is pretty good and the story set-up is fantastic and really draws you in, but the final act really feels like a slog to get through, especially as the end result is fairly predictable and unremarkable. Nevertheless, if stylish crime thrillers are your thing then Gutshot isn’t the worst example you could invest 85 minutes of your life in.
It’s a slow pace and if you like bells and whistles and CGI rather than real life and emotions then don’t bother with this… it’s a gripping, sad, heartbreaking and heartwarming tale or triumph over adversity, courage and strength of spirit with an ending that if you don’t have a tear in your eye then you are dead inside. The story is unique and interesting, and is told with a series of flashbacks to Eric Lomax, our protagonist’s (Firth), experiences of WW2. As the film is set in fairly dreary locations (prison camps and drab apartments), it’s not the most visually exciting thing to watch, and the edit/pacing leaves a bit to be desired – at several points, we find the present-day Eric Lomax (Firth) suddenly transported back to his POW camp in Asia without anything to clue us off as to whether he travelled there (a single plane shot would’ve done it) or, as in at least one case, is hallucinating.
It’s during a train ride that he meets Patricia Wallace, a recently divorced and well-read woman. During their marriage, Patricia soon discovers that he still suffers from his traumatic past and is still haunted by his Japanese torturers. A gripping story, subtly and respectfully filmed. There’s no use of a lot of action-packed scenes or terrible horrifying images of tortures. It’s rather the lack of it that causes an oppressive feeling and that gives you an idea of the terrible conditions in which these POW’s were living. The nightmares Eric had sometimes and his comatose state of mind was performed in an impressive way. The story jumps back and forth between the past and the present, and delivers sometimes real postcard-images: like the loving couple on the beach with an umbrella flying away or the images at the end of the movie with the finished railway in Burma. These beautiful images are in stark contrast with the sordid and degrading images of the shown Japanese camps. The hopeless situation, the emaciated bodies of the dead tired workers who succumb during heavy forced labor, inhuman conditions and the constant torture and punishments they faced. A tarnished image of the Japanese: cruel, callous, ruthless, extraordinarily hard and sadistic. A black page in their history they seemingly got away with easily. It is as if they torn that page, burned it and tried to forget about it as soon as possible.
While it might look like a romance, this is only a small portion of the movie and viewers should be warned–there are a few intense images you see in Eric’s flashbacks–imaged of the ghastliness of war and war crimes. This is why the film is rated R, though I really think it is appropriate to show to teens provided you watch it with them and discuss what you’ve seen. All in all, a great example of a film with a bigger budget and some very big name actors who managed to impress me–though it somehow failed pretty miserably in the box office. Perhaps it wasn’t marketed well, perhaps folks were put off by the idea of a man suffering with PTSD…all I know is that for Firth and Kidman, it’s among the best work they’ve ever done and is an incredibly moving film.
What I saw was a well written, directed, acted true story that did not stray from the path of the woven tale that it was telling. Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth are well cast together, they bring this strong story to life sympathetically that only they can. As a northerner it was lovely to see many scenes of Berwick and Lindisfarne which was a bonus because now a days some films are shot in another country and try to fool the viewer that it was shot in the original place. This film touches on some strong areas that may be taboo but it does not shy away from them but handles them sympathetically that only this story can. A credit to all parties involved may you receive the accolades that you deserve from this excellent tale of forgiveness that highlights a 360 degree view of this war and it’s impact that resounds through the decades and generations.
During the chaotic final weeks of the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese Army closes in on Saigon as the panicked South Vietnamese people desperately attempt to escape. On the ground, American soldiers and diplomats confront the same moral quandary: whether to obey White House orders to evacuate U.S. citizens only–or to risk treason and save the lives of as many South Vietnamese citizens as they can.
This documentary was extremely well made and it includes some never seen before footage of the chaotic evacuation from Saigon. For an hour and a half I was glued to the movie screen. The story telling is excellent and it includes words from both the Americans and the South Vietnamese. Perhaps it would have been interesting to add a perspective from the North Vietnamese who were storming the city and why they allowed the helicopters to leave without challenging the evacuation. All and in all and excellent documentary and one that I enjoyed very much.
Rory Kennedy is a masterful story teller, and has combined that talent with historical accuracy in this engaging and truthful documentary. Having been a former AP reporter in Vietnam, I can verify that the US evacuation in 1975 is a little told story—a critical element of the war story, but often disregarded in the annuls of this war. But the evacuation is a catalyst for Ms. Kennedy to recreate the dynamics of how easy it is to get into war, but how difficult to get out. For Vietnam veterans, often not wanting to talk about their war experiences, Ms. Kennedy deftly interweaves the soldiers stories who were there, with an out of touch US ambassador who refused to believe that Saigon would ever be defeated, to a Congress that blocked any more funding to support a falling regime.
But the soul of this story is how they all were morally and personally torn by leaving behind many of their Vietnamese counterparts who could not be evacuated in a very hasty and uncoordinated US departure. To add another original dimension, one of the US Kirk navy men had hours of 8mm footage of the evacuation that was uncovered in his attic and remastered by Ms. Kennedy for use on the documentary. One of our soldiers spoke for many of our troops when he said “that he sometimes even dreamed in Vietnamese.” In one of the same, this may have been a small part of the war’s history, but at the same time epitomized the entire war in 98 minutes of drama, skilled cinematography, stunning resolution and sound, and the riveting pain of war. As an educator and child advocate, I would urge that this be used as a resource in every social studies, history, and political science class rooms in the country.
When you see a movie directed by The Grudge, you would expect something of similar standards. The concept of the movie is very interesting, and the characters are quite well-developed, given that the whole of this movie takes place on a plane. I was interested in this movie because i was interested in how a horror movie would happen on a plane. The characters in fact needed to be interesting and they were. I thought the trip should have started in Japan to provide a contrast and some extra interest at he beginning. The trip would have been better departing Tokyo and proceeding to the States. Actually it would have been good to see a few more Japanese characters in it since it could have helped make it an extraordinary movie rather than just a competent movie. I am being careful not to write spoilers. I will mention that a couple of the devices had been used before and one or two of them had been used a couple of times too often before.
t’s your typical passengers on a plane horror film. If you’ve been watching the genre for longer than a month, and you have an IQ over 70, you’ll be able to guess the ‘twist’ ending, which has been beat to death (pun intended.) This movie is one of the poorest attempts at horror I’ve ever seen. The premise itself isn’t terrible, but the execution is what is god awful. First off, the acting is bad all around which is weird because there are a lot of names in this movie, but everyone is just a walking stereotype with nothing much to contribute. The suspense in non-existent and the scares of the jump scare variety and they are not even trying with those kinds of scares. If you didn’t know it was from the director of The Grudge, don’t worry because the director still uses the water and long haired ghost he loves so much here as well. Then there’s the twist that is completely predictable where I can seriously bet that a ten year old who hasn’t seen a horror movie in his life would know how it would end.
At about 80 minutes, it’s a short film that feels much longer with a far too lengthy opening act and very little happening to fill up the remaining short run time. Interesting to see a few scenes incorporated from the classic Twilight Zone episode Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, which is infinitely better than this. Come to think of it, so is the old 1973 TV Movie, The Horror at 37,000 Feet. This one has the look and feel of a half-assed direct-to-video product, despite some effort from the game cast. No spoiler or spoiler warnings are necessary–you’ll have figured it all out long before the big “reveal.”
It’s sad that the whole concept for the movie (which is actually VERY GOOD) got ruined with such a bad sound editing and sloppy CG because, other than that, this could had resulted in a very good movie. In fact, i would go and say that this movie is 10 times more interesting than non-stop, but non-stop was better presented because it actually had a good sound editor and CG effects. I’m sure this same movie filmed with the team that made non-stop could had resulted in a wonderful cinema experience, right as it is, non-stop is professionally filmed but mediocre at best and this movie has a very well developed idea that gone wrong in the process of doing it.
When alleged international arms dealer Viktor Bout was arrested in 2008, the media had a field day. Called a “merchant of death” and fictionalized by Nic Cage in Lord of War, Bout made fantastic headlines, especially in a terrorist-sensitize post-9/11 climate. But Bout claims he’s just a business man. Yuri Orlov is from a Ukrainian family in Little Odessa, NY. As a young man he has an epiphany witnessing a Russian mafia hit. Being an arms dealer is the path to success. He finds that he also has an innate gift for his chosen profession. He enlists his brother Vitaly into the business. Yuri truly becomes the Lord of War supplying arms to anyone and any country for a profit. He also acts as an independent agent for undisclosed countries supplying arms to “freedom fighters”. One gets the drift. Yuri eventually hits his stride and becomes very successful and very wealthy. He marries his trophy bride, has a son, and lives in a luxury apartment in Manhattan. All the while he eludes the grasp of Interpol Agent Jack Valentine by keeping three steps ahead. Predictably Yuri’s world comes crashing in upon him. In a powerful scene with Ava who purposely ignores what her husband really does for a living, Yuri has a conscience meltdown.
Bout is undoubtedly a larger-than-life colorful character. One of his many excesses was his love of his video camera and whilst it made for some very intimate and extraordinary footage for this film, he also shot footage when he was cavorting with several warlords and some very shady despots, and that provided damning evidence when the Authorities decided to go after him. The D.E.A. set up a covert sting operation in Bangkok where it was alleged that the shipment of arms he was selling were intended to be used to kill Americans, so he was arrested and extradited to the US where he was made an example off by being given a excessively long jail sentence.
The decision to use home video footage adds a lot of color to the film. As mentioned before, this is a portrait of a man. When documentaries or biopics are made about men like Viktor Bout, the subjects themselves are rarely featured and we learn about them through people know knew them. Because we hear so much about the horrific things that the subjects did, they are no longer people – they’re more like figures, legends. While Bout is in jail and obviously unavailable to be interviewed, the home video footage speaks for itself and shows us that Bout is a person just like us all.
There’s no denying that Bout is a charismatic man and that his life story is incredibly entertaining. Not unlike The Wolf of Wall Street, the film doesn’t outright moralize or judge it’s subject. They don’t spoon feed the audience perspectives and opinions. Viewers have to work all that out for themselves. We’re dealing with a convicted arms dealer, so if you consider Bout to be an unfairly entrapped man that’s probably because you’re not considering the implications of his actions. If Bout didn’t think about that either, that’s irresponsible megalomania bordering on insanity. To allow that ambiguity into their film is a boldly admirable move by the filmmakers. However, whether this subject deserves that treatment is a reasonable question… that’s difficult to answer.