Posts Tagged ‘Historical’

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Goyokin 1969/ Toho/ Dir. Hideo Gosha

For reasons of my own, I was watching some heist movies. I like a good heist flick, and there aren’t enough of them. There are lots of heist flicks, but only a few good ones. I had gone through the usual line-up of movies, and after I had exhausted my supply I still felt the need to go once more into the heist film vault. So what I did was examine what you need for a good heist movie. That led me to this Japanese samurai movie set in the 1800s. As opposed to a French samurai movie set in the 1460s I guess? Well, some samurai movies are set during the 1600s, that seems to be the two times we generally get. During the early days of the Tokugawa shogunate or just before the Meiji Restoration, which is the end of the Tokugawa shogunate. Soooo, during the Tokugawa shogunate. You know what? Forget this part! I’ve already said shogunate way too many times.

Why do I call this a heist movie and not a samurai movie?
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Movie Review: Windtalkers

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Windtalkers (2002/ MGM/ Dir. John Woo)

What happened to John Woo when he came to America? He had made some of the best action movies of the 80s and early 90s. Then he came to the US and had a string of near disasters and critical failures. That’s not to say his movies did badly. Mission: Impossible II actually did pretty well in theaters, despite what some smart ass critics thought of it. Face/Off was a big hit in the theaters and on video, as was Broken Arrow. None of them are really good movies though, and most have been rejected by Woo fans. Then this movie came along, which sank like a stone at the box office and heralded the beginning of the end for Woo’s American experiment. Allow me to state now, this is not a good movie. It will not be getting a huge score on the Graffiti Bridge Scale. HOWEVER! It won’t get a negative score, and that’s part of what I want to talk about here.

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There are books that are difficult to translate into movies, and there are books that are more easily translated. I’m not exactly sure where Fear and Loathing fits in there, but it was at least fairly accurately translated. Not 100%, several things prevent it from reaching the full and complete accuracy that fans were hoping for. While some of them are choices made by Gilliam, many of them are just rights and budget concerns. However, as an adaptation of the book, it works. As something to get you interested in the greater works of Hunter S. Thompson, it is an excellent device. How does the movie hold up compared to the book? Let’s find out together, shall we?

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Mobsters (1991/ Universal Pictures/ Dir. Michael Karbelnikoff)

We’ve probably talked about this before, but movies that took place before the fifties and featured guys in hats doing guys in hats things were very cool for about twelve minutes when I was a kid. For reasons I’ve never been quite clear on, I was very VERY into the time era that went from the 20s to the 40s when I was between the ages of 11 and 16. Maybe it was an obsession with old Warner Brothers Cartoons, maybe I got a taste of some really good Film Noir, maybe I just liked fedoras. Who can say? No, it’s probably not just the hats, I think it has to be the time period. You can’t just say “This has guys in hats” and get me interested, but you can say “It takes place in 1935” and I am THERE! Case in point, this movie. I pretty much have to put this thing into context, because without context it almost doesn’t/shouldn’t exist and in many ways it fails to make sense on its own. It’s not a good movie, but it’s too well made to be on any “So bad they’re good” lists, mostly it’s forgotten. Again, without context, you fail to understand why such talent would go to such wretched waste.

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Der Schuh des Manitu

Native Americans are a dicey subject in fiction, mainly because of the stereotyping. There is also the problem that the term Native Americans can rub a cheese grater over the nerves of their souls. But really, it’s the stereotype that bothers most of us, I think. I mean, think about it a moment. I said Native American, and what did you think of? Buck skin wearing, noble savages with long straight black hair and a rudimentary grasp of language at best? Well, shame on you! They also talk about the Great Spirit at the drop of a hat and want to sing you the song of their people. Them and the Orientals get that weird, condescending attribute of being strangely wise, or mystical while also insulting them with the old ‘but of course they’re like children’ refrain as well. I’m not going to go into a lengthy discussion on it, but I sort of am because I’m talking about a movie that is set in the old west and involves made up Apaches. But it’s made by Germans, so they have like no connection to the actual history of the Native Americans and the movie is actually pretty funny since its jokes rarely ever touch on the known stereotypes beyond basic visuals and the Apache characters are the heroes. The best way I can describe it is that it’s like watching a hilarious movie about slave conditions in the Antebellum South made by Italians in blackface. You know that there is something terribly wrong with what’s being done, but the people who are doing it can’t begin to understand, and they’re being genuinely funny anyway. Look, maybe its better if I explain from the beginning…

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Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984/ Lucasfilm/ Dir. Steven Spielberg)

Oh yeah, the first Indy movie I’m going to review and it’s one of the most infamous sequels ever made. Let’s get a statement out of the way straight off, this is a flawed movie. It’s the weakest of the trilogy, and yes I know Crystal Skull exists. We’ll talk about that one some day. It doesn’t work like the others, it doesn’t seem to fit with the others, and there are parts that make even a strong man wince. There is also a woman who spends more time screaming than talking, which I’ll get to. However, there is a lot to defend, or at least understand here, so I won’t just smack it around with a leather strap and call it a day. Besides, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is the Kill Bill of 1984 and most people don’t even know it. Yes, I will explain that statement. Good movies deserve better than that, and while this might not be a great movie, it is a good one, no matter what those wankers on the internet might say.

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Seven Swords (2005 Mandarin Films & Eng Wah Dir. Tsui Hark)

This is a movie that should have been awesome, but fell short of that lofty goal. The reasons it should have been awesome are easy to see just from the people involved. Tsui Hark reinvigorated the Wuxia genre in the 90s, Donnie Yen is one of the biggest stars in HK cinema, the other actors are hardly unknowns, and it’s based on one of those books that I’m told is a favorite in Chinese culture. Of course, that’s maybe where things start to go wrong. The movie bears little resemblance to the book in question. Much of the story telling is put on the shoulders of characters that weren’t written to hold such weight, and the action is underwhelming. However, all that said, there are things to like in this movie as we’ll see. This isn’t a movie without merit, and some might look beyond the weaknesses and really fall in love with this thing.

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