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Monthly Archives: July 2008

Po, the son of a great noodle chef (which must have been a true amour fou – but we are not told what the mother looks like) daydreams about his future career as sword-fighting, iron-willed Kung Fu warrior, fighting his fiercest enemies with the speed of light and without so much as a flinch in the face of danger. More than surprising, when real life danger comes about and the Kung Fu Grandmaster needs to activate the hero of heroes, the Dragon Warrior, his choice on who that master should be falls on fat and slow Po. Who stands up to the challenges and beats the evil snowcat, of course.
A magnificient melange of role models: in the opening fight dream sequence, it becomes very much undestinguishable whether the Japanese Samurai traditon, the modern Takeshi Kitano interpretations, Ang Lee’s Americanisms or the Tarantino rip-off stand model – all is one, and well done it is, quoting everybody and doing it with ferocious vigour.
Interesting, by the way, that this opening sequence also has a different director and is much closer linked to the Asian martial arts tradition as the rest of the film.
That main part is definitely cute despite the fact that a Panda is not a particularly interesting animal. But all the others are, from LaoShi, the (surprise!) teacher, over the Magnificent 5?, Ferocious 5? Marvellous 5? Furious 5! those fighting beasts anyway, to the ancient turtle grandmaster. As always most care has been given to the design of the bad guy, the snow leopard whose name I forgot. That evil one is being sketched very evil and dark, indeed, and I kept wondering how the Mordor-like prison where he is being rather inhumanely kept prisoner, immobilised for life, actually, will go down with the kids watching this. But definitely my favourite sequence.
On a lighter note, the expected training and practice squences are well done, with some stunning movements being triggered by the one motivation Po knows about: food! I could not help, however, but think of the much more brilliant “Montage” sequences in both the South Park skiing episode and the “Team America: World Police” feature. How can you do a training montage these days without singing “If you want show the progress but only have a little time, you need a MONTAGE!”??
If a film is made for IMAX, see it in IMAX! Brilliant picture, sound, everything. Definitely worth the extra money and an experience to which you cannot even get near when watching it on or any of those other sites.
One downside I mentioned: the Panda… but there is another, which is the voice cast. I would only recommend to all those animation producers to abandon the nonsense habit of casting famous actors. Get good voice actors, forget about the Jacky Chans or Lucy Liu’s who cannot act for the life of them, not to speak when limited to their voices. Jack Black is also an odd choice, and can only be explained because the casting agent looked at the body volume of the actor and the panda and realised increasing similarity? The unknown Tai Lung voice (now I remember the name: that’s the evil cat – and check out the record of Ian MacShane at IMDB – that guy even played in Dallas!) is by far the best, only Dustin Hoffman can stand up to that a little bit.
Still very enjoyable, with furious fighting sequences (may be a bit violent for the little ones, but I am not that little…) and I seem to remember even an impressive soundtrack.

Will Smith is Hancock, a superhero with superpowers, ability to fly and shave with his fingernails. Unfortunately he is a smelly bum, permanently drunk, disappointed by his own life, wondering why everybody calls him an asshole despite the fact that he keeps destroying half the city of Los Angeles and everybody’s front yard and Mercedes just to stop a car chase. When he saves the life of a PR consultant, he is in for a free image campaign to get a better life, to become a more lived hero again.

All the way through Hancock I kept thinking “There must have been a meeting. There must have been a meeting” – a meeting, I mean, where somebody stood up and said (then shouted) “Excuse me – if you want to make fun of us, try again. Films about ill-begotten superheroes must look like the one about the fat panda. You must start by telling the audience why the central character should be a hero, but currently can’t. Then you have to introduce a villain, and a good one. And finally you have to show the hero a way to overcome his deficits.
There are 4000 examples in movie history for this. Go home, watch them, come back. Surprise us by making it end with everybody dying. Surprise us by making the character swear at bystanders or watch porn movies to kill time.

This is by far the most all-over-the-place film of the year, the decade, ever? It does not know AT ALL where to come from and where to go. Fallen hero? Nice, but is played for maybe 15 minutes. And there is the idealistic PR consultant who helps him out of his misery. And is this a comedy, as indicated by the funny bum hero, by all the funny things he breaks in his funny landings? By the slapstick “head up his ass” scenes? Or is this serious terror, the woman dying? Hands being cut off? Mortal compact to the end, with very dark visuals? What the hell do you want to be, ill-begotten creature? What, in any case, if the plot? Where is the conflict, the villain? That little bloke with the hooked hand? Excuse me??”

The most amazing thing is that the film shows how incredibly bankable Will Smith is – it truly takes a superhero to get such a film started – and even end up number 1 at the box office. He is hot, and he cannot even do anything against it himself!

NYT Overview
The Filthy Critic writes: “Shitty ideas are like potato chips in Hollywood: one is never enough.”

And Hancock hits a point where you can practically feel the filmmaker say, “Oh shit, this is going nowhere, so we better surprise them.”

In order to take posession of some incriminating pictures of a royal family member, an institution that has probably a fancy acronym, but that I call “Royal Family Reputation Maintenance Task Force” initiates a bank robbery through which those pictures can be withdrawn from the control of a politically inconvenient character. While being used for higher purposes, the group of bank robbers does the best it can to mess it up, but succeed in several ways that is most annoying to the well-dressed Royal entourage.
When checking where the hell I have heard the name of the director Roger Donaldson before, I realised that I watched a lot of his films (Dante’s Nonsense Peak, Naked Species, Cadillac Man is getting on my nerves… and I do not even mention Cocktail, even though I do…), but half-liked only one: Thirteen Days. All these films looks so much different from the Bank Job. Those slick Hollywood productions with their machine-generated production design and their arbitraily exchangeable character actors (Brosnan, Cruise, Costner, pfff). But here? Brilliant cast almost throughout, with particular honours to the smart, handsome and immediately approachable Jonathan Statham and Richard Lintern (as Tim), who dresses, looks and orders drinks as if the James Bond role was up for grabs again. How you can play such a slimy tuxedo-Tim and still be sympathetic is beyond me, but I liked him and did not blame him for getting the hot chick Martine occasionally (played by Saffron Burrows, who looks much better in film than on IMDB).
A sympathetic English 1970s film-alike, with cute characters, not enough tension to keep you awake at night, but thoroughly enjoyable.

Two coal miners float from one occupation to the next, trying to find a victim who pretends to be a relative in order also to get a job. The they kill him in an “accident” and cash in the compensation from the mine. The scheme works fine for them until they meet a young boy who they start liking just a bit too much.
While the film has the neorealistic touch to it that is typical of 6th generation, critical social filmmaking in China, I found it stunningly well composed and directed. It does not show the technical flaws of, say, the early Jia Zhang-Ke pictures, but a very mature approach to introducing the characters, revealing their dimensions slowly and controlledly, and of rolling out the drama and building suspense, mixed with comic relief. You could actually say this is played by the book of narrative, but is feels very natural and relaxed. Great actors an all accounts, brilliant settings that show the desolate reality of large parts of rural China, and the equally desolate lifes a large workforce has to lead. Very good film!
A stunning number of external reviews at IMDB worth checking out.

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