Inadvertently, this is going to be a predominantly Japanese round of brief movie summaries. One is a Japan-inspired movie, the others are Japanese movies.
Lucy is a prime example of a movie where all the best parts were shown in the trailer and there was absolutely nothing else of interest outside of those few minutes.
Scarlett Johanssen is Lucy, a student in Taiwan, who gets duped by a guy she’s dated for a week into delivering a mysterious briefcase to a Korean gangster called Mr Jang. She ends up having the drugs sewn into her stomach and is forced to become a drug mule along with three other men. When she gets kicked in the abdomen by one of the gangsters (who may or may not be working for Mr Jang – I don’t know; that part was a bit muddled), the bag of drugs inside her breaks and the new drug leaks into her system. It begins to enhance her brain power and she starts to turn into one of the X-Men…
Well, not literally one of the X-Men. But it sure did seem like it. She developed powers of telepathy, psychokinesis and goodness knows what else, and was basically omnipotent by the end of the movie. The ending of the movie fell a bit flat , although I assume we were supposed to be awed by it. But nope. No such awe.
It felt like Lucy was 1/4 action, 1/4 pure computer-animated simulations of neurons and drugs and stuff darting through the human system, 1/4 montages of videos meant to reflect the narrative in some metaphorical or symbolic way, and 1/4 just people talking. Half of the speech in the movie was dialogue, the other half was exposition. I thought the use of the montages and cut-aways – like with the antelope and cheetah clips to show how Lucy was being caught in a trap – was rather too heavy-handed and largely unnecessary.
That just about sums up what I thought of the movie. Meh.
Thor may be the point around which the world (of his movies) turns, but it is Loki who makes it turn at all.
It’s called “Thor” but I have a feeling that half the people who go to see it (like me) really go to see Loki. This is both ironic and amusing when you consider how Loki’s descent into villainy stemmed from his jealousy of Thor and a feeling of inferiority.
In Thor: The Dark World, or Thor 2 for simplicity’s sake, Thor gets to fuss over Jane Foster again when the long-asleep Dark Elf, Malekith, rises and threatens Jane, Earth, Asgard, and the rest of the Nine Realms. This is all thanks to some vague sentient evil matter called the Aether and an unfortunate occurrence known as the Convergence, when all the Nine Realms line up and overlap each other.
(I’m not quite able to keep spoilers out of this, so if you want to be surprised by anything in the movie, don’t read on…)
I’m struggling to think of how to review this movie. How should I be considering it – using what criteria? Do I look at it from my point-of-view, with my standard expectations for a movie, or do I look at it from a purely objective critical point-of-view, using standards specific to this specific type of action movie? Because honestly, this was my thought process throughout the film:
“Cars. More cars. Boom. Well, there goes that car. What is that car made of? Vibranium? What sort of idiot tries to commit a crime with a convoy of loud and very noticeable cars? Oh, look – Leicester Square. It sure looks like Leicester Square to me. Of course, a random street race. Does no one complain about the ruckus these people are making? It looks like an outdoor disco to me. Wait, are they at that place opposite Trafalgar Square? Whaaat. Since when were London roads wide enough for you to drift on? Geez, this military base is useless. A tank? What the… ok, whatever. Man, how many cars did they wreck making this movie? I wonder if that explosion was CG or real. Uh, did you never think to consider whether your sister and her child are safe where they are? Why is the runway neverending? Where are the land-to-air defenses on this base? This is ridiculous – they’re on a military base yet they’re relying on a bunch of cars to bring down a giant cargo plane.”
I was ready to be impressed by this movie. Sadly, I was not impressed.
Wong Kar Wai takes on the story of Ip Man in The Grandmaster, with his favourite muse Tony Leung in the title role. It tells the story of… well, I’m not sure what it’s all about, really. It is ostensibly about Ip Man becoming and being the Grandmaster. But it’s also about Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi), the daughter of the Grandmaster before Ip Man. The stories are linked and yet not linked, and could probably have been split into two different movies for all I cared in the end.
Hosoda Mamoru’s latest piece, Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki (henceforth Wolf Children for short), is the story of Hana and her children. Hana falls in love with a wolf-man and they have two children together – Ame and Yuki. Though the children are the titular characters, the story is really about Hana and her struggles trying to raise two half-wolf children alone after the wolf-man dies.
Brief, spoiler-free review: Not bad at all. Definitely better than Iron Man 2, but I’m not entirely sure it’s better than the first Iron Man. I’d rate it ★★★½
Robert Downey Jr. returns as “billionaire,
playboy, philathropist” Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man, in this third installment of the franchise. But it’s a slightly different Tony Stark. This is a Tony Stark plagued by discomfiting uncertainty and questions after the alien attack on New York City, in which he nearly died after delivering a nuclear missile into enemy territory. He’s just a “man in a can”, he tells Pepper. A man subject to panic attacks and sleepless nights, which he chooses to spend building and testing new suits of iron instead. At the same time, a terrorist named The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) is threatening America with inexplicable bomb attacks where no one can seem to locate or detect the explosive device that creates the blasts. One such explosion puts Stark’s old friend and bodyguard on the brink of death, prodding Stark to declare war on The Mandarin. The immediate aftermath of that declaration is an attack on Stark’s home, and he ends up being separated from Pepper and from all his beloved technology, save his most recent suit – which definitely performs just like a prototype, to say the least…
Time for more mini-reviews… Eight films, ranging from one-star to three-star ratings. As usual, a mixture of English language, Mandarin and Japanese films.
Tenchi Meisatsu (2012) – ★★★
I was very happy to find this (and Rurouni Kenshin) on the list of in-flight movies on the way to London.
Considering that this film is about the creation of a calendar, it’s pretty good. Takita Yojirou of Departures fame directs, and the always amazing Hisaishi Joe provides the music for Tenchi Meisatsu (which goes by the English title “The Samurai Astronomer” but I prefer the direct translation “Insight into the Universe”). It isn’t a very riveting film, but Okada Junichi and Miyazaki Aoi inject a great deal of charm into their characters – Santetsu Yasui, member of a samurai family who has an unusual liking for puzzles and stargazing, and En the keen and clever sister of a well-known math teacher (also played charmingly by Sato Ryuta). There’s quite a bit of intrigue as courtiers attempt to assert their power by blocking the adoption of a new, better calendar, and Santetsu tries to defy them. I found the courtly intrigue a little dull, but fortunately it didn’t overwhelm the story.
Wanted to get this done before 2013 rolled in… but failed. So I guess this will kick off my 2013 blog posts instead of ending 2012? Anyway, here goes:
In a nutshell, Rurouni Kenshin is about Himura Kenshin, a wandering swordsman who has sworn never to kill again. (“Rurouni Kenshin” can be translated to “Kenshin the Wanderer”.)