It’s kind of an uneventful weekend for me… it’s just another super cold January day. And when I say cold, I mean face-numbing, ears-hurtin’, still-freezing-my-@$$-off-despite-wearing-two-thick-layer-under-my-pants type of subzero temp. It’s kinda depressing when someone said on the way home from work that “hey, it’s actually 20 degrees ‘warmer’ than this morning” and it’s barely 3 degrees above zero! As if the freezing temp wasn’t enough to dampen one’s weekend, for Vikings fans it’s really quite a blow to see the Green Bay Packers make it to the Superbowl when we didn’t even make it to the Playoff! 😦
So yeah, it’s another hibernation weekend for me. We were thinking of seeing that Natalie Portman movie, no, no No Strings Attached, sheesh, I was talking about Black Swan. The subject matter of that rom-com just doesn’t appeal to me whatsoever, but clearly I’m in the minority as it was the box office winner, toppling last week’s Green Hornet. In any case, we didn’t make it to the theater but we had been waiting to see House of Flying Daggers, the Zhang Zimou-directed critically-acclaimed romance drama that my friends recommended me a while ago.
Set during 829 AD China as the Tang Dynasty is in decline and political unrest is on the rise, one of the most powerful rebel groups is the House of Flying Daggers. Two local military captains, Leo (Andy Lau) and Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) are ordered to capture the new leader which brings them to a local brothel where they meet a beautiful and captivating blind dancer, Mei (Zhang Ziyi). What follows is a journey through forests and meadows, with Jin posing as a lone warrior vying to gain Mei’s trust as they set out on their journey to the House’s secret headquarter. The plot thickens the further they go, with love blossoming, danger mounting, and nothing is what it seems.
Though I grew up in Asia, I’m not too familiar with Kung Fu movies, nor am I drawn to them. But this film is visually inventive and just all out dazzling, from the exquisite ‘game of echoes’ dance scene to the spectacular fight scenes in the bamboo forest as well as the blizzard battle at the end are breathtaking and a must-see for anyone who appreciates gorgeous cinematography. Apparently the use of colors is Yimou’s signature — kind of like John Woo is with his doves — and scene after scene is drenched with dramatic colors that is nothing short of a visual feast.
Acting-wise, I think it’s decent, though I have nothing to compare it to as I’m not familiar with any of the actor’s work. Zhang Ziyi is believable enough as a blind person, and as a woman torn between two lovers. Kaneshiro and Lau also deliver strong performances and I see now what the fuss is about Kaneshiro, who’s massively popular in Asia. He’s got quite a screen presence and that valiant quality perfect for a heroic leading man role (he’s like the Asian version of Legolas in this movie with his archery skill). The main issue for me though is the overly convoluted plot and as the film reaches its climax, one revelation after another just keeps piling on top of each other that not only it’s hard to keep track, but also throws me out on a loop. Overall though, it’s more of a style-over-substance kind of film but still far more unique than most of the formulaic fares Hollywood’s got to offer. Highly recommend this one.
|4 out of 5 reels
The other movie I saw over the weekend is Zack Snyder’s Legend of the Guardians. I was mostly interested to see how the heck does a director known for violent, R-rated action movies handles an animated feature. Snyder’s style isn’t for everyone, but I happen to be a fan of his work which usually have an epic feel to them. This one is no exception. Well, I guess this is like 300 with owls, even the warrior owls have the same helmet as Leonidas… which makes it um, Le-owl-nidas? Sorry, I can’t help myself.
It starts off innocently enough with story of the legendary owls of Ga’Hoole, which are admired greatly by a young owl named Soren. But then he and his brother get kidnapped and brought to an orphanage of sort called St. Aggie to be brainwashed as soldiers. Soren manages to escape and somehow ends up finding out that the legend of the guardians aren’t a myth after all. The noble owls must fight the wicked rulers of St. Aggie and free the young owls.
This film is rated PG and rightly so, it’s dark tone and intense battle scenes would perhaps scare little children. But my husband and I were pleasantly surprised by it and enjoyed it all the way through. The visuals obviously is the main strength, in fact, as I watched it I wish I had seen it in 3D glory. The flying sequences are especially gorgeous to watch and of course, Snyder’s slo-mo signature are ever present in the various battle scenes. The pace is fast moving and once the action starts, it never lets go, which is what you’d expect from Snyder. The narrative doesn’t quite live up to the amazing visuals, so it’s not as memorable or affecting as How to Train Your Dragon. As Andrew @ theFILMblog said in his excellent review, the drama between Soren and his parents could’ve been developed a lot more. But still, it was engaging enough not to derail the entire movie
The all-star cast boast many British & Aussie thespians such as Helen Mirren, Sam Neill, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish and Richard Roxburgh. Overall, this is a classic story of good versus evil fantasy done in an imaginative & stylish manner.
|3.5 out of 5 reels
So folks, what movie(s) did you get to see this weekend? Or if you’ve seen either one of these, feel free to add your thoughts.