Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Road Home

This really is a beautiful movie by Zhang Yimou. It is one of his rural dramas and is more similar to The Story of Qiu Jiu than to his lavish period pieces like Raise the Red Lantern, or his martial arts films. So it may be a little slow for most people.

The story is simple enough - a young man returns to his home village after the death of his father, the village's teacher. In flashback he recounts the love story of his mother and father, and the movie becomes a nice treatise on love, and also on the value placed on teachers, something which is unfortunately lacking in the U.S. today. At first I thought the love of the young girl, Zhao Di, was rather obsessive, almost like she was stalking the guy. :) But in viewing this again I think I was being too cynical, and that the story tries to portray the innocence of young love. Also I have to remember that this is the work of Asian culture, and not American culture with it's preoccupation with privacy and personal space. Also Zhang Yimou using an interesting device where he will show the same scene over and over, with small modifications, to give the impression that these events are repeating themselves over time. And so it is easier to understand the depth of their love, rather than if we thought all of this happened in a week or something.

What really makes this film work is the incomparable Zhang Zi-Yi. This, along with Crouching Tiger, was one of her breakout films, and the beginning of her collaborations with Zhang Yimou that would continue in Hero and House of Flying Daggers. She is beautiful as the young Zhao Di, and Zhang Yimou really milks it. It seems like every other scene is Zhang Zi-Yi running around, Zhang Zi-Yi smiling, Zhang Zi-Yi leaning in a doorway. Which is all fine with me, but might be less tolerable to those that are not big fans. :)

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand

I've finally watched this latest installment (and, judging by the bodycount, possibly the last) of the most consistently good comic-book adaptation series (along with Spiderman). I really liked X-2, so I had pretty high expectations for this movie, and it didn't disappoint. I was wondering how well they would handle what is probably the most revered storyline in comic-book history - the Dark Phoenix saga. I think for the most part they did a good job, although they modified it A LOT. This idea of Jean Grey being the only 'class 5' mutant, with unlimited potential was very cool! But what I think was lacking was the different cause of the transformation. In X-2 it was caused by Jean saving the X-Men. In the comic book, she saved the universe in the heart of the M'Kraan crystal, so the scale is quite a bit smaller. Also in the comic book we had these awesome shots of her flying around the universe as a giant bird of fire, destroying entire planets. In the movie, she just gets a bird face and starts disintegrating things. It would have been nice if they had at least TRIED some cool special effects, especially considering the budgets they get in these types of movies.

Another major problem, and one that I think X-2 also had, was that too many plotlines are woven together. In the comic book, there were maybe 2-3 active storylines at any given time. In the movie there are like ten - the mutant vs. human dilemma, Angel's rejection by his father, the rivalry between Iceman and Pyro, Rogue's psychological problems, the authority struggle between Storm and Wolverine, etc. - plus more mutants than you can count. I feel it inhibits the development of each individual storyline, esp. Dark Phoenix. But maybe movies are different.