Sunday, January 22, 2012

13 Assassins

In mid-19th century Japan, the Shogun/Samurai era was coming to a close. Most samurai were not well trained soldiers, but men who spent their time gambling and drinking as they "protected" their lords. When one particular noble begins to assert his dominance and authority by killing and massacring the common people indiscriminately, some response is needed. A group of samurai gather in secret response to the Shogun's command to carryout an assassination of the insolent noble. This is a violent and bloody combat story that is centered around the samurai culture of service 'til death. While there is an overarching message that even the servants should think for themselves, this ends up being a minor part of the film. Or more realistically, the film is an elaborate and gory saga which shows how ridiculous war and death can be. It is unfortunate that it takes 300 deaths to make a point about life. And I suppose that this lesson is as hard to learn in 19th century Japan as it is today.
3 stars (out of 5)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Captain America: The First Avenger

Like all the others in the Avenger series, this is a well made and entertaining film. We don't sacrifice story for spectacle. Steve Rogers is a scrawny Brooklyn kid who keeps getting denied the opportunity to serve during WWII. When he is chosen to be a guinea pig for a "super soldier" program, the successful treatment does turn him into a super soldier. But since he has been an underdog his whole life, he maintains the attitude and humility of an underdog and his "moral compass points the right way". Add in a Darth Maul like villain to push the story fully back into the comic book realm and we have a summer blockbuster. Or at least a piece of the continuing saga of the Avengers. I know that you can't really critique the reality of films like this, but why do we have to see an infantry assault on a fortified bunker only to see love interest Agent Carter taking part in the assault in her leather flight jacket and army issue wool skirt. How is that necessary in the comic world or the action world? Maybe it becomes part of the mythology of Agent Carter, I don't know...
3 stars (out of 5)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Book of Eli

First, Denzel Washington never looked better than he does here in a 5-day beard as a rugged traveler. This film provides a vision for the future that is about as happy as I am Legend. Post-apocalyptic and dystopian without apology. Denzel is a traveler in a world 30 years after a supposed nuclear war that destroyed all civilization on earth. He travels with a book that is apparently important. Gary Oldman plays a local warlord looking for such book. Surprisingly, that is the entire plot, and yet it is enough to carry the entire film. The film is slow and purposeful and feels appropriately paced. There are not really surprises, but appropriate twists and subtleties that provide interest and depth. I know that film enjoyment often is related to expectation and my expectation of this was very low. Perhaps that colors my perception, but I still give it
4 stars (out of 5)

Friday, January 6, 2012


I don't know how I got into the foreign fantasy realm... Here we have a socialite that runs out of money and needs a job. When she finds a job in a local comic store, she begins to make friends with the "geeks" and play their role playing games. The look and feel of this movie is of a 1970's B-list, exploitation film. But it is basically geared toward 13 year old, Icelandic fantasy geeks. Not sure what it says about me that I watched the whole thing, but for the right audience, probably not a bad film.
2 stars (out of 5)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Black Lightning

This is really a fun sci-fi, coming of age, regular guy super hero film... in Russian. A kid is given a car by his father and it turns out that the car can fly. It is not magical, but technological and the plot gives us resonable (reasonable in the world where flying cars are reasonable) explanations for how this might work. With the same sort of fun feel as The Last Airbender and The Sorcerer's Apprentice, the kid with the car causes a massive dip in crime and delivers flowers in his free time, working toward a climax of saving Moscow from certain destruction. Glad I happened upon this.
3 stars (out of 5)