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An American kung fu movie geek is entrusted with an ancient staff which transports him to a magical world where the mystical kung fu characters of his movies are real. The Forbidden Kingdom is a throwback to the wish fulfilment fantasies of the 1980s, sharing a lot in common with the likes of The Karate Kid, Big Trouble In Little China and even Indiana Jones. Making the hero of the film an American will no doubt irritate many and he is certainly the least interesting character in the film, but he is for the most part a figure of fun in the same way as Jack Burton was in Big Trouble. Jet Li strikes up a great buddy partnership with Jackie Chan who revives his Drunken Master routine, and their face off is impressive as you'd expect. And having grown up on cheesy 70s TV show Monkey, I'd have to say that he makes a brilliant Monkey King; I'd go as far as to say that I'd love to see a film version with him in the role. I would have to say that it is inevitably very formulaic and Yefei Liu's superfluous character only seems to be there to make sure that there's an even distribution of hotties. As a whole it's a funny, exciting family friendly fantasy with a knockabout charm that is clearly pandering to the Pirates Of The Shaolin crowd. But it works. Corny in an almost pleasing way and probably the best thing Jackie Chan has done since he first started bending over for the Hollywood buck, hating this film for the "homogenization of Chinese culture" is basically like calling Mr. Miyagi an evil traitorous sell out. Completely missing the point.
A schoolteacher's wife is imprisoned for first degree murder based upon circumstantial evidence and when the final appeal fails and she resorts to a suicide attempt he pours all his skills as a researcher into engineering a meticulous plan to break her out. Very much in a similar vein to TV series Prison Break, The Next Three Days has the premise of an ordinary and honest man resorting to extreme measures when faced with an untenable situation. It's not as convoluted as the series however, concentrating more on the human drama than histrionics; in fact the inevitable mix of wobbly-cammed screeching tires, helicopters and cop dodging is easily the least interesting part of the film. Some will be disappointed at the lack of action, especially considering the trailer which was clearly cut together to make it look like another shit-witted action thriller for the ADHD generation but I personally am a fan of Haggis' more subtle and human approach to the thriller formula which dispenses with the usual associated macho bullshit and pointless running around with guns. As a result it feels a lot more plausible and realistic (at least until the rather unlikely finale) and you actually care what happens to the characters thanks to a strong performance from Crowe as the desperate husband and father. It does stall somewhat near the conclusion and never really gets back into gear, but the intelligent approach makes it a cut above the usual Hollywood fare.
Career criminal Henry Hill reminisces upon his life of crime in this true life story based on an actual FBI case. Goodfellas is the perfect film. It has the perfect blend of drama, gritty violence and humour as we see the dark side of the American dream played out over 25 years of a wise guy's life. The people depicted here do not play by society's rules and have their own set of laws and conventions revolving around the pure pursuit of profit in this, the logical conclusion of capitalism. The livelihoods and lives of others are commodities to be used up and tossed away and life is cheap to these mobsters whose stated obsession with loyalty and family is also soon forgotten for the "big score", leading to total anarchy. The combination of DeNiro, Liotta and Pesci makes for a brilliant triple act and there are so many classic scenes it's easy to lose count. The idea to tell the story in a "Wonder Years" format using one of the best soundtracks ever compiled was a stroke of genius and the post modern conclusion the perfect way to end the story. For me, Goodfellas is the best film ever made. Full stop.
Daesu Oh is a drunk and a philanderer but otherwise a fairly typical husband and father, until one day he is kidnapped and imprisoned in a cell for 15 years with only a TV set for company and no word of explanation. One day he wakes up on the outside with only a wallet and a phone, and he sets out on a single-minded quest to find out why he was imprisoned and extract bloody vengeance on those responsible. The second part of the Vengeance Trilogy by Chan-wook Park, Oldboy is a bizarre and brilliant film. It constantly wrong foots you and messes with your perceptions, and contains the kind of revelation that makes the kind of so-called plot "twists" of most films look gimmicky and inane. This is the kind of film that blows you away and makes you realise you've been watching the WHOLE THING from the wrong standpoint. As for Min-sik Choi's performance, astonishing is the only word for it...the way such intense emotions and motivations are constantly shifting without ever feeling contrived or forced is just spellbinding. It combines art and extreme violence in a way that reminded me of A Clockwork Orange, but better! It's also stylistically on the same level as Fight Club and is absolutely riveting from beginning to end. A virtually flawless modern masterpiece.