Friday, January 18, 2013
The Last Stand
back!"—That has become an instantly
recognizable catch phrase associated with Arnold
Schwarzenegger. After his gubernatorial
gig and about ten years away from the big silver screen
Expendables" doesn't count), he is back, indeed. His
comeback is violent and bloody as usual in Korean
Jee-woon's predictable, comical, and entertaining
Western "The Last Stand"
(USA 2013 | 107 min.). As
Schwarzenegger is a tough guy armed with heavy
ammunitions like an action hero toy figure. He speaks corny
lines in a similar hoarse voice like Clint
Eastwood, plus the Austrian accent. This time, however,
he might get another catch phrase to identify
himself: "I'm the sheriff!"
The film opens with an exhilarating grand escape by a death row inmate Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), an extremely dangerous kingpin of a notorious Mexican drug cartel. He is aggressively pursued by the FBI, led by a mumbling and incompetent Agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker). Cortez is sleekly zapping his way toward the US-Mexican border in a modified Corvette ZR1 that goes beyond 200 mph—if that looks like a car commercial on the big screen, it probably is.
Nothing seems can stop Cortez along his path, which is why Sheriff Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger) comes to the picture to be the last stand. Owens is the low key sheriff in a small Arizona town called Sommerton Junction next to the Mexican border. Somehow, the tiny little Main Street of this quiet charming town is the only path Cortez must pass through in his sporty car before he crosses the border. Never mind that he actually makes his race track in a corn field. Owens and his few inexperienced deputies setup a blockage to face off Owens and the drug cartel led by a ruthless Burrell (Peter Stormare).
Of course, everybody can guess who wins in the end.
Despite the predictable plot and laughable dialogue in the script, director Kim Jee-woon admirably puts together an entertaining show with fast cars, big guns, flying flesh, occasional humor, and the terminator. He is one of the best in creating action sequences that are both original and spectacular. Certainly we have seen plenty car chasing in action movies, but Kim still can comes up some new ideas in this film when it comes to car chasing—have you raced in a corn field before? Although this film is no comparison to his immensely enjoyable Western "The Good, the Bad, the Weird" (좋은 놈, 나쁜 놈, 이상한 놈 | South Korea 2008), this film still shows Kim's talent and his wild imagination.
With Arnold Schwarzenegger blasting off heavy artilleries, with Eduardo Noriega racing a sport car over 200 mph, with couple sheriff deputies shooting at a piece of meat for fun, the targeted audience of this film is quite obvious. I am sure the car manufacture must be very pleased about the car performance featured in the film, and the NRA might organize viewing parties to show how an old lady can finish off a criminal as in the film when she conveniently pulls out a gun under her couch pillow.
There are many comical moments in the film, but hardly because the writing or the characters are truly humorous. We laugh either because the lines are dumb, or because they are spoken by Arnold Schwarzenegger or Luis Guzmán. For example, how can you hold of your giggling when Arnold Schwarzenegger slams down the telephone after shouting at Forest Whitaker on the other end: "I don't know you! I don't answer to you!" That surely sounds like Arnold is back, not as the Governor of California, but as a Sheriff.
Friday, January 11, 2013
Here is the law of Mother Nature: at some point in our
lives, we have to encounter the ultimate death, often
accompanied by unfortunate illness. Mortality is the
inevitable to every life. Yet, in reality, we generally tend
to avoid the unpleasant subject. We fantasize that we can
elude the last stage of life as long as we are able to,
until death knocks on the door. That's not the case for
renowned Austrian writer/director Michael
Haneke. He confronts this very devastating subject
head-on in his striking new film "Amour"
(Austria/France/Germany 2012 | in French | 127 min.). This
slow paced, impeccably precise, beautifully tender, and
fascinatingly arresting film tells a poignant
story. Although it's a love story, it is perhaps the least
suitable film for a movie date on a Valentine's Day.
The film's protagonists are an elderly couple Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who are in their eighties. After a successful career of teaching music, they comfortably enjoy their retirement life and each other's company in their Parisian apartment. One morning, Georges notices Anne acting strange. A doctor's visit confirms that Anne has a stroke. However, an operation not only doesn't improve her condition, it makes the matter worse—Anne becomes partially paralyzed and can no longer take care of herself. She becomes gravely ill and she is not going to get better.
However, Georges promises to grant Anne's wish not to take her back to the hospital. Dragging his clumsy feet, he gently takes care of Anne the best he can, with occasional help from nurses he hires. Anne's deteriorating health poses great challenge to Georges, but he firmly declines help from their physically and emotionally distant daughter Eva (Isabelle Huppert). He is determined to cherish the decades of love with Anne in his own way, and to maintain their dignity during the last chapter of their lives.
Unlike Michael Haneke's previous films that often contain surprising and shocking violence ("Funny Games", "Caché"), in this film he quietly and masterfully unfolds a heartbreaking love story and elaborates a scenario that we can all resonate. We all might have a family member or a loved one like Anne. You can't help but thinking what you would do if you are in Georges's shoes. Unexpectedly, Georges suddenly becomes a caregiver even he is a fragile aging man himself. He tries to ease Anne's concern by persuading her: "imagine you are in my situation." But who would want to image to be in that terrible situation? Certainly not Anne.
There is no easy solution, there is no easy way out, and there is no alternative route to take, but there is much love. The tenderness between the two aging adults is absolutely compelling and deeply touching. Two legendary French actors Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant give a magnificent performance as Anne and Georges, even it's often heart-wrenching to watch.
After winning the top-prize Palme d'Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, the film is nominated for five Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actress in a Leading Role (Emmanuelle Riva), Best Original Screenplay (Michael Haneke), Best Director (Michael Haneke), and Best Foreign Language Film. I have no doubt that it is marching its way to at least receive the Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards.
Labels: MVFF 2012
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Feature Films I Saw in 2013
This is a list of feature films I saw during
2013. Hopefully, I am not missing any. My rating for each film
is shown at the end of the title, ranging from 1 to 10. If I have
reviewed a film, the rating score is linked to the full review.
Note: The publishing date is set to Jan 1, 2013 is to move this posting out of the way of other reviews. The actual date is at the end of 2013.