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47 Ronin (2013)

47 Ronin (2013)

Well this was a sad story. I just read a poem the other day about a couple, soldier and wife, both committing seppuku (the poem was called 'Patriotism', by Yukio Mishima), and today I watch a movie where a great lord does the same, and later his whole crew. What are the chances of that? With coincidences like this I almost wonder if it's some kind of sign... nothing about ritual suicide, of course, no way, but maybe something like: the movie could have been inspired by this poem.

Though I never really think Americans manage to portray Japanese culture in its highest and purest most natural form, this is one of the closest attempts I've seen in latter years. It reminds me of both 7 Samurai (as it is also based on a true story, and similar in many ways) but more so of 'The Last Samurai', another American movie portraying a historical Asian event that ended much more tragically than this one did. Though, I wouldn't consider this movie one with a happy ending either. If you truly believe that seppuku is an honor... then maybe you'll think differently, all I see is a waste of life. Don't get me wrong, their sacrifice is emotional; filled with courage, I get that, but this is where our cultures clash, and where something that even when portrayed in a positive light (when 47 ronin are ultimately accepted as samurai, and once again granted an honorable death) it is darkened by the bridge of beliefs; how pointless the act seems in the eyes of another. These things were previously aspects of Japanese culture I was fascinated with, but now I just find them... sad. Maybe that poem had a certain impact.

The movie mixes supernatural elements with sword fights in a pompous way. It's flashy, but down-to-Earth at the same time, and the final fight is incredibly smooth. It's all about the way of the sword, and I love the swords. They flicker. They shine. They're so sharp the samurai need only press lightly upon the edge of the blade with their thumb to draw blood. And Keanu Reeves? Well as the only non-Asian character in... most of the movie (apart from that slave-trade bit) he fits surprisingly well. But at the same time he doesn't really fit in at all. He has that trademark gaze of his and follows all the rituals, respects all the people and all that - but still seems to be fetched from a different place and time. That is explained within the movie though, so you could say his standing apart from the others is well-merited. He steals the spotlight a bit as the main character, especially on the movie cover, and though he is special all the characters play their parts: they're all special. They're the 47 Ronin. Anyway, I liked it. It was one of those inspiring and depressing watches, at the same time, with a cast of both great actors and characters, of which I recognize many from many many movies. It was an interesting mix of actors as well as an interesting mix of supernatural and historical, and both effects and acting were great. Good movie.

 rated 4/5: fo shizzle

Frozen (2013)

Frozen (2013)

Frozen is a modern-day fairy tail. It's a musical, a story of love and romance, a movie of the type that... I don't usually watch! With all the recent Cars and Toy Story movies and stuff like that it seems it's been a while since Disney made any movie of this sort, but maybe it's a genre that's coming back? This real knight-in-shining-armor, good vs evil, light-hearted comedy, painful relationships and resolutions type of movie I thought I wouldn't be seeing this year (or ever, for that matter).

And though it's not a genre I usually watch, I loved it. I didn't love the music as much as I could've: it feels like the voices were a tad bit sharp and the melodies now always the most touching... when they were supposed to be. The one where the queen signs a song of freedom could be a favorite but... it could've been much better! On second place is the song of the Trolls, rocking and rolling, plotting a marriage. A groovy mood in that one.

The real highlight of this movie is the snow, though. I read a bit about how much work went into creating the effects; how they had actually mapped out 2000 different snowflake patterns for this movie... and though I can't say the 2000 patterns show, the snow looks great. It's fluffy and perceptible, as is the ice; it all builds up a genuinely wintery atmosphere. I'm reminded of Mulan and of... and of what? Shrek?? All the movies I can recall that tell of a tale of fairy tail seem to be parodies... makes me wonder if there have been any originals and if I've ever seen any of them. This was good. Conclusion.

 rated 4/5: fo shizzle

The Bag Man (2014)

The Bag Man (2014)

John Cusack is Jack. and Robert De Niro is his boss.

His boss sends him on a simple mission, to fetch a bag, to take it to a motel room and to stay there until he (the boss) gets there to pick it up. All in exchange for a handy sum of money. It starts in the middle of the action, and with time backs up to reveal more of an underlying plot that isn't actually as complicated and elaborate (or maybe it is - be the judge) as you might assume. It's all just a test, to see if Jack can be trusted, or not.

It's a gritty movie, dark (mainly because it takes place during one long night), dreary (ditto) and it details a rather despairing venture into murder and fateful meetings, all in or nearby the premesis of this one motel room. There's action; there's also calm, and I feel the movie does a good job at balancing the two, keeping a laid-back pace all the while managing to remain intriguing, exciting and occasionally also surprising.

John Cusack's a great actor, as are most of the other people in the movie, and the filmography is equally professional. It's a good thriller, no more no less, maybe a bit more in its frequent elements of surprise, brutality and patience. Good watch.

 rated 3/5: not bad

Fast Getaway 2 (1994)

Fast Getaway 2 (1994)

Nelson Potter (the kid from the previous movie) has gone legit, has a partner, has a big house; has a dad in jail. The dad isn't doing that bad though, and I assume his being in jail is a change to give Nelson (Corey Haim) a bigger spotlight and acting room. Everything is going OK until FBI agent Rankin pops up and starts snooping, and then Lily (Cynthia Rothrock) starts robbing banks again (well she probably never stopped) and then... it all goes haywire. I mean it all goes South. I'm saying it all turns to shit. I'm meaning they all go bananas and Rankin goes batshit crazy and they monkey around; once again, it's a good (but personally I thought the first movie was better) movie with all the elements that characterized the first, but this time it's more about the kid than the dad. Good movie.

 rated 3/5: not bad

Fast Getaway (1990)

Fast Getaway (1990)

Fast Getaway is the story of cops and robbers... but mostly robbers. Cynthia Rothrock (B-movie premiere martial artist, decent actor and Karate black belt) plays the bad girl, and the main characters are a duo of father (Ken Lerner) and son (Corey Haim, who btw held a promising career but died suddenly age 37 - and had a song made by an Irish band in his memory). Dad & son are both bank robbers, and though the story has some underlying moral it's mostly comedy, mostly you-can't-touch-us type of action: and they keep getting away, and away, and away again even when you think they'll get caught. And then they caught. But... they get away. There are some crazy car chases and plenty of action. So if you like action, and cars, and eighties movies in general (this is kinda like an eighties movie... even if the title claims otherwise) you'll have a fun time with this. Nothing serious, but a fun watch.

 rated 3/5: not bad

Android Cop (2014)

Android Cop (2014)

This movie wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. In the introducvtory sequence when the hovercraft dropped down from the sky and the machinegun let out some rapid fire with only special effects rising out of the ground (they could've at least added some real dust) I wasn't expecting much... but... it gets better.

In a perfect world this movie could've been awesome, but I feel they could add least have mixed in the special effects with some real effects. After watching a bunch of HK movies (like Hard Boiled the other day) I realize one thing about real effects: they look real. They're not as predictable, they affect the surrounding scenery and they effect the film. A flash of light filmed within the movie has an effect on the camera, but with special effects added afterwards that camera effect is probably the hardest thing to emulate. The flash... fine, but the effect that flash has on film equipment, nearby characters etc, that's a bit more difficult. Bigger budget movies have the special effects integrated in such a way that you barely notice they aren't real, they really do an awesome job at it - even if I prefer the real thing, but for budget movies I wish they'd mix in some cheap tricks to add to the realism instead of trying to go pro. I mean, how about some firecrackers mixed in with hardened flour on the walls that are supposedly 'shot up' (cause in the movie the walls don't even get scratched). That's the kind of elements I'm missing.

As for the movie itself, it reminds me a bit of the nineties Cyborg Cop series, and it's also no doubt set to be released the same year as Robocop for some added attention. The plot's slightly more advanced than the Cyborg Cop movies, the actors slightly better, and... the fights aren't half bad either! The main actors aren't bad. The Android Cop actually does a great job of acting like an Android, and the plot, the seemingly Banlieue-13 inspired scenario with cops and gangs and good and evil and relationship drama; sacrifice - it's all great. It's the filmography that's lacking. It's oftentimes a bit stiff, and the CGI doesn't always cut it. Like I said, The tension builds up though, and towards the end I'm surprised, positively. Good watch.

 rated 2/5: decent

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