Wednesday, April 28, 2010

#106 Infernal Affairs: I don't know whether he's good or bad

2002. dir. Wai-keung Lau and Alan Mak, starring Andy Lau, Tony Leung, Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang. Cantonese with subtitles.

Seen it before? No, but I've seen The Departed, so sorta.

Yes, total remake of The Departed, but with some key differences. in fact it's pretty amazing how different these movies are. Don't worry about spoilers, if you've seen one, you've seen 'em both, plot wise, anyway...
  • First and most obvious difference is that Affairs is nearly an hour shorter. Thus there is much less plot, and less character development. We don't really get to see how Yan infiltrates Boss Sam's gang. Most of Sam's gang don't really get distinct personalities.
  • Departed consolidated three of the women characters into one -- in Affairs, the psychologist, Lau's girlfriend, and Yan's girlfriend are three separate people. This was controversial; personally I like the approach Departed used better, mainly because two of the three women in Affairs were basically given nothing interesting to do. Like, Yan's girlfriend shows up in one scene, and has a kid; she doesn't tell Yan that it's his child. Annnnnd... that's it. Dead end, no further relevance to the plot.
  • Lau's girlfriend is an author, and the book she's writing mirrors Lau's conflict. Eh, I thought this was a little too obvious.
  • Inspector Lau is the story equivalent of Matt Damon's character, but is hugely different. We don't really get a lot of motivation for why he acts as a mole. At the end of the movie, he repents, and doesn't die, because...
  • there is no equivalent for Sgt. Dignam (Mark Walberg) from Departed. Too bad because he was my favorite character... Actually this sort of messes up the plot, because when SP Wong dies, Yan has no more contact in the department.
  • The villain is an actual villain, and not just Jack Nicholson playing Jack Nicholson. Score on for Affairs, I guess.
  • Affairs is very serious; Departed is actually pretty funny in some parts. I think it's because the longer run time allows Departed more room to breathe.
  • In Affairs, it's made clear from the beginning that Boss Sam has multiple moles in the police department, but in Departed it's a surprise. This opens a plot hole in Affairs - wouldn't Lau know about the others? Since he's met them?
  • The climax of Affairs is very stylistically shot, with lots of jump cuts and slo-mo. I think the end of Departed, which is shot in a very blunt, straightforward way, has much more impact.

    Position on the list: Bumped
    Apparently there were two sequels: Think I'll pass
  • #105 Taxi Driver: How long have I been sleeping

    1976. dir. Martin Scorsese, starring Robert DeNiro, Cybill Sheppard, Albert Brooks, Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel.

    Seen it before? Yes.

    OK I'm like 8 reviews behind so let's do this. DeNiro is Travis Bickle, the titular Taxi Driver. Uhh, he's nuts. He thinks everyone in New York is deplorable scum and has all sorts of violent revenge fantasies. He meets a girl he likes, Betsy (Cybill Sheppard), and takes her out on a date. All goes well until their second date, when he takes her to a porno theater. (Let me point out here that there appear to be porno theaters on every street corner in this movie, not to mention various ho's, pimps, and thugs. New York in the 70's looks like a horrible, scummy place, and you could think of this movie as Scorsese's anti-Valentine to the city.) Well needless to say Betsy is turned off by the whole thing and starts to realize how much of a psychopath Bickle is. And then he goes further off the rails...

    This movie features Bernard Herrmann's last movie score. It's a masterpiece, alternating between this cool, relaxing saxophone music and the more intense psycho music. Oh, and I have a theory about the ending: he's imagining it.

    Position on the list: 39
    Travis orders: Apple pie with melted cheese. sounds tasty

    Monday, April 26, 2010

    #104 In Bruges: Purgatory's kind of like the in-betweeny one

    2008. dir. Martin McDonagh, starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Clémence Poésy, Ralph Fiennes.

    Seen it before? Yes.

    Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson play Ray and Ken, two hitmen who get exiled to Bruges by their boss (Ralph Fiennes) for botching a job - Ray was supposed to shoot a priest, but accidentally kills a little boy in the process. Bruges is a charming medieval town in Belguim. Ken loves it, but Ray is totally bored. I don't want to say any more about the plot because to do so would ruin it.

    This is a very funny black comedy. This is probably the only movie I like Colin Farrell in. His character is such a foul-mouthed prick. The ending is brilliant; it's absurd, ironic, shocking, and hilarious all at once.

    Position on the list: 186
    A reunion of sorts: Three people in this movie were also in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Hey, it's Fleur, Professor Moody, and Lord Voldemort!

    Sunday, April 25, 2010

    #103 The Great Dictator: Humanity was kicked around somewhat.

    1940. dir. Charlie Chaplin, starring Charlie Chaplin, Charlie Chaplin, Jack Oakie, Reginald Gardiner, Paulette Goddard.

    Seen it before? No.

    OK, so, you know how Charlie Chaplin looked sort of like Hitler? Well, apparently Chaplin himself realized this, and thus the idea for this 1940 comedy. Chaplin plays a dual role: he is a Jewish barber who fought in WWI and suffers from amnesia, and he is "Adenoid Hynkel", the raging ant-semitic dictator. (A title card at the beginning announces that any resemblance between the barber and Hynkel is "purely coincidence", surely a veiled Take That at Hitler's rumored Jewish ancestry.)

    It's partly comedy, and partly dead-serious drama about the plight of the Jews in Nazi Germany. The comedy parts are reminiscent of Duck Soup, but not quite as funny. Bonus points for timeliness though, and the guy who plays the Mussolini stand-in was a riot.

    At the end of the movie, the barber and Hynkel have switched places, but Chaplin pretty much abandons both characters to deliver a pro-democracy monologue directly to the camera, On Deadly Ground style. It must have been pretty shocking at the time, considering the US wasn't at war with Germany yet. It's great that he took the opportunity to denounce fascism, but it sort of derails the movie. Also, the economy is still in a depression, and since when does making speeches about hope and change actually fix anything?

    Position on the list: 95
    Fake language alert: Esperanto is used for the signs in the Ghetto. All the German is obviously fake also.

    #100 Star Trek - I'd be offended if it wasn't true...

    2009. dir. J.J. Abrams, starring Christopher Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, John Cho, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, Eric Bana.

    Seen it before? Yes.

    Oh Chris Pine, I love you so...whoops, sorry Sam. One could argue that the rest of the Star Trek series would be for naught but that would not take into account the point of this movie - to start a new set of stories...for a new generation of would-be Trekkies. Spock Prime, as Sam put him, still exists in this universe. He knows how the alternate reality unfolded. No big deal.

    First I have to talk about the casting...have you seen these guys?:

    The casting was spot on. At first I was like, Chris Pine as James T. Kirk? Sha, as if...but then I watched the movie and you know what? He wasn't half bad!

    I thought the story in and of itself was a world where time travel is possible why wouldn't it make sense that the old Spock stir things up (unintentionally) by coming back to the past and changing the history of the world he came from? I like the little twists of whom was a love interest for who and how Spock and Kirks' relationship was so rocky at the beginning...of this movie anyway. The special effects were amazing too!

    I could write about a million things but I really think you should watch this movie if you haven't already! As a person who watched the original movies and series I must say that I wasn't disappointed...on a side note - Sam called me a "Trekkie" as we got ready to watch this first I was shocked and asked him why he considers me a "Trekkie" he answered by asking me how many Star Trek movies I had seen in the theater...I was thinking about it, because I do remember having seen at least two or three on the big screen. And he said, "If you've seen more than one, you are a "Trekkie"!" REALLY!?!?!?!

    See it again? AND AGAIN AND AGAIN
    Own it? Already do!!! =)
    FYI - yes, that is Winona Ryder and oddly enough that IS Eric Bana...who knew?