Red Cliffs, part 2 Review

red-cliffsRed Cliffs is based on a historical battle found between the three kingdoms of China during the Han dynasty.  Cao Cao, the most powerful, is portrayed in both part one and two as greedy and unethical.  He covets Sun Quan’s wife as well.    Liu Bei, the other warlord, forms an aliance with Zhou yu and shares his master of strategy with him.  The action shots and special effects are quite good and add to the legend-like quality of this historical action/drama.  It’s John Woo, after all.  The story is romanticized in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, by Luo Guanzhong.

I enjoyed both parts and rate it 4/5 acorns.  No clives.

Love and Honor, Review

love-and-honor-02

Love and Honor is one of the 3 movies directed by Yoji Yamada.   Twilight Samurai is my favorite more contemporary samurai picture and I really enjoyed Love and Honor.  The period of all three movies, ( the third one being The Hidden Blade) is that time when the samurai class is started it’s decline.  The gun has arrived and the “west” is knocking at Japan’s door.

In this story, Shinnojo Mimura, played so well by Takuya Kimura, is a mere 50 koku samurai, who’s job, with 5 other samurai,  is to taste the Lord’s food to screen for poisons.  At 50 koku, he has one vassal, and a very devoted wife.  One day he becomes ill after eating an exotic seafood, and is in coma for about 3 days.  When he wakes, he is blind.  His family bickers about who will have to support him, so his wife goes to government official for help.  The sleaze ball had offered help, and she naively goes to him at the urging of her in-laws.  He promises help in exchange for services.  She is very shamed, but when the Lord’s officials tell them that has been decided that he should keep his 50 koku, she feels she must continue for the love of her husband.

Meanwhile, the man decides he is not useless, but that he should follow his dream of becoming a fencing master.  His teacher works with him and he developes a sense of his opponents moves.

He begins to suspect his wife is up to something and has his vassal follow her to one of her rendezvous.   It is Mimura’s right to kill her, but he banishes her from his home, in the middle of the night.  After suffering his vassal’s horrid cooking and have to subject his guest to the worst cup of tea, he agrees to take in a cook.  But before that he discovers that the Lord had insisted on supporting Mimura as he was very grateful that Mimura sacrificed so much to save his life.   When he finds out that his wife was duped he challenges the corrupt official to a duel.

These one on one duels are always the high point for me in any samurai movie and this one does not disappoint.

I recommend this movie and give it 5 acorns.

Masters of Horror

I haven’t been able to watch these gifted blu-ray discs as I lack the hardware.  My TV is also dying and everyone is pink.  I was able to watch these on my son’s PlayStation on his TV, so I started with volum 4.  I have seen the Miike one, Imprint, before.  It is quite disturbing and I have no desire to watch it ever again.

Homecoming, by Joe Dante of Gremlins fame is a story of soldier zombies who come back for one reason.  When denied their purpose, they do what zombies do best…eat some brains and other body parts.

Haeckel’s Tale by John McNaughton of Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer.  A young women has died and her distraught husband seeks a crone to reanimate her.  She tells him Haeckel’s tale to try and dissuade him.  Haeckel is Dr. Frankenstein’s comtemporary.  While traveling home to see his ailing father he crosses paths with a medicine man who claims to be able to bring people and animals back to life.  He demonstrates on a dead dog he has in a basket.  He is convinced the man is a fraud.  As he travels on he is invited to take shelter from a storm in the home of man he meets on the road.  This elderly man has a very young and beautiful wife, who mysteriously goes out at night.  She goes to the graveyard where she party’s with the undead.

Chocolate is the story of a man, separted from his wife and son, who dreams he tastes chocolate, and then dreams about a woman and a place he’s never been too.  He follows his obsession with some unexpected results.

Pride and Glory, Review

I have to rant a bit about the price of a movie ticket.  I paid $10 to see this movie.  Darn!  And I remember the 35 cent days when there were double features…

I didn’t see Edward Norton as the Hulk, but he has played many memorable roles.  He plays the John Voight’s son.  He is part of a police family, with dad, older brother (Noah Emmerich) and brother-in-law (Colin Firth).  The acting is very good and there is quite a bit of action and violence.  A group of policmen in older brother’s squad are killed in a narcotics raid.  Edward Norton, who has been on leave from his job on narcotics is asked to be on the task force formed to bring the evil doers to justice.  He does so reluctantly and has he gets deeper in to the case it looks more like a setup and corrupt police.  Unfortunately it leads to to Colin Firth and the case threatens to bring his whole family down.

The reason for Norton’s leave of absence had to do with him doing something against his conscience to protect the police force.  The dilemma of being put in to a similar situation again is cause for a lot of grief.

I will rate this one 3.5/5 acorns.  1/2 of a clive.

Memories of Murder, review (warning spoilers)

Kang-ho Song acted in the fun Korean blockbuster The Host as the not-to bright but loving father.   In Memories of Murder is plays a detective in a very small rural town, where it looks like a serial killer is on the loose.  Most of the forensic evidence is destroyed by the time the police are on the scenes.  He interviews many suspects and feels he can tell who is guilty by looking in their eyes.  His partner takes pleasure in beating the crap out of suspects until they confess to just about anything.

Enter the more sofisticated detective from Seoul who looks for patterns.  The killings occur on rainy nights, were all wearing red, and on each night a certain rare song is requested on the radio.  As the police narrow down their search they are constantly stymied by the lack of evidence.  Even the specimen sent of to American for DNA testing is equivocal .

Does Hae-il Parklook like James Spader?

I will rate this one 3/5 acorns with 1/2 for crimes against women and policemen beating up suspects, guilty or not.

Movie Marathon, 4 movies in 2 days

I’m Not Scared is a very beautifully shot Italian movie about a boy who discovers a kidnapped child chained in an abandoned house.  The boy is crazy with fear and tells MIchele, he thinks he is dead and that his family is also dead.  Michele keeps quiet about this and finds that he parents are involved in the kidnap scheme.  While he ponders all of this he takes Filippo food and out to play.  My favorite scene is when they roll in the wheat fields that this provincial Hawaiian never knew existed in Italy.  Once the grownups discover Michele knows about their secret, Filippo is moved.  From the TV he discovers that Filippo’s family is not able to raise the large sum of money in time.  He is moved to action when he overhears the adults pulling straws to see who will be the one to kill Filippos.    I will rate this one 4/5 acorns.  No clives

Nine Queens is an Argentinian movie about con men.  The nine queens is a set of rare stamps, most valuable as they contain a printing error.  A conman, Marcos, who has recently lost his partner hooks up with a young man, Juan,  who he catches bungling a simple con and offers to bring him in on a scam in which they will sell a forgery of the nine queens to a stamp dealer.  Many things go wrong.   Many people are involved including members of Marco’s and Juan’s sister.  As the plot thickens it is less clear who is conning who.  This movie did not have a lot of action.  Marcos talks a lot as he “trains” his apprentice.  The end is most satisfying.  I will rate this one 3/5 acorns, no clives.

City of Ember surprised me in my search for movies to see on movie day.  I love a good fantasy tale and this one has Tim Robbins in it.  The City of Ember is an underground city, powered by a massive generator.  The city was created by the “builders” 200 years earlier as a way to save the human race from total annihilation.  A box holding the secret, given to the mayor had been lost and when the generator starts to flicker, the Citizens of Ember turn to religion or believe in the corrupt mayor.  A small fraction is more concerned and tries to find how why and how.

Martin Landau has a great cameo as a pipe worker who knows his job very well but no one else.  His young apprentice, Tim Robbins son, very much wants to fix the generator.  He swaps graduation jobs with a classmate to get her job in the pipeworks and she becomes the messenger she so wanted to be.  Together they discover meaning of the box hidden in grannie’s closet, a giant mutated mole and the mayor’s secret.  As the puzzle unfolds the movie took on a Myst like quality with a bit of the Goonies and Whoville thrown in.  I will rate this one 3/5 acorns, no clives.

Body of Lies stars Russell Crowe and Leonardo Dicaprio as CIA operatives.  Russel Crow put on a bunch of weight for this roll as the protected man back in Washington and Leonardo as the operative in the Middle East.  Following a lead on a terrorist who anonymously has been blowing up stuff in Europe, Leonardo goes to Jordan.  He enlists the aid of the Jordanian CIA equivalent, played by Mark Strong.  Crowe’s character is detached from any personal relationships other then that with Leo.  Leonardo’s character is not only immersed in the relationships with Mark Strong’s character, but he also sees the destruction and loss of life that result from his actions and relationships.    As an action picture, Ridley Scott has made an excellent picture.  The acting was a+.  As a commentary on American’s in the Middle East, I can only hope there is much fantasy.    I will rate this one 3/5 acorns.  I will give it 1/2 of clive for torture and finger smashing.  Youch!

Dexter, Season 2

Michael C. Hall plays Dexter, forensic expert who is also a serial killer.  In Season 2, pressures mount as the FBI begins examining the bodies discovered in the bay.  Sgt. Doakes is on his tail again, after briefly being put off thinking Dexter has been hiding a drug addiction.  He even finds Dexter’s trophies, the single drop of blood from each of his victims.  Rita, his girlfriend has to confront her domineering mother and jealousy over his NA sponsor, Lila.  Lila has a fatal attraction for Dexter, and is clearly unbalanced.  He starts to recognize this after she sets fire to her own apartment when she finds out he plans to spend a day at the beach with Rita.  Meanwhile, Dexter finds out more disturbing facts about his mothers and adoptive father and seeks out the one remaining murderer.

I was sad to see the last episode.  Now I have to wait until Season 3 comes out on DVD.

Someone should have warned Lila not to mess with a serial killer.  But, I for one was glad to see her end.  Still there is something very scary about the look in Dexter’s eyes.  He truly likes what he does.  Luckily for the “normal” he has a code, like Anton Chigurh, in No Country for Old Men.   Just stay off their list.

Season 2 Dexter and Death Race reviews

Season 2 of Dexter is lined up in the Netflix queue.   Really, it’s tough to figure out what I can’t stop watching it.  There isn’t anything redeeming about a serial killer with a string of over 30, is there?  Dexter’s neat little bundles have been discovered under the sea by some divers seeking a shipwreck.  One of the Carradine brothers playing and FBI agent is called in and Dexter’s sister is attracted to him even though he is much older.  Dexter’s girlfriend’s mom has moved in and she tries to take over the household.  Dexter’s sponser at NA is all over the place and she clearly has some really big issues of her own.  Dexter breaks up with his girflriend,  and finds out more about his mom and her death, but I won’t let this spoiler out of the bag.    So why is this all so intriguing?  It’s the vigilante angle.  Even “normal” citizens argue that he should just be let go.  So I can’t wait for the next two discs.

Once again I showed up at the wrong time for a movie so ended up seeing Jason Statham in Death Race instead of Babylon AD.  It’s pretty much straight up action.  The trailer explains the plot and there aren’t many surprises.  Mr Statham shows off his rhomboids…I’m a sucker for great rhomboids.  It’s the testosterone.  This movie does play up the difference between testosterone and estrogen, the estrogen being displayed by Natalie Marinez and Joan Allen.  Not a deep movie but the non stop action, predictable plot, likable characters and happy ending made me glad I got to see it on the big screen.

see?

Frederick Koehler plays an interesting character named Lists and Ian McShane is coach.  And oh, btw, Ford will be happy to see their cars in the race.

Life’s Little Dramas. Traitor, Kaibei and Dr. Who Reviews

Sunday I took my “trainer” dog Malu, the Blue Healer, for a walk in Waimanlo.  He was on a leash.  I saw a slight movement just a split second before he did and before I could react he pounced on a bird.  I know it was a bird because I saw it’s green tail sticking out of his mouth.  Malu did not pay any attention to my command to drop it, nor did he listen to his real pack leader.  Instead he took a gulp and swallowed it.   What a dog.  I still feel sorry for that little bird and very disappointed in my leadership skills.  I don’t think I’ll be getting a dog any time soon.

Back home, I’m attacking the weeds in the patio.  Occasionally I pull up an especially big clump and an earthworm gets disturbed.  I worry about them as those lizards come out of nowhere and eat them.  I cover them with dirt or a pot until they find safety.   And to think I used to dig those guys up and go bass fishing below the reservoir.  Ew.

So much for life’s little dramas.

I watched Kaibei because it had Tadanobu Asano in it.  He plays Yamazaki, a gangly, nerdy guy, who trips over his own feet and doesn’t know how to swim.

Kaibee is about a women’s mother. It is a tear jerker. Dad, Tobei, is imprisioned because of his politcal beliefs. This takes place prior to WW2 when Japan has invaded China. Kaibee makes many sacrifices for her children and bears the shame, the poverty and the loneliness to see her husband. Yamazaki (Asano) shows up one day and becomes a great support to the family until he his drafted In typical fashion, even without the samurai theme, everybody dies and no one gets the girl. Asano is great as the gangly klutz.

Season 1 on Dr. Who has ended on the Netflix queue. The new Dr. Who has been introduced. I’ll see how I like him. I hear he is very good.

Traitor,  stars Don Cheadle as and US asset in the Middle East. His father before him was killed in a car bombing in Sudan.  He was raised by his mom in Chicago.  His skill is building bombs and this comes in handy if one is infiltrating a terrorist organization.  Mr. Memento himself, Guy Pearce plays a FBI agent who gets on his trail as he seeks out the group.  Only one person in the USA knows Don is a good guy, and it is not Guy.   I don’t know how “real” this portrayal is.   There is a cool twist at the end which I will not say more about.   I will rate this movie 3/5 acorns.

Tropic Thunder, Dr. Who Season 1, Red Cliff Reviews

I went to see Tropic Thunder because I wanted to laugh. Robert Downey Jr. plays a Australian actor who gets so deep into his characters he doesn’t know who he is any more. He thinks he’s a black man and has had his skin altered and “talks black”. This offends the hip hop star who also acts in this movie. Tom Cruise plays a puffed up movie exec. He has fake body hair and is almost unrecognizable. Jack Black is Jack Black and what a crazy funny guy he is. Nick Nolte plays a Vietnam Vet who writes a book about his experience. He is on location as an advisor. The filming is not going well. Ben Stiller, on the downside of his his action star career can’t cry and the pyronechnic guy decimates the forest when the camera isn’t running. To make things more real, they actors are dropped into the jungle without their cel phones and stumble on a drug running operation. Brando Soo Hoo plays the tough child leader of the drug runners. He is trained in Karate, Tae kwon do and Kung fu.

If you like vulgar humor that pokes fun at the movie industry and relationships, this is your movie. One does not have to dig deep for a cheap laugh.

Disc 3 of Dr. Who Season 1 came, and I am enjoying the series. I’m confused. Christopehr Eccleston is listed as the actor playing Dr. Who, but one IMDB David Tennant is listed as Dr. Who. Oh oh, I just read that he quit after one season and was replaced by David Tennant! There ought to be a law! David Tennant is Scottish. I will have to prepare for the switchover. At least I’ve been warned. I am enjoying this series…tongue in cheek humor, geek gadgets, zany monsters and time travel.

Red Cliffs is based on a book that can be downloaded at http://dw3k.com/newrotkebook/. It tells the story of 3 kingdoms and a battle at Red Cliffs. Cao Cao wants to rule all three kingdoms and has the largest army. His only motive is greed. He has put Liu Bei on the run and Liu Bei and Sun Quan for a truce to beat Cao Cao. They are still outnumbered, but have the love of their people, two very astute military strategists, and very loyal champion fighter generals on their side. When Cao Cao decides to attack from the sea, he is lured into fighting a land battle where he is defeated. Apparently there will be a sequel, because he doesn’t die, but comes back from the sea to fight the battle of Red Cliffs. John Woo directs an excellent cast. It is an interesting historical drama with good acting and great action shots. I will rate this one 3/5 acorns. Having very cute actors doesn’t hurt one bit (Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro)

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