Ip Man

Ip Man. Golden Harvest 2008.

Before watching the movie:

I have heard this series mentioned a lot as some kind of great work that doesn’t have to be discussed because everyone in the conversation has already seen it. I’ve seen the sequels pop up from time to time, but the original movie doesn’t show up as much.

I have to admit I read the title as if it was English until I decided to look up what it’s about. What does a man of Ip do? Ip Man (or Yip Man, or Ip Mun, depending on the transliteration) is the name of a famous martial artist. He trained Bruce Lee. This is (very loosely) based on his early life. Apparently the story is about him standing up to invading forces to defend his village solo, which is to say it concerns things that absolutely didn’t happen to him in the Second Sino-Japanese war.

I have the understanding that while this movie did not originally get released in the US, it, or at least its sequels, brought Donnie Yen to the attention of American film studios. I do not know any of the names of the other actors, but it looks like they actually cast Japanese actors as the Japanese characters, which I suppose a Chinese production is more likely to do if they have access to Japanese actors, because Chinese audiences are very familiar with the differences between Chinese and Japanese people, unlike many in the American audience.

Continue reading

Safe House

Safe House. Filmquest Pictures 1999.

Before watching the movie:

For all the actors I mowed through the filmographies of when I first realized I had the ability to discover and summon movies, somehow I never did that for Patrick Stewart. Most Star Trek regulars don’t seem to have enough high profile projects outside of Star Trek to get me to think in those kinds of terms.

So I first heard of this movie from a viral video recasting a clip of it as “Look at how jarringly out of character Captain Picard is!” I had to look up the source, and it sounded funny, but it’s heavily marketed as a thriller. Maybe it moves from comedy to thriller?

Also it seems to be a TV movie, which I try to avoid, but here it is anyway.

Continue reading

Flying Blind

Flying Blind. Paramount Pictures 1941.

Before watching the movie:

I got as far as the title, that it’s a comedy, and the main character starting a charter air service between Los Angeles and Las Vegas for elopements, and trying to keep his stewardess from marrying another man and decided this would be a blast to watch.

I have a strange feeling I’ve seen Richard Arlen play a small airline pilot in a comedy before, but I don’t seem to have done this movie or the other two the producers made with him on this blog, and if I didn’t blog it, I don’t think I would have watched it.

It seems this is the first 1941 movie I’ve watched. Some years ago I made an effort to have covered every decade of the 20th century, maybe it’s time to fill in the holes by year. Around 52 updates a year and over ten years running, hopefully there aren’t that many holes.

Continue reading

Movies of my Yesterdays: Operation Dumbo Drop

This is a movie I originally saw as the kind of catch up that I later turned into this blog, but the revolution was ordering holds from the library instead of online subscriptions. I have much stronger memories of seeing it advertised on other Disney movies than of the one time I watched it years ago. I mainly remembered that the ads made it look a bit more fun and kiddish than it actually was.

Operation Dumbo Drop. Walt Disney Pictures 1995.

Green Beret Captain T.C. Doyle has been assigned to replace Captain Sam Cahill in maintaining good relations between the US Military and the Vietnamese village of Dak Nhe, strategically important due to its proximity to the Ho Chi Minh Trail. When the Viet Cong soldiers find the wrapper from a candy bar some village children stole from Doyle and realize that Dak Nhe has been helping the Americans, they shoot the village’s elephant as a punishment. In this region, elephants are companions, workhorses, and have ceremonial roles, and the village elders blame Doyle for the loss of their only elephant, but Cahill promises that they will bring a new elephant by the end of the week in time for an important ceremony. Doyle and Cahill requisition two GIs and enough money to buy a new elephant, as well as blackmailing a fast-talking black market racketeer into the group as well. The elephant they can afford, named Bo Tat, comes with an orphaned boy named Linh attached as the driver. Linh’s parents died in the war, and he doesn’t trust either side, but the gang have to trust him to help them transport Bo Tat across hundreds of miles of Vietnamese terrain, while VC soldiers stalk them, determined to make the Americans break their promise.

I didn’t even remember from my initial viewing that this is set in the Vietnam War, but that’s because this is probably the most sanitized Vietnam War story put to film. The 90s were a time when morally grey heroes and antagonists were becoming popular, but the closest that this movie comes to acknowledging the crisis of conscience that America faced in Vietnam is that the American characters admit they can’t be sure which side killed Linh’s parents, and it turns out that his father was gunned down by the VC for unclear reasons. This could have easily been a romp in any jungle with American military presence at any time in the latter 20th century, it could have been Peace Corps, it could’ve been anyone else with any reason a bureaucratic organization stuck them thousands of miles from the Western world, but it’s based on a story from the Vietnam War, so it’s set in the theme park version of the Vietnam War.

There’s a really fun chemistry between the army guys that is most of the reason to watch the movie, however it seems a bit off-balance that of the two GIs who were just assigned as backup, one is the very visible comic relief guy who’s scared of everything because he’s got less than a week until he goes home and wants to survive the week, and the other is just the Iowa farmboy who’s also kinda there. His biggest contribution is failing at being a backup elephant driver when they need to rescue Linh from a VC interrogation.

In the 90s, “Dumbo” felt more like a generic nickname for elephants than it does now. I wonder if that’s because Disney tightened control over their trademark or if I just had a smaller reference pool. I seem to remember the use of “When I See an Elephant Fly” being a bit jarring the first time I watched it, because I didn’t necessarily remember until then that this was a Disney movie. It still feels a bit out of place and forced. If nothing else, it along with the title is a reminder that somebody seems to think that the whole movie is a vehicle for delivering the climax and little else.

I hope this is nobody’s only exposure to Vietnam War history, but aside from that, it’s fun, maybe as much fun as Cool Runnings, which I gather is also more in the territory of being “suggested by” history. Maybe Disney should do fewer “live action remakes” and go back to making more “adventures suggested by true stories”. Even if the results were controversial, they’d be controversial for less silly reasons than the fights over Belle’s dress or the completely soulless hypernaturalism of The Lion King. Also maybe more fun.

Tower Heist

Tower Heist. Universal Pictures 2011.

Before watching the movie:

I passed by this a few times because I generally don’t consider crime movies to be my kind of thing. But then I noticed that it has comedy actors leading it, so I looked closer, and saw that it’s not just about stealing money, it’s about folks who lost their retirement funds to a scummy hedge fund manager stealing it back, and that interests me a lot.

I get the sense that a lot of “revenge on the Wall Street crooks” movies came out in the years after the 2009 collapse, but I mainly get that from having seen Fun with Dick and Jane in the last year, which was very very loudly about surviving a Wall Street implosion (looking it up, I realize that movie in particular wasn’t about the 2009 collapse, but the timing seems more like it was about Enron).

Continue reading

The Most Dangerous Game (1932)

The Most Dangerous Game. RKO Radio Pictures 1932.

Before watching the movie:

I recall reading the short story in high school, which is probably a very common curriculum element since it’s so widely referenced, parodied, and built upon. Short stories are often the perfect length to be adapted into movies without having to cut or add anything. But then they seem to have added a love interest because of course they wanted a love subplot. I suppose that it was more necessary because of how much of the story would’ve had the protagonist alone without someone to talk to than for time. But also a movie without a love story doesn’t seem to be allowable.

Continue reading

Johnny Mnemonic

Johnny Mnemonic. Tristar Pictures 1995.

Before watching the movie:

I heard about this movie a long time ago, though I’m not sure what movie it was brought up in contrast to anymore. I know I already knew of Keanu Reeves as the central player in the Matrix movies, and that heavily colored what little I knew about the movie. I still really only know the core concept, but I’ve always thought of this movie as being very cyberpunk, and had a hard time separating the idea of “mind in computer (simulation)” from “computer in mind”.

Taking a look at the poster right now, it seems like it’s positioning itself as the futurist version of Speed, but that might just be because it’s an action movie with Keanu Reeves.

Continue reading

Four Brothers

Four Brothers. Di Bonaventura Pictures 2005.

Before watching the movie:

I’m not sure I’d even heard of this movie before I was invited to watch it. It’s definitely something outside my normal tastes, but I should occasionally broaden my intakes in directions I’m not as eager about as well, and crime drama still has the potential to excite.

Continue reading

The One

The One. Hard Eight Pictures 2001.

Before watching the movie:

From the first time I heard about this movie, I was vaguely interested in the reality-hopping concept, but I wasn’t into martial arts movies and so I wasn’t all that attracted to it. What I know about the movie hasn’t really changed, I’m mostly just warmer to Kung fu films in general, and also I’m a little more aware of Jet Li’s work.

Apparently the movie was originally meant for Dwayne Johnson, who would’ve been very different, but I also would’ve been less familiar with 20 years ago.

Continue reading

300

300. Legendary Pictures 2007.

Before watching the movie:

Here’s one more that’s always been something I would probably get to eventually. It doesn’t seem to have much to recommend it to my tastes, but it was too big to ignore forever. I foresee a slow motion CGI mess with a couple of dead memes and hardly any plot, but it’s based on a Frank Miller comic, so there’s some hope that it has some engagement besides the visual spectacle I expect to enjoy until it overstays its welcome.

Continue reading