Sunday, January 30, 2005

Busy week - Purple Butterfly, Hide & Seek, Ray, Monsieur N.

But, hey, at least my employers know that I've been working rather than writing movie reviews on the laptop, right?

So, anyway, seeing Ray doesn't change my Oscar hopes/predictions much; I think it's got a shot at Best Editing, but I don't know if it would bump anything else. I was worried before that Jamie Foxx would take some attention of Don Cheadle, and now I'm sure of it. Of course, the voters will probably just go Aviator-stupid anyway.

So, I'll keep it brief and leave the jokes in the Amazon links (if they don't make me money, they may as well amuse me, right?).

Purple Butterfly (Zi hudie)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 26 January 2005 at the Brattle Theater (Special Engagements)

Yes, America, Zhang Ziyi does in fact do movies other than art-house martial arts flicks. Take, for instance, Purple Butterfly, the new film from Lou Ye (director of the well-regarded Shinzou River), which features no kung fu at all. It may not quite reach the heights of Shakespearean tragedy to which it aspires, but if it's a failure, it's an interesting, ambitious one.

The movie opens in 1928 Manchuria, where Ziying's Cynthia is a pigtailed student. There's some tension with her brother and his friends associates because of her Japanese boyfriend, Hidehiko Itami (Toru Nakamura); they publish a newsletter urging people to boycott Japanese goods. When Itami returns home, the ice thaws a bit, right before she witnesses her brother accosted by an angry Japanese man with a knife, as well as something worse.

Read the rest at HBS.

Hide and Seek

* ½ (out of four)
Seen 27 January 2005 at Loews Boston Common #14 (sneak preview)

Are they serious? All that hype about shipping the last reel seperately and numbering them so that they could track down where any leaks of the film's ending came from, the frisking we had to go through to make sure none of us had camera phones... For this ending?

Hide and Seek doesn't quite suck enough to displace White Noise as the worst movie of the young year - it's not quite so aggressively stupid - but it's pretty awful. It does the one thing that is unforgivable in a thriller - the thing which earns a negative mark from me on principle, meaning that even if the plot weren't full of holes and a talented cast didn't all manage to simultaneously give some of the worst performances of their careers, I'd still have walked out of the theater angry: It lies to its audience.

Read the rest at HBS.


* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 28 January 2005 at Somerville Theatre #2 (second-run) (Oscar catch-up)

Ray doesn't quite avoid the pitfall that destroys most biopics; it's quite willing to reduce a complicated life to a simple theme. In this case, that theme is Ray Charles's mother told him not to let anything make him a cripple, but he eventually had to overcome heroin addiction in order to make good on that. It's still an enjoyable movie, though, because around the life lesson we're expected to extract from the subject's life, there's a bunch of little details.

Little things like name-dropping Tom Dowd. Only a small group of music experts and what meager group of us saw Tom Dowd and the Language of Music would likely notice if they got the name of Atlantic's recording engineer wrong, but they get it right. Would that more movies realized that paying attention to details has no downside, and the upside that the people in the audience who care about these details look upon the movie more favorably.

Read the rest at HBS.

Monsieur N.

* ¾ (out of four)
Seen 30 January 2005 at the Brattle Theater (Sunday Eye-opener) (projected video)

Yep, you know it's January when not just the major studios, but the smaller indie distributors are dumping their less-than-stellar works, in hopes of getting some business from the people who saw everything in December and maybe, just maybe, a favorable blurb to put on the DVD cover a couple months down the road. The latter, at least, they will not be getting here.

Napoleon Bonaparte is a figure whose stature very soon became bigger than mere history and entered the realm of the mythological. As Ivy Moylun, the leader of our post-film discussion at the Brattle Theater's Sunday Eye-Opener series pointed out, he's rather like Elvis Presley in America, in that many preferred to invent a more fitting last act to their lives than what they had; a man whose armies marched from the Atlantic to Moscow deserves not to die in ignominious exile. Even if they don't have a grand finale, surely there should be one final, lost adventure, akin to Bruce Campbell as Elvis in Bubba Ho-Tep. Sadly, Monsieur N is no Bubba Ho-Tep.

(And though that comparison is nerdy enough to be mine, it's Ivy's. Credit/blame where it's due.)

Read the rest at HBS.

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