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Film Review

The Farewell (2019)

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Running time: 1h 40min
Directed by Lulu Wang
Written by Lulu Wang
Starring Shuzhen Zhao, Awkwafina, X Mayo

The Farewell is feel-good drama/comedy which centers on the Chinese custom of not informing (or lying to) people about their terminal illness, so that they can live the rest of their days in blissful ignorance. The film is based on the true story of director/writer Lulu Wang’s life experiences.

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Film Review

Das Boot (1981) (dir. cut)

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Running time: 3h 28min
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen
Written by Wolfgang Petersen, Lothar G. Buchheim (based on the novel by)
Starring Jürgen Prochnow, Herbert Grönemeyer, Klaus Wennemann

Das Boot is one of my favorite war films, and maybe even one of my favorite films of all time. It is a somewhat realistic look at what it was to sail in a U-boat during World War 2 — there was no glory, and the vast majority of the time on the boat was spent fighting boredom, but when the enemy is finally encountered, adrenaline quickly gives way to despair. Due to the subject matter, the pacing, and the length, Das Boot can be a hard watch, but it can also be very rewarding, and it is inarguably one of the greatest war movies ever made.

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Film Review

Once (2007)

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Running time: 1h 26min
Directed by John Carney
Written by John Carney
Starring Glen Hansard, Markéta Irglová, Hugh Walsh

Musicals are not really my thing, but occasionally I am forced to watch them. Once stars two singer-songwriters who I had never heard of, in a story where not much happens. There is the possibility of romance in the air, but will it ever get there? Find out, if you care!

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Film Review

Heat (1995)

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Running time: 2h 50min
Directed by Michael Mann
Written by Michael Mann
Starring Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer

Michael Mann’s Heat is by now a classic crime thriller/action film, made almost legendary by great casting, great direction, and perhaps the best shootout scene in the history of cinema. I would not say that it is a perfect movie, but it does come close. Despite its almost 3 hour running time, it manages to entertain and thrill even on a rewatch.

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Film Review

Nobody (2021)

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Running time: 1h 32min
Directed by Ilya Naishuller
Written by Derek Kolstad
Starring Bob Odenkirk, Aleksey Serebryakov, Connie Nielsen

Nobody is an R-rated action film that gets progressively crazier as the bodies pile up. The film stars Bob Odenkirk (known especially as Saul from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul), who proves he can do action as well as drama and comedy. I was pleasantly surprised by Nobody; the most important aspects of an action film, the action and the pacing, are both on point.

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Film Review

Fearless (2006)

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Running time: 1h 44min
Directed by Ronny Yu
Written by Chris Chow, Richard Epcar (dubbed version), Chi-long To
Starring Jet Li, Li Sun, Yong Dong

Fearless tells the almost mythical tale of legendary Chinese Martial Arts master Huo Yuanjia (1868-1910), and does it well enough to be entertaining, at least for those who find enjoyment out of people kicking and punching each other. Starring Jet Li, who is one of the most well-known “movie star” martial artists, Fearless is a historical kung fu flick that has enough story wrapped around its multiple fight scenes to work overall as not “just” a martial arts movie; while the impressive fight choreography and Jet Li’s name are obviously the main draws of the film, the production value is relatively high in other respects as well. The film is not historically accurate, and does not shy away from clichés, however, and in part it feels like Chinese nationalistic propaganda, featuring some shallow black and white (or red, white, and blue in one instance) depictions of the foreign forces plaguing China during the late 19th and early 20th century.

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Film Review

The Death of Stalin (2017)

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Running time: 1h 47min
Directed by Armando Iannucci
Written by Fabien Nury (based on the comic books by), Thierry Robin (based on the comic books by), Armando Iannucci
Starring Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Jeffrey Tambor

The Death of Stalin is a very well crafted black comedy/satire about the final days and aftermath of Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin’s reign in 1953. The film is based on a comic book, which might be surprising to those who are used to thinking about comic book adaptations in terms of superheroes punching supervillains. The Death of Stalin is a hilarious, yet moving movie about extreme authoritarianism, cult of personality, the lust for power, and the tragic results of it all. This is a film that is exceedingly entertaining, while also providing a (albeit not entirely accurate) history lesson about an important period in history.

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Film Review

The Indian Fighter (1955)

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Running time: 1h 28min
Directed by André De Toth
Written by Robert L. Richards (story), Frank Davis (screenplay), Ben Hecht (screenplay)
Starring Kirk Douglas, Elsa Martinelli, Walter Matthau

The Indian Fighter is a western from the 50s starring Kirk Douglas, and that should already be a fairly good description of the film. There is conflict brewing between the Sioux and the white man, and it is up to Johnny Hawks (Douglas) to resolve it. Meanwhile, he seems to be more interested in sexually assaulting a Sioux girl half his age. Watching it in 2021, The Indian Fighter is a thought-provoking film, something that its creators probably did not set out to accomplish. Apologies in advance to those few who dare venture further: this review contains barely coherent ranting about masculinity, heroism, and their portrayals. Is it all highly problematic or just good old fun?

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Film Review

Battling Butler (1926)

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Running time: 1h 17min
Directed by Buster Keaton
Written by (adapted from the 1923 stage success of the same name) Paul Gerard Smith, Al Boasberg, Charles Henry Smith
Starring Buster Keaton, Snitz Edwards, Sally O’Neil

Buster Keaton is a silent era figure of Hollywood who I have vaguely known about for years now, but who I had never, until watching Battling Butler, bothered to get more acquainted with. I was always more of a Charles Chaplin guy, for no other reason really than for his films being on TV when I was a kid. Battling Butler is a comedy about a young high class fop named Alfred Butler (Keaton) who must find some measure of manliness in order to become a Man(tm). He goes about this endeavor by going hunting, gentleman style, with his butler – or perhaps one should use the term “manservant” in order to avoid confusion. Battling Butler being a comedy, it is not surprising that shooting the wildlife does not come without a fair amount of tomfoolery and assorted boobery. During this escapade into the wilderness Alfred Butler happens to meet a local country girl, falls in love, and ends up impersonating a somewhat famous boxer in order to impress her and his overly masculine family members.

Categories
Film Review

Ong-Bak (2003)

IMDB link
Running time: 1h 45min
Directed by Prachya Pinkaew
Written by Panna Rittikrai (story), Prachya Pinkaew (story), Suphachai Sittiaumponpan (screenplay)
Starring Tony Jaa, Petchtai Wongkamlao, Pumwaree Yodkamol

The head of a sacred Buddha statue gets stolen from a rural village in Thailand, and it is up to local country boy/martial arts practitioner Ting (Tony Jaa) to return it by any means necessary. This quest leads him to the big corrupt city, and, of course, to a series of martial arts fights where he must reluctantly bash his opponents in order to eventually, maybe, have a chance of recovering the holy artifact from the evil criminals who took it. Ong-Bak good for what it is; a stunt/martial arts choreography showcase of Tony Jaa in the guise of a feature film.