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The Children Of Huang Shi Review


Bad
Roger Spottiswoode's limp The Children of Huang Shi sounds, looks, and feels like a chapter torn from a dusty history textbook that was relevant somewhere in the mid-1960s. Every revelation feels like a lesson being thrust upon the viewer, every character a simple metaphor for their nationality's opinion toward (and hand in) the Japanese occupation of China that culminated in the Rape of Nanking in the winter of 1937. Here, the Chinese were honorable soldiers from a conflicted country, the Japanese were buffoonish barbarians who still took their shirt off before they decapitated people, the British were naive and in way over their heads, and the Americans just wanted to get married.

As the film's pre-script enlightens us, Children follows the life of George Hogg (Jonathan Rhys Davies), a British journalist who steals the identity of a Red Cross worker to sneak into Nanking and get the story and the pictures of the massacres. After being captured, he almost meets the business-end of Tokyo steel before Hansheng (Chow Yun-Fat, not having fun with a mostly-American dialect), a resistance fighter, saves him from the blade. Hansheng sends Hogg off to the titular village, which serves as a sort of city for lost children, held in check by Dr. Pearson (Radha Mitchell), an actual Red Cross medic.

Continue reading: The Children Of Huang Shi Review

300 Trailer


300
Trailer

300, one of the highlights of the Berlin Film Festival, had its world premiere last night and received a standing ovation in the sold out Berlinale Palast. The film inspired by the work of graphic novelist Frank Miller, was attended by director Zack Snyder and cast members Gerard Butler (King Leonidas) and Rodrigo Santoro (Xerxes).

300 is a ferocious retelling of the ancient Battle of Thermopylae in which King Leonidas and 300 Spartans fought to the death against Xerxes and his massive Persian army. Facing insurmountable odds, their valor and sacrifice inspire all of Greece to unite against their Persian enemy, drawing a line in the sand for democracy. The film brings Miller’s (Sin City) acclaimed graphic novel to life by combining live action with virtual backgrounds that capture his distinct vision of this ancient historic tale.

Russian Doll Review


Very Good
See Matrix bad guy Hugo Weaving play a loveable schlub in Russian Doll, featuring Weaving as an Aussie P.I. who agrees to marry his best friend's Russian mistress so she can stay in the country indefinitely. Sound like a recipe for disaster? Surprisingly, Russian Doll is short on the hijinks you might expect from this genre, focusing more on the quaint romance that develops (of course) and the mild culture clash between the two conspirators. Generally amusing.

The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King Review


Excellent
Peter Jackson returns with his third and final installment in The Lord of the Rings trilogy with the explosive - and exhausting - conclusion to his acclaimed series. Let's cut to the chase: Jackson's final entry is the best of the series, largely thanks to his pushing the boundaries of digital effects to their very limits.

Picking up after a flashback to Sméagol/Gollum's discovery of the ring many years earlier, the film then takes us back to the twin stories from Fellowship andThe Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers: Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and company are basking in the glory of victory at Helm's Deep and Isengard, while Frodo (Elijah Wood), Sam (Sean Astin), and Gollum trek toward Mount Doom to destroy the ring.

Continue reading: The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King Review

The Proposition Review


Excellent

The opening of John Hillcoat's The Proposition wastes no time getting you in the mood. Four or five criminals are being shot at in a small shack and quickly answer back with ample fire power. Blood spurts everywhere, and two Asian prostitutes are quickly disposed of.

It's the 1880s: Dirt and dust are on the rise and hygiene is sadly in decline. The Burns brothers have been split up: Eddie (Danny Huston) has run off into the desert caves of Australia while Charlie (Guy Pearce) and Mike (Richard Wilson) have gotten snagged in a gunfight. The captain of the local English sheriffs, Captain Stanley (a brooding Ray Winstone), has ordered the hanging of Mike but tells Charlie that if he kills Eddie, he will turn them both free.

Continue reading: The Proposition Review

The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King Review


Excellent
Peter Jackson returns with his third and final installment in The Lord of the Rings trilogy with the explosive - and exhausting - conclusion to his acclaimed series. Let's cut to the chase: Jackson's final entry is the best of the series, largely thanks to his pushing the boundaries of digital effects to their very limits.

Picking up after a flashback to Sméagol/Gollum's discovery of the ring many years earlier, the film then takes us back to the twin stories from Fellowship and The Two Towers: Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and company are basking in the glory of victory at Helm's Deep and Isengard, while Frodo (Elijah Wood), Sam (Sean Astin), and Gollum trek toward Mount Doom to destroy the ring.

Continue reading: The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King Review

Dust Review


Bad
Here's a uniquely bad movie that combines not one unwatchable story, but two!

It begins when a punk kid breaks into an old woman's house. The old lady overpowers him, and forces him to listen to a story. She even ends up in a hospital, and the kid follows her there to keep hearing this damn story.

Continue reading: Dust Review

Russian Doll Review


Very Good
See Matrix bad guy Hugo Weaving play a loveable schlub in Russian Doll, featuring Weaving as an Aussie P.I. who agrees to marry his best friend's Russian mistress so she can stay in the country indefinitely. Sound like a recipe for disaster? Surprisingly, Russian Doll is short on the hijinks you might expect from this genre, focusing more on the quaint romance that develops (of course) and the mild culture clash between the two conspirators. Generally amusing.

Van Helsing Review


Weak
Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker receive zero writing credit for Stephen Sommers' lopsided Van Helsing, and you can hear the immortal authors breathing a sigh of relief from beyond the grave. The novelists' legendary creatures may receive prominent placement in Universal Studio's big-budget rollercoaster ride, but the half-baked ideas propping up the mediocre monster mash belong solely to writer/director Sommers - for better or for worse.

Van Helsing ends up as a high-concept adrenaline rush that never stops generating lesser concepts over its elongated 145-minute run time. Wheels start turning when Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) funds the creation of the Frankenstein monster (Shuler Hensley) to power a machine that will allow the vampire's offspring to live. The prince of darkness is trying to please his voracious brides, while the final descendent of a line of Transylvanian vampire hunters (Kate Beckinsale) is trying in vain to stake the brute before he ends her life. The wild card in this mix is Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman), a hired gun with a guilty conscience working for the Catholic Church to vanquish various evil beings.

Continue reading: Van Helsing Review

Van Helsing Review


Zero

The epitome of everything that's wrong with $150 million B-movies, "Van Helsing" is an inane, soulless, 19th century vampire-hunting action flick of computer-F/X overkill and ham-fisted actors chewing on stale catch-phrase dialogue (when dialogue is even allowed) as if it's a mouthful of bubblegum with the flavor long gone.

Despite being inspired (if you can even call it that) by a character in "Dracula" and lifting a slew of monsters from other classic horror tales too, the picture has little story to speak of -- just a few minutes about Bram Stoker's bloodsucking Count using the electrifying re-animation technique of Mary Shelley's Dr. Frankenstein to zap life into thousands of his gestating offspring that hang in slimy pods all over his castle lair.

So since writer-director Stephen Sommers (who clearly blew all his talent on "The Mummy" -- as anyone who's seen "The Mummy Returns" can attest) couldn't be bothered with anything more than Cliffs-Notes plot and character development, I'm going to respond in kind -- not bothering with a structured review and instead simply listing examples of the twaddle and tripe that pass for script and storytelling in this laughable example of Hollywood's numbing, style-without-substance approach to summer movies.

Continue reading: Van Helsing Review

The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course Review


Weak

A viable, if amusingly absurd, comedy concept lies behind "The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course." What if a big, mean croc in the wilds of Australia swallowed a top-secret data beacon from a crashed spy satellite? And what if Steve Irwin -- that charismatically obnoxious daredevil naturalist from the Animal Planet cable channel -- thought the CIA goons sent to retrieve it were actually poachers trying to kill the croc?

If you've ever seen "The Crocodile Hunter" show (and let's face it, you wouldn't be considering seeing the movie if you hadn't), you can probably see the screwball, sketch-comedy appeal of a clueless Irwin engaged in a game of backwater cat-and-mouse with city-slicker spies he thinks are out to skin one of his precious wild animals.

But no matter how firmly director John Stainton has his tongue in his cheek, the fact remains that a wacky concept does not a movie make. Split into two distinct narratives, Irwin spends his half of the film doing exactly what he does on TV -- catching critters, talking to the camera incessantly and with unbridled hyperactive enthusiasm, and saying "Crikey!" a lot. His scenes are even shot in 1.33:1 aspect ratio -- the shape of a TV screen instead of a movie screen -- which proves distracting when the film goes wide-screen to follow the CIA guys (David Wenham and Lachy Hulme), whose scenes are staged like a goof on a Tom Clancy flick.

Continue reading: The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course Review

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