Victor Wong

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The Last Emperor Review


Very Good
Toy trucks and accessorized dolls are common props of the wide-eyed two year-old's wonderment. While Puyi, who was appointed China's last emperor at that tender age, might have substituted fine silk curtains for plastic as he explored the Forbidden City -- toddling the breathtaking, empty rooms and splashing in bathtubs -- the veil of childhood was quickly lifted to reveal a solitary life of duty and responsibility. Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor deals with many false truths, but the most disappointing is that the film, itself, doesn't live up to its grandiose individual efforts.

Despite its bold opening of Puyi's attempted suicide as a prisoner in a reeducation camp in his late 50s, The Last Emperor is your standard biopic, complete with the framework of the aged character telling the story of his life. Of course, Puyi's peculiar childhood is the most interesting half of the two-and-a-half-hour film, and it's there where Bertolucci's grip on the material is the strongest. From the seven-year-old Puyi's desperation to connect with the mother he was separated from six years prior to the teenage Puyi's pet mouse. Bertolucci's poetics seem to transcend the film's immaculate design and execution. It helps that the material is inherently interesting -- we are all bound by duty in some regard and are constantly looking for an escape. Still, Bertolucci takes chances, even shocking us with a seven-year-old Puyi nestling in his mother's bare bosom or the pet mouse meeting its demise against the Forbidden City's gate at the hands of a frustrated Puyi. These are not mere exploits, however, but sad moments where it's clear that Puyi's childhood and foreshadowed adulthood needs and desires are controlled by others.

Continue reading: The Last Emperor Review

The Son Of Kong Review


Bad
Quicky sequels are rarely pretty. Son of Kong, rushed out the same year as the inimitable King Kong, proves the point. As cheap as the original was, this sequel is exponentially cheaper. It's also ridiculously lacking in the story department (explorer Carl Denham returns to Kong's home island to escape the fallout of, you know, a giant monkey destroying New York, only to discover, you guessed it, the son of Kong -- and they become friends). It's not just a trite story, it's also weak in the monster department: The son of King Kong appears 43 minutes into the 69 minute film. Completely safe to skip.

Big Trouble In Little China Review


Very Good
Ever wonder what happened to Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League, the Buckaroo Banzai sequel that was promised at the end of that film? In some sense, this is it. When writer/director W.D. Richter's sequel project fell through, his script was radically retooled, handed to John Carpenter, and voila, a classic was born.

A crazy parody of martial arts flicks, supernatural/spirit movies, and old-fashioned westerns, Big Trouble in Little China gives us Kurt Russell as the inimitable Jack Burton, a good-natured truck driver unconsciously obsessed with John Wayne. On one of his trips to San Francisco, poor Jack gets swept up in a universe-bounding plot to kidnap a Chinese girl with green eyes, landing knee-deep amidst warring gangs that dwell in the Chinatown underground and an ancient spirit that emits blinding light from its mouth.

Continue reading: Big Trouble In Little China Review

Seven Years In Tibet Review


Very Good
Pitt stars as a reluctant Nazi who finds peace in, well, Tibet, in this sweeping epic about the holy kingdom and its own struggles against invaders. Seven Years only seems like two or three, though.
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