Archive for November 27, 2010

The Karate Kid (2010)

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , on November 27, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

12-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) and his mother, Sherry (Taraji P. Henson), arrive in Beijing from West Detroit to start a new life. Dre develops a crush on a young violinist, Mei Ying (Wen Wen Han), who reciprocates his attention, but Cheng (Zhenwei Wang), a kung fu prodigy whose family is close to Mei Ying’s, attempts to keep them apart by beating Dre, and later harassing and humiliating him in and around school. During a particularly brutal beating by Cheng and his friends, the enigmatic maintenance man of Dre’s building, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), comes to Dre’s aid, revealing himself as a kung fu master who adeptly dispatches Dre’s tormentors.

After Han mends Dre’s injuries using fire cupping, Dre asks if Mr. Han could teach him Kung-Fu. Han refuses, but decides to go meet Cheng’s teacher, Master Li (Yu Rongguang), to attempt to make peace, but the brutal Li, who teaches his students to show no mercy to their enemies, challenges Dre to a fight with Cheng. When Han declines, Li threatens him, saying that they will not be allowed to leave his school unless either Dre or Han himself fights. Han acquiesces, but insists the fight take place at an upcoming tournament, and that Li’s students leave Dre alone until the tournament. The amused Li agrees, but tells Han that if Dre doesn’t show up during the tournament, Li will personally bring pain to Han and Dre.

Han begins training Dre, but Dre is frustrated that Han merely has Dre spend hours taking off his jacket, hanging it up, dropping it, and then putting it back on again. After days of this, Dre refuses to continue, until Han demonstrates to him that the repetitive arm movements in question were Han’s method of teaching Dre defensive block and strike techniques, which Dre is now able to display instinctively when prompted by Han’s mock attacks. Han emphasizes that the movements Dre is learning apply to life in general, and that serenity and maturity, not punches and power, are the true keys to mastering the martial arts. During one lesson in the Wudang Mountains, Dre notices a female kung fu practitioner (Michelle Yeoh, in an uncredited cameo) apparently copying the movements of a cobra before her, but Han informs him that it was the cobra that was imitating the woman, as in a mirror reflection. Dre wants Han to teach him this technique, which includes linking Han’s hand and feet to Dre’s via bamboo shafts while practicing their forms, but Dre’s subsequent attempt to use this reflection technique on his mother is unsuccessful.

As Dre’s friendship with Mei Ying continues, she agrees to attend Dre’s tournament, as does Dre her upcoming recital. Dre persuades Mei Ying to cut school for a day of fun, but when she is nearly late for her violin recital, which has been rescheduled for that day, she tells him that her parents have deemed him a bad influence, and forbid her from spending any more time with him. Later, when Dre finds Mr. Han despondent, he learns that it is the anniversary of his wife and son’s deaths, which occurred years ago when he lost control of his car while arguing with his wife. Dre reminds Han that one of his lessons was in perseverance, and that Han needs to heal from his loss, and tries to help him do so. Han then assists Dre in reading a note, in Chinese, of apology to Mei Ying’s father, who, impressed, allows Mei to attend the tournament.

At the tournament, the under-confident Dre is slow to achieve parity with his opponents, but soon begins to beat them, and advances to the semifinals, as does Cheng, who violently finishes off his opponents. Dre eventually comes up against Liang, another of Master Li’s students, who is instructed by Master Li to break Dre’s leg. When Liang insists that he can beat Dre, Master Li sternly tells him that he doesn’t want him beaten, but broken. During the match, Liang grabs Dre’s low kick and delivers a devastating elbow strike to Dre’s leg, along with a series of brutal follow-up punches. Although Liang is disqualified for his illegal strikes, Dre is incapacitated, which would allow Cheng to win by default.

Despite Han’s insistence that he has earned respect for his performance in the tournament, Dre convinces Han to use his fire cupping technique to mend his leg, in order to see the tournament to the end. Dre returns to the arena, where he confronts Cheng. Dre delivers impressive blows, but Cheng counters with a debilitating strike to Dre’s already injured leg. Dre struggles to get up, and adopts the one-legged form he first learned from the woman on the mountain, attempting to use the reflection technique to manipulate Cheng’s movements. Cheng charges Dre, but Dre flips, and catches Cheng with a kick to his head, winning the tournament, along with the respect of Cheng and his classmates, both for himself and Mr. Han

REVIEW:

 I don’t hide my distaste for remakes, as proven with every remake I’ve watched and reviewed, but I do keep an open mind until I’ve actually seen the film. The Karate Kid remake does nothing to change my mind about remakes. If anything, this was almost as much a waste of time as The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008), which, coincidentally, also starred Jaden Smith, Hmmm…

For some reason, everyone thinks this was a good film. I’m not going to sit here and say it sucked, because it didn’t, but it is nowhere near on the level as the original. I may be slightly biased, but this Jaden can’t wipe the sweat from Ralph Macchio’s crane kicking foot!

Just because he’s Will Smith’s son doesn’t mean he’s got his talent or charisma, yet I think everyone was scared to give this film the review it deserved because of the ties to Will.

I will say that the scenery here is pretty breathtaking, and quite frankly, is the highlight of the picture. There really isn’t anything else worth remembering. Again, that isn’t my bias, this is just a boring flick.

In the original film, Daniel was a teenager, but here Jaden is a 8 yr old. Are you seriously telling me that an 8 yr old is going to beat you near death like that? I realize that kids today are such hardened killers and all, but come on! This just isn’t going to happen.

The young girl that is the love interst is actually quite beautiful. Maybe she’ll be the next Lucy Liu or Michelle Yeoh.

Jaden Smith, as I said before, is just not his dad. He comes off as if he’s trying too hard to not only make a name for himself, but also to make this his a franchise that people will remember him for and forget Ralph Macchio. It doesn’t work. Having him sing on the soundtrack with Justin Bieber didn’t help, either.

Jackie Chan is probably the best choice for the Miyagi-type role, but he just seems to be in pain the whole film. Sort of like he knows he can do better than this mess.

I have to look at this picture from two angles. As a fan of The Karate Kid, I’m offended by this charade of a film that does nothing but spit on the legacy. As bad as the fourth film was, it was still better than this mess. On the other hand, I look at this as a film fan and say it has its moments, mostly with the breathtaking scenery, but tis major faults are that a film like this should not be this long, especially with this little action. Do I recommend this? Not really, but I do suggest you check it out to make your own decision and comparisons.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

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Funny Face

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , on November 27, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson) is a fashion magazine publisher and editor, for Quality magazine, who is looking for the next big fashion trend. She wants a new look for the magazine. Maggie wants the look to be both “beautiful” and “intellectual”. She and famous fashion photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire) want models who can “think as well as they look.” The two brainstorm and come up with the idea to find a “sinister” looking book store in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan. They subsequently locate a bookstore named “Embryo Concepts”.

Maggie and Dick take over Embryo Concepts, which is being run by the shy bookshop clerk and amateur philosopher, Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn). Jo thinks the fashion and modeling industry is nonsense, saying: “it is chichi, and an unrealistic approach to self-impressions as well as economics”. Maggie decides to use Jo in the first fashion shot, to give it a more intellectual look. After the first shot Maggie locks Jo out of the shop to shut her up.

Jo wants more than anything else in the world to go to Paris and attend the famous philosopher and professor Emile Flostre’s (Michel Auclair) lectures about empathicalism. When Dick gets back to the dark room, he sees something in Jo’s face which is “new” and “fresh”, and which would be perfect for the campaign, giving it “character”, “spirit”, and “intelligence”.

They send for Jo, pretending they want to order some books from her shop. Once she arrives, they start treating her like a doll, trying to make her over, pulling at her clothes and attempting to cut her hair. She is outraged and runs away, only to hide in the darkroom where Dick is working. When Dick mentions Paris, Jo becomes very interested in that she would get a chance to see Professor Flostre, and is finally convinced to model.

Soon Maggie, Dick, and Jo are off to Paris to prepare for a major fashion event, shooting photos at famous landmarks from the area. During the various photo shoots Jo and Dick develop feelings for each other, and they fall in love.

One night when Jo is getting ready for a gala, she learns that Professor Flostre is giving a lecture at a cafe nearby. She attends, forgetting the gala. Eventually Dick finds her and they get into an argument at the gala’s opening, which results in Jo being publicly embarrassed and Maggie outraged.

Jo goes to talk to Professor Flostre at his home. Through some scheming, Maggie and Dick make it into Flostre’s home. After performing an impromptu song and dance for Flostre’s disciples, they confront Jo and Flostre. This eventually leads to Dick causing Flostre to fall and knock himself out. Jo urges them to leave. When Flostre wakes up, he tries to make a pass at Jo. Shocked at the behavior of her “idol”, she smashes a vase over his head and runs out.

Before the group leaves for home, there is a final fashion show. Jo and Maggie try to get in touch with Dick, who has made plans to leave Paris. Jo does the runway show and before her wedding gown finale, she looks out the window and sees the plane Dick was supposed to be on, take off. Heartbroken, she runs off the runway in tears at the conclusion of the show.

Meanwhile, Dick is at the airport. He runs into Flostre and learns that Jo bashed him on the head with a vase. Dick, realizing how much he cares, goes back to find Jo. He goes back to the runway show, only to find that Jo is nowhere to be found. Finally, after a long search, Dick finds Jo (in the wedding gown) by a little church where they shared a romantic moment during the photo shoot. They embrace and kiss

REVIEW:

 One of the most romantic musical comedies to ever grace the stage and screen, and yet this is the first time I’ve ever watched it. Was I impressed, not really, but that is more to do with overhype than a knock on this film.

Funny Face is another vehicle for the immortal Fred Astaire to show off his fancy dancing skills and for audiences to stare in awe of Audrey Hepburn’s timeless beauty.

As with every other musical I’ve watched, the most important thing to ask is are the song’s memorable. Well, with a predominantly Gershwin score, one would think so. However, even in 1957, this wasn’t good enough for Hollywood, and they just had to add stuff in. Ironically, the added songs are the least memorable.

Any film that features Fred Astaire is sure to have at least one breathtaking dance sequence, and this is no exception. I do wish we would have gotten more, though.

As far as the acting goes, it is a bit up and down. Kathryn Hepburn is great, but she seems a bit out of her element. I can’t really tell why. Maybe she was just intimidated by being the presence of Astaire.

Speaking of Astaire, as great a performer as he is, I sort of felt he was too old for this role. It kid of had that creepy old man hitting on the school girl vibe.

The story is great, but then if it wasn’t would this be such a memorable play and musical?

Funny Face is a feel-good film. Is it the best musical? No, but it is surely worth watching, especially if you’re a fan of both musicals and classic cinema. I wish this would have been a bit more faithful to the Broadway show, but beggars can’t be choosy, right? This is definitely a must-see for everyone, so go see it!

4 out of 5 stars