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Red Cliff (2008)
The future will be decided.
Filmmaker(s): John Woo

In 208 A.D., in the final days of the Han Dynasty, shrewd Prime Minster Cao convinced the fickle Emperor Han the only way to unite all of China was to declare war on the kingdoms of Xu in the west and East Wu in the south. Thus began a military campaign of unprecedented scale. Left with no other hope for survival, the kingdoms of Xu and East Wu formed an unlikely alliance.

Tectonic Extremes I am not a fan of Woo, and the reason becomes more stark when you compare this to Zhang‘s work. Zhang creates a world of grace in which people move, affected by the laws of that world. They can act, based on the values in...


Published February 9, 2024
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Ong Bak 2 (2008)
Warrior. Conqueror. Legend.
Filmmaker(s): Tony Jaa, Panna Rittikrai

Moments from death a young man is rescued by a renowned warrior. Realizing unsurpassed physical potential in the young boy he trains him into the most dangerous man alive. As he becomes a young man he goes on a lone mission of vengeance against the vicious slave traders who enslaved him as a youth and the treacherous warlord who killed his father.

Costume Trunk I was directed to this because I am interested in cinematic choreography. From a practical perspective, that usually means martial arts. Further, it means Asian films. But gee they sure get tedious after the first few unless there really is a master behind the camera....


Published February 9, 2024
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Real Steel (2011)
Courage is stronger than steel.
Filmmaker(s): Shawn Levy

Charlie Kenton is a washed-up fighter who retired from the ring when robots took over the sport. After his robot is trashed, he reluctantly teams up with his estranged son to rebuild and train an unlikely contender.

Frankenstein It seems that a successful Hollywood script is one that seems to do something new by recycling trusted parts of bankable film ideas. This one — to judge from the tickets sold — picked good enough bits. Father stuff; coming of age stuff; techno; Karate...


Published February 9, 2024
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Men in Black 3 (2012)
Back in time.
Filmmaker(s): Barry Sonnenfeld

Agents J and K are back...in time. J has seen some inexplicable things in his 15 years with the Men in Black, but nothing, not even aliens, perplexes him as much as his wry, reticent partner. But when K's life and the fate of the planet are put at stake, Agent J will have to travel back in time to put things right. J discovers that there are secrets to the universe that K never told him - secrets that will reveal themselves as he teams up with the young Agent K to save his partner, the agency, and the future of humankind.

Griff When I started this IMDb-commented study 14 years ago, the notions of folded narrative were commonly used, but not so open in the industry. Now look where we’ve come, to a state where it is mandatory for a blockbuster investment. You know something has passed...


Published February 9, 2024
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G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)
Heroes are made in America.
Filmmaker(s): Jon M. Chu

Framed for crimes against the country, the G.I. Joe team is terminated by Presidential order. This forces the G.I. Joes into not only fighting their mortal enemy Cobra; they are forced to contend with threats from within the government that jeopardize their very existence.

Guys and Dolls I suppose it is natural to define a self from negatives: what you are not. So much in public life depends on this dynamic. It is a dangerous urge that I often see out of control, and one I want to closely monitor...


Published February 6, 2024
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Ender’s Game (2013)
This is not a game.
Filmmaker(s): Gavin Hood

Based on the classic novel by Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game is the story of the Earth's most gifted children training to defend their homeplanet in the space wars of the future.

Internals Revealed I do dimly recall the first couple books of the series. They were engagingly written. But more importantly, they used a device that probably won‘t work today. The books were powerful because they focused on Ender‘s internal mind. The second book folded this into Ender‘s...


Published February 6, 2024
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The Wolverine (2013)
When he's most vulnerable, he's most dangerous.
Filmmaker(s): James Mangold

Wolverine faces his ultimate nemesis - and tests of his physical, emotional, and mortal limits - in a life-changing voyage to modern-day Japan.

Sniffing the Dog that Went Before There isn’t much to say about the ordinary features of this. It is a Marvel production and that means the world is dull in all aspects. They seem incapable of leaving safe territory, so this is more or less Michael...


Published February 5, 2024
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Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)
Revenge is sweeter than candy.
Filmmaker(s): Tommy Wirkola

After getting a taste for blood as children, Hansel and Gretel have become the ultimate vigilantes, hell-bent on retribution. Now, unbeknownst to them, Hansel and Gretel have become the hunted, and must face an evil far greater than witches... their past.

Children's Dreams It has been some time since I was exposed to how these things work. A clever writer can start with anything and extend it toward a known formula so that it animates that formula with a new disguise. In this world, the writers are...


Published February 5, 2024
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Murder by Decree (1979)
The Jack the Ripper Murders. Sherlock Holmes lifts the veil of secrecy, corruption and terror at the heart of the throne of England itself. Clue by clue... Murder by murder...
Filmmaker(s): Bob Clark

Sherlock Holmes is drawn into the case of Jack the Ripper who is killing prostitutes in London's East End. Assisted by Dr. Watson, and using information provided by a renowned psychic, Robert Lees, Holmes finds that the murders may have its roots in a Royal indiscretion and that a cover-up is being managed by politicians at the highest level, all of whom happen to be Masons.

Environmental Agency The detective film is an essential component in how movies work. I‘m trying to abstract the components that work, what doesn‘t and why. And that is taking me through many detective films, and every Holmes film is a must. Putting Holmes in perspective: he...


Published February 4, 2024
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The Taking of Tiger Mountain (2014)
Filmmaker(s): Tsui Hark

Yang Zirong disguises himself as a bandit to infiltrate and destroy a bandit group. He joins hands with a hostage, and together, they fight against the warlord, Hawk.

The Japanese Win? About a 2D viewing. This is very clearly produced under Party sponsorship to celebrate the soldiers who won the country. The contrast with US WWII films is striking. We require tough heroes, where here there is something more noble. Two remarkable things...


Published February 4, 2024
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