Watched a lot of movies last week and the week before. So to save time & space, I'll do double reviews!! Here we go.
THE TERMINAL vs. KITCHEN STORIES
The Terminal was directed by Steven Spielberg. You know who he is. Kitchen Stories was directed by Bent Hamer. When I saw Riddick a couple of weeks back, the trailer for The Terminal showed and needless to say I was very excited to see it. From the looks of the trailer it might just be one of my favourite films this year. Despite it being a nice enough film, I can't say that it will be in my top 10 list come the end of this year. Why? Just see Kitchen Stories, a little film from Sweden (I think, or maybe Norway), and you'll see what Spielberg was trying to do with The Terminal and why I think he didn't get it right. If you've seen the trailer or even read a bit about the film, you'll know that Spielberg was trying to do a 'little film' with a little bit of quirkiness and a large dose of humanity thrown in. The film's sweet, funny, human (yes!), but yet you feel there's something missing. I just think he didn't nail the various tones and moods needed to pull it off exactly right. With these kind of films, I think, you either nail it and make a wonderful small miracle, or you end up halfway there, leaving something missing. As for Kitchen Stories, all I can say is, go see it. It has an ingeniously clever idea as a set up, and it takes its own sweet time to tell its story. Just hang in there and after about 15-20 minutes, you'll be hooked, and you will marvel at the simplicity and economy of its storytelling, and how the director gave you just enough to make your own conclusions and observations (it's a film about 'observation', in the most literal sense of the word), without shoving anything down your throat. It's truly a little wonder of a film. Love it!!
Rating: The Terminal (6 1/2 out of 10); Kitchen Stories (8 out of 10)
JIANG HU vs. ENTER THE PHOENIX
The future looks bright for Hong Kong cinema. Wong Ching Po (director of Jiang Hu) and Stephen Fung (director of Enter The Phoenix) are both incredibly young to be film directors of such great confidence. But you've got to hand it to them, they ARE good. Jiang Hu tells a story that's nothing new. It has some sort of a 'twist', but 3/4 into the film, you can kinda see it already. But all that does not matter, because Jiang Hu, first and foremost, is a visually exciting film, where the director is willing to do anything to make the shots and scenes look good. Example? In one scene where 2 people are dining facing each other on a long table, you'll suddenly realise that the background seem to be moving and you'll realise the only way this shot will be possible is for the table to be placed on a wheeled ramp that is moved around. Why go to such trouble, you ask? Isn't it unrealistic? Well, why not? It looks beautiful, so why not? Now that's only one of many fancy camera moves and shots in the film. The massacre at the end of the film is absolutely gorgeous. Shot in the rain and in slo-mo, it rivals some of Wong Kar Wai's most poetic moments. And this guy doesn't even have a Christopher Doyle to help him!! I eagerly await Mr Wong Ching Po's next film, that's for sure. As for Enter The Phoenix, it's also interesting visually, but it's winning point is in the flawless shifts in tone between a normal gangster film, and a spoof of a gangster film. The humor is absolutely hilarious most of the time. My favourite? Karen Mok asks Edison Chen since when did he knew that he was gay. Flashback: We see a doctor holding a thermometer and a young boy's bum in one shot, then pan to the boy's face while the doctor sticks the thermometer up the boy's ass, we see the boy with a satisfied and cheeky smile. Hilarious!! After Tsui Hark and John Woo being gone to Hollywood, it seems like the only hope for Hong Kong cinema would be Johnnie To and the Milkyway Image gang (apart from Wong Kar Wai and Fruit Chan, that is). But here we have now, 2 bright young directors, with a style and personality of their own. Let's hope the money men won't corrupt them.
Rating: Jiang Hu (8 out of 10); Enter The Phoenix (7 out of 10)