Monday, December 7, 2009

A Good Weekend for Movies

Last weekend my lady and I saw two awesome movies. First was The Fall, which we got from Netflix ages ago and finally got around to seeing. My lady had seen it before, and ever since seeing the movie poster on her wall I have wondered what this movie was about. Well, I finally got to see it, and it was fantastic.

The plot deals with a little girl with a broken arm poking around the hospital where she is recovering after falling from a tree. She finds a man who is paralyzed from the waist down after falling from a bridge. The man starts telling her stories to amuse himself, but the stories start to serve another purpose as he tries to get her to bring him something. I don't want to give away too much of the plot, and besides, the plot doesn't matter.

The real strength of this movie is in the gorgeous visuals. The sets, the costumes, the cinematography all combine to make it absolutely beautiful. The highlight of this movie is the story the man tells the little girl. What we see is entirely what's in her imagination, so things change as the man's description changes, and she even misinterprets some things. For instance, the man describes an Indian brave who loses his squaw, but the girl imagines a guy with a beard and mustache wearing a turban.

In some ways, this is a darker version of "The Princess Bride." The man is telling a sick little girl a story filled with wonder and imagination. Even more than "The Princess Bride," "The Fall" explores how the listener and the storyteller create the story together.

We then saw Red Cliff in theaters, because we knew that, as a foreign film, it probably wouldn't be in theaters very long.

This movie exists to prove one thing: Chinese history is badass.

"Red Cliff" was a four-hour, two-part epic in China, which was cut down to a single two-and-a-half hour movie for American audiences. You still get more epic badassery in the first ten minutes of this movie than you get in the entirety of just about any other movie, so I didn't mind as much that they shortened it.

The plot deals with the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, in which a powerful and ambitious prime minister tries to conquer two smaller kingdoms whom he pretends are trying to revolt against the Emperor. The two kingdoms are forced to band together: one has an experienced leader and a bunch of badass generals but with a severely diminished army, and the other has a young, somewhat naive leader with a single really badass general who leads a large but inexperienced army.

There's all sorts of intrigue and character development, but that tends to focus on only a portion of the characters. Most of the characters all but disappear during the plot-related parts and then show up again for the fight scenes. This is okay by me, since the characters the plot focuses on are fascinating and their interaction is one of the high points of this movie.

The other high point of this movie is, of course, the fight scenes. I'll try not to give away too many of my favorite moments, but I'll say this: there is a scene that follows this sequence of events:
  • a guy gets shot by an arrow

  • he pulls out the arrow

  • he runs over to the archer

  • he leaps into the air

  • he jabs the arrow through the back of the archer's throat

If you still don't want to see this movie, perhaps you should read that sentence again.

Surprisingly, the action in this movie is relatively realistic, compared to wuxia films where people go flying through the air and run across treetops. Nevertheless, you shouldn't expect anything less than over-the-top fight scenes, because Red Cliff delivers those in spades.

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