Ford v Ferrari
Blinded by the Light
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One of the most plot-driven and suspenseful Kurosawa films. Unique also, in that it is more of a crime/detective thriller, a form Kurosawa rarely used except for in High & Low. A very young Toshiro Mifune plays a rookie detective who has his pistol pick-pocketed from him on a packed trolley. Devastated (and in an era where there were almost no guns in Japan, hence the theft very serious), he thinks his career is over. He attempts to resign. His superiors and an older detective (the brilliant Takashi Shimura) play down the event. He strikes out on his own at first trying to track down his stolen pistol, but he is naive and knows little of the criminal underworld. He spends time wandering poor shantytowns, constantly rejected and pushed away. Eventually, exhausted, he is finally approached by a fence for stolen guns. He tries, pointlessly, to arrest and get information from a woman: an older and very experienced crook & pickpocket. In close calls, he discovers that in his blatant attempts to investigate he misses crucial opportunities. Soon, he and older detective Sato find themselves following a trail of crimes committed by someone with his gun. Soon after there begin to be injured victims of armed robbery. And then murder. All the while, the rookie officer, filled with idealism is also devastated by what he feels are crimes committed with *his* gun, people shot and killed with *his* bullets. A very complex, and brilliant film, and a very interesting type of film for Kurosawa. There is much more to the plot, as well as to some of the larger moral questions posed by the film. Also interesting is the oppressive heat of summer which pervades the film, and reminds me very much of the pressure of sweat and sun and heat in 'Do The Right Thing.' A fantastic film, and oddly one of the only B&W Kurosawa films that I feel would really be served by the use of color. Fascinating to imagine how this would look if he had filmed this in his later years, in color, and really was able to catch the visual impact of the sun, sweat, lights, and unbearable heat that is difficult to visualize in B&W. This is a unique and really very special Kurosawa film, and ranks up there among my very favorites of his I think.
I was worried a follow-up to the original Ip Man wouldn't stand up to its excellence. But this does. A simpler overall plot, and less fighting it seemed like, but still exceptional. Ip Man at first struggles to find students for his martial arts school in Hong Kong, and then finds himself challenged by a committee of kung fu masters who request him to pass a test to be able to teach, and to pay fees. He passes the test by fighting them, but refuses to pay the fees which he thinks are for their own greed and power. A small feud begins to develop between himself and the head master, along with the other students and his own, over turf/power/etc. Eventually, however, the 'Foreign Devil' (The Brits here) and a grotesquely arrogant western boxing champion put on a east/west match. The older head master ends up fighting the boxer, but he is too ill at this point to suceed, and is killed by the young roided-out boxer. This brings together all of the Chinese at this point, including Ip Man who is pissed off. Last time he got pissed off he defeated the Japanese Devil and beat the sh*t out of his face in hyper-speed. It all culminates in a textbook boxing match between Ip Man and the boxer, but halfway through the British decide that Ip Man is no longer allowed to kick, fists only. Will he win? Um, he got pissed off because despite his small feud with the older master, his honor etc brings him together with all the masters out of respect for each others mastery. So you can bet he's going to go all hyper-speed and beat the living sh*t out of the guy's face! The first movie is still superior, and has more and better fighting scenes overall, but this one stands up to that bar very nicely, and is also thoroughly recommended. Moral of the story: DO NOT PISS OFF DONNIE YEN or he will SMASH YOUR FACE at spaceballs-type ludicrous speed.
A fun date-type movie with enough thought behind it (Philip K. Dick) and enough quality to make it well-worth the viewing. Matt Damon is an aspiring politician who falls in love with a woman to the dismay of The Adjustment Bureau, who are kind of overseers of the worldly plan. They threaten to essentially erase his identity if he attempts to pursue his love further, and one of them ends up helping him try to outsmart the Bureau and stop the girl from getting married to someone else. Unfortunately, the sci-fi intrigue (reminds me of Dark City) and noir feel of the Bureau is lost to the much too heavy-handed and cheesy love story, and the overly exaggerated characters played by Matt Damon and his love interest Emily Blunt. But it gets strong points for being a more thoughtful thriller than average, and by doing it without stupid amounts of pointless violence. But ultimately, I wish the writers had dared to go to some smarter places with Philip K. Dick's story. Instead, the entire 'fate v freedom' and strange powers/history of the Bureau is left not as developed as it could have been, leaving it to be more centered around a tired romantic story. The French would have made this film 1,000 times smarter. Still, very enjoyable, certainly worth a rental.
Exactly what a John Grisham thriller should be. Great cast, love the early nineties style and the awesome bit parts like Gary Busey & Holly Hunter. Tom Cruise, fresh out of law school, gets a fantastic offer to join a small law firm in Memphis, and takes the offer over larger more prestigious firms. Turns out that was a bad choice, he finds himself sucked into a manipulative criminal enterprise and finds himself pinned between the security/mob apparatus of the law firm and the Feds who want him to turn state's witness against the firm. In a big messy tangle of plot (that does work very well though) he has to find a way out for himself and his young wife that's better than surrendering his life over to the federal witness protection program, and before the firm finds out what he's up to and pinches him off. Some of the early character stuff is unnecessary, and could have tightened up the run-time, but ultimately the film never drags. Nothing uniquely special going on here, except solid Hollywood legal thrill-ride.
Anchored by solid acting, but I could never get past my skepticism of the kind of heavy-handed drama. The story had all the stuff it was supposed to have, so it always had the feel of "this is just hollywood." Which, unfortunately for a film of this subject matter, is kind of a death-knell. Worth a rental, but the more I think about the film, the more I am disappointed. And for more of a reality-check I also read this article just after I watched this movie: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/18/us/18vets.html