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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Andy Lau

The Great Wall (2017)

Monsters are everywhere you look. Except the literal ones. Yeah, those things don’t exist.

While on a long, far-reaching search for black powder, mercenaries William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal) hold-up one night and encounter something strange, mysterious and deadly. They are able to chop off a piece of its arm, carrying it around with them everywhere they go, even if they don’t fully know just what it actually is. Then, they stumble upon the Great Wall and are taken prisoner by Chinese soldiers of a secretive military sect called “the Nameless Order”. Led by General Shao (Zhang Hanyu) and Strategist Wang (Andy Lau), the Nameless Order has been making it their mission to taking out any sort of threat that has come their way, but as of late, it’s been these odd, very vicious and disgusting monsters that, are also of the same kind that William and Tovar ran into that one night. That’s why, rather than killing the two, the Nameless Order decide to take the guys in, asking them for a helping hand in taking down these monsters, once and for all. It’s easy for William, but for Tovar, not so much.

White.

White.

There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding the Great Wall for a rather understandable reason: Matt Damon’s casting in the lead role seems like, yet again, another instance of Hollywood being too scared of casting any sort of minority in a lead role, that they just give it to the next big name, who also happens to be white. Hey, it’s happened before and it will definitely happen again. However, in the Great Wall, it’s not all that justified for a few reasons:

  1. Damon’s character in the movie is actually supposed to be white and isn’t supposed to be Chinese, therefore, making him a suitable actor for the character’s supposed race.
  2. Nobody really seems to have gotten all that mad that, included in this movie’s large international cast, Willem Dafoe (a white guy), is here, as well as Pedro Pascal (an Hispanic man) – two people who, last I checked, aren’t actually in the least bit Chinese.
  3. The movie itself is not meant to be taken seriously under any circumstances and because of that, it’s really hard to get mad at it for anything, let alone its casting decisions.
  4. And yeah, it’s just a silly movie.

Which is to say that, despite all of this, the Great Wall is still an enjoyable movie, although yes, incredibly stupid once you realize that it’s actually about a bunch of warriors, facing-off against a bunch of nameless, literally brainless green monsters who don’t really look like anything we’ve seen before, but they’re still not all that original, either – they’re like a weird cross between a dinosaur and a rat, but even then, I’m not so sure.

And coming from director  Zhang Yimou, you’d probably expect a little something more, but just like he proved with House of Flying Daggers, Yimou doesn’t always care the most about story and character-development, as much as he cares about what looks cool on the big screen, in 3D, and what’s fun. Sometimes, too, that’s all you need; the Great Wall is the perfect example of Yimou having so many toys at his disposal and getting an opportunity to play with each and everyone of them. Could he have gone deeper with the plot, these characters, and the overall message of the tale?

Nope. Still white and this time, a little Hispanic.

Nope. Still white and this time, a little Chilean.

Sure, but he doesn’t and it helps the movie not feel like all that much of a slug to get through.

Because when the movie does try and dive into the stuff like that, well, it doesn’t always work. We don’t really get to know anyone here, nor do we ever fully understand the plot itself, so when it takes time to explain itself, it just takes away from the movie and almost makes you wish for more monsters to show up. The characters themselves don’t have anything interesting to really say or do, either – sometimes, it seems like a lot of it was just filmed with the hopes that it would make it into the final-cut, but with no obligation whatsoever. Granted, we don’t always need clear, pitch perfect and three-dimensional characters in goofy monster movies such as the Great Wall, but it certainly does help us feel like there’s more at-steak, than just a bunch of lifeless, bland things getting killed on screen.

It also helps because you’ve got such a good cast here, with not much to do. Damon’s working with an odd accent the whole time, making him sound like he’s straight from Canada; Pascal’s character has all of the witty one-liners and laughs, as corny as they can sometimes get; Dafoe’s character is shady and mischievous, for reasons never made clear; Jing Tian gets to be a bit of a bad-ass when she isn’t trying to get some sort of spark flickering between her and Damon; and everyone else who shows up, well, they try, too. Mostly, the Great Wall doesn’t care about this stuff and for once, it’s sort of okay.

What it does prove is that it’s sometimes best to just take in and accept a monster movie, for exactly what it is.

Consensus: Even with the weak characters and story, the Great Wall still mostly gets by on the action, the look, the feel, and the surprisingly great deal of eye-popping 3D.

6 / 10

Ah, yes. That's more like it.

Ah, yes. That’s more like it.

Photos Courtesy of: Kenwood Theatre

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Iron Man 3 (2013)

At least he’s on the wagon now.

After the wild events that took place in New York with Gods of Thunders and worm-holes and such, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has found himself in a bit of a crisis. Not only is he constantly reminded of what occurred, but he can’t seem to get any sleep and continually works on his hobby: building and building shit. It doesn’t matter what it is or what it could do, the fact is that he’s building shit, losing sleep, losing the love of his life, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and losing what it means to be a superhero. However, an evil terrorist by the name of Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), might just change that feeling in the pit of his stomach and have him realize what it was about him that made him Iron Man in the first place.

Since the Avengers came, saw, and conquered the world last Summer, it seemed only right that Marvel would unleash it’s brand-new bag and go back to where it all started: Iron Man, or if you really want to be legit about it: Tony Stark. Without the first movie coming out in 2008 and taking over like it did, who knows just what the hell Marvel might have done not just with their fellow, other superheros, but in general as well. But from what we’ve all seen and what we do know is that Tony Stark is the go-to guy for when you need a compelling movie, and Iron Man is a pretty bad-ass superhero, even if he doesn’t have a big hammer. I still think that’s one of the all-time best weapons in superhero history. By far.

The first piece of curiosity that sprang through my mind when I initially heard of this movie happening, was the choice of Shane Black as director and co-writer. If you don’t know who this cat is, I suggest you go and find Kiss Kiss Bang Bang somewhere on DVD and check that out because it is a gem of a movie and it’s all because of Black. The guy’s also written Lethal Weapon, but in my eyes: his directorial-debut ranks supreme against all others because it’s funny, exciting, and filled to the brim with plot that may seem like over-kill, but keeps you guessing until the end. And just as promising as that may sound for a guy who’s about to tackle Iron Man, it still seemed strange considering that not only was this his second movie to date, but also that his first one had barely any CGI whatsoever, or action for that matter. Most of it was just shooting, guns, bullets, a car-crash, and fake blood. That was it. So, how the hell did Marvel trust this guy with their biggest money-maker to date?

"Sometimes, my left hand just have a life of it's own. I swear, Pepper...."

“Sometimes, my left hand just have a life of it’s own. I swear, Pepper….”

Well, whatever it was that the big guys at M found in him, sure as hell worked because Black does a superb job as both director, and co-writer. Not only is his humor present throughout the whole flick, but the guy also finds a way to throw in some neat and nice little twists here and there to spice things up. One plot-twist that I won’t give up unless you want to e-mail me about it (CMrok93@yahoo.com), really divided this movie into two, different ways. Some will definitely go along with it and think that it was a nice-departure from what we are used to seeing with typical, superhero movies, whereas others may be a bit pissed and wished that they exactly got that typical, superhero movie they had grown so accustomed to. I still haven’t been able to rack my brain around whether or not I liked it all that much, but I will say that in Black’s case, it sure as hell was risky, something different, and not exactly what I was expecting. So, yeah, maybe you could put me in that earlier-group of peeps, but at the same time, don’t, because I’m still not sure.

Just give me some damn time, man!

But what really worked for Black and what mainly surprised the hell out of me is how well he handles all of the action, CGI, and 3D (basically, the big-budget). Black knows exactly what the fans want to see when they see a superhero movie about Iron Man and that’s what the dude gives to ’em. Some may actually be surprised to see that not all of this action features the actual superhero, Iron Man, but features more of Stark doing all of the ass-kicking himself, but it’s still fun and exciting to see, especially when you add a darker-element of story-telling on top of it all, which is what Black has done surely well. Of course the humor is always there to keep people laughing and giggling, but the stakes feel higher with this one and it’s no surprise that some may actually be scared as to who’s going to get off’d next, who might not make it for Iron Man 4 (although Paltrow spilled the beans on that enchilada), and who’s going to come out victorious and with a little bit of something to brag about. It’s fun to watch a movie that knows how to keep the energy rolling without a real break in the pace, but it’s even better when you feel like the seconds you see a person on screen for, could just might as well be their last. Black keeps this going for quite some time, that is, until the last-half shows up and sort of ruins things.

For the most part, about an hour and a half in, I was on-board with this movie and I easily felt like I was working on a 9-9.5 here, but something happened. No, not the twist I was talking about earlier, but the final showdown that we all know is going to eventually come. Something, I don’t know what it was, just didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel as epic as the rest of the movie did and it sure as hell didn’t do much to really knock me out of my chair with it’s originality; something I was seeing from Black’s side of the room, more and more. Don’t get me mistaken, I still had a ball with this final-act and just about lost my hearing by how many clangs, booms, and bangs I continued to hear (that’s a good thing, by the way), but something didn’t make it feel like the movie was tied-up with a pretty, little bow at the end like all of the other superhero movies have lately. Even Iron Man 2 somehow decided to do that, and as we all know: that was nowhere near greatness.

However, I can’t put anything against this cast because as usual: they are all phenomenal, even the newbies too. But I’ll get to them later, let me stick with the man of the 2 hours, the man with the power, and the man who practically has it all: Robert Downey Jr. Everybody and their mothers (the coolio ones who didn’t give up on him when he got busted all of those years ago) know that Downey was made for this role and he continues to show us why with his egotistical act, look, and feel. Yet, there’s something more to this guy that makes him actually feel like a hero worth rooting for. Stark does make some stupey mistakes and gets caught-up in situations that he could have easily gotten himself out of if he just thought more, but he’s human, dammit! That’s what we do. And even if we don’t have a mansion, a billion dollar corporation, or a suit made of iron that can kick ass and speak like Paul Bettany, we still feel like this guy would do the right thing, if he was given a chance to make the decision as to what that exactly is. Downey is funny as usual, and probably a lot better with the script considering that he practically vouched for Black to get this job, but it’s his human-aspect within that makes this character tick, rock, and kick….some ass. See what I did there? Yeah, I’m all out of being witty for the night.

Always gotta tug on the suit-jacket to make sure you know how big pimpin' you truly are.

Always gotta tug on the suit-jacket to make sure you know how big pimpin’ you truly are.

Even if it seems like nobody in their right minds is willing to let all of the hate for Gwyneth Paltrow go, just for a little bit of time over 2 hours, at least the girl still shows us that she can act and be charming as hell. I don’t hate Paltrow like everybody else seems to, and that’s why I really liked her as Pepper Potts because it not only felt like her character really loved Tony and wanted him to be all fine and dandy once things were over with, but that she could also stick up for herself in the chance arose itself. Pepper isn’t the type of character that you could classify as a “damsel in distress” and that’s the route that Black turns away from and gives her more a chance to knock some people out, if she needs to. During this movie, she definitely does need to and that’s exactly what she does. Keep on going, Mrs. Coldplay!

Don Cheadle is here once again as Col. Rhodes (still thought Terrence Howard was better, but hey, that’s just me, baby) and does fine with what he’s given. Cheadle doesn’t have a huge role here but gets more to do than just pick up Tony’s scraps and make us feel like he’s more of a bad-ass too. Although, I will say that he does get to show us what makes him all bad-ass still. Oh, and before I forget about it all: Rebecca Hall is here as an old-fling of Tony’s and is good, even if her beauty and charm does seem a bit wasted on a character that is essentially around just to show how much of a chauvinistic a-hole Tony basically was back in the darker days before he fell in love with Pep. Still, the girl is mighty fine!

Now is the part where we go onto the baddies and this is where things begin to get a little dicey for me and you. See, Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce both play some evil a-holes that definitely are not the breed you want to mess with, let alone see Tony mess with, but there’s more to them than just that and I can’t give away too much without sounding annoyingly-vague, or just giving it all up. Both do what they need to do as the baddies, especially Kingsley who actually terrified me at one point, but there are more layers to them and once you see what’s really going on with these cats, you might just be a bit surprised. I sure as hell was and once again: I still don’t know what to make of it. What I can say though, is that the movie does not, for a second, stray-away from giving these two guys plenty of scenery to chew on and that’s where all of the fun comes from. Because if you think about it: that’s all you need in a good villain, right?

Consensus: Starts off perfectly with a funny script, electric set-pieces, and a cast that never backs down from a script they can’t grapple, but Iron Man 3 ends more on a whimper, than on a bang. Which would have been all right and perfect with the world, had we not already see the Avengers and know what there is to expect with the Marvel Universe.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

P.S. Stay for the credits. Even though you probably already knew that, didn’t you?

It's like Gandhi all-over-again, except Chinese.

It’s like Gandhi all-over-again, except Chinese.