Category Archives: 2013

Police Story: Lockdown (2013, Ding Sheng)

If it didn’t star Jackie Chan–and if it wasn’t released in 2013–Police Story: Lockdown might seem like a late eighties cheap Die Hard knock-off. Chan’s a gritty bad dad, super cop who finds himself held hostage by his daughter’s new boyfriend (Liu Ye). Of course, the daughter didn’t know her boyfriend was a supervillain, she just invited her dad there to a party and to introduce the boyfriend.

There is a mega-bar, converted from a factory. Oh, and it’s Christmas. Because, you know, it’s Die Hard.

Director Ding’s script goes on and on before it gets anywhere; so does his direction. He cuts back to previous action scenes, purportedly to show Chan’s thoughts, but really it just kills time. Because if he weren’t able to kill time, Ding might actually have to write something for the actors to perform.

What’s so frustrating about the inept script–along with the inept direction–is it doesn’t give the actors anything to do. Chan’s obviously a charismatic performer, even if one’s unfamiliar with his work, because he always seems ready to connect with the viewer. Then Ding stops it, either through lame dialogue, lame flashback or strange cuts and camera movement. Even though the club is a factory and large, it’s a confined space. Ding has no idea how to shoot it.

The action scenes are even worse.

Lockdown doesn’t seem like a good idea for a movie, but it shouldn’t have been this bad. It should’ve been tolerable.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Ding Sheng; director of photography, Ding Yu; edited by Ismael Gomez III; music by Lao Zai; produced by Du Yang; released by Emperor Motion Pictures.

Starring Jackie Chan (Zhong Wen), Liu Ye (Wu Jiang), Jing Tian (Miao Miao), Yin Tao (Lan Lan), Liu Yiwei (Chief Niu), Na Wei (Na Na), Zhou Xiaoou (Wei Xiaofu) and Yu Rongguang (Captain Wu).


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Enough Said (2013, Nicole Holofcener)

For most of Enough Said, I marveled at how director Holofcener–apparently in an act entirely lacking irony–created the perfect film to fail the Bechdel test. The Bechdel test, which is all the rage, requires two female characters talk about something besides men.

Well, besides talking about men, the characters in Said do not do much. Lead Julia Louis-Dreyfus otherwise makes acerbic observations about those around her or the minutiae of her life; I wish I could know how the film played if one is unfamiliar with a certain show about nothing starring Louis-Dreyfus, but I cannot. It probably wouldn’t be much better, because Holofcener isn’t just lazy at the plotting, she’s lazy with the characters.

Here’s the idea (straight out of a “Seinfeld”). Louis-Dreyfus starts seeing James Gandolfini (even though he’s fat–she’s supposed to be out of shape too, in one of Enough Said’s more absurd requests for the viewer to suspend their disbelief). She’s a masseuse. Her new client–an exceptionally wasted Catherine Keener–turns out to be really cool and they become friends. Oh, and Keener’s Gandolfini’s ex-wife. Which Elaine–sorry, sorry–which Louis-Dreyfus figures out and keeps to herself.

The film wastes the more interesting empty nest subplot involving Louis-Dreyfus bonding with her daughter’s friend, Tavi Gevinson. Sure, they fail the Bechdel test too, but not as bad as the rest of the film.

Bad editing from Robert Frazen. Great performance from Gandolfini.

Enough’s pointless and slight.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener; director of photography, Xavier Grobet; edited by Robert Frazen; music by Marcelo Zarvos; production designer, Keith P. Cunningham; produced by Stefanie Azpiazu and Anthony Bregman; released by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Eva), James Gandolfini (Albert), Tracey Fairaway (Ellen), Toni Collette (Sarah), Ben Falcone (Will), Catherine Keener (Marianne), Eve Hewson (Tess), Tavi Gevinson (Chloe), Amy Landecker (Debbie), Toby Huss (Peter) and Kathleen Rose Perkins (Fran).


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Fast & Furious 6 (2013, Justin Lin), the extended version

For the most part, Fast & Furious 6 is a delightfully absurd action concoction from director Lin. The film drops the Fast and the Furious “family” into a James Bond movie; thank goodness, because it’s hard to imagine Roger Moore able to outdrive the bad guys here. And it’s even set in London (and later Spain). It’s not original, but screenwriter Chris Morgan does fold familiar action movie plot lines into a new situation. Lin’s making a non-fantasy (just absurd), non-realistic action extravaganza. It has to be seen to be believed.

But then there’s how much time is spent on Vin Diesel courting Michelle Rodriguez (she’s back from the dead, with amnesia–apparently Morgan doesn’t just like to lift from Empire Strikes Back, he likes to lift from “Days of Our Lives” too) and Lin handles it pretty well. Some of it. One spinning conversation is terrible, but the car race immediately proceeding it is fantastic work.

The thing about Furious 6 is Lin and photographer Stephen F. Windon do create breathtaking car race and car chase shots; they’re in the quickly edited sequences, but clearly done with deliberate, careful intent. And the car race between Diesel and Rodriguez is phenomenal stuff.

Some good acting from Evans, some bad acting from Gina Carano (though one of her fight scenes with Rodriguez is awesome). Everyone else is fine. Lin manages to get better performance from Dwayne Johnson here too.

Furious 6 is mechanical and superficial, but beautifully made and likable enough.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Justin Lin; screenplay by Chris Morgan, based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson; director of photography, Stephen F. Windon; edited by Kelly Matsumoto, Christian Wagner, Dylan Highsmith, Greg D’Auria and Leigh Folsom Boyd; music by Lucas Vidal; production designer, Jan Roelfs; produced by Neal H. Moritz, Vin Diesel and Clayton Townsend; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Vin Diesel (Dominic Toretto), Paul Walker (Brian O’Conner), Dwayne Johnson (Hobbs), Michelle Rodriguez (Letty), Jordana Brewster (Mia), Tyrese Gibson (Roman), Ludacris (Tej), Sung Kang (Han), Gal Gadot (Gisele), Luke Evans (Shaw), Gina Carano (Riley), John Ortiz (Braga), Shea Whigham (Stasiak), Clara Paget (Vegh) and Elsa Pataky (Elena).


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The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden (2013, Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine)

The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden has way too long of a title. The subtitle is a reference to something the viewer will probably be unfamiliar with until the epilogue (it’s the title of a book by one of the documentary’s players), but at least it shows a certain engagement from the filmmakers. Their enthusiasm for their project doesn’t forgive its problems, but it does make them seem far more affable.

Unless, of course, one reads about how there are no tortoises on the Eden island, something the documentary implies many times throughout its really long two hour runtime.

Some of the other problems are side effects of the film itself. Directors Geller and Goldfine cut from 16:9 interview and modern location footage to old, black and white 4:3 footage, which they imply was taken by the island’s settlers. It’s always implied (the filmmakers have no presence until the epilogue either), but it eventually becomes clear a lot of this footage ostensibly from the 1930s is just modern stuff run through a filter.

And the titular Affair? The big mystery? It’s nowhere near as interesting as the lives of the people living on the island the filmmakers do interview. These sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters of mostly German expats who went to the end of the world to get away from Hitler (in some cases) is far more interesting than the mystery. The mystery doesn’t have enough information to be mysterious.

Galapagos is long, professional and meanderingly pointless.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine; screenplay by Goldfine, Geller and Celeste Schaefer Snyder, based on books, journals, articles and letters by Dore Strauch, Margret Wittmer, Friedrich Ritter, Hinz Wittmer and John Garth; director of photography, Geller; edited by Bill Weber; music by Laura Karpman; produced by Geller, Goldfine and Snyder; released by Zeitgeist Films.


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