Monday, August 3, 2009

Calling John Woo an action director appears a dis-service to his fine reputation. 'Action artist' would be more appropriate as he wants his audience to observe and feel every movement within every spectacularly staged sequence. Red Cliff sees his skills refined further with a true Chinese tale benefiting from his energetic story-telling. Although cut in length for Western audiences, Red Cliff finds Woo in his element utilising the rich historical background for his remarkable talents. Wracked by division and seeing the Han Dynasty in decline, China in 208 A.D. was a fractured land. Using this for his own ends, Prime Minister Cao Cao (Zhang Fengyi) persuaded the Emperor that the only way to unite China was to declare war on the Western kingdom of Xu and Southern kingdom of East Wu. Regrettably for him, both decided to wage war for their cherished provinces with their best warriors Zhuge Liang (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and Zhou Ye (Tony Leung) leading the charge. This set the stage for the battle of Red Cliff where power and honour would carve a new chapter in Chinese history. Back in his native China to construct the most expensive Asian film made, Woo ensures Red Cliff is grandiose in scope. With the camera gliding into its many battles, the viewer is driven head first into every bruising skirmish and ingenious tactical planning. This brings immediacy with various cinematic techniques maintaining rhythm. Due to its editing from its original 4 hour plus runtime, the film literally sets a cracking pace from its first frame to an epic finale full of wonderfully majestic action. In many ways Red Cliff feels very operatic in its approach. By interweaving threads dealing with triumph, tragedy and solidarity, there's almost a poetic sheen given to its combatant characters. Cao Cao's villainy has a veneer of valour as principle seems just as important as material gain. Well played by a strong cast, perhaps the film could have gained from a little more character development to really engage with the mind despite the stunning visuals. Certainly the extended version probably had this in spades whetting the appetite for further investigation when a fuller cut gets an inevitable 'special edition' DVD release. Edited or not, Red Cliff is an amazing looking film demanding the viewer's full attention. One could only imagine what an American version would be like, although it would be hard pressed to out-do its magnificent cinematic craftsmanship.


Move Review Rating out of 10 : 8  
 Movie Review by Patrick Moore If you have any comments to make about this Movie Review, then please use the comment box, titling your comments with Movie Review Red Cliff
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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Like some of its shadowy characters, this latest Harry Potter instalment is a deceptive beast. After thundering towards an action packed conclusion with Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince switches to a slower pace. This doesn't mean events are any less interesting, in fact the further defining of our heroes and villains provide additional textures to those preparing for the last chapter's ultimate battle. Mixed with the maturing confidence of the actors, this sixth spellbinding adventure reaches new heights in production excellence. Entering his sixth year at Hogwarts, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) feels dark forces enveloping him. With the return of the evil Lord Voldemort, the Death Eaters gain new strength threatening Harry's existence. Knowing this, Hogwart's headmaster Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) enlists Harry’s help in finding the secret that will help defeat the dark lord's army. Asked to befriend new potions master Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), who has vital information, Harry's new year is shaping to be the most tumultuous for the now almost adult wizard. Watching this series has been a fascinating experience. As the main young leads grow into their abilities, this latest effort finally sees them on the same acting level as their more established co-stars. Possibly knowing this, director David Yates has crafted a tale utilising their skills benefiting the more dramatic story. Dealing with themes of accepting one's destiny, love, loss and sacrifice, Half-Blood Prince cleverly interweaves these strands amongst the very human feelings of teenage angst. This is perhaps J.K. Rowling's masterstroke as her writing has made these characters readily accessible even with the magical fantasy surrounding them. At this point in the series' life, the story is squarely aimed at longer term fans. Those diving into proceedings with this may be lost, although the basic plot is reasonably simple. Unlike other long running series, the Potter films have ensured each instalment has its own identity whilst further adding to the overall tapestry. The special effects are still first rate, although even better are the performances with Gambon, Broadbent and Radcliffe commandingly leading a fine cast. Happily the series' embrace of classical film-making is intact without any pandering to modern audiences spoiling its general atmosphere. It's this very fact that should see these films become as timeless as other well known classics. Still managing to surprise and full of the 'wonder' uniquely its own, Half-Blood Prince plays to the series strengths and does so with style. Graced with a booming orchestral score and maintaining its consistent high quality, the appetite for the final piece of the cinematic puzzle should prove a worthwhile wait for its legion of fans. Movie Review Rating 8 / 10 Movie Review by Patrick Moore If you have any comments to make about this Movie Review, then please use the comment box, titling your comments with Movie Review Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Patrick Moore's Movie Review is an alternative look at current movie releases in Australia.
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Not only does the term 'La Belle Epoque' refer to an infamous disco group, but also a golden age in European history. 'The Beautiful Era' - the late 19th/early 20th Century period saw wealthier classes develop their own forms of social customs. From haute couture to perfecting champagne, this blend of renaissance styles with modern life represented finest in living. Cheri uncovers how this glittering existence was unable to prevent love's forceful nature in wreaking emotional havoc. Wealthy courtesan Lea (Michelle Pfeiffer) nears the end of her career. Approaching middle age and comfortable from the earnings of many liaisons, a care-free retirement beckons. This is shattered by Madam Peloux (Kathy Bates), who asks for help with her wilful young son Cheri (Rupert Friend). Ordered to turn him into a 'gentleman', she reluctantly escorts him into her boudoir. Turning into a six year relationship, their honest friendship reveals true kindred spirits. When Cheri is suddenly forced into an arranged marriage, both realise how in love they were with letting each other go a difficult lesson to learn. Everything about Cheri seeps of stylish sophistication. From clothes to witty dialogue, its atypical nature seems at home with the decadent playground upper echelons of society created. Director Stephen Frears and the cast have a great time with a script full of arch humour deftly making way for acidic dramatics. Against this light and shade, almost every frame of this lush production is visually rich in its extravagance. A bewitching performance from Pfeiffer adds to the overall opulence. It seems ironic that the only element failing to ignite is Cheri himself, as the actor portraying him seems swamped by his surrounds. It's unfortunate this is the case as his and Pfeiffer's characters are quite interesting. Their blasé attitude towards love has affected their many past relationships due to their emotional detachment. Its only when they form a strong bond do they comprehend the powerful feelings they have bought out in each other shocking them out of their stupor. Although Friend appears unsure how to portray his role, Pfeiffer chews her scenes with relish as an older woman grappling with age and desire. Her underuse in recent years has been concerning and it's a pleasure watching her bite deeply into a multi-faceted personality. Whilst not perfect, Cheri certainly offers an unique experience in terms of visual splendour. Its frothy leanings hide a deceptively dark heart bringing an interesting unpredictability to an era whose style has been copied many times since. Movie Review Rating 7 / 10 Movie Review by Patrick Moore If you have any comments to make about this Movie Review, then please use the comment box, titling your comments with Movie Review Cheri Patrick Moore's Movie Review is an alternative look at current movie releases in Australia.
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Whoever said crime doesn't pay was in the wrong business. With this technological world making instant stars of some unsavoury Australian gangs, this market for murder has seen a multitude of commercial opportunities. Perhaps the general populace has a morbid fascination as their daily lives are dissected with ghoulish relish. Equally fascinated is Michael Mann who is no stranger to gangster films, although his latest directorial effort sees the genre take a backward step with an insipid and lifeless production. In 1933, John Dillinger (the always interesting Johnny Depp) is public enemy No. 1. Robbing banks and escaping jail with monotonous regularity, his exploits earn the admiration of Chicago masses. Pursuing him with zeal is FBI agent Melvin Purvis (a stoic Christian Bale) whose determination in capturing this crook is all consuming. With his girlfriend Billie (appealing Marion Cotillard), Dillinger attempts to straddle the twin notions of fame and fortune by any forceful means. Sadly devoid of any true character motivation or colour, Public Enemies rests on a chase-capture-breakout formula. Hardly any surprise given the very slight story. The sense of disappointment regarding the lack of cinematic innovation from Mann is palatable. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the decision to shoot on shaky digital camera. If film-making is all about the right choices, then Mann has made the mistake in rejecting the more classical film style the story demands. Whilst it worked wonderfully for his much maligned film version of Miami Vice, this Untouchables-like film is so drab and beige as to bleed dry any ounce of required tension. You can't blame the performers as their one dimensional characters give them nothing with which to work. The grafting of the clichéd 'mobster/agent with a heart of gold' is no help either as Depp and Bale are much stronger actors than that. Watching them resort to 'trenchcoat and machine gun' acting does a dis-service to them - they are always watchable during slower moments. The production design is pleasing to view. The film style ensures that the viewer always remembers they're watching a film more than an engrossing story. Public Enemies is a very uninspiring caper from a director who has done better. Hopefully its lacklustre reception sees him re-charge his batteries as his skills warrants a return to the more intense stories for which he is known. Movie Review Rating 4 / 10 Movie Review by Patrick Moore If you have any comments to make about this Movie Review, then please use the comment box, titling your comments with Movie Review Public Enemies Patrick Moore's Movie Review is an alternative look at current movie releases in Australia.
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