Movie review

  • 2005-03-23
This week
The Ring Two
House of flying daggers
The Assassination
Of Richard Nixon

The Ring Two

Director: Hideo Nakata

The director of this sequel is Hideo Nakata, the helmer of the first and second Japanese version of "The Ring" ("Ringu"). He hasn't gotten spotlessly away with this movie. Naomi Watts is great, as always, but the movie feels like a rushed-into-production/rushed-into-cinemas kind of sequel. The script is forced and the characterization somewhat fuzzy. "The Ring" was simple: a tape, watch it, creepy phone call, week later, dead. The setup of the sequel just makes less sense, even for this kind of movie genre. Nonetheless, this is certainly a guilty pleasure-movie. Though less spooky and eerie than the first installment, it will have you on the edge of your seat more than once. The least you can do is enjoy "The Ring Two" for the comfortably uninventive, yet reasonably entertaining movie it is.
1/2 (Julie Vinten)

Take one Japanese director, Hideo Nakata, who's responsible for making the original "Ringu" back in 1998, as well as "Ringu 2" a year later. Add a storyline about a creepy videotape that kills the viewer, unless copied as fast as possible and passed on for someone else to watch (and die). Then add on-the-ball Naomi Watts and one totally spooky child actor; in this case 12-year-old David Dorfman, and you've got one perfectly chilling thriller. Or do you? To be quite frank, there were a minimum of thrills, practically no chills and nothing scary whatsoever. Well, almost. Not having seen the original cult favorites, it's difficult to comment and compare. Was it worth the effort to recap this rehashed plot for the fourth time?
3/4 (Laimons Juris G)

House of flying daggers

Director: Zhang Yimou

One of the most strikingly beautiful movies of 2004, this Chinese feature works well both as a swift martial arts piece and a classical love story. Director Zhang Yimou has gathered some of the best and most charismatic Hong Kong actors there are. I prefer this movie to the director's previous feature, "Hero." "House of Flying Daggers" makes you truly empathize with the characters. This is a rich martial arts movie, more straightforward and effortless in its skill than "Hero." Entertaining and hard-hitting, this feature overflows with impressive action sequences. The story is somewhat cliched, but at the same time delightfully simple. Without being flawless, "House of Flying Daggers" is altogether so beautifully told and presented that all you need to do is sit back and enjoy the spectacle.
1/2 (Julie Vinten)

Zhang Yimou's "House of Flying Daggers" is an incomparably overwhelming experience. It's more solid filmmaking than the Chinese director's "Hero," which was a commercial showcase for martial arts expert Jet Li. That film's most memorable moments featured a handful of dyed bed-sheets blowing in the wind. This movie, however, is a wonderful exercise in coordination. The lovely Zhang Ziyi plays a blind girl who handles daggers, swords and arrows like a pro. She also knows a thing or two about kicking ass. Takeshi Kaneshiro plays the dashing romantic lead with soulful gusto. Veteran Andy Lau is a heartless villain you'll love to hate. A rainbow of lush, vibrant colors keeps your eyes dazzled, courtesy of Zhao Xiaoding's mind-blowing cinematography, while Oscar-winner Emi Wada's costumes add style and elegance.
1/2 (Laimons Juris G)

The Assassination Of Richard Nixon

Director: Niels Mueller

Sean Penn delivers yet another intense performance as the complicated main character Samuel Bicke. He is a man in utter agony, so obsessed with truth and honesty over injustice and corruption that he loses his family, job and mind over it. Set in 1974, the movie characterizes the grief of a little man in American society. Perhaps writer/director Niels Mueller wants his movie to remind us of "Taxi Driver," but "Assassination" is far from that league. The movie is a splendid character study and a strong social criticism. It's also a self-important, stubbornly preachy and sentimental drama. Perhaps the feature is just a tad more ambitious than the director had talent to manage. This is not a likeable movie, but it holds a string of interest.
1/2 (Julie Vinten)

It's amazing that this beautifully scripted psychological thriller has received so little attention. In 1974 a mentally ill salesman, Samuel Bicke (Sean Penn), hatched a crazy plan to hijack an airplane and crash it into the White House to kill then-President Richard Nixon. Bicke blamed Nixon for all of his personal problems. This intriguing indie drama chronicles the sad circumstances that led to Bicke's mental breakdown. Penn delivers his most exhilarating performance to date and it's a downright wonder that the Oscar-winner didn't receive a second award for his superlative portrayal. Was the film ignored because there are no wild car chases, supernatural heroics or a happy Hollywood ending? It's a simple tale of an ordinary man gone bonkers. Naomi Watts and Don Cheadle are terrific in supporting roles.
(Laimons Juris G)

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