“The Wolfman” Movie Review

The Wolfman movie posterThe Wolfman lives in us all, and is dying to get out, unfortunately it lived stronger inside Mark Romanek than Joe Johnston. The former was slated to direct and went through a hell of a lot of pre-production until he left the project and the latter picked it up. I think the greatest tragedy is that they had all-time makeup genius Rick Baker, known for his still eye-popping effects from American Werewolf in London, but didn’t use him. Instead they opted for a CGI werewolf transformation, which was decent but nowhere nearly as cool as what Rick Baker probably could have accomplished with today’s tools.

Why you’ll like it:
Some decent gore, good performances and grand and beautiful set design and wardrobe.

The setup is simple, Benicio plays Lawrence Talbot who left home long ago and became a theatric performer, but his brother has died and so he returns home to deal with his father, played by Anthony Hopkins, and to find the killer at large. This naturally leads him to crossing paths and being bitten by a werewolf, and to top it off he seems to be connecting with his deceased brother’s fiance-in-mourning (Emily Blunt). Oh, the humanity! I actually really loved the interaction between Benicio and Blunt, it flowed really well and made quite a bit of sense in another time and life perhaps.

I liked the pseudo-love story so much that I wished we’d seen more of that and less of the story surrounding around Lawrence and his father. Even though Hopkins is aces as always, it just seemed a little stale after a few scenes and really lacked emotional pull. I would be really hard pressed to blame greats such as Benicio and Hopkins, so I’ll point the finger at the script. However, one of my other “issues” was Benicio played his character so sullen and melancholy that he lacked charisma altogether. While I can appreciate that perhaps that’s who his character seemed to be, it’s hard to take that from your lead for an entire film, but it did contrast brightly against the moments where the wolf came out.

Why you won’t like it:
Bad CGI usage, lack of execution in key sequences and generally poor storytelling.

I think my absolute favorite part of the film was actually the set design and style of the movie itself. I think you could only describe it as gorgeous, the attention to detail quite perfect in execution. Gothic and dark, from the buildings and sets to the clothing and decor, it fit to perfection and never out of place. Speaking of highlights, Hugo Weaving once again turned in a peak performance and was a delight to watch as he played the detective working the case of the slain brother. I also deeply appreciated that the film takes its time and spreads across a number of months instead of feeling rushed, which makes sense considering that full moons don’t come every other evening, but appreciated none the less.

I was really excited at the prospect of this film being made. I’ll shamefully admit I haven’t seen the original yet, but the idea of a period piece horror of this magnitude set my expectations high, especially when involving pros like Del Toro and Sir Anthony Hopkins. I won’t say that I disliked the film, because that’s not true, it was entertaining and had some fun moments, but I’m left with wondering what could have been had Romanek stayed on to finish what he started. The biggest sham of all being the end fight sequence between the two werewolves, it’s all in CGI and it’s all completely and utterly awful which leaves us with an overall: good, but not even close to great.

3 stars out of 5.

Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving
Director: Joe Johnston
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 42 min.
Release Date: February 12, 2010

Alice in Wonderland Movie Review

Alice in Wonderland movie posterAlice in Wonderland is the reason you’re no longer able to see Avatar in 3D at your local IMAX, and it’s totally a bad switch. Johnny Depp is undoubtedly Tim Burton’s muse, starting with Edward Scissorhands, and going through a litany of projects together including Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow, Corpse Bride, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd and probably something else I didn’t glean off of IMDB.

Why you’ll like it:
Fun, creative and silly. Visually stimulating with some pretty fun actors playing make-believe.

This isn’t classic Alice in Wonderland, this tale picks up many years after the first visitation (which you can kind of pick whether it was the classic Disney cartoon or one of the many live action iterations). Alice has forgotten that she ever went to “Underland” (as it’s referred to there) and only thinks herself slightly mad. Escaping a party that seems rigged for the moment her suitor has staged for his rather underwhelming proposal, she chases the white rabbit down the hole. We are quickly introduced into a world where the Queen of Hearts (Helena Bonham Carter) has taken over the land, spreading her tyranny far and wide. The White Queen, played wonderfully by Anne Hathaway is holed up in her castle, awaiting the foretold prophecy of victory to be fulfilled by “THE” Alice.

This sets the stage for Depp’s Mad Hatter to spend his ridiculous oddities on his belief that this Alice, is THE Alice. Depp is good, thankfully I haven’t seen his Willie Wonka impression so I don’t know how close (if at all) they resemble each other, but he plays it well even if the character does seem a tad forced into the story. In fact, everyone plays their part very well. My biggest fear was that the visual effect of the big headed Queen of Hearts would look too CGI-ish and ruin it, but even that came off well. Probably my favorite character would still have to be the Cheshire Cat though, unless the Queen’s Card soldiers count, because I apparently loved them so much they showed up in a dream, we were playing basketball, but that’s kind of off topic (though seems to appropriately fit in my Mad Hatterish mind).

Why you won’t like it:
At times a little too silly. There’s some lulls, this is largely forgettable.

The world was beautifully created, if seemingly untouchable. Probably my greatest offense was actually the 3D technology, this wasn’t filmed in true 3D. Maybe I’m a visual-phile, but it was terribly noticeable, it fit the IMAX screen perfectly yet was awful to watch it get choppy when lots of action started popping. This isn’t Avatar, it shouldn’t be seen in 3D. The only other offense I feel obligated to spoil here (that’s the spoiler warning, it’ll continue to the end of this paragraph, so read on or jump to the next paragraph) is the end where the Hatter suddenly kicks on some funk/hip-hop and starts dancing some kind of weird krump/C-walk hybrid mixed in with silly animations. It’s awful, it’s out of place in context of the world and it isn’t even greatly executed. It was so bad it really dampened the entire movie for me. I hated it. There, I’ve said it.

In the end, it wasn’t a grand epic re-telling of a cherished movie. It seemed more like Burton trying to be “Burton-y” by making something that was wild and colorful into a slightly Gothic version of itself. There was still some small amount of magic, the performances were well enough, but maybe I should stop expecting Burton to be brilliant anymore, he seems to have checked his creative juices at the door these days, choosing instead to promote upcoming talent like Shane Ackerman (“9”). Good? Yes. The better way to describe it is probably “good enough”.

3 stars out of 5.

Starring: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway
Director: Tim Burton
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hr. 48 min.
Release Date: March 5, 2010

James Cameron’s “Avatar” Movie Review

James Cameron's Avatar movie posterAvatar is a technological and cinematic feat, but it isn’t the epic movie of the year that it’s being made out to be. I followed this film for the entire year of 2009, I know there’s people who followed it far longer than that, but my interest was such that I drove 3 hours to see the 15 minute sneak peak on “Avatar Day” several months before the premiere. I then defended it to the sprouting naysayers who clowned its look, telling them that the experience is something else in the theater with 3D. I was there for the midnight premiere at my local IMAX in 3D. I’ve since seen it in 2D and in a normal theater with 3D. So, my thoughts after seeing it 3 times in all 3 possible settings? Here we go.

Why you’ll like it:
Brilliant special effects, Zoe Saldana’s performance and for science nerds Cameron is quite accurate in his alien ecological speculation.

For the uninitiated “Avatar” takes place in the year 2154 when we’ve discovered Pandora, a planet in the Alpha Centauri star system that has the mineral to serve all of our energy needs back here on Earth. Scientists studying the planet cloned the native humanoids (“Na’avi”) and tweaked their DNA so that humans can kind of “log in” via a mental modem thereby able to deal with the Na’avi as one of them. Our main character is a paraplegic ex-Marine filling in for his recently deceased genius twin-brother. His goal is to negotiate with the Na’avi and get them to vacate their turf as it sits on this miracle mineral, but along the way our Marine’s desires begin to shift.

There is absolutely no denying that something spectacular was created, a vision from a true visionary director. I’ve never had such an amazing experience in 3D, totally immersed into the environment which is beautifully crafted and meticulously detailed. I bought in just enough to the detail of the Na’avi to believe their emotion and for myself to emotionally invest. Probably my favorite visual was the planet itself, the forest and plants were absolute perfection and will undoubtedly stand the test of time. I do have to admit that I think that the Na’avi will probably eventually look outdated, extreme close-ups worked really well but wide shots and general interaction sometimes still didn’t feel true. Nit-picking aside, this is certainly a visual buffet that has earned its reputation as a sight to behold.

Eye-candy aside, there is so much lacking in other areas that I was very disappointed that so much creative work went into something that produced such a rehashed story, flat characters and wooden dialogue. The storyline itself is nothing new and has been seen in “Dances With Wolves”, “Last Samurai” and several other stories about an outsider finding himself in an entirely new culture and soon adopting it as his own. What bothers me so much about Cameron’s version is that he borrows so heavily from native Americans that it feels like “Dances With Wolves v2.0”, I certainly don’t mind the concept being redone but I expect a more unique culture to be invented rather than native Americans with sensitive hair. Not only that, but the characters are largely one-dimensional and simple, the seemingly lone exception being Neytiri, that should’ve got Zoe Saldana an easy Oscar nomination and probably the statue itself. She was hands down dazzling to watch and exceptional in her performance. The dialogue would have gone a long distance with a simple rewrite if Cameron could allow someone to touch his script.

Graphics were amazing, but Cameron delivered not only a completely fabricated world but he brought an unexperienced level of depth with it by using 3D technology in a way that hadn’t been used and basically turned it into art in itself. Do not be surprised by newer films coming out that don’t have as good of a 3D experience, James Cameron put a lot of time into this experience and fine-tuning the technology, but other films are likely only to add it as an after-thought as a way to take advantage of the extra revenue (see: Alice in Wonderland).

Why you won’t like it:
The story is largely unoriginal, the characters are shallow and the dialogue is stiff.

Of all three versions the best cinematic bang for my buck was in IMAX 3D, that’s the way it was filmed and it clearly shows. There’s a lot lost in the 2D version, and the 16×9 3D version is still great but lacking the extra footage shot since it’s cropped off to fit the screen. The film itself is an adventure worthy of seeing, because it is a sight that will likely only be outdone by the sequel. The story isn’t fresh, but it is still executed by a landmark director in an easy flow narrative. See it mostly for the visuals, and for Zoe Saldana’s performance, it’s well worth your time, and my 3 sit-throughs.

4 out of 5 stars.

Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver
Director: James Cameron
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hr. 40 min.
Release Date: December 16, 2009

“Green Zone” Movie Review

Green Zone posterReview by Wes Hemings

“Green Zone” is not Jason Bourne goes to Iraq, it’s a movie aiming at making sense of historic moments in Iraq: specifically the lack of finding WMDs upon successfully invading Iraq in the 2003 invasion. The movie starts with Chief Miller (played by Matt Damon) securing the location of a possible WMD site, but as it turns out the intelligence is bad, and it’s the third time the intel has put him and his men at risk for something that wasn’t there. His questioning of the intel gets him reprimanded, but ultimately finds him a CIA friend, thus beginning the fall down the rabbit hole.

Coming 7 years after the fact, it will come as no surprise to anyone who paid an ounce of attention that there are two inescapable facts about our war on Iraq, 1) we went there on the basis that we had evidence Saddam had Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), and 2) there were none found. What really works in this film for me is the use of historical accuracies, such as disbanding the Republican Army and tortuing for information, and intertwining it with a plausible story to fill in the gaps that weren’t televised (i.e. why the information was bad). While I know the details are fabricated to serve a dramatic storyline, the idea and principle of false propaganda being used to initiate a war is hardly a new concept here locally. All the same, I appreciate the attempt at generating interest in our government’s ill-conceived war mongering.

Why you’ll like it:
Decent action propped up by relevant drama and political commentary.

Ironically, the thing that I liked is also going to be the failing of this film, and by that I mean the information being dramatically delivered comes as neither shocking or even freshly conceived. It basically amounts to a re-hashed CNN news piece, live from Baghdad. If you’re wanting information about what went wrong in Iraq, I’d recommend the excellent documentary “No End In Sight”, or if you’re more interested on the “evidence” of why we went there in the first place then you should see “Why We Fight”, but that’s only if you’re strictly interested in facts.

Why you won’t like it:
More political commentary on Iraq and WMDs, but with bullets.

If you’re familiar with Greengrass’ other films, particularly “Bourne Ultimatum” and “Bourne Supremacy”, then you’re all too familiar with his shakey-cam tactics when filming fight sequences, that’s important to know because he doesn’t exclude those techniques from “Green Zone”. I will say that it’s greatly calmed down for this though, I literally got a headache and had to turn my head while watching “Bourne Ultimatum” in theaters, so I was grateful that the blurry quick-cuts were toned down and made much easier to follow, the last sequence of 15 or 20  minutes was a complex, yet not too difficult to follow chase sequence that was pretty gratifying.

Probably the biggest surprise for me was the action itself. The filming technique was a bit of a “Cloverfield” meets “Black Hawk Down”, the lighting was largely dim but the explosions were fairly grand, so the level of realism is easily achieved. I think ultimately the lack of original material will be what hurts this flm, though it creatively fills in a backstory for the “why” and the “how”, it’s regurgitating a war that America is easily tired of seeing and hearing about, no one wants to pay money to hear more political commentary about it. I like it, but not enough to say that you’re going to get anything new out of it.

3 stars out of 5.

Starring: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson
Director: Paul Greengrass
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 55 min.
Release Date: March 12, 2010

Danny Boyle’s “Sunshine” Movie Review

Sunshine posterWes Hemings Review

Danny Boyle’s “Sunshine” was inspired by writer Alex Garland’s reading of an article about the heat death of the universe. Garland had an established relationship with Boyle from writing two of the director’s previous films “The Beach” and “28 Days Later”. Taking place in the year 2057, our nearest star is dying out and mankind has launched the Icarus II, the ship carrying the second attempt to carry a bomb the size of Manhattan to the Sun in order to reignite it. The first attempt failed for reasons unknown and due to the lack of resources to create another bomb, there will not be a third chance.

I like Sci-Fi movies, a lot. I was a big fan of Duncan Jones’ “Moon”, and remember “Alien” and more specifically “Aliens” being redefining moments of what I considered state of the art filmmaking when I was very young and anything that approaches the level of Ridley Scott or James Cameron can only be called a worthy accomplishment. Where the enemy in “Alien” was a physical entity (duh, an alien), the villain here is one of the most basic needs for the survival of all life on Earth: the Sun. The Sun really becomes another character in the movie, and Boyle does a fantastic job of creating an atmosphere that delivers nothing but awe and respect by using spectacular visual effects of the Sun in all its might set against our “little engine that could”, the Icarus II.

Why you’ll like it:
A dark Sci-Fi tale set in space. Reminiscent of “Solaris” or “2001”.
Great visuals accompanied by a fantastic score and pitch perfect acting.

The visual effects are made far more effective by the use of a score that builds a sense of grand urgency and the atmosphere is such that you feel swallowed whole by the mission at hand. The tone of seriousness is carried by the actors thoroughly, and they all tote the ideology that their life is wholly expendable by comparison of the task they’ve set out to accomplish.

Each character plays a very specific role in the mission, Cillian Murphy is the thought-filled physicist Robert Capa, who bares the weight as the only person who understands how the bomb works. Chris Evans is Mace, the ship’s engineer and perhaps the most intense crew member, he never hesitates to coldly calculate reality and beats the drum constantly to remind his shipmates the highest priorities. Maybe the most fun is had by the crew’s doctor and psychologist Searle, played by Cliff Curtis. He comes across as if he’s never left the Earth, perhaps the only crerw member with a sense of freedom and even comes across as a tad unstable, but it’s probably the smiley friendliness he’s retained set against everyone else’s sober demeanor. The rest of the crew is fleshed out by a biologist (“Memoirs of a Geish”‘s Michelle Yeoh), the pilot (Rose Byrne), a communications officer, navigator and the ship’s captain.

Why you won’t like it:
There is no humor here, the tone of this movie never lets up and is a slow steady crescendo of the highest gravity.

The vision for the crew itself was smartly designed around the thought that in 50 years the leading space programs would be Asian and American, so you have a very culturally diverse crew to represent that this is about humankind and the global effort reflects as much.

Try as I might, I can’t really fault the film for anything. I personally can appreciate a movie with a serious tone, so the lack of comedic mood lightener does not bother me in the slightest. I was already a big fan of Danny Boyle from his work on “28 Days Later” where he reinvented the zombie genre, but to me this will probably always be his biggest triumph. I wish it would’ve performed far better than it did in the theaters to justify more larger budget Science Fiction movies (this one cost in the neighborhood of $40 million). From the acting, music, gorgeous style and set-design, this film hits on all cylinders. The only problem with this film is you didn’t see it in all its artistic glory on the big screen, believe me when I say it was stunning.

5 out of 5 stars.

Starring: Cillian Murphy, Cliff Curtis, Rose Byrne, Michelle Yeoh, Chris Evans
Director: Danny Boyle
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 47 min.
Release Date: July 20, 2007
Genre: Science Fiction

Hot Tub Time Machine Movie Review

Hot Tube Time Machine posterI’ve never wanted to get naked and jump in a Hot Tub Time Machine with 4 other naked guys before, but hey, things change. I had an opportunity to see an advance screening of this comedic farce with a group of people who clearly were the target audience. Namely, people who know the 80s and like it. Since the trailer I’ve known this would be a great careless ride with John Cusack and some of my favorite up and coming actors: Craig Robinson (Daryl from “The Office”) and Clark Duke.

The setup is fairly simple: a few guys a little past their prime wind up back in the 80s during one of their most influential weekends at a Colorado Resort. With this power, comes great responsibility.

Why you’ll like it:
Ridiculous, non-sensical over the top humor loaded with 80s references

There’s a lot that make this film work, the actors involved are pretty sharp and according to Steve Pink (the director) there was a lot of improv. But mostly, there’s gobs of 80s throwback references, so many in fact that I’m sure I probably missed half of them, but the most obvious one has to be Crispin Glover (a nod to  George McFly) from “Back to the Future” fame, and anyone who ruins this storyline deserves the firing squad. I also loved the way it handled the most basic time travel question of “What would you do?” with raunch humor and giving the middle finger to traditional time theory movies, it made me feel like the decisions I would pick were being picked for me.

Probably my only real rub of the entire movie is Rob Corddry. While he wasn’t altogether awful, he had several lines that had me in stitches, but for the most part he came on way too strong and forceful in his approach. I don’t need humor yelled at me, and no one depicts the perfect balance of subtle humor better than Craig Robinson. Even though his part seems a tad more minimal, he kills it and delivers plenty of underhanded zingers.

Why you won’t like it:
Somewhat low-brow comedy (minus fart jokes). You’ll need a sense of humor and appreciation for high-top fades and loud colors.

The cast is half of what really makes this thing tick, Chevy Chase playing the mysterious handyman and Clark Duke holding his own against more veteran actors. The other half is without a doubt all the laced in references, ranging from Sixteen Candles to Karate Kid, some subtle and some not so subtle, it’s all excellent. Doesn’t necessarily need to be seen in theaters, it’s most important to see this with friends who get the material, because if you do then you’ll travel right back with them.

3.5 Stars (out of 5)

Starring: John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Crispin Glover, Chevy Chase
Director: Steve Pink
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.
Release Date: March 26, 2010

Reviewed by: Wes Hemings

“Anacondas” Movie Review

Now why in the world would someone watch the sequel to a bad movie? Well, you’ll have to ask all the Freddy vs. Jason fans I guess. I will tell you though, if you go in knowing what to expect then the whole experience is completely different than false hopes (a great lesson from M. Night’s “The Village”). So going into this expected disaster of a movie, I was hoping for only one thing: cool snake scenes. The question is “did they deliver my snake scenes”?

The premise is a whole lot better than the original, scientists have a possible medicine for retaining our youth and the main ingredient is found in a flower known as the Blood Orchid which happens to bloom only once every seven years, but the trick is actually finding the extremely rare flower. This time, the orchid has been spotted in the heart of the jungle. So after a group of young scientists get funding for the expedition they soon find themselves in a head-long dash to the jungle in the hopes of getting the orchid before it is no longer in bloom.

Naturally, the only way to navigate the jungle safely is on the river, right? Ahhhhhh, therein lies the problem! When they arrive at Borneo, the main town entrance to the jungle, noone is willing to take their boats into the river in the midst of “rainy season”, it’s far too dangerous. In comes our hardcore crappy-boat captain (Johnny Messner) doing his worst impression of Clint Eastwood that he could muster, and he is happy to navigate the treacherous rivers as long as the price is right. Very straight forward and cliché, they set off on their grand adventure of finding the fountain of youth which promises fame and fortune. To make a summary even shorter, the boat encounters issues with floating which gives way to interpersonal problems and digestion problems (the latter more of a snake problem than human issue).

My favorite actor in the movie was Salli Richardson whose performance as the “venture-capitalist insuring the investment” was wooden at best. The first 45 minutes the acting overall is wonderfully bad and obvious, the dialogue is hokey (this never leaves unfortunately), and the emotion is limited. Morris Chestnut is uninspired, along with Messner and Nicholas Hope. The “best” performance is Eugene Byrd as the computer nerd and comedic relief, while still not worthy of a trip to the oscars (“a trip” = an invitation, *not* a nomination), he still makes the dull moments bearable in some small way. Not to forget Karl Yune’s minor part, who turns in the only believable piece consistently that never makes you question his authenticity, but his screen time is minimal.

The settings definitely put you in the jungle vibe, the more notable scenery coming towards the end of the movie where the heroes fall into a cavernous hole in the ground, the group gets split up and finally the feeling of Closter phobia kicks in, this is definitely one of the more notable scenes. The other scene which should give a good thrill is when Captain Jack’s (Messner) boat does a swan dive off a waterfall, a fun scene to watch indeed.

Overall the directing lacked imagination and uniqueness, and was a stab at some quick dollars from the dog days of August, believe me when I say this second point is duly noted and obvious. The Director, Dwight Little (Murder at 1600), has yet to make a noteworthy name for himself and this film will do little to exploit his directing skills. Perhaps his biggest fault is not working hard enough on dialogue and motivating his actors to be believable humans. Of course, my other big peeve was a very simple question: “Why in the world are scientists in a jungle????” It would figure that the expedition should be left up to people who are comfortable and competent in a life or death situation in the jungle, not fidgety scientists who are useless without their laptops. Maybe I blinked when this tidbit of exposition was given, but it still would not satisfy a logical answer.

Now that the official business is out of the way, the main question needs answering, did it deliver some fun snake action? Yes and no. The attempt by our director was to focus on the “plot” of grabbing the Blood Orchid, rather than giving us some good slithery scenes of snake love, errrr, actually he does give us a scene of anaconda “love”, but not quite enough action. As far as the action that is given, it is quite nicely done, he picks some good moments to deliver shock value, but far too many times he tries to stir up suspense using the camera view trick of “is it a snake? No! It’s a monkey! Gotcha!” Trust me, this technique is far from useful or suspenseful when in this director’s hands.

Final Thoughts
Well, I went for the snakes and I stayed for the snakes. There was a little more effort in compiling a story than in the first movie, but it did cost a little snake time and a lot of respect to some good actors. There were some good suspenseful scenes, a loveable monkey named Kong mixed in with fun anaconda action. The villain (other than the snake) shows up and is hardly believable, the whole motivation of greed is used to the fullest extent here, and gets quite irritating “But the money!!! Billionaires!! Arrrrggghh matey!!” Sorry, had to throw in the last bit to flesh it out. It’s a weak movie, but if you take some friends to laugh a bit and expect bad acting, you’ll have a blast. Unfortunately, waiting til DVD will not help the experience, that’s why I did the matinee. I give a dreadful 2 stars  to this hokey movie.

2 out of 5 stars

Jet Li’s “Hero” Review

I already know what you’re thinking, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”. Let me start by saying “wrong!” While this does explore Asian mythos on a small level, it actually taps into China’s (arguably) biggest historical figure to date. Qin is the man responsible for uniting China into one land, and is also responsible for the creation of the Great Wall (of China). Hero’s focus is actually telling about the method of uniting China. So everyone is wondering, is this a second rate “Crouching Tiger..” or a first rate Hero?

There are many devices in this movie, the plot is magnificent and compels the movie forward. It begins as a nameless warrior (Jet Li) arrives at the emperor’s palace, and the warrior comes bearing fantastic news for he has killed off the King’s assassins and now the king will finally let someone within 100 paces of himself. The emperor has the nameless one recount his story of how he killed the foes and thus the action of the movie unfolds in flashbacks. I really do not want to go too far into the plot as it is truly special in the way it is interwoven with the characters and action. Just know that it’s very intriguing without even letting you know what to consider as truth and what is fiction.

I always enjoy non-english acting, because I don’t notice bad dialogue, the very language of Chinese (Asian language in general) always comes across so authentic and genuine that there’s hardly room for corny lines to be noticed. The drawback is of course that you have to read all the dialogue (which, by the way, gave me a splitting headache when watching “Crouching Tiger..”), but here it is not that difficult since there is a lot of non-verbal skills at work, and it’s used very effectively. The whole cast effectively brings the story along with a sense of purpose and destination.

I particularly enjoy the culture’s values on things such as honor and humility, yet a high amount of pride in family and people (I’m not an anthropologist, but that’s the impression I get). Throughout the film there are distinct impressions of respect for everyone, even their enemies are respected in life and death and this is beautifully communicated throughout.

Zhang Yimou did an amazing job with the use of actual locations mixed with perfect colors. Now colors are not always utilized in a movie’s concept and themes, instead colors are mainly used to set the tone and mood. However, in “Hero” there clearly is some symbolic meaning attached to the way he uses colors, although I wasn’t particularly clear on the all the meanings attached to the color schemes it was apparent that there’s more depth to the film awaiting anyone who cares explain it to me.

The locations chosen for filming are all native to China and are very beautiful indeed. There are many moments captured simply by expressions and camera angles. If there is only one word to express or describe this movie, the word would have to be “beautiful”.

Final Thoughts:
Summarizing this movie is by no means simple, it’s a very complex movie with a lot of heart and homeland pride involved. In Asia, it was actually released two years prior to the U.S. release, but they did not wish to release it here immediately so it would not be written off as a “Crouching Tiger…” wannabe, and this is anything but a wannabe. On the contrary it stands perfectly on its own and will find its way into the category of timeless masterpiece.

4.5 out of 5 stars