Thursday, August 9, 2012

Grab Bag: Fist of Fury / The Chinese Connection, The Lion in Winter, Alice

Look at me! I'm back! Writing about movies once again, now with an all-new, all-Chicago-y backdrop. I still don't have the internet yet, so updates may still be sporadic, but I haven't stopped watching movies in my absence. I think I have like 30 movies piled up to talk about, including some real-deal classics.

Fist of Fury / The Chinese Connection,
by Lo Wei, 1972

Much like Enter the Dragon, I'm pretty sure I watched The Chinese Connection when I was a kid, but I don't really remember it. Bruce Lee plays, well, a Bruce Lee-type who returns to his home town to find his master murdered by Japanese bad guys. Bruce Lee then kicks everybody's ass to avenge his teacher and prove Chinese superiority. I can't think of too much more to say about it right now because I'm a bad writer, but it's good stuff.

The Lion in Winter, by Anthony Harvey, 1968

Well, I didn't have much to say about Fist of Fury, so hopefully I can make up for that with the next two.

I said I watched some true classics, and this is one of them. Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn star as King Henry II and his wife Lady Eleanor in this vicious adaptation of the play of the same name.

The Lion in Winter follows the machinations and maneuverings of an aging Henry and Eleanor, their three children, Richard, Geoffrey, and John, in determining the succession of the British Crown. Henry wants his youngest, the snivelling John on the throne. Eleanor wants the eldest, the kingly Richard (Anthony Hopkins in his first movie role). Geoffrey, the middle child, wants Geoffrey on the throne, but nobody else seems to care. Backstabbing, eavesdropping, and manipulation abounds. It's like watching two hours of the most epic domestic dispute of all time.

The characters are all thoroughly wretched people who care for little outside of themselves, but they're thoroughly wretched interesting people, especially O'Toole's Henry. Hepburn won a well-deserved Oscar for her performance.

I didn't know what this movie was going to be like when I started it, and I did not expect it to be so dark and filled with such acidic dialogue. I assume it's a fairly straight adaptation of the play. The family kind of reminded me of the Lannisters in A Game of Thrones. The Lion in Winter is thoroughly engrossing. The writing and the performances pull you in and don't let go for the entire 2 hour plus running time.

Alice, by Woody Allen, 1990

When I was 21 or so, I discovered the films of Woody Allen and never looked back. Like most comedy guys, I prefer the early, zany stuff, but I still appreciate a lot of his later work, all the while yearning for the Woody Allen of old. I've seen the majority of his films, though I've fallen off in recent years. Every once in a while, I look into one of the movies I've overlooked. Alice is one of those movies.

Alice is one of his whimsical fantasy comedies, along the lines of The Purple Rose of Cairo or Midnight in Paris, two of my favorite post-Manhattan Allen films. It is the story of Alice, (Mia Farrow) an unhappy rich housewife who lives a boring, struggle-free life. When she is recommended to a Chinese holistic healer, he gives her all sorts of magic herbs that allow her to fly around the city, speak to ghosts, turn invisible, and so on. Through these she is able to see herself and others in a new light and can make the changes that will allow her to live the life she had intended for herself.

Alice was a decent enough movie, but I wouldn't even put it in my top 10 Allen films. I guess it was said to be a riff on Alice in Wonderland, but really, the only similarity is that she ingests things that give her powers. I also found Allen's take on the mystical Chinese healer to be pretty outdated and borderline racist, in that way where grandpas are racist even when they don't realize it. Still, it has some really fun and funny moments, and it's better than some of his films. I would say check out Alice, but only if you have already seen all the really great Woody Allen films and feel the need to watch more.


I was hoping to have time for more reviews but this entry alone has taken me days to put together! Things will be calming down in the next week or so, and hopefully I can get back to a regular schedule by then. See you soon!

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