Monday, December 08, 2003

After long hiatus....a double movie review (aren't you lucky?)

Two movies you definitely have to see this holiday season: Master and Commander: Far Side of the World and The Last Samurai. Both are great pseudo-historical epics worthy of praise.

Master and Commander: Far Side of the World

One of the best movies of the year. Master and Commander managed to produce a totally engrossing film-going experience in the span of what seems much shorter than two hours and fifteen minutes . This movie definitely flexes the muscles of the theatre's surround sound - you actually feel that you are on the ship - with howling winds, creaking bulkheads and splintering cannon shots. Master and Commander manages to accurately portray the lives of seafaring men of the early 1800s. Cannon balls do not explode, but tear through the hulls like they actually did, every aspect of the movie shows this commitment to historical accuracy. Master and Commander is definitely the polar opposite of the much over-hyped Pirates of the Caribbean and I put it in the league of Braveheart as far as historical epics go. I feel that its "wow it feels like I just stepped out of a time machine and onto a ship" sense is easily worth the price of admission. The only complaint I have is with the rather suddenness of the ending, but nevertheless I definitely recommend this movie.

The Last Samurai

After seeing this movie, I immediately compared to Master and Commander but they are essentially different animals. Master and Commander was essentially a period piece, while in Last Samurai the setting was used mainly as a plot device. This movie focuses on the end of an era, the struggle for Japan to balance its need to modernize with maintaining a connection to its rich past. Highlights of the movie include the beautiful Samurai settlement and of course the battle scenes. For the first time in modern cinema there is a honest-to-goodness ninja raid. Not fake ninjas like the final "bosses" in every other kung-fu movie, but an actual stealthy assassination attempt with throwing stars and hand claws, it was easily the coolest fight scene that I have seen in some time....even cooler than anything in Kill Bill. After the ninja scene the crowd was buzzing with excitement, and I don't blame them. The part of the Samurai Warlord is excellently played by Ken Watanabe (I love his name) and his interactions with Cruise is what drives the movie. Although it isn't perfect - I feel that the movie could have been a bit shorter, and some argue that there could have been a more effective ending, it definitely gets a thumbs up.


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