2006 holiday season capsule reviews

Confession of Pain – Andrew Mak’s latest movie is a non-thriller in that the plot twist is revealed pretty much in the first half of the film. Technically brilliant and impressive acting is squandered by a sub-par plot. Unusual in being rather melancholic.
Verdict : watchable.

Happy Feet – George Miller’s latest family offering is an animation featuring singing penguins. My nephew remarked that it isn’t a movie, but a song-movie because there is too much singing.
Verdict : enjoyable but overlong.

Eragon – this is the type of juvenile crap that gives sword and sorcery films a bad name. The special effects are nothing to marvel at, Rachel Weisz doesn’t really work as the voice of a dragon and the action is semi-lame.
Verdict : definitely the worst film I saw this Christmas.

Spartacus – IFC cinemas showed the restored version of this Kubrick classic and I seize the chance to see this epic on a large screen. The film was indeed impressive, especially the early scenes where Kirk Douglas is being trained to be a gladiator and the climatic battle between the slaves and the Romans. By today’s hyperactive standards, the narrative is slow.
Verdict : now I know why they say it is a classic!

Rocky Balboa – The action, like all the Rocky movies, is quite laughable. No one boxes like that!! But as entertain and a look at how an aging actor / boxer gives it a final shot, it works. Stallone directs and it feels like a film from the 70s and 80s in pace and mood.
Verdict : Surprisingly watchable.

Curse of the Golden Flower – another Chinese epic, but at least it is by Zhang Yimou. The single reason to see this film is to watch Gong Li, who is entertaining and regal enough for the role. I didn’t find Jay Chou convincing at all, but many will disagree. The special effects were quite awful and there is not alot of martial arts scenes. I wouldn’t call this film great, and I think I prefer House of the Flying Daggers among Zhang’s marital arts films, but this is superior to The Banquet and The Promise.
Verdict : entertaining, and better than The Banquet.