The Movie Buffer

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Preview: The Protector

Release Date: September 8 (Wide Release), August 25 (Limited Release)

The cut that I watched was the original Thai version, a new North-American cut brought to us via The Weinstein Company, who hired the one and only, RZA to write the score for the film. It’s too bad because the Thai music is pretty awesome.


Bam! Thwok! No spoilers!


The team that brought us Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior, is back with another action packed adventure, The Protector. The story is about Kham (Tony Jaa), a descendant of the elite Muay Thai warriors who guarded the King and his elephants in ancient times, and his quest to retrieve his family’s rare white elephant from poachers.

The director, Prachya Pinkaew, maintains the same philosophy as Ong-bak in this film, not relying on camera tricks and wires to deliver his vision. The movie looks and feels a lot like “Rumble in the Bronx”, not only in plot, the underdog takes on the whole triad by himself, but in the fight choreography and some heavily accented English lines uttered by the actors.

This movie pays tribute to the Kung-fu genre not to mention a few shout outs to masters like Jackie Chan and Jet Li. The martial arts displays are awesome to watch because of the many styles that are incorporated: classic Chinese Wushu, Brazilian Capoeira, American style WWF wrestling and, of course, Muay Thai.

With many action movies, the acting is suspect and the story is as limp as a wet noodle but this is redeemed by continuous fight scenes, high speed boat chases, and funny dialog. Once the frame work of the story is laid, the action kicks in and doesn’t stop. The film boasts the longest continuous shot fight sequence ever - at approx. 4 and a half minutes, this scene is quite impressive. The fight scenes are much like the ones in Ong-Bak, but instead of only fighting the goons there are bosses that are masters of their own martial art, so the fights are a lot more interesting.

This is a typical Kung-fu movie with all the same excitement and all the same flaws as all films of the genre. Some of the fight scenes are ludicrously over done, such as the body guard fight, and the story goes limp as soon as the violence begins. It’s certainly a 6/10 or a 3 out of 5 stars. I have to say that it’s rather refreshing to see a Kung-fu movie without that ridiculous wire-fighting.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Snakes on a Plane


Spoilers? Never!


Well, there’s not much more to describing this film than a quick glance at the title won’t reveal. Snakes, a plane, snake-plane interaction – it’s all here in this film. With such a Shakespearian concept and title, New Line Cinema is banking on the huge internet following to draw it’s target audience. When I went to see the film the place was packed solely with college aged guys, who hooted and hollered, whenever some campy one-liner was uttered. And you’d better to believe that this movie is rife with sassy retorts and bad puns.

The story revolves loosely around a surfing, dirt-biking Sean James (Nathan Phillips), who witnesses the murder of a state prosecutor by a Chinese mafia boss. James is escorted by Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson) from Hawaii to Los Angeles to testify against the mob. To ensure that the witness doesn’t reach his destination, mob goons place a crate of snakes on the plane.

Samuel L. Jackson is the big name associated with this movie but there are many recognizable faces in the cast: David Koechner (from Anchorman, 40-year-old Virgin and Talladega nights) plays the chauvinistic co-pilot, Julianna Margulies (from ER) plays a plucky flight attendant and Kenan Thompson (Fat Albert and Saturday Night Live) plays a portly bodyguard. The other travelers on the plane include, a Paris Hilton type debutant, a Kayne West type rapper, an Asian guy who happens to be a professional kick boxer, a pompous European guy, a flamboyantly gay straight guy, and a rambunctious pair of newly weds. All around the acting is rather good for a movie that is not a work of art but mindless pabulum. The only thing that was required of the cast was the build up Jackson’s inevitable line “I’ve had enough of these Motherf***ing snakes on this Motherf***ing plane!”, which was greeted with cheers and laughter.

The low-budget feel of the film was only enhanced by the ghastly computer generated snakes. They all shone as if made of plastic, they grew pixilated when they lunged to snag their prey and they tripped all the right circuit breakers to cause utter chaos for the flight crew. They looked terrible but I think this was the goal of the film makers. Would better animated snakes have made this movie more appealing to the audience? Probably not. Would more realistic snake movements have brought more terror to the screen? Not really. Would real-life snakes have cause so much havoc on a plane? Hell, no!

This movie is going to be hit or miss with the viewers, though no one can be tricked into watching this movie with the promise of something other that pure summer escapism. As an experiment of internet petitions on film I think that it succeeded in garnering enough interest to make this a viable strategy to making movies more audience accessible. Though I doubt this strategy would work in many genres, in the horror environment it will probably do well. In addition to fan submitted ideas and lines, some of which were included, there was a contest to write the closing theme song which plays over the end credits. The song is pop-rock with the back up vocals in just the right places and a hilarious hook line.

People who choose to see this movie will not be disappointed, there are plenty of snakes and gruesome deaths, there is Sam Jackson swearing about this and that, and there’s some nudity for the kids. But for sophisticates that want to analyze and dig for deeper meaning or for art film critics, they will find nothing but utter fluff. I liked the movie but I would warn people it’s hokey, and thus is gets a 6/10 or a 2.5 stars out of five.