#368- Project A II

Quick recap: Having not seen the first Project A, I have no idea why Dragon (Jackie Chan) has so many enemies. I also have no idea how he was able to go from the Navy to Police Sergeant but that’s also a thing, apparently. Maybe it’s his ridiculously good martial arts skills?

 

It’s easier just to name who doesn’t want Dragon dead

Fun (?) fact: The peppers Dragon ate and then spit in his hands to rub in his attackers’ faces were real

My thoughts: I absolutely love discovering subgenres within a genre. My first realization of this came very early on in this list when I learned ‘foreign’ isn’t a genre, except as an Oscar category. And now I’ve expanded my horizons to learn that there are different kinds of Martial Arts films. Before this list I had only ever seen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which is so vastly different than this movie that they shouldn’t be mentioned in the same realm.

Project A II was a lot more fun for me to watch than previous films of similar fighting plots. There is an underlying humor I didn’t always understand but still very much enjoyed, especially during the fighting scenes. It’s one thing to film people punching and kicking people but Jackie Chan adds all these elements that show he is enjoying himself but is also a master. My favorite scene was when Dragon went to confront the big mob boss that ran the district he was policing. He had a few friends with him and it was obvious how outnumbered they were. Yet that didn’t stop Dragon from trying to kick as much ass as possible and also have time to show off. The restaurant they fought in became a sort of playground for both sides as they used everything from couches to the bar to the walls to attack.

This movie is about as straightforward as it gets: good guy comes to town to defeat bad guys. Yet I found myself getting lost in the new characters and trying to figure out who was really the villain. At some point I gave up and just enjoyed the ride. I’m fairly sure events in the film take place in the early 1900s but some of the costumes look like something out of Miami Vice and the soundtrack is full of synthesizer. Jackie Chan knows what we are here for though and he delivers exactly that over and over. Just don’t think too hard and you will love this movie.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Kiss of the Spider Woman

 

#363- The Killing Fields

Quick recap: As I may have mentioned one or two times before, war is hell. Journalist Sydney Schanberg is momentarily stuck in Cambodia during the mass murder cleansing campaign ‘Year Zero’ along with his friend and translator, Dith Pran. While Schanberg is eventually rescued, Pran, a native Cambodian, is left to fend for himself in a country now hostile to its citizens. OH! AND THIS IS A STORY BASED ON TRUE EVENTS.

I made the mistake of Googling ‘The Killing Fields’ . Don’t do that.

Fun (?) fact: Haing S. Ngor, the actor who played Dith Pran has a tragic story that almost rivals the one told in the movie. His wife died during childbirth during the Cambodian cleansing campaign because even though her husband was a doctor, seeking his help would mean the Khmer Rouge finding out about him and murdering him. Ngor eventually escaped to America and was chosen to play Pran. He was later murdered in what many people believe to be a revenge killing for speaking out against the Cambodian atrocities.

My thoughts: Time to let my American ignorance shine through as I admit to knowing next to nothing about Cambodia’s history before this movie. I had heard of Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge but I had no idea how evil it all was. The killing Fields is a tough movie to stomach for several reasons, but for me there is a lot of guilt and anger that this piece of history was never discussed or mentioned in school. As evidenced from this movie, though, Americans alive while this happened weren’t aware of the atrocity either. The final scene of the movie explains that as of 1984, the film’s release, Cambodia was still recovering. Even today, there are remains that have yet to be identified.

History lesson aside, This movie was just as powerful as I expected it to be. The Killing Fields is told in two parts: the first part is about Sydney Schanberg and his crew trying to make it out of Cambodia and the second part focuses on Dith Pran’s struggle to survive as he is left behind. As much as I liked Schanberg, the performance felt a little heavy handed at times. It never crossed over into him being the victim thankfully but it got close several times. Pran’s part of the film had my full attention. The real Pran coined the term ‘Killing Fields’ when he stumbled into a body of water lined with thousands of bodies, people murdered from the regime. That scene has stuck with me several days later.

What I appreciate most about this movie is that it never feels sanctimonious or preachy about the plight of the Cambodians. The story focuses on these two friends and how they navigated such a terrible time in our world’s history. Looking at the suffering close up really drives home how horrible it all was and I was better able to grasp the atrocities. The conflict reminds me a lot of Syria and the images shown daily of the refugees and dead children. Will we hear of stories like this in 10 years and feel the same shame and regret that we didn’t pay attention sooner? Time will tell.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Ikiru

 

 

#347- Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Quick recap: A group of students navigate a year of high school without much regard to actual learning.

Fun (?) fact: Before he was the lovable scamp we know today, Nicholas Cage got on everyone’s nerves during the shooting of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. He bragged about his famous uncle Francis Ford Coppola and declared he would be more famous than anyone else. He finally shut up when people started doing Apocalypse Now impressions around him.

My thoughts: As much as I’d like to say I was the Spicoli, Stacy, or Linda of my high school, in all actuality I most closely identified with Brad’s friend, Arnold. He was the one listening to Brad’s problems and trying to be cool but instead just ended up burning the hamburger patties and taking a restroom break at the worst possible time. Watching Fast Times at Ridgemont High as a teenager, I never could shake the feeling that I was doing it all wrong. Not that I wanted to get pregnant or show up stoned to class, but there was a part of me that yearned for a quintessential high school experience American cinema had taught me was so important to have.

As an adult who has finally learned that there is no such thing as normal, I can finally embrace this movie for what it is: a teenage fairy tale. Maybe it’s not all that realistic, but it sure is entertaining and definitely captured the 80s spirit I pretend to know anything about. Thinking back on the various high school movies I’ve watched on this list alone, I think I’d much rather attend Ridgemont High than say the high schools in Grease, American Graffiti or the Breakfast Club. The kids are just as nuts but at least they feel and talk like real teenagers.

In a way, Fast Times at Ridgemont High is kind of a depressing movie.

Stacy- loses virginity to guy much older than her and then gets knocked up by a guy who doesn’t care about her

Spicoli- constantly embarrassed by his History teacher

Mark- his best friend sleeps with and then knocks up the girl he is in love with

And the list goes on. But through a different lens, these are all seen as typical teenage problems and nothing to be too concerned with. After all, being an American teenager just means having the most traumatic things happen to you but it’s cool because summer is almost here! Maybe I made the right decision in staying out of drama after all.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: A Man Escaped

#346- The Right Stuff

Quick recap: The mostly true story of America’s first astronauts. And Chuck Yeager, because why not?

Someday, someone will make a 3 hour tour de force about New Kids on the Block and that will be the day no other movie will need to exist.

Fun (?) fact: The astronaut suits were made of leftover fabric and pieces from Cher’s costumes.

fabulous.

My thoughts: I had every intention of loving The Right Stuff, but in the end I just couldn’t do it. What’s not to love, you ask. It’s historical, there are great performances, the music is spectacular and above all, JEFF GOLDBLUM.

I think what ultimately bored me was a lack of suspense. I know, it’s history, and I’m certainly glad director Philip Kaufman didn’t just add an explosion for the hell of it. But there has to be something more than:

a) John Glenn’s wife having a stutter and vice president Johnson wanting to meet with her

b) Gordo being the very last astronaut to go up in space

c) Alan Shapard really needing to pee

d) Gus’s hatch blowing off…..or did it?

John Glenn’s malfunction was the only heartstopping part of the movie, which lasted for 3 hours, mind you. It’s an interesting story, sure. But just not worth my time. Now, with the Chuck Yeager b plot, I have no idea why he was thrown in there but I’m glad he was. I would’ve gladly spent hours watching a biography about him, but only if Sam Shepard can play him. That man can do no wrong in my eyes. Aside from the Yeager throwaways, the movie felt disjointed as a whole. There were really silly comedic parts and avant garde camera shots that just didn’t match with the historical tone of the movie. Pick a lane and stick with it, Kaufman. Movies aren’t meant to be a buffet.

Final review: 3/5

Up next: Fast Times at Ridgemont High