The Dallas Movie Screening Group

This is the homepage of the Dallas Movie Screening Group. To join our mailing list you must sign up at our group page on Yahoo. You will then be connected to receive notices on how to find passes to the local screenings in the DFW area. It's up to you to pickup or sign up for passes. You can also barter, trade or just giveaway passes you don't want, need or share with other members of the group. Please read the instructions on the Yahoo page very carefully before posting. This group is closely moderated so that your mail box is not full of spam or other unnecessary mail. We appreciate everyone's consideration and cooperation.

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Website and Group Contact: dalscreenings@gmail.com

Sunday, July 17, 2011

AFFD Movie Reviews Day 2






Little Big Soldier

A hundred years before China's unification the Warring States Nation was in devastation. The seven largest states were known as Qi, Chu, Yah, Han, Zhao, Wei and Qin. The rest were wiped out. The year is 227 BC after the battle between Liang and Wei the field is littered with the loss of 3000 men. One soldier remained alive in the piles of bodies.

Besides this one soldier playing dead a couple of generals seem hard to kill. The two remaining warriors arise for a final battle. The Wei general kills the Liang general. The Liang soldier who faked his death with a collapsible arrow witnesses his general's demise and takes the wounded enemy general as a POW. He says he can get five acres of land for him. He tends to the general's wounds and puts him in a cart to take him back to his country for the reward. The Wei general suspects they have been ambushed and Prince Wen (Steven Yoo) and his personal army are hot on his trail to make sure he stays dead. Jackie Chan plays Big Soldier not necessarily a coward but a man with strong self preservation instinct who doesn't want to kill anyone. Of his other brothers who fought in the battle only he remains. His father had instilled in him the need to carry on the family name. He's determined to survive. Leehom Wang of Lust, Caution plays the general who is a soldier first and foremost and possibly more who wants to get back to his troops and die gloriously in battle. The two enemies experience lots of adversity on the road besides the Prince following them and the arguements between themselves. There are other adventures on the road like a vengeful woman and unaffiliated warriors living wild in the countryside. The general decides he wants to die in dignity than in the hands of his own people. He decides to go willingly. Along the way they develop a grudging respect for each other.

Directed by Sheng Ding the script is by Jackie Chan who also served as the action director. The fights scenes are choreographed with Chan's signature hi-jinks and acrobatics. A little bit older now he still entertains with his fighting slapstick that is inventive, creative and just plain fun to watch. It's a typical road story only in costume with some amazing countryside using mostly outdoor shots bathed in sunlight. There's plenty of battles, escapes that don't go so well including one on a buffalo. The friendship that develops between the Wei general the foot soldier turns into a nice bromance as they both learn something from each other. Not a lot of political intrigue to worry about that's typical in most Chinese period movies. Just two guys who love their countries. It's interesting to note that Qin will eventually unite China in 221 BC. Of course there's the outtakes during the credits that are always interesting and show just how much physical damage Chan endures to get a scene done.
(Review by reesa)





Saigon Electric

Mai has moved from the countryside to Saigon to audition to a dance school. But she is over her head with out any formal training. She's learned to ribbon dance from her mother and has performed at local events and weddings. Her nerves get the better of her and she lies to her mom that all is going well. She rents a small room from a cranky old man where the electricity is broken and the windows don't work. She gets a job at a local restaurant where she meets Kim a local hip hop street dancer. Mai had seen her outside doing her thing and was impressed. The girls from a quick friendship.

Kim's crew practices at the local youth club that offers training in martial arts and hip hop dancing. Kim is considered to be one of best women dancers in the city. The leader of the group Saigon Fresh is Do-boy who also works on fixing scooters. Saigon streets are filled with 2 wheel bikes of all kinds rather than cars. There's a big dance competition coming up and their aim is to beat the other top hip hop crew champions North Killaz from Hanoi. Lonely Mai finds a family at the youth center. The crew willingly accepts her even though everyone considers ribbon dancing as being corny. Do-boy who remembers his ex-beauty queen mother was once a ribbon dancer before she passed. He asks Mai to teach some traditional dances to the young girls at the center. They get news that the youth center is going to be torn down to build a hotel. Mai asks her land lord to use his connections that he made before as a professor of music and a composer before he became a depressed alcoholic. A win at the dance contest would help sway the need to keep the center open.

Kim is being distracted by a rich kid Hai whose parents own restaurants and hotels. He's attracted to street smart Kim because she represents the ultimate in freedom as his life is closely controlled by his family. At first Kim doesn't want anything to do with him, but he eventually wins her over. His parents are sending him to England in a few weeks and he fills Kim with dreams of her going with him. Mai is afraid that she is heading for heartbreak. After Kim meets Hai's parents they forbid him from seeing her again. Kim's world crumbles and she returns to her crew in time for the final dance show down.

Director/writer Stephane Gauger was born in Saigon and was raised in California. He returned to Vietnam in the 90's as a lighting technician. He directed a short film in 1998 before making his feature Own and Sparrow in 2007 which won awards at international film festivals. In Saigon Electric he explores the world of hip hop dancing that has exploded in Vietnam in the last few years. It's been designed to hit the film festival circuit but will have a theatrical release in October in a few cities, Dallas included.

The cast was formed from real dancers and first time actors. Quynh Hoa plays Kim dances with an all girl dance crew while studying tourism at school. Van Trang as Mai is a popular TV actress in her country. The dancing rivals the dance movies in the states without the over produced staging. It's the story of the young women that makes this film universally appealing. That no matter where you are or who you are, you have to power to follow your dreams. For more information visit saigonelectric.com/
(Review by reesa)



The Stool Pigeon

Police detective Don Lee uses police informants and when one drug bust goes wrong, retribution is paid on the informant. Feeling guilty, he still uses a street racer named Ghost to gain intelligence on a gangster named Barbarian. As a senior inspector he trains other officers on how to handle their stool pigeons. The police have to handle them 70 % tight and 30 % loose. There are also budgets cuts so funds for informants are tight. Lee says the informants know that they are putting their lives on the line just for the police pay off although he himself is beginning the question if it's morally right.

Inspector Lee decides to use a guy currently in prison who is due out soon named Ghost (Nicholas Tse) named after his father who was street racer. The investigation of him reveals that he has spent 25% of his life behind bars for illegal street racing, assault, theft and drug trafficking. He entices Ghost to work with the police to use the money to pay off his dad's debt and to save his sister who is now working for a pimp as payment. Ghost tries to get her out on his own, but only gets beat up. Lee manages to get the interest off the loan off to help free the sister. Ghost is forced to work with him. They set up an elaborate system to meet and arrange the money becoming an official informant. Like all bureaucracy it requires signatures and seals. He's assigned to get information on Barbarian (Lu Yi). He infiltrates the gang which will pay him to be the driver during a robbery. At one stage there's car chase to the tune of “White Christmas”. Then an exciting foot trace through a crowded market place still bleeding from the car accident.

The gang is set to rob a gold shipment at a jewelery store. As Ghost feeds information, life in the gang is hard and gets complicated when the Barbarian has the rest of the gang take out one of their own. With one person short now Ghost reluctantly has to carry a gun. He also has some feelings for Barbarian's girlfriend Dee (Lunmei Kwai) who is tired of being treated poorly by him. During the robbery he manages to get a message to the police before crashing the car into the building. The gang has automatic weapons and they get away. As they melt the bars Dee betrays her boyfriend and tries to get away with the gold with Ghost's help. When the police come they have no evidence and Lee's boss wants him to set up the stoolie to take the fall so he can inform on the rest.

Director Dante Lam who did the excellent Beast Stalker does a nice character study of the stoic Inspector Lee. Stuck between a rock and a hard place that he must use and manipulate people to serve the greater good fills him with remorse. On top of that his wife who had tried to kill her self has amnesia and doesn't remember him even though he goes weekly to take dance classes at her studio. The final horrific battle is worth the wait in the end. A dark and bleak picture of the the gray world of police and what they have to do to stop crime. Although there are excellent performances it's slow and ponderous at times without a bit of humor and only a bit of redemption at the end.
(Review by reesa)





Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City

The first Zebraman story was made in 2004 but the story was set in 2010 about a mild mannered school teacher Shinichi Ichikawa whose son is bullied because of his dad. In his off time he creates a costume of Zebraman a short lived 70's TV series and later morphs into the superhero when town invaded by green gobular aliens. Part 2 happens 25 years later when Ichikawa awakens from a 25 amnesiac sleep to fight a police state , an alien incubator and his alter ego.

Tokyo has been rebranded a Zebra City. Everything is now made into a black and white design The city now has political reform called “Zebra Time” where everyone even the police are allowed for to shoot people and commit crimes for 5 minutes a day at a 5 am and pm supposedly making the city the most secure in the world. It balances human nature of good and evil according the goth like fascist governor and his daughter the goth pop performer called the Zebra Queen. Asano the little crippled boy from the first movie is now a doctor that cares for the people who are victimized by the new regime. Ichikawa is brought there when he's shot by the Zebra police during one of crime times. IThey try to explain to him what happened. A media created Zebraman in a high tech costume is sold to the masses. Ichiba the TV Zebraman thinks by letting him watch it will trigger his memories. A little girl at the Zebra Time refuge is really 25 years old . She was once imprisoned and experiments done on her because has some green alien in her. Her touch brings back Zebraman in him.. For some reason, the Zebra Queen is also affect by the power generated by the two. She wants to bring Zebra Time to the entire world. But first she has to get the alien possessed young woman. There's a whole thing about experiments to separate white and black. Zebraman becomes white, his alter ego black. The Queen gets to wear some SM influenced leathers and spikes, while Zebraman sports a white mohawk.

Action director Takashi Miike working with a script by KankurĂ´ KudĂ´ is a visual feast good for midnight movies when your brain doesn't care to understand what you are watching. The art direction is appealing, costumes really interesting but doesn't have the home made charm of the first movie. The movie can stand on it's own without having to see the previous film. Show Aikawa is back as the Zebraman, with Riisa Naka as the hysterical laughing Zebra Queen. Handsome Masahir Inoue plays Kohei Asano the doctor. Naoki Tanaka plays Ichiba the TV Zebraman who thinks he can defend the refugee's in his costume. Guadalcana Taka is the demented evil Governor Kohei Asano. Tsuyoshi Abe is Niimi, the queen's first in command. Just accept what you see, don't ask why and enjoy the silliness.
(Review by reesa).


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