Sunday, January 25, 2009

Movie Review: Dragon Lord

Jackie Chan's third directoral effort (after The Fearless Hyena and The Young Master), Dragon Lord isn't much of an improvement over his earlier efforts. The emphasis here doesn't seem to be much on fight scenes. Rather, Chan concentrates his efforts in two areas - playing the same sort of bumbling ne'er-do-well character he had played in many previous films, and showing off his physical skills in a pair of extended sports scenes, rather than the usual fights. I'm not sure if it was some reaction to the cheesy roller-derby contest from the earlier Battle Creek Brawl, but here we start off with a kind of four-team rugby match, and later in the film there is a strange soccer-hackeysack-badminton combination. Both scenes - particularly the soccer match - show off not only Jackie's skills, but those of his fellow stunt and cast members well.

Unfortunately, we have to get through a lot of other "comedy" to get there, most of which involves Jackie and friends goofing off and running afoul of their fathers. The problem here is that we've now seen that type of thing too many times, and Jackie sure doesn't look like he should still be playing the same slacker character. I understand that this was a reaction to the stoic Bruce Lee films, and yes, Jackie is still trying out a few things to see what works. But this variant was just not as interesting as some of the earlier versions. The comedy mishaps with the fathers are not set up nearly as well here as in Drunken Master, for example, and the feeble attempts at romantic comedy just take up space.

Furthermore, Jackie's character, Dragon, doesn't ever undergo any training sequence, or even seem to get any better as the movie goes on. He just has a basic level of kung fu ability, and somehow he manages to beat the big boss at the end without too much of a sweat. (Oh, and he manages to get off a pair of puns after the final victory that even Arnold Schwartzenegger would think twice about uttering.)

So I'll give him credit for staging some imaginative sporting scenes, but otherwise, this film is pretty much just treading water in Jackie's career. Two stars. Up next in my ongoing Film Festival: Jackie finds a better setting for his stunt work in the classic Project A.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Taos Ski Vacation - Days 2 & 3

Well, in the end, the mountain won.

After stumbling around White Feather the first afternoon, I decided to use Day 2 for practice. So I stuck around the beginner's area, Strawberry Hill. It's not quite the bunny hill, as it does have some reasonable slope, but it is short and wide-open. This makes it very different from the runs on the mountain, which are long and narrow.

I got to where I felt pretty good on controlling my speed and making my turns with less space by the end of that afternoon, so I thought I was ready to head up the mountain for Day 3.


I had planned to stay on the White Feather run, but my brother-in-law convinced me to go up to the Honeysuckle run on top of the mountain. In retrospect, a bad idea, even though it was marked green. Green in Taos is just tougher than green in Breckenridge. After a couple of falls on the side of a steep slope, I was already completely wiped out, and I still had two-thirds of the run to go. I needed a nice long rest at the lodge at the half-way point to make it down the mountain, and altogether it ended up taking me about an hour-and-a-half just to finish the one run.

It's clear that Taos just isn't made for my skill level. I can stand, I can do basic wedge turns, I'm starting to get more confident on my parallel turns. But Taos just doesn't have much for skiers between rank amateur and intermediate/advanced. I needed a green run with less slope and more room, and there just wasn't anything like that on the mountain. I didn't have nearly as much trouble at Breck.

Otherwise, the resort was in great shape, the condo was close and convenient, and the weather was almost perfect. Cool and clear, with no wind until the end of the last afternoon.

But it's also clear that I'm just not in shape for skiing. I don't have nearly enough endurance. Falling down - and getting back up - just takes too much out of me, and that's not good in a place like Taos where the runs are very lengthy.

So I don't know if I'll tag along on the next ski trip. I may just stick to the beach from now on.

Thank You, W

You didn't always look like you were enjoying your presidency, but I hope your retirement is enjoyable and productive. You've earned it, perhaps more than any other president in decades.

I didn't always agree with your policies or actions, but there were far more positives than negatives in my opinion. In the end, although the media and historians will never admit it, yours will have been a successful presidency.

Thank you.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Taos Ski Vacation - Day 1

Mostly mission accomplished for the first day of my ski trip. I met all of my goals:

  1. Did not get injured.
  2. Did not run into someone else.
  3. Did not get run into.
  4. Made it down the basic green run.
This is only my third ski trip ever, and my first one in three years, so this morning was spent in ski school, relearning my snowplow and learning parallel turns. I did OK in the class, albeit with several crashes (I expect that while skiing). My group only had one other person in it, and the instructor did a pretty good job.

Unfortunately, by the afternoon, things turned worse. A combination of fatigue and somewhat harder snow conditions caused me to drop back down to rank beginner level. I hoping that the mornings will continue to be easier for me on the next two days, and that I can get my "ski legs" back.

Monday, January 5, 2009

2008 - The Year In Movies

Well, according to my list maintained over at DVDTalk, I managed to remember to list seeing 50 new (to me) films and another 20 reruns (although I'm less strict in remembering to list them). As usual, almost all were seen on my TV, either on DVD or satellite. It looks like I only managed to catch two films in a theater all year, The Dark Knight (in IMAX) and Rambo.

The star distribution goes like this (courtesy of Google Charts):

I also managed to post 42 movie reviews to the blog this year. These various reviews are by far the most read posts here (since no one really cares that much about my tiling).

The Dark Knight
also managed to be my favorite film of the year, by a pretty long margin (The Incredibles was the only other new movie I gave five stars to). The list of one- and two-star films was bumped up a bit by my Jackie Chan Film Festival - a lot of those earlier films were just brutal - but the only film on my list I just flat gave up on watching was Lucky Number Slevin, and so it gets the nod as the worst film I saw, err, tried to see.

Speaking of the Festival, it really suffered along with my blogging during the last few months. Work and home (like the never-ending tiling, which may actually end soon) kept eating into my movie-watching time. My schedule had 31 films listed, and I have only made it through 13 of them so far. I may finish this up around, say, 2020.

Now it's onto a new year of staying away from the theaters. Hopefully, this year I'll get to enjoy movies on a new large HDTV set. But in any event, I'll be tracking all of the movies again this year over on DVDTalk.

Spoiler: the first movie for the year is already there, and we're not off to a good start.