Kung Fu Yoga (2017)

In Kung Fu Yoga, the greatest treasure isn’t gold and jewels. It’s seeing Jackie Chan, playing an archaeologist named—uh—Jackie Chan, do a Bollywood dance number in a movie that pays homage to Indiana Jones. If seeing this legendary 62-year-old Hong Kong action star dancing around in Indian clothes with a big goofy grin on his face doesn’t make you smile, you and I are made of different stuff.

That being said, you have to sit through over an hour and a half of astonishingly wooden acting on the part of Jackie’s co-stars, plus far too many scenes with awkward CGI animals, to earn that final dance scene.

Released during the Chinese New Year period, the movie more than earned back its budget despite poor reviews. Ticket sales were weak in India, but strong, or strong enough, in China. Jackie Chan traveled to Singapore to promote the movie, and it did well here compared to others.

I hope Jackie Chan had fun making the movie (in spite of endangering himself during filming for the umpteenth time). I’m pretty sure he doesn’t need money, so he must be making movies because he wants to—or to promote his country’s political goals.

The fight scenes are okay, but the English/Mandarin script and the plot are disappointing. I can’t really recommend it. I can summarize it for you, though.

Keep reading for a catalog of all the unnecessary CGI animals as well as a plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading Kung Fu Yoga (2017)

Man of Steel (2013)

What with all the Michael Bay–style explosions and destruction, you might not have noticed that Man of Steel is a thorough dialectical exploration of the nature/nurture debate. It totally is, though.

I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t think I was going to like the movie at all because I didn’t remember hearing good things about it. It was fine, though, apart from being longer than I realized it was going to be, clocking in at almost 2.5 hours.

For what it was (a superhero origin story that could have been its own miniseries), it was really pretty good. It painted a clear and thematically strong picture of an admirable character and how he got to be who he is. In this rendition, Superman is not a lighthearted, perfect figurehead who proclaims belief in “truth, justice, and the American way”. He is a sensitive and largely anonymous but steadfast protector who stands for hope and choice. (I much prefer these kinds of themes to the ones associated with Spiderman, which tend be things like sacrifice and duty.)

I generally liked the sharply contrasting sci-fi and Kansas sets, the cast, and the costumes, though I always imagine Lois as Teri Hatcher, and until now I’d never imagined Kal El’s suit as made of the same stuff as those grippy rubber things you use to open jars.

No thanks, I got this one, Kal.

If you have a long enough attention span for another 4000 words on this movie, keep reading for more on the nature/nurture theme and some other thoughts as well as a plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading Man of Steel (2013)

Frozen (2013)

Oh, where to start. I’m stuck. I am, as it were, frozen.

Right. Well, when all else fails, go back to the beginning.

Frozen, like The Little Mermaid, is a Disney adaptation of a Hans Christian Andersen story. As a child I watched the low-budget Faerie Tale Theatre Snow Queen, which is a lot closer to the Andersen story. The Disney version of the tale has some stunning visuals and one good song, but—for reasons having nothing to do with other versions—I think its story is deeply flawed.

Though some say it’s a story about the problematic relationship between two sisters, I’d say Frozen is one girl’s coming-of-age tale or rite-of-passage story. Rite-of-passage stories have a life problem, a wrong way of addressing it, and a moment of acceptance. Anna’s problem is her sister’s unwillingness to face the world. Anna spends the whole movie wrongly acting as if she can soothe her sister’s fear, and totally fails because Elsa has to master her fear herself. Anna grows up when she accepts her sister as-is. Seems simple, right? Disney went and made it all complicated.

See below for more on why I thought Frozen was disappointing, including a plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading Frozen (2013)

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (2017)

The title here in Singapore (as in many places) is: Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge.

In North America, it’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

Possible reasons for the shorter title are that it’s:

  • easier to say
  • available for trademark
  • less idiomatic, thus easier to translate
  • more sensitive towards deaths in the news

(My money’s on the explanation involving trademark.)

I re-watched the movie because my husband wanted to go see it. I still like the bank robbery scene best; he liked the scene with the guillotine best.

Some of the dialog was heavy-handed. Several lines like, “We’ve got to find the trident!” reminded me of a particularly badly written scene in fantasy television series The Legend of the Seeker. The heroes burst into an obviously empty clearing and quite unnecessarily say, “They’re gone!” and “They took the horses, too!” Yes, yes, I can see that, thanks.

“Look! The trident of Poseidon!” Yes, yes, I can see that. Enough already!

Wonder Woman (2017)

Wonder Woman captured the attention and approbation of hordes of moviegoers interested in seeing a heroic female fantasy character. It wasn’t personally meaningful to me the way that it seems to have been to a lot of people. I think the movie was pretty and entertaining but that, like many others that don’t have a well-crafted core story, it could have been thematically stronger.

Keep reading for more on the movie’s many possible themes and some questions I had (possibly because I’m not familiar with the source material) and things I liked, along with a plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading Wonder Woman (2017)

The Snow Queen (1985)

This version of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale isn’t exactly authentic, but it’s closer to the original than Disney’s Frozen—not that authenticity is necessarily what I’d want a film version of an Andersen tale to aim for, given how didactic and depressing the stories can be.

I remember seeing this short live-action production when I was little. The sets all look more than just a bit fakey-fakey now, but they were real enough to a kid with an imagination, and the snow queen’s ice palace still gives me a palpable sense of cold. Her glittering makeup makes her look dangerous, beautiful, and otherworldly.

See below for a plot summary.

Continue reading The Snow Queen (1985)

Thumbelina (1984)

“It’s just that I’m always the bride and never the bridesmaid…”

Thus quips Carrie Fisher in her 1984 role as Thumbelina, the diminutive heroine of one of Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre productions.

After Thumbelina escapes the mother toad who kidnaps her as a bride for her son, she lives alone in the woods until winter, when she is rescued by a field mouse, whose neighbor the mole falls in love with her. Her host believes her marriage to the mole is a foregone conclusion; thus her frustration.

I watched this Faerie Tale Theatre episode after I saw the truly awful Don Bluth movie and re-read the original Andersen tale, both of which include yet another suitor (a beetle whose friends find Thumbelina ugly).

More details about this version below.

Continue reading Thumbelina (1984)

Thumbelina (1994)

“Let’s get out of this stinking weather before we’re statistics. I can’t even feel anything in my feelers anymore.”

That’s a brilliant pun. It’s the best line of dialog in the whole movie, and like all the best lines in Thumbelina, it belongs to the beetle, who sounds like Iago in Disney’s Aladdin. (Both characters were voiced by Gilbert Gottfried.)

Unfortunately, “can’t feel anything” describes the effect the movie had on me. In spite of all the supposedly empowering messages in it that could have been meaningful, it left me numb.

If you saw and enjoyed Thumbelina when you were little, maybe you can see and enjoy it now. Otherwise, I’d say the odds are slim to none.


Keep reading for more (MUCH more) on why I didn’t like the movie, along with a plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading Thumbelina (1994)

Herbie Goes Bananas (1980)

Herbie befriends a thieving street urchin in Mexico and gets his new owners in trouble when he smuggles the boy aboard a cruise ship and breaks loose in the cargo hold. Some treasure hunters searching for hidden Inca gold must recover stolen film that the boy accidentally transferred from one stolen wallet to another.

I like the car’s tricks, and his friendship with the orphan is suitably heartwarming, but the other characters and plot are nothing special. Moreover, poor Herbie keeps getting more and more decrepit-looking throughout the movie. They patch him up at the end, but we never get to see him race!


Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977)

Nearly ruining his driver’s chance to qualify for the Trans-France Race, Herbie falls in love with another race car in Paris, one driven by a woman who resents discrimination against female racers. Meanwhile, Herbie is being chased by two bumbling diamond thieves, who have hidden a fist-sized gem in Herbie’s gas tank.

There’s a fight scene in the Alps that reminds me of the one in Speed Racer, though this one involves fewer people than that one; the diamond thieves have brought a helicopter to intercept Herbie and they hold the driver and his mechanic at gunpoint to try to get the diamond back. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking…