Revenge of the Green Dragons (2014)
On paper this sounded like it was going to be the Goodfellas for New York's Chinese underworld. It follows two best friends who immigrated to America as kids and rose in the ranks of the Green Dragons, one of many Chinese gangs involved in a turf war in the '80s. Who better to produce something like this than Martin Scorsese? Who better to direct this than Andrew Lau? Scorsese famously remade Lau's Infernal Affairs into The Departed and it seems the creative partnership was going to come full circle with Revenge of the Green Dragons. What a bitter disappointment this turned out to be. The uninspired script is made all the more painfully obvious by the lackluster cast. Trailer Review
Assuredly, this is the version to seek out first (see last week's Recently Beheld for my coverage on Them), but each piece feels like only half of a story. I suppose that's the point. Them was wonderfully emotional for me and I wouldn't have changed a thing about it, but Her/Him is such a novelty that it too deserves earnest consideration. The main problem is the inevitable redundancy of certain scenes. This becomes an even bigger issue if you've already seen Them. Like the relationship on display, my relationship to the separate versions of Eleanor Rigby is complicated.
Kevin Smith's follow-up to the surprisingly good Red State continues the writer/director's appetite for horror, but goes to some unbelievably bizarre places in the process. Best case scenario would be a viewer who has no idea what they're getting themselves into, but this is already know as "the walrus horror film" and I cannot imagine anyone stumbling upon this in the dark. Smith fans have already made this thing a cult classic before its theatrical release this weekend. Trailer Review
The Drop (2014)
Michaël R. Roskam follows up Bullhead with The Drop, a gritty New York crime drama with yet another knockout performance by Tom Hardy. It's become increasingly difficult to pin this guy down because he's remarkably altered in each film. The Drop also features the final performance by James Gandolfini, another welcome English-language turn by Matthias Schoenaerts, an all-too-brief showing of Ann Dowd and a heart-warming puppy. There's a lot of build-up for not a lot of pay-off, but just watching these fine talents interact was enough to make it worth my while.
After the monkey business going on in Beneath the Planet of the Apes it's a miracle they were able to salvage the remains of the series for another sequel. Zira and Cornelius time-travel to contemporary Los Angeles, turning the tables on the original film. The first half feels like the makings of a sitcom and it's all pretty delightful. The last half becomes a Christ story replete with symbology and iconic sequences.
This was a much needed re-watch of the ninth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe from earlier this year. In the context of ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this is a crucial piece to the events on Earth. As a standalone film it's a successful conspiracy thriller with some of the best action sequences we've seen in the series.
Daylight Savings (2012)
Dave Boyle's loose sequel to Surrogate Valentine follows singer/songwriter Goh Nakamura (playing himself) on an aimless journey in-between relationships. I thought of two road-tripping films from last year: Nebraska (because of Bill Otto's black and white photography) and Inside Llewyn Davis (another character sketch stocked by the music). Boyle continues to be a strong independent voice in the depiction of Japanese Americans.
Each of these films particularly benefit from shielding yourself of plot synopses prior to viewing them, and yet what we know going in will largely affect our satisfaction. It's a thin line. This group also offers unique depictions of America's major cities: New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Whether it's a superhero film, supernatural science fiction or epic relationship drama, they are largely dependent on their setting and include plot points that likely couldn't happen anywhere else.
Share your thoughts on any of these films or what you watched last week in the comments below!