Friday, June 13, 2008

Movie Roundup

I have attended several movie screenings in the lat few weeks. Some of the movies mentioned in this post, aren't yet playing at theaters.

I'm scoring movies on a five star system.

Mongol (2007) ***1/2

This is the story of Genghis Khan. The movie covers his life from his childhood (selecting a bride at nine years old), until his first military victory. It's the first part of a trilogy.

It's filmed in Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia. Some places were so remote, roads had to be built. The vastness of the panorama, gives you the feel of being in 12th century Mongolia.

The fight scenes are amazing. The producers hired 1,500 extras for the fight scenes. They are compared to 300's fight scenes. The movie is in Mongolian with English subtitles.

This film is the best I've seen this year. It was Kazakhstan's contender for best foreign language film at the 2008 Academy Awards. Since it is part of a triliogy, don't be surprised if one of the other two films win.

Be sure to read Louis Proyect's review. He adds how Stalinism suppressed Mongolian history, and compares it to Native American culture.

Today I checked out the Mongolian music section at my local record shop.

The Visitor (2007) ***

I like this movie because it's pro immigrants rights. In the Lou Dobbs, Pat Buchanon and Bill O'Reilly the media voice on the issue, it's refreshing seeing this heartfelt movie.

It's the story about a listless professor, who has unexpected life changes, through crossing paths with immigrants lacking proper paperwork.

I expect Richard Jenkins to get an Academy Award nomination.

I thought it was a very good movie. I didn't feel greatness from it.

Reprise (2006) ***

A movie from Norway about love, depression and careers. It's a Norwegian Jules et Jim with twentysomethings.

Everyone who saw it liked it, and also agreed it won't draw a dime in box office.

Before The Rains (2007) **1/2

A Merchant Ivory film set in 1930s colonial India. As with any Merchant Ivory production, the sets, photography and acting are top notch.

T.K Neelam a foreman to the colonialist, is Western educated and trusted by his colonial master and by his village. He must betray one or the other.

I was bothered that I was able to figure out the ending.

The Foot Fist Way (2006) *

An inept karate instructor struggles with marital troubles and an unhealthy obsession with fellow karate enthusiast Chuck "The Truck" Williams.

Will Ferrell produced this uneven no budget struggling comedy,


SecondComingOfBast said...

The Mongol-

I bet this is the best of the bunch, going by your description of the story, but mainly the cinematography. That depends on how much monkey business there is with the facts of Khan's life. If it is historically accurate and the script matches the cinematography, it should be a great one.

The Visitor-I bet every immigrant he comes across is good natured, loving, generous sort. Nary a thief, burglar, drug smuggler, rapist, arsonist, murderer, or welfare bum in the bunch.

I haven't seen it and I already give it a great big block.

Reprise-you never can tell, it might be a sleeper hit and make a respectable profit.

Before The Rains-

Sounds good on paper, but Merchant Ivory films strike me as projects produced by guys that should be writing historical romance novels.

The Fist Foot Way-One of these days, surely, somebody is going to make a karate movie that has a more surreal, cerebral atmosphere to it, in addition to just the right amount of kick-ass action sequences, and it will set a new standard for martial arts flicks. "Funny" karate films, and over-the-top stuff like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and the Bruce Lee/Chuck Norris varieties will all fall by the wayside.

steven rix said...

I just dumped a post at Louis Proyect's under the nick "Steven Rix".
Check out the movie "the yellow dog" it's also a good mongolian movie ;)
I haven't seen any of these movies but I'd like to watch the Mongol trilogy, if I can learn something about it.
During the coldwar soviet era I remember seeing lots of Mongols in the red army, all over eastern Europe.

Frank Partisan said...

Pagan: The acting in "Mongol" was superb. It's the total package.

I read Louis Proyect's review, before seeing it. People were coming up to me with questions. They were hungry for the next installments.

"Reprise" has a music score that young people will like. I hope it does well.

"Visitor" was about a Syrian dissident, who screwed up his paper work.

"Foot Fist" is low brow humor.

In "Rains" I predicted the end. It took the fun out of it for me.

Politiques: The history of the Mongols, was suppressed by Stalin.

sonia said...

The only one I saw was The Visitor. Yes, illegals are all "good natured, loving, generous sort". Anyone who opposes illegal immigration risks changing his mind (or feeling like total shit) after seeing this movie.

It's manipulative, but effective.

Mongol was made by Sergei Bodrov, who also made "Prisoner of the Mountains", the only Russian film about the Chechen conflict I saw that is fair and balanced (in all the others I saw, Chechens are presented as evil monsters).

So if Pagan feels too guilty after seeing "The Visitor", he should see a Russian film "The War" to realize that Russians are 1000 times more racist than Americans (Lou Dobbs and Pat Buchanan would be ultra-liberal moderates on ethnic issues there)...

And speaking of Stalin, compared to Chechens (deported and almost exterminated), Mongols were treated relatively well.

celinejulie said...

I haven’t seen any of these films, but THE VISITOR sounds interesting. Immigrants and paper work is a big problem in Thailand, too. I saw a Thai short documentary called ADMIT (2007, Nattapon Timmuang) last year. It is about a Burmese immigrant in Thailand who was seriously injured. He had to find a few hundred thousands baht to pay for his medical bill, just because he didn’t have a medical benefit card. If he had that card, he would have to pay nothing for his treatment. This documentary reveals how cruel and unjust Thai law is.

Mad Zionist said...

You gotta see ends with the predictably syrupy message about Palestinans and Jews dropping all their grievances and becoming best friends, but the first hour is a total laugh riot.

steven rix said...

Politiques: The history of the Mongols, was suppressed by Stalin
You can't really suppress it, it will always come back anyway.

Here is what I wrote earlier on Louis Proyects:

The mongolian History is very rich between Islam, China (the Yuan dynasty especially), and Europe. In the Middle-East I know that they emphasize alot on the muslim massacres done in the name of the Mongolians, and they also express their joy when a part of the mogolian population was converted to Islam during the XIth or XIIth century. They were not converted by force in Iran, because Iran was at this time one of the rarest countries that would tolerate higher professions inside their government.
The period IX-XIIIth century was very important for global exchanges, and every country was trading from all over the main world (eurasia) but more indirectly, from Mongolia to China, from China to Persia, from Persia to South of Spain…etc and so did the Mongolians. They were nomad people but they would rely on granaries implanted all over the place so that they can feed their armies. It’s the domestication of the camels that allowed Mongolians to cross Europe, otherwise they could have not done it. There are 2 big deserts in China, Gobi and Taklamakan desert, and it’s very hard to survive over there even with horses - because horses legs are not adapted to go through the sand unlike camels. That said the Mongolians used the roads that were built to invade countries.
Nowadays there is still a nomad population, all over the place, and depending on where you are exactly on the planet, they’ll use horse like on the Kazahk plains (it’s the number 1 national sport over there) or camels if they live closer to the mountains and deserts (Mongolia, China…etc).
There is a part in East China that is Muslim but they are more from Turkish descent I believe. Still it’s very hard to classify them ethnically, because the Turkic tribes (like Kazhaks and even Turks) belonged to the mongolian descent as well, and it makes it even more complicated to regroup their genes because the mongolian people were mixing themselves up very easily. In China for example they were negotiating peace treaties by exchanging the daughters of the emperors.

///especially the death of his father at Tatar hands //// I see that nobody still agrees on the orthograph of the word “TATAR”. Personally I was taught to use the word “tartar”.

///It is mongols of Genghis Khan were utterly immune to any Religion or Gods /// I’m not really sure on this point. Mongols were a nomad society, so they were in touch with different religions such as Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. They were very tolerant from different religions, but since they had no religion whatsoever, they tended to adopt the religion of their conquered subjects. So let’s say in Persia, they adopted Islam if they wanted to, in Eastern Europe they adopted Christianity, and in Japan they adopted Buddhism. In History, when people don’t have a religion, they easily melt inside the masses; on the other hand, once they have a religion, it never allowed them to form a single social entity. The capital-city of Mongolia was Qara Qorum (or Karakorum) and I was told there was many places of worship over there, even a nestorian church. There was also shamanism inside the Mongol society although it was regarded as an indigenous religion.
Mongol society is very hard to understand, because you have to go from one culture to another one to understand the whole side; I happen to find a few fragments of their history by studying different Histories of the world, and these are different historians from all over the world, that allowed us to have a rather blury vision on the Mongols, because it wasn’t like a homogeneous group. If you go to China, since food was very scarce over there, Mongols were living the asian way, meaning they were eating a little bit of everything, such as dogs, rats, horses, and even their own family; and that happened because no religion forbad them to do that. When they crossed the deserts, and if ever they had a dead animal, then they would take a break and start eating it. It’s more like the asian way mentality in the sense that no food should be waisted at all.

For sure I don’t really agree 100% when “The Mongols opened the idea to trade and ideas”, it seems like everything was coming from them, while it’s not true; it had already started a while back, but there was more like a quiet period of around 500 years after the collapse of the roman empire where nothing had been really done intellectually (welcome to the dark ages) and things started again in the IXth century, before the Mongols’ invasions (with the Arabs first, then way later the Europeans, and in between were other civilizations such as the Mongols). There are different periods of trades but I wouldn’t attribute the whole idea to the Mongols although they did participate.

PS: the word for rural tents is either Ger or Gher.


Frank Partisan said...

Sonia: Louis Proyect wrote about how Stalin suppressed Mongolian history, by keeping it locked in the Kremlin archives.

I think The Visitor will be remembered for Richard Jenkins performance.

celinejulie: You would like The Visitor. It ends flat, and I think it keeps it from greatness.

JZ: The trailer is hilarious. I think Adam Sandler is underrated.

Politiques USA: The Mongol movie deals with a religious dillema. I don't want to give away the story.

"" said...

Wow! Thanks for this unexpected glimpse into the season. I've been away and it looks like there will be a few things to see that might take me places without using so much fossil fuel.

Craig Bardo said...

Cool Ren,

I'll check out Mongol! I like to see heart warming stories about libs!

Frank Partisan said...

Another good movie is Young @ Heart. A documentary about a classic Rock and Roll choir, with an average age of 80, tries to get ready for a concert and learn new songs.

CB: They always say, "he's to the right of Genghis Khan." This movie portrays him as an indigenous leader, who united the various Mongol tribes, and set up rule of law.

"" Thank you for visiting. Mongol and The Visitor are the movies to see.

K. said...

Mongol is on my list.

What Norwegian movie isn't about love and depression? Incidentally, a truly great movie about love, depression, and careers is Bergman's Wild Strawberries.

K. said...

Sonia wrote: if Pagan feels too guilty after seeing "The Visitor", he should see a Russian film "The War" to realize that Russians are 1000 times more racist than Americans (Lou Dobbs and Pat Buchanan would be ultra-liberal moderates on ethnic issues there)...

So, the benchmark for racism is Russia? Maybe every theatre in the South Bronx should show "The War" so that the people who live there can know how good they have it.

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sonia said...


South Bronx (...) people who live there can know how good they have it.

I don't know if people of South Bronx welcome illegal immigrants with open arms (probably not), but they certainly are less racist than Russians or black South Africans, where illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe are burned to death in the streets while the crowds applaud.

steven rix said...

The movie Mongol is already on DVD in Europe since April of 2008 in french version and March 2008 in russian version.
You can view a partial divx version of the movie here:

steven rix said...

PS: the European version has 10 minutes more than the russian version :S
There'll be probably an "uncut" release as well, or maybe a new ending version ... for marketing purposes.

Frank Partisan said...

politiques USA: You will want to see Mongol on the big screen.

Té la mà Maria - Reus: Thank you for visiting.

Citizen K/Sonia: It leads to nowhere, arguing which group hates immigrants more.

sonia said...


It leads to nowhere, arguing which group hates immigrants more.

Tom Tancredo would be happy to hear that.

You can tell that to leftists who are pandering to Hispanic voters...

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