Screen Junkies » newport beach film festival 2011 http://www.screenjunkies.com Movie Reviews & TV Show Reviews Fri, 22 Aug 2014 19:40:21 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.3.1 NBFF Review: Bobby Fischer Against The World http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/nbff-review-bobby-fischer-against-the-world/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/tv/review-tv/nbff-review-bobby-fischer-against-the-world/#comments Mon, 02 May 2011 16:59:35 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=209966 A documentary about how the famous chess player almost blew his championship to Russian champ Boris Sassky in 1972 by playing neurotic games.

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This is the movie where Bobby Fischer has to fight his new girlfriend’s seven evil exes. They’re all chess experts so he works his way from the dude in the park to the final tournament with the timers. Wait, that’s my script for Bobby Fischer VERSUS the World. Nobody take that.

Bobby Fischer AGAINST the World is the documentary about how the famous chess player almost blew his championship to Russian champ Boris Sassky in 1972 by playing neurotic games. Actually, I like mine better. Seriously, don’t take that.

Director Liz Garbus has interviews with chess experts and people close to Fischer, plus names like Henry Kissinger for the political perspective, Malcolm Gladwell to quantify it and Dick Cavett for the entertainment aspect. There are enough clips from Fischer’s limited appearances to balance the perspective, but it’s still all secondhand.

Garbus assumes we know how to play chess so she doesn’t go over the rules. A few times she illustrates a series of moves, with the help of experts explaining. The meat of the story is Fischer’s shenanigans. He holds out for more prize money, he hides out for days if any press or fan tries to talk to him, shows up late and complains about the cameras.

The story of a temperamental genius can be interesting. If Fischer’s not there when the tournament starts, I’d say why bother starting the clock at all? I guess the reason is because he’s probably just psyching out Sassky, which he was. It’s explained that the official rule is to start on time no matter what. Hey, I learned that a chess match can consist of dozens of games, so it’s not just one face off.

I still don’t understand how chess masters see the game, anticipate several moves ahead and execute different strategies. Towards the end, Garbus shows us the math of all the permutations on the board, but not the art of chess. You don’t feel Garbus’s passion for chess or for Fischer. It’s just a document.

Some interview subjects suggest that the chess mind led Fischer to real paranoia, and there’s evidence to support that. I didn’t know about his anti-American comments on 9/11, and then he got conspiratorial and anti-Semitic. So what’s the point of all this, just to prove Bobby Fischer was crazy? He was important during the Cold War but then became a hatemonger?

Some say the tragedy is that Fischer only left a brief sample of his work behind, when he could have had a career full of beautiful chess matches. Text at the end says his bout with Spassky led to a chess boom. SHOW THAT! That’s the social significance. How did this make people care about chess?

I would cast Nicolas Cage in a Hollywood biopic of Bobby Fischer. He could pose like Fischer did in those news reels and then totally freak out. Then get Robert Duvall to play the bearded old Fischer at the end.

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NBFF Review: Bodyguards And Assassins http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/nbff-review-bodyguards-and-assassins/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/nbff-review-bodyguards-and-assassins/#comments Mon, 02 May 2011 16:49:17 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=209957 The best kind of history lesson: one full of spin kicks.

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In 1906, Hong Kong was revolting against the Qing Dynasty. A group of politically active citizens led a campaign to protect revolutionary leader Dr. Sun Wen (Zhang Hanyu) from Qing assassins. That means I get to see Asian dudes kick each other.

The first half of Bodyguards and Assassins is pretty much setting the stage for battle. There is an attack from descending assassins dropping acid, fighting with hooks on chains and a few other scuffles, but the juicy Hong Kong action comes later. For the first half we get to revel in 1906 Hong Kong on the street level, with digital backgrounds creating the history. The men still had their hair in queues in that era so it still looks classical.

There is a life worth protecting from the Qings. Li Yu-tang (Wang Xueqi) finances the campaign to guard Sun, but he doesn’t want his son Chong-huang (Wang Po-cheih) involved. Of course Chong-guang wants to be a part of history. We see Yu-tang’s compassion in family life and get to know other pivotal bodyguards. For instance, the loser gambler Shen Chong-yang (Donnie Yen) who finds out he had something worth fighting for.

Then it’s on. The Qing attack a rickshaw convoy with crossbows and all they have are sacks of rice to protect them. You’ll see rickshaws defend against descending assassins. There’s one hardcore Donnie Yen fight in the street and you won’t believe how he faces the charging Yan Xiaoguo (Hu Jun) later.

The beggar Liu Yu-Bai (Leon Lai) has a nice fight incorporating stairs, ledges and bamboo against dozens of attackers. Yan is the persistent evil badass who never stops coming at Sun.

Throughout the battle, the film honors the revolutionaries who died in battle with on screen text giving their name, birthplace and dates of birth and death. That’s an interesting way to maintain gravitas during awesome action. Also there are plenty of tragic scenes of final hours and selfless sacrifice, a common theme of Hong Kong action.

At 139 minutes you probably have to be really interested in Hong Kong history or at least historical battles to seek out Bodyguards and Assassins. I think the film is a rewarding mix of relatable period piece and kick-ass action.

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NBFF Review: Balls To The Wall http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/nbff-review-balls-to-the-wall/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/nbff-review-balls-to-the-wall/#comments Sun, 01 May 2011 16:12:56 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=209916 Has a good tea bagging joke. That's about it.

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We all remember that classic “Saturday Night Live” skit where Chris Farley and Patrick Swayze were both auditioning to be Chippendales dancers. Balls to the Wall is a whole movie about that sketch, only it’s a skinny guy versus all the buff strippers. It’s also a “must earn $X” plot like all the SNL movies. Penelope Spheeris even directed this.

Ben Camelino (Joe Hursley) has to get $50,000 to pay for his wedding to Rachel (Jenna Dewan). Her dad Jack (Christopher McDonald) is supposed to be rich but he lost all the money, and Ben wanders into a male strip club where Jack is meeting his loan shark. Forced on stage through hilarious circumstances (not really), the girls actually like Ben.

Balls to the Wall will obviously go straight to video and Comedy Central, so there’s really no point giving it an official analysis. But her I am at the Newport Beach Film Festival and this was the Saturday Night Centerpiece.

There was a way to do this movie. You could’ve invented a crazy world of strippers, or at least weird characters. Spheeris and screenwriter Jason Nutt just settled for a lame dance show with dumb beefcakes. It’s not demeaning enough to be dark. It’s just silly. At least Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo changed the joke from sex to self-esteem.

You’ve got to give it to Hursley though. He’s doing his best to be charming in a role that’s not going to take him to the next level, through no fault of his own. An actor’s got to work. The supporting players totally overact like they’re trying to stand out, because they really need it.

One gross-out joke made me giggle in spite of myself. Tea bagging will always make me laugh, and there’s a good tea bagging joke. Iceman (Nic Few) whips his hair around, and really covers an impressive radius. They did give all the dance routines a theme, but they’re just clichés.

So in case you were wondering, when Balls to the Wall comes around, in whatever format it is ultimately available, no, you do not need to give it a chance.

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