Here's the bottom line with "Curse of the
Golden Flower", brought to us by the same team that gave us "Hero"
"House of Flying Daggers": Families in 900 A.D. were just
as fucked up as they are today.
In this epic, we get family turmoil so
fucked up even I had to laugh by the time all of the family secrets
are played out, but let's start with the facts. Emperor Ping
(Chow Yun-Fat) is unhappily married to Empress Phoenix (Gong Li,
more stunning as she ages, in my humble opinion); Empress
Phoenix--who is NOT the natural birthmother of Ping's three sons--is
sleeping with Ping's eldest son Xiang (Liu Ye). Xiang is
fucking the doctor's daughter Chan (Man Li). Chan is the chief
servant of Phoenix, and Chan is feeding Phoenix a poisonous black
fungus that is slowing killing Phoenix...on orders of Ping.
Ping's middle son Jie (Jay Chou) is the only true warrior son in the
family, and as such, even though he is not Ping's favorite, is the
one who will lead his country one day as the lead heir to the
throne. The youngest son, Yu (Qin Junjie), also wants to be
trained in the ways of the sword, but Ping has sworn him off as the
little man-bitch of the family and will have no part in training him
Oh, and don't worry--it gets even MORE
fucked up as the movie runs its course.
Based on a play, "Curse of the Golden
Flower" is more period-piece-epic than swords-and-skirts
action/adventure film...at least, for the first 90 minutes of its
running time. The costumes are just as exotic as the costumes
from director Zhang Yimou's previous efforts; the sets look
ridiculously exotic and the stunning number of extras--seriously,
this doesn't look like CGI at all, we're talking HUNDREDS of
extras--makes this puppy one of Asia's biggest productions ever.
Watching everyone make very pointed efforts to look like royalty is
pure bliss; I was surprised at how content I was to be sitting in
what appeared to be an action film and having no action for nearly
the whole film.
Then, people start dying. Fast,
bloody, violent deaths. And, by the thousands, until almost
everyone is dead.
The violence is more eye-popping than it was
in "Hero", for sure; it was more PG-13-style. Here, people get
scythes through the chest, or multiple arrow deaths (this film has
the most ridiculous arrows-of-rain sequences in history, book it),
or death by belt, which was a mix of surreal and pure comedy.
But, it fits the build-up that director Yimou clearly waits to drop
on you by giving us small hints that bodies are gonna start dropping
by the time this puppy is over. All the while, style points
are ever-present; the visuals are so cool that you don't mind
watching women and children get the beatdowns you knew were coming.
The film's not as interesting as the
plot/pacing of "Hero"; the performances by the leads are predictably
great and the extras seem to be working overtime in this one.
(Does any race of people do the "backward shuffle out of room on
command" move better than Asians? Maybe that's racist, but
seriously, nobody seems to be able to bow their heads and move
quickly out of a room better than a 45-year-old Asian guy.)
Some of the dialogue during the run of death sequences is badly
misplaced; this brought laughter from the audience when there should
have been stunned silence.
Still, "Curse of the Golden Flower" makes me
forget that ridiculous ending from "House of Flying Daggers" and
Yimou and I are back on the up-and-up.
Rating: $9.50 Show
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Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard