October Movie Reviews: The Last Airbender, The Expendables, A Long Visit
by Paul Matthews
The Last Airbender
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
After reading the scathing comments about M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film I was skeptical. Could it really be that bad? Surely they must have been exaggerating; after all, this was the director who wowed us with The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. A live action film based on a popular Nickelodeon cartoon was bound to be at least a little entertaining.
Nothing could prepare me for how bad this film really was.
All you need to know about the plot is that there is a little boy named Aang (played by a woefully wooden Noah Ringer), and he is the last Airbender. There are good guys and bad guys and a big floating monster. Dev Patel plays the stroppy and rather evil Prince Zuko, and doesn’t deserve to have this film as his follow up to Slumdog Millionaire.
The Last Airbender feels less like a Shyamalan movie than a poor rip off of Lord of the Rings. It’s crammed with voiceovers and montages that give you the impression of a rushed and badly handled editing process. The action sequences are dull, the script is terrible and the relatively short run time of 103 minutes seems to drag on for days. I wish that it was so bad it was funny, but it was just deathly dull, without any redeeming features.
To turn a fun kids’ animation into the nadir of fantasy action film is quite an achievement, but perhaps not the one that Shyamalan was aiming for. Here’s hoping he turns his back on rubbish like this and finds his voice again. In the meantime, avoid this film like the plague, go back and watch The Sixth Sense, and pray that M. Night never makes The Last Airbender II.
Directed by Sylvester Stallone
For me, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger conjure up memories of violent cinematic fun from the 1980s, when bare-chested muscular heroes raced across screens, killing the bad guys and saving the girl. The Expendables is here to do exactly that, and with Sly Stallone in the director’s chair, it’s not afraid to pull any punches.
Stallone plays Barney Ross, head of a team of grizzled mercenaries called the Expendables. He and his gang are hired to overthrow evil dictator General Garza, but things don’t go as smoothly as planned thanks to loose cannon Gunnar Jensen (played with aplomb by Dolph Lundgren).
The plot is flimsy, the dialogue is dodgy, but the action sequences are worth the ticket price and are great, gruesome fun. It’s good to see Sly and chums enjoying themselves so much onscreen, and each of the film’s stars is given a chance to shine.
This eighties action nostalgia fest won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but if you have fond memories of Sylvester Stallone and you don’t mind a bit of Jason Statham, then you’ll be happy to sit through this over-the-top tribute to the heroes of Hollywood.
A Long Visit
Directed by Seong-yeop Yu
Korean melodramas seem to fall into two categories. Some treat their subject matter and their audiences with respect and touch our hearts; others just try to hit us over the head with tragedy and emotion, whilst failing to understand the joys of subtlety and understatement. Fortunately, A Long Visit falls firmly into the first category.
Looking back at the relationship between Ji-suk (Jin-hui Park in fine form) and her mother (excellently performed by Hae-suk Kim), the film deals with the ups and downs of family life as well as looking at what every mother sacrifices for the sake of her children.
From the very beginning you know there’ll be no happy ending, but this slow-paced film keeps your attention from start to finish and gently leads you through the lives of these two women. Though director Yu is a little heavy-handed with the soundtrack, he has managed to translate the story from page and stage to screen without resorting to cheap tricks to make you cry. Even so you’ll probably need a box of tissues handy, and you’ll appreciate your parents even more after watching this.