Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Warrior's Way: Ninja Assassins and Blowing Shit Up in the Old West

The Warrior's Way is a beautifully shot, silly little film that's apparently been stuck in post-production for years. This doesn't surprise me, as anybody who starts mixing genres is going to have some trouble with marketing. In this case, it's a mix of martial arts movie + western, with all the silliness that that implies. In fact, there's even more silliness than that, as our martial arts hero exiles himself to America and takes up in a town largely populated by a defunct circus troop where he takes over an old friend's laundry business and starts teaching the local tomboy how to throw knives and cut people up.

Yes, I'm serious.

And if that description didn't pique your interest, this is not the movie for you.

In the Far East, a super assassin, the "best swordsman in the world - ever" kills every member of a rival clan save one. He saves this child and exiles himself to the American west to a small, decripit little town that has suffered under the tyrannic rule of some random group of Bad Guys. I'm not really sure why the Bad Guys are terrorizing this town. Or why they terrorized the town once, apparently, and then just came back a few years later for the sake of the plot to terrorize it again. You know they're bad guys mainly because they try to rape the heroine (twice) and because they kill people indiscriminately. Why do they do this? No frickin' clue. Because the plot says they do. Handwave, handwave.

As our hero begins to rebuild his life among the circus freaks and with our tomboy heroine, he is also hunted by the members of his assassin's guild, who are pissed off that he didn't kill the last member of their rival clan. They believe that the only way to truly "win" the war against the clan is to kill the last member. After all, when she grows up she will just start to hunt them down, and the whole cycle will start again.

Kate Bosworth of Blue Crush fame (she will always be "that chick from Blue Crush" to me) plays our heroine, a scrappy tomboy whose family was murdered by aforementioned Bad Guys. She scarred the one who tried to rape her by throwing hot oil in his face (a touch which reminded me of the scar that Red Sonja gives the Evil Queen, after the guards rape Red Sonja. Nothing new under the sun). This incident, of course, inspires her to take up arms to seek revenge (whenever he rolls back into town? Or has he been periodically visiting and she just hides? Who knows), and now she practices throwing knives. Before our hero entered the scene, his predecessor was also teaching her how to weild a blade. So, you can see how I'd appreciate this movie, despite the ridiculous and annoying and overdone near-rape scenes.

There's a lot to like in this movie if you're willing to sit back, relax, and giggle along. They're pretty clear about what kind of movie it is right from the get-go, with supertitles that tell us the assassin on the screen is now the "Best swordsman in the world - ever." It's a silly little romp that spends a lot of time planting flowers in the desert only to blow them up (literally and metaphorically).

The fight scenes are pretty spectacular, the blood is over the top, and it has a couple of really great lines. My favorite is when the hero finds our heroine trying to throw knives, and she's missing her target. He turns to her and says, "It's not your arm that shakes. It's your heart." Somehow, blindfolding her and taking a few good lessons with the hero cures her of this (handwave, handwave), but it wouldn't have been nearly as good a movie if she didn't get her revenge, too.

I appreciated that she had her own story arc. I didn't appreciate that (spoiler, duh) she gets stuck with the kid at the end, which was pretty much the stupidest thing in the whole world based on everything that came before. What, she had a kid sister once so she knows something about kids? I guess she did make the kid a diaper when they rolled into town, so she must be the perfect person to give a kid to?


Of course, by then most folks are dead, so there's not a lot of other options.

At any rate, the movie stuck to its mixed genres. Plenty of martial arts action, stoic hero, *and* it's western sensibilities - random bad guys, big shootouts, plucky heroine. This movie was about fifty million times more fun than half the crap that's out right now, but it's going to have a much narrower audience because, yeah, weird little movie with ridiculous plot holes. Geoffrey Rush even shows up as a filthy, drunken marksman. Weird, I know.

Depending on your taste, this might be a fun film to see after a couple of beers. Don't expect anything profound, but if you want to see some stuff get blown up, cut up, shot up, and giggle at movie tropes (and roll your eyes at ridiculous rape-means-we're-bad bad guys) while a red-headed heroine throws knives, this could be fun.

Also, circus freaks. Blood feuds. Ninja assassins.

Sometimes I suspect I was just delighted that they'd gotten all of these ridiculous things into one movie.

Monday, December 06, 2010

When in Doubt, Cut Down a Tree. In the Snow.

There are worse ways to spend a Saturday...

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

What's On Your Bookshelf: Why I'm Still Holding Out On Buying an E-Reader

The local Books & Co. had several Nooks on display the other day. I've resisted e-readers for lots of reasons, but mostly because of Amazon's weird "You bought it but we can take it away" thing. If I download a book, I want to download it like a PDF. A file that's mine. No DRM. The idea that Amazon or a publisher can suddenly decide to retract something already given scares the anti-censorship fiend in me.

And yet... and yet.. I have too many books. I'm tired of moving them. And sitting in bed curling up with a 800-1000 page book isn't really cozy. It's awkward. Carting it around on a plane is even less cozy. Reading from a slim e-reader seems so much easier. 

But I'd also like to actually be able to, you know, read it. I love the color Nook, but the backlight kind of bothers me on that version. But I'm not sold on the non-backlight because if I can't read in the dark on an e-reader without and extra light, what's the point? And why am I paying as much for an e-reader as I am for a laptop? At that point, why not just read books on a laptop? And that's just no fun. And why should I pay extra for Wi-fi? 

That said, I realize how much easier life would be if I could fit all my books onto a hard drive... but also how easy they would be to lose. Knowledge is great. But it's also hard to hold onto.

I suspect that I will always buy really good books in print. The kind of books you really love and cherish. The ones you want to have signed by authors. Or the ones with really important information that isn't likely to go out of date soon.

But there are other kinds of books - the popcorn reading, or the 8-book sagas, or the 12-book history compilations - that will just be easier to read and forget about or read and easily access on an e-reader. I love books, but the more junk I get bogged down in, the more I realize just how many of them I can live without. There are only so many books I love at any one time.

When book and movie libraries both move totally digital, I expect to have a couple bookcases of prized books, and that's it. The more times you move, the more you appreciate having a clutter-free life. E-readers help with that. But I don't love the technology enough (and it's not yet cheap enough) to make the switch.

I'm a notoriously late adopter. I resisted getting a cell phone until I live in South Africa, and then I ditched it again for four years in Chicago.  I didn't get a proper one again until 2007?

The e-reader will be the same. All the cool kids will have them, and stare at me wide-eyed when I talk about how much space all my books take up, before I finally find something that really turns me on.