Director: Yoo Ha
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – Viki
Grade: Rocky Road
I’m a sucker for a fun heist story, and I have a soft spot for Lee Soo-Hyuk, so Mek and I decided to check out Pipeline. The movie is . . . fine, but also kind of oddly charmless, and a bit on the slow side for me. Oh, that sounds mean, doesn’t it? I didn’t hate this movie. The acting itself is fine (though I’m starting to wonder if Seo In-Guk has ever been in anything where he didn’t play the Arrogant Male Lead), and there were a few moments that did make me laugh; unfortunately, they weren’t very memorable because I can’t think of a single one now. I just never got very invested in the story, and that’s probably because I never grew to care about anyone on the team.
Heist stories usually go one of two ways: A) they’re grim little affairs, full of twists, betrayal, and murder, or B) they’re much wittier and light-hearted, often centering on the Team as Family trope. Pipeline is very much the latter (which is personally great for me), but none of the characters are very dynamic or interesting, and they just don’t have the platonic chemistry that really makes these kinds of stories sing. Honestly, we never learn much about any of them, not even our main lead. I kinda vaguely liked Counter (Bae Da-Bin), I guess, but that’s about it. Frankly, I found myself half-voting for the rich scumbag villain, because I didn’t really care about our heroes, and because Lee Soo-Hyuk wears the hell out of a nice suit. Like. I’m not always shallow, but yeah. I’m a little shallow.
Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – Disney Plus
This was fun. I don’t quite love it, for a variety of reasons that we’ll get into shortly, but it was definitely an easy watch. The Final Battle is weirdly murky, but all the other fight scenes are great; I particularly like the chaotic Muni fight, and also when Ying Li kicks Wenwu’s ass at the beginning. (Not to mention, Ying Li’s whole look is fucking fabulous. Christ, I hope to see this cosplay the next time I actually go to a con.) I like how this isn’t quite your typical origin story; it’s a delight when we realize that Shang-Chi already knows how to fight. The music is fun. I am all about that dragon. (Also, the qilin, the huli jing, and all the other mythological creatures that I’m less familiar with.) And I enjoy pretty much the whole cast. I was especially delighted to see Michelle Yeoh and Tsai Chin, even if the latter was only there for a few moments.
Still, I don’t love this one quite as much as other folks, and I think that’s partially because the whole story is just built from one of my least favorite tropes of all time. Like, introducing this awesome, badass, immortal lady who just gives up all her powers because she falls in love (for God knows what reason) with this evil warlord who totally doesn’t deserve her? Yeah, pass. I found myself checking out a bit even before we got to associating tropes like Evil Man Changes His Ways Because of Romantic Love and Evil Man Goes Back To His Evil Ways Because His Love Died. Mind you, this has nothing to do with the acting; Tony Leung is perfectly good in the role; unfortunately, none of this interests me.
Also, for a movie with this many flashbacks, I think it’s completely bizarre to exclude the one where Young Shang-Chi actually decides to run away. It’s a Big Moment for his character, particularly considering the emotional conflict between him and his sister, and the only reason I can think not to include it is if we’re postponing it for a Big Reveal, namely, if it turns out that the man Young Shang-Chi assassinated is also Katy’s dead grandfather. I am desperately hoping this isn’t the case because, ugh, talk about tropes I’m not into. (I think it’d also be kinda cool if Katy and Shang-Chi did remain platonic, but that seems pretty unlikely, and I don’t hate them as a romantic ship. TBH, I kinda like their low-key, just wanna dance vibe. They could totally date and do late night karaoke and save the world without being all tortured and shit–that is, unless Shang-Chi’s lying to Katy about vengance-murdering her grandpa.)
Finally, I appear to be in the minority here, but Ben Kingsley in the role of Comic Relief didn’t do much for me. Like, I loved it when they brought up his character at dinner, absolutely, but the second we actually get him on screen for Kooky Fun Times? Nah. OTOH, seeing Benedict Wong join in on the karaoke? Excellent.
Dune: Part One
Director: Denis Villeneuve
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – HBO Max
Grade: Rocky Road
So, I finally watched this movie, 20% because I was curious, 80% because Mekaela bribed me with a bottle of Moscato that we somehow ended up with. The wine was tasty. The movie was . . . okay? I’ve never read the book, and I have very mixed feelings on the David Lynch adaptation, so I doubt I was anyone’s target audience here. But sure, there are things I like about this. Exposition and worldbuilding are handled much better here than in the 1984 version. Rebecca Ferguson makes Lady Jessica a million times more interesting than I remember that character being. (Also, her costumes are just cool.) And some of Paul’s visions are intriguing, particularly the ones with Jamis, considering he’s set up to be this someday friend/mentor figure, but instead, Paul kills him. (Other visions are less interesting because, much as I like Zendaya, there’s a limit to how many times I need a quick flash of her looking all romantic/enigmatic. I’m definitely looking forward to her having more actual dialogue in the sequel.)
Still, Paul himself? Meh. I genuinely like that he’s a child of two wildly different lineages, but kid’s got all the personality of a celery stick, and I don’t care even a little about his whole Chosen One narrative. (Frankly, I kinda wish Lady Jessica was the Chosen One.) I continue to hate Baron Harkonnen, too, and I’m still royally pissed about the decision to put Stellan Skarsgård in a fat suit, especially while reading bullshit about how careful they all were to avoid using the fat suit for comedic effect in the film; meanwhile, in the very same article: “Stellan just loved being naked as the Baron. We all used to kill ourselves laughing when Stellan would ask for more nude scenes. He felt, quite correctly, that the Baron appeared more frightening and dangerous unclothed than cloaked in robes or armor.” Cool. That’s way less shitty!
The only positive thing I will say about the Baron is that at least Villeneuve cut the Depraved Homosexual shit because FFS.
Also, for a 2 1/2 hour film, I do think Dune, Part One has a couple of pacing problems. Like, I kinda feel there should be a little more time between “fuck, we’ve been set up to fail” and “Massacre Night.” And there’s been, what, five minutes between Paul whining that Lady Jessica made him a freak (dude, you’ve got bigger problems right now) and Paul deciding, “Well, okay, I guess I’ll just be Emperor, then!” The second half of the film feels especially off to me. I also kinda just miss how bizarrely weird the 1984 version looks in comparison, although obviously that’s a very subjective criticism. This movie is pretty; it’s just not very fun. Like, it’s been a while since I’ve watched a movie that takes itself SO seriously. Plus–and I know this is the most minor of complaints–I feel like the desaturated colors of this film are a bit at odds with this oppressive desert heat everyone keeps talking about. I never even once bought that heat.
So, will I watch Part Two? IDK, probably, though I suspect bribery will be involved again, and I don’t think I liked this one enough to see the sequel in theater, no matter how much Villeneuve abhors the idea of people watching his art on the small screen. (Yes, I’m petty. This shit pissed me off.) TBH, I’m a little surprised about how many people were apparently worried there wouldn’t be a sequel, like, I know every iteration of Dune ends up being divisive as shit, but also, this was a wildly anticipated film with a huge cast and well-respected white director, like, the kind of director who actually gets Oscar nods for his science fiction work. I just wasn’t quite sweating the sequel getting the green-light, you know?
One thought on “Triple Scoop Reviews: Pipeline, Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings, and Dune”
you are totally right about his Big Moment being left out of the movie: the one when he decides to betray his father and run away. And as a fan of the source material, I felt also a bit cheated that two important things that defines this character were also left out.
First, Wenwu is supposed to be the most cruel, cunning and powerful of all warlords on planet Earth : he was originally Fu Manchu, after all. His goal was originally to restore the grandeur of Imperial China through revenge against the western world. He was the original terrorist before that term was first used: he litterally planned to terrorize the world into submission, using to do so his vast science (he achieved
immortality for himself) and the revival of the most fearsome assassin cults through the world. I’m okay with the «evil» part being downplayed, as for him, terror was not for the sake of it, but a mean to an end.
The difficult part to show in a movie would be that most of his evil actions would have been be done in secrecy… so much that even his future wife, Ming Li, would not be privy of those and would mistake him for a redeemable man (which is quite a stretch, considering the “evil lair” where they live and the henchmen which would probably orbit around it). Wenwu is supposed to exude power… he is supposed to represent so much the figure of a King that even the wise Ming Li would be swept away (as a warrior herself we could understand how she could have a soft spot for this kind of character, even if it does’nt really fit the tropes of a classic romance). Much has been written about the decision to have Wenwu genuinely love his wife and family, making him stand out agaist other classic villains… I think this has been way better done with the character of the Kingpin in “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”, where the Kingpin love for is familly does not contradicts or distracts from his evilness, but make it even creepier. Wenwu is supposed to be such a villain, but on a global scale.
This is why it’s so disappointing to see him invade Ta-Lo with what, fifty Si-fan henchmen? Where he should have been able to summon an army of a few thousands, or at least many hundreds. A sequence of his army being torn to shreds (or beaten out of senses) in the «magic forest» could have explained why he arrived in Ta-Lo with so few warriors… but as it was shown, it just felt silly: the thousand years warlord reduced to a mere gang boss.
Now for the important part about Shang-Chi himself and his Big offscreen Moment.
The trick was that in his hubris, Fu Manchu (sorry, I meant: Wenwu) has, in the comic books, provided his son Shang-Chi with the best education possible in order to make of him his heir. For that, he would sire a child with the most skilled, intelligent and powerful woman he could find (Ming Li, after centuries of
seearching for an adequate spouse) and provide the child with the best teachers and tutors of the eastern world, not only in the martial arts, but also in humanities and philosophies. His hubris was such that he never occured to him that his way was not the best one for the world. In the movies, there is just two lines which relate to that: when Wenwu asks his son “Have you been practicing your English?” and when it is alluded that “Shaun” (Shang-Chi) speaks four languages. In the original story, Shang-Chi has the equivalent of several doctorates in eastern philosophies, healing sciences, and he is a living weapon to booth.
The main point here is that Shang-Chi has remorses and backs off from his father revenge mission specifically BECAUSE his father gave him such a great education… one that makes the veil of deceit over the misdeads of his father disappear as soon as he is asked to partake in it. IMHO, that makes the character of Shang-Chi, originally written in the comic books by Steve Englehart, a much more tragic and interesting one.
I wonder how they could have weaved those ideas inside the movie, or if they will allude to that in future installments. Shang-Chi is supposed to be much more than just an action hero, he is also supposed to be the heir of the best of eastern philosophies… even if that wisdom is expressed in a simple life, as in the comic books (where after much adventures, he adopts the life of a fisherman in a small chinese village) or in his foundness, like in the movie, for friendship and karaoke fun… much nobler pursuits than world conquest.
Yeah, I’m a fan.