Daryl Surat went out of his way to recommend Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame to me, so the least I could do was check it out. It is an unusual hybrid martial arts mystery movie. Surprisingly enough it succeeds on both fronts quite well. The mystery is well executed and follows Knox’s rules to the letter expect for the 5th rule. But the story takes place in China there is no way to get around it. Also Knox’s 5th has always been very silly and is clearly a product of its time. I figured out most of the details of the mystery as the story went along but I felt the answers were not glaringly obvious while still being solvable if you were playing attention. The fights were fairly cool and whenever they try to kill Detective Dee they do so with extreme prejudice. They don’t send an archer to assassinate him. They send a legion of archers to cover ever inch of the house he is staying with arrows. I did find Dee’s choice if signature weapon unexpected but in a good way. His weapon actually says a lot about him as a man and a detective. The only problem is that the special effects range from competent to horrifically cheesy. The effects never ruined the movie but they did make me chuckle on occasion. Dee himself has a gentle charm with just enough bite to mix it up. His Detective work is clean and he has a good mixture of scholarly knowledge, keen perception, and street smarts. His two assistants/rivals oscillated between being annoying and being cool especially when it came to the albino Shatuo (who I called the Chinese Malfoy.) I highly recommend it to anyone who likes martial arts movies, detective stories, or just wants something a little bit different. If they made a sequel I would definitely give it a look.
Despite my misgivings about Tangled‘s trailer, I went to see it over Thanksgiving weekend. I found myself pleasantly, and surprisingly, enchanted by the movie which I was giving the benefit of the doubt thanks to some articles I had read. The story is of course a familiar one, but it has its own additions like rouge thief Flynn and Rapunzel’s pet chameleon. Rapunzel is humorous and strong in her varying moods, and she is quite handy with her weapon of choice, a frying pan, which provides loads of laughs throughout the film. Though I will say that the humor is hit and miss especially when it comes to Flynn. While ignored in the trailer, the film does have musical numbers though they are integrated a little differently, such as Rapunzel’s introduction piece which for the most part doesn’t feature her visually signing. Actual on-screen singing is notably absent during the stunning boat scene between Flynn and Rapunzel, too. The songs themselves felt forced in the first half of the film, but really pulled together in the second part. In fact, the whole film is just much better in its later half. The visuals are the best I’ve seen in CG animated film and the scenes in town, the dancing, and the lights filled me with warmth and awe. The film rounds out with the right amount of magic and a happy ending. Also loved the ending credits with old-style story boarding. While Tangled won’t go down as my new favorite Disney film, if this is the level of quality that Disney will produce and make money, I’m more than pleased.