HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS is the latest from Hero director Yimou Zhang, and it's every bit as visually sumptuous as its predecessor- but it has an even shallower story at its base. In HoFD, government soldier Takeshi Kaneshiro, as Jin, helps the lovely Zhang Ziyi, as Mei, the seemingly blind daughter of the old former leader of the rebel House of Flying Daggers, escape from prison in order to follow her to the nest of the insurrectors- but he falls in love with her and she with him, and that causes complications. Seems that a member of the HoFD is deeply in love with her, and has been on a secret mission for three years, living just to see her again- so you can imagine that he is not happy that she seems ready to spurn him for the newer man. The pursuit itself is given to several multicolored set pieces and fight scenes, all of which are lively and clever- especially a wire-fu throwdown in a bamboo forest. Like Hero, the story is of secondary importance in Zhang's films anyway and the bulk of the film was certainly entertaining enough. Sometimes it was almost too colorful- often the scenery would change from orange, yellow and red Autumnal foliage to bright green to winter gray without warning, and while I suppose it could be justified as altitude changes, creative hubris, or something, it was bothersome. The underlying theme seemed to be the uncertainties in any relationship, and how they affect each person involved- and Zhang pulls it off until the very end. The climactic snowy showdown scene, in which the choices made and the implied reasons for making these choices were made manifest, just didn't quite work for me. Oh well. It's still an excellent film and well worth checking out if you get the chance.
I also caught a screening of NATIONAL TREASURE, the Nic Cage actioner which gives us Mr. Coppola as a treasure hunter who has been obsessed (as has his father, and his grandfather too) with finding a legendary hoard that the founding fathers themselves hid, providing clues in a multitude of places including the back of the Declaration of Independence itself. It's a goofy, audacious idea, and the movie wisely doesn't take itself too seriously; it's easy to get caught up in Cage & Co.'s pursuit of the clues, just like some sort of novel aimed at teenagers. He's competing with a former ally-turned rival played by Sean (Boromir) Bean, and the cat-and-mouse between these two is fun. Less fun, or credible, is Diane Kruger as the Director of the National Archives, who gets involved unwillingly at first but soon ends up not only helping Cage out but falling in love with him as well. Of course. By the time Harvey Keitel shows up as an FBI agent, you just throw up your hands and go with it. National Treasure is no landmark of cinema, but it is lively and enjoyable. A good rainy day movie, I'd think.
One other newish film I saw the other night was THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, last year's attempt to revive that long-abandoned 70s cinema staple, the Irwin Allen disaster movie. Set in the not-so-distant future, in which global warming somehow causes climatological chaos, the science in this flick is atrocious, and while it helped to have read the lambasting that Intuitor gave it after its release, you can easily tell that like 2003's The Core, the filmmakers weren't gonna let a little thing like scientific accuracy and logic get in the way of the kewl special effects set pieces. Even though the likes of Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhall are good, they take a back seat to the wacky weather happenings. Glad I didn't drop eight bucks to see this at the theatre.