If you’re expecting an unbiased review of either of these two movies, then you are in the wrong place. First of all this isn’t a real review. Those things are longer and more in depth and I just don’t have the energy to do that. Second, John Cusack is my favorite actor, that’s what both films have in common, and he’s the reason I watched them.
Better Off Dead was the first John Cusack I saw and the first movie I remember a parent quoting. It’s a fun movie and who could forget that Camero? It wouldn’t be until the mid-2000’s that I decided he was my favorite and I should watch all his movies. He’s made so many amazing films that I don’t have one favorite. I don’t even think I can list my top ten. I could write an entire post about every J.C. movie I’ve seen and still not be able to pinpoint a favorite. Don’t get me wrong, he’s been in some shitty movies too. They all can’t be winners. So how many have I seen? Out of 76 credits (according to IMDB) I’ve seen 63. So yeah. I’m a fan.
When I saw the trailer for this I was like “What the fuck?” I couldn’t quite tell what the plot was but there was also Jackie Chan and Adrien Brody so how bad could it be?
What is it About?
Dragon Blade is a historical fiction that tells the story of two armies (Chinese and Roman) teaming up to beat the bad guy. You can break it down and say it tells two stories. The first one is of Jackie Chan’s character, Huo An, and his role as a promoter of piece along the Silk Road who gets fucked over and sent to a prison camp with his men. The other story is of John Cusack’s character, Lucius, and his role as protector of this child whose brother blinded him and then tried to kill him. The two men and their respective groups become friends by working together to build a city and then team up to fight against Adrien Brody’s character, Tiberious.
So How Was It?
- I’m a big fan of historical fiction so I really appreciated the detail in the costumes and the sets. Not to mention some of the scenes were incredibly stunning. I also really liked how they played with color throughout the film. Give it up for aesthetics!
- I love it when historical fiction media inspire me to look up stuff. I don’t know a lot about Chinese history and this movie motivated me to look up material. Or at least add them to my library list. Yay knowledge!
- It was funny! Both intentionally and unintentionally. Most of the intentional humor happens in the beginning with Huo An and less so when shit gets serious (duh). There is a part where they literally throw rocks at their enemy that I found really amusing. Another unintentional part was when Lucius dies. I couldn’t help myself. It was weird.
- Dragon Blade is a Chinese movie and when dealing with any foreign film some things just aren’t going to translate. Like the name of the movie. Literally translated it’s Celestial General, Heroic Army. That’s a fucking mouthful but it does sum up the movie better than Dragon Blade. This movie isn’t about swords at all. At one point they refer to building the city as “… giving birth to a new born child of hope…” I’m really hoping that was translated oddly because it’s just… odd.
- Going back to my lack of Chinese history expertise, I’m not sure how accurate all the “keep the peace” portrayal is. It seemed super preachy in the beginning (Huo An’s company is called The Protection Squad) but then you realize that the themes are friendship and loyalty (they drive that home pretty hard) so maybe that’s just how they make their movies? I don’t know.
- The fight scenes were pretty cool. I don’t know anything about Martial Arts but I was captivated by the choreography in this movie.
- Adrien Brody’s hair is glorious.
The Verdict: 4/5
I wouldn’t have watched it if John Cusack wasn’t in it simply because foreign movies don’t pop up on my radar that often. Overall it was better than expected.
The name Chi-Raq is a combination of Chicago + Iraq because of the high crime/violence rate/deaths. Needless to say, this is a heavy movie because it deals with gun violence.
What is it About?
A modern day retelling of Lysistrata set among the gang violence of Chicago’s Southside. Lysistrata convinces her fellow Greek women to withhold sex in hopes of ending the fighting between Athens and Sparta. The movie takes place primarily in Chicago’s Southside with local gangs representing Athens and Sparta. Eventually Lysistrata’s influence spreads all over the globe.
So How Was It?
- I’m a fan of Greek plays and modern adaptations of them. The subject matter was an incredible fit for Lysistrata and the fact that men have been fighting each other for ages is a sad and powerful reminder for how well they fit together. I also thought having the dialogue written in verse helped anchor it to it’s Greek roots. Not to mention it’s always entertaining to see how modern language fits with the meter and rhyme.
- The acting is phenomenal. Chi-Raq has quite a few big names attached to it and they aren’t there solely for publicity. A lot of people involved have ties to Chicago so it’s not just a showcase of skill but also of passion.
- Like with Dragon Blade, Chi-Raq also inspired me to look up information. Specifically the facts that John Cusack’s character, Father Mike Corridan (based on Fr. Michael Pfleger), mentions during his eulogy to a little girl killed by a stray bullet. It’s always extra poignant when the numbers aren’t too far off.
- The only part of the movie that made me stop and raise an eyebrow was at the end when the two gangs are signing the peace treaty (Greek comedy, remember?). The mayor presides and announces that major corporations have signed a commitment to employ any person who wants a job. As much as I understand what this movie is trying to accomplish (and also that it’s a movie) that one was a little far fetched for me.
- Samuel L. Jackson.
The Verdict: 11/10
When the movie was over I just sat there for a few minutes in a “whoa” state. This is an incredibly powerful movie and I highly recommend it. Do yourself a favor and watch it. I rented it from RedBox but it’s also available through Amazon Video.
Sometimes you blindly watch any movie with your favorite actor in it and the movie is crap. Sometimes it’s not.
Catching up on blogs!