Saw two movies by default not by choice, but they were major surprises for movie watching in 2009. The first was Mulan, I was checking out the Gold and Premier class seats at Mid Valley and all bloody seats were sold out except for Mulan. I said, damn why are they showing the bloody musical cartoon again, must be the holidays!! Was corrected that it was a big budget piece remake of Mulan starring Zhao Wei. Spent too long to park the car, too early to eat dinner, so end up buying tickets to Mulan ... gee, there goes one of my ration of 3 original films in Mandarin for the year.
At the end of the movie, the people leaving the theatre were ALL in pairs, and I bet you all the guys were dragged to see the movies by their female dates. No sensible male patron would be willing to suggest seeing Mulan starring Zhao Wei. No one would even consider Zhao Wei as anywhere believable as a expert warrior (even in disguise). Oh ... but the brilliant Jingle Ma was the director.
Take all that into account, it was a surprisingly fantastic movie. Its about Mulan (whose story we all know by now) but its a lot more than that - there were added layers to the storyline. In the end, it was a very strong anti-war movie, it questions the actual relevance of fighting and dying for a country or your king when you are really all just minor pawns in the whole greater scheme of things. Its about brotherhood and loyalty, its about the greater good, its about coming out of the bloodshed with your integrity intact. Oh, yes, there is a powerful unrequited love story as well.
The other movie was Funny People by Judd Apatow, starring Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen and Leslie Mann. I really thought it was going to be another Adam Sandler piece of low brow but enjoyable movie. Its about a successful stand up and a few other up and coming stand up comics. But man, the show is not only funny, it tries to tackle deeper issues which I never thought Apatow, Rogen or Sandler would be able to do. Reviews of this film have been all over the board. Some people have loved it and said it was the funniest movie of the year, some people have hated it and called it self-indulgent and elongated.
It puts the scars and vulnerabilities of stand up comedians, their anxieties and stress, all out in the open. It cuts right through these "funny people". It also attempts to deal with issues of mortality when that collides with mid life crisis. Trying to patch up things we didn't do too well in the past - the nuanced things about regret, redemption and forgiving yourself. The heavy subject matter of settling, for only so-so ... in many things in life.
Seth Rogen was great as Ira, the young comedian that Sandler employed as his comedy writer. Its a fantastic movie because the movie fleshes out the character of the main guys brilliantly, you identify with them all within the first half hour. You feel their pain and happiness. Ira's clumsy crush with Aubrey Plaza was too funny but very understandable.
This is certainly one of the funniest and most heart felt movie of the year - very intelligent, nuanced, not all living happily ever after but kind of ... kind of like real life.