By G. Michael Dobbs
Two interesting new productions are in the DVD review column this week.
Remember how rumors could tear through a high school? Remember how wrong they usually were? This is the premise of "Easy A," a solid little comedy that shows that even in the era of cell phone and Internet, there has been little advancement when it comes to relationships in high school.
Olive (played with perfection by Emma Stone) is a high school student who flies under the radar. She's a good student and a good girl, but one day her best friend badgers her into saying something she shouldn't have. In an attempt to shut her up, Olive claims that she recently lost her virginity to an older guy going to the local community college.
She really hasn't. She doesn't even have a boy friend. Her best friend, though, can't resist telling people and before long Olive is the girl everyone is talking about and not in a good way.
Guys who acted as if she was invisible, now stare at her. Girls called her names. The high school's Christian group prays for her, when they aren't condemning her.
Olive's reaction to her new found fame is to play it up. If people can't understand she was fibbing, then she will play the part of the school's tart. That decision leads to other repercussions.
What I admired about the film is that Olive is a sensible, positive kid from a loving family who makes a mistake and eventually learns from it. Stone is one of my favorite new actors, especially after her performance in "Zombieland."
Director Will Gluck and writer Bert V. Royal have created a realistic, endearing and funny teen movie.
If it's made in Hong Kong, I'll give it a try and this 2009 film, just coming out on DVD, is one that is in many ways worth watching.
Legendary French singer and actor Johnny Hallyday plays Costello, a successful chef and restaurant owner who comes to Macau in response to the murder of his son-in-law and grandchildren. Only his daughter has survived the attack.
Hallyday plays Costello with the barest of emotions and expressions, but he makes it clear that this is not a man to mess with. When it's clear the police are not moving fast enough to solve the crime, he decided to take action.
He is, though, a stranger in a strange land and being in the right place at the right time gives him the allies he needs.
Costello witnesses a contract murder carried out by a gang of three men. He goes to the police to view a line-up and even though the cops have one of the trio, Costello doesn't give him up.
It's his way to find the men he needs men who know the local underworld. The trio accepts his offer and finds the men who killed Costello's family. The story doesn't end there.
Two twists in the film provide the audience with questions about the nature of vengeance and whether or not Costello's efforts were worth the price.
Director Johnnie Ito is a guy who is willing to throw some traditional and non-tradition ingredients into his dish, including a French star who is probably not too familiar to his core market.
The taciturn Hallyday looks like he has had one too many plastic surgeries and his minimalist acting style is at first a bit off-putting. His performance eventually grew on me, especially in the second half of the film.
Ito cast two Hong Kong superstars into the film Anthony Wong and Simon Yam. Wong plays the leader of the men recruited by Costello and does it with great cool. Yam is George Fung, the mobster who ordered the hit on Costello's family.
I enjoyed the stylish film that ends not with a satisfyingly violent conclusion to the story but rather with a contemplative note.
Looking for a crime drama that's different? Check out "Vengeance."
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