What I did this weekend:
“Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior” has a lot of buzz about introducing the “next Jackie Chan.” Tony Jaa has amazingly spring-y legs and the movie has a couple of sequences that show off his talents pretty well – 720 reverse roundhouse kicks, twisting barrel kicks, sliding under trucks while doing full splits, etc. – and there are a few nice imaginings (a trove of looted Buddha heads floating serenely in cargo nets beneath a crowded harbor), but the plot and dialogue are dreadful even by the most forgiving standards. Also, every fight seems to move towards the same ridiculous “finishing move:” a flying elbow delivered not to the temple nor the jaw nor the ear nor any other place remotely vulnerable, but downward to the crown of the head. Very disappointing.
“Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” ought to be subtitled “Get to the point already!” It is 840 pages of clear, often delightful, occasionally enchanting prose. A few things happen around page 500, and then some other stuff occurs in the mid-600s, and then the last 60-pages are chock-a-block full of action. Unfortunately, these last scenes are filled with characters suddenly revealing capabilities and weaknesses and modes of action which are unsupported by the gazillion preceding words. Not entirely, to be fair, but enough so that one rather resents having attended to them for several hundred pages and having achieved so little insight. Clearly published with the hope of being received as “Harry Potter for adults,” it’s definitely worth reading, but could have been twice as good at half the length.