Monday, October 15, 2007

Election


I thought this was Johnnie To's masterpiece when I first saw it a year ago. Then I thought Exiled was. Then Election 2 -- which I got at the same time as this -- superseded both of those. I am going to suggest that perhaps To is just getting warmed up!
Consistently challenging and enjoyable films make him a director to watch. Once again i am caught having several of his films in the drawer without knowing. He directed the femme team "Heroic Trio" and the sequel, "The Executioners", "Throwdown" and "Fulltime Killer"...all waiting patiently for me to spread the word on.
"Election" is a more recent film, and is probably not the best place to start. To has developed his style, and there is no reason to mistake deliberate pace and nuance for slow and boring. I could spend pages fawning over the camera and colors but that would be telling!
I got the region 2 deluxe edition of this film and it is a great transfer, packed with extras. Unlike most of the R2 special editions there are actually subtitles on the special features.
I am waiving my geek flag proud here!
Come back to Election once you have so To under your belt.
Highly Recommended.

Halo 3


Halo has been the new Quake for the 2.0 kids, and as such one should be thankful for the 2 excellent single player campaigns that came before this. Halo had stunning graphics back in the day...Halo 3 is no "quantum leap" but has moments of beauty.
Great vehicle integration, F.E.A.R. style cutscenes, and a fun co-op mode got this nearly as good a rating as Gears of War in my book. Steve and I blasted through this one in the course of a few nights, and I must say fun was had by all -- even those 2 nitpickers!
Be warned -- if you don't play online (which, in truth, is what this game is about) you may want to rent this, the campaign is fairly short (I say this as we prepare to hit it again on a higher difficulty)...

We Own Something...


The title of this movie is taken from the badge on the arm of a policeman -- to lend an air of time and credibility to this cop family drama. That isn't family cop drama like something you could bring the kids to, but the old worn two sides of the law thing. Which leaves us to the mechanics, which are passable like a good meal.
Moments of music, costume and camera. Craftsmanship on display warrant the big screen viewing..and that, apparently, is what the movie reviews in this blog are turning into. Is it worth seeing on the big screen? I could watch Ms Mendez emerge from the back room in an alleged period outfit smoking and smoking hot over and over, on the biggest screen in town. I'm not that hard to please though--the lush reds of Joaquim's alleged period clothing will not pop at home the same either.
Duvall burns the screen in a fine, understated performance that is not about you the viewer liking his character.
I'm not sure I'd spend the money for the babysitter, but a fine Matinee..

Across the Universe


Psychedelic Musical.
Music by the Beatles, performed by the actors.
Sounds like a recipe for disaster? Most critics hedged there bets and judged it as such.
They are wrong. You know the words, the story is US history. The performances are terrific, the arrangements of songs we all know inspired and audacious. See this in the theatre or tune up your iPod playing flat screen and pretend you have a system worthy.
Recommended.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Kingdom


[03:30:17 PM] what about the kingdom? i know it already opened but..
[03:30:28 PM] i want to see
[03:30:28 PM] and I've already seen it
[03:30:31 PM] [03:30:32 PM] ah damn
[03:30:36 PM] was it good?
[03:30:41 PM] what'd you think?
[03:30:53 PM] umm
[03:31:09 PM] that good eh
[03:31:11 PM] Three Kings and Syriana
[03:31:16 PM] were both better
[03:31:24 PM] hmm i gotcha
[03:31:31 PM] Three Kings was action/comedy/satire with a point
[03:31:42 PM] Syriana was full on message drama
[03:32:00 PM] Kingdom opens VERY well -- with a history lesson
[03:32:15 PM] subtle racism pervades last half
[03:32:26 PM] FBI guys are not Delta Force
[03:32:36 PM] I have actually trained urban assault
[03:32:43 PM] and it is just where you die
[03:33:18 PM] so, last act is FBI people acting like Delta Force and the movie has devolved into a straight ahead actioner
[03:33:23 PM] which is ok
[03:33:31 PM] if i hadn't seen so many!
[03:33:44 PM] worth the 2 hours
[03:34:00 PM] has Garner
[03:34:15 PM] she is wasted mostly
[03:34:18 PM] but Alias
[03:34:23 PM] spoiled me
Go ahead, worth your 8 bucks.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

City of Violence


Darren found this one.
After watching and doing some research I discovered that I had two of the directors films in the vault!
Terrific nonstop action. It stars the director and the action choreographer, in a nearly nonstop ballet of action. This is a Korean film, from guys that have watched Hong Kong, Japanese and Thai martial arts...
We can probably thank Jackie Chan and Tony Jaa for the enthusiasm and hardcore martial arts on display here. My favorite scene involves a group of street B Boys, a baseball team, a bunch of lethal schoolgirls and a painting crew -- against our heroes..
Bottom line is simple: you like physical action shot without the hecticam? You have to go overseas.
To Korea.
Recommended!

The Brave One


I have been a Neil Jordan fan since "the Crying Game" -- in spite of the issues I have with that film. Said issues are largely due to seeing it when I was a young, critical bastard as opposed to my current state of older bastard. My favorite Jordan film remains "Mona Lisa"...made years ago.
"The Brave One" is something of a departure from both of those films, there are no gender politics, just the politics of fear. You know, the fear that has our country paralyzed, bleeding money and young men in Iraq and making the fat cats fatter in the name of homeland security.
Jordan suggests, with the help of a great performance by Jodie Foster, that fear is ultimately personal, and shows it to us. There is terrific music, terrific camera here in a story that we have seen before -- just not after 9/11.
Cause, effect and resolution are preordained going in to the film, even without seeing the trailer. Apparently there are no new stories, just new ways to tell 'em. Mr Jordan does a great job here, as does Terrance Howard and the aforementioned Jodie Foster.
Make no mistake, this is about us, not her.
Recommended.

Monday, September 10, 2007

3:10 To Yuma


I wish I had a transcript of the 3.5 vs 4 star rating debate Darren and I had. Firstly that kind of debate can only alert the listener to the levels of minutia two guys can argue about, and secondly act as an indicator that this movie is worthy of the debate...
To simple state that the great Elmore Leonard wrote this and you need to go shortchanges the 2 stars and the terrific actor that played the brat yute in this fine remake of a timeless western..
Except that it isn't timeless. This is the kind of movie that keeps me up at night pondering the meaning of America and civilization and government and pride and all of that nonsense. Doesn't mean this isn't enjoyable as a "popcorn western" but it was not meant to be that way by any but the crassest of promotors.
There is a reason why Crowe and Bale = must see, "3:10 To Yuma" does nothing but reinforce that equation. See it.

Shoot 'em Up


Clive Owen in an over the top "Action Comedy" -- who would a thunk it? Oh wait -- "Sin City" happened! Clive didn't need "Sin City" to get the part, that was cinched years ago with the "BMW Films". He is a natural choice for the role, and the directors are lucky he was game enough to play along..
He looks great. Monica Bellucci looks great. Absurd, contrived, and occasionally way too far over the top this movie, unlike "Slevin" or "Smoking Aces", gets it right more often than not. It is the not played for laughs "Hot Fuzz", an action fans movie made by action fans with a budget.
High contrast lighting and a heavy metal soundtrack were marred at both viewings by no one in the projection booth paying attention to the volume. Jokes were visual, one liners aplenty and a fast talking villain in the "Clarence Boddigger" mold played by Paul Giamatti, made the time pass quickly, with plenty of smiles.
Leave your brain at the door and enjoy the hyperkinetic action and camera.
Recommended.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Beautiful Scars

I can't find a picture of this album cover bigger than 150 x 150 anywhere.
There is (count'em) one review from the BBC, linked here.
This is a beautiful, thoughtful and soulful CD that deserves to be listened to, over and over. Sure, "Bad Mouth", his collaboration with Ishmael Reed, just came out last year and spits into the wind of absurdity that grips the United States, was likewise ignored, but "Beautiful Scars" is personal, and universal in a way "Bad Mouth" is direct and on message.
"Scars" is hardly apolitical, but hardly controversial. Cuba and everything that country means has been going since America first got nervous. Sexual politics has been going on nearly as long :) and is explored here, quietly, beautifully, with plenty of rhythm to keep the spine lubricated.
Jump in with this as your first Hanrahan Cd and, well, like jumping straight to Calculus without Algebra, one might be lost. Start with "Coup de Tete" from way way back in the day, pause and notice "Desire Develops an Edge" then respin this disc. It deserves your attention, and will reward those with hearts and minds and ears engaged.

MIA Kala

I could talk about her VISA nonsense. We all know if I go down that road I will be talking about immigration, the great wall of Mexico and the absolutely ludicrous notion of "stopping the invasion".
Then I would link it to the Hanrahan records I'll be reviewing that aren't even available here (USA) yet...then it goes to films we can't see for years and when we do they are cut or dubbed...
Which leads to our embarrassing uncompetitive Broadband rates, tariffs, penalties and laws restricting trade and artistic freedom -- "in the land of the free" and by this time the review of this terrific CD will be lost in the chaff of ideals and reality...

Music from a Third World Perspective in full knowledge of the First World's bogus promises and veneers of civility and Reason that demands to be heard should be!

MIA has crafted a brainy multi cultural love letter to the world.
Pop hooks and deep beats attempt to foment change with this multilanguaged cult crit/rave/favela stomp from the edge(s) of known civilization.

Globalization is here to stay, and, as frightened as our elected officials think we are, we can all grow from the input of our brothers and sisters across the planet. MIA makes the lessons bittersweet, humbling and exhilarating all at once..
Recommended

WAR- Jet LI Jason Statham Trailer

...and review...
I like the embed feature of YouTube, and I'm not saying this because I'm a Google stockholder!
Went to this Friday after work...bad HD not showing. Boo Hiss.
Theater back up by Sunday, went to the matinee.
This was no Crank, but better than I had hoped. The titles in the film roll from from Chinese to English, and, with the pace amped up and fast, high contrast film, this could be an old school Hong Kong Triad film..which is a good thing!
Guns Guns Guns as Clarence Boddiger would say...
Which was a touch disappointing, as watching Jet Li is all about the physical stuff. He seemed to be on autopilot here, but Statham wasn't. He played his role for keeps, cementing your eyes to the screen then shaking your head around.
Decent car chases and a guest visit by Miho make for a second viewing in my near future..
Recommended

Godzilla: Final Wars (Japanese Theatrical Trailer)

Got this one on DVD.
Frenetic Pace, great production, and absolutely chock full of:
Mutants
Earth Defense Force Vehicles
Aliens
Destruction:
Tokyo
Paris
New York
Monsters:
Godzilla
Mothra
Gigan
Gigan Mk 2
Rodan
Kumonga
Minilla
Ebirah
Anguirus
Manda
...and a bunch I don't know the names...
This is old school effects, "man in suit" stuff. Lasers, smoke and miniatures..absolutely gorgeous if these films resonate in your memory...
There is a moral tale buried somewhere in the plot, but don't let that stop you from cheering Mothra as the two miniature woman summon her to defend the Earth. Kung Fu like that isn't really possible -- unless it is being done by M Base mutants!
When was the last time an interview with the UN representative was aired here in the states? Oh those crazy Japanese!
Recommended

Monday, August 20, 2007

Nomad

Yes, Mark Dascascos is one of the bad guys.
This is a no CGI all the horses are real epic movie about big battles that took place long ago...the closest to modern day armament is some foreigners bearing cannons. White guys you say?
The closest recent comparison would be "Kingdom of Heaven"-- particularly the section of the siege of the city.
This is the story of a chosen one, a spiritual if not actual descendant of Genghis Khan, born to unite the various tribes of Nomads against marauders who had already got the "join forces and conquer" message a few villages ago.
The biggest impression is one of authenticity...that being said there are some nice action scenes, some terrific training footage and, of course, a duel to the death with the guy who made "Brotherhood of the Wolf" more than just another Templar Conspiracy kung fu costume drama..
I paused it after that fight...little did I know there were at least 30 more enjoyable minutes before the big crescendo.
A fascinating, vivid glimpse into a people we have no understanding of..
Recommended

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Sunshine


Sunshine Directed by Danny Boyle seen by nearly no one here in the cultural wasteland of Kansas. We got Eternal Sunshine, we got Little Miss Sunshine, but no Sunshine from the director who just said no to convention and said I am here to make Movies.
"Trainspotting", "28 Days Later", "Millions" and "A Life Less Ordinary" each one pulls at it's respective genre like taffy, stretching the bounds of convention -- and still tastes good.
Sunshine is a visual feast.
Characters are drawn in short, quick strokes, that, deconstructed, paint as vivid a picture as any 20 minutes of exposition could hope to, without the sticky mess. Pay attention, read between the lines, draw your own shape of this near future.
Science fiction readers have been doing this since they started to read, as a book that explained it all would be longer than "Dune" and would spawn discussions on each of the detours of a supposed timeline...and not tell the story.
Sunshine reminded me a lot of Soderberg's Solaris. Both are bold films with a finger firmly in the eye of the viewer, daring you to watch, daring you to understand and still enjoy yourself.
Soundtrack is fabulous, Michelle Yeoh learned to say "asshole" like she means it, and the ship is pretty darn cool to boot!
Highly recommended.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Round 4: "The Invasion"


Mom.
Not Doctor, not Psychiatrist, not Milla the Terminator, but a "left my brain at the office Mom".
A shame really. Kidman looks great. Film looks great, time is unhinged, the fourth wall is down, and we are watching a simple story we have seen 3 times before.
Kidman could pull off doctor or psychiatrist, her eyes are alive with that kind of intelligence. The prop guys made her home cold enough, her office modern enough, and yet she panics like a "mom" we only know from TV.
No doctor takes pills by the handful. Period.
No doctor tells a child to stick a needle into the chest--too many damn bones.
Those things need to be as right as the "office look".
Many of the other critical blogs take shots at the film style, but style is a choice, one to judge subjectively, not for veracity.
I would love a smart, capable woman beating the odds...but the last time I saw actors fake emotionlessness with so much emotion it was Christian Bale in "Equilibrium", and you know I loves me some Gunkata... It is shocking Kidman was able to fool the pods for more than 10 seconds at a time.

I went in hoping for the best.
I have seen worse this year, but that is hardly high praise.
When this hits video skip it and rent Kidman and Hopkins in the "The Human Stain" -- same theme, lower budget, and characters that act in character.

Blue Ray Night - "300"

Mr Frank Miller's 300 was a treat in the theater last year, each time I went. To deconstruct that for ya: I am a Frank Miller Fanboy. Yes, I own original the original of most of the Sin City comics that I bought throughout the nineties.
This adaptation of 300, like Sin City before it, has the blessing of Frank himself, and the attention to detail only a true fan would have included. The good news is that the directors devotion must have been catchy, as all parties involved seem to have gone above and beyond on the presentation of this material.
One does need to separate the source from the movie, particularly this material, at this time. By "this time" I mean while the United States is occupying a foreign country and simultaneously stripping US citizens of rights and privacy. The exultation of Spartan values in 300 rings hollow when my jaw is clenched in shame for what has been done in my name in the Middle East...we are the invading horde, not the tiny group of valiant freedom fighters we cheered for in 300.(end digression)
There is already a review of 300 on this blog, this was a Blue Ray taste test...
I must stress that this is hardly unbiased -- I was A) in the company of good friends, 2) slightly inebriated and C) happy to pour over each scene with the sharpness lens screwed directly into my optic nerve.
Detail, color, contrast all looked superior to conventional DVD. This film is nearly animated with the full blue screen filming technique so I was not at all concerned with the unnatural presentation, and indeed welcomed it. Style over content is not the bad thing in movies that it is in music.
This movie has style. Blue Ray revealed details lost on the huge theater canvas, and let us look into the nooks and crannies of the striking images. I loved the intentional flattening of the screen into nearly 2-D on some of the shots -- in deliberate and warranted homage to Frank Miller's original material.
A good time was had by this reviewer, maybe next months Blue Ray night will be on a film I haven't seen so many times...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Last FM

More music stuff here. I just ordered Kip Hanrahan's new record from CDJapan...and while playing around on the site realized that a) I don't have Japanese character set loaded and 2) there was an English version. It also looked like there were some Kip Hanrahan podcasts available somewhere..
I got to Last FM and discovered a personalized radio station.
Feel free to press play below:


Yes, I resisted skinning it in pink...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Don't Call it an Hiatus

I Know. 3 months. Blame Google Docs. I have been cataloging DVDs and CDs in my spare clock cycles and have gotten most of the brute force data entry done. In the meanwhile I have seen things you people would not believe..
(I know, a weak use of a great quote)
Anywho-
A little music from back in the day courtesy of a too serious but fine Blog, Mog. Right.
Plenty of music/movie/book reviews may be backlogged, but for now:
Gang of 4!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Throwdown



My Johnnie To fascination continues. This is a 2004 Hong Kong drama...which means scant martial arts, Triad presence without a ton of gunplay, and multiple character arcs in a foreign language. The best part of the multiple character arcs of course in that these occur in a society with different values than those in the USA, and it takes some head scratching to get.
Couple those barriers to To's elliptical style, slow burn, and multiple storylines and I have to say this is not for beginners!
This is for everyone eventually though, it should not be missed.
What fighting there is is well choreographed and wireless.
The camera work is astonishing without being flashy.
Soundtrack is gorgeous.
Acting is spot-on, with all 3 leads turning in terrific performances, and a host of supporting cast members that nail their roles.
The message is universal: don't give up.
Recommended.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Palace of Lights



I bought "Neo Realist At Risk" back when "at" was a word, not a symbol, and Vinyl was the media..Loved it then as I do now, on CD. What has survived in the intervening decades was a cassette converted over to CD with some Laurie Anderson and Wally Badarou to complete the mix.
Back in the '80s when this came out and I loved it, I immediately, as was the nature of things, went out and bought everything I could find by Savant (this was it) and K. Leimer. Projects like "Land of Look Behind" and "Imposed Order", and then I lost track of Leimer and Barreca.
Never forgot though, played the surviving copy of the copy sparingly as I had already damaged the foil layer of the disc..Then I tripped over the "Palace of Lights", probably while reading about copyright and the recording industry or some such nonsense.
"The Neo-Realist(at Risk)" is very much along the lines of "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts", which is reviewed earlier somewhere on this blog, without as much overt funk and a decidedly more inward, intellectualized approach. This is not a bad thing, and I don't have to read that "geek is in" in Cosmo to know big brains rule -- and Byrne and Eno are no lightweights in their own tanks!
There are excerpts from reviews on the PoL site (click the post title) and tracks from the CD releases to try before you buy. The "Media" versions are priced reasonably, the downloads more so but no compressed music played on my vintage electronics if at all possible please!
I ordered the disc(s) on Monday, received on Friday in a "one piece folder" (biodegradable corrugated). No tracking info, no order progress customer service niceties like Amazon, but fast shipping and good packaging go a long way towards making me a supporter of the independent e-tailer.
I am looking forward to exploring the whole catalogue of PoL releases.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Grindhouse



I've been to the Drive-in. I saw Vanishing Point 'back in the day". I loved Sin City, 300, and most of your improbable, macho actioners. Grindhouse honors a genre with the sincerest form of flattery -- imitation. Not imitation like Velveeta wiseacre, but imitation like homage -- yes that rhymes with fromage (hi Colby).[yikes!]
Grindhouse wasn't too long. It wasn't too misogynist or too violent or too anything. A solid night of escapist entertainment informed by years of watching way too many movies but the payoff for that is catching the angles, and devices and components of these twin constructions. I just wish Rose had had a cover to protect the barrel of the gun.
Recommended

Pistol Opera


I can here the catcalls now: another female killer movie..we have this reviewer in our sights! Well let me only say I wish I could do a favorable on "Pathfinder" and I am still conflicted about Grindhouse...but "Pistol Opera" was terrific! Ok...I probably should qualify that, based on reviews I read during research. Not everyone sees this as I do!
I like movies as pictures. Composition if you will. Jim Jarmusch, who has a dozen frame able shots in every film is one of my favorite artists. Wong Kar-Wei, Andrew Blake, Terrence Malick, David Lynch, those are my favorite directors, and they are about visuals. This director, Suzuki, is a new favorite, even if his other films don't stand up (heck they might, I have just begun the journey).
This tale of competing underworld killers is a series of carefully framed tableaux- static framed shots all strung together by a the barest wisp of a plotline, never mind a timeline! This is advanced film making, and requires a leap of faith and a touch of concentration on the viewers part.. I just let the beauty and color wash over me..I think "lurid" is the adjective used pejoratively to describe these saturated primaries.
I won't even discuss the frustration at tuning the darn TV to fit every film's color palette, suffice it to say saturation, while having it's limits, does more accurately reflect my minds eye. Suzuki, Merkely, and Coulter's (not Ann) too.
Imagine this director having to explain to critics why his movie isn't in chronological order. This, 50 years after Gyson and Burroughs, 10 years after Pulp Fiction, and what..7 years after Memento?
Wong Kar-Wei made his trilogy of the span of a decade and each movie taken apart and taken as parts weaves time like memories--and that is the point. I am digressing.
Pistol Opera is a fine Girls with Guns film as long as it is not where you start!
Recommended

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Naked Weapon


Wire Fu, Tai Chi, English not dubbed but actually spoken, what could go wrong? The title: Naked Weapon. Same problem that kept "Dirty Pretty Things" off the market...
"Hey honey, look what I found at the Video Store, "Naked Weapon", sounds like a great film for tonight!"
The story is part La Femme Nikita, part Eye of the Beholder and just as easy on the eyes. Some of the Wire looks rushed, the impact shots not the bone jarring stuff of the modern flics, but definitely entertaining.
There are moments of grace and Tai Chi and even a little Shiatsu. Thunderdome action, automatic weapons and did I mention an English soundtrack? Why didn't this movie do well? The Title.
Recommended, and just ignore the store clerk smirk please.

RIP Kurt Vonnegut Jr



A writer that shaped yours truly.
"Deadeye Dick"
"Slaughterhouse Five"
"Mother Night"
"Breakfast of Champions"
"The Sirens of Titan"
"Cat's Cradle"
"Player Piano"
"Harrison Bergeron"
May the shotgun of Diana Moon Glampers be frozen in a heavenly block of Ice 9.
Yeah, I brushed me teeth with warm water today.
He will be missed.



Thursday, April 05, 2007

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Exiled


This is not a sequel to the Mission. Really.
5 guys with skills, one wants to retire...
Hokey Hollywood premise we have all seen before but not like this!
Johnnie To directs Anthony Wong and Simon Yam in this bullet ballet show..and, like Harrison Bergeron before him, throws off the chains of gravity only to be caught in the crosshair of Diana Moon Glampers. This is one stylish noir.
I am more and more impressed, even after the Mission and Election this one is very good. Classic film language, gorgeous colors and music that works in the frame. No real moral to this story, just a good story.
Sometimes that is enough.
The version I watched was a region 3 Hong Kong copy, but the region 1 can't be far behind for those of you not using "all region" players!
Recommended.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Chok Dee


"Chok Dee -- the Story of My Life" Is about a French guy who mastered the world of Thai Kickboxing at the age of 21. He wrote and stars in this fictionalized version of his life..
The story starts at the robbery that landed him in jail and ends when you have watched all the extras and cheered him through several very real fights. I have no idea if this opened anywhere in the United States..it is a French movie and we know who's side they are on.
Plenty of shots of Thai life, glimpses of people and places we only hear about, more urban than what we saw in Tom Yum Goon, but still alien. One of my favorite sequences was the Kickboxing team jogging through the streets as they did every morning, dodging cars and bikes..
This is a must see for any fan of the martial arts, or those who can appreciate perhaps a real Rocky story. Many of you will remember Van Damme's version of this story from years ago..
Pass the Freedom Fries and don't miss this film!
In French with Subtitles.
Recommended

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Monday, March 26, 2007

Shooter


"Shooter" had a ton of potential, and delivered on much of it.
I will confess to having read a few of the novels, "Hot Springs" and "Havanna" and "Pale Horse Coming". "Pale Horse Coming" always struck me as terrific material for a movie...I have not read "Point of Impact". The novels I have read are about Bobby Lee's father, Earl.
The movie opens well, real well. Terrific camera, big sound, the whole 9. Continues for a bit, builds momentum again and takes off..to never look back. This is fantastic for the next hour, until we get to the last act which, of course, involves a half naked hot hostage and the inevitable exchange.
I had had a terrific time until then. Like an old Bronson film, or an Eastwood. Oh Well.
The politics are in line and right off the front page. We all know about Blackwater? We all agree a privatized army without oversight can only happen in the most paranoid of films and the United States. This army is deployed not just in Iraq, but at least 9 other countries. What do we have to worry about though, the government has only lies to us(and our allies)to protect our interests.
I sure wish the gifted director Antoine Fuqua had found a way around the cliches to drive these points home. There are valid, thoughtful ideas presented in this film that get lost amid the pyrotechnics.
Recommended, with those caveats.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The 10th Victim


The paper he is showing her reads, in 4 languages, "I am a victim".
She is Ursula Andress, at the top of her game, he is Marcel Mastrontoni, very skilled but very distracted. Yes, this is the remake of "Mr and Mrs Smith", which starred the equally good looking Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Oh wait, this came out in the 60s. And it is set in the future. Still. And the story was written by Robert Sheckley, not a hollywood hack sipping a decaf Americano pitching Pepsico.
This movie is prescient black humor, starring two scenery chewing leads who never get in each others way. As old as this film is it has homages of it's own, to Fellini and Dr No and probably a dozen others.
That is no match for the number of films that owe this one, to include the aformentioned Smith's, Running Man, Battle Royal, Logan's Run, et cetera et cetera...
Yeah, it watches like another groovy 60's show, but man oh man does it hit the target. Except for the bad fights, poor sound and loud red blood '60's films are generally fun to watch.This one is even better.
The one hand to hand fight is pretty well choreographed, the sound is fab--yeah, look at the picture above--those are two sax players on black cubes playing the soundtrack in full view.(apparently there is Something About Mary)..and there is no blood.
There is plenty of smarts, charisma and great dialog throughout. Like Bladerunner 20 years later it drops you in and explains nothing directly. Sublime and Recommended.

Friday, March 23, 2007

"Across the Universe" Jitters



I saw the preview for "Across the Universe" in front of "Dreamgirls" and was blown away. The trailer for this musical got me excited, so much so I looked for it on the web right after "Dreamgirls" -- which I enjoyed thoroughly, btw.
The trailer was nowhere to be found, for about a month...
Eventually the trailer was released. My movie buff friends watched it and made fun of me for wanting to see a chick flic. I scratched my head trying to figure out how this was a chick flic, but ultimately I didn't care, the trailer was fantastic! Surreal, 1960s stuff, ratcheting emotions, psychedelics, just about perfect...
There are rumblings in the press about the director taking her name off of the picture. Apparently the studio head recut the film, without her consent. It appears he didn't need her consent per the contract, but nonetheless..
I am thinking of "The New World", and "Brazil" and am worried. I don't need my films to have "commercial appeal", and oddly enough, I figure Julie Taymor would provide a better film experience than the director of "Christmas with the Kranks".
Call me Crazy.

Friday, March 16, 2007

City of Lost Souls



Takeshi Miike needs little introduction may be a true statement for longtime readers of my blogs, but, as I am discovering, many people do not know him past the haunting "Audition"...
Movie nights have met with mixed success thanks to a freeform mood based schedule of events. This is a shame, as the collection will bear more fruit with a little prior planning. Rather than catch the one we missed out here in the sticks I can program intros to directors and genres.
To this end I screened "City of Lost Souls" a 2000 film that followed "Audition".
City of Lost Souls has a cast that includes Brazilians, Chinese, Japanese and Russians. This is an action comedy that hits the ground running. This haste is calculated, as are cool set pieces all through the film. As an example, when Lucia is drinking herself stupid in the other room half the frame is taken up by a doorway..and her face is framed in a mirror on the other side of the doorway.
This gangsta love story features both the Yakuza and a Triad gang. Conflicts resolved over ping pong and cockfighting, but who will get the girl? The girl is Michelle Reis, remembered (dreamingly) from that Won Kar Wei film "Fallen Angels". She is the femme fatale here also, love interest and flamethrower all rolled into one pretty sweet package.
Miike has many skills, fetishes and ideas, all of which are on display here. Every corner of the film has been massaged, from blocking to music to camera movement. The cast is terrific, breathing life into would could have been just another dwarf brushing his teeth with cocaine scene..or a duel to the feathered death in bullettime.
This is an accessible, ADD edited film that is a terrific introduction to the Miike canon.
Recommended

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Mission


This is not DeNiro's Mission.
This is a Johnnie To production from 1999. It stars both Anthony Wong and Simon Yam, two of my favorite Hong Kong actors. It is a Triad film, in the tradition of Takeshi(s) --both Beat and Miike-- in varying degrees.
I had gotten tired of gangster movies in the US until The Departed revived the genre...but am still in discovery mode overseas. The other Johnnie To film I enjoyed was "The Election", a superb Triad piece..
The Mission is about 5 super cool guys and their considerable skills. Oddly enough this is a nearly mute character study, with tons of edges and flourishes that will reward the patient viewer. It is certainly no "Election", but well worth the effort to find.
Recommended

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Dust to Glory


This is a Documentary.
The subject is the Baja 1000.
The actors are not acting. They are all insane.
This is their story, shot with handhelds, helicopters and helmet cams. Watch the madness as it sits atop suspensions designed to withstand the lunar surfaces and marvel at the fact that all of these racers escaped with their lives!
This is a corner of our world that most of us don't even know about. This race has been going on since the 1960s and breeds some special warriors..kinda like Sparta, without the loinclothes.
I was glued to the screen, even during the slow bits, of which there are few.
Recommended.

300


How to parse this one?
Let's see, three image title pic, so let's follow that layout: experience, film, subtext..
Tense moment 5 hours before showtime: did Justin get to the Box Office in time? Yep, 2 screens sold out, but we got the tix. Arrived at theatre 30 minutes early, got in line at the back end of the snake. Dammit. Ended up in the second row...too close. We had great center channel, but the bass broke behind us. Hoping for a better seat on second viewing(tomorrow). Picture was projected sharp, and focused.
300 was a visual tour de force. Who needs reality when you have the minds of Frank Miller and Lynn Varley to plunder? Like Rodriguez before him Snyder has attempted to capture the magic of the graphic novel. There are, of course, inherent risks in doing this, since not everything translates across media. Bringing Miller's world, steeped in Kirby and Frazetta, is certainly worth the time and expense.
Prior to the film I had a discussion about the timing of this film, mired as we are in "the war on terrorism" alternately called "operation iraqi freedom" or Viet Nam Redux, or as I tend to think of it "The Occupation of Iraq". I dismissed the whiners, this was a movie without political subtext, to be enjoyed from my fanboy interior without reality pushing in. Impossible to do when the audience is 75 percent soldiers.
What is clearly not the case is the amount of identification with the Spartan "freedom fighters" that should be applied. Spartans were defending there land against a hostile occupying force--not taking a pre-emptive strike at an underarmed, undeclared enemy. The pro-war sentiment overrode this reading and instead of leaving sobered these guys were elated by the film. I do fault the film here, the stakes are too high to bury our heads in the sand and make gorgeous revisionist films that whip up aggression. This film is clearly fantasy/fantastic, but I was unable to be transported out of the here and now.
I am no terrorist sympathizer, nor a Republican, but if you took out the President for "past human rights violations" and rolled a tank down my street? I'd fight back.
Recommended.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Valentine 07

Bouquet
Mix It Up
Crab Cake Fry
Crab Served
Skimpi Scampi
Traditional Cheese Cake