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