Sunday, July 24, 2011

Transformers 3 NERDRAGE!

I cannot properly review this, and I probably wouldn't want to. So I will just rant! Fact is I couldn't even finish it! It is only the second time in my life I ever left a movie before it finished(the first being Charlies Angels). It was an absolute travesty of a movie, not a single redeeming factor. I absolutely hated the opening bastardization of the moon landing, what a dumb idea Bay. The story was just beyond my ability to cope, awful.

I absolutely hated every single character, even the Transformers themselves were annoying and unbearable. They also added some of the most forehead slapping, shift in your seat-awful side characters. And these were played by actors I usually like. I never thought I would ever hate John Malkovich in anything! I LOVE that guy....nope, terrible. The worst had to be Ken Jeong who was just painfully bad!

This is easily one of the worst films I have ever attempted to watch, just an abortion of a movie that I can't believe was this bad. Even worse then the previous. The action was just plain boring, I am sick and tired of watching stupid looking Transformers transforming at odd angles in slow motion. And WHY DOES PRIME HAVE A BEARD!!! THEY DON'T HAVE BEARDS, OR HAIR, OR BEER GUTS. THEY ARE ROBOTS DAMMIT!!! I also just didn't care, at all, about anything. There were what was supposed to be sad moments in the movie, that I just didn't give a shit about. All I thought was, "I hate you all, so I don't care what happens to any of you..."

That's it, I have to stop before I put my head through my monitor...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I Saw the Devil

In the past 12 years, Kim Jee-woon has only directed six feature length films, some of which are considered nothing short of masterpieces by films experts and fans alike, the rest still being excellent bodies of work. A tale of Two Sisters and A Bittersweet Life are two that stand out the most among his short but memorable pallet. One a dark and violent tale of a broken man out for revenge, the other a creepy dip into the horror genre, but more so a deep character study, and some superb story telling. You might call I Saw the Devil a combination of the two. Though it lacks the “horror” elements of Tale of Two Sisters, it still embodies Kim’s ability to carefully craft some truly memorable characters, and tell a rich story in the process. And like A Bittersweet Life, you can expect some truly brutal violence. I Saw the Devil is violent, very very violent, and it doesn’t hold back one bit. It makes sure you as the viewer are squirming in your seat and almost feeling the pain being shown on the screen, and believe me there are times you will be doing just that.

The film stars two familiar faces who have worked with Kim Jee-woon previously. Lee Byung Hun (if you’re not familiar with Korean films you may know him as Storm Shadow from the G.I Joe movie) and Choi Min-sik, (a very prolific actor, but is best known worldwide for his work in Park Chan-wooks Oldboy). Lee plays a Kim Soo-hyeon, a political bodyguard whose life suddenly falls apart when his wife is sadistically butchered by a School Bus driving serial killer who is played by, of course, Choi Min-sik. Suddenly his mind can only focus one thing, revenge. He not only hunts down her killer, he starts to play a sick game with him, a kind of catch and release game that gets increasingly brutal at each turn. He is determined to do more then get revenge for his wife, he wants her killer to be the victim, and suffer as much as she did, and he will stake anything to do so, including the risk of losing himself to the vengeful darkness that has all but consumed him.

Choi Min Sik is disturbingly brilliant as the down-right revolting psychopathic antagonist; his very presence on screen is utterly creepy and can at times really make your skin crawl. It’s one of the best performances of its kind in a long time. That said what really makes his performance so memorable isn’t just how dark and intimidating he can be, but also how vulnerable he suddenly appears as his hunter strikes. As a viewer you might even catch yourself slipping into sympathy territory. Luckily his smug attitude and disgusting presentation does a good job of removing any sorrow you might start to feel.

On the other side of the token we get to see Lee Byung-hun at his absolute best! He does play a similar role that he did in “A Bittersweet Life”, but takes this character many steps further. He is the ultimate badass in this film through and through, and there are times that I can guarantee you will catch yourself getting the urge to smile and cheer as though you just witnessed Superman swooping in a saving a damsel in distress. However it’s not long before his character really does start to slip slowly and slowly into darker territory, and you begin to suspect that he may end up slipping up for the worse, and you just want to tell him to quit while he’s ahead.

As I said before, this film is very violent. However unlike the recent craze of awful “gore porn” that prides itself on nothing but displaying 120 minutes of blood, guts and boobs. The violence in I Saw the Devil is simply a means of enforcing the characters and their motivations. By the simple act of showing our hero’s wife’s brutal demise in graphic detail, we are given instant reinforcement as to how we should be feeling for the main characters. Your sympathy for Lee Byung-hun becomes immediate, and so does your disgust in Choi Min-siks serial killer character. Same can be said for later in the film when you see the brutality that comes out of the many confrontations that happen between the our main players, these evoke feelings that could simply never be felt the same if the violence was kept to a minimum or left entirely off screen. Sometimes, even when it’s pretend, visual representation can speak a thousand words.

A Film by: Kim Jee-woon


The Grudge 2

After her sister is hospitalized, Aubrey (Tamblyn) travels to Japan to bring her home. Shortly after she arrives, her sister mysteriously dies, so with the help of a Chinese journalist (Chen) she sets off to find out what killed her sister and why. Meanwhile in Chicago, a family moves into a new apartment. But the young son in the family starts hearing strange noises from the next apartment over. Soon later strange events start happening all over the building. Back in Japan, Three girls enter the infamous house, and shortly thereafter strange things start happening to all three of them too. . .

The Grudge 2 is not a remake of Ju-on 2. It is instead an original sequel to the original Grudge. Maybe they should have just stuck to remaking the original. The Grudge 2 is not the worst film I have seen. But its countless flaws keep this from being anything close to good or memorable. Its biggest problem is the amount of “Scares” that they try to put in the film. In fact, that seems to be the biggest problem with American horror films these days, especially remakes. Unlike their original counterparts, they try to cram in way to many scare attempts. In the case of The Grudge 2, instead of giving a small few effective scares carefully placed throughout the course of the film. In almost every scene, someone ends up in a dark room (or phone booth) alone, and, there’s the boy again. Still blue, still sitting somewhere and maybe we’ll get a kitty scream . . . probably! Each of these “scares’ are also sickeningly predictable. As soon as a shot is in place you will know right away when the boy or his mother will show up. Even if you find it scary at first, it gets real old, real fast. I can guarantee that by a half hour into the film you will be tired of it, and not scared. Another grand flaw with this film is its contradicting plot explanation. I will not go into detail to avoid spoilers, but everything they supposedly explained is pretty much erased and we get a much less satisfying explanation. Also the concept of the spreading grudge itself gets taken way too far.

Is there anything positive about this film? Yeah sort of; the film is told through three different intertwining stories. The problem there is that for most of the film you have no idea what is going on or why a dysfunctional family living in Chicago has anything to do with what’s going on in Japan. However, when the three stories come together at the end, it is actually a fairly interesting resolution. However, it does leave the overall story kind of stupid. And there are still more unanswered questions then answered. Fans of Hong Kong cinema might enjoy the small appearance of Edison Chen. It was nice to see him included in the cast. He plays a journalist from Hong Kong who now lives in Japan and is trying to figure out the mystery of the murder suicide which took place in the house. Some may not realize that he is in fact Canadian born, so his English is very fluent. Aside from him, there are really no memorable acting performances in the film.

The Grudge 2 might be worth a viewing, it’s not going to leave an everlasting effect on anyone. But if you enjoyed the first film, you may enjoy this one. Be aware that you will probably be confused throughout the majority of the 100 or so hour run time, and if you really enjoy the story in the first. You may not appreciate where it story goes in the second.

A Film By: Takashi Shimizu


Thursday, April 28, 2011


Aging actress Mrs. Lee (Yeung) has reached a crisis in her life. Age is catching up with her, and she is finding it harder and harder to look beautiful for her husband (Leung Ka-fai). Enter Mei (Bai Ling), a woman who holds what she claims to be the secret cure for natural aging. What is this wondrous creation, it’s not a cream, nor a pill. It’s her special dumplings, created with a secret ingredient. However what will happen when Mrs. Lee discovers what this secret ingredient is?

Calling Fruit Chan’s remarkable Dumplings a disturbing film is quite an understatement to say the very least. Its superb music, creative direction, wonderful cinematography, and outstanding ensemble cast all come together to create an unforgettable experience, though it is an experience that may make you feel sick to the stomach. Dumplings is not so much a horror film as it is a slow moving drama/thriller, although the payoff is truly horrific. It’s hard to really give much information without spoiling the films stomach turning secret recipe! However despite all this, Dumplings is well worth the full 91 minute viewing. It can also be found as one of the three short films on the Three Extremes compilation; however the mere 40 minute version, though it may compliment the overall trilogy of superb film making, does not stand up to the full length version.

Dumplings really does have a lot to offer, including a very stellar cast! Bai Ling is remarkable as she manages to both allure you with her beauty, and completely disturb you with her sadistic intentions. Tony Leung plays a great supporting role, in which he has far more to do then in the shorter Three Extremes version. Leading lady Miriam Yeung is also fantastic. Her portrayal of the youth obsessed Mrs. Lee is incredibly believable, and goes through a shocking change in character. The film almost entirely focus' on these three characters, so it is important that they perform at their best ability, and I assure you they have. Christopher Doyle was also aboard to provide his unbelievable skills with a lens to really add some truly remarkable visuals, which really compliment to great cast, and directing job from Fruit Chan!

The story holds a very strong social commentary. Though the focus of the films horror is the secret ingredient in the miracle dumplings, it’s the fact that our society is so set on the importance of external acceptance, that they are willing to do (or eat) anything that may provide the key to infinite youth!

If you have seen Three Extremes, and enjoyed the Dumplings cut, then take the time to watch the full version (if you live in North America, you probably have as the R1 DVD release of Three Extremes includes the full length Dumplings on a separate Disc.). Its slow going, maybe even a bit too slow for some, but even if you do not enjoy the film itself, there is no denying that its a nice film to look at! Just one word of caution, don’t watch it while eating your dinner (especially if its Dumplings that night!)

8/10 (91 Minute Version)
7/10(40 Minute Version)

A Film by: Fruit Chan

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Goodbye Dragon Inn

Goodbye Dragon takes place in a historic, but forgotten Chinese cinema as it shows its final film before darkening its screens forever. In front of only a short handful of viewers, the film being shown on this last night is the 1966 King Hu classic Dragon Inn.

It is very difficult to write any kind of review for this film. There are so many aspects that need to be taken into consideration when giving any kind of opinion. The writing the acting the plot the story, character development, narrative, music, and so on. The problem is, this film has almost none of this. Goodbye Dragon Inn is almost a silent film, though a silent film tells its story though its actions. When you watch this film, you see hardly any action, people hardly even move. There is almost no dialogue, no music, and is essentially telling no real story.

Now you may read this and think right away that Goodbye Dragon in is not a good film. That I am afraid, is not so easy to conclude. Though all the key elements of a film are missing, Goodbye Dragon Inn does something else. It somehow manages to capture your attention, and keep you watching. Maybe it’s the five or ten minute still shots that you cannot take your eyes off of simply because you haven’t a clue where it is exactly going.

For example there is a fairly lengthy scene showing the lonely Ticket Taker (Shiang-chyi Chen) heating up food in her booth. She then gets up with a portion of the snack, and walks with a handicap limp down a series of long corridors, up a few levels of stairs, through a door and up a ladder. When she finally arrives to her destination, near the projection room. She leaves the food, and then turns to head back to her booth. End scene. Maybe it’s the scene in the men’s washroom, we see one of the other few characters in the film, an also lonely looking Japanese tourist (Kiyonobu Mitamura) going to the bathroom. There is a pack of cigarettes on the stall that we see to the right of the screen. The scene continues on for maybe five minutes until a man enters the washroom, walks over to the stall and reclaims his cigarettes. End Scene.

The entire film, all 82 minutes of it, is made up of long still shots. Not once do we see a camera move until the angle is changed. Believe it or not, this is part of its wonderful charm.

There is not a clear story to Goodbye Dragon in, but it is trying to tell us something. Though it is not absolutely clear, it seems the film is trying to portray the status of modern cinema. Showing us a theatre that at one time was a prosperous place, alive and full of life. Now it is merely an empty shell that on a nightly basis works to entertain a small few who come to escape their busy life.

One of the most effective elements of what the film offers is its sound, or lack their of. The film itself uses the movie being show in the theatre, “Goodbye Dragon Inn” as both its sound, and music. Except for the occasional off beat echo of the Ticket Girl’s limp. And a few short lines shared by the small cast, the only thing you here is Dragon Inn in the background. Though that is not always the case, sometimes in certain parts of the theatre you may hear nothing at all except the calm rain outside the theatre.

Goodbye Dragon Inn may not be for everyone, it takes a certain taste to enjoy what is being offered to you. It’s a soft, and eerie film. It’s a sweet and gentle film, and above all it’s a tender and sad story of a life once lived, a life shared by thousands of movie goers for generations. The theatre is the main character in the film, and like other films, when you see the main character in his or her last moments you feel sadness for that character. This is no exception. The film ends with the ticket girl leaving the theatre for the last time, walking away hidden under her umbrella. Behind her you see the dark theatre and suddenly you can’t help but imagine this theatre in its prime, then you feel as though you have just witness the death of an important character in the film. All you can do is feel sadness and loss. End scene.

A Film By: Ming-liang Tsai