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Reviews By The Week: [26 Apr 2011|09:40pm]
06.13.05 - 06.19.05
The Eye, Forty Guns, The Candy Snatchers, Under the Flag of the Rising Sun, Batman Begins, Bad Guy

06.06.05 - 06.12.05
Basket Case, Whispering Corridors, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... And Spring, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, The Isle, Howl's Moving Castle, Swordsman 2, The Holy Girl, Memento Mori

05.30.05 - 06.05.05
Cure, Kontroll, Fighting Elegy, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Suspiria, Gremlins, Piranha, Oldboy

05.23.05 - 05.29.05
At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul Away, Crime Story, Opera, The Fog, Awakening of the Beast, Cabin Fever

05.16.05 - 05.22.05
Captain Blood, Gamera 2: Attack of the Legion, Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Gentleman Prefer Blondes

05.09.05 - 05.15.05
Gaslight(1944), One Missed Call, Satan in High Heels, The Five Deadly Venoms, Law of Desire, Phenomena, 3-Iron, Unleashed

05.02.05 - 05.08.05
The Castle of Cagliostro, Three Ages, Monkey Business, The Awful Truth, M, Palindromes, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Blade II

04.25.05 - 05.01.05
The Great McGinty, Mail Order Wife, Porco Rosso, Scarface, A Woman in the Window, The Road Home, Kung-Fu Hustle, Rancho Notorious, The Fall Guy, Kiss Me Deadly

04.11.05 - 04.24.05
Blood Feast, Sisters of the Gion, Nobody Knows, Iron Monkey, Downfall, King of New York, The Lady Eve, Tenebre, Cloak & Dagger, Born Into Brothels, Mean Girls, High Heels, Shaolin Soccer, What Have I Done to Deserve This?, American Graffiti
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Movies I've Reviewed So Far [04 Nov 2010|07:45am]
02.03.05:
Time of the Wolf(5.0) - review

01.31.05:
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp(8.5) - review

01.30.05:
I Know Where I'm Going!(6.0) - review
Cruising(5.5) - review
Alfie(8.0) - review

12.13.04:
Legend of Drunken Master(6.5) - review

12.12.04:
I Vitelloni(9.0) - review
Happy Together(7.5) - review

12.03.04:
Drunken Master(9.0) - review

12.02.04:
Sonatine(8.5) - review
College(7.0) - review
The Electric House(8.5) - review
Hard Luck(8.0) - review

11.29.04:
Black Mama, White Mama(8.5) - review

11.28.04:
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind(9.0) - review
The Crimson Kimono(8.0) - review

11.27.04:
Sabrina(9.0) - review

11.23.04:
Schramm(7.5) - review
Don't Torture a Duckling(5.5) - review

11.22.04:
Days of Being Wild(8.0) - review
Five Fingers of Death(5.0) - review
Invincible Pole Fighter(8.5) - review
Master of the Flying Guillotine(3.0) - review
The 36th Chamber of Shaolin(7.5) - review
What Time is it There?(5.0) - review

11.18.04:
Black Tight Killers(8.0) - review
Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things(6.0) - review

11.17.04:
Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion(9.0) - review

11.16.04:
Sorry, Wrong Number(7.5) - review

11.14.04:
Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter(7.0) - review
Castle in the Sky(9.0) - review
The Manson Family(7.5) - review

11.13.04:
Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance(7.5) - review

11.11.04:
Stray Dog(9.0) - review
The Incredibles(7.5) - review
Men Behind The Sun(6.0) - review

11.07.04:
As Tears Go By(6.5) - review
Tarnation(7.0) - review

11.06.04:
Lady Snowblood(9.0) - review
Sideways(9.0) - review

11.04.04:
Bloody Territories(7.0) - review
Glen or Glenda(5.0) - review
Female Convict Scorpion - Jailhouse 41(8.0) - review
Primer(8.5) - review
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06.13.05 - 06.19.05 [25 Jun 2005|06:09am]
The Eye (2002) - Oxide Pang Chun & Danny Pang - 5.0
I rented this, but turned it off after half an hour. I don't know if I was just going crazy or what, but everything felt like it was moving slightly faster than it should've. Like it was shot at 22 frames per second and projected on a normal 24 fps projector. Just slightly off. And whatever was going on in the story was completely uncompelling and did not distract at all from my feelings of weirdness. So I shut it off. Wasn't very scary or interesting anyway.

Forty Guns (1957) - Samuel Fuller - 6.0
Kind of a mess. At 79 minutes, it feels about 20 minutes too short. Most of the last half hour is completely rushed without giving us much sense of the characters or believably reinforcing their relationships to each other. Probably would've been an even lower score, but there's still some very good enjoyment to be had from Fuller's trademark beautiful black and white cinematography, as well as his usual high-tension melodrama.

The Candy Snatchers (1973) - Gordon Trueblood - 6.5
Sleazy '70s kidnapping movie. I saw it while drunk and tired at 10:45pm(I'm usually asleep by 10:30-11:00) and fell asleep for somewhere around 20 minutes off and on. Otherwise this score would probably be higher. The 70-ish minutes that I saw were quite good. Seemed pretty influential of later kidnapping movies, especially Ron Howard's Ransom. Only better. Hope it comes out on DVD soon.

Under the Flag of the Rising Sun (1972) - Kinji Fukasaku - 8.0
Making efficient use of what was probably a pretty small budget, Fukasaku manages to make a bleak and depressing anit-war picture. Combines sound effects and voice-overs with collages of actual World War 2 pictures, then adds it to a fictional narrative about a woman attempting to discover how her husband actually died at the front. Trying to weave her way through a series of Rashomon-esque lies and half-truths, the film becomes more and more interesting as it goes along. Partially inspired Jean-Pierre Jeunet's A Very Long Engagement, but is far more interesting than that film.

Batman Begins (2005) - Christopher Nolan - 8.0
I walked out feeling like I'd seen the third best movie I'd seen all year. Now I'm not so sure. The first half is excellent, but the second half suffers from a lot of bad one-liners and a plot that is just nowhere near as interesting as Batman's transformation. It's sort of like Christopher Nolan applied his steady, smart writing hand to the first half because he liked the idea of trying, as seriously as possible, to pin down Batman's creation. Then he didn't really care about the second half so he just left Goyer's lame script 100% intact. Still, I think it deserves credit for getting Batman better than any movie has before. I'm just gonna stop writing. It's good. Not sure if it's still 8.0 good, but it's good.

Bad Guy (2001) - Ki-Duk Kim - 7.0
Should probably be a lower score, because what it's attempting doesn't really work. It tries to mix a messed up kind of tenderness with real, human ugliness. As ugly as it can be. And most of the ugliness works. So well, in fact, that I walked out of the theatre feeling like I'd been beaten with a baseball bat. I wandered around in this half-dazed feeling for close to an hour. So, if for no other reason, this is why the movie gets a 7. Also whoever the lead actor is gives a pretty convincing performance, considering he doesn't speak.
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06.06.05 - 06.12.05 [22 Jun 2005|07:37am]
Basket Case (1983) - Frank Henenlotter - 7.0
When I sat down to watch this I figured I'd be watching a cheesy '80s horror film I could laugh through and that'd be that. And at first it was. But amid the camp something strange started happening. It began to develop a pretty original and interesting premise. For most of it I was completely enthralled. I think the approach of quality camp is the one to take if you're gonna watch it, as much of the film leans very heavily on the melodramatic. But it's well done melodrama, and I'm pretty excited to see the second one now.

Whispering Corridors (1998) - Ki-Hyung Park - 7.0
Not really a horror movie at all. More a look at life in Korean schools which happens to have horror elements. And somehow this all works, as eventually it seems to be saying that going to school in Korea is, indeed, a horrific experience. I can't even truly explain my affection for these girls. Mostly it doesn't seem like the movie is doing anything new, and yet I was completely engrossed the entire time I was watching it.

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... And Spring (2003) - Ki-Duk Kim - 5.5
While not boring, and quite beautiful to look at, this never grabbed me. Well, okay, the first sequence(Spring) did. Very much. By the end of it I was excited for what would come next. But Summer felt forced and Fall too long(though it had some great moments too) and then the last two sequences kinda slipped away without much notice. Too bad, cause it had so much potential.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) - Joe Dante - 7.5
Contrary to popular opinion, I do not like this as much as the first Gremlins. It's still ridiculously hilarious at parts, but to me it felt like most of the biggest laughs had little to do with the actual Gremlins. The super high-tech, automated building of the future is the real star of the movie. And John Glover as Daniel Clamp, who gets just the right note of befuddled rich guy into his performance. Oh, and Phoebe Cates' hotness.

The Isle (2000) - Ki-Duk Kim - 8.5
A nice big slap of awesome in the face after the disappointment of Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... And Spring. Quiet without being boring, it's a pretty interesting exploration of desperate human relationships set in Kim's usual weird, sort of surreal world. And those fishhooks, man, will haunt me for the rest of forever.

Howl's Moving Castle (2005) - Hayao Miyazaki - 6.0
Probably Miyazaki's worst movie, but still worth watching. The animation is gorgeous and there are a few moments of genuine comedy/heartfeltness. And the themes of squandered youth and vanity are pretty interesting for a children's movie. However, the preachy anti-war business and just general longness feeling eventually sink the movie when it should be swimming along joyously. I consider Miyazaki's more fanciful efforts, like Castle in the Sky and Kiki's Delivery Service to be greatly superior.

Swordsman 2 (1991) - Siu-Tung Ching & Stanley Tong - 7.5
The most exciting kung-fu movie that I didn't understand at all until near the very end. Maybe it's my lack of familiarity with Chinese history, but I couldn't figure out at all who was fighting who and why until almost the end of the movie. Still, the kung-fu swordplay sequences are some of the best I've seen and I appreciate the expansion of warrior's magic powers. Not only can they fly, but they can make their opponents explode or suck the life out of them or split them in half. That is my kind of action movie.

The Holy Girl (2005) - Lucrecia Martel - 4.0
I walked out of the theatre. Not because it was especially bad, just because it was nothing. Scene after scene there was not a single thing about it that made me want to see the scene that would follow it. I was completely uninterested in the characters and where they were going and whatever comments the filmmaker was trying to make on them or their society as a whole. I tried to stick it out, but once I realized I was checking my clock every five minutes I decided it was time to go.

Memento Mori (1999) - Tae-Yong Kim & Kyu-Dong Min - 7.5
A sort of sequel except not at all really to Whispering Corridors. As far as I can tell, it's only a sequel in that it used the first one's name to up its chances of making money at the box office. But, despite abandoning almost all of the already small amount of horror elements of the first, as well as most of the social commentary on the Korean school system, it manages to be even better than the original. It is a small, non-exploitative exploration of a relationship between two girls at the all girls school. The scenes of them together are fun and compelling in an effortless, easygoing way. I guess it does have one thing similar to Whispering Corridors. They both have themes dealing with that high school fear of being ostracized. And both are handled worlds more intelligently than anything I've seen from a Hollywood movie in a while. Except maybe Mean Girls.
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05.30.05 - 06.05.05 [12 Jun 2005|06:38am]
More back entries. This one only a week old-ish. Sorry for my recent laziness, those who actually read these.

Cure (1997) - Kiyoshi Kurosawa - 5.5
Begins creepily, with a nice mysterious atmosphere. But eventually the plodding pace dissolves most of the tension and, around the hour and a half mark, I just wanted it to end. Unfortunately it kept going for almost a full half hour. Not completely worthless, for all the curiousity and sort of excitement that comes before it, but not one I'd strongly recommend to anyone under any circumstances.

Kontroll (2005) - Nimrod Antal - 5.5
Would be an exciting movie, were it not so intent on being hip(and were it also not intent on having a lame script). Generally I don't discuss plot much, but in this case I'll have to. The movie basically follows a group of misfits as they roam around the Budapest subway system, checking to make sure people have their tickets. In this aspect they are fairly stereotypical. We've all seen the cliche before, of the motley group who doesn't "play by the rules" and is always getting in trouble with the supervisor, but is a lot of fun to watch cause gosh, they're just so goofy and entertaining. Fortunately, the movie isn't quite as bad as all that. There's plenty of surrealism and extreme oddity, so that it never really bores. But I just couldn't shake the feeling that, given the structure and idea, a much better movie could've been made from this idea.

Fighting Elegy (1966) - Seijun Suzuki - 8.0
Begins like it's going to be my favorite of Suzuki's movies, with hilarious jokes, great black and white photography, and a pretty interesting story. Near the middle the story unravels a little bit, and the movie loses steam as it wanders all over the place, but it's still consistently entertaining enough to warrant the 8 I've given it. Would definitely make my Top 5, probably around the 4 spot(right after the criminally overlooked Gate of Flesh). On a completely unrelated note, I read an interview with Suzuki recently and he seemed very insistent that there was hardly any artistic merit to his works and I'm not sure if he was just being very aggressively modest, or if he actually doesn't like his early movies.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) - Tobe Hooper - 6.5
Ridiculously atmospheric and frightening horror film... for about the first half. Tobe Hooper really knows how to ratchet up the tension and keep it there. I was all set to give it an 8 and admit that, despite everything I'd heard about this movie forever, it mostly still succeeds. But then, a little past the halfway mark, Hooper begins to favor the shock-freakish aspects of the movie far more heavily than the suspense factor. And it all feels pretty dated. Long shots of human skulls and other "creepy" things sitting in a room do not frighten me. Being chased by a man wielding a live chainsaw frightens me.

Suspiria (1977) - Dario Argento - 6.0
I saw this movie once, over three years ago. And since I am starting to get back into Argento's ouevre, I figured I would check it out again. Unfortunately, I spent most of the movie admiring the beautiful set design and art direction, rather than being caught up in the suspense and fear of it all. Maybe witches don't scare me? Maybe I remembered it better than I thought I would, so the suspense's effect was lessening? The latter seems doubtful, though I did remember it far better than I thought I would. I guess I just don't find it as frightening as his better freak-out horror movies, like Phenomena or Opera. And I'm not sure why.

Gremlins (1984) - Joe Dante - 9.0
The most consistently entertaining movie I've seen in almost a month. Even before the evil gremlins show up, it's pretty much non-stop hilarity. Two different people I've talked to hated this movie and think it's stupid. Like one of the worst movies ever stupid. I don't understand. It's such a clever little parody of those warm, fuzzy small-town movies from the '40s and '50s. Of course that all disappears into random chaos about halfway through, but then that is just completely entertaining random chaos. My only actual complaint is that Gizmo is, eventually, a bit too cutesy.

Piranha (1978) - Joe Dante - 6.0
Mostly not a bad little, low-budget trashy horror movie. It's basically a cash-in on Jaws, only with genetically engineered piranhas. But Joe Dante definitely seems to know it's a cash-in, so he just plays around with it figuring people would either go see it or not see it based mostly on its premise. The gore is entertaining and there's even a few surprises as to who gets munched on, but the biggest problem is that the tension potential is never really taken advantage of. I wasn't actually afraid of the piranhas, which I should've been cause they're pretty frightening little buggers. Maybe not as frightening as a giant Great White shark, but I still wouldn't be too keen on swimming in the Amazon.

Oldboy (2005) - Chan-Wook Park - 6.0
Ridiculousness piled on top of ridiculousness. But I didn't mind that fact, except that I was totally uninvolved until the end. Everyone's trying so hard to get me to care, Chan-Wook Park by crafting the movie with a lot of care and energy, Min-Sik Choi by giving a pretty incredible performance as Dae-Su, but it just wasn't working for me. And it took me hours after the movie to figure out why. Mild Spoiler Warning: I finally figured it out. I mostly didn't care because it was an elaborate game of cat-and-mouse, where the supposed mouse wants to be caught. Eventually this gave the movie a feeling of pointlessness. All this effort and puzzle-solving and mystery, when the guy could just tell him the answer and save a lot of time. But even with that said, the ending was pretty fantastic and it made me wish I liked the rest of the movie better.
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05.23.05 - 05.29.05 [10 Jun 2005|07:40am]
Sorry I haven't updated in a while. I've been lazy. Here goes, from a few weeks ago:

At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul Away (1964) - Jose Mojica Marins - 6.5
Mostly entertaining exploitation film that introduces Marins' famous(relatively) character, Coffin Joe. Joe is an entertainingly sleazy anti-hero and his exploits are mostly very pleasing. However, it does run out of steam as it meanders and struggles to fill 89 minutes. With fifteen less minutes I likely would've enjoyed it much more.

Crime Story (1984) - Abel Ferrara - 7.5
It's actually a pilot for a television show, but it ends up being more consistently entertaining than most of Ferrara's films. Dennis Farrina deserves more meaty roles like this. Lately he seems to be pigeon-holed playing the wise-cracking tough guy(no matteer which side of the law he's on), ala Get Shorty and Out of Sight. Here he plays a more complex version of the same role, as a detective in 1960s Chicago. His brashness masks an endearing vulnerability, and Farrina hits all the emotional notes just right.

Opera (1987) - Dario Argento - 8.5
My second favorite of the Argento I've yet to see. More of the same ridiculousness mingled with genuine horror and incredible production. But this ridiculousness is, as I think I've said before, approaching a whole new world. Like all of his movies exist in the same world with a set of rules and guidelines that define it. And the more I see, the more I love his world. Also, the eye thing will likely haunt me my entire life.

The Fog (1979) - John Carpenter - 6.5
As far as atmosphere goes, this movie has it up to the gills. The use of empty spaces, hints of something creeping into the edges of the frame, and the titular fog itself is excellent. From what I've heard Carpenter wanted to make the film a little PG-rated movie, but the studio said he had to put some gore in. And this interference really hurts the film, making it much more ridiculous than it should be. Which is too bad, cause it otherwise could've been quite excellent.

Awakening of the Beast (1969) - Jose Mojica Marins - 6.5
A series of loosely or completely unrelated sequences about drugs and debauchery begin this acid trip from Coffin Joe. Generally, I'm completely uninterested in this type of filmmaking lengthened past the 20-ish minute mark. I like Un Chien Andalou, but was completely bored by L'Age D'Or. However, the first half of this film involved me, just about, from beginning to end. But then a semi-plot starts to kick in and the sequences start lasting too long. So the first half gets and 8 and the second half gets a 5, so the whole film ends up with a 6.5.

Cabin Fever (2002) - Eli Roth - 4.0
Some uncomfortable and interesting moments of gore are all that save this ridiculous film. Roth can't figure out a way to make the titular fever frightening enough to keep the plot afloat, so he throws in about a hundred sub-plot scare things to keep things moving along. Unfortunately, he never thinks of anything more interesting than bad Deliverance rip-off rednecks and a dog that is suddenly and inexplicably vicious.
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05.16.05 - 05.22.05 [23 May 2005|12:12pm]
Captain Blood (1935) - Michael Curtiz - 7.0
Entertaining swashbuckler. Definitely a display of churned out studio hackmanship. There is nothing in this that indicates any level of personality behind the camera. While the film may have been better if it had, as a vehicle meant to showcase the charms of Errol Flynn, it succeeds well enough. Flynn is a charming leading man and his brash confidence is quite infectious. I will always be a fan of well-displayed swagger. Basil Rathbone, sadly, is nowhere near the actor that I remembered him being. His attempt at a French accent here is embarassing. Pointless, but for two hours long I was surprised never to find myself bored.

Gamera 2: Attack of the Legion (1996) - Shusuke Kaneko - 7.0
Exactly what I expected. A giant, flying snapping turtle saves Earth from a race of bug robot-like aliens bent on universal colonization. A combination of stop-motion, a guy in a very elaborate turtle suit and various models, the film works in a campy, tongue-in-cheek way. The very miniscule amount of CGI was also refreshing. Maybe it's nostalgia or stupid retro tendencies, but CGI just doesn't command the same respect in my eyes as well-crafted models. I think the word craft is the key. CGI is just a bunch of guys sitting in front of a computer. Models it's something palpable. You can reach out and touch it. Anyway, the actual movie is a bit slow in parts but the monster fighting action and a few other scenes are enough for me to recommend this to people who like giant monster movies.

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005) - George Lucas - 4.0
There's a lot wrong with this movie. It'd take forever to list everything I didn't like. And I'm not about to spend more time writing about the movie than I spent watching it. And there's no words that could convince someone who does like it that it's totally worthless. So why bother?

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) - Michael Curtiz & William Keighley - 6.5
More of the same as Captain Blood, except in explosively bright Technicolor. For whatever reason, while the movie is mostly amiable, it was not as entertaining as Captain Blood. I expected to like it more, but it seemed a bit too ridiculous. Captain Blood, while highly improbable, is not nearly so baffingly unlikely. So many times I wondered how Robin Hood could possibly survive said situation. Which is not the kind of thought I should've been having.

Gentleman Prefer Blondes (1953) - Howard Hawks - 8.0
The more I see, the more I like by Mr. Hawks. Entertaining, funny and saturated with more of that wonderful Technicolor. I am constantly in awe of Marilyn Monroe. While she may have been a rather limited actress, she knew exactly what to do with her body. Every time she's on screen it's a concerted effort to look away from her. In some ways, a female version of James Dean, her body language speaks so much stronger than any of the words that come out of her mouth. And the beauty of that Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend sequence is pretty jaw-droppingly amazing. And George Winslow may be my favorite child actor of all time.
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05.09.05 - 05.15.05 [15 May 2005|11:55am]
Gaslight (1944) - George Cukor - 6.0
It begins interestingly enough, with some neat/fancy tricks of the camera and a general feeling of dread and ominousness. All created quite nicely. But then Charles Boyer has to come in overacting all over the place and making a mess of everything. My girlfriend accurately pointed out partway through that the movie feels like it's making its point rather hard. "Okay, we get it, he's trying to drive her crazy." And I agree with her, though for different reasons. I think this theme would not have become so irritating if the acting had been better. Because all the other elements are in place. There's just Boyer sitting there, mucking it up. I'd like to see the '40 version with the wonderful Anton Walbrook(excellent in The Red Shoes) in the Boyer role, but I have fear that the other elements will not be as strong as those in Cukor's, regardless of Herr Walbrook's contributions.

One Missed Call (2005) - Takashi Miike - 6.5
Begins terribly. Slow, kind of lame, and with a ridiculous excess of non-suspenseful scenes. Just hours before I'd been delving into Francois Truffaut's wonderful book, Hitchcock, and could not keep myself from thinking about the Master talking, basically, of the necessity of minimalism. Each scene must move the drama and suspense forward. Instead this has many scenes of unnecessary exposition, like Miike composed the movie for those with the intellect of a five year old. But, after all that, it finally starts rolling halfway through and becomes, at least at points, genuinely hair-raising. Much more lasting in impact than the overrated Ju-On: The Grudge. Strange, that this movie that Takashi Miike says he only did for the money, is much better than many of his more Miike-esque films(such as the terrible Fudoh or Gozu). And that ringtone is pretty damn creepy.

Satan in High Heels (1962) - Jerald Intrator - 3.5
Begins well enough. A female stripper's old junkie boyfriend has just got out of jail and comes looking for her. He's reformed, cleaned up, he says. He even sold a story about being a junkie. Nine hundred bucks, he got for it. He wants to take her away, to New York. She agrees and says she'll meet him at the bus station in a couple of hours. She has to run home and get her things. In this fairly clever scene she manages to snag the money from him without it even seeming that she's taking it. Then she hops in a cab for the airport. I had high hopes after this first five minutes. Unfortunately, the next fory minutes(as far as I made it before I turned the damn thing off) of this exploitation drama descended into a retardulous mess of heavy on the drama and light on the exploiting. Boring characters keep talking in boring ways about stuff I didn't care about. What was supposedly edgy became a lesson in monotony.

The Five Deadly Venoms (1978) - Cheh Chang - 6.5
Famous Shaw Bros. kung fu flick. A little disappointing, given the awesomeness of Chia-Liang Liu's 36th Chamber of the Shaolin and Invincible Pole Fighter. The plot occupies far more screen time than the kung fu, without really being necessary. My favorite part about the wonderful Invincible Pole Fighter is that I don't even remember the plot. It was all a threadbare excuse for what people put their money down for. People fighting each other with polearms. The Five Deadly Venoms pretends, at great length, that we care about the ridiculous plot. The kung fu, when it comes, is mostly very enjoyable though. Especially the scenes of The Lizard in action.

Law of Desire (1987) - Pedro Almodovar - 5.5
Melodrama of the oddest order. Unfortunately, most of the time it is not apparent whether Almodovar actually has his tongue in his cheek or if he is just attempting to make a straight melodrama. As straight melodrama, it mostly fails. If the tone had been lightened, so that we were encouraged to laugh at the goings on(ala Women on the Verge...) I can imagine it being quite hilarious. As it is, it becomes more involving towards the middle but never really grabs us. Get to see Antonio Banderas making out with a man, though. Something I had never expected to see in my life.

Phenomena (1985) - Dario Argento - 9.0
Easily my favorite of the four Argento I've seen. Crazy psyche-out freakiness, monkeys, violent deaths, masses of flies, beautiful lengthy tracking shots, Donald Pleasance with a Scottish accent, the expected great soundtrack, and more wonderfully ridiculous storyline. Hurray for Argento. The everything and the kitchen sink feel only adds to this film's greatness. Long ago I probably would not have enjoyed this film. Unless something was blatantly surrealistic(ala David Lynch) I expected realism. I expected the people to behave like normal people and I questioned plausibility. This was a mistake. Dario Argento has fashioned a world where nothing is normal and anything can happen. But it does not exist in a Lynch-like dreamland. Plausibility is irrelevant in the face of so many other things working so well.

3-Iron (2005) - Kim Ki-Duk - 9.0
The best 2005 movie I've seen so far. Which, out of 12, is not saying a whole lot. But! I would bet money that it'll still end up in my top 3-5 when the year is over. Maybe it'll stay at number one! I wouldn't be surprised! Anyway, it uses silence as a way of elevating the characters. It seems to suggest that language is an inferior mode of communication, reserved for the world's uncouth. The more you talk, the less you have to say. Not exactly a mind-blowing revelation, but this movie is not about what it says. It is about execution. And its execution is near flawless. I could probably nitpick if I wanted to. But I don't. I want you to go see this movie as soon as you possibly can because it deserves as much love as the whole world can give it.

Unleashed (2005) - Louis Leterrier - 5.5
Cheesy as fuck. Just, cheesy. Like a big fountain of runny cheese splashing down a mountain of solid cheese. But aside from that, there's a few things to like about it. Number one is Bob Hoskins tearing through every scene, devouring it and making it his own. Normally this kind of show stealing might bother me, but it fit the character and the movie in the same way Gary Oldman's insane cop in The Professional fit it. Matched with a decent performance by Jet Li and Morgan Freeman being regular old Morgan Freeman and you have something that can't be completely ignored, no matter how terrible Leterrier tries to make it. And he sure tries hard. MTV style camera work and cutting. In fact, I'd probably give this movie a higher rating if it wasn't for some pretty brilliant Yuen Wo-Ping choreography being brutalized by the effects-y camera. But about that choreography. It took me into the second fight scene to figure it out. At first I just thought it was bad. But then I realized, Jet Li's not fighting like a professional on purpose. He's fighting the way his character should. Like a rabid dog who wants nothing but to destroy his prey any way he can. It's wonderful, and I wish someone who knew what they were doing had photographed it.
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05.02.05 - 05.08.05 [09 May 2005|09:59pm]
The Castle of Cagliostro (1979) - Hayao Miyazaki - 7.0
Fun but harmless and rather forgettable Miyazaki. I have nothing all that bad to say about it, but I'm also not singing from the rooftops about it. Lupin is a fun character, and I'm curious if the TV show is any good. I can't think of anything intelligent at all to write about it.

Three Ages (1923) - Buster Keaton & Eddie Cline - 5.5
Disappointing Keaton feature. Not very funny aside from its sorta clever premise(a nearly identical love story told in three time periods: the stone age, the roman age, and the modern age). Not quite as bad as Go West, but close. Don't bother unless you're a Keaton completionist(which you should be!)

Monkey Business (1952) - Howard Hawks - 9.0
Never has getting old looked so appealing. According to Hawks and his merry crew, young people are ridiculous, self-absorbed, flighty and completely unappealing. Where as older people are, for the most part, level-headed, caring, and not at all without that spark of youth. And I can't say I disagree with them, even if it is a bit exaggerated.

The Awful Truth (1937) - Leo McCarey - 8.5
I was sick one day this week and thought Cary Grant movies might make me feel better. I was right. An interesting foil to Monkey Business' off-kilter professor, Grant is back to his usual acid-tongued barbs and devious tricks ala His Girl Friday. And, truth be told, I think I may prefer this to that also funny Hawks comedy. Irene Dunne holds her own quite well, and also proves to have one of the most enticing "come hither" looks I have ever seen on a woman.

M (1931) - Fritz Lang - 6.5
Most of a very good movie. Crisp camera angles filled with beauty that flow along so smoothly as to never call attention to themselves. Peter Lorre in a creepy, yet, eventually, semi-sympathetic performance. All of this bogs down(spoiler warning) after Lorre is captured by the townspeople, when what felt like ten minutes of screen time are spent at the police station attempting to extract a confession from an arrested accomplice. To me, this was a huge speed bump in the tension of the film. The leisurely pace destroys any feeling that time is of the essence. I also had a couple of problems with the actual ending, but this mini-writing is getting very long. Feel free to comment if you wish me to elaborate.

Palindromes (2005) - Todd Solondz - 1.5
Possibly the worst movie I've seen since Passion of the Christ. It's made even worse by the fact that a few scenes have a glimpse of something much better. Something actually good. But Solondz just can't resist taking cheap shots at everyone, even the heroine.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988) - Pedro Almodovar - 9.0
If Palindromes almost ruined my day, this left me completely elated. Disasters pile up at a dizzying pace and everyone on the planet seems to be going a different kind of insane all at once and it all adds up to what is probably the most enjoyable movie of the week. It's hard to think of a single thing I didn't enjoy about it, and it just seemed to get better with every passing minute.

Blade II (2002) - Guillermo Del Toro - 2.0
Please do not ask the circumstances that forced me into seeing this. I've never seen the first nor the third and I never want to. Goofy scripting, bad acting and boring choreography combine to create a movie that alternates between feeling like it knows how ridiculous it is, and getting lost in a quagmire of cliches and obvious plot holes.
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04.25.05 - 05.01.05 [04 May 2005|06:59am]
Sorry, I would've updated this earlier. Like, Sunday. But when I pressed "Update Journal" an error came up and all my hard work disappeared.

The Great McGinty (1940) - Preston Sturges - 9.0
This would be a ten, probably, but my girlfriend kept insisting it was boring and "not as funny as the Barbara Stanwyck ones" which dampered my enjoyment. Weird reasoning, yes, but if I'm to rate based solely on my entertainment level I have to try to be consistent. Brian Donlevy is hilarious as McGinty. His off-the-cuff delivery makes every funny line that much funnier.

Mail Order Wife (2005) - Huck Botko & Andrew Gurland - 8.0
I'm not even sure if I should let you in on the secret, but I guess I will. This movie is a mockumentary. Sitting, watching it, if I hadn't known that I wouldn't have even guessed it was. Parts of it would've felt a little off, but for the most part it would've felt like a very strange documentary. Strange and hilarious. Much better than last year's Incident at Loch Ness, which I actually think I gave a positive review. But the more I thought about it the more stagey a lot of it felt.

Porco Rosso (1992) - Hayao Miyazaki - 7.5
Begins rather slowly. Well, not slowly, but the first couple scenes had none of the manic adventure of Castle in the Sky, nor any of the casual whimsy of Kiki's Delivery Service. And I was worried I wasn't going to like it. Eventually it picked up steam and became more clever and, for the last half hour, completely entertaining. Better than Mononoke and maybe better than Totoro, but still pretty low on my Miyazaki list.

Scarface (1932) - Howard Hawks - 7.0
Paul Muni's mugging and disappearing/reappearing Bronx-ish accent bothered me for most of the first half of the movie. Eventually a lot of people start getting shot and the plot kicks into gear, making the movie pretty awesome. But for that first half hour to forty-five minutes, it'd probably be borderline great.

The Woman in the Window (1945) - Fritz Lang - 8.5
Nearly as good as Scarlet Street, that is, until a late plot twist that I won't reveal. Even it is handled very cleverly, for what it is, but it still knocks the movie down a peg. Still, probably my second favorite Lang I've seen. Lang and Edward G. Robinson is an impossible combination to beat.

The Road Home (1999) - Zhang Yimou - 5.0
Pleasant, but completely ineffectual. I wasn't even bored while I was watching it. But I just felt like not a lot was going on. Very little in the way of conflict and, when it did arise, was kind of skirted around. And tension makes for fun filmmaking. I prefer over-the-top melodrama to watching a bunch of people keep having a pretty good time. For Yimou completionists only.

Kung-Fu Hustle (2005) - Stephen Chow - 5.5
A pretty big disappointment. I spent most of the first half wondering, "Where are the jokes?" Once I realized the movie wasn't going to be very funny, I started to enjoy it more. But even Yuen-Wo Ping's choreography wasn't enough to save the movie. The scene with those guys playing that weird instrument was pretty sweet, though.

Rancho Notorious (1952) - Fritz Lang - 8.0
A strange combination of a goofy and terrible(or terrible-y CATCHY!) theme song played in variations during every interlude mixed with a pretty bleak pseudo-Western. Arthur Kennedy turns in a pretty fine performance, and Marlene Dietrich's aging was actually turned into an advantage in the movie. Its fast-pace keeps the semi-ridiculousness in line, and turns it into quick-witted entertainment. Pretty high among my favorite Langs.

Fall Guy (1982) - Kinji Fukasaku - 8.5
Maybe my third or fourth of the 10 or so Fukasaku I've seen. Begins as a hilarious satire of the then modern Japanese studio system, before "descending" into an actuallly touching melodrama with funny jokes. I don't care what anyone says, I put Fukasaku right up there among the ranks of Samuel Fuller and Akira Kurosawa in effectively turning melodrama into high class, emotional cinema.

Kiss Me Deadly (1955) - Robert Aldrich - 8.0
Was wavering somewhere between a 7.0 and a 7.5 when "the box" appeared. Everything afterwards was so surreal and so involving that I've been left thinking about it for days. I'd probably rate this even higher, except I was tired during the first half and nearly fell asleep. Not the movie's fault and now I want to see it again, to fully enjoy what may become one of my favorite films of the '50s.
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First Post In Forever (04.11 - 04.24) [26 Apr 2005|09:35pm]
Movies I have seen lately:

Blood Feast (1963) - Hershell Gordon Lewis - 2.5
I think Mr. Lewis' films just aren't for me. Maybe I'm just not fond enough of kitsch, or maybe I should stop watching them by myself.

Sisters of the Gion (1936) - Kenji Mizoguchi - 8.0
Never less than very entertaining to watch. However, I feel much the same as I did about Street of Shame. Not quite as emotionally grabbing as I expected it to be.

Nobody Knows (2005) - Hirokazu Koreeda - 7.5
75% of a brilliant movie. Except then it felt like he couldn't figure out how to end it. The final turn of the plot baffled me and, while I'm tempted to give it higher marks because so much of it is so good... I just can't.

Iron Monkey (1993) - Yuen Wo-Ping - 8.0
Fantastic choreography more than makes up for a bit of excessive goofiness and the occasional joke that falls flat on its face. A lot of the jokes do work too.

Downfall (2005) - Oliver Hirschbiegel - 5.0
Some compelling pieces thrown into a mix of vastly overlong... just, Jesus, longness. Bruno Ganz is about as good as everyone says though, which, along with my appreciation for the immaculate period details, is the only reason for a grade even this high.

King of New York (1990) - Abel Ferrara - 4.0
The movie finally starts to get interesting about twenty minutes before it ends. Unfortunately, it's nowhere near enough to make me happy about the fact that I sat through the first hour and twenty five minutes.

The Lady Eve (1941) - Preston Sturges - 10.0
My very first 10 rating!

Tenebre (1982) - Dario Argento - 8.5
That long tracking shot over the house sure is beautiful and pointless. Which is kinda how I felt about the whole movie, but oh such lovely disposable entertainment. More Argento is coming to me soon.

Cloak & Dagger (1946) - Fritz Lang - 7.0
Some very suspenseful scenes, but on the whole a bit too Hollywood(the bad kind) for Mr. Fritz. Only a very marginal amount of his usual pessimism sneaks into the picture. Far better than The Blue Gardenia though.

Born Into Brothels (2005) - Zana Briski & Ross Kauffman - 7.0
Tender scenes and some genuinely beautiful photographs marred by a bit of shamelessness that reminded me of that old guy telling me that for just 71 cents I can sponsor a child.

Mean Girls (2004) - Mark Waters - 7.5
I feel like I'm getting all Pauline Kael and endlessly focusing on the negative... so I'll just say this movie was a lot funnier than I expected. Not great, but I can't think of a smarter movie Lorne Michaels produced.

High Heels (1991) - Pedro Almodovar - 7.5
Funny, twisted, and pleasantly meandering. Not as good as Talk to Her or Live Flesh, but far better than Bad Education and the much overrated All About My Mother.

Shaolin Soccer (2002) - Stephen Chow - 7.5
Not wonderful(112 minute sports comedy?), but the good is good enough(though considering how awful the trailers make it look, I'd say just barely) to make me want to see Kung-Fu Hustle.

What Have I Done To Deserve This (1984) - Pedro Almodovar - 4.5
Amusingly absurdist, but more amusing in a light chuckle/occasional smile than anything actually hilarious. And since it isn't hilarious, it doesn't have a lot else going on. I nearly fell asleep in the theatre. Twice.

American Graffiti (1973) - George Lucas - 5.5
Pretty inept use of period music(if you rearranged the soundtrack at random, I don't think it would make a lick of difference), and pretty bad acting... but I can't bring myself to really hate it like I feel I should. Maybe it's nostalgia. And it does have a few funny parts, including hearing Richard Dreyfuss say the word "snatch".
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Time of the Wolf(2003) - Michael Haneke [03 Feb 2005|09:42pm]
Grade: 5.0

To say Time of the Wolf is a more optimistic film than Funny Games, the only other Haneke feature I've seen, would be a misleading statement. A true statement, but misleading all the same. There is no joy in this film. Eventually its bleak darkness becomes so oppressive that it is a task just to endure it. And when optimism finally strikes, it is much too little too late.

As the film opens, society has, apparently, collapsed. Water is scarce, food is scarcer, people will kill other people to survive. No explanation is ever given, which, in retrospect, is a fairly smart move for Haneke. As if he's suggesting that this is where society is headed. The Bomb of A Boy and his Dog and the </i>Mad Max</i> movies is unnecessary. Haneke seems to believe society will destroy itself without the aide of nuclear weapons.

In the opening scene we are introduced to a family who, at first glance, appears to be going on vacation to a cabin in the woods. When they arrive there is a family inside. The man has a gun. A sudden burst of violence and the father is dead. The car, their food, water, supplies, everything, are taken. We now must follow what's left of the family, the mother, her 13-ish year old daughter, and pre-adolescent son, as they search for food and new shelter. Steadily, more characters are introduced. It is at this point that the movie begins to lose its footing for good. Aside from the daughter, we are given virtually no entryway into these people. They are presented with only the stalest archetypal cliches. The friendly, quiet guy; the brutish, bigot guy; the woman who becomes so frustrated with their situation that she explodes in a rage, yelling at everyone(why is this character always a woman?). These are characters more befitting a zombie movie than the drama this film wants so desperately to be.

And aside from poor to no character development, it also has a lack of narrative to contend with. There are pieces and consistent threads that rise up occasionally, but nothing is ever made of them. Just as there is no emotional entryway into the characters or what's going on, there is no emotional resolution. My only conclusion is that Haneke is being deliberately obtuse to mask the fact that he had the idea of a pseudo-postapocalytpic drama, but nothing to say about it.

The movie is not entirely bad. Several of the scenes involving the daughter evoke a feeling of what the movie could've been, had the movie stayed with her the entire time. But Haneke chooses no perspective and, so, piles together useless scenes that go nowhere. So far he is zero for two, and I am suddenly far less interested in seeing The Piano Teacher.
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The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp(1943) - Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger [31 Jan 2005|06:50pm]
Grade: 8.5

Begins as slightly less engrossing than Black Narcissus and ends on par, if not slightly more engrossing, with that feature. The story tells the tale of General Clive Wynne-Candy, who is loosely based on Colonel Blimp, a newspaper comic character of the time. Wynne-Candy/Blimp is a bit pompous, a bit foolish, but he always means well and it's a credit to Powell that the film never laughs at him. He's a sweetly endearing character and when things don't go right for him, while it's sometimes funny, it's sad too.

Wynne-Candy is played perfectly by Roger Livesey. And not only is he played perfectly, but the make-up is perfect too. We watch Wynne-Candy pass through 40 years of time and Livesey(37 at the time) never looks out of place, whether he's playing a man in his late 20s, to a man in his late 60s. And Deborah Kerr pulls a neat trick, playing three different characters in a completely(well, mostly anyway) straight, non-Strangelove-esque manner.

Fuck. I think I should just review movies I hate. Coming up with creative ways to say nice things is very difficult for me. Fuck.

Well, anyway, it has the wonderful Anton Walbrook delivering yet another beautiful performance. Not quite as emotionally ranged as his turn in The Red Shoes, but still fantastic. In fact I could go on and on about all the performances in this movie. Or about more of Powell's sly British humor. Or the beautiful technicolor cinematography. But, what's the use. I'm just not much in the mood for this right now.

If I can scrounge up the change, I'll probably be watching A Matter of Life and Death in the next day or two.
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Alfie(1966) - Lewis Gilbert [30 Jan 2005|07:28pm]
Grade: 8.0

Michael Caine, of course, stars as the titular character in this swingin' sixties comedy. He begins as a charming, charismatic loafer who lives from bed to bed. The movie spends less than a minute of screen time actually showing him at his occupation. It's not relevant. He might as well be Kramer, when it comes to source of income. Michael Caine talks directly into the camera in the way a very theatre-like aside way, but it never feels gimmicky or stagey. I suspect this is mostly due to Caine's brilliant performance.

I'm kind of drunk so this is difficult to actually write. Sake is a poor man's devil drink.

At any rate, Caine's charm carries through for most of the movie but around the hour and ten minute mark, it starts to wear a bit thin. Alfie is not a very nice person. At all. And, whether or not this is the point, there is a brief period of around twenty minutes when Alfie is just plain not that fun to spend a movie with. Eventually he regains his composure, as the usual changes that became typical of this kind of movie occur and he's once again a character we enjoy spending time with. If not for that short period where he's just kind of despicable, this movie would probably get a nine.

The dialogue is snappy, quick and Caine is beautiful. I need to see Get Carter again. And I will very soon.
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Cruising(1980) - William Friedkin [30 Jan 2005|03:37pm]
Grade: 5.5

A jumbled mess of a film. William Friedkin back doing what he does best, and that is piling on sensationalistic shock material without looking for any reason why the movie should've been made.

Al Pacino stars as a cop who goes undercover into New York's gay club scene to find a serial killer targeting gay men who look like Al Pacino(well, guys with curly dark hair and similar builds and the like). And the more time he spends in the gay clubs, the more a strange sexual tension starts to build up in him. The first scenes involving this tension are the only scenes of subtlety in the movie. As with everything Friedkin does, the movie is all about hammering you around. From 12-year olds humping crucifixes to anal fisting in an S&M nightclub, he hasn't got a lot of range.

There's no psychology behind anything we're shown. William Friedkin has absolutely no interest in homosexuality or S&M, other than its potential shock value.

Al Pacino plays the role very low-key, having not yet discovered the self-indulgent side to his acting. But he's still adrift in a character that isn't a character. He doesn't show enough charisma to make the cardboard personality anything but what it is. Nobody understands why these people do the things they do, other than to serve the plot.

What a mess. I'm not even sure I completely understood the ending. I believe it's one of those movie thriller "surprise" endings, but I don't even know.
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I Know Where I'm Going!(1945) - Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger [30 Jan 2005|11:11am]
Grade: 6.0

While I could find nothing especially wrong with Michael Powell's I Know Where I'm Going!, right from the beginning I felt distinctly disengaged from everything going on. I smiled at the rather clever opening credits sequence and I smiled a few times over the course of the movie. But the once or twice I laughed, it felt rather forced. My love for Powell is such that I think I tried to make myself enjoy the movie. Unfortunately, I could not make myself like it and so I was left sitting, wondering what wasn't to like.

The only problem I could find with the movie, which had almost nothing to do with my lack of enjoyment, was the lack of chemistry between the two leads. Wendy Hiller plays Joan Webster, a plucky young woman who knows what she wants from life. She's on her way to be married on a beautiful island in, I believe, North Ireland. Along the way she meets Torquil MacNeil(Roger Livesey), a Navy man on shore leave who is traveling to the same island she is. From the moment they meet I could tell there was to be some kind of romantic tension between the two of them. But, as the movie progressed, I didn't feel the chemistry between them. And, without the chemistry, several of his actions felt a bit creepy. When he takes her arm in his hand my only thought was, "A bit forward, don't you think?" because I didn't feel that she felt anything for him. This is in direct contrast to the highly palpable feeling of lust and chemistry generated three years later, in Powell's Black Narcissus(a film that I grow more and more fond of the more I think about it).

Still, I wasn't enjoying the movie even before he showed up, so I doubt this had everything to do with it. Strangely, I wasn't bored at all by the movie. It went by quickly and at the end I wasn't terribly sorry I saw it, I just couldn't understand its appeal. A disappointment after Powell's other movies, but not enough to keep me from seeing more of them.

Captain C.W.R. Knight, as Colonel Barnstaple, is the standout of the movie, providing the few true belly laughs I experienced over the film's 91 minutes.

As a side note, I did feel the lack of color didn't help the film. Having never seen a black & white Powell film, I was amazed how odd it felt.
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Legend of Drunken Master(1994) - Wai Keung Lau [12 Dec 2004|10:16pm]
Grade: 6.5

A huge disappointment after the first one. The choreography was fairly middling, with nothing really standing out in the way of the original's awe-inspiring jumps, kicks, ducks, slides, slips and just about everything under the sun.

A more serious plot this time around. Taking a page from Once Upon a Time in China's anti-Imperialist page, the bad guys this time around are a bunch of Brits smuggling Chinese artifacts out of the country to put in English museums. This plot again hinders the movie. Too much time is spent trying to make a dramatic story arc. It's all an excuse for martial arts, of course, but it's a pretty poor one. And for something that's just an exercise, I would've liked to see less plot development, not more. If I'm gonna watch a kung-fu movie where I don't care about the plot at all, I don't want lots of scenes trying to tell me what the plot is. Especially when it's just a rip-off of a better kung-fu movie that took its plot seriously and was actually a better movie for it(I'm referring to Once Upon a Time in China, if that wasn't obvious).

People keep calling this movie Chan's best, but I don't see it. It was okay, but at this point he was already 40 years old and not quite as agile as he once was. Also the editing gets in the way of the neat stunts. Yuen Wo-Ping knew what would impress us. Long shots of people doing crazy stunts. Shots that last upwards of thirty seconds, all with immaculately choreographed martial arts. Most of the shots in Legend of Drunken Master last, at most, ten seconds, leaving plenty of margin for error if they screwed up one of the takes. This does not impress me.

Also the fact that DVD contains two language tracks, neither of which are the original Cantonese, does not impress me either. I can watch the movie dubbed in English or French, but not in the original language it was filmed in. Jackie Chan did his own dubbing, which helped a little. Despite his rather poor English, it's better to hear his voice than someone else's. He's the only one afforded this luxury.

So you may wonder why I'm giving it a near recommendation. Well, it's still Jackie Chan and it's still occasionally pretty funny. And while the fight scene at the end didn't impress me nearly as much as it seemed to impress everyone else on the planet, it does have some good parts. Especially when Jackie Chan actually climbs over hot coals. Real ones. That impresses me. But this movie? Not even close. Here's hoping Police Story and Project A are better.
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Happy Together(1997) - Wong Kar-Wai [12 Dec 2004|01:15pm]
Grade: 7.5

Ever start watching a movie that you love and then partway through you realize you're not really in the mood to watch it? Like, maybe you feel like doing something else? Or there's another movie you'd rather watch? So you stop watching it? Well, that's what happened to me watching Happy Together. The only thing was, I was watching it in the theatre. And even though it's a great movie, that has moved me to near tears on previous viewing, this time I just wanted to kinda leave. I figured it would get better, but it didn't.

Individual scenes still had the power to make me laugh and the tape recorder scene still almost makes me cry, but as a whole all I felt watching it was awe at the beautiful camera work. I'd long considered In the Mood for Love to be his most beautiful picture. And in my previous review of Days of Being Wild, I mentioned Kar-Wai's unusual photography and said, well, maybe this is his most beautiful movie. I was wrong both times. Happy Together, with its alternately black & white and color photography, is most definitely his best looking movie. But you really have to pay attention to notice. In the Mood for Love is striking in a very normal, obvious way. With this, the beauty is more strange and unexpected. As with Kurosawa's most beautiful movies, it's something you can't quite put your finger on. Just a way the angle is set up that just feels right. Like there's no other way that scene could possibly be photographed. Perfect.

Oh, and for those who don't know. Happy Together is about Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung(a man, despite the name Leslie) and their on-again off-again affair in Buenos Aires. There's a lot more to it, and really, despite the relatively low grade, I highly recommend the movie. It shows human sexuality in a much more frank and realistic way than the overly lauded Y Tu Mama Tambien, and is twice the picture that overrated piece is. More humanity, more realism, and much better drawn characters. On any other day I'd probably be giving this movie a 9.5.
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I Vitelloni(1953) - Federico Fellini [12 Dec 2004|12:56pm]
Grade: 9.0

A close race between this and La Strada for the best of the Fellini I've seen. La Strada wins out just barely. Since watching I Vitelloni, I've become hungry for more of Fellini's early realist films. I've liked every one so far. In fact, I'd like to see La Dolce Vita again. I am fairly sure my rather meh opinion of it would be higher the second time around. 8 1/2, though, remains a forgettable exercise in surrealism.

The movie itself is an episodic, plotless story of five friends trapped in a small Italian town, dreaming of leaving the city for the wonders of Rome. From rushed weddings to carnival celebrations, Fellini pulls his usual stunts to more winning effect. He's cynical and insistently depressive. I like this. Movies that make me sad, well, make me happy. And Fellini's style of showing something wonderful and energetic, then juxtaposing it with something wrenching is particularly effective.

Unfortunately, I can't remember all the things I wanted to write about the movie. And my notes are, sadly, too short. So I'll finish this now by saying that Fellini is not the overrated hack I once thought. And I'm glad I gave him another chance. Also Italian is one of the most beautiful languages I've had the privelege to hear. If I ever go back to college, Italian will be my required language of choice.
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Drunken Master(1978) - Yuen Woo-Ping [03 Dec 2004|07:25am]
Grade: 9.0

Frenetic, energized kung-fu comedy starring Jackie Chan. This is possibly the greatest kung-fu movie I've seen. It has everything. The kung-fu choreography is complicated and awe-inspiring, with most of the fights containing extended single shots that only add to the eye-popping amazement. Add to that the film's ruthlessly hilarious sense of humor and you have quite the perfect concoction. The only reason it doesn't get a ten is that it does, admittedly, slow down on the laughs in the last half hour. I think it could've stood to be a little shorter. Not that it was boring, just that energy-wise, it wasn't quite as exciting as the rest of the movie. The final fight scene is still impressive and hilarious. It doesn't quite top the final battle of Invincible Pole Fighter, but then what could?

I'm gonna keep this one short because I'm hungry, so I think that's all I'll say. Jackie Chan plays a rambunctious kid who's pretty good at kung-fu, but overconfident. He gets himself into a few jams and disgraces his father. Rather than have young Jackie killed, as the father initially planned to do, he sends him to be trained by the titular master. At this point the movie becomes a hilarious exercise in sadsim. Jeff pointed out just how sadistic the movie was and that, if the movie were beautiful women instead of Jackie Chan and a goofy looking old Chinese man, the movie'd be borderline pornographic its obsession with pain and humiliation. At points almost worse than The Devil's Experiment, only uncomfortable hilarity rather than uncomfortable uncomfortableness.

I'm excited to see Legend of Drunken Master on Sunday.
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