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2008

Machine Girl (Kataude Mashin Garu)

(Kataude mashin garu)
[img_assist|nid=1280|title=Fear girls with prosthetics|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=350|height=496]
dir: Noboru Iguchi

I’m starting to get the knack of this current crop of Japanese violence-fests. It’s not a complicated equation: Ham acting, cheap effects, both physical and computer-generated, and thousands and thousands of litres of fake blood.

I’ve watched a bunch of these flicks lately, and they really look like what they are: cheap movies made by special effects guys who know more about how to put together a prosthetic body they’re planning on cutting into multiple pieces with blood spraying out of it every which way, rather than coming up with a script that makes any sense.

Not that it matters.

I’m getting to the stage where I’m starting to be able to enjoy them. I’m not sure if I’ve figured out whether they’re action flicks, comedies or horror flicks, or a curiously Japanese blend of the three. Whatever the actual genre is, is irrelevant, I guess. All that matters is whether I’m entertained or not.

And I was entertained by this flick, significantly so, compared to the last Fever Dream production that I saw, being Tokyo Gore Police. Or maybe what’s happening is that I’m becoming desensitised to the level of gore, the sheer crazy magnitude of gore on display.

Rating:

Tokyo Gore Police (Tokyo zankoku keisatsu)

dir: Yoshihiro Nishimura
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This flick is like watching a squirrel twitch balls-deep in a bag of acorns for two hours.

Why?

Because it’s fucking nuts.

I guess I haven’t watched a lot of Japanese flicks for a while, because even I was surprised by the level of violence in this film. It’s beyond anything I’ve seen in a long time, probably ever. It’s probably the bloodiest thing I’ve ever seen, to date.

But it’s also probably the least affecting thing as well. I thought this was a horror flick, and, considering the level of gore, and what with penises and limbs being horrifically ripped off, or the chainsaws going into people’s mouths and staying there, with sprays of blood showering everything for hours at a time, it’d be a safe bet.

Rating:

Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The

dir: David Fincher
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David Fincher almost gets a lifetime pass from me for Fight Club. It’s a film so goddamn good that it elevates him into the lofty heights of directors whom I’ll defend even if they make twenty shitty films compared to their one or two masterpieces. Brad Pitt has no such pass from me, lifetime or otherwise. I have such a deep antipathy for his brand of actoring that he is usually the weakest link (for me) even in the strongest of films.

This flick, right off the bat, I enjoyed, very much so, despite the fact that there is less going on here than meets the eye. The premise sounds like it’s high concept enough, but it’s used more for its ironic sense than anything else. A F. Scott Fitzgerald short story is the origin of the film’s screenplay, but it has been fleshed out and elaborated upon in order to make it a serious, prestige Oscarbait contender, instead of the Twilight Zone half-hour that it probably warranted instead.

In the early part of the 20th Century, a clockmaker grieves over the death of his son in the Great War. He constructs a clock for a train station that runs backwards instead of forwards, with the (poetic, not literal) hope that such a clock going backwards would reverse time and resurrect the many sons who died needlessly, bringing them home to their devastated families.

Rating:

Red Cliffs (Chi Bi Xia)

dir: John Woo
[img_assist|nid=717|title=Fear me for I wear a stupid helmet|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=470|height=340]
I’m a bit confused. There’s a film called Red Cliffs that’s playing in the cinemas at the moment, which is meant to be an amalgam of two movies John Woo finished last year. But I don’t know if what I watched is what cinemagoers got to see, since I saw something around five hours long.

Now, there are films that are epic in length, others epic in scope, and still others are epic in terms of the boredom they inspire in audiences. ‘Epic’, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily synonymous with ‘good’. Some things are great the bigger they are, and I’ll leave it up to your personal preferences to imagine which ones, but tumours, debts, jail sentences and divorce settlements don’t necessarily improve with increased length, width or girth.

Yet it was viewed at my leisure, at least I can say that. What I saw is what Asian audiences saw staggered over two releases last year when this/these films made more money than Titanic. Only in Asia though. The rest of the world could care less, and rightly so.

John Woo hasn’t made a decent flick in twenty years, so just contemplate for a moment that it has taken him twenty fucking years to make a decent film again despite so many opportunities. To call it a return to form is an understatement.

Rating:

Brideshead Revisited

dir: Julian Jarrold
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Plenty of people, pretty much only the people who’ve read the book and watched the BBC series, would think that a film version of Brideshead Revisited is either redundant or pointless or both. I have watched the series and read the book, and have now watched this latest adaptation. Hurray for me.

So maybe I am one of those who think a new version is pointless. Thing is, though, I still enjoyed the flick.

Of course a two-hour version seems pointless after the majesty and scope and patience of the series, but then when you’re making a film for contemporary audiences, you’re not catering to people with relaxed attention spans and time. You’re catering to hyper-caffeinated people with the patience, attention span and morals of feral ferrets.

So, boiling a complex novel down to its essentials is the order of the day, here. I don’t have a problem with that, mostly because I’m so familiar with the source material. Sure, it is period piece stuff arising from the success of Atonement (which is a very different kettle of gay fish compared to Brideshead) with a similar kind of look, but it’s not an especially complex story.

Rating:

Revolutionary Road

Revolutionary Road

Some things are stronger than love. Like hate,
for example

dir: Sam Mendes

Oh what a miserable fucking film. It starts off with one of those miserable and uncomfortable couple fights that makes you want to slink away without making eye contact, and progresses onwards with a gruesome autopsy of a relationship that should never have been between two people who should never have been together.

Based on an apparently classic 1950s novel of the same name by Richard Yates, it’s a film undoubtedly influenced at least in its stylistic elements by the rise of that Mad Men era-philia. In truth, though, this is an earlier era depicted, even if visually they’re indistinguishable. Sure the guys all wear smart suits and those hats, and smoke everywhere, and drink constantly and such.

But this is a time meant to be closer to the end of World War II rather than the cool cat airport lounge hipsterism of the early 1960s depicted in the aforementioned (and admittedly highly loveable) television series. Men and women were still working out what their post-war roles were meant to be, and for some people the answers were never going to be pretty.

The name of the flick makes it sound like it’s going to be a film explaining to kids why they should or shouldn’t have pictures of Che Guevara on their t-shirts, but all it refers to is the suburban road in Connecticut where the unhappily married Wheelers live.

Rating:

Appaloosa

Appaloosa

Of course this is going to be a good movie. Just look at the moustache on Viggo

dir: Ed Harris

Ah, westerns. Not nearly enough of them are still being made. And, in some senses, as with musicals, X-Men films and anything made by Baz Luhrman, you could argue that there is no goddamn need to ever, ever make any more of them ever again.

The western, however, unlike the other examples cited, deserves to have a continued existence. It deserves to survive, and prosper as a genre filled with awe-inspiring scenery, people killing each other with guns, and the rugged individualism Americans like to think they’re all heirs to.

It’s the most quintessential of American genres. You can make the argument that virtually all cinema and all genres originate in America, considering the birthplace of the cinematic art form, but then you’d be being awfully pedantic, and no-one likes sleeping with awfully pedantic people. So let that be a warning to you.

Whatever the argument’s merits, the irony is that despite the ‘you’ve come a long way, baby’ that America has achieved as a country and in terms of civilisation, they still hunger to make and see films set in an era before everything was decided: before there were limits on anything, be it ambition, be it violence, or be it a complete lack of fences.

Rating:

Body of Lies

dir: Ridley Scott
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Ridley is, apparently, the decent Scott brother who directs sometimes quite decent films. Yes, he made Hannibal, and part of me will hate him forever for that one, but generally he makes okay flicks, or at least he did thirty years ago.

Tony Scott is the awful hack who makes painful films that sully the Scott name, generally. He makes occasionally less than horrific flicks, and then makes horrific flicks which are an insult to the eyes and the intellect, damning our entire species whenever a single person pays good money to watch any of his movies.

In case you miss my meaning: I’d rather watch a Michael Bay movie than a Tony Scott movie.

In genre and content Body of Lies would seem to almost be more of a Tony Scott flick than a Ridley one, since he has previously made spy – high tech thrillers, with varying degrees of success (or annoyance, as the case may be), but for whatever reason the Brothers Scott flipped a coin and it came up Ridley. Which is good, because that means the film is at least watchable, as in a human pair of eyes can be trained upon it for minutes without bursting in dual showers of vitreous humour.

Rating:

Milk

dir: Gus Van Sant
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You would have thought that the acclaimed documentary The Life and Times of Harvey Milk would have pretty much covered the story of this incandescently flamboyant political icon of the 1970s. But, let’s be honest: unless someone wins an Academy award and fictionalises the fuck out of a story, we don’t really care.

And why have footage of Harvey Milk playing Harvey Milk in a documentary about himself when you can have Sean Penn overacting all over the place instead?

So much better. To be fair, Penn mostly controls himself and delivers what is a stand-out performance in a career defined by stand-out performances, overacting, having been married to Madonna and beating up paparazzi.

I knew plenty of the details surrounding Milk’s death moreso than his life, because of the hilarious manner in which the person who murdered him used one of the most incredible defences in order to beat the rap and reduce his clearly cold-blooded and premeditated crime to an act of junk food-fuelled manslaughter due to diminished capacity. Of course the truth of what was actually argued by his defence team and what has become the pop culture meme of the “twinkie defence” are two completely different things.

Rating:

Ong Bak 2: The Beginning

dir: Panna Rittikrai, Tony Jaa
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You could be forgiven for thinking that this movie was a sequel or even a prequel to Tony Jaa’s debut Ong Bak. I mean, that’s what 2 usually stands for in these circumstances. Having watched both flicks, I can’t really see any point of intersection except in the fact that Tony Jaa kicks several shades of fuck out of a hell of a lot of people.

As far as I’m concerned, as long as the fights are as jawdropping as this, I don’t care if he calls every movie he makes Ong Bak with some numerical designation following, with no more connective a story-based tissue than: ‘Some guy, for some reason, beating a lot of people up in incredibly elaborate ways.”

For all I know, that’s what Ong Bak actually means in Thai. For all I care though, I eagerly look forward whenever I hear that Tony Jaa’s stepping up and putting out another movie.

Sure, he’s not much of an actor, and spends most of this flick glaring and not saying any dialogue. That’s good, though. We don’t want him talking. Talking’s not his forte. I hear he’s not good at math or doing the dishes, either. And he’s not very considerate in bed.

Rating:

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