Survive Style Sonata + Bright Futures: Cine Wave Baraba w/ subtítulos en ingles

REVIEW: Crime or Punishment?!?
May 2, 2011, 11:58 pm
Filed under: Reviews

Released: 2009, Japan
Tsumi toka batsu toka (罪とか罰とか)

Director: Keralino Sandorovich

Narumi Riko
Nagayama Kento
Inuyama Inuko
Ando Sakura
Okina Megumi
Aso Kumiko

Running Time: 110min

Watching the irreverently silly detective show Jikou Keisatsu, I was excited by the presence of Miki Satoshi and Sono Sion behind the camera as well as Iwamatsu Ryo’s single episode behind and in front of it, but the eight episode of the first season found me laughing out loud the most at its creative gags. Looking up the director and finding the name Keralino Sandorovich (Caroline Sandwich?) matched this particular episode’s humor, which is Monty Python inspired. Crime or Punishment?!? was the only title which I could find from Sandorovich’s disappointingly small filmography, but it is definitely in the cliche of quality over quantity.

In a nutshell, the film features multiple story lines but they all revolve around Enjoji Ayame (Narumi), an up and coming model who finds her most recent magazine appearance is on the only page printed upside down. Ayame and her, at the time more timid, friend (Ando) both go into the modeling business. Ayame’s friend becomes more popular due to her 180 degree switch to the scandalous while Ayame is living through her streak of bad luck. This bad luck streak also includes an ex-boyfriend who couldn’t stop blacking out and murdering other women and being caught stealing a magazine and having to be police chief for a day as punishment.

A good deal of the film’s gags rely on the deadpan tone of the film, such as when Ayame is told that all criminals are punished by being police chief for a day. Or when giving her impromptu speech as police chief for a day, an awkward silence is broken by a modest gust of wind and her skirt blows up ala Marilyn Monroe and the previously bored press starts snapping photos wildly.

Another pleasant bonus to the film’s quirky ensemble who could rival Leslie Nelson’s deadpan delivery (on a side note: star Narumi Riko stated she thought this film was a serious drama when reading the script) is the addition of Aso Kumiko (from Jikou Keisatsu) in a bizarre cameo.

It would be unfair to spoil just how creative this movie is (one that I feel needs to be told is a character named Mosaic whose face is a mosaic censor) and it is highly recommended to seek out no matter how far you have to scourge the internet.


September 2, 2010, 6:40 am
Filed under: Reviews

Released: 2009, USA

Director: Jac Schaeffer

Emma Caulfield
Michelle Borth
John Patrick Amedori
Desmond Harrington
JoBeth Williams

Running Time: 100min

What if there was a device that counted down to the exact day you will lock eyes with your soul mate? Would you want one and if you did get one what if it was blank?

A great premise but the film itself is as if the SyFy channel and the Oxygen network got together to make a movie and Oxygen ponied up a larger percentage of the budget. A romantic comedy with lite-sci-fi elements like Happy Accidents but unlike that film TiMER can’t or doesn’t want to escape from the usual trappings of a rom-com.

Oona (Caulfield) is an almost thirty something with a blank timer. She’s only interested in guys without timers so she can get them to an installation store and find out if they are soul mates. Her step-sister, Steph (Borth), who shares the same birthday as her also shares the same apartment. Steph’s timer is set to go off about 1,400 days from now and until then she is getting her fill of the one night stand. Oona meets Mikey (Amedori) who plays the drums in a small rock unit and works in a grocery store. He meets Oona on the job and comes off a bit too strong. Oona doesn’t mind until she sees that his timer has about four months left on it. After some inner battles Oona finally decides to pursue a one night stand with Mikey and as you guessed he doesn’t get top billing for nothing as Oona develops feelings for him and vice versa.

Throughout the film are moments easily seen scenes ahead. The timers are supposed to give some ground to the unpredictable nature of meeting a soul mate too bad the film is grounded in convention. Although the cast has many hiccups in delivery part of that can be credited to the embarrassing dialogue. At one point a character says “I’m telling you that I love you” with a straight face. Any attempts at social commentary regarding how the mechanization of society has affected even true love are negated, or moot as the film loved to use, by the overly sappy tone of the majority of the flick. It’s sad to watch these characters have a hard time following their hearts when they are slaves to the countdown, or lack thereof.

The film is trying too hard to be cute with cheesy dialogue and characterizations that try to come off as smart but only result in something as cringe inducing as the hamburger phone scene in Juno (“It’s a fucking Greek tragedy up in here.”).

Like Being John Malkovich the premise provokes a lot of what ifs. With TiMER what if the person has already met their soul mate before their timer’s installation? Can a person have more than one soul mate if they survive a loved one? What if the timers were just an electronic scam?  Unfortunately, the film decides to follow formula rather than explore some of these. For a sci-fi romance that keeps you guessing try Happy Accidents.

If Buggin’ Out Was Asian: Why does the inventor of this thing have to be Asian?

REVIEW: Piranha (2010)
September 2, 2010, 1:24 am
Filed under: Reviews

Released: 2010, USA

Director: Alexandre Aja

Steven R. McQueen
Elisabeth Shue
Jessica Szohr
Jerry O’Connell
Adam Scott
Kelly Brook
Christopher Llyod
Richard Dreyfuss

Cinematography: John R. Leonetti

Running Time: 88min

The original Piranha was a parody riding on the wake of the success of Jaws. While this remake/sequel/reboot does not have an attack on the beach film to riff on it still is entertaining, cringe inducing, and at times suspenseful.

The two things this film has going for it are the cameos and the kills.  Apart from the three or more porn stars the film has Richard Dreyfuss reprising his role from Jaws and a Christopher LLyod playing a Doc-esque character if Doc was an expert on all things marine. Jerry O’Connell is a highlight in many of his scenes as a sleazy “Wild Wild Girls” spring break director. And Eli Roth is hilarious as a wet T-shirt contest host which made me like him more as an actor than a director. while some of the very graphic deaths are clearly going for humor there are quite a few that made me feel a tad uneasy. Aja does the best he can mixing up the piranha deaths and how to film them as they really are just a cluster of CGI fish swarming a body and creating a swarm of crimson.

As for the plot of the film; it’s spring break, piranha appear, obituary sections get filled up.

Since he showed promise with High Tension in 2003 Aja has only gone on to direct remakes. While this may disappoint Variety, who named him one of ten directors to watch for, Piranha is evidence that Aja has grown as a filmmaker of the grotesque and has moved on from the insultingly cliche conclusion to High Tension. Here’s to hoping with this small success (Piranha got enough ticket sales to warrant a sequel) Aja can helm an original script if he can find one in Hollywood’s horror department.

REVIEW: My Name is Bruce
September 1, 2010, 6:56 am
Filed under: Reviews

Released: 2007, USA

Director: Bruce Campbell

Bruce Campbell
Grace Thorsen
Taylor Sharpe
Ted Raimi

Cinematography: Kurt Rauf

Running Time: 86min

To sum up this review if you are not a fan of Bruce Campbell then do not bother with this movie. If you have never heard of Bruce Campbell this is not the one to introduce yourself to him with. So go and watch the Evil Dead trilogy, Bubba Ho-tep, The Man with the Screaming Brain, Maniac Cop, Burn Notice, and if you want then spot him in all the recent Spider-Man films. After your love for Bruce has been created (just look at that chin) then will you get the most enjoyment out of his second outing as a director, and a very self deprecating outing this is.

Made with the assistance of Burn Notice pay checks and Evil Dead royalty checks the man with a chin that kills gets behind and in front of the camera for a second time.

In the film a couple of teenagers, two boys and matching girls, visit a graveyard to vandalize and score but instead end up awakening Chinese warrior Guan-Di’s spirit. Enter Bruce Campbell, an alcoholic B-actor who chooses cowardice over the heroic. He pours his pet dog some liquor then later drinks from the doggy bowl. He even gets tricked into drinking urine and ends up enjoying the “lemon water”. This is Bruce (hopefully) poking fun at his “King of the B-movie” status while at the same time a thank you to his fans.

The surviving teenager has an extra quality about him. Being an serious Bruce fan he gets the town to kidnap Bruce in order to utilize his demon vanquishing skills from the Evil Dead series. Innocent lives are ended by the fact that Bruce doesn’t know a thing about wielding the iconic chainsaw that his character Ash is so bad ass because of.

The story does fall into similar cliches as some of his other genre efforts but in this case it is supposed to be parody. The final minutes throw a welcomed curve ball to the plot. I was laughing out loud at quite a few parts while smiling throughout. This is definitely better than The Man with the Screaming Brain, which might not necessarily be saying much but for the fan this is a very fun and competently made movie. Even though we won’t see Elvis fight vampires we will be seeing Bruce face Frankenstein as the sequel is set to shoot soon. Hopefully more civilians are killed by Bruce’s lack of weapon knowledge.

Behind the scenes photo of Mr. Campbell.

REVIEW: Antichrist
August 27, 2010, 10:13 am
Filed under: Reviews

Released: 2009, Denmark

Director: Lars von Trier

Willem Dafoe
Charlotte Gainsbourg

Running Time: 109min

Antichrist opens with a sequence beautiful yet haunting. In very slow motion black and white with an operatic musical piece swelling over the imagery Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, credited as He and She, make love while neglecting their infant boy who crawls out the window to fall to his death as his parents climax. This sequence sets up the rest of the film, told in chapters like another of the director’s: Dogville, in that it seems anything goes and will eventually go.

After their son’s death He quickly recovers from the grief while She is having a very difficult time. Being a therapist He takes her to a family cabin in the woods for her to overcome her fears and quicken or at least tone down her stages of grief. On the surface you can say what follows is a case of cabin fever gone a little too far (the log, the grind-stone, and the scissors) but maybe there is something more going on or trying to be said. Or at least you would hope so with the great bursts of cinematography.

As far as the accusations that the film is deeply misogynistic go I never once felt the film took sides with He over She. To me Trier treats the two as equals who both are capable of acting out on nature and as the film implies nature is Satan.

Thinking more about the accusations led me to memories of the only other two Trier films I have seen the excruciatingly dark Dogville and the realist musical Dancer in the Dark. I have not read much about Trier the person so I have no reference if he has been accused of misogyny before but in Dogville especially the focus were the morals and not necessarily [SPOILER AHEAD:] seeing how many times Nicole Kidman’s Grace can be raped. Although in the end she does get her vengeance while trying to come to terms about her beliefs and style of empathy [END SPOILERS]. From these two films I can’t see a history of women hating but rather female lead characters put into devastating situations and prevailing in different ways.

Without spoiling too much the character of He may be more damaged than Gainsbourg’s She. Also given the fact that Antichrist was made when Trier was just starting to come out of a depression he would most likely understand She more than He as She is descending into a depression in the film.

Trying to figure out what the film is saying about human nature is tough due to the amount of symbolism or even if it is trying to say anything about human nature. The inclusion of gynocide references add to the mystery of the true intent of the film. It may be self indulgent. It might be a huge tribute to Andrei Tarkovsky, who gets a dedication after the film’s last frame, but Antichrist is worth seeing for the shock, the beauty of the images (even the grotesque bursts of violence are worth seeing in an opposite of beauty way), and the mystery of what exactly it was getting at. It is hard to make sense of it all but that is fitting to the film whose motto is “Chaos reigns.”

PS: You’ll cringe every time you need to use scissors even to cut off the tops of Otter Pops.

SIDE NOTE: Regarding the Tarkovsky stuff. Even if you’ve only seen Solaris (like me) you can tell in some shots the influence is there. It makes me want to watch that film again. Even the version with George Clooney!

Also Criterion is releasing this on DVD/Blu in November. Wonder what the booklet will focus on.

And hopefully it will include this wonderful article dealing with certain aspects to the film.

That’s a lot of addendums.

For after seeing the film:

So by letting She commit all those acts on her son and her husband, to me, that shows an equal treatment towards women in how they can be capable of human nature as well as men. Plus He can be seen as flawed from the start specifically his thoughts towards his wife’s doctor. Yet at the same time his concern could have been true love for her but it did come off as though he thought he knew better and he was excited not to help his wife but to analyze her. He is accused of being distant too.
This film might require a second viewing.

REVIEW: Golden Slumber
August 22, 2010, 8:24 am
Filed under: 2010, Reviews

Released: 2010, Japan

Director: Nakamura Yoshihiro

Sakai Masato
Takeuchi Yuko
Yoshioka Hidetaka
Gekidan Hitori
Hamada Gaku
Kagawa Teruyuki

Running Time: 140min

In this film from Fish Story director Masaharu Aoyagi is a small time celebrity but full time delivery man. His celeb status was a result of saving a pop idol from an attacker two years but now he is on the run for the murder of the Prime Minister is what could be called an update of North by Northwest in that an ordinary guy is avoiding the authorities while simultaneously trying to figure out why he was framed. This comparison only goes so far as Golden Slumber is just as much about Aoyagi’s college friends and their relationships than the mystery of his “crime”.

Sakai Masato gives a great performance as the wrongfully accused Aoyagi. Just by looking at him (see the poster) it is clear that this is an average guy trying to stay one step ahead of his pursuers. In the age of a war on terror there is also a technological boom where everyone has a recording device in their pocket which he uses to his advantage to make sure the feds (one played by Tokyo Sonata’s Kagawa Teruyuki) don’t off him in public.

References to the United States are included during scenes involving his pursuers as they cite the framing of Lee Harvey Oswald and American tactics on taking out a, proven or not, terrorist. “How many civilians are killed in the hunt for one terrorist leader?” asks the head agent chasing Aoyagi as his men torture one a college friend to Aoyagi. To which Aoyagi says, “this isn’t America.” “And thank God it isn’t” is the response he gets.  Although their actions may speak otherwise these agents deny the similarities with a straight face.

Since Fish Story was my first encounter with this director I was constantly comparing the films. Similar to Fish Story Nakamura takes the title of a song to title the film and makes it a character. The film also proves how skilled he is at weaving the past and present and overlaying the title song carefully into the climax. Running at a lengthy but not bloated two hours and twenty minutes the film seems to end abruptly at first but after some thought it was as a child’s stamp would say, “Excellent”. The appearance of abruptness is a compliment to how the film keeps you invested in the characters and their interactions rather than the why of the whole ordeal.

Without giving away too much that creates the fun of the film this web of characters, including a serial stabber, spin a sly farce that is a standout title from this year.

REVIEW: Cruel Gun Story
August 3, 2010, 8:24 am
Filed under: Reviews

Released: 1964

Director: Furukawa Takumi

Shishido Jo
Matsubara Chieko
Kawachi Tamio
Odaka Yuji
Kazuki Minako

Cinematography: Isayama Saburo

Music: Ikeda Masayoshi

Running Time: 91min

Included in the five disc set Nikkatsu Noir from Criterion’s sub-label Eclipse, this heist film is aided by a larger than usual number of double crossings and the always cool Shishido Jo.
In the film Shishido plays Togawa, a guy released from prison two years early by an unknown party. This group wants Togawa to lead a heist on an armored car filled with racetrack receipts.

Like Death of a Salesman the title does give away what is going to happen to certain characters (SPOILER: The salesman passes away and guns cause the cruel outcomes). That doesn’t stop the fun as Shishido’s always willing to deliver a fist to the face which makes for an over-the-top aspect to the film which matches his own chipmunk-esque demeanor. Another aspect to the film making it different than just a regular heist film is how the relationship between Togawa and his handicapped sister (a surprisingly small role for the popular Matsubara Chieko) who lost the use of her legs after a hit and run incident. Togawa is consumed by the guilt he has for his sister. Killing the truck driver responsible wasn’t enough and he still has flashbacks to the incident.

It is interesting how the gang holes up and hides in an abandoned US Army Town which has been destroyed due to the partying of GIs and which is where the double crossing really takes off for the crew in the film. Adding to that are shots of fighter jets passing over, impossible to ignore with their obnoxious roars, this film doesn’t let it’s B-movie status or budget stop it from turning the story into a statement on postwar influences.

Cruel Gun Story along with the four other titles such as Nomura Takashi’s A Colt is My Passport (also featuring Shishido) and Suzuki Seijun’s Take Aim at the Police Van makes the set a great introduction to and a continuation for those in the know of Nikkatsu’s genre of focus before it was switched to the roman porno. Here’s to hoping for a Vol. 2.

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