Saturday, March 8, 2014
[REC] 3. I've got some pretty cool, new t-shirts and stickers in the works, so you'll want to prepare yourself for their arrival. Of course, the old designs are all still available. You can check them out at my T-shirt Store.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Movie: Oh! My Zombie Mermaid
My Review: 2 stars
So, this title was definitely a bait and switch. I was suspicious when I came to the end of the film and realized that the titular “zombie mermaid” really only made one or two appearances in the whole film—a film that was supposedly all about her!!! So, I did a little snooping. (Well, I actually just went to IMDB, but I still felt pretty clever). But I discovered that the Japanese title of this movie is actually something more like “Ah! House of Pro Wrestling!” And, that’s because that’s really what the story is about—a pro-wrestler who has to get back into the world of ultimate fighting after making a series of bad decisions.
Our hero, Kouta, gets his brand new house trashed by whole handful of rival fighters during what I’m guessing is his wedding reception or engagement announcement (it isn’t very clear). Facing such a huge financial blow, he is forced to get back into the dark underworld of live, televised, death matches to make end meet. During the whole debacle, his new bride has the misfortune of starting to transform into the mermaid referenced in the title (I’m not quite sure where the zombie part comes in. She looks like a pretty standard, alive mermaid to me). But was this a tragic accident or a fluke of her genetics? Or, did some ne’er-do-well secretly poison her to get revenge on Kouta? Perhaps it was another one of his rivals. I’ve actually forgotten by now. That’s how interesting I found the whole movie. There really was way too much crazy stuff going on in this story for me to enjoy it all that much—especially since I was really banking on that mermaid having more of a role in the story.
The movie is confusing. The cinematography is manic and disorienting. And, the flow of the story line just makes no sense. Everything is all jumbled together—the back-story, the love story, the revenge story, the medical story. And, the death matches really popped up out of nowhere. But I guess those are meant to be a commentary on how the media exploits people’s personal misfortunes for cheap thrills, without any regard for how it will affect their wellbeing. I really didn’t like this movie very much at all. Although, some of the pro-wrestler characters they dug up for the death matches toward the end of the film were pretty entertaining—especially the foreigners. There’s a certain brand of Westerner who likes to hang around Japan, picking up various acting gigs whenever there’s a need for a big, hulking, European/American-looking character. And, the ones they found for this film were particularly silly.
I don’t think I’d recommend this film to you guys. It’s just too big of a mess to make any sense of. And, there are plenty of other films you can turn to if you’re looking for a silly, absurdist, martial arts flick. I’d start with Tokyo Zombie, for example. I wrote about it pretty recently. That one has many of the same themes—black humor, martial arts training, monster-creating diseases, televised death matches—but the comedy, and the storytelling are much more successful in that one.
Monday, March 3, 2014
My Rating: 4 stars
This movie perfectly describes exactly how I imagine my future (hypothetical) vacation to Russia going wrong. I have always thought Russia would be a fascinating place to see, but I don't relish the thought of spending eleven months of hard labor in Siberian prison because of "irregularities" with my visa. So, I think I’m way too terrified to actually ever go anytime in the near future—especially after the government revealed that it’s pretty much peeping into all the hotel rooms. I don't think carrying a carton of Marlboro Reds for bribes is quite going to cut it anymore. I’m pretty sure Russian thugs are really only dealing in cold hard cash these days.
This is a great movie. It really taps into the fears of all Western tourists traveling in the "wild east." The protagonists in this movie (Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer) seem like pretty harmless sorts. These two are Christian missionaries coming back from “saving” little orphans in China, and they’ve decided that rather than just take a nice convenient plane flight home, they’d rather experience the mysterious beauty of the Trans-Siberian Railway. Trains are always romantic, right? It’s movies like North by Northwest that give us these silly ideas. I had a Eurail Pass onece. Real long-distance train trips are loud, and bumpy, and you feel really greasy and filthy after one night. That’s unpleasant enough, but when you throw in fear that the train conductor is going to steal and sell your passport, it becomes really distressing.
Our heroes learn this the hard way. But, they have to deal with something a little more serious than a missing passport. Having a Spanish backpacker and his tough looking girlfriend slip a little bit of heroine into their luggage is no picnic. Russian customs officers just love that kind of thing. Hilarity ensues—and maybe a little murder. This is quite a thrilling and suspenseful story. And it definitely feels a little too plausible to simply laugh off as just a dramatic movie plot.
I was also very impressed by Woody Harrelson's acting skills. I usually see him playing edgy or tough characters. But he is so funny here as the dorky, bright eyed, earnest tourist. It's a performance you shouldn't miss. But I'm not saying the movie is perfect. Viewers definitely have to suspend their disbelief during the climactic ending scenes. One of my pet peeves is when characters suddenly develop very convenient talents just in time to save the day. That’s just lazy writing. There's no way I would have gotten out of this scenario alive if this story happened to me in real life. And, perhaps it’s that terror that really drew me to this movie. But I definitely recommend this one. It gets a little bloody in places, so if you don't like violent movies, this may not be your favorite film ever. But, don't let that keep you from seeing it.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
My Rating: 4 stars
The thing I love best about indie films is that you can get unusual combinations of themes that you would never see in mainstream cinema. For example, combining utter depression with madcap comedy. That’s what this film’s about. It’s about a guy, Franklin, who has sunk so low that he’s willing to indulge in just about any of the wacky suggestion that his brand new, quirky, (and inexplicably Australian) roommate suggests. Why is our hero in such a funk? Well, he’s a smart guy, but he’s in a dead-end job hawking booze to low-class tourists in Washington State’s lovely, yet less-than-prestigious wine region. His co-workers hate him. He’s having trouble paying the bills. And his girlfriend is sleeping with the most bleached-tipped golf pro you’ve ever seen. To make matters worse, this golf pro now wants to be buddies.
So why not indulge in a little juvenile fun? These shenanigans include antics such as changing all the street signs in town to passive-aggressive messages to the local residents, planting hilariously heavy luggage (per the title of the film) in front of the local train station, or diving into the open cabs of cars and convincing the driver to take you anywhere you want to go. Hilarity ensues. This is a bitter comedy. Only people who have suffered real disappointment in life will truly appreciate this movie for all it has to offer. And I guess that’s why I like it so much. Heck, who hasn’t had a quarter-life crisis, or two?
But, this film isn’t only for pessimists. All you normal people will definitely get a kick out of it too. I really enjoyed the cinematography. It contrasts, bright cheery atmosphere with a somewhat melancholy story line. It reminded me of the fake smiles a lot of us put on to go out into the world. Franklin is a lovable character, and he definitely feels like a real guy. You’ll find yourself really rooting for him to stand up for himself and for him get his life together. I really enjoyed the story, and I think you will too. This film has been making the rounds at a number of illustrious film festivals recently, and it’s won a handful of different awards. It will be available for video on demand on March 1. You can check out the trailer here, and read more about the film on its website.
Monday, February 24, 2014
My Rating: 5 stars
I really wasn’t expecting all that much from this film—especially since it was another vehicle for Nicole Kidman’s absurd acting skills. But, this movie is probably one of the most amazing things I’ve seen in awhile. In fact, I’m tempted to rent it again right now, just because it’s so stubbornly stuck in my head. I really should have expected as much, since this is another project from Chan-wook Park. That guy really has it. I’ve loved every movie I’ve ever seen of his. (All the films released for US audiences, at least). So, I shouldn’t have expected this one to be an exception. But casting all these white actors (Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode, Mia Wasikowska), and setting the story in the United States threw me off a little. It’s a change of formula for Park, and I wasn’t quite sure how it would all turn out. But, I was silly to worry.
I really admire directors who know how to cast Nicole Kidman correctly. She’s such an ice queen, that she’d be absolutely ridiculous playing any kind of normal woman. But, cast her as a privileged, neurotic, pill-popping, harpy, and you’ve done alchemy. All of a sudden she’s completely believable again. But, Kidman’s performance is really secondary to Mia Wasikowska’s in this film. Mia is the clear star of the show.
I’m not even sure I can accurately describe what this movie is about. I guess I’d call it a psychological horror film about family secrets and mental illness. You know, the same as all of Park’s other films. Not that all of Chan-wook Park’s films are about the same thing. In fact, they’re all so different from one another that you really can never guess what’s coming next. He’s a master of the twist ending. But, all of his films have the same kind of unforgettable, unsettling tone to them. In this story, Wasikowska is a sheltered, awkward teenager who is grieving after her father’s sudden death. And, her mother (Kidman) is responding to the event by hitting the bottle, and coming on to handsome “Uncle Charlie,” who no one has ever met before, and who has mysteriously turned up for the funeral. The relationships in this story all feel wildly inappropriate, and mood is quite disconcerting. It’s hard to explain, but the movie definitely feels like a horror film, even though it takes a very long time for anything very scary to happen. You really have to see the film to understand.
So, I definitely recommend this movie to people—especially those of you who like a good psychological thriller. It’ll help if you’re already a fan of Chan-wook Park’s other films. At least then you’ll understand what kind of a mess you’re getting yourself into. This really is a pretty scary movie. And, it’ll haunt you. I still can’t stop thinking about it. And, like I mentioned before, I think I’m going to have to re-watch the whole thing right away.
Friday, February 21, 2014
Movie: My Little Pony – Classic Movie Collection
My Rating: Garbage
So, I got this 2-disk, four-movie collection (and the accompanying figurines) from my mother for Valentine’s Day. I guess she was feeling a little nostalgic for when I was a pony-loving, 4-year-old tot. And, I guess that’s pretty cute. I certainly always did love those chubby-legged, little, multi-colored, plastic horses. And, this video set is about the classic ponies that I grew up with—not the newer “Friendship is Magic” ponies. The four films featured in this set have amazing titles like: The Princess Promenade, Dancing in the Clouds, The Runaway Rainbow, and Friends Are Never Far Away.
These movies were released in 2006, so the style is noticeably updated from the version I enjoyed back in the 80s. But, all the themes are pretty much the same—friendship, sharing, hair-brushing, and interior decoration—all of life’s most important skills. The ponies certainly spend a lot of time planning parades and designing princess-wear. What are they all going to wear to the Annual Princess Rainbow Ceremony?!?! Especially, since they only have 63 ribbons left in the storeroom!!
I guess I remember this kind of thing appealing to me a lot as a preschooler. I definitely spent a lot of time prancing around the back yard, pretending to be a magical pony. But, re-watching this material as an adult, I found it pretty grating. Perhaps it was something about all the sparkles, and positive affirmations, and insipid songs. Or, maybe it was the total lack of any real conflict in any of these stories that I found so worrisome. I definitely remember The Smurfs being a whole lot darker, even if it was a completely demented cartoon. And at least She-Ra: Princess of Power provided a strong warrior-princess as a role model for little girls. Oh well. I guess you really never can go home again. That’s a pretty dark thought for these ponies to stir up. Yikes!
But, I’m not a total monster. I can find something to enjoy about just about any movie. And, in this case, I definitely enjoyed my nostalgic trip down memory lane. It definitely prompted me to flip through the pages of my baby book. I was even able to dig up a pretty great photo from back in my pony-obsessed days to share with you guys. Yes, I am holding Rainbow Brite dolls, rather than My Little Ponies. But, it’s close enough, and you get the idea of what a messy, little, ruffle-bedecked, urchin I was.