Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Doom Generation (1995)

Sex. Violence. Attractive young people. Rock Music. Surreal imagery. More sex. Between his latest feature Kaboom, a hazy remembrance of Mysterious Skin, and a recent viewing of The Doom Generation, I think I'm beginning to pick up on Gregg Araki's trademarks. Gorgeous and hot-headed teenager Amy (Rose McGowan) and her cute pothead boyfriend Jordan (James Duval) just want to make out, do drugs, and listen to cool tunes. When they find themselves accidentally abetting a stick-up that ends in murder, the couple winds up on the run with the infuriatingly sultry Xavier (Johnathan Schaech). As they drive from isolated motel to isolated motel, they meet with a number of unsavory characters, several of whom believe Amy to be some ex-lover or other and subsequently try to kill her. I predict a threesome will happen at some point. I will lay down money on that.

Between the stilted, insincere line delivery and inexplicable plot developments, it took me a while to get into this film. It's like someone watched a Hal Hartley feature and thought, "Hmm, I sure to enjoy the over-choreographed, stagey feel of these conversations, but let's push it so far it just looks like everyone's a bad actor." After about 20 minutes I settled into the flow and enjoyed myself more, drinking in the overall weirdness of a decapitated talking head, super-90's fashion choices, meandering storyline, and frequent breaks for sex and violence. It's like a surreal gladiatorial games out there.

Rose McGowan is super hot. Johnathan Schaech is super hot. (Spoiler alert) They bang. This should be enough for a lot of movie goers. But Araki constantly flips between erotic titillation and gory fixation, with the loose plot merely a showcase for his twisted vision of today's corrupted youth. These kids retreat to gaudy, oversaturated motel rooms and dimly-lit clubs for peace of mind, feasting on convenience store snack food and cigarettes. Nobody's libido is kept in check, and there's little concept of sexual preference. There is no hope in their world, and seemingly no point to anything. The climactic scene is a heady mix of regular porn and torture porn, throwing in some white supremacy imagery for good measure. It leaves a mark, let me tell you.

Overall I guess I did like The Doom Generation, even if it did its best to confuse and alienate me. I'm still not sold on the stilted dialogue and pacing, but I respect the cast enough to know it's definitely a stylistic choice and not just their performances. It's weird, it's sexy, it's unexpected. It's an experience. But one I probably wouldn't watch again.

3.5/5

Pair This Movie With: Um. The aforementioned Kaboom definitely has its similarities. And I know this is part of a trilogy Araki did but I haven't seen the other two films so I can't recommend them. Otherwise... Natural Born Killers, maybe?

PS For more informed opinions about Araki's films check out Toby's blog.

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Wing Chun Double Feature: Ip Man (2008) and Ip Man 2 (2010)

It's good to know that other countries will skewer biographical depictions of historical figures as much as America does. Known by many today as the teacher of kung-fu legend Bruce Lee, Ip (or Yip) Man was a master of the Wing Chun style. Ip Man and Ip Man 2 tell the apparently highly fabricated story of his rise to fame as a sort of Chinese folk hero fighting against the Japanese and British presences in Hong Kong in the 1930's and 50's. Despite attempts to remain a pacifist, he must often resort to kicking everyone's ass in order to promote peace. You know how it is.

Ip Man (Donnie Yen) is a kind and successful businessman who practices martial arts in his spare time, residing in a town where almost every able-bodied man seems to constantly promote in some kind of fighting style. The townspeople often hound him to open his own school, but his frequent dabbling in Wing Chun frustrates his wife and son, and he believes himself primarily a businessman. When the Japanese invade China and subjugate the entire nation, he is forced to fight for a haughty Japanese general's entertainment, and eventually becomes a representative for his entire nation.

A decade later, no one in his family has aged (seriously, his son is still like 7 years old and his wife is just as hot), and everyone is struggling to make due as the British act like dicks to everyone. There is mad corruption in the police force and the chubby kung-fu mafia don Master Hong Zhen Nan (Sammo Hung Kam-Bo) basically runs the town, but in turn he must answer to his money-hungry British superiors. Ip Man tries to set up a Wing Chun school so he can support his family, but the martial arts schools are all controlled by Master Hong. Eventually he is pitted against a professional jackass/boxer from the UK, Twister (Darren Shahlavi), in a deadly match to resurrect Chinese pride at a time of Western dominance.

Packed with exciting fight scenes, interesting characters, and unexpected gravitas, both films are gripping looks at a period in Hong Kong history that I know little about. I loved the sepia-tinged visuals, laced with intricate sets and costumes that mix Chinese and European influences. Donnie Yen is excellent as the title character, with a serious but friendly demeanor that segues into confident battle scenes with ease. The first film has higher stakes, so the story is more affecting, but both scripts feature enough drama to make the action even more thrilling.

Ip Man's story is populated with a strong sense of nationalism that defaults to racism against non-Chinese characters. Most of the Japanese soldiers are sadistic and heartless, with at least one resembling an American anti-Japan cartoon. The British depicted in the second film are just the worst people in the world, completely egotistical and cruel. But really, this isn't at all surprising, considering the treatment these two groups gave Hong Kong. It's like depictions of Nazis in WWII films.

As much as I love mindless action flicks in general, it's nice to have incredibly badass and strongly-choreographed fight scenes set against a dramatic story and historical background. Sure, it's not exactly accurate regarding the real Ip Man's life, but it makes for an entertaining and moving double feature!

Ip Man: 4.5/5
Ip Man 2: 4/5

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Movie Sketch Project #40

This week I wrote about Modern Times, which I saw for the first time at the Somerville Theatre. I loved the sets and machinery in the film, but chose to make a simple postcard ink painting as my inspiration piece for the film. And I sold it to the wonderful Jake almost immediately!

I think I've got a great idea for next week. We'll see.

Some other items of note:

You can check out my etsy shop for more movie art for sale. Here are previous MSP posts.

I'm up for some awards at the Lammy's, so cast your votes if you're eligible!

This week I have been making a conscious effort to be more varied and interesting in my writing since I've been getting bored lately. I think it's working?

Anyway have a nice weekend! I'm visiting my family so we'll see if reviews happen the next couple of days.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Man With Two Brains (1983)

Self-proclaimed brilliant neuroscientist Dr Michael Hfuhruhurr (Steven Martin) thinks he has it all. He is a wildly successful surgeon and inventor, he is recently married to sultry patient Dolores (Kathleen Turner), and he's got a really nice house. But when the flaky Dolores withholds sex from him for months, he starts to go a little batty, and their vacation to Austria to take part in a neuroscience conference only makes matters worse when Michael falls in love with a disembodied brain kept alive with magic juice or something. His frustration with his apparently evil new wife and burgeoning romance with a science experiment lead to a series of goofier and goofier escapades. And also murder.

For some reason it's taken me a while to really come around on Steve Martin. It's not that I didn't like him, I just never had much interest in his films outside of his sinister performance in Little Shop of Horrors. Now as I'm reading his most recent novel An Object of Beauty, I've come to appreciate both his more refined prose abilities and his off-the-rails cinematic sillyness. The Man With Two Brains (which he co-wrote with director Carl Reiner) takes all the ridiculous gag humor of Mel Brooks and gives it a surreal spin, throwing around low-brow puns and verbal tongue-twisters and contemporary references and dark twists until you can never be sure what will happen next.

I'll admit I was surprised to see the exquisite Kathleen Turner, whom I just wouldn't identify with this type of all-out ludicrous filmmaking despite her diverse career choices. She is just the right amount of crazy sexy and crazy-crazy, and I'm sure everyone can appreciate the various states of undress she spends most of the film in. David Warner is also pretty great as the experimental doctor attempting to put corpse's brains in new bodies. There are also some weird cameos from James Cromwell and Merv Griffin, but really the focus keeps to Martin and his ever-present energy. He delights equally in pronouncing nonsense words, humping inanimate objects, taking a romantic boat ride with a brain in a jar, and performing screw-top brain surgery with a dang cat in the room.

It gets too silly at times, with some jokes not hitting their targets, and the tone switches up a bit too often, but the enthusiasm and joy Martin, Reiner, and co pump into every scene is so palpable that it's hard not to smile along with them.

4/5

Pair This Movie With: FUCK YEAH RE-ANIMATOR! I promise I'll get a full review of that one up eventually. It's just too good to not dedicate a post to. And I've seen it like 4 times since the horrorthon. Because it is the greatest movie ever. Also Jeffrey Combs has a 30-second role in The Man With Two Brains, which I spotted RIGHT AWAY. For a triple feature, throw in Young Frankenstein.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bridesmaids (2011)

Oh my god did you hear about Kristen Wiig? You know, the lady who does funny voices on SNL? She, like, totally wrote a whole movie script with this other woman and somehow maneuvered into starring in it. And check this, it's totally got a crapload of talented ladies who don't spend the whole time having boy problems? I don't even get it. Who could this film appeal to? It's a well-known fact that ladies don't like comedy, they just want pretty white heterosexuals to make out with each other after a series of contrived obstacles. Wait, ladies don't even go to the movies. And dudes want to see other dudes just bein' bros together, right? Farting and blowing shit up and getting mad tail. Yes. Clearly, Bridesmaids is this crazy anomaly by being a comedy with women that people actually want to see! Madness! IT WOULD APPEAR MEMBERS OF THE FEMALE SEX CAN ACTUALLY BE FUNNY.

Look everyone, I enjoyed Bridesmaids. Let's not forget that. It's a funny, enjoyable film with an excellent cast and nice mixture of real-world plot developments and exaggerated comedic bits. Kristen Wiig is very likable as Annie, a jewelry clerk who is in the middle of a mid-30's crisis after her bakery business fails, her boyfriend leaves her, and her long-time best friend (Maya Rudolph) gets engaged. She tries to put her personal problems aside to help plan the wedding events as maid of honor, but a passive-aggressive, wealthy bridesmaid (Rose Byrne) steps in and tries to steal her thunder. It's not romance-centric, it's not cliche in its humor or characterization, and for the most part it doesn't need to stoop too low for a laugh. I really appreciated the focus on friendship between women, the attention paid to real-life budgetary restrictions, the touch of sweetness for the third act, and the many cute castmembers (including Ellie Kemper and Chris O'Dowd).

What I really take issue with are the expectations assigned to to this film and the ridiculous way some people are talking about it. Let's not pretend that this is the first time a female-driven comedy has been made. I'm sure you've all heard of Clueless? Daisies? We can go all the way back to Stage Door, and farther if we wanted to. Yes, Bridesmaids is definitely one of the more mainstream ones to come out in recent memory, and the fact that it's marketed more towards men makes it idiosyncratic. It isn't "making chick flicks funny" or "saving the rom-com" or whatever taglines reviewers have been giving it. It's a wholly capable comedy that happens to feature a lot of talented female comedians, and manages to be raunchy enough to appeal to multiple genders. I do feel that I related to it a bit more than I would had it been focused on men, and of course I hope the success of the film opens up doors for talented lady comedians everywhere. But it isn't this major, groundbreaking film, and it doesn't have to be. Just sit back and enjoy Wiig's hilarious drunken antics, Rudolph's cuteness, Melissa McCarthy's brashness, and a lot of genuine smiles.

4/5

Pair This Movie With: I guess something else in the Apatow vein is easy pairing. I liked Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. The recession/lower income themes reminded me of Going The Distance, a solid and fairly realistic romantic comedy. Of course I will always actively promote other lady-made comedies to set against this: Drop Dead Gorgeous, Whip It, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, etc. For more examples of women making movies that don't suck (and a few that do), check out my woman-centric film page.

My original poster design for this film is available for purchase.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chinatown (1974)

At the dawn of the new year, like so many others I made a list of 11 films to see in 2011. I don't think I put it on the internet. That's ok. Looking it over last week I realized I'd only seen one (City Lights), so I motivated myself, somehow, to break out another: Chinatown, a film by an awful guy whom I don't want to support, but feel is ok to see now since it's not like me renting his dvd from the library is going to give him any money.

Anyway. When a wealthy wife hires private detective JJ Gittes (Jack Nicholson) to catch her husband cheating on her, it unspools a world of PAIN for everyone involved. From the enigmatic wife of a murdered architect (Faye Dunaway) to a suspicious water company executive, to an exceedingly wealthy old dude (John Huston), and not to mention a number of rather rude thugs, things do not look good for our hero. Gittes' pride and natural curiosity provoke him into furthering his investigation, despite violent mishaps and misleading discoveries. There's a lot of corruption in 1930's LA, it turns out. And no happy ending in sight.

Awash in a flood of property scams, unidentified hitmen, and an impossible number of middle-aged white guys in suits, Chinatown's script could easily become a convoluted question mark. Luckily, it features a charismatic and lovably raffish leading man and several unexpected twists that tie the multiple subplots together- if somewhat loosely. Forsaking the smarmy, reflexive narration so typical of the noir genre, the film allows the audience to discover clues and revelations at the same time as its protagonist, forging a more personal connection to Gittes as he leads us through darker and darker territory. Nicholson is just the right amount of caustic sarcasm and well-meaning curiosity, with enough sexual confidence to defy even a grossly shredded nostril.

Admittedly, the plot's various threads are frayed at first, and it took me a while to really have a grasp on the story and care about all this Los Angeles corruption/land-grapping/dam nonsense. Of course initially it isn't at all clear how anything is connected, which on the one hand makes for a more gripping, tortuous experience but on the other gives little footing for the viewer. It comes together eventually, but for a while both the audience and Gittes seem to be floundering. I was more interested in the grisly murder stuff. And Faye Dunaway's sultry widow Evelyn Mulwray. I swear those cheekbones could cut through steel, it's mesmerizing. Plus she wears a lot of cute hats. I am losing track of myself here.

So. Chinatown. It's not a place, it's a state of mind. No wait, that's Brazil. Chinatown is more an atmosphere, one of unfriendly faces and blinding sunlight, of hazy urban sprawl and privileged excess. It's a twisted family drama wrapped up in the trappings of classic film noir, with a capable hero sadly in over his head.

4/5

Pair This Movie With: Any good ol' Phillip Marlowe noir would be a good double feature, like The Big Sleep or The Long Goodbye. Or for a nice neo-noir pairing, maybe something like Brick or The Missing Person.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Special Announcement: The 2011 Lammy's

Hi guys! So I'm taking a little break from crafting a fascinating and highly intelligent Chinatown review to talk a little about the movie blog Oscar's- of course I mean the Lammy's! I've been a member of the Large Association of Movie Blogs for almost three years (I think... that's sort of a made up number), and I'm really grateful for the cool people and websites (and movies!) it's introduced me to. This year it seems I've risen a bit in those fine folks' estimation, as I've been nominated for FIVE whole awards, which is crazy! I don't really expect to win anything, but I thought I'd just let you all know that this was happening, so eligible LAMBs can go over and vote with my ruthless self-promotion in mind. Also sorry to all the blogs who weren't nominated (especially the ones I went for), know that you're pretty great anyway!

I am nominated in the following categories:

Best Running Feature: Totally the only one I really care about/think I have a chance at, this is regarding my Movie Sketch Project. Since July I've been making a new piece of art every week that somehow relates to film- usually one I've reviewed recently. It's been a really exciting project for me and I think it's an innovative and certainly challenging series. I hope you've been enjoying it too!

Best Movie Reviewer: Well I'm far from the best in this category, but if you like the sound of my jive I'm happy for the support! I do my best to see a wide range of films and I review every single one I see, and I try not to sound like a complete idiot while doing so. I'm also as meticulous as possible in editing for grammar/spelling mistakes.

Most Prolific: I've been posting 5-6 times a week fairly regularly for at least the past year. Most of my posts take some time and effort to put together. Is this prolific? You decide!

Best Festival Coverage: Honestly, I'm a little confused by this one. I didn't get a press pass to IFF Boston this year and I'm broke so I was only able to cover four films. I like the reviews I wrote and everything but I don't think I came anywhere near the extensive coverage of sites like The Dark of the Matinee or The Final Girl Project or Cinenthusiast. Obviously it's cool to be nominated, I just don't think I deserve it (unless voters were thinking of last year's IFF Boston reviews).

Best Blog aka The Big Kahuna: Jeez this is the biggest shock of all. I mean, wow awesome, but also wow I am so surprised any cares enough about this site to even think of it. It feels good, of course, since I started this blog just as a record to keep for myself and am consistently surprised anyone would read it. I wouldn't at all expect to get this one, though I will point out that I am the only lady-run blog nominated (I think). So I'm basically exactly like Kathryn Bigelow. Just putting that out there.

Anyway that's what's happening. Voting goes until June 6th, so hop to it! Basically everyone nominated is awesome, so show them your looooove.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Modern Times (1936)

The lovely Somerville Theatre had a Charlie Chaplin theme going last weekend, so of course I headed out to see Modern Times on the big screen! The gear-filled poster art had always intrigued me, but this was actually my first time seeing it.

Part topical satire, part Depression-era drama, the films stars Chaplin as his lovable Tramp character. This time around he's working at an unspecified factory, where the repetition wreaks havoc on his motor functions. He is then taken as a test subject for an abusive feeding machine, goes insane, goes to jail, and learns upon release that the factory has closed down along with so many others and he is now homeless and unemployed. He takes up with a wild-eyed gamine (Paulette Goddard) and the two forge a handy partnership: He gets jobs and quickly loses them, while she steadily improves their situation through sheer force of will. They play house for a while (not the sexy kind, sadly), there's more jail time, then suddenly it's a musical.

Between the star's consistently impressive antics, well-placed sound effects, and some innovative set pieces, this film is unsurprisingly hilarious. There are pratfalls, misunderstandings, mix-ups, funny faces, near-death experiences, drunken shenanigans, tummy rumbles, and even a very silly bit involving misplaced cocaine (or, "nosepowder"). Many of Chaplin's gags seem so simple, while others are incredibly complex, but all of them contain an easygoing charm that provokes a classic response. There's no awkward silences or poop jokes (mostly) or sarcasm, it's just funny.

The Tramp is primarily the centerpiece- we even hear his voice for the first time in an all-encompassing nonsense language, highlighting his abilities to communicate through action and expression instead of speech. Paulette Goddard gives a shining supporting performance as his newfound friend, a slightly wild woman who's lost her home and family but is determined to keep fighting to survive. Her intense eyes and enthusiastic movements capture a certain desperation, but she is never pitiable. I found her character more admirable and more interesting than the somewhat passive blind girl in City Lights.

Feelings at times more a series of loosely connected shorts than a complete, over-arching narrative, Modern Times is Chaplin's winking ode to "progress", replete with Metropolis-levels of lever-based machinery, wacky gadgets, and oh so many gears. He chose to make it silent despite early plans for a talkie, and maintains speaking segments for anything machine-based (radios, intercom systems, phonographs, etc). This sly nod to contemporary filmmaking alongside a staunch refusal to conform to it represents the director's last contribution to the silent film genre, and indeed is counted by historians as the last feature of the silent era. On one level a goofy, episodic comedy and on another a brutally realistic portrayal of Depression living, Modern Times seeks to entertain without sugarcoating, offering slapstick with edge and social commentary with heart.

4.5/5

Pair This Movie With: The aforementioned Metropolis would be a nice sci-fi pairing, given its complex machine imagery and insights into workers' rights. If you're aiming to move out of the silent era, though, I'd go with something like How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, another workplace comedy/romance, but this time showing the office side of things. And there's less Depression so it's more upbeat.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Movie Sketch Project #39

Ah another Friday is upon us, which means another week has passed wherein I have made some art but wished I could make more. Such is life. This week my major creative project was actually designing the banner/logo/icon scheme for Napier's News, an informative and all-encompassing news site for music, movies, tv, and more! Jim has always been supportive of my art so I had fun designing for him. The main image is below, but be sure to check out the full effect on the site itself, and let us know what you think!

I also saw Thor, finally, and my everlasting love for Kat Dennings was further validated with her exceptional (but all too small) appearance as Darcy. You may recall I sketched a portrait of her last week? Well through the power of photoshop it has bloomed into a colorful digital print that is for sale if you're interested.


Relevant links:
Previous Movie Sketch Project entries
My etsy shop for all your movie-related (and very well-priced) art needs.
Facebook and tumblr
I also made a portfolio the other night on a whim. Mostly stuff you've seen before, but I guess I'll update it with non-movie stuff too? If I ever get back to doing that? Anyway bookmark or something if you're interested. Or better yet, send it to someone who'll pay me for doing this stuff.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ging chat goo si (Police Story) (1985)

Police Story, also known as the action movie tons of subsequent action movies copied, is a seminal kung-fu cop thriller from director/star Jackie Chan. He stars as Ka Kui, a talented, dedicated, and rather silly cop who single-handedly captures a powerful drug lord. He is then assigned to guard Selina (Brigitte Lin), the criminal's secretary and the prosecution's most important witness against him. Ka Kui must navigate through mob hitmen, police corruption, misunderstandings with his girlfriend (Maggie Cheung), and a whole lot of fist fights before he finally begins to crack under the pressure.

Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first: This movie has some problems, you guys, primarily with the script. The characterization is just awful, especially in the women (surprise, surprise). I couldn't stand Maggie Cheung's wishy-washy insipid girlfriend role, but at least Brigitte Lin does her best with the capricious Selina, who packs an impressive kick. Chan's character is all over the place, switching from lovable doofus to no-nonsense supercop to complete asshole in a matter of minutes. The story itself is fine, but it has this weird tonal switch towards the end that is totally unexpected and oddly dark. It's a bit off-putting even if it leads to some very cool moments.

But I know no one is watching this film for the story or the lady characters, it is all about the very impressive stunts and marvelous fight choreography, and that is where Police Story really delivers. The amount of "Ohhh Shiiiit!" moments is extremely high, from the destructive downhill car chase at the beginning to the explosive light fixture drop at the end (a shot so nice they show it thrice). The fights are fun, fast-paced, and always make good use of their surroundings, including car doors, ceramic vases, and a shit ton of glass. It's also packed with a number of cute, funny moments to showcase Chan's acrobatic versatility and love of silent film comedy, most notably a scene involving several ringing phones and their twisted cords. It's hilarious, trust me.

Overall Police Story is a fun time that turns into a surprisingly serious-but-still-exciting time, and while I could have done without the crappy female characters I still appreciated the excellent action scenes and funny performance from Chan.

3.5/5

Pair This Movie With: This would make a pretty excellent double feature with Tango & Cash, which totally stole/homaged a scene directly from it but is still a kickass movie itself.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rubber (2010) at 366 Weird Movies

A sentient tire with psychokinetic powers goes on a killing spree through a desert while an idiotic chorus of onlookers watches through binoculars. Tons of heads explode. Also it's a meta-film.

Rubber is fantastic.

That should be all you need to know, but if you're interested in my clever and fascinating full review, head on over to read it at 366 Weird Movies!

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Thor (2011)

Oh what Marvel made a movie? Guess I have to see it. Thor is another Avengers-prep movie, based on a comic I haven't read, but really it's a feuding-brothers tale wrapped up in romance. Or maybe the other way around. He's a Norse god/alien or something, she's a gorgeous physicist who is somehow single. They should totally date! But oh no! He's got a conniving little brother who always wants to hang out with them, and they can never do it, because he usurps the dad and becomes all-powerful king/god/alien and totally tries to kill everyone. Aw man. When will these beautiful people finally get to bang? Or at least make out? These thrills and more await you in THOR: A COSMIC COMIC ADVENTURE.

Alright. So actually I really enjoyed this movie. It's a fun, slightly silly but ultimately endearing adventure with an interesting mix of fantasy and science-fiction. Asgard is breathtaking and shiny, everyone's got cool battle armor, there are super-tall ice people, swordfights, tons of made up words, and a magic portal guarded by Idris Elba. Most of the really fun action takes place there, and that's cool, though I did enjoy seeing a poor desert town get ripped to shreds for no reason on Earth.

Thor himself is pretty boring. Sure, Chris Hemsworth is super-built and blonde, but he's playing such a jackass it doesn't really matter. Luckily, he's hilarious at times and I really liked the "stranger in a strange land" scenes when he first lands on Earth and has no idea how to behave. Plus, he's surrounded by cool people, from the lovely Natalie Portman to the amazing, funny, BEAUTIFUL, and sadly underused Kat Dennings. The biggest reason I wanted to see this movie, no joke. The most interesting character is actually Loki, Thor's troubled brother played by Tom Hiddleston. I was basically on his side for most of the film despite his supposed "evil-ness". I draw the line at genocide, though. The surprise hit is Jaime Alexander as Sif, an awesome warrior lady who just comes out of nowhere to kick everyone's ass. Awesome.

Of course, Thor has its problems. The story doesn't always make sense, the acting is a bit hokey at times (I see you phoning it in, Anthony Hopkins), the romance is super-rushed (no surprise), and the central character isn't especially interesting. But, the script did well to bring more focus to SHIELD during the parts on Earth, with the adorable Clark Gregg stealing some scenes, and I enjoyed most of the other characters, including Thor's "diverse" posse of warriors. It doesn't take itself too seriously, resulting in a flat-out fun movie that charms despite its flaws. Plus, I have to admit his hammer is totally kickass.

4/5

Pair This Movie With: Um... Masters of the Universe? Ha, just kidding. How about Iron Man? Or Scott Pilgrim vs The World?

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Linda Linda Linda (2005)

I wish I'd been cool enough to have a band in high school. But no, instead I was too busy reading British literature and feeling sorry for myself. Luckily I can live vicariously through the enterprising young women in Linda Linda Linda, a delightful Japanese comedy about a Korean student named Son (Doona Bae) who is unceremoniously dragged into an all-girl rock band. Despite her so-so grasp of the language, she quickly learns the Japanese lyrics to cover songs of 80s punks The Blue Hearts, while getting to know her bandmates Kyoko (the sweet one), Kei (the intimidating one), and Nozomi (the quiet one). Their school is hosting some sort of intercultural fair, which I guess means no one ever has class? But no one ever leaves? So they have to learn the songs and practice nonstop for a few days until the big finale rock show. Of course, they all have their own personal stuff happening but hopefully they can get their shit together in time. Yeah.

This is the type of movie that doesn't really have much story, per se. These high school chicks are in a band, they have to learn some songs, then they have to perform them. One of them got in a fight with a former band member, it's kind of mysterious and never really explained. The new singer possibly has Asperger's Syndrome, but she's adorable and enthusiastic and will try hard to not mess it up for her newfound friends. There's a bit of romance thrown in here and there, but no mention of parents or family and little time spent away from school. It's really just about these girls and their developing relationship to one another, interspersed with frequent awesome musical sequences. It's a simple film, but a wholly enjoyable one.

The cast is great, with several supporting members hailing from actual Japanese bands. I was happy to see Doona Bae, whom I'd only known from Korean movies; she is hilariously offbeat here and I was very sympathetic to her language problems. I also enjoyed Aki Maeda as the smiley drummer with good hair. And as I understand it, all of the actors played their own instruments/did their own vocals, which led to the release of an EP by the fake band in the film. Which I totally got the day after seeing it, because guess what? The music is so freaking catchy! I was unfamiliar with The Blue Hearts but now I definitely want to get into their music. The girls' covers of their songs are energetic and fun, and I cannot stop singing the title track. It's available for download below for your pleasure.

Cool ladies, cool tunes, cool movie! Yay!

4/5

Pair This Movie With: I had heard this compared to Kamikaze Girls, which I can see as a good pairing even if that's a much funnier, weirder film. I actually think Linda Linda Linda would go well with El Calentito, a fun Spanish flick about an all-girl punk band in the 80s and the shy schoolgirl who joins them.

"Linda Linda"- Paranmaum cover version of The Blue Hearts

Check out my original poster design for this film.

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Movie Sketch Project #38

Jeez it sucks to have Blogger down forever, doesn't it? Anyway hopefully nothing was lost in the updates (?) or maintenance or whatever. So. Movies. Art. These are things I like. This week, however, it feels like I had less time for both. I started working on a comic book project that a friend is writing, so that was a fun thing to focus my creative energies on. Here's a little preview of the main character, which didn't scan well since I drew it so lightly. It's going to be a 1930's Hollywood thing. Hopefully this isn't a secret project.


I also did a quick sketch of the lovely Kat Dennings last night, which also didn't scan well. I just think she is one of the most beautiful people, plus she's hilarious and likable as hell. Maybe she will date me and/or my boyfriend (this is our plan). I might do more with it later, who knows. I've got other stuff to work on first.


Anyway, remember you can buy cool film stuff in my etsy shop. I've got everything from Black Swan to Barbarella to Battle Royale to Beauty and the Beast! Phew. As always, thanks for hanging around here, dudes.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Siworae (Il Mare) (2000)

Secret Movie Confession: I totally saw The Lake House in theaters. Also we have the dvd at my parents' house, so I've watched it more than once. No surprise really, considering it stars my friends Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock, references Jane Austen, and has a vaguely sci-fi-y premise. Anyway, it was actually based on a Korean film known as Il Mare, which focuses on recently-dumped voice actress Eun-ju (Gianna Jun) and lonely aspiring architect Sung-hyun (Lee Jung-jae). After moving out of a beautiful lakeside vacation home, she writes a letter to the future occupant to forward her mail for her. Somehow, it winds up two years in the past, landing in the hands of the original owner of the house, Sung-hyun. The two communicate through letters over the course of a few months, helping each other out in little ways with their knowledge of the past/future. Eventually they want to meet, but various obstacles preclude that from happening.

First off let me say that the dvd release I got from Netflix is really shitty. The picture looked awful, the formatting was all off and I had to make it really tiny on my screen (though originally it automatically stretched it out). From time to time the subtitles would just stop in the middle of a conversation for a minute or two. These factors definitely colored my enjoyment of the film.

Still, it's a cute and imaginative movie. Sure, the premise doesn't make any sense and is never given any explanation, but it offers a unique take on a long-distance relationship and keeps the focus on character, not concept. It's a sweet story, and I love the epistolary structure. The leads are both pretty adorable, though Gianna Jun is a bit drab as she moons over her ex-fiancé (or was it husband?). The sets are beautiful, with the lake house itself (called "Il Mare") sprawling across a gray-tinged beach as the tide slowly comes in. There are a number of cool tricks employed by the director/editor to keep some visual interest in this separation over time, including split screens and well-placed cuts.

It's a bit slow and meandering, and the dramatic ending is brought about too quickly/ambiguously. But, overall it's a sweet little romantic film, and it was nice to see a Korean movie that wasn't as action/thriller/mystery-based as the ones I usually watch!

3.5/5

Pair This Movie With: I do like original/remake double features so The Lake House would be an option. The Shop Around The Corner or Mary and Max would be great too, both excellent correspondence-based films.

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IFF BOSTON: The Catechism Cataclysm at 366 Weird Movies

I have a new review up over at 366 Weird Movies and I think it's an interesting one. The Catechism Cataclysm was one of the two midnight movies at IFF Boston this year, and it really is a doozy! There's a drunk priest and a metal soundtrack and urban legends and Mark Twain references and terrifying Japanese tourists. It's not quite on the same weirdness level as last year's midnight surprise, Machotaildrop, but it's probably a better movie overall.

Anyway go on over and give it a read!

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Some Cast It Hot, Ep. 12: Allegreto

Ah yes, the moment I know you've all been breathlessly awaiting! It's another episode of Some Cast It Hot, the incredibly excellent podcast featuring Allison of Nerdvampire, Sasha of The Final Girl Project, and me! This time around we center on Tarsem Singh's magnificent 2007 feature The Fall, starring ever-drool-worthy Lee Pace and a host of jaw-dropping visuals. We also offer recommendations of our favorite frame narrative films, recall movies recently watched, and give some short recaps of IFF Boston and Hot Docs.

You can tune in on podomatic or stream it right below. It's also on itunes! We love any feedback, so please leave comments on any of our blogs or send an email to somecastithot(at)gmail(dot)com.



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Monday, May 9, 2011

IFF BOSTON: Jûsan-nin no shikaku (13 Assassins) (2010)

This was my last IFF Boston movie, and a follow-up to a long but exciting day at Boston Comic Con that afternoon. In 13 Assassins, Takashi Miike presents a surprisingly straightforward tale taking place in the late Edo Period. Lord Naritsugu (Gorô Inagaki), the sadistic brother to the shogun is traipsing about Japan raping, torturing, and slaughtering innocents while preparing to take a post in the capital as an influential (and untouchable) governmental advisor. The shogun's right-hand man enlists a well-known samurai (Kôji Yakusho) to assassinate Naritsugu while he and his gigantic entourage are en route to the capital, so he enlists 12 others to help him. There's a lot of walking and haranguing and kneeling and then finally like half an hour of complete badassery.

Known for his weird, cringe-inducing horror/gore like Audition and Ichi the Killer, Miike is a filmmaker I have to avoid at times. I enjoy his lighter, more stylized fare like The Happiness of the Katakuris and Sukiyaki Western Django. 13 Assassins sits somewhere else entirely, a deliberately-paced, lushly filmed rumination on classic samurai tales. Though pegged an action movie, most of the running time is dedicated to formal dialogue and exposition, with a wealth of characters interacting as politely as possible. There is a lot of gathering in groups to discuss serious matters, followed by a lot of walking through forests, and usually set against shots of Lord Naritsugu being a total entitled dick to everyone around him. There are a few acts of seppuku for good measure.

The cast is stalwart, the sets and costumes are detailed and lavish, the script moves slowly but surely. There are several interesting characters, from the utterly hardcore ronin Hirayama (Tsuyoshi Ihara) to the raffish lovesick peasant Koyata (Yusuke Iseya). But what really, really just makes this movie is the final act, because damn it is awesome. The assassins set up a total DEATH TOWN to ensnare their target and his 200 men, unleashing all manner of traps, mechanisms, and attacks to cut down their numbers. There are moving gates made of sharpened tree trunks. There's a field of swords. Of swords! It's so fucking cool, seriously. There's just fighting and blood and dismemberment all over the place, but it's never too gory or indulgent, which I found impressive for Miike.

The ending will leave you with an ecstatic adrenaline rush, but the beginning takes a little too much time. Still, 13 Assassins is an excellent samurai film, and from what I've heard it's more fun than the original, though I haven't seen it.

4/5

Pair This Movie With: Well, Miike definitely draws a bit from Seven Samurai (then again, what movie ever made doesn't?), but I hesitate to ever recommend that as a double feature movie because it's just so long! Still, it'd be a good pairing if you have a whole day to kill.

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Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Life In Movies

So Andy over at Fandango Groovers had another awesome idea for a blogathon, known as "A Life in Movies". I'm going to take one movie for each year I've managed to survive Earth's deadly atmosphere! So, for anyone who hasn't been paying attention, that's 23 movies. It won't necessarily be my favorite movie from each year, mostly just random ones I'm picking after looking at lists of movie releases. I'll try to encompass my many passions and genre tendencies, though sadly my favorite classics will be left out!

1988 Akira
This movie is so badass and so mind-blowing, it's hard not to just stand with mouth agape while simultaneously trying to shout WHAT THE FUCK every few minutes. The plan for a live-action American remake somehow gets stupider by the minute.


1989 Heathers
Says 1988 on imdb, but was released in the US in 1989 so that's where I'm putting it. This represents my love of womencentric teen comedies and sarcastic leading ladies. Also my love of early 90's fashion/slang and Winona Ryder in general.


1990 Trust
I basically love everything Hal Hartley, and this was the first of his films I ever saw. It's also where I fell in love with Adrienne Shelley (and to a lesser extent, Martin Donovan). The stagey dialogue, gorgeous string-heavy score, visual symbolism- it's all here and it's all fantastic.


1991 Beauty and the Beast
Well I wrote about this one fairly recently so it seemed appropriate. My favorite movie as a kid and still the best Disney film in my opinion. Belle is one of my heroes, and the music and art still stick with me. My art for this film.



1992 Universal Soldier
Dude. Dolph Lundgren wears a necklace of human ears in this movie. And Jean-Claude Van Damme hangs out naked in a tub of ice. It is amazing.



1993 The Nightmare Before Christmas
Between the gorgeous stop-motion animation, twisted visual design, catchy-as-hell tunes, and Tim Burtony tale, I've always been pretty in love with this movie. I listen to the "Kidnap the Sandy Claws" song more often than anyone should. My art for it.



1994 Serial Mom
I've been thinking about this movie recently, not sure why. Definitely up for a rewatch, as it is hilarious and weird and perfectly John Waters-y in its skewering of suburban housewifery.



1995 Mallrats
I could easily have gone on about Clueless here but I feel like I talk about it all the time. Instead I have Kevin Smith's ode to consumerism, reality shows, the Force, and Stan Lee, which I remember seeing for the first time at a friend's house when I was maybe 9 or 10. Her parents were far less strict than mine when it came to programming content. This movie taught me about third nipples and stinkpalms and all manner of useful information.


1996 Mystery Science Theatre 3000: The Movie
Yay! One of my favorite tv shows, I recall watching Mystery Science Theatre 3000 as a kid when it ran on SciFi Channel. My dad would always have it on on weekend mornings, but he always changed the channel at the sketches in between so I didn't come to truly appreciate the show until years later. The movie features fun 50's sci-fi drama This Island Earth, and features one of my favorite-ever jokes.


1997 The Wrong Guy
I love Kids in the Hall. I love Dave Foley. I love ridiculous, goofy, nonsensical comedy. This movie has it all, really, plus I think it's the first dvd I ever bought online (it was only available as an import from Canada).



1998 BASEketball
What does it say about me that I went with this over critically acclaimed German thriller Run Lola Run? Um, clearly that my priorities are perfectly in place. I find Trey Parker and Matt Stone hilarious, and this movie gleefully reaches into every stupid, juvenile facet of my being.


1999 The Mummy
I know 1999 has a shit ton of excellent and/or significant films. And sure, I dig Being John Malkovich and Toy Story 2 and All About My Mother and The Matrix. And I saw Phantom Menace a bunch of times when it came out. But fuck it, I love The Mummy. It's so good, you guys. So good.


2000 The Emperor's New Groove
Ok, ok. I don't know why but I feel the need to talk about this movie right now. Because I loved it when it came out, and used to watch it all the time at my grandma's house, and thought it got better and better with each viewing. I don't know. It's just funny! And it's got Patrick Warburton!


2001 Amelie
We just started selling the soundtrack at my work so I've had it on my mind lately as we listen to it over and over again. It gives me the warm fuzzies, I tell ya, and I also have always found it creatively motivating. I often feel like making something pretty after watching this movie.


2002 Undercover Brother
This was my first taste of exploitation parody, and while I remember thinking it looked stupid at first, I quickly warmed to its general silliness, awesome cast, and kickin' soundtrack. Including Michael Bolton's version of "The Thong Song".



2003 X2: X-Men United
I love X-Men, you guys. I seriously do. And while the release of the first film opened up all kinds of new ground for me by actually being my introduction to the franchise (I got into the comics immediately following- backwards, I know), the second film is pretty great itself. It's got Nightcrawler, one of my absolute favorite characters, plus Lady Deathstryke and Pyro and Magneto's cool plastic prison. And Jean Grey dies, sort of! Awesome! Also, spoiler oops.


2004 Kamikaze Girls
You may have heard me going on about how great this movie is on that amazing podcast episode. It's a funny, offbeat, heartwarming, gorgeously costumed story with a truly lovely friendship at its center and nice attention to the Rococo lifestyle. I could watch it over and over again and always get the same level of enjoyment.


2005 The Brothers Grimm
Yeah I could easily go with Gilliam's remarkable Southern fable Tideland, but instead I'm pimping The Brothers Grimm from the same year. It's severely under-appreciated but I find it strange and dark and funny, with memorable imagery and a strong cast. Plus: Fake-French Jonathan Pryce! Love him!


2006 Paprika
I'm fairly certain Satoshi Kon was some sort of genius and I'm still really saddened by his death. Paprika is a fantastic, highly imaginative anime with superb animation and music. It set the stage for movies like Inception, and the soundtrack is all kinds of kickin'.


2007 Planet Terror
We all know I'm a sucker for a sexy lady with a modified limb. Also for a good zombie movie. And also for Robert Rodriguez. I think Planet Terror is a near-perfect movie, completely entertaining and exciting and stylish and fun. And of course the whole Grindhouse experience just makes me smile ear-to-ear.



2008 Sita Sings The Blues
Experimental animation, musicals, lady filmmakers, recreations of interesting myths- this film has so many things I like! Director Nina Paley's tribute to her own divorce is informative, heartbreaking, and breathtaking in its visual scope as she combines cut-out silhouettes, Flash, squigglevision, and collage techniques to tell the story of the Ramayama.


2009 Thirst
Fuck yessssss this movie is fantastic. My first Park Chan-wook film, and indeed the catalyst for my newfound interest in Korean cinema in general, Thirst is a complex and horrific tale of a priest who becomes a vampire. It is beautifully shot and well-acted, with a wonderfully contorted plot. So good.


2010 Tucker & Dale vs Evil
Ok so I could easily go with Black Swan or Winter's Bone, but you've heard about those movies. Instead let's talk about how great horror-comedy Tucker & Dale vs Evil is, and how depressed we all are that it hasn't had a theater or dvd release in the US yet. It's so funny, you guys! Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk as well-meaning "hillbillies" who just want to renovate their cabin and wind up in the midst of an apparent suicide pact between asshole college students, whom they keep finding gruesomely mutilated in the woods. Hilarious. Check the trailer.

2011 Hanna
I think I'm only supposed to go to 2010, but since I did have my 2011 birthday already I figured I'd include it. Right now my favorite movie of the year is probably Hanna, closely followed by Jane Eyre. Both movies are about strong-willed young ladies with lonely childhoods who are betrayed by the main man in their lives. One of them kills a lot of people, the other thinks she sees ghosts. I'll let you determine which is which.

Anyway there it is. Now go check out everybody else's posts!

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Friday, May 6, 2011

Movie Sketch Project #37

Oops, I'm running late with this today but I am proud of the thing I made! So welcome to another edition of the Movie Sketch Project, wherein I make some art inspired by a film I watched recently. As you may recall from last week, I've been watching a lot of the anime series Trigun lately (just finished it, actually), plus I caught the new film from last year. So it's been on my mind! Milly Thompson is my favorite character next to Wolfwood; she's sweet and funny and secretly totally badass under that ditzy facade. I did a more comic-booky style drawing of her by hand, then went over everything in photoshop and gave it texture and color and whatnot. I know anime isn't everyone's thing, but hopefully you'll appreciate my design just because it's got a cool lady with a huge gun! Everyone likes that! Full view is recommended, though.

It is for sale as a print for only $10. Also you can check out other things for purchase in my etsy shop or t-shirt shop.

And finally, here's one last plug for the Lammy's. If you are a LAMB and haven't voted yet, I would love a shout-out in the "Best Running Feature" category for this here Movie Sketch Project. I've been working pretty hard on it and I like what I've achieved, and if you feel the same then spread the love!

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