Saturday, June 28, 2008

Secret Sunshine

Lee Shin-Ae is this movie.

Not only does Jeon Do-Yeon carry the entire movie, but her character becomes the movie.

Like its protagonist, the film initially parades around town in a veneer of normality and happiness (i.e. blandness and disinterest), acting richer than she really is (through nifty camerawork and showy side performances), but hiding a plethora of internal problems that explodes in the third act (in the form of juvenile pranks and hysterics) and ultimately leads to her being unable to deliver the payoff (eagerly promised by the numerous thematic setups).

And then, further emphasizing its central theme of denial and repression, the film runs about 45 minutes too long on the fumes of its own self-importance.

Secret Sunshine: 4/10

Friday, June 27, 2008

Superman Returns

Singer self-pleasures
with wooden leads, bloated scenes,
and bible stories.

Superman Returns: 4/10

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Alvin and the Chipmunks

*~*The ch1pmunkz are sooo~~~ darn cute~~~!~!~!~**

Alvin and the Chipmunks: 2/10

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Kung Fu Panda

Amazingly authentic in regards to its Chinese roots, it's shiny, mass-produced, and totally shameless in its imitations, without bothering to innovate. It even apes the Chinese advertising tactic of hiring foreign stars to mouth two or three lines for the camera and then commercializing the heck out of them. Hell, even the highlight of the film's creativity, the opening dream sequence, is, like all the best Chinese products, cribbed from the Japanese.

Just like bamboo, though the film's mostly hollow, it is also surprisingly strong.

Kung Fu Panda: 6/10

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon is About True Love

It wasn't until the very last scenes when it all became clear. Let's recap.

Andy Lau and Sammo Hung meet and become fast friends, with Andy referring to Sammo as "Big Brother." Then Andy's career takes off and he's given the "All-Piercing Spear," as phallic a symbol as any. This is followed by a scene where Sammo urges Andy to "ride swiftly" while Andy touches his chest while gagging on a mouthful of rice.

This subtext was such a pleasant surprise as everything else in the movie is so idiotically blunt and mentally un-challenging that I forgot to keep thinking and had to catch up every once in a while after dozing off.

Later in the film, Andy is wounded by Maggie Q in a duel and is tended to by Sammo, after the fight. One of Andy's soldiers offers to remove his armor, but Andy refuses, saying that he doesn't like showing his weaknesses. Andy then dismisses everyone, except Sammo. Alone, they then exchange a knowing glance and offer each other tissue and ointment.

This is a good time to note that the film's title, 三國之見龍卸甲, literally means "see the dragon, shed the armor," a clear metaphorical and synecdochical reference to Andy's "dragon" and attire.

Andy's soldiers then suddenly return to report that Maggie Q's army is attacking again. Andy immediately orders his entire army to certain death by Maggie Q's lute-playing/Mandarin ghost-voiceover-er.

Everyone dies, except for Sammo, of course, who stays behind. Sammo asks Andy if he'll surrender, but is laughed off. This is when Sammo breaks down and admits his betrayal of him in favor of Maggie Q. Why? Because he's been giving and giving and giving all these 32 years, and what's Andy given him? Nothing! Just endless exotic trips into the unknown while he stayed behind. What about his needs? What about his wants? All he wanted was for his name to lie next to Andy's when they got home from the war, but, alas, they're still fighting in circles in the sand.

I cried at this point. Tears were streaming.

Andy is crestfallen, but philosophical. He tells Sammo that he had stripped him of his armor. In other words, Andy had shown him his dragon, he had shed his armor, and as a result, his weakness was revealed: his true love, blind, unconditional love... That still holds true.

Clearly touched, Sammo helps Andy out of his clothes, resurrecting his dragon one last time.

Before, weakened and armor-less, Andy, that vain bastard, orders Sammo to ring a gong and shout his name a few more times...

As he charges alone towards the army of hundreds and his own certain death.

Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon: 3/10

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

I guess I have some things to say, but I'm not sure how to lead into them. So I guess I'll just narrate the boring cursory parts so I can get to the meaty, good stuff much quicker. Hopefully nobody notices, but, just in case, I'll make these parts blurry and abstract so they think I'm just being artsy and clever.

Brad Pitt is especially disappointing in this movie, as well. I mean, everyone goes to Brad Pitt movies to see Brad Pitt, not some flawed, conflicted, and borderline evil character. Furthermore, he actually has the balls to use his real-life persona to twist and manipulate the audience, revealing bouts of intimidation, evil, and instability behind the cool facade of charm.

Now I need to find a way to praise the cinematography and artistic direction, but, of course, in my sarcastic roundabout way. However, this is tough and I'm just too lazy to actually script this element, so I'll just do it with pretty pictures. Maybe then people will think I'm commentating on the warped storybook nature of the story, but in reality, I'm just being lazy.

Now we're getting to the good stuff, so I can stop narrating for a while.

Like Pitt's Jesse James, Dominik does a fantastic job of showing off his unrestricted manhood by shooting everyone. And everything. For a long time. That just keeps going. Sometimes even minutes after the scene's last line. Often dissolving into the scene. Thereby artificially lengthening the next one, as well. But it's okay. Because it's not excess. It's contemplation. And it's visual poetry (the title is actually a haiku). For nearly three hours. Long.

Even more impressive is Dominik's thoughtfulness. While he does nearly lull us to sleep in the first act of the movie, he makes it nearly insignificant, as we receive all the key information later in the movie anyway, such as Robert Ford's obssession, Dick Liddel's womanizing, Jesse James' charismatic cruelty, Frank James' insignificance, Charlie Ford and Ed Miller's ignorance, as well as the love-hate brotherly dynamic between the whole gang.

This way, once we wake up to Casey Affleck dressing up as Brad Pitt forty minutes into the movie, we'll still be able to catch up and appreciate the rest of the film.

All of these positives, however, are dampened by the film's fatal flaw -- its criticism of celebrity glamorization and obsession, especially in light of death.

I mean, think about it. Let's say some famous person died recently. Do you want to be deprived of worshipping and imitating your precious screen idols? Don't you want to reserve your right to overlook blatant drug abuse? Isn't it satisfying to wildly celebrate a body of work that largely consists of silly period pieces, ridiculous "thrillers", and fluffy romantic comedies? I think not.

It's a shame the film had to overshadow all its good points with its well-constructed, relevant, but depressing theme.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford: 6/10

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Black Comedy White Tragedy

This film is the most inefficient movie I've ever seen. All across the board, people just try harder than they really need to try.

For example, everyone knows you don't sell tickets, Colin, so why waste time acting? And why construct a plot that's too unpredictable, Martin, when it won't sell because you can't properly execute it in a 2-minute trailer? And why compose a haunting score, Carter, when there are no words to sell them to Apple's iBots?

Just a complete and utter waste of talent all around.

Just like some other critics attest to, though, the film's only saving grace is its daring and unrestrained dialogue because not everyone can make a war between black midgets and white midgets funny, especially when when the fat retarded black woman helps tilt the proverbial see-saw in their favor, as the fat caucasian Americans are too lazy and unfit to run up the long and winding ladder to white supremacy, while their white Dutch counterparts struggle to earn money from their vaginas as suffering illegal immigrants snorting cocaine. Oh, and everyone's gay. That's wit and high comedy right there. Offending people rules.

In Bruges: 7/10

Sunday, June 8, 2008


1. character characters
2. pl[holes]ot
3. promising pre
                                     se FLAT
4. visual splendor

Vexille: 6/10

1. character-less characters
2. plot full of holes
3. promising premise falls flat (what? I was desperate)
4. visual splendor

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Be Kind Rewind

After dizzying us with the visual creativity and splendor of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep, Michel Gondry takes a break here to chill out and make home videos. Clearly a master method director, he purposely forgot his craft for his craft, in order to make the most amateur-looking movie possible and, supporting the film's theme of non-commercialism, he burns spends $20 million of studio money doing it! The French Revolution lives!

But his subtly laid-out social messages don't just end there. Suspiciously coining his amateur-remake-things as "sweded," Gondry also warns us of the inherent evils of retail giant, IKEA, using the remakes as a metaphor for furniture: sure, they're pleasant on the surface, but they take forever (an entire act) to deliver, are a bitch to construct, are ridiculously cheap, all in all translating to the gimmick breaking down much sooner than expected.

Be Kind Rewind: 5/10

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Be With You

A seemingly simple fairy-tale that works on more levels than one (meaning two).

Take, for example, the beginning. It builds an intriguing premise that's centered upon a dead wife/mother seemingly coming back to life for a father and son. In order to make us feel the dear mothers' sudden disappearance and return to the sympathetic family, director Doi yanks and ignores the most intriguing aspect of the movie for a good hour, stranding the viewer with feelings of frustration, angst, and anger, just like Takumi and Yuji in the film. This feeling of abandonment is further enhanced by the director choosing to focus on a generic love story told in flashbacks, instead of the unique mystery that pervades the entire premise.

When the (apparently not) main plot about the dead wife returns in the third act, the movie hurriedly goes through the (e)motions, climaxes early, then regresses back into the monotony of the generic flashback love story, of course, cleverly symbolizing Mio's, the dead mother's, tragically short, yet happy, life.

And then, as if realizing that it climaxed early and that there's no real reason for the viewer to sit through the rest of the film, some silly time travel subplot is tacked on for good measure, garnished by sunflowers.

Also, to convey the fact that the family loves each other ridiculously, Doi makes them bland, conflict-less, and one-dimensional. In fact, even Nakamura shows the love by making sure that child actor Takei Akashi isn't blown off-screen by matching his single expression of "cute" with his own static expression of "perplexion."

The only part I don't like in this fairy tale is that they don't live happily ever after.

Be With You: 4/10

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Signal

Transmission I: Crazy In Love: 7/10

First of all, kudos to the filmmakers for finally giving Julian Sark, Chief Tyrol, and young Catherine Willows their first big-screen roles, effectively enhancing the premise of the television projecting a distorted version of reality.

This film is also to be praised as it is as anti-commercial as it can get (as evident by its introduction with pointless, non-sexual nudity), condemning subliminal advertising and subtext on-screen, also further enhanced by its cuttingly direct dialogue with idiot-proof lines like "Do you have the crazy?" and "You're not my husband. You're a homicidal maniac."

Transmission II: The Jealousy Monster: 5/10
Then in the second segment, there's a sudden shift in tone from horror to black comedy, which satirizes that much-deserving subset of people called psycho killers, poking fun of undesirable traits like dementia, rage, adultery, and jealousy and showing off how clever they are for doing so, because, God knows, it's about time someone enlightened the world of the undesirability of murder and insanity.

Unfortunately, in their mission of conveying their social message, they also forgot to bring the funny, but that can be forgiven. It's the endearingly incompetent attempt that counts.

Transmission III: Escape From Terminus: 4/10
And then, suddenly, the party ceased and the title screen came on again, prompting me to wait excitedly for the next clever take on the generic horror genre that never arrives.

Instead, the film reverts back to its original tone, making it appear as if the second segment was made to be wildly different only when the filmmakers realized how ridiculous their premise and plot elements were that they chose to override it by making it laughable. This way, instead of us laughing at their movie, they laugh at it with us.

Apparently, some people seemed to think this section was a mystery-love story, and I guess it's true because it's a mystery as to where the mystery is, and a love story, as evident by the message that love (maybe, vaguely, not surely, ambiguously) conquers maniacs, blood, injury, rationality, reality, and (maybe) aliens.

The Signal: 5/10

Monday, June 2, 2008

(Small) Screen Kings

Clearly director David Ayer is a master of television, expertly minimizing competently-intense performances from the silver to the small screen. He also manages to round up a hodge-podge of varying famous faces and turning their roles into glorified guest-starring cameos.

Not only that, sure to please network execs, he manages to cram in numerous jarring commercial breaks every fifteen minutes into the narrative, then re-introducing the story with generic television flyovers made popular by crime shows. Observe.

In fact, he goes so far in his mission to turn the film into a show that he blatantly introduces Hugh Laurie as House to please his fans.

Who's the man behind the curtain?

He has his pills. All he forgot was his cane.

It takes a director of astounding humility to realize the limitations of their major motion picture and consciously chooses to turn it into a star-studded TV movie with excessive swearing and Ayer oozes this trait, and then some more ooze.

And people wonder why this flopped at the box-office. That was by design.

Street Kings: 4/10

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Painted Veil (Which, for some reason, turned into an Incredble Hulk SMASH!)

Clearly a mere warmup performance for Edward Norton before The Incredible Hulk hits, he plays a Bruce Banner-like mild-mannered scientist who suddenly flies into a rage, turning green (with envy) in the process.

Except instead of smashing stuff, he turns passive-aggressive, and instead of growing biceps, he grows bacteria after taking his wife to the cholera-infested Chinese gorges (and I mean that as a noun, not in the rabid mutant dog sense).

What this film lacks in explosions, it makes up for in characterization, style, cinematography, and drama -- exactly the things that made Ang Lee's bastardization Hulk so, so, so, so, so bad. Thank goodness we can be sure Louis Leterrier won't lower himself to these standards.

(Side note: Ever notice how Louis Le Terrier directed Danny the Dog? Ironic? Or ironically BRILLIANT!)

The Painted Veil: 7/10