Running Scared – Review

31 Oct

I’m the kind of guy that loves an action movie that isn’t afraid to push everything way over the top. Hell, I could watch the Crank movies on repeat any day of the week. Much like Crank, Wayne Kramer’s 2006 action thriller, Running Scared, is certainly not a film that’s afraid to go way overboard in quite literally every aspect of its presentation. When done correctly, this kind of film making can heighten the movie watching experience, and it definitely does that in some, if not most, moments in this film, but it also detracts from it at the same time. This feeling of being slightly uneven makes Running Scared a good film, but not a great film.

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Joey Gazelle (Paul Walker) is a small time gangster working for mafioso Tommy Perello (Johnny Messner). During what should have been a simple drug deal, a trio of masked crooked cops led by Rydell (Chazz Palminteri) burst in and threaten to steal everything and murder everyone. After gunfire erupts, two of the cops are dead and Rydell is on the run leaving Perello to entrust Joey with the pistol that was used to kill the two cops. Instead of dumping the gun right away, Joey goes home to see his wife Teresa (Vera Farmiga) and son Nicky (Alex Neuberger). Unfortunately for Joey, Nicky’s friend Oleg (Cameron Bright) gets a hold of the gun to get revenge on his step-father (Karel Roden) for his acts of abuse, but soon the gun becomes lost in the seedy night time underworld leaving Joey to speed through the streets trying to find it, but danger seems to literally lurk behind every corner.

As you would probably expect, one does not have to think a whole lot while they’re watching this movie, but I was actually really surprised when I began losing track of the plot at certain points. Luckily, I know exactly why this was happening to me. As I said before, this movie goes way over the top in the way it tells its story, it almost feels like a graphic novel. The problem is that it goes too far over the top in terms of plot contrivances, twists, and motivations. It seems like something new came along in every scene to completely change the course of the movie. It seems like a million and one different events and motivations just mush together in the span of a two hour movie that it was hard to keep track of it all.

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Now to talk about what’s awesome about Running Scared is the excellent action sequences and really cool editing. First of all, the action in this movie is turned up to 11. This isn’t to say that this is the kind of movie that has non stop gunfights and what have you, but when it does happen, things get really crazy. Blood and chunks of gangsters fly all over the place in such a way that reinforces my looking at this as a graphic novel put to screen. One awesome scene in particular has a gunfight occur in a hockey rink that is lit entire by black light after the ice was specially painted. The editing and the action go hand in hand like a match made in heaven. The camera flies all over the place, while the editing fast forwards, rewinds, or halts the action to sudden slow motion. Images flash across the screen and colors and frames get distorted. With an action movie that can get as insane as this one does, kinetic editing is crucial and is a huge success in Running Scared.

In keeping with the tradition of this review, I think I also need to talk about how (at time ridiculously) over the top the acting is. I can’t say I’m a fan of Paul Walker, especially with my lack of interest in the Fast and the Furious movies. In this movie, he has a lot of energy and hams it up in an entertaining way, but sometimes it just felt weird. For most of the film he just came off as a loud and arrogant protagonist that I know I wouldn’t get along with if I ever met him on the street. The villains on the other hand, with special nods to Palminteri and Messner, ham it up to perfection. My favorite performance in this movie is actually Vera Farmiga, who really doesn’t seem to be her normal self. There are moments in this film where she really seems to be playing the role with enormous amounts of honesty and seriousness, which can’t really be said about the hammed up performance by everyone else.

I’d be lying to you if I said that I didn’t have a really good time watching Running Scared. There’s really nothing in this movie to take too seriously, even though the film often deals with serious themes. It’s lack of organization can make things confusing and the acting can be a little overbearing at times, but watching this movie is like seeing an insanely kinetic and violent graphic novel come to life. Do yourself a favor and don’t think too hard while you’re watching this because I don’t think that’s what the movie is all about. Instead, treat this film simply as an above average action movie who’s purpose is to get your adrenaline going for a few hours.

My Top 10 Horror Movies

30 Oct

Halloween is upon us, which means it is the best time to completely numb your senses with fear with your favorite horror movies. The horror genre isn’t the genre that is the most respected or taken seriously, but part of that is what makes it so great. Film makers don’t always have to worry about the dramatic presentation or the production values of their horror movies, because it’s all about the scare. I love me a good horror movie, so in light of this wonderful holiday, I’d like to share my 10 favorite horror movies of all time.

10. Antichrist (Lars von Trier, 2009)

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I remember watching the trailer for this movie when it first came out and thinking how insane it looked, but I really had no idea until I actually sat down and watched it. Antichrist is the story of a Man (Willem Dafoe) and a Woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg) who retreat to their home in the woods after the sudden death of their young child. What happens next can only be seen to be believed. Demonic talking animals, the brutalization of the most sensitive of body parts, and a twisted and depraved sexual escapade into the most primal and dark parts of the human psyche. Lars von Trier is an amazing film maker and his work on Antichrist is incredible, and while it’s one of the most disturbing movies I’ve ever seen, it is also one of the most visually beautiful and haunting.

9. Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau, 1922)

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I firmly believe that some of the most frightening movies are from the silent era of film. The fact that there is no sound is odd enough, but the soundtrack and eerily grainy visuals is enough to make me squirm. One of the finest examples of this is Nosferatu, a movie about “Dracula” that came way before the Universal classic. While the vampire is known as Count Orlok (played by Max Schreck, in one of the most mesmerizing performances ever put onscreen), the story is still based on Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. There are images in this movie that will stick with me until the day I die. One being Orlok’s shadow as he’s walking up the stairs, and the other being his rise from the coffin. Sure, there’s no sound or dialogue in this film, but Schreck’s performance and the nightmarish visuals are out of this world.

8. Vampyr (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1932)

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Here we have another silent film (sort of) that was actually released in the beginning of the sound era of film. That being said there are some sounds in this film, but it is still all about the visuals. Not only the visuals, but the amazing special effects that still have me baffled. Shadows dance along the walls and a man’s spirit leaves his body for a haunting walk through a field. Like the previous film, Vampyr is also the story of a vampire. In this film we follow Allan Gray (Nicolas de Gunzburg), a traveling student of the occult who becomes mixed up with a family who has been attacked by a vampire. When I say this movie feels like a nightmare, it really feels like a nightmare, one that I’d be excited to wake up from. The story plays out at a slow pace and the camerawork plays tricks on the viewer in ways that was surprising for the year 1932. Not only is this an outstanding horror film, it’s also, in my opinion, one of the most important movies in film history.

7. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974)

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Now we’re really getting into the gritty stuff. Tobe Hooper’s original Texas Chainsaw Massacre remains one of the most brutal and no holds bars horror movies ever, even though it had its 40th birthday this year. This is the story of a group of friends on a road trip to a graveyard when they come across a sadistic and murderous family of cannibals who begins killing them in gruesome ways. This film introduced the now iconic character Leatherface (played by Gunnar Hansen in this film), and spawned a series of sequels and remakes that never came close to Hooper’s original vision. The actors and film makers were put through hell making this movie with uncomfortable and cramped sets and heat that made many of them sick. While it was shot on an unreasonably low budget and starred a group of unheard of actors, this film has still become a landmark in the history of horror, not because of how beautifully shot it is nor how well acted it is, but simply because of the terror that it evokes.

6. Dead Alive/Braindead (Peter Jackson, 1992)

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Before making the record breaking Academy Award winning Lord of the Rings series, Peter Jackson and the rest of his crew were making much more different films, one of them being the cult class Dead Alive. Originally released in its home country of New Zealand under the title Braindead, it was soon released in the United States under the title Dead Alive. Not only does this movie combine horror and comedy almost seamlessly, it has also been crowned the goriest movie ever made, and that’s just awesome. In this film, the timid Lionel (Timothy Balme) has to fight an endless horde of zombies caused by a mutated rat-monkey, while taking care of his mother (Elizabeth Moody) and winning the heart of the girl of his dreams (Diana Peñalver). Probably the most notorious scene of the movie features Lionel face to face with a room full of zombies armed only with his trusty lawnmower. The result is what can only be described as geysers of blood, which confirms the hundreds of gallons that Jackson went through making this movie. Not everyone could probably stomach the gore in this movie, but you just have to remember how much fun you’re actually having watching this ridiculous film.

5. Evil Dead II (Sam Raimi, 1987)

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In the same vein as Peter Jackson’s gorefest, I bring you the only other horror comedy that could possibly top it: Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead II. In 1981, Raimi and his friends made the first Evil Dead on a shoestring budget that had some pretty impressive effects and scares, but was ultimately still viewed as a horror comedy. After the surprising success of his first film, he released the sequel in 1987, but this time upping the gore and the humor, as well as turning Ash (Bruce Campbell) into one of the best heroes you’ll ever see. This film pits Ash against the demonic forces in the forest that possess household objects, kills his girlfriend, and even takes over Ash’s hand forcing him to cut it off which results in his trademark arm chainsaw. This movie isn’t necessarily scary, but it still does have horror tropes like the undead and demons, but you’ll be laughing too hard at this movie to be scared. I absolutely love this movie.

4. The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973)

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Here’s a movie that is widely considered the best horror movie ever made, William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. This is the movie that is known for making grown men cry like babies, and for good reason. The idea of the devil and demons is scary enough, but the idea of them taking over your mind, body, and soul is probably one of the worst things ever, which is exactly what happens to the poor little girl, Regan (Linda Blair). The best parts of the movie, however, are the scenes where the two priests (played by Max von Sydow and Jason Miller) face off against the demonic forces that are harming the child. The effects are unbelievable and the sound design is probably the most horrifying part of the story. What is really frightening about The Exorcist is the understanding of what’s happening to the characters in the movie, and anyone who has seen it will testify just to how jarringly disturbing Friedkin’s masterpiece is.

3. The Thing (John Carpenter, 1982)

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What’s different about this movie is that it can be argued that John Carpenter’s The Thing is actually a science fiction film more than it is a horror, but I believe it is exactly the opposite. Sure, the story is about a microscopic alien that invades the workers on an Antarctic base, but the horror is what really makes this film memorable. First of all, let me just say that this movie is my pick for best special effects ever. There’s no tricks with computers or digital effects, but instead all of the effects are achieved by practical effects and concrete creature designs and puppeteering. Still, what is just as terrifying as the creature effects and the gore that results from the different transformations is the paranoia and isolation that the characters experience throughout the movie, and how the close knit bonds between them are completely shattered by something that can’t even be seen. I couldn’t recommend this movie more, and I would even say choose this one over the 1951 original, The Thing from Another World. Carpenter’s version is far superior.

2. Hellraiser (Clive Barker, 1987)

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Clive Barker is a name that goes hand in hand with paranormal and surreal horror. His masterpiece, in my opinion is the 1987 film Hellraiser. While Barker is mostly known as an author, penning the books that inspired Candyman and Midnight Meat Train, he still has the credit of directing Hellraiser, while also being responsible for writing the book and the screenplay. This is one of the most demented horror films I have ever seen, and much like Antichrist, succeeds at turning sex into something repulsive. The story is almost too strange to give a one sentence description, but all you need to know is that it revolves around a box that summons beings from another dimension that will take you back to their world and torture you for all eternity. Death is not the end with the beings called the Cenobites, the pain lasts forever, but their goal is to give the taken what they describe as the ultimate in pleasure and pain, which is where the bizarre sexual themes come into play. The make up and effects are great, but so is the story and the suspense, making this one of my absolute favorite horror films ever. But there is still one more…

1. Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978)

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Yes, ladies and gentlemen, my favorite horror film of all time has to be John Carpenter’s Halloween. I chose this film for multiple reasons. First of all because of the character of Michael Myers, but also because of the soundtrack, the suspense, and the nostalgia. This is the one that started it all for me. I wouldn’t love horror movies as much as I do if it weren’t for the “night he came home.” Michael Myers is a horrifying icon of horror, with the expressionless mask (which is a Captain Kirk mask spray painted white), the black eyes, and the slow way he chases after his prey. Much of the movie is actually pretty slow, mostly with Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) babysitting the neighborhood brat, but also of Michael just watching everyone. Some of the most terrifying horror movies are the ones that could actually happen, and someone stalking and murdering people is one of those things. The fear really comes on strong when Myers’ theme begins and the chase between him and Laurie begins. Nothing gets me ready for Halloween like Halloween.

 

Horror movies are a special kind of movie that make being scared into something to enjoy. So turn off the lights, grab a beer, and check out some of these movies if you haven’t already. Happy Halloween, fellow cinephiles!

The Assassins – Review

28 Oct

Historical epics can make for some of the most entertaining and cool movies you could ever see. Just think of movies like Gladiator and Spartacus. These are just two examples that really stick out in my mind. However, there are some that really just suck the big one, and The Assassins is one of those movies. It really hurts to say this because it is such a beautiful film and the history involved is really cool, dealing with the end of the Han dynasty. Unfortunately, a lot of the film just feels boring and disconnected, characters are wasted, and I feel like I’m not getting all of the history that I should be getting.

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Set during the end of the Han dynasty, Lingju (Liu Yifei) and Mu Shun (Hiroshi Tamaki) are two assassins sent to the Bronze Sparrow Terrace to kill the King of Wei, Cao Cao (Chow Yun-fat). While dealing with their own feelings towards each other, they are also witness to a volatile political and familial conflict between the ruling powers. As Lingju becomes closer to Cao Cao, she sees him less as a god among men, but as a man surrounded by corruption and betrayal, which forces him to heighten his guard as attempts on his life come from all sides.

This is a time period that I’m not too familiar with, but one that I’ve always wanted to know more about. I thought that this was going to be a good opportunity to start learning more, but there really isn’t a lot of legit history going on in The Assassins, more so a really bland romantic version of what sort of happened. There are moments that are taken from actual history and is completely changed into something a lot less exciting than how it all went down. I understand that many film makers take dramatic license with fact, but that’s usually to make a movie more intense. The license taken with the history in this movie actually made it more boring than it should have been.

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I have to say, that this is am amazing looking film with excellent production values and talent that went into the visual aesthetics of the movie. The costumes are flawless and really help capture the period that this movie takes place during. The sets are also great. The design of the Bronze Sparrow Terrace is very believable and all of the other scenery outside the Terrace looks beautiful. There aren’t to many action sequences, but when they do happen it’s a wonder to look at. One scene at the end uses slow motion very well, but still remains believable. Unfortunately, for all of this good stuff, it isn’t part of a better movie. Still, it does save the movie from becoming a total waste.

I can’t even buy a lot of the performances. Chow-Yun-fat seems into his role as Cao Cao, but the two assassins, who I assume the movie is named after, are completely wasted. The whole romance between the two is completely unnecessary and it seems like the film makers knew that because they don’t spend to much time on it. The most interesting stuff is the political intrigue concerning Cao Cao and the emperor, but the intrigue is pretty much all fabricated so that makes what is actually interesting feel wasted as well.

The Assassins is pretty much a waste of a movie that had so much potential. The only thing the film has going for it is the visuals, costumes, and Chow Yun-fat’s performance. Even these things can’t completely save the movie. Before seeing the film, I read that it really wasn’t anything impressive, but considering the subject matter, I couldn’t really believe it. Well, after seeing it, everything I read was true. If you want a blandly romanticized version of history, check out The Assassins.

The Thieves – Review

26 Oct

One of the best feelings ever is going into a movie and expecting it to be garbage, and then ending up having some of the most fun I’ve had watching a movie in a long time. Before watching The Thieves, I didn’t know anything about it and I wasn’t even sure that it’s production values were any good, but after some research I found that, for awhile, it was the highest grossing South Korean film of all time. So, I soon became interested, and after watching the movie and thinking back on it, I like it more and more.

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As leader of a group of thieves, Popie (Lee Jung-jae) has assembled only the best in the business. These include the aged Chewing Gum (Kim Hae-sook), the young burglar Yenicall (Jeon Ji-hyun), and expert technician Zampano (Kim Soo-hyun). While this team works great together, a monkey wrench is thrown in the mix when two of Popie’s old associates show up once again. The first is his love interest and associate Pepsee (Kim Hye-soo) and the other is Macao Park (Kim Yun-seok), who has a new job for them: stealing the Tear of the Sun diamond from vicious gangster Wei Hong (Ki Gook-seo). Enlisting the help of another team from China led by Chen (Simon Yam), the thieves make a plan and eventually get their hands on the diamond and the money, but it seems that everyone wants it all for themselves and proves that there is no loyalty among thieves.

As I was saying before, I really had pretty low expectations for this movie. I was worried it was just going to be a rip off of Ocean’s Eleven, but I was wonderfully surprised to see that The Thieves most certainly is not a rip off, but it is the best heist film since Ocean’s Eleven. This movie is a great blend of action, comedy, and betrayal. This is a pretty long movie, and I’m not saying that it couldn’t have been edited down, but there is so much happening in this movie that the long run time is justified. Another concern of mine was, since I knew that there was going to be a lot of double crossing from a lot of different characters, I thought I was going to be mad confused. Again, this just wasn’t the case.

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Maybe I’m just a moron, but when there’s a lot of things going on in a movie where a lot of different people have ulterior motives, I sometimes just get lost in a all of the commotion. Let’s just say movies like Spy Game and the third Pirates of the Caribbean movies left me baffled for a while. This one didn’t leave me confused at all, and I think that’s because the characters are so fleshed out and written so well that none of them blended together. They all had very different personalities and clear motivations that were explained very well, so when the double crossing did begin, I was able to keep up with it and just enjoy seeing everything fall apart in that comedic way that only heist films can deliver on.

That being said, The Thieves definitely has style, but it is in no way style over substance. I actually connected with some of the characters and understood their reasonings, and then there were some that I enjoyed hating. It’s a very twisty king of movie, so you may think you know what’s going on, but then it turns out that you couldn’t have been more wrong. The only real flaw that is to be found in this movie is that a very big conflict, which can be argued is the main conflict of the entire movie, doesn’t show up until the last half hour or forty five minutes of the movie. They pack so much action into this part that it’s easy to forget that this should’ve been part of the movie from the get go.

As it stands, The Thieves is still the third highest grossing movie in South Korea, and it really does deserve that honor. I saw a lot of other critics saying that they wished Hollywood was still able to make movies like this, and I have to agree. Sure, Hollywood makes some really great movies from time to time, but it’s also lacking a lot of what The Thieves has, and that’s both style and substance. This is a movie that is sure to please anybody who watches it. I absolutely loved The Thieves.

The Courier – Review

23 Oct

While I may not be perfect at this, I like to think I’m the kind of guy that usually has good faith in movies that many consider to be awful (much like the second and third Matrix films, but we shouldn’t get into that). Case and point here with Hany Abu-Assad’s direct-to-video release, The Courier. I heard absolutely nothing on this, so much so that I really couldn’t have any opinion on it at all going in. Needless to say, I think, this is a very independent movie and that shows, but this isn’t a completely terrible film. It isn’t really all that good of one either.

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If you ever need a package delivered, no questions asked, the first person to call would be Frank from The Transporter, but that’s not this movie. In this case, you would call the Courier (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a mysterious man that delivers packages, and that’s all you need to know if he is to be hired. One day, he is approached by a rather hostile client (Til Schweiger) who demands that he deliver a suit case to a man long thought to be dead named Evil Sevile, who became one of the most notoriously violent gangsters in New Orleans. With the help of his new partner, Anna (Josie Ho), the Courier begins his 60 hour long mission, only to be attacked on all sides by FBI agents and another gangster that wants him dead (Mickey Rourke).

At first glance, and second glance, and probably even third glance, The Courier seems like a disgusting rip off of the much superior Transporter films. Well, that’s because it kinda, sorta…well…is. There is a lot that happens towards the end that adds some flair of originality, but the entire time I was watching this movie, I really wanted to be watching something else. That is not a sign of a good movie, especially one that rips off a whole idea from another film. If you’re going to rip something off, you might as well make it better. Not only was I put off by this, but the movie itself is just really boring.

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This movie is pretty much made to sound like an action thriller, but it is clearly lacking in action. I understand that this movie was pretty low budget for what it is, and you can see that the film makers really try, but I feel like film makers have to realize what they are capable of with the resources that they have. The director even said in the special features how limited they were while making this film. This makes it feel like a slow moving thriller with the story of a mindless action film. It makes for a really awkward combination. There was one scene in particular where I was really ready for the climax of the film. The set up was actually really cool and the setting was fun, but then the climax and the reveal happened. All I can say is that for all of that build up, it was pretty sloppy and all together uninteresting.

I can’t say that I completely hated this movie or call it a piece of shit, because it really isn’t horrible. I really enjoyed Jeffrey Dean Morgan in The Losers, and I enjoyed him again here. The cast really is great. There’s Mickey Rourke, Til Schweiger (Inglourious Basterds), Miguel Ferrer (Twin Peaks), and Mark Margolis (Breaking Bad). That’s a pretty cool cast for a movie that is really underwhelming. The acting from these people aren’t the problem and the cinematography is actually pretty darn good, especially considering the director is an award winning film maker.

The Courier is one of those weird movies that really isn’t very good, even though it’s close to being something. It really is painful how much it rips off The Transporter and other action film cliches, even though there are many times where this doesn’t feel like an action film. It has to be hard making a film like this on such a low budget, and it unfortunately shows at times. I really can’t recommend this movie at all because it is so nothing special and bland that I really have to much to say about it. I guess I can just say, it’s a direct-to-video movie that is exactly what you’d expect from something like that.

The Tetsuo Trilogy – Review

21 Oct

I’d feel pretty comfortable making the assumption that not many people know who Shin’ya Tsukomoto is, and I was one of those people up until last week when I started watching his Tetsuo films. He’s actually a cult Japanese film maker with a pretty sizable following. I then realized that he was actually the star in a movie that I recently reviewed, Marebito, but now I got to see his film making talents in full swing. I gotta say, much to my surprise, I’m not really that impressed. These movies were more of a chore than anything else, and I really wanted to like them considering the underground following that they have and especially concerning what seemed to inspire these films.

In 1989, the best film in the trilogy was released, even though how it was made is much more impressive. That film is Tetsuo: The Iron Man.

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In what can only be described as a very strange morning, a Japanese businessman (Tomorowo Taguchi) and his girlfriend (Kei Fujiwara) end up hitting a character known as the Metal Fetishist (Shin’ya Tsukomoto) with their car and fleeing the scene to dump the body. What happens next defies all logic. The businessman starts to morph into a being made entirely of scrap metal, an event which has consequences that are often fatal. It turns out that the Fetishist is all but dead, and has returned to enact his revenge in the only way that he deems fit.

This is a very short film, only clocking in at a little over an hour, which seemed odd to me before I watched it and had any idea what the movie was like. Now that I’ve seen it, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, I wish it was shorter. This is a surreal trip down a junkyard, cyber-punk rabbit hole that only gets odder as it goes along. I’ve seen this film compared to the early works of David Lynch (Eraserhead immediately comes to mind) and the body horror that is so familiar in David Cronenberg’s work. I think this is a spot on comparison and is what makes this movie successful. By the 45 minute mark, however, it was all wearing a little thin. Still, that’s the only thing that is wrong with this film.

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Tetsuo: The Iron Man is a very impressive film, especially considering that Tsukomoto wrote, produced, directed, had an acting part, and designed the effects all by himself. He also worked on the cinematography with Fujiwara, who plays the girlfriend. This is a really cool film with excellent special effects that shows what marvels can be done without CGI. It’s a bit too long considering how kinetic it is, but it’s still worth a watch, but for film fanatics only.

Tsukomoto couldn’t leave this movie alone, however, and released a retelling of the story with his 1992 film Tetsuo II: Body Hammer.

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Taniguchi Tomoo (Tomorowo Taguchi again) is a man with a dark and mysterious past, but has still found happiness with his wife and child. One day a group of skin heads abduct his child, and in the process of trying to get him back, Taniguchi accidentally kills him…with a giant gun that grows from his body. This horrifies his wife and he is soon kidnapped by Yatsu (Shin’ya Tsukomoto also again). Yatsu’s plan is to use that power that Taniguchi has to make an army of cyborg skinheads and exact revenge of his own.

So once again, the story here is all sorts of odd, but it worked so much better in The Iron ManBody Hammer is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the absolute worst movies I have ever seen. So much so that I cheated to get through it. I skipped certain scenes because they were damn near unwatchable. The production values are obviously higher and the movie may be in color, but it is still just a rehashing of something that was really cool and is now made stupid. The only redeeming thing about Body Hammer is the special effects, but unfortunately THE MOVIE IS SO GOD DAMN DARK, I CAN’T EVEN SEE ANYTHING!

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I really couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t believe it. This movie is such trash compared to the first film. Adding a story didn’t make it cooler, nor did the better special effects…well the ones I could see anyway. Another thing that didn’t help was the fact that the movie seemed to be monochromatic even though it’s color. The entire film was just a mushing of blues and grays, none 0f which looks exactly good. I understand, this is supposed to be industrial, but that doesn’t excuse how horrible this movie looks. Any fan of the first one should stay away from Body Hammer because you’re sure to be disappointed.

But still, STILL, Tsukomoto couldn’t resist make yet another Tetsuo movie. In 2009 he released the third film in the trilogy called Tetsuo: The Bullet Man.

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Anthony (Eric Bossick) is walking with his son one day when the Metal Fetishist (Shin’ya Tsukomoto yet again!) runs over his little boy. This triggers an odd (or not so odd at this point) reaction for Anthony who begins to turn into a metallic man (shocker!).  Soon, Anthony begins to learn how he has android DNA which he got from his mother who died of cancer some years before, but was never told by his father. He begins to accept what he has become and tries to control it so he can get revenge on the Fetishist who killed his son and changed his life.

By the time I watched The Bullet Man, I was so sick of this trilogy and the rehashing of the same story over and over again. Doing that once with Body Hammer was one thing, although it was a failure, but doing it again with The Bullet Man is just annoying. Still, I did have a better time with this one than I did with its predecessor. The story is complete ludicrous, as usual, and the acting is also really subpar. What got me was that I could at least see what was going on, and unlike the other two, there was characterization in this one. The action was also pretty cool, even though Tsukomoto went kind of crazy with the crazy camerawork. Major points off for that one.

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Much like the other films, the special effects are what really make The Bullet Man anywhere near cool. This is a pretty terrible movie, but it’s almost so bad it’s good. I may be in the minority with this opinion, but I’d much prefer this one over the second one. This one has some really kinetic action and some repulsively bad writing and acting. While this isn’t as shitty as the second one, it’s still a big steaming pile if you catch my drift.

Well, there’s what I think of the Tetsuo Trilogy. As you can see I am not impressed. The first film is the only one that remotely impressed me and the second and third are just dumb. If anyone has any interest in Tsukomoto’s work with this trilogy, limit yourselves to the first one. For your own sake.

Being John Malkovich – Review

16 Oct

There are some movies where I think to myself, “How did this even get made?” 9 times out of 10 that means that I’m watching a piece of shit movie that seems like little to no talent or effort went into it at all. Now, it’s true that I had the “how did this get made” though while I was watching Being John Malkovich, but it was the rare 1 out of 10 chance where I had this thought even as I was watching an incredible movie that was full of talent, effort, and one of the most original screenplays I have ever seen. Still, with a story as surreal and other worldly as this, the movie has a lot to say and it really is some of the most fun I ever had watching a film.

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Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is a struggling puppeteer who has recently gotten a job on the 7 1/2 floor of an office building as a file clerk. The office has incredibly low ceilings and the only was to get there is by prying the elevator doors open when it is in between the seventh and eighth floors, but that isn’t the strangest part about it. Hidden behind a filing cabinet is a portal that leads Schwartz, and anyone who enters into the mind of John Malkovich (who plays himself). Craig and his coworker Maxine (Catherine Keener), who refuses to return the love that Craig is pouring on her, decide to open the portal to the public for two hundred dollars. Everything seems to be going fine for everyone (except John Malkovich) until Maxine and Craig’s wife, Lotte (Cameron Diaz), become attracted to each other, but Maxine will only love her if she is inside John Malkovich. This odd love quadrangle soon results an existential crisis for everyone involved.

While this movie was released in 1999, I saw that an early draft of the script was actually being circulated by screenwriter Charlie Kaufman as early as 1989. This just adds to the miracle that this movie was made in the first place. Screenplays are very often around for years before being made, but this one is just so odd. John Malkovich was attached as producer for a while, but never actually planned on playing himself when the movie was made. Many people were suggesting other actors to play the part, including Tom Cruise, but Kaufman was only going to allow the movie to be made if John Malkovich was the celebrity whose mind would be entered. After much convincing, Malkovich decided to act in the movie, and the rest is history at its most surreal.

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From the get go, this movie plays by its own rules, and I need to give so  much credit to Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze, who before this movie only worked on music videos and commercials and is now an Academy Award winning film maker/writer. The fact that these two took a story about a portal that leads to the mind of John Malkovich and then spits you out on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike and made it work well is really incredible. Beneath all of the surrealism and strangeness is a wonderful look at how people obsess over the idea of celebrity to the point where they want to stop being themselves in exchange for a life that is much more exciting. If you want to dig deeper, it actually is a powerful movie about self worth and respect that is hidden beneath a dreamscape of portals and advocates of ever lasting life.

Another thing that’s wonderful about Being John Malkovich is that it made me laugh, and laugh very hard. The now famous “Malkovich, Malkovich” scene is one of the funniest scenes I’ve seen in a movie ever. I feel like I’m very harsh on comedies in the sense that it has to be original, somewhat smart or witty, and not rely on gross out or sexual humor. A movie that doesn’t apply to these personal rules are not funny to me. This film almost exists on a different dimensional plane of comedy where people like the members of Monty Python thrive. It’s smart and original on so many levels, but also just unbelievably funny. This is comedy, ladies and gentlemen.

Being John Malkovich is one of the most interesting, original, and insightful comedies that I’ve seen in a long time, not to mention that it provided me with enough surrealism to last a year. This was to be expected from the writer of films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Adaptation, and the director of Her and some of the most wild music videos you’ll see. This is an excellent film that I would normally say isn’t for everyone, but it really sorta is for everyone. I feel like there’s joy in this movie for everyone and even some things that everyone can relate to. Being John Malkovich is one of the best comedies of all time.

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