Tag Archives: ron perlman

The City of Lost Children – Review

25 Nov

Every so often a movie comes around that goes way, way, way over the top with just about everything, and in The City of Lost Children it almost is enough to make you tired. Directors Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet completely blast your audio and visual senses. Anyone familiar with Jeunet’s other works like Delicatessen and Amélie may not be too surprised by this. This film is a milestone in terms of imagination and art direction, but it unfortunately lacks a little in the story department and all of the gizmos and what-have-yous often became distracting.

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The children of an unnamed port city all seem to disappearing one by one and all too quickly. No one knows why this is happening, but if they were to look out into the ocean they would find a rig where a mad scientist named Krank (Daniel Emilfork) has all of the children held captive. Krank’s plan is to use a device to extract the dreams of the children since he is unable to have any of his own. Meanwhile, a carnival strongman, One (Ron Perlman), sees his little brother get kidnapped to be taken to the rig. He soon joins forces with a little girl named Miette (Judith Vittet), an orphan who is also a member of a thieves’ guild. The two begin investigating the kidnappings which will ultimately lead to a showdown with the mad scientist, himself.

The plot of this movie is so stuffed, I feel like I’m leaving so much story information out. This is a two hour movie, but it could have easily gone on for four since there seemed to be just so much going. There’s a group of clones (all played by Dominique Pinon) who have a crazy backstory, conjoined twins that run the thieves’ guild, a tick with murderous powers of motivation, and a talking brain in a fish tank with speakers! WHERE CAN I EVEN BEGIN?! Like I said before, the imagination that went into making The City of Lost Children is mind blowing, but there’s so much there that the story sort of suffers.

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Every corner, every inch, every possible place for negative space in every scene is filled with some sort of gadget or device or weird looking person that there were times where I didn’t even know where to look. There is so much going, and I say that in one of the most extreme ways I could possibly say it. About half way through the movie, I started feeling like I was confused or missing something, but it turns out I was right on on pretty much all accounts. There’s just so many odd characters with different stories and contraptions that it all kind of detracted from the main story about a mad scientist kidnapping children to extract their dreams, which is cool enough. You don’t really need more than that, but this movie literally seems to have everything in it. This isn’t always a negative though.

As it stands, this movie is all about the style and art design which is beyond impressive. Being made in 1995, the film makers relied strongly on actual sets and practical special effects and make up. Much like John Carpenter’s The Thing, I would put The City of Lost Children on the movies that go above and beyond what is expected of special effects of the time. It all looks so amazing, and seems like it could possibly exist in some demented alternate reality. That’s really what watching this movie feels like. A step into a world that’s almost ours, but at the same time is completely different. It’s a modern day fairy tale.

You could compare this movie to the works of film makers like Guillermo del Toro, Terry Gilliam, or even David Lynch. Still, it has the names and style of Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet all over it. This is a really impressive film that is like nothing I’ve really seen before in terms of style, but as someone who loves a good story I was a little disappointed with the narrative. Don’t look at The City of Lost Children only as a story, but as a huge artistic achievement. With that in mind, this is a movie that is sure to make you gasp, laugh, and maybe even cringe.

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Cronos – Review

18 Nov

Guillermo del Toro is the man. That’s been firmly established with Pan’s Labyrinth, the Hellboy movies, and Pacific Rim. There hasn’t been a film that del Toro made that I really haven’t liked, so I was more than ready to check out his debut film from 1993, Cronos. This is a vampire story with a kind of twist to the genre that only a film maker like del Toro could make, in fact I’m sure that he’s the only one who can make something like this. It’s an amazing debut film.

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Jesús Gris (Federico Luppi) is an antique’s dealer who mildly spends his days in his shop with his granddaughter who seems to never leave his side, Aurora (Tamara Shanath). Things change when he finds a mysterious device inside a statue of an archangel that latches itself to Gris’ hand so hard that it draws blood. This begins changing Gris into a much more invigorated man who has acquired an unquenchable thirst for blood. This draws the attention of the dying businessman Dieter de la Guardia (Claudio Brook) who sends his nephew Angel (Ron Perlman) to retrieve the device, but Jesús isn’t willing to give it up, especially after discovering what it really does.

Let me get this out of the way, if you’ve seen any other movie by Guillermo del Toro, you know pretty much what this movie is going to feel like. Think of Pan’s Labyrinth and how it mixed reality with fantasy in a way where it felt like a fairy tale is coming to life. That’s what Cronos ultimately is as well: a fairy tale. It’s also not a very overt fairy tale, which really makes the movie feel special. The word “vampire” is never even used in the movie once. It’s simply alluded to through the images that we see and the prior knowledge that we already have about vampires. It also recreates the myth of the vampire through the alchemical device inhabited by an insect.

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So, since there’s vampires in the story of Cronos, it’s pretty fair to label it as a horror movie. There are some pretty icky gore effects with the device digging into skin or flesh being peeled off of the body. Those scenes work very effectively at the body horror that del Toro does very well. Still, this is more than a horror movie because there is so much more to it than that. It’s a movie about dealing with age, facing death, and the importance of family. Gris’ family is close and a model of happiness while Angel is miserable being in the same family as Dieter. There’s also the paranoia of dying, but the reminder that death is the natural order of things and eternal life may not be so pleasant if the body can’t support itself.

I kinda wanted more out of Cronos since there was so much in there to love. Sadly, the story kind of begins and ends. I’m one to complain if a movie’s run time goes too long, but I was so into this one that I wasn’t ready for it to end. I felt like there was a lot more to be explored, especially when the resurrected Jesús comes home after escaping from his own cremation. There were a lot of places the film could’ve gone from there, but instead that’s when the movie begins moving towards the ending. The make up looked awesome at this part too, and the bond between Jesús and Aurora also got a lot more interesting at this point.

Guillermo del Toro said that the most important movies in a film maker’s life are their first film and their last film. His reasoning is that the first film sets the stage for what they will be making throughout their career and the last film is the one that closes the book on their work. Cronos perfectly set the stage for del Toro’s career, even though it’s a minor entry into his filmography. Vampires would come back to del Toro when he made Blade II, and his take on fantasy can be seen in almost all of his movies. This is a really beautiful and relatively quiet look at vampires and horror that may not have the most prestige or biggest budget, but is obviously superior to many other vampire movies being released now.

Drive – Review

29 Aug

It’s nice to be out from under my rock and enjoying the fresh air and watching Drive. Seriously though, it seems like everyone and their mothers have seen Drive, and they all have their own differing opinions on it. Critics praised it, and audiences were torn apart like God parting the Red Sea. Some enjoy the aesthetics and plot of the film, while others condemn it as derogatory art house crap. Well yes, the film is highly artistic and stylized, but it comes nowhere close to crap.

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The Driver (Ryan Gosling) is a man of many occupations and a lot less words. By day, he is a part time stunt driver for films and also works his close friend’s Shannon’s (Bryan Cranston) garage, but by night he is a getaway driver for the criminal underworld. After helping his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son Benicio (Kaden Leos), the trio forms a bond that seems unbreakable. Trouble soon interrupts their little paradise when Irene’s husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac) is let out of jail and the Driver helps him on a job that will pay off a debt that he owes someone during his time in prison. Of course, this job goes completely awry, which draws the attention of mobsters Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) and Nino (Ron Perlman), who will stop at nothing to silence everyone involved in the heist gone wrong.

By just reading the synopsis, I kept thinking that this is The Transporter‘s new wave younger brother. Much like Statham’s character in The Transporter movies, the Driver has a very strict set of rules that he applies to his more illegal means of income. He can also take care of himself, which provides some of the best parts of the entire movie. Unlike The Transporter and its sequels, the Driver is much more conservative with his time taking down his enemies, but he doesn’t spare on the brutality. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this movie is brutal as all hell, and it was so entertaining. As brutal and unforgiving as the violence is, the scenes are pretty few and far between. This is not an action movie after all.

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I can’t really talk about Drive without talking about the soundtrack. What kind of music would you put to a brutal art house heist film? Electronic synth-pop, of course. Cliff Martinez composed a fantastic, and at times ironic, soundtrack that lingers in your mind along with the rest of the movie. While the synth-pop is blaring at full volume, and excellent story begins panning out. It’s subtle, yet strangely overt. There’s little dialogue, but actions speak louder than words. But, apply enough pressure even to the most comfortable of situations, things are bound to burst. The second half of this film is the exact opposite of the first. The pacing is strange, but this movie is pretty strange. Not in the David Lynch type of strange, but it’s not your average, everyday heist film. I really can’t stress that enough.

There’s been a lot of jokes and complaints about Gosling’s character. He is definitely a man a very few words, but the Driver is as strong a protagonist as the most obnoxious action hero. Hell, he’s a much stronger character than the most obnoxious action hero. The chemistry between Gosling and Mulligan are great, and the relationship of their characters is pretty unique. Literally nothing can tear them apart, as the Driver completely dedicates himself to protecting them. Bryan Cranston is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to acting, and this film just goes to show how great his range is. The man of the hour, though, is Albert Brooks, who plays a menacing villain that just makes your skin crawl.

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The fact of the matter is, you may not like Drive right away, or you may be pretty unsure about it. Give it time to really sink in, and really start to think about all the characters and aesthetic choices that make Drive what it is. After all this time, I’m still not really sure what it is. It’s a film that seems to bend the rules of a genre to make a movie that is unique and a complete thrill to watch.

Bunraku – Review

19 Dec

Wow. This one is really something. I’ve seen Sin City and Renaissance, both of which focus heavily on the visual style. Even with these two filmic experiences on the table, I can still say that I’ve never seen a film quite like Bunraku. What we have here is a mix of martial arts, westerns, samurai drama, graphic novels, and dystopian science fiction. Somehow when all of these genres are put in a blender, the result is Bunraku.

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After a global war, humanity built itself up back from the rubble and put a ban on all firearms. Now the police are all armed with swords and criminal bosses have taken over cities. The most brutal and powerful is Nicola the Woodcutter (Ron Perlman), who has yet to be defeated by any other boss or their armies. Enter a mysterious Drifter (Josh Hartnett) and Yoshi (Gackt), a lone samurai on a quest. Both of these men have separate missions, but a common enemy: Nicola. With the wisdom of a Bartender (Woody Harrelson), these men join forces to fight through Nicola’s guards, including the skilled Killer Number Two (Kevin McKidd), to end his reign of terror.

The story here is pretty cut and dry. Nothing too deep about it and we’ve all seen it a million times before. My mind kept going back to Akira Kurosawa’s film, Yojimbo, because of the whole drifter without a name setting out to defeat an enemy controlling a fearful town. It’s pretty much the same story, just said a little differently. In this regard, the script is weak, from the rehashed story to the characters which really aren’t anything special. I will say that Killer Number Two is really awesome though.

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Even though the story and the characters weren’t anything special, I was never bored with this movie. There was something so genuine about the way it was being told. You can see that the writer/director, Guy Moshe,  just really loves the movies and making them as well. The effects for the backgrounds and other sets are incredible, from the almost cardboard like main street to the insanity colorful insanity of a club that seems to only play traditional Russian music. It’s times like these that I really loved to see the scenes play out and take in all the sights and sounds, the music and the color. It’s just a shame I never got too involved in the plot.

It’s really the way this movie was made that saved it for me. If it didn’t have the extra flair, it would fail to impress me. My favorite scene is a fight that starts on a rooftop and follows Josh Hartnett down the steps. The way it’s done however, is like there is no 4th wall to the building, and the camera cranes down with Hartnett’s movements. This is very reminiscent of old Nintendo side scrollers, even complete with coin sounds in the score that accompanied the scene.

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I really shouldn’t have like Bunraku. The story is unoriginal, the acting is bland, and the choreography isn’t all that great. I just couldn’t help myself. I got lost in the whole atmosphere of the movie. I will say that it’s all about style over substance in Bunraku, but I really enjoyed the style. As an objective critic, I’d say that this is a messy movie that is hardly worth anyone’s time. As a subjective critic, I would urge anyone to see it and try to enjoy and appreciate the work and imagination that goes with the style. Objectively bad, subjectively great.