Friday, November 14, 2008
Tsotsi was a film adapted from an award winning novel by Athol Fugard. It was directed by Gavin Hood. It follows the story of a young criminal named Tsotsi(Presley Chweneyagae), who accidently becomes the caretaker for a young newborn. This forces him to face some traumatic events from his past, and causes him to question his criminal actions.
The performances in this film were strong, and the plot felt very gritty and real.
There are moments that are drenched with hopelessness and despair, where all that is important is survival, and then there are moments that transcend the grim circumstances and you are reminded once again of all the possibility contained in the human spirit.
I highly suggest this film, especially if you enjoyed similar films such as "City of God".
I give this film a 9 out of 10!
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Monday, November 10, 2008
Gunslinger Girl follows the young assassins of the Social Welfare Agency. They are part machine, part adolescent girl, but their emotions(for the most part) are typical for girls their age. The main focus is on Henrietta, a young assassin in love with her trainer and partner.
There is an amazing amount of Character developement in this Anime. You truly start to feel this are living, breathing people rather than animated cartoons. The storylines are done exceptionally well with the focus being on their emotions more than gunplay. There's not much violence(which surprised me). Most of the tension is drawn from emotional situations.
This dvd set is the entire first season(the second season to be released in 2009).
The only complaint I have is that I wish it had longer story lines. Most of the episodes are self contained. I would love to join them on an extended adventure that would last an entire season.
Still, that is only a minor complaint.
At the end of this dvd, the storyline had been brought to a point in which there was a strong sense of dread hovering over all the characters. Thank God there will be a second season.
I give this an 8 out of 10.
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Directed by "Shaolin Soccer" creator Stephen Chow, "Cj7" stars Xu Jiao(son), Stephen Chow(father), and Kitty Zang Yuqi(Miss Yuen). Version Reviewed: Blu-Ray.
Cj7 is about an extremely poor construction worker who stumbles across an unusual toy and gives it to his son, unaware that it is actually an alien life form. When the son takes it to school, chaos insues.
Even though this is meant to be a family film or children's movie, it falls flat and is often too cruel for young children. The Creature that is Cj7 is abused throughout the film...so much so that I wanted to just give up on the film and turn it off. The director doesn't seem to really care about any of the characters, but simply uses them to manipulate and often even insult the audience. There are some ridiculous scenes where he uses a young girl's voice on a much older fat woman and it doesn't work.
I can't suggest this film. Watch E.T. It's much, much better. Don't waste your time on this c.g.i. mess.
I also think its a shame that this recieved a blu-ray release when there are so many other asian films more deserving.
I give this a 3 out of 10
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Saturday, November 8, 2008
I'm Still Here is a powerful documentary directed by Lauren Lazin. It features numerous well known stars such as Elijah Wood, Zach Braff, Amber Tamblin, Kate Hudson, and many more as they read the real diaries of young adolescents who suffered the horrors of Nazi Occupation in WWII. While being read, we are shown numerous video clips and pictures all meant to bring the viewers into the lives of those who wrote and experienced one of the greatest atrocities of the last 100 years.
We've all heard of Anne Frank, but this documentary focuses on those whose voices haven't been heard, those tormented, brave souls who faced the worst and wrote about their struggle.
It is only 48 minutes in length, but it will not easily be forgotten. If you are really sensitive, this may not be for you...however...if you do see this...you will understand how lucky you are to be alive now, and to not fear the things they feared.
My only complaint is the music which was done by Moby. There are several scenes where the music doesn't fit and takes away from the impact. I'm a huge fan of Moby, so it's not personal. In fact there are moments where the music is amazing and does fit....it's just that most of the time it doesn't work at all.
This is an important film to see if you can stomach it. I give it 9 out of 10.
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Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Hell Ride is a tribute to Biker Films directed by Larry Bishop. It stars Michael Madsen, Dennis Hopper, Vinnie Jones, David Carradine, and Eric Balfour. It tells the story of the Victors bike gang as they set out for revenge against their rivals the "six six six'rs".
It starts out promising enough, with a very stylized opening and music that oozes coolness.
Unfortunately, there's not really that much action in this film. There's a lot of scenes where they're riding down the highway with cool music in the background, looking tough and ready...
but very little violence takes place. After watching this film I wondered.....what did I just watch? What were they doing all that time when nothing was going on?
The women in the film are breathtaking and are probably the strongest positive element of the film.
The Dialogue is the worst element of the film, often repeating words like "fire" or "business" in a single conversation until you are both irritated and bored. It's an obvious attempt to be clever, but it just doesn't work.
The performances were strong by all, but the story and dialogue didn't do any of these actors justice.
I give this film a 5 out of 10
Directed by Brian Flemming, The God Who Wasn't There is a documentary which tries to prove Jesus Christ never existed.
Before reviewing this, I prefer to make one thing clear. I do not consider myself to be a christian, so I do not want anyone thinking this dvd has been judged from the perspective of my own personal belief.
Only a few minutes into this film, It becomes obvious that Brian Flemming is more concerned about expressing anger and judgementalism toward christianity than he is about providing us with facts that prove his case. He also spends a large portion of this documentary insulting those who liked the ubber violent "Passion of the Christ" by Mel Gibson. He mocks those who've seen it, failing to try and see the perspective of those who watch it, but rather making them out to be blood hungry, sadistic believers. If people who saw that movie are sick, then what about all the non-believers who watch horror movies, or the evening news for that matter?
Brian wastes our time with numerous judgemental opinions and provides very little prove that Christ didn't actually exist. When he does try to provide us with fact, he fails to take the time to really explain it all to us, instead he rushes through it as if the angry judgemental segments are more important than providing a solid case.
This documentary feels more like a kid throwing a tantrum, acting out of childhood hurt and resentment, than it does a sincere inquiry to the origins and truth of Christ. All fact is overshadowed by this judgementalism, and even in the last frame, where he "bravely" commits "blasphemy", it felt ridiculous and stupid.
I wanted more fact, less tantrum.
Some of the people he interviews have very intelligent ideas about Christ's existence. It's a shame they weren't presented better. The most profound thought comes from Richard Carrier as the end credits roll....
I can't suggest this documentary. Not at all. Rent "Jesus Camp" instead. I give it 1 out of 10.
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Saturday, November 1, 2008
Only a few weeks ago, I reviewed "Sex and Fury" and didn't give it a great review. I didn't really care for it....so when I slid the dvd "Female Yakuza Tale" into my dvd player, I didn't expect much.
I could not have been more wrong.
"Sex and Fury" boasted about inspiring Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" but I didn't see that connection. In "Female Yakuza Tale", the connections are obvious. The musical style was similar, the scenes were very, very stylized and some of the set pieces could have even been used in "Kill Bill".
This movie is a MUST SEE. It is sooo much better than "Sex and Fury". I think the main difference is the directing and writing, which were done by Teruo Ishii.
Reiko Ike's character was much tougher and smarter in this sequel, not to mention more beautiful somehow. It basically starts with her getting framed. From that point she tries to find out who framed her and why, and plans her revenge. It kept my interest from start to finish, and was filled with unexpected surprises. There's a lot more blood, sex, and nudity in this film...and the ending is both ridiculous and spectacular. I loved the ending to this film!
I strongly suggest this dvd.
The production value of the film isn't perfect, but it's so much fun to watch, you don't care.
I give this film 9 out of 10!
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Friday, October 31, 2008
Zack and Miri Make a Porno is the new film by written and directed by Kevin Smith.
I know, I know, this is not exactly a "Movie you've never heard of", but every once in a while it doesn't hurt to deviate from the norm.
Seth Rogan stars as Zack, and Elizabeth Banks star as Miri, two platonic roommates who decide to make a porno in order to pay their bills.
Originally the part of Miri was written for Rosario Dawson, but she turned it down to play a role in the action flick Eagle Eye.
Zack and Miri also stars Jason Ewes, Traci Lords(real life porn star), Justin Long, and Katie Morgan(another real life porn star).
Although I found the film funny, I didn't find it hilarious. I do not really view that as a negative, though. It was extremely enjoyable. I grew to really care about Zack and Miri, I cheered for them, grieved for them, and became frustrated with them....In fact, I would say it is Kevin Smith's most touching film since Chasing Amy. Probably his best film since Chasing Amy. Don't get me wrong...it does have it's laugh-out-loud moments....especially after the credits roll. In that sequence(featuring Justin Long), it was obvious that his co-star could not keep from cracking up in the take....and that just adds to the humor of the scene. Stay for the credits.
The theatrical version has been highly edited. I can only hope that when the unrated version hits dvd, it doesn't ruin the story by adding too much. Still, I trust Kevin Smith, and I look forward to his next creation.
I give this movie an 8 out of 10!
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Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Sky High is a supernatural action film by director Ryuhei Kitamara(Versus, Azumi). When Detective Kanzakit Kohei's(Shosuke Tanihara) fiance, Mina, is murdered moments before there wedding, he becomes obsessed with finding the killer and unleashing vengeance upon him. Meanwhile, Mina is at the Gate of Rage, given the choice of being reborn, becoming a ghost, or cursing someone and condemning herself to hell. She is given 12 days to decide.
While watching this film, I was very taken with the concept, the idea of Mina having to face these difficult choices while following her boyfriend as he descends deeper into rage. The main problem with this film is that it eventually becomes too self-righteous and destroys the impact of the plot. Great concern is taken for souls of the main characters, but not for the supporting characters. Also, the non-violence theme ends up being ridiculous, especially when the entire world ends up being threatened. As I was growing up, I always loved heroes that faced difficult situations and had to do what no one else had the courage to do. None of the main characters in this film felt like a hero...and in the end the whole thing just ended up feeling contrived and undeveloped. I would have appreciated a deeper exploration of the themes used in this film, but instead I'm given a bubble gum wrap-up.
Most fantasy films have unrealistic elements to them, however, they somehow succeed in making us believe them, or at least suspending belief. This film fails at achieving this. When a character does something impossible it is so blatant and ludicrous that it destroys all of our willingness to suspend belief. The director of this film did a much better job on Azumi, which I strongly suggest over this broken-yet-fluffy idealistic film. I give it 3 out of 10.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2008
"The moment of truth is always scarier than death."
Directed by Nobuhiro Yamashita, Linda Linda Linda had all the makings of a great film.....until I actually watched it.
I had read the summary: A group of girls get together every night to practice for their performance at an upcoming school festival. The premise sounded good...and I love music films (most recently "Once"), but this failed to deliver on EVERY level. It suffers from bad direction and dumb editing. All the moments we get drawn into are cut suddenly, and before the emotional payoff comes we find ourselves pulled out of that moment, away from that instant of beauty, and are forced to watch something far less interesting. We all know there's a big finale at the end where they play.........however.......that entire segment falls flat....especially after two other opening acts begin to really move us with their songs, only to have the magic of their performance destroyed by cutting away from them mid-song....it totally pulled me out of the movie. Even the big resolution of a romance involving one of the girls was brutally chopped so that we aren't able get any payoff. I was very frustrated and irritated by the final thirty minutes of this film.
Earlier in the film, during their practices, you wait for that magic moment where they all click, and their playing becomes magical....but that just never happens. You want to cheer for them but you can't, instead you're left wishing you were watching anything but Linda Linda Linda. James Iha of the Smashing Pumpkins composed and performed the film's score. A complete dissapointment, I give this film a 3 out of 10.
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"You can't escape from what you know."
I wouldn't really consider myself a huge fan of Anime. At least, I wasn't until I ran across "Ergo Proxy", which brought me to an astounding realization. Anime isn't at all the cheesy cartoons I thought they were.
"Ergo Proxy" is a science fiction Anime that combines 2D digital cell animation, 3D computer modeling and digital special effects. Directed by Shuko Murase, Ergo Proxy follows the story of Re-L Mayer(an investigator/law enforcer) and Vincent Law(an immigrant hoping to become a "fellow citizen") as they try to find out the truth behind the "Proxies"(Mysterious beings that have begun to murder citizens of the dome city Romdo).
Ergo Proxy feels heavily inspired by Blade Runner, and it's dark contemplative atmosphere carries you deep into the psyche of Vincent Law as he struggles to learn the truth behind his fractured memories.
I found Ergo Proxy to be addicting as I watched it, each episode propelling me into the next. I found it easy to be fascinated by its numerous characters and complex plot. If you're not a heavy thinker, and don't enjoy thinking about what you're viewing this may not be the Anime for you. It requires contemplation, and that's one of the very reasons I grew to love this series.
"Is Pino really Pino?"
The Art, drawing, and digital effects of this anime create such a luminous, lonely landscape for most of the series and really extend to you the sense of isolation and confusion felt by the characters. Not since "Spirited Away" have I been this touched by the combination of music and art. I loved the musical score and especially love the opening sequence featuring the song "Kiri" by Monoral(It doesn't show up until the beginning of the third episode). It is by far the best opening of any series(including live television series) I've seen in years.
I wish I could follow these characters in their journey. Like "Honey and Clover" it left me wanting more. Much more.
Unlike most foreign films, I recommend using the english soundtrack option on this Anime so you can enjoy the art more easily. I give this series a 09 out of 10!
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Friday, October 17, 2008
"The Taste of Tea" is a film directed by Kastsuhito ISHII and stars Maya Banno(as the adorable daughter), Takahiro Sato(as the love-stricken son), Tatsuya Gashuin(as energitic grandpa), and Tadanobu Asano(who starred in the "Ichi The Killer"). The film follows an eccentric family through their individual adventures and problems. There is very little detail I wish to share about the movie's plot, simply because I feel it's best if you see it without knowing. I LOVED this movie. The Cinemaphotography is gorgeous and contemplative. The Soundtrack was very interesting, using mainly nature or environmental sounds for ambience with very little music. However, when there was music, it was used perfectly. The Actors and Actresses were great, especially when it came to Maya Banno and Tatsuya Gashuin.
The film is quirky and whimsical, and has a very positive perkiness to it that I found extremely refreshing. It's a long film, clocking in at nearly two and a half hours, but when it's over, you feel satisfied and refreshed. I loved the imaginative way the special effects were used. I can't suggest this film enough....I look forward to discovering Kastsuhito's other films. I give this 10 out of 10.
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"Sarah Brightman's Diva: The Video Collection" is a collection of music videos created throughout her entire career. In case you're not familiar with who Sarah Brightman is, the famous "Phantom of the Opera," was written for her, and she played the original Christine in both the London opening and the New York opening.
In this Video, Sarah sits before the camera, talks about each song and video, before it plays. This reveals quite a few surprising facts about how some albums/songs/videos came about.
The problem with this collection is that it's more interesting at the beginning. Towards the end, most of the videos are from the "harem" collection, and are in my opinion far too similar. Even though they are slightly different, the difference feels tiny and you start get a little bored, despite Sarah's often elaborate and revealing costumes. Some are actually a little painful to watch, such as "I fell in love with a Starship Trooper" which has scenes from the movie, "Starship Troopers." Also I found the duet she did for the Olympics to have been horribly produced, failing to invoke any inspiration.
There are a few highlights such as "Time To Say Goodbye" and "Deliver Me" which make viewing this dvd very worthwhile. Some even gave me chills. If you're a fan, it's a must see, simply for the revelations she brings to light about the songs and videos.
I give it about a 6 out of 10.
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