Friday, October 31, 2008

Zack and Miri Reviewed


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 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


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

Linda Linda Linda

"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 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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Ergo Proxy

"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


"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


"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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Saturday, October 11, 2008


"Re-cycle" is the Pang brothers(The Eye movies series) new fantasy morale tale about a young writer who gets sucked into another dimension. The effects are fantastic on blue-ray, but besides that, I can't say anything good about this movie. There were moments when I thought the visuals were so amazing, it's such a shame that the story was horrible. Everything that takes place in the "other" world feels like nothing more than the pang brothers trying to hit us over the head with their moral point of view. To me it lacked depth, and felt contrived. The end was also one of the biggest dissapointments I've had so far this year. I found myself thinking "man, they could have done so much better with this idea!". I feel like they completely dropped the ball when it came to the writing. I can only give this movie 4 out of 10, and it's only getting that much because of the few moments the visuals really gripped me. If you're going to see this movie, see it as a moving painting only, expect little from the plot-line and you'll go away happy.

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Honey and Clover


How do you take a very long well-known and well-liked anime series and make it into a movie? Not Easily. "Honey and Clover" was directed by Masahiro Takata. It stars Yu Aoi as the beautiful, artisticly eccentric Hagu, and Sho Sakurai as kind-hearted Takemoto. The plot is simple....friends at an art college try to better their art while pursuing impassioned crushes at the same time. There were some aspects of the plot that confused me, and I felt that too much had to be left out(the anime lasted for seasons so I'm sure they found it hard to really do justice to the characters in a single movie). I couldn't understand for the life of me why certain characters did some of the things they did.....and the same time.....I found myself falling in love with the movie....falling in love with the idealism and romanticism embraced by this group of inspired youth. It's not all happy, and like most artististic/creative people I know, it carries a constant sadness throughout.
I haven't seen enough of the anime to really compare the two, but I can say that I was able to just let go, ride the ride and feel the is an enjoyable movie, and when the movie was over, I wanted it to continue. I wanted to know what happened to these characters in the future, I wanted to follow them on their journey.
I don't think this movie will appeal to everyone. Some of you may think the plot is too slow, or too sentimental.
I say, however, "bring on the sequel!" I give it 8 out of 10.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Tsunami Diaries


"The Tsunami Diaries" follows director Timmy Turner, a well known surfer, as he enlists the help of friends and strangers in an effort to bring disaster relief to lesser known parts of Indonesia. At first, I questioned his motives....was it all done for a movie? Was it just a gimmic in the disguise of a humanitarian quest? My final When you see the impacted lives not only do you feel sympathy and relief that these people are getting help, but you also feel the weight of all those that could not be on screen, that were never helped in anyway. It was a massive disaster, that will continue to claim victims for years to come. Timmy did what he could, and I think the film itself shows what a single person CAN do if they only refuse to let the thoughts "who am I, what can I possibly do." to dominate their minds. Their are times where technically I wish they'd edited a few seens differently...but that is such a minor complaint. The documentary is only about 49 minutes long but you will feel overwhelmed as the screen darkens. You will also feel a bit more comfortable in your own circumstances, realizing how good your life is and how fortunate you truly are. I applaud Timmy Turner for doing the impossible and bringing much needed help to those who need it. I have to give this 8 out of 10.
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