Monday, November 17, 2008


USA/UK/Germany/Spain/Lithuania 2008

An American couple (Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer) seeking to smooth out their rough marriage buys a ticket on the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway. But a chance meeting with two other passengers ends in an accidental murder and high intrigue. Ben Kingsley and Thomas Kretschmann co-star as two Russian police officers trying to solve the baffling case in Brad Anderson's taut and gritty thriller.

Brad Anderson without a doubt has the ability to bring original stories to life in a minimal psychologically tense fashion. His talent is undeniable but has not yet mastered his craft in this field. Definitely more aesthetically indigenous than atmospheric compared to his previous two films, "Session 9" and "The Machinist, "Transsiberian" sets up an interesting and original premise with a frighteningly realistic circumstance. That is until the film hits a turning point where some of the actions do not sync up with the then developed characters, resulting in some unintentionally comedic and ludicrous moments. There are some mildly thrilling moments and however predictable and unbelievable the final resolution is, it is very satisfying, giving each character their gratification for the turn of events.
But the movie most definitely has it's flaws. I do not like to go into detail.I consider that giving things away and diverting the viewers own interpretations.
Worth a watch regardless.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bad Guy

South Korea 2001

A privileged girl falls victim to a ruthless gangster in this disturbing drama. Obsessed with Sun-hwa (Seo Weon), gangster Han-ki (Jo Jae-hyeon) decides to prove that she's not out of his league. Han-ki devises a set-up wherein Sun-hwa is caught stealing money and is offered prison time or prostitution; she chooses the latter. As Sun-hwa suffers the brutality of her new profession, Han-ki, fixated, watches from behind a two-way mirror...

Sun-Hwa the co-star and leading actress of the film, totally has it coming to her. She is an over emotional, egoist brat, also a closet pervert and a thief with a dissonant interest in erotic art. The film does not really go in-depth about that but it is emphasized later on in the film as a love-hate and confused relationship starts to mend a broken Sun-Hwa and the lead actor Han-ki. Who might I say is the coolest, toughest, weirdo thug ever with an unhealthy obsession and nonchalant ego. The guy just doesn't die. He can not be killed. Now this whole moniker of his would be nothing special but as the film progresses into digression, Han-Ki's misanthropy is explained and it is understandable. You come to realize this hard skinned, ruthless individual was caring with an unmeasurable amount of love. With in an instant a tragedy ensured he lost touch of that once caring and loving side, turning him into what he is through out the film; A BAD GUY. Decent film.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Survive Style 5+

Japan 2004

A man continually trying and failing to get his wife to stay dead; a self-absorbed ad agency creative director who comes up with one unworkably inane idea after another; a Brittish hitman who only wants to know everyone's function in life; and an unfortunate office worker and father whose brain is left scrambled after a stage hypnotist is murdered in mid-performance. Starting off as unrelated plot lines, they intertwine with each other as they continue on their respective ways

What a great movie! I could not even begin to break this film down in any way specifically because it is so genre defiant and all over the place.
With what seems to be a lot of randomness held together with interconnecting
subplots there is a quirky substance laid out nicely that really delivers the laughs
and entertainment. Definitely a black comedy to the extent of blood spurts and over the top, postmortem theatrics. Multiple perverted innuendos and some beautifully shot angles. There is a great amount of attention to detail involving exterior, interior, urban, suburban and rural scenery with contrasting colors of perpetual eye candy.
Not as a whole completely frivolous story telling. Genuine tragic does strike at the film's climax resulting in a surprising relation to the characters. A really great movie. If you like Katsuhito Ishii, you'll ADORE this.

Tropa De Elite

Brazil 2007

In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, some cops are just as crooked as the drug lords who run the slums. On the brink of retirement -- and burnout -- Capitão Nascimento (Wagner Moura) must find a trustworthy successor to lead a dangerous mission. Co-written by director José Padilha, Bráulio Mantovani (City of God) and Rodrigo Pimentel, the gritty action-thriller is based on Pimentel's 19 years of experience as an elite squad police captain.

A searing depiction of real life experience from one of the co-writers, "Tropa de Elite" is a furiously paced film of police corruption, social segregation merciless vengeance without morale or compromising. With an array of intense characters shot with a nearly unmatched ferocity, the movie never gets boring. The tension never builds because tension is always present, it simply lapses and allows the viewer to take a breath to absorb all that has occurred. Those intermittent breaks from the ferocious dialog and mounting angst and brutal violence gives room for the film's necessary climax with a resolving yet ultra-violent ending. The slums of Rio Di Janeiro as always are absolutely mind numbingly depressing, supplying the disenchanting back drop for an intensely frightening system of a otherwise beautiful country.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Japan 2004

Sword-swinging werewolf Kibakichi gets caught in a battle of good against evil in this action-packed horror tale. Raised on raw meat in a land populated by monsters, Kibakichi sets out on a quest to see if he can find any goodness or compassion in humans. During his dangerous journey, he encounters ghostly monsters, man-eating skeletons and geisha who transform into giant spiders. Ryuji Harada, Mike Tanaka and Mubu Nakayama star.

This is bad. Really bad. A lot of reviewers are comparing this to something that came out of the 60's referring that it's a negative unintentional tone of the film. Not true. This is definitely the intention of the director and actually one of the positive things I can say about this film. The quick panning in and out of character's faces and swinging the camera back and forth horizontally on groups of people, the score and soundtrack are both a part of that homage to late 50's early 60's samurai flicks. But the storyline, the pace, the execution of just about everything, from costumes, to the blood, to the bad lighting and dialog, really make this film a rough viewing. I fast forwarded through most of it once I was about 40 minutes into it, due to the realization I wouldn't be missing much and would fall asleep if I had not. Eh, do not bother.


Hungary 2006

Surreal and grotesque, this black comedy spanning three generations of men serves as an absurdist journey through the history of Hungary, from World War II through the communist era to the present. In postwar Hungary, a depraved hospital orderly spawns an outrageously obese son, Kalman (Gergely Trócsányi), who in turn goes on to raise his own progeny, a skinny boy (Marc Bischoff) freakishly obsessed with taxidermy.

One of my favorite movies, hands down. This is a rich, multi-layered study of 3 generations of Grandfather, Father and son. Making it 3 interconnected movies in one. Which is really advantageous for viewers because a lot of what would be considered, "shocking" or "gross" happens through out this incredible work of cinema. It touches base with human desires and their taboos. Gyorgy Palfi is truly a visionary director who I would not even begin to place in a category with anyone else, except maybe if I was forced to would say Jeunet or Gilliam only pertaining to the lighting and film grain. It would be a far stretch for me to compare Palfi to Jorg Buttgereit for camera work but there are some similarities. A work of groundbreaking art. Everything about this film is top notch. From the pace to the acting, to the plot. If you can find this, you have to watch it. It will change your life.


Sweden 2003

Adapted from a best-selling novel, this Swedish drama follows rebellious teenager Erik (Andreas Wilson) as he's expelled from high school for fighting and sent to the prestigious Stjärsnberg Academy. Having endured many beatings from his father, Erik is dismayed to face a similar threat from the academy's senior students, who bully the younger ones mercilessly. But this time, Erik is determined not to crack and lash out in violence.

Absolutely powerful. From the beginning of the film to the end, "Ondskan" never lets up. An involving character growth from long shot to legend that attains social justice and self-perseverance. Erik is an outlandish violent youth which is a product of his step-father's physically and mentally abusive ego. With such a violent upbringing and a caring mother who is powerless to prevent any damage to the damage already done, Erik develops a hard skin and a tough as nails personality, that gives him an edge on pretty much anyone. This is where a lot of the brilliant execution of dialog and physical altercations play out so intensely. This is to say the least. There are several in depth developed characters of the antagonist and protagonist realm. So well thought out and played with great acting and deep emotional portrayals. A triumphant and riveting film.


France/Belgium/Mexico/USA 2004

Teenager Mike Blueberry (Hugh O'Conor) becomes embroiled with local bad guy Wallace Blount (Michael Madsen) when Wallace gets violent during a visit to a prostitute for whom Mike has fallen. Having been run out of town, a grown Mike (Vincent Cassel) returns years later and becomes the town marshal. When Wallace, who'd been presumed dead, blows into town, Mike is forced to face up to some demons from his past. Co-stars Juliette Lewis.

Despite having some of the most incredible visuals and amazing editing and cinematography ever offered to film the overall lack of heart and two dimensional story telling just collapsed under it's own weight. The storyline tries to hold a profound subject but fails to deliver any believable motivation behind ANY of the characters. Juliette Lewis ruined this film for me. Her portrayal of her character was off key to the whole movie's rhythm-less beat. If more of an effort was put into Cassel's character alone, it could have made up for film's overall lack of substance. Nothing felt tragic, but attempted really hard to be. I definitely did not give a toss about any of the characters, whether they lived or died or resolved any of their quarrels. I just wanted Juliette Lewis' character to die the whole time. Really bad. The visuals and the concepts behind the Native American mysticism was like I stated, INCREDIBLE, but not enough to pick up this forced and often boring western fantasy hybrid based off a comic book, I've never read.

Infernal Affairs

Hong Kong 2002

A veteran cop, Chan Wing Yan (Tony Leung), is given an enormous task: to go undercover within his own department and finger the detective who's been deceiving everyone and leaking information to the criminal underworld. But the mole (Andy Lau), whose identity Chan doesn't know, also has no idea who the internal investigator is, and the two soon embark on a dangerous and perilous game of cat and mouse.

I am a big Asian film snob. Most of my collection is either Korean, Chinese, Thai or Japanese. This film has such a smart, nicely paced rhythm but not without it's flaws which are a result of a tedious effort being placed on tragic irony, deceptive morality and criminal profoundness that falls short of any real satisfying impact of a climatic resolution. With that being said, I was really surprised at how much better I liked Scorsese's revision of the original film. To know there is a prequel and a sequel to this film really takes away a lot of credibility from the movie. In "Infernal Affairs" the rawness is skipped, solely relying on each character's convictions to their attributes, which sort of takes away from the realism that could overall be portrayed a lot more intensely. Despite all that, the film is shot really nice and is a good film in the end.

Estômago: A Gastronomic Story

Brazil 2007

The world is made of those who eat and those who get eaten. Raimundo Nonato, our protagonist, finds an alternative way: he cooks. He cooks first in a bar, then in an Italian Restaurant and then in prison - how did he end up in jail? He cooks and learns how to get by in a society divided in two between those who eat and those who get eaten. What he learns, are a series of rules he uses to his advantage: in the end, the cook must also get his share of food and only he knows which part tastes best. Estômago is an adult fable on power, sex and cooking.

This was overall my favorite film at this year's Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX.
When I think about movies I want to see and make, this stands out as their epitome.
Beautifully shot, with a great tone of something mildly sinister, that unfolds as the film progresses each character's persona. Each individual portrays a uniqueness about
them that separates them from one another and connects them to people we know or know of. Truly a heartfelt, sincere and immaculately told piece of film with all genres rolled into one, sci-fi being exempt. The pacing, the dialog, the climax and outcome are preemptive to aforementioned scripting bring everything into place with a genuinely captured profound result, that leaves utmost satisfaction. Gorgeous.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Saint Agne

France 2004

A young cleaning woman (Virginie Ledoyen) is dispatched to tend to a crumbling orphanage called Saint Ange that houses only one child. While going about her duties, the new housekeeper begins to witness supernatural occurrences, causing her sole co-worker, a cook, to question her sanity. Directed by Pascal Laugier, this atmospheric ghost story (originally titled Saint Ange) serves up plenty of spine-tingling chills and twists.

Pascal Laugier's debut feature is a fine achievement in alternative horror. Pascal is responsible for the already notorious "MARTYRS" movie currently in the film festival circuit. Hous of Voices has ghostly elements that apply to a young lady's downward spiral toward the afterlife. Her curiosity is triggered when a presence reveals itself within the huge foster school estate she's cleaning leading her to an intriguing and uncertain past of the facility. There is not so much a twist as there is an explanation of why things are happening, regardless the reasoning is a downpour of cold water to the face leaving a genuinely creepy result in it's wake. There are some surprising brutal scenes in this film, I was really impressed. Even though it was in French it was dubbed per Universal amazingly. There is no option to hear the original French dialog but it really doesn't matter in this film's case. Get it, watch it, like it.

The Prophecy

USA 1995

Angels have no souls, but men do. Dark angel Gabriel (Christopher Walken) is angry because God has allowed humans into heaven, so Gabriel descends to earth to capture the most evil human soul he can find, planning to use it to defeat his enemies in an apocalyptic battle. While a good-hearted angel (Eric Stoltz) hides the soul in the body of a little girl, a detective (Elias Koteas) on earth tracks Gabriel's every move.

Where do I start? I have not watched this in over 10 years, but I was obsessed with this film. Even the 2 proceeding sequels just because the story was so dark. And if you know anything about Christian doctrine of any sort, the ability to imprint fear in it's youth is a chilling experience! This film really brings that fear out even if you have fallen away from the psychological comfort known as "faith". This is a must see! The cast alone demands your attention. Christopher Walken, Eric Stoltz, Elias Koteas, Viggo Mortensen, Virgina Madsen etc. There are some amazingly twisted and graphic imagery of fields of impaled angels and other "blasphemous" goodies. The plot is so good too. The soundtrack really sets the mood and could easily creep a lot of people out if it sucks them in. The gospels are burning and the pages of the holy book are soaked in angelic blood. Love it.

The Chaser

South Korea 2008

A serial killer is preying on call-girls from various escort agencies. In the midst of police indifference and incompetence, Jung-Ho (Yun-Seok Kim), an ex-cop-turned-pimp must dust off his old flatfoot skills to find the killer and save the life of one of his girls who has gone missing.

Unholy fuck! This movie is so intense and straight forward.
The characters, the lighting and the premise are breathtaking.
My heart was pumping 3/4ths of this film. Powerful performances
and grisly acts of inhumanity. No pretty pictures are painted
the only pictures that are painted are with blood and tears.
Gripping and relentless the movie never lets go of the viewers throat
and you never get the chance to come up for air. I advice a breathing

Friday, November 7, 2008

Zack and Miri Make A Porno

USA 2008

Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) have been platonic friends for years. When they both find themselves in financial hot water, they hit upon the idea of making an adult film to bring in some easy money. But when "action" is called, these two friends discover that unspoken feelings for each other may threaten the whole enterprise. Writer-director Kevin Smith helms this comic look at the line between friendship and romance.

I'm not a big Kevin Smith fan. His movies are hit or miss with me.
But personally he is a funny guy undeniably. His opening presentation speech
was so funny I really just wanted him to keep talking. I wasn't even stoned
and my face and stomach hurt. Once the movie started I wasn't really feeling the
humor. Standard cock and fart Smith humor, but once they reached the point of introducing Zack's(Rogen) work environment and friends it was literally almost non
stop hilarity. I real surprise and I recommend it highly to anyone who loves a movie that
is gratuitously funny. Not to mention the actual heartfelt undertone that is a romance.
Oh and Bill Pullman was in the audience. How cool is that?
He looked cowboyish...
Anyway, a comedic onslaught and a great pace.

Dog Bite Dog

Hong Kong 2006

Poor young street boxer Pang (Edison Chen) is smuggled into Hong Kong from Cambodia and forced to serve as an assassin. With the police soon on his trail, Pang hides at a dump and meets Yue, whose affections keep him from succumbing to his inner demons. Fanning the flames is the equally unstable Wai, one of the cops assigned to Pang's case. Relentless action and highly stylized violence permeate this fast-paced Hong Kong crime film.

Brutal, unrelenting, violent, raw and very well done. It should end like 4 times before it actually does. But a lot of asian films seem to do that. Which I don't mind. The premise is okay, it's more so a weird flavor of action/romance. Total noir, ultra violent pace. Leaves a different taste in your mouth upon completion of it's viewing.


Japan 2004

After decades of warfare, Earth has become a toxic wasteland, and the survivors are slowly dying from a terrible disease. Dr. Azuma (Yusuke Iseya) has developed a genetic treatment that might help regenerate the population, but his experiment goes horribly wrong. Inadvertently creating a race of mutants that threaten the future of mankind, Dr. Azuma must seek an unlikely ally to help defeat the monsters he's created in this sci-fi adventure.

I finally got around to seeing this over much doubt due to almost being completely constructed of CGI, but in all honesty was blown away by this glorious uncompromisingly brutal, sci-fi epic. This could have fell short of perfection if it wasn't for the strong character development and their sentiments. Nothing does it for me more than structuring a misanthropic plot around humanitarian efforts to keep the peace despite the arrogance and corruption of leaderships running the world's powers. Bloody, awesome pacing, great acting, ridiculous detail and a truly profound and heartfelt resolution.

A u d i t i o n

Japan 2000

Director Takashi Miike fashions an explosive drama in Audition. Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) has lived as a widower for too long and decides it's time to marry again. But how will he find a wife? When a friend suggests he hold a fake audition to pick the right woman, he takes him up on it -- only to realize that his choice may be a better actress than he bargained for.

Definitive, inventive, slow burning, dark, deep, confusing, dry, warm and full of a building tension that is just genuinely creepy. Do yourself a favor if you have never seen this film. Know nothing about it, like I did back in 2003 when I saw it. Even with it being 9 years old and all these torturous films that come out every year by the truck load, this holds it's own. If any one disagrees, then they saw it too late and have been desensitized. Truly one of Miike's best.


France 2004

The students at a mysterious all-girls boarding school learn strange life lessons from their two stern young teachers (Marion Cotillard and Hélène de Fougerolles) in this beguiling and surreal feature debut by director Lucile Hadzihalilovic. Featuring poetic and startling images by acclaimed cinematographer Benoit Debie, the film captured awards at film festivals in
Amsterdam, Stockholm, Istanbul and San Sebastian, Spain.

A very interesting film. As I was viewing "L'Ecole" I found myself very intrigued by the mystery of the whole premise. The whole time I was trying to pin point what was exactly going on as well why and found myself waiting for something catastrophic to happen. Nothing really does but that does not make this film bad in any way. Innocence is of exactly that. Innocence, period. It's a very beautiful multi-interpretable cinematic flare. I did not get bored and I really wanted to see it through until the end without interruption. It is the epitome of a slow burner but with it's mystique and "art film" undertones, it's a collective of character studies not only on the little girls, but on the adults governing their circumstances. Good film.


USA 1985

Chronos is a wonder -- it's the first nonverbal, nonfiction movie filmed entirely in time-lapse photography. Presented as a visual symphony in seven movements, Chronos takes viewers on an unprecedented cinematic journey through the essence of time, across the worlds of natural beauty and man-made monuments. Prepare to be awestruck by this unique film that's unlike anything you've ever seen before.

Everything you would expect coming from Ron Fricke expect that every frame is time lapse transitional. This is Fricke's debut and it really does delivers some astonishing imagery with rich cinematography through landscapes of modern civilization as well as the ancient ancestral monuments throughout the world. There are a lot of shots that to this day have not been topped with their inventive and imaginative cinematography.


USA 1997

Director James Mangold's Cop Land looks at a New Jersey town that's become a safe haven for corrupt New York City cops. Sheriff Freddy Heflin (Sylvester Stallone) turns a blind eye to some crimes, but when murder and cover-ups raise the stakes, Heflin must do the right thing. Cop Land gives Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel and Ray Liotta a chance to strut their stuff.

The first time I saw this film was when it first came out. I was 14 and I do not think my maturity level was high enough to really appreciate this film. Now at 25 going on 26 years old, I decided to watch it again without a preemptive research of the film. I had completely forgot the premise and just went with it. I WAS BLOWN AWAY. This movie is so good! I really fall hard for a cast of classic 4th quarter of the 20th century actors and this has a cast of some of Hollywood's best. Without exaggeration I was riveted, straight up. The corrupt seeds of an entire New York precinct planted and nurtured by the Mob in a small town across the bay from New York captured me. Some truth had to have been garnered from actual events to present such a controversial and realistically played out crime drama. Incredible performances! The intensity in the eyes of Ray Liotta, the fear and uncertainty in Michael Rappaport's dialog, the tension between Robert DeNiro and Harvey Keitel's character relationship, Janeane Garofalo's disappointment and embarrasment for Freddie Heflin, Annabella Sciorra's depressive and lonely aura, Peter Berg delivers an intermittent yet impacting force of all emotions, Robert Patrick just makes you hate him, so well! And Sly... STALLONE... You really feel for the guy, he's such a push over. His ability to turn the other cheek, knowing that what is going on and doing nothing about it, really sets up the climax of nearly no sound and all in slow motion. ABSOLUTELY GENIUS!

They Came Back

France 2004

A group of zombies walk out of their graves and head back home in this intriguing French film directed by Robin Campillo. Relatives of the undead aren't quite sure what to do with their returning loved ones, and neither is the government -- so the zombies are placed in emergency housing while authorities figure out what their role in society will be. Meanwhile, the ghouls are secretly going around conducting a little business of their own.

An interesting very avant-gardesque social study of a community faced with the unthinkable; Their loved ones who were once dead, have returned... In no way does this film overdo the circumstances as plausible, which really makes for a humble interpretation instead of coming off as some pretentious art-house profoundness of an explanation. There is definitely a genuine creepiness to the characters that are undead. As the film moves along at a mild building pace, it's construction can be blurry with an abstract simplicity that keeps you enticed. I was really skeptical within the opening frames but as it developed, the film grew on me. In the end I was not disappointed. The undead have defaulted personalities that are derived from their past lives when they were alive and cannot develop beyond their past habits. Though not justifiable realistic, the subtle manner in which the plot is executed, with reintegrating the "returnees" back into the social form of occupations, their citizenship, as well back into their families and lifestyles, its quite acceptable and intriguing. Nicely done.

V i n y a n

France/Belgium/United Kingdom 2008

Paul (Rufus Sewell) and Jeanne (Emmanuelle Béart) lost their young son, Joshua, in the 2004 tsunami, and cling to the hope that one day they'll find him. Believing she sees Josh in a brief video of orphaned children, Jeanne convinces Paul to undertake a rescue mission. The couple spends the last of their savings on a journey into the jungles of the Thai-Burmese border, where unknown threats await them. Fabrice Du Welz directs this dark odyssey.

People are really bummed on this film! I honestly do not see why, though. This had to be such a pain in everyone's neck to film. A very grueling, uncompromising slow, wet and muddy film. I felt so uncomfortable for the characters, in my tidy little theater seat, knowing when I left, my modernized lifestyle comfort offers a king mattress. This film was damp and creepy. Yeah yeah, "Apocalypse Now" that is a comparison you will hear when talking to someone who's critical and missing the point by being over analytical. I enjoyed it, it was not an easy watch and the characters were merely 2 dimensional, but the situation was ridiculous. Determination turns to desperation, turns to insanity, turns to prolific sacrifice, turns to muddy boobies and little kids coping feels. Throw some intestines in there for the slow burning. I appreciated it. It is visionary. And I saw it on the big screen with a burned DVD projection with bad sound and a bad transfer. So if I can find quality in that then there are sure to be people who really like this film.