oldboy

Park Chan-wook’s vengeance trilogy reviewed.  Like Tarantino flicks?  Never seen Korean cinema?  This is a good place to start.  Read on…

Like bloodshed and samurai warriors? How about insane kung fu choreography?

Azumi (bloody Japanese samurai flick) and Iron Monkey (high-flying Chinese kung-fu flick) reviewed.

Read the post here.

James Bond is back. Check out my thoughts on this new darker, tougher Bond.

Read it here

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0443453/)

borat

I was hesitant to see this movie at first. Not that I don’t like Sacha Baron Cohen, I just never thought of Borat as a full length film. I’ve enjoyed Da Ali G show before, and having been inundated by YouTube Borat clips by my friend, I have also enjoyed Borat on many occasions. I still didn’t see how these comical interviews could fill out a whole flick.

How wrong I was! Upon a brief scan of metacritic and rottentomatoes, as well as a reading of the New York Times review, I was interested in seeing Borat and on saturday night, I traveled to the cineplex to travel across the country with a Kazakh.

After the brief disney-length tour with Borat, I was totally sold by Sacha Baron Cohen’s new comedy. Borat’s interviews are hilarious as always, and the pervading plotline of Borat’s attempt to travel to California in order to marry Pamela Anderson is quite entertaining as well.

Through Borat’s cultural learning, he offends all, holding back on no one. The antisemitic Borat provides a great show upon arriving to a bed and breakfast run by an old Jewish couple, and his stumble upon an evangelical group is equally hilarious. Borat has fun at a gay pride parade and hangs with some frat guys. Of course his road trip takes the route through the southern states, and there are many laughs to be had. The jokes play on Borat’s ineptitude, but at the same time act as social commentary. We aren’t always laughing at Borat, but at the responses he elicits. While many of the jokes are offensive, this isn’t to say that there isn’t potty humor in this flick – be prepared for all.

While Borat’s humor isn’t for everyone (don’t see it if you’re easily offended), the flick hits a homerun for Sacha Baron Cohen fans. Baron Cohen was the only redeeming feature of Taladega Nights, and it looks like he’s on his way to great things. If you like Da Ali G, you’ll like Borat; if you want to see a pretty intelligent yet dumb flick, check it out. It’s niiice, high five!

4 rubber fists out of 5

The Departed (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0407887/)

departed.jpg

Two days ago, I finally got a chance to see the new heavily lauded Scorsese film, The Departed. A remake of the Hong Kong hit Infernal Affairs, a flick that I have enjoyed before, I was eager to see how Scorsese could throw his own flavor to the mix. With all of the hype and the super positive critic reviews, I was really excited to find the time to finally see it. Did all the hype hold up?

Sure – Scorsese knows his territory when it comes to portraying crime and the gritty underworld of the mob. His past work (Goodfellas, aka one of the best movies ever) shows this and The Departed follows suit. The movie is gripping and interesting as well as funny. Scorsese doesn’t hold back on the violence in portraying the work of the mob, and the shocking violence engages the viewer just like the rest of the film. The dialogue and acting are top notch with the all-star stacked cast. Nicholson acts as god, and all other actors touch greatness as well. Leonardo Dicaprio and Matt Damon are excellent leads, and the supporting actors only add to the flick (Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin – hilarious). Though the Boston accents were a bit heavy-handed and in-and-out at times, the funny speech did not ever significantly detract from the film. Just to set it straight – not everyone in Boston sounds like that…

As much as I liked The Departed, the flick was a bit overhyped for me I think. Almost every review I have encountered has been positive (check out metacritic/rottentomatoes) and I was psyched to see the best movie of the year. In the end, I found the movie to be highly entertaining and stylistic, but the narrative element fell short – probably because I had already seen Infernal Affairs. The storyline wasn’t as fresh or original to me, and I was expecting things to happen before they did. It was fun to do comparisons between the remake and the Hong Kong original, but I felt that my knowing the basic plot made the movie a little less special for me than I would’ve liked.

The flick all in all met my expectations wholly. Scorsese’s fast editing was both engaging and kind of confusing, but my familiarity with the basic story overcame any confusion. While it’s hard to say whether or not this film is better or worse than its asian predecessor, it’s definitely true that each film has its ups and downs. I think each movie works well in its own cultural environment, one discussing the Irish mob while the other, the Chinese Triads. In that aspect, Scorsese’s The Departed becomes more of a variation of a theme rather than a complete remake. Scorsese’s changes work well and fit the new Boston setting; the film captures your attention and doesn’t let you go till the end.

3.5 – 4 undercover agents out of 5

Spoilers ahead- Comparisons between The Departed and Infernal Affairs and other stuff

  • The ending of The Departed was really different from Infernal Affairs, I’m not so sure how much I liked that new addition
  • The Departed significantly limited the police chief’s role in the film, as well as the repeated rooftop meetings
  • If anyone has seen both John Woo’s “Hard Boiled” and “Infernal Affairs” – do you get the sense that there is a connection with the whole undercover cop/rooftop thing? Did Infernal Affairs get these ideas from the John Woo’s most famous operatic blood ballad?
  • The Departed enhances the role of the female character (changing Infernal Affair’s two minor females into one major role in The Departed) in the film. This was cool, but also feels like a very Hollywoodesque change.
  • The two gang members trying to spot a cop was a nice carryover.
  • The silent phonecall scene was a nice carryover as well.
  • The addition of Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg was awesome.

The Prestige (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0482571/)

Prestige

Does Christopher Nolan know how to disappoint? I think not. With Memento, Insomnia, and Batman Begins under his belt, it seems that his films consistently entertain and engage. “The Prestige” follows suit, providing a story about two magician friends who later become dangerous rivals. The entire cast is great (think Batman Begins with wolverine and the girl with the pearl earring – throw in a “coyote ugly” girl and uh… David Bowie), and the movie is filled with stunning visuals.

Nolan never really liked telling stories from the beginning, and in “The Prestige” he starts from the end and then jumps around in a non-chronological yet non-confusing fashion. The movie’s mysteries are slowly revealed, and Nolan plays many tricks on the audience. Expect to be stunned a few times. Sleight of hand, smoke and mirrors, disappearing rabbits – what have you – nothing is what it seems, and Nolan asks you from the start “are you watching closely?”

The film takes off and moves, keeping you engaged for its duration. However, the movie does feel long at times. Perhaps it is the Victorian setting that slows time down a bit, but the movie’s length is noticeable in the way that the Lord of the Rings feels long. The movie probably could have been shorter, but it works the way it is. Just make sure you don’t drink that entire coke during the first half.

How does this film compare to the summer’s “The Illusionist?” I thought “The Prestige” was less dull and more fun in spite of its longer running time. “The Illusionist” was nice, but defintitely forgettable, and all of the praise it has received seems pretty unwarranted in my opinion. “The Prestige” is another hit by Christopher Nolan; maybe it isn’t as memorable as Batman or Memento, but it provides a satisfying, intelligent and entertaining show.

3.5 – 4 magic hats out of a bunch of 5 sprawled all over the ground

Sorry it took so long to update. The last 2 weeks were filled with exams, and I still have more to come so bear with me. Continuing with Extreme Asian Cinema, I’m taking a look at two different flicks. The unifying theme: torture. While one movie definitely falls into the “horror” category, I would say the other is less easily categorized. Check it out.

Save the Green Planet! (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0354668/)

save the green planet

So I’m not sure what to say about this flick. In my own words I’d call it, “unforgettably messed up.” Not easily categorized, the movie switches between genres left and right (sci-fi, comedy, horror, suspense). In the end, I’m uncertain how I feel throughout the movie. The premise of the story goes as follows: One crazy guy thinks that the CEO of a successful chemical company is actually an alien leader. He kidnaps and tortures the so-called alien while a suspicious cop investigates. The title of the film, though evocative of a humanitarian treehugging feeling, is in actuality in reference to the crazy guy’s attempt save the planet from the aliens.

The flick is an interesting experience to say the least. While it didn’t quite tickle my fancy, it was pretty engaging the entire way through. Be prepared for a lot of ridiculous twists and tangents that somehow lead to whole movie. I wouldn’t call this flick an example of perfectly cohesive filmmaking, but there seems to be some method to the madness. Check it out if you want to try something a bit different.

Audition (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0235198/)

audition

“This wire can cut through meat and bone easily.” – Asami Yamazaki

Takashi Miike is a prominent name in the Japanese extreme cinema underworld, and his film “Audition” is well known along with “Ichi the Killer” are some of the best known (or the one’s that I’ve been hearing most about.) I decided to check out “Audition,” and again, I’d say it was an experience. The movie is straight up horror, but instead of cheap thrills that make you jump, “Audition” slowly builds up to a climax that makes you cringe. The film follows Shigeharu Aoyama, a widower, who decides it is time to meet a new woman. His friend offers to hold a fake audition to screen various actresses, and Shigeharu can meet a new wife. A great idea in theory almost works in execution except for the fact that the girl Shigeharu chooses is Asami Yamazaki, a completely crazy sadist-bitch.

Looks can be deceiving in this flick, and you know that Asami isn’t quite right as you watch the film. You hope that Shigeharu drops her for another, but he decides to pursue this mysterious not-so-innocent girl. As I said before, the movie works at a slow pace building toward the insane climax à la “Alien.” In contrast though, Ridley Scott is a little more conservative with the blood and guts as “Audition” paints on the gore quite liberally. Miike brings the hurt, and there are some seriously disturbing images in this film.  Don’t see this film if you can’t handle the bloodletting in traditional slashers – this movie goes above and beyond with the sadistic violence.

While I can usually stomach violence and gore decently well, “Audition” definitely made me cringe in horror.  There’s something about a quiet girl sticking long needles into someone’s face I find a bit disturbing…

Both flicks: 2.5 disemboweled limbs out of a pile of 5