So this has nothing to do with movies or the ongoing Extreme Asian Cinema series, but it looks like Jack’s back, thus warranting a quick update.

Check it out!

Starting again in January…

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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

While originally not connected to the “Extreme Asian Cinema” series, I’ve decided to post this little interlude of martial art movie reviews; cool martial arts are pretty extreme after all. Over last weekend, I saw the Jet Li movie “Fearless,” and this past summer, I also indulged in a few other martial art extravaganzas (Jet Li’s Unleashed, Tony Jaa’s Ong-Bak, and Iron Monkey). Let’s take a look at them.

Fearless (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0446059/)

fearless

So this isn’t actually Jet Li’s last movie, but it’s still pretty sweet so you should check it out anyways! In the vain of Zhang Yimou’s “Hero,” “Fearless” is a “China is awesome!” movie filled with spectacular fight choreography. Jet Li’s kicks and punches haven’t been better, and since the dialogue isn’t in english, you don’t have to laugh when Jet Li speaks! While the subtitles to the film weren’t completely accurate, they work pretty well. The movie does have a middle section of pure narrative, lacking in any sort of corporal punishment for a good 15-20 min. This change in pace was a bit of a turn off, but the movie rebounds back with spirit till the end. All in all, a tight package of Jet Li doing what he does best. Check it out!

Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0368909/)

ong bak

Have you ever seen a guy jump through a small ring of barb wire? Or how about a running slide under semi-trailer truck? Tony Jaa is all the rage now, and if there are such things as extreme martial art stunts, then Ong Bak would be a great example of it. Muay Thai fighting is really a feast for the eyes; it’s different from what I’ve been used to seeing as Tony Jaa seriously takes into account knees and elbows just as much as his fists and feet. The fighting is crazy and the pace of the movie is very quick. A plot is pretty much disregarded for this film and is only existent for the sake of giving Tony Jaa a reason to get brutal. And get brutal is what Jaa does best. Stunts galore, this movie is the definition of the martial arts flick. Don’t expect a storyline at all, but check it out still. The stunts are well worth it.

Both flicks:

3.5-4 kicks and punches out of a brawl of 5

Next time: Extreme Asian Cinema continues! Prepare for the Kung-fu cinema conclusion coming soon.

Three… Extremes (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0420251/)

Three Extremes

I didn’t like “The Ring,” and I don’t get why people think it’s frightening. I don’t find a girl crawling out of a television to be that scary. However, I’ve heard that the asian original “Ringu” is pretty creepy. I checked out Ju-On (never saw “The Grudge”), and I’ll have to say that asian horror flicks are a bit creepier than the American knockoffs. While Ju-On wasn’t the scariest gorefest I thought it would be, it was quite creepily dreadful. Enter “Three… Extremes”: three short horror films compiled into one full length feature. This film surveys the horror from Hong Kong, Korea, and Japan, and provides a chilling experience at the same time. Each short is strange and twisted in its own way and has no relation to the other films. Packaged together, they provide fast paced scares along with slow growing apprehensive fear.

While I’m not going to give you the stories (you can find them here), I wanted to mention something about asian horror in general. In my humble opinion, asian horror is irrational and nonsensical terror. I find them to be creepier than most Hollywood slashers as they depend on genuinely scary stories rather than cheap thrills and pop-out-and-make-you-jump tricks. Although I enjoy being scared genuinely, the american viewer in me sometimes becomes troubled by the irrational storylines and the interpretive nature of asian horror. BUT I’ve realized that the lacking of resolutions and the plotholes actually make the movies more lasting for the viewer. Many a time after seeing an asian horror film, I’m still thinking and trying to figure out exactly what the hell happened. Maybe it’s poor movie making, but maybe it’s genius because the movie becomes lasting in your memory.

If you saw it already: I liked “Dumplings” the most, but I liked “Cut” also. “Box” – not so much.

3.5 delicious dumplings out of 5

This past summer, I explored a niche genre which I had never really been exposed to before. I’m gonna call it extreme asian cinema because the movies consisted of all asian flicks, and these movies were not of the “Hero,” “House of Flying Daggers,” or “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” style, nor were they the past award winning Gong Li dramas. These cult movies mostly consisted of horror and extreme Tarantino-esque violence, and for the most part, are works of style over substance. I have yet to finish a FULL survey of these films (Takashi Miike movies and more horror), but I intend to continue watching and perhaps rewatching films within this genre. After this past summer’s experience, I gained some new favorites (and other nonfavorites) that I am happy to share with you. Without further ado, extreme asian cinema part 1…

Battle Royale (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0266308/)

BR

Imagine this: you are on an island, and in order to survive, you do not need to make fire or find a water source. Instead, you need to kill everyone you see on the island. Now imagine your highschool class is with you. I bet there are some people you would love to massacre, but then what about your best friend or perhaps your sweetheart? Well, throw in some highschool drama and random weapons like pistols, knives, crossbows, tasers and grenades and you’ve got yourself “Battle Royale.” I know, I know – I was thinking “Man that sounds f*cked up!” the first time I heard about it too. I was skeptical about gaining any sort of enjoyment from this flick to say the least, but upon watching, I got into it; it grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Of the handful of cult extreme asian films that I watched this summer, you have to check this one out.

“Battle Royale” is actually really interesting and complex. Not solely a gorefest of sadistic adolescents massacring one another, the film throws in the previously mentioned high school drama, making this film a lot more interesting to watch. You get to see the kids that stand alone, the kids who band together, the tragic lovers, the crushes, the heros – this film has it all. Throw in spoonfuls of betrayal and confusion and you have “Battle Royale.”

While “Battle Royale” may not appeal to all viewers, it’s definitely worthy of a viewing. It’s the type of pulp that garners substantial interest and is deserving of it. I think this is some necessary viewing; Tarantino fans et al, check it out.

4 exploding collars out of 5 (exploding collars? you’ll understand when you see it)

Back to School Blues

September 20, 2006

So here I am, back at school. I haven’t had much time to update lately, but I will promptly get back into it. Damn you school, damn you.