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Safar e Ghandehar (2001)
I expected something more, I suppose. I expected better actors, even for a low-budget "based-on-a-true story" film. I expected some sort of emotional attachment to the characters. I expected to learn something.
*VERY MINOR SPOILER WARNING
I expected more from the ending, not that I would have to search through the DVD extras to discover what happened after the film concluded.
*END VERY MINOR SPOILER WARNING*
Ultimately, I feel my time would have been better spent watching a documentary about Afghanistan during this time -- several good ones were made -- than this film.
Tôkyô nagaremono (1966)
Seijun Suzuki's Masterwork...
I will argue until my death that TOKYO DRIFTER is superior to BRANDED TO KILL, but that's for another time...
I am amazed every time I see this film that Suzuki could take such an obviously inferior product -- as Nikkatsu Studios was churning out at an obscene rate in those days, giving directors a script and saying "Shoot it fast and cheap so we can give you your next job" -- and turn it into one of the most beautiful and intriguing films I've ever seen.
Best plot ever? No. Easy to follow? Yes. Beautiful? Yes. And that theme...I could never forget that theme if I tried, even after my first viewing.
I'd ramble on about history and plot and so on, but so many others have, I'll just leave it at this: TOKYO DRIFTER makes me happy every time I see it.
Circle of Iron (1978)
God, I'd love to see a remake...
This is one of those films that you really wish would have been made twenty years later. An extremely intriguing story, curious zen koans, and interesting characters would have made for a 10 film, had there not been several horrid things which marred this otherwise perfect film.
I'll only touch briefly on the main character's hair and the other horrible 1970's touches -- the monks' costumes, the music, etc. -- that could have, so easily, been remedied with a bit of work.
Instead, I'd like to say that it was perhaps the main actor -- whose name escapes me -- that ruined this film for me. To be certain, his martial arts were not bad...his "acting," however, was so bad as to make certain portions unintentionally laughable. I know that there were a lot of good, humorous portions of CIRCLE OF IRON, but I know I laughed a lot more than the filmmakers intended, mostly because of him.
All in all, an enjoyable movie-going experience, but I did spend a large portion of the film wondering what it would have been like had someone like Hong Kong's Johnny To deigned to remake it...
George Romero should be proud...
This is probably ties VERSUS as the freshest zombie film I've seen in about a decade. Any film that, as George Romero used to do, manages to combine ridiculously low-budget yet over-the-top gore with a few touching love stories, humor, and social commentary about how the world is losing touch with its youth...brilliant.
Sure, it's a low-budget movie, but some of my favorite films were cheaply made. It clearly doesn't take itself seriously enough to care. Any movie with a chainsaw called Bruce Campbell's Right Hand -- specifically crafted to cut up your zombie daughter while looking stylish at the same time -- and the Drew (Barrymore) anti-Romero Repeat Kill Squad is obviously poking fun at everything it can, itself included.
Personally, I enjoyed the deliberate pacing and intertwining storylines. It's a mistake to say that the music "kills" the horror of this film as it's not going for blatant horror, rather for shock and humor and fun.
All in all, Stacy is decidedly bizarre and fun. If you're looking for a knock-down, drag-out gore-fest, this is not for you. If you're looking for a movie to watch late at night with friends over cold sake and potato chips, laughing at "Butterfly Twinkle Powder", then this is the one you want.
The Era of Vampires (2003)
You were trying to watch this movie the wrong way...
Good heavens. Why must every Hong Kong film since CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON be compared to it? That's like comparing Tim Burton's ED WOOD to Orson Welles' CITIZEN KANE because they're both in black-and-white! They're both great movies, but it's ridiculous to stand them next to each other because they're so vastly different. To me, Tsui Hark constructed a BRILLIANT homage to the "hopping corpse," and "demon" movies of the 1980's and early 1990's while adding some great kung-fu sequences. I see hints of SWORDSMAN, I feel bits of MR. VAMPIRE, I hear parts of IRON MONKEY, I smell A CHINESE GHOST STORY, and it's all done quite well. Wu-shu, taoist warriors, hopping corpses, a creepy nod to HOUSE OF WAX, and silly jokes? Great fun to me! Art-house, said one reviewer? Don't know what art films YOU'VE been watching lately. This movie didn't try anything tremendously fancy or new, it took a lot of things we've seen before and turned out a movie that was more than the sum of its parts. Bad humor? Different humor. Hong Kong humor is usually quite different than American humor...I'm sure a lot of people missed when RAIN, CLOUD, THUNDER, and LIGHTNING (ridiculously stereotypical "hero" names) were renamed "Kung," "Hei," "Fat," and "Choi." Put those four words together and it says "Happy New Year" in Cantonese. Amazingly funny to us? Probably not. Good for a lengthy chuckle for chinese native? Definitely. Low-budget? Again, have we been so spoiled by movie producers throwing vast wads of cash at American films -- often to cover the fact that a movie is BAD -- that we can't appreciate a film that doesn't try to overachieve, but does what it can with what it has? How quickly people forget CLERKS, EL MARIACHI, etc. But then again, DESPERADO was so much better than EL MARIACHI, yes? Because it had BIG EXPLOSIONS and SEX! It's time people set CROUCHING TIGER up on its own shelf and stop comparing it to movies it bears no similarities to. Wanna say that Zhang Yimou's HERO was an overblown attempt to recreate CT,HD? Go for it, you'll be right. Wanna miss the fun of VAMPIRE HUNTERS entirely by refusing to watch it as its own film? Your choice, and ultimately, your loss.