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Gekkô no sasayaki (1999)
One of those films that could only have come from Japan
Gekkõ no sasayaki it's one of those films that could have only come from Japan. It's a psycho-sexual drama about two young teenagers who start dating. Their relationship begins innocently enough but when Satsuki(girl) learns that Takuya (boy) is into sadomasochism she labels him as pervert and leaves him. However, Takuya keeps pursuing Satsuki and as time passes by, Satsuki is drawn back by the power Takuya's fetishes give her over him.
This is definitely one of those subjects that Hollywood wouldn't try to tackle, at least not with the subtlety that is so often seen in Asian films. And don't take me wrong, it's subtle but it's also extremely powerful. it's just that everything arises from character development and interaction and not from gimmicks.
The plot is well thought out and the acting was pretty good. I just wish the director had explored Takuya's reasons and motives a little more and also a bit more focus on Satsuki's inner conflict (Her enjoying the s&m games but at the same time feeling it's wrong). Still, it's a good film and probably worth checking if you like Asian cinema.
Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) and his wife Liz (January Jones) arrive in Berlin for a biotechnology summit. Upon arriving at their hotel, Martin realizes he forgot his briefcase at the airport. He takes a taxicab driven by Gina (Diane Kruger), but on the way to the airport, the cab crashes off a bridge into the river after narrowly avoiding a refrigerator that falls off a delivery truck. Martin is knocked unconscious upon impact, but Gina saves him from drowning before fleeing from the scene. On Thanksgiving day, he comes to at the hospital after being in a coma for four days.Martin returns to his hotel, only to discover that his wife who proclaims to not know him, is with another man who says he's Dr.Martin Harris.
Unknown has a tremendous premise and a great actor in the lead role, Liam Neeson. However, this film did not succeed and the main reason is because of its execution. The plot is, in fact, quite interesting, there's quite a bit of action and the acting is pretty good. And I must say that the twist was not at all what I expected and it will be extremely difficult for anyone to predict it.
Having said that, the way all these bits were put together did not make a very good film. It has a lot of potential but it never really reaches and ends up being a very mediocre thriller. Much inferior to Liam Neeson's last action thriller, Taken, for instance.
Drive Angry (2011)
Over the top and absurd and not in a good way.
John Milton (Nicolas Cage) is a criminal who has broken out of Hell to kill Jonah King (Billy Burke), a cult leader who tricked Milton's daughter into joining his followers in the wake of Milton's death, only to kill her and her husband and steal their baby daughter - Milton's granddaughter - to be sacrificed in a Satanist ritual.
Drive Angry is a mix of exploitation film and grindhouse and although it can be entertaining, the film is mediocre at best. There's the usual over the top and absurd action, and Amber Heard serves as marvelous eye candy but other then that, the film hasn't that much going for it. This kind of films have a very specific target audience, and if you're looking for a film with something more, a little substance, this is definitely not for you. This is one of those silly pop-corn flicks you watch on a Friday night with your girlfriend.
This one is definitely a pass. And ignore the fact that it's in 3D, that's a gimmick that doesn't make up for a very flimsy plot and overall mediocre film.
Jisatsu sâkuru (2001)
Nonsensical and incoherent
Suicide club starts with 54 smiling, singing high school girls inexplicably link hands and jumping onto the tracks of an oncoming bullet train. Their deaths seems to trigger a wave of suicides all over Japan. A detective sets out to discover the root of all the deaths, but discovers something more disturbing..
I heard some good things about this film and how it had a cult following but I have to say that I regret my decision to watch it. Asian cinema is pretty extreme and this film is no exception, lots of gore, blood flying around, body parts being cut, animals and people being killed, people getting skinned and so forth, this is definitely not a film for squeamish people. Having said that, I have no problem with extreme films and that is not the reason why I disliked this film so much. Simply put, Suicide Club is one of the most nonsensical, incoherent and disordered films I have seen. The story is incredibly convoluted and makes very little sense. Yes, you can draw some parallels and see the film as a big metaphor for the value of life but still, the all thing is really far-fetched and disjointed. The acting was pretty decent actually. The camera work however was a bit nauseating.
Any conclusions that you take from this film will be very loose because there's not much support in the story. It really is a question of how you want to interpret this film. And I don't have anything against ambiguous films but this one is truly open to any kind of interpretation and that doesn't make for a very good film in my opinion.
Lately I've been watching a lot of Korean films and really liking them. They're completely different from what I'm used to and quite a breath of fresh air. Recently I came across Confessions and I must say, it's not just Korean films,Asian cinema in general seems to be fantastic. Kokuhaku aka confessions was directed by Tetsuya Nakashima and revolves around a grieving mother turned cold-blooded avenger with a twisty master plan to pay back those who were responsible for her daughter's death. The first thing she does is mix her husband's HIV contaminated blood in the culprits's milk. Don't worry, this is not a spoiler, this is truly the beginning of story and it turns into something much bigger and much more complex. I just want to give you an idea of how twisted the plot is.
As in most Asian films, the main theme here is revenge but there's quite a bit of social commentary going on as well. Be aware that Confessions is bleak and depressing and definitely not a film for the squeamish. Visually, the film is absolutely stunning. The cinematography is probably the best I have ever seen in my life and I'm not exaggerating. There's a lot of slow motion and some clever conceptual scenes. Every shot is a small work of art and there's not one wasted scene. The look is very minimal which I love. The soundtrack is truly mesmerizing and fits the dark atmosphere perfectly. The acting was great, specially considering the cast was mainly composed by kids and I have no idea how they were able to play such dark characters.
I also have to mention the direction and vision of Tetsuya Nakashima which is astonishing. I'll be sure to watch his previous movies. I'm in shock still. Still trying to take it all in. Confessions is an amazing sensory experience, just an incredibly piece of work. It really is one of those films you'll be thinking about long after you watched it. Asian cinema is pretty extreme but this film is almost unlike anything I've seen.
No Strings Attached (2011)
Portman is great, the rest not so much
In this comedy, Emma (Natalie Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher) are life-long friends who almost ruin everything by having sex one morning. In order to protect their friendship, they make a pact to keep their relationship strictly "no strings attached." "No strings" means no jealousy, no expectations, no fighting, no flowers, no baby voices. It means they can do whatever they want, whenever they want, in whatever public place they want, as long as they don't fall in love. The questions become - Can you have sex without love getting in the way? And can their friendship survive?
Now, let me start this by saying that I'm a huge fan of Natalie Portman. She's, in my opinion, the best actress out there, by a long shot. Every film she's in is that much better because of her and she has given some amazing performances throughout her career. Suffice to say I have seen everything she has done so far and felt obliged to watch No Strings Attached as well. However, I had really low expectations for this film. Let's be honest, comedies usually suck, let alone romantic comedies starring Ashton Kutcher. Honestly, I was entertained by the film but it's your run of the mill rom-com. The plot is extremely predictable, the jokes for the most part are silly, childish and not clever at all, and the film uses the same formula of every comedy that has come from Hollywood in the last decade. There's even the goofy sidekick to provide comic relief.
Regarding the acting I thought Kutcher did an OK job but he never truly gives himself into the character. In short he was a bit wooden. Portman on the other hand, can do no wrong. I think the reason why I was able to somewhat enjoy the film was definitely her presence and with any other actress this film would have been much worse. All in all, it's a formulaic rom-com that benefits from one of its lead actors but it's still a very weak effort.
Could have been a masterpiece
Sunshine takes place fifty years from now; the sun is dying, and mankind is dying with it. Our last hope: a spaceship and a crew of eight men and women. They carry a device which will breathe new life into the star. But deep into their voyage, out of radio contact with Earth, their mission is starting to unravel. There is an accident, a fatal mistake, and a distress beacon from a spaceship that disappeared seven years earlier. Soon the crew is fighting not only for their lives, but their sanity.
Dany Boyle,the director, has mention 2001, A Space Odissey and Solaris as two of the inspirations behind Sunshine and it shows. The film can only be described as an epic sci-fi extravaganza. Everything about it screams epic, the sets, the special effects, the atmosphere, the soundtrack, everything. It's one of those films that aims at being something more then just a film. I'm not saying it manages to do so, but it certainly tries hard. And the film is never pretentious in any way. I think Boyle was trying to create something beautiful but despite his efforts the film felt somewhat short. Let me be clear about this, Sunshine is a great piece of work, just not the masterpiece it seems intended to be.
Some of the criticism has been related to the fact that Sunshine turns into something similar to a slasher film in its final third. At least for a little bit. And I have to agree with this criticism. It seemed a little out of place with the overall theme of the film. Apart from that, there's not much you can criticize. Clearly a lot of thought was put into this film and the direction is impeccable. The cinematography is awe-inspiring and the soundtrack extremely fitting. The acting was superb as well, real solid work with Cilian Murphy standing out.
Some have interpreted Sunshine as an atheistic film while others have labeled it a spiritual odyssey. There's certainly no denying that the film is about the origin of the universe despite it being masqueraded in a very entertaining and well-put together sci-fi plot. As an interesting side note, I read that Boyle is religious and he interpreted the story as a triumph of faith over science while Alex Garland, the main writer is an atheist and saw the film as a triumph of science over faith. I, myself I'm an atheist but I think the film can be interpreted both ways and because of that will probably please a lot of people. All in all, it's not the masterpiece it could have been, but I highly recommend Sunshine. Certainly a must-see for sci-fi fans.
Waiting for Forever (2010)
Sweet little story
A unique love story about friendship and a view of the world from different perspectives, Waiting for Forever explores the connections people make in the face of life's changes. Best friends while they were growing up, Emma (Rachel Bilson) and Will (Tom Sturridge) lost touch a long time ago-as far as she knows. To Will, Emma never stopped being the most important person in his life. Believing them to be forever linked, he goes wherever she goes. Will doesn't have a home, a car, or a "real" job. He survives on his talent as a juggler and entertainer-talents honed through years of showing off for Emma. When her father gets sick, Emma returns to their hometown, trying to leave behind her complicated love life and failing career as a TV actress. Will follows her and decides to once and for all talk with Emma about his feelings.
Waiting for forever is a sweet little independent film. Perfect to watch with your girlfriend or boyfriend, it's probably a great choice for a first date but it's not much more then that. I kept waiting for the story to took off, for the film to get real and deep, profound but it never happened. It's a very simplistic story and although it is entertaining and moves at a good pace there's never real insight into the characters. In fact, most characters are two-dimensional.
As for the acting, nothing outstanding here but overall satisfactory. Rachel Bilson's acting skills are very limited but she always does an OK job. On the other hand,Tom Sturridge was great. His character was not an easy one but he played it very well. Again, the script is to blame for the character's flaws because as far as the way the role was played, it couldn't have been better. Richard Jenkins and Blythe Danner did the best they could with what they were given. I should also mention the soundtrack which was very good and fitting. Overall, it's a sweet little love story but you shouldn't watch this film with high expectations.
Source Code (2011)
Entertaining but not great
Source Code is an action-thriller directed by Duncan Jones (Moon) also starring Michelle Monaghan (Eagle Eye, Due Date), Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air, The Departed), and Jeffrey Wright (Quantum of Solace, Syriana. When decorated soldier Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up in the body of an unknown man, he discovers he's part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train. In an assignment unlike any he's ever known, he learns he's part of a government experiment called the "Source Code," a program that enables him to cross over into another man's identity in the last 8 minutes of his life. With a second, much larger target threatening to kill millions in downtown Chicago, Colter re-lives the incident over and over again, gathering clues each time, until he can solve the mystery of who is behind the bombs and prevent the next attack.
I watch this today and there's no way I can say that it is a bad film. The acting was great and it was damn entertaining. And on top of that, I like sci-fi, specially if there's a human story amidst the action. And this is a film that has the potential to make you reflect about life, reality, philosophy and all that which is great. However, I left the theater feeling a bit disappointed, maybe even cheated? And here's why... In my opinion the film was doomed from the beginning. I'll elaborate; emotionally the ending was quite satisfactory, but in order to have a emotionally satisfactory ending, I feel that the story was compromised.
Why was it compromised? Because the ending was too far-fetched. Granted this is sci-fi, you had to suspend your disbelief from the get go but the ending was just too convenient if that makes sense. Even for someone who's somewhat familiarized with multi-verse theory and things like that. It's a bit hard to talk about this film without spoiling it and I don't want to give anything away so, in conclusion, it's probably a film worth seeing for all sci-fi fans but for everyone else it might be just an average piece of work.
The Roommate (2011)
Run of the mill thriller
Sara Matthews (Minka Kelly) is starting her freshman year of college at ULA. Upon arrival, she meets Tracy Morgan (Alyson Michalka), an avid party-goer, and Stephen Morterelli (Cam Gigandet), a drummer who plays in a band for a fraternity who later begins to date Sara. After a party at Stephen's fraternity house that lands Tracy drunk, Sara arrives back at her dorm late at night and meets Rebecca Evans (Leighton Meester), her new roommate, whose parents live only 20 minutes away and who is great at drawing portraits of people. Initially, the girls begin to bond very well as Rebecca learns more about Sara's life. Sara had an older sister, Emily, who died when Sara was nine. She keeps a necklace that belonged to Emily as well as her sister's name tattooed on her chest.
She also has an ex-boyfriend, Jason (Matt Lanter), who keeps calling her to try to get back together with her.The history behind their breakup is that Jason and Sara agreed to both go to Brown University or not, and when only Sara got a spot, she declined it and chose ULA. However, when Jason got accepted to Brown at the last minute, he accepted to go without Sara, reneging on their agreement. Against dorm regulations, the two girls secretly adopt a stray kitten which Sara found. As time goes on, though, Rebecca begins to become more obsessed with spending time with Sara and wants to have her all to herself. She is willing to keep at bay anyone who wronged Sara or who she thinks is stealing Sara away from her....
The Roommate is your run of the mill thriller. There is absolutely nothing new or original here. The film slowly builds up to reveal that a certain character is the "bad guy", well, it builds up to reveal how bananas the character truly is because, you know from the beginning where each character stands, and then comes the action which is predictable and not very exciting. The acting wasn't bad although I wish Minka Kelly had a little more personality.She's great too look at but she's also somewhat boring. Leighton Meester did a fine job. All in all it's a decent little film, but I wouldn't waste my time on it.