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Song of the Vampire (2001)
Pretty Lame. See Subspecies for Denice Duff at her best instead.
I love vampire films, but this one had nothing new to add to the genre. On top of being painfully low budget, the boom mic dips into every other scene. Why wasn't this caught in editing? The story is predictable and awkwardly slow paced. The vampire, who is supposed to be a good guy, takes some peoples lives without a second thought. It doesn't really make any sense.
To be honest, I got this movie on DVD because I am a huge fan of Denice Duff's work on the Subspecies series. In Subspecies, she's hauntingly beautiful, and was the perfect vampire. I was hungry to see more of her. In this film however, she is not a vampire, and her character is pretty weak. She does have one love scene which is unfortunately PG-13.
Pretty lame overall. I'd recommend skipping this movie and picking up Subspecies instead.
One Point O (2004)
Easily the BEST Sci-Fi Film of 2004
I can't believe more people haven't seen this film. I downloaded this film from the internet by chance last year before it came out (It was called "One Point O" then), and I told so many of my friends that they made the trek to the Montreal Film Festival to see it. I anticipated that it would also show in the Toronto Film Festival (where I live) but unfortunately it did not.
The cast is brilliant. Udo Kier as a creepy neighbor. Lance Henrickson (in something watchable for a change) as a basement dwelling bum, the deliciously sexy Deborah Kara Unger play the main character Jeremy Sisto's (Six Feet Under, Wrong Turn) love interest.
This film actually kept me guessing until the end. It's well paced, originally written, and beautifully shot. It's the exact style of science fiction that I love the most.
I just picked up the DVD, now called "Paranoia: 1.0" (I prefer the original title). It's a must have for any sci-fi fan.
Sin City (2005)
Exactly what I was hoping for. A beautifully literal translation from the page.
Some scenes will make you forget you are looking at live action because of the perfect integration of high contrast art. This film is perfectly cast. I couldn't imagine anyone but Mickey Rourke playing Marv and Bruce Willis playing Hartigan. Brittany Murphy gives an over the top performance as Shellie, which really made the film noir experience for me. When I first heard about the casting, I was upset that they chose Jessica Alba to play Nancy, due to Jessica's "no nudity" clause in her contract. But she managed to pull it off. Rosario Dawson has never been hotter. Another perfect fit.
That's all I care to say without spoiling any of the film. See it immediately.
Buppha Rahtree (2003)
Hilarious and frightening homage to The Exorcist.
RAHTREE: Flower of the Night is a Thai Horror-Comedy about a girl named Buppah Rahtree, who through a series of unfortunate events, ends up bleeding to death and haunting an apartment building full of weirdos.
Though the film is more comedy than horror, with lots of ridiculous laughs throughout, there are easily over a dozen scenes where the entire audience jumps. The director Yuthlert Sippapak is admittedly in love with the movie The Exorcist and pays a hilarious homage to it in this film. The director even pokes fun at himself when he has one of the characters in the movie complain that people are stupid because they only watch movies where a ghost chases someone down a hallway. Ha ha.
The director also hinted that he is working on a sequel, involving some bank robbers that end up in the room Rahtree haunts. Funny and genuinely scary with a sprinkling of original ideas, I'd highly recommend Rahtree. (8/10)
Masterpiece worth waiting a decade for!
STEAMBOY is director Katsuhiro Otomo first feature film in ten years, since the release of the cult-classic AKIRA. Though he did work on a few projects in between, like MEMORIES and METROPOLIS as well as supervising SPRIGGAN and the brilliant psychological thriller PERFECT BLUE, you can easily imagine Otomo-san spending the better part of a decade honing STEAMBOY to the masterpiece it has become.
I've always felt a great anime should do the following: create real characters, make you think, dazzle you visually, and forward the art of animation by creating new techniques. STEAMBOY does all of that. Simplified, the message of the film is that science is a tool that should benefit mankind, and not be used to fatten the pockets of warmongers. The message is not heavy handed though, as Otomo-san presents several angles and allows the viewer to come to the obvious conclusion on their own. Visually this film is stunning. Even minor touches like water reflections under bridges were added to make the film seem more real. 3D was incorporated throughout the film, which I normally hate, but instead of inserting it and having it look out of place, it is simply used as a reference, and then painstakingly traced to appear more 2D and blend in with the film. I've been waiting for someone to do this properly for years. There is a lot of camera action that you've never seen in an anime before. Rather than quick edits, some scenes are panned, zoomed, or rotated with amazing accuracy, as if they were actually filmed rather than being drawn.
This film is full of wonder, with amazing inventions, interesting characters you quickly care about, and beautiful scenes. It plays like a classic adventure film. There is a scene where Dr. Steam turns to his grandson and says "Go Steamboy!" That choked me right up. I could not have been happier with the way this film turned out. It's a masterpiece that Otomo-san should be extremely proud of, and that every anime fan will enjoy. (9/10)
Original Horror that will definitely keep you guessing!
SAW was the final film of the Toronto International Film Festival's Midnight Madness program, and the most anticipated. I think it was the first, though not the only film to sell out Ryerson's huge (1200+ capacity) theatre. My hat, if I were actually wearing one, goes off to Colin Geddes (Festival Programmer) for always knowing exactly how to end the film fest.
This film has everything you want from a horror movie. It has a few laughs, it's scary, extremely original, with interesting characters, a wicked soundtrack, and enough gore to make some audience members turn away. There aren't many films that have ever kept me guessing, and this is one.
The first feature film from Australian director James Wan (written by himself and buddy Leigh Whannell, who stars in the film as Adam) was completed incredibly with only 5 days of pre- production and 18 days of filming. The, also Australian, Spierig Brothers (UNDEAD) even sent the SAW team a letter congratulating them and telling them they were in good hands with the Toronto audience. Australia is quickly becoming known for creating some of the best cult films in the world.
I've also never wanted a movie prop, the reverse bear trap headpiece, so badly in my life. Too cool.
SAW was so unbelievably good that it left me wanting more, and luckily the creative team hinted at a sequel featuring the twisted ventriloquist dummy that appears throughout the film. Hopefully, the big budget version of THE PUPPET MASTER that I always hoped for.
DO NOT read or listen to anything about this movie, or someone might spoil it for you. See this movie as soon as possible! (10/10)
Psychodrama without the psychology ... or drama.
HOTEL is about a young girl who is hired as a receptionist in an isolated, apparently inaccessible hotel in the Austrian Alps. Her co- workers are not responsive to her arrival, and to make matters worse, the girl she replaced was said to have disappeared. This description reminded me of the only film to truly scared me, Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. Second time director Jessica Hausner however, is no Kubrick.
The characters in this film are very one dimensional. Even the main character Irene, who finds herself in some situations that might scare a normal person, does not react at all. As a direct result, neither does the audience. The environment was also very bland. You would think the director would scout a location with some atmosphere for a psychodrama, but instead we're shown a very boring well kept hotel. This film is shot without any style whatsoever. The director must have thought a few of the scenes were terrifying (walking down a hallway, or looking into the woods), as she showed them over and over again. The conclusion was uninspired and predictable.
Note to amateur filmmakers everywhere ... If I can't put myself in the place of one of the films characters, and the situation isn't unusual or intense, and the environment does not seem unwelcoming, THERE IS NOTHING TO BE AFRAID OF. Your psychodrama will not work. Geez, I thought that would be obvious. (3/10)
"Black and white ecstacy!" A must see Miike film.
Takashi Miike never disappoints. His latest film to the Toronto Film Festival is ZEBRAMAN, a story about a father (Shinichi) who no longer has a family, or a life. His wife is having an affair, his daughter is a slut (no wonder, she's cute as hell), and his son is bullied at the school where he teaches. Even the other students think he is a geek. Shinichi spends all of his free time fantasizing about a show he watched as a kid called Zebraman, that was cancelled after only a few episodes due to low ratings. He even goes as far as to make his own Zebraman costume, and that's when the fun truly begins.
As the Earth is invaded by aliens (what did you expect) Shinichi is called into action as Zebraman and he transforms from mild mannered teacher to Earth's last hope. Think PowerRangers but with odd and hilarious dialogue ("Don't stand ... behind me."). But first he spends some much needed time in front of a mirror practicing his shouts ("Black and White Ecstacy!"), costume spliting poses, and signature attacks like the "Zebra Double Back Kick". I admit I was sold as soon as he beat the crap out of a guy wearing a giant crab mask on his head. I laughed the hardest at the introduction of ZebraNurse, though.
This is a different kind of film than what you'd expect from Miike. The characters are warm and lovable, and no one gets injured (with the exception of an easily re-grown arm, "Thanks ... ZebraNurse!"). Which shows the kind of range this cult director has. My only regret was that Takashi Miike wasn't present to witness a world class response to this outrageously funny film. (9/10)
Dark and funny with a rockin soundtrack.
KONTROLL is a Hungarian film from director Nimród Antal. Yes, that's really his name. The first thing he did when he introduced the film was make fun of the fact that he was called Nimrod, which is great.
The film is about a group of ticket inspectors in the Hungarian subway system, with the focus on at least one in particular (Bulcsú). Each character is extremely likable, even the passengers become memorable characters, as none of them buy a ticket and are chased or shaken down by the inspectors, which is commonplace in Hungary. There is even a young girl in a bear suit (don't ask) that is absolutely gorgeous. The interaction between her and Bulcsú is sweet and funny. They had the kind of chemistry that is difficult to capture on film.
The entire film takes place in the underground, which is effectively presented as a separate world than the one above ground. Some characters even talk about "up there" with a child- like wonder in their voices.
The cinematography is beautiful. Some of the scenes or long panning shots in the underground are breathtaking. Who'd a thunk it'd look so cool down there? You can tell the director has a photography background, by the wonderful shots he selected.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the rockin' soundtrack. Unfortunately, the band that did the music (NEO) are no longer together. Lets hope the director gets the soundtrack released.
This film is not all laughs however. It has a very serious side that is dark, and an ending that makes you think. If this is the kind of film we can expect from Hungary, I'm eagerly anticipating more. I definitely recommend this film. (8/10)
Easily one of the BEST films I've ever seen.
OLD BOY came highly recommended by friends who are Asian film fanatics. Now I see why. OLD BOY, a South Korean film from director Park Chan-Wook, is easily one of the greatest films I have ever seen. It's original, unpredictable, funny, realistically violent, sweet, sad, and it even has a message. It's brilliant!
There's not much I can say without spoiling the plot. Even the short descriptive text they used to promote the film says too much. Let me just say that it is probably the most creative revenge movie you will ever see. The set design is great, especially the penthouse condo. There is one special effects sequence (with an ant) that works perfectly, and provides a quick laugh in a moment of sadness in the film. The pacing is surprisingly perfect, considering the run time for the film is 2 hours. The acting is stellar. The struggle of the main characters was so real that I felt uncomfortable for a good portion of their interaction.
It also has one of the most realistic fight sequences I've seen on film. Where the main character defends himself in a hallway (shot lengthwise so you can see almost the whole hall at once), against about 20 thugs. I swear he actually makes contact with some of them.
If you enjoy movies, and you must if you are reading a movie review, you need to see this film. (10/10)