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Miike gets really self-indulgent with IZO
After seeing at least 20 movies in his filmography, this is by far and wide the worst Miike film I've yet to see.
Great premise, but the execution is all wrong.
A samurai is crucified on a cross in feudal Japan, and spends the remainder of his afterlife travelling through space and time at random, hacking and slicing away pretty much everyone in sight. While there are certainly those characters who might represent the ills of modern Japanese society (particularly religion and big business), some of the violence is just downright incomprehensible, including the slaying of innocent children and the rape of mother earth (seriously). I had no idea what Izo was supposed to represent, nor half of the villains he encounters, and, as a reasonably intelligent art-house film fanatic, it absolutely infuriates me that I had to come online to figure all this meaningless and half-assed symbolism out.
I get it Miike; you hate religion, technology, government, law, major corporations (like the ones you make movies for... ahem), and women. You love to get your audience talking, and you certainly love making critics think you are a thematic genius even when everything you do is lazy (given, he does make about 5-6 films a year) and pushing them to find hidden meanings behind things where there are none (example: all the ranting and raving about AUDITION being a feminist film). But by the looks of IMDb and RT ratings of IZO, I think this 2 hour mind-f*ck was the straw that broke the camel's back.
Bad CGI, bad fight choreography, bad dialogue, bad acting. Sure, it's an "art" film, and so those things should be secondary to theme, plot, and message, but when 90% of the film is made up of sword fighting, you could at least try a little harder to wow us.
This should be paired up with Takeshi Kitano's movie TAKESHI'S (ironice, since Kitano is in this movie), for they are both the most over-indulgent films by otherwise incredible talents in Japan cinema. File this under I AM A F*CKING GENIUS AND THE AUDIENCE WILL EAT UP ANYTHING I RELEASE EVEN IF IT'S JUNK.
On a side note: I am still stoked for your 13 ASSASSINS remake!
Shoot 'Em Up (2007)
Is our everyday movie-going audience getting dumber?
Seriously. First a weak adaptation of TRANSFORMERS becomes the biggest movie of the year, and now it looks like SHOOT'EM UP might be the action blockbuster to be rivaled with in 2007. What in the hell is going on? While TRANSFORMERS had enough pleasurable eye-candy to keep it somewhat bearable the whole way through, SHOOT'EM UP (directed by the man who brought you the terrible films MONSTER MAN, and that awful DOUBLE DRAGON adaptation in the 90's) is edited to look like an over-the-top, big-budgeted B-movie that both action and satire junkies can get a kick out of, but by the 20 minute mark, the direction of SHOOT'EM UP feels like, well... a really bad, gun-glorifying attempt at mixing up all the cool parts of kinda-cool movies like DIE HARD and PAYBACK. At least with those two movies, the comedic elements were genuine, and neither were marketed as satirical, like this film was. With SHOOT'EM UP, it's so very hard to tell if they were set out to make a statement on gun-control and violence on TV, or if this was just another w*nk job done by a director whose 90% of film work has been straight-to-video.
Comparing this to SIN CITY, or even any of the DIE HARD series, is disgraceful. The action borders between "ridiculous enough to get a snicker" and "what the f*ck?" giggling, and for an hour and a half, both of those feelings get really old really quickly that not even a lactating prostitute can save it.
Silent Hill (2006)
Silent Hill: moody horror loses focus and becomes anti-Christian propaghanda
I find it so weird that even die-hard fans of the Silent Hill video game series for the Playstations are so hardcore proud of the mess that is the Silent Hill movie.
Despite a few obvious differences between the games and this film that are obvious right from the get-go, Silent Hill starts off just right for the first 30 minutes. Like the game, there is barely any soundtrack, the amount of fog is ridiculous, and our view is restriced to what Rose's flashlight can expose through the darkness. These tools are crucial to capture the SH feel, and are used well for the first little while...
What happens next is a retelling of the director's (Christophe Gans) previous work, The Brotherhood Of The Wolf. In essence, it is almost the very same movie: lots of gore, very moody, a pack of crazy God-fearing Christians acting as the enemy, and lots of boring, useless, obvious jibber-jabber. While SH isn't THAT bad in terms of story and plot, the over-acting and the constant and aimless walking and talking slow the movie down so much so, that characters are constantly reading off some of the most obvious dialogue, just in case we get totally lost in the utter boredom of it all. Basically, both films could have been cut down to an hour each, and the overall main point and most essential developments would have come across just as accurately.
Also, like BOTW, not once is the SH movie ever really scary. It deals with scary things (BOTW had blood thirsty werewolves, SH has monsters from hell), but never are there any scary happenings. It has some shocking scenes, but thats all they are, cheap eye-candy that is all too unrealistic (see Pyrimid Head vs. young woman outside of the church) to keep us up at night. All the baddies are there, but only for minutes at a time, and not once is it ever explained who they are and why they are after our heroine.
About half way through the movie, SH loses grip on the lonely and paranoid feelings that the games were so famous for, and becomes Christophe Gans' and Roger Avery's angry rant about Christian history and ethics, and a cloning of Gans' previous big-budgeted semi-horror. Those, game fans or not, who love this movie obviously cant see through the cheap bullshit that is Gans' film career, and his attempt at voicing his strong religious opinion over trying remotely hard enough to pay homage to a major horror franchise that never needed a movie in the first place.
Like every other video game-to-movie cross-over, in the end its just another get rich quick scheme pulled by some Hollywood hopefuls that had other means than pleasing the fans.
3 out of 10 stars, 1 star for every 10 minutes it was good.
Kim Ki-Duk adds another masterpiece to his already stellar portfolio.
While most hardcore Kim Ki-Duk fans will hate on this for being too 'mainstream', simple, or even over-dramatic, "The Bow" is, as expected from this director, nothing short of genius. Comparisons between this and past KKD films like "3-Iron" or "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring" made by narrow-minded critics is a little unfair, and it's a damn shame.
A film set entirely on a lonely fishing boat, "The Bow" is about a 60-year-old man who takes a young, lost, 7-year-old girl in as his own, raises her like a daughter, and makes big plans to marry her when she turns 17. As the day of her 17th birthday approaches, the more and more our naive, young, mute nubile is groped, attacked, and drooled-over by visiting men there to fish. The old man, to protect the girl, wards the men off with his bow, a weapon that is also used as a kind of hypnotic musical instrument (based on the Er-hu) many times throughout the film. The bow protects and soothes her as the boat distances her from outside evils. Despite it's odd moments, life is perfect and simple for our couple, until a young man our heroine's age boards the ship and intrigues her with his caring disposition, his kind face, and his knowledge of the modern world outside of the boat. What is to come is a suspenseful tale of jealousy, trust, possessive love, and innocence.
Nothing can describe the confusing mix of emotions I felt watching "The Bow" very late at night/early in the morning this week. A story of an aging man raising a young girl to be his future wife is kind of hollow, with little depth, thanks to it's use of very little dialogue, but Kim Ki-Duk's masterful story-telling makes up for it, relying heavily on subtle, yet convincing physical expression, and some help by a great soundtrack, and breath-taking cinematography. With absolutely no spoken dialogue between our two main characters and a series of bizarre incidents (see the way the old man and his girl read fortunes), I was left out to sea to piece "The Bow's" puzzle together on my own, no one or nothing to help guide me wrap my head around this mysterious couple, experiencing ever-changing and intense feelings of anger, disgust, wonder, and, ultimately, sadness. As you can see, this is really no different from what's expected of Mr. Kim Ki-Duk, as he reminds us how confusing and cruel both love and life are, and we can never be able to entirely control either one.
The ending to "The Bow" makes some unexpectedly touches on the super-natural briefly, which may throw some viewers into a quirky loop, but our director pulls it off most gracefully, without being too over-the-top. The old man decides to set his girl free in the most shocking way one could imagine, leaving us to question his seemingly selfish motives.
One word: Meh.
I was at blockbuster Video for no longer than 5 minutes when i came across the beautiful cover art for MIRRORMASK on the New Releases shelf. At closer inspection, I read 2 important names: Neil Gaiman (of "Sandman" comics fame) and the late Jim Henson. So, needless to say, I quickly grabbed it and checked out as fast as I came in. With these 2 big names displayed on MIRRORMASKs casing, I was sure to be blessed with a magical story, full of bizarre concepts, dark yet beautiful imagery, and some very interesting characters and possibly even some of that puppetry that Hensons company is so well known for.
Instead I was subjected to a meaningless mess of poor CGI, boring lead characters, and a plot and storyline weve all seen before. Come to find out, its just another fairytale about a spoiled brat, 15 year old girl who gets lost in this world that is basically made up of her own wild imagination (much like Hensons LABYRYNTH, but instead of her head being in the books, our character is lost in a world inhabited by her drawings).
This movie brings nothing new to the genre, and seems just like one big stew of every Henson flick ever made, minus the mesmerizing puppetry, and then ontop of it, looks like a big gross load of Neil Gaimans pretentious-gothy-art spunk splattered all over it, so much so, that the focus on the story 9which is not that interesting anyway) is lost in the overwhelming mind f*ck that are the special effects.
I was really psyched to watch this film, and maybe I just talked it up in my head so much that I disappointed myself. But no matter what the case, this award-winning fairy tale is, again, nothing new. It tries so hard to stimulate the eye that it comes off most pretentious. There are some parts here and there that do work, but they are too far and few between, and are almost stolen right out of the other great fantasy films (look for the scene where our lead character Helena is brainwashed, dressed and made up in black by the dark queens minions, almost exactly like the scene in LEGEND).
Snore factor is way too high on this film. Sure its probably a kids flick, but so was LABYRYNTH and DARK CRYSTAL, and MIRRORMASK will never compare to those timeless and ageless classics.
5 out of 10.
Prison of the Dead (2000)
Wha...? What am I watching?!
I found myself asking that question many times throughout this movie, a flick my B-Horror-obsessed friend had bought at a Wal-Mart for under 5$ on DVD. Knowing this, I knew I was in for a laugh.
But no. I wasn't even graced with that.
Instead, I was thrown into a plot-hole paradise, full of high-school play-like acting, terribly written dialogue, recycled footage (watch how many times one crucial shot is repeated 3 or more times within one 5 minute time frame), and a giant, badly-lit, boring set where every room looks exactly the same.
Now, let me explain the plot to you. Try to follow: snobby, pretty-boy, rich kid Kristoff tricks some old richer, prettier, and snobbier friends into reuniting by bringing them all to an old funeral home (that looks more like Castle GreySkull) for a viewing of their dead compadre, Calvin(?). Everyone cries, mourn, and talk about all the "f*ckin' wise-cracking jokes" he was so well know for.
Punk'd! It turns out Calvin isn't dead at all, and that this was just all a set-up made by the two of them in order to bring the "old gang" together again (seeing as how their such GREAT friends that one has to go to such lengths just to have them all hang out!). No one laughs, but no one really freaks out either. After the joke is over, Kristoff leads our friends downstairs, where an old witches prison is, and explains to the crew that his rich father, who owns a popular tabloid magazine, is holding a contest where people visit the prison (for a small admission fee, of course), are given proper tools, and allowed to dig up the floor of the prison in search of the "Talon Key", an artifact rumored to be hiding underneath the prison floors. The first contestant to find said key wins one million dollars.
There. That's pretty much the last you hear about the key until the very end of the film (about an hour and a half later) where it becomes extremely crucial to the story. Kristoff is hell-bent on winning this easy million, and asks his friends to help. And, for extra guidance, Kristoff summons the almighty power of the Ouija board, which somehow awakens 3 dead executioners from the grave who are hungry for blood, and a countless number of witch-ghost-spirit things that start to take over the bodies of our team.
Without giving too much away, that's pretty much it, and all of this is explained, word for word, very casually, within the first 10 minutes of the film. I truly cannot comprehend how this movie even got onto DVD, or how little the cast and crew were paid for it. There are so many plot-holes and just all-around f*ck-ups, that it's almost impossible to count. This is definitely a movie only worth watching when you're seriously hungover, and don't feel like using your brain too much.
Love Object (2003)
Poor attempt at making another "May"-like film
A friend of mine had suggested LOVE OBJECT to me after I had told her one of my favorite movies was MAY. She said it pretty much followed the same plot idea (loneliness and an obsession with dolls) and the same formula (a soft, quirky, comic romance type beginning, only to end in a sick and twisted finale) but was a little more erotic and awkward. Excited, I picked up LOVE OBJECT soon as it arrived at my local video rental joint.
To tell the truth, I didn't even make it all the way to the end of the film. By the time LOVE OBJECT started getting intense, I was too bored from the other 50 minutes to even care. The interesting fact that the story revolves around a lonely keener who writes instruction manuals for a living was probably the only reason I sat through as much of it as I did. This flick just had too many flaws for me to be able to stay awake throughout the whole thing.
The dialogue was terrible, the characters were as dull as tacks, the acting was quite unconvincing, and LOVE OBJECT as a whole reminded me a lot of Dario Argento's work (one or two memorable and freaky scenes, the rest being boring and poorly written). Am I supposed to believe that a clean-cut, handsome, quiet, polite, and highly intelligent man like Kenneth would develop some kind of sick love interest in a doll, so much so, that he would develop a personality for it in his own head? People like that are usually really f*cked up, too f*cked up to be able to write step by step, 500-page instruction manuals for your refridgerator. I remember May (the lead character in MAY the movie) actually seemed like a psychologically messed up girl, and I was totally convinced that a person like her could perform the crimes she does in said film.
I give LOVE OBJECT a C-, and only that high because I think dudes having sex with dolls is funny.
A great action flick, if you can withstand the melodrama
AZUMI, from what I can tell on IMDB, is often compared to the directors big hit, VERSUS, which is a god awful comparison that should have never been made in the first place. It's like comparing KILL BILL with RESERVOIR DOGS just because Tarentino directed both films. While VERSUS is a drawn (way) out, laughable, mindless, B-rated zombie/action spoof, AZUMI is a very serious swordplay/martial arts film about a band of teenagers trained from a young age to assassinate those who would start another bloody civil war.
I could easily figure out that this was a Kitamura film by spotting out similarites between this and his past films. AZUMI is full of non-stop action, great camera shots, interesting characters, and buckets of blood. But this is all slowed down by overexaggerated acting, god awful dialogue, and sometimes, AZUMI is just plain melodramatic. Like BATTLE ROYALE, AZUMI has one too many mushy mushy scenes.
Another Kitamura trademark is how this film is way too drawn out. Just when you think "Wow, such a perfect ending", Kitamura ends AZUMI off with 10 more minutes of footage that is a bad attempt at making a cliffhanger finish.
Enough complaining, because in all honesty, I really enjoyed AZUMI. Azumi, herself, kicks so much ass, and is brilliant in her performance. My favorite scene being when the group is arguing over what to do with their poisoned comrad.
I give AZUMI an 8 out of 10 and is up there with some of my all time favorite Asian films.
The Era of Vampires (2003)
What in the f*ck?
Never judge a movie by its cover. Otherwise, you'll end up like me and spending 5 hard earned dollars on renting such a piece of crap as "Vampire Hunters" just cuz it looked totally awesome in the screenshots found on the back of the box. I feel almost ripped off, so much in fact, I want to take it back to BlockBuster Video and ask for my money back for wasting my time, energy, and money.
"Hunters" was like a mix of "Iron Monkey", with it's crap comedy elements, crazy unrealistic fight (and flight) sequences, and medieval Asian setting, and "Blade", for it's vampire/zombie hunting story, and a bit of "House of 1000 Corpses", being kind of a throw-back to classic horror cinema (in "Hunters" case, horror/kung-fu), and having so much cut out of the final release that most of it doesn't entirely make sense. "Vampire Hunters" is all this, plus underdeveloped characters, god awful dialogue, poor poor poor dubbing (even in the its original language!), sh*t for make-up, and an obviously low budget. Not that there's anything wrong with low budget films, but when trying to make a movie about high flying warriors fighting off decaying, flying zombies and vampires, you're gonna need a little more money than what these guys did with "Hunters".
Everyone commenting on this flick so far is complaining about the look of the demons/vampires, but I have much respect for the way the creators of this film portrayed them as creatures who actually looked like they had died and come back to life. Let's face it, if you're dead grandmother was to pop out of the casket right now and hunt you down, she would not look like Aaliyah, that's for sure. The demons in "Hunters" look like they were actually pulled out from six feet under, and tied up with strings like puppets to move around.
"Vampire Hunters" was edited SOOOOO bad, and in the end, that's what makes "Hunters" so f*cking awful. Fight sequences can get pretty intense, but are cut very short, edited so poorly, and are usually instigated for almost no reason. ex: "So... you're the 'zombie wrangler'... Let's see how good you really are! HIYAAA!" Fight begins.
The thing that p***ed me off the most about "Hunters" were the 2 love interests, Sasa, and some worker girl that pops up once in a while out of literally no where. Two of our heroes fall in love with the said women, even though they know nothing about them at all, except that they're hot as hell. One even agrees to marry Sasa if they make it through this vampire mess alive. This love element is what makes "Hunter" totally over the top, even if it doesn't have that much of an impact on the film as a whole. But it's so god damned annoying! ex: Warrior-"Who are you?" Girl-"I'm a servant here for the Jiang family." Warrior-"Lightning has Sasa, and now I have you." *couple walks off arm in arm*
The only way I can suggest this film is if you can get the actual uncut version, which probably hasn't been released out here in North America.
I give "Vampire Hunters" 2 out of 10. I give it that much only because the fight scenes look really cool for what they are, and Sasa is gorgeous!
Hoshi no koe (2003)
"Voices of a Distant Star" beautiful but boring
I'm sorry, but I just don't understand why there's so much praise over this short film.
OK, so it looks nothing less than amazing, mind you everything was animated by one young Japanese man armed with nothing but a 2-year old Mac. Maybe I expected too much, considering I paid $20US for a DVD that didn't tell me that "Voices" piece was only 25-minutes long.
But by what the summary on the casing told me, and from other reviews I had read, "Voices" LOOKED like a deep, thought-provoking, action/drama with some of the most wonderful animation this side of the galaxy. However, the translation is quite poor, and therefore is hard to wrap your mind around.
Since this piece is quite short, you can't really sympathize with the 2 lead characters and their heart-ache, since their young-love relationship is literally flashed before your eyes in between gory mecha battle action sequences.
Even this young-love thing is VERY ridiculous, even if it is just a movie. The male love interest, who's been left by his Elementary School love for the Armed Forces in space, is just a god-awful and unbelievable character. We are expected to believe that this guy's love for her is so strong, that even after 20 years they left each other in Primary school, he will still wait for her, communicating only through e-mails sent through cell-phones.
My last complaint is about the animation. Everything is perfect. And I mean PERFECT. The cell-shaded CG mech battle scenes are a sight to behold themselves. But the actual human characters look very amateur-ish and totally out of place, so when watching "Voices", I felt like I was watching just a very long opening CG sequence to a Playstation 1 game.
So, I usually rate movies in my head by grades, which is much easier that percentiles, or "stars" and all that other mumbo-jumbo. I would have to give "Voices of a Distant Star" a D. Disappointing, to say the least, but then again, maybe I just expected an animated classic like I was told it was. If you just want to have something just for artistic value, maybe you might like this. If you're looking for any truly beautiful when it comes to dialog and story-telling, look elsewhere.