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0 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Review upon a second viewing, 29 December 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I have just watched Quantum of Solace again, and I don't really understand why it's such a maligned Bond film. In all honesty, I find it very hard to re-watch the old bonds now, even the revered Goldeneye. QOS is criticised for not having much of the wholly debonaire Bond so iconic of past films, yet the much lauded Casino Royale lacked that interpretation of Bond as well.

Essentially, the Bond films of the past got caught up in the sexual revolution of the 60s and thus reflect that attitude, however that's hardly relevant nowadays when scenes in television dramas are enough to make those old films blush. The sexuality of the old bonds is rather quaint when viewed with today's far more sexually subjective lens. If such an approach were to be kept, perhaps only granting the agent his first bisexual experience could keep it in any way punchy.

This rebooting of Bond has been long overdue, and the aspects which I've enjoyed most about it is the closeness with the colder, more ruthless Bond of the earlier novels, while still maintaining some level of sexuality and the debonaire. The character's emotional development -- at first cocky and naive in Casino, and then injured and broken (after Vesper's betrayal and death) in Quantum -- is far more rewarding emotionally than yet another formulaic rerun of the tired Bond archetype.

Yet the criticism is that this somehow diminishes his character, makes him like 'James Bourne'. It really is quite silly. What diminishes any character is having him constantly repeat himself such that he becomes his own caricature. Craig's Bond has me excited as to what he'll do next. Bond has become a far more complex and intriguing person to get to know. I don't miss the gadgets, nor the suave dismissal of danger which only somebody mentally deficient could perform.

Other than that, the charges levied against the film, such as a clichéd and scant story, as well as an over-dependence on action scenes, are amusingly hypocritical. The same critics decry the loss of the older, outdated Bond yet hold this film to standards very few of those old Bond films could ever hope to meet. Bond is anything if not clichéd, but isn't that part of the charm, and it's one of the old traditions which have survived.

The other reason for the film's failure to gel with critics, at least in my view, is the premise. The villain is nebulous and vague. We know that whoever Bond chases, he or she will no doubt be nothing more than a pawn, or at least one of many heads of a global hydra. This lacks the personal punch of a Le Chiffre, yet for the attentive viewer, the new villains and their organisation have intriguing intersections.

The other issue was the plot, and by this I mean that of the villain, who is concerned with not only installing, propping up and profiting off dictatorships of developing countries, but also stealing the water rights from them as well. We in the developed world can't imagine what paying for every drop of water is like, not like in those developing countries in which people are jailed for collecting rainwater.

In the the Middle East, fossil water supplies have all but depleted, and they don't replenish. The brief years of prosperous farming are now over. New economies collapse and corporate rescuers step in, like Monsanto with their genetically modified, 'terminator seeds' which require chemical activation or they're infertile past their 'licensed season'. Thus developing nations become forever shackled transnationals' profit. Imagine if the water supply was controlled by them as well.

So yes, the culprits aren't dictators or dastardly SMERSH agents. They are transnational corporations, completely amoral in their decisions, who see owning a whole nation's water as a great investment. I think that movie goers just failed to key into the grand scale of villainy which Bond was up against. That and, Quantum of Solace is quite an impenetrable title for many Joe Blo movie goers -- a common complaint -- yet the title is simple, that Bond is searching for that one 'quantum of solace' which will enable him to overcome his grief and anger and function as a human being and a man.

I think that, facing all we have to face in this new, corporate and amoral world, a quantum of solace is what everybody needs.

3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Amazing violence can't save this kung-f .. er ninja movie., 22 July 2010

It's not often I'm offended by a movie but Ninja Assassin was awful. Did you say 'ninjas'? They are as much ninja as Will Smith Jnr is a 'karate kid'. 'Oh it's all the same!' some say. So I guess boxing and UFC are too. The movie is custom made for only the most naive of film goers and 13 year old boys. Many would argue that as a tautology.

Yet, is a ninja film actually staring some Japanese doing actual ninjutsu, and not just a kung fu movie re-skinned, so impossible? I welcome the day when ninja are treated even half as well as Sho Kosugi did back when they were at their Western peak. There are far superior films on the subject matter in Japan, yet those film reportedly 'bore' foreign audiences with their realism and physically grounded martial arts.

That's fair enough, but films like Kuro Obi show how stunning Japanese budo can be on screen, and Owl's Castle shows how a ninja's life could be one of brain squeezing intrigue. There's no need to throw away such beauty and minimalist perfection, in favour of cheap thrills via anachronistic kung-fu. The ninja weren't the kind to leave trails of dissected bodies behind. That's an invention of anime and comic book myth.

As spies and covert killers, their work was much more subtle and dare I say, cerebral. Owl's Castle illustrates this and I guess that's why it has been labeled as 'boring'. Go figure. And cerebral is not a word I would use for any aspect of the film's plot or characterisation, though there's plenty of 'cerebral matter' on display throughout the many brainless (LOL) fight scenes.

I love cheesy genre films as much as the next ninja fan, and my collection is filled with schlock, but what I don't like is careless and derivative story telling. Great schlock has heart. This film's heart has already been ripped away, thus reducing what remained to a paint by numbers exercise in predictable emptiness, but with some excellently done, albeit entirely anachronistic fight scenes.

Lake Mungo (2008)
7 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
An excellent exploration into grief and loss, 8 February 2010

I wasn't sure what to expect when I watched this film. I think it was completely misrepresented in its international promotion, as part of the 'Horror After Dark' festival last year. This 2007, and belatedly released, film is filmed in a documentary style about the Palmer family trying to deal with the tragic... loss of their daughter, Alice.

I didn't find the film frightening, but it was very atmospheric. Some scenes were quite foreboding. In retrospect, it is easy to see how this film could have been presented, had it been made in a typical straight forward way. The plot turns are all in keeping with genre expectations, but it was the choice to tell the story in an almost completely strict 'third person objective' view point that really had me engrossed.

The Hollowood remake is set for release next year and expect it to lack much of the honesty and soul of the original. No doubt the remake rights, as is the trend now, were part and parcel with distribution rights. This is the current tactic of the American film industry now - distribution with the condition of remake rights.

That makes for a very sad situation, and if it isn't protectionist, I don't know what is. The only reason to remake this film is to cash in on this year's Paranormal Activity. I would watch that as well. As for Lake Mungo - see it if you can. It is a very striking film, full of life for long after the credits have rolled (watch them all by the way). And don't watch any trailers.

Goemon (2009)
41 out of 62 people found the following review useful:
Kiriya makes another epic doomed to be misunderstood, 7 November 2009

It was the same with Casshern and it will be the same with Goemon. At this moment, the film hasn't gotten as much exposure in the West but needless to say, when it does, the film community will be awash with disappointment and confusion. Why? I think it has a lot to do with the role of CGI in film today. Being largely the domain of larger Hollywood studios, the technology has been used as a means of replacing reality, emulating it to the point of near transparency. Jurrassic Park was one the first films to show that such a goal was even possible and effects have progressed so much further since then.

It therefore are that a Hollywood films attempt to use CGI for enhancing reality or making an entirely new reality of their own. Sin City was made outside of the studio system and perhaps that is why it was made at all. 300 was a valiant attempt as well at using CGI to create the actual fantastical. On the other side of the coin, Lord of the Rings, though amazing for its depiction of monsters and creatures of the imagination, ultimately had the purpose of bring THEM into OUR world.

GOEMON, like Casshern, is an attempt to bring us into another world, similar to our own but in so many ways, different. The effects and design serve the purpose of creating an unreality of enhanced surreality, mimicking the pages of comic books and the frames of animation. Visually, it was never intended to fool the eye or make the fantastical 'real'. Like its predecessor, it had loftier, more artistic goals. The question is, did the film reach them? In many ways it did, but in many, it fell short. In the running time of story, there is certainly no lack of sumptuous composition and stunning colour. The action is hyperactive and generally defies the rules of the real world, though they make total sense in the scheme of Goemon's. The sheer audacity of the large scale battles, especially in the last quarter, makes the viewer simultaneously bewildered and amazed. You have never seen this before outside of the imagination and the boundless universe of pen and paper. No Hollywood film would dare do it.

And that is the film's dual strength and weakness. What it does is alien to a majority of film fans bred on Hollywood's particular brand. They have been fed so much in the way of safe challenges and formulaic product, that their first instinct is to rebel against any films cutting against the grain. The beauty of GOEMON is that it isn't a Hollywood picture and therefore doesn't need to apply itself to pleasing a conservative demographic who are otherwise unable to accept what the film ultimately creates.

That is not to say that it doesn't follow clichés and formulas of its own origin, but the presentation is fresh and eccentric enough to counter them. The whole is entirely a product of Japan. It reflects the culture's own eclectic, modern tastes while also preserving a filtered rendition of the old. It both revises and reinforces its subject matter, forming it into something that is Japan and at the same time, is not. It doesn't matter that most of the story never really happened. The vitality of the film is its lust for a life of its own and, its characters, while largely archetypal, serve the mythic aspects the story perfectly, because that is what myths are made of.

GOEMON is a film that shouldn't be weighed against standards set outside its context. It is a film trying to shed the limitations forced upon it by a conservative industry and consuming public. It is a myth, a comic book, a video game, an animation, and an epic drama; it is a lush and inspirational 'other world' and doesn't need to be constrained by our own. Films should not need to succumb to our ingrained demand for adherence to our reality. Go into the film with this in mind, and your imagination will be enriched by it. Be unable to let those strictures go, and I think that sadly, you will miss out.

Chameleon (2008)
3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A gripping modest budget thriller, 30 October 2009

I went into this film not expecting much but I ended up pleasantly surprised. The characters were the usual archetypes of wounded 20 somethings, wise elderly and nasty gangsters. However, as a genre film, I don't think that the film suffered for their use. Instead I quite enjoyed the interactions between the protagonists and the warmth in their makeshift family. Also, the unrelenting menace of the antagonists was genuinely gripping.

The main character, Goro, is suitably mysterious, with only the vaguest of outline as to his past. Not being a flaw in any way, it keeps the film from any 'I also cook' kind of clichés and allows his character to fill the shoes of the 'unknown quantity', essentially for these kinds of stories. As above, the other characters range from supporting to integral roles but all have at least something that lets them sparkle throughout the course of the film.

Similarly, the action scenes, of which there are a few, while not taking centre-stage, are well executed but should be noted for their chaotic choreography. Anyone can fight when their lives depend on it and their effectiveness comes down to their training and experience. I quite liked how raw and undisciplined these scenes were. It shows how little need there really is for martial arts precision in action films when the fights are kept real.

It was an enjoyable film with an ending I didn't quite expect. I recommend it to anyone interested in Japanese film of this genre. Just don't go in with your Hollywood hat, and you will have a good time with the subtle course of the film.

7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Humour, action, romance, horror: A hero's journey, 5 July 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I grabbed this DVD at my Tsutaya mostly for the unusual title, but I was pleasantly surprised. As one of the other reviewers here said, it is a coming age film, or in other words, part of the Hero's Journey tradition. I don't think that any spoiler warnings are in order here because if you have ever read a book or seen a movie, then you most likely know the themes and progression of a film such as this one. Is that a problem? Hey, if it ain't broke why try to fix it? This story has been fine for thousands of years so let it go on.

Our hero, Yousuke, is a complete no-hoper who has positioned himself under the shadow of his recently deceased best friend, Noto. Our hero-to-be constantly strives to be half the man (boy?) that Noto was, but that is not to say that he was an ideal because truly he was quite reckless but he had such spirit that is hard not be impressed. It isn't long either before Yousuke meets our heroine, so really this story could be part of the "heroes' journey", AHEM, please pardon my English teacher enthusiasm for the possessive plural apostrophe.

Anyway ...

Eri, our heroine, is recovering from tragedy herself and on top of that is pursued nightly by a chainsaw wielding giant that seems to have no other purpose other than to dice her into pieces. These two kids become seemingly unlikely partners but I say "seemingly" because part of the fun of this kind of story is finding out if that is true or not, and of course they have their own personal demons of their to deal with along the way. The film quickly shows its coming-of-age colours, which is probably going to stump quite a few film fans that think of Japan as just a source of arterial spray and dismemberment.

I can't blame them because it is the fault of Western distributors who think we would only go for that kind of thing. I mean, who would watch something where everyone speaks funny and does weird cultural stuff if it WASN'T ultra violent? I say that with total sarcasm but sadly it is the truth for far too many people brought up by labels touting words like "EXTREME" and other macho and exploitative vocabulary. What it amounts to is that distributors now have to market every Japanese action oriented film as if is IS one of those spray heavy cheese-fests, even if they aren't. They have to market to people that say things like "it's so cool; Japanese people are weird", even though ironically, a films like Tokyo Gore Police and Machine Girl are actually designed for a Western audience, chasing the exploitation film resurgence.

The point is, Negachain is a film that goes for sentimentality and melodrama a lot more than it does for hi-octane action. The story and drama as it unfolds might seem obvious to some, and it might feel heavy handed to others. Other people might find themselves yelling at the screen in response to something that they feel a character should or shouldn't be doing. But I would like to say that it's obvious because it's Life and as much as we might deny it, our own lives would make for pretty predictable melodramas too. It's heavy handed because that is what teen drama is like; teenagers need the subtlety of a jack hammer. It is designed for a good cathartic cry, and perhaps the Japanese style seems heavy handed to many people because they are already immune to heavy handedness of Hollywood. "I'm the king of world" and "you had me at hello" and all that junk.

And isn't being exasperated with characters and telling them what to do a result of being drawn into a story enough that you care what happens in it? The only reason I might yell "no don't do that you fool!" is because I care about the story and I want to save the character some embarrassment or a sticky end. It's a good thing, plus I am a sucker for melodrama and the entire coming of age genre as a whole, so with or without a super-powered school girl and a chainsaw wielding monster, this film would have pulled me in anyway.

And in terms of that chainsaw beast, I have to say that it is one of the coolest villains I have yet seen. It is a kind of Grim Reaper brought into the modern, heavy metal age. It is like ol' Grim took the soul of some 80s metal head and flipped through his record collection before he left the apartment. "Oh, that would be pretty nifty", he said in a deep hollow rumble, pulling out his notebook and a pen.

Luckily as well, the way that he moves and how the fights are put together never reaches a Kamen Rider level of rubberyness and I was very relieved about that. As a whole, the wire work and CGI is outstanding and is definitely an example of how the "less is more" maxim can get fantastic results. The film never steps beyond its limits. Definitely, between Eri's leaps, flips and throwing-knives and Chainsaw Man's deft aerial slice and dice, the film's few battles are certainly impressive.

However, fundamentally, this film is about two people and their own emotional and spiritual quests, written for a teenage audience. The creature is IN the film but the film isn't ABOUT the creature. What is at the core of the whole thing is whether or not our hero and heroine can transcend their flaws, weaknesses, fears and despair and become better people. Thus is the Heroes' Journey and I really enjoyed this film's take on it, complete with teenage angst, sentimental melodrama, and of course wicked cool fights between a high school girl and a chainsaw wielding maniac!

Loft (2005)
16 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
A much maligned masterpiece, 15 March 2009

I finally got around to watching Loft, after a year of owning the DVD If you find a copy, play it loud because the sound really makes the movie. The director is Kiyoshi Kurosawa and I'm a huge fan of his work. His films are just so often unable to be defined in one genre, or ANY genre for that matter. The first 2 thirds of the film are filled with so many haunting and hypnotic scenes. It is macabre and yet beautiful. I couldn't look away and just sat there glued to the TV, breathing shallowly like only Kiyoshi Kurosawa can make me do.

His films have a pace that makes drying paint seem like an adventure sport. But what that means is that every shot of the film is studying something or someone, or something that isn't even there. As with all of his films that I haveseen, in Loft I felt a kind of voyeuristic feeling, like I was there in the scene too. It is hard to describe, but this quality is clearly what alienates some people. What some viewers considere painfully boring, had me on the edge of my seat until the last frame. Watching with empathy, projecting yourself into the shoes of the characters, the film's real depth come to the fold.

And sound really does make all this live, or quite often the lack of sound. Silence is one of the scariest things you can ever hear, as paradoxical as that seems. Kurosawa perhaps knows just how unusual silence actually is in our lives and when it occurs in his films, the effect is haunting. And it also the abruptness of sound in his films. A crescendo of tension in the audio can just suddenly cut off into silence with a change of scene or angle. In many ways it is subtle sound design like this that keeps the viewer on edge and off guard.

Visually, no KK film would be complete with out decrepit buildings in which to fill with shadows, but also this film is incredibly green, being set in a forest. So much of the film isn't in the dark but that doesn't seem to make a difference. The beauty of a KK suspense piece is that it knows that noises and the dark are just cheap thrills. A horror film doesn't need to have them to get under your skin and into your mind, and Loft certainly did that for me.

Is it scary? Well if you are of very sensitive disposition. I would say that it is atmospheric, mesmerising and macabre; and ends up in a place quite different to where it starts out. It is a difficult film to classify and probably because it was made by KK. The film is full of his various trademarks, including awkward tonal shifts mid movie, and manipulation of perception and reality, but it works, though you might not think so at first.

Loft is a film that left with me with the sensation that what I had just witnessed was so much more than what I had managed to surmise from it. It had the aftertaste of something allegorical, that had me feeling that I had understood the message even though I couldn't put into words what it was. It is a film that expects a lot from the viewer, however, if you put in the effort and just let the film draw you along into its dark and twisted logic, Loft is a very rewarding film.

Kiyoshi Kurosawa once said that the ghosts in his films are very Japanese, in that they often don't do anything. Just the fact that they are in these people's lives is horrible enough.

46 out of 61 people found the following review useful:
Boll has finally done it, 4 March 2009

It is very easy to hate on anything that Uwe Boll does, and it is clear that most people here are taking this path of least resistance and jumping that same wagon. However, it takes a greater person to admit when they were wrong and give credit when it is due, and it most certainly due. If one really wanted to, they could pick apart the historical accuracy of the film, or the tactics, or the costuming, or the geography; I am sure that such people could easily find some justification for condemning this film.

On the other hand, what would follow would be a trite listing of errors and complaints, tarted up with clever comments and sealed with some witty remark. Is that what proper film critique is about? It doesn't take much in the way of intelligence to attack and destroy what you see before you. That is why people do it so easily and without thought. In a way, this film touches on that very human failing. So many film goers and critics (professional and armchair) are going to dismiss this film as if it is some plague carrier, and only because of the name that goes with it. I feel sorry for those people because they will miss out on a great many interesting and even inspiring film experiences in their life time.

Tunnel Rats is one such experience. It is a small production and done very succinctly and without much extraneous posturing. From the first scene, the film gets right down to business and doesn't really let up until the gripping and downright mortifying ending. Perhaps it is the small size of the production that has kept Boll honest somewhat. I can imagine that when contracted to make Hollywood films, there is a lot of pressure to appeal to the attention deficit audiences out there, often the very ones that hate him, and therefore he aims too far above his mark.

In this film he hits the mark very confidently and professionally. It is worth seeing this film, and doing so without preconception or judgment. Boll is just the director and a film is a sum of its parts, even though Boll directed this film, there were dozens of earnest and hardworking actors and crew members putting in their all to make this film. It is the hight of arrogance to laugh at their efforts and belittle what they made when truly there is nothing really wrong with it.

I hope that enough people are see this film so that Boll can keep doing what he enjoys and sharing it with people. Every film, when made earnestly, has something worthwhile to show us. Stay free of the popularist hate for Uwe Boll and see films for what they are.

Kaidan (2007)
28 out of 32 people found the following review useful:
An engrossing retelling of a 19th century classic, 12 August 2008

Hideo Nakata is himself perhaps a haunted man. Despite having had quite a full film career already, it is only by his work in the horror genre that he is largely known. This is especially true in the West where viewers can be a lot more literal in their definition of the genre. With just Nakata's name alone on the marketing, anyone could be excused for having expectations closer to films like Ring or Dark Water. It is these unfortunate connections that will undoubtedly drag this film down into murky waters not unlike those often present in Nakata's films.

The film is a fairly close retelling of Encho Sanyutei's 19th century ghost story entitled "Shinkei Kasane-ga-fuchi" about the cursed fate of two families and the karma passed on from parent to child. Anyone familiar with the 1964 film Kwaidan (the title uses an antiquated spelling of the same word, both meaning "ghost story") will see similarities in the presentation of Nakata's film. Many have said that he intended to pay homage to ghostly films of the 50s and 60s, but that is not going back far enough. The film reflects the very traditions of Japanese ghost stories and fables. The main actor, known for Kabuki, plays opposite a character once played by his own father in a Kabuki performance years earlier.

I stated earlier about the limited view of the horror genre as held by many Western film goers, but it hasn't always been the case. Sadly the idea of a "slow burn" and finding suspense in the thematic fabric of a film is something rare today in Hollywood horror. Too often, films depend on incredibly literal scares, in the form of disturbing images, gore and violence, but lack any real thematic richness. In some ways Nakata's few inserted jump scares in the film made me balk a little. Perhaps it is his Hollywood experience that convinced him that such heavy handedness was needed. The film has some genuinely tense and "Oh .. !" moments (I am sure you know what I mean) that really don't need any audio cues to let us all know they are happening.

Perhaps this is connected to the negativity around this film. For the few scares present in the run time of the story, there aren't much. In fact, categorising the film as "horror" might me somewhat of a misnomer as well, at least by modern Hollywood definition. What we have with Kaidan is a traditional Japanese ghost story and fable that strives to not only thrill us but also impart some wisdom. The true horror of the story is the tragedy inherent in its themes and sheer extent that it spreads. Obviously, what comes along with such a film, some viewers won't like. Viewers expecting something more akin to modern horror films like The Grudge, will no doubt find parts or all of Kaidan boring and uneventful. Others will decry the feature of "more long-haired ghosts" but to be fair, such people don't appreciate the deep tradition of ghost stories in Japan.

White kimonos are what women are cremated or buried in and traditionally all women had very long hair devoid of any colouring or permed curls. I say, if it ain't broke, why try to fix it. Certainly it is better than Hollywood's constant recycling making every second movie monster like the love-child of the Alien and Pumkinhead, or the tendency to laden everything down with CGI and "in case you didn't get it" effects (I am referring to The Ring's, Hollywood equivalent of Sadako).

So whether you'll like this film or not depends on yourself. The film is not a modern horror tale full of scares and jumps. It is a dramatic, period ghost film, drawn from tradition and based on a 19 century novel. If instead of demanding Kaidan to entertain you, open yourself to what it has to tell you. This a story not unlike those told around campfires at night. The scares are in the themes and situations that the characters face and the fear is in those characters' minds. As with many good horror films, the film is out to scare the characters, not you. Get into their heads and you'll feel it too.

Yamato (2005)
17 out of 22 people found the following review useful:
A powerful film that really drives home the humanity of war, 12 June 2008

I am so disappointed to see some posters turning their reviews into cold historical commentary. Did this film not teach you anything? I couldn't help but be immensely moved by this film. It steers well clear of overly political and historical commentary and focuses on the young sailors and their loved ones. The hardship of the Japanese in the second world war was not unlike any other nations' peoples' hardship. Their loved ones went to war and never returned; they lost their livelihoods and what they loved; they were powerless to the whims of their leaders.

This film shows People. People in tragic times. People fighting for their loves and their lives. Whether it is Yamato, Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line, Brotherhood, Stone's trilogy, Eastwood's duo of films, etc, it comes down to people trying to live. So much has been said about the film that is political but I ask you, what is the point of doing so for a film that strove so hard to in favour of a human story? After years of revisionist Hollywood war films, it is ironic that this moving film, Yamato, be raked over coals for inaccuracies or romanticism.

Besides this, however, and a technical note, the film's visual effects are excellent for a non-Hollywood film. I wouldn't be surprised if Yamato was one of the most expensive Japanese films ever made. While making an ocean going battleship replica was not an option, the sets, miniatures and CGI create a very gritty and realistic feeling of being aboard the fated ship.

Musically the film is also very striking and has some memorable themes throughout. The sound track is also superb with excellent separation in the 5.1 channels. The battle scenes are especially vivid in their aural presentation.

The amount of heart, work and effort that went into the film is clear from the exceptional cast, sound and competent visuals and their passionate and honest performances and work. This is definitely a film for the world to see. It is not a war film about "war"; it is a film about love. The message rings loud and clear until the final note of the closing credit's song.

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