zustifer: (Arthur Frayn)
Ci Ling (AKA The Treasure Hunter, 2009),
Yen-ping Chu. Jan 27, 2pm. View count: One.
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009), David Yates. Jan 31, 6am PST. View count: One.
Le Corbeau (1943), Henri-Georges Clouzot. Feb 5, 8pm. View count: One.

Okay! Gotta get these done, because I've forgotten most of whatever I wanted to say.

Treasure Hunter is not very interesting. There are a few fun fight scenes, and the whole thing is arguably a takeoff on bad american archaeology movies (Indiana Jones, The Mummy, whatever), but these put forth only momentary fun. As JP diagnosed, all the characters spend the movie steered around by the plot. They all behave as if they've been driven out to do their day's work here in the desert, not as if they're motivated by anything film-internal. We pretty much watched it to get out of the rain.

The HP we saw on the plane back from Australia, and I was half awake throughout, not to mention someone's head was covering a portion of the bottom of the screen. Uh, it seemed like a Harry Potter movie. We had some good laughs in its presence, but then again sleep deprivation was the order of the day. Doesn't seem as all-around well-pulled-off as the third one.

Le Corbeau is a nice small-town whodunit, with lots of cruel anonymous "poison pen" letters strewn about the plot. I was pleased with it.
I didn't know that it was a political statement, but according to someone on imdb:
"This, of course, was the film that earned Clouzot a lasting reputation as a collaborator – made for the infamous German Continental films, it was attacked by both the Nazis for discouraging the French from informing (their main source of information during the occupation) and the resistance for attacking the French moral character. Of the two, it's pretty obvious the Nazis were on the right track. Even though the Germans are conspicuous by their absence, it makes clear that the anonymous informer/s are undermining solidarity and making the town easy prey for predators [...]."
zustifer: (comics: hold on tight kids)
The Glass Key (1942), Stuart Heisler. Jan 18, 9pm. View count: One.
Up in the Air (2009), Jason Reitman. Jan 19, 6:50pm. View count: One.

The Glass Key is supposedly based on the same Dashiell Hammett book as was Miller's Crossing and Yojimbo, which is an interesting thing. It's been too long since I've seen Miller's Crossing. Anyhow, this is an early noir with a semi-baffling plot; I needed a program to list the players. The characters are clear enough, but their official roles aren't, necessarily. (I've looked them up, since, but here is what I got via a first viewing.) There's a guy called Madvig, who has some kind of dirty past, but is now doing something in politics, teamed up with another guy (in a way I didn't get) who seems to be a career politician, Henry. Madvig has a kid sister, who's dating Henry's rich gambling son, and Madvig himself wants to date Henry's daughter, who's Veronica Lake. Madvig has a right-hand man, named Beaumont, around whom most of the movie revolves. Then there's also some sort of criminal (mob?) guy, who has thugs in his employ. All of these people are very grey (except maybe the criminal, who we never get to know very well); I suppose that's Hammett for you. The greyness is what makes the movie, for me -- everyone's sort of a mess in their own particular way. Even (especially) Beaumont makes a lot of decisions that are pretty questionable, all while having very little facial expression.

It's a whodunit, structurally, and for once the Law of Economy of Characters doesn't arrive at the killer after the viewer does. It's a fun movie, with some hardcore segments; supposedly there were several unpulled punches on the set, which lends some shots additional credibility.
The ending rang false to me, but 1940s Hollywood probably insisted on it.

Up in the Air I found fairly good, with the exception of the soundtrack, which was wishy-washy indie boy blah blah containing obvious Lyrics With Bearing on the Action. It felt inappropriate for the cast and for the actual mood. I also didn't think that George Clooney's side job, the not-very-believably-popular motivational speaking thing, worked particularly well; it was too directly up the character's alley, without bothering to explain how his advice could help others (or how they could believe it could help them, really).

Otherwise I found it a reasonable piece, seemingly about the importance of hope. I've read a bunch of people's reviews, and I haven't noticed anyone taking this viewpoint, but I think that's as close as I can come to the heart of the matter.

[Spoilers] )

Overall, the movie was a little muddy, with some things tending to happen for unknown reasons, but it's not a bad final product.
zustifer: (Beetlejuice: Barbara)
Doctor Detroit (1983), Michael Pressman. Jan 1, 10:30pm. View count: One.
The Thing (1982), John Carpenter. Jan 3, 9:30pm; Jan 5, 9:30pm. View count: Two.

Doctor Detroit is a goony ("zany," as a weird/awesome IMDBer puts it -- first one on that page) little 80s Dan Aykroyd movie, full of camp. My favorite part was Dan Aykroyd's parents; they were the only transcendent component. Oh, also, I chose this movie to watch because it has, over its opening montage, the DEVO song of the same name. That was good too.

The Thing has some good content, although I allllmost feel that it's the stronger with this companion piece by Peter Watts.

I had some problems with it, though, and the name of the biggest problem is Kurt Russell. His action-hero style demeanor did not fit for me into what the director seemingly wanted, which was a more paranoid, human substrate. I don't blame Kurt Russell himself for this (especially since he apparently helped to come up with the ending, which I thought was fine), but Carpenter confirmed multiple times that he was supposed to be a 'reluctant' hero and leader. He wasn't that at all; he was just the guy who takes charge, never makes a wrong decision, and never looks back. Shoot an uninfected man in the face? That's just fine, he wouldn't want to ever have any emotions other than determination and maybe harriedness. He even throws some dynamite, runs maybe six steps maximum, and comes out of the ensuing explosion (that the crew had to use remote cameras for, it was too dangerous for humans to be there shooting) unscathed. The man never breaks Action Hero face, and that is the single most broken thing in the movie for me.

The second most broken thing is how the men don't have the sense god gave an end table, and show this by wandering off by themselves at the drop of a hat. There's a sop for this before the blood scene, but it should have been a factor long before and continued afterward. This picture should have had a not-inconsiderable chunk of its running time invested in sequences of everyone stuffed in one room staring at one another, getting tenser and tenser (said the tensor), because they didn't trust each other if they couldn't see them. I saw some shouting and some fighting, but I didn't really, really feel as much paranoia as I could have.

It's not a sucky movie, mind you, it's just not all it could have been. The effects generally had a lot of fun in them (the one I dislike the most is the tower of meat at the end, which was called out in the commentary as "last minute"), and I was convinced by the commentary track that the production was a real slog. They shot in Alaska and British Columbia, in real snowstorms (which seldom really made it onto the film, but, hey), with real singeing flares, not to mention in unheated sets (so the snow wouldn't melt). Everyone's clearly a champ for that. And all the acting was very good, the sets were lovely, and the dogs well-trained. This movie has especially fine explosions.

So, how about that prequel? Jeez.
zustifer: (lady of your acquaintance: embarrassed)
Thus far this year I've finished McTeague (Frank Norris, 1899), and begun Mrs. Bridge (Evan S. Connell, 1959). I picked them both up in the free box at the art center, and am/have enjoyed them rather a lot.

McTeague is an awesome civilization-vs-unreasoning-beast story, which starts out as sort of a slice-of-life turn of the century San Francisco piece, eventually veering into something much more violent and surprising. Good stuff.

Mrs. Bridge is so far about a bored 1940s housewife, throughout her unsatisfying life, as she remains mired in her mannered little stodgy ways.

Huzzah for free books, is what I say.
zustifer: (Baby Cakes with Viking helmet)
Looks like 79 movies, with one repeat (friggin' Fountainhead!). Worse than last year, but not by too much (well... ten fewer), and better than the year before (which was sucky -- 55?!). Looks like the middle of the year was taken up with work; we'd get home at 9pm and not have the fortitude to put on a movie. We also had a bunch of attention-grabbing games (Arkham Asylum, Borderlands, Oblivion), so that's also to the movie count's detriment.
So here is the list. )
zustifer: (Beetlejuice: Delia day-o)
Evil Dead (1981), Sam Raimi. Dec 30, 5pm. View count: Two.
Kung Pow: Enter the Fist (2002), Steve Oedekerk. Dec 31, 9:30pm. View count: One.
Grappler Baki (1994), Hitoshi Nanba. Dec 31, 10:45pm. View count: One.
Blazing Saddles (1974), Mel Brooks. Dec 31, 11:45pm. View count: Four?

Evil Dead I found rather lacking, really; I respect it as a student film (which I know it isn't technically, but that's what it feels like to me), but the pacing is so repetitive and uninteresting that I can't go too much farther than that. The effects are fun, and the Raimi touches are always something to love, but I won't be going back to this anytime soon.

Kung Pow I'm actively angry at. Its ratio of funny to not funny is something like 15%/85%. The few actually funny bits usually occurred during What's Up Tiger Lily style dubbed sequences, and I think if it'd been limited to those, it could have upped its funniness to something like 50% with little further effort. I enjoyed the funny voices in general, and there really were a few genuinely amusing bits, but then I had to watch the rest of it. Additionally, looking at Steve Oedekerk's face is an onerous chore.

Grappler Baki is hilarious and overdone, with over-muscled weirdos making weird expressions at each other, the dubbers trying frantically to make sense of the little smirks and 'ah!'s. This is a short pilot for a series. It's about a fighter of some sort, Baki, who is not in fact any sort of grappler, but seemingly a karate master with a preternatural ability to assimilate other people's techniques. It's about punching, and kicking, and the occasional nonstandard technique. In general the action is over-animated, but not to its detriment. Really, the whole thing comes off as somewhat fetishistic, but in an odd and straight-faced way.

Blazing Saddles is still brilliant, with everyone doing a much better job than necessary. Madeline Kahn particularly, whose Dietrich impression is impeccable. I miss Madeline Kahn. Here's the trivia page on imdb, which has a few serious gems (Hedy Lamarr actually sued, a guy Mel Brooks used to work with actually punched out a horse, Barack Obama snuck in to see Blazing Saddles).
zustifer: (comics: decapitated jughead)
The Thing From Another World (1951), Christian Nyby/Howard Hawks. Dec 28, 3pm. View count: Two.

This movie isn't really good horror, but it does everything else well. Most obviously, it's chock full of unaffected, believable dialog, delivered in admirably natural ways; the actors step on one another's lines, laugh seemingly sincerely at jokes, all talk at once in groups, and generally behave in a very naturalistic way (the only possible exception being the scientist, who is the worst caricature of the group and has to carry the director's straw-man anti-viewpoint). There's really very little tension, compared to more normal horror films, so it turns into sort of a military buddies movie with a gentle horror tinge, but in this capacity, it's successful. There's a fair bit of wisecracking and kidding around, which makes everyone seem to be trying to keep a positive attitude and do his job well, as they would any other difficult assignment. Since this takes place in 1951, they succeed. The explainy parts put me in mind of Forbidden Planet -- that special 50s style exposition. "Well, just think! To this thing, we're no more than cabbages in a field!"

Supposedly this movie contains the first full-body fire stunt work on film. The fire sequence is respectable, the monster less so (he is judiciously withheld as much as possible).

I haven't seen the 1980s Carpenter remake yet, but I plan to. I understand that contrary to this version, it's claustrophobic, isolates its unlikeable characters, and shows the monster extensively.
zustifer: (Vincent Price)
Drag Me to Hell (2009), Sam Raimi. Dec 26, 6pm. View count: One.

"If gypsies can curse people so easily, they should be ruling the world. Why didn't she use those powers to make payments or whatever?" -- Someone on IMDB

This isn't a masterpiece, or even a really satisfying unalloyed Raimi bonanza; neither is it complex or very well-plotted, but it's amusing and revels in its style. A lot of people seem to have failed their comprehension rolls on this movie; they assume it's meant to be straight-up horror or a horror-tinged comedy, presumably because they don't know Sam Raimi very well. In this movie he gets to focus pretty single-mindedly on the Madballs-level grossouts which suit him so well. The man also likes his archetypes, and twisting them in simple ways is as far as he goes in this. It's sort of like a 40s horror comic, in a way, unashamed of its intrinsic hokeyness. I appreciate that.
zustifer: (Baby Cakes with Viking helmet)
Dead Reckoning (1947), John Cromwell. Dec 24, 8pm. View count: One.
Wizard People, Dear Reader (2004), Chris Columbus/Brad Neely. Dec 25, 5pm. View count: Eight?

Dead Reckoning is an amusing little noir piece with a dubiously trustworthy dame and a really misogynistic Bogart. Just look at this:
Captain Warren 'Rip' Murdock: Yeah. You know, I've been thinking: women ought to come capsule-sized, about four inches high. When a man goes out of an evening, he just puts her in his pocket and takes her along with him, and that way he knows exactly where she is. He gets to his favorite restaurant, he puts her on the table and lets her run around among the coffee cups while he swaps a few lies with his pals...
Coral 'Dusty' Chandler: Why...
Captain Warren 'Rip' Murdock: Without danger of interruption. And when it comes that time of the evening when he wants her full-sized and beautiful, he just waves his hand and there she is, full-sized.
Coral 'Dusty' Chandler: Why, that's the most conceited statement I've ever heard.
Captain Warren 'Rip' Murdock: But if she starts to interrupt, he just shrinks her back to pocket-size and puts her away.

Yes, that's right. Someone wrote that exchange.
The plotting isn't as clean as it could be; events are sometimes a little muddied and unmotivated. But the archetypes are fun, and there's a few snappy turns of phrase and lovely camerawork. It's not really an exceptional noir film, though.

Wizard People is still the best thing. I can't believe we've only watched it about eight times! We chased it with all of the America, Nows and a fair number of Baby Cakeses.
zustifer: (Amitabh Bachchan)
The Departed (2006), Martin Scorsese. Dec 22, 10pm. View count: One.

So, Scorsese. I hadn't realized that this was one of his until I actually watched this. I've seen, well, Taxi Driver of course, Mean Streets (which I deeply respect), Goodfellas (which I think is more successful than the Godfather), Raging Bull back in college, some of the Last Temptation of Christ, and Gangs of New York, which I sort of hated. I don't remember whether I actually watched Casino. Given this timeline (early well-respected works --> later works I didn't like as well or forgot about), it's starting to seem like I'm not really into his more recent stuff. I doubt I have enough data points to really put my finger on why, but maybe that will change.

I wasn't deeply disappointed in this piece, but it did seem sort of sloppy in a few ways. The imdb goofs page stands testament to the apparent fact that Scorsese is not really interested in continuity or pathological accuracy. I'm not going to blame him for this, but I do tend to have a lot of respect for directors who really due-diligence as many aspects of their work as they can get their hands on. Secondarily, Jack Nicholson was allowed to ad lib. Perhaps this is why his character never really developed past 'guy who does whatever he wants.' I am not really a Nicholson fan. Thirdly, there were some goofy-ass plot holes. A major threat hanging over a major character was having his police record deleted, which was implied to be permanent and unrecoverable (not to mention that apparently Mass. cops don't log these things, so no one would ever know who the bad man was who ruined Major Character's job/life). There was a totally baffling triple-agent style move made by a main character, possibly intentionally, but possibly because he was forced to do so? Maybe? Motivations were muddy at the best of times. Police procedures are also hilariously silly or absent. Simple things (fingerprints, lethal force) are ignored and paperwork-free.

The decision was made to keep the characters simple and all but arc-less for the sake of the somewhat confusing setup and situation. Remembering which undercover agent knows what is enough of a job for the viewer without having to remember how each character's (and there were probably too many characters) feelings about frosted donettes changed throughout the film. This is a valid choice, but nevertheless I couldn't help but feel shortchanged, to some extent; when a supposedly character-defining tidbit was thrown out (because there was only room for one or two), I always found it caricaturish and overdone. Maybe Scorsese believes that one can have a compelling action character whose motivations stem entirely from erectile dysfunction, but, good god. There was also a good deal of narrative space wasted on non-useful things that neither advanced the characters nor the plot significantly. It makes me sad.

Another thing that made me sad was the accent. I'm a masshole from way back, so this is a thing I'm pretty comfortable with. Matt Damon is supposed to be from Boston as well, so it's confusing that his accent in this drops out periodically. Sometimes he does it really well, but then, a sentence later, it's back to flat Hollywood base accent. One guy got off a 'What'a you, retahdid?' which did my heart good, but exception/rule. Everyone else was vaguely passable, but not really all that convincing. Leonardo DiCaprio (whom I generally hate) didn't try very hard at this, or really at anything else. I'm still baffled as to how he gets work, because it doesn't seem to me that he can do much other than behave like a callow, impulsive 20-year-old. This served him decently in this movie, but it's usually not a plus.

I should note that JP unfavorably (but mostly fairly) compared this movie with The Wire, which ran away with most of the things The Departed seemed to be trying to accomplish. This is true, and although The Wire has a running time which rather hugely exceeds a movie length, lessons are still there to be learned.

I think removing a few characters so that the ones that remain could be better fleshed out would have been the better tactic for this movie. I also think I'd like to see the original Hong Kong movie on which this was based; all the hard-liners on imdb found it superior.
zustifer: (Beetlejuice: Delia day-o)
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call: New Orleans (2009), Werner Herzog. Dec 6, 6:45pm. View count: One.
Be Kind Rewind (2008), Michel Gondry. Dec 9, 9pm. View count: One.
Yin ji (AKA Kung Fu from Beyond the Grave, 1982), Zhao Li. Dec 11, 10pm. View count: One.
I Married a Witch (1942), René Clair. Dec 14, 9pm. View count: One.

Since I've been remiss and let four movies stack up, these'll be kinda cursory. OH WELL.

Bad Lieutenant is surprisingly hilarious. Nicolas Cage works oddly well as the superego-free protagonist-like character, although I doubt he's Herzog's new Klaus Kinski, as people keep saying. Also, Brad Dourif is in it.

Be Kind Rewind is pretty charming, of course. It's a little all over the place, and the faux documentary isn't all that exciting, but it's not difficult to get past these problems.

Kung Fu from Beyond the Grave involves a lot of wacky stuff, and has goofy dubbing, although I'm finding as I write this that I can't remember much except for the Dracula cameo. There was medieval chinese witchcraft again, with the melting down of human hearts, and a fight sequence with the protagonist holding his father's bones in a sheet. That's something.

I Married a Witch is supposedly the material (originally it was a book) on which "Bewitched" was based (IMDB denies it), but it's a little less fluffy (though still rather fluffy) than the series. I found Veronica Lake a little uneven, as if she were Acting in some scenes and doing a better job of being herself in others. I suppose there's also the 1940s Comedic Woman style to consider. It's an amusing movie, though, with arson, suicide, and a horrible wedding.
zustifer: (Baby Cakes with Viking helmet)
Gui ma tian shi (AKA Taoism Drunkard, 1984), Cheung-Yan Yuen. Dec 3, 9pm. View count: One.
Crank 2 (2009), Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor. Dec 5, 8:30pm. View count: One.

These two movies totally go together, in retrospect. Taoism Drunkard is a wacky kung-fu thing with a demon (called "Old Devil" in the subs) trying to... kill... some people? but thwarted by a a drunken monk and a powerful grandmother, both played by the same guy. There's a spherical pac-man-like entity whose job seems to be to detect males and bite their crotches. There's a weird group of donation collectors who keep showing up, and who provide the only instance of Fat Lady Kung Fu I've ever seen.

Whereas Crank 2 is more of a Troma-like production (except with a budget, more action, and arguably more style). The tone is really similar, though, as is the subject matter.
It's fairly charming, really; the attitude seldom dips into anything really unpleasant, and the whole thing has a level of cartoonish naivete to it. I would hazard that even GTA, to which I've seen this compared, is more weightily violent.
It also has John de Lancie (Q!) as a newsguy named Fish, which is a brilliant stupid decision. It set the tone.
And I must congratulate the dudes who wrote up the IMDB goofs page. An excerpt:
"Anachronisms: When Chev Chelios borrows a cell phone from his girlfriend, it appears to be an iPhone 3G, released July 11, 2008. According to the Google Maps used in-film, the events are occurring over a year earlier than that."
zustifer: (Default)
Chi bi (AKA Red Cliff, 2008), John Woo. Nov 28, 8pm. View count: One.
Lin Shi Rong (AKA Magnificent Butcher, 1979), Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, Woo-ping Yuen. Nov 29, 8pm. View count: One.
Bai ga jai (AKA The Prodigal Son, 1981), Sammo Hung Kam-Bo. Nov 30, 8:30pm. View count: One.

Red Cliff is a solid ancient Chinese mytho-historical epic thingy, seemingly the first Chinese production John Woo's been involved in in a pret-ty long time. It shows a lot of semi-mythical Awesome Historical Figures whipping ass in righteous warfare. It's fun, you don't worry very hard about the good guys, and a lot of Woo's trademark touches are shoehorned in. There's a weird English VO in a couple of spots (which pronounces names in such an anglicised way that's it's actually hard to tell who it's talking about), but otherwise the subtitles are perfectly good.

Magnificent Butcher is purportedly a side story to a Robin-Hood-like mythos, where Sammo Hung plays Butcher Wing, a follower of famous kung fu badass Wong Fei-Hong. The story ends up being kinda dark, but the kung fu is impressive as always. The drunkard has some great expressions, even though he's replaced with a pitifully obvious stunt double when anything much gets going. Wong Fei-Hong has a scene wherein he does calligraphy on a rival's forehead (possibly the best scene in the movie), and you get to see a photo of young, thin Sammo Hung.

The Prodigal Son is another Sammo Hung/Lam Ching-Ying vehicle, where they (eventually) vie over a student. It's pretty amusing, and it's apparently a story about how parents screw you up. It's also about Lam Ching-Ying fighting a bunch of guys in theatre-drag.
zustifer: (JFK with psi-rays)
The Space Children (1958), Jack Arnold (MST3K version). Nov 26, 6pm. View count: One.
Master Ninja I (AKA The Master, 1984),
Michael Sloan (MST3K version). Nov 27, 3pm. View count: One.
Gui da gui (AKA Spooky Encounters, AKA Close Encounters of the Spooky Kind, 1980), Sammo Hung. Nov 27, 7pm. View count: One.

Space Children is sort of goofy, but harmless. The MSTing seemed a bit extraneous in some areas, but then there was rather an abundance of plot holes and "wait, what" sorts of moments. As some stranger on imdb puts it, "The dramatic structure of the movie is weak. It starts well enough, with the arrival at the missile base, the landing of the alien, its discovery by the children and its first communication with them. After that, it just meanders all over the place. There is no steady build up of tension and no real climax. Things happen, but for no particular reason."

Master Ninja I'd never actually seen, so this was a thing I'd needed to do. As is pointed out repeatedly, this is the first of a series of seven movie-length compilations of TV episodes. This leads to weirdness as regards characters who show up, engage with a plot, have a wrap-up, and leave after twenty minutes, never to be seen again in the rest of the movielike work. Fortunately it doesn't really matter. Lee Van Cleef is pretty hilarious as White Guy Ninja, and his apprentice is an 80s golem who likes to throw shuriken. The end.

Spooky Encounters is an excellent picture. Pretty much everything in it is awesome. Lam Ching-Ying even has a cameo as a cop! Full-on comedy Sammo Hung in this one. And truly, it is chock full of spooky encounters. Recommended.
zustifer: (Default)
Geung si sin sang (AKA Mr. Vampire, 1985), Ricky Lau. Nov 21, 9pm. View count: One.
Ling huan xian sheng (AKA Mr. Vampire III, 1987), Ricky Lau. Nov 22, 8pm. View count: One.
Jiang shi xian sheng xu ji (AKA Mr. Vampire II, 1986), Ricky Lau. Nov 23, 7:30pm. View count: One.
Jiang shi shu shu (AKA Mr. Vampire IV, 1988), Ricky Lau. Nov 24, 9:30pm. View count: One.
Xin jiang shi xian sheng (AKA Mr. Vampire V, 1989 (released 1992)), Ricky Lau. Nov 25, 7pm. View count: One.

These are great movies -- kung fu with various supernatural whatnot. The first one holds together the best, of course, with the third and fourth ranking roughly equal (I'd say) in entertainment value. The second is easily the crummiest, with a weird "heartwarming" aspect and several ve-e-ery lo-o-ong segments in which everyone's under the influence of a sedative, and thus are pretending to move in slow motion. And then there's the fifth, with the western-style vampire and the fake bats. (It should also be noted that the movie we watched which was labelled as Mr. Vampire 5 bears no resemblance to the summary on IMDB, and yet I can't find a closer match. It's weird.)

So, the first one is easily the best (although I bear a great fondness for #4), and apparently codified the chinese movie vampire. (Wikipedia link: "In the movies, jiang shi can be put to sleep by putting a piece of yellow paper with a spell written on it on their foreheads [...]. Generally in the movies the jiang shi are dressed in imperial Qing Dynasty clothes, their arms permanently outstretched due to rigor mortis.") This is of course the basis for Hsien-ko/Lei lei, who's my default avatar. Even she's sort of a takeoff, with her shifting from foot to foot instead of hopping, and ability to speak.
Anyhow, vampire shows up (ancestor buried in a bad location), hassles Lam Ching-Ying and disciples, almost transmits vampirism (apparently through fingernail wounds?), and eventually is vanquished.

Number Two is schmaltzy and has a vampire family, the child of which becomes friends with a brother and sister in a really, really american mid-century house. Number Three has a con artist with pet ghosts (somewhat reminiscent of the Frighteners). Number Four has a rivalry between a buddhist priest and a taoist one (they are next-door neighbors), and it's totally hilarious, with a lot of goofy slapstick. Anthony Chan as the 'Four-Eyed Taoist,' (he has glasses) a total dick who nevertheless has cool powers, is the best part. Weirdly, I think Lam Ching-Ying wasn't in this one.
And number Five is the christianity-and-western-vampirism one, which wasn't so hot.

Okay, I'm wrapping this up now, because I have more movies in the queue.
zustifer: (bowie xray)
Control (2007), Anton Corbijn. Nov 20, 9:15pm. View count: One.

I haven't quite been able to figure out exactly what was wrong with this movie. My best stab at it is that its british detachment went too far into the "impenetrable" side of things, making everyone's emotions (apart from obvious surface ones) impossible to ascertain. I felt throughout as if I were waiting for people's characters to fill out, but they never really seemed to.

Supposedly this was based on a book by Curtis' wife, which could explain the second-degree opaqueness of it all. It had a distinct outside-looking-in quality, which didn't do much for understanding of the protagonist.

Structurally I suppose I'd say that we didn't get to see enough of the grinding day-to-dayness of things; when we were shown difficult situations they tended to be the first we'd really heard of that, or a light-touch callback to a previous event. Weirdly, the simple trope of showing the protagonist walking around aimlessly, fitting poorly in an uncaring world -- that would have been highly appropriate and would have allowed for some "loneliness" time.

Of course, the soundtrack was wonderful, and Anton Corbijn knows his way around a lighting setup. I think the two things that charmed me the most were the situational soundtrack choices and the grey gobbets of food that people ate towards the end. But I simultaneously approved of and was a little leery of the 'clever' soundtrack moments; it's not up to Wes Anderson territory, but, still, putting "No Love Lost" up against the word "HATE" written across the protagonist's jacket? A little cutesy. (It's also true that that particular sequence struck me as a misstep -- defiant punky clothing graffiti hardly looks like the work of a guy who's totally losing it.)

I think that this movie would have done well to note the maxim about making every shot develop character or advance the action. Or indeed to refine the action and character arcs in advance, before trying to portray them.
zustifer: (Stan has schadenfreude.)
Star Crash (1979), Luigi Cozzi. Oct 17, 8pm. View count: One.
The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009), Grant Heslov. Nov 7, 7:45pm. View count: One.

Star Crash is hilarious, stupid, and terrible. It's up there as regards bad movies that are kinda wonderful. There's a robot who kind of sounds like Slim Pickens, David Hasselhoff, and a Who's Tommy-styled guy who apparently was a child preacher in real life. Recommended.

Goats: I came out of this movie rather angry. It's frustrating, because it has sort of a cute premise, and a cast of fairly good people. You had every advantage, little movie, and yet you just hang around mentioning Star Wars all the time. Why do you do that? Are you making a joke? Are you making a statement? No -- you are just repeatedly invoking Star Wars. Having Ewan McGregor present does not make this easier to stomach.
The movie's not a magical-realist Box o' Wonder, it's not a Coenish knowing semi-comedy, nor is it a Jarmuschian meandering character piece, any one of which (cliches) could have saved its bacon. It's JUST A STUPID COMEDY. It's formulaic like unto Dreamworks. The most you can hope for is Kevin Spacey saying "Twizzlers." (That was the high point, I think.)
The narration, also, is a really poor choice. And the satire is the most toothless satire I've seen in years. Really nothing to love here.


Sep. 17th, 2009 04:50 pm
zustifer: (Goggalor)
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), Stanley Kubrick. August 19, 7:30pm. View count: Five?
Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959), Edward D. Wood Jr. August 20, 8:30pm. View count: Two.
Kaminey (2009), Vishal Bhardwaj. Sept 13, 3pm. View count: One.

Dr. Strangelove we happened to see at our local theatre, the Rafael. It was hosted by Brad Bird, who showed up and took arbitrary questions from the audience at the end. Todd Alcott happens to be doing a writeup of Dr. Strangelove even now, so although his is patently not the type I'd do, it's probably smarter, and certainly longer (although it is true: the "formal structure" of movies seldom interests me seriously).
It was good to see it again -- I don't think I'd ever seen it on the big screen. It was an impeccable new, clean print, really good-looking. We sat next to an awesome middle-aged lady, who talked with me for the hour or so we sat around before things happened (she told me that there had been a high school theatre production of Dr. Strangelove recently nearby, and that a teenage girl had played the part of Major Kong. I find this excellent).

I think my favorite thing about this movie is the way Kong's plane goes from valiant military fellas doing their duty to valiant military fellas doing their duty to blow up the world -- and they're treated the same way, regardless. Against the odds! Suspense! Just doing their jobs.

One of the things Brad Bird brought up was the broadness of the humor, and the tactic of using humor to put forth very serious ideas. He referred to his time on the Simpsons, and how this had allowed them to get away with much more than a live-action show could have. Now, I hardly think that Kubrick had a problem with getting away with things, but there is purportedly a story wherein he realized that it was potentially a very silly narrative, whereupon he decided to go with it.

Finally: it's a little weird to simultaneously feel sorry and pleased that Peter Sellers declined Slim Pickens' role.

Plan 9 we saw in that Rifftrax broadcast that they had going a few weeks ago. It was colorized, which I hadn't been familiar with beforehand (it didn't do much for the film, really). The Rifftraxing didn't do all that much for it either, but it wasn't bad. Scarily, since the broadcast was from Nashville, they had Lowtax come onstage and do something.

Kaminey I didn't find all that compelling, but "it had its good points," as our friend mentioned afterward. The best of these was when one of the twin-brother leads spun around in the rain with his best buddy, singing "Spiderman! Spiderman!" Except he had a fake speech impediment, so it was more like "Fpiderman!" It was a beautiful moment.
The rest of the movie was about Good Twin and Bad Twin, and the girlfriend of the Good Twin towards whom he was fairly ambivalent. There is an amount of action, and a pretty wacky disco scene. (We actually showed up at the theater wanting to see Daddy Cool (which is taglined "Put the Fun in Funeral" or some such), but we were late and for some reason it wasn't subtitled.)
zustifer: (comics: Nivlem says See Here)
I was thinking about the blogging thing, and was considering starting a more publicky blog elsewhere (perhaps even on my own webspace! I don't know!), and then I was trying to work out how long that impulse would last, and then I decided to go play Batman.

So: Batman! I am actually enjoying the heck out of it. The low points include the horrifying (lack of) facial rigs on all the characters, and some of the PSA timing intervals. Well, and my pretty lousy fighting ability, but it is, as they say, all good. Oh, but I would like to deliver a hard stare with cocked eyebrow to the nice man who implemented the boob jiggle on Harley Quinn -- who, I might add, is wearing some kind of vinyl Hot Topic corset thing that really should not allow any jiggle, regardless of the preference of some.

Facial rigs: we (the game biz) still really suck at this stuff, and clearly this was not a priority for Arkham Asylum (to the extent that the guards all have the same (kinda weird) model), but the cognitive dissonance still clobbers one at regular intervals. Models can look pretty good in a still, but with lipsync and nothing else (rigging-wise), you have a big problem when Player is expected to stare at a character blah-blahing like an animate death mask. It's especially odd because the lipsync is half-decent, and it does deform the lower face to an extent. So the upper facial area just looks dead, and everyone kind of reminds me of the Phantom of the Opera.

Anyhoo, it's actually really a pleasing game to play, if not to admire the characters of. I am only about a third through, but I am collecting little TACOs like nobody's business. Moving around is fun, finding treats is fun, figuring out the Riddler's little clues is super fun (although sometimes gimped by his clue pointing to the most obvious thing in the room. Duh, Riddler. Try harder). Even yelling at Batman when he misinterprets my commands and screws something up is fun. "Goddamn it, Batman! No! Get back up there!" (It is third-person and thus encourages this implicitly.)
zustifer: (Default)
Love Bug (1968), Robert Stevenson. July 6, 10pn. View count: One.
Zazie dans le Métro (1960), Louis Malle. July 14, 10pm. View count: One.
Tron (1982), Steven Lisberger. August 1, 8:30pm. View count: Six?
District 9 (2009), Neill Blomkamp. August 15, 5:15pm. View count: One.

Oh man, I have been so remiss. Okay. Let's.

Love Bug is a stupid 60s movie, with the dad from Mary Poppins as the villain, and the cop from That Darn Cat as the protagonist. It's silly, and I didn't regret watching it.

Zazie is an amusingly non-serious movie, with flights of fancy erupting from every juncture, and a just-barely-not-grating precocious kid as a protagonist. If this had been an american film with twelve-year-old Audrey Hepburn or something, it would probably be on everyone's DVD shelf.

Tron is Tron. It was good to see it again. It holds up well, of course; the effects don't quit, and you'd never know that the actress playing the female lead had no clue what she was talking about. Also, we think that Dillinger went to Yale with the Old Man from Robocop.

District 9 I thought was quite, quite good. I won't spoil here, but the choice of locale, as an element of the first half's harsh, biting satire was very nicely done. I have a few questions about the scifi logistics, but it is, as they say, all good. I will consider it even if I can buy an 18-inch action figure of a certain mech.


zustifer: (Default)
Karla Z

February 2012

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