Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Closing out 2013 with NEW WORLD - a top notch organized crime thriller. Imagine THE DEPARTED/INFERNAL AFFAIRS taking a completely different turn in events but with just as much drama & tension. This is the kind of film Hollywood has forgotten how to make, instead relying on bloated budgets and flashy CGI. Speaking of CG, the few composites that are in this film are not very good but luckily the plotting & performances take center stage. I did sense something aesthetically different about this film and realized that NEW WORLD was shot digitally (and with the Red One no less) whereas most Korean films that I admire were shot on 35mm film. In this case I think it worked well to inject a contemporary immediacy to the South Korean dominance of modern techniculture (and cinema, in my opinion).


Theme Stated

Monday, December 30, 2013


In the ABCS OF DEATH, "D is for Dogfight" is nicely shot and "L is for Libido" (by Timo Tjahjanto of V/H/S 2) is amusingly effed up. ALL the Japanese segments (F J & Z) are incomprehensibly bizarre and completely insolent in a funny way. "X is for XXL" and "Y is for Youngbuck" are mildly entertaining and most of the rest vary from bland to annoying to incompetent.


Saw FROZEN a month ago with Minami and was pleasantly surprised it was a musical (it's about time Disney musicals made a return). The songs are great fun & memorable and so Minami got the soundtrack from Santa. The story & tone are very reminiscent of a light version of WICKED the Musical (on top of the presence of WICKED alum Idina Menzel). The film does feel rushed as it jumps through the childhood story and then races through the one day of reckoning, but it's for the better - Minami was captivated the whole time.


I also saw THE TERROR LIVE (Korean thriller) at SDAFF and admittedly fell asleep during parts of it (which I hate doing). That wasn't completely the film's fault because I was tired from a full day at the film festival. I did admire the film's concept of epic disaster contained in one location - most of the film takes place in a high rise radio station office where the main character witnesses wanton destruction of the city from his window. But it cheats on certain shots and leaves the office for key dramatic shots which I think breaks the whole suspension of disbelief. Also the film just assumes that a high-powered remote bomb can pretty much be placed in anything and anywhere (like in a small headphone ear piece). That felt very Looney-Tunes to me and I just couldn't buy into it without any technical explanation.


I saw DRUG WAR back at the San Diego Asian Film Fest and now it's available on Netflix streaming. It's been awhile since I revisited Hong Kong gangster films and this one was a great twist on all the machismo machinations of old - you never quite know if the main character is acting on calculation and/or desperation. Regardless it all leads to one big entertaining gaggle f***.

Saturday, December 28, 2013


What is with these high-profile directors doing BLAIR WITCH style found footage horror films like Barry Levinson's THE BAY and Renny Harlin's DEVIL'S PASS? Everything compelling about the DEVIL'S PASS's back story is apparently true - everything that is lame is the fictional answers to all the question surrounding the mystery. The last 3rd of the film is all about the surviving characters finding inane clues that ridiculously inspire pages of exposition as to what each clue means. But the most unfortunate offense is the annoyingly bad acting on top of the bad writing - just unbearable at times.


Unfortunately the RED DAWN remake just continues to miss its mark as it progresses to its limp ending. I'm a big fan of the 1984 original which sets up an unthinkably epic invasion but then simmers down to a grey character piece about kids being thrown into an adult conflict (and becomes less about the politics of the conflict itself). One of the biggest problem with this remake is that it replaces the rural North American landscape of mountains & snow with a generic urban battlefield. This really deadens the idea of a Middle-America front where local kids can use their backyard as an advantage.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

HFR Hobbits

I'm going to have to do a "do over" for the HOBBIT 2. I saw it in 3D IMAX HFR (High Frame Rate) and the HFR made it look like a live telecast of a stage production. It's not that I didn't appreciate the pristine clarity of having more frames, it just didn't fit the subject matter. HFR makes sets look more like sets, it makes makeup look more like makeup, and it makes CGI look more like CGI. If it were a Discovery Channel documentary then HFR shots of nature would probably be breathtaking. Hold that thought - HFR would be incredible for porn! Seriously! And as sharp and as detailed as the Red Epic imagery was in the HOBBIT, I'm sad to say that the IMAX photography in THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE was so much more impressive (despite the movie being inferior).


MAN OF STEEL has the unique distinction (along with THE DARK KNIGHT RISES) of being a film that I'm absolutely shocked at how much I dislike it. Just the idea that Kryptonians were photon gun wielding, dragon riding, melodrama queens was hard enough to get past but then the fragmented story telling, the blatant product placements, and barrage of uneven VFX just made the overly serious tone so laughably unjustified. There were some notions that I liked but most of those are inherent to the Superman legacy and not unique to this film. I still think DKR is worst but the idea that the two film worlds will merge in the upcoming sequel (with the same creative team) makes me a bit nauseous.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


BLACKFISH is great - it really captures a wide range of emotions as it profiles both the human and killer whale players. In this respect this film succeeds where a film like GRIZZLY MAN is limited in how it can explore the aggressor animal as a unique personality. And it's quite haunting that a 3 time killer can still be visited at the park.


AMERICAN HORROR STORY Season 2 had a decent start with episode 1. Like season 1 the story seems to just regurgitate well established horror tropes but Jessica Lange's performance and the hyper kinetic editing really propel things forward. The effect is quite fascinating.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


THE PURGE is an exceedingly frustrating film to watch but you'll probably watch it to the ending just to see what happens. Character's make bizarre decisions and waffle to the plot's convenience. That's not to say some of the situations aren't compelling, it's just based on such a flawed sense of reality. THE MIST is a much better twisting of the human condition and THE STRANGERS is much better home invasion horror film. But I do appreciate that this film makes me want to punch my TV - at least I'm feeling something.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


There's definitely something curious about ONLY GOD FORGIVES but ultimately it wasn't for me. I get it when maybe one character is stilted and morose and brooding but when everyone is like that it just makes the film hard to watch. I guess I'm in the DRIVE camp.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


I didn't hate CHASER but was left wanting so I passed on THE YELLOW SEA until now (a year later). I thought it was going to be another depressing drama but this movie is a brutal cluster f*** of an action-thriller with so many cringe worthy twists. It hurls the main character into so many impossible situations and even though his escapes are improbable at times they're all so bloody entertaining. And it all feels fairly organic in its grit and shaky cam unlike other slickly stylized K-thrillers like OLDBOY or MAN FROM NOWHERE - though this film is certainly in the same class. Axes and knifes go ape-shit in the film!

Wednesday, December 04, 2013


After a few false starts and exposure to many spoilers, I still enjoyed THE CONJURING. Even after knowing of specific scares I still felt creeped out and the melodrama at the end worked for me. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, EVIL DEAD (remake), even INSIDIOUS want to be THE CONJURING but fall short on their gimmicks (SINISTER is another good film that delivered beyond its gimmicks).


GRABBERS certainly has the ambition to be the Irish TREMORS but ultimately lacks the ensemble cast and memorable characters. The "stay drunk to survive" is brilliantly silly but there should've been much more humor about it and at least another level of cleverness to truly be a TREMORS contender.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hard Cover or Kindle?

An unexpected dilemma! Should I get the hard cover or Kindle version of "I Think I Am in Friend-Love With You" by Yumi Sakugawa :: Comic Book Artist + Illustrator. I'm leaning towards the hard cover because I like the tactile feel of illustrations on paper but then I'm also a committed Kindle user. Argh! The digital divide is making me do a mental JCVD split!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

From where I sit

I spent hours researching and writing about what it means to record video in a movie theater - the laws, the industry, the etiquette, the social impact. It's all very fascinating, but in the end if the debate is taking away from the experience of the movie, well then it's all lost on me as a filmmaker.

Friday, November 08, 2013

EVIL DEAD - a little late to the party

I really liked the visual palette of the 1st half of EVIL DEAD but thought it got muddy by the end. This re-did is not a bad film but I think it's been somewhat invalidated by recent advents like CABIN IN THE WOODS and the proliferation of zombie movies and TV. If this is supposed to be a "re-imagining" for a "new generation" then it has to be a little more self-aware of where horror movies are at and not just turn up the dials on sound, gore, blood, sfx, etc, etc.

SAKE-BOMB Theatrical Premiere

Tonight's the night. SAKE-BOMB the film I DP'd goes live at the The Downtown Independent theater in LA until the 11/14. And this Sunday the film will screen in San Diego at the San Diego Asian Film Festival. I'm sicky-vicky (as Minami likes to say) but I'll try and be there to stir up some trouble.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pacific Rim

PACIFIC RIM: Got the 3D Bluray but watched it in 2D since I'm the only one that had 3D glasses. I was hoping to like it in a MATRIX way (being blown away visually and conceptually) but I only liked it in an INDEPENDENCE DAY way (visually impressive but conceptually never got deeper than the premise offered up in the trailers). 

And I think it didn't appeal to Japanese audiences because the film chose to focus on the "human" story rather than making the robots and monsters the main event. The robots had some distinction but still took a backseat to their pilots and the drift system. The monsters had some physical variations but were basically generic bad guys with no unique motives. In fact the plot was almost exactly INDEPENDENCE DAY which in itself was nothing special other its scale.

Which is all too bad. I would have liked to seen a film where the giant robots and kaiju combatants were distinctly characterized over the self-absorbed soap operas of their pilots (other than Idris Elba - which was just him being him - I thought the acting was abysmal).


PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4: Nothing new here - if anything it's a regression of the series. At least part 3 led to an interesting revelation at the end - part 4 just reiterates the same premise with a different setting. I'm not sure what's so "unrated" about the unrated version.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

iOS7 isn't heaven

I have to say, I don't care much for iOS7 (on my iPad). It's glitchy with my existing apps and just feels like a 2nd rate Android experience rather than something unique or different. I sound a little whiny and somewhat of an Android fanboy but I'm always about moving to tech that either does what I want or inspires me to adopt to how it does what I want.

Good Side Effects

For the slow 1st half of SIDE EFFECTS I had to remind myself it was a Soderberg joint so it'll all pay off. And yeah, the 2nd half was so much more enthralling. Not his best but always amazed by his minimalist filmmaking, focusing on performance and plot. But it's so hard to finance these kinds of films these days - I hope Soderberg doesn't quit.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Not Shocked

Execution was bad. AFTERSHOCK just felt off in tone, from the DSLR cinematography to the awkward drama to over-the-top genre mishmash of cliches. And whenever something heavy falls on someone does it always have to fall on their legs, pinning them to the ground? It happens like 5 times to 5 different people!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Livescribe 3 vs Note 3

My Livescribe Smartpen is of the old tech world and I passed on the Sky Wifi Smartpen because it wasn't so smart in how it implemented wireless connectivity. I had also bought into the Galaxy Note 2 which completely digitized my note taking (though it was more functional as a Smartphone than a Smartpen). Now the 3rd iteration of the Smartpen is on the horizon and I personally look forward to it because it uses Bluetooth to pair with the single most valuable tech I own, my phone. Writing on paper may sound senseless for an aggressively digital person like myself but paper still represents a wider frame for drawing and I have yet to find an app that integrates audio recording and note taking as neat and efficient as Livescribe has done. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Replay Movie Week!

Started my replay movie week with THERE WILL BE BLOOD went right into ZODIAC and topped it with CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER - all held up on 2nd viewing, all are excellent case studies.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Missing Mama

MAMA is a good film that could've been great. It definitely rang in the creep factor but starts to drag when you realize there's not much more to the intriguing premise. It feels like it plateaus midway through and then wants to be more sentimental than horrific. I really wanted to shit my pants with this one - it's not bad, it just missed the mark for me.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

SADAKO 3 strikes out

Ugh, SADAKO 3D was infuriating. Lit like a hooker's bathroom, shot like a community access soap, written like a pop culture guide to haunted tourist attractions - the poor CG integration was enough to raise Harryhausen from the dead. It was so inconsistent across the board - as if this was the RING mythology passed through a classroom of 6 year olds before reaching me. Time to revisit the Verbinski version and the ending of the original Japanese version to sober up.

Saturday, August 24, 2013


All politics & facts aside I really enjoyed ZERO DARK THIRTY - a thought provoking dramatic build to a popcorn action movie end. From a filmmaking standpoint I think JACK REACHER (though they're different movies) tried to do the same juggling act but failed.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Man From Reno

And now a message in Japanese from the school I teach at... ISMP 12,13,14期生に手伝ってもらった長編映画『Man From Reno - Renoから来た男-』が只今キックスターターキャンペーンやっています!キックスターターは、プロジェクトに対して賛同してくれる人たちから募金をし、そのプロジェクトを支援するというシステムです。今回、Man From Renoでは、ポストプロダクションに必要な予算をキックスターターで集めています。とても精力的に活動していて、主演女優藤谷文子さんとデイブ監督によるライブQ&Aや、締め切りカウントダウンパーティーも行います。今後の映画の製作資金集めなどにとても勉強になるかと思います。是非チェックしてみて下さい!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


I didn't even realize I was on the last episode of Breaking Bad s5 on Netflix & it all just ended. I enjoyed season 5 but it kind of came & went without a bang.

Friday, July 26, 2013

VGHS season 2

I found season 1 of VGHS to be a bit clunky but FreddyW and gang have really got things dialed in for season 2. It's everything I hate about Disney Channel TV fodder: flat lighting, flippant dialog, and happy-go-lucky plotting. But man is it entertaining.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Bomb Bay

I can't believe THE BAY is a Barry Levinson film. And yet it does feel like an "old guard" conception of a horror film. Every aspect of the film felt wanting and slow and anticlimactic. 

Jet be gone

Ugh, I thought THE EXPENDABLES 2 couldn't possibly be as bad as I've heard but between bad CG/greensceen shots, rom-com cinematography, and misfired oneliners, the worst offense was Jet Li vanishing after the intro scene. Did they even explain why he went AWOL? WTF!

Monday, June 24, 2013


Man, I wish could've directed this film adaptation of the manga HENTAI KAMEN (Forbidden Super Hero). I think I still have the whole series hidden somewhere at my parent's house.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Last of Us

"The Last of Us" has really stellar performances, writing, and cinematics. It's too bad these games cost so much (both to produce and to buy as a product). Ending was great but I could see how a person expecting a blockbuster finish would be disappointed with a more thought provoking end.

The Hobbit

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Jurassic 3D

JURASSIC PARK 3D on Bluray was more enjoyable as a movie with the 3D getting in the way at times. Wide shots looked great and when there was a middle-ground 3D plane I could focus on it looked good. But when I the action was frenetic or I couldn't lock my eyes on something, the shifted image gave me a headache. Maybe I'll try a natively shot 3D film next.