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).
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
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.
Directed by Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee. With Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff. Fearless optimist Anna teams up with Kristoff in an epic journey, encountering Everest-like conditions, and a hilarious snowman named Olaf in a race to find Anna's sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trap...
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
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).
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
Directed by Peter Jackson. With Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott. The dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, continue their quest to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug. Bilbo Baggins is in possession of a mysterious
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.
Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite. With Tilikum, Dave Duffus, Samantha Berg, Dean Gomersall. Notorious killer whale Tilikum is responsible for the deaths of three individuals, including a top killer whale trainer. Blackfish shows the sometimes devastating consequences of keeping such intelligent an...
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
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!
Directed by Hong-jin Na. With Jung-woo Ha, Yun-seok Kim, Seong-Ha Cho, Man-shik Jeong. The story of a cab driver in Yanji City, a region between North Korea, China and Russia. His wife goes to Korea to earn money, but he doesn't hear from her since in 6 months. He plays mah-jong to make some extra c...
Sunday, December 08, 2013
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.