17
May
15

I’m a Cyborg but That’s OK, Chef

I’m a Cyborg but That’s OK

This is a really weird movie from South Korea, from the same director as Oldboy. Now, I really loved Oldboy for how dark and twisted and funny and interesting it was. Cyborg, on the other hand, is completely different in style and tone. You wouldn’t even know it was filmed by the same director. Cyborg tells the story of a young girl who goes crazy and gets put in a mental institution. She is fully deluded into thinking she’s a cyborg. So much so, that instead of eating, she licks batteries for nourishment. She navigates the eclectic group of patients, all while having visions of herself doing wild things like sprouting machine guns and mowing down everyone in the asylum. The movie is really light, and mostly a fun romp not meant to be much more than that. While it was fun, it was kind of forgettable. I wouldn’t disparage anyone for liking it, but there is little substance here. Once the shock value and its weirdness wears off, there is little else going for it.

Verdict: Average

Chef

Writer, director, and star Jon Favreau plays a disaffected chef trying to make his way in the culinary world. He is head chef of a fancy restaurant, and likes to try new things. He unfortunately butts heads with the restaurant’s owner who only wants to stick to the hits. This leads to him serving an uninspired meal to a nasty food critic, which ultimately leads Favreau to quit his job. What follows is essentially a roadtrip movie. Favreau buys a food truck, and drives it from Florida to California with his son and best friend in tow. Along the way they make Cubano sandwiches, and Favreau reignites his passion for cooking. On top of that, Favreau also, more importantly, energizes the flagging relationship between himself and his son. He was on-track to win Neglectful Father of the Year before the cross-country journey. Maybe it’s kind of a cliche that they can fix all their relationship issues in a van serving food, but it worked in the film. The movie was very well written, well acting, well directed, surprisingly funny, and tackled a very interesting and unusual subject matter. Favreau himself is no dummy, and sets himself opposite some beautiful women. It’s a little hard to believe they’d swoon over him, but you can’t blame the guy.

Verdict: Good

03
May
15

Madoka Magica Mega Review

The Series
Madoka Magica is a magical girl series in the loosest sense of the term. Rather, it’s a deconstruction of the magical girl genre. It is a dark, adult-themed drama with despair, loss, and consequences. While most magical girl series are about goodness and purity which allow the girl to save the world, Madoka Magica eschews all of the usual trappings. It still has girls with powers and cute costumes, but nearly everything else is different.
Madoka Magica is Faustian in a sense. The girls must make a deal with Kyubey, essentially selling their souls, in order to gain their powers and make their wish come true. Unfortunately, Kyubey doesn’t give them all the necessary information: like their bodies are now robotic husks with their souls trapped inside gems, or the fact that they will all inevitably turn into witches at some point. Kyubey, despite being an emotionless, almost neutral third party, turns into a great villain for the series. The deeper the show goes, the more you realize he is holding back. And it’s not that he’s holding back for secondary gain, no, he just doesn’t give out the information if it isn’t asked directly. It’s kind of like dealing with an Autistic person or something.
Plenty of girls jump aboard the magical girl train like Sayaka, Mami, and Kyoko. They fight witches in thoroughly exciting action sequences. Fortunately, there is plenty of action in the series. Almost every single episode has something going on. And as the series progresses, the stakes of the action increases. A sense of doom, which was subtle in the beginning, grows ever larger as the series progresses. They manage to raise the stakes time and time again, and do it in a way that feels completely natural given the ground-rules the series has set.

Continue reading ‘Madoka Magica Mega Review’

26
Apr
15

Boardwalk Empire is Over

Boardwalk Empire quietly aired on HBO for the last five years, and the final season recently wrapped up. This was an interesting series because it had the pedigree of an all-out hit. It had Steve Buscemi in the lead with lavish productions values, a fantastic period setting, and a pilot directed by Martin Scorsese. Strangely, it never reached commercial mass appeal. It seemed to always be overshadowed by other series like Game of Thrones or whatever else HBO happened to be airing. Boardwalk Empire was always the bridesmaid on the progamming block. That was too bad, because it deserved better. It was a great series.

The story was about prohibition-era gangsters, their battle for control of the bootleg liquor industry, and the rise of organized crime in the United States. While it is ostensibly fiction, there are a lot of historical characters populating the series like Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, and many others. Buscemi’s character, Nucky Thompson, was based on real-life gangster Enoch Johnson. They chose to fictionalize him so they could do whatever they wanted with his storyline, and not have to stick too rigidly to historical fact.

The numerous characters wove a fantastic tapestry of stories stretching over the course of the roaring 20s. The characters all effected one another, not always directly, but each player had a part that could influence events in everyone’s lives. It doesn’t quite get to The Wire’s level of interconnectedness, but it certainly does a good job, anyway. The characters are absolutely fascinating, from the lead played by Buscemi, to Michael Shannon’s rage-proned prohibition agent Nelson Van Alden, to Kelly MacDonald as Nucky’s wife, to Michael William’s Chalky White, to disfigured Richard Harrow, played by John Huston. There are many more characters than this, and they all electrify the screen.

Continue reading ‘Boardwalk Empire is Over’

19
Apr
15

And So It Goes, Begin Again

And So It Goes

I was stuck on a 12-hour flight and my choices were to sleep (impossible), stare at the back of the headrest in front of me, or watch this nauseating piece of shit. Reading was off the table because I had stupidly packed my book, and didn’t have it in my carry-on. Anyway, I chose the movie. This 2014 movie stars Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton playing characters meant to be thirty-year-olds. They sleep around, act goofy, obsess about their careers, and stumble through life. Of course, it’s allowed to never have your life completely figured out, but the glaringly bad writing, the fact that they couldn’t adjust things for their ages, dragged this film down quickly. Douglas’ character is suddenly forced to take care of his 9-year-old granddaughter. Keaton lives next door (in a duplex apartment) and helps pick up the slack. They meander about their pointless lives doing nothing of interest. The little girl does some school project about butterflies or some shit. Eventually, the movie farts to an ending and it stops. The acting is woefully bad, with everyone phoning in their performances. Avoid this one.

Verdict: Shitty

Begin Again

On the same flight, right after And So It Goes ended, Begin Again started. This isn’t a movie I would ever have chosen to watch, but it turned out better than I expected. Mark Ruffalo stars as a music producer who used to be big, but lately has been churning out nothing but shit. His company eventually gives him the boot. Keira Knightley stars as the girlfriend of a douchey pop-star played by Adam Levine. Occasionally, she writes songs for him. They live a comfortable, yuppy lifestyle until one day he cheats on her and she leaves him. She decides to strike out on her own, playing her own music. Ruffalo sees her at an open mic night, and realizes she could be the next big thing. They pool their limited resources, and record an album (written and performed by her) in various New York City locations. Naturally, the album becomes a big hit. I liked this movie for several reasons. The characters are fairly well written, they feel organic, and interact in largely believable ways. Ruffalo and Knightley worked well together on screen. I wouldn’t say they necessarily have chemistry, because Ruffalo doesn’t have chemistry with anyone. The story moves in interesting directions, and it never once verges into cliche territory. And the highlight was the segment of them recording the album, which was lots of fun to watch. It’s a decent movie, and one worth checking out.

Verdict: Good

12
Apr
15

Man of Tai Chi

The struggle is real.

Keanu Reeves directed this 2013 martial arts film starring himself and stuntman Tiger Chen. When reviewing martial arts films, you often cannot judge them on the same merits as dramas, comedies, or other kinds of movies. First and foremost is the action, and everything else is secondary. I can forgive a lot of missteps in martial arts movies as long as the action holds up. Of course, it’s not all about the action, but I try not to let those other things color my review too much. With that being said, Man of Tai Chi is a really bad movie.
Man of Tai Chi is the first movie directed by Reeves. He also stars as the villain. He doesn’t really have a lot of screentime, but when he does show up, every second he is on screen is cringe worthy. He lowers his voice an octave and growls all his lines. Most of his lines consist of very short phrases such as “Finish him” or “You owe me a life” and yet with such limited dialogue, he still can’t deliver the lines believably. He also bizarrely cackles directly into the camera in one jarring scene.

Continue reading ‘Man of Tai Chi’

05
Apr
15

The Other Woman, Broadchurch Season 1

The Other Woman

Blergh.

The Other Woman is the epitome of shitty Hollywood film-making. It features a braindead plot about a high-powered New York City lawyer, played by Cameron Diaz, who never actually has to do any work. She is unwittingly having an affair with a married man. She is “the other woman.” When the wife, played by Leslie Mann, finds out, she immediately gloms onto Diaz, and forces the two of them to become friends. They bond over their mutual hatred for the husband. Obviously, this would never happen. The movie tries to force insipid, unfunny buddy comedy down the audience’s throat. I guess you could equate watching this movie to being waterboarded. Anyway, the two women hook up with a third woman who is also unwittingly sleeping with the husband. The three of them team up to humiliate him. They eventually get revenge, and the movie takes a sudden and bizarre turn into gross-out/violence humor when the husband walks through two plate glass windows and gets soaked in blood. As an aside, what the fuck happened to Cameron Diaz’s face? It looks like an old catcher’s mitt in this movie. I wish I had a score lower than Shitty on this blog, because that’s what I would give this train wreck.

Verdict: Shitty

Broadchurch Season 1

These are our happy faces.

Broadchurch is a 2013 British TV series about a murder investigation in a small town. The series was so successful that it managed to snag a second season, even though it was originally meant to just be a mini-series. An 11-year-old boy is found dead on the beach in an idyllic coastal town. Police show up to investigate, but the lead investigator, played by David Tennant, has a black mark on his record, being unable to close a previous case due to a scandal. The media shows up, as well, making the investigation much harder to conduct. There are several central characters populating the small town, each of whom has some kind of secret they are protecting. The point of Broadchurch wasn’t really the murder investigation. It was how the investigation turned up all the town’s dirty secrets, and turned citizens against one another. It featured some brilliant writing at times, the case was riveting, and the performances from Tennant, and his co-lead Olivia Colman, were fantastic. This is a great series, and a great deviation from the usual procedural crap that plagues TV these days.

Verdict: Good

22
Mar
15

Thief, Branded to Kill

Thief

A Michael Mann cure for insomnia.

An orgy of 80s nostalgia, Thief was director Michael Mann’s first big budget production. It shows all of his trademarks like glacial pacing, an overabundance of needless dialogue, and no concept of editing. Tangerine Dream provides the super-dated synthesizer score. James Caan stars as a diamond thief who works independently, but gets muscled into working for a big-shot crime boss, who is played by the innkeeper from The Great Outdoors. The movie is drenched in darkness, and every shot was filmed behind two or three blue filters. You get the feeling like you’re watching a movie under water. Like any standard crime “thriller,” Thief features a double-cross and Caan has to get revenge against the innkeeper. It’s really a lame-brained, been-there, done-that scenario. I highly doubt that this plot hadn’t already been done to death by the time the movie was released in 1981. There’s also a weird, pointless subplot about Caan getting a baby on the black market. Thief goes to show that Michael Mann is a director who doesn’t have the capability to leave needless garbage on the cutting room floor.

Verdict: Bad

Branded to Kill

“Do I make you horny, baby?”

This 1967 film from Japanese director Seijun Suzuki is about as weird as they come. It’s about a hitman, ranked number three in the country, who wants to be number one. He devises a way to take out the competition. Well, sort of. That’s what the movie says it’s about. But really, it’s an acid trip. Suzuki must have just discovered LSD when he went about filming this monstrosity. There is dialogue, scenes, characters linking the actions of the film together, but none of it is coherent. The main character has weirdly distracting chubby cheeks. He gets horny when he smells rice cooking, then bangs his wife, who runs around naked for the entire movie. His other love interest decorated her apartment with dead butterflies. He kills people, but the action scenes lack any sense of excitement or tension. The closest film I can think this movie resembles is Pierrot le Fou, an experimental French piece of shit from the same era. Branded to Kill is better than that movie simply due to the weirdness factor. At least it doesn’t come across as pretentious. Unfortunately, Branded to Kill is too strange, too experimental, and not worth anyone’s time.

Verdict: Shitty




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