Sunday, December 10, 2017

I Still Like Serpico

That film is now on Amazon Prime for those that have the service.

Friday, December 8, 2017

I Still Don't Like Predators

Not even 7 1/2 years since viewings has changed my opinion.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Villainess

The Villainess (Ak-Nyeo) (2017)

Runtime: 123 minutes (at least that's the version I saw; it's on Amazon)

Directed by: Jung Byung-Gil

Starring: Kim Ok-Bin, Shin Ha-Kyun, Sung Joon, Kim Seo-Hyung, Jo Eun-Ji

From: A multitude of Korean companies

A lot of people like this recent import from South Korea; I did not. Find out why below:

I've known of this movie for a few months now. I was disappointed when it did not play anywhere near where I lived. Finally, the film recently entered the world of VOD and I decided to take the plunge. I heard a lot of strong praise so I was hoping this'd be something I would love. Alas...

It started off well. I wish part of it wouldn't have been shot first person (or all of it been overdirected) but you still had a badass woman gun down and slice with blades at least 50 dudes and it was tremendous. Then the plot starts and... aside from not really enjoying the overplotted story in general, it is told in the most confusing non-linear way and honestly I grew frustrated with that nonsense. Hell, besides the story being overdone, so it the direction. The action scenes aren't the only place where the camera moves around too much or they try to make it look like it was shot in one take or other elements that in other films can be fine but here was distracting; the action scenes weren't the only things ruined by too much direction (i.e. using GoPro cameras, which is just one of the problems I had with it). It happened during some dialogue scenes too.

Why couldn't have this been easy and simple like John Wick? That was awesome and did not have all that nonsense as you saw an incredible warrior take out a bunch of scumbags because they were scumbags. That's all you needed there. John Wick 2, I did not like that story either but at least the action beats weren't done in a frustrating way. Atomic Blonde-a natural comparison due to their leads and coming out at almost the same time in the United States-had its issues too but I found that a lot more enjoyable and again, I had no problem with its action beats.

I knew little about the movie going in besides some pretty strong praise so I was blind to the elements I had the most issue with. To say I am disappointed I did not have a rad old time with this like I have with some other Korean klassics is describing my feelings mildly. I understand those that love the movie-what I got was not what I wanted.

The Doll (A Movie From Mongolia!)

I have little info to share as this does not have an IMDb entry. I'll just link to its page on Amazon Video here. The 2015 movie is actually not bad, as I explain below:

Here is something truly unique: not only is this a film on Amazon Video that does not even have an IMDb entry, this is the only horror movie I know of that is from the country of... MONGOLIA. Besides the novelty of that there was Amazon's description of the film being like “the Chucky series”, which is not exactly accurate. Think more something like the site's “favorite” movie Wish Upon; it is a Monkey's Paw type of story where wishes are granted, but at a great cost due to fate being interfered with.

A young woman is not at a good point in her life. Her mom is in the hospital and the Mongolian healthcare system is not the best... it costs money to treat her for her unnamed malady, and she has to pay AND bring the medicine that her mom needs for her therapy? Yikes. Plus, at her desk job the boss is a total Harvey Weinstein. She decides to buy a creepy-looking doll from a creepy-looking guy walking the streets of Ulaanbaatar or wherever it was filmed at. It's not a large doll like Chucky or even the Annabelle doll-real or fictional-and instead is a small doll you'd see a little kid with, except it looks goth and is creepy as S, so no kid would actually play with it.

In a hilarious moment, you see the doll communicate with her via... a wacky dream sequence where the doll becomes a “little person” made to look like the doll and speaks in a demonic voice. Considering the CG you see in the film is not good, doing it that way was probably the best solution but the way this person looked was something I had to guffaw at as it was kind of absurd. Anyway, to give an example of the wishes the young woman asked for, she wanted “money” so she soon got a lot of cash, albeit from stealing it from a dead guy after the bus they were on crashes after a collision with another vehicle.

I had no idea if this'd be any good or not; I was glad then when the film ended up being average. It is filled with cliché and yet for the most part it was competently made and there's not only the exploitation element of seeing our heroine get assaulted, there is also some gore, which was practical and looks fine. I am sure Wish Upon is funnier but I will make the assumption that this is better. The fate of Mongolian Harvey Weinstein is at least pretty glorious as it is deliciously over the top. Plus, you get to see what life in Mongolia is like: besides there being even more Toyota Prius vehicles than you see in the United States, their nightclubs feature songs in English where the main refrain is, “I just wanna make you wet!”

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Fat City

Fat City (1972)

Runtime: 96 minutes

Directed by: John Huston

Starring: Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges, Susan Tyrrell, Candy Clark

From: Columbia

There are many quality movies from the 1970's worth seeing; this is one of them. No surprise that John Huston did a good job in the director's chair, as I explain below: 

For at least the past few years I've known about this motion picture and yet it was just last night that I decided to give this heavyweight contender (this movie is about boxers on the opposite ends of their careers, but the story is a lot more than that) a shot and as many say, this film is very good. Note that there are many that classify it as a neo-noir; the label does accurately portray the tone of the movie and how it isn't something cheery and inspirational like Rocky, oh it definitely is not.

It is about Billy Tully (Stacy Keach), who is an old boxer who hasn't even fought in a year and a half. He's had his struggles in life and things have gone downhill after his wife left him. He meets up with the humorously named Ernie Munger (Jeff Bridges) in a boxing gym, and Ernie is convinced to become a professional boxer even though he is still in his teens. They then only occasionally interact with each other the rest of the movie. Much of it is them dealing with their own problems, mainly outside of the squared circle. That includes trying to make ends meet, and problems with women... Ernie has Faye (Candy Clark) while Billy meets up with the unforgettable barfly known as Oma (Susan Tyrrell). There are other fascinating characters but I mention the main ones as they deliver the best performances; Tyrrell got a Best Supporting Actress nomination from the Academy but all four are quality in the acting department.

It was filmed and set in Stockton, California; plenty of unglamorous locations are seen as we see the dark underbelly of boxing. Sure, that can be said of any sport but in a brutal physical mano y mano contest like that, having to fight in small buildings for not a lot of money... pretty rough. I don't want to give too much else away but I was always interested despite the subject matter being dreary and the film having brutally honest moments. This is definitely 1970's cinema, in other words.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Mondo Cane

Mondo Cane (1962)

Runtime: An overlong 107 minutes

Directed by: Paolo Cavara/Gualtiero Jacopetti/Franco Prosperi

Starring: This is a documentary, although that is seemingly a usual loose definition

From: Cineriz

In late 2017, this movie definitely has lost the power it once held 55 years ago. Read all about this influential (but still not so good) movie below: 

Here is another movie I've known of for years, so I decided I should go and check it out. Thanks to Amazon Prime I was able to do so. My reaction to it with 2017 eyes is “meh” but as I'll explain later, it did spawn its own genre.

This is a documentary (although some moments are obviously staged and phony, despite what they claimed at the beginning) which has “shocking” moments, at least by early 60's standards. Various unusual practices are shown... everything from a California pet cemetery and acts of self-flagellation to the eating of unusual animals and various island tribes shown doing bizarre things. There's plenty more but I had to mention as a word of warning not only do you see plenty of animals get killed-usually in brutal ways-but there's no short of racism and racial stereotypes either. I don't know how the narration was in its native Italy or in other languages, but the English narration is quite condescending when it is not being racist.

I'd give this a higher rating as I can understand how this was mind-blowing in the early 60's (where seeing sights from around the world was rare, especially the more exotic stuff) but aside from the staged moments and how I don't trust that a lot of what I am told about the footage is actually accurate, the racism, the graphic animal killings... there are long stretches where things grind to a halt and the movie is downright sleep-inducing. There is no reason why this is 107 minutes long, believe me.

The biggest asset is the score from Riz Ortolani and Nino Oliviero; it's too good for a movie like this. That lead to the amazing fact that this got an Oscar nomination, for Best Original Song. It did not win but once English lyrics were attached to the pleasant orchestral song, it was covered by a wide variety of familiar names: Sinatra, Andy Williams, Duke Ellington, Judy Garland, Doris Day, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Roy Orbison, Glen Campbell, etc. The tune is better than Mondo Cane itself.

This started the Mondo genre, which presented similar documentaries, often with fake footage. Most have been forgotten today but the category includes the Faces of Death/Traces of Death movies and arguably something like Cannibal Holocaust. The Internet has made those movies seem quaint by comparison when you can see something “daring” after about a minute of searching but I suppose people will always have an interest in shocking/sexy/exotic/wild clips as a way to add some excitement to their mundane, humdrum lives.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Titanic

Titanic (1997)

Runtime: 194 minutes long

Directed by: James Cameron and his ego

Starring: Leo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates, Frances Fisher

From: Paramount/20th Century Fox

I realize people will be flabbergasted when I say this was a first time watch for me... and yet it is true. I will explain all below, including how I thought this was pretty good:

If you live close by an AMC Theatres (in particular, one that has Dolby Cinema at AMC), for the upcoming week you will be able to see this film, either in 2D or 3D; I saw the 2D version. Some may be astonished to hear this, but until yesterday I had never seen this movie before. True story. I was old enough to where I could have gone to a screening back 20 years ago on my own, but I never did.

I'd have to say it was the mania surrounding the movie and how people overreacted to it (and Leo DiCaprio) that was a turn-off; plus, James Cameron has made some awesome films but I'd prefer something like The Terminator, T2, and Aliens to a “romance”. That Celine Dion song also got pretty old pretty quickly, to be honest. In the subsequent years, I never had the desire to finally give this a chance, even with all the moments that entered pop culture. Finally, I decided this would be the perfect opportunity for the first viewing. I can say that the movie looks and sounds great in Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos; it will be an impressive 4K UHD release once that happens sometime in the future.

As for the movie, it is pretty good. Many people not liking it at all is an idea I can comprehend. I realize the epics of old this tried to emulate also had cliches but this movie was awash in it. At times I did sigh or roll my eyes at the rote moments or the one dimensional characters or the dialogue... even in Cameron's best films, dialogue is the weak point. At times I felt the over 3 hour runtime.

Yet I can still give this a nice-enough rating. A big reason is that the two leads were DiCaprio and Winslet, and their chemistry with each other. They were great in their roles and I enjoyed those two being together, whether it was their first interactions, the unforgettable moment where Jack draws Rose nude (by the way, why did Jack have to do drawings of naked women... oh right, because it's Hollywood), and them having hot sweaty sex in the back of a vehicle where Jack “docks his ship into Rose's port.” If that wouldn't have worked as well, those 3 hours would have felt much longer for me. And that is even taking into account how well Cameron brings 1912 and the legendary ocean liner to life. Oh, and I'd be remiss if I did not mention how well Billy Zane played a real D-bag.

That element feels authentic as much time & effort was spent in being true to life, and it'd be fascinating to have been on the Titanic... except for the whole sinking part or how chaotic it was as the ship was seen as unsinkable so there was only about half the lifeboats needed, everyone was unprepared and there was obvious class bias as there were several obvious and different social strata present... those elements were presented very well, especially the sinking of the ship itself. In addition, my opinion of Dion's song aside (although in hindsight it's a masterpiece compared to how terrible the Top 40 scene has been in recent years) the James Horner score was quite good.

The movie definitely has flaws and maybe my heart is like an iceberg in finding various moments to be annoying. Yet I do understand why this was such a massive hit and even with inflation, in the United States this is the 5th highest grossing movie of all time. Considering that, the director and cast it was about time I finally watched the motion picture. I now know all of those pop culture moments in context, which is nice. I remember before this came out, how it went wildly over budget and was predicted to be another Waterworld, which technically did not lose money but was still a disappointment. Instead this became a film beloved by many. There definitely are Cameron movies I love more than this yet I do not regret finally seeing something that is still popular today.