Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mandrill

Mandrill (2009)

Runtime: 90 minutes

Directed by: Ernesto Diaz Espinoza

Starring: Marko Zaror, Celine Reymond, Alejandro Castillo, Luis Alarcon

From: I am not going to try to list the dozen or more companies (!) that were listed in the opening credits

This is a film from Chile I saw for a few reasons, including it expiring on Instant in a few days. If only it wasn't so average... it has a wacky endorsement of Schick Razors but this definitely isn't as good as the 70's funk band known as Mandrill. The Letterboxd review is below and I'll return tomorrow night.

While I am not officially participating in the month-long reviewing of foreign films, I figured I should still meet one of the demands that those officially doing it had to fulfill, which is that one of the movies had to be from Chile. I realize this isn't a high brow movie from there, but I have seen some films from star Marko Zaror (I haven't reviewed them all here; the reason why his only high profile role is the wildly uneven Machete Kills is that I understand Zaror prefers doing his own projects, which do have trouble getting off the ground) and a few days from now it will expire from Netflix Instant, so this was the perfect time to see it.

Turns out, this movie is totally average in every way. Just listen to the plot description: A hitman gets revenge on the villain who killed his parents when he was a kid. Why this didn't happen sooner, I can't say, but he finally does it now... only to fall in love with the villain's attractive daughter. The movie is as generic as it sounds. Now, there's some entertaining action scenes (even with too much CGI) and there's some colorful touches.

Those touches include there being a whole crew of hitmen all known as Mandrill. One of them is named Uncle Chone and he has to teach a protege how to be successful at the job; that's pretty much being like John Colt. Who's that, you ask? Why, that's the movie within the movie which is a wacky 70's spoof James Bond/martial arts thing.

While he's not John Wick, I think I would have preferred an entire John Colt film rather than this, where there are many different tones and there are many different elements (spy spoof, serious drama, action, exploitation, etc.) but it doesn't come together that successfully. I can still rate it as average due to the action and how the lead girl-Celine Reymond-does a swell job as the lead girl, but I was hoping for more and if you want to see Zaror in action, you should check out Undisputed III instead.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Luna Papa

Luna Papa (1999)

Runtime: 107 minutes

Directed by: Bakhtyar Khudojnazarov

Starring: Chulpan Khamatova, Moritz Bleibtreu, Ato Mukhamedzhanov, Merab Ninidze

From: Many different companies

This is way different from me. This movie is listed as being from EIGHT different countries on the IMDb: Tajikistan, Germany, Japan, Austria, Switzerland, France, Russia, and Uzbekistan. As it was filmed in and the director is from Tajikistan, that's why I listed it first and consider it its main country of origin. It's online on YouTube in a subbed version so I was interested in seeing something from a country that even I couldn't locate specifically on a map. It's not like the person on Letterboxd I follow who has seen films this month from places like Haiti, Nepal, and Samoa, but I am happy with the variety I've seen this month, even if I was disappointed with a film or two.

The Letterboxd review is below and I'll return tomorrow afternoon.

Yes, I am reviewing a film that IMDb lists as from being 8 different countries. However, as the director is from and it was filmed in Tajikistan, that's why I listed it first. I will be honest and admit that before today even I could not have found the country on a map; I knew the general location but those former Soviet Union areas that became their own country are a little fuzzy to me. Anyhow, I was definitely interested in seeing a film from such an obscure place.

The plot: We follow a teenage girl-Mamlakat-who has a father (but no mother) and has to take care of an older brother named Nasreddin who at first I was worried about as he came off like a Simple Jack mentally handicapped person who was always that way. Turns out, he was a soldier but a lane mine almost killed him and did obvious brain damage, so... it's not as cringe-worthy as I first feared. Mamlakat is interested in acting and she happens to meet one from a traveling troupe. That dude says he knows TOM CRUISE (really) and she falls for it, and becomes pregnant. Note that they “did it” outside in the dark so she doesn't even know his identity. The trio attempt to find that actor (as the father of the unborn child being unknown is a shameful thing), and wackiness ensues.

Me, I was most interested in seeing what Tajikistan looked like, its customs, music, etc. As I know so little about the place, that seemed most appropriate. Well, it looks like an interesting country. It looks like a lot of desert with some mountains but the music was different and there are such customs as people on a random small boat finding the protagonists stuck on a bridge due to vehicle trouble and the guys on the boat sell them some clothes. That I understand; why you see some women dressed up like fruit and dancing in random buildings amongst random people... that I cannot explain!

That's not the only odd moment in this daffy comedy-drama which has its share of surrealistic moments, especially the ending. Also, the movie demonstrates that the country at this time still had a bunch of cars that looked decades old driving about, and there were rebel forces that you saw cause trouble; I understand that was true to life at the time in the country.

The dad being a controlling angry person isn't my favorite stereotype but I tried to ignore that (admittedly he wasn't always like that and despite some frustration Mamlakat does care about her brother) and I was amused-and bemused-by this movie, for the most part. Surrealistic movies aren't always my bag but overall I can rate this as 3 stars and will try to learn more about that area in general so I am not so ignorant about it.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Twenty Years Of African Cinema

Twenty Years of African Cinema (Camera d'Afrique) (1983)

Runtime: 94 minutes

Directed by: Ferid Boughedir

Starring: This is a documentary

From: Several different companies

Note that this will be a long review, but there's a reason for that. I watched something pretty obscure on Netflix Instant and it's a documentary about the early days of African cinema, from Tunisia and France; I am a nerd so of course I would want to see it, especially considering my knowledge of that beforehand was quite limited. Yes I did enjoy it. The Letterboxd review is below and I will return Wednesday night.

This is something different from me: a documentary from Tunisia and France about early African cinema; earlier in the month in another review I admitted I knew precious little about the movies from that continent and I should try to rectify that. When I found this, it seemed perfect to me; Tunisian director Ferid Boughedir compiled clips from various films all across Africa, interviewed various directors and presented a history of film on that continent. It's on Netflix Instant and by all appearances precious few have seen it I figured so I thought it was worth a shot.

It proved to be a worthwhile experience, as besides the various clips you see of films that at least in America are impossible to find even for purchase on disc or viewing via any sort of streaming, the history of films there was also quite interesting; the early directors had many struggles and tried their best, even without the support of their governments and trying to fight against the companies that distributed foreign films there... and said foreign films were often cheap pieces of crap. It was only by the time that this documentary came out that through the efforts of the directors themselves and the increased acceptance of the governments had the movie scene there seen become better regarded.

I really don't know what's happened between then and now when it comes to African cinema and that is quite unfortunate how much of it is still obscure to even film fans and like I said most of it is quite difficult to track down. Maybe one day it'll change; for now I enjoyed learning all that history and seeing those figures get some attention and praise to what certainly looks like a unique scene. I just wish I knew about people like Ousmane Sembene, Med Hondo or Souleymane Cisse, or especially the two female directors they interviewed (Fadika Kramo Lacine & Safi Faye) and what it's like to work in a young industry while dealing with the unfortunate biases that occur due to someone's gender. That said, if you ever wanted to learn more about this topic then this is a must-see.

Below is a list of the film clips they showed. Note that the dates I provide are basically my best guess from looking them up, as the movie and sometimes even IMDb isn't always accurate.

1974's Les “Bicots-Negres” Vos Voisins, directed by Med Hondo and from Mauritania and France: I have no idea what Voisins is actually about, except that it's apparently over 3 hours long and the English title is, ahem, “Arabs and N-----s, Your Friends”. I am not going to type out that full word so I did some self-editing. It does at least provide the introduction for this documentary. It's a random dude speaking for a few minutes about how he knows that “the West” invented everything about filmmaking and how “the whites” came to Africa and they were the ones to build theatres to show the movies from elsewhere. I have no trouble believing that is actually what happened.

After the opening titles the rest of this is narrated in English, alongside the film clips in their native languages.

1963's Borom Serret, from Senegal and directed by famed director Ousmane Sembene: The importance of an authentic voice from the continent and how it accurately portrays life there is mentioned. The clip shown from this 20 minute short of a man with a horse getting his cart seized for unfair reasons and how he's going to survive.

1966's Black Girl, also from Mr. Sembene and this time from Senegal and France: It's a tale about a native woman who is a maid in Senegal but when they move to France she is suddenly mistreated and well, her reaction to all of this is on the gruesome side; sadly it's said to be based on a true story.

1969's Oh Sun, another film directed by Med Hondo and from Mauritania and France: It's another tale of racism in France as a man moves there trying to improve his life but he experiences a different sort of hardship.

1973's Saitane, from Niger/France and directed by Oumarou Ganda: The title is translated to “Satan”, so that says a lot. The movie is about how a sorcerer is like the devil as he manipulates everyone around him. Among the footage shown is a chicken getting its head cut off. You've been warned.

1972's Amanie, a half hour short from the Ivory Coast and directed by Roger Gnoan M'Bala: It was described as being “against extreme Westernization” and the footage shown reflects that, and how some people do need to stay in the country so they could-for example-continue being farmers.

1977's Ceddo, another from Ousmane Sembene: It's about a village trying to avoid being converted by outsiders throughout several centuries.

1973's Touki Bouki, from Senegal/France and directed by Djibril Diop Mambety: I reviewed it earlier in the month and it did not work for me. I realize it's a minority opinion so you may feel differently than I.

1975's Muna Moto, directed by Jean-Pierre Dikongue Pipa, from Cameroon; it's a love story, like Romeo & Juliet, but that's simplifying it, as it's really about dowrys and arranged marriages.

1975's News from the Village, from female director Safi Faye and Senegal, it is about life in her country and a protest against the government.

1975's Xala, against from Ousmane Sembene, the story of a polygamous politician's sudden impotence is satire relating to the bourgeoisie of the country.

1978's Barra, from Mali and director Souleymane Cisse, it's a protest against conditions in the country and how many are mistreated, especially while working.

1980's The Chapel, from what is known now as the Republic of the Congo and Jean-Michel Tchissoukou: I could not find a plot description but from the title and what was shown, religion and the forced Christian beliefs from outsiders seems to be the point

1980's The Exile, another film from Oumarou Ganda: It's based on an old African tale and is about honor and the power of the spoken word.

1976's Ajani Ogun, from Nigeria and director Ola Balogun: It's about a young hunter who has to deal with a corrupt politician.

1981's Djeli, from the Ivory Coast and director Fadika Kramo Lacine: It's about the caste system in Africa and its issues.

1982's Wend Kuuni, from what is now Burkina Faso and Gaston Kabore is a tale about an abandoned young child found then adopted.

1981's Fenye, again from Mali and director Souleymane Cisse, it's about a student revolt against the oppressive regime.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Wyrmwood: Road Of The Dead


Runtime: 98 minutes

Directed by: Kiah Roache-Turner

Starring: Jay Gallagher, Bianca Bradley, Leon Burchill, Luke McKenzie, Yure Covich

From: Guerilla Films


This is another film I've seen at Enzian, having gone there to see it late last night. At least the audience experience there was better than my last two times at that theatre. As for this Australian horror/comedy... the Letterboxd review is below and I'll return Monday night.

I figured it was about time I experienced the Ozploitation scene of Australia and this movie is but one example of how the country still makes the sort of genre fare that gave it a good reputation back in the 70's and 80's. I was able to see this “zombie film” on the big screen; now, I think that genre is WAY played out by now but I was hoping I would enjoy this low budget thing, which I understand took 4 years to film as they only worked on it during weekends.

I've seen plenty of strong reviews for it. I wish I could say the same, but 3 stars is the highest I can give it. To start things off, this is “a zombie film” as much as, say, Nightmare City or Planet Terror. It's actually an event which I won't spoil-but is charming in how it's a plot device straight out of a 70's or 80's horror film-which causes many people to go mad and the reason why some aren't infected is also cute in being old school. These infected people move pretty fast so that's why I compared it to Nightmare City.

There's pathos to go along with the bloody action and there's a good amount of comedy, albeit on the crude side. It at least made me laugh and the funniest person was the Aboriginie character Benny. I don't know too much about the history between the white settlers of Australia and the true natives, but I presume it's like the United States between those white settlers and Native Americans so it was nice to see the indigenous people of that country get represented. Anyhow, thavis is how some mates come together and try to avoid getting killed and they spend a lot of time in the outback.

My main issue is that this is another case of a movie trying way too hard. To me they try so hard to be “a new cult hit” when I believe that many of those in the past weren't really trying to be that and it just naturally happened... they were trying so hard it seemed forced too often and there's one supporting character in particular who is so over the top and goofy I groaned whenever they appeared, which thankfully wasn't too often. Also, I understand with the budget and all that there's plenty of digital blood and digital squib shots but at least in a theatre it looked rather fake and some other effects shots were just bad. That's not even getting into the story issues or how there's plenty of contrivances.

I understand why some rate it high but due to what I mentioned, 3 stars is as high as I can realistically go... even if it tries to do something different among familiar trappings.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Blue Jean Monster

The Blue Jean Monster (Jeuk Ngau Jai Foo Dik Jung Kwai) (1991)

Runtime: The version I saw was 91 minutes long

Directed by: Kai-Ming Lai

Starring: Fui-On Shing, Siu Fong Wong, Gloria Yip, Amy Yip

From: Golden Harvest

Yes, this is a real movie and no it's not a porno. Rather, it's a Hong Kong film-from a major studio at that-I was told about on a messageboard in the past, but I explain all that and how strange this is below in my Letterboxd review, and I'll return tomorrow night.

About two years ago in a messageboard thread about movies someone (a big Asian movie watcher) mentioned some of the odd films he has seen before, including this one. For what should be obvious reasons, me and several others snickered at the title. Then, once we found out what this Category III (the strongest rating a Hong Kong release can receive) movie was all about, probably all of us were surprised and amused. I was able to find a copy so that is what I watched last night.

Basically, think of this as an even weirder version of Dead Heat! Yes, the motion picture with Treat Williams, Joe Piscopo and Vincent Price. One day I'll watch that for review here, but The Blue Jean Monster is about a cop named Tsu who has a pregnant wife soon to give birth; they don't always get along, due in part to their lack of sex life. I'll just say that they don't have an enlightened view of sexual intercourse during pregnancy. Tsu has a buddy-known as Power Steering-who is physically handicapped and he's an annoying goof; then again there are several grating characters in this motion picture.

Anyhow, he tries to break up a robbery but is killed when a lot of metal crap is dropped on him. Due to electricity and-ahem-CAT URINE, he is revived as a member of the living dead and he has to try to hide his undeadness and his gaping wounds that he attempts to stop with such things as a sanitary pad.

This movie is rather uneven, with there being a good amount of comedy, a lot of time being spent on the marriage of Tsu, those annoying characters and there's some wild shifts in tone. But, despite it being rather juvenile at times and also crude (there's a subplot involving Tsu and Power Steering and the mistaken belief that they have a homosexual relationship with each other; it should be no surprise that this isn't too enlightened either), I usually did laugh and it was mainly due to me finding the humor to be funny; it wasn't really me laughing AT the film. It's just so goofy and silly and yet there's some nice action and even a bit of horror so it's wacky and more often than not I was amused.

Considering that the film (at least in the subbed version I watched) also has characters with such names as Etc, Gucci and Death Rays-played by Amy Yip!-I didn't take this seriously, which helped in me enjoying this daffy piece of work.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Off Topic, But Some Computer Advice

I was going to have a review up now, but last night, my laptop experienced issues so I needed to spend that time fixing it. 

Something nasty ended up there; I use AVG and Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and that combo usually does the trick but this time I needed to use RKill (to stop the processes themselves so I would be able to get rid of them) then Adwcleaner and after I ran those two I ran AVG and Malwarebytes and that did the trick, but I wasn't happy about wasting time with that. At least I told you guys what you should use in the future.

Barring another catastrophe between now and then, tomorrow night is when I'll be back with a review.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)

74% on Rotten Tomatoes (out of 179 reviews)

Runtime: 129 minutes

Directed by: Matthew Vaughn

Starring: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Michael Caine

From: 20th Century Fox

Here's yet another controversial review; yes, I did not like this movie either. I will explain why below in a lengthy review from Letterboxd. Note that I posted that review late last night. I will return Thursday night, as I need to do some online things between now and then.

Me posting a review this late (real late at night, United States Eastern Standard Time) is an extraordinarily rare occurrence. Yet, I have to do it to get my opinions out of my head and out into the world, that a movie most of the world loves not only left me cold, but actually caused me to HATE it.

Now, I never have reviewed it for the site but I've seen Kick-Ass once and I'd rather not actually watch it again. I thought it was a stupid film and not that entertaining at all, so I'd give it a pretty low grade. Despite the same director and same (hack) comic book writer coming together again to adapt some other comic book I never heard of before, with all the incredible praise I've heard about it here and elsewhere and how I enjoy watching the Bond films (and eventually I'll finish reviewing all of them), I thought there's no way I would dislike this, right?

Well, I was wrong. Let me explain.

You want to talk about a movie that's trying WAY WAY too hard at all times, it's this. It's not always the case but it seems like that's more often than not a turn-off for me, and here they were trying to be SO “edgy”, “cool”, “hip”, “stylishly violent” or what have you. It just wore thin and I really didn't enjoy watching this. I thought the story was stupid and sucked and made zero sense; what was going to happen once the villain's ridiculous impossible plan would have been successful? I thought Samuel L. Jackson as the incredibly casual billionaire villain was just dumb (is him eating McDonalds with a distinguished guest supposed to be funny?) and the lisp was just pointless and distracting. I thought most of the characters were complete A-holes and absolutely abrasive (and needlessly so), and I certainly did not like the main character Eggsy. What a sh*thead he was! Colin Firth as an action hero is amusing at all, but otherwise... that one woman whose name I don't remember and don't care to remember who has blades for legs that she uses as weapons: stupid. I thought the action scenes were incoherent and badly shot. Yes, even “that one scene” most orgasm over. And talk about lazy blunt unimaginative "satire" of old spy films.

Honestly, the more I think about this the more I hate it and the drunk tool fratboy backwards hat wearing energy drink pounding meathead bro vibe that leaves a stench on the entire thing. I'll leave it at 1 ½ stars but by this point I may be generous with how I am feeling. The interaction between Eggsy and a certain female character: just gross all around. I'll just presume that Mark Millar is just as much of a lowlife and child minded as Frank Miller is, especially when it comes to females. I certainly know that I'll never see a film ever again involving Mark Millar or Matthew Vaughn, and those two together, why it's like toxic waste.

I can't quite explain why most films made in modern years (including and especially many beloved ones) just leave me cold, but they do. I'd much rather watch even the worst Bond movies than this ugly hateful unpleasant garbage ever again. Why most of the world loves this, I cannot comprehend. No offense to all those following me that love the film; I just don't see it at all, all the alleged joy and mirth you've gotten out of this.

Now, if you don't want SPOILERS then stop reading here. I'll just mention some things which particularly bothered me.

With that out of the way, the entire final act just rubbed me the wrong way, between the grossness of Eggsy and that princess, the nonsense of the plot itself, the cheapness of the movie threatening a mother killing her toddler child, and whatever the “humor” was of all those heads exploding and it being represented by... fireworks and smoke? WTF? That was just awful.

But what REALLY made me turn against the movie: the whole subplot with the dogs. Now, I don't think the killing of the puppy in John Wick was really needed, at least there was a point to it, that it was something else taken away from Wick at an awful time in his life so that's why he snaps and kills all those sons of bitches.

Here, it's just awful screenwriting that I actually saw through the entire time and I knew what would happen as soon as it was first introduced. That alone isn't bad, but it trying to be “cheap heat” by being “edgy” in threatening to kill cute dogs... that was just disgusting and absolutely not needed at all and there were much better ways to have a plot element where Eggsy fails in the final test, only of course to be accepted later on. It's just ugliness and unpleasantness brought into it and honestly, f*ck you Matthew Vaughn and f*ck you Mark Millar for that moment which almost legit caused me to walk out of the auditorium and go home. What D-bags you are for even thinking such a thing had to be done.