When making movies out of fiction, most of the time it doesn’t work, unless the original text is purely telegraphic in style. If it’s good prose, it’s not usually the larger actions that we see that make it good – it’s something more ethereal within the style itself that give it quality. William Gibson’s noir-influenced techno-satire would seem perfect for adaptation, but anyone who’s suffered through (or even enjoyed) JOHNNY MNEMONIC suddenly realizes that the characters’ tough-guy dialog sounds utterly preposterous when actually voiced by a human being.
In NEW ROSE HOTEL, director Abel Ferrara finds the emotional heart of a very spare Gibson short (one of the best things Gibson’s ever written, and blessedly short on actual dialog) and creates a recognizable near- future world and characters who seem as comfortable with this subtly accelerated reality as we of 2005 are with plasma-screen TVs and mobile phones. The structure of the film can be extremely off-putting to those without enormous patience – it’s very slow-paced, and halfway through we see the almost the entire story over again, but very slightly changed. As far as I can tell, most of the scenes were shot twice from different angles. The entire point of Abel Ferrara’s approach is to visually represent the phrase, “If only I knew then what I know now”. NEW ROSE HOTEL really needs to be seen at least twice to be understood, and only lets go of the intelligence and daring of the direction and the performances after repeated viewings.
Christopher Walken plays Christopher Walken, under the guise of the character “Fox”, but I’ve rarely seen Walken so simultaneously comfortable and affected in any other role. Willem Dafoe has to play younger than he looks, and we get to watch his character learn what a fool he’s been, writhing with embarrassed disgust and fear as he discovers that the source of his predicament is his own stupidity and sentimentality. A very young-looking Asia Argento plays Sandii with more depth than she is regularly given credit for – her style is so subtle and genuine that she hardly seems to be acting, and as far as I’ve seen, she isn’t, but she’s so sexy and vulnerable that I’m more than willing to watch.
Even though we never see what happens to Dafoe’s character, one can assume what happens to him. He has nowhere to go but inside the coffin he’s created. The movie is a serious character study about not knowing what you could have and how greed and stupidity make a dangerous combination. I found this movie to be very deep and moving as well. But it’s not for everyone. It’s a shame this film is so under-appreciated; it’s definitely my favorite Ferrara film, and one of my top two Christopher Walken films. And lots of Asia in her underwear – what’s not to love?
Armed with a ponytail and a beret, Steven Seagal marches on with corny lines and his own particular brand of justice. Despite the usual Seagal trademarks, this film had enough to recommend it. In this one Seagal plays Gino Felino; some of his childhood friends joined the mob; he joined the New York Police Department with the intention of keeping the old neighbourhood clean. One day his partner Bobby Lupo is gunned down in broad daylight by wannabe gangster Richie Madano. Gino has no idea why his partner was killed nor do the mobsters he asks; one thing is certain though… he is out for justice!! Over the course of the film Gino comes up against a variety of gangsters and street punks; those that try to attack him end up severely damaged, those who try to kill him or those close to him end up dead. Ultimately Gino will face Richie mano-a-mano and there are no prizes for guessing who barely breaks a sweat and who ends up with a corkscrew in his head!
If you enjoy violent action movies and aren’t too bothered about a strong plot then you should enjoy this. Seagal might not have the greatest emotional range but he does great fight scenes… and lets face it that’s what you want when sitting down to watch one of his films! The action is pretty grueling with bones being broken, teeth getting knocked out and one guy getting his foot shot off… and this was on an old VHS copy with almost a minute cut out; I dread to think what the uncut version is like! William Forsythe puts in an enjoyably over the top performance as Richie; a gangster so vile that even the mob want to eliminate him. Richie is clearly a psychopath; this is illustrated by the way he shoots a woman in a fit of road rage… Gino is clearly a nice chap despite his desire for bloody revenge because he stops to rescue a puppy some sleazoid has thrown from a car.
Seagal vs Dive Bar. One man enters, one man leaves. Unlike a lot of flashier martial arts, Seagal isn’t about looking good, he’s about breaking limbs and throwing people about the place and he does it very well. Actually this fight is the film’s highlight because the final fight scene is so implausibly one sided, it is funny to watch Seagal spend the best part of five minutes beating up some overweight guy.
The overweight guy in question is William Forsythe, who I only recognise as the gravel voiced sheriff in The Devil’s Rejects but here looks like a psychotic child, shooting people for no reason and being menacing and unpleasant to everyone he meets. Needless to say, Seagal and his mob connections are back to find Richie and make him pay. Seagal is on better form here, both with the fighting and the acting but the film still is bordering on self-parody, but without knowing it. A particular highlight is near the beginning when the opening credits begin, the camera freeze frames of Seagal’s face through a broken car window that he’d just thrown a pimp through. It’s funny and again, it doesn’t mean to be a lot of the time.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s seventh film, Inherent Vice, is a surreal, kinky, and stoned epic of mammoth proportions. The fact that Anderson decided to be the first director adapt the wild prose of Thomas Pynchon is an achievement in of itself. Set in Los Angeles in the early Seventies, Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) awakens from his stony stupor when his ex-girlfriend (Katherine Waterston) tries to find sanctuary from her real-estate mogul boyfriend, his wife, and her boyfriend. In traditional noir fashion, not all is simple as it sounds as a bigger presence is involved with a cavalcade of characters thrown into Doc’s world; a heroin-addicted sax player from a surf-rock band (Owen Wilson), a coked- up dentist with the libido of a rabbit (Martin Short), and an LAPD officer/failed actor (Josh Brolin) busting anyone with long-hair and forming a strange love/hate bond with Doc.
The film is a hybrid of comedy, romance, and mystery inspired by the major film-noir flicks of the 1940s, such as Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep and Fritz Lang’s Ministry of Fear, except that rather than having Sam Spade chain smoke cigarettes and drink gimlets, you have Doc Sportello smoking endless joints and drinking tequila zombies. Anderson’s perspective of Los Angeles in the Seventies has been shown before in Boogie Nights in all its hedonistic glory, but in the case of Inherent Vice, he manages to capture the mood of L.A. in an earthy, yet naive glow that mirrors the energy and fear that erupted in the wake of the Manson murders and the rise of Nixon’s silent majority. No matter how you slice it, Anderson’s film fits in the tapestry of other L.A. noir classics like Chinatown and L.A. Confidential, but with the comedic antics of a Cheech and Chong film or an episode of Gilligan’s Island.
Joaquin Phoenix gives a brilliantly-nuanced performance as Pynchon’s anti-hero private eye. Unlike his last collaboration with Anderson on The Master, Phoenix reigns in his eccentricity with a relaxed, yet stoned, approach and manages to not make Sportello into a clichéd character of the counterculture thanks to the sharp wit and dialogue of Anderson’s screenplay. Josh Brolin’s performance as Bigfoot Bjornsen is brilliantly comical and tragic as he tries to walk amongst the Indica-smoke streets with the power and authority of Jack Webb from Dragnet. Katherine Waterston gives a remarkable performance as Doc’s former flame as she gives a raw and naked performance that is both sympathetic and mysterious. Despite being on film for only ten minutes, Martin Short gives a performance of comedic gold with the eccentricity and insanity as equally as funny as his alter egos like Ed Grimley and Jiminy Glick. Among the other actors who fill out the film, Reese Witherspoon as an assistant D.A. and Doc’s part-time love interest, Benecio Del Toro as Doc’s confidant and Owen Wilson each give solid performances.
Jonny Greenwood, in his third collaboration with Anderson as composer, creates a score that mirrors the Noir-fashioned sounds of Jerry Goldsmith mixed with the psychedelic sounds of the Laurel Canyon music scene of the early Seventies. Also, the music of Neil Young’s Harvest album adds an emotional depth to the romantic interludes between Doc and the women in his life. Robert Elswit’s cinematography is as excellent as his previous collaborations with Anderson as he manages to capture the long, strange trip into the underbelly of Los Angeles. Inherent Vice may be at times incoherent and somewhat dense as Pynchon’s novel, but it is one hell of a trip!
Samurai Cop is sure to please all fans of B-cinema. There are many scenes in this gem that will have you doubled over with laughter. From the initial car chase, to the slow motion katana duel between Matt Hannon and Robert Z’Dar, this movie screams cheese. Its aborted plot revolves around the titular character, Joe Marshall, the “samurai” cop (played by Matt Hannon), who has been transferred from San Diego to Los Angeles in order to assist the LAPD in taking down the troublesome Katana gang. Marshall, so we are told, has trained with the masters in Japan, and so ostensibly has some greater insight into the inner-culture of the Katana. What his expertise is exactly is hard to say, however, because he sneeringly mumbles Japanese names as if they were utterly foreign to him. Indeed, the only thing Marshall does do effectively is hitting on every woman he meets in the most sleazy and tactless manner conceivable. With far more brawn than brain, it is pretty clear from the get-go that Marshall won’t be thinking his way through this flick.
It is a film that defies all reason and good taste. Marshall inundates the movie with incredibly lame one-liners and quips, usually entailing sexual innuendo, that find there energy more so in the playful tousling of his hair than in emotion or conviction. Whenever Marshall speaks, he appears dumbfounded by what he just said, as if didn’t quite understand himself. Suspending disbelief to envisage a beach bum/meathead as a samurai warrior is just too much to expect of human imagination. And the fact that he owns an ocean side residence in L.A., with outdoor pool, on a cop’s salary, doesn’t help matters much. The script is blatantly racist in both message and content, and is padded with several gratuitous sex scenes. Marshall’s partner is the stereotypical black buffoon who is always backing up our hero (whether with firepower or by serving as the butt of his badly timed jokes) while remaining in the background; and all the female characters are either stupid, trashy, or both. Simply put, Samurai Cop’s willingness to forgo all sense and sensitivity for the sake of reproducing brainless actioner fantasies ranks high on the list of B-movies.
Samurai Cop is edited in chop shop fashion; the director Amir Shervan rarely bothers to establish shots, jumping from place to place, moment to moment, without any regard whatsoever for something like “continuity.” The action accomplishes the amazing feat of never once being engaging. Dialog is delivered listlessly, often coming off as disjointed, and even nonsensical. This is made manifest in a number of exchanges between characters, e.g. the police captain’s wanton use of expletives (with anyone that speaks to him), Fujiyama’s orders to his henchmen, and especially the speech Hannon gives to the Katana gang in a restaurant. The viewer also gets the distinct impression that there are only about fifteen sound bites recorded for this film that are looped over and over again. As for its score, it consists of a series of uninspired Casio-produced tunes repeated mercilessly that either color the film with cliché 80s sounds, or fissure a given scene with music that simply does not correspond with the actions of the characters. The general ineptitude of the film, however, results in highly enjoyable viewing experience for anyone who considers riffing on schlock to be a pastime.
World War II hero Louis “Louie” Zamperini, a former Olympic track star, survives a plane crash in the Pacific, spends 47 days drifting on a raft, and then more than two and a half years living in several Japanese prisoner of war camps. How many times have you ever been compelled to applaud after watching a movie in the cinema? For me the answer was never, until last Tuesday. Angelina Jolie’s 2nd attempt at directing. A good book. The best screenwriters in the business. It seemed like the stars aligned and I had been sat down and screened a perfect film. This is the single most inspiring film I have ever seen. The acting is flawless and the emotional roller coaster ride, even knowing the story, is heart stopping at times. There are no punches pulled about what this man, and so many others who did not survive, endured in prison camps. It is a testament to human spirit and endurance.
The book was a story of Zamparini’s faith in God to pull him through his ordeal as a POW but this extremely important theme was barely visible. The extensive and considerable amount of media hype surrounding this film since it’s pre-production, doing whatever it can to create Oscar buzz, gives the audience a very high expectation which it does live up too. If you’ve seen Saving Private Ryan you’ll remember how it felt watching that opening sequence. In total, I lost concentration for about 2 seconds in the first 15 minutes of Unbroken and that was purely because I’d forgotten to breathe.
It’s a true story. Not based on a true story. These are two very different things. Unbroken is the biography of World War II hero and former Olympic track star Louis Zamperini and by god, it’s brutal. It’s so inspiring that I think it should be shown in schools to give kids these days a bit if a wake up call. Nowadays if something gets hard, we quit. In this film you see a man go to hell and back and never ever give up. What shocked me the most was my inbuilt expectation for the ‘Hollywood edit’. There were parts in the film where, as a viewer, you kept expecting someone to jump in and save the day, or a group of people to all come together and overthrow the ‘baddies’, or at the very least an American flag blowing in the wind as the handsome lead male looked off in the distance and said something inspirational. This. Never. Happened.
Refreshingly true to the real story it moved me to my core. There was a bit in the middle where the characters stayed in one setting for a long time and when I was watching I felt at that point it lost some momentum, however, little did I know it was about to ramp up another 5 gears for the last hour of the film and without that lull, it wouldn’t have been as significant. At the end you see real photos of Louis Zamperini in the scenes you have watched in the film and then some footage of him as an 80 year old man. Even the toughest of men will struggle to hold back the tears, this man is a true legend, an actual superhero. You leave the theatre feeling emotionally drained and inspired. One of the best films of the year.
Kite, the long-in-the-making film adaptation of a 1998 Anime film is a visually frenetic film. The first feeling I got when I started watching the movie is that it must be a Luc Besson film. It felt the same way: international cast, a very young female killer and the dreary violence that is usually met in European films. I am still amazed that it is a US/Mexico production. The acting was also particular. I wouldn’t call it bad, just different. India Eisley is incredibly cute, but she is playing this kid killer who wants to avenge her parents. She is an addict for a drug that erases the memory, so she doesn’t even remember the parents in the name of which she exacts revenge. She is not a perfect killing machine, instead she is always close to death and only luck and sometimes a mysterious boy are keeping her alive in several occasions.
The world is somewhat similar to the first Mad Max movie, only not a desert, but what is left after “the banks fell and the governments collapsed”. Slightly more appropriate for the times than an post apocalyptic world or one caused by shortages of oil. Overall I enjoyed watching it. The action scenes felt very real, and even if the girl had fighting skills, most of the time it was just about surviving or running away and she got her ass handed to her more than once. No fancy wire-fu, no huge explosions, no rain of bullets. The twist at the end was pretty obvious, I practically waited for it since the beginning of the film, and the boy’s character was full with inconsistencies, yet these were not enough to make me regret watching.
However, being someone who has watched the source material, I must admit that I was disappointed on multiple levels. For while I recognize the violence and sexual content would have been far too much to put into the movie since it could mean a NC-17 rating, because it includes multiple rape scenes, I feel what we do get is so watered down that this barely feels like an adaptation at all. I mean, the film could have easily hinted, instead of visually depicted, what Sawa went through in the anime rather than give us a film which seems more like a plagiarized story than an adaptation. But perhaps one of the most glaring issues, which makes it hard to forgive how watered down the story is, deals with Eisley’s abilities as an actress. For with her lacking charisma, or finding a way to compensate for how stripped down Sawa’s story is, it makes for a rather boring watching experience. Add in she is either drugged up, or dealing with withdrawal symptoms from Amp affecting her performance, and you really get a motion picture which really pushes the idea that there was no real reason for this to be made.
In normal situations I would say you are better off watching the source material, but considering the source contains multiple rape scenes, I feel hesitant to recommend it. But when it comes to this film, without a doubt you should skip it. For while Samuel L. Jackson plays Samuel L. Jackson as good as ever, Eisley doesn’t find any sort of way to compensate for this stripped down version of Kite which leaves her hardly any depth to really create a compelling character. Add on she herself doesn’t seem like she was ready yet to be in a starring role, and you get a movie which, without a doubt, should have never happened. Though of course the white washing of characters didn’t help me thinking any less of this film.
Advertised as ‘the next Bruce Lee’, Zheng Liu makes his acting debut in Blood Money as Zhou, an unnamed hit-man for hire that changes his morals to suit whoever is offering the biggest cheque. But when his family is murdered by a ruthless drug lord, his job becomes somewhat more personal as he sides with the Asian Triads and goes looking for sweet revenge. That’s about as explanatory as anybody could be in attempting to synopsise this utterly plot less endeavour. Each formulaic scene plays out in the same fashion: rival drug gangs sit down for a meeting, tempers flare, shots are fired and any number of expendable baddies are removed from play, only to have an almost identical character take their place within mere minutes. Deaths, or at least death threats, are omnipresent, with the barrel of a gun often enjoying more screen time than the man holding it.
Those who disapprove of rapper Pitbull’s glorified, self-indulgent music are not likely to enjoy his glorified, self-indulgent performance, but not all the blame rests with the hip-hop megastar. The ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ overacting and sketchy line delivery becomes very tired very quickly to the point that even the respected Gordon Liu, best known by Western audiences as Pai Mei from Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill saga, can’t salvage an out-of-place role as Zhou’s Shaolin monk mentor. Often, the lone saving grace of films like this one is the action, but not so here. Being a martial artist first and an actor second, Liu’s physical skill is apparent, but his fight sequences are shot and choreographed so poorly that they make Sonny’s infamous miss on Carlo Rizzi look like a send-off offense. In case the point hasn’t been made clearly enough already, there are no redeemable qualities to draw from Blood Money, which is at best an embarrassing excuse for an action thriller and at worst an unmitigated disaster of a film.
This obviously wasn’t a very expensive movie to make and in that regard it’s still being a bit of an accomplishment. It has a good look to it but I did also wished that I held back on its special effects a little bit more at times. It isn’t always that convincing looking and it took away some from the movie its action as well. The action is still some decent stuff. I at least feel and think that the genre lovers will still get some kicks out of it. Zheng Liu is obviously more talented in that department as well, though he most certainly ain’t no Bruce Lee of course, which this movie desperately still tries to let you believe. I was certainly glad when the movie finally was over.
Watching this film the other day, I was amazed that it was made just four years after the end of World War Two – the most destructive and devastating war in history. Many veterans of the conflict, especially those who were lucky enough to have survived the Battle of Iwo Jima, would have seen this in the theatre when it was released. I wonder what they would have thought of it? Obviously, given the year that it was made, the film couldn’t portray the horrors of war with realistic intensity like many modern day films do, or even portray the real attitudes of the men who fought in this theatre (Just watch how the men talk and act in this, and then watch the same men in Tom Hank’s “The Pacific”). “Sands of Iwo Jima” stars John Wayne in a typical stereotypical role as the tough-as-nails sergeant John Stryker, who has a drinking problem. He receives a batch of new recruits to train in the Pacific, before they head off to Tarawa and later, to the infamous and iconic battle of Iwo Jima, in which over 5,000 Americans lost their lives for a small volcanic island.
One thing I’ll praise this film for is how it handles it’s romantic subplot. Usually, war films from this period in history deliver soppy, unrealistic and distracting love subplots. But the romance here, which happens when Stryker and his men are on R&R in either Australia or New Zealand, is handled well and doesn’t burden the rest of the movie. The romance in question is between Conway (John Agar) and Allison (Adele Mara).
The fighting on Tarawa is done very well, thanks to some real footage that was edited in really well. In takes almost an hour for battles to start, and Iwo Jima is only during the last twenty minutes or so. I give “Sands of Iwo Jima” a high rating because I consider it to be a fine war film considering how the WW2 was only over about five years when it was released, and it did manage to deliver some realistic war scenes and most of the characters were realistic enough. Their attitudes and actions may be a bit fake, but come on, it was the 1940’s. The American people couldn’t see how their men really felt while fighting the war (“The Pacific” portrays the real attitudes and actions, I believe), but instead a gung-ho and extremely patriotic movie headed by John Wayne was what was needed to add to the glory of the Allies triumph in the war. The last line of the film, delivered by the most unlikeliest Private, certainly got emotions and patriotic emotions flowing back in the day – “Let’s get back in the war!”
Something of a touch from random that allowed to take this single picture, almost without any previous preparation as improvised it was the feeling on it with a leaned flag, observed by an infinite stand on the land of the battle with the corpses and the wounded imposing the framework of the composition, inspiring plenitude and the strength of tired muscles after great losses of human beings there in that war. It became one of the few most popular photographs of the WWII, the moment of high intensity and dramatic tension also on this movie and too a great chance for the almost anonymous survivors in it, as though in statuesque kind of stressing immobility for a second by a single imperfect shot and quite dark on the bottom of the slope, because the mental foolish of the death toll in it but bypassed by a few men up and down as mere working boundary of living.
Lundgrun is an American who was raised in Japan while Lee is a Japanese raised in America. This actually makes an interesting mix as Lundgrun expects Lee to have a lot of traditional Japanese traits, where the only traits he has is fast food and fast cars and Lee sees Lundgrun as somebody who is caught up in pointless tradition that should be thrown away in exchange for fun. Lundgrun is also the cop that can’t keep partners, and we expect Lee to be the naive new cop on the beat, and then we find out that he is actually a lot like Lundgrun, a cop that can’t keep partners. As such they get on really well, and the dialogue that jumps between them in this movie is very well done. It is a shame that Brandon Lee’s career was cut so short by the accident in the Crow because Lee is actually quite a good actor. As I said in Legacy of Rage, if it wasn’t for the stupid action sequences at the end, the movie would have been quite good. From what I remember of the Crow, he acting ability was actually very good.
This enforced the funny tongue and cheek dialog between them which makes it enjoyable to watch. That particular element, the writing, I found to be written well. Together, these two “officers” of the law are trying to rid L.A. of the vicious Yakuza of Japan led by Yoshida (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa). Tagawa was a great choice as the leader, he has a truly menacing presence when he’s on screen. It’s also appropriate that he plays that role because Tagawa is Japanese. Though it is funny how this isn’t the first time Lundgren has fought the Yakuza either. He also did it in The Punisher (1989),…do they have something against him?
Like any Dolph Lundgren movie though, there’s bound to be plenty of fist and gunfights. What may surprise people even more is how heavy some of the action scenes are. Apparently the 79 minutes of running time was the cut version, meaning the uncut version was much heavier (lengthier too). It actually stunned me a little to see such a lighthearted duo face off against such a brutal enemy. Tango & Cash (1989) was rated R but even the violence there was light compared to this. That’s not to say it wasn’t entertaining – far from it. I also liked David Michael Frank’s score to the film. It’s definitely no orchestra but he creates a main theme for the film and even it gives it a Japanese like feel to it, which was much appreciated.
Going back to the running time though, this movie should’ve been left uncut for release. The movie plays out very well yet the story feels so rushed like there were parts that were supposed to be included in the story (which their were, but were cut). This film could have had that and its frustrating when a good film is lowered in quality when the important parts are cut. Perhaps audiences could have seen even more development between Lee and Lundgren, that way this duo would be just as memorable as any other buddy cop duo. It’s not to say they acted badly but there’s always room to grow.