Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Because I Can't Seem to Grow Up

Hey look, I'm posting on this thing again. So to the 3 of you on facebook and those ad computers that end up here one way or another, I'm back... or something more exciting, whatever fuck you.

Anyway, try as I might, I'm still stuck in a very adolescent place in my film viewing. It seems like for every gorgeous, poetic, beautiful art house or serious movie I watch, there's ten juvenile, loud and stupid action flicks. So I've hit a point now where I'm going to fucking put the art in the loud explody crap.

For the next few days, I'm going to be breaking down and discussing the action movie, and most prominently the scenes that make them fucking excellent. To start off, my next post will be about the best grand scale, absolutely epic in every sense of the word action scenes. Because we are focusing on action movies, I find that it's really better to just talk about the merits of individual set pieces as opposed to whole movies, because honestly, most action movies suck jurassic shit when it comes to everything that isn't action... with exceptions of course. But you know what? That's fine with me. I didn't pay 18 fucking dollars for a movie ticket to Pacific Rim because I wanted to see deep human drama. I wanted to see big mother fucking robots tussling with big mother fucking monsters.

Generally speaking, I'm a grumpy old man, but when it comes to action films, I'm a giddy hormone filled 13 year old. Now let's try to bring some scholarly stuff to the mix.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Top 10 of 2012

I've finally caught up on most of the movies I wanted to see that came out in 2012, at least enough I believe for me to make my unnecessary Top 10 list of the year. I do have to say, the movies I thought would be in my top 10 at the beginning of the year are very different from the ones in my final list. I never would have thought that The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus, or The Hobbit would all be so damn far from my top ten. Anyway, here it is:

Honorable Mentions:
Cloud Atlas
Safety Not Guaranteed
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Les Miserables

10) Silver Linings Playbook: I haven't been fully on board with Bradley Cooper as a serious actor until this flick. My god his performance here is something special. The rest of the cast is also pretty fantastic. A few months ago I made a list of romantic movies for people who hate romantic movies, this movie definitely deserves to be on the list.

9) Looper: It's a smartly made and extremely entertaining sci-fi thriller.

8) The Master: In my opinion, this is the best movie made this year. It's just a movie that's difficult to like, and even more difficult to fully comprehend. When you see it though, you know you're seeing something incredible, and it just latches onto your brain and refuses to let go. Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman reach Daniel Day-Lewis levels with this flick.

7) Skyfall: Is this the best Bond flick ever made? Well, no probably not, but it is an extremely well made spy flick that manages to be modern and about our times and classical at the same time. We all knew Sam Mendes would bring it with the drama, but who knew he'd be such a kick ass action director. I'll take his approach to Marc Forster's any day. Also, the cinematography is gorgeous.

6) Zero Dark Thirty: This was the flick that caught me by surprise. I had absolutely no interest in seeing this, especially since I never even made it all the way through The Hurt Locker, but damn am I glad I did. The movie kept me locked in the whole time and made me care about a topic that I didn't honestly really ever think twice about. I'm frankly still kind of amazed by how much I dug this flick. You can be damn sure I'm gonna give The Hurt Locker a second look after this.

5) Django Unchained: The first hour of this movie is among my favorite things Tarantino has ever done, unfortunately it does start to drag a bit in the second act. Still, this is an entertaining fuck all crazy Western (Or Southern) filled with that wonderful Tarantino dialogue.

4) Argo: Of the movies nominated for Best Picture, this is my choice for winner. A really well done thriller, with a great comedic second act. The final 30-40 minutes though, holy shit does Affleck build up the tension. I can't remember the last time I wanted to stand up and cheer at the end of a movie. My friend had residual stress for an hour after watching the movie. Can't think of higher praise than that for a thriller.

3) The Raid: [Technically made in 2011, the movie wasn't released theatrically here or in Indonesia until 2012 so I'm counting it] The best pure action movie I've seen in a LONG time. My personal list of absolutely untouchable action movies before seeing this flick was very short, James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and John Woo's Hard Boiled. This movie has joined that list.

2) The Avengers: The only really geeky movie to make my list in a year full of really geeky movies. Of all the other geek fare this year though, this was the only one that absolutely 100% met my expectations. It was exactly the movie it should have been.

1) Moonrise Kingdom: Sometimes, Wes Anderson gets a little too Wes Andersony, and frankly, after The Royal Tenenbaums, as his movies got more experimental, it seemed like his characters and plot got lost in the visuals. Then I saw this movie. I am completely head over heels in love with Moonrise Kingdom. Great performances from a pretty amazing cast, but frankly, the two kids walk away with it. This is such a pure piece of filmmaking that makes me wish I lived in a different time. Like Anderson's Bottle Rocket it shows us how unbelievably stupid cynicism is, and in a world that's as fucked and bitter as ours, something like that is wonderful. It makes me nostalgic for a part of my life that I frankly never had. Despite loving all the movies on this list, I have little(probably inconsequential) issues with all of them, that is except for Moonrise Kingdom.

Movies I still desperately need to see:
Life of Pi
Cabin in the Woods
Beasts of the Southern Wild
The Grey
The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Man With the Iron Fists

I was probably more biased towards liking this movie than anything else this year. Sure, the idea of The Avengers, a new Ridley Scott Alien movie, the final Nolan Bat movie, and a new Bond flick all got me twitching with excitement at the beginning of the year, but an honest to god kung fu flick in the style of Chang Cheh's work at the Shaw Brothers? Anybody who knows me knows that is 100% my kind of movie.

Reaction to the actual flick? Mildly disappointed.


  • This is a surprisingly pretty film to look at. Credit to the Cinematographer Chan Chi Ying for making one beautifully sumptuous looking kung fu flick.
  • It's funny, at least as funny as a wonderfully bad old chop socky picture.
  • You can tell RZA was filled with creative ideas for the weapons, characters, and locations.
  • The opening and closing credits are my absolute favorite things I've seen in a theater this year. 
  • Like all the great old school kung fu flicks, it may know everything happening is completely ridiculous, but it takes it seriously. To clarify, it doesn't make a joke of the character's names, the crazy weapons or hair, and the insane plot.

Not So Much:

  • The acting in this flick ranges from delightfully fun (Russel Crowe), to servicable (Lucy Liu) to bland as shit (Unfortunately, RZA and most of the other cast)
  •  For what's obviously supposed to be a big Shaw Brothers Kung Fu Chop Socky Homage, there really isn't much kung fu. You know what, I'll be less specific with that comment, there really isn't much action in general. 
  • The plot is going in 15 different directions at all times.
  • The pacing is pretty messy.
  • When you have one of the absolute best Action Choreographers working today, like Corey Yuen, you don't hide his amazing work by shooting at awkward angles and editing it to hell.
  • When RZA initially chopped the movie, it was 4 hours long. This final movie is 95 minutes. You cut that much out of any movie and it's not gonna be too pretty.
Basically, for a movie that should have been an absurd, fun, instant cult classic, it ends up being just a bit dull.   This flick, like The Spy Who Loved Me, never lived up to it's opening. That doesn't mean don't watch it my any means, it's a matinee movie, something to watch with a bunch of friends before your actual plans for the evening. Let's just hope we get a real director's cut dvd. 

Final Score: 6/10

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Ten Romantic Movies for People Who Hate Romantic Movies

This is just something I've been mulling over for a while. Nowadays, the general perception of a romantic movie is what I would describe as The Notebook or a knock off of The Notebook. My friend summed up his thoughts on romantic movies as such, "Two people about to kiss, eyes closed, beautiful backdrop."

In my opinion it's kind of bullshit that the general idea of a romantic movie has been tainted into this homogenized, pre-packaged vanilla on a waffle cone. So here is my attempt at making a list of movies, that in my opinion are romantic, but also, how do I put this, isn't exploitation cinema for lonely women. And guess what? There's even movies here that guys will like!

In alphabetical order:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (dir. Michel Gondry)

The Graduate (dir. Mike Nichols)

Happy Together (dir. Wong-Kar Wai)

In the Mood for Love (dir. Wong-Kar Wai)

Phantom of the Paradise (dir. Brian De Palma)

Punch-Drunk Love (dir. P.T. Anderson)

True Romance (dir. Tony Scott)

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (dir. Jacques Demy)

Wall-E (dir. Andrew Stanton)

Wild at Heart (dir. David Lynch)

Looking at the list, I'd say that with the exception of maybe In the Mood for Love, and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg all of these movies can be enjoyed by anybody. Although I do think The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is the greatest romantic movie ever made.

Also note that In the Mood for Love is the middle part of a trilogy starting with Days of Being Wild, and concluding with 2046.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Raid: Redemption

Oh man, ooooh man, we gotta talk a bit about perhaps the best pure action flick since John Woo's UH-MAZING "Hard Boiled."

First let's talk a bit about the lineage of the great action movies. To my mind the Action/Adventure genre didn't exist until Hitchcock's "North by Northwest." With it's many locales, big stars, and the many plot twists and turns it is in my opinion the grandfather of all modern adventure. We can then sum up the next several decades of great adventure flicks with two names, James Bond and Indiana Jones. Granted there were plenty others, but if you walk up to anybody, regardless of whether they watch movies or not, they know James Bond and Indiana Jones.

Now I personally believe there is a big distinction between Action movies and Adventure movies. Obviously the two borrow from each other, and usually go hand in hand, but there are differences. Indiana Jones and the original Star Wars trilogy is perhaps the perfect realization of this genre and to this day Hollywood has the monopoly on great adventure films. Pure action movies though are a different thing entirely, and in this specific genre within a genre is where Asians show dominance over us here in the States (as I've talked about in older posts).

To my mind there are three perfect action movies. "Die Hard," "Hard Boiled," and now "The Raid: Redemption."(From here on out I'll just refer to it as The Raid) I don't feel I need to explain why the first two movies in that list are great and important works in the action genre, but now "The Raid" is not just stepping up to challenge the throne of those two flicks, it's at the very least as good as they are.

If you wanna see the most bone crunching, physical, ass whooping film in twenty years, you wanna watch "The Raid." If you're like me, and "Hard Boiled" has in effect ruined action movies for you because it just can't live up to it, you need to watch "The Raid." If you are fucking sick of seeing trailers promising a big bad ass action flick, and then just getting second rate, sedated, and phoned in Jason Statham or Luc Besson, you need to watch "The Raid." If you give two shits about movie making, you need to watch "The Raid."

In effect, "The Raid" is an action movie stripped down to it's barest essence. It gives you just enough character development and just enough story to care about what's happening, and that's it. Listen, I don't know about you, but I don't walk into an action movie so I can watch once great actors ham shit up in fake military uniforms for an hour and a half before it all ends in some ridiculous, disappointing, and ultimately ineffective action set piece. "The Raid" delivers on the promise of every great action movie made, pretty much ever. Suddenly "300" and "The Expendables" look like "Harold and Maude" and "Sophie's Choice."

To those interested in the craft of filmmaking, "The Raid" offers two important lessons, how to do sparse but effective storytelling, and how to film a motherfucking fight scene. For everyone else, all you need to know is this movie is gonna kick your ass in the best possible way.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Life of Sir Run Run Shaw

One night I was doing some random movie research, one thing led to another and somehow I ended up reading up on the life of Sir Run Run Shaw.

I'm a big fan of kung fu flicks, and those who love kung fu have to know about the Shaw Brothers Studios. You may remember it as the Chinese logo that showed up before Kill Bill starts.

Shaw Brothers studios is responsible most notably for all the great kung fu flicks out of Hong Kong from the 60's and 70's, and is headed by two men, Sir Run Run Shaw and his brother Dr. Runme Shaw. Both lead some amazing lives, but I'm gonna talk about Sir Run Run Shaw(yes that's really his name, get over it).

He was born in 1907, no one knows the date or month. And I might as well say this now, yes, he's still alive and kicking.

In the 1920's at the age of 19, he and his brother Runme traveled to Singapore and created a chain of cinemas still running to this day.

In the 1950's or so he and his brother create the famous Shaw Brothers Studios, which was the biggest power in movie making in Hong Kong through the 60's and 70's. His impact just here alone would have him marked in cinematic history forever.

Unfortunately he made two big mistakes, the first was passing on a young kid known as Bruce Lee, the second was missing out on Jackie Chan eight years later.

As a result, in the 1980's he focused on television, and created TVB, which is the biggest fucking channel for Chinese programming. Hell, my folks, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, 18th uncle twice removed, all living here in the states all watch that channel. That's a Hong Kong channel, not an American channel, or even something like BBC America. Huge.

In 1974 he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1977.

He is a member of the way exclusive, way historic London Gentleman's Club White's, whose former members include so much European royalty from the 1600's till now that it boggles the mind.

Lest you think his impact never reached the States, without him a little movie called Blade Runner would not exist. Yeah, you're welcome planet earth.

His wife died at the very full age of 85 in 1987. In 1997, at 90 fucking years old, he traveled to Las Vegas to remarry.

In 2004, at the age of 97 he created The Shaw Prize which is known as the Nobel Prize of the East. The award is to scientists in the field of Astronomy, mathematics, and life and medical science and is for $1,000,000. That's US currency, not HK currency.

Literally less than 4 months ago, at the age of 104, he has finally decided to retire. Let me spell that out, ONE HUNDRED AND FOUR YEARS OLD, AND HE IS BARELY RETIRING.

He has donated hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars to charity and has a net worth of $3.5 billion.

If that isn't a very full life, then I just don't know what is.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Best of Asian Action Cinema Part III: Ip Man

Let's just get this one out of the way.

Those who know me know I love Ip Man. In particular I love this scene. Anyone who has spent any time in my house has probably had to sit through this scene several times.

The flick is a sort of biographical film on the real life man who trained Bruce Lee. It's pretty ridiculous to assume the amount of crazy shit that happens in this flick happened in real life, but frankly, I just don't give a shit.

The fight is choreographed by Sammo Hung, who is one of the great living legends of modern kung fu flicks, and I think his greatest accomplishment here is being able to make a 1 vs. many fight not look like just of series of 1 vs. 1 fights. Let's face it, in any fight scene where it's one versus a bunch, everyone always just kind of stands in the background while the hero takes them out one by one. I don't think that's something that can really be avoided. This scene however, is the closest I've ever seen to how I imagine several fighting one would look like. It's pretty much the balls.