Kuroneko (1968) — Samurai/Horror (7/10)

April 16, 2011 at 2:36 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

Kuroneko (translated Black Cat) is a newly-added title to the Criterion section on Hulu. It is a spooky ghost story set in feudal Japan, where a mother and daughter are raped, murdered and have their house burned to the ground. The daughter is married, but the young man is off fighting at war. The mother and daughter were attacked by a group of evil samurai men, which serves a major plot point for this film. A black cat, which I assume to be a demon of some kind, finds their bodies and gives them a chance to continue living as ghosts if they pledge to use the rest of their existence killing samurai and drinking their blood.

So, it might seem like vampirism, but it is not? I don’t really understand the need to drink their blood, but I assume that is what the demon wants. I believe it is his way of claiming souls for hell. As it turns out, after the years, the daughter’s husband becomes a war hero and is finally allowed to go back to his home, which is burned to the ground. The mother and daughter lure young samurai to their doom, and eventually lead samurai sends the husband to investigate/kill the ghost causing this mayhem. You can imagine where this might lead.

There is a bunch of wire stunts in this movie. People jumping, flying, sliding, etc. I haven’t seen a film like this since perhaps Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and that was a long time ago.

This film is certainly a “horror” film, but it is more atmospheric than in your face. I did enjoy the movie, but about half way through I began to lose interest. My family used to have an all black cat, and so I can’t help that I enjoyed a film called Black Cat.




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La Jetée (1962) — Sci-fi (8/10)

April 16, 2011 at 2:13 pm (Movies) (, , )

Let’s sum it up this way: La Jetée is an influential 1962 French sci-fi short film about a prisoner during the post-apocalyptic war-torn France after the events of WW3. He goes backwards (and forwards) in time to do things to help his captors, the ruling class, rebuild their world.

Sound familiar? It’s the storyline that inspired the 1995 film 12 Monkeys, starring Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt.

If you watch the film on Netflix, you will get the original language (French) with subtitles. I watched this film on Hulu, and it was an English language version. Obviously, Criterion would not set the English language version as the “main” version if it wasn’t of quality. As I was watching it, I thought this dub was quite seamless, and that’s not usually how I feel on such things (the Disney-prepared Studio Ghibli dubs are good, as well).

The film clocks in at about 28 minutes, and so it isn’t very long. I would recommend you check this one out.

Oh! It now occurs to me (I did this on purpose) that I have left out on major detail. Maybe you’re thinking that this film sounds nice and what not but, really, what makes it standout? I will tell you what makes it memorable in my mind. The entire film, except for about 5 short seconds, is told as a series of still images. There is an unknown narrator that provides the exposition and dialog. I found it very interesting how my imagination was filling in the gaps where one would expect a film-like execution rather than individual frames.


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Obsession (1949) — Crime/Film-Noir (8/10)

March 31, 2011 at 2:57 am (Movies) (, , )

Well, I guess you could say I’m feeling Bourne again.

A few months ago, the Criterion Collection announced a special partnership with Hulu where they will, in time, release all of the films they have the rights to on Hulu. This move will include 800+ films for immediate streaming without commercials (a quick ad plays before the film begins).

That being said, a number of films are being uploaded that are not currently in the collection at this time. I have watched a couple of these films, and the most recent one is a 1949 film-noir called Obsession (directed by Edward Dmytryk, written by Alec Coppel). I certainly enjoyed this film.

Basically, Sally Gray plays one Storm Riordan, a woman having multiple affairs with Bill Kronin (played by Phil Brown). The husband, played by Robert Newton, confronts the two of them, and a tense drama ensues. Don’t worry, I didn’t know any of the actors or the film crew either.

I felt like the clever story really carries the film from beginning to end. Much like a film from this era, it doesn’t waste time getting into the thick of it all. I think, overall, the performances are quite strong, and it is the jealous, obsessed husband that gets the most dynamic situations to act out in the film. Everyone else seems to fit their characters well–there are no surprises here.

No spoilers, but the film didn’t end quite the way I wanted it to. I’m not sure how to comment on it without ruining it, so I will just let it be. I will just say that it dipped a point on my grading scale.


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The Wages of Fear (1953) — Drama/Thriller (10/10)

February 7, 2010 at 7:16 pm (Movies) (, , )

(wow, I haven’t done a review in over a year?)

I may have not noted before, but I struggle with classic cinema. I have found that many films tend to date themselves, and one can hardly understand their cultural impact because they happened too long ago. It’s actually kind of a hypocritical thing of me to say, for I can totally understand the cultural impact of say… 12 Angry Men (1957) and The Night of the Hunter (1955), but I can’t say I felt anything but hatred for The Thing from Another World (1951) and The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). Maybe it’s a problem of sci-fi versus drama. Sci-fi dates, drama relates.

Anyway, what am I really going on about? I think it’s this black-and-white French film from 1953 called “The Wages of Fear”. It stars the French hunk Yves Montand (the only person I knew of… due to my viewing and cherishing the perfect (10/10) French films “Jean de Florette” and “Manon of the Spring”) and some other people.

It takes place in South America in the contemporary times of 1953, and, for complicated reasons, a lot of people have found themselves in a predicament. They have come from various places, but they have arrived there to do any kind of work. There is an American oil company thing going on, and only a limited number of people can work for them. As such, there are a lot of tramps without work. It’s too expensive to leave, so everybody’s stuck.

Then the oil company has an explosion, and the company needs to get a great deal of nitrogylcerin transported from their HQ to some other site. The problem is that they don’t have any of the necessary safety equipment to transport the nitroglycerin easily. The problem is that any large bump or spill could ignite the whole bunch. So, they company hires two pairs of people, based on their driving skills, to take a truck strapped with the explosive chemicals over hills, mountains and dangerous terrain.

That’s the movie–there it is. We are presented with a great deal of drama in order to build up the effectiveness of the overall story, and it does so for the first half of the movie. I watched The Wages of Fear on the Criterion release on blu-ray–what an experience! It looked so very good. The runtime is 156 minutes, so you’ve got to wade through a lot of characters bickering and the hopelessness that they all feel, being stuck in that town and all. Don’t underestimate where the movie takes you, though.

There is incredible tension that occurs when the truck drivers are scared about one bump that’ll blow them to bits. They have to traverse many, many miles to get where they are going. They encounter, as I recall, at least 4 big obstacles along the way. I remember, during one such instance, experiencing great tension in my body. I remember when I saw the horror movie The Descent (2006) alone in the movie theater years ago, I had my fists clenched. I was there with the characters in the dark, struggling against bat-people and claustrophobia. That same kind of feeling gripped me in these scenes of The Wages of Fear.

I encourage all to investigate this movie. I don’t know what the other versions cut of the movie, ’cause I see some other releases have runtimes of 131 and 148. Forget that mess, get the Criterion release that has all the footage in the movie. There was a great deal of controversy about how Americans were portrayed in the movie, and I say make them look bad. We are kinda bad sometimes, you know.


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The Vanishing (1988) — Drama/Thriller (9/10)

February 20, 2009 at 7:46 pm (Movies) (, , )


As you may has noticed, I am not particularly fond of 80s cinema. The look, feel and quality of films I have seen (so far) are often times horrendous (what the heck happened!?). Anyway, right when I’m ready to give up on the decade, a film like this finds its way into my life. The Vanishing is a marvelous film.

The Vanishing takes place in France/Germany during the Tour de France of 1988. A man and his young wife are travelling to a spot to watch their favorite cyclist go by and do their cycling thing, haha. Anyway, they have few marital scuffs and romantic moments, and they fill up with gas at a gas station. The husband is waiting for the wife to come back with coffee, but she never comes back. He begins to search for her, but nobody really seems to know anything.

3. Years. Later.

He’s still posting signs and trying to find her, or, rather, trying to find out what happened to her. You get the gist that he’s steadily going insane with curiosity and madness as to why this all happened.

What’s interesting about this film is that it does a lot of character development on the “bad guy” of the film. You see his character within the first few minutes, and there is no disguising that he’s a sick son-of-a-gun. You get a little insight to his madness, and that just makes this movie go from good to great.

So, some things happen and it’s interesting, to say the least. This movie was remade in 1993 with Sandra Bullock and Keifer Sutherland, but I have heard terrible things about it. Screw that film, watch the original French version. Don’t expect a Hollywood ending, either.


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A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) — Horror/Thriller (7/10)

February 20, 2009 at 7:33 pm (Movies) (, , )

I heard that this is the highest grossing film of all time in South Korea… so, you can probably guess this is South Korean film… and you’re right! The director, Jee-Woon Kim does some really oddball films. He’s done a segment for the horror compilation Three Extremes 2 (by the way, if you ever get the chance to see Three Extremes, the first one, then do it! There’s some great stuff there).

Anyway, this film has two things going for it:

1) It doesn’t explain what is going on as it just starts… occuring. The whole time, you’re going, “What are you talking about? Who is this family? What are they talking about?” Yes, it is confusing, but I think that confusion mostly plays out to the film’s advantage (for the twist-ending, of course).

2) There are some interesting themes that the film tackles that make the impact reasonably effective. The film goes into regret, disappointment and hate (but mainly regret, which makes it more interesting than your usual Asian horror film these days).

That being said, the “scares” and “chills” are nothing to speak of. Don’t watch this trying to be scared. I’d watch this just to try and understand and to counter your wtf? moment that run through your brain. The film in some regards, is really typical. The look and images doesn’t do anything for you like say The Grudge, which was a horrendous film.

The movie that came out a few weeks ago, The Uninvited, that is a remake of this film. I wonder how much they changed. I’m sure they must have drastically changed a few elements because this film would never work in the realm of America.


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Death at a Funeral (2007) — Comedy (8/10)

February 20, 2009 at 7:24 pm (Movies) (, , )


So, listen. This movie is a British comedy starring this man:

Yeah, that’s Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice! He is the mopey, underappreciated and less-talented brother who got stuck with putting together the funeral for his father. There is a whole slew of characters represented here (don’t forget your gay dwarves!), including Steve the Pirate from Dodgeball… and he was in the TV show Firefly. One of the characters is the really dorky I-want-sex-with-American-girls from the film Love Actually.

Anyway, Death at a Funeral is a really funny British movie. There is a lot irony and laughter over hallucinogens. One character spends a good third of the film completely naked and confused. There is no place for respect and courtesy in this film–it all gets a stab here and there.

The performances are good, but the script sometimes just meanders out of control as things just fall apart. I’m sure that most people won’t mind this at all, but it just kind of exploded into chaos. No worries, though, there are plenty of hearty laughs all along.

And Mr. Darcy is just so darn cute.


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Eegah (1962) — Drama/MST3K (7/10)

February 18, 2009 at 11:56 pm (Movies) (, , , )


I pray and hope that you’ve never seen the movie Eegah without having seen the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of this film. It is the story of a prehistoric caveman that happens to live off a cave off the main highway of some American town (that’s a great plot for a movie in 1962). There’s a kid who’s the “hunk” of the film, but really his face makes you want to throw up. I think they said his face was like a Cabbage Patch Kid version of Elvis… haha!

As far as MST3K episodes go, this one isn’t as funny as Prince of Space, Manos: The Hands of Fate or Hercules Against the Moon Men. I’d stick with those if I were you.

The prehistoric man is played by the guy who played the character Jaws from a couple of the James Bond films. He’s an absolute giant, and his face is terrifying.


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Coraline (2009) — Animation (8/10)

February 8, 2009 at 9:18 pm (Movies) (, , )


Now here is a special treat, even if I don’t quite know how to recommend this film to your garden variety filmgoer. I will tell you this, I got sucked into this film and chewed up for a bit, and once it was all said and done, I had a good time.

I read that this film was something more to be admired than embraced, and I think they got it right. It’s hard to have an emotional connection with a bratty little girl named Coraline, and all the characters are flawed to one degree or another. Interestingly enough, there isn’t much comic relief in the film, something that The Nightmare Before Christmas definitely possessed. I think Jack Skellington is a terrific protagonist.

Anyway, back to Coraline. I absolutely loved the visual aspect of the film. The world of Coraline is lush and hyper detailed. I simply cannot comprehend the amount of work that went into the development of this film. I’m curious to know for how many years they have been working on this project.

There’s a scene where Coraline goes outside to see the garden planted and maintained by her “Other Father”. The “Other Father” comes in riding a robotic praying mantis, and the music is so odd and wonderful. The display of plants and vegetation is something to be marveled at, and I wouldn’t mind seeing the film again just to look at the world the film created.

The movie is, however, a bit cold. There isn’t much of anything emotional to cling to other than the cute creatures that come and go throughout the film’s duration. I feel like the morals aren’t strong, and plenty of the characters are so wacky that we get lost in the madness rather than sorting things out ourselves. I mean, come on. The ladies next door? The one with the DDD size boobs? Ugh, that was unnecessary and appalling.

There’s some very weird stuff there, but it’s a good film all-in-all. Don’t miss it if you can help it.


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Doubt (2008) — Drama (10/10)

February 8, 2009 at 9:08 pm (Movies) (, , )


I am so glad that I randomly decided to go see the film Doubt at 4:10pm on a Wednesday afternoon.

The night before, I saw Milk with Michael, and today I saw Doubt with my roommate Blake. It is really strange of me to say, but I felt tense during Doubt like I felt tense during The Descent, a British human-vampiresque horror film from 2006. Now what possibly could a drama about child molestation in a Catholic school have to do with a vampire horror film? I don’t really have an answer for you, but I felt tense and my fists were clenched for a better part of both films.

Bravo, Meryl Streep, you truly are an evil woman. I’ve met and seen women like the one she potrays in this film, but it still unnerved me. She tells Philip Seymour Hoffman that she will stop at nothing to see him removed from the school. She has no proof of her accusations, only “certainty”.

The movie tells a lot about the human condition, and the themes of manipulation, hate and degradation are rich and developed here. The ending pulls all of the different themes together quite nicely.

Some people said that they felt this film would go through “the occation narrative lull”, and I can see what they’re saying, but I must say that if you distrust and are aware the evil human condition as I have come to be, then this film will probably fascinate you.

Forgiveness, man. It doesn’t come for everybody. Oh! I watched this documentary about a year ago called Deliver Us From Evil, about a Catholic priest who molested hundreds of children over a period of a few decades. Watching that prior to seeing Doubt perhaps is an interesting setup for this film. Seeing the former will make you angry. I’m off subject, but I recommend this film highly. I love deception, evil and the human condition. I like to see how far people are willing to go to ruin everything around them. Tremendous acting, a terrific script and great directing all make this a top notch film.


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