RSS

Monthly Archives: February 2011

Dr. H’s Smokes Big Time!

Dr. H was only wrong about 5 times in ALL the categories. Outrageous! I guess the rest of us can put that in our pipe and smoke it!

 
4 Comments

Posted by on February 28, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

Samurai Fiction: The Original Kill Bill—Sorry Quentin Tarantino The Cat’s Out The Bag.

Quentin Tarantino, meet Hiroyuki Nakano. Oh, wait a minute. Sorry, my mistake. You’ve already met. Well, can I introduce you to Kinji Fukasaku? Oh, sorry, that’s right. You’ve met him too. In fact, Quentin, you know almost everyone in this room, don’t you? Ah well, go and mingle. But just so you know, your cat is out of the bag now. You’ve been mining Asian movies for ideas for years, haven’t you? Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

 

As for the rest of you Tarantino fans out there, if you haven’t done so already, meet Samurai Fiction – a delight of a movie rivaled only by Kurusawa’s Sanjuro. Nobody could doubt the absolute awesomeness of a good Japanese martial arts flick – but likewise, nobody watching one could doubt that these samurai seriously need to chill out and take a five minute break. Well, Kurusawa in Sanjuro and Nakano in Samurai Fiction give us that break, poking a little fun at samurai seriousness while not denying us our martial movement fix for the day. Evidently Tarantino was as delighted as the rest of us by these and other great Asian martial arts films – and he plagiarizes them – oops, I mean pays homage to them – shamelessly.

 

Samurai Fiction’s opening titles, in which samurai performing kata are silhouetted against a red background, were in turn satirized in blue & black in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1. Also, Tarantino used Hotei’s famous instrumental track “Shin Jingi Naki Tatakai” (“Battle Without Honor or Humanity” – the title of a classic yakuza movie by Kinji Fukasaku, a major influence on Tarantino) as background music for Kill Bill Vol. 1. Hotei played Kazamatsuri in Samurai Fiction and composed its soundtrack.

 

Tarantino admits that he gets his ideas from old movies mainly Asian and anyone with any knowledge of both movies would see that Tarantino takes names, significant parts of stories and other elements from Asian cinema.  When asked about plagiarizing ideas from other movies, he stated, “I lift ideas from other great films just like every other great filmmaker.” Is that why the ear-cutting scene from Reservoir Dogs was STOLEN from Django? Or why one of the fighting scenes in Kill Bill Vol. 1 is basically an exact copy of a scene from Samurai Fiction? Those are more than some pretty big ideas.

 

That said, let’s get down to business.   The film was directed by Hiroyuki Nakano and it is almost entirely black-and-white, and follows a fairly standard plotline for a comedy and jidaigeki samurai film, but the presence of Tomoyasu Hotei’s rock-and-roll soundtrack separates it from the films it was inspired by, such as the works of Akira Kurosawa. A loose spinoff was released in 2001, as Red Shadow.

 

While the film is nearly entirely in black-and-white, paying homage to older samurai movies, this allows for the artistic and dramatic use of color; this is most noticeable whenever a character is killed, and the screen flashes red for a moment. Color is used to dramatic effect at the beginning and end of the film as well to focus the audience in what they are watching.

 

The plot centers on Inukai Heishiro (Fukikoshi Mitsuru), the son of a clan officer. One of his clan’s most precious heirlooms, a sword given them by the Shogun, has been stolen by the samurai Kazamatsuri (Tomoyasu Hotei). Against his father’s advice, Heishiro insists on retrieving the sword himself. His father sends two ninja after him to make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid.

 

Kazamatsuri wounds Heishiro, and kills one of his companions. The young noble ends up staying with an older samurai (Morio Kazama) and his daughter Koharu (Tamaki Ogawa) while he heals from his wound and plans his next move. The older samurai tries to dissuade him from fighting, but Heishiro’s honor won’t allow him to leave Kazamatsuri alive. The older samurai, who turns out to be the master Hanbei Mizogushi, convinces him to fight Kazamatsuri by throwing rocks rather than with swords.

 

Meanwhile Kazamatsuri settles for a few days at a gambling house owned by Lady Okatsu (Mari Atsuki), who falls in love with him. Then one night one of the ninja sent to protect Heishiro bribes her to poison his sake for one thousand gold. She does, but Kazamatsuri tastes the poison and kills Okatsu. He then kidnaps Koharu in an attempt to get the master Mizoguchi to fight him.

 

Mizoguchi reveals to Heishiro that he killed Koharu’s father, and has since never drawn his sword on another man, despite his immense skill. They then go to find Kazamatsuri and rescue Koharu. While Mizoguchi stalls Kazamatsuri, Heishiro takes Koharu aside and says he will marry her if Mizoguchi wins. Kazamatsuri fights Mizoguchi, who only draws his sword after his opponent destroys his wooden sword. He then disarms Kazamatsuri near a cliff. Kazamatsuri, admitting defeat, commits suicide by jumping off the cliff. Heishiro and the others go to the bottom, where there is no sign of Kazamatsuri’s body, but Koharu spots the stolen sword at the bottom of the river, where Heishiro retrieves it.

Flash forward one year. Heishiro has married Koharu, the sword is restored, and Mizoguchi is now an official in Heishiro’s clan.

 

The film has a number of inside jokes and allusions. For example, the stolen sword that is at the center of the plot was a personal possession of Toshirō Mifune, the star of many of Akira Kurosawa’s samurai films. One of Heishiro’s closest friends is named Kurosawa.

 

Between the rock and roll background and Hotei’s portrayal of Kazamatsuri’s cool disdain for the skills of the bumbling samurai who pursue him, it’s impossible not to become lost in admiration at Hotei’s ability to slide effortlessly and apparently in a state of total relaxation, from noncombat to combat situations — for example, when he is confronted by young Heishiro and his companions, Hotei as Kazamatsuri is so unconcerned by their presence that he turns coolly away to take a leak by the side of the road before responding to their taunts and challenges.

 

So, Tarantino fans, and those who think American cinema is the cat’s ass, why don’t you smell an Asian one? Why do I watch so many Asian movies? Apparently what I’m really doing is watching the future of American moviemaking, since American directors are so bankrupt of ideas that they have no recourse but to follow foreign filmmakers meekly as they lead them around by the nose.

 
23 Comments

Posted by on February 25, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Heathers: One of the Only 1980’s Non-John Hughes Teen Movies.

Heathers is one of only a handful of 1980’s teen movies that was in some way not written, directed, produced or in some way connected to John Hughes (creator of the “Brat Pack”).  Instead, Heathers was directed by Michael Lehmann, also the director of Hudson Hawk, 40 days and 40 nights and the Truth About Cats and Dogs.  Heathers stars a young (pre-shoplifting) Winona Ryder, Christian Slater and Shannen Doherty.

The film portrays four girls in an elite clique at a fictional Ohio high school. The girls — three of whom are named Heather — rule the school through coercion, contempt, and sex appeal.  Seventeen year old Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder), is one of the more popular girls at a fictional Ohio high school.  In addition to Veronica, the Heathers are wealthy and beautiful (but deeply unhappy) girls: the cruel leader of the trio, Heather Chandler (Kim Walker); the timid Heather Duke (Shannen Doherty); and the spineless cheerleader Heather McNamara (Lisanne Falk).  The three wicked girls rule the school through brutality and emotional sadism.  Although they are the most “popular” students, they are feared and hated rather than adored, and Veronica has had enough of their shallow, vicious behavior and longs to return to her old life, where she was happy with her former friends.

Enter new student J.D. (Christian Slater), a rebellious and self-styled outsider who opens with  pulling a gun on two school bullies Kurt and Ram and fires blanks at them.  Naturally, Veronica finds herself captivated with him.  In an act of revenge for a slight at a frat party, Veronica and J.D. break into Heather Chandler’s mansion and facetiously prepare a cup full of drain cleaner to bring Heather as her morning wake-up drink.  Veronica decides on milk and orange juice as a suitable form of revenge, as the combination can induce vomiting, but  J.D. distracts her with a kiss and she takes the wrong cup to Heather.   Though J.D. notices the mistake, he does not inform Veronica and Heather Chandler drinks the drain cleaner and dies.  J.D. reminds Veronica that she has the ability to forge handwriting and protect herself from suspicion and forge a suicide note in the deceased handwriting.  The school takes Heather Chandler’s “suicide” as a dramatic, but cool, decision made by the popular yet troubled teen.  Another one of the Heathers soon steps into the lead and begins wearing the red scrunchie that had belonged to Chandler.

The two “jocks” that J.D. shocked by firing blanks at them become the next targets because they have spread false rumors about Veronica.  J.D. devises a plan to kill the two jerks and he will then plant “gay” materials on them, including a candy dish, mascara, a postcard of Joan Crawford, gay porn, mineral water, and a suicide note stating the two were lovers participating in a suicide pact.  At their funeral, a one of the fathers is seen crying, “My son’s a homosexual, and I love him. I love my dead gay son!”, and the boys become martyrs against homophobia.

The body count continues to rise as the movie unfolds.  In the end Ryder not only stops J.D. from blowing up the school but also stops Heather from continuing her unrelenting stranglehold on the students.

The movie lost money at the box office, but is now on many “Top Lists” as a “Cult Classic.” I am on the fence with this one.  There are just as many good scenes are there are bad clichés.  To be sure, the Heathers are diabolical, cruel creatures who get what’s coming to them.  J.D. seems to embody what many high school students would like to do (and have done) to some of their classmates and the whole high school culture.  All in all Heathers is not a bad movie, having some great qualities, but also some irritating parts as well.  Take a look at it — you won’t want your two hours back.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on February 22, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Dr. H has made his picks — if you beat him you win!

We just posted Dr. H’s picks for the Oscars–what are yours? If you get more right than Dr. H–you will win dvd’s of your choice delivered right to your home. Put your picks in a comment and good luck!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 21, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

Tags: , , , ,

Dr. H Finally Gives Us His Take On The Oscars.

The Oscars:

Why there is less than meets the eye.

To call the Oscars a storm in a teacup is a travesty of sorts.  Sadly, to many lifelong Oscar aficionados it has lost its charisma.  Not only is it not the only game in town but it also appears contrived and hypocritical after a summer season of senseless mayhem in the sequels of grotesque superhuman creatures and the remorseless pursuit of the lowest common denominator.

The serious movie season starts after Halloween and ends around New Year’s, interrupted by family fare for Thanksgiving and cheesy romantic comedies for the holidays.  So you get about six weeks of serious cinema, most of which will be limited releases.  What, you may ask, is the point of this brouhaha—guilt in all likelihood. Once in a while the academy does honor the right movie and the right players but, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, only after it has exhausted all other options.

Welcome to Hollywood’s dark ages.

Why then, you may ask, are we bothering with the Oscars.  We are not.  We are celebrating the fact that good movies were made not because of Hollywood but in spite of its stranglehold on the movie business.

Now let’s get down to business shall we?

The Best Picture.

Who should win:         Social Network.

The dark horse:           True Grit

Who will win:             King’s Speech.

King’s Speech has some serious Oscar pedigrees and has won several awards for its soothing simple narrative style. The Academy can’t resist a British royalty story — especially when it has no relevance to modern day dynamics.

Social Network is an amazing story, especially in the wake of the democratic movement in the Mideast and the role in it played by Facebook and Twitter.  Sadly, there are not enough young Academy members to vote for it.

True Grit is good but not great.  Not a typical Cohen Brothers movie as it lacks their edgy crispy humor and the Academy doesn’t like westerns too much anyways.

127 Hours will lose for the same reason as Social Network:  the young votes will be divided between 127 Hours and Social Network.  It is a story of bravery and defying all odds of survival very well acted and directed but won’t make the cut.

The Black Swan.  This movie should be watched to impress an artsy girlfriend.  It is a hyper intellectual hybrid of French neo-noir with Hitchconian tradition but lacks Hitchcock’s dark humor and his feel for terror.

The Fighter is a good movie but lacks the knockout punch.  Very well acted but the supporting cast stole so many scenes that the fighter himself became secondary to the story.  A typical feel-good movie made for a recession.

Winter’s Bone is a great movie; a richly crafted, riveting story about a 17-year-old girl looking for her fugitive father in the wilderness of the Ozark Mountains in southern Missouri. It is full of meaning and metaphors that the average Academy member will overlook. If it wins, disregard all the negative remarks I have made about the Oscars.

Inception is a sci-fi thriller dealing with dreams, reality, quasi-reality, and whatever mumbo jumbo comes in between. It’s a visual spectacle but not Oscar-worthy.

And finally, The Kids Are All Right is the token indie film representative, more in the tradition of Little Miss Sunshine, about two lesbian foster parents and their problems. A good movie but again, not Oscar-worthy.  If The Kids Are All Right wins I’ll quit my day job and become a mascot for an NBA team.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Should win: James Franco, 127 Hours

Dark horse: Jeff Bridges, True Grit

Will win: Colin Firth, King’s Speech

James Franco is unlucky. His was a really plucky performance. Not earth-shattering, but with quiet dignity, he carried the movie all by himself with his character trapped in a canyon. Any other year he would be a shoe-in. Colin Firth will win, though, for his portrayal of King Edward VI, the stuttering monarch. Two years in a row. Wow! You can bet your 401(k) on this one.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Should win: Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone

Dark horse: Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right

Will win: Natalie Portman, The Black Swan

The conventional wisdom holds that Natalie Portman has delivered a strong performance in The Black Swan but one must remember that she had the advantage of a story that was built around her and was provided with all the right lines and the right ambiance to go with it. On the other hand, the 19-year-old Jennifer Lawrence had a much more complex role in Winter’s Bone – one that she excelled in. It is utterly compelling. Watch it. And lastly, Annette Bening is a long shot. Still could get a consolation award for being overlooked twice.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Should win: Christian Bale, The Fighter

Dark horse: Jeffrey Rush, King’s Speech

Will win: Christian Bale, The Fighter

Hands down Christian Bale. He completely overshadowed the movie and actually shifted the movie’s center of gravity from Mark Wahlberg to himself. Jeffrey Rush could sneak in if there is a stampede for King’s Speech.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Should win: Melissa Leo, The Fighter

Dark horse: Hailee Steinfield, True Grit

Will win: Melissa Leo, The Fighter

Melissa Leo is outstanding in her depiction of a domineering blue collar mother. Hailee Steinfield was overshadowed by two seasoned actors: Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. The Academy usually goes for the more seasoned performer.

Best Director

Should win: Social Network

Dark horse: The Fighter

Will win: King’s Speech

True Grit will lose since it does not have the Coen Brothers’ stamp of authority on it. It’s a toss-up between Social Network and King’s Speech, The Fighter staying a distant third. But, still, remember Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan lost to little-remembered Shakespeare in Love for the Best Movie, but he himself won. The Academy, sometimes, is like God: it acts in mysterious ways.

Best Original Screenplay

Should win: King’s Speech

Dark horse: Inception

Will win: King’s Speech

In this category, King’s Speech is peerless.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Should win: Winter’s Bone

Dark horse: 127 Hours

Will win: Social Network

Winter’s Bone has a poetic resonance and the words seem to travel with some poignant intensity. Social Network, will, however, win, as a consolation for being overlooked in higher categories. 127 Hours will again be unlucky.

Best Animated Feature

Should win: Toy Story 3

Dark horse: none

Will win: Toy Story 3

Period. End of story.

Best Foreign Language Film

Should win: Incendies (French-Canadian)

Dark horse: Biutiful (Mexico, Spain)

Will win: Incendies

Exotic mid-Eastern locales, strange accents, and lonely characters looking for redemption. Need we add more in favor of Incendies?

Cinematography

Should win: Inception

Dark horse: True Grit

Will win: Inception

Nothing even comes close. Inception is a mind-blowing visual experience.

Editing

Should win: Social Network

Dark horse: The Black Swan

Will win: King’s Speech

Mostly by tradition, the best picture always wins this category. The last one that didn’t was in 1980. Inception got robbed in this category.

Art Direction

Should win: Inception

Dark horse: King’s Speech

Will win: Alice in Wonderland

Costume

Should win: Alice in Wonderland

Dark horse: True Grit

Will win: King’s Speech

Original Score

Should win: 127 Hours

Dark horse: Inception

Will win: 127 Hours

Original Song

Should win: 127 Hours

Dark horse: Country Strong

Will win: 127 Hours

Sound Editing

Should win: Inception

Dark horse: Unstoppable

Will win: Inception

Visual Effects

Should win: Inception

Dark horse: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Will win: Inception

Best Documentary

Should win: Inside Job

Dark horse: Exit through the Gift Shop

Will win: Inside Job

The inside story of sub-prime mortgage and financial disaster. Who can let it pass?

Best Documentary: Short Subjects

Should win: Killing in the Name

Dark horse: Poster Girl

Will win: Killing in the Name

It’s a no-brainer. This documentary about Muslims and terrorism will win.

 
13 Comments

Posted by on February 21, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

Turk 182 Was Number 96!

Last night we posted a review of the 1985 classic Turk 182–our 96th review. We are almost at 100 folks. Also the rumors of my co-founder “DT” who went underground shortly after starting the sight resurfacing are true. She has will be providing a review by the end of the week. We at JPFmovies are very excited to the review and her return to the front lines of movie reviewing.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on February 17, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

Tags: , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: