Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Broken Flowers not a broken film!

so i saw the new jarmusch film, 'broken flowers' the other night. what a great film! it stars bill murray as don johnston, a rich retired computer guy, who plays his part with deadpan aplomb. throughout the film, murray creates a character style he seems to be building at this point in his career, exhibiting a comic reserve as he did in 'lost in translation' and 'the life aquatic'. you can't help but like this murray; he just floats through the adventure jarmusch and johnston's friend winston (played excellently by jeffrey wright) create for him, not seeming to care much for going on his road trip, but doing it anyway.

the story revolves around a pink letter johnston finds in his pile of mail; in it, someone claims to have a 19 yr old son fathered by johnston. so he goes on a well-planned-by-winston road trip to visit his 4 lovers at that time, introducing us to laura (sharon stone) and her nabokov-inspired daughter lolita (alexis dziena); Dora (frances conroy, in a departure from her reserved role on six feet under); carmen (jessica lange), and penny (a very goth/motorcycle babe tilda swinton. what fun!).

this is jarmusch back in full-length feature film mode, a nice return after his intriguing coffee and cigarettes vignettes. this film is wacky, funny, crazy and most importantly, hip and cool, and i invite you all to see it.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

porco rosso

i've just watched a very delightful early hayao miyazaki film, 'porco rosso'. this film portrays the title character as half-pig, half-man, with all the emotions a full human being has. he's a bounty hunter who works with and against air pilots, and his character, as in all miyazaki animes, is fully developed. though he looks like a pig, he certainly doesn't act like one, and one can only imagine how he got this way. well, ok, you learn in the film, but i don't want to give it away.

as usual in miyazaki films, a strong young female heroine emerges, this one called zio. she's a plucky 17 year old plane designer who convinces porco to let her take the challenge of remaking his destroyed plane. of course you know this will work out perfectly, but that's the only thing that really isn't surprising about the film.

what is most surprising is the simplistic intricacy of the plot, of which as usual i won't give too much away. suffice it to say that a love story, well actually two love stories, exist, as does a showdown between porco and big name pilot expected to win. it's a battle to the finish that flows like the water on which it takes place, just as the 93 minutes of the film fly by.

this might not be as strong as 'spirited away' or 'howl's moving castle' (which i haven't seen yet. i refuse to see a dubbed version!), but you can really see how miyazaki herein is developing characters and personalizing his style, a style that only improves with each film he makes.

i highly recommend this film!

Friday, June 10, 2005

layer cake

so here i was, all excited to go see 'layer cake', having found the book of the same name interesting. plus i like british gangster/drug films. and, the author of the book, jj connolly, adapted the screenplay, and it's gotten good reviews, so i expected it to be very strong.

well, to say the least i was disappointed. while a decent adaptation, the movie is strung together a bit incoherently. jumps from groups of people to groups of people. i think that if i hadn't read the book, i would have surely been lost. maybe it was the acting too. the lead actor, the unnamed narrator, played by Daniel Craig, seemed a little stiff. the rest of the actors did a good job, i think.

but another problem were some plot changes that made the film a little cheesy. esp the ending. the narrator also manages to hook up with the girl he meets (tamar hassan). well ok, almost hooked up with. this was a big change from the novel to the book.

i think maybe 'layer cake' just shouldn't have been made a film. or else maybe i was looking too hard at it as a 'lock stock and two smoking barrels' which it definitely isn't, even if it is directed by that and 'snatch''s producer, matthew vaughn.

or maybe it's just that i've been in terrible pain for the last week and a half and couldn't appreciate it. i don't know. but i found myself a little bored in the middle of the film. not a good sign, eh? well maybe you'll go see it and find it as brilliant as some critics have. i hope you do. after all, it's not a total waste of time.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

layer cake

ok, i cannot wait for 'layer cake' to come out to the theatres. i've just read the book, and the film is adapted by the author. the book is incredible. sort of like a trainspotting without the accents, so it's easier to read. i really enjoyed it. the unnamed narrator is a kick, and many of the characters are total freaks that you end up loving. i don't really want to get into the intricacies of the book because i want you all to read it. but i will say, it is a strong effort from a first time author. ok so these last few posts have been boring. sorry. i'm not feeling well again!

ray

what the hell was all the hullabaloo about 'ray?', i ask. i don't get it. yet another film about a herion addicted, strung out musician who later gets it and quits. sure the music was interesting and jamie foxx's performance very strong, but the film is way too long when all it is doing is showing concert after concert. we see him womanize, shoot up, shake from lack of heroin, cheat on his wife, ignore his kids... haven't we seen this before? i guess we 'needed' a biopic about him because he is legendary. but this one. eh. i'd rather not have wasted a netflix and 2 hrs 32 mins.... nothing original exists in this film.

tarnation

so tarnation is a very strangely constructed documentary, offering barrages of images one minute and text-overs the next. the characters of course in real life are incredibly interesting, but there wasn't much i liked about the film. or rather, i might have liked the film had the crazy barrages of images not given me a massive migraine. didn't watch the whole thing, so i can't really give you any kind of recommendation -- except to stay away if you get migraines.....

Monday, May 09, 2005

hotel rwanda

'hotel rwanda' is a well done film about the genocide between the hutus and the tutsis, as far as historical drama goes. thing is, i saw the hbo film 'sometimes in april' which i thought did a better job, so i'm a little biased. in fact many of the scenes seemed shot for both films.

anyway, the story is rather emotionally manipulative; of course we are meant to feel for the 'cockroaches' that are the tutsis who are living at what once was the posh upscale european hotel run by don cheadle's character. it was well done for what it was, but i hate the way it ended; a happy uplifting tale about the lead character's family. what about all those who didn't have happy endings? isn't there a film for them out there? granted, it's based on real life and the main family did have a 'happy ending', but to end a film of despair and disgust with such a trite and hollywood ending? come on. dig a little deeper. maybe a film like this has to end on a bad note to make us think. now i just feel like, 'oh big deal about the genocide in rwanda, don cheadle made it out ok and didn't everyone look nice and clean in the hotel even without running water?' films like this really seem to bring out the pessimist in me. and yet i rather enjoyed the film until it ended. perhaps i need to write my own rwandan film. who knows?

Saturday, May 07, 2005

up and down

so last night, being a slow movie weekend box office wise, at least around here, we decided to check out the czech film, 'up and down'. oh what a bizarre film this is. i'm still not sure if i liked it or not; perhaps writing about it will help me decide.

many plots sort-of twist in this film (the shape of the narrative is very bizarre to say the least, jumping from one plot to another rather inadeptly) exist. first, we see a truck carrying a bunch of emigrants who want to escape to germany exit, leaving a baby behind. this becomes plot one. then all of a sudden, there's a switch to a family laughing it up at dinner; a few scenes later, the father, a uni prof, has a seizure and all of a sudden he has a tumour on his brain. he asks to see his wife (apparently he was not divorced from her and is only living with the mother of his daughter) and his estranged son, who lives in australia.

anyway, another plot concerns a couple who want a baby desperately (you can see the threads trying to knit together already); the wife goes out and tries to walk off with a baby carriage, she is that desperate. well, somehow, unbeknownst to us, they get hooked up with the people who want to sell the baby off the truck. so the wife buys the baby.

meanwhile, we learn that her husband cannot adopt a child because he has a criminal record from getting into fights after football matches with his hard-core teammates, all of whom are about as racist as you can get. in fact, the film exudes racism; the wife of the uni prof goes off about how her neighbourhood is run over with immigrants, worthless immigrants. and when the 'commander' of the football fan club sees the baby of fanta, the poor ex-con new dad, he is disgusted by its being black and deletes franta from his mobile phone. meanwhile, the mom and daughter team work for an anti-racism/help for immigrants society, but even they show signs of being racist.

all of this racism came out of nowhere in the film, which started out really enjoyably. the football watching scenes were especially brutal in their racist shouts. by the end of the film, all we could think was that prague certainly didn't seem to be a good place to go, particularly for me, who is slovakian. strangely, australia seemed to be racial heaven, with the son married to a black woman and with a mulatto son. who knew?

overall, i guess i liked the film for all its bizarrity. i do wonder, though, if the racism in the film was exemplary of prague and the czech republic, or just something to tie the many plot threads together. scary if it's the former. which, i dare say, is probably the truth.

Friday, May 06, 2005

ashes of time and days of being wild

being the wong kar wei fan that i am, i finally got a hold of two of his earlier works, the aforementioned ones in the title of this blog. overall, these are two strong films which show his progression into his later works such as 'chungking express' and 'in the mood for love'.

now, i must warn you: 'ashes of time,' if you don't pay strict attention to it, is very hard to follow. on first watching, tim and i declared it a piece of shit and complained that there was no plot, nothing to follow. i was dejected. here's one of my fav directors, whose only bad film is 'happy together' (BORING!). how could he have made another clunker? granted it was early in his career, but i just couldn't believe it. so i did an imdb search on the film and found many complaints of the same nature, each one urging me to rewatch and appreciate. so i did.

what's hard to follow about this film is that it isn't very linear, the characters for the most part have no names, and the violent/kung fu scenes are all stylized in slo mo and thus very repetitive. and yet, as i watched it, i found myself drawn into the plot. yes, there really is one! as the netflix blurb reports, 'the director lowers the volume on the action segments in favor of crafting a captivating and introspective character study.' well i would have to agree with that. the plot centers around swordsmen (and -women)-for-hire, with the narrator being the main speaker in a film that centers around their lost loves and lost lives. all realize their virtue is lost, and all wish to somehow retrieve it, knowing they cannot. 4 characters exist altogether, each one awash in sorrow and remorse. as i carefully watched the film, the 1 hr and 40 mins went by quickly. i definitely recommend this one, if you can pay attention well. it might take a couple of viewings, but it's definitely worth the trouble.

'days of being wild' is a more what i would call 'standard' wong film. it traces characters from relationship to relationship and seems a precursor to 'chungking' or 'fallen angels', although not quite stylized. here we see some of our favourite actors looking so young: leslie cheung, maggie cheung (oh wow, i almost didn't recognize her), andy lau, and carine lau. basically this is a story of leslie cheung's character, yuddie, manipulating both maggie's and carine's characters after he finds out his mom isn't his birth mom, and he goes on a search for her. jackey cheung is along for the ride as a contestor for carine lau's love. while not super-stellar, this is another good effort by wong, showing his move up in his directing abilities.

if you are a wong kar wei fan, believe me, you need to see these two...