Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Review: Last Kind Words (2012)

Title: Last Kind Words (2012)
Director: Kevin Barker
Cast: Brad Dourif, Spencer Daniels, Alexia Fast, Sarah Steele
Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 1 hour, 27 minutes
Synopsis: 17-year-old Eli has just moved with his family deep into the backwoods of Kentucky to work on the isolated farm of a local recluse. Inexplicably drawn into the strange forest that lies beyond the farm, Eli encounters the beautiful, sweet and mysterious Amanda, seemingly the perfect girl. But with the discovery of decaying bodies hanging from the trees, he realizes that the forest - and Amanda - are harboring some very dark secrets. Suddenly, Eli is living in a waking nightmare where the lines between life and death are scrawled in blood, and there is no escaping the terror from beyond the grave.

I ended up seeing this on a whim over Netflix. The synopsis leads you to believe that it will be some sort of horror movie. Even the posters lead you toward that conclusion. What you really get is a sprawling movie that can't decide what it really is. Is it a coming of age love story? Is it a backwoods yawn about a twisted family? Or is it the horror that the filmmakers promoted it as? The answer to all of these ends up being no. This isn't quite a love story nor is it a story about a twisted family. Overall, there is nothing in this film that I would use to define as part of the horror genre.

Last Kind Words suffers from too many plots and no commitment to any of them. Eli's family moves to a farm after his alcoholic, religious father loses his job at a factory. It's made clear that they have no where else to go. The father is abusive and his mother is a skittish woman who runs from conflict. Yet, there really isn't much time devoted to exploring the family at all. Aside from a few fleeting encounters with them, most of Eli's time is spent in the woods.

He's drawn to the mysterious Amanda who he meets on the farm. We're not really given much backstory on her until much later in the film. While we wait to find out what her story is, we have his parents and, Waylon,
the reclusive friend who owns the farm. It's clear that the two elder men have a history. They seem uneasy around each other, but are obviously still friendly enough that Waylon would give the father a job on the farm. In the midst of this, there's Katie, Eli's friend, who shows up wanting to run away from her own family. We aren't really given a chance to connect with any of these characters. The majority of them could easily be discarded.

A slow pace doesn't help this lack of commitment to any of the possibilities for the plot. Despite warnings to stay out of the woods and away from Amanda, Eli continues to venture into the very places he was told to stay away from. Who is this girl? Why is she lurking alone in the woods? By the time the reasons were revealed, I found myself more confused than I'd been from the start. There were simply too many things
going on and little resolution. Alexia Faust did well as Amanda. The role wasn't very difficult for most of the film. The tasks of walking around in the woods while looking pretty and sad aren't too difficult for most girls her age. Some of you might remember her from Supernatural (season 7, episode 13) where she played Dean's daughter, Emma.

The resolution of the film left me feeling even more confused. Certain decisions were made that seemed a bit iffy. All in all, there were too many questions that didn't get answered fully. The slave's story was never really given in any depth. It was merely used to tie up a possible loose end. The boy and his father in the opening sequence were pushed aside in a similar fashion. I can't set aside the issues in this one. I could see where the filmmakers wanted to go...and they simply didn't make it there. Watch it for the scenery. Don't expect too much from the plot.

Rating: 1.5/5

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

"Coffee Shop" by B.A.P
Every time B.A.P promotes a slow song, I never really like it. The combination of concept and just the song never works out for me and feels odd for something like that coming from these boys, but this song is just right. It's calming, mature, and properly fits the group. It's not cutesy nor overly romantic visually. It's just right and doesn't clash with group's overall concept.

"Baaam" by Dynamic Duo feat. Muzie (UV)
Sometimes I wonder why I've ignored this legendary duo all this time. This video definitely brought them back to my attention and I love it. I just really love this R&B sound mixed with rap. It's slick, mature, fun, and entertaining. It matches this whole classic slick sound that Justin Timberlake and Pharrell resurrected back into pop in the U.S. I love the sleek, dark, and sensual visuals that match both the sound of the music and the vocal delivery. Lastly, the autotune for once does not take away from the flow.

"Torture" by Picture Me Broken
I know this isn't that new, but I just recently got into this band and it's always great finding good female rock vocals. I like the concept of this video. It's simple, but interesting enough to follow along with the story. The song is really powerful. I love the bass and piano in this song and great emotion filled vocals to bring the music to life.

"Call Me" by Untouchable feat. Andrew Choi
They're back! They're back! They're baaack! I'm so happy~ Can't you tell? I love these two men and it's great to see something new from them. You would think I wouldn't enjoy such a slow song, but it works for them and reminds me of a couple other slower songs I enjoy by these two. I like the simplistic, sweet concept with the rotating camera, text visuals, and scene transitions to progress the story along. Really hoping this means a new mini-album or full length album to come. *crosses fingers*

"We Are Bulletproof Pt. 2" by BTS
I know this is just a simple choreography centric video, but they're on point and these rookies have some serious talent. Not only is their dancing in sync, but they're very impressive in the lyric delivery, both singing and rapping. The visuals are a little questionable like the blinged out props and gun imagery, but it goes with the appearance of the boys. Cliche as it is, it's not really shoved in your face too much that causes appropriation irritation. I'm looking forward to more by this group and I hope they don't lose their hard sound or go stale with repetitive maneuvers like their predecessors.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Review: Evil Dead (2013)

Title: Evil Dead (2013)
Director: Fede Alvarez
Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore
Rating: R
Running Time: 91 minutes
Synopsis: Five friends head to a remote cabin, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods. The evil presence possesses them until only one is left to fight for survival.

Going into this movie, I knew that reviews were mixed. There were people who loved it and others who saw it as a complete bastardization of the source material. Whether you care to admit it or not, the original Evil Dead was the highlight of Sam Raimi's horror career. Even with Raimi and the original's star, Bruce Campbell, backing the new film, there was still a huge amount of fans asking why a remake or 'reboot' was even necessary. I have to admit that I was one of those people. I decided to ultimately set the original aside and watch this new version as if I'd never seen it's predecessor.

I'm going to try my best to keep this review spoiler free. I'd rather not ruin it for anyone who may wish to give it a chance. Almost instantly, I was questioning where the film was trying to go. The quick opening
scenes are meant to set the viewer up with a bit of backstory. All it really does is explain why the cabin has an odd smell. Even then, you're left with quite a few questions about the reasonings for why certain things were left where they were. It's not unusual for horror movies to leave massive plot holes that never really get resolved. I completely understand that part. After all, there are very few intelligent horror films with entirely well scripted plots.

I think that's one of the biggest downfalls of this film. The script was written by Fede Alvarez (the director) and Rodo Sayagues with Diablo Cody giving it a rewrite. In that process, the script glosses over a lot of things that should be important. Who are these characters? Why are we supposed to care about them? Why should we invest our time in rooting for these characters to fight and survive? Some readers might disagree with me on this. I, personally, want to connect with at least one of these people. I want to be able to really care about one of them and scream at the screen for them to run faster or fight harder. That's one of the biggest draws of the horror genre aside from being frightened by the things that I'm seeing on the screen.

The Evil Dead remake/reboot failed to deliver on any scares. There were scenes were I found myself looking away, but that was due to the sheer level of gore this movie contains. Gore does not equal scares. Where the Saw series opened up a new level of gore, at least with those movies you had the underlying drama of what Jigsaw believed in and how he converted people to his belief system. In Evil Dead, there's nothing to justify
the amount of gore. The director even commented on the sheer volume of fake blood that was used in making the film. If I remember correctly, it was something like 70,000 gallons of the stuff. There was also a claim that there was no CGI in the movie. I won't get into that debate, but some of the film did appear to have CGI laced moments.

I can't find any real redeeming qualities about the movie. The character development is so lacking that even the brief mentions of backstory aren't enough to add anything. This can't be blamed entirely on the actors. They simply work with what they're given. Even amazing acting can't make up for a lacking script. Jane Levy
(Mia) is a fairly decent actress for her age. Horror isn't her typical forte. Instead, she does comedy and teenage angst fairly well on Suburgatory. On the other hand, the male lead, Shiloh Fernandez (David) seemed very wooden to me. It shouldn't be surprising considering he was Peter in Red Riding Hood and auditioned to be Twilight's Edward Cullen.

Overall, I'd recommend waiting for this to hit your cable channels. Don't waste your money on rentals. If you're like me, you'll find yourself disappointed. It certainly wasn't 'The Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience' like they wanted you to believe. Those with weak stomachs should avoid it for the amount of gore. If you enjoy dismemberment, foul language and plot holes, make some popcorn and have fun!

Rating: 1/5

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Live: The Birthday Massacre

The Birthday Massacre
[2012.11.20] The Door in Dallas, TX
featuring: Creature Feature, Aesthetic Perfection, William Control, & The Birthday Massacre

Creature Feature

I didn’t know there was another band added to the line-up and it’s usually interesting to have these surprise openers. I’m not sure if they followed the tour throughout or just select cities. My friend and I, as well as a good group of people, were a little late to the event, so we missed about half of their set. The sound levels were definitely overwhelming from the entrance and eventually the levels improved throughout the evening. It did affect the performances to an extent, but I can push it aside for the most part in the review. Anyway, I immediately described this duo as kooky and even a low budget Candy Spooky Theater. The group consists of a singer who plays guitar and an energetic keyboardist using horror carnival elements with a tiny hint of electronic sounds. I wasn’t particularly fond of the vocals, but the music was somewhat catchy and what I could understand of the lyrics were amusing.

Aesthetic Perfection

I’m one of those people who check out bands beforehand and this practice started about 2006 when I first saw Dir en grey live. I remember looking up this electronic duo, but I couldn’t remember what they sounded like before their set. They had a few more fans than the previous band. They also used horror themes but more so lyrically than soundwise. The band consists of a vocalist and drummer. They displayed a little more experience than Creature Feature. I really liked them and I thought the vocalist was pretty cute. Apparently, this band is known for getting drunk on stage or at least drinking a lot while performing which was interesting, but they seemed fairly sober throughout their set. High energy, great crowd interaction, and loads of entertainment. They also sung a cover of “She Drives Me Crazy”, since it was some kind of bet they had with one of the members of The Birthday Massacre. By the end of their set, the band definitely gained a fan on my end. My friend enjoyed them as well. Here’s a rough setlist, in no particular order:
A Nice Place To Visit
The Devil's In The Details
She Drives Me Crazy
One and Only
Spit It Out
The Siren
Living the Wasted Life

William Control

Since I looked up this artist beforehand, I already had a bit of excitement and expectations from this artist. I was a little skeptical in the vocal department, but William Control delivered some impressive, alluring vocal talent and his musical companion was good too, although you hardly notice him in the darkness and fog. William made sure to interact and talk to the crowd every now and then, even if the song wasn’t high energy or uptempo. As I mentioned before, the stage was mostly dark and foggy to fit the tone of the artist, but there was a mixture of blue and red lighting switching in and out during the set. William is definitely a chain smoker too. I think he had at least 6-7 cigarettes. It made me worry about that lovely, dark voice of his. Later going to his band before this solo project, it is a completely different side of him sound wise. I don’t particularly like his band, so I will stick to William Control. Although, like Yomi’s vocals from Nightmare and Sendai Kamotsu, I was amazed by the vocal differences. Since I had some sort of expectations from him, mostly song-wise, I was pleasantly satisfied to hear a couple songs that I really enjoy. I wouldn’t mind seeing him again and indulging in his seductive, subtle charisma. Here’s another setlist attempt, in no order:
All Due Restraint
I'm Only Human Sometimes
My Lady Dominate
Dorian Gray?
Kiss Me Judas
I Am Your Jesus
The Velvet Warms and Binds
Romance & Devotion
New World Order (A New Kind of Faith)
Beautiful Loser
Razors Edge

[2012.11.20] William Control - Lady Dominate

[2012.11.20] William Control - All Due Restraint

The Birthday Massacre

It’s obvious that this is the reason I came to this show, even though I’ve seen them twice before, but I really enjoy what the band gives to their audience. This was my first time seeing them in Dallas and the crowd was very pleasant and responsive. They had just the right amount of energy and respect that a live crowd should have. I remember this tall guy getting really emotional during their set, it was nice to see someone being able to see the band they love in person and even more being able to touch or interact with any of the members. Chiba was her usual adorable and chipper self. The rest of the band also displayed the energy that I’m used to experiencing and maybe even a little more to keep me coming for another show. They played a few songs from their new album, Hide and Seek. From their newer material, I enjoy The Birthday Massacre’s slower songs just as much as their more energetic songs. I enjoy the range that Chiba brings with her vocals, member interactions, and overall performance. She is just a fluid entertainer and can deliver a heartfelt sorrowful tune just as well as a vengeful love song. I hope this band continues on the great momentum they have created and keep bringing the passion to their fans through their music and live performances. Here’s a rough setlist, in no order:
In the Dark
Pins and Needles
Lovers End
Happy Birthday
Video Kid
Red Stars
Burn Away?
Leaving Tonight

[2012.11.20] The Birthday Massacre - Sleepwalking

[2012.11.20] The Birthday Massacre - Lovers End

[2012.11.20] The Birthday Massacre - Alibis

Monday, July 22, 2013

Quick Movie Reviews

Title: Day of the Dead (2008)
Starring: Mena Suvari, Nick Cannon, AnnaLynne McCord, Ving Rhames
Synopsis: When a small Colorado town is overrun by the flesh hungry dead a small group of survivors try to escape in a last ditch effort to stay alive.
Rating: 1/5

There are so many things wrong with this movie that I'm not sure where to start. It's probably one of the most poorly written and directed zombie movies out there. I don't mind the concepts of zombies being able to love or retaining memories/abilities. Those were all things that George A. Romero tried to add to his films. The biggest problem with this is lackluster performances from the actors. Aside from that, apparently getting bitten by a zombie turns you into full rotten corpse in seconds.

Title: The Odd Life of Timothy Green
Starring: Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, CJ Adams
Synopsis: A childless couple bury a box in their backyard, containing all of their wishes for an infant. Soon, a child is born, though Timothy Green is not all that he appears.
Rating: 2/5

This movie is cute, sad and sweet. Beneath the fantasy, it's about parenting in whatever form it comes in. However, this tends to be too sweet and sappy to really make any clear statement. Everything is simply too perfect even when it shouldn't be. This one might be better shoved in the Disney vault and forgotten. 

Title: Here Comes the Boom
Starring: Kevin James, Salma Hayek, Henry Winkler
Synopsis: A high school biology teacher looks to become a successful mixed-martial arts fighter in an effort to raise money to prevent extra-curricular activities from being axed at his cash-strapped school.
Rating: 2/5

Kevin James plays lazy schoolteacher, Scott Voss, who makes a sudden change in his attitude once the school's music program is cut. The biggest problem is in his choices on what to do in order to earn the money to save the program. Once you suspend belief that he can fight big muscular men, the jokes tend to fall flat leaving little to fall back on.

Title: Man of Steel (2013)
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Diane Lane
Synopsis: A young itinerant worker is forced to confront his secret extraterrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded by members of his race.
Rating: 2.5/5

Please check out Miko's full review here. My biggest problem with Man of Steel was how flat the story fell. Superman has always been one of my favorite superheroes. Henry Cavill fits the look of Superman quite well. There were just some big issues with the plot overall. As cute as Amy Adams is, her Lois Lane was very dull and out of place. I enjoyed the flashbacks far more than most of the present day scenes. I would have liked to see more of the interaction of child Clark with his parents and how he'd grown up.

Title: Warm Bodies
Starring: Nicolas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Analeigh Tipton
Synopsis: After R (a highly unusual zombie) saves Julie from an attack, the two form a relationship that sets in motion a sequence of events that might transform the entire lifeless world.
Rating: 3/5

I was surprised at how much I actually enjoyed this one. When the trailers first came out, I was guilty of expecting it to be Twilight for the zombie genre. Instead, it's more of a comedy with satiric moments. Getting into R's head was done in a decent way that gave insight into his world. It was certainly worth a watch. For a full review, check out the one Miko did over here.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Review: Stoker

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode
Directed by: Chan-wook Park
Language: English
Rating: R
Running Time: 99 minutes

I didn't know much about this movie when it was in limited release in theaters. Even coming into it, I only knew the director and not much of a plot. Something about it lured me toward it.

India Stoker recently lost her father and her mother Evelyn decides to invite Charles, India's uncle, to live with them. Uncle Charlie is a very charming character and manages to catch Evelyn's attention. India notices this and she is soon teased by her classmates about her mother and uncle's relationship, while Charles tries to develop a friendship with India. Eventually, India gets pulled into Charles' charming ways and a small tension is created in the house as well as a few twists here and there that alter their relationship.

I must admit that I agree with Eric of Pretty Much It that it felt like looking in on the characters rather than being involved. You don't get a chance to connect with any of the characters or the situation at hand, but that doesn't take away from the enjoyment of the movie. You do get to understand India's hesitation and sudden emotion. Even Evelyn's feelings isn't too out of place, but it is a bit roughly conveyed for me to completely understand her intentions. Luckily, there's not much focus on her and her relationship with India and Charles. That factor takes very little away from understanding and possibly advancing the overall story. The main focus is centered around India and Charles.

I also agree that the visuals are plentiful and appealing. Chan-wook Park is quite good at delivering in that area. They might seem a bit disjointed at times or take you out of the moment, but I believe the purpose was to pull us in the mind of India with small bursts to connect the audience with the character for just a minute. Lastly, I must admit that the opening and ending is very artistically shot, but with added dialogue is a bit puzzling of what the concrete conclusion may be.

Stoker is wonderfully shot and the relationship between India and Charles is intriguing. The dialogue and characters are a little hard to get into, but it doesn't take too much away from the enjoyment of the overall story. It takes some risk and feels like something new in the overwhelming flood of sequels, prequels, remakes, and adaptations that's filling the cinema lately.

Rating: 3/5

If there's something you want me to review, check out this post on how you can submit requests.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Quick Movie Reviews

Title: Friends with Benefits (2011)
Cast: Mila Kunis, Justin Timberlake, Patricia Clarkson, Woody Harrelson, Jenna Elfman
Synopsis: While trying to avoid the clichés of Hollywood romantic comedies, Dylan and Jamie soon discover however that adding the act of sex to their friendship does lead to complications.
Rating: 2.5/5

Like another movie that came out a few months earlier with a similarly cute brunette, Friends with Benefits tries to accomplish a charming view of sexual friendships. While some of the jokes seem overly done and the story is cliched, there are some redeeming factors about this film. Mila Kunis is as cute as ever as Jamie. The spotlight is stolen however by Patricia Clarkson as her mother and Woody Harrelson as Dylan's gay coworker. Take this one as something light to watch when you're looking for a romantic comedy.

Title: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Cast: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Jamie Campbell Bower
Synopsis: The infamous story of Benjamin Barker, a.k.a Sweeney Todd, who sets up a barber shop down in London which is the basis for a sinister partnership with his fellow tenant, Mrs. Lovett.
Rating: 3/5

Gothic, bloody and full of singing, Sweeney Todd is everything that a good Tim Burton movie should be. The casting is the usual Burton flair with Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter along with Alan Rickman and newcomer Jamie Campbell Bower. This is a film where all the actors shine in their roles. While not perfect by far, it's well directed and acted for those who enjoy gothic cinema.

Title: He's Just Not That Into You (2009)
Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Kevin Connolly, Scarlett Johansson, Bradly Cooper, Justin Long, Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Connelly, Drew Barrymoore, Ben Affleck
Synopsis: In Baltimore, five women and four men try to sort out the signals that the sexes exchange. Gigi imagines every man she meets is Mr. Right; she gets reality checks from Alex, a sweet but cynical saloon keeper. Janine and Ben seem solidly married until he chats with Anna in a market checkout line; meanwhile Anna is indifferent to the pursing Connor. Neil and Beth have been together seven years; she dumps him when she realizes he really and truly isn't going to marry her. Does he love her? And Mary sells advertising while searching online for a man. Will those in love stay in love? Will those searching figure out who is and who isn't into them? Are men all that different from women?
Rating: 2/5

This movie revolves around the principle that all relationships fall into a predetermined pattern. Men lie and manipulate. Women are needy and vulnerable. The only redeeming quality for me is Ginnifer Goodwin's endearing cuteness as she goes from one bad relationship to another. While I wouldn't change the channel if it was on, I wouldn't seek out watching this movie again either.

Title: The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
Cast: Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson, Miranda Richardson, Minnie Driver
Synopsis: Begins when an opera ghost terrorizes the cast and crew of the French Opera House while tutoring a chorus girl. He finally drives the lead soprano crazy so she and her friend leave. The girl is able to sing lead one night but the soprano doesn't want her show stolen so she comes back. The ghost demands they keep giving his protégé lead roles. Meanwhile, His pupil falls in love with the Vicomte de Chagny, but the Phantom is in love with Christine, his student. The Phantom is outraged by their love and kidnaps Christine to be his eternal bride. Will Raoul, the Vicomte, be able to stop this dastardly plan?
Rating: 3/5

For a classic piece of literature that was turned into an iconic stage musical, the film version of The Phantom of the Opera had a lot to live up to. While the vocals of the two lead actors didn't live up to the standards of the stage musical, the movie did have brilliant effects and a much wider budget for costuming to make up for it. I was instantly hooked from the scene where the chandelier is auctioned. The stunning move of light and life as the dust is blown away is simply breathtaking.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Review: Mother (Madeo)

Starring: Hye-ja Kim, Bin Won, Ku Jin
Directed by: Joon-ho Bong
Language: Korean
Rating: R
Running Time: 128 minutes

I kept seeing this DVD circulating in and out of the library and the cover intrigued me. It seems like it was directed by the same person who did The Host, since that's on the cover. I haven't seen it, but I might look into it one day.

Yoon Do-joon is intellectually disabled and because of this, and possibly guilt, his mother is very overprotective of him. She does everything to keep him happy and healthy, but Do-joon wants to be treated like an adult and often pushes her away for his friend, Jin-tae. Do-joon and Jin-tae usually get into some sort of trouble and Jin-tae tends to pick on him. One night, Do-joon follows a cute high school girl and starts hitting on her. She rejects him and he retreats, going back to sleep with his mother at home. The following day, Do-joon is suspected to murdering the high school girl, the police trick him into signing a confession, and his mother is determined to do anything to prove his innocence.

Judging by the cover, I thought this was going to be some sort of horror movie and the description could've easily led to that. Mother is actually a crime/mystery movie. While watching it, it reminded me of Akunin. They're both crime/mystery movies, are centered around a woman's death with similar backgrounds, and the main character and suspect has a social handicap for one reason or another. There's also the determined parent searching for answers.

I wasn't disappointed that my judgement of this movie was incorrect, I was quite intrigued by it. I probably liked it just as much as Akunin, even though I enjoyed the book more. The characters were interesting and I felt like I've never seen a story like this coming from South Korea. On a side note, both this movie and Akunin, to me, bring a social and moral question that we've sadly been dealing with in the real world which is "rape culture". Although neither movie has anything to with the subject, it does lead to some similar results in my opinion. I don't want to spoil anything, but the conflict does raise questions for both the characters and viewers.

Mother wasn't anything I would probably remember years from now with great detail, but it was a fairly good movie. Do-joon and his mother shared an interesting connection. The bond with Jin-tae brought a sense of loyalty and sympathy to some extent. There are a couple details that are open ended and the conclusion can vary from viewer to viewer. There are multiple possibilities. Even though it doesn't stand out much and I can't separate it from Akunin, I did enjoy it.

Rating: 3/5

If there's something you want me to review, check out this post on how you can submit requests.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Review: Yakuza Weapon

Title: Gokudô heiki (Yakuza Weapon)
Based off: Gokudô heiki by Ken Ishikawa
Synopsis: Ex-yakuza Shozo Iwaki (Tak Sakaguchi) engages in a titanic battle of revenge against double-crossing Kurawaki, the man who killed his father. After a building leveling skirmish, Shozo wakes up with an M61 Vulcan cannon in place of his right arm and a rocket launcher where his left leg used to be. Shozo quickly learns to love his weaponized frame, and prepares for a bloody rematch with Kurawaki, who has some mechanical improvements of his own.
Cast: Tak Sakaguchi, Jun Murakami, Mei Kurokawa, Shingo Tsurumi

To make a really long and complicated movie would have been a stretch for Tak Sakaguchi's directorial debut if this was in fact his debut. No, Sakaguchi has directed three films before this one. When I read that he'd only had twelve days to complete the filming, I began to feel that I should have been more gentle with this review. I've enjoyed his movies in the past. Versus, Azumi 1 and 2 as well as Death Trance and Shinobi: Heart Under Blade were all movies that I liked and actually own. Sadly, Yakuza Weapon won't be joining my collection anytime soon.

I'm not really sure if it was bad acting or simply a bad premise that brought this movie down. There were several moments of sheer confusion as you watch. This is perhaps a movie for men. Shozo is the strongest fighter, but he comes off as a loud, annoying guy. The other characters don't really draw any sympathy either with the exception of one. Nayoko, Shozo's fiance by arranged marriage, comes off just as loud and brash as he does. Upon our first meeting with her, she throws a boat at Shozo.

The one character that really had my sympathy was Sumire and her part was very small. Sister of Shozo's blood brother, Tetsu, Sumire is raped and murdered in front of her brother. Later, she's turned into a naked weapon to be used by her brother against Shozo. I suppose I was merely thinking too hard about a movie that shouldn't have been taken seriously, but I wanted to slap everyone involved with the project. Not only is her rape shown briefly on screen, she's turned into an object that is flung around and placed in sexual positions. Yes, yes. She's dead at this point, but come on!

The only other female character, Nayoko, is frequently kidnapped and dressed up as a schoolgirl. Her kidnapper makes sexual advances to her as much so as having a strap on with a pulsating dildo ready for her. No, I'm not a feminist. I just didn't find anything amusing about this film as much as my friend who bought it did. I suppose the big difference is our genders. The usual bodily function jokes were also involved.

Go into this movie with no expectations. You'll get lots of Tak Sakaguchi beating people up and firing weapons. From an intellectual standpoint, you may just come out wondering whether you've gotten a bit less intelligent after sitting through it. I doubt I'll give it a second chance.

Rating: 1/5

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Review: The Artist

Title: The Artist
Cast: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, Malcolm McDowell and many more.
Synopsis: Outside a movie premiere, enthusiastic fan Peppy Miller literally bumps into the swashbuckling hero of the silent film, George Valentin. The star reacts graciously and Peppy plants a kiss on his cheek as they are surrounded by photographers. The headlines demand: "Who's That Girl?" and Peppy is inspired to audition for a dancing bit-part at the studio. However as Peppy slowly rises through the industry, the introduction of talking-pictures turns Valentin's world upside-down.

When the modern film audience decides to go to a movie, they don't usually think of seeing a silent film. I decided to ask twenty four people if they'd ever seen a silent film. Their ages ranged from sixteen to fifty six to give a bit more variety. Out of the twenty four questioned, a meager three had seen a silent film. Some of their responses were comical. 'Had they not invented sound yet?' 'Was it a gimmick to make people watch?' 'We talk all the time. Wouldn't it naturally have had sound?' The black and white quality of the film also turned off the younger generation. This outlook only furthered my need to educate younger generations about the classical era of cinema.

I saw the Artist alone in an empty theater before the doors had even opened. I'd wanted it this way. You may be wondering why. I was afraid that the sounds of candy unwrapping, popcorn crunching and sodas slurping would detract from the film's impact. In a way, I was right. There were moments in the film where even a sigh would seem overwhelming. At other times, as the music swells, you find yourself bracing for an emotional moment.

You'll find no wild sex, no glaring visuals or intense action in this film. With that said, this is not a film for a hopeless romantic. There are no sparkling vampires or horny werewolves. The Artist is a movie about a man reaching his breaking point, only to battle his pride in an attempt to rise from the ashes. There are moments of love from the spark of attraction, to unwavering companionship and a dying love. The most intense of all is the love for one's craft. How far will a man go to retain what he loves and believes in at the turn of an era? What do you do when all the adoration falls away?

The cast, particularly lead actor Jean Dujardin, do an outstanding job in convincing you of their emotions without the words behind them. From a sly smirk or the simple swing of an arm, you find yourself understanding what the character is feeling. Even though it is a silent movie, there are moments where there are no caption clips at all. You simply have to infer on what the character is saying or thinking. It is in those moments where I found myself enjoying the film most. The animal actor, George Valentin's beloved costar and pet, nearly steals each scene that he's in. I do have to say that the dream sequence was by far my favorite part. Oh, another thing to watch for is the dancing. Yes, dancing. No, not the booty shaking that the younger generation enjoys so much. Old Hollywood was rather fond of elegant waltzing and tap dancing. It's something I miss in modern cinema.

Don't let the silence stop you from experiencing a nostalgic take on storytelling. The Artist will not leave you on the edge of your seat or gripping the armrest in suspense. It will leave you with a sense of longing for a time past.  If you allow me to influence one thing about your film experience, take a moment to set aside your preconceived notions and enjoy the Artist for what it is.  It's a breath of fresh air among all the stale remakes that Hollywood is constantly forcing down our throats.

Rating: 3/5

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Quick Anime Review

Antique Bakery (2008) | Rating: 3.5/5

This is more than some boy love story. It's more of a dramatic story that brings four very different men together in their appreciation for sweets and pastries and their bond with each other. There is a bit of boy love, but it is not the main focus. The series gives us a look at each characters struggle and growth in an entertaining, dramatic, and inspirational way.

Dance in the Vampire Bund (2010) | Rating: 3/5

I didn't know what to expect with this series, but by the end I did enjoy it overall. Princess Mina is a bit of an annoying character and can come off bitchy, but as the series progresses I understood why she behaved this way and exposed some vulnerabilities in her character. The relationship or slight love triangle is a little faulty and it skewed my view of the ending as either sweet or disappointing. The visuals are also interesting and quite slick.

Heart no Kuni no Alice: Wonderful Wonder World (2011) | Rating: 2.5/5

I was intrigued to watch this movie through cosplay and it's a shame how vague and disjointed the movie is presented to someone who has never played the games or read the manga. I could grasp a few ideas here and there, but I will check out the manga to further understand the characters and conflict. Aside from that, it's amusing and colorful. The characters are interesting and I really wish there were less gaps to fill to fully appreciate their design.

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai (2007) | Rating: 4.5/5

I started this series a couple years ago and finally finished it. If you didn't already know, this second installment is supposed to fill in the gaps of the mysterious violent acts among our main characters from the previous season. From where I picked up this year, I found this a little more mentally scarring or unsettling than the first. It's still an amazing and engaging story. Once again, you'll feel the need to find out what's going on and why everything is happening. Proceed with caution, this is no cutesy anime.

Junjou Romantica (2008) | Rating: 3/5

I heard of this series through a good friend and I'm always looking for entertaining shounen ai stories. This isn't the best, but it was indeed entertaining. There's one main plot/couple and then some smaller ones to bring something new to give you a little break, but doesn't deviate too far from the series' style or formula. One little annoyance I want to mention is the art style. It kinda bothered me that some of the characters looked too similar to other characters.

If there's something you want me to review, check out this post on how you can submit requests.