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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Oldboy

Open Grave (2014)

First reviewed movie of 2014, and what a bummer it is.

A man (Sharlto Copley) wakes up, after what seemed to be quite the slumber party, in a pit full of mutilated corpses. He has no idea how he got there, who he is, or what he has done, all that he does know is that where he’s at right now is not good and he needs to get out as soon as possible. Eventually, he does and he begins to walk around the wilderness when he spots a deserted cabin in the middle of it all. Inside this cabin, he stumbles upon five other people who have the same problem he has: No memory of who they were, are, or how they even got here in the first place. But to make matters worse for this guy is the fact that he was found at the top of this grave, meaning that he looks a tad bit more suspicious than these others who just woke up and found themselves inside this cabin. Though they definitely are curious about all of each other, the group decides to set-out and figure out where the hell it is that they are and how they can escape, all in one piece mind you. However, strange things begin to happen and sooner than later, people start getting knocked-off one by one, just as soon as they begin to remember things about their previous-lives. Also, there’s a calender located inside the cabin that has the 15th of the month circled. Why is that? Be ready to find out!

"This is to all of those haters who preferred the original Oldboy to the remake!!"

“This is to all of those haters who preferred the original Oldboy to the remake!!”

This not one of those times.

The first 20 minutes of this movie were pretty good because of the way it stuck itself to the former. We literally see this dude wake up, have no clue what happened, find a group of people who are just as clueless as he is, find themselves in a situation, and do the best they can with trying to get out of the said situation, while also trying to remember things about their past-life. It’s interesting to watch, because you could think of all the possibilities of what could happen and why, and director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego definitely seems just as interested as we are with the rest of the movie. But, once we get a couple or so flashbacks inside the mind of these characters, then it all comes pretty clear that not only do we have any clue where this story could go or end up, but neither does Lopez-Gallego himself.

With a movie like this, it’s okay to be as vague and as confusing as you want, but it has to be done in a way that makes you, the viewer, feel like it’s working to something that’s not only going to completely and utterly blow your mind, but change the way you thought about the film prior to this point-in-time. That never happens here and that’s a huge problem because most of these movies bank on that huge, surprise twist at the end that shakes things up. Without giving too much away, there are some brief moments where we see characters start to have their brains racked-over memories they had that could either lead them to understand why they are where they are, or what their relationships were with the others around them. In some rare cases in this movie, this leads to some interesting directions that I didn’t quite see coming right off the bat, but once the first-hour is finally over and said with, the movie’s practically thrown all of those possibilities and ambitions to the side.

Just as soon as the hour-mark passes by, we are then thrown into a “suspense-thriller” that not only has the slightest idea of where it’s going to end-up, but doesn’t care about logic at all. Instead, the movie seems like it’s just throwing one ludicrous idea, one-after-another, almost to the point of where the movie just lost my interest because it just seemed to be pointless. This also substitutes any chance of character-development the first two-halves may have been working with and rather, we’re just left sitting and watching a bunch of characters we don’t feel diddly-squat towards, as they try and figure out who’s bad, who’s good, why they are here, how they can get the heck out of this situation and where the end in sight may be. And even when characters begin to get knocked-off, one by one (as they predictably do in faux-horror flicks like this), there’s no emotional-attachment whatsoever and it just feels more like a good riddance, rather than a piece of us being lost.

Why can't condos be in the middle of the woods?

Why can’t condos be in the middle of the woods?

Because don’t we all just long for a sincere, heartfelt human-connection with anybody? Even characters from a B-grade thriller? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me and my neediness after all!

However, it’s not even like the performances themselves aren’t that good, it’s just that the movie doesn’t really give a lick about them. Sharlto Copley had a pretty stacked-2013 in which he played it so over-the-top in movies like Elysium and Oldboy, you would wonder if he was even allowed in a single public library across the globe (if they still exist). But here, as the soon-to-be-named protagonist, he’s surprisingly effective at just down-playing his act and gives us a guy that you don’t know if you can trust, or even want to be around in a situation like this. Yet, there are brief-snippets of humanity that has this guy go a long while, even when it seems like he is at his most morally questionable. However, the best performance of this cast is Josie Ho as a mute gal known as “Brown Eyes” who, as you guessed it, is able to convey any emotion she may be feeling based solely through her eyes and body-motions. She’s the stand-out here, but considering that nobody else is really given much to do at all, it’s not really worth praising as much as it is noting, I guess. Oh well, she’s good! And I’ll just leave it at that!

Consensus: Starts off moody, interesting and chock-full of promise, but once the clues start to show and the possibilities seem overly-endless, then Open Grave begins to spill-out into nothing more than another typical, run-of-the-mill thriller with a few good moments and performances to be seen along the way.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

If you can get past the horrendous smell of rotting, mutilated corpses, it's actually pretty romantic. Dare I say it, titilating?

If you can get past the horrendous smell of rotting, mutilated corpses, it’s actually pretty romantic. Dare I say it, titillating?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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Oldboy (2013)

oldboyWe get it! IT’S HAMMER TIME!!

After he screws up with a major client, advertising executive Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) knows that there is only one way to ease the pain: By getting utterly and completely plastered. He does this, but after falling asleep in the streets, he somehow finds himself trapped inside of a cellar, disguised as a hotel room. Doucett is obviously bewildered as to what the hell is going on, why and who is doing this to him, but all of those thoughts get thrown to the side once he finds out, via the television in his room, that his wife was raped and murder, allegedly by him, leaving his three-year-old daughter an orphan. Doucett has know idea what the hell to do with his life, but after several attempts at trying to get out “the easy way” he decides that he wants to live and continue to train his mind, body, soul and hatch out a plan to escape. However, he wakes up one random day in a box out in the middle of nowhere, with only a phone, a couple thousands dollars and some clue as to where to go. From there, he’s told that he must find the man who did this to him, but also, find out why this happened to him. The results, as you may suspect, are utterly shocking.

Oh yeah, and a hammer does come into play at one point or another.

"And I thought being an Olsen sister made me messed-up in the head!"

“And I thought being an Olsen sister made me messed-up in the head!”

Everybody’s been awaiting this moment, and here it finally is: The American-made remake of the near-perfect, 2003 Park Chan-wook South Korean flick, and as you could expect, people will be furious. I was too, not just because there were actual ideas of a remake being talked about, but that they were actually being pursued and were even touched by the likes of Will Smith and Steven Spielberg. Yes, I know that they are two very talented guys in the business and would have done all that they could to make this piece of film work, but I highly doubt that their sensibilities (especially the former’s) would have done justice to the original tale. But time went on and once Spike Lee got attached to the flick, I felt like maybe, just maybe there’s something to see here; and lord, being a huge Spike Lee fan (of his movies, that is), I definitely went in with some happy and hopeful expectations. I expected it not to be as good as the original, but I still expected it to hold some weight on its own, considering that Lee is one of the most important, most original directors we’ve had the pleasure of being graced with in the past two decades.

And you know what? That’s pretty much what I got, except with some disappointment.

Most peeps are going to be pissed about this movie and already write it off as “useless”, “unneeded and just plain “stupid. And to be honest, none of those words of slander are wrong, nor are they right. They are simply just fans of the original’s mind-sets going in, but knowing that this isn’t going to be word-for-word, shot-for-shot exactly like that movie going in before-hand, definitely helps you know what to expect and where to be surprised by, as it sure as hell helped me out to get through this flick. Well that, and being a huge fan of Spike Lee’s directional-skills.

While there definitely isn’t the constant trademarks we usually see from Lee in this flick (with the exception of a near-two second infamous “dolly shot”), there’s still that dour, sad feel we usually get to see and feel from his movies. The original tale of Oldboy is not a very pretty one, and with every chance he gets, Lee never forgets to remind us of this. The violence is bloody, in-our-faces and definitely quick like it needed to be, however, it’s never gratuitous and gives us the impression that Lee wants to stick to his guns with the original, while also not letting-go of what made it such a fun time to begin with. And although he did screw-up the all-mighty, all-known “hammer sequence”, I’ll still give him a pass because he gives us an American-made remake that doesn’t feel like a cash-grab, and more of something along the lines where an original auteur wanted to try his hand at mainstream films once again. The results may not be as spectacular as they were with his last “big” flick, Inside Man, but they are still interesting nonetheless.

But that’s when the problems with this remake do begin to arise. Once Lee has to put his mind on the story, how it develops over time, why and whether or not it totally invests us in all that’s happening, it kinds of screws up and loses some tension. Granted, I’ve seen this story happen before, so obviously mind was a bit turned-off to some of the twists here and there that may be shocking to newcomers, but even then, when Lee decides to change the story up-around a bit, something still didn’t feel right. We get this whole new back-story as to why this is happening and the mystery in which our main characters go out to discover the truth, actually becomes something rather conventional and unexciting, which isn’t because I knew what was going to happen, it’s just because there was nothing really all that interesting surrounding it. It was just a bunch of people hiding, running around and looking for clues, but in all-too-serious matter, as if Holmes and Watson needed to be called to the scene, and pronto!

See, while the original wasn’t necessarily a comedy that made light of the situation that this dude was imprisoned, alienated, framed for murder and sent back out into the wild after all of these years, there were still moments where you could tell that the creator wasn’t taking himself too seriously, only when needed. And it worked, to great-effect because it gave us something that knew the type of audience it was going to please, and didn’t try to steer-away from them one bit. Here, it felt like Lee needed a dash, or hell, even a sprinkle of some lightness to go around, rather than just making this a very deep, dark and depressing affair, with barely any signs of hope or happiness involved. May sound like a weird complaint, I know, but some smudges of light would have went a real, REAL long way.

The cast Lee chose may not be the heaviest-hitters out there in the world today, and they sure as hell aren’t the household names the producers probably intended on originally having, but with whom they have, they made the best out of it, especially even in the smaller roles. But playing the biggest role of all is James Brolin as Joe Doucett, the type of despicable human-being you learn to hate in the first couple minutes, then begin to actually like as time slightly goes on. Brolin’s good at keeping Doucett’s heart and humanity well in place, but he can only go so far with that when all the guy wants is to get revenge on the man that ruined his life, while also trying to find his daughter. The rugged look and persona that Brolin has, does well for Doucett when he has to throw-down and get his hands a little bloody, however, I never quite felt as bad for this guy as I did for Hwang Jo-yoon’s portrayal in the first one. Some of that may have to do with the fact that Brolin’s character has barely any little-to-no personality once he gets out of captivity, or that he looks like he could take on anybody and anyone with his quarterback-shoulders, but overall, I just didn’t feel as attached to Doucett as I should have. I felt bad for him, but I was never rooting him on, which is a little weird for a revenge-thriller.

It's like The Rock's awesome tat, except it's permanent. I mean, so is The Rock's, but...aw, you get it!

It’s like The Rock’s awesome tat, except it’s permanent. I mean, so is The Rock’s, but…aw, you get it!

The one real improvement in terms of characters from the original is with Elizabeth Olsen as the young, sweet-natured, but damaged girl that falls for Doucett, just as soon as she meets him once he’s roaming around the free world. Olsen’s a good actress, so she definitely has that going for her, but also, the character feels a lot better-written this time around, making her more of a “person”, and less than just a “fantasy-image” that most older dudes seem to have for ladies half of their ages. Nope, she’s actually a sad, hurt and wounded bird, just looking for a nest to settle into and be sheltered by and she may have found that with Doucett. Michael Imperoli shows up as Chucky, Doucett’s old buddy from awhile ago and does a nice job portraying the type of guy that’d be there for his friend, even after all of these years has gone by, but begins to seem like a bit of an unbelievable dick, just as time goes on.

Last, but certainly not least though, we have Sharlto Copley as Adrian Pryce, the crazy Brit who has put Doucett through all of these problems to begin with, and only wants to prolong them some more. Copley’s a very interesting talent as he shows up in certain movies, and you can almost never pin-point down, exactly where the hell you’ve seen him from before and whether or not he’s played the same character twice. Basically, he’s the type of versatile actor modern-day flicks need nowadays, and he does a stellar job giving us the sick and twisted, but passionate individual Adrian Pryce. While the portrayal and development for Yoo Ji-tae’s character in the original was a bit better, Copley does all that he can with this character and gives us a menacing figure, that never feels like he isn’t capable of taking control, however he wants, at any given time. Same could be said for Samuel L. Jackson’s performance as one of Pryce’s most-trusted lackeys, Chaney, except that he definitely says “motherfucker” a lot more. Not than just Pryce, but more than anybody else in this flick. But then again, I think we’ve all come to expect that by now and we love it!

Consensus: No doubt in my mind is telling me that this Oldboy remake isn’t better than the original, however, my mind is also telling me that if you are at all interested with seeing how it turns out, given all of the talent involved, then you should definitely give it a go since it’s better than expected, with a couple of questionable choices here and there.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Thus it begins.

Fine. “It’s hammer time.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

La Femme Nikita (1990)

Skills needed to join the CIA? Must have a previous life devoted mainly to crime and drugs.

When her junkie friends are killed by a bunch of cops after a botched pharmacy heist, small, French gal Nikita (Anne Parillaud) decides to take a chomp of out of a cop, and then shoots him moments later. This obviously lands her in the slammer and is going to keep her there for quite some time, possibly even life. Well, that doesn’t happen as Nikita soon dies out of nowhere. Or, so that’s what the rest of the world thinks. The reality of the situation here actually is that Nikita has been thrown into a secret government agency program where she will be trained, nurtured, and taught how to be a working-force of wits, smarts, physicality, and personality. Over time, Nikita does begin to listen and learn, and somehow finds herself changed for the better. However, when she’s out in the real world where she has to make a new name, life, and living for herself, Nikita can’t quite grip what’s really going on. Add on the barbaric missions she has to complete, and you’ve got a very messed-up secret in your life; one that needs to be let out, or else you’ll one day just explode. Poor girl.

Remember the days when Luc Besson actually used to make fun, tense, quality thrillers? Yeah, me neither. Been quite some time, actually; however, there was a time when the dude was considered one of the best working-names in the biz and it showed in the 90’s with this, Leon: The Professional, and his craziest flick of all, The Fifth Element. Sure, there was plenty more, but those three were considered “The Crowned Jewels” of what Besson could do if he had just the right amount of money, so he could service his audience with just the right amount of gun-play, blood, and violence. And for that, I’m forever grateful. However, I still can’t get past the fact of how overrated I feel like this one is.

Yup, I already know a lot of people are going to gunning for the Comment Section after I just dropped that bomb, but people, please do bear with me here. I have my reasons, and understandable ones, too. Or at least I hope they are, I don’t know, you make the call and let me know.

"I'll teach you to blast your loud music, hobo across the street!"

“I’ll teach you to blast your loud music, hobo across the street!”

Anywho, what I liked about this flick from the beginning was it’s mood. First of all, Besson opens up this flick with a dimly-lit scene of a bunch of French punks robbing and gun-dueling a bunch of cops. Automatically, this starts off a hectic battle where bullets are exchanged, curse words are thrown out, and people begin to drop like flies. It’s fun, exciting, and a little bit scary. It had me expecting the best from Besson, in terms of his action-thriller mode, but then suddenly, something changed with this movie; something I was not expecting in the least bit, but surprisingly liked and thought it was a nice touch. After Nikita gets locked-up and publicly “killed”, she then is sent to ease her time and pain away on a project where she has to become one bad-ass bitch, that has to fight, kill, and smart her way through each and every mission they throw at her. Or at least get ready for the missions they will throw at her, because don’t forget: She is in-training and she has to gear-up for what’s in store for her once she walks out and gets ready to live the rest of her life, or what’s left of it anyway.

Doesn’t sound different at all, right? In fact, you could probably just call it a “rip-off” of Oldboy, despite Oldboy being released almost 17 years after this one, but that’s irrelevant, right? A rip-off is a rip-off, no matter how obvious or subtle, right?

Well, what’s so different about this movie’s approach to the way it handles its middle-half, is that Besson lays low on the action, blood, and dirty stuff, and just gives us a heartwarming, honest, and sometimes funny tale of a trashy girl who was always coked-up on her mind, and is now getting a chance to make a difference in this world, even if it just to kill other people, for reasons unknown. And this probably goes on for a whole hour or so, and it works. It actually really works, I’d say. Besson knows how to write interesting characters, give us reasons to care about them, and make it even easier to wonder when they’re all going to meet up again, and that’s where I feel like this movie was really in it’s zone. There were some tense, action-y moments here and there, in between all of the lovey-dovey stuff, but still worked and kept me watching.

And then, as saddened as I may be to say it, something bad happens to this movie. Not only does Besson lose a little grip on the pacing of his story, but he also loses all sense of what makes a story plausible, or hell, easy to understand. Without spoiling too much and giving it all away, after Nikita succeeds on a couple of jobs, she’s granted the opportunity to work her own mission, with her own crew, and by her own ways. So, in that case, rather than being a chick who does little missions, no matter how risky or easy, she now has become a total pro at it; so professional that she’s given her own assignment and chance to call of the shots. That’s fine and all, but it didn’t make much sense to me, especially considering how up-tight and legitimate this secret agency seemed to be.

But okay, whatever. That’s a little nit-picky I guess, at least the action was solid, right? Well, sort of yes and sort of no. “Yes”, because Besson can make any action sequence, whether it be involving a gun, a car, or just the normal, straight-up fist-a-cuffs, worth watching and thrilling; however, I have to say “no” as well, mainly due to the fact that it comes out nowhere, starts up, ends, comes out of nowhere again, starts up, ends, and then continues the same cycle for awhile, until the movie ends on a total whimper that made me wonder if the movie was over, or if my Crackle account was fucking up or something. Seriously, I sat there for a good 2 minutes wondering just when the rest of this movie was going to pop-up and be shown to me, but little did I know that 2 minutes was exactly how long the credits were. So basically, I just sat there staring at a blank-screen when all was said and done, and it left me feeling blue,

It's like college all over again. Except with more dudes lying on the floor ready for Round 2.

It’s like college all over again. Except less dudes lying on the floor ready for Round 2.

I get that a lot of people probably like the ending because it comes and it goes, in a not-so dramatic way that we’re not used to seeing with these loud, big-budget, insane action-thrillers, but this was almost too anti-climactic and sudden for it’s own good. It leaves so many questions just dangling in the air, which is usually a good thing for any movie, especially one where so much still hangs in the balance, but it sort of just pissed me off here. Liked the idea of ending the story on a more emotional note than I would have ever expected from the opening-sequence, but seriously, it just happened, and that was it. May not piss others off and if that’s the case, then so be it. I’m always glad to not follow the pack, even if it going to make me a tad bit unpopular amongst some.

Thankfully though, the saving grace to all of my anger was the leading performance from Anne Parillaud as the aptly-titled, Nikita. Parillaud wasn’t doing much for me in the beginning because she just seemed too punky and brash for her own good, but once she starts to wake up, smell the coffee, and realize that there are better things in life out there worth living and fighting for, then I began to see a softer side to her character, one that didn’t just come naturally. Through time, we see bits and pieces of who she really is, the sweet, soft, and innocent gal that wants love and happiness, come out and shine in ways that just made me smile along with her. The scene where she kicks some dude in the face, only to do a little shake-and-bake to a symphonic song? Yeah, that’s the crowning-achievement of her performance in this movie and it continued to get better and better as her story started to develop more, and as we learned more about who she really was, and the reasons why. I felt like they could have explored more of who she was from the past, rather than just the present and nothing but, but it’s a little nit-pick of mine, and I think I’ve had enough of them already, so I’ll let it slide.

But also, don’t get me wrong, Nikita is a pretty kick-ass character. I mean that in that literal and figurative sense as well. She does some nice booty-kicking to people who deserve it, and doesn’t shy-away from the real danger, when the going gets going. For that, I give more credit to Besson for actually writing us a female character in an action-movie and actually allowing her to be more bad-ass than most of the dudes. Well, with the exception of “The Cleaner”, played by Jean Reno, who is basically Leon, before Leon. He’s got the look, the talk, the style, and the mastery-skills of silencers, exactly like Leon, but he’s not. Still though, the guy’s just as bad-ass Nikita, if not more and shows us why he deserved his own, way better movie. Hey, what can I say? I’m a big Natalie Portman fan!

Consensus: Though it’s not the slam-bang, action-thriller some may expect coming from the mind of Luc Besson, La Femme Nikita is still a nice mix of drama, heart, and violence, but by the end, doesn’t work so well juggling all three elements, nor does it know how it end itself on a note that makes everybody happy.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"What did you say about platonic friendships between 12-year-olds and 40-year-olds being still considered creepy?!?!?"

“What did you say about platonic friendships between 12-year-olds and 40-year-olds being still considered creepy?!?!?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Stoker (2013)

Family is weird.

India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) is a young girl who suspects her mysterious uncle (Matthew Goode) is up to some sheisty-dealings after he comes to live with her emotionally unstable mother (Nicole Kidman) following the death of her father (Dermot Mulroney). But instead of feeling outrage or horror, this friendless girl becomes increasingly infatuated with him.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the main hype for this movie is surrounding the fact that this is South Korea’s Park Chan-wook (Oldboy), making his American feature-film debut and shows something to all of the other foreign directors that seemed to get thrown into the mix when they have to take crap material in the states. It seems to happen to every foreign-language director who makes a splash elsewhere, but Chan-wook is different. This is his film all the way through, and it’s usually for better, and for worse. Depending on the type of person you really are and what you like. Me, I’m still on the fence.

What makes this movie work is that it does have a very, very mysterious atmosphere and tone about it to where you have no idea what’s going, and exactly who’s behind all of these weird shenanigans that have been going on. From the get-go, it’s pretty obvious that not everything is as it seems to be, but that didn’t matter because it’s more deliberately-used, as Chan-wook allows his flick to build up more steam and tension as it goes along. For me, I always thought I knew where this story was going, how, and what they were going to reveal to me next, but that’s only because I’ve seen a shit-ton of movies. This movie actually surprised me when it was able to take leaps of death that I wasn’t in the least-bit expecting, and I have to give Chan-wook a bunch of credit for that, because it’s something that some of our finest, working-directors in America still don’t have the courage to pull-off just yet. Not saying that he’s better than anybody, just saying that the guy is able to show the brass balls he hides within. Or underneath his pants, physically too. Either way, the guy’s got guts.

"Ladies, I'm ready to fuck. Sort of."

“Ladies, I’m ready to fuck. Sort of.”

Chan-wook also does a great job in keeping this flick so damn interesting, and not just by the story; but by the visuals. Every shot in this movie feels like it could be paused, taken-out, and displayed on a coffee table in some shop or some person’s house, and have everybody who picks it up, staring and gazing at it for day’s on end. Chan-wook not only gives this flick a plethora of beautiful colors to keep your eyes on-screen, but shows us some nice, visual-treats that he takes out of his goodie-bag. Certain scenes loom really cool, other scenes, just look very artsy-fartsy. But regardless of what you may deem them as, you still cannot deny that this flick is always interesting and always intriguing to watch, and if not for the story, then to see what Chan-wook can have our eyes feast on next. Trust me, you’ll see.

But something just didn’t feel all that right with this movie and I think I have my finger on what it was: it’s tone. See, this is one of those flicks where everything is dramatic, everything is eerie, and everything and everybody feel like they’re just being loopy, just for the sake to move the story along. Now, I know this type of story-telling does very, very well in the foreign countries, but in the states, it feels weird. For instance, there’s a bunch of staring and awkward-grinning between a bunch of characters that could be deemed as creepy and horrific in some, other countries because there’s a certain “art-essence” to it, but here, in the states, it just feels over-the-top.

In most cases, I was able to drop this idea from my head and just focus on the story and whether or not it I was interested, but other times it just felt like it tried too hard. Whether or not Chan-wook meant for that to happen, or that’s just his way of filming, is all beyond me. But watching this flick, you’ll almost feel like it’s parody at points, where people are just giving each other looks that the Dramatic Squirrel has been doing for a whole decade. Okay, you’re right. I’m sorry for putting this movie and that celebrity in the same sentence. He really is THAT COOL.

Where this film really counts, is in it’s cast who all do fine-as-hell jobs with all of the weird-shite that they are given. And yes, that does mean a lot for this movie. Mia Wasikowska always shows up in a whole bunch of movies that I actually get the privilege to see, and so far, she’s never done anything to really impress me. Sure, she’s cute and she has the promise to be the next, Amy Adams-type of gal, but so far, I haven’t seen anything from her that really had me calling till the cows came home. She’s always come off as sort of bland and dull, and never seems like she wants to liven-up the material and allows everybody else to do otherwise. Her performance as India marks the change in my perception of this gal. I’m sorry, Mia. You have my respects.

"I spy, with my little eye, a copy of Burton's Alice in Wonderland."

“I spy, with my little eye, a copy of Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.”

Wasikowska is awesome as India because she has to do a lot of strange brooding and stares to enhance her character and the type of mood she sends off to the others around her, but that’s something she’s very good at. She feels like a natural at just being weird outcast, but also the look and feel of a gal you do not want to fuck with, especially if she has a sharpened-pencil in her hand. A lot of the scenes where she is just standing there, silent, and not saying much, still compelled me, because I always felt like there was more to this character than she was letting on and what would you know it: I was right! Wasikowska definitely stole the show in this movie for me, and hopefully won’t let me down with whatever she’s got piled-up next.

Matthew Goode is also amazing as her strange-o uncle, Charlie, who has never been mentioned or seen, until now. Goode is good (teehee) at playing-up the whole suave look and easy charm that all of the characters in his movies display so well and it adds another level of weirdness to a character, that we already know we can’t trust. He’s not the type of guy you want on your side, but you start to realize that maybe, just maybe, he isn’t as bad as they make him out to be. Just a bit fucked-up in the head. Whether or not you are able to go along with that aspect with that character is totally up to you, but I like how Chan-wook showed me more to a character that wasn’t just all about being odd, but sexy at the same time. Ladies, get ready to double-bag the panties for this one. You’re gonna need ‘em for Mr. Goode. Aw yeah.

The biggest disappointment of this whole movie is probably watching Nicole Kidman play second-fiddle to not just these characters, but this story as well. Don’t get me wrong, Kidman is good as India’s mom and chews a bit of scenery when she gets the chance to, but there isn’t much else to her and sort of comes of like a total bimbo, in the grander scheme of things. You never get the full feel or essence that she was ever a nice lady beforehand, and you never get it after the movie, so why the hell do we need Kidman in the first-place? I’ll tell ya why: she’s a big name, she’s a good actress, and she may attract some people to see it where names like “Goode” and “Wasikowska” won’t. Sorry, peeps. But it’s the hard-to-honest truth. Same goes to Jacki Weaver. Why the hell was she even here?

Consensus: Certain parts work and others parts don’t, but no matter what, Stoker is at least a fun, interesting, and always-vibrant English-language debut from Park Chan-wook who shows us that he definitely has some of getting used-to with the way we handle business in the states, but still isn’t a person I have to worry about lowering my expectations for any time soon.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Dramatic Squirrel ain't got shit on me."

“Dramatic Squirrel ain’t got shit on me.”

Red Hook Summer (2012)

Does this count as Sunday Mass?

Flik (Jules Brown) is 13-year-old, spoiled-brat who is forced to live with his grand-daddy (Clarke Peters) for a whole Summer. However, Flik isn’t doing exactly what he dreamed of this Summer when he’s with his Grandfather Enoch, who just so happens to be a pastor and trying to get Flik back in the eyes of God.

After giving us two, relatitvely-solid mainstream movies (Inside Man, Miracle at St. Anna), Spike Lee finally returns to his roots, in more ways than one. Firstly, he’s going back to indie-filmmaking which he seems to have abandoned for the longest time, and secondly, he’s back to filming in his native Brooklyn, where it just so happens that Mookie is still delivering pizza’s for Sal. However, cool your jets while you still can, people, because even though Mookie is in this flick and shows-up for about 3 minutes, this is nowhere near a Do the Right Thing sequel, or even a Do the Right Thing-caliber movie. Heck, it’s not even a Spike Lee-caliber movie, if we’re not including She Hate Me.

In the past, Lee has been attacked for being too self-indulgent with his material and not knowing how to separate style from substance, and in the past, I have stood-up for him and said, “nay”, to those attackers but here, he makes me look like a fool. The usual trademarks that we see with a Lee flick are here, however, there’s no driving-narrative to really help it out. Instead, there’s just a bunch of scenes where kids are being kids, and a crap-load of sermons about God. And for all of you people out there who were pissed about Michael Parks’ over-long sermon in Red State, don’t worry, it’s even worse here as I would say about 30 minutes of this flick is probably dedicated to these preaches about everything from God, technology, being black, being poor, being white, Obama, and so on and so forth.

No, just let them talk it out. Maybe, just maybe, the kid will become a better actor after.

No, just let them talk it out. Maybe, just maybe, the kid will become a better actor after.

As usual, the points that Lee bring are up are reasonable and very smart, considering that this is a guy who has a big brain and a very big mouth, but they aren’t done well-enough here to be considered in your mind. Instead, all of the smart views, points, general ideas Lee has in his head and tries to get out on-screen for all of us to see and get into our minds, just fall-flat on the ground as if somewhere after the 4-year hiatus from filmmaking Lee has taken, he lost his sense of telling an important issue, with an important story. In ways, this doesn’t really feel like a Lee flick because it’s almost as if the guy just lost his skill and if that is the case, then damn. It’s disappointing to see a filmmaker of these heights just get so high up there, in terms of knowing what he’s doing, how to do it, and master his craft, to just fall-apart right in front of our eyes. You can talk as much shite on Tarantino as much as you’d like to, Spike, but the fact is: he’s making better films than yo ass.

The film runs a very long 130 minutes (that actually feels twice as long) and for about the hour-and-45-minutes, I was bored stiff-less. However, the last 20 minutes or so of the flick came-around and automatically, I found myself alive and interested in what Lee was bringing to the table. Without giving too much away, there’s a curve-ball that Lee throws at us that shows us more about Enoch than we originally thought and really livens up the story and gives us a new-perspective on all that we see. Yeah, it could be viewed at as a cheap-way for Lee to make a conventional-story, seem less conventional and more thought-provoking, but at the same time, it didn’t matter to me because it kept my interest, almost all the way until the ending, and then everything fell apart once again. But hey, those 20 minutes still kept me watching and that’s a hell of a lot more than I can say about the rest of the flick.

Get back to work, Mook!

Get back to work, Mook!

Everything in this flick may suffer, big-time, but the only person who really gives it his all and actually comes out on-top is Clarke Peters as Da Good Bishop Enoch. There is a lot about this character that could be terribly annoying and terribly one-sided, as he spends almost half-of-the-film just constantly yelling and preaching to people about how they need to get “the big man” in their lives, but Peters shows more effort than that. Peters makes this guy seem very nice, very comforting, and like a relatively normal guy that just so happens to be so high-strung on the G-O-D, that is is a rather off-putting, to say the least. Still, once this twist by the end is actually shown to us and comes into our minds, Peters handles the material very-well and gives us a glimpse at a real man, with real problems, and real, deep, dark secrets that can come out at any time. Peters is definitely the flame that keeps this fire moving and without this dude, doing his own thing, the flick would have definitely been a lot worse and painful to watch.

The reason I say that, is because when the flick isn’t focusing on Peters and all of his sermons, it’s about the forming of love between the two kids in this movie, played by youngsters Toni Lysaith and Jlues Brown. Now, as much as I hate to get on kids’ case about how they can’t and handle the material that’s thrown at them, I still can’t get past the fact that in this movie, where half of the film/story revolves around them, Lee actually gave the “okay” on some of these final-cuts, because being a director that knows how to direct actors and give some of the best performances of their careers, this is almost an embarrassment  Seriously, these kids are drop-dead terrible and the stuff they say to each other not only doesn’t feel genuine, but seems like Lee has lost his touch and should have just stuck with Nate Parker and the gang of Bloods that he lead. To be honest, and I hate to say this, but his performance, his character, and his gang, would have probably been a lot more of an interesting story to focus on, and probably a better-road for Lee to go down considering the guy is one of the best at writing stories for them. However, when it comes to kids, I think he’s got to stay away, as dirty as that may sound.

Consensus: It’s great to see Spike Lee finally back in-front of and behind-the-camera, but Red Hook Summer is not the type of flick that I was imagining all that glee coming from. It’s long, poorly-scripted, boring, and to be honest, only good and worth a recommendation for the last 20 minutes where a phenomenal performance from Clarke Peters, gets better and better by each scene.

5/10=Rental!!

"Please God, don't let Oldboy be a bust."

“Please God, don’t let Oldboy be a bust.”

Crank (2006)

It’s what it would be like for Forrest if he took coke before his big run.

The film centers on a British hitman in Los Angeles named Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) who is poisoned and must keep his adrenaline flowing constantly in order to keep himself alive, and in so doing causes mayhem, gets into fights with other gangsters, has altercations with the police and takes numerous drugs.

Take the basic concept of ‘Speed’ mix it up with a little bit of ‘Oldboy’ and throw in some ‘Falling Down’ for good measure, and there you have Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor directorial debuts. Sounds crazy, which it is.

This action film is pretty cool considering it has a concept that is used well and isn’t taken seriously one bit. The humor here ranges from deadpan, to tongue-in-cheek, and then surprisingly to dark material as we see some innocent bystanders get thrown into the deaths for good measure. There were moments where I actually found myself laughing at this flick and what it was doing, and I think the film was doing that along with me. The dialogue is definitely a lot snappier and cooler than we come to expect from our average action flick so we are spared the bad dialogue and attempt at character development, and instead we get blood, gore, and lots and lots of violence.

The action in this flick also works mainly because of the direction from these two dudes, who give the film this style that is actually one of the first to use this kind. These guys use a bunch of crazy techniques like the shaky-cam, to four-way split screens, and then to some graphics and special effects that you would see in video games, which all may take awhile to get used to after awhile but keep this film’s energetic and frenetic pace moving at a quick speed. It was also great to actually Quiet Riot and NOFX on a movie soundtrack, so that’s definitely a plus.

My only problem with this flick is that I feel like they kind of dropped the ball sometimes on their own premise. It seems like half-way through that these guys sort of forgot that Chelios had to keep on moving at a rapid pace in order to stay alive because there were plenty moments here when he would actually tries to slow things down and talk to the bad guys. This happens a numerous amount of times and I also just felt like they could have definitely done more of him ass-kicking people as well. I mean yeah, we get to see him shoot people but we never actually get to see a fist-fight every once and awhile but then again, maybe that’s just me being weird expecting more from a film called ‘Crank’.

Jason Statham definitely made this film work with his whole performance as Chelios because he’s the perfect kind of action star that can make you laugh your ass off at, but the next second he could totally scare the shit out of you by how scary and serious he can be. Statham has to do a lot of crazy things here like snorting and injecting just about everything in sight, running around the city half-naked, and even boning his girl in front of all of these Chinese people, and he makes it all work because he never seems to take himself too seriously here. Statham is the perfect fit for this kind of role and it was also even cooler to hear that he did his own stunts, which is always a bonus for me.

Amy Smart is playing that woman-in-peril act as Chelios’s girlfriend, Eve, but she’s good in this role because she actually adds a lot of sexiness to her role and her and Statham actually a have a nice little chemistry that seems playful but also very sexxed up. I wish the villains were a lot badder but then again, I don’t think it much mattered considering all I wanted to do was see Statham run around like a wild banshee, and that is exactly what I got.

Consensus: Crank may have some slow parts here and there, but its still a fun, energetic, and not-so serious thrill ride that knows what it is and isn’t trying to be anything else. Also helps that you have Jason Statham in your lead role too but then again, that’s always a given.

7/10=Rental!!

I Saw the Devil (2011)

Never ever going to Korea now.

Secret agent Dae-hoon (Byung-hun Lee), discovers how far over the edge he will go in order to seek revenge after his fiancée is brutally slain by psychopathic serial killer Kyung-chul (Min-sik Choi). With the police baffled by Kyung-chul’s murders, Dae-hoon decides to capture the killer, but his own increasing violence makes him wonder who the monster really is.

Before I get into this review let me just tell you that even before you think about checking this film out because of its cool poster and plot-line, let me warn you that this flick is VICIOUS. And when I put all CAPS for a word you know that means business.

When it comes to watching on-screen violence, I think I can tough it out through a lot but there is always one film that comes around and just has me cringing every 5 seconds. I can’t remember the last time that happened to me before this one but regardless of how much of a pansy I may be, this film is downright ruthless. This film does not leave anything up to our imagination and shows people that have no problem for the pain that they are causing, hell, they actually gain pleasure from it. The film has these long extended sequences of total torture and each and every torture sequence basically one-ups the one that came before it.

The story itself starts off pretty straight-forward but it soon starts to get very twisty, edgy, and totally suspenseful where I had no idea what the hell was going to happen next and right when I thought I knew, I was proven wrong and I was glad to be. It’s not very often that you can get a flick that combines elements of a slasher, horror, revenge, and bad cop flick and keep us guessing until the last shot is off the screen. I guess America just blows when it comes to making any type of revenge flicks, or maybe it’s just that we don’t have a director like Ji-Woon Kim around here. I mean what this guy does with a plot that seems like it’s over in about 30 minutes, and stretch it to about 2 hours longer without ever losing steam, is a true showing of a great director and I hope that Hollywood doesn’t even try to touch this material because they are already trying to with ‘Oldboy’ and that obviously doesn’t seem to be working out.

The film may seem like just another torture porn/horror flick but what does separate it from others like ‘Hostel’ or ‘Saw’ is that it actually has a story that seems believable, with characters that seem real as if you could be walking side-by-side with them on the streets one day. The vigilante detective named Soo-hyun, played by Byung-Hun Lee, is a guy that means business right from the matter and seems so smart, so determined, and so effin’ cool that every time he’s on-screen you can’t help but think he’s going to kick ass either way. It also helps that the guys girl gets killed right away so right away we feel something for him even as he does keep on doing some more and more terrible shit to this one dude, but hey with a cool-ass leather jacket that he has and wears the whole entire film, you can’t help but root for him.

However, the villain named Kyung-chul, played by Min-Sik Choi, is the one character that we keep on remembering the most. This character is a whole new-form of evil that I don’t think I’ve seen much of often in films. The guy doesn’t care about who or even what he kills, he’ll kill for no reason other than just to do it, he is best-friends with a cannibal, and laughs in your face as he’s getting ready to hack off your limbs. Seriously, this guy is evil right in-front-of-our-eyes and the worst part about it is that he feels like a real person with all of the terrible things he does and just how his whole demeanor seems to be. It’s not until the end where we get to fully see this guy in his prime stage of evil as we almost see him come to terms with all of the terrible things he has done, until he gives us all a little speech about how much of an evil asshole he is and that he knows he is, and he doesn’t care what happens to him because he will still be laughing even when he’s rotting away in hell. Talk about a real evil dude that I just hope I never meet or see in my life.

What really sets this film apart from just being another “bad guy vs. good guy” flick is that by the end, we start to really question who actually is good and who actually is bad. We see how one another gets revenge on each other and at first it seems reasonable but once they keep on extending the pain and anguish, we start to really wonder when the line should be drawn. The message we get is pretty plain and clear by the end. The film is all about how even though revenge may seem reasonable at times, it can also serve even more vengeance which then brings up more and more evil within all of the heinous acts. It’s pretty blurry by the end of the flick who was actually the good guy and who was the bad, but what I can say is that even though we never get a full sense of who did the right thing, we still know that evil always comes back to bite ya in the ass no matter who you are.

Consensus: I Saw the Devil may be a little hard for most to watch but for others, this is an energetic, original, tension-filled, fun, and  perfectly-acted and directed Korean flick that does many things with such a simple premise that no American film has been able to do in the year of 2011.

9/10=Full Price!!

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