Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Hurloweeeeeeeeeen!

Firstly, a shout-out to my Brotha'z in the NH Hood. Within the rustic pines of Keene, New Hampshire there was recently held the annual Keene PumpkinFest. For more than a decade, Keene has been making and breaking the Guinness Book of World Records entry for "The Most Jack O' Lanterns In One Place." It all began, I believe, as the small city's attempt to build up tourism, stimulate local identity and economy and to give the children and families a sweet, wholesome holiday occasion to share in and savor for their lifetimes. Anyone who's ever attended the PumpkinFest has will likely never forget the New Englandy beauty of the occassion. The main street is closed off to auto traffic, bleacher-like shelves are erected all over town on every sidewalk and street corner, food vendors and performing artists peddle their wares in a carnival like setting, and the creativity of thousands of kids (and grownups, too) is proudly displayed for all to see as the carved pumpkins cover nearly every square foot of shelving for two or three square blocks. It's one of those timeless, classical events you typically associate with times gone by and scenes from Norman Rockwell paintings. And this occurs every year. And it's wonderful.

Unfortunately, the city of Boston chose to get into the act this year. One can debate the fairness of such a move -- having a major American city of close to one million people going up against such a small-town flavored event. It seems Beantown was only too happy to "go Wal-Mart" on us in it's attempt to take this year's record, and television news reports delighted in showing Boston companies proudly trucking in their pumpkins as if they were Bush's forces invading the Middle East. Like a bully making the rounds with a group of thugs in tow, the city took the record this year. I may live in the Boston area, but Keene is just as much my home as my neighborhood is... and I'm sorry but while I'm local to the Bay State, I've gotta side with my Neighbors From the North on this one. Besides, you damn well know that once New York gets wind of this they'll get into the act and next year we'll probably see something like a million Jack O'Lanterns lighting up Central Park like it was another Times Square... which would be kind of cool, come to think of it. But don't forget, People of the Cities: before it your record, it was ours...

And speaking of New Hampshire, those aforementioned Brotha'z of mine up there are enjoying a bit of success with a community television series called Saturday Fright Special. Hosted by the frightening (but exceedingly well-dressed) Scarewolf and produced by my fellow KSC alumni Isaac Kennell, Mark Nelson, Rick Trottier and Tim Hulsizer, the show is a throwback to the classic "movie shows" of our youths like USA's Night Flight, WLVI 56's Creature Double Feature with Dale Dorman and the Horror Host likes of Elvira and such. Scarewolf -- the knowledgable and film-savvy lycan draped in fashionable cape and top hat and rumored to be "possibly a bigfoot, possibly Episcopalian" -- presents public domain movies pepperred with old fashined PSA's, classic interstitials and animations. Anyone interested in catching the show can tune-in to Cheshire TV in New Hampshire or visit the show's official site and MySpace pages here...


As a fan of Japanese film, I just caught a matinee of the recently-released ghost story The Grudge 2. SPOILERS FOLLOW....

Directed by Takashi Shimizu, this film is (follow me, now...) a sequel to his remake of his original film (called Ju-On), which itself was a remake of his direct-to-video film back in Japan... So that makes it the second chapter in the third series of films regarding the now-legendary haunted house in a suburban Japanese neighborhood. I mention this because it's important to point out that after making six films covering pretty much the same ground, it might be time for Shimizu to change things up, a bit.

Last year's The Grudge featured Sarah Michelle Gellar as an American social worker in Japan who gets caught in the web of evil surrounding a mother ("Kayako") and child ("Toshi") who were brutally killed by their patriarch in their family home. The legends state that "if someone dies in a horrible rage, a curse is born that will consume all who encounter it." In this current chapter, Gellar's sister (played by Amber Tamblyn) arrives in Japan to find out what happened while a parallel narrative shows similar events unfolding in Chicago, USA.

The Grudge films are known for being told out-of-sequence and not everything is spelled out clearly for the audiences, so the films are a challenge to view and decipher, which is always welcome. The Grudge 2 is no different, though the filmmakers do attempt to inject an "origin" story into the narrative and outright explain a few things. The film also stars Hong Kong actor Edison Chan and American goddess Jennifer Beals.

On a technical level, I think the visual methods Shimuzu employed in shooting the film were perhaps wrongly chosen. The film features that "slightly drained of color tone" look that so many so-called suspense movies are shot in these days, and I much prefer the more clean and realistic cinematography used in homegrown Japanese films.

As far as the origin story, I have to agree that it's somewhat unnecessary. Your average Asian film fan might be more attuned to such open-to-interpretation storylines than the average teenaged moviegoer to whom these American incarnations are so tailored to. For the most part, it could be said that your typical "Joe Suburban" catching The Grudge 2 at the strip-mall cineplex might desire a little more understanding of how and why the curse might actually operate -- and one can see why the filmmakers put it in there, even though the additions actually sort of dispel a bit of the mystery surrounding it all. I thought it was most interesting that Kayako's mother even went so far as to state that what she did to her daughter during the exorcism rituals as a child had "nothing to do" with the exponentially-expanding curse -- as if director Shimuzu were trying to play both sides of the fence, adding exposition for the newbies while trying to retain the ambigiousness for the longtime fans.

And about the seeming intention to now "move" the Grudge, itself, to the United States (Chicago)... I think that's a mistake. Again, I much prefer the ending of the Japanese Ju-On 2 -- where the entire neighborhood of the Cursed House seems abandoned, hinting that eventually all of Japan were falling prey to the Evil and then slowly the rest of the planet -- as well as the apparent rebirth of the Evil Spirits within a newly born girl. I thought that ending was great and it really gets me psyched up for the final chapter in the Japanese Ju-On Trilogy, which is now in production. I'm not sure I feel the same wonderous expectation for a further chapter of the American Grudge Trilogy.

All that said, I thought Tamblyn did decently with what she was given to do, and Edison Chen was fine. The standouts by far, though, are Arielle Kebbel, who's victim role gets a bit much even though her character remains the most identifiable, and Jennifer Beals. (I soooo loved her in that little "goodbye" shot.) In fact, the best material in The Grudge 2 comes in its final 20 minutes, so if you're in the audience and beginning to tire of everyone's favorite long-haired and bleached-white ghosties, stick around and maybe you'll get something out of the film, as I did.

Overall, The Grudge 2 lacks the punch of it's homegrown counterparts. But it's still got a few tricks up its sleeve. I'd easily want to see more of this kind of old-school, haunted-house thriller than any more Texas Chainsaw or Freddy/Jason flicks. But here's hoping Shimizu-san remembers to really give the ghosts their due on any futher installments. They've been creeping around croaking and meowing long enough. Now let's see what they can reallllllllly do. :)

And with that (and the usual reviews below), have a safe and Happy Halloween! Mwooo hooo haaaaaaa!!

The Grudge 2 **1/2


The Maltese Falcon (1941) ****
Dragon Tiger Gate (Hong Kong) ***
Smallville: Season Five ***

Monday, October 23, 2006

"Into The Night"

Well, here we are again. Just a few weeks later than I'd hoped to be. Apologies, as always, for the delays in-between blog entries. The last few weeks have been nothing special, but never boring either. Some drama at work, of course, a New York City trip that went quite well, a movie here and there. Nothing super-spectacular, but a few notes to report on the daily grind of yours truly...

Sometimes on my days off from the video store, I get a little down about things. It's natural, I suppose, considering my still-burning desire to make movies and being trapped in a job that surrounds me with "great works of cinema" like My Brother, The Pig and Vampiyaz. On a recent bike ride through Boston, two little moments of sweetness occurred that I've been enjoying relating to people.

This particularly warm and pleasant night, I'd ended up over at the Kendall Square Cinema in Cambridge for a showing of a French, animated, sci-fi/detective film called Renaissance. (More on that film, another time.) On my ride home, I was pedalling down a back-access road behind MIT near some old freight train rails and caught an unusual sight: a real, honest to goodness circus train. The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Travelling Circus company was in town and I just happenned to be gliding by the place where the carnies were kicking off their oversized clown-shoes for the night. No animal cars, mind you. At least, not where I was biking. These were the "people cars." I thought I'd get a little closer for a better look, hoping to see something magical... The World's Fattest Man on his Stairmaster, maybe. Or the Bearded Lady trying to figure out which hair conditioner wouldn't be too harsh for her chin. That kind of thing. I didn't catch anything outlandish like that, though. A presumed Train Conductor was chatting on his cell phone and some others looked like they were cooking something. But, on my way off, I did catch one little vision.

There was a youthful looking man, probabaly in his late twenties but appearring a bit younger, trying on a top hat in a mirror. Seemingly checking his reflection for what might be the best angle, he moved the hat around and turned his head from left to right, sizing himself up. I imagined him to be some sort of assistant to the Ringmaster, perhaps. Or maybe a behind-the-scenes type, dreaming of his own big break, which I'd identified with immediately. Reconizing this presumed moment of spiritual synchronicity, I smiled to myself, wished the fella a silent "good luck" in my mind, and pedalled off again into the night by the Charles River and back again toward my own hopes and dreams.

Then, about half a mile away, a surprize of a different kind. At the foot of the BU (Boston University) Bridge between Cambridge and Commonwealth Avenue, I found myself approaching three Tough Guys. Shaven headed, muscle bound, goateed and pierced, they looked like they'd just walked out of Grand Theft Auto III and decided to hold court on my regular route home. "What was this to be?" I wondered. Would they notice me? Would they bust out an insult or two, relying on their size and safety in mumbers? Would one of them reach out and try to clothesline me, knocking me to the pavement while another tries to grab my usually-close-to-empty wallet? The night was going so well, after the Circus Train Moment, and now it could all just go straight down the tubes. They began waving their arms in what looked like a heated discussion and, given my experience with guys like this in the past, I immediately braced myself for trouble as I began to coast near them. And as I passed by, unnoticed, this is what I heard...

Thug #1: Nah. Nah way, man. He's too busy being fuckin' Governor, man.
Thug #2: Yeh, you know that.
Thug #3: I say we don't need no Terminator 4 anyways.

Here I am, ready for a beatdown, and these guys are just hanging out discussing Arnold Schwarzenegger's future film career...

Works for me. :)

This month's reviews...

The Departed ***1/2
Renaissance **1/2

Dashiell Hammett. Detective. Writer. (Documentary) ***
Brick ***
Re-Cycle (Thai/Hong Kong) ***
Jungle Fever (1991) ***
Clockers (1995) ***1/2
Black Rain (1989) ***
Black Dawn (2005) *** (for a Steven Seagal movie)
Mercenary For Justice (2006) **1/2 (for a Seagal movie)
Yamato (Japan) **1/2
You Shoot, I Shoot (Hong Kong) **
Blackjack (1998) **
Inspector Clouseau (1968) *1/2
Head Trauma (2006) **

Monday, September 18, 2006

"Everyone's A Critic."

It seems that the Gods must've read the recent blog entry about my hours at work because the powers that be (aka: the store manager) granted me my requested three consecutive days off. :) I used much of the time off to hang out in Boston with my aforementioned friends from New Hampshire and even stopped by the Somerville Theater in Davis Square for a couple of Chuck Norris 80's "classics" from the Cannon Pictures vaults (Silent Rage and Invasion U.S.A.) and a good time was had by all. So, in short, there's not much new to report this time around. Instead, here are a couple of reviews of some interesting Japanese films released in the USA by the great folks at Artsmagic DVD. Enjoy, and more later...

The Bird People in China
Artsmagic DVD
Anamorphic Widescreen
NTSC/Region Zero
Dolby Digital Sound; Japanese Audio/English Subtitles
Biographies/Filmographies, Original Theatrical Trailer
Japanese Theatrical Film Promotional Material (translated into English)
Lyrics of and Essay on "Annie Laurie" (traditional Scottish ballad)
Interview featuring Takashi Miike (director)

From the DVD Cover:
We journey with the Japanese Salaryman (an impressive Masahiro Motoki) and the debt-collecting Yakuza (the hilarious Renji Ishibashi) on a journey to investigate a jade mine, which turns into a search for the Bird People but ultimately becomes a voyage of discovery to the core values of modern man.

Perhaps the most critically respected film of Takashi Miike's wildly varied career, The Bird People In China is a funny, nostalgic and emotionally deep antidote to the "man against nature" themes put to use in so many other films of the time. Motoki and Ishibashi shine as the two city men thrust into the Chinese countryside who's rough relationship is the film's center. The always-welcome work of the wonderful character actor Mako brings a good-natured smile to the viewer with every scene.

The commentary track (feature length) and Takashi Miike Interview (17 minutes) cover everything from the actual genesis of the film and it's production (including how everything was -- quite unusually -- paid for in cash), the casting and location processes, and what the success of the film has meant to Miike both personally and in terms of his career. Also included are trailers for the Black Society Trilogy films directed by Takashi Miike and a look at the Scottish folk song "Annie Laurie," which features prominently in the film's narrative.

Featuring the work of the writer of the Young Thugs films and the cinematographer of Takeshi Kitano's Fireworks and Boiling Point, Miike's film and its message about getting one's self "back to basics" has an emotional resonance that many will find uplifting and worth thinking over. And, perhaps most significantly, The Bird People in China will show the uninitiated that Miike is not just a gross-out-noir filmmaker but an insightful artist, as well.

An Obsession
Artsmagic DVD
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
NTSC/Region One
Dolby Digital Sound; Japanese Audio/English Subtitles
Commentary Track featuring author Jasper Sharp
Interview featuring Shinji Aoyama (director)

From the DVD cover:
As in Akira Kurosawa's Stray Dog, "filmmaker Shinji Aoyama weaves his plot around a Detective (Ryo Ishibashi) whose stolen gun is used for murder, but from there on in the two works part company. In Aoyama's world, onsession is the common condition of man, and for his purposes here it takes the form of a workaholic detective and a homicidal leukemia patient (Kazuma Suzuki). Each is driven down the road to destruction, a path on which Aoyama explores the dark night of the human soul. Along the way, Saga is forced to endure the rewards of his own dehumanized behavior."

An Obsession (and likewise, the Korean film The Missing Gun, with which it shares some similarities) offers an alternate take on the aformentioned work of cinema master Akira Kurosawa. While the film does try to travel different ground than the classic Stray Dog, it unfortunately doesn't really go anywhere new. Shinji Aoyama has been referred to as having a style that's occassionally too clinical and distant and that style is displayed again, here. On the plus side, though, the film is quite a bit more involving than his previous EM: Embalming, due to the work of the lovely Eiko Nagashima as the Detective's Wife (adding a bit of emotional warmth)... and lest we forget, the comical, unexplained, recurring appearances of a mysterious Squad of Men in haz-mat suits. An Obsession also features very good work by Ryo Ishibashi as one of Aoyama's strongest lead characters yet and it is his work as the obsessed detective that makes the film worth seeking out.

Jasper Sharp of the website The Midnight Eye contributes a lively and humorous commentary and, along with the Aoyama interview, discusses the director's career, the links between the film and Kurosawa's acknowledged masterpiece, the terrorist gas attacks on the Japanese subway system from years ago, Jean Luc Godard, Shakespeare's Hamlet and illuminates how An Obsession could never really be described as "a date film."

More on these films can be found at www.artsmagicdvd.com

This week's star-reviews:

Silent Rage *
Invasion U.S.A. **1/2

Get On The Bus **1/2
Summer Of Sam ***
The 25th Hour ***1/2
The Pope Of Greenwich Village **1/2
Cop ***
Cache (France) ***

Video Games
Yakuza (PS2) ***1/2

Friday, September 08, 2006

"Did I miss anything?"

Firstly, apologies for the delay in bloggination. I'd originally planned to update this little baby every week or so but as someone once said, "Sometimes, life gets in the way." And sometimes it's work specifically. Being the manager-type at your city's only enjoyed major corporate videostore has it's share of tiny little perks... but one of them certainly wouldn't seem to be the hours.

If you're primarily a second-shift employee, you sort of have to expect to give up certain freedoms in your life. You have to give up your days to sleep, you can't hang out with many of your friends who work more regular, desirable (and respected, it seems) nine-to-five gigs... and finding that special someone to share a romantic relationship with is difficult at best (though I'm out there, trying). And on top of that, to not be able to enjoy the relaxation of two days off in a row (such as weekends)... How can one find the time and energy to blog? (No, this is not me pictured here. I may be funny looking, but I'm hotter than this.)

Yes, it beats being unemployed and yes, I'm happy to have a job that requires no commute as I'm a five-minute-tops walk from the shop. But, like many, I dream of something more. Something better. This blog is an attempt to keep me on track and I'm going to try and work at it more effectively and more regularly than I have this past month. That's my promise to you, the reader. And to myself, the whiner. ;)


For the last two years or so, I've been taking single-day and two-day trips to New York City every sixty days or so. NYC and I have a bit of a history, you see. Years ago, after having decided to become a filmmaker and winning a couple of awards for some of my video work in high school, I applied to the undergraduate Tisch Film Program at New York University -- "the Harvard of film schools." This was quite an undertaking for a lunch-ticket, state-assistance kid from the woods of Massachusetts but I took my shot. And to my astonishment, I was accepted. This was probably the highest point of my creative life, the equivilent of a Minor League Pitcher getting his chance at the Majors, and getting the call to NYU -- a school where film giants like Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee regularly act as instructors -- this was a dream come true. My mom and I were called to the school for a "financial aid counseling meeting" as we had no real assets and had tapped out all the available scholorships and grants that we could get our hands on. My mom got all dressed-to-impress -- so proud she was of her loving son -- we bought two Peter Pan bus tickets out of Providence, Rhode Island and embarked upon the four hour trip to the Big City to see what riches life held in wait for us and our collective futures. Cut to: Interior, NYU Offices, Day...

After about fifteen minutes, the Financial Aid Counselor looked us in the eyes and said "I'm sorry, but I just don't see any way that you can afford to attend NYU." You see, even with every resource tapped and every penny squeezed, we would still be an estimated seven thousand dollars short for tuition and room/board per year. Heartbroken and beaten, my mother and I left the Financial Aid office and shared the saddest lunch I think I've ever experienced. "Should we stay the day and see the city?" my mom asked, only having been to New York once herself a decade or so before. I saw little point in it. Why show a starving man a buffet and not let him touch a morsel of food? I asked if we could just catch the next bus home. She tearfully agreed, and we did so.

Of course, this all worked out in various ways as the years have passed. Had I been accepted to NYU I never would have attended Keene State College in beautiful Keene, New Hampshire and made several of the greatest friends a guy could ask for. But this in a nutshell was my tale of a New York Dream that never happenned. And this, largely, is what has led to my desire to learn the streets of Manhattan and a little of Brooklyn. Call it righting a wrong. Call it curiosity. Call it what you will. My recent trips to NY have been great experiences all across the board. Spotting movie locales, visiting museums and libraries, seeing sights, I've become a huge fan of the ol' Big Apple. Now that I've learned my way around -- from Battery Park up to the mid 80's, anyway -- I feel at one with New York. They say "if you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere." Having been there a few times now, we'll see soon enough how true that is.

My most recent trip to New York City was a bit of a washout, both literally and figuratively, due to a 48-hour rain soaking of the East Coast at the hands of Mother Nature. The day's damp coolness certainly beat the 110-degree-with-the-heat-index sunshine of my last visit in late June. This was a trip with a purpose, though, as my primary goal was to search for the offices of a certain literary agency that I'd read was looking for new, undiscovered screenwritng talent. I'd read about them (who shall go unnamed, for now) in a monthly writer's magazine and they sounded, to me, to be a decent outfit to examine. I have an issue though, careful as I am, with dealing with people I've never met, so I decided to have a look for the offices in question to see what the place was like. It's a comfortable office in a nice area and the gentleman at the front desk was kind enough to let me know that what I'd read was true, that they were seeking new writers to represent and that I should send along the standard query letter of introduction and such, should I desire to. "Thanks," I said. "I believe I'll do that." And so I will. More on this, as it develops. :)

Well, that's about enough "Dear Diary" for me for one afternoon. Must be at work in less than an hour (see above). On a non-related note, please look below at what sounds to be a great occassion here in Boston that I hope to attend next week. It's called FILMS AT THE GATE. Lamenting that there are no more Chinese cinemas in Boston's Chinatown district, local businesses have joined forces with local moviefans to present a five-day series of screenings of martial arts classics to be held outdoors in Chinatown, free to the public, to call attention to these films of old and to unite to community. If this isn't the definition of "beautiful" I don't know what is. Please check them out at the following links and spread the word.


Oh, and here's this week's reviews.

Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest ***1/2
Beerfest ***
Crank **1/2

Day Watch (Dnevnoy Dozor) ***1/2
The Inside Man ***1/2
Malcolm X ***1/2
Bamboozled ***
Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction *** (for being a laugh riot)
Running Wild (Korea) **1/2
Intolerable Cruelty **

More later...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

"This Is What Happens, Larry!!"

A few hours ago I attended a screening of one of my absolute favorite films, The Big Lebowski, at the wonderful Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, Massachusetts. Sometimes a movie comes along at just the right time and hits you in such a way that can truly be described as life-changing. Ghostbusters and Back To The Future served me the one-two punch that made me consider looking at Film as a career (and yeah, I'm still working on it). The first five minutes of Jackie Chan's Armour Of God introduced me to the great fun of Asian cinema. And Lebowski came along at a time in my life when I was having trouble at an important job, stressing about a non-relationship and keeping the bills and rent paid. As the film ran, the message of The Dude (Jeff Bridges) washed over me like a cathartic wave of Kahlua and milk on ice. "The Dude Abides," he said in the final scene. And doesn't that just sum it all up? Yes sir, it does. When the semi's are coming up, the nihilists are threatening your "chonson" and the Chinaman's pissing on your rug, just abide and all will work itself out. Father Lebowski gave me the wisdom to try to just relax, go with the flow, and all things in life shall come full circle and maybe even get a little better. Nowadays, you might say that I take it a little too easy. But then, that'll be a whole other blog entry altogether sometime, I'm sure.

At any rate, the movie became a great fave amongst my close friends and I. In the coming days I managed to track down a book about the making of the film, the soundtrack, the theatrical one-sheet poster and was eventually even awarded a t-shirt by one of my best friends, mister Chris Miller, who worked at a local theater at the time, himself. We'd go bowling on Wednesday nights out at the Alewife Lanes & Games at the end of the Red Line in Somerville, where he would bowl under the name "Tacos De Los Muertos" and I as "The Dude" (this, long before every Pothead Fratboy in the USA caught on to Lebowksi's greatness and considered it their flick -- those lames).

Anyway, back to tonight... A very well-known spot for film fans across the country, The Coolidge has played host to many of the cinema's best and brightest, including filmmaker Zhang Yimou, cinematographer Vittorio Storaro and most recently Meryl Streep. In addition, they often feature live performance art and music, as well as recent films and movie classics. And at tonight's celebration of the aforementioned Coen Brothers film, a min-celebration was being had. Some audience members came dressed-down in full-on Lebowski bathrobes and beards, some in the simple elegance of the bowling shirt. Various gifts were being given out for who could fare best in "Toss The Ringer" (recreating a scene from the film in which a bowling ball bag full of dirty underwear was thrown a good distance) and other such mellow competitions. Bumping into my friend Wendee while grabbing a "half Diet Coke, half Barq's Root Beer" at the concessions stand, we grabbed some seats, prepping for cinema greatness. And then, toward the end of all the pre-show shenanigans, came the Moment. The announcers asked for volunteers for the Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) Impersonation Contest...

...And then one man rose to the challenge. :)

I shuffled up there under the lights and before the microphones. The Hosts explained to the other three contestants and I that we could choose any line we wished as long as it was:(a) spoken by John Goodman in the film; and:(b) not explicit in language. That last one seemed very strange to me, seeing as how we were all sitting there waiting to watch a film we all knew had the word "fuck" in it over 250 times. (As seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqtgfjkB6Pg ) But hey -- their venue, their rules. The hosts even prepared lines pre-edited to make things easier. I glanced at the sheet before the packed-to-the-back-row crowd, and gathered up my 36 years of anger and goofiness... After waiting my turn, I took a deep breath, bugged my eyes, grimaced by best angry-face and let loose my inner demons as they met with the powerful need to entertain and be recognized by an audience of an estimated six-hundred of my locals and peers, the edited-for-public screamfest...


And the crowd went apeshit. :) I have to say, there is a tremendous lift in having a huge group of people shouting and applauding their satisfaction at one's performance work. My job at the local video-store makes me fairly visible in the community already -- sometimes I can't go a block without someone waving and asking what's coming out this week -- so I'll probably be happily hearing about this particular night for quite some time. I was awarded the prize, an action figure of "The Albino Bowler," received a dozen or so compliments (though no job offers or ladies' phone numbers) and even one knowing "Dios Mio, Man" from someone out in the crowd. (Thanks, y'all!) I'm pretty much the quiet type, until my occassional need-to-get-wacky rises and I do something nutty in public like this. I'll never forget the night I blew away my roommates at a local pub Karaoke Night as I belted out "You And Me And The Bottle Makes Three, Tonight" by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (as featured in the film, Swingers -- yes, even my musical choices are from movies). Tonight's Lebowskifest was easily just as good.

And with that, and these new reviews, I'll catch ya'll further on down the trail...

My Super Ex-Girlfriend **1/2
Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby ***
The Big Lebowski (1998) ****
DVD/Home Video
Election 2 (Hong Kong) ***1/2
The Mission (1999, Hong Kong) ***
An Evening With Kevin Smith ***
The Bodyguard From Beijing (1994, Hong Kong) **1/2

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

"The List... Is Life..."

Then again, "The List... is Lack Of A Social Life..." might be closer to the truth. One of the issues I continually battle with would seem to be my inability to reconcile my dislike of movie reviews with my absolute and occassionally sad need to talk about movies pretty much all day long. While I don't read movie reviews -- having gotten tired of poorly written "criticism" and pieces of info that might unintenionally spoil the dramatic flow of my filmgoing experiences -- I understand that they often serve their purpose with many filmgoers out there looking for guidance in the Multiplex Jungles.

I was once something of a film critic on local cable access television and in newsprint, and I occassionally do the same on-line in various spots. The way I see it, there are two kinds of people that take the time to read such items. The first type wants the inside dope on the "how and why" a film succeeds or fails and is keen to discuss a given film in the larger context of an actor's or filmmaker's general oevure and how the motion picture relates to society as a whole. The Second Type just wants to know if the movie is any freakin' good... and quickly.

There will be entries on this blog that delve deeply into why a film might or might not work, using an almost mechanical-engineering method of cause-and-effect relations and how they combine to make or break the perfect motion picture. But for today, you get... "The List."

The following is a fast, efficient "star based review" catalogue that will let you know if you should spend your dollars and time with the films therein. If anyone wants or needs elaboration on a given film on the list, feel free to ask. But in the meantime, grab a nice frosty-mug drink, maybe a sandwich (or possibly a three-course meal, as the case may be) and please enjoy glossing over...


**** = "excellent"
*** = "very good, indeed"
** = "fair"
* = "bad"
None = "a complete waste of time"

Theatrical Release
Miami Vice (2006) ***
Clerks II ***
A Scanner Darkly ***
Mission: Impossible III ***1/2
X-Men: The Last Stand ***
Superman Returns ***
Memoirs Of A Geisha ***1/2
V For Vendetta ***1/2
The Three Burials of Melquiades Rivera ***
Harry Potter and the Goblet Of Fire ***
Syriana ***
Aeon Flux **
The Pink Panther (2005) *1/2
Doom **1/2
Friday The 13th in 3D (1983) * (as a film)
Friday The 13th in 3D (1983) *** (a Midnight Screening Experience)
Good Night and Good Luck ***1/2
The Baxter ***
Flightplan **1/2
Lord Of War ***
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of The Were-Rabbit ***1/2
A History Of Violence ***

DVD/VHS Home Video
MTV's The Maxx (1995) ****
Repo Man (1984) ****
Pretty As A Picture: The Art Of David Lynch ***1/2
The Stairway To The Distant Past (Japan) ***1/2
The World's Fastest Indian ***1/2
Scrap Heaven (Jaoan) ***1/2
The In-Laws (1979) ***1/2
Easy Rider (1969) ***1/2
Rent (2005) ***1/2
Takashi Miike's "Imprint" (Japan/USA) ***
Shinobi: Heart Under Blade (Japan) ***
The President's Last Bang (Korea) ***
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang ***
Fearless (Hong Kong) ***
Princess Aurora (Korea) ***
Dragon Fight (HK) ***
Takeshis' (Japan) ***
The Trap (Japan) ***
The Cruise (1998) ***
16 Blocks ***
Munich (2005) ***
Alien 3 (2003, Special Edition Cut) ***
Alien 3 (1992, Theatrical Cut) **1/2
Yaji and Kita: The Midnight Pilgrims (Japan) **1/2
Sengoku Jieitai (Time Slip) 1549 (Japan) **1/2
Bewitching Attraction (Korea) **1/2
Born To Fight (Thai, 1978) **1/2
District #13 (France) **1/2
Toni Takitani (Japan) **1/2
Fist Of Legend (Jet Li; HK) **1/2
Match Point **1/2
The Long Kiss Goodnight **
Chelsea Walls (2001) **
Who Are You? (Korea) **
The Bodyguard (Thai) **
Ultraviolet *1/2
BloodRayne *
Date Movie 1/2 star
Riding Alone For Thousands Of Miles (China) ****
Dinner For Five: Season One ***1/2
The Promise (China) ***1/2
Being There (1979) ***1/2
Capote (2005) ***1/2
Mission: Impossible (1996) ***1/2
Mission: Impossible 2 (2000) ***
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (Japan) ***
Akira Kurosawa: Beautiful Movies (Japan) ***
Mr. Arkadin: The Criterion Collection ***
The Great Yokai War (Japan) ***
The Night Watch (Russia) ***
Chushingura 1/47 (Japan) ***
The Passenger (1975) ***
SPL: Sha Po Lang (HK) ***
Public Enemy (Korea) ***
Tom Yum Goong (Thai) ***
Green Chair (Korea) ***
Dragon Squad (HK) ***
Perhaps Love (HK) ***
Thunderbolt (HK) ***
Three Times (HK) ***
Failan (Korea) ***
Crash (2005) ***
Keane (2005) ***
King Kong (2005) ***
A Man Watching Video: AKA Rewind (Korea) **1/2
The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers **1/2
The Guard From Underground (Japan) **1/2
My Left Eye Sees Ghosts (HK) **1/2
Another Public Enemy (Korea) **1/2
Everlasting Regret (HK) **1/2
Sharky's Machine (1981) **1/2
Marebito (Japan) **1/2
The Duelist (Korea) **1/2
Action Jackson (1987) **1/2
Shutter (Korea) **1/2
They Came Back (France) **
Red Eye (Korea) **
Calamari Wrestler (Japan) **
A Chinese Tall Story (HK) **
Blood Rain (Korea) **
The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu (1980) *1/2
Land Of The Dead *1/2
Rated X (Documentary) *1/2
Undead (Australia) *
Sympathy For Lady Vengeance (Korea) ****
Ran: Criterion Collection ****
Sin City (Expanded Cut) ****
The Blues Brothers: 25th Anniversary Edition ****
Homestar Runner: Everything Else, Vol. 1 ***1/2
The 40-Year-Old Virgin (Unrated) ***1/2
Dr. Strangelove (1964) ***1/2
Election (HK) ***1/2
Serentiy ***1/2
Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Season Four ***
I Don't Know Jack (Documentary) ***
Drink, Drank, Drunk (HK) ***
Bad Lieutenant (1992) ***
Quick Change (1990) ***
A Bronx Tale (1993) ***
The Brothers Grimm ***
24: Season Four ***
Scrooged (1988) ***
The Baxter ***
Unleashed ***
Broken Lizard's Puddle Cruiser **1/2
The Dukes Of Hazzard **1/2
The Island (2005) **1/2
Mr. & Mrs. Smith **1/2
Fantastic Four **1/2
The Myth (HK) **1/2
Cafe Lumiere (Taiwan/Japan) **
The Fog (2005) **
The Wig (Korea) **
Walker (UK) **
Revengers Tragedy (UK) *1/2
Frivolous Lola (1998, Italy) *
Dirty Love *
Havoc *
The Pink Panther (1963) ***
A Shot in the Dark (1964) ***
The Return of the Pink Panther (1975) ***1/2
The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976) ***
Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978) **1/2
Trail of the Pink Panther (1982) **
Curse of the Pink Panther (1983) **1/2
Son of the Pink Panther (1993) **1/2
Spaced: The Complete Series (UK) ****
Naked: Criterion Collection (UK) ****
Stella Shorts: 1998-2002 ****
Stella: Season One (Comedy Central) ***1/2
Star Wars: Episode III Revenge Of The Sith ***1/2
Batman Begins ***1/2
Seven Swords (HK) ***1/2
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (TV Pilot, 1979) ***
The Warriors (1979, Theatrical Cut) ***
Herbie: Fully Loaded **1/2
Vital (Japan) **1/2
House Of Wax (2005) **1/2
Dominion: Prequel To The Exorcist **1/2
Exorcist: The Beginning **
Wild Life (Japan) **1/2
She's On Duty (Korea) *1/2
Synthetic Pleasures (1996; Documentary) *
Saturday Night Live: The Best Of John Belushi ****
Saturday Night Live: The Best Of Dan Aykroyd ***1/2
The Usual Suspects (1995) ***1/2
Kagemusha: Criterion Collection ***1/2
Eros (HK/USA/Italy) ***1/2
Point Blank (1969) ***1/2
Payback (1999) ***
Infection (Japan) ***1/2
The Man With One Red Shoe (1985) ***1/2
Wise Guys (1986) ***1/2
Le Fils Du Fent/Yamakasi 2/The Great Challenge (French/Thai) ***
Ong Bak (Thai Uncut Version) ***
Layer Cake (UK) ***
Kontroll (Budapest) ***
Ultraman: The Next (2004) **1/2
D.E.B.S. **1/2
Premonition (Japan) **1/2
I'll Sleep When I'm Dead (UK) **1/2
Initial D (HK) **1/2
A Dirty Shame **
Cursed (USA) **
Kung-Fu Mahjong (HK) **
The Deer Hunter (1978) ****
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy ***
The Grudge: Unrated Extended Director's Cut **1/2
The Way To Fight (Japan) **1/2
Evolution (2001) **1/2
Bad Guy (Korea) **
Carlito's Way (1993) ***1/2
Kairo (aka: Circuit, Pulse) ***
Born To Fight (Thai) ***
Joy Ride (2001) **1/2
Zhou Yu's Train (China) **1/2
The Girl Next Door (Documentary) **1/2
The Adventures Of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3D **
The Shining (1981) ****
Firefly: The Series ***1/2
A Bittersweet Life (Korea) ***1/2
Overnight ***1/2
Vibrator (Japan) ***
Silmido (Korea) ***
Saw ***
Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood Of War (Korea) **1/2
Crying Fist (Korea) **1/2
The Serpent's Path (Japan) **1/2
Eyes Of The Spider (Japan) **
The Interpreter *1/2
Hellovator: The Bottled Fools (Japan) *
The Man With The Screaming Brain *
Alien Apocalypse *
Panic Room 3-DVD Special Edition ****
Sky High: Face (Japan) ***
Three Extremes (HK) ***
Three Extremes: Dumplings (Expanded) (HK) ***
Red Trousers: The Life Of The Hong Kong Stuntman (HK) ***
R-Point (Korea) **1/2
Longinus (Japan) *1/2

...What? You made it all the way down here?! Damn! You deserve a trophy or something. :)

Monday, July 31, 2006

"This Is Only A Test..."

Welcome to wherever we are.

It's a hot, humid, early Monday morning in the Boston area. Sitting in the darkness, illuminated by the screen-saver of the nearby Cyberhome all-region DVD player, I take the first step into bloggerousness. Never really thought I'd start myself up one of these things, but then life takes its share of turns and now here we both are. Close friends have suggested it, some even trying to push me into the world of MySpace. This seems the more literary choice. Here's to the hopeful, continuing entertainment we will all share, hereforth.

I'm a movie guy. Always have been and always will be, I'd imagine. Went to high school and worked with local cable access in small town Massachusetts, then film school in small town New Hampshire and after a six year run in public relations media production I've been doing time in a video store. The manager type in a nationwide chain. Could be better, could be worse. As a presently-36-year-old dreamer, I continue to hold onto my goals of become a filmmaker and not just a film renter. I've had some close calls -- offers to exhibit in film festivals and pseudo-production offers from as far away as Austrailia -- but the brass ring remains out of reach at the moment. We'll see what happens in that area in the coming days, months and hopefully not-too-many years. Until then, we shall share stories of life up against the 'New Release' wall, dreams of better things, film criticism, love, honor and the occassional dirty joke.

Oh, Posting #1 is dedicated to Oddtodd.com and the blog of New York Hack. Thanks for the continuing inspiration.

More soon...