Saturday, 14 November 2009

Ratatouille


Dir: Brad Bird
Starring: Patton Oswalt
Year: 2007

Borman's animation badunza (don't look it up - I just made it up) continues with Ratatouille from Pixar. Brad Bird brought us The Incredibles and The Iron Giant and this... the man's a ledge(nd).

Out of those three - not that there's any need to compare them, but I will do for the sake of you small minded people - Ratatouille is by far my favourite. I felt a great kinship with Remi and his love of food. I'm sure Dodge would too but he refuses to watch anything that has rats in it. The snob.

Narry B finds that animation films drawn him more than 'real' films. You would think it would be the opposite, but I can't help shouting at the TV when the bad guy gets the upper hand, or there's a near miss with a grenade in a Disney film.

The plot goes a bit middle ground about half way through after an amazing start, and resorts to predictable Disney formula towards the end, which is why it goes down to Top Work instead of Genius. But it's got all the makings of a classic with a cheeky sense of humour and enough action to have you biting your fingerbones.

Top Wok!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Coraline (Smaltz Review)


Dir: Henry Selick
Starring: Teri Hatcher, French and Saunders, Lovejoy

Coraline is the first cinema film seen in 3d at home. The DVD kindly includes both versions so when you don’t want mild sea sickness you can watch it in 2d (how 20th century of you). The film itself has pedigree coming from the director of The Nightmare before Christmas and left me wondering what he has done between the two?

That aside Coraline (not Caroline) and her family have relocated and she’s not particularly happy about it, nor the fact that her parents are too busy to have time for her. Bored and inquisitive she finds the passage to an alternate life with her other mother and father. This is a world filled with everything she wants, her mother making sure everything is just right. When the time comes to offer her the chance to stay in this version of her world forever it becomes apparent how wrong it is.

Smaltzy Baby was surprised how good this was. I’d read the reviews and heard how like most animated films these days it’s dark and scary for adults too, but in this case it’s true. I found myself genuinely tense (dare I say scared) for our hero’s well being. The reason for this is that (like The Spiderwick Chronicles) it follows horror film conventions and is made by talented people.

The look of the film is wonderful, in fact moments of it are visually stunning. The story has a Studio Ghibli like feel to it as does its pacing. The cast is filled with eccentric characters and creatures, and there are 'nuff funny moments. The music is equally eclectic. The 3d works well enough to make it worth watching, and some scenes in particular really stand out. Honestly I can’t recommend this film enough. It’s charming but not quaintly so, definitely ideal for children but never childish.

Overall it’s very, very good indeed. Very.

Top Work!

The Aristocats


Dir: Wolfgang Rheitherman
Starring: Phil Harris, Scatman Crothers
Year: 1970

"Abraham De Lacy, Giuseppe Casey, Thomas O'Malley, O'Malley the Alley Cat!" There's something cool about cats. Much more than dogs. Dogs bark and stink. Cats eat and sleep, and sometimes hunt. Also they have jazz bands and get their photograph taken.

Aristocats captures the coolness of cats perfectly. Or should that be purrfectly? No, no it shouldn't. A mother and her three kittens get lost in the outskirts of Paris, having been taken from their home by a wily butler. Fortuantely, the smooth talking Giudeseppe De Lacy is around to help them get back home and win the mother's heart.

Along the way they meet Scatcat, aka Scatman Crothers, who also played Hong Kong Phooey (thanks, Wikipedia), and have some highjinks in 1920s Paris. What a riot!

This is golden era Disney. Some quality choons, legendary characters (especially Uncle Waldo who clearly deserves his own feature film) and ticklingly humourish.

Top Work!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Wolverine: X-Men Oranges (Smaltz Review)


Dir: Gavin 'in da' Hood

Starring: Hugh Jass, man! Will.I.Am

Part two of this Smaltz-review-a-thon is, in a way, the most intriguing. Not the film itself necessarily but the stories of studio interference, on set re-writes and it then being leaked at only 75% complete.

This, followed by very mixed reviews from cinema goers and comic book fans, left Smaltz a little unsure what to expect. The opening sequences of the film do little to rectify this. Flashy action sequences (though technically very good) do little to draw the viewer (namely, SMALTZ!) in.

Thankfully this is setup is to contrast with Logan’s desire for a quiet life which is filled with gorgeous Canadian scenery. Obviously this doesn’t last very long and soon he’s growling at his brother, his former commander and an oriental chap with guns.

Surprisingly the romantic interest that drives him to this is moving and handled well with Mr Jackman making sure you care what happens to him. In fact he carries the film on those burley shoulders very commendably and is undoubtedly the main reason to keep watching, he really does seem to care for this character and it shows.

The main complaint for comic book fans seems to be the interpretation of Deadpool and the many abilities he shouldn’t have. Smaltz knows nothing of this but has an interest in these sorts of films so it’s an interesting place to be watching from. The character certainly provides a menacing adversary but as with many super hero films there are a lot of characters that aren’t given enough screen time and he is one of them.

Another is fan favourite Gambit, it’s a good piece of casting but only for about 20 minutes screen time.

All in all Smaltz was pleasantly surprised. The film is quite tidy with spectacular stunts although some post-production effects are less convincing. The central character is as appealing as ever and it all just about puts everything in place for the original X-Men films, albeit in a sometimes contrived way. If you like the earlier films then this is worth a look although it does lack the weight that Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen brought to the series.

Good

Last King of Scotland (Smaltz Review)


Dir: Kevin Mcdonald
Starring: Forrest Whitaker, James McAvoy
Year: 2006

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this story it has nothing to do with the Highlands or Highlander (fortunately). This is a dramatised story of Idi Armin’s rule of Uganda, a man curiously obsessed with England’s northern cousin so as to name himself the Last King of Scotland.


Smaltzy don't waste no time: this is a tremendous film. Forrest Whitaker’s performance in the lead role is one that will be looked back on as classic for a long time.


The story follows Nicholas Garrigan, a naieve and fun-loving
Scottish physician. The characters are so well judged and portrayed that we are drawn in by the charismatic Armin just as Nicholas is. He begins by accepting the role of his personal physician and is eventually called his closest advisor.

Each step closer to Amin is filled with tension until the horrendous acts committed under his rule are impossible to ignore. This first half is an exciting look at an exotic country of the brink of change but the second is pure political thriller.

The chilling turning point comes when Nicholas wants to get out only to find his house ram sacked and a new Ugandan passport waiting for him, effectively trapping him in the country.

There are some disturbing images but only occasionally as the filmmakers show great restraint which makes the whole thing more frightening. Be assured this film is top notch!

Smaltz-o-meter: Top Work

Toy Story


Dir: John Lassetter
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen
Year: 1995

Has it been almost 15 years already?! I remember the release of Toy Story like it was yesterday, but in Narry Borman's 724 year-long life (and counting), 15 years is a mere blip.

NB's going through something of a Disney phase right now. I find it it purifying. Animation (generally) doesn't disturb you, but it does entertain you. In particular, the works of Ghibli and Disney are obvious but unbeatable selections in the world of cartoon creations.

Anyway, Toy Story is probably about the biggest/most popular Disney film ever (or is that The Lion King? tough call). This is my first viewing since I saw it on release.

Generally, it's held up well, although massive advances in computer graphics technology have left Toy Story looking a bit ropy in places (especially when compared with last week's film, Wall-E).

The story and script also had a few dated 90's moments but still makes you laugh and, yes, cry (that's you, Smaltz, you crybaby), and it certainly hasn't lost that indefinable Disney magic.

NB's taste tends to verge towards the handdrawn animation of Disney rather than the computer generated stuff, which is comparitively lacking in soul if you ask me. All the same, Toy Story is...

Good!

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Wall-E


Dir: Andrew Stanton
Starring: Jeff Garlin (from Curb Your Enthusiasm)

Another Pixar production from the director of Finding Nemo. NB saw this on Blu-Ray and visually it's stunning. A little bit too stunning. It looks and feels like a technical demo for the first half. It doesn't help that there is no, or little, dialog for the first 30 minutes. It's a bold move, respect due, but it doesn't quite work.

Things really kick off when Wall-E goes to space. This is where it peaks visually too. It kind of reminds me of Prince Joe Cool in Space, that short story classic. Wall-E can grasp at the stars.

The story really gets going when Wall-E and the fate of humanity are tied together thru the existence of a plant. Jeff Garlin plays the overweight, under-educated leader of nation of humans addicted to entertainment.

The analogies and predictions for the future are a bit contrived (particularly the Adam and Eve thing, and the 'we're all becoming fat and destroying the environment' motif) but still worthy.

I didn't quite take to it as others would becuase I didn't feel anyting for Wall-E, but it's an entertaining film with the usual Pixar quality of production.

Good!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Ponyo


Dir: Hayao Miyazaki

Narry B has been around the block a few times. He grew up on the streets. He's now sickened by the constant repetition of useless opinion that fills the internet. Where does this idea of mass opinion come from?

Ponyo is not a) "kid's film", and b) it is not a letdown for Miyazaki. Even if it was a "kid's film" (the very expression make's NB's skin crawl, ironing out the wrinkles on his sagging face), that would be all the more reason to go see it as hopefully it wouldn't have the same amorality and contrivision of "adult films". People better be purifying their hearts, and Ponyo's the way to do it!

It's genius from start to finish. Ponyo is visually sublime, storily captivating and musically entrancing. I don't normally get massively involved in the film, but when watching Ponyo I was moved to shout "Run, Sosuke!", or let out a gasp of shock as the waves tried to encroach him. Ponyo is so powerful that it touched this old man's heart.

As with all made in Japan films, the fact that you have to watch it in the original Japanese is blindingly obvious. Ponyo doesn't bother to explain everything (is that what being a "kid's film" means?) and leaves you in love with life and nature.

Genius!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Transparent: A Tribute to a Sad Genius サトラレ


Dir: Katsuyuki Motohiro (Who?!)
Starring: Masanobu Ando, Kyoko Suzuki
Year: 2001

A guy who works at a pub and spends his time writing novellas on some rather disturbing themes (such as a baby who rules the earth) should never be trusted for film recommendations. How does Narry Borman, your guide to all that is good in the greasy world of graphic grahams (aka films), know this? Just such a person recommended Satorare (Japanese title) to me.

It's not bad, but Motohiro seems to try to cram way too much in to what is actually quite a lightweight film. The first half is kind of comedic, with some nice sci-fi/mystery touches. Annoyingly, the plot then goes overly dramatic; dying grand-mothers, raison d'etres, surgery, and tears. Lots and lots of tears. Plus an overly confident woman standing up for 'babes lib' or something.

In fact, the last ten minutes of the film are spent almost entirely in sweeping, panning shots of the main cast crying and hugging. Sickening. It kind of ruined what started out as an interesting flim.

You'll recognise the cast from (variously) Drive and A Cheerful Gang that Turns the Earth.

Average!

Monday, 28 September 2009

Emperor's New Groove


Dir: Mark Dindal
Starring: John Goodman, David Spade, Patrick Wurberton
Year: 2000

Narry B was hankering for a bit of Disney, having been turned off filmage by the over complicated and poo-like Before Sunrise. Thankfully The Emperor's New Groove came thru for our beloved film reviewer. It was everything you need in a Disney animation: funny, clean, musical and er... other stuff.

I was quite pleased cos I recognised three out of the first four major voices (Tom Jones, John Goodman and Patrick Warberurton - Seinfeld legend Puddy).

I like Kuzko becuase he kind of reminds me of me, but with more land. I wish I had more land... Anyway, I become a llama and only a villager can help me. Sorry, Kuzko. Kuzko becomes a llama. On the way, I learn to love people, be a bit more human and how to walk up a wall. What happens in the end? Does Kuzko remain a llama? Watch!

Top Work!

Friday, 25 September 2009

Before Sunrise


Dir: Richard Linklater
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Year: 1995

"When I was a child I always figured I would grow old"... It's so DEEP! What a load of tosh. This film is full of it. Two 'independent' twenty-somethinks fall in love on a train and talk about their so-real 'innermost' thoughts and feelings. Lighten up! Or if you do insist on talking and thinking deeply and seriously all the time make sure it's about something worthwhile.

Slow, painfully contrived, and lacking in magnetism. The real issue is: why did Narry B waste his time watching it?

Bad!

Saturday, 19 September 2009

In The Pool イン・ザ・プール


Dir: Satoshi Miki
Starring: Suzuki Matsuo, Odagiri Joe, Maiko
Year: 2005

Imagine a neurologist/psychiatrist who prescribes no medicine, makes fun of his patients and goes with them on some crazy adventures to get to the root of the problem - not because it might cure them but because it might 'be a laugh'.

That's Dr Irabu, Satoshi Miki's creation that is perfectly played by Suzuki Matsuo. The Doc's in his own world, not really caring about the needs of his patients but helping them and having fun all the same. Matsuo does the job really well, with a kind of sloppy ex-ganja smoking nature combined with a nice sense of comedy that has something very 1960's Britain about it.

Miki's films may lack a bit of substance, but they're entertaining and have some classic scenes and characters.

Top Work!

Shine


Dir: Scott Hicks
Starring: Geoffrey Rush
Year: 1996

In NB's review of Ali, I said I usually find that I convince myself that I am the character portrayed after watching biopics. Ignoring the obvious psychological worries that this claim raises, it was notable that I didn't feel it at all after watching Shine.

Why? Mainly because... well, it wasn't very interesting. Sure he seems like a good piano player (of which, it has to be said, there are many in this world - mostly in China). And he had a mental illness (again, there are thousands of nutters - do they all deserve biopics?). As a character he was quite uninteresting until his mental sickness starts making him talk in a very odd, but quite likable manner. That's probably more down to the genius of Geoffrey Rushers than Heltzgoff though.

Ok, you're probably all hating me now becuase 'Shine' is one of those films that everyone is supposed to love. But I think the above criticism is fair. As a caveat, let me state that Narry B thought it was exceptionally well made. You can't really beat Geffers for a lead role. His father was very intense. Gielgud was a top class gent without being pretentious. No complaints.

I just didn't think that the story deserved to be a film.

Good!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

District 9 (Dodge E. Camembert Review)


Dir: Neill Blomkamp

Starring: Sharlto Copley

Dodge E. Camembert laments the dearth of decent Sci-Fi these days. Where are the 2001s? The Aliens? The Silent Runnings? Where are the ideas? Gone to hell in an overblown, special effects-strewn handcart, that’s where.

After being offered a glimmer of hope in Moon (which Dodge would have reviewed but for an unfortunate accident with a precariously balanced stilton scoop) Dodge went into District 9 hoping for a delicious chevre blanc, but came out having tasted a predictable but still tasty red leicester.

A large part of its charm is the setting. The year is 1982, and a huge alien mothership hovers above Johannesburg. Having cut their way in, a task force beams pictures back showing an emaciated race of bug-like aliens living in appalling conditions. It seems they’re stranded thanks to the loss of a command module, which fell to earth without a trace.

Twenty years later, the aliens have been herded into a slum just outside the South African city, where they’re viewed as second class citizens by humanity. Wikus van de Merwe, a bumbling bureaucrat, is tasked with leading a team to serve notice to the aliens that they’re to be transported to an alternative camp well away from Jo’berg.

It all kicks off, of course, with a number of deaths on both sides and Wikus getting himself infected by an alien substance that begins to transform him into a ‘Prawn’ (a derogatory term for the aliens).

The opening third of the film that sets all this up is shot like a documentary, but the rest of the film is firmly in (relatively) conventional action film territory. It’s a rather odd mix that never quite sits right, but the ensuing fireworks make up for it somewhat.

Dodge is certain that first-time director Blomkamp is a video game fan, as some of the action has definite shades of Half Life 2 and Halo about it. Despite this, the sympathetic lead character, references to Apartheid and distinctly un-American sense of humour marks it out from the usual brainless Hollywood guff.

Uneven, then, but refreshingly different. If you don’t get on with splattery gore, though, you might want to give it a wide berth.

Good!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Punchdrunk Love


Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Adam Sandler

PTA made my most hated movie of all time (I'll leave y'all to guess which one). It seems, however, that he can produce some magic.

What happens when a normal, albeit lonely, dude reaches the pits of despair and meets one helluva lady at the same time? Punchdrunk Love, my friends, is what happens. Somehow, the protagonist in this film manages to take things quite far but keeps it real at the same time. It's a thin line between passion and obsession.

Something just clicked for the NB with this film. Maybe the lead character reminded him worryingly of himself (at least the late 17th century Narry B, anyway), or maybe it was just that this is a moving story told with a nice touch of comedy and a great soundtrack.

It's not going to be everyone's cup of tea, and there were a few overtly 'indie' touches that seemed a bit contrived, but I'd say Punchdrunk Love is...

Genius!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Maiko Haaaan!!!


Dir: Nobuo Mizuta
Starring: Abe Sadao
Year: 2007

Just take a look at that title and the cover. You know what to expect. It's glitzy, musical, vivacious and a little bit stupid. Which makes it both fun to watch and, ultimately, lacking in substance. Narry B felt some of the plot twists were in there for the sake of it.

Ignoring that, though, you have an excellent cast working their way through a magical visual feast. Abe Sadao is perfect as the maiko-obsessed Onizuka, a man who seems endlessly creative, industrious and powerful when it comes to anything even vaguely connected to the world of geisha.

Countering his every move, however, is someone who seems to know more and be better-connected than him in every way (Shinichi Tsutsumi). This guy outdoes him consistently. Maiko Haaan!!! is as much about their rivalry as it is about the traditional ways of the Gion and Yumekawa districts of Kyoto.

Abe is a good comedian, and carries off the over-the-top manga-esque mannerisms very well. Director Mizuta also pulls off the imaginative side of things without being pretentious. The rather spectacular (if a little camp) musical number, for example, that suddenly breaks into the film doesn't intrude at all.

Another mention to Kou Shibasaki for being tres cute (see Drive). I'm not sure whether to give this a 'good', or a 'top work'. I'll go with top work as it's nice, clean entertainment.

Top work!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Titanic (Smaltz Review)



Dir: James Cameron

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane

Never before has a film had so much hype, received so much praise from viewers and critics and then been the target of such a backlash. Its crime seemingly being that everyone was sick of the sight of it.

Smaltz hadn’t seen this film for a long time so it was a good opportunity to come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes… and it’s spectacular. However, unlike recent disaster films, the spectacle of the tragedy isn’t everything.This is a film of substance.

The story is one of class distinction in the early twentieth century with Kate Winslet trying to get out of an almost arranged marriage and escape the world she belongs to. It’s a young carefree American (DiCaprio) who shows her another way to live, much to the horror of her mother and fiancé (Zane).

This manages to be engrossing to the point that when the iceberg is spotted it still catches you by surprise.The last hour is spectacular, but not at the expense of the human drama. Indeed it shows how good a director Cameron is that the horror of the situation is not lost.

Scenes such as a mother in 3rd class telling a story to her children as they sleep knowing they will never wake up and the string quartet realising they have nowhere to go so continue playing still make you shiver.

I’m going to stick my oar in dangerous water here by saying it manages to achieve the same level of scale with it’s story and tragedy as Kubrick's 2001 does with it’s visuals.

The quality throughout is superb with impeccable sets, an imaginative and effective score utilising synthetic choir sounds and despite some of the full scale shots of the ship in the first half not aging particularly well they do at least have a period painting look to them. Effects in the second half, however, are spot on!

Although Titanic leaves you with a feeling of loss for the main characters, the size of the real event is never lost.

Genius!

Drive ドライブ


Dir: Hiroyuki Tanaka
Starring: Shinichi Tsutsumi, Kou Shibasaki, Ren Osugi, Susumu Terajima

First: apologies for not reviewing much lately. More than a week since the last posting, and even then it was a Smaltz post so it wasn't worth reading. I'll try to catch up with a few reviews because, people, I have some amazing films in the last week.

Second: Drive. What a film. I don't normally list the cast so completely, but this is made up entirely of modern cinema legends. Susumu Terajima is the man with the instantly recognisable face, and, for my money, the best actor in Japanese cinema right now.

Ren Osugi turns up in Drive as a bank robber with a broken heart, but you may also remember him from Zebraman as the school principal. Kou Shibasaki is both a pleasure to look at and a delight to watch. Hollywood never seems to find beautiful leading ladies who can actually act. In Japan they're all over the place. Kou would later turn up in Maiko Haan! (review coming soon).

Shinichi is a great central protagonist, too. He's a lonely, serious, hard-working salaryman, who happened to park his car in the wrong place at the wrong time. When three bank robbers mistake it for their getaway vehicle, the four dudes are left with no other option but to rely on each other.

What I love about this film is its humour and its message. Despite all of them being a bit lost at the beginning, each of the characters eventually finds their own calling, and accepts it with pride.
Everything is right about this film. Entertainment deluxe!

Top work!

Thursday, 3 September 2009

The Prestige (Smaltz Review)


Dir: Christopher Nolan

Star: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine

Despite being suitably impressed by Batman Begins and enjoying Mr Nolan’s debut picture Momento, it took Smaltzy ages to see The Prestige. Not too long ago Narry recommended this to me and bang next thing you know darling Helga has borrowed it of her brother Kristof.

The prestige is the third act of an illusion, the bit that makes you go ‘how did they do that?’, much like my pants atop nelson’s Column. Right let’s get down to the beef. Two magicians become bitter rivals through tragic circumstances. Fortunately for us they are splendid actors and make the film uncomfortably engaging.

What helps its edge is Nolan’s signature blockbuster yet still indie style. In fact considering its start studded appearance it’s all rather old fashioned in a good way. However there are some issues that perhaps come down to Smaltz being a bit of a softy more than anything else.

Despite clearly being made by a lot of the same people as Batman Begins (visually it looks very similar) it doesn’t have the same warmth. In fact there’s something of a nasty edge for the first hour. This subtly changes to wonder and excitement in the second half, but still makes for slightly too intense viewing overall.

What’s more I’m not convinced the films prestige matches it’s build up, indeed Helga and Kristof worked it out in the first twentie minutes. Smaltz, not being the sharpest sickle on the flag, had no idea what was going, and to be honest that helps when enjoying stories.

These problems don’t stop it being a very well made film that is well worth watching. A second viewing may reveal it to be something nearer a classic. As it stands, however, it is as the French say, Bond, tres’ Bond.

Top Work!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

La Parfum De La Dame En Noir


Dir: Bruno Podalydès
Starring: Denis Podalydès
Year: 2005

Apparently this little known French film is based on a Gaston Leroux novel. While the story seems solid, it's let down by the fact that this film is a sequel - I haven't seen the first film, so the plot remained, to me at least, a real mystery.

It's really poorly edited. First time viewers are left unaware of the background to the characters, and many assumptions are made about the audience's knowledge.

Ignoring the gaping flaws in the plot, some of which are explained at the end, the settings are amazing. This is classic French scenery - wide open seascapes, craggy cliffs, and mysterious islands. Wine, food and philosophy is served in abundance.

Michale Lonsdale (you've seen him in Moonraker, if nothing else) steals the show as the professor who takes forever to start his painting, and precedes every major scene with an ominous prophecy ("The atmosphere is tense, isn't it!").

A shoddily produced work that has some minor merits.

Average!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Billy Elliot


Dir: Stephen Daldry
Starring: Jamie Bell, Julie Walters

Narry B's gonna 'fess up: I like this film. I made fun of it for years, but when I actually got around to watching it I was rather impressed. Instead of unlikable, depressing characters that I had imagined the cast was deep. Deep!

Set against the story of mining strikes in northern England, Billy E is about a boy who can dance. He'd prefer it if he could be a boxer, but he was born with woefully weak arms, so he becomes a dancer instead. A ballet dancer (puffter).

A lot of this film is bleak ("you ain't been right since mum died!"... lighten up, mon!) but powerful. Billy learns to dance on the sly and learns how to put his heart and soul into something at the same time.

One of my English students recommended this film to me. She had been so inspired by it that she went out and took up a French ballet class. I wasn't that inspired by it so don't expect to see Narry B in Swan Lake just yet, but Billy Elliot was an entertaining film.

Smaltz could learn a thing or two from Billy E. Mainly how about how to look good in a tutu.

Top work!

Monday, 24 August 2009

Zebraman


Dir: Takashi Miike
Starring:Aikawa Shou
Year: 2004

There's a massive difference between the superhero films of America and those of Japan. American superheroes are either the incredibly rich (Batman, Iron Man) or those gifted with ridiculously superhuman powers making them almost invulnerable (Superman, Wolverine).

Zebraman, on the other hand, has all the powers of a... zebra. In fact, now I think about it, he doesn't even have the powers of a zebra. He just has a zebra uniform. Beyond that, his non-super persona is pitiful. Not Clark Kent pitiful but likable. Just pitiful.

This is the superhero creation of infamous/famous Japanese director Takashi Miike. Unlike most other Miike films, this is intended for a wider audience (an audience who doesn't appreciate only violence and excess) and has nice touches of humour, action and human drama.

The story is peculiar, and I won't bother to recite it here cos you should all go and see this film. Download it, buy it, go to Japan and rent it... do anything. It's worth watching.

Top work!

*Narry B apologies for the image, but it was the only one available at the time of publishing. It's also a great example of Engrish.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Semi-Pro


Dir: Kent Alterman
Starring: Will Ferrell, Andre Benjamin

Oh, people, is this bad! How many more sports can Ferrell and his comedy buddies go through before they run out of ideas? Ah! I see they ran out of ideas ages ago.

Shock: it's another "kitsch" 70's setting about a failing team. Throw in some afros and a disco party, loose morals and a slack tongue, and you pretty much get the idea.

The few moments of brilliance, which there inevitably are, are dimmed by an otherwise awful script and obvious gags. Andre Benjamin (he's the guy from Outkast, as you all know) is a nice touch - the dude has a good sense of comedy timing and seems to be able to play basketball rather well.

How they got away with 12 (UK) rating I'll never know. Foul play!

Bad!

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Some Kind of Wonderful


Dir: Howard Deutch
Writer: John Hughes
Starring: Lea Thompson (BTTF), Eric Stoltz et al.
Year: 1987

What's going on with Narry B lately? He's reviewing all sorts of 80's classics, and with the help of Smaltz he hopes to one day to have the CFBW - Cheesiest Film Blog in the World.

What's the deal with John Hughes? He makes classics like Ferris Bueller's Day Off and stinkers such as The Breakfast Club. In fact, I heard he even worked Narry's MHFL5Y (Most Hated Film of the Last 5 Years) Drillbit Taylor. You can't deny he's one of the most successful writer/directors of the last 30 years.

I rather liked Some Kind of Wonderful. It was, unlike custard, sweet without being sloppy. Some wonderful teen cliches are mixed in with an otherwise decent coming-of-age tale, that has a rather sudden but predictable ending.

When Stolts falls in love with High School Jock Craig Sheffer's girl, things get complicated for him, his best friend and pretty much everyone else. The climactic fight between Stoltz and Sheffer comes to an excellent conclusion thanks to some street punks. Remember, kids, you can always rely on street punks to back you up in a fight.

Sometimes funny, sometimes moving, sometimes cheesy (Dodge E. take note), always entertaining.

Rating: Top Work!

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

The Deer Hunter


Dir: Michael Cimino
Starring: Bob DeNiro, John Cazale
Year: 1978
Running Time: 412 minutes

I'm never a fan of film-related trivia, but The Deer Hunter has one interesting fact: John Cazale was dying of cancer as he made the film and died shortly after. Plus he was engaged to Meryl Streep, who also stars in this film, at the time.

Anyway, about the film. The Deer Hunter is another psychological war drama. Well, that's not strictly true. A whole heap of it is set before the characters go to war, just showing them in their daily lives. The war section is surprisingly short, but is rather well put together aside from the horrible use of stock footage - what is this, a Marx brothers film?

You can't argue with the cast. This is probably the best role I've seen DeNiro in. The same for Walken. Cazale is good/annoying as ever. The film itself, however, is overlong and rather dull. There is a whole one-hour section, when DeNiro returns to the US only to go back to Nam again, which really shouldn't be in there.

Even if you condensed it to 90 minutes, I still think you would have a fairly dull film. It offers a powerful statement about the effects of war, and how much more important friends are than your country.

It's just not entertaining, though.

Bad!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Michael Jackson's Moonwalker (Smaltz Review)


Dir: 4 Blokes
Starring: MJ
Year: 1988

I’m sure we were all shocked by his death but thankfully there is this little gem of bizarrity to remind us how popular Michael Jackson was around the globe. So big in fact as to have had (pretty much complete) control over a film and get it a mainstream release. To Smaltz’s mind this hadn’t been done since the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour flopped, and no one looks like being able to do it again any time soon.

I must be honest, when my darling wife Helga told me this was a corner stone of her childhood and it is brilliant I was somewhat skeptical. However when someone told me MJ turns into a car, I was sold.

There’s little point describing the plot suffice to say it’s a lot of fun featuring everything from plasticine rabbits riding a Harley-Davidson to Mr Jackson turning into a spaceship. The film is split into two parts. Part one is Anthology and is a compilation of music and fame including one amusing snipe at sensationalist press with the song ‘Stop dogging me around’, the video showing ridiculous headlines, ‘Jackson weds Alien’ being a favourite of Roger P Smaltz.

Part 2: Smooth Criminal is the cinematic side of things with Jackson and two children being chased by the evil Joe Pesci for no real reason. There are lots of Batman/Dick Tracey style shadows with nice cinematography and a great Smooth Criminal dance routine.

This film divides opinions but overall Smaltz was impressed and I suspect Narry would be too, and that ought to be good enough for you, plebs!

Good!

Monday, 10 August 2009

Mad Max


Dir: George Miller
Starring: Mel Gibson
Year: 1979

I've got to tell ye, I did not like this film. Visually, it's beautiful and it had a few moments of greatness, with cat and mouse style chases, and a build up of tension that led to a cascade of action... but overall I found it too intense and disturbing.

Word up to Brian May for his crappy soundtrack.

By today's standards the car chases are still respectable but not spectacular. Mel G is pretty ace as the star man, although he is outshined somewhat in Narry B's opinion by the leader of the law enforcers, whose name I have forgotten.

Anywho, the whole things a bit too serious and so I didn't really enjoy it.

Bad!

Friday, 7 August 2009

Roman Holiday

Dir: Wyllyam Wyler
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Greg Peck
Year: 1953

I was expecting a sloppy, sweeping romantic drama from Roman Holiday. What I got was quite different.

Roman Holiday is actually about three people who have a great time together for one day in Rome. The characters and their relationships are built up in a very constructive way. If you didn't feel that the characters had become so close and so understanding of each others situation, the ending would be unsatisfying. As it stands, this was one of the best and most surprising endings I've seen since 1952.

The same can't be said for Notting Hill, which clearly based itself on Roman Holiday. The thing I hate about Notting Hill, apart from the cheerful ending, is... well... Julia Roberts, for one. Her character has no appeal and no class wahtsoever. Also, Notting Hill seems to think that the physical act of making love is the key point - the grand, orchestral strings kick in, like their night together defines the relationship. That's lust, not love.

Roman Holiday, on the other hand, gets it all right. The two characters just want to use each other at first, but eventually find there's a lot more to it. It defines everything good about being in love, having friends, and, er, being a princess.

Hazzah for Audrey Hepburn, humanitarian, modern beauty, and great actress. Hazzah for Rome, city of history, grandeur, and romance. Hazzah for the immpecable cast and powerful script. Again, hazzah!

Top work!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Three Men and a Baby (Smaltz Review)


Dir: Leonard Nimoy

Starring: Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg, Ted Danson, That Girl from So I Married an Axe Murderer

Ah eighties family films…don’t you just love them. They really don’t make them like they used to. This ticks just about every box, although it is perhaps a little bit more grown up than say Karate Kid or Mighty Ducks but you get the idea.

Here’s the premise: A cartoonist, an architect and an actor live in a big house enjoying there bachelor lives. Here’s the punch line, hunky actor Danson has fathered a child unknowingly and is filming abroad. His two friends wake up one morning to find a baby on their door step. They are of course completely inept and have no idea what to do with a baby, which generates most of the film's laughs.

To make things worse, when Danson comes home he has been asked to carry over a package which turns out to be drugs. This leads to some comic run-ins with the police, namely Tom Selleck hiding the packet in the babies nappy, and puts our protagonists in danger.

This is the films McGuffin as it creates a false ending. The real drama involves the baby mother coming back as she regrets giving up her baby.

It’s an enjoyable romp with Pi Selleck arguably stealing the film. It never gets too mushy and the real ending is quite tense and moving.

Good

カムイの剣 (Dagger of Kamui)


Dir: Rintaro
Year: 1985

This 1985 animation is rated very highly by many western sources. Midnight Eye, for example, included it in their top 5 animated films. In Japan, however, it is not very well known. I had enough difficulty finding it.

It's steep reputation is deserved. The story is riveting, although by no means original. Ken is an orphaned ninja with a mysterious past and even more mysterious future. As he travels the world picking up clues about his life and what happened to his parents, he becomes more aware of the massive conspiracy surrounding his own fate and that of Japan.

It's the 'travelling' the world element that is particularly enjoyable. Jiro, the main character, traverses Japan, the seven seas and America on his quest. Wandering throughout the world in the 1800's has always been a dream of Narry B's. Alas, he spent most of the 1800's with a cold.

It's the exploration and fairytale like setting of this film that is really enthralling. In fact, the whole thing is put together exceptionally well, with a nice mix of emotional charge, storytelling, action and comedy (an African slave crying out 'Jiro, My Benefactor!' is a laugh out loud moment).

Rintaro later went on to direct Metropolis, which is probably where you schmoes have heard of him.

Top Work!

The Patriot (Smaltz Review)


Dir: Roland Emmerich

Starring: Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, Jason Isaacs

This is how it should go. Mr Emmerich make’s a new film, we all sit down and get a (slightly too long) couple of hours of spectacle and come out feeling a little deflated.

What we actually have is his best film that deserves to be seen as a very good war film. It shows the struggle for American independence from us pesky Brits. It’s surprisingly poignant helped along by its very good cast. Mel is rugged and has a past filled with war which he wants to get over. Heath is fresh faced and eager to server his country much to his father’s displeasure and Mr Issacs is smarmy and hated as he fills the role of customary English villain very well.

Smaltz is still surprised at how much restraint is shown. The battles are seen from a far except of course the epic ending with much screen time given to dialogue and character building. Also enjoyable is when Mel’s band of merry men goes a bit Robin Hood and peacefully sabotages the English army.

What really makes the film work, and is perhaps the most surprising element, is how well the central family work. Where as in other Emmerich films, The Day after Tomorrow say, the character arc is contrived and they are uncared for by the audience, where as here it is painful to watch as the family gets ripped apart.

Indeed the stupidity of civil war (perhaps more so than others) is wrapped up nicely in the films best line “Why swap one dictator three thousand miles away for three thousand dictators one mile away”.

Top Work!

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Che Parts 1 and 2 (Dodge E. Camembert Review)

Dir: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Benicio Del Toro
Year: 2008


Welcome to my first review, citizens! Dodge E. Camembert used to be something of a revolutionary. He marched on Washington in 1962, you know –
would you believe they tried to ban Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs? Philistines.

The very same revolutionary spirit pumped through one Ernesto “Che” Guevara from 1928 to 1967. Steven Soderbergh’s Che covers the extraordinary exploits of the man, from his part in the Cuban Revolution to his failed attempt to initiate a similar uprising in Bolivia.

Split into two films, Part One deals with the glory years. We see Che growing from a timid asthmatic academic to a fierce military leader, which is beautifully and subtly handled by Benicio “mumbly Usual Suspect” Del Toro in the lead role.

There’s a little too much jumping around in time - seemingly for the sake of it - and the opening geography lesson is a bit of a bore. But Part One was certainly my favourite of the two, with a stunning climax as Che’s forces take Santa Clara street by street.

After that peak, it’s all downhill for comrade Che in Part Two. Having sneaked into Bolivia in a hilarious middle-aged man disguise, he has to contend with a stronger (US-backed) government, weak-willed subordinates and an indifferent public. It’s almost painful to watch as both the man and the myth crumble before our eyes. Like a drunk and tired Dodge at the Oscars, though, he never loses his dignity.

If Che as a whole lacks one thing, it’s a little soul. As required reading, Dodge would recommend Motorcycle Diaries before settling down with this heavy two-course meal. It provides a welcome dose of context and helps you sympathise with the quiet doctor from Argentina as he fights the good fight.

Rating: Good!

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Shakespeare in Love


Dir: John Madden
Starring: Joseph Fiennes, Ben Affleck, Judi Dench

I rarely get bored during films, mainly cos I'm quite selective about what I watch. How, then, did this slip past my radar and into my dvd tray? Narry B is furious.

I refuse to credit Gwyneth Paltrow on the 'starring' list cos she's so bad in this. It's hard to even hear what she's saying when she's reading Shakespeare. She just seems to read it fast with occasional long pauses, hoping it will go away. Bad form, Mrs. Martin, bad form.

Aside from that, I've never heard such contrived drivel pretending as 'love'. The dialog is hair-tearingly annoying when it comes to Shakespeare's and Viola's relationship. I also found the whole film overlong. It was after one hour that I was getting really bored, and so I checked, to my horror, that there was an entire hour still to go.

Now for the good things: Ben Affleck played the over-confident actor perfectly ("We will show you how we turn Genius... into Legend"), and even Prince-lookalike Joseph Fiennes pulled off a cheeky Shakespeare quite well. Geoffrey Rush, despite having some clunky lines, was likable as ever. In fact, the supporting cast was excellent (Judi Dench, Colin Firth etc).

On top of that, there were at least two laugh out loud moments - there should be far more for something that purports to be a comedy, but they're still worth mentioning.

Rating: Bad!

Friday, 31 July 2009

12 Angry Men


Dir: Sidney Lumet
Starring: Henry Fonda, Ed Begley
Year: 1957

You may remember that the Narry Borman recently reviewed the excellent 'Gentle Twelve', a Japanese film written by Mitani Koki. I remarked in that review that it bears resemblance to a Hitchcock film. Behold, now, I realise my mistake.

12 Angry Men is the original film upon which Gentle 12 was based. 12 Angry Men is remarkably similar to Gentle 12. Koki obviously respects this film. 12 Angry Men is about a jury of 12 men who have to decide on a crime commited by a slum kid. Prejudice, personal feelings, and baseball games stand in the way of reaching a true verdict.

Much like Gentle 12, it tells you more about the character of the jurors than a 'whodunnit' story. And with Henry 'the man' Fonda among the rather talented cast, you can just sit back and enjoy. There is a very strong message in here, too, which is typified in the powerful scene where everyone turns their backs on the one remaining bigot.

Hazzah for equality!

Top Work!

Monday, 27 July 2009

Dead Poets Society


Dir: Peter Weir
Starring: Robin Williams, That guy from House, and Ethan Hawkeye

I'm gonna let you in on a secret about Narry Borman's life: He's a teacher. He teaches you all about good and bad films, and he also teaches English to earn a living and support his blog writing.

Robin Williams is also a teacher in Dead Poets Society. In fact, he's about the best darn teacher I've seen on the big screen. In a very understated (unusual for Williams) way he inspires his students to live and, ultimately, die.

I don't think any other film has as potent and vital a message delivered in such a worthy and selfless way as DPS. It's littered with quotable lines and iconic moments. The students are really rather naive but they're sincere, which is kind of likable.

Probably my favourite 80's coming of age film.

Genius!

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Black Rain


Dir: Ridley Scott
Starring: Michael Dougless, Andy Garcia, Takakura Ken
Year: 1989

I took a chance on this late 80s Didley Squatt film as it was down to a mere 100yen at me local video store. The Narry B was impressed.

Black Rain had a good balance of terrible 80s cheese, Blade Runner style investigation, and Japanese sightseeing. It also Douglas's perm and cheeky double chin. What a ledge.

Japan in the 80s (not sure if it's Tokyo or Osaka to be honest) seems like a dangerous place. A Yakuza war is going on, and two NY cops get caught in the middle of it. Fortunately, Andy Garcia is there to make light of the situation with some woise-cracks and a bit of karaoke magic.

Ridley's casting is spot on. Ken Takakura is stellar as the Japanese cop, and the connection between Garcia, Douglass and Takakura is magnetic.

Top wok!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Turtles Are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers


Dir: Satoshi Miki
Starring: Ueno Juri
Year: 2005

This is the second Satoshi Miki that I've seen as I've been drifting off to sleep. I'm not sure if I dreamt half of it or if it was real. It's always hard to tell with Miki's films.

For example, the main character Suzume is bowled over by a cascade of apples in one scene, while in another scene her childhood sweetheart turns out to be wearing a wig, and in another scene she throws a turtle from the 7th floor of an apartment building only to catch it before it lands. It's the mix of the fantastic and the real that make Miki's films so fun.

Turtles has an interesting premise. An everyday person becomes a very normal spy. Her life barely changes when she enters the new profession. And that is its downfall too. The film kind of fizzles out without really taking you anywhere.

What it does have is an excellent ensemble of characters, chiefly the middle-aged couple who are the head spies. Plus, the colourful visual style and an eccentric sense of humour makes for an entertaining 90 mins.

Good!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Iron Man


Dir: Jon Favreau
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow

I don't know what's happening to Narry B. He seems to like trashy films these days. Some say he stopped thinking in 1999 and has never been the same since.

Iron Man is a good film. Or, at least, it's very entertaining. There are laughs, action, and cliched terrorists fighting against the big ol' U.S of A. It's quite well made - let's face it, with this budget it couldn't be anything less. And Robert D Jr. is spot on as the engineer who has everything and nothing until he starts taking responsibility for designing weapons.

The ending was bit lacklustre, mainly cos it was so predictable and yet so stupid. How does rolling 5 cm out of the way of an explosion save you when a guy standing 5 metres away is blown up?! Admitting to being Iron Man at the end of the film was a worthy touch, I thought, making a bit of a mockery of all the superheroes who insist on being anonymous.

Looking forward to Iron Man 2!

Top work!

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

A Taxing Woman (マルサの女)


Dir: Juzo Itami
Starring: Nobuko Miyamoto
Year: 1987

Juzo Itami is something of a legendary director here, but is not too well known outside of Japan. He did a series of films with Nobuko Miyamoto called the 'Onna' (or 'woman') series. You may remember Narry B's other reviews such as Marutai No Onna, and Minbo No Onna.

A Taxing Woman is about a tax inspector who is very good at her job. I never knew taxes could be so exciting. Lots of gangster involvement, scandals, and espionage as the tax inspectors try to get the information they need.

The 'espionage' includes such ridiculous things as a truck with a big camera on the roof parked outside the suspect's house, and a mobile camera attached, in full view, to a motorcycle helmet. This is primitive stuff.

Top work from a top director working with a top cast. Perhaps my favourite in the Onna series!

Go Itami!

Top Work!

Friday, 10 July 2009

American Making Of's


A first for Narry Borman. This is not a film review. This is a 'critique' of the stupid 'making of' feature that American film companies feel obliged to put on every DVD and Blu-ray. NB's in a particularly foul mood becuase the last Making Of he watched was utter potty.

The reason for including the Making Of feature is to give the watcher a bit of the background of the movie. Instead what we get is some kind of pastiche of quotes.

"I walked into the office, and I saw the first two seconds of the film and I said 'I'm in'."

"And then I got a call from ____ and he asked me if I would be interested. So I said, 'Would I?!'"

"So Bruce Willis came into the audition room and he said 'Anyone ask for me?', and I said 'No'. So he said 'Right'. And then he went back out again. It was unbelievable!"

No way! You said that? You said that? You said that?! No way!

How do they expect us to react to such poop? Telling us what you said or what someone said to you has about as much relevance to the film as the mystical location of Narry B's laundrette. If I hear another meaningless 'so I said...' on a making of, I will snap the DVD between my huge fingers and write a letter of complaint.

Rating: Poop!

Gentle Twelve


Dir: Mitani Koki
Writer: Koki Mitani
Starring: Kazayuki Ajima
Year: 1991

If Hitchcock had been born in Japan, he might have directed something like this. The atmostphere is quite like his early-ish films, and in a similar way to Rope, almost the entire film is set in one room. A juror's room.

Gentle Twelve is as much about the Japanese character as it is about deciding whether a bar hostess is guilty of murder or not. People agree with each other just to get an easy answer, people don't know why they think what they think, and others staunchly hold to one opinion in the face of facts.

Mitani Koki wrote this film, and it's got his fingerprints all over it. It's even got his signature weakness of being a wee bit too long. Or, to be more correct, it would have been better if he had made it a bit shorter (see also The Magic Hour and The Wow-Choten Hotel).

Overall, it's a cracker of a film, though, that pokes fun at Japan inside of a very interesting story.

Top work!

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Damejin


Dir: Satoshi Miki
Starring: Ryuta Sato, Mikako Ichikawa

The useless people. How I envy the homeless! Narry B wants to be homeless, at least for a day or two. To roam around, enjoy the sights... no work, no house, no responsibilities... eating cat. Yes, cat. At least, that's what nutbox director Satoshi Miki seems to think homeless people eat.

There's not much story or plot here, but it is 90 minutes of fun, and the bad guy gets shot at the end, so all's well that ends well.

Having said that, there are some poignant moments. NB particularly likes the idea of going to buy a mobile phone and coming back with a harmonica. 'A phone puts you in touch with people you don't want to meet', says the old boy selling harmonicas. 'A harmonica touches people's hearts'. Then he blows out some mad ass Jagger style harmonica. Rock and Roll!

No English subs on the DVD unfortunately, but dialog is minimal so its easy enough to piece together.

Top work!

Friday, 3 July 2009

Transformers (2007)


Dir: Michael Bay
Starring: Shia Labeouf, Megan the Fox

The Narry Borman was skeptical about this film, mainly cos of Michael Bay's involvement. Also, because it was taking a Japanese franchise to America. Also, because Optimus and I are old enemies.

Transformers is, however, a really fun film. Instead of gung-ho soldiers taking on robots, Transformers juxtaposes the story of the fate of the earth with the life of a suburban kid. It makes for surprisingly fun film that is thankfully lacking in cheese. In fact, there are only two cringe moments - Megan Fox stopping the action to say something like'whatever happens, I'll always love you for your range of novelty tees', or some awful line. And I've forgotten the other one.

Making up for that moment of rankness is George Bush's cameo - 'could you wrangle me up a couple of ding dongs?'. They don't write scripts like that anymore.

I watched this on blu-ray and it was visually stunning. Prime's face was quite spectacular, terrifying and respectable at the same time.

I never thought this would appear on Narry Borman, but... well done Micheal Bay.

Rating: Top Work!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Rocky Balboa (Smaltz Review)


Lets layout some ground rules here. Firstly Smaltz doesn’t like boxing. Fighting with rules is still fighting. Secondly, I’ve seen only Rocky 2 (rather good) and 3 (why does everyone like this one so much?). Smaltz knows as much about Rocky as Borman knows about womenfolk.

So with this less than ideal starting point I dubiously sat down to watch Balboa. To my delight the film turns out to be well thought out and a sensitive look at a man with a broken life. He has lost his wife, and his son has become somewhat distant. He finds a purpose in running a local taverna. He also discovers a desire to fight again in small local competitions.

The turning point of the story sounds dubious; a computer simulation shows that Rocky in his prime would beat the current heavy weight champ. This is surprisingly well handled and sparks interest from the ‘champ's’ management.

This sets up Rocky’s last fight and boy the old man’s still got it…Stallone that is. His abs are more ripped than Borman's trousers and his shoulders are the size of Catherine’s wheel. The final is an epic and authentic struggle that is spectacularly edited, weaving flashbacks with a cleverly inserted black frame to show a brief loss of consciousness.

Yes there is the 'pounded chicken' line which I know is a personal favourite of Narry’s. To be fair this is how the yanks make TV. I mean, who else would use 80’s guitar rock as an accompaniment to golf? Besides Rocky has always thrived on a bit of cheese. Considering this is the ending it is very well judged and provides excellent closure to the series.

Maybe I am a Rocky fan after all.

Rating: Top Work!

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Juno


Dir: Jason Reitman
Starring: Michael Cera, Ellen Page

I'm sure teenage girls love this film, but Narry B is not a teenage girl. Y'see, Juno talks in that 'witty' and 'clever' style of so many over-educated, over-confident young laydeez that makes you cringe when you hear it. She's trying way too hard.

That was NB's main gripe. The seoncd gripe was the 'oh-so-out there' music and pop culture references. I like manga! I like Iggy Pop! I like b-movies! Love meeee!

And my final gripe is that it seemed to stifle the comedy talents of Arrested Development's Michael Cera and Jason Bateman. I wanted to see more humour from them. Ol' J.K was really good as her father, though.

That aside, it's a well made, likable (for a certain teenage demograpic) movie. Plus, Juno and Michael Cera's relationship leaves us on a good note. And there are some funny moments, such as the dad asking what you can make with a Pilates machine.

Finally, Juno has a strong moral lesson: You can always give your baby up for adoption... Ech.

Rating: Average!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Return of the Magnificent Seven


Dir: Burt Kennedy
Starring: Yul Brynner
Year: 1966

I watched this by mistake - I thought it was the original. When NB realised his mistake he was expecting disappointment, but was actually pleasantly surprised.

In 1947 Satre gave an interesting lecture about the how a man can choose a right or wrong course from an existential viewpoint. Is there even a right or wrong? Yul Brynner's character kind of personifies that viewpoint and that choice. It's DEEP!

The film itself is a series of conversations as Brynner gives advice to his underlings and shows 'em whats what. Plus theres some horse riding and shooting. It's a gunslinging, get the bad guys, cowboy film that doesn't break any new ground, but doesn't fall flat on its face either.

Rating: Good!

Monday, 15 June 2009

Groundhog Day

Dir: Harold Ramis
Starring: Bill Murray, Andy MacD

Narry B's not sure if its cool to like this film or not, but it is a modern classic.

It's funny without being stupid, interesting without being complicated, and romantic without being schmaltzy. And it has Bill Murray - a legend in the manner of John Barrymore, Geronimo or Joan of Arc.


Not having watched it for a long time, I thought it might have aged badly. Surprisingly, it hasn't (except for a few annoying yuppyish/early 90s cafe culture style references). It's a timeless film that I could watch everyday...

Final point of note goes to Andy MacDowell's hair. It's big! Man, those early 90s birds really knew how to grow a full head of hair. Narry B wishes Mrs. Narry B had that kind of hair, instead of her few remaining wiry ginger strands. A man can dream.

Rating: Genius!

Monday, 8 June 2009

Kenny


Dir: Clayton Jacobson
Starring: Shayne Jacobson, Eve von Bibra
Year: 2006

I'm not a big fan of allegory, but if NB were to interpret this film then Kenny would be some kind of religious figurehead, and urine and turds would be human society; namely, you and me.

Yes, Kenny is about as pure and decent as humans can hope to be. Eternally patient (until the whole 'poo in a car' incident), optimistic, and hard-working.

The fact that Kenny works hard with human waste makes no difference to him, although it does bother people around him, including his father, brother, and even his customers. The quality of Kenny's character shines through all that, and that's what makes him a modern hero in cinema.

Kenny takes toilet humour to the next level. It's hard to say if this is even toilet humour - it's more like toilet humour laughing at us.

Narry B has watched Kenny and The Castle in one week: if other Australian films are as good then Oz is the hidden gem of cinema (or is it all Home and Away: the TV Special after this?).

Mockumentary makers should take note: This is how to do it.

Rating: Top Work!

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Borat


Dir: Larry Charles
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen

Narry B knew the name Larry Charles was familiar when he saw the credits! It's the guy wrote Seinfeld (along with Larry D, and J Seinfeld, of course). I didn't know he was a director, though. Maybe he should stick to writing.

Actually, I thought Borat was really well directed. What let it down was trying too hard. It lost any realism. The naked hotel fight was totally unnecessary and didn't make NB smile. Borat's hometown wasn't very entertaining either. Too obvious. Same for the 'bear in a fridge'.

On the other hand, there are some moments of genius - table tennis with a midget, the rodeo scene was rather good, and the awkward dinner party. Perhaps the highlight was Borat's comedy class - it makes you cringe. I like to cringe.

The highs are high, and the lows are really low.

Rating: Good!