Thursday, 30 April 2009

Hot Fuzz

Dir: Edgar Wright

Starring: Simon Pegg, Martin Freeman

Narry Borman loves British films, and wants to see them succeed. But this is no good.

Hot Fuzz is aimed at 8-10 year olds who can repeat the lines in the school playground, which is bizarre considering it's constant cultural references are to things 8-10 year olds wouldn't understand. Sure, it’s tongue in cheek, but it’s still not funny.

The supposedly hilarious gratuitous violence is just awful - I don't want to see that.

There is some top class in here, though, especially Timothy Dalton and Jim Broadbent. The whole thing should have been about Tim’s supermarket – that would have been funny. Everyone seems so eager to reel off the next British star, too… ooh look, there’s Dame Edna. How about some humour instead!


Sunday, 26 April 2009

Tokyo Story

Dir: Ozu Yasujiro
Starring: Chishu Ryu, Setsuko Hara
Year: 1953

I recently reviewed Chinatown and called it 'bleak'. Some would argue that Tokyo Story is bleak, but I wholeheartedly disagree.

Narry Borman found Tokyo Story to be a very positive film. It shows in quite minute detail how people drift away from each other, even within families, but at the same time, Tokyo Story shows how people come together.

When an old couple visit their children in Tokyo, they are neglected and treated as a nuisance by their son and daughter. The contrast between these two generations is plainly evident: the younger generation are barely human, and have no understanding of what is important. The old couple, on the other hand, are hard-working, likable people, who accept their situation with a smile.

Fortunately, the wonderful Noriko (Setsuko Hara) shows them that not everyone has turned soulless in Tokyo. She's only their daughter-in-law but she looks after them and takes an interest in them unlike their children.

Tokyo Monogatari is positive because of two things:

1. The parents happily accepted the natural circle of life (even death)
2. Noriko showed that good people don't change despite generation gaps (her feelings were always genuine, and she was so much better than the other children, but still really humble)

Anyway, I hate it when people interpret films, so I'll stop there. But Narry found it touching. 'Nuff said.

Ozu's direction is masterful, as always. Every shot is set up like a carefully-studied photograph, and human characters are given the spotlight instead of story, script or settings.


Saturday, 25 April 2009

THX 1138

Dir: George Lucas
Starring: Robert Duvall, Donald Pleasance, Assorted bald men and women
Year: 1971

I love sci-fi. Good sci-fi. Occasionally. This isn't your average 'Monkeys are running our planet' sci-fi, though. THX 1138 is a fairly believable look at the future that asks some pretty deep questions - the answers come from some bald people.

I couldn't believe this was made in 1971. It looks stunning. Which is probably why it has been so influential - mainly on Daft Punk, judging by their robot visages and the aesthetics of their film Electroma. Still, Lucas somehow messed it up by adding some ropey CGI in 2004's Director's Cut edition. Aside from that, it's a visual and aural feast.

Lalo's score is excellent. Understated, but powerful.

I like films that don't spoon feed you. THX doesn't answer every question, nor does it tell you why certain things are happening. But the ending leaves you feeling satisfied because it's a well made and interesting film.

Nice one, Lucas!

Rating: Top Work!

Thursday, 23 April 2009


Dir: Roman Polanskia
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston

When the director is both Polish and French, you know the film is going to be on the serious side. Chinatown is just that. There's nothing light-hearted about it - only tragedy and a complicated story.

Some people thrive on this kind of bleak film. Not Narry Borman. He watches films for one of three reasons:

1. Entertainment
2. Art
3. Education

The bleak genre fits into none of those categories, so I don't like Chinatown too much.

It's very well made. The acting is top class. But it's all about people who are too serious and who are entangled in lies, sin and crime. Not my cup o' tea.

Rating: Average!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

A Cheerful Gang Turns the Earth

Dir: Tetsu Maeda
Starring: Koichi Sato, Takao Osawa

Have you ever been really disappointed by a film? Most likely it was when the live action version of your favourite comic wasn't as good as you hoped, or when a sequel just didn't match the original (damn you, The Sting 2!), or possibly when you'd read such good things about a film and had such respect for the staff and stars of a film that you built yourself into a frenzish fever that the movie couldn't possibly live up to.

Well, A Cheerful Gang was none of those things for me. But I was left disappointed - it starts so well, and then falls flat on its face after having tied its own shoelaces together. The early part of the film introduces us to a cheerful gang of bank robbers - larger than life but human at the same time. An exciting and interesting bank robbery takes place followed by a dramatic twist - the robbers get robbed.

And then things get boring because they try to rob the robbers, and then they try to set up the robbers, and then they make a really convoluted plan using a criminal mastermind, but all the time someone's watching them, and the police are in on it too... throw in a few kidnappings and a truly dull romantic story and you have A Cheerful Gang. Plus the plot is more holey than St. Augustine.

Koichi Sato is always gonna be fun to watch (check out The Magic Hour for more Sato greatness), and the visual style of the film is quite entertaining. But the story... the story! It tries way too hard, when something simple would have been so much fun. Too bad.

Rating: Good!

Sunday, 19 April 2009

The General

Dir: Clyde Buckerman
Starring: Buster Keaton
Year: 1926

A little man named Dark Mavis recommended this film to me a few years ago, but Narry Borman goes through phases with old comedies so he didn't get around to seeing The General until last night.

Yes, phases. I've been through them all: WC Fields, Laurel and Hardy, The Marx Brothers, even Abbot and Costello. Harold Lloyd is my nominee for most underrated, but the Marx Brothers are probably my favourite comedy team.

Buster Keaton I have sadly overlooked. Silent films can be really difficult to watch these days, but The General is quite a pacy film. The score adds to the tension immeasurably - a very modern soundtrack that is reminiscent of Pirates of the Caribbean.

Buster's comedy stylings are timeless. He does physical comedy, social observations (particularly like the love-hate relationship with the lead lady as they ride the General home), and more subtle stuff too.

The General has aged rather well, but even so it is somewhat outdated. I found my attention wavering after around 60 minutes, mainly because there are long periods without any dialog at all, and also because I have ADD and I needed the toilet.

A great little film - well-made, funny, and likable.


Wednesday, 15 April 2009

M-1 2005

I don't intend to review anything other than films on this blog, but I'm making an exception for this gem: M1. Manzai is Japan's premiere form of comedy. It's duo stand-up style, and links nonsense, sitcom and traditional stand-up in new ways. M1 is the massive competition held each year in Japan to find the best manzai partnership.

2005's competition is by far the funniest installment I have seen. The ludicrous Black Mayonnaise took the show by storm, but to Narry Borman's mind Waraimeshi were the funniest duo out there.

M1 is probably impossible to find outside of Japan, and even if you did find it then unless you speak Japanese and are familiar with Japanese culture then you'd struggle to follow what's going on. However, it's worth learning Japanese to watch this M1 alone.


Monday, 13 April 2009

The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift

Dir: Justin Lin
Starring: Some people and some assorted hotties

I don't know why I punish myself so much. Looking over my recent reviews, I've been watching an awful lot of dross lately. The dross season continues with the adrenaline fuelled Tokyo Drift.

A guy in America gets into trouble with the law for driving too fast and is implausibly sent to Tokyo to live with his father. And some other stuff. The story is awful - there's even some self-discovery crapola that somehow makes it's way in there.

The cars are quite special, though. There's a lot of tyre squealing, engine revving and more drifting than a hobo in depression era US. If you like cars, have no brain, and want to see a bit of Tokyo, then sit back and enjoy the third in the over-stretched Fast and Furious series.

I apologise to my readers for reviewing turd-films lately - Narry Borman will monitor the quality of his film selection from now on. His current personal DVD shopper, one Ronathan Joss, has been fired - but that was more to do with prank phone calls than DVD choices.


Saturday, 11 April 2009

Ping Pong

Dir: Sori Fumihiko
Starring: Yosuke Kubozuka, Arata
Year: 2002

Most sports films tell the story of a struggling underdog who makes it big (Rocky), or the high stakes of the pro leagues (Goal). Some even show sports as defeating war (Escape to Victory). Ping Pong, though, is the story of an inter-high school table tennis tournament. Does it get any more amateur?

For all that, it carries off a fair amount of tension and gets you wrapped up in the world of ping pong. It's a sport of ridiculously high speed and quick reactions. Fortunately, effective use of slo-mo and camera tricks help the viewer to keep up with what's going on. The direction is truly superb in this film and remains faithful to the manga roots.

The two main characters play off each other extremely well and ultimately push each other to new highs. Peco is a larger than life character who has all the confidence in the world until he loses. Smile plays to lose but has hidden talents that are waiting to be brought out. When they play each other in the final, one of them has to step up and be a hero.

Alongside them is a great supporting cast, including Butterfly Joe (Naoto Takenaka) who almost steals the show with his dodgy English and slightly disturbing personality (check out his role in Nodame Cantabile for another show-stealing performance).

As with many manga based films, you feel like there is quite a lot missing and some things in the plot seem to jump suddenly. Despite that, Ping Pong clocks in at 114 minutes - two hours of your life that will fly by thanks to the cheeky sense of humour, engaging story, and high-production values. Enjoy!

Top work!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Drillbit Taylor

Dir: Steven Brill
Starring: Owen Wilson and thee annoying kids
Year: 2008

I normally start my reviews with a lengthy story that is sometimes not even connected to the film, but for Drillbit Taylor I'll get straight to the point: it's unbelievably bad.

Owen Wilson is a funny guy, he's got funny in his bones. But he's used sparingly in Drillbit, and the lead roles actually go to three of the most annoying and unlikable young actors in cinema history. Not a good basis for a film. Not one of them can do comedy, and it actually just leaves you feeling a bit awkward.

There are three of my most hated cliches in this film:

1. Random violence is funny
2. Asian girls are desperate
3. There are rules to being cool in high school

Whoever wrote this script should stop. Just stop! Get another job where your cliches don't disturb Narry Borman, for he rejects your film from the pages of cinema history.


Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Night of the Hunter

Dir: Charles Laughton
Starring: Robert Mitchum
Year: 1955

I've wanted to see this film for a few years now as I heard the main character was quite off-beat (especially so for a 50's film). He is indeed scarily abnormal - Mitchum plays a preacher who funds his work with various heinous crimes, but still maintains his good relationship with 'the Lord'.

As he goes in pursuit of two children who he believes have $10k hidden in a doll, Mitchum gradually gets more and more psychotic until there is no question of his insanity. It's acted and directed with incredible subtlety.

If this were a modern film, Mitchum's character would have been foaming at the mouth and screaming obscenities. Instead he eerily sits around singing hymns, playing with a flick-knife. That's why I say Night of the Hunter is well ahead of its time.

The director was Charles Laughton. You all know Charles Laughton. He was in Spartacus, Witness for the Prosecution and some other rather big films of the 30's-60's. Night of the Hunter is the only major film that he directed, though. And he does a swell job. In fact, the direction is quite modern, and it is imaginatively made. Narry particularly liked the scene where the children are floating down the river on the boat - reminded him of his own childhood.

Night of the Hunter is not without its flaws. It's somewhat prone to the kind of over-acting and under-acting that plagues a lot of older films, but the lead actors more than make up for that deficiency. The southern setting was quite brilliant, showing backwater US with its conservative and quite frankly crazy population (hope I don't alienate my Alabama audience with that comment). The accents were simply darling - "Go look in mirror over yonder".

Top work!

Once In A Lifetime

Film: Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos
Dir: Paul Crowder/John Dower
Starring: New York Cosmos
Year: 2007

Ah, America. Will you never learn? Throwing money at something doesn't make it work. I love US documentaries - everyone on them seems to fit right into some cliche. The nerdy guy with a head full of stats, the business tycoon with money on the mind, the journalist obsessed with his own status... it's hilarious!

Among the luminaries interviewed on this documentary, however, are the down-to-earth and very talented stars of the New York Cosmos football team, including Franz Beckenbauer, Giorgio Chinaglia, Rodney Marsh (not of NYC), Johan Cruyff and Carlos Alberto.

Hearing the conflicting sides of a story that people are quite passionate about makes for interesting watching. It makes you wonder what bizarre agendas these people have on their minds to create such fabrications.

The documentary perhaps overplays the importance of the NYC on world football, but you can't blame them for a bit of sensationalism. One thing in the favour of the NASL was the one-on-one, has to be a winner match ending mini game. I'd love to see that in the Premier League!

The documentary doesn't discover the truth, but it does tell an interesting story and shows some amazing footage of the world's greatest game being played by the then world's greatest players. If only Mexico 86 had gone to the US instead!

Top work!

Saturday, 4 April 2009

The Conversation

Dir: F F Coppola
Starring: Gene Hackman
Year: 1974

In the hands of a lesser director than Coppola this would have a been boring film. But Coppola is a rare talent who makes complete films, sometimes seemingly out of nothing.

There are two big turning points in this film: 1. The crime is not what you think it is, and 2. The Conversation is not even about the crime - it's about the man. Both of these denouements (can you have two?) come within the last 10-15 minutes of the film, which, even after two hours of filmage, leaves you wanting more.

I was genuinely scared by this film - not that it's a horror film, or even scary, but it just has a certain tension that leaves you feeling chilled. The soundtrack has an off-beat jazz vibe that sits somewhere between The Sting and a Charlie Parker LP, creating the perfect background for the paranoia and intensity of Hackman's character and his disturbing world of surveillance.

Hackman + Coppola = Genius.


Friday, 3 April 2009

Deathfix: Die and Let Live

Dir: Miki Satoshi
Starring: Iseya Yusuke
Year: 2007

Why are Japanese films so different to those of any other country? Bizarre, enjoyable, but purposeful comedy dramas are a mainstay of Japanese cinema - a far cry from the horror films and animations that are exported to the west.

These films can only be made in Japan. Japan has a unique sense of humour that is totally removed from America's more obvious comedy style, or Britain's sarcasm/cynicism. At the same time, Japanese people are renowned for showing incredible attention to minute details and being interested in the strangest things. Hence a film about an insect that can temporarily render a person... dead.

An unlikely ensemble - including a journalist, a hippy, a light-hearted suicidist, and an ex-yakuza - go searching for this insect and find a web (ba-dum-chi) of lies surrounding its existence. This premise gives director and script-writer Miki Satoshi free reign to include an array of unconnected comedy vignettes alongside a hilarious script that is supremely acted out.

Top work!

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Marutai no Onna

Dir: Juzo Itami
Starring: Nobuko Miyamoto, Yuji Murata
Year: 1996

I've been going through a bit of a Juzo Itami season lately, mainly due to the fact that my local Tsutaya (the Japanese equivalent of Blockbuster, or Netflix) is promoting his films at the moment. There recommendations are normally quite strong, but I have to admit I didn't go along with the Michael Bay promotion.

Itami's Onna series has several incarnations, all with loosely the same cast. Miyamoto is cast as the Onna (or lady), this time playing an actress who witnesses a murder. Things turn nasty when the murder is connected to a cult, which soon targets her as their next hit.

It's a tried and tested formula for a film that doesn't have any major surprises, but works well thanks to a good sense of humour and a likable cast (although Tachibana, the chief detective, doesn't really have the charisma of a typical lead man).

Supa no Onne is still my favourite in this series as it is just plain fun and doesn't bother with the Yakuza-bashing of Mimbo no Onna or the anti-cult themes of Marutai. All the same, Marutai is...

Top work!