Sunday, 31 May 2009

Once Upon A Time In China

Dir: Tsui Hark
Starring: Jet Li, Rosamund Kwan
Year: 1991

Narry B wasn't around when China was feeling the strain from foreign influence but fortunately Jet Li was there with his camera.

There's not much to say about this film. History, politics, romance, action, a guy being hit on the head with a pork joint; Once Upon a Time has it all. The only drawback is perhaps that it tries to do and say too much which takes away from Jet Li's stunning skills as an actor and acrobat.

Word up to director Tsui Hark who did an excellent job of recreating old China, and adding some artistic touches that would clearly inspire Crouching Tiger/Hero/The Medallion etc.

Considerably better than the sequels.

Top Work!

The Goonies

Dir: Richard Donner
Starring: Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, John Matuszak

Despite spawning 112 (and counting) made-for-tv clones, The Goonies is a children's favourite. Albeit that those children have now grown up and are in their 40's yet continue to dream of being in a 'gang'.

With Spielberg, Kennedy and Marshall on board (all Back to the Future staff) and Dick Donner behind the camera, it can’t really fail. It’s 114 minutes of entertainment.

Being made in the 80s, there are naturally some horrible cheesy moments (Sean Astin’s motivational speeches, and his weird, non-sensical love for one-eyed Willy). And the Goonies uses the words ‘you guys’ more than any other film. But there’s adventure, a few laughs, and Sloth to keep things moving.

Top Work!

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Welcome to Dongmakgol

Dir: Kwang-Hyun Park
Starring: Hye-Jeong Kang, Jae-yeong Jong

Ah, how Narry B loves daft leading ladies. They come no dafter than Yeo-il in Welcome to Dongmakgol. A silly, lovely, airhead of a girl who prances around the valleys of Korea like they're her playground.

The story is quaint, too: During the Korean civil war, two groups of opposing soldiers stumble across a village deep in the mountains. The village is hundreds of years behind the times, unaware that there is even a war.

The naeivety of the villagers gives a chance for some wonderfully childish antics: singing, dancing, silly games, and traditional festivals.

Unfortunately, starring alongside the wonderful Yeo-il is a cliched white guy. I’ll never understand why there are so many awful western actors in asian films. They’re awful! Dongmakgol's wannabe-actor is Steve Taschler - he rivals Natalie Portman for woodenness.

Despite that, Dongmakgol has some magical moments, even if the war theme is a bit too strong and ends up detracting from the wonderment with its overbearing seriousness.

If you’ve ever wanted to see a wild boar being felled in slow motion, now's your chance.

Rating: Good!

Sunday, 24 May 2009

V for Vendetta (Narry B's Review)

Dir: James McTiegue
Starring: Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman

After reading Smaltz's review of this 'modern classic' I was a bit 'McTiegued' (cockney rhyming for 'intrigued'). But it really was rather good!

At first you think, 'Hold on, this is just Batman!', but it quickly proves itself to be actually quite different. V is a fairly serious film, and makes a lot of salient points about the conflict of religion and politics.

The English setting was refreshing for a superhero film (of sorts), and generally it was pulled off quite well - I only cringed twice throughout the film. One was when they tried to be too English, the other cringe was for V and Portman's sloppy dialog when it came to their romance. That was truly dire.

V: "I... think... that..."
Ev "V, what is it?!"
V: "I... would you... join me for an egg on toast?"
Ev: "Oh! V!"

Forget about that, though, cos V is actually a storming film. As Smaltz pointed out, it has some nice eccentric touches, and the action is really well done, too.

Portman tries her best, but as she herself says in the "touching" scene where she tells us about her life story: 'I always wanted to act'. And we all want you to act as well, dear.

Rating: Top Work!

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

V for Vendetta (Guest Review!)

Dir: James McTiegue

Starring: Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, John Hurt

Hi I’m Roger Smaltz and welcome to my first guest review.

V for Vendetta tells the story of a terrorist refusing to accept the government's iron grip of society. Set in the near future, England is effectively under a dictatorship using the BTN (British Television Network) to convince everyone that things are better than ever. The story is based closely on a ten part series written by graphic novel supremo Alan Moore (Watchmen, Batman-The Killing Joke e.t.c.).

To be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect but let’s make this clear: Smaltz likes good sci-fi and hates bad sci-fi. I’m also rather partial to a good superhero adventure since those halcyon days of my childhood watching Adam West in tights.

To my delight V is a brilliant, all be it subversive take on the super hero genre. Hugo Weaving is superb as V despite never seeing his face. He is helped by some wonderful dialogue and his own sense of playfulness such as air conducting the 1812 overture to the destruction of the old bailey.

The combination of music and image is Kubrick-esque, thanks especially to the minimalist but effective score.

Whatever your cinematic preference V should be seen - particularly by those who thought that the Wachowski’s would never recover from the poopingly awful Matrix Reloaded.

Thanks to Narry B for accommodating my horse.

Rating: Genius!

Look out for Narry Borman's review of V coming soon.

Monday, 18 May 2009

M-1 2006

The 2005 edition of this annual comedy tournament in Japan was something of a classic. Black Mayonnaise ended up winning after narrowly beating the excellent Waraimeshi. The following year, Waraimeshi were back for revenge.

Tutorial, the duo from Kyoto, were on fire, though. I mean FIRE! They were stonking. After doing a skit about buying a refrigerator, which took something mundane and made it sound interesting, they really brought home the bacon with their final act about bicycle bells.

Another classic year for M-1. Watch!


Sunday, 17 May 2009

A Delicious Way to Kill (Oishii Koroshikata)

Dir: Keralino Sandorovich
Starring: Okina Megumi, Inuyama Inuko

TV films have almost entirely negative connotations in my mind, so I was surprised at how good this Japanese TV drama/comedy was. It had laughs, suspense, and imagination.

Sandorovich is a pretty well-known director who has a quirky sense of style and humour. It carries through well in A Delicious Way to Kill.

A girl who can't keep a steady relationship has her awful cooking skills to blame, so she decides to enrol in a cooking class. Things soon turn nasty, though - cue some bizarre murders, and a rambling investigation by three incompetent women.

A Delicious Way starts off exceptionally well and on an original premise. It quickly leaves behind the girl's desire to cook well and becomes a more straightforward investigation story, however. And that's not all it leaves behind - it also leaves a bit of soul, originality and humour and carries on with a typical, albeit interesting murder inquiry.

There are some moments of comedy genius here (not withstanding the lifted from Woody desert scene), most notably the leading lady's 1980's big glasses. It's a bit overlong at 120 minutes, but it has a good pace and keeps you entertained.


Friday, 15 May 2009

Tropic Thunder

Dir: Ben Stiller
Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr.

Apparently this film was picketed by mentally handicapped groups because of it's repeated use of the word 'retard'. Thankfully, they didn't get their way cos the funniest thing in Tropic Thunder is the in-film 'Simple Jack' - I'm sure you can guess the rest.

So much was made of Tom Cruise in this film, but NB found him to be annoying, and his dialog to be meaningless. Much more impressive was his sidekick, a Jim Belushi look-a-like (Bill Hader) who delivered some of the funniest lines of the film.

Robert Downey Jr. was also truly excellent. I wasn't expecting much from him, but his role as a black army sergeant is flawless - even when he breaks down and becomes a white man again.

Jack Black feels rather out of character and a bit awkward. Considering he does over-the-top better than anyone else in the world, you have to wonder why they didn't just let him off his leash to go wild. Instead he's quite restrained, although the line 'My ass!' should deservedly go down in cinema history.

Tropic Thunder as a film could have been so much better. Considering Stiller's films are all about overblown, over-the-top stupidity (plus a bit of satire) it can't be that hard to make them. I never thought anyone could learn anything from the Naked Gun series, but Stiller could still pick up some tips from that series when it comes to doing stupidity well.

For all that, it is rather funny, and had Narry B kicking up his heels with laughter in a few places. It's just a bit incosistent - like Starsky and Hutch, Zoolander, etc. etc.

Rating: Good!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009


Dir: Michelangelo Antonionioni
Starring: David Hemmings

Some films get reputations bigger than they deserve (see my review of Chinatown). Blow-up is another of those films. I'd heard good things, but ended up being a bit a bored.

In a film largely about photography, a good soundtrack is essential, especially considering the entire dialog from Blowup takes up about 4 minutes of the film (out of a possible 111 minutes).

That's what's wrong with it, but Blowup also has some merits. Although it is very slow, it takes you to a very interesting place where someone accidentally discovers a crime, but shows almost no interest in it except from an artistic point of view.

Most of the near 2-hour running time, though, is spent watching photos being developed, taken, or viewed. The rest of it is spent showing off some of the 60's top birds - never a bad thing.

The lead character is David Hemmings, a name almost unknown to me before this. I later found out that he spent the 80's directing and acting in such classic series as Magnum P.I. and Airwolf. That's why I didn't know him, then.

He is an amazing actor, though. A bizarre looking fellow, short, weird eyes, odd; perfect for this kind of film. He would have been ideal for A Clockwork Orange's Alex (but, then, so was McDowell), or even as a replacement for Michael Caine as Harry Palmer.

Not the most enjoyable film to watch. If you like your story's slow, and your endings open, your birds from the 60's, and dialog that's almost non-existent, then you'll love Blowup. For Narry Borman, Blowup's alllllrrriigght!


Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Secrets and Lies

Dir: Mike Leigh
Starring: Timothy Spall

Mike Leigh - you always hear things like 'stark reality', 'tragic realism', and 'gritty' in connection with that name. The first of Leigh's films seen by Narry B were Nuts In May, and Abigail's Party. In NB's mind, things like 'ruddy hilarious', 'twisted but funny', and 'thigh-slapping laughy' are brought to mind when speaking of Mike Leigh.

I wasn't sure if Secrets and Lies would match up to his other films - was it just going to be twisted, and not funny? Certainly, there's enough emotional overcharge in this film to power a city for three months, but thankfully it is also comedy genius. I think.

I wasn't sure if I was supposed to laugh or not. Either way, I did, and I laughed hard. Normally it was at something stupid - Paul's facial expressions while everyone else was breaking down, Cynthia's endless faux pas, or the overwrought tension of the situation.

Mike Leigh's still got it. Long may he keep it.

Top Work!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Billy Liar

Dir: John Schlesinger
Starring: Tom Courtenay, Julie Christie
Year: 1963

They say that you should always shave with the grain. Narry Borman sometimes shaves against the grain 'cos it feels strange and it's a bit different.

I love Billy Liar. It's a great film - a brilliant idea put into action in a supreme way. It's been probably 5 years since I last saw it, so I was worried that it might not be as good as I remembered. But it was just as good.

Billy Liar is perhaps cinema's original imaginative, discontented kid, living in a dream world and almost unable to face reality as it is (look at Science of Sleep for the most recent, most crappy example). Julie Christie plays his kindred spirit, but Billy's so far gone that he even let's her slip by (if Julie Christie asked Narry Borman to go to London with her, he'd give up his day job as a testing guinea pig immediately).

Admittedly, this film goes against the grain of my normal taste - it has a thoroughly depressing atmosphere, particularly in the last 30 minutes. But NB sympathizes with Liar's dream world and 'immaturity'.

You can't fault the acting (Courtenay is legendary, Christie is delicious, Pickles is on fire, and Rossiter is snide as a pig). You can't fault the script. You can't fault the direction.

Conclusion, Genius!

Thursday, 7 May 2009

The Legend of the Drunken Master

Dir: Chia-Liang Liu
Starring: Jacky Chan, Anita Mui
Year: 1994

Narry Borman laughed outrageously at these credits; there was something hilarious about the credit: Jacky Chan and His Stuntman's Group. In the light of day, it doesn't look that funny, but anyway it's a good way to start the film.

Everyone knows the original Chan Drunken Master film; it's a classic. Chan reprises his role in this 1994 film, although to be honest it bears little resemblance to the original except in terms of his fighting style.

Legend, then is effectively Drunken Master II. But it actually seems to borrow more from Once Upon A Time in China than anything else. It dispenses with a lot of the comedy of most Chan films, and adds political themes and some stuff about taking pride in your country's culture. Yawn!

In a classic bit of Hong Kong editting, there is a real mess of characters. Bad guys are introduced half way through, enemies become friends with no explanation, and character form strong bonds without saying why. I love incoherence!

The main thing, though, is Jacky's stunts, of course. And there's plenty to see. He is on top form. The usual array of props are there to help him (chairs, stools, and of course, alcohol). Anita Mui, who plays Jacky's mother, steals the show, however. What a lady! She has more spirit than two Jackys.

Great film, but I'm not sure why it made Time's Top 100 Films ever.

Top Work!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

24 Hour Party People

Dir: Michael Winterybottom
Starring: Steve Coogan, Andy Serkis

Narry Borman doesn't like to compare things, but if you were to compare 24 Hour Party People with Spinal Tap, you would see how different British people and American people are.

24 Hour Party People is full of the nonsense, excess, cynicism, and enthusiasm that defined the Madchester era. It does an excellent job of telling a story about a music scene, without being pretentious or annoying.

What can you say? It's the story of Joy Division, The Happy Mondays etc. You know what to expect. Great soundtrack, nice script, well-made. The casting is excellent, and some familiar faces (Mark E Smith, Clint Boon) make cameos that although pointless do lend credence to the film.

Top Work!

Monday, 4 May 2009

Get Smart

Dir: Peter Segal
Starring: Steve Carrel, Anne Hathaway

I think every film should have a Bill Murray cameo. In this, he makes a quick entrance as an agent in a tree, but even in films like Dark Knight, or Pan's Labyrinth I think he should make cameos.

Anyway, that's besides the point. Get Smart is not going to shock you. It's a light, throwaway American comedy. Not the greatest of it's genre, but not the worst.

An incoherent plot about nuclear warheads is the premise for Steve Carrel to become a spy. Why are there so many of these fake spy films in recent times? Johnny English, I Spy, even Austin Powers...

Considering Get Smart had a budget of $80m, some of the effects are awful. Truly awful. Especially the doors leading into the headquarters. They look like my nephew drew them on a etch-a-sketch. The cast is quite good, though. Alan Arkin is a top man, and even The Rocks does a good job of comedy. Anne Hathaway is tasty, and Steve Carrel excels in a role slightly different to his usual typecast.

Some funny moments, but nothing to make you cough up your own liver. What would you expect from a film connected to Mel Brooks?

Rating: Good!