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.


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.


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


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!