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?


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!


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.


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.


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...


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.


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!