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All reviews - Movies (22) - TV Shows (14) - DVDs (1)

Golden Slumber review

Posted : 6 years, 11 months ago on 13 November 2010 09:10 (A review of Golden Slumber)

From the trailer, this looks like an action thriller with good acting. Well, I made it 50 minutes because of the acting, but it was abundantly clear the trailer was misleading. This is actually a pretentious art house movie that, according to some reviews, is an "uplifting" and witty commentary on Japanese society.

Characters don't act like real people, and things are deliberately structured to meander and not make sense. What the movie seems to think is funny is either trite, lame, or, most annoyingly, disturbing, and there are no reassurances something horrific isn't about to happen any second. There seems to be a gleeful nonchalance at work keeping you from becoming invested in anything, and I had to check some reviews to see if it was worth sitting through another 90 minutes to finish it. After seeing a string of glowing reviews along these lines, I knew it wasn't:

"Most movies suffer from the need to explain everything. They do not leave any room for imagination. They are designed for people who love to avoid thinking and just want to consume what’s put in front of them. The celluloid guinea pigs.

Movies that come close to what art’s supposed to be involve the viewer, inspire contemplation and leave many things unexplained simply because art doesn’t dictate perspectives, it opens perspectives. A great movie is a movie that allows us to see ourselves in it."

Here's a couple of more realistic appraisals:

[Link removed - login to see]">twitch review
[Link removed - login to see]">meniscus review

This is the kind of movie that loses the viewer's trust, much like the 'prankster' who says "Oh, your wife called earlier and said she was on the way here, but it sounded like she got into an accident and the line went dead" and then laughs at your horrified expression and chides your for not 'getting' their joke, and director Yoshihiro Nakamura is now on my 'avoid' list.


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Avatar review

Posted : 7 years ago on 24 September 2010 11:01 (A review of Avatar)

Pointless by-the-numbers movie with stereotypical characters and unaffecting acting all around. Didn't need to be made. The novelty of the CGI wears off quickly and then there's another 2 hours of movie to slog through. I was expecting better from James Cameron. So many years in development and yet almost nothing creative in it. It seems with CGI there's even less room than usual to change things as you go along when it becomes apparent they're not working. But the script, written by Cameron, was quite bad to begin with. He must have just been given free reign due to his past successes, and, given the commercial success of Avatar, will probably be again, unfortunately, with no one daring to tell him anything sucks or that its been done better before and he needs to either come up with something new or find someone who can. The story was so derivative and simplistic I felt like rolling my eyes and had to make myself finish it. I'll certainly be screening his future movies more carefully, no matter how much money they make.


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Kamikaze Girls review

Posted : 7 years, 5 months ago on 18 May 2010 10:39 (A review of Kamikaze Girls)

Kyoko Fukada as fashion-obsessed Momoko isn't enough to salvage this farce. Abundant narration ensures little time is "wasted" on anything that Momoko hasn't already developed facile explanations for. There's a "sideways" mode on the DVD to fill you in on Japanese culture references. Some of the gags are funny, but most devolve into "Kung Fu Hustle"-style slapstick, gross-out humor, or "Family Guy"-style humor, where characters and reality are one thing one minute and something else the next. That doesn't gel with the attempts to create genuine character moments, and there's little framework that can support characters that have enough pathos that you could care about them. You can't be both bent on trivializing and ridicule at any opportunity and seem empathetic. Momoko's biker pal can't both repeatedly head butt her because its funny and seem like someone cautious Momoko should befriend. Packaging such things into more palatable 'inserts' like 'worst case scenarios' or 'wildly exaggerated interpretations' is one thing, but suspense and concern built in one reality simply dissipates when reality is changed whenever its convenient, leaving a cheap, manipulative feel. I most related to a scene in which Momoko's father gleefully goes off about the mutilation and scarring that occurs in fights between female bikers, oblivious to her reaction. That and the silent footage of the stars goofing around while the credits rolled looked a lot more fun than the film itself. For one of Kyoko Fukada's better roles, see the series "Yama Onna, Kabe Onna."


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Wu Yen review

Posted : 7 years, 5 months ago on 18 May 2010 10:35 (A review of Wu Yen)

I've enjoyed Anita Mui, Sammi Cheng, and Cecilia Cheung in other films, but this is a far-from-typical Hong Kong comedy. Its staged like a bad play, but if you're unfamiliar with the source material it parodies, that falls flat. Slapstick is overdone until it becomes strident, and the actors all overact to the point of being obnoxious, particularly Anita Mui. "Zany" is too kind a description for this, I'd say. There's an empty, charmless, forced mania that suffuses the film, desperately grabbing for your attention but denying the characters any depth, chemistry, or rhythm and testing your patience. I made it to the end, but what you see in the first 15 minutes is what you get throughout.


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Once a Thief review

Posted : 7 years, 5 months ago on 18 May 2010 10:33 (A review of Once a Thief)

Strange film that looks to have been intended as a parody of the genre. It draws you in with drama and action and gradually descends into the kind of comedy where people manically overact in that way that says "I'm going to give you what you're asking for in such a exaggerated, mocking, insanely angry way that you'll be begging me to stop but I won't." Chow Yun-Fat goes the most berserk but the film is structured to give this free reign. By the end it was just tiring having your every expectation confounded with nonsensical slapstick delivered through gritted teeth, with everyone demanding to show you how delighted and playful they are regardless of what happens. I was half expecting someone to pull out a butcher knife and kill everyone off by the end.


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The Protector review

Posted : 7 years, 5 months ago on 18 May 2010 10:31 (A review of The Protector)

Very generic. The characters have no depth and seem bored. I found myself mentally ticking off all the action movie clichés. Jackie Chan has done much better than this. I tried this one because Moon Lee appears, but only for a trifling role, it turns out.


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Love for all Seasons review

Posted : 7 years, 5 months ago on 18 May 2010 10:29 (A review of Love for all Seasons )

Gets stuck on obvious, overdone comedy. Sammi Cheng is alright here but can't do much when Louis Koo's obnoxious character never stops hamming it up. That scores of women would fall all over him for anything but his money is a conceit too much to accept even in a silly comedy, and the ever-lingering question of whether this "heartbreaker" will change is a dud; first he would have to seem like a real person in order for us to care.


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Burst Angel review

Posted : 7 years, 5 months ago on 18 May 2010 10:26 (A review of Burst Angel)

I'd give this series 4 stars on its own; while it accomplishes what it sets out to well enough at times, its also disjointed and, towards the end, bogs down in rather dull, over-serious plotting and paranoia. Also, the cover character, Jo, is often so deadpan that she seems more uninterested than tough/cool. The series is worth watching, though, just so you'll know what's going on in the Japanese Radio Dramas in the DVD (R1) extras, featuring the voice actors for Jo and Meg, Akeno Watanabe (Robin in "Witch Hunter Robin") and Megumi Toyoguchi. These are hilarious and were translated for good reason. Skip the English commentaries and try these. There did seem to be some kind of mastering problem with this part of the discs, though--the only software-based player the subtitles would show up in and the navigational buttons worked was VLC media player.


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Madlax review

Posted : 7 years, 5 months ago on 18 May 2010 10:23 (A review of Madlax)

The second of director Koichi Mashimo's girls-with-guns trilogy, with Noir being the first and El Cazador de la Bruja the third but none sharing any of the same characters--only a similar tone. This is not the snappy, fun kind of girls-with-guns like Grenadier or Burn Up! Like Noir, Madlax relies heavily on a dreamy atmosphere (which often goes over better than a more harsh series like Gunslinger Girl) but the characters are less compelling--actually, they end up seeming rather vacuous, even though there always seems to be hidden depths yet to be revealed--and atmosphere can only sustain you for so long, no matter how cool it is. (See the extras for the amusing send-ups where the English voice actors fill the long, moody shots with their own stories.) The Japanese voice of Kirika in Noir, Houko Kuwashima, returns as a different character here--another plus--and the animation and music is similarly good as Noir. If you loved Noir, you'll probably find Madlax of interest--if less satisfying. The third of the trilogy, El Cazador, is hard to recommend. It has a somewhat lighter tone in places, but I found it really dragged as it went on. Look for another series called Requiem for the Phantom by the director that also has similarities to Noir. DVD/Blu-ray release in 2011 but the subtitled version is complete and available to stream legally for free from Funimation's website.


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Haruka 17 review

Posted : 7 years, 5 months ago on 14 May 2010 03:50 (A review of Haruka 17)

There's some overacting with a few of the characters (or caricatures, I should say) to endure (one in particular that falls flat so often you wonder why they're there), but the rest of this series is funny and flows naturally, with Aya Hirayama doing a stellar job playing a nervous, awkward model with an endearing genuineness. Of course, she doesn't really want to be a model at all. (Isn't that always the way?) One clever device is Hirayama's character converting scenes she sees on TV into nightmare scenarios in her imagination that relate to what's currently going on in 'Haruka 17,' with the other stars of the show taking the place of the scene's characters. There's also plenty of drama to get into as she tries to make it in the competitive modeling world and others start trying to bring her down when they lose to her.


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