Review Movies Archive

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Japanese movies: like American movies, but Japanesier

That post title doesn’t make any sense, but fuck it. The first Hunger Games movie comes out this weekend, and even though the books were goddamn addictive, and even though it’s already broken online movie ticket sales records, and even though the movie currently has an 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing, and even though I already have tickets for Saturday, and even, umm, though… crap. Yeah, I don’t know where I’m going with this. The point is, there’s been some pseudo controversy surrounding the trilogy ever since the first installment was published because it’s similar to a 1999 Japanese novel called Battle Royale that was also made into movies soon after. Except those movies were made in Japan. By the Japanese. And that means they have trailers like this:

Which, as you can see, is friggin’ disabled, but is a little grittier than this next one, which was re-cut for the recent Blu-ray release:

They also make sequels with trailers like this:

And reading it back, I can see how this post might sound almost racist, which is too bad, because the punchline was supposed to be, “Now instead of going to the theater on Saturday, I’m moving to Japan.” But instead it’s this stupid meta-commentary that nobody wants to read. Meh.

(I am interested to see how an American director plans on showing kid after kid killing one another though. The books certainly don’t pull any punches in that respect, but I feel like too much directness could turn off American audiences.)

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The Most Important Movie News You’ll Read All Year

Monty Python. Back together. (Minus the dead guy.)

You’re welcome.

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The Year is Over

So, it’s 2012 in a bit, and as 2011 winds down, we figured we’d do you the disservice of providing some links to some of the better stuff we’ve put out this year. Everyone does it, I know. We’re not trying to blaze trails here, we’re just trying to toot our own horns. We did some terrific shit! It’s just a shame that back when we actually tried, no one paid attention.

Without further ado:

The list is long, but if you’re new here, those are some of the things we’re proud of in this website’s brief existence. We’ll be back next year with more. We hope you’ll stick around.

Much love & respek,

~The editors

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Where’s Waldo? is going to be a movie. No, that’s not a typo.

It’s one thing to turn a game like Battleship into a big budget Hollywood blockbuster. (Not a good thing, mind you, but one thing nonetheless.) At least it has the semblance of potential action right in the title. But Where’s Waldo? More like, WTF? Amirite!

From The Wrap:

Waldo is heading to MGM.

The studio announced Monday that it has secured feature rights to turn Waldo — from the hidden-in-plain-sight children’s book series “Where’s Waldo” — into a live-action family adventure.

Ah yes, because nothing spells “live-action family adventure” like a children’s book that you stare at motionless for minutes at a time until eventually chucking it against the wall in frustration. (Hey, I just found the action!)

Apparently,

The acquisition is a sign that MGM is revving up its production after emerging from bankruptcy about a year ago.

Gee, with high-concept movies like these, it’s incredible to me that they ever went bankrupt in the first place… 

 

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More breaking hipster news!

Speaking of Michael Cera, MTV has the pants-wettingly exciting announcement today that “The Arrested Development movie is finally happening.

Yeah, I know. Stop me if you’ve heard this one. But

No, seriously. After years of rumors, denials, hedging, backtracking and wishful thinking, series co-creator and executive producer Mitchell Hurwitz confirmed over the weekend that not only are the seriously, hilariously, unapologetically dysfunctional Bluth clan headed to the multiplex, but they will get tuned up for their movie debut by making a short trip back to TV.

Speaking on Sunday at theNew Yorker Festival, Hurwitz broke the news, with”Development” actor Jason Bateman confirming it a few hours later on his Twitter feed. “It’s true. We will do 10 episodes and the movie. Probably shoot them all together next summer for a release in early ’13. VERY excited!”

Let the Final Countdown begin!

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A near-perfect movie

If I described a movie to you as a “video game-stylized hipster comedy” and then added, “Think Michael Cera meets The Matrix,” I’m guessing there is a better-than-even chance that this sort of movie would not interest you. However, if it did sound like the sort of movie you’d be into, do yourself a favor and Netboxter®™ Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Why? Because! goddamnit. Or if that’s not enough, how about the fact that it is, in my humble (though, I admit, frequently erroneous) opinion, a near-perfect movie — not because it’s the BEST MOVIE EVARRRRRRR!!1! or anything like that, but because it executes its vision so flawlessly and so uncompromisingly that it’s almost impossible to imagine what else could have been done to improve the material.

I only mention this because a) I just saw the movie Friday, and 2) even though it pulled 81% on Rotten Tomatoes; and even though it features Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) in the director’s chair and Bill Pope (The Matrix and — who knew? — the pilot episode of Freaks & Geeks) behind the camera; and even though Michael Cera does his Michael Cera thing as perfectly as usual and Kieran Culkin redefines the role of gay best friend in way that will ensure that all others, past and present, forever pale in comparison, the movie barely grossed half its budget at the global box office. That, to me, is a minor tragedy — at least as far as these sorts of things go — since, like I said, the movie is not just an entertaining way for its target demo to spend two hours, but also an object lesson in realizing a very specific movie in a very specific way.

Plus, it’s filmed in Toronto…and actually takes place there as well. Instant hipster cred!

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The Flaring of the Faded Sparks in the Souls of the Cogs of the Mass Ornament

You need to watch this movie (“Still Life” by Jia Zhangke) which just showed up on Canadian Netflix (Canadian Netflix sucks, and it’s probably been on American Netflix for like eight years already so no excuses). Here’s a trailer:

Reading this sentence onward, you risk being struck by critical prose that is verbose to the point of grandiosity in its effusiveness (kinda like the title, except almost 500 words)… be warned. 

***

Zhangke animates a world so much more kinetically charged and huge and dominating than can be any more than wondered at by its characters that it leaves you with the feeling that Tommy Lee Jones’ character in No Country For Old Men (Sheriff Bell) was trying to articulate in his monologues (example), but at a more advanced and acute stage — achieving a visceral sense of what it might be like to be one of the “Tiller Girls” Sigfried Kracauer describes in his “Mass Ornament” (pdf) essay:

The ornament, detached from its bearers, must be understood rationally. It consists of degrees and circles like those found in textbooks of euclidean geometry. Waves and spirals, the elementary structures of physics, are also included; discarded are the proliferations of organic forms and the radiations of spiritual life. Hereafter, the Tiller Girls can no longer be reassembled as human beings. Their mass gymnastics are never performed by whole, autonomous boies whose contortions would deny rational understanding. Arms, thighs and other segments are the smallest components of the composition.

Re: the bolded in the quote — they may not be able to be reassembled as human beings, but that doesn’t mean they don’t long to be. In Still Life, characters have spent a life submitting to the personally meaningless prerogative to whatever abstracted kind of raw and mindless labour in whatever random-seeming place is dictated by the gargantuan machine of the Chinese political economy, almost but not quite reconciled to total alienation.

A million things seem to be happening in every frame and in every moment of the audio, and rarely are these things in any way related to the lives of the characters beyond just occurring in their presence.

There’s still beauty and whimsy — tiny but vivid strokes of red and yellow scarring the bleakness of washed out shots of smoggy faded city-scapes, a weird and huge cement structure taking off into the sky unnoticed in the background. But the personal significance or larger meaning of this beauty/whimsy is no more apparent than that of the impelled distances (in space and time) dividing the characters from the people they’ve finally decided to drop their settled labour to seek. They seem so significant, but in a million different possible ways, none of which can ever be more than silently speculated about.

You feel a realism pushed so far it’s turned a brutal kind of incredibly true absurd. The sense it gives is one of being touched by an artist that grasps the truth of a world-historic existential situation unprecedented in its convolution. Maybe one of sober awe at the realization of how rare and precious an experience you’re having.

Zhangke nails this sense again and again (at least in 24 City — also on Netflix — and Platform, which are the two other of his films I’ve seen). You should watch those too.

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Wanna See How Lame Hurricane Irene Was?

Watch this shitty video. Contra Brian Moylan, at Gawker, this video is not the best thing about Hurricane Irene. The best thing about Hurricane Irene was the nice cool breeze it brought in, the quiet hum of trees rustling. Every. Once. In. A. Great. While. Honestly, this was no mighty hurricane. This was the weakest of weak sauce. I mean, I’m sorry that people died, but the fact that they had to stretch the death toll for everything they could to include an old man who died while trying to board his house up (sorry, dude, but it was the combination of strenuous physical activity and your weak heart that killed you, not the hurricane) shows you what kind of storm we were dealing with. Like, right now the front page of the NYTimes has, as its main story, “INLAND FLOODS IN NORTHEAST MAY BE IRENE’S BIGGEST IMPACT,” which links to a story about Vermont, which is probably the first time Vermont has been on the front page of the venerable New York Times since Calvin Coolidge was president. Or there was a Phish reunion tour. Or since Ben&Jerry’s had their IPO. Or something about cheese. There’s always cheese, isn’t there, Vermont?

The biggest impact Irene had, according to the Times, may be inland floods in the northeast, where 72 people live. These people all have guns and merit badges from Cub Scouts; they dwell among a large deer population and have access to picturesque rivers and waterfalls — i.e., fresh water. It’s late August, warm with plentiful sunshine. They’ll be just swell, after a fashion.

Meanwhile in New York, Ground Zero for Irene’s wrath, a few raindrops fall artfully off a tree limb, a sticker flutters on a stop sign against the wind, and some hipsters set the whole thing to suicide music, as evidenced by this horrible video re-cap.

Enjoy!

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Never Bet The Devil Your Head

They’re doing a Fellini thing at the Lightbox right now, and until this weekend I hadn’t seen anything by him. Decided to go and check something out. Specifically, Saturday.  Guillermo del Toro was going to be there.

We (me plus friends Dan, Mike, and Brandon) saw “Toby Dammit,” which had been paired by both James Schamus and del Toro with Dario Argento’s Suspiria. Link. Del Toro is in town filming some monster cataclysm movie about a rift opening up off the coast of Japan in a huge earthquake which causes a devastating tsunami, except it’s more awesome than reality because out of the rift emerge weird monsters (Cthulu maybe?). It’s going to be called “Pacific Rim.”

Both movies were great and way over-stimulating (Michael Bay, eat your heart out). Pure, awesome, dreamlike artifice that’s somehow, at the same time, very grounded in something that seems true and significant; not just masturbatory and indulgent (Argento less so than Fellini). Vivid colours. Packed frames, especially in Toby Dammit, which is up on YouTube in not terrible quality (it’s a bit over half an hour). Guillermo del Toro would have me draw your attention to how Dammit’s always touching his collar and neck –

We got to ask questions afterward; have “milk and cookies together” is what del Toro called the session. Mostly the questions were pretty good. A couple were douchy. As Dan lampooned it (imagine this in an exaggeratedly nasal, snobby timbre) “Guillermo, could you talk about some movie no one else in the audience has seen and that I think you’ll be impressed with my knowing about?”

I asked him whether he thought it was significant that both Fellini and Argento chose to put Anglophones at the centre of their films, and freak them out. I was hoping he would give us some broad generalization about “the Anglophone mind” and after five minutes or so of resisting, he finally did — something about “troubling the linear Anglo mind.” I can’t remember exactly, but I do remember the thrill. He seemed like he was having a great time, and he’s one of those people that when he’s having a great time, you’re having a great time. Point of the story is that I want to be friends with Guillermo del Toro.

Watch the movie. It’s great.

I also saw Roma on Sunday. It was also great. Not much of a story, but it wasn’t one of those movies that needed one. Great send-up of Vatican 2.

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The New Yorker Doesn’t Know What Masturbation Looks Like

A while ago, Tom was excited about seeing tree of life. In the process of so being, he tossed a link to this review of the movie, which appeared in the New Yorker. Quote:

“[Director Terrence Malick] conjures a singular blend of the prim and the pantheistic, and “The Tree of Life” remains not just a joke-free zone but nervous of bodies that misbehave. No sex intrudes, although there is an extraordinary sequence in which the first promise of sex flushes Jack’s brow, like a fever, as he raids a neighbor’s bedroom and rifles through her lingerie. Yet, even here, when he holds her nightgown up to the light, like a celestial robe, then steals it and floats it downriver, you want to bow to the beauty of the images and, at the same time, to take the director aside and say, “Terry, I hate to break it to you, but that’s not all that pubescent boys like to do.”

I’ve subsequently seen the movie twice, and there is no doubt in my mind that Jack waxes eponymous on that blouse pretty unmistakably. Obviously Malick can’t show it in too lurid detail (child porn laws, and all that), but what else is he trying to suggest the kid is doing in that sustained low angle shot of his slightly twitching face as he looks down on the gown? He’s not throwing it in the river for some lyrical bullshit reason. He’s throwing it in the river because he jizzed on it.

Update: I was thinking about the picture above, and how young Hunter McCracken looks in it. It’s different in the movie. The movie is so effective at bringing you into its world that when you’re in the theatre he looks like your age-peer, like someone his age used to look to you when you were that age. So cool.

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