NightWatch (Nochnoy Dozor) - apparently this is based on a novel and is set to be a trio of films. I can't remember the last Russian film I watched... or.. uh ... If I've ever seen one before this. We've seen it once when we were incredibly inebriated so I don't remember much of it. I do, however, remember that it was very trippy, hard to follow, and was something that is at the top of my "watch while sober" list becuase it hit me just right. It's supernatural, spooky, dark, and unique in in the genre.
Saved! - I'd never seen this before, but I'd heard about it. I was overall impressed by the fact that it managed to criticize overly zealous people who lose the point of their faith without being out and out anti-Christian. But I guarantee you that many Christians feel otherwise. Oh - and Susan Sarandon's hot-ass daughter as an angry blasphemous jew.
LolliLove - Jenna Fischer and James Gunn in a faux-documentary about rich self-absorbed LA fucktwits who decide to "help people" becuase it will make them feel better about themselves. It's VERY cringey. Don't let the Troma distribution scare you off. We haven't checked out the extras - but the running time of the movie is 64 minutes and there are **3 hours** of extras.
Barton Fink - I can't believe I'd never seen this (Miller's Crossing is sitting there to be watched as well, another Cohen brothers film I missed). This was absolutely unexpected and incredible and I'm amazed at the horrible ratings and reviews I've seen for this movie. Too cerebral? Not enough action? Too "arty"? Who the hell knows. I was just stunned by the movie in a lot of ways. Apparently mileage varies a lot here though so you might just DESPISE it.
A Fistful of Dollars (Per un pugno di dollari) - And I really can't believe I hadn't seen this. I saw three films on the same basis in a really fucked up order. I saw Last Man Standing first. Then I saw Yojimbo. Then I saw A Fistful of Dollars. Last Man Standing wasn't a bad adaptation... but it was doomed to fail. Who the hell in the movie going masses got the reference or saw it as a retelling instead of a ripoff? From what I've read - not many. And Yojimbo was - absolutely great. I can't stress enough how good that movie is. I have a big dumb girl crush on Tatsuya Nakadai (Ran and Kwaidan - have to see Kill and High and Low still), so that's part of it. But I also was just impressed. But Fistful of Dollars lives up to all the hype. I'd seen all the spoofs (even The Comic Strip spoofs it) but I'd never seen the whole thing all the way through and I was so impressed by this interpretation.
The Big Hit - Okay - so... first and foremost - this is a COMEDY. It's a SPOOF. It is not intended to be taken seriously. If you haven't seen a lot of Hong Kong action movies you might miss that (or you might just be so disgusted with incredibly poorly made insulting American action flicks that you assume it's just one more). But really - it's a pretty outrageous spoof of the hong kong action genre which already very very "big" and over the top and kind of crazy. This is much better if you've seen a lot of early 80's Jackie Chan (City Hunter specifically) or Hong Kong action in general.
Ultraviolet - Big warning here. We KNEW this was horrible. We didn't purchase this movie. We accidentally saw "Equilibrium" becuase it looks like a goofy/future/sci-fi thing and it had Christian Bale and Sean Bean... I mean - how could that be bad, right? IT WAS HORRIBLE. So insultingly derivative and bad. It's become one of those earmarks for "people who like bad things". The moment someone says anything nice about Equilibrium they go into their "don't trust their taste on anything" pile. It was really really really fucking bad. Then there's Ultraviolet. Which is somehow WORSE. TERRIBLE. Not even laughably bad - just soul crushingly awful. Milla Jovovich makes bad movies most of the time. Okay. But it could at least be pretty and dumb, right? We all like the bimbo, right? NO. Not even pretty. Glaringly "video game cut scene with badly matted green screen effects" for 90 minutes with random full screen glow effects and weatpons that materialize out of their hands, clothing that changes colors randomly for no reason but NOTICEABLY and an intro of fake comic book covers to keep up the lie that this is based on a comic book. Kurt Wimmer isn't smart enough to be ashamed of himself. But he is savvy enough to continue finding ways to find financing for his shit. Put it this way - I'd place this guy well below Uwe Boll and whoever made that "Van Helsing" abortion.
Five Deadly Venoms - This is a classic. It still holds up. I didn't get to see this before because we couldn't find the original version Karl had (very very early DVD) and couldn't find the cleaned/restored version we were looking for. Finally found it recently and my GOD it was good. I enjoy classic kung fu.
American Dreamz - This was just a random pick up. I have never watched American Idol and I happen to think that the President might be a nice person if he wasn't the president and wasn't being sculpted by his handlers. This was kind of goofy - a little limp in places where it could have been more. But it was a surprising movie overall. I'm surprised it was made at all. And I'm surprised at who was in it. The people who seem to hate it are American Idol fans or huge Bush supporters who feel it was offensive (more often than not). It skewers american pop culture and the fact that our president is so incredibly ill informed and goes through a sort of "Flowers for Algernon" transformation when he discovers that there are papers that he can read and he learns things. heh. Anyway - not great - but not really all that bad either.
The first 15 minutes of: Night of the Living Dead - 30th Anniversary Edition - This is one of my favorite movies ever. I am scared as hell by zombies. They are the one "spooky" thing that honestly scares the hell out of me. I can't play survival horror games because of it. And for years I've been unable to watch Night of the Living Dead longer than about 10 minutes because even in full sun with the windows open on a summer day I get freaked out. So I was intrigued by these "additonal scenes". I didn't realize that "additional scenes" meant NEW SCENES shot with HORRIBLE ACTORS in a different film stock (digital black and white)that include portions of the script that were CUT from the original. So the movie starts with some modern idiots standing around an old truck and playing up some exposition with poor accents instead of the creepy long drive into the cemetary. Plus - they trimmed parts of the original movie, added new HORRIBLE bad synth music and new foley effects, and basically changed the entire tone of the film with a "one year later" edition. This was all perpetrated by John Russo, the original writer, because he (and Romero) were screwed out of the rights to the film all those years ago. Now, with all the changes he's made - he can file for a derivative work copyright and therefore secure the film rights. You should know this is bullshit from the beginning because the cover art features a photo of Kyra Schon (little girl with the trowel) that was NOT in the film. It was taken outside and is a personal photo that has only been liscensed on about 4 products - this movie not being one of them. Anyway - I'm mad that this was made - it's a horrendous pile of shit and Russo should fucking crawl back into his nest of failed glory and rot there. I'll be picking up the Millenium Edition by Elite and using it to scrub the suck of this version out of my head.
And now - the Cavalcade of things that will be much harder to find in your average video store. I'm also going to switch the links from IMDB which is pretty poor for asian films to DVDAsian.com - which gives really good run-downs and usually some screen caps.
Have Sword Will Travel - This was absolutely beautiful. This movie is a Shaw Brothers production (old school kung fu extraordinaire) that was so incredibly well shot. The use of space, the set design, and the overall artistry behind the camera in this film is really amazing for the time period (1969).
Between Love and Hate (The Unbearable Lightness of Love) - Don't let the cover fool you - this is a drama. It's a pretty strong indictment of the male dominated culture of Korea and the sort of "old school" concepts of long engagements, proper partners for marriage, and the overall leeway men recieve in being promiscuous and irresponsible as compared to the way women are expected to behave in the same situations. It's also about what happens when you're too scared of what's 'expected' of you to do what's right. All in all it was very good.
Mamiyo Kyodai - This is just strange. Japanese "comedy" about two brothers who've reached adulthood without prospect of marriage. They live together, they do everything together except work and they're very close and supportive (but not in a creepy way). The movie is about them trying to get out a little more - move forward with their romantic lives. I like this because they don't just - fake it. They don't decide that they have to be anything different than what they are - like most films like this. It's also a little unlike any Japanese film I've seen in that it's pretty - quirky. In a sort of "american indie film/ wes anderson" kind of way. Really good.
Love in Magic - This was a comedy - but more of a heartfelt/ dramatic moments romantic comedy. And again - it gets the differces between Korean standards for women and for men. Promiscuous men are studs, promiscuous women, beyond being labelled "whores" are also unemployable and disgraced. It also gets into the weird-ass "love hotel" thing in Korea. But it is cute in parts. Not really the funniest or favorite of the ones I've seen lately but it's worth it if you like the whole Korean romantic comedy thing.
Anna in Kung-Fu Land - Uhm.. well.. my review on IMDB is featured on the front page. All the other reviews were angry/ annoyed reviews from people expecing a kung-fu movie or a deep romantic film. Part of that is from the name of the movie. But part of that is becuase it stars Ekin Cheng. He's a big pop star turned actor (or the other way around - hard to tell) and people either adore everything he does becuase it's him or they hate him becuase he's this big pop-idol. OH - and a lot of American viewers were really pissed off about a subtitle translation goof. The "American" representative in the film is a very very big black martial artist. In one bit he's shooting a commercial for something and the Chinese crew are blocking out the action in the commercial. In the subtitle they refer to him as "the darkie" or something like that. They meant "the dark one" in a weird sort of "oh the large dark one from a far off land" type way - not as a racial slur. And there is a lot of bitching about the "mysoginistic" leanings in the film because part of the plot deals with a playboy leading on a couple of women and the women not catching on. I took this as spoof, but you might not agree. It might be offensive and I've just gotten used to that in movies like this. Who knows.
Marrying Schoolgirl - Very goofy Korean romantic comedy - this time dealing with reincarnation and "destined" relationships. But uh - that's just the plot. This one is very slapstick and goofy and at times it's almost TOO goofy and TOO slapstick. One poor girl gets beat up so often that it makes it hard to take. But it's a good "check your brain" film.
She's on Duty - co-starring mister dreamy Yu Kong (also in the very goofy throw away film SpyGirl - which gets into some weird North/South Korea politics believe it or not), this one was really surprisingly good. A sort of goofy, very gung-ho cop is forced to go undercover as a student in order to break a big case. It remains one part cop drama while also staying a romantic comedy and the acting and story is overall just a little higher notch than other films like this. I'd recommend this one to people.
100 Days With Mister Arrogant - This one was really good. We just watched this last night. The lead actress (Ji-won Ha) was also in another favorite film of ours (Duelist). She was goofy but not too goofy and the story wasn't just "we hate each other, we love each other" like a lot of these. The lead actor (Jae-Won Kim) was also really good - if a little "I'm here because I'm hot". He kind of strikes me as the pop idol type but a little less "waif boy". Anyway - it was also a little "off color" for mainstream Korea because the subject matter veers into a weird territory (the alternate title is "Slave Love"). But it's not like a Master/slave thing. It's just a plot point. heh. Lots of little laughs, Ji-won Ha is very good and goofy and likeable and stuff. I'd recommend this one to people too (the subtitles were pretty well done as well. Even not speaking Korean - you can tell when they're really off).
Surprise Party (Seopeuraijeu) - Basically one girl asks another girl to distract her long distance boyfriend while she gets her family to consent to his surprise party being held at her house. Comedy ensues. This was really good and cute and goofy. It also stars a lot of people that might be familiar from WILDLY different films. For instance - leading guy was Ryu in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, the lead actress was in A.F.R.I.K.A. (a sort of "Korean girls on the edge" movie from 2002), and there are several other very popular Korean actors. I was surprised by this and it was definitely on par with say - My Scary Girl. Not really a "My Sassy Girl" - but closer than some of the others here. Plus - it costars Hyo-jin Kong which is my favorite character from Whispering Corridors 2 (Memento Mori). She's basically the short haired screaming school girl who calls everyone "bitch" alot. heh.
The Lion Roars - This was described as a "My Sassy Girl" from Hong Kong. But it definitely wasn't. It was much more serious overall - though it was still very goofy. It was also a period piece. Very silly and funny but since we were expecting out and out WACKY it kind of took us off guard. It's really hard to describe. But - if you like hong kong in general (not strictly hong kong action films) you might like it. Oh - and Cecilia Cheung is gorgeous. So if you're just into lovely asian lady eye candy that works too. Plus one of the actresses is named BingBing Fan. Can't beat that.
Too Beautiful to Lie - The description on this on the site is AWESOME. Heh. This movie was good and not what we were expecting. And it again stars some popular Korean actors. Ha-Neul Kim was also in "Ryeong" (Dead Friend), Dong-won Kang was the counterpart to Ji-Won Ha in Duelist, Ju-seok Lee was in 3-Iron ( a movie I can't recommend enough. It's good on its own merits - forgetting any level of cultural kitsch), etc. Ha-Neul Kim is honestly good as an unrepentant liar and the mugging isn't too crazy, though the premise definitely does spin into wacky land after awhile. But that's okay. Becuase it's still good.
There are lots of others that I've seen that I keep forgetting to write down. I also want to do a full on inventory of what we have and what we need because we're reaching that weird ass place where the DVDs are taking over the living room and any service guys who ever come into the house feel compelled to do the "Hey, like movies do ya?!" comment.