Tuesday, 18 February 2020

March On Movies XXVIII


The Villainess aka 악녀 (2017)
It's funny that Parasite (2019) was a major cross over hit with western audiences because this film ticks all the right blockbuster entertainment boxes and is probably even more commercial. The Villainess is a sort of gangster/assassin/revenge movie but mainly it's just an outstanding ultra violent action flick. This is the sort of unbelievable fun action thrills we want, relentless and exhilarating. There is also emotional attachment to certain characters too which is quite an achievement from writer/director Jeon Byung-gilSook-hee (Kim Ok-vin) is the titular character who was raised on violence to blossom into a consummate smiling assassin. She is captured by an intel agency who want to use her for their own gains so she is sent to a reform prison for Assassins. Let the batshit crazy shenanigans begin. We get fake deaths, plastic surgery, questionable babies, gassings, murdered fathers, fake identities, bombs, sword fights on motorbikes, even love and that's not the half of it. After watching this it's hard not to say "That is the fucking best!" and yeah in my book it's probably the best action flick of the 10s. If you've not seen it was on either Stan or the nettflix. Good times.


Unstoppable (2010)
A good blockbuster action flick if you can get past the thickly layered on Hollywood cheese which almost destroys an unbeatable premise of an explosive runaway train. Sometimes you just gotta put that shit aside and try to just enjoy the ride. An unmanned train carrying carriages of diabolical chemicals picks up speed and needs to be stopped before destroying thousands of lives when it crashes. Frank (Denzel Washington) and Will (Chris Pine) are on another train ready for the rescue mission with the help of Connie (Rosario Dawson) in the control room and Ned (Lew Temple) in his 4WD. The tension and excitement build but Tony Scott turns the picture into something resembling a sports telecast, with people cheering and screaming while they watch events unfold on their TV screens. This was unnecessary as you get the crowd yelling and screaming in the cinema or in your lounge room. Unstoppable is fairly entertaining action however. I guess this is what they like to call a pizza or popcorn movie. Then again I'm happy to eat popcorn or pizza watching a Lars Von Trier film.


Sympathy For Mr Vengeance aka 복수는 나의 것 (2002)
Goin back to the original peak years for SK cinema when my video shop was the place to find this shit. Recent (last 20 years) revenge movies don't come more mental or any better than those from South Korea. Particularly from the master director of the genre Park Chan-wook. This is the first in his trilogy of his Vengeance movies and it is an auspicious entry. ......


A Bittersweet Life aka 달콤한 인생 (2005)
A mega violent gangster picture with a bit of a naive romance fantasy thrown in.  Kim Jee-woon the man who directed one of the all time classic South Korean revenge films, I Saw The Devil (2010), presents these unusual gangsters with confusing motivations behind their actions. Their moral, brotherhood and gangster codes are all mixed up and wrong. Throw in some Catholic shit and pure Nihilism and voilà you've got yourself a an entertaining 21st century gangster flick.


Sweet Virginia (2017)
An alright straightforward story of small town crime that gets out of hand. Set in rural Alaska. The main criminal is Charlie from HBO's Girls. It's just missing a little pizzaz so it's not in the same ball park as favourite low key crime gems like The Friends Of Eddie Coyle (1973), Going In Style (1979) Breaking In (1989), Blue Ruin (2004) etc. 




Murder Mystery (2019)
A bit of silly fun that is seriously good. Knives Out (2019) gets all this critical praise for reinvigorating the Agatha Christie style whodunnit? genre but hey I think Kyle Newacheck beat Rian Johnson to the punch. After watching Uncut Gems (2019) I wondered how many other good Adam Sandler movies I've ignored since I last saw him in Punch Drunk Love (2002) so I ended up here. Murder Mystery's been on my Netflix list for 7 or 8 months. A down on his luck NY cop Nick Spitz (Adam Sandler) is accidentally pushed into buying a European holiday for him and his wife Audrey (Jennifer Aniston) for their 15th wedding anniversary. In Europe they end up at a billionaire's family reunion on a yacht when the murder begins. The French detective believes it was Nick & Audrey Spitz though. How are they going to get out of this jam? Exciting fun ensues with much crap detective work, a game of cat & mouse, a body count and a spectacular car chase with Aniston behind the wheel of a Ferrari.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

More On Movies - February

RECENTLY RE/WATCHED


I Saw The Devil aka 악마를 보았다 (2010)
In the last few movie posts I've been going back through the last 20 years. It's is nowhere near as bleak as I thought out there in the world of movies in the twenty first century. Here's one that I thought was at the end of the South Korean Revenge Movie cycle but it kind of reinvigorated it although has anything topped it since? I Saw The Devil is a unique epic tale of vengeance. First of all the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous so kudos to DP Lee Moe-gae and director Kim Jee-woonKim Soo-hyun (Lee Byung-hun) a National Intelligence Service (NIS) agent has his world turned upside-down when his fiancée is brutally murdered. Agent Soo-hyun is then on the rampage to track down the killer Jang Kyung-chul (Choi Min-sik) and wreak vengeance upon him. Oh boy that is just the beginning. A brutal and bizarre game of cat and mouse continues for the rest of this spectacular movie. This is not for those with delicate sensibilities as it's very demented. Quite possibly best South Korean movie of the 10s.


Dracula (1992)
Or is it Bram Stoker's Dracula anyway it's the 1992 one directed by Francis Coppola. After watching Mark Gatiss's 66.66% brilliant (ie. first two episodes are great & the third is a fail) three part Dracula (2020) series on Netflix I wanted to know more about the history of Dracula and Vampires. I'd only seen a couple of 70s Hammer iterations when I was a teenager, Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) TV show, From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) and Daughters Of Darkness (1971). I wouldn't say I was a Dracula or Vampire fan, I mean I admire breast plus I thought the first three seasons of Buffy were ace. The only vampire film to really make an impact on me and is indeed one of my favourite films is Daughters Of Darkness but I thought that was probably straying pretty far from orthodox tellings of these stories. So I asked Emma who's a scholar of gothic horror literature "What would be a good place to start with a fairly straight forward telling of the Dracula story?" So here we are with 1992's Dracula which is fine entertainment with my only quibble being Keanu Reeves but his role as Jonathan Harker doesn't take up too much air time. The rest of the cast are in fine form including a good performance from the sometimes inconsistent Winona Ryder.


The Addiction (1995)
Grainy black & white vampire film. I finally watched The Addiction which me old mate Derek from Picture Search was always recommending to me ever since it came out. It felt and looked like a pretentious student film from the the late 60s or early 70s. It was like Ferrara was trying to convey every little bit of knowledge he had gained in his philosophy degree into one film while the genre was perhaps obligatory and could have been anything. This is the total opposite of what I was expecting. I guess I imagined it was going to be all flash and glamour and sexy vampires and a shallow empty 80s vibe. Oh well you can't win em all. It was still pretty good though. Kathleen (Lili Taylor) is doing a dissertation at NYU to get her Doctorate of Philosophy but one night she is bitten by a vampire (Annabella Sciora) in a dark stairwell. Then things get weird and it's particularly satisfying when the Vampire mayhem gets out of control at a posh academic party. Christopher Walken in a bit part steals the show as Piena the coolest old vampire ever. Sopranos fans take note as it features Carmela, Christopher and Gloria Trillo many years before they were cast in the greatest TV show of all time. Abel Ferrara always had a good eye for actors.


Interview With A Vampire (1994)
This was a first time watch for me and it was not what I was expecting at all. A surprise it certainly was. After watching Interview With A Vampire I didn't think these words would come out of my mouth "That was pretty fucking cool!" I'd always imagined it was going to be to be some kind of boring homo-erotic romance not the crazy shenanigans, bad arse vampires and exciting action we get here. It's perhaps 20 minutes too long but I can let that slide (because The Irishman is three & a half hours too long). Brad Pitt & Tom Cruise are great and Kirsten Dunst is brilliant. We get plenty of people on fire which is one of my favourite cinematic things next to bizarre usage of bows and arrows in modern settings. It left me wanting more, so I was disappointed to learn that the quasi-sequel was terrible.


Cops & Robbers (1973)
My favourite thing is cops and robbers movies made in the 70s so how could you go wrong with this? You can't because it's a secret lil gem of a film that ticks all the right boxes. Cesspool NYC check. Dodgy cops check. Mafia check. Absurd idea for a heist check. Great 70s music check. A movie with about the same production levels as Massacre Mafia Style check. New York Subway check. Choice 70s threads check. Late 60s/Early 70s cars check. Splendid low key acting check. Mild disillusion check. Car chases check. Joe Spinell check. My new favourite movie check. This has got lo-fi charm written all over it. It's not trying to be epic or profound or totally nihilistic. It's just ordinary people doing desperate things in desperate times. If you love your 70s crime and/or movies like The Friends Of Eddie Coyle (1973) and you haven't seen this you are in for a treat. This is going straight into the Space Debris Hall of Fame.


Uncut Gems (2019)
Movie most closely resembling an anxiety attack since Magnolia (1999). How did Adam Sandler not win an academy award for this? A dodgy jewellery dealer and degenerate gambler Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) gets himself into a pickle. Will his fortunes change now that he's acquired a new expensive uncut gem. This is an incredible ensemble cast, there are no week links here in this impeccably styled film. Uncut Gems is like a Robert Altman film gone hyper-berserk. The Weekend fans are in for a treat as he makes a funny and memorable cameo. This nerve shredding film is executed so well you'll probably need a couple of valium after watching it. It doesn't get better than this.


Oldboy aka 올드보이 (2003)
As far as South Korean Revenge movies go this is THE ONE! Oldboy has got to be the most mental story of vengeance ever told on celluloid. People talk about batshit crazy movies but those flicks seem trivial as nothing can come close this. This story outdoes the bible in epic biblical proportioning. Also Oldboy is without doubt the greatest film of the 00s. A man Oh dae-su (Choi Min-sik) is held captive in a room for 15 years for reasons unknown to him. His resentment and physical strength build every second of every day so that one day he will be able to wreak spectacular vengeance upon whoever is responsible for imprisoning him. When he is released the mystery unfolds until the devastating and controversial climax. Oldboy is a masterpiece. A brilliant premise executed to perfection by director/writer Park Chan-wook and his magic cinematic team.


Good Time (2017)
Finally got around to re-watching this 2017 offering from the Safdie Brothers after seeing their brand new masterpiece Uncut Gems (2020). The best thing about this film is of course the Oneohtrix Point Never soundtrack which was a return to the music of his glory days ie. Russian Mind (2009) Rifts (2009) and Returnal (2010). So it was his best album in 7 years and boy does doing soundtracks suit his sonic palate. Good Time is a bad day in the life/one crazy night sort of film. It makes After Hours (1985) seem like a breezy walk in the Park. The brothers Safdie haven't quite ratcheted up the tension to obscene heights like in Uncut Gems but the stress levels here are still through the roof. Brothers Connie (Robert Pattinson) and Nick (Benny SafdieNikas rob a bank but guess what? It doesn't quite work out how they had planned. How are they going to get themselves out of this dilemma? Especially when they keep crossing paths other people who are also down on their luck. The cast are are all terrific particularly the aforementioned duo plus Buddy Duress as Ray the crappy criminal and Taliah Lennice Webster as Crystal the naive pawn. An uncut gem of a film.


1917 (2019)
I was sitting in the cinema thinking "Why am I even here? I don't even really like war movies except for Apocalypse Now (1979) and Black Adder Goes Forth (1989). Anyway it turns out this is rather engrossing with a magical cinematic touch. It looks like the entire movie is filmed in two long continuous takes. 1917 is a World War One action army adventure with occasional comic moments amongst the grim devastation. Two young British corporals Will Schofield (George MacKay) and Thomas Blake (Dean Charles Chapman) are given orders to personally deliver a message to a Battalion many miles away to halt a planned attack as it will unnecessarily kill hundreds of men. This task is going to be treacherous and possibly deadly. Does this premise sound familiar to anybody? I think 1917 is just a different and much more fancy version of Gallipoli (1981). The two lead actors are terrific and a special mention must go to Andrew Scott for his brief appearance as the darkly comic Lieutenant Leslie. My only quibble is the use of unnecessary sentimental music in the final scene.  This is masterful film-making though and credit must go to cinematographer Roger Deakins, editor Lee Smith and obviously Sam Mendes the Film's director...oh and everyone else who worked on this flick. Total movie magic. Perhaps I should watch Dunkirk (2017) as I hear it's even better.


Sympathy for Lady Vengeance aka 친절한 금자씨 (2005)
The third part in Park Chan-wook's vengeance trilogy. The other two being Sympathy For Mr Vengeance (2002) and Oldboy (2003). Lee Geum-ja (Lee Young-ae) is convicted of kidnapping and murdering a five year old boy. Thirteen years later she is set free after good behaviour but she secretly has vengeance on her mind. A fantastic tale then unfolds from there. Park Chan-wook and his collaborators sure know how to write great stories and bring them to cinematic life with such assurance and magnificence. Is vengeance a big part of South Korean folklore or is it just these movies? Anyway this is totally entertaining and unforgettable.


Bad Day For The Cut (2017)
First of all the title is shite innit? So that's a shame. A bit of a change up here, this is a revenge film but this time it's from Northern Ireland. I was scrolling through Netflix on a Saturday night when the words "violent quest for revenge" caught my eye. Seeing as though I hadn't seen a film about vengeance in ages I thought I'd give it a go and much to my surprise it was a lil bewdy. Donal (Nigel O'Neill) is a middle aged farmer who lives with his poorly mum. One day she gets murdered though, so guess what? As hinted at above, a violent quest for revenge begins. Things get pretty complicated as the truth is unveiled over the course of the movie. Susan Lynch as Frankie Pierce is also on a revenge trip. Of course Donal and Frankie's paths cross as the bodies pile up. Does the violence ever end and at what cost to your soul? Woah existential man.

Judy (2019)
I broke my own rule of never watching another celebrity biopic again in my life. After 40 minutes I was totally regretting that decision as I was almost nodding off. It might as well have been a telly drama as it not cinematic at all. Celebrities get famous when they're young in a blaze of glory but there's trauma from early on then they get on the decline with mental health and drug problems and it all gets rather tragic blah, blah, blah. Anyway what pushes this film a smidge ahead of the rest of the cookie cutter biopics is two things. The first is that it just concentrated on two aspects of Judy Garland's (Renée Zelwegger) life that being the filming of Wizard of Oz (1939) and her London stage act several months prior to her death. The other being Renée Zelwegger's outstanding performance where she embodied Judy Garland so well it was sometimes uncanny. That doesn't mean the movie wasn't mostly fucking tedious though. I can't really recommend Judy but if you love your powerhouse actoring performances and biopics in general perhaps this is for you.