Month: September 2015

Ran – Review #45

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Fun fact: the image you see on most covers of this movie, δΉ±, is actually the Mandarin word for chaos/disorder, which I think fits perfectly into the context of this movie, doesn’t it?

RanRan, directed by Akira Kurosawa, is a tale of greed, lust and power set in the old days of the samurai. The Great Lord Hidetora Ichimonji, after years of ruling a vast empire, has decided to abdicate and divide his land to his 3 sons, with the eldest, Taro, reigning as king, while the other sons are expected to follow under his orders. The second son, Jiro, complies but the youngest, Saburo, rejects and is banished by Hidetora. What follows next sets the stage for one of the best samurai movies ever made.

Akira Kurosawa. One of the most influential directors of the 20th century as said by most film magazines. Lifetime Achievement Award receiver. Idolized by film-makers by the likes of Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese. A film director that I have no experience of what-so-ever. Yes, Mr Kurosawa has been going under my radar for a while. Well, not really ‘under’, more like ‘tried to watched Seven Samurai three times and ended up sleeping half-way through’. That wasn’t the movie’s fault, by the way. It was late and I was laying on my bed. This is some-what a rite of passage for film lovers, isn’t it? You can’t call yourself a film geek without watching Kurosawa, the elitists would cry out. So, I did the only thing I could do to prevent such a thing from ever happening: I watched a Kurosawa film that wasn’t 4 hours long, and by the golly, it was quite a film.

Of the things I can say about Ran, nothing comes to mind except for the word ‘epic’, with the phrase ‘holy s**t’ coming in a close second. Everything in this movie has Kurosawa’s touch. His attention to detail is amazing. Everything from the way the actors move to the gorgeous costumes to the several hundred extras to even the gusts of wind feel like Kurosawa put them there. Every shot looks like a painting come to life. It may sound like I’m exaggerating, but I’m dead serious. If you told me Kurosawa could bend nature to his will, I would believe it just on this movie alone.

The acting in this movie is phenomenal. Everybody does their job spectacularly, both due to their own ability and Kurosawa’s direction. The way they move, the way they talk, and even the faces they make in all scenes are accounted for. All the important characters you either sympathize with or hate passionately. Even the jester, whom I hated at first, redeemed himself in the end. Oh, and color-coding the three brothers is ingenious. His use of color is so good I’m afraid that I may not be able to go back and watch his black and white films.

All in all, Ran is indeed the masterpiece everyone says it is. If it wasn’t for the f**kin jester, the film would’ve gotten the full 5/5 stars. Nevertheless, this is an absolute must watch. The story is captivating, the characters intriguing, the cinematography stunning. I really should give Kurosawa another chance.

Death Wish – Review #44

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Not talking Jeff Goldblum is so much more creepier than talking Jeff Goldblum.

Death WishDeath Wish, directed by Michael Winner, tells the story of a loving couple, played by Charles Bronson and Hope Lange. They have a daughter named Carol and a son-in-law named Jack. Bronson is Paul Kersey, a kind man who works as an architect and lives in the dirtier parts of New York City. Kersey is not a man of violence, but when three hooligans kill his wife and sexually assault his daughter, he decides to take on the streets his own way.

The plot is as straight-forward as revenge films come; Guy and object of desire are happy, something bad happens to object of desire, guy decides to deal with it. In this case, it’s Paul Kersey and his wife and daughter. That may be sub-par for today’s standard of a good plot, but for 1974 times it was enough. It’s enough for me as well, as this kind of movie doesn’t need intricate stories or many characters, it just needs a solid lead to put ourselves in in our fantasies and some good action scenes. In both departments it delivers well.

Charles Bronson is our main star as Paul Kersey, our family man turned vigilante. What I really like about Kersey how believable and slow he changes. Here’s a man who had everything he ever needed; a loving wife and a great daughter. If you suddenly had that taken from you, and the police could not help in any way, would you not feel just a tiny bit pissed off? And that’s not it. When he actually goes through his plan, he doesn’t just immediately become this dark knight of sorts, no. He actually pukes when he first commits murder, which is probably what most people will do if they did that.

Director Michael Winner is…ok. He’s not a bad director, but nothing about him stands out. Well, perhaps this. He was able to make New York look like a much grimier and slick place, instead of the usual bright lights and stock tickers. The Big Apple is shown to have a sour side.

Overall, Death Wish is a revenge flick that was well made and well acted, but doesn’t have much besides that. Watch it if you have the time.

Top Hat – Review #43

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Oh, post-Depression pre-WW2 times, how I miss you. You were so much…trusting back then.

Top HatTop Hat, directed Mark Sandrich, stars Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, one of the most celebrated cinematic duos of all time. This is their 3rd picture as the leading man and lady. Fred plays Jerry Travers, an American dancer who comes to London to play in a show. Through the magical powers of his feet, he meets and falls in love with Dale Tremont, played by Gingers. The rest of the movie focuses on Jerry’s attempts at courting Dale, all the while suffering from a big misunderstanding.

Fred Astaire, dancing extraordinaire. Ginger Rogers, able to do everything Fred does but with high heels. They are of course, well known for their dancing skills, and even have singing and acting talents to boot. Fred was a great male lead, having the class to pull of a character that can be considered creepy. His footwork in this movie is also spectacular, but then, why would you expect less? Ginger is also great as the talented damsel, giving charm to a character that for the most part of the movie was the butt of it’s joke.

Now, I am very picky when it comes to music. I am the type of person that only gets songs I’ve heard. and disregard the album it came from. Even if I did so, if the music wasn’t catchy, it goes bye-bye. So, in regards to the songs in Top Hat, I find them thoroughly entertaining to listen to, but not really memorable. Most of the singing is done by Astaire, and he does have a very nice voice, but the lyrics and beat are just too standard for me.

Story-wise, it ain’t much. It’s your standard screwball romantic comedy you would expect from the era, just with dance sequences added in. It’s not bad, it’s just not much to rite home about.

All in all, Top Hat is a very fun movie to watch, but it’s not a movie that will ‘stick’. Still, watch it if you want to see Fred Astaire do his magic. will put a spell on you, all the while looking dapper as all heck.

Battleship Potemkim – Review #42

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1925…this movie is 3 years older than Mickey freaking Mouse…

Battleship PotemkimBattleship Potemkim, directed by the legendary Sergei Eisenstein, re-tells the story of the mutiny of the titular boat back in the days of Russian Tsars. When the sailors of the Potemkim have had enough of their harsh conditions, they decide to revolt. However, the leader of the group was killed, and the rest of the crew decide display his body in public to honor him and to quell up people to join them.

To say Battleship Potemkim is a famous film is like saying the Pope is Catholic. People will respond with ‘duh’ and judge your mental status if you think otherwise. It has been engraved in film history for so long that parodies and tributes of it are probably more publicly known than the film itself. I am talking of course about the Odessa steps scene. You know, pram rolling down stairs? With such fame comes the inevitable fear that the movie as a whole would not live up to it’s name. Thankfully, Battleship Potemkim does not fall down that route, as the film is quite an enjoyable watch.

Aleksandr Antonov as Grigory Vakulinchuk is our main character for the first half of the movie. He is the one that starts this whole chain reaction. He, along with the rest of the actors/sailors, bring a very strong and dramatic performance, building up the ultimate revolt masterfully. And damn did they have beautiful mustaches.

While the Odessa Steps scene is usually singled out from the movie, the whole film is actually edited very well. Eisenstein’s theory of montage is used to full effect and results in a thrilling and engaging movie. Quick cuts of expressing faces and the motion of the bodies are used with great results.

Overall, Battleship Potemkim is a film that will last the ages, for its contributions to cinema will be forever and everlasting. It might not catch the eye of today’s youth due to it’s age, but it’s a must watch to those that want to see apart of film history.

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen – Review #41

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Why does John Neville in this movie looks so much like John Hurt? That can’t just be me, right? Compare them yourselves! This is Neville, and this is Hurt. The resemblance is uncanny!

The Adventures of Baron MunchausenThe Adventures of Baron Munchausen, directed by Terry Gilliam, tells the tall tales of the titular character, Baron von Munchausen, based of a book from the 1780’s . He’s…no, I shall NOT give any story details about this movie! It’s absurdity plot-wise must be kept secret for full effect! For this movie is crazy in all the right ways! Why did I not watch this as a kid?! 10-year-old me would’ve loved this!

As you can quite clearly see, I am in love with this movie in all the ways. Firstly, the cast and characters. John Neville IS the Baron. Everything from his attitude to just his smile just perfectly encompasses who the Baron is. The rest of the cast is great as well-the child actress is actually competent for a change-and they all have their time to shine, but man, John Neville just OWNS it.

If you want to have a good fantastical time, and The Wizard of Oz isn’t cutting it for you, then this movie is your best bet. As I’ve said, this movie is pure hilarious nonsense. Logic is defied in so many ways you laugh at it, in a good way. If not done well, this could be disastrous, but luckily it’s Terry Gilliam. He has done well.

Overall, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is a hell of a good time. Watch it when you can.

Writer’s note: Sorry for the shorter review, I’m going on a trip tomorrow, and tried to squeeze this out before I go. I don’t like to leave my writing hanging.