Archive for James
Directed by: Ralf Huettner
Written by: Florian David Fitz
Produced by: Viola Jäger, Harald Kügler
Starring: Florian David Fitz, Karoline Herfurth, Heino Ferch, Robert Gellner, Katharina Müller-Elmau
Language: German with English subtitles
Run Time: 96 minutes
Did you hear the one about the man with tourette’s, an anorexic woman and the guy with ocd? No? Well there’s this guy with tourette’s, an anorexic woman and a guy with ocd who escape a mental institution. They steal their psychiatrist’s car and drive from Germany to Italy to dispose of a tuna can filled with the ashes of tourette’s guy’s mom. On the way they have adventures, find love and of course escape the evil psychiatrist and tourette’s guy’s grumpy father. It all sounds like a bad joke, which it very well could be, but it’s also an award winning movie in Germany. Vincent Wants to Sea isn’t as bad as the joke sounds but it isn’t anywhere near what an award winning masterpiece should be.
The big problem with Vincent Wants to Sea is that the characters aren’t consistent, aren’t believable and worst of all, are extremely predictable. Vincent’s (the guy with tourette’s syndrome) tics aren’t uncontrolled and in fact only come at a time when the movie demands it. Instead of having random movements or outbursts throughout the film, his symptoms all but disappear during parts of the movie and reappear when it’s comedic and convenient. It’s the same way with Marie, the anorexic girl, who really shows no symptoms of her condition aside from being thin for most of the movie. Marie’s silly, has lots of energy and a great sense of humor which doesn’t really seem very realistic for a girl who’s supposedly so starved her body is about to fail. Sadly, the potential that lies in all of the characters is largely ignored and instead is turned into a common parody of what their mental illnesses are. The lack of in depth character development is understandable though; after all, if the characters seemed somewhat real it would transform a feel good drama into a cringe-worthy comedy.
The soundtrack is another huge piece of the puzzle that makes the movie seem extremely scripted. It follows the same formula of bland cheesy music at all of the right times that you’d see in any chick flick or trendy drama. As soon as the intro starts you can queue the acoustic guitar and the bad lyrics sung by a middle aged man in Birkenstocks that plays on light rock stations. Again, the music reflects a striking lack of originality and uses the very same themes that are used in hundreds of other movies. Perhaps the reason why all of the song’s lyrics are in English is to fool a German audience into thinking they aren’t as bad as they are but that’s just a theory. All theories aside, the music just reflects the current trend that’s seen in romantic movies and as pleasurable as it is to some listeners; still offers nothing new or innovative to the film.
Vincent Wants to Sea does have a redeeming quality, namely the scenery photography. The landscape shots are breathtaking and indeed make the viewer want to retrace the steps of the characters in the movie. Even though there are some goofy shots, one where all the protagonists sit on a cross overlooking a mountain, the fact remains that there is real natural beauty captured in the film.
Just looking at the poster of Vincent Wants to Sea, where Vincent is standing with his back turned to the camera and looking at the ocean, says exactly what kind of movie it is, a feel good drama. The viewer knows just by looking at the poster that there’s going to be love, some silly comedic moments and of course a long journey complete with bonding and healing so in the end it doesn’t really disappoint. Vincent Wants to Sea seems as if it was meant to appeal to the lowest common denominator of audiences who are looking for more of a good time instead of a realistic emotional story. The characters are all likeable and charming but aren’t dysfunctional enough (unless it’s convenient that is) to actually merit them being in a mental institution in the first place. Vincent Wants to Sea is a goofy, stereotypical, easy to vegetate to movie and is therefore pleasurable to watch as long as you don’t expect anything new or groundbreaking.
A Little Help
Directed by: Michael J. Weithorn
Written by: Michael J. Weithorn
Produced by: Joe Gressis, Dena Hysell
Starring: Jenna Fischer, Chris O’Donnell, Kim Coates, Mel Kaminsky, Lesley Ann Warren, Brooke Smith, Aida Turturro, Rob Benedict
Run Time: 108 minutes
There’s a parallel universe in which every actor who you kind of know the face but forgot the names all joined forces to make a super vaginal (that’s a term from the film) movie where every aspect is completely over emotional and pointless. The writing is so amazing that it actually raises the viewer’s psychic abilities to where they’re actually able to predict the future an hour in advance. While this movie should be considered an embarrassment for all of the people who were involved in the making of it, personally I love it, even if it’s for all of the wrong reasons.
A Little Help revolves around a mother, Laura, as she tries to cope with the death of her sweaty husband (almost all of the characters perspire a little bit too much) and her fat untalented son who makes the kid in Two and a Half Men look like a Shakespearian actor. Now this all sounds well and good but since this a part of Indy Fest we all know that her family has to be completely dysfunctional and overly dramatic. Throw in a little bit of lost love, nagging sisters, kids that should have been aborted and overly feminine men in the mix and you have one of the most typical and uninteresting stories known to man.
As you can probably guess from the description of the story, it’s safe to say that all of the characters are either mind numbingly bland or completely enraging. For instance, Laura’s son Dennis is literally annoying to the point where you would actually be able to justify his own mother drowning him in a bathtub for the greater good of mankind. Of course Dennis isn’t the only fresh new child actor Zach Page, Kile in the film, who fills you with fantasies of slamming your fist into his teeth like any character from Street Fighter 2 would do to a Nancy boy and knocking his Joan Jett haircut clear off of his girlish head. Then comes Paul Kiles Dad(who also came up with the vaginal line), played by Rob Benedict, who lovingly watches his sons god awful emo band as he dances like a teenage girl. Paul is the grisliest of the girly men with his V-neck t-shirt, cool shorts and flip flops. Now that I look back at it, there isn’t one character who I liked in this movie.
A Little Help kind of reminds me of a small ugly animal, like Sam the Chinese Crested Dog, which you know you’re supposed to hate but it’s just so ugly and fun to insult so you’re forced to love it for its flaws. I could spend the whole night making comments about how bad every aspect of the movie is; it’s just so much fun to complain about. Of course most people don’t go to movies to insult them so this may not be the best film to see in theaters with those overly serious and deep Indy types or art aficionados but then again I don’t think they’d enjoy the film as much as the people with a personality would. If you do decide to watch this film, be sure to bring a friend who will actually enjoy being a jerk while you watch instead of sitting there with a dumb beret, miserably trying to figure out some deep meaning to the movie.
Directed by: Julie Bertuccelli
Written by: Judy Pascoe, Julie Bertuccelli, Elizabeth J Mars
Produced by: Sue Taylor, Yael Fogiel
Starring: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Morgana Davies. Marton Csokas
Run Time: 100 minutes
The Tree is like going to a friend’s house where the only entertainment is their toddler playing with Legos. The box that shows what’s supposed to be built, maybe a car or robot, looks like it could be interesting but as you watch the child build, all that’s there is a square which doesn’t resemble anything close to what it could be. The toddler throws away the head of all the interesting characters minutes after opening the box just like the film does where all the characters (two of them) with a personality are tossed aside. The Tree is entertaining for the first few moments while you try to figure out what could possibly happen but in the end nothing is created. The Tree can be described in three words: “Waste of time.”
Most people would think that a movie about a woman who loses her husband would be a film about self discovery and healing her broken family but there’s nothing remotely resembling that in the movie. Instead, The Tree feels more like an episode of The Family Guy where random events happen but they aren’t really funny. Instead of a plot there’s just moments which are supposed to give the viewer some sense of a story. Due to the lack of plot and story the viewer is left with little or no emotional investment in the characters which is a huge problem if the viewer is looking for a memorable film.
The story itself is supposed to be about how the main characters husband dies (you may notice that I’m not using the characters name. This is done because she’s so bland that you forget it anyways) and his spirit comes back to live in a tree. The husband, whatever his name is, (who could have been an interesting character if he didn’t die at the beginning) was perfect in every way. He was handsome, took care of the family and the best lover on earth as we learn in a pointless conversation right after he dies. All of his good traits must have died with him because the tree that his spirit inhabits just causes problems throughout the film and at one point even falls through the bedroom of his forgettable wife after she connects with another man. Of course a guy as great as him wouldn’t want his family to move on or find happiness, he wants to cling to their misery and ruin their lives. The whole concept is just plain stupid and worst of all, doesn’t make sense when you take into account how perfect the husband’s character is supposed to be.
Even the photography and imagery only enhances the blandness of the movie. The color tone of the movie is dull and there’s little of no color in the film which doesn’t make it enjoyable to look at. There are some parts of the move where the director puts in some imagery which just looks horribly cliché. The biggest example of the imagery is the wilted flowers on a nightstand of the woman’s bed when she’s depressed. The only image that does stick in one’s mind is how many teeth the main character has in her goofy smile and that’s something nature did, not the director.
The saving grace for The Tree is that the actors all do an excellent job in their roles which makes the movie watchable instead of complete garbage. As unmemorable as the characters are, they’re not badly acted so it’s difficult to hate the film for all of its flaws. Given the story, even an Oscar winning actor couldn’t make this film worth watching so look for the two main actresses in other films which may actually make use of their ability in a noticeable way.
The Tree isn’t really worth watching unless you have absolutely nothing better to do. It’s the kind of a movie that you’d watch if the dvd was there and you need some background noise while you figure something else out to do. Personally my advice to you is, if you must watch this movie, wait for the film to come out on dvd then watch the first 10 minutes to get the basic plot. After you’ve grasped the basic idea, fast forward to halfway through the movie and watch it again for another 10 minutes so you’ve caught up on the story. Finally fast forward to the last 10 minutes of the movie so you can see the ending. Watching the movie this way may sound like you’re going to miss a lot but the plot you come up with for yourself as you put the pieces together will be much more interesting and rewarding than the movie could ever be. If there was any justice in the world, The Tree would be shipped out to the slums of India where it would be at home with all of the other things that no one cares about.
Directed by: Wai-keung Lau
Written by: Gordon Chan
Produced by: Gordon Chan, Wai-keung Lau
Starring: Donnie Yen, Chen Zhen, Qi Shu, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Yasuaki Kurata
Language: Cantonese with English subtitles
Run Time: 105 minutes
In what seems to be extremely common in action movies coming out of China, Donnie Yen returns to fight off the….. wait for it….. the evil Japanese in the loosely based historical action movie Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen. The Return of Chen Zhen takes place in the period after World War 1 when the British and Japanese are exerting their influence over the Chinese mainland. Supposedly dead, Chen Zhen returns to Shanghai, under an alias of a fallen soldier he had served with during the war to help protect his country from the evil foreign forces. The plot sounds bland because, well, there’s nothing original about it. All of the Blockbusters to come out of Communist China need to be approved by the government and are just a rehashed version of the same propaganda over and over again.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of the movie is the glamorous set design of the Jazz/Swing club that the most of the movie takes a place in but there’re other good things as well. The acting is done well, the way the characters look and of course the intense action scenes that Yen is famous for. The viewer can even get into Yens horrific fake moustache and laugh about how no one can pull off the leather super hero outfit that he wears(after finding it prominently displayed in a store window).
The plot of Legend of the Fist would have so much more potential if it just had a new villain and offered some original aspects in the story itself. It seems as though directors have a virtual checklist of events that have to happen in every new kung fu movie. Evil Japanese characters? Check. Innocent masses? Check. Evil Characters shut down local newspaper or kill off intellectuals? Check. This plot would be forgivable if it had been told maybe once or twice but not the multitude of times that it’s been done in the last year or two. Some movies with similar plots are Yip Man, Yip Man 2(both of these star Yen and are simply amazing), Bodyguards and Assassins, Fearless and Shaolin.
The story is good, the action scenes are everything we’ve come to expect from Donnie Yen but the main problem is the lack of an innovative story. We all like a superhero but it’s the villain that makes the hero important and China needs another villain besides the Japanese or the British. Legend of the Fist is a good kung fu/action movie for people who aren’t kung fu fans or aren’t familiar with the age old story of the oppressive Japanese and British. Yes Japan and Europe did horrible things to the Chinese but that’s no excuse to make virtually every martial arts movie about that. It’s gotten to the point where fans of the genera can’t do one of the things we like doing which is having a kung fu movie marathon with the newer blockbuster movies that have come out of china. Honestly if you want a kung fu movie that does most of these things better you’d be better off watching Yip Man on Netflix. Legend of the Fist is absolutely worth the watch if you’re a Donnie Yen fan or just want to have a random night out with friends watching action movies but if you’re an avid fan of kung fu movies Legend of the Fist is just more of the same with some pretty bells and whistles.
Directed by: Takeshi Kitano(Beat Takeshi)
Written by: Takeshi Kitano
Produced by: Masayuki Mori, Takio Yoshida
Starring: Takeshi Kitano, Kippei Shiina, Ryo Kase, Tomokazu Miura, Jun Kunimura, Tetta Sugimoto, Takashi Tsukamoto
Language: Japanese with English subtitles
Run Time: 109 minutes
Finally Beat Takeshi has returned, much to the excitement of his fans, to the dark and shadowy world of the Yakuza in his latest film Outrage. This isn’t your typical Yakuza film where the characters are disciplined, classy and somewhat respectable; instead, Outrage is a louder movie where the characters lack all subtlety, are cold and embrace their inner asshole (the way Takeshi says asshole is one of his trademarks). Outrage experiments with a different sort of style where there isn’t a single protagonist but a group of villains selfishly misleading each other in order take control of the wealth that organized crime has offer.
Outrage does a lot of things well, such as the photography or some of the creativity in the way the characters are killed, but does some things extremely badly. For instance, there doesn’t seem to be a coherent plot due to the fact that there is no main character. At some points it seems like more of a soap opera geared towards men where one sneaky man pulls the strings of other characters much in the same way a cunning woman character would; using a manly version of that he said she said type of manipulation.
Now that the main problem with the movie is covered we can get into all of the good parts like the violence. Everybody knows that gangsters are supposed to be extremely ruthless and the characters reflect that as they act more like psychopaths without remorse than productive members of society. The lack of human decency leads to some very innovative ways for the characters to maim and kill each other. Some of the action is cold, some of it makes you cringe, and some of it leaves appreciating the ability of Takeshi to do hurt people in creative ways.
The acting is superb and there’re a lot of familiar faces in the cast. Jun Kunimura has appeared in close to 100 films and TV shows including Kill Bill vol 1, Ichi the Killer and Audition. Musase is played by Renji Ishibashi who also had a role in Audition, Dead or Alive and over 200 other roles. When listing actors in the film, you can’t forget to mention Beat Takeshi who’s stared and directed in many of his own films and television shows. In fact all of the actors have quite a long resume which isn’t surprising since all of the characters are fun to watch, especially some of their facial expressions.
Outrage is a hit or miss film, it’s a hit if you like Japanese gangsters and gratuitous violence but a miss if you want a movie with a deep plot and likeable characters. Sometimes it’s best to sit back and enjoy the show and that’s exactly what Outrage is good for. It’s violent, silly, has big stars and there’s no excuse for Takeshi fans to miss it.
Directed by: Takashi Miike
Written by: Kaneo Ikegami (based on a screenplay by), Daisuke Tengan (screenplay)
Produced by: Minami Ichikawa, Tôichirô Shiraishi, Michihiko Yanagisawa
Starring: Kôji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Yûsuke Iseya, Gorô Inagaki, Masachika Ichimura, Mikijiro Hira
Language: Japanese with English subtitles
Run Time: 141 minutes
Director Takashi Miike (Audition, One Missed Call) explains, “Sword-fighting scenes are about LOVE. Without brotherly love, we could not shoot such violent sword-fighting scenes.” If violence represents love than 13 Assassins is one of the most romantic and loving films made in the last few years; a chick flick if you will, filled with not only blood but with strong male characters, intelligent dialog and ruthless antagonist. Well, maybe 13 Assassins isn’t really a movie about romance and lacks all of those warm, friendly moments that make up most modern day action movies but is that really a bad thing? Picture this: a handsome rebel who does some sort of dangerous work meets a beautiful woman in need. Sound familiar? That’s the plot to almost every action movie that’s been released in the last few years and it’s exactly the opposite of what we see in 13 Assassins.
13 Assassins chronicles a suicide mission where a small group of samurai plot to kill a corrupt, brutal member of Japans ruling class who is in line to become the next Shogun. While the basic idea sounds simple, it’s the execution that makes the movie shine. The main characters, good and evil, have deep philosophical ideals behind their actions which are rooted deeply with what it means to be a samurai. 13 Assassins showcases a mix of drama, subtle conflict, and of course, extreme violence much in the same ways that have characterized Miike’s previous films.
Almost everything about the film’s production is done well aside from a few aspects with bad cgi effects and a few over the top visuals. The sets are beautiful and authentic with a great deal of attention to detail. The music enhances and meshes with the story as do most of the sound effects. While most of the cinematic details are brilliant there are still some flaws, such as extreme close ups during battle scenes which throw the viewer off a bit(since that usually means the actors can’t really do the more intense action scenes) but all of that can be forgiven when the sheer volume of work that went into the choreography.
13 Assassins fills the void left behind by the swarms of those cookie cutter action movies that are produced by untalented Hollywood writers. America needs is a different kind of action movie, one that’s raw, dark, where the characters aren’t handsome charming womanizers but actually have depth and believe in something. In the end 13 Assassins is a brilliant action film but be warned, the action scenes are extremely long so if you’re not into action than it may be best to skip this film. This movie is a must for fans of Miike’s work, fans of samurai movies and people who are tired of watching common stylized action films. 13 Assassins is indeed an action movie made with love; the love of the actors, directors, producers and everyone else involved in the production of the movie. 13 Assassins will be part of the San Francisco International Film Festival so be sure to take the chance to see it on a big screen.
Directed by: Lena Dunham
Written by: Lena Dunham
Produced by: Kyle Martin, Alicia Van Couvering
Starring: Lena Dunham, Laurie Simmons, Grace Dunham
Run Time: 98 minutes
“Aura just wants someone to tell her who she is(taken from the films summary).” Lucky for Aura, she’s surrounded by witty hipsters and sassy women to help her on her journey of self enlightenment. Tiny Furniture is about a young entitled girl, who basically the personality of a rock and her struggle through life even though she really doesn’t have any problems. Tiny Furniture offers nothing original, is badly written and is basically made for those people who like to think they’re intelligent but in reality are complete dullards.
The story behind Tiny Furniture is horrendous. In fact, it’s so bad that even the description of film on its very own website makes the film look horrible. It’s one thing to have a bad review but when the filmmakers, producers, directors and actors can’t even explain the story in a way that would be interesting or motivating, there’s a big problem. To prove my point, I’m going break down a piece of the story using the filmmakers very own words. (See the complete story plot here: http://www.tinyfurniture.com/#story )
“22-year-old Aura returns home to her artist mother’s TriBeCa loft with the following: a useless film theory degree, 357 hits on her Youtube page, a boyfriend who’s left her to find himself at Burning Man, a dying hamster, and her tail between her legs.”
That sounds great doesn’t it? No, it sounds lame and the worst part about it is that it’s not even an honest description of the movie. What the summary neglects to tell a potential film viewer is that she has 357 views on here Youtube because her videos are horrible. It also states that her boyfriend left her to go find himself at Burning Man which is in Nevada but we find out he moved to Colorado ruining that explanation. It also mentions the non-event of her hamster dying like it was somehow important to the story when the reality was the characters didn’t seem to care whatsoever. That’s just the first sentence of the description; do I really need to break down the entire summary of this garbage film? None of it makes any sense and it seems as if it’s just written to make people think that there is something to the story and characters when the sad truth is that none of it is worth caring about and makes little if any sense.
Every character in Tiny Furniture is completely enraging; to the point where I could only dream that the movie would end in a fiery car crash where Aura is having that near death flashback about her life. The characters aren’t believable and if they are based on real life people, it’s more of a sad statement about the pettiness and stupidity of humanity in general. I’ve never seen a movie with so many horrible characters and to put that in perspective, I watch plenty of late night B-Movies. I’ve have had more of an emotional response watching the acting/characters on TNA Wrestling, who sadly have more depth, are more realistic and much more interesting than the characters in Tiny Furniture.
Most of the dialog in the film is completely the same from character to character showing a lack of creative writing ability and also that the actors lack personality since some actors actually improvise to make their characters sound more natural. Of course the lack of creativity with the dialog is masked by their placebo intellectualism as the characters speak with each other only to have what they say fall apart under any scrutiny becoming completely moronic. Does anyone really think talking about anime porn is interesting or listening to emotional entitled girl complain about how difficult her life is would make interesting dialog?
There is a silver lining to Tiny Furniture: Even though the story, actors, dialog and characters are as bad as they come, the film was made with cheap equipment that would be easy for an aspiring filmmaker to purchase. The fact that anyone can get a camera and can make a good quality movie speaks for the advancement in film technology more so than it does for the filmmaker. Tiny Furniture should be an inspiration to up and coming artists that they too can make a film with little money and one would hope that people who do follow Dunham’s lead and make movies that are actually worth watching.
Tiny Furniture fails on almost every level and there’s no reason anyone should take the time to watch it. This movie is so bad that I feel it’s safe to tell you that if the film resonates with you at all, you should seriously consider buying a shotgun to shoot yourself in the head. Anyone who likes this film is a total pretentious asshole. If you like this film, I whole heartedly want you to kill yourself and spare the world having to deal with your oversensitive entitled hipster nonsense. There really is no point to the film, the story is pure rubbish and the idea that anyone would care about a girl who really doesn’t have any problems slowly breaking down for no reason at all is insanely stupid. The only people who could possibly like this movie are those fake intellectuals who are more concerned about looking smart then actually being smart. I hate Aura, I hate her friends, I hate her journey and most of all, I hate this movie. There’s absolutely nothing moving or original about Tiny Furniture.
[Rating: 1 out of 10]
Directed by: Wing Kin Yip
Written by: Cyrus Cheng, Eddie Chu, Simon Liu, Po Wang, Joey Yuen
Produced by: Jeremy Cheung
Starring: Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, Vanness Wu, Cherrie Ying
Run Time: 93 minutes
Who would have thought that the best chefs in the world would know how to fight in addition to cooking luxurious dishes? It’s true, well maybe not in the real world, where our cooking competitions are interesting but lack the real excitement that only a street fight could bring. Kung Fu Chefs mixes two of my favorite things, good food and a hefty dose of kung fu action. While Kung Fu Chefs isn’t the best kung fu movie out there, it is an entertaining watch for all of those people who enjoy cheesy low budget action/comedy movies.
Starring the legendary Sammo Hung as the disgraced master chef Wong Bing-Yi, who has an almost super natural ability to cook as well as fight, and Vanness Wu as Lung Kin-Yat, a recent graduate of kung fu cooking school, Kung Fu Chefs has an awesome cast. One problem with most action movies is that the main character, the guy who’s supposed to represent the common man, is always some muscular, ruggedly handsome action star but the heavy set Sammo Hung actually looks like he could be a real chef which makes the action scenes extremely entertaining. Think about it, who wouldn’t want to see an episode of Iron Chef where Mario Batali smacks some punk upside his head when he gets out of line? Hung may not be a real life Batali but in the film, he could be one of his long lost relatives.
The basic plot itself is simple, after being kicked out of the Village, a prestigious restaurant and school, and having the Dragon Head Cleaver, a legendary weapon/chef knife, stripped from him, Wong Bing-Yi travels, sample and judges restaurant cuisines. During his travels Wong gives an unfavorable review of his meal at the Four Seas Restaurant, the head chef challenges Wong to a chefs dual (see it sounds silly already) stating that he would leave his family business if he lost. We all know what happens, Wong wins and now that the restaurant was left without a cook, Wong steps in to help the struggling establishment. It doesn’t take long for Wong’s arch enemy, his nephew, to discover that he’s begun cooking again which starts a war between their two restaurants.
Kung Fu Chefs was shot on a low budget so of course it isn’t one of those artistic kung fu movies, like Crouching Tiger, which have taken over the genera over the last few years. Kung Fu Chefs is more of a comedy which takes you back to the days of those late night martial arts movies that used to play on television years ago. Even though the action is cheesy, the cooking can’t possibly be right and the whole story is a little off, you can’t help but love the old school feel of the movie. If you’re like me and love the nostalgia of those old low budget action movies, be sure to check Kung Fu Chefs out. This movie will be part of the Mill Valley Film Fest so you’ll also have the chance to watch it on a big screen.
Rating: 6 out of 10