April 25, 2009

Ring of the Nibelungs (Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King)(Sword of Xanten) (2004)

Like a lesser, made-for-tv Lord of the Rings, with german cast and lower budget. The lead Fürmann reminds me of a cross between Kevin Sorbo and young arnold, with a weird tan. He is barely digestible after the first 2 hours. It feels like the (not-really) original material by Wagner was passed through the Jackson filter, minus the budget. Overall worthy effort for TV-land, but ultimately a failing one. Oh well, at least there's the lovely Alicia Witt and a marginal effort by the terminatrix herslef, Kristanna Loken.

Europa (Zentropa) (1991)

Maybe the most traditional of the trilogy. It explores some interesting aspects of the post-occupation and the nature of Nazi guilt, but eventually reaches the only conclusion that the 2 other parts of the trilogy manage to reach - that is, europe is, was and will be, going though trauma that is in turn mappable to everyone and to humanity in general.

Epidemic (1987)

"Epidemic - We All Fall Down" - perhaps the lightest of the trilogy, despite the grim subject and the hilariously horrific ending. I enjoyed it as much as you can enjoy a von Trier. Did not have all the desperation most of his other work has, but he's nicely setting the mood and delivering on his promise.

The Wrestler (2008)

I hope that fat fuck plastic surgery nightmare gets the Oscar to prove once and for all that being typecast as the washout that you really are in real life can still be deemed 'acting' and that between Aronofsky's return to his roots after that stinker of a Fountain and Tomei's 'still-has-a-nice-rack-even-at-44' performance, it really is Rourke that drives this baby home and shamelessly points out the lyrical beauty of hasbeendom, making a Jesus out of a wrestler, Passion of the Christ style, and ending it in the only way that it really could have ended - in mid air - above the rest - falling to your death.

Inugami (2001)

Lovely and weird - a very 'zen' j-horror, even though it wasn't really j-horror. Very 'Japanese' in nature in many aspects, but also works as a comment on human relationships, modernity vs. tradition and society vs. the individual. Had more than one surprise ending, though neither was really too surprising, and was uneven in parts, especially with the inclusion of 'Predator'-like FX and the (too obvious) allusion to classic Japanese cinema. Overall I liked it, and would recommend it if you get your hands on a copy.

Secret Sunshine (2007)

stunning. Korean Christians are not paraded as an oddity to the west but rather presented in something that's at once believable and as surreal as it would be in Smalltown, USA. While there are some issues with tone, ultimately it works towards a lyrical journey of mourning, salvation, rebellion and, once both extremes are exhausted, the eventual descent into emotional atrophy. Jeon Do-yeon is amazing, delivering a strong performance through everything that her role hurls at her. While it's easy to label it as anti-religious, its strength lies in the fact that it shows how people deal with grief, their emotional strengths and weaknesses, and does not hope to deliver a message for one side or the other. Despite our (natural?) tendency to identify with Shin-ae's view because of sympathy, her actions are ultimately driven by her personal emotional state and not by some overarching anti-religious absolute truth. Overall well worth it through to the end. Glad I was able to see a 35mm print, as it is the way it should be experienced.

Transsiberian (2008)

Another tour de force from brilliant yet underappreciated Brad Anderson, of The Machinist fame. Kingsley shines, as does Mortimer and even Harrelson, which for once uses his naïve dumb American persona to full effect. Kingsley works marvelously as the Russian detective with the double agenda, and the whole thing unravels to almost pitch-perfect thriller that works wonders against the cold, gray landscape of Siberia and the interiors of the famous trans-Siberian train. Story takes a nice twist and it's all nicely wrapped up in the end, complete with the requisite wildcard ending. Overall an entertaining and enjoyable ride - they rarely make these anymore.

W. (2008)

mediocre enough to make it passable but not great yet leftist enough to fail at being balanced. Would have liked them to keep the Saddam scenes, maybe during the credits or on the DVD deleted scenes. Has many of the bush favourites, though not always uttered at the original circumstances. Cast was great too, including Dreyfuss as a somehow less scary Cheney in a scene where he explains, with visual aids involving little US flags all over the world, how they'll build an empire of oil. Overall a good flick and worth a chuckle.

Tōkyō Zankoku Keisatsu (Tokyo Gore Police) (2008)

A cult gore-fest and Nishimura's directorial debut following his 'raise to fame' in the makeup and special effects for Suicide Club, Strange Circus, Meatball Machine and Machine girl. It stars Eihi Shiina (of Ôdishon fame) as a super cop of future Tokyo, where police has been privatized into a videogame-like task force sporting samurai swords, costumes, and glowing red one-eye goggle. The semblance of a story was a caricature police revenge and betrayal story (which in fact is at some point explained through animated storyboards by one of the characters) and is just a pretext for having the pretty Eihi run around in miniskirts and fuckme boots and slashing limbs with her samurai sword (or chainsaws). Overall not as shocking as you'd think. There is the obligatory golden shower scene in the S&M club, and various other mutants running around which reminded me of Cronenberg's various creations. There are also Verhoevenesque police propaganda commercials which are hilarious, and in a way I think this what pushes this one slightly above other cult-gore flicks, in that it tries to have some sort of message, albeit one buried deep under the 4 tons of blood that were supposedly used for this (the director and cast answered some questions for us after the screening and 4 tons was his answer when asked how much blood was used). Overall a nice example of the genre. Had a good chuckle and I think that's pretty much what I was going for. Hopefully Nishimura has more to come.

Sukiyaki Western Django (2007)

Miike's remake of Corbucci's 'Django' seems to be made solely for the cult crowd. Heavy in references and kitsch, it seems to incite a constant searching for 'which original does this scene reference?' The phonetic-English-speaking Japanese cast was a novelty at start, with each line evoking laughter in the crowd, but eventually it wore off and it just became odd and distancing. Tarantino's inclusion was also a nice chuckle, and I'm wondering if he had any input in it other than acting. It is weird to see this trend of movies designed from the get-go for the cult-film crowd. It's like the director saw a need among his hordes of genre-movie followers and decided to fill it. In that respect this does its job, though I am not sure how much it can stand on its own, but then again, does it really need to?