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Shi gan

A disappointment
If I can spare at least one fan of Kim Ki-duk's other films from wasting their time on this sub-par offering, then my work here is done. Time is perhaps the director's most straightforward film, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but in this case the lack of complexity and hyperrealism found in some of his better films makes this one a failure by comparison. Time makes some fairly obvious statements about identity, jealousy and attachment (as opposed to real, true love.) No doubt some viewers (especially those unfamiliar with the director's other work) will find these statements deep and moving (and the fairly pat and predictable narrative easy to follow.) The director is nonetheless an artful cinematographer and this film is not without its charming scenes and symbolic and visual merit. However, compared to the complex, cerebral and occasionally magical dramatic presentation of films like The Isle and 3-Iron, this offering from Kim falls miserably short.

Sud pralad

I Need to Write This in Order to Move On...
I actually feel bad that I did not connect with this film. For all its perceived depth noted in other comments here (and in the pages of Film Comment magazine), this experimental Thai film left me unmoved and even a bit irritated. Perhaps I was not "viewing with my heart," as another commenter suggested was necessary.

The one redeeming factor for me was the opportunity for a realistic glimpse of rural Thailand, and some scenes were indeed beautifully photographed.

I am no stranger to experimental and non-narrative structures in film, but found myself fast-forwarding through much of this piece, especially the latter "folkloric" half.

Inscrutable and languidly paced do not always equal a soulful, moving film experience, and I can't help but wonder if some of the praise for this one comes from those willing to be blown away by anything impenetrably arty.

There really is not a lot to this film, not much happens per se, and it is left to the viewer to project one's own sensory or emotional illuminations onto the structure, what little there is. I was unable to make this leap, cold-hearted bastard that I am.

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

Cathartic viewing; and no damn spoilers herein!
It kills me the way the user comments on the IMDb are so often flooded with basic storyline information and/or outright spoilers. (i.e., "Warren Oates plays Benny, a drunken blah blah blah.") Everybody wants to be the next Roger Ebert (though God knows why.) "Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia" is a title custom-designed to SAY ALL THAT NEEDS TO BE SAID. Tell me THAT title, tell me Warren Oates is in it, and I'm there. Granted, it's been a good 30 years, so some of the particulars of the story have leaked out. But read any other comments here, and you risk knowing more than you should the first time out with this one.

This movie flattened me. Desperation and flies, lots of flies. Yes, Peckinpah's films are violent. When I was a little kid in the early 70s, way before I was allowed to see movies like this, I knew of Peckinpah's reputation. Now I see that the violence herein is a total smokescreen, a sign of the times, a way to sell movie tickets. Human emotion is where these films are really at.

Peckinpah was Jim Thompson with a camera, and he told some great stories in a maverick style. Today's pre-fab, "hip" postmodern filmmakers are not worthy of a brutal, bizarre tale such as this. Sure, Kill Bill was a lot of fun - but the viewer hovers safely on the perimeter, like one flipping noncommittally (if enthusiastically) through the pages of a comic book. You will not be able to view Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia with such entertainment-value indifference. You'll be up all night typing (like me), or drinking, or doing whatever it is you do when your head is reeling from a true cathartic viewing experience.

The Wire

Like a great novel
Season 3 of The Wire ended like a great novel, in a series of great novels, about crime, politics, "po-lice" and personalities in the City of Baltimore. The Wire truly has no equivalent on American TV, more akin to something like the British miniseries Traffik, or Robert Altman's Short Cuts, but really in a class by itself. The show also doesn't fetch the ratings of HBO's other blockbuster series, like The Sopranos or Deadwood, but so far the network has stood behind what is indisputably a creative / artistic success. Viewers accustomed to having a Tony Soprano or an Al Swearingen to latch onto may be daunted by The Wire's 2-dozen or so "main" characters, all given equal importance within multiple story lines. The concurrent tales all buoy one another, and as the season draws to a close, they begin to merge and compliment each other in unexpected ways. No detail is too small to not be done with great care, and no significant threads are left to hang, which also speaks to the brilliance of the writers.

The Wire is no less than a dramatic triumph, and I can't wait for a new season.

Las ratas no duermen de noche

Lobes of Fun
This is the finest bizarro Euro-exploitation piece that I have seen in a long time.

Certainly, Quentin Tarantino is a fan of this wild 1973 Franco-Spanish co-production starring horror legend Paul Naschy. Few films can successfully combine a botched jewel heist, a brain transplant and a mysterious character known only as "The Sadist." Naschy's role, though pivotal, is actually minimal, with few lines and only a few key scenes. The real story is played out by a gang of motley character types, of which the females are especially malicious and memorable.

Crimson has the right combination of impossibly contrived storyline and dazzling color visuals that one looks for in this kind of movie.

The Image Entertainment DVD (for sale on Amazon, though not linked to this page) is a sharp widescreen print, with a few nifty extras, including the alternate "erotic scenes" (not featuring Naschy, but the switch over to the bad body double is hilarious!).

Highly recommended

Mou gaan dou

Monumentally Overrated
I enjoy HK films for being HK films— I didn't need a Hong Kong director to go and make a Michael Mann film, which is what this is. It's so well liked by so many, that I couldn't resist sharing my very different perceptions.

The male leads (Tony Leung, in most cases, is an exceptionally realistic and emotive actor) are only defined by the activities they're engaged in to drive the plot. The female characters are at best peripheral, at worst idiotic.

"A brilliant cat and mouse tale" — "Psycholiogical thriller" Yeah, whatever. The whole thing's pretty wooden if you ask me. Beast Cops is a film that suggested a new direction for HK cop/robber films. I'd like to see more like that. Infernal Affairs is over-polished, shallow, pandering-to-Hollywood rubbish.

Haute tension

Well-made French thriller with loads of splatter
A brutally single-minded serial killer and rapist is stalking the French countryside-or is he? Haute Tension is a tight, grisly thriller that wastes little time getting right down to business, i.e., there's a bare minimum of tedious setup before the 'fun' begins. Some of the kill scenes are so intense that even a seasoned horror fan such as myself squirmed a bit in my seat; I even let out an involuntary "whoa" more than once. Make what you will of the story's 'twist' in the latter half-hour. Though I saw it coming, that didn't hamper my enjoyment in the slightest of the film overall. Not a great film, or a deeply cathartic experience, the very-appropriately-titled Haute Tension (High Tension) nonetheless delivers the goods for genre fans and will likely thrill a lot of regular moviegoers as well.

Just Before Dawn

Classy Low-Budget Thriller
Looking past its obvious trappings as a camper/slasher flick, Just Before Dawn actually fares better as a film than its more successful contemporary, Friday The 13th, as it's much more than just a number of kill scenes loosely strung together. Just Before Dawn also very much satisfied my need to see films that I missed during my 'coming of age' period, basically 1966-1983. The so-called 'neo-realism' and subtlety of that period of American (and to some extent, European) film making still captures a form of expression which I hold dear.

There are a few too many false scares (as is a given with the genre), but also a wealth of great scenes and creepy ideas, the likes of which have not been employed before or since. The constant, unsympathetic beauty of nature is as much a character in the story as any other, and the outdoor photography is worthy of Herzog. Where some of the acting is sub-par, George Kennedy turns in a wonderfully understated performance as the park ranger, and the two principal campers show a lot more depth than the typical victim-waiting-to-be-impaled-on-a-machete. The ending is equal parts predictable, brutal and ultimately surprising, leaving the viewer a bit stunned as the credits roll plainly over a dull sunrise. Just Before Dawn should be a welcome addition to any collection of American cinematic horror.


Too Bad It's Gone...
I've just watched the 'series finale' of Angel, and I want to express just how sorry I am to see it go. I feel like Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets when he has to give the dog back to Greg Kinnear - "Over a dog..." I realize Angel was in its way a really silly show, but it seems to have come into its own in this, the fifth and final season. Ideas grew all over the place, ideas that still had a lot of room to develop. The show maintained a fertile, creative freshness throughout, and I was genuinely surprised when I heard that the WB was canceling the show. Has not the Joss Wheedon franchise a tremendous international fan base?

When this season comes out on DVD, it will be the one to have, trust me. I'll especially miss James Marsters as Spike (a classic antihero, like Vegeta in DragonBall Z) and Amy Acker as Illyria, the ancient demonic entity embodied in the former Winifred Burkle. They were even delving into some Cassavettes-esque conversational drama this season, particularly between the old warring sidekicks, Angel and Spike. The whole "fighting the good fight against evil" aspect of the show was also oddly inspiring to an old cynic Satanist Existentialist such as myself. They usually escaped corniness by keeping the goodwill dangerous, and the good guys flawed and fallible. The jokey episodes were inventive and engaging enough that I never rolled my eyes once, even during the "Puppet Episode." Well it's water under the bridge, but I sure wish that with all the crap on American TV, Angel could have stuck around a bit longer.


Beautiful People in a Floaty Dance of Nothing
I must slam this film if only to reclaim the 90 minutes or so that I cannot ever regain (I ffwd through the last half hour.) The Mrs. and I loved Irma Vep and were intrigued enough by the premise and cast of Demonlover to have a look. This film has an excellent look and feel, so you're taken in at first, until you realize there's no real reason for any of the action and you dislike all the characters, and that's just dislike, because you're not really involved enough to actually HATE them. The music selection is cool, the film even opens with a song by the legendarily obscure German band NEU! The clothes are fab, the whole thing is lit in a cool blue half the time, but the story is a wispy corporate spy drama, with its meat drawn straight from the screenplay of Videodrome. At first we thought we were enjoying ourselves, but ultimately Demonlover is a tired lay.

El espanto surge de la tumba

Black magic opens the door to Fun!
I really want to drum a up a little more enthusiasm for this film than is evident here. Sometimes it seems like non-genre fans see things like this and miss out on the subtleties (so to speak.) I saw this with zero expectations, having purchased it as part of a very inexpensive collection of old horror 'gems' on DVD. It was my first experience with the work of cult auteur Paul Naschy, whom I'd read about in the book IMMORAL TALES, and I was more than pleasantly surprised. Fans of Jean Rollin, Coffin Joe, the Blind Dead series and Fulci's Gates of Hell will be glad they took the 90mins. to soak this one in.

One concept I've always loved is the premise that all the horrible events in a story are the work of black magic, or evil spirits-as this pretty much opens the door to anything, with a minimum of necessary exposition. Horror Rises From The Tomb has great location shots on misty swampland, majestic castles and beautiful long-haired women sleepwalking in see-through nightwear. These are a few of my favorite things. Yours too? I also love the way a red light precedes the every arrival of the evil du Margnac. There is even a brief, but eerily effective zombie sequence.

It's these little touches that a true horror fan will appreciate.

24 Hour Party People

Welcome to Manchester
This film is a loose biography of the Manchester music scene, as told through the eyes of one of its chief supporters, Factory records mini-mogul Tony Wilson. This is done in a dramatic, non-documentary style, with a lot of amusing fourth-wall commentary from the main character. I found it very entertaining, and believe me when I say my expectations were low. Whenever they hire actors to play rock icons I get very leery. Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious? Okay. That's the one good instance I can think of off the top of my head. But the guy who played Ian Curtis was absolutely sincere and the performance touched me. From a cinematography standpoint, as the eras passed in the film, from the 70s through to the 90s, the look of the film updated itself accordingly. I thought this was brilliant and very unassumingly done. Watching 24-Hour Party People also set us off on a whole Happy Mondays kick here at home; a band whose music we couldn't have been less interested in before. Shaun Rider's newer project, Black Grape, is also very good, but that's another review for another website. Recommended viewing not only for fans of the pop musicians involved in the story, but also for those of contemporary creative British cinema.

Ye shou xing jing

A new plateau in HK action
Anyone who didn't like this film must've come to the table with expectations. It does not cascade from one tightly-choreographed action scene to the next like the John Woo classics, which as good as they are to watch, are still played more for bullets and explosions than for story or characters. This is a totally different kind of film, with casual, believable dialogue, some great acting, and its "cowboys" and "indians" not so clearly defined.

Not that it isn't high on stylish shot-framing, editing and dynamite costume design; this is, after all, still a Hong Kong production. But I saw flashes of Cassavettes and Pedro Almodovar-less homage to Ringo Lam or Ronny Yu. Anthony Wong's character, "Brother Tung" still gets to go crazy at the end and spill a lot of blood, in a gritty hand-to-hand fight scene. What more could one ask? I've seen more than my share of slow-motion shootouts. This film is something more: a drama, at times a comedy, with cops and triads as its milieu, rather than its reason for being. An easy five stars.

Freddy vs. Jason

Definitely not a waste of time...
You can't fault this film for trying to be something it's not. It is all I imagined and more upon first hearing the words "Freddy vs. Jason." The premise of how Freddy has been methodically "forgotten" is a clever one, and provides an interesting underpinning for all the bad acting and gratuitous sex and gore. The adorable Monica Keena from the sitcom Undeclared dominates the screen whenever F'n'J are not center stage, and much use is made of her handsome cleavage, and her ability to play the perfect dippy heroine. The guy playing Jason is the best actor in this film, apart from Robert Englund who is reliably slimy and catch-phrasey. Ronny Yu has redeemed himself in my eyes (I'm still mad about Formula 51), by shooting some truly exciting horror and action sequences. There's even a burnout kid who's like a mini Jay from Jay and Silent Bob, who shares a great little hallucination sequence with Freddy. All in all, this was definitely not a waste of my time.

Dead or Alive: Hanzaisha

Not What I Expected-And That's Good!
Hey this wasn't bad at all. I expected shocking violence and gory thrills, based on the film's reputation, but what I got instead was a thinking, feeling, bizarrely creative film. This was my first Takashi Miike film, and my expectations were low, partly because he's so hyped, and partly because I'm over being shocked, and his films have a reputation of being, well, shocking. The character of the cop is especially palpable, and the scenes that take place in his home are more like the quiet moments of a Beat Takeshi film. This dramatic realism is somehow anchored in the otherwise chaotic flow of the rest of the film. There's a real anything-can-happen vibe to this film that keeps you on the edge, yet when you reflect back upon it, there are really only a few heavy action sequences. I thought that was pretty brilliant, though some may feel disappointed by the low count of flipped cars. Hey wanna see an action film? See Formula 51; that had plenty of action, with no damn reason for any of it. And what a forgettable film that was. Dead or Alive is rollicking and at times inexplicable, but never boring. Highly recommended.

Shiqi sui de dan che

incredibly frustrating
I don't care what this film may have to say about the class struggle in Beijing-that entire aspect of the film being way too obviously stated for my taste. I was more concerned with my struggle to stay interested in what was happening. Back and forth, back and forth with the damn bicycle. Nobody speaks up when you want them to, and no one asks the question your mind is screaming in any given scene. All the characters behave inexplicably to the point of exasperating the viewer. Now I love a lot of potentially frustrating films (Neighbors, for example), and I'm not one to demand payoff out of hand. I can roll with films and see where they take me. But this one was taking me down aggravation alley. Beijing Bicycle looks good, and the writing is reasonably clever, so on the surface it makes a good 'import'-many will profess to have been deeply moved, but I'm not buying. Skip this one, but for a similar tale with leagues more depth, see Cyclo.

Fei zhou he shang

One of the strangest...
This is a thoroughly bizarre kung fu action vampire slapstick exploitation movie, essentially an attempt to combine the success of two films, the excellent Chinese hit Mr. Vampire and the international hit The Gods Must Be Crazy (which for reasons unknown to me, was considered "good" and "funny" upon its release in the US). They also threw in a little Bruce Lee montage at the end, no kidding, but don't worry, they worked it in tastefully-haha! The African bushman from Gods... (yes they got the actual guy) engages in amusing slapstick with a hopping vampire. All the white people are horrible, and the Taoist magician from Mr. Vampire rides an ostrich and saves the day, basically. Somehow this was all worth sitting through, if only for the sake of it being one of the strangest films ever made.

Xia dao Gao Fei

Heroes and Cowards
It's a joy to watch Chow-Yun Fat and Anthony Wong work together. One made his career playing rugged heroes with golden hearts, the other excels at playing villainous, ruthless cowards. This film shows why. The depth they bring to their roles, in addition to Ringo Lam's imaginative direction, puts this in the upper-echelon of Hong Kong action films. These mothers got backstory out the ass. There's something almost "70s neo-realist" about certain scenes. The familiar theme of honor between thieves (or the lack thereof) drives this story, as it has many other Chinese shoot-em-ups. This time though, it's done with real grit.

Besides, I could just plain watch Anthony Wong do anything. It's probably to his credit that he hasn't "broken through" over here. He'd just end up having to play the "Evil Triad Boss" opposite Matt Damon or something ridiculous like that.

Ringo Lam is no slouch at shooting action scenes, either.

Simon Yam of the Naked Killer series (and the new Tomb Raider movie!) also makes a memorable appearance as the flamboyant hyper-bad guy.

If you like Hong Kong films, don't miss this one.

Scarlet Diva

Thanks Everyone!
Boy, so much s--t was talked about this film, and I just want to thank you all for dropping my expectations so low that I was able to thoroughly enjoy Scarlet Diva. If you're sitting down to watch this film, one hopes that a certain context is assumed, and an interest has been established, such that terms like "self-indulgent" and "bad acting" do not even enter into the vocabulary. The film pulls you along with heavy visual style, holding its own sexy trash pulse while at the same time prostrating itself at the altar of the director/star's horror-god father Dario Argento, but in a good way. For example, the latter's trademark use of colored lighting is employed liberally, and to appropriate effect. Rapper Schoolly D and NY shock performer/painter Joe Coleman both make great respective turns, as a drug dealer and sleazy producer. Like the work of her auteur Dad, and writer Mother Daria Nicolodi (who appears as "The Mom" in the film), Asia Argento's Scarlet Diva is a horror film, and you will feel horrified at certain scenes. But it's a "horror of life" film, and it's assumed that much of it is semi-autobiographical. Would you pay to see it if it were Drew Barrymore's sleazoid child star/artist family upbringing? Dare to give 90 minutes up to the Scarlet Diva.


Ask your twin brother how he would review this film...
This is a film that I find difficult to comment on, as there is almost no frame of reference with any other film or genre.

You don't need to know anything about the plot, just sit back and let it happen to you. Hey, a little trust for the team that brought you Being John Malkovich, OK? Forget about whether you like Nicholas Cage, Meryl Streep or orchids; it doesn't matter.

I laughed hard in a few spots, though I didn't laugh a lot. The funniest bits were all the conversations between the "brothers," and also when Charlie is talking to himself. For example: Charlie: "Ourobouros. It's a snake eating its tail." Donald: "No I don't think that's it. But listen..."

You can see Charlie's anguish and self-loathing in his face and body.

Adaptation comments upon the creative process, "great art" versus "Hollywood crap," loneliness, loss and yearning, without ever seeming highbrow, mannered or false.

Chris Cooper's orchid thief could be a guy you know, and you'd be better for knowing him. Cooper acted his ass off and got the Oscar, the least you could do is watch this film without preconceptions, and without asking "what's it about?"

I will anxiously await Spike Jonze's next project. He has got to be the most highly original director in the world today. It's hard to complain about the lack of quality in media (reality shows, etc.) when Spike Jonze movies are huge hits that win Oscars and feature huge talents.

Did I like "Adaptation" as much or more than "...Malkovich"? No. The latter film appeals too directly to my aesthetic nerve centre. Would I watch it again? Maybe. Some of the emotions were so palpable that it was rough going and therefore not as much of a fun, carefree ride as "...Malkovich." But I'm extremely impressed at the way Jonze merges true pathos with humor and excessive oddness and makes it all work.


An almost perfect 70s-style chiller
Dante Tomaselli's Horror is very much in the tradition of great 1970s horror films, when chills and thrills were created by nuance and subtle imagery that was stimulating both consciously and subconsciously. Story exposition was neither literal nor was it fully complete in these classics - it was assumed that the viewer had some intelligence and a decent imagination and attention span.

Horror is very much a film in the language of great European directors like Bava, Argento and Fulci, as well as American geniuses like Bob Clark and George Romero. This is not to say that it doesn't achieve its own identity; Horror is far from pure homage, with a creepy atmosphere all its own. My one complaint is that 1 or 2 sequences go beyond 'homage' into blatant recreation (a 'Night of the Living Dead'-type scene in particular). Without these scenes, Horror still would have been a great film.

At 73 minutes, Horror is one fat-free, tightly edited, continuous hallucination, constantly chilling and engaging.

Dante Tomaselli has made New Jersey proud!

La decima vittima

A magnificent piece of Pop Art
To judge this film by "today's standards" misses the point--what are we comparing it to? Armageddon? Scream 3? This was the European 60s vision of the 'future'-- and why didn't it turn out that way? An odd, cheeky little plot mixing romance, light sci-fi and gunplay is underscored by dazzling visuals in a similar style to The Prisoner series, or Alphaville (if it were in color). Piero Piccioni's score is pure 'Jazz 2001', and is available as an import reissue. Mastroianni is charming and Ursula Andress is at her sexiest, in an array of groovy ensembles. It all depends on what you're after, but personally I wish the WORLD LOOKED like this movie and that men's and women's fashion reflected this film's 'in the future, people will dress like this' style. Anchor Bay's DVD is a great addition to the collection of any 60s/European film fan.

O Estranho Mundo de Zé do Caixão

sophisticated and creepy
Jose Mojica Marins, known as Coffin Joe in the English-speaking world, likely had no model for his style of film; there really was no Brazilian horror scene before him, and little since. This film, a series of three vignettes depicting human depravity, gore and unexpected moments of pathos, is reminiscent of Herschell Gordon Lewis, though a good deal less camp. Some of the cinematography and shot-framing is worthy of Bergman or Polanski ca. REPULSION. Done in crisp B&W, the film also has excellent music (which at times inappropriately overstates itself!), including a theme which celebrates the glory of the man Coffin Joe. This theme, like the rest of the film, may inspire chuckles, but definitely chills as well. Can't wait to see more!

Sûîto Homu

Japanese haunted house film, some dazzling moments...
This Japanese film, loosely inspired by POLTERGEIST, has some great scenes of eye-popping horror action, rendered by Dick Smith (of THE EXORCIST fame). The bulk of the film, however, seems to drag tremendously in comparison to these scenes; maybe I'm poisoned by Hollywood pacing, but I don't think so. Worthwhile viewing for fans of Japanese horror, but not a masterpiece.

La casa dalle finestre che ridono

not the best giallo
I'm not sure why this movie is so revered amongst giallo fans. I didn't get the creeping paranoia vibe I was supposed to get; this is certainly no HEART OF GLASS in that regard. The plot advances at an incredibly feeble pace, and the concluding 'payoff' is a disappointment. It takes the protagonist 3/4 of the film to even seem interested in the murder of his friend. There's also an early lover character whose presence in the film has no meaning or application whatsoever. Usually, when a giallo film has plot problems, there are still plenty of dazzling visuals to keep you interested, of which there are scant few here. For a similarly-themed film with real chills to offer, try THE WICKER MAN or STRAW DOGS.

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