Author Topic: Jon's Random Reviews  (Read 65372 times)

Offline Eric

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Re: State Of Play ****
« Reply #210 on: June 04, 2011, 10:28:01 PM »
State Of Play
4 out of 5




Director Kevin MacDonald follows his well-written, but flawed Last King of Scotland with the well-written, but flawed State Of Play. There’s a detail and intimacy in his direction that gives it an air of authenticity, but despite the witty dialogue and excellent plot, it seems to lose credibility in the final act, which is a real shame.


Jon, as I recall you and I agreed that Last King of Scotland was flawed but disagreed as to how and where :).  Tonight I'm gonna watch State of Play so I guess tomorrow we will again disagree on our reasons for agreeing :wacko:

Najemikon

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Re: Jon's Random Reviews
« Reply #211 on: June 23, 2011, 09:00:30 PM »
 :laugh: Only just saw this, Eric, I've been so busy of late. Did you watch State of Play in the end? How much do we disagree in our agreeing?  ;)

Najemikon

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Mulholland Drive *****
« Reply #212 on: June 23, 2011, 11:03:58 PM »
Mulholland Drive *****

Year: 2001
Director: David Lynch
Rating: 15
Length: 147 Min.

In MULHOLLAND DRIVE, David Lynch takes the viewer on a memorable neo-noir trip through Hollywood's dark underbelly in a mystery that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality and features astonishing performances from Naomi Watts and Laura Harring. Lynch dispenses with a conventional narrative in favour of a hallucinogenic assault on the senses that will stay with you long after the credits roll.

At the end of Mulholland Drive I was asking myself two questions: what on earth was all that about? And, does it matter?

I’m really on the fence about surrealism in general, because like a lot of traditional Jazz music, it seems very easy to hide mistakes and claim they were all part of the plan after the fact. Similar to when a fantasy or sci-fi writer lazily contrives some mystical object to get them out of a corner they’ve written themselves into. I don’t trust it. I like stories to have a strong narrative with a conscience and with a beginning, middle and end (not necessarily in that order or so predictable). If they start farting about, I’m likely to lose interest. But in all honesty, I can’t accuse Mulholland Drive of that.

I couldn’t help feeling it has a lot of joins being hidden, so I was all ready to cry “bullshit” and commit to my David Lynch collection starting with The Elephant Man and ending with A Straight Story. You know, his normal stuff when he was being sensible! Apparently it was to be a pilot for a TV series, so I’d found it difficult to accept that some of the seemingly half-finished threads, such as the guy in the café or the stolen phone book, were supposed to be left like that or if there are never to be seen further episodes fleshing them out. What I find fascinating though is that I can’t deny it works. In fact I don’t want to deny it. I want to see it again, dive back into the madness and swim for sanity! It’s flawed genius; but am I even qualified to call it flawed? I bloody loved this film. I don’t know why, but maybe that is why!

Part of the spell is Naomi Watts, who I have always liked. She gives a truly stunning performance. For the first half of the film, I felt she was shallow and over-acting, but then her character, an aspiring actress, gives an audition. Oh my, that scene is so clever and you see her real talent. Later on, even more layers to her role are uncovered, explaining why she was weaker in the opening scenes even, and leaving you with a superb and varied performance that carries the film. Laura Elena Harring is wonderful too and they work together very well, especially in the notorious sex scenes. It’s testament to Lynch’s skill that in a film such as this, stylised erotic (possibly part fantasy) love scenes could have been exploitive, but actually they felt necessary and substantial. Plus, they are very hot!

Seriously though, Lynch’s pacing and confidence is astonishing. There’s a musical interlude of sorts when a director (Justin Theroux) auditions singers for his film and it’s such a deceptively simple scene, but engrossing. There are other more subtle moments with similar power, plus a hint of farce, such as a hitman making a mess of a job. This confident direction helps even the strangest scenes convince; the man who doesn’t like his Espresso, or the old tourist couple. Not going to forget them in a hurry! Throughout it has a disturbing tone. You’ll want to look away, but you won’t be able to. As pure film-making goes, it is rarely this powerful and playful at the same time.

As I said earlier, I favour a traditional approach to telling a story and I was prepared for this to not follow such conventions. So I was blown away by how coherent, ambitious and clever the narrative actually is. No, I can’t tell you where the beginning, the middle or the end lie in relation to one another, but I had a sense that they do relate and in the final act it’s reflecting on your perception of the story as a whole and is quite simply, sublime. Insane, but sublime!

Perversely, while I don’t know exactly what it was about yet, it clearly does matter. It might be surreal, yet it makes a twisted sort of sense.

Offline dfmorgan

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Re: Jon's Random Reviews
« Reply #213 on: June 23, 2011, 11:34:22 PM »
 :thumbup:

A great review Jon, thanks. This a one of my favourite weird films, I must watch this again soon.

My understanding about the history of the film is that basically the first half of this was the TV pilot and that the second half was added by David Lynch when he received funding from Alain Sarde and Studio Canal. However they required the film to be completed in Europe so most of the second half was shot in Poland with Polish crews. All this used to be detailed on the David Lynch website but can I find a link nope :(
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Najemikon

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Re: Jon's Random Reviews
« Reply #214 on: June 23, 2011, 11:57:00 PM »
:thumbup:

A great review Jon, thanks. This a one of my favourite weird films, I must watch this again soon.

My understanding about the history of the film is that basically the first half of this was the TV pilot and that the second half was added by David Lynch when he received funding from Alain Sarde and Studio Canal. However they required the film to be completed in Europe so most of the second half was shot in Poland with Polish crews. All this used to be detailed on the David Lynch website but can I find a link nope :(

Thanks, Dave! I read something similar. Probably on Wikipedia. Something about the studio twisting his arm a bit to do some sort of ending as well! Glad they did, because it would have been impenetrable without it...  :whistle:

Mustrum_Ridcully

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Re: Jon's Random Reviews
« Reply #215 on: June 24, 2011, 12:07:46 AM »
Thanks for this review.

Mulholland Drive is on and off my radar for quite some time now.
Probably have to get it finally.

Najemikon

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Re: Jon's Random Reviews
« Reply #216 on: June 24, 2011, 12:20:13 AM »
Have you watched a proper Lynch film before? I hadn't and was always avoiding it because of what I'd heard about it being odd. If you're like me, there's no way to know if you'll like it, but it's absolutely worth trying.

Mustrum_Ridcully

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Re: Jon's Random Reviews
« Reply #217 on: June 24, 2011, 12:33:45 AM »
Have you watched a proper Lynch film before?
Does "Twin Peaks" count?

I really like "strange" movies and am currently viewing myself through some of the better Danish productions.
Last watch here: Reconstruction (My rating: )
Sadly I momentarily can't write as much reviews as I'd like to.

Offline Achim

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Re: Jon's Random Reviews
« Reply #218 on: June 24, 2011, 06:21:11 AM »
I really like Blue Velvet, although most Lynch films often leave me with the feeling "But what does it all mean...?" :laugh:

I also highly enjoy The Elephant Man and Wild at Heart.

I have seen Mulholland Dr. and remember liking it; maybe I need to rewatch it too. Still have Lost Highway in my unwatched pile.



If Lynch ever makes a film in 3D Mark Kermode will eat his shoe. :laugh:

Najemikon

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Re: Jon's Random Reviews
« Reply #219 on: June 24, 2011, 08:22:19 AM »
Yeah, I think Twin Peaks counts! If you like strangeness, then this is a possible winner, Michael. I'll look up Reconstruction, thanks.

If anyone could pull 3D off it would surely be Lynch, but it has to be without glasses. Or maybe he could have a random character who signals you need to put the glasses on. Like whenever you see Cameron Diaz dressed as a clown and riding a goat, you think, "Ah, he's about to use 3D! I need me glasses."

By the way, could someone please make that film? I just thought of Diaz, clown, goat and somehow, I think it could work... :laugh:

Offline Achim

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Re: Jon's Random Reviews
« Reply #220 on: June 24, 2011, 08:36:02 AM »
If anyone could pull 3D off it would surely be Lynch, but it has to be without glasses. Or maybe he could have a random character who signals you need to put the glasses on. Like whenever you see Cameron Diaz dressed as a clown and riding a goat, you think, "Ah, he's about to use 3D! I need me glasses."
So like in the old days? When they didn't want to make the whole film in 3D they usually used such device. I remember this from Spy-Kids 3D and Nightmare on Elm Street 7(?; the one where Freddy was supposed to die). It usually was when someone on screen put some sort of glasses on as well. Of course, one or two shots later the screen turned into a mixture of green and red and you'd know anyway :laugh:

Offline Dragonfire

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Re: Jon's Random Reviews
« Reply #221 on: June 25, 2011, 06:41:22 AM »
I saw Mullholand Drive once...years ago...like right after it came out to rent.  I had no clue what was going on.

Najemikon

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Re: Jon's Random Reviews
« Reply #222 on: October 03, 2011, 06:49:27 PM »
The Man With The Severed Head **

Year: 1973
Director: John Fortuny

When a jewel robbery goes horribly wrong and their leader, Jack (PAUL NASCHY) is shot in the head, a group of criminals go to extreme measures to save their friends life...

With the help of a local doctor the gang devises a uniquely gruesome plan - to kill their worst enemy, throw his body in front of an oncoming train, and use the brain from the severed head as a transplant!

The operation is a success and all seems well... that is until the brain's former owner starts living out his murderous past through Jack, turning him into a mad-man bent on death and destruction...


With a title like that, you just know you’re in for a treat! And before the film starts there’s a wonderful trailer by Arrow Films to showcase some of the stuff they’re releasing and it really sets you up for the main feature. A good old fashioned slice of nasty grindhouse exploitation, with gore and nudity! Well, that’s what I hoped for. That’s what the title insinuated and the picture on the DVD sleeve is suitably garish. And it stars Paul Naschy who had a notorious career in grotty fun like the Re-Animator sequel or enthusiastic Spanish werewolf flicks.

Grindhouse cinema has a proud history of embracing the “video nasty” stereotype and courting controversy and threats of being banned. The only reason this film should be banned is because it’s astonishingly dull. It’s not a bad premise and the story isn’t awful, but it plays out without anything worthy of note. It’s a non-event.

Naschy plays a mobster who is shot in the head during a botched robbery. His doctor understands that hospital is not an option and so takes him to a professor who has been experimenting with brain transplants in animals. The Professor claims, with his family under threat, that he will be able to save the gang’s boss. He just needs a suitable brain and so the henchmen track down their arch-enemy (promisingly called The Sadist) and bring back his head. The operation is a success! Or is it?

Right now, if you like this sort of film, I can virtually guarantee that the film you’re imagining in your head is considerably more fun than what you’ll actually see. Mad professors swapping brains, mobsters called “The Sadist”, medical experiments going nuts! That has to be a winner, eh? But it isn’t. What you actually get is a very run of the mill gangster plot that maybe The Sopranos could have built on, with no sense of the fantastic or the macabre. The Sadist is the least convincing gangster I have ever seen while the injured Naschy simply needs fixing up without regular doctors asking awkward questions. He recovers in the Prof’s house and post-op, the patient gets a headache and doesn’t “feel himself”. That’s it, really.

It’s a very poorly made film, but you kind of want that for the experience. The bad acting (including Naschy, despite his reputation), the awful script, the incompetence of the director … all of this is par for the course and complaining about it would be idiotic. But what I can’t understand is how serious it’s being taken! There’s no irony whatsoever and even less enthusiasm. No blood, no gore (except for an inventive way of decapitating a corpse), a small amount of nudity. The opening sequence with the robbery isn’t bad and overall the story is good enough to keep you watching in the vain hope they’re saving everything for a final reel blow-out. They don’t. When Naschy finally goes on his nutty rampage, it’s more of a confused walk. I gave up when a girl on a moped is surprised by him. She gets off it to run away. That’s right; she drops the perfectly functional and rather nippy escape vehicle so she can run into the woods on foot.

When the victims have to stop and wait for the villain to catch up, you know all hope is lost.

Arrow Films are to be commended for such a well presented effort in restoring an example of the much maligned exploitation genre, but it’s all for nothing. It’s a dull experience watching the film and then you see those deleted scenes… It is at this point the game is up and you slap yourself on the forehead as the mystery of why the film was so weak is revealed. The six minutes of sex scenes are clumsy, but so gratuitously filmed and overlong, it is blindingly obvious the whole intention behind The Man With The Severed Head was to produce a soft-core porn film. It is fair to say the opening scenes aren’t bad, so maybe someone thought there was enough straight material to pull off a half-decent crime movie after rescuing it from such a laughably inept nudie flick. Or perhaps it was the other way around. Either way it doesn’t matter. There is value in the cheap and nasty riotous fun of the exploitation genre, but none of it can be found here. It’s a porn film with the sex cut out and it doesn’t get much more pointless than that!


Extended & technical review available at DVD Compare
« Last Edit: October 03, 2011, 06:58:32 PM by Jon »

Najemikon

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Ip Man ****
« Reply #223 on: October 03, 2011, 07:29:16 PM »
Ip Man ****

Year: 2008

Ip Man was Bruce Lee's legendary Kung Fu master, who taught him the tightly controlled Wing Chun discipline that would become the basis of Lee's Jeet Kune Do concept, still practised today. Ip Man is very important in the world of Martial Arts, but is his story intriguing enough to be a film without even mentioning his more famous disciple? Absolutely!

The first part of the film introduces Ip Man (Donnie Yen) as a highly respected and wealthy inhabitant of the Chinese city of Foshan, renowned for its multiple Martial Arts schools and their skilled Masters. Although Ip Man is recognised as the most skilled of all, he leads a quiet life, respectfully refusing to run a school or take a disciple. Still, he gets a lot of attention, much to the annoyance of his wife and young son. Soon he is forced to help rid the city of an arrogant bandit who had been challenging and embarrassing the local Masters. Life returns to normal for Ip Man, but the film picks up his story again years later during the Japanese occupation and finds him stripped of his wealth. Foshan is in poverty and the occupying General puts on cruel tournaments to test his soldiers against Chinese Kung Fu. Ip Man refuses to take part, believing his Martial Arts skills to be impractical for supporting his family, but once more, he is the only one capable of defending the honour of his friends.

To be fair, a lot of the tale is likely to be more legend than truth, but that suits the genre and works as a tribute to the Grandmaster. Martial Arts is a form that thrives on recognising its history and teachers, so a film such as this can get away with telling a few porkie pies because it's about paying respect to the man and what he represents to the students of Wing Chun and JKD today.

The first half is great fun and works as a pure Kung Fu movie, straight out of the same stable that Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and so many others made their name from. It gleefully subscribes to the same faintly ridiculous plotting to join together the fight scenes. That isn't a criticism. Director Wilson Yip simply demonstrates he knows his audience (while the shrewd screenplay has an ambitious second half up its sleeve anyway). The action sequences, choreographed by the legendary Sammo Hung, are superb; exciting and violent, but accurate with plenty of wow moments that don't resort to the slapstick that can occasionally creep into this kind of film. It's properly bone-crunching, breathless stuff that also avoids using too much wire work. This isn't one of those silly films where people fly around after being kicked! That would be disrespectful of the elegant close quarters Wing Chun style anyway, which Donnie Yen has clearly become very proficient at.

The film looks fantastic in its attention to period detail and the sets are incredible. It's essential to see this on Blu-Ray to fully appreciate the depth of that detail and photography. This is an impressive and sumptuous film that keeps you enthralled, even when the characters aren't scrapping. Apparently there was some controversy over the title because Wong Kar-wai was also developing a bio-pic about Ip Man. That film has yet to transpire if it ever will, but while Wong is a truly great director, I can't imagine the look or tone could be improved on. Wilson Yip has crafted a production to be proud of, as it confidently straddles the pure fun of Kung Fu movies and a character driven drama. Occasionally it gets out of shape when trying to sidestep clichés on both sides, but sidestep them it does.

Ironically, by doing that it actually does become a bit predictable in one sense at least. Ip Man is clearly too good. Donnie Yen plays him brilliantly and his skill is astonishing, but the character might as well be a brick wall for all the good his opponents can do! He's an immovable force and seems invincible, so where's the peril? A hero has to overcome adversity and normally that means losing once or twice, or bravely overcoming an injury, Karate Kid style, to prevail in the end. In the second half, the story cleverly gives Ip Man an awful crisis of confidence. So what if you're invincible? Kung Fu is no good in a war. What are you going to do, kick the Japanese army of town one at a time? No, of course not. Ip Man is going to do it ten at a time!

Ok, I'm being silly, but in all seriousness, despite a pissed off Ip Man challenging ten Japanese at the tournament making for the most awesome scene of all, it's still a small part of a much bigger situation he feels powerless to deal with. There is the peril, there is the adversity and it doesn't get much more thrilling.

While it occasionally over-reaches itself, the ambitious narrative is a refreshing flying kick up the back-side for the Martial Arts genre and should be seen as one of the best of its kind because while it hits the essential ingredients of being great fun and thoroughly entertaining, it can also be moving. It is so respectful of the illustrious Ip Man and the Wing Chun style, it defines the very point of Kung Fu and legitimises why these films are so popular as probably the finest form of the action genre. The naïve amongst you might see Kung Fu b-movies as poorly dubbed grown men in their pyjamas slapping each other and so Ip Man is the perfect film for you to jump on board and see how good they can be.

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Najemikon

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Redbelt ***
« Reply #224 on: October 03, 2011, 09:46:51 PM »
Redbelt ***

Year: 2008
Director: David Mamet
Rating: 15
Length: 99 Min.

REDBELT is the story of Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a Jiu-jitsu master who has avoided the prize fighting circuit, choosing instead to pursue an honourable life by operating a self-defence studio with a samurai's code. An accident on a dark, rainy night at Terry's studio between an off duty officer and a distraught lawyer (Emily Mortimer) puts in motion a series of events that will change Terry's life dramatically introducing him to a world of promoters (Ricky Jay, Joe Mantegna) and movie star Chet Frank (Tim Allen). Faced with this, in order to pay off his debts and regain his honour, Terry must step into the ring for the first time in his life.

David Mamet films can be a frustrating experience. As a writer, he has been responsible for several genuine modern classics as diverse as The Verdict, The Untouchables and Glengarry Glen Ross. But the films he has directed himself, while being meticulously crafted and still featuring the unmistakeably sharp writing and melodic dialogue, can nevertheless feel staged. It worked to the advantage of cool The Spanish Prisoner, but arguably to the detriment of amiable comedy State And Main. Redbelt mostly avoids this and so could be Mamet's most accomplished and satisfying work as a director.

It looks like a Martial Arts movie, but they are pure action flicks and Redbelt is a drama first, with a character based plot that occasionally feels like a Hitchcock thriller. It still has the action, but rather than being a set piece, the combat is concise and organic to the plot. It's really very clever because Mamet still builds those scenes through the characters with his usual skill and precision, reminiscent of classic Hollywood, but the choreography and editing is so smooth and dynamic, the film comes to life and avoids the occasional stiffness his work has. Fans of Hong Kong cinema will still enjoy the film, but might be confused by the lack of sound effects, never mind the higher standard of acting!

Chiwetel Ejiofor is perfectly cast as the thoughtful Mike Terry, the Jiu-Jitsu teacher with a code, not unlike a young Mr. Miyagi! His quiet, but firm presence sets the tone of the story and gives it personality. As does Emily Mortimer, who along with Max Martini and Tim Allen (in a rare straight role; he's wasted in comedy!) give solid support as the random figures that unwittingly conspire to undermine Mike's world. The real villains are Mamet regulars Joe Mantegna and Ricky Jay, along with John Machodo. Machado is a Jiu-Jitsu black belt and he isn't the only real expert in the film. If you know the world of Ultimate Fighting or Jiu-Jitsu, there are multiple cameos to spot (the Blu-Ray has substantial interviews and statistics) and they give the story legitimacy, especially in the finale set at the Ultimate Fighting contest, where Mike's training method is being used as a cheap stunt.

It is here, after a messy middle section, that Mamet really proves his skill and plays his ace. The film has turned into a sports tournament movie, like a grown-ups Karate Kid, and despite being thrilling stuff, is in danger of suffering the clichés and predictability that genre can't avoid. Yet in the final act, a neat contrivance does avoid the obvious, while still giving the viewer the exhilarating and emotional conclusion the story deserves. The brief end note is superb, as it sidesteps any form of exposition or epilogue (another Hitchcock trait wisely used). It's outrageously sentimental, but also underlines the way the story treats the sport with respect and relevance throughout.

It isn't perfect. The shifts in tone can be messy and there may be one too many threads running for too many characters (at least one seems lost by the third act and an important twist is glossed over), but the casts performance is engrossing and Mamet's direction has an assured quality. If you haven't been won over by his style before, this might be the one to do so.

Redbelt is very enjoyable. An unusual, optimistic and satisfying film with a lot of heart that deserves to be known better and it makes a nice companion piece to The Wrestler, though it pales against that films focused story of redemption.


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