Author Topic: Antares' Short Summations  (Read 137284 times)

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #375 on: April 09, 2014, 02:17:40 AM »
Undercover Brother (2002) 65/100 - Sometimes I'm glad that I have HBO, because I never for the life of me, would have ever rented this or made an effort to get it from my library system. I happened to be channel surfing, and I caught the first few minutes of this, and for some strange reason, it piqued my interest. It kind of overstays its welcome by the end, but I'll admit to at least half a dozen gut busting laughs during this one. The Lays potato chip thing made me spit take... Jim Kelly must be rolling in his grave. It's not great, and Chris Kattan gets on your nerves after a while, but it's better than a lot of the satire and spoof films I've watched in the last 10 years or so.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #376 on: April 09, 2014, 10:47:11 PM »
Zatoichi's Revenge (1965) 74/100 - This is either the third or fourth film in this series, where the theme music could have been written by Ennio Morricone, as it's reminiscent of his style of work. It makes me wonder how much of an influence this series had on Italian directors of Spaghetti Westerns. If you think about it, Ichi is no different than a roving gunslinger, with a conscience, eerily similar to The Man with No Name. For this tenth film in the franchise, Ichi happens upon a village, where the sensei who taught him his masseuse skills, lives. He decides to pay his old master a visit, but is aghast when he finds out the old man has been murdered and his young daughter is being forced into prostitution by the local yakuza boss. Well, you know that Ichi is going to find a way to right the wrongs, all the while dispatching scores of yakuza thugs. What separates this film from the other nine that proceeded it, is that this is the first time that Ichi goes against his code of honor. Up until now, Ichi only killed in self defense, but I guess the anger in his heart at the death of his sensei is too much for him this time around. It shocked me that Daiei allowed this change in his character to happen, because they were taking a chance that audiences would reject this trait in their beloved blind swordsman, and the golden goose would be cooked. But I guess maybe they were right, as another fifteen films would follow this one and it doesn't seem to have besmirched his character or popularity.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #377 on: April 10, 2014, 08:35:25 PM »
Zatoichi and the Doomed Man (1965) 69/100 - As this film started, Ichi finds himself in jail for illegal gambling. He meets a man who has been imprisoned for arson, murder and theft. The man tells Ichi that he is innocent and asks Ichi to go back to his home town and let the local boss know of his plight. Hence, we are introduced to the doomed man mentioned in the title. But again, here's another film in the series, where so much more could have been done with the screenplay used. At first, Ichi is reluctant to take up the man's cause, but along the road, Ichi meets a con-man monk named Hyakutaro, who turns out to be the doomed man's prodigal son. It is after this meeting that the screenplay could have added a bit of a twist, but doesn't. This far into the series, Ichi's reputation is now preceding him, and Hyakutaro notices all the respect that Ichi is given by both villagers and yakuza gang members. Ichi and Hyakutaro are separated on their way to doomed man's town, and Ichi finds out that Hyakutaro is impersonating him as part of a new con game. Hyakutaro is basically in the plot as comic relief, and the scenes where he's impersonating Ichi are quite funny, but his character traits are where the twist could have been employed. Alongside his father, he too could be considered a doomed man because of his larcenous activities, or the danger he puts himself into by impersonating the master swordsman, could lead to his premature death, as Ichi is being hunted by ronin, looking to collect the sizeable reward on Ichi's head. I was waiting for Hyakutaro to face the consequences of his ruse, but it never materializes, and it leaves the story kind of paper thin as the film just goes through the motions. Too bad, because once again, just a few changes, and you have the possibility of going from mediocre to classic with just a few pen strokes.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #378 on: April 17, 2014, 01:08:22 AM »
Zatoichi and the Chess Expert (1965) 76/100 - After watching eleven films in this series, the one thing I'm definitely looking for is the name of director Kenji Misumi in the opening title credits. Misumi was one of the more talented and prolific directors on the Daiei lot, and sadly, hasn't been given his due when lists of good Japanese directors are compiled. What I like most about his Zatoichi films is that he takes an "Action be damned, I'm going to tell you a story too" stance, that makes his Zatoichi films the best of the series. Now he doesn't eschew the swordplay that makes a Zatoichi film fun to watch, but his philosophy tends to be that he's going to give the viewer the necessary action, but it will be done with more creativity and only when the situation calls for it. Misumi is like a baker, kneading the dough that is his screenplay, with the right amount of character development, comedy and action set pieces required to make a well rounded film. Once again, this is one of the better films in the series as Misumi starts to peel away some of the layers of the man that has become almost mythical in this series. Twice, Ichi is almost captured and his skill with dice, his sole means of support, fails him in a key moment. By highlighting Ichi's weaknesses, he makes his strengths all the more dazzling and believable, thus making Misumi's films more credible and definitely more entertaining.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #379 on: April 20, 2014, 11:25:56 PM »
This Happy Breed (1944) 75/100 - One of David Lean's early efforts as a director. The story spans about twenty years, and chronicles the day to day life of a middle class British family between the two World Wars. A bit of tragedy, smidgens of comedy and a lot of family squabbles that don't make for a riveting drama, but more of a curiosity in regards to Lean's early work. Celia Johnson, as usual, is fantastic as the matriarch of the family. Every emotion her character is feeling is effortlessly shown across what appears to be a weathered face. I mention her appearance because throughout the film, she looks rather haggard. Which is surprising when one looks at her in Lean's next film, Brief Encounter, playing a woman who is exuberant in an extramarital dalliance, and she just radiates. I don't know if it was good make up work or the fact that Johnson was one of the all time great actresses. One last thing, towards the end of the film, Robert Newton's character makes a statement about what happens to a house, when a family who has lived there for many years, moves out. How it retains the memories of that family forever. And it got me wondering about the home I now live in. My wife and I built this home 13 years ago, so we are the first to inhabit it. When we're both dead and gone, what will the family that purchases my home, be like? Will they be a happy family or will domestic strife be commonplace in their lives? Very rarely does a line of dialog make me ponder my own life, or what will be after I'm gone, but that bit of dialog did.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #380 on: April 21, 2014, 12:16:05 AM »
Zatoichi's Vengeance (1966) 78/100 - As I was watching this film, I started to wonder if Shintarô Katsu was beginning to think his Zatoichi character was being idolized by children, but for the wrong reason. When you look at the previous twelve films, Ichi kills on average, about twenty to thirty men over the course of a film's length. It wouldn't be any different with this film, but at least the storyline has Ichi pondering, thanks to meeting a blind monk who points out his violent nature to him, the possible influence he has on a young child. In some ways, this blind monk is reminiscent of the chamberlain's wife in Kurosawa's Tsubaki Sanjûrô, who points out to the ronin samurai that he is an unsheathed sword, dripping in blood. Her wisdom is that the most powerful sword, is the one that is never wielded, but remains in its scabbard. The monk tries to get Ichi to see his reckless disregard for human life and Ichi tries to make himself appear cowardly in front of the young boy. At first it works, but then the villagers are set upon by a yakuza boss, and Ichi goes back into blind badass mode. There's a lot of soul searching in this one, and it works. It makes this entry in the series, one of the most interesting so far, and a good lead in to the next film, Zatoichi's Pilgrimage. Which was written by Kaneto Shindô, and follows the same philosophical storyline.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #381 on: April 24, 2014, 02:49:41 AM »
Zatoichi's Pilgrimage (1966) 80/100 - So far, the films in this series that have been my favorites, all tend to be well balanced between action and philosophical storyline. I had been looking forward to this entry because the screenplay was written by Kaneto Shindô, a director and screenwriter known for his atmospheric, moody stories. Yet, I wonder what the original treatment for this screenplay was like, because it starts off as if it's going to be a deep, soul searching journey for Zatoichi. But then midstream, it reverts back to the standard action formula. Did the executives at Daiei order changes to Shindô's screenplay because they were scared that the somber tone would turn off viewers? If they did, then they really made a mistake. Coupled with some of the lushest cinematography so far, this was the film that was going to give Zatoichi a depth that really is needed to stay fresh with the character. It's almost as if Katsu is starting to realize the power that he has in guiding his film franchise along, but is still unwilling to make Daiei lockstep behind him. It's a very good film, but once again, with a few moderate changes, could have been considered a classic.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #382 on: April 25, 2014, 04:51:43 AM »
Vera Drake (2004) 80/100 - My rating for this film centers completely around the three main performances in the film, Imelda Staunton, Philip Davis and Daniels Mays, with Mays' performance being the best of the three. As for the story, I've read that there was no script and the actors improvised from an outline written by Leigh. Sure, this adds to the realism, but it also makes the story a bit light weight. The story meanders a bit too much in the beginning in terms of exposition, with an unnecessary subplot featuring Sally Hawkins, which is thrown in to juxtapose how the rich dealt with the same problem that Vera fixes for the poor. With all the saintliness that Leigh incorporates into Vera's character, I was surprised to find myself almost loathing her towards the end of the film. And it's because of the scene where a doctor tells the mother of the sick girl, that he treats dozens of girls, just like hers, because of the back alley abortionists. It made me wonder how uncaring, arrogant or stupid Vera truly is. She does her procedure and she's out the door, with only a brief smile and a "You'll be fine, Dear." How many girls wound up like Pamela Barnes after Vera's treatment? Vera doesn't know, because she never sees them again, and to that end, she is a danger to the community and needed to be stopped. I also would have liked to have seen some of the backlash that her family would deal with while she was in jail. It's a good film, but maybe there should have been a script to make it a bit more biting.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is
« Last Edit: April 25, 2014, 04:54:28 AM by Antares »

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #383 on: April 30, 2014, 08:49:52 PM »
Topsy-Turvy (1999) 81/100 - I was watching Siskel & Ebert back in 1999, when they were doing their yearly countdowns and both highly recommended this film. A few months later, I grabbed it at Blockbuster on a Saturday night and my wife and I watched it... and we both hated it. About a year went by, and I was channel surfing and caught it in midstream on the Independent Film Channel (back when IFC was a good channel  :P). But IFC was showing it in its original aspect ratio as opposed to the pan and scan VHS tape I had rented from Blockbuster, and this time it sucked me in. I bought it on DVD and every time I watch it, my wife groans. This time around, I decided to pay more attention to the actual Gilbert & Sullivan theatrical pieces that are performed during the film, as I usually fast forward through those segments. Now I can understand the line of dialog from Arthur Sullivan where he states that ''I have been continually keeping down the music in order that not one syllable should be lost." Gilbert's penchant for rhyming triplets becomes extremely tiresome after a while and makes one wonder why English audiences didn't sour on them even sooner than they did. I guess if you're a fan of their music, these theatrical interludes are pleasant little diversions to the main story, but for me, a bit more editing would have made the story breeze by. The strength of this film lies in viewing the creative process which showcases all the difficulties associated with theatrical enterprises.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #384 on: May 07, 2014, 03:28:30 AM »
Quartet (2012) 62/100 - This film was kind of like eating an entire bag of marshmallows. The first few taste great, but after a while, you realize that they all taste the same, and you filled yourself up on a whole lot of puffed air and sugar. I actually found myself more intrigued by the supporting cast, who are highlighted in the end credits. And I must say, it was nice to see Pauline Collins again. Aside from that, this film just exists and is really quite forgettable.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #385 on: May 08, 2014, 12:07:41 AM »
The Seventh Seal (1957) 72/100 - This is my second viewing of this film and although I'm raising my rating a bit higher than the first time I watched it, I still can't understand all the praise this film receives. After my first viewing, I thought maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind or maybe my expectations were a bit too high. So this time, I decided to just let the film wash over me and see what I absorbed. Well, I really enjoyed the scenes with the Knight, Death, the Squire and to a certain extent, Jos, Mia and their child, but every other character seemed to be there just to fill out the running time. I also have to wonder if my disinterest lies in the fact that I attended Catholic schools in my youth for twelve years, and that pretty much turned me into an atheist. So theological philosophizing is something that's not going to get a rise out of me.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #386 on: May 08, 2014, 06:16:30 PM »
Zatoichi's Cane Sword (1967) 84/100 - Ichi has just had a windfall in a crooked dice game, and he decides to celebrate his luck with a bowl of noodles and hot sake. Sitting next to him is an old man who appears to be drowning his sorrows. Ichi offers the man a drink and the two begin a conversation. As is typical in Zatoichi fare, he is then attacked by yakuza members who ran the crooked game. He dispatches them with ease and pays the restaurant owner for the damage and he leaves. The old man he was talking to asks him to come to his home for a brief moment. As they enter the old man's home, Ichi surmises that the old man is a blacksmith, due to the foundry type smells associated with that profession. The old man tells Ichi he used to be a swordsmith of great reputation and he asks Ichi if he can take a look at his cane sword. At first Ichi is apprehensive, especially after the ambush he just endured, but he senses that the old man is honorable, and he hands over his sword. The old man inspects it and then tells Ichi that his sword has wrought a lot of death and that it was forged by his old mentor. He then informs Ichi that his trusted sword, has a small, unnoticeable crack near the base, and has reached the end of its life and will shatter the next time he kills with it. Ichi is visually shocked and then a sense of foreboding doom comes across his face as he realizes that with out his trusty weapon, his rogue lifestyle could be his downfall. He decides to give up his life as a roving yakuza gambler and settle down in this village as a masseur at a local inn. Before he leaves, he grants the old man's request of keeping his mentor's crafted sword as a memento of his one time sensei.

This was probably the boldest screenplay so far in this series, as it places Ichi in the most vulnerable situation he has had to face. Aside from the earlier scuffle at the noodle bar, there would be no action pieces for the next hour and twenty minutes. But during that duration, the story sets up a situation involving the old man creating one last great sword, that will eventually be stolen by the yakuza boss of the village as a bribe for a corrupt local magistrate. Ichi, while working at the inn, overhears the magistrate and the yakuza boss plotting to take over the entire region. He now realizes that he must return to his old lifestyle to right the wrongs about to be inflicted upon the village, well knowing that he will probably be killed when his sword fails him. What follows is one of the best plot twists I've ever seen in a chanbara film, and elevates this film to the top of list when comparing the entries in this canon. I should have seen it coming, but I didn't. The final action scene, almost an hour and a half into the film, is easily one of the best in the series. As I've written before when it comes to Zatoichi movies, a little patience makes for a better payoff when the final showdown arrives. This will definitely be a repeat viewing experience for me in the future.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #387 on: May 08, 2014, 10:05:10 PM »
All Night Long (1962) 82/100 - From what I've read, this is based upon Shakespeare's Othello, but having never read or watched the play, I can't comment on that aspect of the story. But I do know Jazz music, and this film has a crisp, cool atmosphere to it and the performances by Dave Brubeck, Tubby Hayes and Charlie Mingus are all first rate, along with Marti Stevens belting out a couple of tunes. In fact, the music really takes center stage as it helps to evoke the emotions that are slowly ramping up as Patrick McGoohan's character slowly and methodically torches a relationship. The story works for the first hour or so, but then when McGoohan uses a reel to reel tape player to edit a couple of conversations, you can feel the air go out of the balloon. Maybe there was no other way to incorporate one of Shakespeare's key moments in the play, but this plot device flies in the face of reality. How could his character not realize that eventually his machinations would be exposed, especially by the party's host? Still, it's a gripping yarn that takes a few bold leaps in its story arc. You get to see two characters smoking a joint, and there are two interracial couples that nary warrant an askew glance from anyone at the party. This is definitely a film that could not, or would not play in the Deep South at the time it was released.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #388 on: May 29, 2014, 04:27:54 PM »
Saving Mr. Banks (2013) 60/100 - My wife really enjoyed this, as I heard her whimpering on a few occasions, but for me, this was like watching an over extended volley in a rather ho hum tennis match. Exposition of childhood in Australia ---> Bitchy British broad in Los Angeles ---> Australia ---> Los Angeles ---> Australia ---> Los Angeles ---> Australia ---> Los Angeles, etc., etc., etc., ad nauseum. Every time it went back to her childhood, I moaned, as these scenes were the worst parts of the film. Almost as bad, was the corporate Disney propaganda that laced most of the modern day sequences so subliminally, it would have impressed Joseph Goebbels. The only real enjoyment I got from this film, were the scenes of the Sherman brothers writing the great songs that make Mary Poppins such a great children's movie. I would have been better off watching that film instead.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #389 on: May 31, 2014, 04:17:03 AM »
Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008) 65/100 At around the halfway mark, I stopped the film and went to the web to read about Andrew's murder. I probably shouldn't have done that, because of what happens later. But then as I started to watch the rest of the film, I became more aware of the amateurish aspect of the film making. The overbearing crescendos of music, cued at given moments to elicit the proper sadness in the viewer. The overlapping, repetitive dialog used to hammer home a point that's pretty evident. The childish use of animated lips on still photographs to highlight courtroom transcripts felt better suited to an episode of South Park. It proves why you've never heard of Kurt Kuenne as a gifted director. And finally, the laborious pacing problem that Kuenne seems to have in telling this sad, gut wrenching tale. There's a moment towards the end of the film, where he also edits into the narrative, a series of shots where the interviewees praise him through Andrew's words and this not only felt out of place, but a bit narcissistic. It's worth watching to learn the story, but I don't think I would ever re-visit it in the future.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is