26 April 2010

Såsom i en spegel (Through a Glass Darkly)

I am thoroughly convinced that I have met my match with Ingmar Bergman. I finally must admit that there is a film-maker who is smarter, more gifted, and generally more brilliant at every aspect of everything. Seriously. There's nothing I can say or add to his work. No critique or observation that will improve or otherwise shine a light on the worlds of his creations. He is simply a genius.

I'm awestruck by it really.

I still don't know what to say about what I just saw. And it's been a few hours since I watched it. I've been fumbling for the words and everytime I read some observation about his work, so concisely described and ascribed… I think… "yeah, that's great and all, but that's not all he was saying. God as a spider, crawling into my mouth doesn't just come from a place of questioned faith. Bergman wants me to examine this closer. He wants me to dance on the web of his creation and see just how far the darkness reflects. If he were just playing upon the predicated fears of existential longing, then we'd never leave the attic… and we'd never need the three other characters. Bergman wants to make us squirm and visit the same places he too fears to tread alone."

Any reviewer capable of saying that about his work, and know what he means by it, is certainly worthy of my respect.

This deserves more thought and analysis.

Chi Bi (Red Cliff)

I'm exhausted. I've watched four movies today, the last of which is over 140 minutes and includes a 40-minute battle scene. Seriously. Exhausted.

Directed by John Woo, this is a new perspective on the historic battle of Red Cliff, which marks the end of the Han Dynasty and the beginning of the Three Kingdoms era in China. Rather than tell the classic, romantic tale of the Three Kingdoms, Woo takes the historic route, showing key characters (like Cao Cao and Liu Bei) in their respective light, although the wikipedia page on the battle begs to differ on this topic.

Link

It's late now, but I'm going to do some more research on this battle (and you should, too). After that, go watch the movie. It is really good. And Zhou Yu's wife is hot.

25 April 2010

The Slammin' Salmon

Team Broken Lizard brings us another ridiculous comedy, this time with a restaurant theme and a plot to make $20,000 in one night or they lose the restaurant. While Beerfest is probably my favorite from this team, what's so interesting about this one is the characters. None of the actors play typical roles in this one… except maybe Jay. If you're familiar with their work, this one is especially funny when watched from that point of view. And even without that perspective, it's still pretty good.

Better than watching Apatow pull a baby out of a latex womb and calling it funny.

I especially enjoyed Erik Stolhanske as the "good-looking" waiter and April Bowlby getting burned twice in one evening, trying to win the prize. As the obvious "hot blonde," she had no trouble making fun of herself and her looks throughout the movie.

Duel

My vote for the only good Stephen Spielberg movie ever made. And among my favorite movies of all time. When you rent it, check out the original trailer... oh god... is it bad.

Winchester '73

Among one of the first Westerns from my childhood, this movie holds up well, considering my poor memory about many details in the film. The plot is simple… but grows more complex as it goes, starting a new era of Westerns after it's release.

Jimmy Stewart plays Lin McAdams, a gunslinger/cowhand looking for someone. He arrives in Dodge City just in time for a tournament to win a Winchester '73. Lo and behold the man he is looking for — Dutch Henry Brown — is here too… in the same tournament. McAdams wins the rifle, and has it quickly stolen by Brown. A cross-country chase ensues to find both Brown and the rifle.

SPOILER: Ironically, Stewart never gets to fire the very special Winchester '73 (one in a thousand) the entire film.

The story ends up becoming much more complex than that, but this is among my favorite westerns because of its tone and structure.

Charles Drake has an interesting role in the film as a coward. And Dan Duryea steals a number of scenes with his arrogant and unflinching portrayal of a womanizing, unapologetic outlaw. But, Millard Mitchell gets my vote as one of the best "loyal sidekicks" in movie history.

Corky Romano

Okay. Before you judge me, just look at the cast list:
Chris Kattan, Peter Falk, Peter Berg, Chris Penn, Fred Ward, Richard Roundtree
Okay? Satisfied?

Funny as all hell. Yes. I know it's stupid. It's still funny.

Bollywood Hero

From the Web:
"Bollywood Hero" revolves around Chris Kattan, who plays himself in this otherwise fictional comedy that stays true to Bollywood form and includes several musical numbers. Tired of being rejected as leading-man material in Hollywood, Kattan burns his professional bridges in L.A. and ventures to India where he's been promised a starring role in a Bollywood film. While in India, he encounters cultural differences and a system that, much to his shock, is even more challenging and competitive than what he faced in Hollywood. Bollywood Hero is co-produced by Starz Media and executive produced by Chris Kattan and Snackaholic's Ted Skillman and Belisa Balaban.

Yeah. It is as funny as it sounds.

The following people play themselves in the 3-hour (3-part) film.
Maya Rudolph, Keanu Reeves, David Alan Grier, Andy Samberg
Toby Huss also appears (as Chris' agent) and not doing a weird voice for the first time ever.

Ong Bak 2

What the hell did I just watch?

Dear sweet jesus. Someone tell Tony Jaa to stop making movies and just make fight scenes. That final 30 minutes was better than just about anything I've ever seen.

Sweet. Mother. Of. God.

Banlieue 13 - Ultimatum (District 13 Ultimatum)

Usually when I go into a sequel, one of two things happens.

a. It's a contrived piece of nonsense, with zero logic or fun
b. Is mindless and gets straight to the core of its mindless action.

Since District 13 Part Deux is neither of these, I am extremely perplexed by what I just saw.

Some of the action is great, but most of the jaw-dropping stunts appeared in the preview. And it's almost as explaining the overly-complex plot was more important than the parkour work that highlighted the first film. David Belle (Lieto) gets hardly any screen time, his footwork is not as rhythmic as the last film, and in general it's all about setting up about four massive stunts for him and their done.

In the same breath, Cyril Raffaelli (Damien), takes on about 800 crime goons in one of the most convoluted dragnet operations known to man. All of this is prologue to the plot, which doesn't really unravel until minute 60, when we start to see everything fall into place.

As I said, I am extremely perplexed by what I just saw.

It's not a bad review. It's more of a "huh… didn't expect that" kind of review.

Jungfrukällan (The Virgin Spring)

Spoilers
Having only watch one Ingmar Bergman film — The Seventh Seal — and having just read some information about how Last House on the Left is based on the same Swedish poem, "Töres dotter i Wänge," I decide to start educating myself on Bergman's work.

For starters, this movie is amazingly crafted.

Really.

Bergman, like many Scandinavian directors, prefers to keep his hands off the material and let the script and actors do their jobs. While simultaneously throwing in themes as obscure as Norse Mythology, faith, vengeance, the occult, and unabashed evil. The herdsmen are completely devoid of morals. Their rape and murder of Karin is kraven and foul. We know it is coming and yet there is nothing we can do about it.

Even the least important characters in the film are complex. Everyone is more than just the sum of their parts, with complicated expressions and passages that belie their sense of self-worth.

And this for me is what is so amazing to me about the movie. Karin's killers act in complete silence. Not a word is spoken for almost five minutes. And later, when her father metes out justice on the trio, he too does so in silence for an equal measure of time. It is haunting.

In the Poem, both girls are killed and the father, out of vengeance beheads the first two, only sparing the child when he can recite his family's name. In Bergman's version, the young boy isn't spared… and his death is perhaps the most gruesome at Max von Sydow's hand.

I have yet to see Wes Craven's Last House on the Left, only the newer version released a few years ago. I'm not sure I want to. But Bergman's work is effective for what it doesn't say, as much as for what it does say.

At the end of the film, Töre (von Sydow) turns to god, asking for forgiveness for his sin of murder, while also questioning how god could look away this day as all these murders took place. It's as though the answer were as simple as the primal forces of nature that exist without faith… and the presence of god which can only exist with fate… were not made from the same cloth. Or worse yet, are the same things entirely.