Da 5 Bloods
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I May Destroy You
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The Claws of Light is by many regarded as the best Filipino film ever made, and I can certainly see the reason why. It's the story about the twenty-one-year old man named Julio Madiaga, who used to be a simple fisherman in one of the rural provinces but has moved to the capital Manila in order to find his girlfriend who was promised a decent job and an education by one suspicious fat woman. Nobody knows where she is, and Julio's one goal in life is to find her. But in the meantime, he needs money for food, but the wages that he earns as a construction worker is just inhumane.
This is a strong emotional story. You just feel so bad for Julio, who are one of many living in this unfair world of low wages and social injustice. It's an everyday struggle to survive. The people Julio meets might be gone the next day. It's a social drama that show us the dark side of an industrialized society, with poor working conditions, which causes violence and prostitution, which Julio at one point is forced into as a male prostitute. It has the same dark tone as Scorsese's Taxi Driver, and Julio Madiaga is the Filipino Travis Bickle, who at one point simply can't take it anymore. A strong powerful drama with a strong political voice. Thumbs up.
Sergei Bondarchuk's Destiny of a Man is a story set during the second world war, Andrei Sokholov (Bondarchuk) who is capture by the germans is experiances the grusomness of the war, the only thing that keeps him going.
The multi-talented artist Vincent Gallo is known for his felibilty between different art forms such as music and films, both when it comes to composing, writing and performing. But he will always be best remembered for his indie classic Buffalo 66' which he directed, wrote and starred in. And it's also set in his own home town, Buffalo, New York.
Buffalo '66 is the story about Billy Brown (Gallo) who returns to his home town, Buffalo after spending five years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. All that time he has lied to his parents (Anjelica Huston and Ben Gazzara) that he worked for the government and was married. But Billy kidnaps the first and best girl, a dancer named Layla (Christina Ricci) who must pretend to be his wife. But when we finally meets his parents it's certainly a shock to see how little they care about anything but football. They hardly remember anything about their son.
Buffalo '66 is a good melancholic indie film, with its small time post Reagan America. Gallo give us a great performance and a great character, a realistic haunted irritating individual. Christina Ricci character, Layla is more interesting because while we know so much about Billy, we don't know anything about Layla. And it's also the fact that Billy often treats her like dirt, but no matter how cruel he is Layla sticks by him, she's probably got a tough life of her own.
The most surreal thing about this film is Billy's parents and how apathetic they are towards anything but football, specially his mother, who gave birth to Billy the day the local football team Buffalo Bill lost the Super Bowl of 1966. And she often says that it's Billy's fault for being born that day.
Defenders of Riga is set in 1919 in the newly proclaimed, but partially recognized republic of Latvia. But the civil war in Russia and the large amount of German troops still present in Latvia makes it difficult for the allies to interact or even recognize Latvia. The German general Rüdiger von der Goltz decides to lent his troops to the white general Pavel Bermondt in order to capture Riga and annex Latvia into Czarist Russia once more. But the Latvians doesn't give up that easy, thanks to the leadership of a brave general and the main protagonist named Martin who have always fought for a free Latvia.
First of all, I found this film very disappointing indeed. The production values are so poor, the use of digital camera is just nauseating, the same goes for the soap opera music. This movie feels too much like a regular TV-movie, a poor one. The only thing that kept my interest was the history and how it would turn out. But when I found out that some parts were inaccurate there goes the reason for watching it. It also contains a lot of war cliches and "inspiring" speeches. I can see why this film is the biggest grossing film in Latvia of all time, because of it's patriotism, but it doesn't have the same value or appeal elsewhere. Thumbs down.
In Albania, specially in the north there's still actual violent family feud going on between different families, this is refereed to as "Gjakmarrja".
Stephan Elliott's The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is along with Muriel's Wedding the two Australian films that both have gained a big cult status, not only in Australia alone, but all over the world, with their use of ABBA music, unknown Aussie actors that later became world famous and two amazing performances by Australian character actor Bill Hunter.
Priscilla is the story about two drag queens, Mitzi (Hugo Weaving), Felicia (Guy Pearce) and a transsexual woman named Bernadette (Terence Stamp) who bought a buss that they named Priscilla in order to travel cross country to perform their drag queen dance numbers. But the trip is also a way for Bernadette to forget about her dead husband, while Mitzi just discovered that he have a son from a previous heterosexual marriage.
Priscilla is an enjoyable and entertaining road trip movie that have gained a big cult status in the gay and drag community. Where similar trips have occurred in real life, which includes standing on top of the Ayers Rock in drag. There's some pretty good dancing numbers as well that every one can enjoy. There's also some unforgettable supporting characters like Bill Hunter's Bob, an outback mechanic and his crazy Filipino mail order bride Marion, who is known for shooting ping pong balls out of... eh... somewhere. It's a road trip movie that teaches us very much about how tough the life is for most gay and drag people, but how they cope with it by breaking loose. Thumbs up.
Gaspar Noe's Irreversible is the story about two men, Marcus (Vincent Cassel) and Pierre (Albert Dupontel) who looks all over Paris for the man who brutally raped Marcus' wife and Pierre's former girlfriend, Alex (Monica Bellucci). The special thing about this film is that it doesn't move chronological, but backwards, just like Christopher Nolan's Memento. It's starts with Marcus being carried away in an ambulance after been in a fight with the man who he thought was the rapist in a hardcore gay club. From then on we see all the events leading up to this event, even the rape itself, and Marcus' and Alex' troubled relationship and Pierre's feelings for Alex.
Irreversible is probably a film that one should stay away from if you are one of those who's fragile to violence to begin with, because this film is indeed very violent, with people being beaten to death while people around masturbates, and there's even a ten minute uncut rape scene. Should such violent ever been in this film. My answer is yes, because these are things that really happens, and it's not something you can turn away from.
But when it comes to the movie in general, it is truly a cinematic masterpiece, because of the use of constant shaky cam, to show us the characters' confusion and rage. And the movie also consists of only thirty long takes, and most of them is combined together through swish pans. The words "Time destroys everything" appears both in the beginning and in the end, as a metaphor for the inevitable. We know what's already happened and we are forced to sadly watch the pointless past that has no meaning and no matter what happens, all we see is why it happened, but there's no one to blame but the time itself.
Irreversible is one of those misanthropic films that makes you're faith in humanity even more fragile than it already is. And by showing us the history backwards it only becomes stronger. It literary breaks all the ten commandments. Some might find it unwatchable due to it's violence, but I advise people who can't stand violence to stay away. But if you have the guts to sit through it, you will see that this is a cinematic masterpiece. Thumbs up.
John Hughes's 80s teen classic 'The Breakfast Club' is the story about five high school teenagers who all have to spend their Saturday in morning detention at School, where their punishment is to write a five hundred word essay of who they are. There's people from every group, the popular Molly (Claire Standish), the athlete Andrew (Emilio Estevez), the nerd Brian (Anthony Michael Hall), the goth kid, Allison (Ally Sheedy) and the bully, Bender (Judd Nelson).
Barry Levinson's The Natural is the story about the young farm boy Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) who's a natural talent when it comes to baseball. He's been sighed up for Chicago Cubs as a pitcher. But one incidence at a hotel room makes him disappear for sixteen year, until he decides to make a comeback in an age of 35, when he's begins to play for the The New York Knights. The trainer Pop Fisher (Wilford Brimley) have no expectations at all, but Roy proves him wrong and helps the already unpopular team to raise fame. But Roy also have ups and downs. There's also corrupt powers involved who only cares about winning bets, no matter what.
Even though the 48-year-old Robert Redford is actually too old to play a 35-year old Roy, he do fit into the role as old in general not when it comes to sports. But I think he played his role good, so did Glenn Close as Roys former girlfriend Iris, with a strong supporting cast that includes Wilford Brimley and Robert Duvall as the sneaky sport journalist and gambler, Max Mercy. The Natural is good compelling sport movie with its ups and downs, but it's one of those typical cheers film that have been spoofed over and over again. It's a typical 80s feel good movie, but I still enjoyed it very much because of it's contempt towards the selfish gamblers that has to manipulate talent. Thumbs up.
Horror veteran Wes Craven who gave us the iconic horror figure Freddy Krueger from *A Nightmare on Elm Street* also saw the connection between every horror film ever made, all the cliches that everyone knows too well and is able to predict right away while we yell at the screen "Don't go inn there!". Craven's Scream is a parody of exactly that. And we as an audience can just sit back and laugh.
Scream is set in a small town where a serial killer is on the loose, killing people wearing a normal Halloween ghost mask. There's no connections between the murders, but our female protagonist, Sidney Prescot (Neve Campbell) who's mother was killed the year before, was also attacked by the killer, but escaped. There's also the news reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) who's trying to find the connection between Sidney's mother's death and all the other murders, because Sidney testified against the wrong man, Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber) who is about to be executed.
Scream is a great tribute to the highly predictable horror genre, by making it even more unpredictable, and giving us a serial killer who wants to follow all the rules of the horror genre, and we realize that more sequels are inevitable. It's also funny to watch all the victims don't take the killer seriously because they in fact have also watched too many horror movies. It's unconventional by being conventional. A big thumbs up.
Cloud Atlas is a collaboration between the Wachowski's (The Matrix) and german filmmaker Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run), where they each directed three segments, Six different stories set in different periods, that in one way or another impacts the other ones in the future. All from a suicidal composer in a 1930s Britain to a rebellious clone waitress in the 22nd century Neo Seol. It's quite a crazy mix, with most of the cast playing different people in each segment.
I can see why other people didn't like it. It is indeed a colorful film with a lot of stories that might not have a direct connection nor even the same symbolism. But that's the beauty of it after my opinion. I'm sick and tired of all those multiple plot film that fits too good together. Cloud Atlas is not that pretentious poetic film as I thought it would be, but a neat little collage of different stories, some exhilarating, some quite funny ones, and there's even those I found boring and that didn't make any sense at all.
It's running time of nearly three hours might seem a bit harsh, but I certainly didn't feel it was a waste of time. It was a funny little experiment with mixed results. I really admire its creativity with the crosscutting and all the experimental makeup jobs and all the funny characters. Like when James D'Arcy is playing a strict female retirement nurse or Halle Berry playing a white woman. It's just a playful movie where all the actors can experiment with their acting abilities. Overall, I actually liked this film. It's a nice long mosaic picture, with its ups and downs but with enough creativity to give this movie a thumbs up.
Kim Ki-young's horror classic The Housemaid is the story about a handsome music teacher who's in need of a housemaid to help around the house, because of his pregnant wife. One of his students finds him a housemaid, a crazy one, unfortunately, who's one of those unfortunate souls who have fallen obsessionally in love with the teacher, and starts to terrorize the rest of his family, his wife and two children.
The Housemaid is an alright exaggerated horror film, that's on the edge of being a comedy, because of how nice the teacher is treating the housemaid, even though she's a psycho from the start, and that he's continuing to treat her nice even when she do things that every regular person would have killed her, or at least fire her right away. I just couldn't buy the movie at all, even though there are some great dialogue and some enjoyable horror cliches which is enough to give this film a marginal thumbs up.
F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel 'The Great Gatsby' is once again adapted for the big screen. This time it's directed by Baz Luhrmann, who's already known for his flamboyant films such as Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet. And there's no surprise that this one is as flamboyant, but in a great way. What I expected was a two and a half hour long 3D music video with modern music such as Jay-Z Hip-Hop. But it actually fits very well into this film. It sets the right roaring twenties mood, with no moral or rules. Despite the music and the heavy use of CGI, Luhrmann is indeed able to catch the spirit of the novel in such a poetic and glamorous way.
The Great Gatsby is the story about the young stockbroker and Yale graduate Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) who've just moved to New York, it is here he befriends such rich aristocrats as Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgarton) and his wife and Nick's cousin, Daisy (Carey Mulligan). But Nick also have a neighbor, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), a millionaire who's known for his enormous parties that everyone of importance attends. But Nick is the only one who have got an actual invitation, but the reason is Nick's connection with Daisy, a former lover of Gatsby whom have always been on Gatsby's mind and always will be.
Having read the book, I thought that this version was actually not bad at all. It has the right spirit, the right roaring twenties mood that I funny enough gets from the modern hip-hop songs of Jay-Z. It's actually a great mix between old and new. I loved the performances, Maguire, DiCaprio, Edgerton and Mulligan, they all resemble their characters in the book so great. And who doesn't fall for DiCaprio the way he always says "Old Sport" in the end of each sentence.
But it's not flawless, its two and a half hour long running time might drag it down a bit, because the second half feels like a regular tearjerker. But that's who Luhrmann is, a fruitcake and a romantic who just love the wild exaggeration of a Bollywood movie. There's no coincidence that Luhrmann cast Amitabh Bachchan, the big Bollywood super star as Meyer Wolfsheim, which is kind of a weird casting choice to begin with because it's an Indian playing a Jew. Overall, I liked this film, and if you have read the book, you will not be disappointed because it got the spirit and the music. Thumbs up.
Kim Sang-jin's Attack the Gas Station is the story about four thugs who decides to rob a gas station in the middle of the night, because they are bored. They already robbed the same gas station once, but when the boss this time decides to hide all the money, the thugs decides to hold all the employees as hostages, while they are running the station in such a rude way, while they force the boss to come up with the money.
Attack the Gas Station is a great crime comedy, a hysterical one, because of the way the hostages are treated and how sometimes they turn against each other and even feels affection for their prison guard, Mu "Bulldozer" Dae-po, who always carrying a big stick and act like a strict sergeant, and I just laugh so hard when he's on screen. And it's also interesting and funny to watch the flashbacks of all the thugs that shows us the reason why they are robbing the gas station in the first place, they show us their broken dreams, and we kind of feel sorry for them.
This film have gained a special cult status in South Korea. There's even been similar attacks in real-life. It's like a Korean Fight Club. It is also a social commentary about the economic turmoil in South Korea in which car manufacturers was laying off thousands of employees. And it's also a commentary about american imperialism as well. In other words this is a movie about the frustrated South Korean youth. For me, Attack the Gas Station is the best Korean film I've seen so far. Thumbs up.
The famous stand-up comedian and political commentator Bill Maher is widely known for his atheism and repentance towards religion. Together with filmmaker Larry Charles (Borat and Brüno) he travels around the states and other countries to talk to people about religion and why they believe in god. He meets many people, from different religions and of all social class and even some scientist who actually believe in god. There's even some scenes where Maher is crossing the line.
I don't have anything against atheism at all. I think it's great that people have doubts, both when it comes to moral standards and diluted laws. Even I think that Mormons and Scientologist are kind of stupid. You would have thought that Maher made this movie to learn about religion and see it from other's point of view, but no, he's constantly interrupts his interviewees with mocking questions. And basically just pick the rednecks and doesn't seem to listen and understand what faith has actually done for them. In the end he has a monologue about how religion is destroying the world, like a preacher talking about hell, attacking every religious people, even the moderate once. So in this case it's basically an eye for an eye.
I usually like Bill Maher's political satire and his discontempt towards american politicians. And I would have thought that Maher was smart enough to realize that politicians use religion for their own good. But of course if you are an atheist you're probably gonna get a good laugh, and even strength your atheism even more. But remember that you're seeing what you want to see. The point is, I don't mind Maher making fun of other religions, I do that all the time. But attacking religion in general is just pure ignorance. Even South Park can make fun of religion but still understand why people act that way. But Maher doesn't do that at all. He's mission is not to understand religion, but simply trash it. Even though I had a good laugh while watching some of the fanatics rambling about their absurd believes, Maher looses it all with his ignorant speech at the end. Which give this movie a thumbs down.
If there's a genre named "Neo Westerns". John Sayles' Lone Star is definitely among the classics that one should not miss. It's set in Rio County, Texas, where we follow Sheriff Sam Deeds (Chris Cooper) who thanks to two treasure hunters found a human skull and a sheriff batch that most likely belonged to the former sheriff Charlie Wade (Kris Kristofferson). A violent and racist sheriff who just disappeared decades ago. Sam's father, the late beloved Sheriff Buddy Deeds(Matthew McConaughey) was Wade's deputy who got fired because of his opposition towards Wade's intolerance towards Mexicans and black people. An intolerance that are still present unfortunately. This makes Sam's father a suspect. And Sam has to dig deep into his family secrets.
Lone Star is an extraordinary western film that dives deep into racial differences that are still very strong, and where Mexican immigration only becomes a bigger problem. But there's also the black people too. And we not only follow the sheriff, we also follow other people of different backgrounds dealing with these problems, like Pirar Cruz (Elizabeth Pena), Sam's Mexican high school girlfriend, who both were not allowed to be together. And we also follow the African-american Colonel Delmore Payne (Joe Morton) who's father, Otis (Ron Canada) felt the terror of sheriff Wade. There's even a town hall meeting that discuss how they shall teach history.
This is a great mystery film, with really dark secrets, family secrets that can destroy Sam's father's reputation as a legend. There's a pretty strong cast that are just perfect. Chris Cooper, Elizabeth Pena, Joe Morton, Ron Canada, Miriam Colon, Matthew McConaughey and specially Kris Kristofferson's performance was clearly the best. He's one of those characters you wanna see more of. Surely one of the toughest bad guys cinema have ever seen, with his Texan accent and his ice cold attitude. Overall, Lone Star is an excellent executed mystery film, with an issue that are still relevant today, and it also contains a certain David Lynch chill as well. Thumbs up.
Jean-Pierre Melville's 'Leon Morin, Priest' is set in a small french village during the German occupation, where we follow the young widow and single mother, Barny (Emmanuelle Riva). She's also a communist, but one day she enters a church randomly, and decides to confess, just for the heck of it. But there's a new priest in town, the young and handsome Leon Morin (Jean-Paul Belmondo), and she starts confronting him. But he's intrigued and decides to meat her at his apartment to discuss religion and even give her some books. And that's how Barny gets more curious about the christian fate, and starts to visit the priest regularly.
This is a great film about religion, and how people's curiosity finds its way towards it in an innocent and non conforming way. I just love the performances. Belmondo as the dedicated but open minded priest. And of course the talented Emmanuelle Riva as the young and confused widow, who is sexually confused when it comes to one of her female co-workers and worst of all, the priest himself, but she knows that it will cost it their friendship. A great film with great dialogue and with real human emotions and two extraordinary performances by two of France's greatest actors. Thumbs up.