Friday, March 26, 2010

"Mirageman" a low-budget, Chilean super-hero story shames Hollywood to do better

I reviewed "Kiltro" back in September. I talked then about martial arts god Marko Zaror and Ernesto Díaz Espinoza, a Chilean writer/director of some skill. In short, "Mirageman" is a realistic, spanish-language "The Dark Knight," so lightning struck twice.

Espinoza found a muse in his friend Zaror. Together, the two now produce entertaining and engaging action films that tell great stories. The original AICN article - differences of opinion aside, I owe the author thanks - covered "Kiltro" when "Mirageman" premiered. That review enthusiastically praised both films, claiming that the later film was even better than the former. And now I feel so happy that Netflix finally snagged "MM" in October '09. The lapse of time is getting better, too... "Mandrill," the 3rd collaboration, received Fantastic Fest's "Best Picture" award that same month. Maybe I'll be able to see their 5th feature in some multi-nation, simultaneous release. I can only hope that studios see the potential here.

In so many ways, "Mirageman" is a high-quality Spanish version of "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight." It's shocking to think that a Chilean unknown beat the great Christopher Nolan to the punch by a full year. Shall I explain? Maco (Zaror) is a man, presented at first as an exercise enthusiast. The man's regimine rivals that of "Rocky" quiet easily. Yet in all his discipline, it is clear that our protagonist is full of passion.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sorry sorry - something will be up tonight

A week ago, I had one job. It didn't pay well, and really soaked up my time; at least I could do it from home. As of yesterday, I was working 3 jobs. The one that takes up roughly 8 hours a day is on the other side of town. As you might imagine, it's really eaten into my writing time.

I hate going 5-7 days without a post... But the almost-complete lack of feedback to these reviews means all the motivation for this comes from within; I only fail myself when I have 2 post-less weeks. In this case, the delay is from me writing a longer article. Still, I've seen a slew of movies lately, and a review will be up tonight.

Friday, March 12, 2010

"Tell Me Something" Review

Seldom have I rented an unknown movie and had it work out this well. Scary, touching, gory, funny - 1999's "Tell Me Something" does it all, and does it well. I hadn't seen a Korean movie before this, and I was blown away by a perfectly-executed thriller/crime film.

Still, when I started watching, I didn't know what to make of the opening: moody and atmospheric, an apartment door opens to admit a man. As the credits pop up, the camera pans oddly over 300+ year-old paintings. Interspersed with these rough artworks, we return to the man, whose limbs are now being removed on a surgical table. The camera follows the gloved hands of the butcher, who gets into a car, placing an ominous Hefty bag in the trunk. Which brings us to our lead...

Detective Lieutenant Cho is a cop on the edge. At least he has good reason: his intro is being questioned by Internal Affairs agents. He claims to have no idea that one of his crime suspects paid his mother's hospital bills (85 million won worth). IA doesn't buy his ignorance. Rough day much?

His next stop is a crime scene where a boy died by falling. There he finds an Aggressively Asinine Co-worker (AAC), ready to make it worse. His hostile colleague smack talks him while they stand over the kid's corpse. It's not a good idea to tell Lt. Cho that he really needs to do well on this case, or that his bribery defense is absurd. Our protagonist lands a few punches before being restrained. Yes, Cho IS a cop on the edge.

And he's about to get a whole lot edgier - a serial killer is leaving bundles of human parts (e.g., arms, head, legs) around Seoul. Finding a head, torso, and legs in a bag makes identification difficult, because you can't find fingerprints without arms. Then the medical examiner tells him that the legs don't match the rest. So now they've got a second victim. Nor is the coroner done with his bad news - the man was alive but unconscious while he was segmented. Oh, and Cho's mother's funeral was yesterday.

Many things about this movie - from our protagonist's "troubled cop" stubble, to his best-friend-and-partner, to aspects of the killer's origin - are not original. Yet that's never a problem; the story so skillfully told by the director is entertaining, scary, and interesting. Complete originality is not necessary when the work is well-done. Here, "Tell Me Something" surpasses much of what it copies.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I guess I should've done this all along

that is, post brief entries to highlight sweet movie links and articles that I spot on the web. My first should be unquestionably brilliant, so I give you: Muppet Wicker Man.

I like it so much, I can just type out the link for clarity's sake.

I was smiling early on, but half-way through, I realized I had a lot of respect for the person(s) behind this. This re-working is displayed like a comic book. Yet I don't see it as a comic - it's an art project based on film. It's funny, the juxtaposition is excellent, and the humor is perfectly demented. Look at the screen cap I took below to get an idea of what the full-screen mode is like.

FYI, I may have issues with AICN sometimes, but I still check them regularly, and I might not've seen this without them. Credit where credit's due...  I really hope people other than me think this is brilliant!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

R3V13W3R$: On Movie Reviews

When it comes to saying which movies are good or worthwhile, there is lots of disagreement. Although the baseline is much better than with music - you might dis/like a song for far more reasons than a movie - because film reviews tend to be a little more consistently reliable. Still, this information age we're living in allows lots of people to voice their opinions to the world. The result is that you might find a reviewer who genuinely enjoyed Deuce Bigelow 2.

Look at that poster above. I actually really enjoy that movie (so bad it's good). But what's the dividing line? There may be some people out there who liked "Ecks versus Sever," but their numbers are few (thankfully). In fact, there are many different factors that can decide whether you like a movie or despise it. Let me run down a few...

Difficult to distinguish the reviewer's taste
I realize that I should really thank my mother and father for taking me to all those movies when I was growing up. My father, especially, must've sat through a lot of hellish cinematic experiences just because he had three children. And my parents really hate gross-out jokes, specifically ones relating to the body. Every time they see one, they obviously want to be somewhere else. Try two examples:

Big - Tom Hanks used to be a make-you-laugh-hard-comedian. Nowadays, his comedies tend to be much more sedate - comedies that make you smile, not collapse in giggles. Look at that trailer - it was a movie with heart and laughs. [Yes, I want to hit myself for those last words]. As you can see, he uses silly string in a way I never thought of before. I was smiling, as was much of the audience. My parents thought it was gross and nasty, though it's plainly two "kids" playing around. The scene isn't even long! I guess this didn't help...