Saturday, June 11, 2011

Ern's Monthly Visual Victuals (March 2011)


Well hey, lookey here, another break from my travels in Hawaii as I bring another batch of movie reviews for you of the films I watched in March!  Why have I been so lazy this year I know not.  ADD perhaps?  Procrastinitus?  Spending too much time on social networks?  Reading when I should be writing?  Watching DVDs when I should be writing?  All of the above (not including the ADD - that would Attention Deficit Disorder in case some of you were wondering).  I'm still not caught up with my book reviews either!  Anyway, quite a bit of variety this month (March that is, even though its currently June).  Action, comedy, human drama, you name it.  This month also features flicks from Israel, Lebanon and Belgium along with Hollywood blockbusters and silly Japanese movies. 

THE EXPENDABLES (2010) – The movie every action film fan has been waiting for. A film that features all our favorite action heroes – Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, etc. What more could you ask for? And who cares about the story. As long as there is non-stop action – fight scenes, big explosions, lots of guns. Too bad Bruce and Arnie’s parts were so small but the other actors more than make up for it. Heck, I can’t even remember the plot but was entertained while watching it.

LEBANON (2009) – Another Israeli production, along with France, Germany and Lebanon with the subject being the first Lebanon War (and no, I don’t how many Lebanese wars there have been). What’s unique about this film is the way it was filmed. We watch the story unfold through the eyes of a tank crew. The whole movie is shot with the point of view from inside the tank. Their mission is simple. To check out some hostile town. Not as exciting as “Waltz with Bashir” but still worth watching.

THE BLIND SIDE (2009) – This weekend I decided to have myself a Sandra Bullock festival and rented her two award winning films. The Academy Award winner, along with the same year’s Razzie!! This of course is the Academy Award winner based on the true story of Michael Oher who was a homeless black boy who was taken in by a white middle class family and became an All American football hero and NFL first round draft pick. Bullock’s performance was definitely worthy of an Oscar. Great story, great film.

ALL ABOUT STEVE (2009) – As to the winner of the Razzie! Well, Bullock’s character Mary Horowitz does really annoy the hell out of you whenever she speaks as she seems to be a know-it-all and loves to give you minute details of things you could care less about. But she’s just a romantic at heart crossword puzzle maker who’s still single and living at home. But as to this being one of the all time worst movies of the year, nah, I’ve seen worse. I even laughed here and there in this film. It’s pretty much a feel good movie (if you’re not Steve). Anyway, at Career Day at a local school, the kids make fun of her for not being married at her age and afterwards decides to go on a blind date. She becomes so enamored of Steve (a newsman and her blind date) who tries to escape by giving her the nice brush off by saying, “maybe we travel together some time…” But Mary becomes so enamored of Steve that the next crossword puzzle she makes is all about Steve which gets printed in the paper she works for. This gets her fired from her job which means she is free to chase Steve all over the country because “they belong together”! Can you say stalker? But really, its light-hearted and fun.

ネック [NECK] (2010) – A silly Japanese film that stars cute actress by the name of Saki Aibu. A comedy horror that’s not really funny and not all that scary either. It’s only because Saki Aibu starred in it that I rented this. Waste of money really. I don’t know what it is about Japanese movies, but the good ones seem to be few and far between, but the bad ones are a dime a dozen. Yet I still rent them. Maybe I’m a closet masochist. The story? I can hardly remember it except that there was this neck machine. A box that you sit in with only your head sticking out. Saki is running an experiment to prove that you can conjure up a ghost if you’re scared enough, and thus, her “neck machine” was born.

1980 (2003) – Another Japanese comedy, this time starring Rie Tomosaka. As you can surmise from the title, the movie centers around Tokyo in 1980. It’s about three sisters with Tomosaka being the middle child. Tomosaka was an idol but retired and is now working as a substitute at a school where older sister works. The youngest sister is still in high school and is part of a club that is making their own movie. She is the star but is having second thoughts when the director, another student of course, wants to shoot a nude scene. Well hey, Rie Tomosaka and Yu Aoi in the same movie so you can’t complain too much (even though my American friends wouldn’t know who from who).

HOT TUB TIME MACHINE (2010) – Now give me a movie like this anytime! As I was a little disappointed with the previously mentioned 1980, I decided to rent a mindless comedy, Hollywood style! Excellent film this! Three high school buddies, now middle aged guys, decide to go on a road trip together to their favorite vacation spot from days gone by. As to why, one guy got dumped by his girlfriend, another hates his low-paying job and cheating wife and the third is a suicidal alcoholic. Along for the ride is one of the guy’s nephew. Unfortunately times have changed, and the memories of their once happy stomping grounds have fallen into decay. The guys decide to having a drinking binge anyway and head to the hot tub…which somehow takes them back into time…to 1986! Gotta love the soundtrack on this flick. Poison, Foreigner, Talking Heads, Spandau Ballet, Autograph and one great video parody of Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home” at the end. Too damn fun and quite funny as well. Even better if you actually lived the 80s as a college student (which I did!).

DOSSIER K (2009) – Once again I was mislead by the Japanese packaging and title of said film. This flick was released as “Hitman X” and the notes on the package made it seem as if it were a sequel to the excellent action film based on a video game, “Hitman”. Check out the packaging of “Hitman”, the box on the right. Now look once again at the package for “Hitman X”. Now is this totally misleading or what? There isn’t a single frame in this movie with a scene like that on the package. This flick has nothing whatsoever to do with “Hitman”. It’s marketing practices like this that really piss me off!! It’s still a decent movie though. A crime thriller from Belgium. Two policeman from Antwerp are working on a case that deals with the Albanian mafia. Yep, more Albanian bad guys a la “Taken”. Based on the second book by Jef Geeraerts featuring detectives Vincke and Verstuyft. This is apparently a sequel to another film called “The Alzheimer Case” which won a lot of awards although I’ve never heard of it.

OLD DOGS (2009) – OMG, I’m sorry but I think I can add this to one of my all time worst films as well. I don’t think I laughed once and it stars Robin Williams and John Travolta! Now that’s saying something. It’s just bad, really bad. Most annoyingly bad. I think this movie deserved the Razzie more than “All About Steve”. Charlie and Dan (Travolta and Williams) have been friends and business partners for almost 30 years. They’re about to land a huge contract with a Japanese company. But before that happens, Dan gets a surprise call from his ex-wife who he married in Vegas nine years prior (although their marriage was annulled the following day). His ex-wife tells him that he’s the father of her twins and since she has to go to prison for a short spell and needs to take care of the kids. The plot is so absurd you will wonder why the critics panned “All About Steve” instead of this one. This definitely gets my vote for the Razzie. Only to be enjoyed by pre-teens and perhaps their parents who will be forced to watch it with them.

THE KARATE KID (2010) – Yes, the remake with Will Smith’s kid, Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan. Ha, they should have called it “The Kung-Fu Kid” though. In this updated version, Jaden is the Daniel character and Jackie Chan would be in the Miyagi-san role. Small town U.S. is traded in for China and karate is replaced by kung-fu. Also, “wax on, wax off” is replaced with “put it on”, “take it off”, “pick it up”. The story is the same, just the setting and people are different. New kid in China tries to befriend cute girl, gets bullied and beaten up by neighborhood kids. Is saved by Jackie. Bullies flee. Jackie says to Jaden, “There are no bad students, only bad teachers.” So Jackie and Jaden go to the kung-fu school to talk to the bullies Master. But their Master is an asshole who thinks it’s right to teach his students to feel no fear and to stomp their opponents without mercy. Jackie says they should settle this in a more honorable manner and points to a poster of an upcoming tournament. And so Jaden unwittingly and reluctantly becomes Jackie’s student. And if you’ve seen the 1984 original, then you will know how the end turns out. Hopefully, there will be no sequels to these remakes.

トイレット [TOILET] (2010) – I don’t know what it is about director Naoko Ogigami’s movies that generally have no plot but are so pleasing to watch. Strange isn’t it. And she usually uses the same actresses as well. I really enjoyed her “Kamome Shokudo” [Kamome Diner] and her previous film as well, “Megane” [Glasses]. “Kamome Shokudo” was set in Helsinki, Finland. “Megane” in Okinawa. This time, the setting isn’t important. It’s the people or rather the family. Thirty-year old Ray is an engineer and a Gundam otaku and really seems to enjoy his private life. But after his mother’s funeral, he now finds himself living with his older brother (who was a pianist but is now a recluse and hasn’t left the house in a number of years), his younger sister who’s hip and assertive and doesn’t take shit from either brothers, and then there is Baa-chan (their grandmother) who doesn’t speak a word of English! After moving back into the old homestead, Ray becomes obsessed with Baa-chan’s habit of letting out a sigh every time after using the bathroom. It’s a mystery he’s determined to solve.

FLASHFORWARD – Okay, this last title is not a movie but a science fiction series based on the book of the same name by Robert J. Sawyer which I read and enjoyed. I usually don’t rent American dramas for the simple fact that most of the last so long and yet when the ratings of the shows go down, they get cancelled without providing a decent end. I really hate that. And I don’t want to invest in a drama that goes on for more than three seasons. I get bored. So why did I rent this one? Another simple answer. Because one of my favorite Japanese actresses has a guest role in it – Yuko Takeuchi. And reading some article on the net, this series was cancelled after the first season, leaving you hanging as to what happens next. Stupid television executives. If you’re going to cancel a show, give it a decent ending dammit! Anyway, on October 6, 2009, the entire population of the world blacked out for two minutes and seventeen seconds. During this “blackout”, people see visions of what they believe is their future on April 29, 2010. Cool premise, cool story, but they should have made it into a movie instead of a series.

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