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Monthly Archives: August 2012

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The internet has all but taken over the world now. It’s used to communicate with new people, find out information and as showcased in Kairo (or Pulse as it’s more commonly known as in Europe) it can be used by ghosts to invade earth and haunt the people of whom it encounters. That’s a pretty cool idea, huh?

For the first hour or so it works moderately well, and with the ideas in full flow it’s a very intriguing film. Unfortunately though, as the film moves along, not much really comes of the ingenious and largely unique premise and by the end of the film I was just left wondering if any of it makes sense, the answer of course is no. I’m all for ambiguity and suspense, but the film does not excel when it should. I applaud it for its premise, unusual methods and the occasional moments of surreal power, but it just doesn’t leave me with any resounding feelings.

68/100

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Dark Water focuses on the relationship of a recently divorced mother and her child as they struggle to settle in one location long enough for the daughter to attend kindergarten. The apartment they move into seems nice, and the residents seem even nicer, but as with any horror film, not is all as it seems and even before they’ve moved into the apartment, strange circumstances begin to happen.. That’s not a complaint of the pacing by the way; it’s more of a glowing praise on my behalf. And yet, the suspense still manages to captivate and flow as great as anything else. It’s difficult to understand how a film that starts and builds up so quickly can also feel slow, patient and tense at the very same time, but Dark Water does it incredibly well.

As for the rest of the film itself, it’s good, but nothing particularly incredible. The premise is simple, yet intriguing, well-choreographed and sinister and I admire the film-making skills of Japanese horror legend Hideo Nakata and the soaring performance from Hitomi Kuroki, but it just feels as if something is missing and I’m not entirely sure what it is.

Something that I desperately love is the ending, it’s set up so wonderfully and the final scenes are delivered with such emotional intensity that it leaves a resonating power on the entirety of the movie, however flawed it may be. It’s the greatest moment of the entire film.

76/100

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Let it be known that I find Asian horror films to be some of the most effective and terrifying ones there are. The Eye is not the terrifying and nightmarish film that perhaps I had anticipated, but it’s still a very, very good film. It works more as a character study than it does a typical horror film, but that’s not a complaint. It’s more of praise to the great work from the Pang brothers (two directors who I would like to explore sometime in the future).

Our lead protagonist has just had a cornea transplant to see again, it would be an understatement to say that the operation wasn’t successful. Almost immediately, strange things begin to occur to her. First a young boy shows up asking if she knows where his school report is, next there is a woman questioning her sitting in her chair and eventually the events become a lot stranger and the vision of the Pang brothers a lot more prolific and charismatic. Something else that manages to succeed with is the pacing. As with all films (horrors notably), pacing is quintessential to their success. If it’s too slow then the whole thing feels diluted and out-of-sync, if it’s too fast then it feels rushed and carelessly written, but if that fluid balance is somewhere bang in the middle then you’ve got it just perfect.

Most of the horror films that I love generally focus on sheer terror (obviously, they are horror films), but The Eye is not your ordinary film. The horror elements of the film stem from the atmosphere, the sound, the emotionally balanced lead performance from Angelica Lee and above all the psychological power of the film. A performance so pristine and on-the-mark that it leaves as much of an effect on the film as the miraculously well choreographed final act does. I wouldn’t say it’s one of my favourite Asian horror films, but it’s something that I’m very glad I watched and I would easily recommend it to fans of horror films looking for something different.

80/100

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Fargo would probably be my favourite Coen film if it wasn’t for their masterpiece debut feature that is Blood Simple. And now with a second viewing of Fargo complete, I think I actually appreciate and understand the mood of the film a lot more than I might have done previously. The dynamic attitude of the film is simply unrecognisable or incomparable to anything that focuses on the themes of murder and mystery. The dark tone of the film is blended superbly with the comedic aspects to create a truly remarkable piece of cinema. Despite the fact that we’re never really let inside the mindset of our protagonists and antagonists, the character development that stems from the astounding screenplay leaves a bigger mark than any back-story or formulaic explanation sequences ever could. See this film, if not for the dazzling screenplay, then see it for the chilling atmosphere of the cinematography.

83/100

 

 

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Three… Extremes is a horror anthology of sorts with three individual segments from the cream of Asian cinema; Fruit Chan, Park Chan-wook and the controversial, but incredible Takashi Miike. It’s not as extreme or gruesome as I anticipated it to be, but it sure is excellent. Here are some thoughts on each segment…

Dumplings, directed by Fruit Chan: Centred around an aging actress who visits a woman every day known for her dumplings that apparently have regenerative aspects, but soon enough it is revealed there’s to them than meets the eye. This is probably the most intriguing segment of the three, because it leaves a lot to the imagination and the creativeness of it simply awe-inspiring and memorable.

Cut, directed by Park Chan-wook: The most conventional and easy to follow of the three and likely my pick of the bunch. The tone is quite muddled at times, but at others it’s absolutely mesmerising. A great lead performance from Lee Byung-hun as the director whose wife is kidnapped and he is drawn into the situation by an insane extra from several of his prior film. I love how brilliantly the reveal is executed at the end.

Box, directed by Takashi Miike: Big, big disappointment. I expected this to be my favourite of the bunch, but it’s actually the weakest. It’s a testament to the insane mind of Miike, but it just doesn’t make all that much sense.

80/100

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This is some fucking movie. It starts off as a regular crime drama, but as we get more involved with the characters and their shady dealings, the true power of it really hits home.

Our protagonist is Joshua Cody, played by newcomer James Frecheville, who becomes involved with his shady and law-breaking family after the death of his mother in the very opening shot of the movie. It’s hard to imagine that it’s a debut performance and for a teenager he gets the performance absolutely perfect. He’s never over-the-top or dramatic, he just settles into the character and lets the frustration and anger of Josh out with body language and the way he delivers each line. I look forward to seeing him in more gritty crime dramas such as this. The rest of the cast deliver and even Guy Ritchie in his small screen-time brings about a great commanding performance, and I was impressed by Joel Edgerton, who I haven’t seen anything from prior to Animal Kingdom.

Written and directed by another debut filmmaking star in David Michod, the true essence of power is let out with the screenplay and once it gets your attention, it never lets go and I think it’s one of the best films to come out of Australia in quite some time.

78/100

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I try to watch as many classics as I can, but for some reason Kramer vs. Kramer was never one that I considered watching, despite its vast acclaim and the presence of screen legend Dustin Hoffman at the forefront of it. Often when I finally watch these established classics, I end up loving them and almost feel frustrated that I put them off for so long. Kramer vs. Kramer is one of those times, and it’s definitely one of the biggest emotional roller-coasters that cinema has to offer.

As soon as it started, I knew this was the film for me. Right from the get-go it had the emotional power and smooth storytelling that I so deeply love. Benton tells the story in such an admirable and devastating manner that for a film that starts off as a soul-seeking journey for the Mr. Kramer, played by Dustin Hoffman, who has to adapt to his new life as a single father after the departure of the Mrs. Kramer in Meryl Streep ends up as a courtroom drama. The first hour or so is just lovely stuff. Mr. Kramer struggles to deal with the demands of his mother loving young child, but eventually ends up igniting a relationship so smooth, subtle and majestic that it made me tear up inside how true and powerful it really is.

Later on, as Mrs. Kramer comes back into the mix and wants the custody of her child back, the story turns into a courtroom drama. The transition from this father-and-son relationship to a courtroom drama is so well paced and nourished to a quite magnetic manner and not for one minute does it feel rushed, un-prepared or off-the-mark.

So many films try to have devastatingly powerful moments so rapidly, but the way Kramer vs. Kramer makes the tale so emotional and astonishing is simply stunning and that has to go down to Robert Benton’s landmark screenplay.

87/100