I’ve Been Watching Movies, I Swear

So it’s been quite a while since I’ve reviewed any movies but I assure you it’s not because I haven’t been watching them. Just the opposite, actually. I’ve been watching a lot of stuff but for the most part, I’ve been watching things that I don’t really think are worth reviewing. But I figured I must have at least a few words for each of the movies I’ve been watching, so I’ll play catch up now.

There were a couple of stupid screwball/slapstick ’90s comedies I watched (Jury Duty with Pauly Shore and Beverly Hills Ninja with Chris Farley), which were hardly worth the time. I remembered liking them when they came out, but then again I was about 12 years old. I no longer have any nostalgia for them after re-watching them, and I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing.

Dandelion was an indie flick that fell flat, for reasons I can’t specifically remember. It starred Vincent Kartheiser (remember him?) and it looked pretty but the story and acting were so sub-par. It was cheesy and cliche. Not something I’d recommend.

Nothing was written and directed by Vincenzo Natali, the same guy who did the original Cube (which I recently reviewed here). It sounded like it had amazing potential. Sadly, it didn’t work out. It’s about these couple of guys who are in serious trouble and wish the world would go away. Then (surprise), it does. Outside of their house is nothing. Literally. Sounds kind of cool, right? Like maybe a contemporary version of My Dinner With Andre? Wrong. These guys don’t talk about anything worthwhile and worst of all, the characters are ridiculously annoying. Two things you really can’t have in a movie about nothing.

I watched the last James Bond movie, Casino Royale, and it was my first James Bond movie ever. I thought Daniel Craig fit the role to a T. It was great, I really enjoyed it, and I really look forward to the new one coming out soon, Quantum Of Solace.

I got to see this movie called The Man From Earth which is about a college professor who reveals to his colleagues on his last day of work that he’s actually a caveman and he’s been alive for hundreds of thousands of years. Definitely an interesting enough premise to watch it, even if it’s bad (kind of like Nothing). I liked the movie enough, but it was kind of boring with everyone sitting by the fireside asking the “caveman” questions the whole night. Not much more than that. Tony Todd and Richard Riehle were in it so that was a plus. The ending was a little too literal, explaining things a little too much and I could have done without that. But otherwise it was a fun thought experiment.

I also watched my first Pedro Almodóvar recently, Volver with Penélope Cruz. It was very weird, with the whole spiritual/ghost thing going on. A couple of criticisms would be that they didn’t wrap up that restaurant side story and the fact that Cruz got a Oscar nomination for it. I’m not saying she was bad in the movie, but rather non-spectacular. I feel like there must have been some other actresses that deserved a nomination more than Cruz for her role in Volver. Oh well.

And finally, I’ve been watching the Alien series for the first time. I saw Alien: Resurrection when it came out a while ago and up until now, that was the only Alien movie I’d seen (although I don’t think it really counts). I’ve watched the first and second so far, with the third coming up soon. Man, these movies are amazing. Sigourney Weaver kicks so much ass. and who knew Paul Reiser had any talent? He plays the perfect scum bag. Aliens is Godzillamonster’s favorite movie ever (I think) and with good reason. But because these are such famous and popular movies, I felt like there wasn’t much I could say that hasn’t already be said, hence no proper reviews. Suffice it to say I truly love Aliens.

And there you have it. A complete update of almost every movie I’ve seen in the past couple of weeks. I’ll be away until next Tuesday, so I won’t have any full reviews until sometime after that. I hope this will tide you all over until then.


Blip Festival: Reformat The Planet

How many of you have heard of chiptune or 8 bit music? Raise your hands. For those of you who didn’t raise your hands, you probably won’t care too much about this documentary unless you’re feeling especially adventurous or interested discovering new music. Blip Festival: Reformat The Planet is a film that explores the origins and future of 8 bit music via the 2006 Blip Festival (a music fest in NY comprised entirely of 8 bit musicians from around the world). For those curious as to what type of music this is, I shall quote the chiptune Wikipedia article: it’s “music written in sound formats where all the sounds are synthesized in realtime by a computer or video game console sound chip.” In simpler terms, it’s using an NES or GameBoy or similar video game system as an musical instrument. The result is music that sounds like it could be from an old video game but is usually more engaging and dance oriented. (Check out the 8 Bit Peoples website for lots of free 8 bit music.)

For those who are already fans of 8 bit music, Reformat The Planet will probably be a very exciting documentary, if only for the extensive footage from the 2006 Blip Festival held in New York. There are plenty of live performances ranging from chiptune veterans like Nullsleep and Bit Shifter plus newcomers like The Depreciation Guild and Anamanaguchi. Portions of the movie feature almost entire songs from these artists, merging documentary with music video. And the interviews with the musicians are fascinating, allowing us to discover how these people approach making chiptunes and where they think the future of the scene is headed.

Reformat The Planet does an excellent job of filming a 4 day music festival and using the footage to create an interesting and informative documentary about a mostly underground music scene. Instead of making a documentary about a specific festival or a new music genre, director Paul Owens does both and with great success. I can only assume Blip Festival: Reformat The Planet won’t resonate with the majority of people due to it being so niche, but those initially interested in the idea of making music with video game consoles will most likely be very pleased with the results.

Right now, Reformat The Planet is neither in theaters nor on DVD. It is currently streaming on Pitchfork.TV until the 21st, so check it out there if you’re interested. Otherwise, you’ll probably have to wait for a DVD release.


A funny story about 6 and 9

A funny story about 6 and 9

I’ve seen a decent amount of Asian cinema, but nothing so far from Thailand. And my first foray into Thai cinema did not disappoint. Ruang talok 69, or in English 6ixtynin9 (a more accurate translation appears in the subtitles: “A Funny Story about 6 and 9”) follows a young professional who is laid off from her job. From there it’s a horrifyingly amusing chain of events set in motion by the loose number 6 on her apartment door that occasionally turns on the single nail holding it in place and becomes a 9. Add gangsters in sweatsuits and a missing noodle box filled with money, mix well and watch everything explode.

I don’t want to spoil anything, because anyone who’s into dark comedies should check this film out. Let’s just say there’s a body count. A respectable one. And plenty of sight gags and clever dialog to keep viewers laughing throughout.

The main character, played by Lalita Panyopas, seems to be completely defeated by life in general and her financial woes to boot, and her actions are the result of an almost disinterested kind of desperation. Panyopas’ decidedly understated performance is the main source of the film’s hilarity, but also serves to shock the viewer on the rare occasions when she shows some emotion. A fine job by director and actor alike.

Also of note: I found myself appreciating the lack of gratuitous gore. The film certainly had opportunities to go in that direction. But the director chose to leave a lot to our imagination. As such, the few gag worthy moments score on a psychological level.

But I think what I enjoyed most about the film is that each character walks into the film’s crazy plot and makes conclusions about what is going on, and while they’re all completely reasonable conclusions, they’re all wrong. So what you end up with is this fantastic collision of people who all have slightly different assumptions about the way things work, and added together, they equal a nearly perfect mix of comedy, drama, and thrills.

The one gripe I had was that the subtitles were TERRIBLE. This isn’t completely unexpected, and in a few instances the grammatical errors added to the comedy in the film. To some extent, bad subtitles are part of the package when it comes to Asian cinema. Even so, the mistakes were irritating and added a element of shoddiness that took away from an otherwise well-shot film. I’m guessing the distributor is to blame for the bad subtitling, and there’s no excuse for it. It wouldn’t be terribly expensive to hire a native English speaker to create an English adaptation of the translation and edit it for spelling and grammar.

I plan to check out some of director Pen-Ek Ratanarung’s other films and will gladly report back. Until then, I highly recommend this film.

Son Of Rambow

Films that have children dominating the movie are a dime a dozen. The difference between all of those other movies and Son Of Rambow is that Rambow isn’t a kids movie. What was the last movie like this? Maybe Stand By Me? That was over 10 years ago. It’s prime time for everyone to see a whimsical story about a couple of British boys who want to make a movie.

First of all, let me assure you all that Son Of Rambow has (almost) nothing to do with that Sylvester Stallone franchise. Rather, it’s about a do-gooder named Will Proudfoot who accidentally gets caught up in bad-boy Lee Carter’s shenanigans. They form an unlikely friendship that mixes Will’s crazy imagination with Lee Carter’s equipment and know-how so that they can submit a film inspired by the original Rambo to the BBC’s Screen Test competition. The best parts of Son Of Rambow are when we get to watch Lee and Will perform all sorts of crazy stunts and watching this movie-within-a-movie fold out.

Son Of Rambow is a really solid movie. The acting is superb, it’s cute, funny, and very down to Earth. I can safely say it’s a film that many people would enjoy and I’m a bit surprised that it didn’t take off as well as I hoped it would. My guess is that it got overshadowed by all of the big Hollywood blockbusters. It had a limited release in the US the same weekend Iron Man came out and it probably just went downhill from there. That’s not reason it shouldn’t be seen, though. If it’s still playing in your area, by all means go see it. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until it comes out on DVD in late August.