Friday, November 30, 2018

Hugo

Random choice I know, but two points: 1. I've never seen it and 2. I was gonna review Crazy Rich Asians but that will have to wait until next week. So let's go!


It's a strange series of events in this film, centered around a young boy who lives in a train station keeping the clocks ticking who after meeting several interesting characters is uncovering a mystery with a very familiar artist to some. How the film goes from this visually stunning yet odd story to a undeniable love letter to the early days of cinema is something special. Martin Scorsese made a film with a style all it's own while paying tribute to the artists who made it possible for such a film to even exist. The cast is quite good, Asa Butterfield is a fine lead and carries the film almost singlehandedly with the innocence and wonder of a child yet goes much deeper the more you learn about him. Chloe Grace Moretz yet again proves age does not matter when it comes to acting and gives a more quiet yet enthusiastic performance. We have Ben Kingsley as a toymaker and does his usual fine work, and even dear Christopher Lee as a librarian who I single out as the true force that makes the film continue is wonderful to see like always. I took seeing this movie on pure chance and I was not disappointed, I appreciated the dreamlike yet still grounded visual style, the love and respect for silent cinema filmmakers, and being very accurate to real time periods. The film takes place in 1931 and not just the style of clothing but the atmosphere, and telling of past events before and after the Great War help the film a lot in terms of setting and characters. I must admit I have more respect for this film than love, though I did enjoy it very much. How a group of people already created an interesting story but went further and tied it into a medium that's been around for more than a hundred years surprised me and I was proud of myself knowing some bits of past cinema history. A very good film, a fine tribute to the past, and a good end to a let's be honest, a week that has been in shambles. I can't even remember the last time I only got 2 reviews out in the course of a week. I sincerely hope next week fares better for me, and with the schedule I created for December I should be fine for most of the month. Soon another year will be upon us, with new films, old films, a month of horrors, and a even more terrifying month of horrors. But that is a event for another time. Give me strength to weather Christmas....

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Creed II

You know man I was feeling really bummed out today. Getting to this movie so late made me not even want to get out of bed today, I just wanted to give up and move on. Now, I remember why I do this.


Creed II tops the first easily. It is a powerhouse of a movie, there's no need for setup of the threat to the fight because it's already their in the history of the Rocky series. There's a lot to love, and I know for a fact these Creed movies and really the Rocky movies past number two are made for Rocky fans. Not just for the callbacks or similar stories but because of the growth of these characters and seeing where they go since the last movie. So Addonis Creed just got the Heavyweight Champion belt, and through the workings of a semi-shady backer pits the son of Ivan Drago against the son of Apollo Creed forcing our young champion to come to face with why he wants to fight and more importantly why he wants to win. I think I severely messed up if I ever labelled any Rocky movie as a sports movie, sure the fight is the driving force for our main character but the characters themselves is why it works so well. We know their motivations, history, and emotions, which is what keeps us invested and cheering for them. The movie understands this perfectly and it feels right in the series. Now Rocky IV was a bit out there I'll grant you that, but it's amazing how much they pulled off this story despite the 80s influence. Addonis follows in his father's footsteps, he has his strongheaded attitude, the compulsory urge to prove he's worthy of that belt, the pride in his family name is what keeps him going. And you can feel what Rocky is going through cause he doesn't want to lose this kid like he did his dad, so it builds up so much from the previous films. It does make me wonder how they can cap this off, cause with the Rocky movies every movie raised the stakes a bit higher. The first movie Rocky just wants to go the distance and prove his mettle, second movie Apollo lets his pride get the better of him and fights Rocky for the championship, then the threat is escalated by a tough loud mouthed son of a mother Clubber Lang who challenges for the title, then Jesus Christ Rocky has to go up against the russian superman an almost impossible task that pushes him to the limit. So every movie builds on the characters, and the stakes, and I'm gonna say it right now I do not know how they are going to top Viktor Drago. The dude is a mountain, and the fact we get further character interactions between previous combatants with Ivan and Rocky brings so much to the table. Now I get to fanboy the hell out over my man, Dolph Lundgren. Sweet Christmas is it wonderful seeing him again and they do so much good development for him, and he still has that intimidation and power from the last movie. And truthfully if I went to Philadelphia, ran up the art museum steps, and ffffflipin' Dolph Lundgren was at the top of those stairs I would not be able to count the bricks I would shat. You just never see that, and it is awesome! The whole movie is awesome, go see it! Without a doubt one of my top 10 films of the year. I seriously cannot wait for Creed III, I am ready for that next story and challenge.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Ugh....

Why can't I just get paid for this? So my actual job job called me in tomorrow and Tuesday which means Creed 2 will be pushed until then. And it's the same situation as the last time this happened, wake up before the sun rises and get home by nightfall just to do it all over again. I'm simultaneously happy I got the Kurosawa movies done so early cause if I did them now I would not be a happy camper, yet I'm kinda kicking myself in the ass for doing them early cause I had to push new movies back weeks ahead! November has just been a nightmare this year, thank the gods I only have a grand total of I think 2 new movies in December. I'm so tired. Like what use am I if I can't tell you about a movie the day it comes out? This month just needs to end. Normally I would never say that because of Christmas starting soon but man, I need to break this bad spell beginning with the subsequent end of this month. Hopefully I can get the new Creed done by Wednesday. I am so upset because of this and I don't know what to do. Hang tight for me, I'll be back. I hope.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Ralph Breaks The Internet

Well shoot, they topped the first one.


So not only does Ralph Breaks The Internet top the first movie, it is a contender for my top 10 films of 2018. Like I'm serious, I can scarcely believe how great it is. Set 6 years after the first movie (Can you even believe it's been that long?) Ralph and Vanellope have been hanging out in the arcade and things have been pretty good, but unfortunately disaster happens and Vanellope's game could be unplugged. Ralph takes it upon himself to find a new working part and venture's into the newly founded connection to the internet to help his friend and be a hero once more. Now I strongly urge you, do not fully trust the trailer. Now what I mean by that is, it the trailer sets up this lighthearted romp around the interwebs, but it does so much more than that and actually has weight and importance in this world that Wreck-It Ralph created. The friendship between Ralph and Vanellope is explored more and put to the test, and it ends in one of the most bittersweet ways imaginable. It's like if you took the ending to Lost In Translation, but instead of it being completely soul crushing, it's soul crushing with a bit of happiness. And that is the reason why this film will probably make top 5 on my list, not just because of that ending because it made me think of another perfect movie. They throw references left, right, and center, like showing off the original 1982 Tron Lightcycle grid which made me fanboy so hard it was like seeing Tarkin all over again in Rogue One. Even my inner fanboy cannot claim, "Oh this whole movie should be just Tron and Star Wars!" because it would detract from an excellent, excellent film. I have to say I was expecting more burning satire of the internet and the current society we live in, but nothing really came of it but that's okay. They thread the story so well it makes sense why Vanellope would be in Disney, and I have to say though I'm not a shall we say great fan of the Disney Princess movies, just to see dang near every original actress for each Princess all together on the big screen is incredible! No one would have ever expected to see such a thing in their lifetime, least of all me, so that's just really impressive work from Disney. They put their heart into this story, they wanted you to love the story, they wanted you to connect and enjoy these characters, and they do it so well. I am immensely proud of the ending of this movie, because you just never see it in a Disney movie or hell really any movie! The last Disney movie I saw that did something this real and life experienced was flippin' Lilo & Stitch! This film put me in a mood, I was already quiet, a bit melancholy, and appreciative of my day, now I'm just a bubble of emotions and feel even more happy yet sad then I was! 5/4 stars!! Glorious movie! Go see it!!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Wreck-It Ralph

Crazy to think this was Disney's 3rd video game movie after both excellent Tron movies.


Man I love this movie. To bring an already told and recognizable story as the video game characters we all know and love living real lives, but then adding such a unique and interesting story to it with good characters, funny humor, and outstanding animation makes Wreck-It Ralph a cut above the rest. The movie stars John C. Reiley though you would never know without seeing him do the voice of a video game villain named Ralph who gets sick of being a bad guy and wants to be a hero for a change, forcing him to leave his game in search of a hero medal. Though after obtaining it he soon loses it to a young girl named Vanellope who wants to be a racer and the two form an odd but undeniably charming and loving friendship. There's a lot more fun and crazy plot stuff that happens, but hey I can't spoil the whole movie for you. Now I have to admit a long whiles ago, I surprisingly never saw anything about this movie. Not a trailer, poster, or anything. So when a friend of mine asked me to see the movie with her, I was skeptical because I know the...shall we say lackluster reputation video game movies had colored my perception. And when I heard that Sarah Silverman was in the movieb though by no means I do not hate her, made me kind of grudingly go and dread the movie. My opinion quickly changed when the movie began. The animation is great, and to see more old school video game characters in excellent 3D animation was awesome! The voice acting is top notch and I think they chose wisely in terms of main characters, though Jane Lynch has one of the best supporting roles. I appreciated the video game references and they didn't constantly show them off, so even if you're not a gamer you can still love the movie. What makes the movie work is the imaginitive plot, and the likable characters and trust me when I say I am ready to see the new movie. Though it does make one wonder what they could do after you've done the internet! But I guess we shall see. Watch this one for sure, and I'll let you know what I think of the sequel tomorrow!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Grinch

This is the best comedy marketing ad I have seen in awhile. Not only do they release it 2 days after October but the fact that the poster says, it's never too early to hate the holidays. That is genius.


Thank God this movie did not suck, in fact it was great, and it's the perfect film for a certain holiday I hate. Enjoy that, it's the only rhyme I'm doing. So this film take it's own unique spin to the Dr. Seuss classic, done in spectacular animation with a small but really good cast. If they didn't say who voiced the Grinch you would never know it was Benedict Cumberbatch he does so well and brings his own personal flavor to a timeless character. It follows the book better than you would expect but still with new elements that are sure to impress, with comedy that works and visuals to dazzle all done with Illumination Studios usual style. (Whew, nearly dodged that one.) Does it top the original? Of course by no means, but it tells the story well and for that you should be pleased. The visuals are gorgeous especially the atmospheric shots, to the point where you can literally see the sparkling decoration lights reflected in someone's eyes. That...is incredible! The comedy is great almost to the point I feel I was having the most fun out of everybody in that theater. I've never identified more with the Grinch than in this movie, it's kinda scary how similar we are but what the heck I take that as a compliment. He was able to steal Christmas and that is something to be admired, though all I can do is try not to be tired of this looming Christmas nightmare. But I urge you to see this movie, there's something to love, something to like, all of which will make you smile bright. (Curses!) So that's all the time we have for today but with any luck I'll be back soon to look at another good video game movie.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindlewald

I know, I'm late. And I'm not too sure if I got a headache from this movie.


I have such conflicted emotions on this movie. I feel I have to make my stance clear on this matter, I am what I like to call a 'light' fan of Harry Potter. Really like the films, I have some nostalgia in play since I was 6 when the first movie hit, and me and my mom even if it was a school day went to see the new Harry Potter movies opening day. But I'm not that hardcore into it, I was more a regular fan in my youth but I still enjoy those movies today! I greatly enjoyed the first Fantastic Beasts movie, it was seeing something new yet familiar and it was interesting. I've heard some people say the movie is cluttered and busy, and yes I can safely say that the plot is nothing but heavy, involved, and busy! So much happens that it actually bogs the film down! Now some people I'm sure could look past it and still enjoy it, and there are bright spots in this bleak sky! I can honestly say Jude Law is the best part of the whole movie, but he's barely in it. To see Professor Dumbledore so young, and learning new things about him is wonderful and Jude Law pulls it off fully! Eddie Redmayne is still wonderful as Newt and still exudes some specific Time Lord traits, but it still doesn't save the film. You know what I think is the worst part of the whole movie? Not the heavy plot, or the several instances that does not pay off in the end, but the fact that I have this nudging feeling that this movie panders to Harry Potter fans. Now what do I mean by that you might ask? Of course it does, to a degree, it's a spinoff of an acclaimed and popular series! But there is more to it than that, for me. It's like the movie needs to lean back on the Harry Potter franchise because there is so little that the Fantastic Beasts characters contribute to the story, and I just had a revelation! You know how some people say the plot of Raiders Of The Lost Ark would end exactly the same way if Indiana Jones would not have gotten involved? I think that's utter rubbish to begin with, but this movie I think would end the exact same way if Newt did not appear. Nothing happens! But back to the main point, it's like the filmmakers were like, "Hey! You remember Dumbledore, and Professor McGonigle, and Hogwarts, and the LeStrange family, and the phoenix in Dumbledore's office, and the snake Nagini? Guess what! It's all in this movie because we didn't have enough original character content to fill this movie!" and it hurts the movie. I like to call this the Star Wars prequel syndrome, now I know Star Wars references itself at nauseom and that is a bit distracting but the Harry Potter world does not need this fanservice pandering, not at this level. You can reference Hogwarts or the other wizarding schools, or a older character that pops up later, but when you flat out show the sorcerer's stone.....no!! Ohh my head....I have no idea if I can recommend this. If you read this whole review and still want to see the movie, by all means do. But with this much plot jam packed in this movie, I can truthfully say this franchise will not last beyond the 3rd movie. It will be a trilogy, no more no less. It can't go on for 8 movies, because there's just not much there! By the time the first movie hit, J.K. Rowling was on what, the 4th maybe even 5th book? She had a plan for a beginning, a middle, and an end. This series does not have that! If it makes it to movie #4 I will be amazed. Alright, I'm done. Hopefully The Grinch does not suck as bad as the 2004 movie, I'll let you know tomorrow. I genuinely wish to do all the Harry Potter movies either before the end of the year or not that long into the new year. Because I need a pick me up to remind me why I looked forward to this movie.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

In Retrospect: Solo

It's always a good day when I watch a Star Wars movie.



I am severely disappointed in anybody who boycotted this movie, this is a fine movie. It's the western Star Wars movie I wanted and it did good by sticking to the lore and making a fun adventure movie. Yes I still take slight issue with L3 but not as harsh as before, and Enfys Nest still brings my piss to a boil but that's only 1 bad thing and one slight annoyance in a really good Star Wars movie. I got even more of a very young Harrison Ford in Alden's performance this time around and he did fine work. I doubt Disney would ever do a sequel but at the very least we should have a Lando movie cause let's face facts, Donald Glover is the man. He is so cool, funny, and has an oustanding screen chemistry with Alden that I wouldn't mind seeing a movie with Lando out on one of his outlandish adventures! Maybe not to how he acquired Cloud City but a completely original adventure like this movie. I have no issue saying I bought this movie with pride and excitement to see it again and have set a high note for the day ahead. True I wanted some more Imperial might but what we got was great and I fully understood why we got less Imperial action in this movie. Disney I swear, you either make Star Wars Empire or you make a film dedicated to the glory of the Galactic Empire because I do not share your optimistic appraisal of the Rebel Alliance, I am most displeased with your apparent lack of progress. I hope you do so for your sake, The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

In Retrospect: Teen Titans Go To The Movies

Rest in peace Stan Lee.


Yeah, after that very sad news I needed an upbeat movie so I picked this one. And it made me so happy, not just to see Stan in I think his final film cameo but to enjoy the movie that I continue to love. I think the big factor of why I do not only In Retrospects but even 2nd Viewing's are because the first time around you're swept up in the experience. Watching the Titans face Slade for the first time in all it's wacky, lore filled humor with such crisp and beautiful animation is awesome, so on second viewing I appreciated the film more and dare even say enjoyed it more than the first time. If the rumors are true, Teen Titans Go will end next year and the original Titans will come back which by no means is a bad thing. I love both shows but my absolute favorite episodes of Teen Titans were the goof off episodes, no real serious plot, just fun antics with these great characters though I enjoyed every episode I saw. So to have a show devoted to comedy and the absent seriousness was something to enjoy. I love Teen Titans Go, it is a wonderful show that is bulletproof to any criticism, and is more akin to the 60s Batman tv show than the 2000s cartoon. And honestly, I'm very happy they got a movie, ley alone a theatrically wide released movie before the end. Not many shows or hell cartoons get such luxuries, so there's something to be admired. True not every joke works but there are at least 2 good laughs to every silent dismissal, and it's the wacky personalities of this world that make it so endearing and fun to watch. And to see Stan Lee in a DC movie just for the love of him doing cameos is something wonderful in this world, the man loved comics and superheroes and it didn't matter if they were his or not, he appreciated and built characters and stories that will no doubt last long after we're gone. And though a DC fan I am forever, even I loved Stan Lee and his true dedication to the art and importance of comic book characters. Excelsior indeed my friend.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Akira Kurosawa's Dreams

A bittersweet ending to it all.



Akira Kurosawa's Dreams in my mind could be viewed as a perfect movie to some. It contains 8 vignettes, each story having a different style and message and that's why I can see someone saying it's a perfect movie. At the end of the day you will have your absolute favorite story, and mine personally would be Village Of The Watermills. It's sort of difficult to explain why, I love the conversation between the young man and the elder talking about life and the way they live and the ending to the whole film is very life affirming and did choke me up a bit. Whether the film is talking about life, death, childhood wonder, or facing the demons of your past and future it does it beautifully, with enough time in each story to not only appreciate the message but the visuals. The story Crows was a very close first pick for me, and mainly due to the ending. Now I need to talk about the time period this was made, the film was released in 1990 and though the effects in the ending of Crows could just be brushed off as a green screen but I don't care it looks great! The whole film just feels like it was made in the 90s, not by the dated fashion trends or terminology but just how the film was shot. Now I may be going out on a severely thin limb here, but I think once a very, very long time ago I saw this movie. Not the whole thing but maybe one or two of the stories. I might have watched it on one of the premium movie channels like HBO or Starz back in the day, and it really made me feel like I was that young again. I have such good memories of seeing different kinds of movies from different parts of the world at that age, whether it be a Heisei Godzilla movie, a piece of French cinema like Amelie, or just a movie good or bad made here in the States, this film took me back to that and I loved it. It's such a good movie, I mean unfairly good like I can't say one bad thing about it kind of good. It reinforces the fact that film is made for the amazing and the beautiful and this particular movie does it in flying colors.

So concludes my initial journey into Kurosawa's works. It was greatly interesting and even touching, and no doubt I'll come to own and watch these movies time and again. But our work is not finished this week, for there is much to return to and to explore.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Ran

Our first Kurosawa film in color!


After Red Beard in 1965, Akira Kurosawa didn't direct for about 15 years later and showed that his classic example of samurai cinema still worked. Ran was a project Kurosawa worked on for the better part of a decade before shooting even began, essentially adapting King Lear with Japanese elements the same way with Throne Of Blood being Macbeth, and I must admit I have seen Macbeth (with Ian McKellen and Judi Dench to boot!) but I've never seen or read King Lear. So as the introduction to such a famous story for me, I was impressed by the results. The story focuses more on a family than a central character (kinda) where an aging lord passes on his kingdom to his three sons but they begin warring on each other and eventually on their father. What follows is family drama too extreme for television. The main selling point of this movie to me and many others is the visuals, for quite some time I have heard about Ran having frames of celluloid that is art, images comprised so expertly and beautifully that it has been praised more than I think any other Kurosawa film in terms of visuals. But the story is told so well, with actors who give it their all, and you are so invested and interested in the story that you don't even realize there is hardly any kind of music score. I think I heard maybe 3 orchestral pieces through this almost 3 hour film, and I didn't even notice until there was about 45 minutes left of movie. So it's purely focused on the performances and the events of the story, with some fantastic scenery to go with it. The characters are also done very well, but I think hands down is Kurogane who is basically the lord's advisor, and I can pinpoit it to two scenes, one I can talk about and one I can't. The first scene shows he has commitment to his superior and will abide their wishes while still giving counsel, but will not follow anyone blindly and has no problem announcing that. It is a delightful scene. And the other....well, let's just say he did exactly what I wanted him to do and it was glorious! I greatly enjoyed this movie and highly suggest you watch it if you have a 3 hour gap in your day and want something beautiful. And sadly, all good things must come to an end. We conclude this Kurosawa marathon with his final directorial film released after he passed away, Akira Kurosawa's Dreams.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Sanjuro

I daresay I enjoyed this one more.



Not that there is anything bad about Yojimbo, but I feel it set the stage for another film despite that not being the case. Kurosawa had to rewrite this movie in order for it to work as a sequel to Yojimbo, and honestly you can't tell. Our protagonist from the first film literally is awoken by the plot, a group of nine samurai discuss the corruption in their clan and want to put an end to it, our ronin tells them to cut it out with the racket but eventually helps them in trying to take out the source of corruption. It does help I haven't seen this story before, but the movie is fine on it's own regardless. Toshiro Mifune though seeing him in several roles and always saying this is his best performance, I feel this will be hard to top cause he finally had two movies to build on the same character, that is really awesome to see and his character fits several characters I have seen before. His introduction feels almost Spike from Cowboy Bebop and he has little character touches that are interesting. I have no issue saying the best part in the movie is the barn scene with the two geishas. I can't explain why though, it's a quiet, pleasant, and slow scene with really good dialogue but the performances is what sells it especially with Mifune. I mean come on, you don't get hired by the same acclaimed director over and over because you're good friends with him. The look he gives when the two geishas are looking at him in intrigue and possible affection, he doesn't really know how to react and goes off to do something. That can say a lot about a character who we know nothing about. It's just little touches like that which really elevates the movie from the last. Again, the action is peppered throughout but the ending climax is so good I honestly don't mind. It's not crucial to see Yojimbo before Sanjuro but it adds more to Mifune's ronin character. Whether you watch one or both, there's something to admire and appreciate in both.


And we sadly could not find Red Beard, Toshiro Mifune's last colaboration with Kurosawa, I checked everywhere and no one had it to stream or rent or anything. So we skip to Ran, what many regard as Kurosawa's most epic film, retelling another Shakespeare classic.

Yojimbo

It's always good to go back to the source.



You know, it's funny. Yojimbo was the brainchild of Kurosawa who loved western cinema and wanted to bring it full front to Japan and was inspired by the Western genre, which led the world to appreciate his cinema leading to a Western remake of his Samurai film. We all come full circle some point in life. So how is Yojimbo? Well truthfully if you've seen A Fistful Of Dollars, you've seen Yojimbo. It's almost point for point the same film not just in terms of plot, but characters, scenes, and even certain shots. But I greatly enjoy Fistful Of Dollars, and to see it with samurai instead of cowboys is a really cool idea. I look at it almost as an Elseworlds story, they really should do more stuff like that where you take a popular concept and put a unique twist to it. Like if Star Wars was not a space opera but a Shakespearean drama, or if The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly was told in modern times or hell how about a Scream-esque idea but set in the 1940s. You can find cool and interesting ideas like that. So seeing Yojimbo though heavily familiar, was still really good and kept my attention the whole time. So if you want to know story just read my Fistful Of Dollars review and swap the word cowboy with samurai, it's a good story and though our main character is sort of enigmatic to the point where we have no idea what his name even is, you can tell a lot. This is one of, if not the only Kurosawa film that has a sequel so it greatly intrigues me to see what this ronin samurai will see next, it gives both films this sense of an actual world and it's not just a single adventure with this guy but he's a real person and continues on after the events have played out. So just to be able to see what he gets into next is really fascinating to me, I wish a tv series could do something like that. Take like a Sherlock run time, make it about 6 episodes, and just follow this character whether they be samurai or not and kinda do this movie for the first episode. You run into them, no idea who they are or where they come from, and just sort of follow their lives which will have some major and minor moments that shape their character. Even to the point where we don't care where they came from but we are interested in where they are going. That could be an incredible show and really be something no one has seen before. So I am thrilled to see what happens next in the sequel, Sanjuro.

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Hidden Fortress

Yeah I can draw the connections here.




So after several dramatic and adult stories, Kurosawa decided to do Toho a favor and create a more widely enjoyable, sort of film for anybody, where it was more fun and adventure than serious storytelling, leading us to The Hidden Fortress. The story follows two peasants who encounter a general and a princess, who bribe them with gold to help them reach friendly territory after they have lost a war. Similar aspects to another popular film, but it's own entity it still is. It's actually a leisurely paced movie for a good long while, dang near to the end. So it gives you plenty of time to get to know these characters, and I really have to say for once Toshiro Mifune was not the stand out actor in this film though he gives a very strong yet mostly silent performance, Misa Uehara who plays the princess is incredible. Though she doesn't speak that much her physical acting demands a strong presence, there's one scene where this guy is being a complete creep and she looks like she is about to kick his ass 8 different ways till Sunday all through facial expression and body stance. That is really good acting, and I would love to see her work in other films! So yeah, yet again Kurosawa gives a very different film from my expectations but was really good nevertheless! Story is the strong point, but the characters, scenery, and dialogue are excellent as well. And that is all for today, tomorrow we go double feature yet again with Yojimbo and Sanjuro.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Throne Of Blood

The first thing I have to say is, if literal Shakespearean drama is not your style of movie, though I do urge you to see this movie I can understand.




Throne Of Blood is Macbeth set in feudal Japan, and told accurately but with such a different twist obviously due to the culture but I'll be damned if I said it did not work. And what really shocked me was how unsettling and eerie it got, not just with the spirit in the woods but the atmospheric shots are creepy man and you feel this uneasiness in the forest where the spirit lives, I dare say both technically and immersively those are the best scenes. And strangely it was calming for me, hearing this spirit softly speak and sing of things to come in this eerie but beautiful location was a real treat. And apparently they built the sets near Mt. Fuji to get the mist and fog effect which I have to applaud for sticking that close to the scottish geography the story is set in, but man does this film look gorgeous at times. I got two words why you should see this movie: Mifune and climax. Ask anybody who has seen this movie and they will say the best part of the whole film is the ending. But Mifune man, I mean he goes out there and just wrecks this role, in the best way possible. This is acting if I have ever seen it, and even then I can't say some of it is not genuine. In the climax, well....when you see it you will know what I am talking about but let's just say, the terror in his eyes is incredibly real. And the actress who plays the role of Lady Washizu, who is clearly not mentally well from scene one is what sets the film into motion and drives events forward, she is enigmatic to me. Like I can't stand her, she's not a nice or even normal person, like I said she is off her rocker fast in this movie, and yet I cannot take my eyes off her when she is on screen. She is that character you love to hate without a doubt. But yes, if Shakespeare is something you like by all means watch Throne Of Blood. It is a very, very good movie and I genuinely enjoyed it a great deal. I wonder what tomorrow will hold though, seeing as The Hidden Fortress is next on my list. Will it enhance my enjoyment of Star Wars? We shall see.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Seven Samurai

Okay fine, this movie topped Ikiru!



So yeah, I don't think it's any mystery Seven Samurai is a great film, made in the golden age of Japanese cinema with Kurosawa on top form throughout. It's funny I've seen this movie before, or rather should I say I have seen this story before. Concerning a group of villagers that have been raided by bandits on a regular basis, a group of farmers set out to hire samurai in order to protect their town and kill the bandits. Not only was this made into The Magnificent Seven, a trend in western films that happened several times with Kurosawa films essentially being remade, with Yojimbo and A Fistful Of Dollars, this movie and The Magnificent Seven, and obviously The Hidden Fortress and Star Wars. But to the people out there who are my age and grew up watching Pixar movies in their early years, this plot may sound very familiar to A Bug's Life. You think I'm fooling around, but it's true! Go watch the movie, I'll wait......we back? Good, on with the review! Yet again here we are with a character driven film, and I have to admire the fact that all seven samurai are given a lot of character and have their own individuality, and though I am terrible with names each I can tell from the other. And I couldn't help but notice the characters of Kikuchiyo and Kyuzo seem oddly familiar to Mugen and Jin from Samurai Champloo so that was a great realization for me. I do firmly believe Kurosawa peaked with this movie, I mean all of his movies have his visual style and there are some really good shots through Stray Dog, Rashomon, and Ikiru but he perfected his editing and camera shots in this movie, and from what I've heard the shooting was strenuous and went over schedule and budget to the point where Toho almost went bankrupt but thankfully they are still around. So Japan got a double dose of greatness in 1954 with Seven Samurai and Gojira, cementing the company's status as THE major succesful movie studio in Japan to the point where you can see murals of both Kurosawa's films and Godzilla on either sides of the studio's entrance. Kurosawa put a lot of attention, and detail, and passion into this film and it does show. He knew exactly what shot he wanted, how to get it, and how to edit it all together. And while there were issues on set and during all stages of production, it became a succesful film and still renowned over 60 years later leading yet another point to the term "art through adversity". And we will continue the samurai trend tomorrow with a twist in Throne Of Blood.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Ikiru

This is gonna be a real hard movie to top.



Throughout this little marathon I've been steadily getting through, each movie has been better than the last. Stray Dog was good and had some interest, Rashomon had a lot of intrigue and was fascinating to watch, but Ikiru made it from really good to outstanding! And not only is this going to be a hard movie to top, but Takashi Shimura's performamce is going to be hard to top. His acting in this movie is amazing even though he doesn't say that much, his eyes can speak volume and the subject matter is what I think counts for so much of the greatness of the film. The story follows an older man named Kanji who discovers he has stomach cancer and is given a short time to live. He realizes he has wasted 30 years of his life stuck behind a desk and tries to cope with his disease and trying to make the last few months of living worthwhile. It goes much deeper than that, and done so very well I can barely describe it. It's such a wonderful movie, that really has not only a life affirming message but also makes you appreciate the life you have. There's quite a few scenes that easily made me an emotional mess but also just absolutely floored. The scene where Kanji sings Life Is Brief just made me freeze in sheer heartbreaking wonder, it's a chilling scene yet so beautiful too. And I'm going to level with you seriously, I have seen many funerals in my life. Far too many. And I have never seen a more real, crushing, respectful, or loving funeral scene in any movie before. It's tough to watch, especially for me, but it is....Jesus. Guys. This is coming from a man who mostly detests life stories, I'm not one for personal drama of an individual captured on film, it's odd saying but I'm not one for movies about life. That is the most bizarre thing I've ever said, and YET I love this movie, I would watch this movie time and time again. It's a excellent film that should be seen by all at some point in your life. It says so much despite it being a simple and yet very sad story that hits home a little too close for most people. I actually thought the name of the main character was Ikiru but on discovering it was Kanji I typed it into a translator, and the meaning of the word Ikiru is, to live. And that is what one should do, the only thing you can do is to make the time you have on this world worthwhile and mean something to the other people in your life. Take that away from this if nothing else dear ones.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Rashomon

Yet another very unpredictable but very good film.




The film that put Japanese cinema on the map, Rashomon takes the story of a bandit, a newlywed wife, her husband samurai, and a woodcutter that discovers the samurai's body. A court hearing is issued where all the parties speak their own truths, and the woodcutter along with a monk and a random passerby tries to piece the crime together and know the real story. I greatly enjoy this form of storytelling, yes I admit crime stories are far from something I enjoy but mysteries can be very entertaining. This is a film that you don't casually watch from the sidelines, you're right in there piecing the stories together and finding common facts that are in all the accounts. But the film does go much deeper than just, oh we gotta figure out what all happened between these people and the death of a samurai, the concept of good and bad more specifically morality are called into questioning. Because as you hear each person recount the events, differences come up and they all have reasons to lie. So it takes a much deeper look at people in terms of desires, character, and choices which I think is why so many people consider this film so great. And Kurosawa's directing style has pretty much hit the mark we will see throughout his other films, with dynamic and fluid camera movement, long takes that can showcase so much even at a distance, and the cuts though seeming a little off do work to the movie's advantage. I gotta say though Mifune is glorious in this movie, his whole attitude towards acting in this movie I can sum up in a simple phrase, go hard or go home. The frantic and deranged energy he potrayed in Stray Dog is multiplied tenfold in this movie, I cannot take my eyes off him when he is on screen! He's such a wild card which means you can never tell what on earth is gonna happen next, I swear you can see the literal fire in his eyes in some shots, the man just conquers this role and this film singlehandedly. We see Takashi again in another smaller role, but he makes up for it entirely in the last scene in my opinion. Usually most people when they decide to watch Kurosawa they start here, and I'm not arguing this is a bad place to start. If you want the feudal, samurai driven Kurosawa films then this is the place to start, but I didn't want to do strictly his samurai films. I really wanted to reach all corners and have a real Kurosawa 101, spanning his career from the beginning to the end. Which will lead us into his next film, Ikiru.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Stray Dog

I felt it was time not just in terms of reviews, but my life to finally see some Kurosawa films. We'll go chronoligically with his directed films to see how it all began and how it will end.




I didn't know what to really expect with Stray Dog, considered to be Kurosawa's first major succesful film, it sounded very simple. A young rookie cop has lost his colt handgun to a pickpocket and must track him down. Ridiculously simple plot, straight out of a detective novel but done very well. It was very different from what I expected, when I read the plot synopsis I pictured a Japanese noir film with a lot of close calls, dark atmosphere, and one hell of a climax. The movie was far from it but still very engaging and great. I have to admit the film took me for a few loops, for instance after we've followed our protagonist and seen a pretty good procedural set up which is quite interesting to see especially in 1949 before police procedural media was a dime a dozen, we follow this guy for a good near 10 minutes just wandering the streets. We have no idea who he is, why he's roaming about, or where he is going. At first, it seems kind of obvious who this guy is, but we keep following him, he looks for people but is always on the move. Again, you can guess kind of why he is looking for specific people, but it turns it completely on it's head and surprises you not once but twice. Despite me not greatly loving crime dramas that much, this movie did a good job at keeping the story interesting and entertaining. Toshiro Mifune had his first collaboration with Akira Kurosawa in this movie, a relationship that lasted the majority of Kurosawa's career as a filmmaker, and this is a good bar he set for his performance. They constantly refer the pickpocket to a mad dog, but I feel Mifune is the eponymous stray dog, not as experienced as his older partner played by Takashi Shimura and often feverishly distraught and highly punishing of himself for losing his gun. He looks at this particular case as the end all be all of his career as a police officer, not focusing on the bigger picture of serving the citizens but serving himself, just trying to correct his mistake and is faced with heavy consequences that he constantly berates himself for, even though some of it is not his fault. A stray dog roaming the streets in search of his own personal gain. I love that, and Kurosawa's directing style though not at his height of technique as later on is still great. His cuts are still based around motion, and despite it being black and white the film has depth and good contrast, he knows when to crank up the pressure and energy but also takes lots of time building to it. I would say this is the place to start with both Kurosawa and Mifune, it's a humble beginning to an incredible duo and sets the stage for future classics of film which we will be continuing tomorrow with the movie that made Kurosawa known around the world, Rashomon.