Saturday, April 30, 2016

Raining in the Mountain A.K.A. Kong shan ling yu (1979)

A Hong Kong Taiwanese kung fu drama directed by King Hu.
There is a precious scroll at a temple and many people seek to steal it from the monks. However, the monks know that the value lies in the meaning of the scroll. They thwart the attacks of the thieves anyway.
This was alright. The plot was pretty clear, but there were way too many characters. I really liked the ending though. The video and audio were many steps above the other King Hu movies I've seen. This was definitely because of better camera and audio equipment. It did still retain the over-foleyed movements like footsteps and fighting action movements. There were not enough fights and not enough flying. This fact cannot be stressed enough. For the guy famous for basically creating wuxia to not have enough flying and fighting in a well-produced film is unforgivable. Overall, this was the most disappointing of his films. I rate it o.k. because it was still a good movie, just nowhere near as good as it should have been.

Dragon Inn A.K.A. Dragon Gate Inn (1967)

A Taiwanese wuxia directed by King Hu.
A group of rebels meet at an inn that is occupied by soldiers of a fearsome military leader. After they beat the soldiers, they lure the leader out to fight, but he brings an army.
Pretty standard wuxia. We've got complex political plots, a small group of heroes skilled in martial arts, sword fighting and wire work. These King Hu flicks from the '60s and '70s really defined the genre. This one featured no night fighting (yay!) so all of the choreography was visible. The plot did not really pull me in because it featured more politics than individual drama. The first hero's introduction scene at the inn was my favorite part. He comes in armed with an umbrella and proves that the whole gang of soldiers is no match for him. His character was really good, but the others were under-developed. The audio was a little treble-biased on the version that I watched, but the subtitles were spot on. Overall, a definitive work with some flaws. It's definitely worth watching if you're into this kind of thing. Anyone else would probably think it was boring. I rate this adequate.

Friday, April 29, 2016

A Touch of Zen (1971)

A Taiwanese kung fu wuxia directed by King Hu.
A poor scholar stumbles upon political intrigue in his small town. Three rebels are hiding there and are eventually revealed. He helps them to fight against an entire army.
This was alright. It's obscurity has boosted it's reputation beyond reality. The plot is good, but extremely complex and inconclusive. The characters are memorable and have good roles. I must criticize the choreography and camera-work simultaneously here with a quote: "Let's film half the fight scenes in a deep forest on a moonless night. That way everyone will see the fighters moving". There were scenes that could have been shot with the lens cap on. Mostly it was the gleam of a sword on a black background. What's going on? They must be fighting because I can hear whoosh, clang and hyaah. There were day fights and these were amazing. They included unique techniques, special weapons and lots of Hong Kong wire. Overall, not as good as it's supposed to be, but not bad. I rate this adequate.

Herdsmen of the Sun A.K.A. Wodaabe - Die Hirten der Sonne (1989)

A West German documentary directed by Werner Herzog.
The lives of an African tribe called the Wodaabe are shown. Their general activities and some refugees of drought stuck in a city are shown, but the main focus is on a large gathering with rituals and dancing.
This was very unique. That's mainly what it takes to impress me. From the first shot of the men's faces I could tell that it would not be boring to watch. Herzog includes lots of interviews with various people, usually through a translator with voiceovers and subtitles added later. The video was the most varied, showing the extremes of trash pickers in the city to vibrant costumes of the dancers. At only about 50 minutes, anyone should have time to watch this. Overall, my favorite Herzog documentary. I rate this awesome. WATCH IT!!!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The White Diamond (2004)

A documentary directed by Werner Herzog.
An aeronautical engineer has built an airship which he is trying to fly over a waterfall and rainforest canopy. On his previous attempt, the cinematographer was killed by an airship crash.
This was alright. Everything made sense with the plot working in a linear fashion. There were some interruptions to fill in back-story, but these were minimal. The technical aspects were good. I could hear and see everything clearly. I wasn't really blown away by anything standing out as unique or creative. There was one thing that I found funny. The engineer is talking about a jetpack in the beginning and it reminded me of the interview scene from The Royal Tenenbaums. "Wild Cat... pchew". Overall, a decent, standard documentary. I rate it o.k.

Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, a Tale of Life (2011)

An American British German documentary directed by Werner Herzog.
Interviews are conducted after some teenagers have murdered a woman and stolen her cars and the shootout that occurred after this. The surviving teens from the incident are on Death Row in prison.
How many of the interviewees can we record crying? would have been an accurate title for this. Even the reverend who works at the execution area cries at the beginning. The only person not crying on camera was the guy about to be executed. They interviewed the families of people who died in the incident as well as a past warden of the execution area. It was all very depressing. The video was of decent quality and included police crime scene videos. The audio was decent and I could hear everyone. This was just not what I like to watch. Overall, I don't see why anyone would want to watch such a depressing film. I rate it poor for being such poorly chosen subject matter.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga (2010)

A German documentary directed by Werner Herzog.
This film follows the lives of trappers in Siberia.
This was really cool. The video was awesome. It clearly showed the trappers working and included unique and creative shots. The voiceovers were well done too. Herzog narrated in his usual style and there was a translator for the trapper. It went into great detail about building tools, maintaining huts and how the dogs are treated. Overall, worth watching. I rate this good.

Grizzly Man (2005)

An American documentary directed by Werner Herzog.
A nature enthusiast spends multiple years living close to bears in Alaska before being killed by them.
I had to turn this off at 18 minutes. Timothy was a piece of shit. He annoyed me to no end. Seeing him made me angry and the sound of his voice invoked my rage. He speaks to the camera like he's the king of the world and speaks to the bears like they are his pets or children. I'm glad they killed him. It's surprising that they tolerated his presence so long. In accordance with my turn off policy, I rate this shit. DO NOT WATCH!!!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Encounters at the End of the World (2007)

An American documentary directed by Werner Herzog.
The film team goes to Antarctica to see places and interview people.
Although desultory, this was a good documentary of the journey. The interviews were very revealing and told lots about the people. Everyone elaborated on their past and how they came to live and work near McMurdo Station. I liked the bus driver's interview the most. There were also good camera shots of the natural beauty and ugliness of the area. Underwater shots captured aquatic life's beauty and McMurdo Station shots captured the ugliness of a perpetual construction site. The beginning included a section of Herzog's questions for the trip that was often absurd, but always thought provoking. As far as providing an accurate depiction of the journey, this really does a good job. I rate this good for being realistic and all-encompassing.

Bells from the Deep: Faith and Superstition in Russia (1993)

A German American documentary directed by Werner Herzog.
Various belief systems of Russian people are examined with interviews of leaders and followers.
This was kind of cool. It showed a wide range of spiritual ideas and an even wider array of characters. If I were asked to pick a religion based on this film, I would be with the people visiting the shaman in the beginning. They seemed reasonable enough. They had come for some advice and to have incense blown on them. This section also contained throat singing performances by local musicians. There was also an interview with a former film projectionist who now rings church bells. He seemed relatively sane too. Everyone else seemed bat shit nuts to me. Most of all, I would never follow the Jesus impersonator. The best story was told by a woman at the end who went to a lake that supposedly contains a sunken city. She told of her encounter with angels there and hearing bells from the sunken city. Overall, pretty cool and good variety. I rate this adequate.

Ballad of the Little Soldier A.K.A. Ballade vom kleinen Soldaten (1984)

A West German documentary directed by Werner Herzog.
The battle between the Nicaraguans and Sandanistas has claimed the lives of family members and forced survivors into refugee camps. The children of these camps are sent to military training to fight the group that killed their relatives and burned their homes.
This was alright. It seemed pretty standard/sub-par for a documentary. There were some things that stood out though. One man is singing and when the camera pulls back, it reveals his amazingly decorated guitar. In the end the filmmaker comments on how the situation is similar to WWII where he saw young men die in a similar way when he was their age. Overall, not bad, but not good. I rate it o.k.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner A.K.A. Die Große Ekstase des Bildschnitzers Steiner (1974)

A West German documentary directed by Werner Herzog.
A champion ski jumper has difficulties and record-breaking jumps.
This was pretty good. The plot did not make much sense. The fact that Steiner's normal job is carpentry was not explained at all. The film starts with him showing beautiful carved wood sculptures, but without any explanation that this is his day job. His character as a champion ski jumper was portrayed quite well though. The camera-work showed the jumps in great detail with the use of high speed cameras. The sountrack was typical of Herzog, with Popol Vuh supplying slow and ambient music. Overall, not too shabby. I'm liking Herzog's documentaries more than his fiction films. I rate this adequate.

Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997)

A French British German documentary directed by Werner Herzog, starring Dieter Dengler.
An American fighter pilot who was shot down over Laos tells the story of his imprisonment by the Viet Cong.
This is Rescue Dawn (2007) as a documentary. The best part is that they got the actual guy to star in the film. He shows all of his quirks and tells his whole story, mostly in the locations where it happened and with accurate props. They even used accurate extras. Some of the Laotian extras seemed a little bit uncomfortable with their roles in the film, but the others did a great job. They even went to the point of tying Dieter up and marching him through the jungle. He also explains that the Laotians were not always abusive towards him. They taught him some jungle survival skills that the American instructional films could not. Just as the tutorial video is mocked in Rescue Dawn, Dieter mocks the film in this. It was really cool to see the true story in documentary fashion that inspired a film "based on a true story". Overall, this is mandatory viewing to accompany Rescue Dawn. I rate it good.

Lessons of Darkness A.K.A. Lektionen in Finsternis (1992)

A German French British documentary directed by Werner Herzog.
The effects of war, oil and fire on the Middle East are shown.
This was all about camera-work. They used lots of truck-mounted and helicopter shots to show the bleak landscape of the Kuwait desert after the war. They also got some good closeups and used slow motion to change the speed of spouting oil and flames. The light narration was done from a very disconnected point of view. It begins with "A planet in our solar system" and describes the oil workers as creatures. What little narrative element there is seems like an afterthought to getting good videos. Slow classical music makes up the soundtrack, as in most Herzog films I've seen so far. Overall, I would say that it is worth watching the 54 minute duration just for the video aspect alone. I rate this adequate.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Braindead A.K.A. Dead Alive (1992)

A New Zealand horror comedy directed by Peter Jackson.
A man falls in love with a grocery store clerk. While his mom is spying on them at the zoo, she is bitten by a mutant animal and becomes very sick. She infects other people and the man tries to hide the zombies from his girlfriend, but the truth ends up being exposed when a money grubbing relative tries to get the mother's house and money.
This was cool. Peter Jackson has a twisted sense of humor that I really appreciate. The plot held my attention, but the characters were slightly underdeveloped. The main focus was on special effects here. They did that pretty well. The monsters were disgusting and the blood flowed like a river. It's no secret that the ending of the film is a total bloodbath. A blood shower even! I'm not spoiling that in any way because if you watch this, you knew what you were getting into. The technical aspects were well executed. I liked the scene where the guy hides behind a trolley, then a car until it drives away. That was well planned and showed some thought with camera-work and acting. Overall, creepy, disgusting and funny. Just what I wanted. I rate this good. Watch it!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Rescue Dawn (2006)

An American war film directed by Werner Herzog, starring Christian Bale and Steve Zahn.
A fighter jet pilot is flying over Laos during Vietnam when his plane is shot down. He is captured by Viet Cong and spends months in captivity with a group of other Americans.
This was alright. The plot and music were both VERY slow. The characters were memorable. The main character has an enemy-loving complex and one of the other captives is crazy. The guards even had personalities. The video was amazing. It showed everything very clearly and included slow panning nature shots of the jungle. The audio was not so great because most of the characters whispered for most of the film. Overall, not too shabby. I rate this adequate.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Queen of the Desert (2015)

An American drama directed by Werner Herzog, starring Nicole Kidman and James Franco.
A young British woman moves to the Middle East and falls in love. Her boyfriend dies and she decides to wander the desert.
Horrible. This was duller than watching paint dry or grass grow. The plot did not hold my attention and I hated the characters. It was all shot beautifully, but that's like polishing a turd at this point. The music was very slow, as in most Werner Herzog films. Overall, a technically sound klunker. I rate this shit because I wanted to turn it off from the very beginning, but watched the whole thing anyway. SHIT! DO NOT WATCH!!!!

Nosferatu the Vampyre A.K.A. Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979)

A West German horror directed by Werner Herzog, starring Klaus Kinski, Isabelle Adjani and Bruno Ganz.
A retelling of the Dracula story.
This seemed like it was all in slow motion. The soundtrack never going above 40bpm did not help things. The only scene with any action was Jonathan Harker rampaging through the castle, slamming doors. The plot was good and I liked the ending more than any of the other Dracula films I've seen. The characters were not developed at all. Like zero, none, static extras. The video was all beautifully shot. There were majestic landscapes on the way to the castle and epic amounts of rats in the city. The opening credits of mummified corpses complete with genital shots was a little too much, even for me. Overall, the slowest Dracula film ever made. I rate this o.k.

Friday, April 15, 2016

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? (2009)

A German American drama directed by Werner Herzog, starring Willem Dafoe, Michael Shannon, Chloe Sevigny and Udo Kier.
A mentally disturbed man has just murdered his mother and the police have surrounded his house. His fiancee and the director of the play that he was in arrive and tell the back-story of how this happened.
This was pretty good. The characters were acted very well and the non-linear plot worked. I liked the main character and his crazy uncle the most. The camera-work and editing were fantastic. My favorite shot was the basketball in the tree, closely followed by prescription glasses with a light. There was a compositing shot in the park where the main character and fiancee are in real time while the background goes slow motion. I was impressed with how strange this was. Overall, nice work. I rate it good.

Invincible A.K.A. Unbesiegbar (2001)

A British German Irish American drama directed by Werner Herzog, starring Tim Roth.
A strong man joins a theater group headed by a lying magician.
This was not so great. The plot seemed to go nowhere. The 3 main characters were very well developed though. The technical aspects were great. Good camera-work, carefully planned scenes and a special effect made this beautiful to watch. So, we've got a good looking film with good characters, but a plot that goes nowhere. Looks like a good place to use a weird, pink rating to me.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Meet the Feebles (1989)

A New Zealand musical comedy directed by Peter Jackson.
Basically, an R rated version of The Muppet Show. A variety show staffed by puppets has problems including a drug deal gone wrong, overweight star, sex scandals and tabloids.
This was great. I like the Muppets, but this was better. All of the jokes were filthy, there was violence, etc. There was a drug addict frog knife thrower, a rabbit worried that he might have an STD, the hippo woman takes off her clothes, I could go on and on. You get the picture. I thought it was really funny and enjoyed watching it. I rate this awesome. Watch it!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Where the Green Ants Dream A.K.A. Wo die grünen Ameisen träumen (1984)

A West German drama directed by Werner Herzog, starring Bruce Spence.
A mining company wants to drill on land that is sacred to Australian Aborigines. The geologist initiates communication with the tribesmen, trying to make a deal for the land.
This was not too bad. The plot reminded me of Fern Gully (1992) and Avatar (2009). Even the ending was similar. The main character was very well acted and appropriate for the part. His previous roles were as pilots in the Mad Max series. The camera-work featured repeating shots that were very effective. The 2 that come to mind are the pan of Aborigines sitting in a line and the elevator scene. There seemed to be some sort of abstract and inconclusive (if not tragic) humor being used, but that type of thing is difficult to define. Another thing that I noticed was an Aboriginal dance similar to that of the Cleyrans and Burmecians in Final Fantasy IX. Overall, a pretty decent predecessor for Fern Gully and Avatar. I rate it adequate.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Scream of Stone A.K.A. Cerro Torre: Schrei aus Stein (1991)

A German French Canadian adventure directed by Werner Herzog, starring Mathilda May, Donald Sutherland and Brad Dourif.
An experienced mountain climber competes with a young rock climber to climb a mountain. A television newsman documents their struggle and a local crazy guy pops in every once in a while.
This was alright. The plot was simple and characters relatively well developed. The female love interest character seemed like an afterthought, but the crazy guy was awesome. The technical aspects were o.k. with good shots of the mountain. The audio was a little messy on the version that I saw, mostly with loud wind sounds. Overall, not bad and not good. I rate it o.k.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Wild Blue Yonder (2005)

A British French German science fiction directed by Werner Herzog, starring Brad Dourif.
An alien living on earth bemoans the misfortune of his race and the journey of Earth astronauts to his dying planet.
This was mostly repurposed documentary footage that was edited into a story by narration and occasional scenes of the leading actor standing in a desolate location. With very little actual filming, this won awards at film festivals. The plot was threadbare and there were very few characters, none of which were developed well. The music was annoying and the documentary footage did not convince me that this is a narrative film. The only way that I could see anyone getting enjoyment out of watching this is under the influence of strong hallucinogenic drugs. There were lots of pretty shots of water. Overall, not good. I rate this bad.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)

An American crime drama directed by Werner Herzog, starring Nicolas Cage, Jennifer Coolidge, Val Kilmer, Brad Dourif and Fairuza Balk.
A crooked cop is into gambling, prostitution and drugs.
This was alright I guess. The main character was played well. Nicolas Cage gave a great performance by acting like he's on drugs all the time and screwing over everyone he meets. It seems that he plays negative characters best. The plot was all over the place and things didn't really seem connected. The technical aspects were decent. What impressed me most was a shot of an iguana (picture). The iguana scene was overly long and edited in a psychedelic manner, with lots of similar camera angles. Overall, crooked cop is crooked. I rate this poor for being so disjointed.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Mother (2009)

A South Korean crime drama directed by Bong Joon-ho.
An old woman's son is accused of murder and imprisoned. She does her own detective work to prove his innocence.
This was really strange in that way that only Asian cinema can be. The plot barely held my attention and I think the characters were a tad stereotypical. The technical aspects were fine and everything made sense. There were some moments that really stood out to me. The mother hiding in her son's friend's closet while he has sex with his girlfriend was one. Another was the mother's meeting with the junk collector toward the end. These moments were the strange ones that caught my attention. Oh, and in the beginning, the mother feeds her son while he pees on a wall while waiting for the bus. Overall, not a great movie, but it had it's odd moments. I rate this o.k.

Memories of Murder (2003)

A South Korean crime drama directed by Bong Joon-ho, starring Song Kang-ho.
Police detectives try to find a serial killer. The killer strikes beautiful women wearing red on rainy nights when a certain song plays on the radio and has soft hands. He uses the women's clothing to strangle them.
This was alright. The plot was on the meandering side and the characters were not developed very well. There was almost a comedy element because people kept falling down in a slapstick manner, the cops were incompetent and kept arresting innocent people and trying to beat them into confessing to the crimes. The technical aspects (camera-work, pacing, style) all made sense. It was put together very well and conveyed the story clearly. That was what I noticed. I watched it last night and am writing this afternoon, so it's not exactly fresh in my mind.  Overall, I couldn't tell whether to laugh or be horrified. I rate this o.k.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000)

A South Korean drama directed by Bong Joon-ho.
An aspiring professor is annoyed by a barking dog in his apartment building. He catches it and traps it in the basement, only to find that it is the wrong dog. When he goes to get the dog, the maintenance man is eating it. He then finds the right dog and kills it. An office worker girl sees this happen and shows the dog's owner, who dies shortly after. The professor's wife gets a dog, which he loses and the office worker helps him try to look for it.
This was a very complex plot with lots of characters, but there were memorable scenes that made everything fit together nicely. The camera-work was awesome. It showed everything very clearly and there were some unique shots. The most memorable parts for me were the maintenance men telling a ghost story in the basement and the office worker hanging out at her fat friend's store. Everyone and everything tied into the story very well and the script is probably a masterpiece worth reading on it's own. Overall, excellently made and it held my attention. I'm rating this good.
I know I've been giving too many good ratings recently without enough nudie pics. Fortunately for me, Far-Eastern cinema is just that way. The humor is cleaner, plots are better, characters are more memorable and the camera-work is superior. I'm talking modern here, not dime-a-dozen fuvies like "Shaolin Twelve Drunken Monks of the Buddhist Palm vs Wu-Tang Invincible Sleeping Fist" or other such '70s trash. Asian cinema has come a long way in a short time, leaving America in it's dust. Just read back a page or 2 on my blog for evidence of this.

Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons (2013)

A Chinese kung fu fantasy directed by Stephen Chow, starring Shu Qi.
A demon hunter tries to save a village from a demon fish, but is upstaged by a female demon hunter. They meet many more times and face other demons while she tries to win his heart. Eventually, he is sent on a quest to find the monkey king in order to help defeat a boar demon.
YES! This was amazing! Stephen Chow's absurd humor in a traditional Chinese kung fu setting with over-the-top video effects? WONDERFUL! The plot seemed to lack direction, but the main characters were memorable. I really liked the ring fight in the restaurant, the meeting of masters in the forest and the final climax battle. The subtitles on the version that I watched were very small and very transparent (difficult to see) and the video was terribly pixelated. Overall, I'm glad I sat through the meandering plot, tolerated the poor quality video and read the tiny subtitles to see it. I rate this best. WATCH IT!!!!!!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

From Beijing with Love (1994)

A Chinese comedy directed by Stephen Chow and Lee Lik-Chi.
A butcher is sent on a spy mission when his paperwork is found in the garbage. His contact in Hong Kong is supposed to kill him, but never manages to. The real antagonist is a man with a powerful gun and impenetrable armor who has stolen a T-Rex skull.
This was a very Chow film. The absurd humor is really funny to me. The plot and characters were all spoofs on James Bond films as well as most of the jokes. I think the funniest was the multitude of razors and hair-dryers the hero was equipped with. There was some creative editing and standard special effects, but nothing near Chow's later films. Overall, this is comedy that I get. I'm rating it good.

Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986)

A Japanese anime directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
A girl who is being chased by pirates and the military falls from an airship into a small mining town. The necklace that she wears has magic powers, making her float down slowly where a boy catches her. The pirates turn out to be their friends and together they compete with the military on a quest to find a floating castle.
This is a classic anime. If you like this style of animation, you need to see this. The plot and characters are good and everything is animated very well, with a great level of detail. There are some characters from other Miyazaki films in this. Kamajii the boiler man from Spirited Away is the mechanic on the pirate ship whose female leader is Yubaba and the pet fox-squirrel-cat thing from Nausicaa lives with the robot in the flying city. As with most anime, the boisterous lead pirate is female with male subordinates and they are implied to be pedophiles by their seemingly romantic interests in the young girl. Overall, one of the best anime ever made. I rate this best.

Children Who Chase Lost Voices A.K.A. Journey to Agartha (2011)

A Japanese anime directed by Makoto Shinkai.
A teacher and his student travel to an underground fantasy world. The teacher seeks to resurrect his dead wife and the girl is chasing after a boy.
This was really good up to a certain point. The beginning started slow and built up to good adventures with wild monsters. The ending is where it fell apart. It was very inconclusive. What happens to the characters after the climax? Credits roll, that's what happens. I liked that they used various mythological words from around the world and tied things in with world history enough to make it believable. The guardian monsters were the best. Overall, great middle with no end. I rate this adequate.

Friday, April 1, 2016

King of Comedy (1999)

A Chinese romantic comedy directed by Stephen Chow and Lee Lik-chi, starring Karen Mok and Ng Man-tat.
A struggling actor tries to get roles in films. He befriends a prostitute and some gangsters.
This was not so great. The plot went nowhere and the characters were trivial. There was some good humor involved. The video and audio were clear and everything made sense. I just don't think that this is Chow's best work. The best scene and video shot is in the picture. It is framed and composed very well, with actors playing definitive roles. Too bad the whole movie wasn't like this. Overall, pretty shitty. I rate this poor. You probably should not watch it.