Latests movies seen

THE ASPHALT JUNGLE (1950)

Film noir by John Huston. The perfect movie in its genre: crime, deceit, loss…

It features Marilyn Monroe who at that time was little known. She isn’t even mentioned on the opening titles, only on the credit. It was a minor role to tell you the truth. It were Sterling Hayden, Jean Hagen, Sam Jaffe, Louis Calhern, James Whitmore who were the leads in this movie.

In a city of crooks and low lives, a big hit is planned. Doc Reidenschneider got released from prison after a 7 year sentence, with only one thought: to commit the perfect crime. For this he will need a gang of crooks to do this and someone to come up with the starter’s money as well. But it seems the crooks are more trustworthy than the man who everyone believes to be so on the level…

FLAVIA, THE HERETIC (1974)

The kind of movie I would generally not go to see, not even on tv. But hey, you only live once.

A horror movie, seen as nunsploitation and just generally not very kind to nuns.

Flavia, is forced to enter the convent, she continually challenges men, cause she believes women are equal to men (which I do agree with). But Flavia goes very far in her rebellion and crosses a point when she even turns her back to the convent she resided in and ends in a horror fest.

I’m not one for this kind of movies, but must admit, there were some scenes that were good.

LIKE YOU KNOW IT ALL ( 2009)

A movie by Hong Sang-soo, of which I had seen the movie Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors (2000).

This movie is about an independent movie maker, who is invited to sit on a jury of a small movie festival. He comes across a former friend/associate, who invites him to dinner. After a night of drinking, he gets a note at his hotel from that friend stating he hates him and never wants to see him again. This puzzles him a lot and trying to solve this only makes things worse.

Deciding to leave the festival for what it is, he heads to Jeju Island to give some lectures to students. This scene I found very funny, because after viewing his film, one of the students asks him: seeing your films are incomprehensible, why do you keep on making them. This sets him off into a frenzy, of course! While being on the island, he is invited to share a meal with a famous artist, only to find out….

UNMADE BEDS (2009)

At the Brussels Film Festival it was the opening movie. I went to the second viewing. This movie is by Alexis Dos Santos.

The story mainly is about two persons, Vera and Axl, whose stories are intertwined and meet several times indirectly. Axl, from Spain, is looking for his English father in London and Vera, thinking she used up all her luck in a labyrinth-park one day with her ex-boyfriend, believes that since that day she only makes wrong decisions.

Nice movie, but wouldn’t call it spectacular. It features Débora François as Vera, who is also in the Belgian movie L’enfant (2005) by the brothers Dardenne.

Advertisements

Secret Sunshine (2007) (Milyang)

Secret Sunshine, or as its original title is: Milyang, is a movie by Chang-dong Lee that has received 7 awards, as well as the Cannes Festival Best Actress award for Do-yeon Jeon .

This is a good place to write in big capital letters:

SPOILER WARNING

PLOT:
The story is about a widow, Shin-Ae, that moves to Milyang (in South Korea) with her son to start a new life. Her husband was born there and always wanted to return to live there with their son. But Shin-Ae lost him in a car accident and wishes to fulfill his dream. She starts her own piano school and gets help, not always to her liking but nevertheless, from Jong-Chan, the car mechanic who came to her rescue when breaking down just as she was riding into the city.

Being from Seoul, she gets a bit of a rough time from the local people. Not really getting why she or anyone would move to Milyang. Some of the people, Shin-Ae just rubbed the wrong way at first contact. But she tries to blend in and make herself accepted. Looking for some land nearby to invest in and build a house, she makes contacts and goes out on prospects. Things are looking up…

One night, she comes home from a girls night out with some of the women she befriended and doesn’t find her son in his room. Thinking he’s playing games of hide and seek, she plays along but soon realizes something else is going on. The boy is gone. And the cell phone starts to ring…

OPINION:
This is without a doubt one of the best films I have seen in a while. I had no real expectations before seeing it, but if I would have, then they would have been surpassed with great leaps!

The suspense is nicely build, the story flows from event to event effortlessly and the evolution Shin-Ae goes through is put in a very convincing way.

Shin-Ae breaks down after losing her son and just keeps going into that downward spiral. She tries to sooth the pain or misplace her agony by turning to Christianity. When that happened, I really feared that the movie would derail into a religious, happy-miracle and happy-ending kind of story, but there-in lies the beauty of this movie. It is not the case, at all.

Shin-Ae is so immersed into her believe in God at a point where she convinces herself that she needs to see the man who harmed her boy, in prison, face to face. Because, as is said in the bible, you need to forgive your enemies for their sins and try to love them. This is the turning point though. The prisoner doesn’t need her forgiveness, nor her Christian love; for he found God in prison.

Again, the spiral from bliss to breakdown for Shin-Ae. Cause how dare God? How dare God forgive a man she hadn’t forgiven herself before him. Is that a just God, in Shin-Ae’s eyes?

So she tries to taunt God. To turn bad, to punish him by showing how she makes a mockery of him for all the pain she has had, and all the loved ones she’s lost. For the ordeals she had to go through? “Well look here,” she says, “look, I can cause pain too. Are you watching up there? Do you have a clear view?”, she says.

The awards are well-earned. And even if you don’t like foreign movies and reading subtitles, really, you will soon forget all those dislikes and be drawn to this story like a bee to sweet honey. You’ll be shocked as well, but nothing for nothing. The woman is in pain and that’s life. Life sometimes is pain, and usually caused by other people, unfortunately.

Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

Last night I saw a very silly movie, which made me laugh a lot but grossed me out a little as well: Kung Fu Hustle.

Entertainment Weekly said: “Think Kill Bill meets Looney Toons” and they are not far off.

It won the public’s prize at the Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival 2005. I warn you – it most definitely is a martial arts movie! (you might have that from the Kung Fu in the title). But it feels like a parody. It exaggerates and enlarges many typical martial arts characteristics. I’m not that into Bruce Lee kind of stuff, but this has made me laugh so hard, my tummy hurt. And then again, a couple of scenes made me avert my eyes from the screen.

The movie is directed, produced and written by Stephen Chow– and oh my, he seems to play the lead character as well. Sarcasm aside, he is pretty good and funny… and others stuff….

PLOT:
We’re in the 1930’s. The story is about a couple of losers and petty thief’s Sing and Bone, who aim to be in the gang who is calling the shots: the Axe Gang, after their weapon of choice. The Gang has a power over all the city, except for one pitiful apartment block called Pig Sty Alley. There a very odd couple, Landlord and Landlady, rule over their tenants. Figures that the losers choose that particular place to prove to the Gang they are a worthy asset their criminal organisation. Though the Landlady is a tough cookie – and has a way with martial arts herself!

OPINION:
Light entertainment, but not more than that. You get some good laughs. The Landlady is a kick. And though the special effects are in abundance, they are not bothering you as a viewer and nicely finished.

My Blueberry Nights (2007)

Last night I saw this movie, written/produced/directed by Wong Kar Wai (director of which I reviewed another movie already).

The cast consists of Norah Jones, Jude Law, Natalie Portman (who rules by the way), Rachel Weisz (drunken femme fatal here) and David Strathairn (which I know from the movie Sneakers (1992) with Robert Redford, Dan Ayckroyd, Sidney Poitier and River Phoenix – sorry for the excess in info but it has bugged me all night and day just to remember where I had seen that face!!!!)

This movie opened the 60th Cannes festival.

PLOT:

Law had a café/restaurant in New York city and one evening, Jones enters the bar to find out if her boyfriend had been there the night before and with whom. Upset to find out he was there with another woman, she asks Law to hand the ex-boyfriend his keys back when he sees him again. Clearly not over the guy, Jones returns several nights to check if he came for the keys. Waiting, in a mess, she talks with Law and eats a Blueberry pie to comfort the pain… But one evening she doesn’t come in, she had decided to take to the road instead … for the rest, I invite you to go see the movie.

OPINION:

Until now, I have seen 4 movies by Wong Kar Wai:

  1. Chungking Express (1994) – my favorite of the lot
  2. Fallen Angels (1995)
  3. In the mood for love (2000)
  4. 2046 (2004) – with Zhang Zi Yi (you know her: Crouching Tiger…, Hero, Memoirs of a Geisha????)

 

Now all these movies are Asian ones. My Blueberry Nights is his first English-speaking movie. Having seen the 4 here before, I was exited to see this one, but also a bit scared in the sense of how much he had to compromise in his style. And actually, he didn’t much, better said: not at all.

We did notice that the characters were more emotional and open than in his Asian movies. But that didn’t really bother me. In the beginning, the story mainly took place in the Jude Law’s diner and I feared it would all continue to unfold there. Odd, seeing I heard it was a road movie. It did finally take off – and from then on Norah Jones became somewhat an observer in other people’s lives. Like with the drunken cop Straithairn and his separated wife Weisz in Memphis. Or when she hooks up with Southern poker crazed Portman, who get’s her somehow to Vegas, where Portman’s father recently died.

But what can be summed up as a love story, this movie shows different types of love. Love that is hard to let go of (Jones and ex-boyfriend / Straithairn and Weisz), love that is suffocating (mainly for Weisz), love that needs a push (Law who doesn’t take the step), love and manipulation (Portman’s relationship with her father)… That’s just my view. You guys might not see this my way.

OH AND THE REVIEWS:

Never mind the bad reviews. Everyone their opinion I guess. I just think it was good and beautiful. Not a typical movie – it’s a style to adapt to or get into. Having (thanks to a special person to me) been introduced in the works of Kar Wai, I could very easily get into this movie.

Do not just put it in a box named ‘romantic movie’, too many people get hurt for that in the story and the death that occurs in it is a sad one. Don’t label, just enjoy.

I think it is worth to be seen.

Azumi (2003)

I was thinking about Asian movies. Well, movies … I only saw Crouching Tiger…, Seven Swords and the beginning of The 7 Samurai (I must admit it took a bit too much concentration from me. I will have to watch it again someday, seeing it is a classic. I should find out why.) and then there is Azumi.

Azumi is actually a manga-type comic book and it was made a movie a couple of years back (there already is an Azumi 2, but got bad reviews – besides, I don’t think it needed a sequel.). Azumi is an adolescent girl, who is taken in as an orphaned child to be trained with 10 other boys of her age to become an assassin. She masters the sword masterfully and grows up to be the top assassin of the pupils. During her training, she forms brotherly bonds with the other boys, but then comes the day they have to take out their targets. And everything changes. Aya Ueto is very good as Azumi. Even though she is an all-round pop type of performer, a dime a dozen in Japan’s entertainment business.

I’m not here to say it is the best movie in the genre. How can I, seeing the limited samurai-type sword movies I’ve seen (Kill Bill not included). But it’s filmed in an exciting way, the images are impressive although a bit messy by the bloody scenes. And yes, here as well some characters give a humoristic “je ne sais quoi” to it. Maybe anyone out there can give some suggestions to other films they liked. I’m not a snob, so all suggestions (bombastic big budget movies or low-budget beauties) are considered. (Except horror, I’m jumpy).

More on Azumi: