Category Archives: Foreign

“Space Pirate Captain Harlock” (2013) – Review

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Director:  Shinji Aramaki

Writers:  Leiji Matsumoto (Manga), Harutoshi Fukui & Kiyoto Takeuchi (Screenplay)

IMDb Logline:  Space Pirate Captain Harlock and his fearless crew face off against the space invaders who seek to conquer the planet Earth.

Pros:

  1. Excellent CGI work
  2. Steampunk look of the Arcadia and its crew and technology
  3. Fairly well-developed characters

Cons:

  1. The train comes off the track in the third act with some head scratching developments
  2. The protagonist is Logan and not Captain Harlock

Review:  A very surprising update of another late 70s anime cartoon based off the manga of Leiji Matsumoto; fun for the whole family even though the finale doesn’t live-up to the build-up.  The characters are well-defined with both the protagonist and antagonist having complete story arcs.  The look of the film is incredible as well as well detailed.

Grade = B

Click on image to view trailer.

Click on image to view trailer.


“Space Battleship Yamato 2199” (2010) – Review

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Director:  Takashi Yamazaki

Writers:  Leiji Matsumoto (Manga), Yoshinobu Nishizaki (Story), Shimako Sato (Screenplay)

Stars:  Takuya Kimura (Susumu Kodai), Meisa Kuroki (Yuki Mori), Toshiro Yanagiba (Shiro Sanada)

IMDb Logline:  The crew of the space battleship Yamato set out on a journey to the planet Iscandar to acquire a device that can heal the ravaged Earth.

Pros:  

  1. Battlestar Galactica set design and space battles
  2. The realization of the actual battleship
  3. The activation of the Wave Motion Cannon
  4. Fairly decent update of the first season story arc into a feature-length story

Cons:

  1. At 2 hrs and 20 mins in length, way too long
  2. Acting is weak with some characters over acted and others constantly looking straight ahead blankly
  3. Enemy characterization is weak

Review:  Nostalgia for the late 70s anime cartoon Starblazers is not enough to overcome bad acting, weak enemy, and some serious plot holes is this live-action modern re-telling.  Also, the screenwriters make the mistake of assuming the audience is familiar with the cartoon series and its characters.  If you have never watched the series, then you will be scratching your head wondering why the ship’s doctor is always running around with a sake bottle in hand.

(NOTE:  Clicking on the movie poster will allow you to watch the entire film w/ English Subtitles.  You will also have to click on the second link beneath the poster to watch the final twenty minutes.)

Grade = C (B for fans of the original late 70s cartoon)

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Click on image to watch MOVIE

Click here to watch the final twenty minutes w/ English subtitles.

PS:  I am a big fan of the original Starblazers series, and in fact would wake-up at 5:30 AM to watch the series on the local UHF station every week day.

SERIES FACT:  The show is only known as Starblazers in the United States, and the ships name is Argo and not Yamato.  The real battleship Yamato was sunk by the US Navy during WWII.


“Godzilla” (1954-Criterion Collection) – Review

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Writer / Director:  Ishiro Honda

Stars:  Takashi Shimura, Akihiko Hirata, and Akira Takarada

IMDb Logline:  American nuclear weapons testing results in the creation of a seemingly unstoppable, dinosaur-like beast.

Pros:  

  1. Serious tone and message
  2. Gorgeous black & white cinematography
  3. Introduction of Godzilla and the classic roar

Cons:

  1. Over dramatic acting
  2. Jarring edit choices at times

Review:  This is a review of the original Japanese version of the film and not the Americanized version with Raymond Burr. Definitely the most adult of the Godzilla films. Though the filmmakers anti-nuclear message is beaten over the audience’s collective head, it makes sense when you take into consideration that Japan is the only country to have been subjected to nuclear weapons, and the use of those weapons was only a decade prior. The interesting positive take-away from the movie is the confidence the filmmakers have in Japan. This Japan is not a cowed and defeated country, but one that is confident in itself, but also is a Japan that has learned from its past.  Godzilla is dated by today’s standards, but it is an interesting look back to one of the greatest film characters of all time.  Also, if you grew-up watching Saturday afternoon movies of Godzilla vs another monster and are expecting that, then this film is not for you.

Grade = C

Click on image to view trailer

Click on image to view trailer


“Newcastle” (2008) – Review – Netflix Recommendation

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Writer / Director:  Dan Castle

Stars:  Lachlan Buchanan, Xavier Samuel, and Reshad Strik

IMDb Summary:  Seventeen year old Jesse lives in the shadow of his older brother Victor’s failure to become surfing’s Next Big Thing. Even when he’s in his natural habitat of magnificent surf breaks, his blue-collar future is brought home by the coal barges that constantly line his horizon. Jesse has the natural skills to surf his way out of this reality and onto the international circuit but can he overcome his equally natural ability to sabotage himself? A momentous weekend away with his mates that includes first love and tragedy leads him to discover what’s really important, and also to the performance of a lifetime.

Pros:

  1. Not your standard coming-of-age story
  2. Xavier Dolan performance

Cons:

  1. Completely misleading Netflix image (above)
  2. Family relationships are not made clear until the end of the film
  3. Coal container ship symbolism is a bit obtuse
  4. Excessive use of slow-motion surfing shots

Review:  Newcastle has potential but fails to deliver.  The main flaw is the films attempt to tell both brothers stories instead of just focusing on one.  Both story arcs are underdeveloped and rushed.

Grade = C-

Click on image to view trailer

Click on image to view trailer


“Snails in the Rain” (2013) – Review MGLFF

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Director:  Yariv Mozer

Writers:  Yossi Avni Levy, Yariv Mozer

Stars:  Yoav Reuvini, Moran Rosenblatt, and Yariv Mozer

IMDb Logline:  Tel Aviv, Summer 1989. Boaz, a beautiful and alluring linguistics student, receives anonymous, male written love letters,that undermines his sexual identity and interfere his peaceful life with his beloved girlfriend.

Pros:

  1. Honestly shows the emotional damage trying to live your life as others want you to be instead of living our life as you want it to be
  2. The interplay of the relationship between Boaz (Yoav Reuvini) and his fiancé Noa (Moran Rosenblatt)
  3. Yoav Reuvini

Cons:

  1. Unfortunate title
  2. Boaz’s paranoia about his unknown admirer smirks out of control a little too soon.

Review:  A deliberately paced character study about one man trying to discover who he really is, and whether he will sacrifice his own nature to be the man everyone expects him to be.  The emotional damage a closeted life is laid bare in one particularly brutal scene between Boaz and Noa, made more intense by Noa’s later reaction and strength of character.  But by journey’s end, no one is left undamaged.

Grade = A-

Click on image to view trailer.

Click on image to view trailer.


“Der Samurai (The Samurai)” (2014) – Review MGLFF

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Writer / Director:  Till Kleinert

Stars:  Michel Diercks and Pit Bukowski

IMDb Log Line:  A wolf strives through the woods around an isolated German village. Jakob the young local police officer is onto him, but scents something more in the darkness. What he finds is a man, it seems, wild-eyed, of wiry build, in a dress. He carries a katana, a Samurai sword. When the Samurai invites Jakob to follow him on his crusade towards the village, it becomes Jakob’s mission to pursue the lunatic to end this wanton destruction. At the end of the night Jakob has experienced too much, is too far from whom he once was. Something hidden has been unleashed to meet the first rays of daylight.

Pros:

  1. German Gothic Horror
  2. Voice and cadence of Pit Bukowski as the Samurai
  3. Unique story and point of view that pays homage to old monster tales such as the werewolf

Cons:

  1. German Gothic Horror
  2. Unfortunately and unwittingly makes you sympathize with the NRA–an easily accessible gun would have definitely helped

Reviews:  Till Kleinert crafts a well paced horror story that starts as a psychological drama, and then quickens to all out gore before the final confrontation between Officer Jakob (Michel Diercks) and the feral Samurai (Pit Bukowski).  The story is neither predictable nor obvious.  Both actors handle themselves well in their roles, with Pit Bukowski’s stays in your memory.

Grade = B+

Click on image to view trailer.

Click on image to view trailer.


“Tom à la Ferme (Tom at the Farm)” (2013) – Review MGLFF

Click on image to visit artist.

Click on image to visit artist.

Writer / Director:  Xavier Dolan

Stars:  Xavier Dolan, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, ans Lise Roy

IMDb Logline:  A grieving man meets his lover’s family, who were not aware of their son’s sexual orientation.

Pros:

  1. Isolated setting adds to the tension
  2. Overall acting quality
  3. Cinematography

Cons: 

  1. Stockholm syndrome kicks in a little too soon

Review:  Xavier Dolan delivers a suspense film that will keep you on the edge of your seat.  His Tom will do anything to survive once he discovers how truly in danger he is from the repressed and violent Francis (Pierre-Yves Cardinal) and the manipulative Agathe (Lise Roy).  Dolan’s pacing and scene setup–especially the dance in the barn–is reminiscent of Brian de Palma at his most proficient.  Tom at the Farm is not your typical Gay Film Festival offering.

Grade = B+

Click on image to view trailer.

Click on image to view trailer.


“Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho (The Way He Looks)” (2014) – Review – MGLFF

 

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Writer/Director:  Daniel Ribeiro

Stars:  Ghilherme Lobo, Fabio Audi, and Tess Amorim

IMDb Logline:  Leonardo is a blind teenager searching for independence. His everyday life, the relationship with his best friend, Giovana, and the way he sees the world change completely with the arrival of Gabriel.

Pros:

  1. Chemistry between the three leads
  2. Coming-of-age story from a unique perspective of a blind person
  3. Honest–by which I mean sometimes cruel–depiction of high school life

Cons:

  1. Minimal.  In comparison to the Short film the feature is based on, sometimes the pacing is a little off.

Review:  Not your standard high school story.  At an age when hormones kick in, you start to discover who you are, and you naturally chafe against your parents, blind Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo) also has to deal with Giovana’s (Tess Amorim) attraction towards him as he discovers he is attracted to new boy in school, Gabriel (Fabio Audi).  The best part of the story is treating Leonardo as any other high school student–he is teased, made fun of, and gets into arguments with his friends where they storm off and just leave him somewhere by himself.  Also, the filmmakers and performers pay attention to small details.  The first time Leonardo kisses someone he keeps his eyes open; in his room he has wood blocks with his name in braille on them.

Grade = A-

Bonus:  The Way He Looks is an expansion of an earlier Short film from 2010, Eu Nao Quero Voltar Sozinho (I Don’t Want to Go Back Alone).  You can watch the Short here.  I consider the Short almost perfect.  Daniel Ribeiro did an excellent job expanding the story while not making the feature flabby and staying honest to the principal storyline.

Click on image to view trailer

Click on image to view trailer


“Stardust” (2007) – Review

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Director: Matthew Vaughn

Writers: Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn

Stars: Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, and Sienna Miller

We begin at the wall where the Guard of the Breach (David Kelly) initially prevents young Dunstan Thorn (Ben Barnes) from crossing.  But Dunstan fools the guard and crosses the breach.  We then learn the wall is more than a wall, and the breach is a portal.  For on one side of the wall is England and on the other side is the magical world of Stormhold.

In Stormhold Dustan meets Una, and nine months later back at his home he surprised by a newborn son, Tristan.  Eighteen years later Tristan is a shop-boy infatuated with Victoria (Sienna Miller), but Victoria only has eyes for Humphrey.  Eventually Tristan convinces Victoria to join him for a candlelight picnic by the wall.  At the same time in Stormhold, the soon to pass King (Peter O’Toole) calls all his sons to his side.  Disappointed that four of the seven still live and no successor to his throne has been determined, the King enchants his ruby necklace to lose its color and fly into the sky.  Whichever son finds the stone and restores the color shall be the future king.  But the stone in its flight to space strikes a star and causes it to fall.  As the star falls to the earth it is witnessed by both Victoria & Tristan, as well as the witch Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer).

Tristan vows to recover the fallen star as a present for Victoria’s birthday in two weeks.  Lamia vows to her sisters to recover the star in order for them to claim its heart and continue their immortal lives.  Said star crashes to earth in the form of Yvaine (Claire Danes)with the king’s colorless ruby.  Now three opposing forces are all in search of the same thing.

Stardust is a loyal adaptation of a Neil Gaiman novel of the same name.  The story moves along at a good clip with interesting and developed characters.  The only negative is the ending.  The primary antagonist final act is not clearly shown nor explained, leaving the audience with a “why did they do that” feeling.  The rationale behind the actions make sense upon further thought, but it does blot an otherwise solid story.

The performances across the board are strong.  Charlie Cox carries the film well as the youth who becomes a man.  Claire Danes brings just the right amount of bitchiness and naiveté to her role as Yvaine–the star made human.  The supporting cast all deliver fun and enthusiastic performances, each actor perfect for the role.  Both De Niro as Pirate Captain Shakespeare and Michelle Pfeiffer as Lamia are clearly having fun with their roles and their enthusiasm shows.  Along the same lines, both Peter O’Toole as the King and Mark Strong as Septimus have just the right amount of menace in their performances without taking themselves too seriously.

As a second directorial effort, Matthew Vaughn shows he is a capable director who is able to realize his vision.  The world he creates is beautiful and believable.  His pacing is strong, and the film never feels flabby.

Minus the misstep at the end, Stardust is a solid fairy-tale film.

Grade = B+

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Click on image to view trailer

PS  Henry Cavill–Superman–is completely unrecognizable as Humphrey.


“A Clockwork Orange” (1971) – Reveiw

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Director: Stanley Kubrick

Writers: Stanley Kubrick and Anthony Burgess

Stars: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Adrienne Corri, and Warren Clarke

We begin in a dystopian future United Kingdom. Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his fellow droogs (gang) are having a drink of narcotics laced milk at the Korova Milk Bar. Later they head out for a night of debauchery.

They first run into a homeless drunk beneath a bridge and beat him. They then head to an abandoned casino where they interrupt a rape being perpetuated by a rival gang. After dispatching them, the droogs and Alex then head into the country for more “fun”.

In the country they discover a posh house in the middle of the woods. After worming his way into the house, Alex lets his fellow miscreants in and they proceed to attack Mr. and Mrs. Alexander (Patrick Magee and Adrienne Corri); injuring Mr. Alexander and raping Mrs Alexander.

But Alex is not an orphan of the future. He lives at home with his parents and is checked on by the school authorities. He also lives life on the razors edge, and has made enemies looking for him to fall. Included on this list are his own droogs.

A Clockwork Orange still holds the distinction of being the most disturbing film I have ever watched. What gives it is edge is the actual possibility of the future it predicts. A future where a soldier can be stabbed and hacked on the street, the assailant proceed to someone filming his action and rant a diatribe with blood on his hand, a woman causally walks down the sidewalk carrying groceries through the assailant’s rant, and all while the soldier bleeds to death on the street with no one coming to his aid.

In the end, Alex is a high school student with preoccupied parents in an uncaring and abusive eduction system.

Kubrick’s cold flat shots serve the material well. You are given no one to care about and you shouldn’t. Kubrick removes the one character you should be sympathetic about, Mr. Alexander, by purposely having Patrick Magee overact the part. You can’t care for him because you are laughing at him for the ridiculousness of his actions & reactions.

A Clockwork Orange use of music and sound is exemplary. From Beethoven’s 5th to Singing in the Rain, to the original score, all the music used enhances the disturbing quality of watching the film.

Though not for everyone, A Clockwork Orange is a film that should be watched at least once. You may say to yourself you will never watch again, but don’t be surprised if you do.

Grade = A

Click on image to view trailer.

Click on image to view trailer.