Saturday, July 26, 2008

Tokyo Gore Police

Tokyo Gore Police, possibly winning the best title in 2008 award, is not for the faint of heart. Any film with “gore” in its name better come with the goods and Tokyo Gore Police delivers an unending blast of carnage from grisly start to gruesome end.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much arterial spray in a film as Tokyo Gore Police unleashes plumes of blood from severed hands, feet, legs, chopped off heads, split in two heads, eye sockets, torn off limbs, midsections and a body part I’d prefer not to mention—I’m telling you, it’s wall to wall bloodbath and mayhem. By the end, I was getting a bit sick to my stomach it is so unrelenting. If you like over the top gore—Tokyo Gore Police might be your dream (or should it be nightmare) film.

Directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura, responsible for the effects in another gonzo Japanese splatterfest called Machine Girl (in my queue to see), the film combines a love for the sci-fi futurism (lots of Tokyo neon ala the neon in Blade Runner), extreme satire of Japanese culture, S & M imagery and lurid horror. It’s an odd mix with the sci-fi and satire kind of losing out due to the bloodletting. It’s hard to compete with blood shooting in the air and covering the camera lens repeatedly.

The story is set in the future where the Tokyo police force has been privatized and is run by the Tokyo Police Corporation. Criminals have implants that allow them to be more evil, more deadly and when wounded, the wound becomes an even more destructive weapon than they had before thanks to the mutant implant. For example, a wound in the eye might turn your eye socket into a gun to shoot out lethal bullets made up of unneeded body parts. The criminals, dubbed “engineers,” are unstoppable by normal cops with normal weapons.

Luckily, there are an elite group of killers who work for the TPC can hunt down the “engineers” and properly dispose of them—often involves hacking them up real good with a sword. Eihi Shiina (from another infamous Japanese film Audition) plays the best of these cops. Dolled up in leather, short skirts and wielding a huge sword—she heads out to face a motley group of psychotic killers and “engineers.”

I wish the film were shorter as it’s draining to see so much butchery. Ninety minutes (ten minutes cut out) would have been a perfect running time, as the film would have been an onslaught of your senses and then left you stunned at what you just saw. Still, Tokyo Gore Police is the most unhinged, deranged film I’ve seen in a long, long time and if you want gore—this one has plenty of it to offer.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Dark Knight

Saw The Dark Knight last weekend at IMAX and while it was entertaining, I think some of the positive reviews are going completely overboard. I guess this is the Citizen Kane of summer, comic book superhero movies! Too much hype for me. Am I the only person out there who thought this was just okay? While the film is incredibly made, it's too long. Bale's one-note "Batman" voice (kind of a deep, husky mumble) gets tiresome and Ledger's role as "The Joker," while well above average for these kinds of films, it seems he's already been given the Oscar from what I'm reading about the film.

Granted, these comic book superhero summer blockbusters are not my favorite kind of film. They don't even make the top ten genres for me so maybe I'm a bit biased--but with the unrelenting hype and praise The Dark Knight is being given, it just did not live up to the billing for me.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Jean de Florette + Manon of the Spring

This is how I spend my Sunday afternoons during the midst of the summer sun, heat and light—watch two connected French films that run about four hours between the pair of them. I somehow missed this highly acclaimed duo from director Claude Berri when they were released in 1986 but I’m kind of glad I waited to view them, as it would have been painful to sit out the delay from part one to part two. Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring should be watched in one sitting to get the full effect and power of the story.

Based on a novel by Marcel Pagnol, the films are set over a span of around a decade in the early 20th century and in an unbelievably idyllic setting of France. The locations are rugged, quaint and stunningly gorgeous. Although the film rarely ventures from the setting of a couple of farms, farmhouses and the nearby village, both films are swamped in a feeling of epic quality. This is largely due to the subject matter in the films.

The films have everything you want in four hours of French historical drama: greed, betrayal, doomed love, new love, the struggle for survival, murder, the beautiful rural French countryside, revenge, rustic architecture, crusty villagers, mystery, suspense and a terrific cast—Yves Montand, Daniel Auteuil, Gerard Depardieu, Emmanuelle Beart lead the way.

Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring is a gripping experience that get a rare five stars for me for a first time viewing. The key word that sums up these films: experience. Watching them, embroiled in this story of deceit, the miserable heat outside disappeared, I was in France, I was in these farmhouses and fields, and that’s a much better way to spend an afternoon than to wander outside in the brutal Oklahoma summer.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Old + foreign

I'm dedicating this month to the watching of lots of old and lots of foreign films. Although, I'm about to head off to watch Hancock in a little while and that doesn't qualify as either. I've recorded a bunch of films on Turner Classic the past few weeks and have already watched one from the 1920s, two from the 1930s and one from the 1940s. Toss in a couple of films from Norway and South Korea and I'm hitting my July 2008 old + foreign objective.

Friday, July 04, 2008


The 4th of July, Independence Day, means fireworks, flags, the summer warmth, hot dogs and bunting. Rather than do all that I’d rather go see a film from Norway at the Circle. After watching Reprise (2007) and being surprised at its quality (I knew little about this film before I saw it…all I knew really is that it was from Norway)—I think I made the right choice. Seeing a really good movie means more to me than patriotic overkill any day of the week. I’d rather be inside with the air conditioner anyway in this swarming heat.

Written and directed by Joachim Trier, Reprise is an honest jewel of a picture—direct, sly, romantic, smart, and bursting at the seams with ideas and intelligence. The film is energetic when it needs to be but not afraid to slow itself down to dwell in rumination and thought. It’s the quiet, silent moments that give Reprise its heart.

Reprise is set in Oslo amongst a group of male friends in their early 20s. They are all intellectual types who dream of having their first attempts at novels published, run design/ad agencies, listen to good music, philosophize about the world they exist in and try to get along with the women who enter their tight-knit sphere. The basics of the story is something you’ve seen before— buddies hanging out—but Trier digs deep into various elements of friendship throughout the film that take the story to corners you don’t expect to go.

I love it when a film attempts to discuss “writing” or the nature of writing as a creative endeavor and Reprise has lots of exceptional moments about books—the writing, the publishers, the blank computer screen, the insecurity of your words, the promotion, the fickleness of the critics. Books are an important daily activity in my life—I read from a book every day of my life—so to see characters talk about books, pick up books, well, that’s just exhilarating for me to see.

Reprise just isn’t about books though. It’s got a couple of intriguing romances—and lets loose with lots of observations on the male/female dynamic via the Norwegian mindset—and a major aspect of the film’s story is the psychological issues one of the friends has and how it changes him and all the relationships around him. I liked how the film was pieced together—it jumps forward, backward, freezes, pretends for the future.

Reprise makes you work a bit—not only the bright script but with the framework of the film’s story—but it is the most satisfying, original and entertaining film I’ve seen so far in 2008. Reprise has a depth of layers to it, combined with a level of sophistication in the dialogue and assured, confident direction from Trier. Here is a filmmaker to pay attention to.

Reprise trailer