Saturday, September 26, 2009

Crank: High Voltage - The most negative insanely positive review ever!

First there was Crank, an over the top action film that reminded the viewer of Grand Theft Auto. Thought the movie didn't do overly well theatrically, it did well enough on DVD to merit a sequel. And hence this masterpiece was born.

I was immediately reminded of the work of Takashi Miike, particularly the beginning and end sequences from Dead or Alive. Crank: High Voltage is like a feature length version of those scenes, keeping the energy and insanity throughout it's entire running time. And much like another great sequel, Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn, though it always keeps the pedal to the metal, it never becomes tiresome. That's partly because it stars Jason Statham, the best action star out there today, who seldom could be accused of being a pretty boy. Granted, he doesn't have the rugged, hard assed features of a Charles Bronson or Lee Marvin, but he's got charisma and believability when it comes to kicking ass. Even in his worst films he is quite watchable. What also helps the film is it's unpredictability. Whereas the first part may have been outrageous, it stayed grounded in reality for the most part. Crank 2 is batshit crazy. For the audience members who said, "Yeah right" when Statham fell out of a helicopter, made a phone call, landed on a car and survived in the first part, they're throat will get sore from saying "As if" every 5 seconds for it's complete running time. The sequel could give a rat's ass about realism and is all the better for it. The first Crank was certainly entertaining, but this one is swinging for the fences, and for the most part succeeds. Another factor is the stellar soundtrack by Mike Patton. Though it is very much in the forefront and demands attention, it never gets in the way of the film, but only enhances it. During a recurring musical theme, Statham himself starts whistling along to the soundtrack, somewhat recalling Eliot Gould singing along to the score of The Long Goodbye (could have I picked 2 films more further in tone?)

One problem I did have with the film though was it's continuous use of racist comments and names throughout. I'm not a prude when it comes to this (says the white middle-class man who grew up amongst mostly his own people), but I have to admit I didn't really find it that necessary. I know it's a response (by white people) against being politically correct, and it adds to the lewd, "we don't give a fuck about nothing!" attitude, but this film really doesn't need that. Having Statham call people chinks, slant-eyes and cuntonease really did make me uncomfortable after a while. And it also feels cheap because it seems Asians are one of the last races white people can make fun of and ridicule. Oh yeah, and Mexicans too, which this film mercilessly makes fun of. As long as it's a minority group that they won't be vilified for making fun of, it seems some writers take great pleasure in doing so. Take the latest Die Hard, where the Chinese woman was constantly referred to by our hero as a "Chinese bitch". Nice. Being Chinese and a woman are both derogatory.

Still, though a little put off by the constant racism I really love the film and I'd love to hear the writer/director's reason for it. Hopefully it's not, "We all just need to lighten up". I always hate when white dudes tell minorities to, "Whoa, calm down. It's cool that I'm making fun of you. Take a chill pill minority". It's like that guy who has a black friend that doesn't mind that his white friends poke fun with him. Now reverse that. You're one of the few white guys amongst a country of black people, and you learn that if you make a fuss you will not fit in. Suddenly you're much cooler with people poking fun at you. And it makes the white folk feel so good that you think they're cool enough to call you names. (Must stop typing.... turning into rant). It's just funny how a lot of white people are "cool" with being politically incorrect. Why the fuck wouldn't they be? It's not about them, it's about other people. Fucking white people.

Anyway, much like Antichrist, I'm such a fan of the filmmaking, storytelling and style that I'm just hoping the filmmakers aren't just assholes when it comes to their reasons for being "provocative". I hope they don't just find making fun of other races funny much like I hope Von Trier doesn't just hate women. I pray they are just shit disturbers since I want to like their films so much. (on a side note, since so many people are "cool" with Von Trier's Antichrist potentially being about woman's inherent evil, a woman I know said she wonders if as many people would be okay if instead of woman, Von Trier made the movie about black people being born evil. I said the critics would have a shit fit and the movie would probably be banned. To this she responded that today it's still okay to hate women. Good point.)

But don't get me wrong, I don't hate any of the films I've mentioned. Crank: High Voltage is a 5 star film, Antichrist is 4 and a half stars and even the Die Hard flick is 4 stars. It just seems intolerance in movies is getting overlooked. When it's done in South Park, it's done for parody, or to point out the ridiculousness of it. Sometimes it feels like this movie has that South Park attitude, and I just hope it also has the brains to go with it. (another side note, when I complained about the racism in Crank to the same woman I talked to about Antichrist, she asked why I was put off by the racism in movies, but not by all the people killing each other. I guess we choose what we are a prude about). I should also mention, I'm not one of those people who think everyone else are sheep, easily lead into believing violence, sexism or racism are fine because they see it in the movies, so despite my criticism of Crank: High Voltage and other films, I don't believe they are dangerous in any way. I also realize that everyone in the film is essentially a villain, and "that's how they talk" (if that is where the filmmakers decide to honour realism). So essentially, forget what I'm saying, sit back and enjoy the insanity.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


The last movie I saw this year, and a darned good one at that.

It was the last day of the festival, only hours after seeing the fantastic Symbol, and I had a hankering to see the new Bong Joon-ho film, Mother. Only one problem, when I went to buy tickets beforehand it had already been sold out for a while. It was nearing 5 pm and the movie was set to start just after six. Dare I try the rush line? After debating (with myself) for another 15 minutes I decided, what the heck, the theater's a short walk from where I live and the worst that can happen is I won't be let in. So with my trusty iPod in hand, playing the book podcast from Mondo Movie, I headed out to try my luck. Upon my arrival I realized there was no fucking way in hell I was getting in. I had convinced myself that it was the last day of the festival so maybe everyone had gone home and there would be seats galore. One look at the ticket holders line, then the rush line told me I'd been an idjit to think as much. But I had to try, it was Bong Joon-ho for crying out loud.

I approached one of the film festival volunteers and asked what she thought the odds of me getting in were. Much to be expected, she said she didn't have a clue, sometimes they let in 50 people, other times nobody. Well, I guess you can figure out that I was headed to the rush line.

Wait! But you're wrong fuckers! Much to my amazement (the volunteer's too) a nice lady came up to me and asked if I was looking for tickets to Mother. I managed to say, "yes" before my jaw hit the ground. I thanked her and reached for my wallet, but she would have none of it. She had been given them and she would not accept one penny in return. Luuuucky (imagine being said in the voice of Napoleon Dynamite). I walked with my head held high to the ticket holders line, laughing at all the fucking losers standing in the rush line. Goddamned assholes.

So then the movie started. Right from the opening credits it's apparent that Bong Joon-ho is behind the camera. Not that it is similar to his other works, but every frame of this film exudes the confidence he's seemed to have since his Memories of Murder (I still haven't seen his debut). Surprisingly, though it starts out peculiar, it settles into what could be called a borderline mainstream Hitchcockian thriller. Kim Hye-Ja turns in an amazing performance as the desperate mother out to prove her son's innocence after he is arrested for murdering a schoolgirl. Her son is slow-witted, suffering from memory loss and is easily coerced by the police into signing a confession. The movie moves along at a nice pace while still maintaining quiet moments as the mother uncovers clues and suspects leading towards the devastating conclusion.

With this film Bong Joon-Ho has skyrocketed onto my shortlist of favourite directors. Though I still prefer Memories of Murder and The Host, Mother shows a director who is willing to take chances while telling a great story. Also, whether the film is about murder, or a giant monster, there is a very human element and a deep sense of sadness. I anxiously await his next film, and will try and get the tickets beforehand, I can't imagine getting that lucky twice.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


My favourite film of the three I saw this year. The director purposely has allowed barely anything to be written about this great little comedy/surreal flick. From what I could tell from the trailer, a man in pajamas wakes up in a white room, sees a baby penis sticking out of the wall and is suddenly surrounded by cherubs. And an old guy barks at a bunch of dogs. From this little trailer I knew this was a must see. Also, it was directed by Hitoshi Matsumoto, the genius behind Big Man Japan. I remember when I finally got around to watching BMJ I did not expect to be near as amazing as it was. Along with being crazy, surreal, and visually stunning, it was also a melancholy story of a man who has difficulty with the life before him and sadness from the life behind him. Brilliant stuff.

Much to my shock, I think I may have enjoyed Symbol even more. Though I was confident it was going to be good, I was given a little reason to worry. While perusing DVDs in Suspect Video (awesome video store) I overheard a fella who had just seen Symbol at the midnight showing the night before. "It was terrible," he proclaimed, "I don't know why Colin would even choose this for a Midnight Madness film. Everyone hated it!". Yikes! I didn't want to hear that! I had even managed to talk my wife into seeing it with me (more like she volunteered to see it, but I still didn't want it to suck. It's hard enough convincing her to see crazy films with me). But then this guy continued, "I mean, Big Man Japan sucked as well!" I breathed a sigh of relief as he went on, "Remember the good old days, when it was Nick Zedd films?". Nick Zedd? Yuck! It looked like I had averted trusting this guys opinion even slightly. And anyway he was wrong as a thong (put on backwards).

I don't want to give anything away about the film except that it is a hell of a lot deeper than the trailer makes it out to be (much like BMJ). It seems Matsumoto tries to shed light on the unfairness of life and the frivolity of a higher being in an entertaining way. I don't know if he has suffered himself or has just seen various injustices throughout his life, but this film seems like a fair response. Geez, on second thought I hope I'm not giving too much away, but I really hope everyone sees this and doesn't just dismiss it as another "craaaazy" Japanese film. This really is a wonderful work by an amazing artist. With this and BMJ, much like Noe, Matsumoto has proven that he is a distinctive artist with an original vision that audiences should stop and pay attention to. Trust me, if Symbol isn't the movie to make him breakout, eventually film fans will know his name by heart. A great movie and a great theater experience.

Monday, September 21, 2009


It was with much anticipation that I was going to be seeing Gaspar Noe's Enter the Void at this year's Toronto Film Festival.I had previously seen I Stand Alone at TIFF, knowing nothing about it before the screening, and afterwards having a new favourite filmmaker. Next was the rapey, head-bashing-inny, Irreversible, another masterpiece in nihilistic filmmaking. Now came Noe's epic, the 2 1/2 hour plus Enter the Void. I avoided finding out anything, wanting to go in with as little info as possible. Even after reading the one line imdb plot synopsis, I felt I knew too much.
As the lights dimmed and I took another swig of my large Coke I prepared for a trip akin to David's in 2001. I wasn't far off either. The film follows a drug dealer/junkie, Oscar and his misadventures in Tokyo. The film is shot from his POV, even to the point where we hear the thoughts in his head, like, "This is the good stuff" referring to the drugs he is going to smoke, and "This stuff is shit!". However, once those drugs kick in, Noe does his best to give the viewer as real an experience as Oscar himself. I won't go to much into detail, but it did remind me (and I'm sure everyone else who's seen it) of the end of 2001.

Later, his buddy Alex shows up, explains the Tibetan Book of the Dead, setting up the rest of the movie that I wouldn't dream of spoiling, and off they go to visit Oscar's stripper sister.

Enter the Void could possibly be the most cinematic film I've ever seen. After Irreversible I remember thinking how much would be lost in viewing it on even the largest home theater system. However, watching Enter the Void in anything but a cinema would seem ludicrous. Whereas Irreversible at least had some shocking and entertaining moments and characters that the audience is intrigued with to go with it's style, Enter the Void is all about the style. It's absolutely hypnotic.

Now here is where my warning should come in, and dammit, please heed it. I was a foolish, arrogant bastard, laughing merrily while going to the confection area and ordering a large Coke. Now anyone who has tried this Coke drink (also known as Coca Cola) knows that it is a very delicious drink. Heck, I'd go as far as to say it could be one of the best beverages out there. So I strutted in the theater, sipping my Coke from a straw without a worry in the world. "Fuck not drinking Coke" I thought as I took my seat in the crowded theater.

Now about an hour and forty five minutes into the film I realized the error of my ways. After being completely mesmerized for the running time suddenly my bladder was demanding my full attention. It's hard to fall under the film's spell when your thoughts are something like, "Oh my God do I have to pee. Should I go to the bathroom? But I don't want to miss it. On imdb it said this is the short version so just hold it in punk".

Shortly thereafter I realized imdb was as full of shit as I was full of piss. If only I had taken an aisle seat. Was missing 5 minutes of the film worth enjoying the rest of the film without crossed legs and fears of waterfalls suddenly appearing on screen?

I decided to stick it out, and though I was begging the film to end so I could empty my aching bladder, I still really loved it. In fact, I will definitely see it again, in the theater, with a small Coke.

Now some folk may call Enter the Void pretentious, which I guess can't be argued. But in my mind some filmmakers are totally allowed to be that way. Lynch, Jodorowsky, Noe and others know a lot more about their personal artistic vision than anyone else does, so let them do their thing. I know some people who seem to want to put restrictions on some of the more visionary directors. Kind of like, "Okay, you made your crazy, personal films, now conform so we can take you seriously". Heck even Ebert essentially said that the ideas in Noe's film are shallow, but to hear Noe explain, "I'm just showing the story of a little mammal amongst millions of other little mammals" is modest yet ambitious at the same time. If the filmmaker isn't audacious then it's never mentioned that the film is shallow. A lot of Woody Allen's films (most recent anyway) won't change the way anyone is living, but since he is telling a linear and fairly simple story, "shallow" never even enters the picture (also, was Beyond the Valley of the Dolls incredibly deep?). Irregardless (yes, irregardless holmes) Enter the Void will live on long after any detractors and Noe is one of the top writer/directors to look out for. You'd really be missing a once in a lifetime opportunity if you miss this when it comes out in theaters, so I urge to go to you local multiplex, where I'm certain it will be playing on multiple screens, and see it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

About this blog

Well lookie here. Another guy who thinks his opinion means jack squat. Like people should stop everything they're doing and listen to his pearls of wisdom. God forbid someone not pay attention to him, the arrogant prick. Maybe his mommy should have played with him more. What a loser.
(Just letting you know, I'm not talking about me. I'm talking about you. I'm pretty wicked)