Recently Seen, Part 34 (December 2019)

clayton-12

Member: Rank 4
I'll kick of the new month with the few I've managed to catch over the past couple of months …

Cold Eyes (2013)

Wow! Where to start? The movie opens, dropping you right in the middle of a cat-and-mouse, hard-boiled scenario. Who's the guy? Why is this girl following him? And why does it seem someone is following her? The movie doesn't waste any time with explanation; just puts you in the action and takes you along for the ride.

And the first 10 minutes sold me. Turns out the girl is vying for a position on an elite police surveillance and tracking team. Her amazing skills at observation and memory make her a natural, but of course there is a bit of hazing and having to pay her dues. The team quickly finds themselves surveilling an elusive criminal gang masterminded by a fellow the police team have nicknamed "Shadow."

As I was watching, I started to wonder if Johnny To suddenly became a Korean director. This had all the hallmarks of a Johnnie To movie! And I fucking love Johnnie To! Hell yeah! The quick cuts; the action-without-plot-exposition; the "camaraderie of the team," the quirky little fun bits amongst the chaos and violence (the team members all have animal code names; our girl is "Piglet."). Cold Eyes is not some lame second-rate Johnnie To wannabe, it fucking nailed the homage or whatever. And added a pulse-pounding score that really accentuates the edge-of-your seat tension.

I was solidly at a 4.5 for this, deducting a bit for some coincidences late in the film and a surprising case of the stupids from our elite team members, but then, in the coda--the "Shadow" case being solved; our "Piglet" having graduated to "Reindeer"; she's tracking the new suspect... and it's...Simon Yam! Simon! Fucking! Yam! How awesomely cool is that!

5 fucking stars! Hell yeaah!

(Ha Ha. Turns out Cold Eyes is a sortof remake of the Johnnie To movie Eye in the Sky. I knew something must have been going on. I've actually seen Eye in the Sky and rated it 3.5 stars. It's saying something that a Korean movie can "out-Johnnie To" Johnnie To!)
I’m gonna agree with everything @divemaster13 has said about this. If the benchmark for a thriller is that it is thrilling, then this definitely deserves the 5 star rating. What’s more impressive is the way that that it engages the viewer in the mundane – 80% of the surveillance work shown is routine, plodding, meticulous, and yet it is made into something completely engrossing. In that regard, of the Johnnie To films that I’ve seen, this reminded me most of Accident, which (like Eye in the Sky) wasn’t actually directed by Johnnie To.

The Shadow Play (aka Cloud in the Wind) (Lou Ye, 2018) is a femme-fatale packed noir that was apparently spent a long time is gestation. Thugs turn up in a village scheduled for demolition, the villagers fight back, and in the ensuing melee one of the directors of the property development company falls to his death. A hot-headed young cop is convinced the death wasn’t an accident. The widow and daughter both purr seductively at him, while a sordid soap opera is revealed in flashbacks. It’s not a mess of a film by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s not nearly as good or original or well-executed as it ought to be – I suspect that there were greater political ambitions that weren’t able to be pulled off, and the end result came out a touch unsatisfying.

The New King of Comedy (Stephen Chow, Herman Yau, 2019) E Jingwen has been slogging away at an acting career for the past 10 years, but for all the blood, sweat and tears she puts in to her auditions, she never quite succeeds in landing a non-speaking extra’s role. Still, this doesn’t dampen her enthusiasm, and despite any amount of humiliation she endures, she indefatigably throws herself into perfecting her craft – it’s kind of a feel-good version of the excellent Filipino film Ekstra (aka The Bit Player). I’ve only ever seen one Stephen Chow movie before, The Mermaid, and this is nowhere near as complete. At times it feels horribly underwritten, with several plot strands just petering out as if the whole thing never quite made past the brainstorming stage of development. But when it hits its marks, it really is funny – given that a lot of the humour revolves around dialogue and wordplay, I suspect that it would be even funnier if I could understand the original language.

The Crossing (Bai Xue, 2018) Peipei is sixteen, terminally bored and not coping with her dysfunctional broken family life. She escapes into dreams of a better life involving snow and Japan, without any practical hope of ever achieving them. Living in Shenzhen but going to school just across the border in Hong Kong, she’s the perfect target to be co-opted into a smuggling ring. This is a really solid coming-of-age film – both first-time female director Bai and lead actress Huang Yao should be ones to watch.

Aruna & Her Palate (Edwin, 2018) steps away from the arthouse territory that Indonesian director Edwin usually inhabits, and instead goes down the path of soap-opera-lite foodie flick. Aruna is sent across the country to investigate potential outbreaks of avian flu, and along the way is joined by her platonic chef buddy, slutty (but lonely) college friend and an old beau. Who really has feelings for whom? The romantic plot isn’t anything particular special here, but it is worth watch for the food whether or not you know Indonesian cuisine – I’ve never been a fan of rawon, but damn it looks mouth-watering here.
 

sitenoise

Member: Rank 5
I just started watching Sono's THE FOREST OF LOVE. I feel like I should live-blog it, but I can't watch it all. It's 2.5 hours and I have an hour at most before I fall asleep.

But anyway ... It starts off and I hate it. It's one of the Sono films where the characters SCREAM all their dialog. But soon we get schoolgirls in uniform, running. And schoolgirls in their underpants ballroom dancing and singing. And then running again. Sono always gets good running from his actors, usually girls in uniform. What a beautiful nut case he is.
 

sitenoise

Member: Rank 5
I made it in 52 minutes. Pure gonzo. This is going to be fun. It's already too stupid to be taken seriously so we're in freedomland.
 

sitenoise

Member: Rank 5
I found the review by James Hadfield amusing - sounds like he was on the money.
Yeah, this is like a Greatest Hits. This lead character dude might be Sono's best complete asshole he's created. So charming. It's baffling. This is a lot like WHY DON'T YOU PLAY IN HELL where the Fuck Bombers make a film about the story they're part of. A clever Sono device that allows him to take liberty with what he's already taken liberty with. Based on True Events, as it were. It is a Sono film where everybody yells at everybody all the time, but it's so over the top it adds energy. I think that's what Sono is after but seldom achieves. Energy through yelling.

The film also has a twisty soundtrack. Sono has great taste in music. But there's also this bassy hum that takes over while people are acting in the background. It gives the impression of just coming back to consciousness after being knocked out with a baseball bat.

There's nothing important going on. Just people yelling at each other. I'm a little over half way. I hear it really goes off track in the third act.
 

sitenoise

Member: Rank 5
Finished it. Lots of fun but the third act kinda petered out, doesn't go off the track --it was off the track already. I give it a 3.5 and place it between EXTE and GUILTY OF ROMANCE. It's not necessary Sono but if you like Sono it's way worth it. There's graphic dismemberment, if that helps. I read somewhere that Sono wanted to make a film of what would happen if different characters from his different films all got together. I don't know that he did that here. I'd have to think about it and it's not worth thinking about.
 

clayton-12

Member: Rank 4
Crazy Alien (Ning Hao, 2019) is similar in basic set-up/premise to the Simon Pegg & Nick Frost film Paul – in this case, the alien crashes into a bumbling monkey trainer in the shape of Huang Bo. It claims to be based on a Liu Cixin story, although apparently you need to use a rather loose definition of “based on”. It also claims to be a very funny comedy, although you need to use a rather loose definition of “funny comedy”.
 

sitenoise

Member: Rank 5
I started watching Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood and Brad Pitt is driving his little car home and Bob Seger's Ramblin' Gamblin' Man comes on. I discovered I didn't have any Bob Seger on my iPod so I turned off the movie remedied that situation. Then had a Bob Seger listening party.
 

sitenoise

Member: Rank 5
I think a lot of the crew on this are Asian, so:

ONCE UPON A TIME ... IN HOLLYWOOD
Quentin
5 stars

This film benefited greatly having Brad and Leo. I can't imagine anyone else as Cliff, because Cliff is basically Brad. Leo is a skilled enough thespian to be able to act bad-acting, good-acting, and then show you the difference. He must have studied with Paul Giamatti.

I started watching this film about 10:00pm and thought I'd just get a taste before passing out. A few minutes into it Brad is driving his little car home and Bob Seger's "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" comes on. It lit a nostalgia bomb so I thought I'd take a break and listen to the whole song. Gadzooks! No Bob Seger on my iPod! I took to the internet to remedy that situation. Needless to say I discovered a few other tasty morsels I had to indulge.

So here it is nearing midnight. What's the use?

Long story short: I didn't get to sleep until after 2:30am

Tarantino knows his shit. He's like Thomas Mann doing a "Greetings, my gentle readers" thing, where he keeps you aware of the fact that he's telling you a story. This gives him freedom to fuck around. There's no belief that needs suspending. Tarantino also knows how to get the goods from his actors, and to get them to go a step further: The way Tex rode his horse; the way Leo shook his ass just like Sharon Tate in one of the film's best edits; the way Sharon's eyes drift as she pretends to drive. There are so many little amazing things in this flick it's crazy. Details fly out of Tarantino's ass. He kept his indulgences to a minimum, too. I counted only three lines of dialog that were "just because".

The love, the joy. I usually don't like it when a director's ... whatever ... are all over a film, but here it's like watching a masterclass in how to make a film. What kind of film is it? It's a hang out film. I could have spent six more hours hanging out with these characters. It's a perfect storm of talent when characters emerge already overflowing with history. Just looking at people's faces: Sharon's while she watches herself in a movie; Leo's after that magnificent eight year old pumpkin puss compliments his acting.

My only quibble is the scene--and I don't even remember where it was now--where Leo seemed to be high on coke. He was too nervous and fidgety for the moment. Maybe it was there for a reason that escaped me. Oh, and he could have done hippy girl's armpit hair a little better.

ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD doesn't have the game-changer quality that PULP FICTION had. The times are different and Tarantino's position in the times is different, but this is just as much fun. Smooches, Quentin.
 

divemaster13

Member: Rank 4
I agree. I'm a huge Tarantino fan, and Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood is not only a film school clinic in how to make a movie, but fun as hell to watch. I loved the flashback scene to Cliff (Brad) and his wife on the boat. The genius of the scene is what Tarantino didn't show. You would assume, Tarantino being Tarantino, how that scene would end; and then he turns the tables on your expectations by letting your mind do the work for him. I've actually got the DVD on order. I do hope there are bonus features.
 

sitenoise

Member: Rank 5
Yes, that flashback scene. The last shot of the scene was shocking when you realize it's the last shot of the scene. LOL

I did find a "Xtras" thing that has a handful of extended, or deleted scenes and a few commercials, and a love tug from all the actors about how cool it was to work on the movie. Nothing too exciting but there is one deleted scene worth the price of admission. It's a discussion between "Caleb" and his director about doing Shakespeare and using a rattlesnake for motivation. Leo can play a dim bulb so well, it made me laugh my butt off.
 
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