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Monday, February 29, 2016

Updated Review #12: February 29 (aka The Curse of February 29th)


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A woman, working on an isolated strip of road, believes she is being stalked by a killer that appears once every four years.

Review: When I first reviewed this film I wasn't sure if I'd still be writing reviews come the following leap year. Sure enough, here we are, and here I am to fix that original review. Now, the first thing to add, that I failed to mention before, is that this is a part in the "4 Horror Tales," a collection of four films that also includes: "Dark Forest of Death," "Roommates," and "Forbidden Floor." This collection, as a whole, is not very good, but "February 29" is, without a doubt, the best of the bunch. Sure, it's still a heavily flawed film, but it's a unique experience, and there was a concerted effort to at least try and create an interesting movie. On top of that, this film has a great sense of atmosphere and an intriguing mystery to keep you engaged. The story might not have come together as intended, but it's one of the most original K-horror films out there.

Well...like a character mentions, it's better blood than shit.

The story can be a bit incoherent toward the end, but, in essence, the filmmakers thought they were toying with the audience's sense of perception. They do not accomplish this. We are meant to see the perspective of the main girl, Ji-yeon, a lonely tollbooth operator, who believes a killer only appears on leap years. Supposedly, a bus full of criminals were blown up one February 29th yet one of the prisoners, a female serial killer, apparently survived and continues her killing spree once every four years. They imply that the killer is a ghost too which is what starts to make the plot nonsensical. Furthermore, there is the obvious conclusion that Ji-yeon is crazy and is, in fact, the killer herself. You are meant to decide whether Ji-yeon's depiction of the events are accurate or whether the police are telling the truth; after all, Ji-yeon is being blamed for the murders one way or another. I do enjoy that dynamic between the police and Ji-yeon's accounts of the events, but the execution is not there. What I mostly love is that originality to the plot. A haunted road is nothing new, but the inclusion of leap year and the tollbooth setup allows for ideas we've never seen before. If there were more emphasis on making sense, I think this could have been an Asian horror legend. Instead, this is probably a love it or hate it experience.

I like the cracked lips. Sexy. It was actually a nice little detail to include.

From a technical standpoint, the movie is put together excellently. The cinematography is good and the effective use of lighting is used as a plot point. The way the killer is introduced and the accompanying music establishes this creepy atmosphere that I must applaud. When you couple this with Ji-yeon's institutionalization, you are thoroughly engrossed in the direction the story is going. The actors try to give their characters personality with tiny nuances that do help. Honestly, there is just a lot to appreciate in the film, but it is boggled down by the massive flaws.

A lingering sweat / Lips wrapped around a bottle / Strangely erotic?
-an impromptu (and mostly unintentional) haiku by yours truly

Obviously the main, and glaring, flaw of the film is the confusing design of the story. In an attempt to keep things vague and have you guessing by film's end, the makers lost focus along the way. I like to believe Ji-yeon was telling the truth, to an extent, but you can look at the plot however you wish. The cops are bumbling idiots in the film, but there are reasonable explanations for most events. Yet we, as the audience, are never given efficient context that the movie believes it has provided. For example, we are never given clarity as to what parts of Ji-yeon's story were confirmed true. I just don't think the approach was handled properly especially when we get that retarded final zinger. I'm dead serious, I can only think of...like...two K-horror movies that don't have a pointless final zinger. STOP IT! Or at least start making sense. Another ball they dropped was in regard to the ghost/killer. She isn't scary flat out; Ji-yeon at the mental institute realistically looks scarier.

Walk it off, sweetheart!

In spite of the tremendous flaws, there is just something about this movie I love so much. The originality and creativity to the story was refreshing, and the handling of the atmosphere and intrigue were spot on. I absolutely love the combination of leap year, a tollbooth, and the duality of the storytelling. While the momentum is clearly lost along the way, and the ending didn't help out either, I can overlook these shortcomings. I understand that this film will not appease everyone especially when you consider that the ghost/killer is no Kayako or Natre to at least keep you on edge. I still recommend viewers to seek this one out, but expect the film to be more thriller than outright horror.

Notable Moment: When the killer appears for the first time after the blackout. This truly does set the tone for the rest of the film even if the story can't maintain that atmosphere.

Final Rating: 6/10

Friday, February 26, 2016

Ju-on: The Final Curse Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: The disgraceful, and hopefully, final entry in the Grudge franchise.

Review: Okay, I've put off this review long enough. Unquestionably, this is the worst entry in the entire series. Not even joking, I have seen fan films on youtube better and more faithful to the Grudge legacy than this entry. How in the hell do you fuck up this badly?! And I thought "Ju-on: The Beginning of the End" was shit...goddamn. What happened to this franchise? I consider "Ju-on: The Grudge 2" one of the scariest movies ever, and yet this series has been reduced to the sheer idiocy displayed here? I mean, I get that this is the shitty sequel to a shitty reboot--so my expectations weren't exactly high--but it still managed to disappoint. Fuck. There's just so little to say positive here...this is a disgrace...that's all I can think about.

What is the premise this time around? Well, if you read any bullshit promotional material claiming this was about trying to end the curse, I can tell you none of that happens. It's more hapless victims who don't have a fucking clue in the world as to what's happening or who's killing them; I didn't even get the impression that the characters knew who Kayako was. As with the pathetic remake, Toshio is the primary antagonist and Kayako is merely background dressing. Seriously, did the makers watch the original films at all? Kayako IS what makes this franchise work! Toshio is a retarded kid in tighty whities meowing like a fucking cat! That is more comical than scary.

The story focuses on the sister of the main chick from the last film mixed with Toshio's aunt like it's some big twist. This movie claims Toshio never was killed by Takeo yet he is still a ghost magically. Oh goodness gracious. Toshio astral projects his ghost form or something and can kill people because...well, why not, right? He is simply killing people for the lulz, and the entire concept of a "Ju-on" is irrelevant if he never died to begin with. Forget the rules about going into the Saeki house or anything we've come to know about this series. In fact, the Saeki house is finally destroyed, but it has absolutely no bearing on the plot nor do they emphasize the significance of such a gesture. Kayako is running around simply because the plot demands it. She looks terrible with her mouth perpetually opened as if they used a mask instead of makeup effects. Hell, maybe they did--she was blurry as hell. They also tried to make a jump scare out of a piece of paper which was amusing to say the least. Another stupid point was when Kayako was held at bay by a cabinet. Who knew that's all it took? And what is all of this stupidity building toward? You'll love this! Apparently, Toshio transfers his ghost self into a dying little girl at a nearby hospital. So now Toshio is a girl and that accomplishes...I have no idea. The movie simply ends with the main chick seemingly dying and nothing is resolved. What exactly makes this "the final curse" by the way?

Let me get this moronic plot straight. Takeo and Kayako Saeki move into a house. The house is somehow haunted by Toshio who possesses a crazed Kayako that is obsessed with having a child. We are never told where Toshio came from conveniently. Kayako gives birth to Toshio through immaculate conception, but Takeo suspects Kayako merely cheated on him. In a supposed rage, Takeo kills Kayako and the cat, but Toshio's ghost form kills Takeo? For whatever, unknown reason, this lame killing spree was soooo powerful it created a "Ju-on," a cursed hatred that spreads to whoever goes into the home. However, this is insignificant since Toshio carries on as normal until his teacher and other flunkies die. Taken in by his aunt, Toshio dicks around until deciding he wants to become a girl. And that's it. That's all that happens. This is acceptable to the idiots who wrote that shit reboot and this abomination? This is seppuku worthy.

If you are a fan of this franchise, I would suggest to avoid this entry at all costs. Simply pretend this and the reboot do not exist. There is nothing new unless you've always secretly desired for Toshio to become a little girl. Kayako is useless, looks horrible, and is not scary in the least--what a disrespectful depiction of one of Japan's most iconic villains. The production felt cheap, the story is nonsensical, and they're clearly out of ideas at this point. For what it's worth, I'm still looking forward to "Sadako vs. Kayako" if only for the so bad it's good potential. Beyond that, this franchise is all but milked to death.

Notable Moment: When that one chick is saying she and her friends should watch horror movies and eat pizza. What's this...a girl after my own heart? That's practically proposing to me.

Final Rating: 3.5/10

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Stuff Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A parasitic and mind-altering ooze is humorously marketed as the next big dessert.

Review: Enough is never enough of the Stuff! Yeah, be prepared to hear that jingle a shit ton. Sure, it's no Silver Shamrock--where you want to blow your brains out--but it can get into your head annoyingly. So what exactly are you getting with this movie? A whole lot of cheese! In fact, this is one of the cheesiest horror movies out there. I mean, just look at that lazy title: "The Stuff?" Not even trying. You might think it's like a ripoff of "The Blob," but the creature, if you want to call it that, is ill-defined and doesn't necessarily eat people. The Stuff is some kind of organic parasite that infests a host, devouring them from the inside out, while simultaneously turning them into mindless ghouls along the way. It's kind of hard to explain honestly. Scratch that, it's inconsistent as hell. The first time I watched this movie it was fun, but, upon further viewings, the shenanigans are starting to show. I guess you need a certain taste for "The Stuff!" Huh, huh? Get it?

You should understand the kind of film you've got yourself into by the first scene. Some old geezer sees marshmallow-looking goo on the ground and his instinct says eat it? Surrrre, why not? Through mind control, I'm assuming, the Stuff gains sentience in order to add itself to the food market. Magically, the Stuff becomes an overnight success as it overtakes ice cream for top dessert. Eh, I'm more of a milk and cookies kinda guy. This is one of the most convoluted take over the world schemes yet, and I've covered a lot of far-fetched plans. I suppose you could consider the story's theme as an anti-consumerism message, but I don't think we need to read that deeply into a movie called "The Stuff," do we?

I wish I could explain how the Stuff works, but it makes little sense. One drop appears to be enough to control your mind yet you need to ingest a lot of it to be absorbed. Nevertheless, the deaths are mostly amusing. The acting is pretty bad with no one taking their roles seriously; though, this might work better to you. A rogue group of the military saving the day was ridiculous, but, hey, what can you do? The Stuff dies to pretty much whatever you have on hand so it's not like the stakes were ever that high. There is a punk kid character, however, he's not as Jar Jar-riffic as you might imagine. Of course the ending is that you can't really get rid of the Stuff as now it's gone underground like a drug.

This film is enjoyable if you can appreciate the raw, cornball nature of the premise. To be clear, this isn't a so bad it's good situation, because the film isn't bad at all--it simply doesn't take itself seriously enough as a horror movie. There are moments of sloppy editing and laughable effects, but the scenes of pure hilarity more than compensate for these shortcomings. I liked the idea of a killer dessert, but they probably should have had a few blob moments. Hell, maybe this inspired "The Blob" remake outright. Overall, this is worth checking out, but it's not quite cult classic level for me.

Notable Moment: When that punk kid is running around a supermarket destroying the Stuff. I like how, through selective editing, no one is able to stop this kid. Also, gotta love the reaction of two idiots when the kid is coming at them as if they have no way of stopping him. He's a fucking little kid--beat his candy ass!

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Final Girls Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After her actress mother dies, a girl and her friends inexplicably find themselves pulled inside one of the mother's slasher films.

Review: Don't confuse this with the, almost identically titled, film, "Final Girl," which came out the same year...starring one of the same actors even. How in the hell? Anyway, this is surprisingly one of the best nods to '80s slashers I've watched especially in regards to satirizing "Friday the 13th." The story is amusing, yet heartfelt somehow, and they play on the stereotypes intelligently without going over the top as something like the "Scary Movie" franchise would do. The best way to describe it would be to simply take a few horror buffs, suddenly thrust them into a classic like "Halloween," and then watch them react. Unfortunately, there are massive problems that hold this down from reaching legendary status. With story tweaking, and a solid R-rating, this could have easily been a must watch for all horror fans. Instead, I'm thinking this will be a love it or hate it kind of situation.

I'll provide a quick story synopsis to set the tone. In 1986 there was a wannabe "Friday the 13th" called "Camp Bloodbath;" the masked killer is even a fake Jason...named Billy here. The main character, Max, is the daughter of an actress who played a random victim in this film. We see that the two are struggling financially as the mom tries to find new gigs, but she can't live down her early horror roles. Shortly after this, the mom is killed in a car accident, and now Max is kind of depressed--not as emo as you'd expect though. During a 30th anniversary screening of "Camp Bloodbath," Max is semi-coerced into attending the show with a group of friends. Through shenanigans, the movie theater is lit on fire, but Max and crew, trying to escape, somehow are pulled into the movie itself. This is when the film becomes a lot of fun, and they make full use of the scenario.

What works the best is the actual notion of the film coming to life. This means text on screen physically exists, the credits of the film appear in the sky, narration is heard like a loudspeaker, the characters can hear the music prompts, and they are even subjected to cutaways for flashbacks. Everything is handled excellently surrounding this premise. The actors turn in quirky performances that I think work given the subject manner, and you feel their astonishment of the situation. The character stereotypes are addressed in a fashion similar to "The Cabin in the Woods" but not quite as gloriously. Still, I liked the idea of "the final girl" who must land the finishing blow as a rule of thumb to end the movie. Connected to this is the dynamics between Max and her mom's character. This added a unique layer to the typical victim fodder since Max wanted to transition the mom's character into the final girl. Beyond that, the technical feats are decent, and the humor can be great at times.

Despite so much going strong in this film, there are numerous things I take issue with. For one, there is little to no gore and they merely imply nudity which doesn't make sense given the context and the aspects they're satirizing. If you want to be truly faithful you have to go with a hard R-rating or don't bother tackling the subject matter. This might sound like a nitpick, but it's really more than that. You can't have a character whose entire basis is that she wants to strip, which will insight the anger of the killer, only to build and build to this chick stripping and then it's merely a shot of her from the shoulders up! Come on, son. Another annoying aspect was that they killed off the horror expert of the group early on. Now, I'm not saying he needed to live, but it didn't make sense that the remaining characters had their own ingrained knowledge about horror tropes and cliches too. You're telling me even the diva princess character knows the ins and outs of '80s horror movies? I'm not buying it. It also defeated the purpose of having the movie buff die since they didn't need him anyway. My other major complaint is the cinematography and general design choices. The picture is too bright and clean. They should have taken a few tips from "House of the Devil" to make the quality look grainier or at least throw in some kind of distortions. On top of that, nothing looked to be all that '80s specific. Oh, sure, there was Paula's car, a walkman, and some of the clothes, but they clearly did not put enough attention into the details. Again, it might sound like a nitpick, but the '80s throwback is crucial to the plot. In fact, it seemed like they spent more time trying to capture the look of the 1950's flashback. How odd.

I may have my fair share of complaints, but this is still a fantastic film in spite of the noticeable flaws. The story is entertaining, the mother/daughter relationship is interesting, and they successfully toy with your expectations of the stereotypical characters. You also can't go wrong with the movie within a movie concept so there's that to consider. While this is probably a little too casual friendly, I do think you will get more out of it if you're a horror veteran; at the very least, you should have a working knowledge of the slasher basics or have watched "Friday the 13th." Definitely check this out if you have a chance.

Notable Moment: When Paula shows up. Too bad we never saw what this character could really do since she dies right away.

Final Rating: 6.5/10

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Campfire Tales (1997) Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After a car accident, a group of teens tell each other scary stories while waiting for help.

Review: Offbeat movies like this make me miss the days of rental stores. Sure, the individual stories are unbelievably predictable--simply recreations of existing urban legends--but the production value is surprisingly decent. The cast is also full of recognizable faces including my favorite, Ron "Say hello to Lumbergh for me!" Livingston. The other aspect that, kind of, holds things back is this PG-13 vibe to the stories. There is nudity, but I expect a darker tone to match the adult content. Oh well. This was the "Scream" era after all so the presentation is going to feel slightly unusual due to this.

Wraparound: Four teens, driving wildly after a concert, crash and magically go unscathed outside of a few scratches. Setting up road flares, the group takes shelter at an old church where they start a fire. To take their mind off the situation they tell various scary stories. Honestly, if you can't see the twist coming a million miles away, it's time to quit horror movies forever. SURPRISE, they've been dead all along except for one of the teens who sees himself die at the end of the film. Eh, the setup isn't as cornball as you'd expect. I did like the way the characters from the individual stories were different people at the scene of the accident. As far as wraparounds go this wasn't bad at all.

The Hook: This story actually takes place before the teens crash, but it's the shortest of the bunch. It's just the usual tale of a couple making out at a lovers' lane who hear about an escaped mental patient on the radio. The girl thinks she hears something so they take off only to later realize the hook is stuck on the door handle. I'm okay with the way they establish this scenario, but I could have told you this tale in my sleep at this point--it's one of the oldest urban legends out there. The one amusing part was having James Marsden begging for a handjob. This guy cannot catch a break in any movie he's in!

The Honeymoon: I suppose this was the only, somewhat, unique story in the bunch. A recently married couple are crossing the country in a RV for their honeymoon. The two stay for the night nearby an old hiking trail, or whatever it was, where people were once lost and forced into cannibalism. After fucking once, a weird guy shows up and tells them to leave, because the area isn't safe. Trying to avoid the situation altogether, the couple leaves, but they run out of gas conveniently. That weird guy ends up getting killed by, what I'm assuming is, the cannibals still living in the area; it's really unclear what they are. Back to fucking again...which, by the way, this is a great honeymoon...the husband realizes the wife's ankle is swollen. What, from all the fucking?! Damn. The husband heads for gas, but, shocking no one, he ends up getting killed by these freaks. These same freaks attack the wife, but she fends them off with a siren or something. I don't know. A cop shows up the next day and tells the wife not to turn back when leaving the RV, but she cannot resist. Sure enough, the husband is hanging from the roof with his wedding ring scratching the roof. See, as lame as cannibals are, I didn't mind changing things up with this urban legend. Though...they don't really stress the scraping on the roof which is crucial to the plot of that urban legend. Come on, son.

People Can Lick Too: Although not much happens, I kind of like this one the best due to the forward-thinking of the premise. Some tween-ish girl has an internet friend that is actually a pedophile or killer or whatever the hell. Not realizing the truth, the girl discloses she will be home alone which prompts this guy into action. They never explain how he already knew where she lived or how he got there so quick, but I'll let it pass. Slowly stalking the girl, the guy manages to sneak into the girl's room at one point. Somehow psychically knowing the dog usually licks the girl's fingers for reassurance, this bastard does the same thing to her. The stupid part was that he wrote "people can lick too" on the mirror ahead of time. The girl freaks out, runs away, and the creepy dude escapes before help can arrive. So wait...what exactly was this guy's game plan here? Take the time to befriend girl online, stalk her and film her, break into her house when you had the opportunity, kill her dog so you can lick her fingers, then run away? Sounds legit. Carry on. What I like about this entry is the whole creepy internet guy and such. I'm surprised they were worried about this phenomenon already in '97.

The Locket: This is probably the dumbest of the group since it really doesn't make sense. You have a guy traveling across country on his motorcycle when it breaks down suddenly. With a storm coming in, the guy seeks shelter and assistance at a nearby farmhouse. The man meets a mute woman living at the house who wears a familiar locket. The two feel a kind of longing to be together, but this is interrupted by the woman's angry father who shows up. Lots of shenanigans unfold as the man sees a murder and dead bodies appear only to quickly disappear again. For whatever reason, the man and woman witness some kind of ghost loop yet fail to realize it is them as the victims. Upon fleeing the house, the two rest by a tree until the man grows curious about the locket. Opening it up, he sees that the photos inside are of him and the woman. Oh noooes! Another story where they're dead and don't know it. The segment ends with the chick's head rolling off without the locket, and they never explain how a ghost can be riding around on a motorcycle. There are a lot of imaginative ways they could have approached this plot line--a few pornoriffic ways too--but this was about as hollow as it could get.

Despite the huge flaws, I really do enjoy this film. It's not the greatest in the world, but it's a huge step above the shit that constitutes for rental material these days. If the stories weren't by the numbers, I think this film could be at cult classic levels. Instead, this is a mostly forgotten film that virtually no one I know has ever seen or heard of. I would recommend checking it out, but you should anticipate the lack of originality. Likewise, the actual film "Urban Legend," which came out a year later, is significantly better than this.

Notable Moment: At the end when we see a lot of the individual characters reappear as onlookers, medics, and police cleaning up the teens' accident. That was, admittedly, a nice touch.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Notebook (2004) Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: An old man regales a dementia patient with a love story she vaguely remembers.

Review: Ahh, yes, this movie. Another film touted as one of the greatest romances of all time and, seemingly, the quintessential chick flick for girls under 30. While I am giving it a decent rating, this movie is sooo fucking corny. I still remember the first time I watched this and how hard it was not to fall asleep. Sure, it has its moments and the visual are admirable, but the story is nothing exceptional nor is the romance really anything worth crying over. The chemistry between the actors is definitely not there either--I don't know what these critics are talking about. Well boys, if you're girlfriend, fiance, wife, mistress, escort, streetwalker, girl chained up in the basement, etc. is forcing you to put up with this shit on Valentine's Day, it's best to know what torture awaits.

Do you want the good news or the bad news first? Sugarcoat it? Gotcha. As I alluded to, the cinematography is actually really good. The film looks polished with plenty of awesome scenery and shots. Using the '40s as the setting helps make the experience more tolerable since the designs, cars, fashion, etc. are novel choices. The story was striving for a timeless love vibe, and they mostly succeed in that regard due to the time period. Many of the romantic gestures also work more believably given the era since it's impossible to please anyone anymore; for example, I do enjoy the love letters and their significance to the plot. Ryan Gosling's character, Noah, is surprisingly likable since he's a manlier man than the usual bitch-boys we see in chick flicks. Noah is a man of action and only speaks when he really needs to say something--this works. While I do hate everyone named Ryan as a matter of principle, Mr. Gosling turned in a believable performance. Though, that smug bastard needs to stop fucking smirking in every scene. We get it, you're a pretty boy! Finally, I really liked the dynamics with Noah and his dad. Too bad they killed the dad early on and probably just to score a few more sad points with the audience.

Ready to yank off the band-aid? First off, Rachel McAdams, playing Allie, is not likable. She's an indecisive, cheating bitch who doesn't deserve to have either guy as an option. I love how they write off the other dude as so forgiving...yeah, right! Honestly, Noah is too good for her. Likewise, Allie and Noah aren't a believable couple, and the actors do not have chemistry with each other. It's the same tired formula of a rich girl and a poor guy and the parents won't allow it. Oh nooooes! The actors do their best, but I don't see any passion when they're together. Other films have little nuances that actors or directors add to make it feel like their characters spend time together. Here, these two just feel like actors told they love each other. I seriously do not understand the praise for this aspect. The worst parts of the movie though are the overly melodramatic moments. They're almost satirical in nature, and it makes me burst out laughing; for example, when Noah's friend dies in WWII, and his head is like sticking out of the snow. I'm okay with the old people parts, but that's an awfully whimsical approach to a horrific medical condition. And, come on, they both will themselves to death or something?! LAME! More pandering at its finest.

You know, people have given me a lot of shit for liking "A Walk to Remember," but this movie gets the pass?! It's not that it's necessarily bad, but it's a cookie cutter story with predictable elements all around. The main romance feels contrived, and that whole across time and space sensation they wanted is not captured. If Allie weren't a cheating bitch I would have actually bumped the rating up a half point too. The technical aspects are just fine as they are with most chick flicks so I can't fault them there. However, the story does not reach the levels of depth many hype it to be at. In the end, I can understand why this appeals to a lot of chickadees out there, but it's too bland for me to immerse myself in.

Notable Moment: The poster shot. That scene is right when the cheating starts, and that dirty skank is even wearing her engagement ring on the poster for the movie!

Final Rating: 6/10

Friday, February 12, 2016

My Sassy Girl (Korean original) Review


Update: This is really rare--maybe the second time so far--but I'm upping the rating half a point. I can't get this movie out of my head! I keep listening to the main theme song; it truly does capture the best part of the film. Maybe this really is better than I thought.

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After helping out a drunk girl, a man begins a bizarre and whirlwind romance with her.

Review: Despite my interest mostly focused on Asian horror, people still found ways to work this into a conversation about Asian cinema. Is it really that remarkable? Wellllll...not really. In fact, this is an even more dysfunctional romance than "Sleepless in Seattle." Ugh...but I'm so torn when all things are considered! In one respect, the first 90 minutes are utterly ridiculous. You watch this completely abusive and insane "romance" that only works because the genders aren't reversed. Sorry, but if swapping the genders in your alleged romance turns it into a horror or thriller you have a problem. On the other hand, the last 30 minutes are like watching a completely different film altogether. Every scene after the couple are told they must break up, through the ending and twist, are completely awesome and redeem the entire film. If I could somehow isolate just those last 30 minutes into a separate movie it would have been 8/10 material without a doubt. The buildup to that conclusion, however, is twisted and outright fucked up.

A quick rundown of the story is definitely in order. Gyeon-woo, or however you say his name (I've seen 4 different spellings!), sees a drunk girl about to fall onto the tracks just as a train is arriving. After seemingly saving her, shenanigans unfold whereby strangers believe he is the girl's boyfriend and should take care of her; this part is surprisingly funny. Carrying her all over town, and taking her to a hotel to sober up, Gyeon-woo is arrested and later released. The next day this seemingly happens all over again except the two now become acquainted. The girl is never given a name so I'm just going to refer to her as "Sassy." Sassy and Gyeon-woo become friends, in a matter of speaking, but everyone believes they are a couple. Slowly, the two reach a point where their feelings go unspoken for one another, but they kind of acknowledge they are dating. Sassy finally invites Gyeon-woo to meet her parents, and, not only do they not like him, but shenanigans ensue once more to screw things up; I really do like the shenanigan-related aspects to this story. Forced to break up or whatever the hell was going on, the couple later meets at a tree where they bury a time capsule with letters the two have written for the other. They promise they will meet at the tree in two years to see how their feelings are with time to cool off. During the two years, Gyeon-woo gets his life together in the hope that they will have a stable relationship when they meet, but Sassy does not show up when the two years have passed. Reading her letter, Gyeon-woo learns that Sassy's longtime boyfriend died a year before these two met, and she was severely depressed. Over time, she was able to seemingly love again with Gyeon-woo but felt guilty and wanted more time to forget. Another year passes after this, and Sassy finally does show up to read Gyeon-woo's letter for her. Realizing she done goofed, Sassy tries to track down Gyeon-woo but cannot locate him. In an attempt to move on with her life, Sassy meets up with the guy her first boyfriend's mom has wanted her to meet for years. It turns out that the guy is none other than Gyeon-woo, thus, implying the two were always destined to cross paths. Awww...

Now, you might be thinking, that sounds romantic, what's wrong with it? The main problem is that Sassy is a goddamn psycho bitch! Nothing against the actress, Ji-hyun Jun (or Gianna Jun), because she pulled off the performance incredibly well. But Sassy is everything you don't want from a girlfriend. She is physically abusive, controlling, makes endless threats, erratic, fickle, confrontational, a tease, and, most annoying of all, she CONSTANTLY emasculates Gyeon-woo at every turn. I mean, fuck, she actually forces this little bitch-boy to wear heels! And she's not just hitting him in private, she is hitting him out in the public all the while sticking to that same tired bullshit about "I can hit you, but you can't hit me because I'm a girl!" Imagine we keep everything the same but switch the roles--make it "My Sassy Guy." Would this movie still work? NO, and that hypocrisy annoys me to absolute no end. It goes beyond that though, Gyeon-woo is such an utter weakling how could any woman possibly respect him? And the romance is tarnished toward the end since we come to learn many supposedly romantic gestures were about Sassy trying to recreate the same experiences she had with the first boyfriend. What the fuck?! That's outright twisted and wrong. The icing on the cake is that Gyeon-woo not only never gets any ass for his efforts--this dude didn't even get a kiss! Fuck...I'm done.

But, believe it or not, the film still managed to win me over in spite of all the things I detested. Those last 30 minutes really are that heartfelt and emotionally powerful! All of the negatives about Sassy seemingly go away in an instance. The two hanging out in the hills where Sassy wants him to go far away so she can say the words aloud, about the two breaking up, but doesn't have the courage to say it face to face...that works. The two, knowing they won't see each other for two years, not wanting to say goodbye when boarding the train--that was moving and with amazing chemistry. I loved the two trying to be with one another at the last second too; Gyeon-woo hopping off the train just as Sassy quickly boards it. That scene really touched me! The couple longing for one another over the years but unable to just get together resonates with me. And, of course, the final twist that brings them back together is perfectly brilliant. That is how you tackle a destined romance meaningfully. Ugh...why couldn't the whole movie have played out like this? I'll say it again, the last 30 minutes comprise, practically, another movie when compared to the first 90. I guess they thought it would be charming or quirky or funny or whatever to introduce Sassy as such a bitch? Hell if I know. Though, I do want to mention that this film makes you appreciate "Cyborg Girl" all the more as you could infer that "Cyborg Girl" is actually one of Sassy's scripts she wrote. This might also explain the subtly added sci-fi and supernatural elements that pop up in "My Sassy Girl" that go unaddressed.

I'm not 100% sure how I feel with this movie. I want to say I enjoyed it overall, but it's hard to take it seriously when it's touted as one of Korea's best. It is good, don't get me wrong, but I'm going to lean on the overrated side with the caveat that the film did manage to change my mind by the end; that is certainly a testament to the storytelling if it made me do a 180. The actors turn in roles with true conviction and have solid chemistry together. The film successfully invests you in the relationship and you want it to work out one way or another. The comedic elements are surprisingly funny, and the nuanced jokes were exceptional. The technical aspects are done well enough, and the music is pretty good. On the down side, there are major pacing issues, the initial romance is unhealthy and abusive which is crucial to the plot, and the fallout between the couple felt forced and contrived. I get why chicks would like this movie so much--seeing a guy put up with soooo much bullshit and still loving the girl--but this would be a disastrous relationship in reality. Eh, what can I say, I am definitely not the target demographic.

Notable Moment: When the two are saying goodbye at the train station. I just wanted the two to embrace so badly! As much as this movie was annoying me...that music, that tension...argh...just get together!

It doesn't have to end this way!

Final Rating: 6.5/10

Monday, February 8, 2016

Sleepless in Seattle Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A deranged woman stalks a man she heard on the radio one time in an attempt to--wait, what's that? This is supposed to be a serious romance?!

Review: I don't know what coke I was snorting in '93, but it must have been good shit! I thought I remembered this film actually being romantic. Realistically, the story is exceptionally disturbing. Sure, the '90s were a different time and all that jazz, but come on, son. I definitely stand by my statement that "You've Got Mail" is the superior pairing of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan by a significant margin. Here, there's no chemistry or virtually anything you could claim to be romantic. Hell, the two only share a handful of dialogue together! But this movie goes beyond the stalker elements and into delusional territory. There is like this unspoken voice of reason addressed at multiple times, and yet it's completely ignored by the leads in favor of whimsical thinking. That's called pandering to the audience. The writer wants things to happen, and, rather than anything occurring naturally, it is simply thrust upon your sensibilities as a sane individual. Sorry, not buying it.

Let's look at Meg Ryan playing Annie. This chick is nuts! She is unhappy with her fiance, that she is settling for, and is desperately looking for faults to sabotage the relationship. Bitch, you're about to marry Bill "we will not go quietly into the night" Pullman! But why does she want someone else? Because she doesn't "feel" any magical connection. What is this magic she desires? Well, apparently she wants her life to play out like a movie. She even says this crazily and admits she's been watching too many movies! Oh goodness gracious. Her next step is to creepily track down a guy she heard on the radio, hire a private investigator to spy on him, and randomly show up to his house unannounced. WHAT?! Keep in mind, she's lying to her fiance the whole time about all this. Does any of this make for a likable character? This relationship will TOTALLY work out. I just can't stand this hopeless dreamer element to her character. "It's a sign!" Get a grip, hun.

Okay, so what about Tom Hanks playing Sam? Sam's wife died only 18 months prior, and he's succumbing to peer pressure to date again. Why are we supposed to want him to date again? Maybe he wants to be alone. Maybe he should wait 5 to 10 years. What chick wants to be the replacement? You would constantly be compared to the mom with the son involved. I get why Sam is somewhat likable, but he's more of an average Joe Blow than some exceptional guy every woman would want; maybe I missed something, but I'm not seeing the appeal.

And how do they pull this bizarre romance together? Well, by throwing in bullshit about soulmates and Sam magically sensing a connection to Annie. How convenient. These two don't know anything about one another. They share no real dialogue until mere minutes before the credits roll. Where is the meaningful aspect to their relationship? Where is the resonance? Oh right, it's all destiny, yeah, sure, whatever. Look, you can have a story that covers these themes, but it needs to make sense reasonably. Annie is clearly a stalker, Sam is vulnerable, and this combo cannot possibly end happily ever after. Only in the movies. You know what, I'll just pretend the film's events were nothing more than second thoughts flashing through Annie's mind as she was walking down the aisle at her wedding.

There are some redeeming qualities, however. The jokes can be funny like referring to watching "Nightmare on Elm Street 12." The background characters were depicted with more depth than you'd imagine. In fact, they often serve as the voice of reason when trying to bring the leads' heads out the clouds for a second. I can appreciate certain plot lines, but I don't believe they were handled properly. The son could have been way more annoying so I'll give them credit for sparing me that torture. Lastly, the acting is commendable, the pacing is better than I imagined, and I did enjoy the general concept of a radio caller nicknamed "Sleepless in Seattle."

Overall, this movie is overrated. And don't give me that "you don't get it" bullshit. Maybe the problem is that I do get it. The story could have been restructured to make Annie more sympathetic, but it's as if they chose to add this drama to pander to an audience that also wants to experience this delusional pursuit of the shit they see in movies. I actually wanted this to be the depiction of some next level, across time and space love, but, instead, they opted for stalker-friendly fair. Ladies, just try and tell me you'd find it romantic if a guy did to you what Annie does to Sam? That's what I thought.

Notable Moment: Not necessarily a single scene, but I liked the recurring joke about having higher chances of being killed by terrorists than getting married past 50.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Updated Review #11: Cyborg Girl (aka Cyborg She)


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: At the end of his life, a man sends his cyborg companion back in time to his younger self in the hope he will teach her how to be more human.

Review: Not going to lie, my original review for this film was a mess. On top of that, I did not do my girl, Haruka Ayase, the justice she needed! But, before we get ahead of ourselves, I have to address the odd nature of this film's existence. Of course it's a romance film first and foremost, but the audience targeted appears to be dorky guys. How is that supposed to work? Sure, chicks will like this too, but it's not appealing to them in a conventional manner beyond dealing with romance plot elements. I would imagine a lot of girls finding this creepy since the love interest isn't even a human technically. Eh...I like it. In fact, this is one of my favorite romance films; though, that's a short list anyway. And, as much as I oppose marriage, if some sexy chickadee like Ms. Ayase was willing to travel across time to be with me, you bet your sweet ass I'd make a few concessions for her. Finally, for clarity's sake, I will refer to the cyborg as Haruka from here on out and the actress as Ms. Ayase. This is because the movie oddly never names the cyborg. Needless to say, that irks me.

Uhmmm!

First up, let's go over what exactly is the romance going on here. Jiro is a lonely geek who meets a mysterious and beautiful woman on his birthday. After the two hit it off the girl disappears until the following year. The difference is that now the girl is a cyborg sent back in time by his future self; Haruka's design is based off the mystery girl. Future Jiro became rich right at the same time he was shot and paralyzed by a deranged gunman. Haruka changes this timeline's outcome, and the hope is to make her become human as future Jiro did not complete her until he was old. The majority of the film demonstrates the ups and downs of their budding relationship which is kept G-rated for the most part. In the background Haruka is altering other events of time that involved unnecessary deaths that affected future Jiro. After much bonding, Jiro worries that Haruka is hopelessly mechanical. Jiro screws everything up when he tries to find a regular girl and tells Haruka to go away. Realizing that he's an idiot--because, well, that's the dumbest idea ever--Jiro misses Haruka and realizes he misunderstood the way she shows her feelings. Unfortunately, it all ends in tragedy when an, almost prophetic, earthquake devastates Japan. Jiro is saved by Haruka who sacrifices herself in the destruction. Meticulously reconstructing Haruka over the decades, she is revived once Jiro has become an old man, and he dies with her by his side. But it's not over yet. The original mystery girl was in fact from the future herself and was always moved by Jiro's relationship for Haruka...which was based on her all along. Wait, what?! After setting this paradox into motion, the future girl decides she will stay in the past with Jiro since she has fallen in love with him through merging her memories with Haruka's. I promise it comes off less sci-fi-ish when you watch it!

Not sure what she's doing...but it's working!

I'll quickly run through the way the various timelines work, because it can be confusing (and I still could be wrong). Timeline 1: Jiro becomes rich, crippled, and builds a cyborg he loves. Either that or he does something that gains the attention of future girl. Timeline 2: Jiro meets future girl and bases Haruka on her. Everything else happens the same as Timeline 1. Timeline 3 (the film's events): Jiro meets future girl, is given Haruka in his youth, does not become crippled, and dies with Haruka at his side. Timeline 4 (the film's ending): the same as Timeline 3 except future girl decides to be with Jiro, and we can assume they live happily ever after. And yes, this universe is working in the logic of parallel universes since Haruka does not negate her own existence by altering the timeline; however, future girl's first time travel visit does create a paradox.

Well, if anyone is going to invent sexy robot girls it will definitely be Japan.

What makes this film so great is the successful blend of multiple genres. Obviously the romance is top priority, but the comedy is surprisingly well done, the sci-fi aspects are never far from the plot, and the drama keeps you engaged. The other factor that pulls it together is that the leads have great chemistry with one another. Ms. Ayase shows a lot of range and looks gorgeous the entire time. Although...I wish she didn't have that wig-looking hairdo. Keisuke Koide, playing Jiro, pulls off the dork character admirably yet never becomes annoying with it. He is a bit wimpy for my taste, but Japanese dramas often portray these guys that desperately "need a woman's touch." The actors play off one another's personalities for many great scenes. There is a playful innocence to their romance that diminishes that creepy factor you might imagine if the tone were darker. Sure, Jiro addresses banging Haruka comically, but he gets shot down and remains quite respectful toward her the entire film. More so, the film makes you forget that Haruka isn't even human--she's just that lovable. It probably goes without saying, but the story tries to tug on your heartstrings a few times; for example, when we learn about Jiro's childhood, all the horrible things that future Jiro wanted changed, and, of course, when Haruka dies. Another feat worth acknowledging is that the running time is around two hours yet you never feel it; the pacing is right on track. Lastly, the closing song is incredibly powerful and moving--it certainly channels the emotions of the film.

This lucky bastard and his sexy, time traveling immortal superhero girlfriend!

While they are not significant, I want to mention the few missteps. Admittedly, the story can come off insincere if you focus on Haruka being a cyborg. Likewise, future girl taking her place can feel cheap in a way. Not giving either the cyborg or future girl a name baffles me. Is there supposed to be significance to that decision or was it merely a nod to "My Sassy Girl?" After all, they had the same director. That hairdo seriously annoys me! Like...I want to fight someone over it. That was not the best style for my dear Ms. Ayase, and the dye isn't doing any favors. Other than that, my one legitimate complaint was the forced nature of Jiro and Haruka's separation for a period. Every scene leading up to their argument showed Haruka becoming more and more human and emotional with Jiro yet we are to believe she would then lie about it to Jiro? To what end? Plus, how did Jiro survive the earthquake the first time without Haruka? Maybe altering time created the earthquake!

Yeah...you know that hair sucks too, but I still love ya. Just don't tell Rika!

Overall, this is a great film that many have missed the chance to experience. If there is a chick flick I think you could easily convince a guy to try out, this might be the one. There is enough action going on to keep the guy's interest, and you have a sexy, dreamlike woman as the love interest (just don't get jealous). Beyond that, the pacing is solid, the chemistry between the actors is great, and the special effects are surprisingly good. The romance successfully ranges from comical to funny to sad all with precision execution. I definitely recommend couples checking this one out for V-day (assuming you don't want to give "My Bloody Valentine" a shot).

Notable Moment: When the cyborg fights some random thugs after first time traveling. The references to "The Terminator" were thoroughly amusing.

Final Rating: 7.5/10

Friday, February 5, 2016

13 Going on 30 Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After making a wish on her 13th birthday, a girl finds herself living the life of her 30 year old self.

Review: Keeping with my usual, yearly tradition, it's time, once again, to cover a few chicks flicks. While I dislike Valentine's Day and loathe most chick flicks in general, there are a few notable exceptions here and there. Sometime in the early 2000s this renewed fascination with the '80s began, and "13 Going on 30" was one of the first films to fully capitalize on that nostalgia. The plot concept is even similar to many '80s out-of-body films such as "Big," "Like Father Like Son," and "Vice Versa." What makes this film work is the extremely lighthearted nature of the story coupled with the attention to detail most posers fail to incorporate. There is also this fantasy element that spices things up since it's technically an alternate reality we see. However, the most important aspect was a successful level of charm that endears the audience.

There isn't much in the way of an explanation for the film's supernatural events nor does anyone question it. The main character, Jenna, simply has a terrible birthday (in 1987) and wishes she were "30 and flirty." Funny, don't most 30 year olds wish they were back in their 20s? Wanting nothing more than to be the cool kid, Jenna's 13 year old consciousness is transported into her 30 year old body; time does pass to 2004. While Jenna has a successful career in this alternate future, she doesn't like the person she became or the loss of her relationship with her best friend, Matt. Despite trying to go along with the scenario and making the best of the situation, Jenna ends up losing the things she desires most. When Matt is getting married to a different woman, Jenna seemingly wishes to be a kid again and returns to that birthday party. Shocking no one, the movie ends with Jenna and Matt getting married instead, and Jenna does not go down the life path depicted in the story. How cute.

Why do I like this movie? Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo play their respective roles, as Jenna and Matt, commendably and with conviction. The chemistry isn't quite where it should be for a romance movie, but the quirky nature of their relationship and Ms. Garner's over the top performance pulls it together nicely. More so, the romance aspect feels believable due to the handling of the reactions from characters and the initial, bittersweet ending. The entire '80s presence adds a layer of fun to the film at a time period when it really would have been viewed as unusual to onlookers. Things like Jenna dancing to "Thriller" may feel like someone is trying too hard now, but back then it would have been offbeat. The film doesn't simply stick to cliched trends we see in every film or TV show that references the '80s. The nuances like cartoonish folders and giant pencils go a long way for me since that's shit my sisters had back then. Speaking of which, other background details like dialogue from extras or throwaway lines give the film a sense of unique charm that is sorely missing from most cornball romcoms. I mean, come on, you gotta love when Jenna is hanging out with other 13 year old girls, and they're on the same exact level. When you combine all of these individual elements together the film simply becomes great.

Though this is certainly a playful story, there are things that can come off incredibly stupid. Adding a love interest for Matt hurts the resolution. It makes Jenna appear selfish since she wants to alter that situation. Meaning, the innocence of the film is slightly tarnished by the two not being single. Maybe Matt should have married that chickadee. I didn't like the lack of clarity on what was happening. I am calling it an alternate reality, but was it a dream, the Ghost of Christmas Future...what? Considering how much of an evil bitch Jenna's alternate self was, why did everyone humor her transition? They don't fully reconcile the 13 year old Jenna with the 30 year old version. One thing that seriously sucked was the inclusion of a few modern songs. Why? You have all these '80s songs and just had to throw in shit like fucking Liz Phair?!

This movie is by no means perfect, but the imaginative concepts mixed with the fantasy elements make it enjoyable to a broader audience than the usual romcom demographic. The lighthearted tone allows the story to develop a charming brand of humor, and the characters have a likable innocence. Ms. Garner captures that girl next door vibe, the upbeat pacing is engaging, and the happily ever after cliche is actually a fitting conclusion. Ladies, it may be harder to convince your boyfriend, husband, fiance, lover, stalker, serial killer, guy in your closet, etc. to watch this one with you, but I think most people can tolerate this minor foray into chick flick realm. Just tell them it's like the girly version of "Big," and they might give it a shot.

Notable Moment: When Jenna is having a slumber party with a bunch of 13 year old girls. Ignoring the inherent creepy factor, it's just an amusing scene that is like the icing on the cake that is cheesy fun.

Final Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Creepy Crawlers (aka They Nest) Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: An island, home to a small fishing town, is overrun by carnivorous cockroaches.

Review: Okay, time to FINALLY end the nightmare that was the 8-pack with "Bloody Murder." If you ever want to experience a glimpse into hell's bowels, marathon these 8 films. Just make sure you let someone know what you're doing so they can be on suicide watch. Well, what do we have this time around? Wait...this can't be right. Th--this movie is...actually...good?! Be still my beating heart. More accurately, it's above average, but it was certainly entertaining as far as killer bug movies go. In fact, the effects for the bugs were not bad at all. I truly feel sorry that this movie was lumped in with such abominations to cinema.

They don't really explain where these cockroaches came from which was lame. They imply they are a real species--hell, maybe they are--but they can't possibly be this dangerous in reality or the world would be dead. All we know is some guy on a boat was infested with them and thrown overboard. Magically, his body washes ashore on this island where the bugs almost instantly multiply. Conveniently enough, a troubled doctor arrives to get away from it all. Of course he is the first to figure this all out, but the inbred locals don't believe him. I know this all sounds cliche, however, they handle the material well. As I mentioned, the effects are pretty good with mostly real insects used. Likewise, the gore effects were decent as well; whoever decided to go with practical effects made the right decision. When they do switch over to occasional CGI use, it's still better than you'd expect given the low budget. The actors take the material seriously which helped to make the stakes feel worthwhile. The ending felt a bit rushed since the roaches suddenly sprout wings, become a swarm, and are blown up in one big explosion. This scene is followed by one more shot of a surviving roach flying toward a major city. In fairness, how else can you end a movie like this, right?

Even though this movie is nothing special, I was mildly impressed by how much they were able to accomplish. The acting, pacing, effects, and kills were all better than I thought they would be, and the overall story was interesting. Considering the other pieces of shit on this 8-pack, I dare say this would be the only objectively good entry of the bunch. Sure, the cliches are excessive, but that's why the rating is what it is; I can't completely hold the cookie cutter plot points against the film though. Would I recommend tracking this collection down to see this film? Fuck no! But, should someone torture you with this DVD, at least there is one silver lining.

Notable Moment: When it looks like the wind is blowing leaves in a gust only for it to be the cockroaches running through said leaves. It's hard to explain, but it was a surprisingly cool effect.

Final Rating: 5.5/10