Enter the Ninja (1981) [1981 Week]

Enter the Ninja (1981) [1981 Week]

(spoilers ahead)

I watched so many movies for this week and when I decided to stop I had a hard time deciding which movies to focus on. Surprisingly, I picked Enter the Ninja, probably the goofiest movie of them all. But it is one of those really enjoyable bad movies that I love (and that you have to watch a dozen terrible movies before finding one). The story is a joke, the acting is horrible, even a kid could point out the continuity errors, it’s offensive in many ways and many, many, many things make no sense whatsoever. But somehow, it’s fun to watch Franco Nero play a ninja (which is a silly idea in itself), only to clearly see that he never does any ninja stuff which is reserved for his stunt double (and original lead actor Mike Stone). The fight scenes are even decent in some regard, just everything else is incredibly sloppy and over the top. If you enjoy these kinds of movies, you’ll love Enter the Ninja.

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Did I Like This? (Niggaz4Life)

Did I Like This? (Niggaz4Life)

Because N.W.A. is as popular again as ever before thanks to Straight Outta Compton, I thought it’s a good time to go back to my own feelings about their music. I was somewhat surprised to see I had written about their first album already (which I had forgotten, which happens after 250+ posts), so today I look at the far more problematic 2nd (or 3rd, depending on what you consider 100 Miles and Runnin’ to be) album Niggaz4Life (or technically Efil4zaggin), released in 1991. It is also their last album and, as more or less shown in the movie, was not as much of a team effort as their debut.

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Behind These Castle Walls, Part I: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Behind These Castle Walls, Part I: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Ever since I read J. Zornado’s revolutionary important book Inventing the Child, in which he examines children’s fiction and its underlying messages, I looked at books and movies in a different way. Among all the brilliant things this book achieves, what spoke to me in a special way was how he dissected Disney movies, specifically The Young Mermaid and The Lion King. Uncovering their themes of parent authority, gender politics and identity manipulation was a big revelation to me. And ever since then I wanted to look at Disney movies, which are so beloved and popular until today, and see if I could figure out which ideas they sell to kids. So, today I’m starting a new series in which I’ll chronologically go through every major animated Disney movie and try to analyze it closely. I’m not the first one to do this, but I hope I have something new to say anyway. I have seen most of them already in the past, but I will watch them again with different eyes now.

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Man on Fire (2004) [2004 Week]

Man on Fire (2004) [2004 Week]

(spoilers ahead)

Man on Fire is a standard vigilante/revenge movie wrapped up in a redemption story coupled with a little girl likes killer story. Because it’s a Tony Scott film, all of it is mixed with nervous editing, shaky camera, color filters and a best of music cues from this and other movies (seriously, if you know film music, it’s really weird to see a big studio movie that simply uses music from other movies). It has a great and large cast and some interesting individual scenes, but overall it’s a bit of a mess. It seems unfair to say that because so much of it is simply Scott’s late-year style, but it works more for some movies than for others (Domino, for example, was slightly better). My main issue (besides the revenge aspect I’ll discuss in a second), is that the film is so off structurally. It’s too long and divided into two uneven halves. If you like these kinds of movies, it’s certainly okay, but the imbalance in tone and story really bothered me.

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Saw (2004) [2004 Week]

Saw (2004) [2004 Week]

Saw is a movie that started another horror franchise that, in the spirit of these things, simply repeated the most basic concept over and over again. Looking at the original movie, you can only barely see the appeal of continuing it, which mostly comes from the fact that not much is explained in the end and that there is one central element that producers thought was worth repeating, which, again, as in other franchises, is mostly creative ways of killing victims. That’s what drove other series, like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Final Destination or Friday the 13th. The movie itself is nothing really special, it’s not well-made, its plot and structure is a mess and the acting is serviceable at best. Its central story, two guys trapped in a room, trying to find out what’s going on, is effective, but once the flashbacks starts and the connections are overflowing the movie loses a lot of momentum. There are some nice moments, but overall I wasn’t really interested in watching more of these movies, let alone six more of them.

 

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Superman Returns (2006)

Superman Returns (2006)

Superman Returns is a disaster I didn’t see coming. I read about the movie of course and I know people were disappointed. And after Man of Steel, I thought, well, I should watch this one too because even if it’s not great, it can’t be that bad. And it wasn’t, but only in the most objective perspective I can imagine. I hated Man of Steel, but it wasn’t boring and it had an emotional impact on me. True, that impact was mostly negative because it made me so angry for its content. But Superman Returns made me angry because it was such a waste of a movie, of talent, of ideas. It is one of the most boring movies I’ve seen in a long time, where absolutely nothing happens for the first thirty minutes and where even the action set pieces seem off, like it’s an accident if they actually excite you. The main problem is that it is almost impossible to care about any of the characters. This is also one of the most bland movies I have ever seen, a word I rarely use, but the only word I could think of (beside ‘boring’). None of the characters seem to be interested in anything, no real stakes are ever raised. How a great actor like Kevin Spacey can make a fascinating character like Lex Luthor so uninspired is beyond me. The attempts at recreating a feel for the original Superman movie made me cringe because it just didn’t work. Nothing really worked me. It just made me more angry the longer I had to suffer through all its incredible 154 minutes in which not much happens for 80% of the running time and the main character barely speaks.

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Irréversible (2002)

Irréversible (2002)

Irréversible is a movie that hits you over the head like a, well, I guess I have to say it, like a fire extinguisher. I read all about this movie when it came out 13 years ago and always was too afraid to watch it, but now I finally did (thanks for the push, Lara) and I don’t regret it for a second. It is strange for a movie that has such a strong impact on me and made me think about so many things for days, to not give it a higher rating, but it is a good movie with some, let’s not call them flaws, but issues. The structure is so much more than a gimmick and puts a new perspective on a wide range of concepts, the camerawork is daring and challenging, but awesome, the use of (seemingly) long takes is essential to the effect it has on the viewer, the music is extreme and beautiful, the acting is phenomenal. The movie is haunting, shocking, confusing, thought-provoking, troubling, unbearable and addictive at the same time and above all very intense. It might be the most intense movie I’ve ever seen (pushing Requiem for a Dream of its throne). It is hard to recommend it because it is so obviously not for everyone, but if you are ready for it, it will be strangely rewarding.

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Drive (2011)

Drive (2011)

(spoilers when I say so)

Drive is a movie that really got to me. It is one of the intense and most surprising movies I’ve seen in a while and also one of the best. I had high expectations for the movie after having read so many good things, but they really paid off. It’s the first movie I gave a 10 since Looper in August. Director Nicolas Winding Refn creates an atmosphere that is as intense as anything I’ve ever experienced in a movie. This special mood is mostly created through silence, music and brilliantly framed shots (the two of them in the hallway, separated by the editing, but united in negative space is extremely brilliant). The use of unexpected and shocking violence adds to that in an unusual way. The movie captivates you so much that the violence really feels like a hit on the head. It makes the violence also more meaningful because it both has an effect on the viewer and real consequences for the characters. The acting is amazing throughout, especially Ryan Gosling carries the movie without saying much and with only the slightest facial expressions. The same goes for Carey Mulligan, but most of the actors defy character expectations with little gestures, especially Albert Brooks and Oscar Isaacs. Overall, a great movie that stays with you.

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The Interview (2014)

The Interview (2014)

The Interview is… annoying? It’s the only word I can think of. It’s a comedy that throws everything at the screen it can think of, any joke, no matter how high or low it aims, they just thrust it all out and see what sticks. Not much does, if you ask me, but that doesn’t really matter I guess. It’s not a secret by now that this movie is not worth all the controversy it caused. Its humor and tone is so all over the place that there is not much room for satire or any deep thought. And the movie honestly doesn’t care either, which might be in its favor. I found it, well, annoying, because it’s very long, not many jokes are funny and the direction is lazy. Seth Rogen does his Seth Rogen thing, which is somewhat entertaining for a while but not forever. James Franco… I don’t what to say. I think he is the worst part of the movie as his grimacing and overacting is simply mind-boggling. It is impossible to feel any sympathy for him, but the movie wants us to like him, which is hard if it’s tough just watching him talk.

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Comics Are for Everyone: 1988 Edition [1988 Week]

Comics Are for Everyone: 1988 Edition [1988 Week]

Because of the amazing comics that have been released in 1988, I decided to have another comics section in this theme week. Grant Morrison and Alan Moore are big enough names for this, I guess, but we shouldn’t forget Jamie Delano. I’ll just focus on the issues published in that year, since that’s enough already. Let’s go!

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Why We Should Care More Than Obama

Why We Should Care More Than Obama

In his reaction to the Grand Jury decision not to put Darren Wilson on trial, Barack Obama again showed pretty well why politics won't help us change anything unless they are forced. Politicians don't care, that's not their job, and Obama is no different in that than anyone before and probably after him.

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Snakes on a Plane (2006)

Snakes on a Plane (2006)

Snakes on a Plane is a movie I feel even weird writing about. A movie just made because of a silly title and internet lore, but somewhat forgotten once it was released. The very definition of pre-release-hype. And it is not a great movie, at least depending on your taste or interest. Maybe it’s in that kind of B-movie style that you enjoy it, if you like far-out violence and silly plots. But I found the movie especially disappointing in this area because for the most time it plays so serious. Yet, the story is also boring and the movie just doesn’t feel as entertaining as it should be. It also feels the need to use many, many stereotypes and uses sexuality both for gratuitousness and shock. The movie is weirdly uneven and you can really see how it was cobbled together without much thought, but just to exploit its hype (unsuccessfully though).

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This 80s Movie: Cruising (1980)

This 80s Movie: Cruising (1980)

(spoilers ahead)

Cruising is a confused movie, confused about its intention, its story and ending, but also about what it wants to say about homosexuality. And, to get straight it, it should say something about homosexuality. Being one of the few movies to deal with the issue, it shouldn’t act like it doesn’t have an opinion on it. But the movie is so unfocused and messy that it shouldn’t be a real surprise. On the surface a crime mystery about a killer who kills gay men who indulge in the leather scene, the movie doesn’t do much but being grim, cold and dark, while having a protagonist that never allows us to know what happening inside of him. The movie got its attention only because it tackled homosexuality and supposedly showed gay sex in a graphic way before it had to be cut. Would this be a movie a killer in a heterosexual swinger scene, it probably would never have seen the light of day.

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American Psycho (2000)

American Psycho (2000)

(spoilers ahead)

American Psycho is one of those impossible book adaptations that you wouldn’t anyone who knows the book expect to even consider. That book is insane! Mostly in a good way and in a very disturbing way for the rest of the time. But Bret Easton Ellis knows how to write. The movie is relatively harmless in comparison and while it might not be completely successful, it is a worthy attempt that captures some of the spirit of the book. The direction by Mary Harron (a woman!) is excellent and the use of excerpts from the book works well. And Christian Bale of course, he completely sells the movie by his extraordinary performance. But the movie drags for a while in the middle because it doesn’t know what to do after the main jokes are made but the mayhem is not about to start yet, which bored me. Still, the movie, like the book (which I admire but never want to read again) made some great points about society and capitalism we can look at here.

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