Posts Tagged ‘Life’

THOR

2011/05/10

 

http://thor.marvel.com/

USA 2011  Directed by: Kenneth Branagh  Written by: Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Don Payne  Produced by: Kevin Feige  Cinematography by: Haris Zambarloukos  Editing by: Paul Rubell  Music by: Patrick Doyle  Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings, Idris Elba, Colm Feore, Tadanobu Asano, Rene Russo

I never saw the appeal of Thor as a comic-book hero. Actually, if picky, I’d say Thor is not even a superhero by any means. He’s a Nordic mythical deity cast to Earth by his father Odin. And, with his red cape, ironclad armor and a little gold, winged helmet housing a set of goldilocks, he’s borderline a Halloween mascot.

“Thor” the movie is an attempt to make the character less kitsch – red cape, ironclad armor, and long flowing goldilocks for all the females to swoon over. Chris Hemsworth (Thor) took a lot of time working out for the ladies. Outside his armor he’s a pin-up for Levi’s commercials…at times where it would barely hold on to his tight derrière. His piercing blue eyes could raise your body temperature to tip the mercury.

But, “Thor” is a superhero comic-book adaptation. And it’s mostly for boys. What bright idea was it to make it into a romantic comedy? Sure, there were moments of clashing and flying fists and bodies. Of course there was a ton of CG effects that required a small nation of computer animators. But for the most part, the story somewhat circled around Thor and his love interest, Jane Foster, played sappily by the recent Oscar doll, Natalie Portman. However, the fault doesn’t lie with the actors, considering there are a few more big-screen heavyweights aside from Portman – Anthony Hopkins (Odin), Stellan Skarsgård (Jane’s senior yet timid colleague), and cameos by Jeremy Renner and Sam Jackson. It’s just that all the crucial stakes raised by the characters weren’t…all that crucial.

Thor’s an arrogant god born with invulnerability. Because of his hard head that put his realm in danger of going back to war with its nemesis, the frost giants, Thor is stripped of his powers by his father and cast to Earth as punishment. There, he meets Jane, by accident, and struggles to regain his senses and worth for his triumphant return. But then, the film segues to Jane and Thor getting acquainted for a really long time, leaving all the action and plots to the curb. Somehow, Thor (a daft god) finds Jane (a geeky, squeaky astrophysicist) really interesting. But, unlike other sensible action movies where at least the distressed dame would be the cause for the hero to go berserk and blow things up, Jane was just there to have coffee talk with Thor. And for the final battle, she isn’t even really in harm’s way; accept maybe stubbornly tiptoeing into crossfire.

Throughout the film, one character stood out sincerely, Kat Denning’s sexy, pouty Darcy – Jane’s intern, who found Thor, Jane, and the entire scenario to be a farce. It made a lot of sense on paper to point Kenneth Branagh to the director’s chair…for the amalgamation of theatrical period-costumed figures with modern-day countryside simpletons. But the delivery missed the target by a long shot. “Thor” was handled with little sensitivity to the comic-book genre and over-saturated melodrama that left it out by the backdoor like a wet dog. So despite the thunderous disputes and whirlwind high-school crush, Branagh hammered the last nail in Thor’s coffin.

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SUCKSEED [SUCKSEED HUAY KHAN THEP | SUCKSEED ห่วยขั้นเทพ]

2011/04/06

http://www.suckseedthemovie.com/

THAILAND 2011  Directed by: Chayanop Boonprakob Written by: Chayanob Boonprakob, Tossapol Tiptinnakorn  Produced by: Jira Maligool, Chenchonnanee Sppnthonsaratul, Suwimol Techasupinan, Wanruedee Pongsittisak  Cinematography by: Naruphol Chokkhanaphitak  Music by: Genie Records  Cast: Jirayu Laongmanee, Pachara Chirathivat, Thawat Pornrattanaprasert, Natcha Nualjam (Nattasha Morrison)

It doesn’t happen very often that a Thai comedy is more than a random potpourri of tasteless, one-hundred-year-old jokes and failed 1910’s/1920’s slapstick references, so it’s a pleasant surprise to see SUCKSEED succeed not only in the comedy department, but in many more ways.

SUCKSEED tells the story of two childhood friends from Chiang Mai, Koong and Ped, who both somehow fancy the same girl, their classmate Ern. Ern leaves for Bangkok after primary school, but a few years later their paths cross again and they accidentally reunite in high school after Ern returns to Chiang Mai in 2006.

To impress the girls (especially Ern) and to challenge his twin brother Kay, a star guitarist, Koong decides to form a band, Koong And Friends, assigning Ped to play bass and basketball player Ex as drummer. At first it all looks like just another one of Koong’s short-lived ideas, but after finding out that Ern is an ace guitarist herself and his brother is entering a nationwide music award with his band The Arena, Koong becomes dead serious about Koong And Friends.

Together they decide to enter the talent competition as well to leave their mark – this way or another. But the odds are against them and things turn for the worse when Koong’s and Ped’s battle over Ern intensifies and Ern switches sides and decides to perform with The Arena at the music awards. Friendship, love and musical success – all seems impossible the closer the competition comes.

SUCKSEED works as good as a comedy as it does as a drama, love story and film about music, thanks to a wonderful script, the perfect cast and an array of participating Thai bands and singers (thanks to Grammy’s stable of some of the best rock/pop bands in the country – a well-calculated cross-marketing measure for Grammy / GTH, but also admittedly a great benefit for the audience). So there’s something in for everyone and, amazingly, I found mostly older people watching the film in local cinemas than teenagers who supposedly are the core audience. That speaks for the quality and maturity of SUCKSEED as a film, and it also proves that it was a good idea to pull in some bands that were most popular a long while ago, like Blackhead.

Still, SUCKSEED is a genuinely charming and smart film that is much more a coming-of-age drama than just a loose collection of motifs and genre quotes: it is very convincing in various departments, yet it is also mostly original, featuring fantastic timing, pace and sense for subtleties, mastering noise and silence equally well, throwing in a lot of pretty creative ideas (like the imaginary appearance of bands whenever the characters lose themselves in the music), twists and intelligent dialogue without ever overshadowing the story or the characters.

One of the film’s biggest achievements is that it always feels natural and organic, no matter what (and no matter what flaws show here and there). I should especially mention that the direction and cinematography are unobtrusive, only taking centre stage when necessary (SUCKSEED features some hilarious and exceptionally creative sequences, first and foremost the stellar scene with Blackhead joining Ped at the market), but otherwise let the story and actors drive the film – something you don’t find too often in Thai cinema.

As for the cast I wouldn’t say that all of them are great actors (and how could they – most of them are newcomers), however, they are the ideal cast for their roles nevertheless and display great enthusiasm, talent and partly also versatility, all of which makes me look forward to their next projects. Here are some promising new actors at work that we will most probably see a lot more often in the future.

SUCKSEED, despite some of its goofy looking poster artwork, teenage ensemble and motifs that generally concern a younger audience manages to transcend its story and make it universally relevant for everybody – SUCKSEED turns out to be heartfelt, fresh and authentic, with far above-average IQ, humor and artistic craftsmanship, let alone a brilliant soundtrack that even those who are not familiar with Thai music will most certainly appreciate.

The film is as funny as it is fun to watch – maybe I am getting senile, but I consider SUCKSEED an accomplished work that I have enjoyed more than most Thai movies in recent years. SUCKSEED is the 2011 surprise hit so far – and the Thai movie to beat in the months to come.

J.

 

 

 


MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD [SENTO SHOJO: CHI NO TEKKAMEN DENSETSU | 戦闘少女 血の鉄仮面伝説]

2010/12/29

http://www.sentoshojo.jp/

JAPAN 2010  Directed by: Noburo Iguchi, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Tak Sakaguchi Written by: Noburo Iguchi, Jun Tsugita  Produced by: Yoshinori Chiba, Gen Sato, Toshiki Kimura  Cinematography by: Shu G. Momose  Editing by: Yoshihiro Nishimura, Takeshi Wada  Music by: Kou Nakagawa, Takashi Nakagawa  Cast: Yumi Sugimoto, Yuko Takayama, Suzuka Morita, Tak Sakaguchi, Kentaro Shimazu, Asami, Chiharu Kawai, Maiko Ito, Kanji Tsuda, Naoto Takenaka, Cay Izumi

I wasn’t too impressed with Noburo Iguchi’s MACHINE GIRL a few years back, albeit it being one of the better of the never-ending Japanese low-budget gore movie productions. The only inventive aspect of MACHINE GIRL was the machine gun arm, and that idea looked better on Rose McGowan in Robert Rodriguez’ PLANET TERROR.

As for MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD, Mr. Iguchi and his fellow co-directors have taken a fairly different road: instead of relatively straight-forward action the movie features a blend of fantasy, horror and SciFi, as well as elements from mangas or the chanbara genre, resulting in a much more imaginative and creative movie.

The story about Rin, a high school student who on her 16th birthday finds out that she is a half-mutant and soon after finds herself in the middle of a war between mutants and anti-mutant soldiers, is of course a hotchpotch of motifs and ideas from various genres and well-known movies, yet MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD manages to fabricate a number of plot threads that kind of add up to a very good excuse for the mayhem that follows.

Most of the creativity, that shouldn’t be surprising, was invested into the characters, the action sequences and the weaponry. And this time they are getting ahead of Mr. Rodriguez: breasts boasting samurai swords, chain saws growing out of butts, phallic weapons of all kinds, genre fans most definitely get their money’s worth. All these ideas may not be new to Japanese cinema that has seen it all before this way or another, but it turns out that the accumulation of tasteless details has its appeal if you are one of the less easily offended moviegoers.

Whereas the production value, special effects quality and acting fluctuates, MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD is a good effort for a low-budget film overall and often manages to make more out of every Yen than comparable flicks. What it lacks, quite like all its peers, is a significance of any kind. MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD is pure fun, zero function. Putting it into context, I would wish for more than just visual thrills: unfortunately, the Japanese cyberpunk movement has not resulted in smarter horror flicks as its intellectual qualities have obviously never crossed over. But that’s probably too much to ask in the first place.

What is regrettable though is that there are more and more movies like MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD and less and less movies that understand how to bend genres and project meaning onto the silver screen. The Japanese B-splatter movie has become a commodity, and its sole currency is its entertainment value. With its popularity unbowed, and films like TETSUO: THE BULLET MAN disappointing many, it is not very likely that something truly surprising is going to come out of this genre any time soon. Until it does, MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD ranks fairly high among the brain-dead gore flicks.

J.