Flick Picks Vol. 1

Like I mentioned, I have been watching more movies since joining Netflix, and well why not document those as well! I will contradict myself here, and mention that spoilers will be listed, but not the endings of movies, just what happens in some scenes. It will be just movies this time; will mix them in future blogs. Or not. Fell free to let me know what you think of these, if you decide to based on what I say. Since I am goign through Netflix, if you have an account you can ge them easily.

13 Assassins – 2010

After hearing of the atrocities of a Shogun’s relative (Lord Naritsugu), culminating in the harikari of a political figure in protest, another district counselor and samurai vows to bring the man to justice and avenge those whom he has brought shame and death upon, by taking his life in turn. (Seems legit to me) Typical samurai plot of course, but done well here. The camerawork is brilliant, the acting authentic, sets and locations arranged wonderfully. Music is kept to a minimum for much of the movie, the gravity of thoughts and decisions weighing heavily and needing no prompts. You can truly sense the tension in the air as they conspire, knowing, accepting, even hoping(?) that many of them will almost surely die; they only wish to have it happen in a fight and to not be discovered/have their plot foiled. There is a scene *spoiler alert* about 30 minutes in, where Shinzaemon is shown a woman who had her arms and legs cut off, and as she writes (with a brush in her mouth), her family and village was massacred. This scene hit me very hard, it’s very intense. What brought it up even a notch from that was Shinzaemon’s response. “Fate has smiled upon me” he says calmly, with what seems to be intensely controlled mirth almost making him smile at what he is seeing. He speaks about being a samurai, the pride and honor of it – but that he is a samurai during peaceful times. This, he feels, gives him and other samurai the opportunity to do what they are bred for; to fight with honor and die with it. His body language, and the way he speaks, even though I needed subtitles to understand, transcended what even the best words cannot explain. One of the most intense monologues I have heard from a movie in a while.
The second scene, again with Shinzaemon he stands at the roof of a building facing Lord Naritsugu. Rather than simply continue killing the army, he reaches into his robes and unfurls a parchment; holding it out, we see the words that the mutilated woman wrote out “total massacre”. The scene, and that brief moment where the tension once again hangs in the air, is a definitive scene, considering also that (bad guy) doesn’t even get it, until it is explained, and even then gives a brief recollection that is meaningless to him.
The last half hour is all fighting, a good balance of dialogue, plot/character development, and sheer brutal killing. Yin and Yang. There is a bit of mysticism with one character; not getting more out of it was not too much of a loss for me, as it gives even more of an impression of a tale, which always has some small embellishments.

Grade: A. Definitely worth your time.

Keywords: Drama, Violence, Vengeance, War, Samurai

Saints and Soldiers – 2003.

A lower-budgeted movie set in World War 2. A group of American POW’s escape from their Nazi captors and try to maneuver through a wintry French countryside. Along the way they meet a British airman who has vital information that needs to be delivered. You know the formula – a group of completely different personalities have a seemingly impossible goal, come across smaller adventures/dangers along the way, while some of them start getting picked off along the way. As I said it is a lower budget flick (I think it went straight to DVD), so don’t expect much in known actors (they have made movies SINCE then, but no one that I recognized right away. Not much in F/X, or musical scores, but then again – who needs it? Simple script, a bit of drama from the soldier with PTSD, and some critics point out the religious/Mormon angles/ideals that are pushed a bit (it was funded by Mormons and filmed in Utah), but it’s not flagrant like Mel Gibson movies, or the Left Behind Series – I didn’t even pick up on it until afterwards.

Grade: B. Worth the 90 minutes on Netflix, for a snow day or if the fish ain’t biting.

Keywords- Drama, War, Violence, WWII, independent film, Nazi

Zombie Girl: The Movie – 2009

Low budget documentary about a low budget movie. Win win – if that’s your bag. A 12 year old girl who is a horror movie fanatic, writes a script for her own movie “Pathogen”, but in this day and age of easily accessible technology, decides that she wants this done, I mean really done, now now now. At first you’ll think that, again, in this day and age, a kid would not have the attention span to see it through. Well, you’re half right. Some small indie producers/actors, friends and other would be actors, local comic store/theater/trade show organizers, a crew filming a documentary, and her parents, all band together to support this movie. Are they helping her along or carrying her? You will see glimpses of teen angst/brattiness, and the film cuts to months later with little explanation (though schoolwork and budget are pretty obvious I guess), and her own half-hearted attempts to secure a film makers guild grant (why bother when you know your parents and/or the crew filming you will pay for it?), along with the obvious issues of amateur acting/filming in a suburban town. Again, the idea that this is getting done is just as much the overindulgence of the parents as her dedication, but you’ll find yourself rooting for her, and curious as to how the end product turns out.
If low budget flicks, and incredibly cheesy B horror movies in general, along with documentary crews who seem to be just as new as their subject in making films are your bag, well then you’ll like it. Otherwise, I would skip it, and just sit on your porch yelling at those rapscallions with their cameras and fancy phones to get off your lawn.

Grade: B-,  curved from C+. It’s a B movie after all…
Keywords: Documentary, Film, B Movies, Horror, Independent film.

Lisa Lampinelli: Tough Love- 2011

A recording of a live LL standup concert. She goes through the motions, picking out people from every demographic from the audience and goes back to them with stereotypical statements from bits in her routine, peppered in with sex jokes from her sex life. Not something that I wanted to visualize at all. Her voice is annoying, her routine outdated (I get that she is breaking through the thin-skinned PC rules of how specific races/cultures are, and yes I laughed, but I laughed at those jokes 20 years ago). Tried to get through it twice, but nope couldn’t do it.

Grade: Incomplete –F. A sign of the times. That sign is ‘dead end’.
Keywords: movies, reviews, standup, comics.

Joe Rogan: Live – 2006
Yes he’s host of Fear Factor and gets to ogle the women who have to strip down to bathing suits for at least one ‘stunt’, but that’s the only thing you would put the show on for. This concert is nothing but a musclehead with a backwards hat shouting stupid jokes. I can’t stress it enough that he shouts, endlessly. Sort of liek when people raise their voice when speaking to someone who doesn’t undertsand their language. If you’re not in a frat house doing a keg stand, you shouldn’t waste your time.

Grade: Incomplete –F. Again, if you like today’s comics, or comparing them to comics of yesteryear, then go for it.
Keywords: movies, reviews, standup, comics

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