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The Best Films of 2016


Year: 2012
Country of Origin: U.S.
Rating: R
Time: 172 mins. 

It has been said that David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas is an impossible book to adapt to film considering it's six story-lines ranging from all genres that tell a tale of suppression and freedom between the years of 1849 and 2346. After their success with the Matrix trilogy and mediocre hit Speed Racer (2008), The Wachowski siblings teamed up with the mastermind behind Run Lola Run (1998),Tom Tykwer, to tackle the Mt. Everst of books, Cloud Atlas. Cloud Atlas is truly the most ambitious film I've ever laid eyes on with its six stories interwoven with one another that retells the same story in various ways about their path to freedom in less than three hours. Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Hugo Weaving, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Ben Whishaw, and James D'arcy, star in multiple roles that span ethnicities, gender, and age, channeling the reincarnations of each other's characters in different time periods that reiterates the idea that everything is connected.

The film is not hard to follow but contemplating the stories relations to one another may cause a few mind-numbing headaches. Individually, the stories could've been their own films considering they are told in various genres from mystery to comedy to adventure. But in mushing them together to create a cohesive message, not only creates a mezmerizing outlook to the connection of everyone and events from generation to generation but also, handicaps the film by minimizing the emotional connection with the audience. I heard the soundtrack before I saw the film and thought I would be emotionally moved to tears. But ironically, the enormity of the film caused me to feel disconnected from the powerful and endearing message of the movie. Maybe the boundaries to my  suspense of disbelief was fractured when certain actors transformed and transcended races, ages, and gender to an astounding outcome that simply didn't resonant with me. But that is probably the best and worst thing about the film as it gives typecast actors a chance to play around and prove their worth. Like underrated actor, Hugh Grant made multifarious appearances and the most memorable one of him is as the Kona Chief living in the far future in a post-apocalyptic Hawaii, who terrorizes Tom Hank's village people. And then there is the most shocking transformational role for Tom Hanks as Dermot Hoggins, the writer of "Knuckle Sandwich" as a DGAF gangster who will shut you down if he has to. It sounds inconceivable trying to imagine Hanks as anything but a castaway yelling "Wilson" or talking about Jenny. But he picks the wild cards and pulls it off effortlessly.

Although, it gave many actors the freedom to play unconventional characters, for others it failed to convince and consume us into their role. Like Jim Sturgess' role in Neo-Seoul, who was morphed into a mutant of some sort with overly slanted eyes and ghoulish skin as if he's been barfing all day. But it turns out that he is suppose to look Korean considering his name is Hae-Joo Chang. Is yellow-facing so bad when the whole film consists of white-facing, brown-facing, and ______ facing? Oh but of course, no black facing. They can't handle that kind of criticism, not today anyways. I've had a crush on Doona Bae since her Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) years and was quite surprised with amount of power she possessed in this film as Somni-451. Maybe because I've been conditioned by the media to think that most Asians would have the least amount of screen time, but I was moved by her prominent role as a slave labor who searches for freedom and eventually starts a revolution.

Whether you've heard good or bad things about Cloud Atlas, it is something that you must decide and experience for yourself. This is the first wholly unique Blockbuster that has come out in god knows how long. The echoes of reincarnation and spirituality that reverberate throughout the film might not be your cup of tea but if it is a spectacle you want to see, it is a spectacle you will get! Even though the film met up to my non-existent expectations, any film that requires me to solve the film's puzzle in my head well after the film is done and over with, is always good in my book. If you think you were thinking hard  about the ins and outs of Inception (2010), wait till you see Cloud Atlas! B+

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Whoa, Halle. Barely recognized you there.






(2012, Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski)

Grade: B+
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 This is Spinal Tap (1984, Rob Reiner)

Nigel Tufnel: You know, very much, like, I'm really influenced by Mozart and Bach.
Nigel Tufnel: It's sort of in between those, sort of a "mach" piece.
Marty DiBergi: What do you call this?
Nigel Tufnel: This piece is called "Lick My Love Pump"
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( I basically repeat myself so either watch or read my post, or both!)

Let me just say this, I'm not a huge horror film watcher. I don't even like watching those parody films like Scary Movie (2000). But when I do, I watch it for the sake of knowing the roots of horror films and to witness it's developments in the genre. Although the sheer sound of windows cracking can make my bones jump out of my body and my judgement of the genre is probably not trustworthy, I've selected five films that truly gave me the worst nightmares and possibly the runs (tmi) just in time for the Halloween season. I'm not talking about classic horror films like Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) and William Friedkin's The Exorcist (1973) and these films aren't even on the list of top 50 scariest horror films. So how can you trust my judgement? I guess you can't but I assure you that any films that makes me want to pull my eyes out, stab a knife into my stomach, and generally crap on myself, is a film worth seeing. In no specific order, these films are some of scariest films (mostly foreign) I've seen in my life.

1. Don't Look Now (1973)


A married couple grieving the recent death of their daughter is in Venice when they encounter two elderly sisters, one of whom is psychic and brings a warning from the beyond. I watched Don't Look Now in my film class and I don't know if it was such an appropriate place to watch as I wanted to hurl myself towards the projection machine to stop the film from continuing. This particular horror film is rooted in realism that shows the aftermath of a couple's struggle when their daughter dies in a horrible way. The film entails one of the most passion sex scenes I've ever seen that conveys their emotional connection and disconnection from each other and the world. The true horror comes in the very last minutes of the film, that made me convulse with pure terror. You will never see the color red the same way ever again. 

2. The Descent (2005)


My friend Farah suggested that everyone watch The Descent so I thought I would give it a try. A group of girlfriends go on a caving expedition that goes horribly wrong when the explorers become trapped and discover theres no way out. Neil Marshall's business partner realized that there hasn't been any horror film with an all female cast. Defying conventions, casting females gave an extra punch of vulnerability to the characters and of course, drama. I wonder if they villainized Juno because she was an American and part Asian? I wonder if she had an affair with Sarah's husband? Whatever the answer, there are certain questions that went unexplained. But with this much knit tight build up, who cares about the character development! Save your lives! I had absolutely no expectations for the film and kept thinking of another film when I heard The Descent. Have no expectations when you see it and this ride will be a hell of a lot more fun. Apparently when it was released in the US they cut out a minute from the end because the American market favors a more hopeful ending. But if you see it, watch the English cut. So much better. 

3. Audition (1999)


When I think of the master of Asian horror film, no other than Takashi Miike comes to mind. Before pushing the boundaries of horror even further in Ichi the Killer (2000), with Audition, he took a more realistic approach. A widower takes an ffer to auditon girls in order for him to find a new wife. Be emotionally prepared to see this film. I don't expect anything less than a psychologically, bloody, fucked up stories from Miike. The already twisted film took another unexpected turn down its warped hole when the audience is confronted with a sack. When you realized what the contents of the sack is, you'll wish your mommy was there to hold you. This is by far one of the most mentally warped film I've ever laid my eyes on. 

4. Trouble Everyday (2001)


I have no idea how I came to watch it but at times, I regret that I did, every day. Trouble Everyday got a baffling 44% on Rotten Tomatoes but I still think it's valid horror film to witness. It is a horror tale that juggles sex and blood creating an quite an appetite for these two key things in the characters of the film. Vincent Gallo fits perfectly into this poetically maddening world. Without explanation, the film unfolds expressively and after gathering clue by clue that you fully understand what the hell is going on minutes from the end.  this film doesn't follow horror film convention and is more art-house, it gives the fresh look to the genre. If anyone else watches this film, please tell me what you thought so I don't feel completely insane for being scared.



A Tale of Two Sisters is based on an old Korean Folk Story which has been adapted many times by the Korean media but it wasn't until Kim Jee-Woon's 2003 attempt that truly gave it's native people an adaptation worth watching and praising. After the death of their mother, two sisters move back into their homes to face their evil step-mother and a supernatural being. This is essentially a ghost story. But unlike most ghost films out there, it is not the ghost that gives the audience the biggest scare but the eerie atmosphere that pumps the suspense to an all time high. Kim directs this psychological thriller which the upmost style: every angle, every piece of furniture, every setting is a cinematographer's wet dream. I was shielding my eyes half the film and I was still scared out of my mind. Less is really more. The lack of dialogue and the imagery of things within the tainted house drove my insanity and imagination swirling down to the darkest place in my mind. After withstanding the unbearable suspense, the pay off it undeniably rewarding. There was an American remake of A Tale of Two Sisters called The Uninvited (2009). But it's obvious that the film is a piece of crap. 

So those of my top 5 horror films. After compiling my list, it became evident that all these films were about females with a dark past. 3/5 films on this list deals with characters losing a loved one or having been through horrible circumstances. Since the beginning of the Horror film genre, the victimization of women have consistently been the focus of these stories. I don't know if it's a good thing or not. Is the torment of women more entertaining or is the complex and emotional aspect of women give insight to a more engaging horror?  Something to definitely contemplate.  Whether you watch these films on Halloween or not, please share any other horror films that you think is underrated. 
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Cloud Atlas is coming out this week and if you've seen the trailer and wondered who the Asian girl was, have no fear. I was quite surprise when directors Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski brothers decided to use South Korea's Bae Doona known as Doona Bae in America in their upcoming film. I first saw her back in 2000 in a Korean drama called RNA which had the creep factor of The Ring (2002). Then again in Bong Joon-Ho's debut film, Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000). I did not think much of her until she was in Park Chan-Wook first installment of his Vengeance Trilogy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002). She played Yeong-mi, the girlfriend of the deaf protagonist, Ryu, and a member of the underground anarchist organization. She was the first representation of a feminist I've ever seen in a Korean film. It was refreshing to see a new kind of female character which gave her performance in every scene an invigorating look that displayed her unrelenting dedication to this role. She reunited with Bong Joon-Ho for The Host (2006) which debuted with soaring box office numbers and critical acclaim alike. So, I guess with all these blockbusters under her belt, I shouldn't be surprised that she is cast in Cloud Atlas but I am. Now, that you're acquainted with her filmography, here's a sneak peek look at her in one of the most anticipated film of this fall! Cloud Atlas comes out October 26











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I already wrote a review about Looper but I thought for the second vlog, it is a triumphant career highlight of Rian Johnson that should be overly recognized and congratulated. So enjoy!

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The Facts of Life (1960, Melvin Frank) 

Kitty Weaver: Am I really doing this? Me, Kitty Weaver? Secretary to the PTA? Den mother to the cub scouts? Am I really going to San Francisco to spend the weekend... with the husband of my best friend?
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I've been very hesitant since the beginning of the youtube boom to start doing vlogs cause it seemed like a cop out to actually becoming a film critic the old fashion way: actually writing. But the more I contemplated the idea, the more futile the thought of just wondering   it became. My friend just told me to go for it and here I am, all awkward and stuff in front of the camera. I start a new chapter of this blog with Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master. Enjoy! (please change quality to 480p)

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Year: 1968
Cast: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter
Country of Origin: U.S.
Rating: G
Time: 112 mins.

Planet of the Apes is a brilliant piece of science fiction that analyzes the evolution of man  with intricacy that it's no wonder it's been remade and rebooted so many times. Based on the 1963 French novel of the same name by Pierre Boulle--it is a timeless story of a space explorer George Taylor, (Heston) who crash lands on a foreign planet only to discover that apes can talk, think, and reason. This barren planet comes to life when he encounters humans that are seemingly disguised as inarticulate primates who are treated like animals. During the Ape's manhunt, Taylor and his men get jumbled into their pursuit and eventually Taylor gets shot in the throat and captured. Without the power of his voice, the apes treat him like a savage strapping his neck and hands in chains like an uncontrollable beast. But when the ape leader Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans) discovers that Taylor, nicknamed Bright Eyes, can speak, he reacts in horror and deems that he is a freak of nature who must be executed. Sympathetic ape scientists Cornelius (McDowell) and animal psychologist, Dr. Zira (Hunter) risk their lives to save Taylor and uncover the truth of his existence. 

The film is an astounding and mesmerizing look of what occurs if the roles of the revolution of man was reversed and if apes obtained the power of speech while man's growth regressed into a primate state. I already watched Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) that gave insight to the beginning and reason to ecelerate development of the apes' but without the prequel, Planet of the Apes doesn't give an explanation to why our distant ancestors have now become the superior evolutionary being. The film forces the audience to examine the definition of man and our environment as a whole. Without speech and reasoning, humans are nothing but savages who express their shortcoming only through anger. Taylor is boiling with frustration as he tries to communicate with Dr. Zira through the means of writing in sand or sounding out words. Although the apes have evolved into talking, thinking, and reasoning beings, their inability to see beyond their ignorance is their downfall. Except Dr. Zaius, who uses his ignorance to shield Taylor and his fellow apes in discovering the meaning of their true existence. While Cornelius and Dr. Zira are trying to progress the evolution of man, Dr. Zaius' lack of action and acknowledgement retracts their advancement as superior animal and beings, ironically to a form less than man.

Hands down, this film is one of the first and best twist in film history. The film stick to your bones, rattling your brain, searching for any clue to the apes' uprising. When the story doesn't throw you a bone, it substitutes it with a twist so grand, if I didn't already know the ending, I would have thrown my hands up in the air too and screamed "Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!" Heston continues his streak of playing the archetypal heroin with conviction and poise even in his barbaric state that helps him effortlessly carry the film on his shoulder. For a film that got rebooted, franchised, and remade too many times to count, the film has come a long way from it's golden days of on location shooting and natural lighting. With Tim Burton's failed attempt (which I need to re-watch!) and 2011's The Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I hope this humanistic story never dies. But no matter how many times the story gets mashed and molded anew, Planet of the Apes is a timeless adventure tale that is nicely paced, unrelentingly entertaining, and most importantly, philosophical about what it truly means to be a man. B+


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(1960, Melvin Frank)

Grade: B+
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Foxy Brown (1974, Jack Hill)

Link Brown: "Foxy, I'm a black man, and I don't know how to sing, and I don't know how to dance, and I don't know how to preach to no congregation. I'm too small to be a football hero, and too ugly to be elected mayor. But I watch TV and see these folks and the nice homes they live in and all them fancy cars they drive, I just get so full of ambition. Now you tell me what I'm suppose to do with all this ambition?"
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New York Comic Con is in full throttle mode right now! And even though the official poster for The Last Stand already came out, this comic book style poster is much more appealing! The Last Stand marks the english language debut of one of Korea's notorious directors, Kim Ji-woon (A Bittersweet Life) or like they say in America, Kim Jee-woon. The film comes out January 18, 2013! I cant wait!!!
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Year: 2012
Director: Martin McDonough
Cast: Christopher Walken, Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell
Rating: R
Time: 109 mins

Seven Psychopaths has three main key points that make up a terrific comedy: a versatile cast, witty one-liners, and a very "meta" story. But instead of executing a perfectly humorous picture, the lackluster story tries to cover up it's faults by making us laugh till we forget. Marty (Colin Farrell), an alcoholic writer is having a hard time writing his screenplay Seven Psychopaths (how meta). He has a couples of ideas and characters in mind about a vietnamese buddhist monk and ruthless quaker killer who's seeking redemption, but other than that, he's got squat. His tip-top loopy friend, Billy (Sam Rockwell) has his hands full dognapping with Hans (Christopher Walken) in hopes of receiving a reward when the dog is returned. But one day, when Billy kidnaps the wrong dog owned by high ranking gangster boss, Charlie (Woody Harrelson), their seemingly normal lives get flipped upside down.

The idea of a crime story about psychopaths based solely on the incidence of a wrong dognapping sounds outlandish and ridiculous. But with a vomit of absurdity spilling from these acutely pitched personalities especially Sam Rockwell, the descending storyline doesn't seem so bad.  Rockwell steals the show as the bouncy, borderline psychotic, wacky friend that's crazy enough to write dognapping in his resume. He's like Flubber without the green jello, his words and actions bounce from wall to wall, which makes  it strenuous to keep up with him. But it is his unnatural energy that pulls the rug from under you so you can bow down to his glory, making him the star of this film. Christopher Walken never ceases to please whether he is playing an amiable and compassionate man or a merciless assassin.  Either way, he doesn't have to do much to keep us entertained but be his old offbeat self.  On the other hand, Colin Farrell has a lot to prove after this year's remake of Total Recall (how could you do this to me?). At first he didn't seem credible as a "Hollywood screenwriter", but as the film progressed his one dimensional trait of being an alcoholic because it's in his Irish blood was the only thing that helped  him stay relevant in the story. 

The 'story within a story' stories can be interesting if presented in the right manner. Marty desires to write a story about psychopaths but have the ending not be about the violence but about peace. As Billy points out that, that is the most unappealing basis of a psychpath film and I couldn't agree more. But what Marty wanted to express in his story is that revenge and redemption is a cyclical movement that cannot suddenly be resolved even with time. His story about the quaker killer which was shown as a montage came off as too comical to be considered seriously. But his second story about a Vietnamese monk who once was a vietcong, out seeking revenge against the U.S. Army after his family got slaughter at My Lai, was one of the highlights to the film. That and Sam Rockwell. Billy takes a crack at helping Marty elaborate on the story which foreshadows the films ending. And like Marty, McDonough seems like he's still trying to find the best way to end this film even half way through it. A lot of people enjoyed the humor and the thrills that came with it, but it just did not resonant with me as much as I wanted it to. I mean, the opening scene had Michael Pitt (surprise!) so, I thought it would be good. The blunt sexism and racism wasn't even what threw me over the edge but the unsatisfactory unending. Regardless  of what I say, go see it and have a good time because I'm sure you will. Plus, the Shih Tzu is super cute.  B-


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Seven Psychopaths
(2012, Martin McDonagh)

Grade: B-

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