Sunday, October 13, 2013

Weekly Round-Up (10/6/13 - 10/12/13)

O Apostolo (Fernando Cortizo) *** - I saw this Spanish stop-motion animated feature at a film festival. It's about a convict who escapes from prison and goes to a mysterious village where his partner hid some precious jewels. Beautiful animation and goes into twists and turns I didn't expect (since I had very little idea of what this was about going in). All in all, interesting but left me a bit cold.

Kung Fu Divas (Onat Diaz) *** - This is one of the very rare mainstream Filipino comedies that dare to try something unique and different. A perpetual beauty pageant loser meets up with a beautiful rival who sweeps in and takes her crown. It turns out she's her long-lost twin sister and they were banished from a Chinese tribe and they got kung fu powers. Yeah, I know. The concept is wonderfully weird and far out. It's both a satire on beauty pageants and the Filipino obssession with it and a spoof of sorts of kung fu/wu xia films. The first act or so which is mostly of the former is the most successful. It's sharp, biting, funny and accurate on beauty pageants. But latter part is a bit less successful and often gets a bit overwhelmed and some of it didn't quite work. It got back on the right track in the end. Overall, it's a commendable, solid effort.

Samurai Rebellion (Masaki Kobayashi) **** - Between this and Harakiri, Masaki Kobayashi must specialize in samurai movies that will make you cry. This one's about a samurai warrior whose lord asks that his mistress be married to his son. Reluctantly, they agree. But then his son and the mistress fall in love and just as they have their first child together, the mistress is ordered back to the castle. They refuse. Let's say shit hits the fan. The film takes a while to get to the samurai action but it's an emotional roller-coaster ride getting there and by the time the action hits, you'll be too busy crying to see the astounding sword play. It's masterfully directed and Toshiro Mifune has never been better! Kurosawa may get a lot of press but I think Kobayashi deserves some attention too.

Island of Lost Souls (Erle C. Kenton) **** - So far, I've only seen the 1995 adaptation of the HG Wells novel with Marlon Brando which was of course kind of grotesque and fascinating in a car wreck sort of way. Despite this not having as much on-screen gore or super elaborate makeup as the remake, I found this one far, far more effective. Charles Laughton is wonderfully creepy as Dr. Moreau. I'm thinking this was pre-code so it's also quite racy for a 1930's film (borderling bestiality alert!). The climax is still quite chilling, frightening and shocking, even.

Metro Manila (Sean Ellis) ***1/2 - A Filipino family from the rural provinces in hard times try their luck at a better future in the big city of Metro Manila but only finding even MORE hardship, crime and corruption. As someone who's familiar with Filipino cinema, this basic plot has been tackled by Filipino filmmakers in the past, most notably Lino Brocka and Brillante Mendoza. However, British director Sean Ellis somehow was able to add a few fresh twists by adding the crime thriller element. Also, as an outsider shooting a story about another society and culture, the film captures Manila with its sights, sounds and numerous idiosyncracies with a fresh perspective. Though I must say that as a speaker of both languages (and of course as a screenwriter and someone who does this type of thing for a living) some of the dialogue and English subtitles need a bit of fixing but overall, still a solid, excellently crafted thriller.

1 comment:

YeamieWaffles said...

Some of these sound interesting, you've been busy with some interesting films this week.