Thursday, March 03, 2005

.:Film Reviews Galore!:.

This first film is not for the weak of heart. SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

When she seemed to jokingly ask, “You wanna die?” you should've taken her a wee bit more seriously...

Apparently, Takashi Miike is one of the more prolific filmmakers in Japan, with quite a penchant for violent films. Audition is no different in that department.

The story is about Aoyama, a widower with a son, who one day decided to remarry. As an interesting way to find a prospective wife, though, he turns to a producer friend, Yoshikawa, who uses an audition to ferret out a woman for Aoyama. In the end, he settled upon Asami Yamazaki, albeit Yoshikawa feels something is horribly wrong about her.

As Aoyama gets to know Yamazaki better, some things about her history just don't tie up well. Asami and Aoyama seem to hit it off very well, but there are just some secrets Aoyama was better of not knowing about. Secrets so shocking, it could cost him his life to know. Asami's horrible past has scarred her personality severely, and her only refuge is in making others feel her pain. Literally.

In my attempt to not be as spoiler-free in this review as possible, let me just comment that the acting in this film was quite superb, even though the story itself was admittedly horrible. I think what turned me off from this film was how the juxtaposition between dream and reality was so blurred that the film loses its direction. Never mind the gory scenes and the scene where someone is fed by vomit. All those have their own merits. This film simply falls apart in trying to make sense, and yet it doesn't seem like that was the film's intention.

At the same time, I think that there really is a lot left to be desired with the execution of the story. For one, I honestly cannot believe Asami's sudden transformation from a sweet girl to a psycho beeyatch when there wasn't enough of a trigger from Aoyama's actions to provoke her. What makes a good villain is a good motivation, and hers was almost non-existent, save for things in her past that don't necessarily have anything to do with Aoyama.

Nonetheless, when it got to getting grisly, I don't think Takashi Miike disappointed anyone, given the very painful to watch torture scene involving Aoyama and Asami, where Asami sticks various pins in Aoyama's body (And eyelids, I think.) while saying, “Kiri, kiri, kiri, kiri...” giddily. Asami was the embodiment of creepiness as she proceeded to use an abrasive wire to lop off Aoyama's foot, and all through it, the audience is the unwilling witness to Aoyama's suffering, which is almost as painful to watch as it is to go through it myself.

You have to be a sick freak to enjoy this film, and I'd admit I didn't find this film that bad. To be fair, though, I think that my liking the film was more influenced by watching the last half-hour of the film with Takashi Miike's commentary, which helped make more sense when it came to certain confusing parts of the scene. Simply put, the commentary saved the film for me, and made me enjoy the whole ordeal.

I can't in good conscience recommend this film to anyone who gets queasy over blood. This film has quite a creative way of making someone get creeped out and freaked out. Too bad. Asami was awfully pretty.

Marcelle's “Fun” Evaluation: B-
Marcelle's “Critical” Evaluation: C+

100 Days With Mr. Arrogant
Reversing “My Sassy Girl”

Ha Ji Won stars in yet another comedy (You might remember her from my review of “Sex Is Zero”.) in “100 Days With Mr. Arrogant”, where she stars as Hayoung, a high school girl with an overactive imagination.

Frustrated over her breakup with her boyfriend before their 100th day Anniversary, she kicks a can that accidentally hits Hyungjiun, a rich college guy who then crashes his car afterwards.

Faced with the risk of paying $30,000 for repainting the car (A lie of a premise that she obviously didn’t know.), Hayoung decides to sign a contract that makes her Hyungjuin’s slave for a hundred days. Along the way of their love/hate relationship, what initially starts off as a game of putting one over the other has slowly turned into a cute love story that channels shades of Stocholm Syndrome.

Given how most people didn’t mind Jeon-Jihyun’s hijinks in “My Sassy Girl” mainly because she was a gorgeous girl, I don’t think Hyungjiun’s abusive personality would slide past audiences as cute. Not only is he not exactly such a great-looking guy, his arrogance in the film did not leave any endearing qualities for the audience to rally behind. I think the biggest failure of the film was that for a lead character, the last thing you wanted Hyungjiun to do was to actually go for Hayoung. He was brash, annoying, and his supposed shows of “heart” were too out of character and showed a lack of transition between Mr. Arrogant and Mr. Sensitive.

What worked for this film was Ha Ji Won’s Hayoung, whose bubbly, albeit at times hammy acting managed to keep the film light enough to almost let Hyungjiun’s personality slide past unnoticed. The way their love story was built up was quite nice, although having Hayoung SMS Hyungjiun “Thank you so much, master!” was a bit disturbing, if you think about it.

Nonetheless, the film was cute, but by no means as good as “My Sassy Girl”. The premise of the film alone ensured that. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of the Korean romantic comedy genre, but would not recommend it as a way to introduce someone to the genre.

Marcelle’s “Fun” Evaluation: B/B+
Marcelle’s “Critical” Evaluation: B

Shaolin Soccer
As they put it, it’s time to kick some grass.

You have to admit that Stephen Chow has quite a flair for action/comedy films. When he uses matrix-style special effects for his movies, you can’t help but take notice.

In “Shaolin Soccer”, Stephen Chow plays the role of “Mighty Steel Leg”, a former Shaolin monk who went into the big city with his brothers, as they struggled adjusting to life in the city.

Along the way, “Golden Leg”, an arrogant kid who met a career-ending incident during his youth, has decided to take a chance with this uncharacteristic bunch of Shaolin masters and make a soccer team out of them. Golden Leg’s former employer, Hung, is out to do whatever it takes to make his Evil team win the National championships…

Is it just me, or are my film reviews divulging less and less? Maybe it’s because I don’t feel too attached to the film story-wise so I don’t feel too compelled to talk about it, but this was still a good film. Zhao Wei was pretty, even when she shaved her head, though if that was really how she looks like when she’s bald, boy she has a pointy head.

The action in the film was good, and told a very compelling story. The whole premise of using special Shaolin techniques in soccer was likewise very entertaining, as it seemed like one of those Dragonball Z episodes. Truth be told, that worked. With each Shaolin having his own talent, the soccer game scenes were extremely interesting to watch. The side love story between Zhao Wei and Stephen Chow, along with the shoe subplot, has contributed to making the audience connect with this team and really rally against Hung’s “Evil Team”, which were supposedly steroid cases (I’ll say!).

If you can suspend your disbelief, you’d like the film. Forget watching this film for its deeper meaning: there’s little to it. I just like how the film ended with all of the people Mighty Steel Leg approached finally learning Kung-Fu and using it in daily life…

And again, Zhao Wei was cute.

Marcelle’s “Fun” Evaluation: A+
Marcelle’s “Critical” Evaluation: B+

No comments: