Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Crying Fist

Lately, I've been watching way too many brainless action movies or over-the-top suspense flicks with almost no anime or non-Asian-related films to balance things out. Crying Fist was one of those movie I watched during my most recent movie binge, but this film was far from brainless or over-the-top. Yeah, it's a Korean flick, but I think that if you liked The Wrestler or other fairly depressing sports dramas like that then this film might just be up your alley. 

There are a metric shit-ton of boxing films out there, but Crying Fist is probably the first one I've ever seen where I found it very tough to root for one particular person. There's no Rocky here. In this film we follow two different protagonists (who don't even cross paths until the end) as they hit rock bottom in life and try to dig themselves out using boxing. 

In one corner we have Kang Tae-shik (Choi Min-sik), a forty-something former silver medalist who has turned to hustling people on the street in order to payoff his creditors. Tae-shik carries a sign with him, advertising that for a fee anyone is welcome to punch the shit out of him using boxing gloves. Of course, he tries not to advertise that he is probably just a punch or two away from not being able to remember his own name. 

In the other corner we have Yu Sang-hwan (Ryoo Seung-bum), a young man who winds up in prison after trying vainly to rob an elderly man in order to pay off a debt. In prison he is recommended to the boxing ring as a way to purge his anger, but he doesn't quite have the skill compete at a competent level. Yet.

These two men, neither of whom could be considered very likeable, decide to risk it all on a amatuer title match. They choose to fight for what little remaining dignity they have and end up confronting themselves as much as they do each other. 

This wasn't an easy movie to watch. 

Kang Tae-shik's visit to his son's school was definitely tough for me to watch. That might be one of the lesser moments from the movie (I mean, there are plenty of tough things happening in this movie so narrowing it down to a few highlight moments isn't easy), but it had a big impact on me. Obviously, Kang Tae-shik spends his days on the streets, but when he is given the chance to speak at his son's school he jumps at it. Of course, he would. I was hoping this would help give the man some pride and dignity; you know, something he can say he did right before he goes back to the streets. Unfortunately, Kang Tae-shik is unable to even read his own written speech thanks to too many blows to the head and he is forced to make something up on the fly. The result is rather embarrassing for both himself and his son. That was agony to watch. It was too embarrassing to even be funny. 

Choi Min-sik, like usual, is amazing to watch. It's especially nice to see him not dismember or kill anyone for once. However, the true star of the movie could very well be the younger Ryoo Seung-bum. Either way, both of their stories are fascinating. 

This movie is one of the ultimate "feel bad" movies out there and it is as far from those "rah-rah" sports movies as you can get. I think it's much more rewarding, though. The boxing here, while certainly part of the story, isn't the main story. Who wins the match almost doesn't seem important in the aftermath. All that matters is whether or not they can find a way to turns their lives around... and all I can say after having seen it is that I hope so. Sure, they are fictional characters, but there are people like that the entire world over and they can't all be Rocky Balboa. Maybe they don't deserve to win because of the things they've done, but you want them to win. 

Not just the match, but in life, too. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Confession of Murder

Confession of Murder (2012) has a great premise. One of the better premises I've heard of in quite some time, actually. Police officer Choi Hyeong-goo is haunted after failing to capture a murderer fifteen years ago. Ever since that day he has been wishing for just one more chance to catch the guy that had murdered, but fate seems to mock him when the statute of limitations for the man's crimes comes and goes. It gets even worse when the son of one of the murdered women kills himself before Choi Hyeong-goo's eyes. 

Two years later a book entitled I Am the Murderer gets published and it appears to be a tell-all about the murders. The man behind the book Lee Doo-seok claims to have written the book because he feels truly sorry for what has done, but one can't help but feel that the timing of this book is a bit odd. 

Why wait seventeen years to come forward, conveniently two years after the statute of limitations for his crimes has passed? Choi Hyeong-goo smells bullshit and claims that Lee Doo-seok is fake, but if the author is a fake then where did he get his facts from? And if Doo-seok turns out to be the real deal will there be anything Hyeong-goo can do about it? 

Confession of Murder is a damn good film even if it can't really decide on its tone. At times it wants to be a serious drama, at other times a macabre slasher/revenge flick, and then still at others it wants to be an all-out action-fest in the vein of a Lethal Weapon movie. In fact, there was one particular action scene somewhere in the middle of the film that was so over-the-top that I couldn't help but respect it. You'll recognize it when you see it. 

Still, I do wish this film had try to stay a gritty piece of work. The action elements, while certainly fun in their own right, distracted a bit from the film and the twist at the end seemed a bit too far-fetched. However, Confession of Murder is mostly held together by the strong pair of acting leads, Jung Jae-young and Park Si-yoo. The faults for this film can be laid at the feet of writer/director Jeong Byeong-gil, but I really don't hold it against him too much. This was only his second movie and his first one that wasn't a documentary. So, when you take that into consideration, this film is actually quite impressive. 

I hope Byeong-gil's next film is another step in the right direction. He could be very good if he keeps at it. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Lucy (Review: Part 2)

Part one of my review can be found here.

Lucy is not a film you want to watch if you like things like scientifically correct facts or historically accurate flashbacks. Basically, this is another "leave your brain" at home kind of movie. It's not terrible, though. A lot of people seem to want to eviscerate this movie because of the 10% thing involving how much of your brain you actually use. I'd say that they are probably using less than 10% of their brains if they really get offended by this film that much. 

All in all, I'd describe this film as being a smart dumb movie or a dumb smart movie. Although at times it seems like one part Brian De Palma and one part Stanley Kubrick, Lucy seems to channel Roland Emmerich's spirit, too. I don't know about you, but I think Roland Emmerich gets a bit of a bad reputation because of his gleeful "simplification" of things like science and history. Despite making movies that make millions of dollars (a paycheck I'd certainly like) that seem much more put together than anything made by Michael Bay, Emmerich's primary flaw is that once you get beyond the action there isn't anything that makes much sense. Michael Bay is like that, too. 

Lucy, to an extent, shares the same flaw. Humans using 10% of their brain power? Maybe you'd believe if you didn't have an internet connection and the ability to Google the question "Do humans only use 10% of their brain power?" Another flaw Lucy is notable for is that Morgan Freeman basically doesn't do anything in the movie other than explain Luc Besson's pseudo-science to the audience whilst being the normal everyman the audience is supposed to understand. He's the sympathetic eye through which we are supposed to see Scarlett Johansson's transformation. Sure, it's nice to have a character like that around, but this is Morgan Freeman we are talking about. The man should have been given something to do. 

I don't think any of this sounds like a "thumbs up" review, but I'm just giving you the facts. 

Another fact is that despite the insane amount of illogical bullshit that gets thrown our way, I enjoyed the shit out of this movie. Yeah, that's right. I enjoyed this movie. Even to the 2001: A Space Odyssey-like ending where everything went totally balls-to-the-wall trippy. Hell, I think the ending helped made the movie more than anything else. 

Scarlett Johansson and Choi Min-sik (whose contributions to the film I think I've already lauded) made this film have more depth than it probably should have had. This popcorn thriller's tenuous stranglehold on my attention span as far as actual acting was concerned was strengthened and cemented into place by Johansson and Min-sik. (I'd still say Min-sik's talents were still a bit underused, though. A bigger role would have been awesome.) Johansson approached her role in the perfect way and it is thanks to her that you really give a shit about Lucy or this movie at all. It's been a while since I've seen a strong woman in a lead role so that's a nice change of pace, too. 

Lucy was fun. It could have been a lot better, though. This movie could have been awesome. As it is, it's a decent movie with quite a bit of surreality about it and some nice action. No boobies, either. That was disappointing. 

It was still worth seeing in the theaters. Probably the only movie worth seeing in theaters at the time with it's competition being a Dwayne Johnson movie and Transformers 4

Lucy (Review: Part 1)

This is a first for me, but I am actually going to do two reviews... or, rather, I'm doing a review in two parts. The reason I decided to do this in two parts had to with the actor Choi Min-sik's presence in the film. As a fan of a few Korean movies I have discovered the work of Choi Min-sik and I am very impressed with it. The guy can act. I mean, he's kind of like the Korean version of Jack Nicholson (back when he was in his prime) with the way he just carries himself and maintains an intense presence. Although I don't think that comparison does it justice, either. 

He gets dirty, too. Whether it is butchering women or murdering children, Choi Min-sik certainly hasn't shied away from being the very, very bad guy in many of the Korean movies he is known for. Of course, he has been a good guy, too. He's able to change his appearance to fit the characters he portrays in a way that really is uncanny. He just becomes the character and it is amazing to watch. You'd think that with acting chops like his he would have long since done the crossover to making American movies. However, the language barrier prevented him from doing so. While Choi Min-sik can speak English (as you can hear in Lady Vengeance), Min-sik is very much a proud Korean actor and utilizing the Korean language really is what he does best.

So I was very surprised when I found out that he would be starring in the English-language French-American film Lucy. I say "starring" because Morgan Freeman was really just there as another big name to help draw US viewers to watch a movie that is more or less a "Scarlett Johansson's Superwoman Vs. Choi Min-sik's mafia" excursion. While the movie largely succeeds thanks to Johansson's presence, it is also given a major boost by Choi Min-sik's ability to captivate an audience all without speaking a word of English. Had the villain in the film been portrayed by a lesser actor than it just would not have worked at all. With Scarlett Johansson's ability to go all godlike and Super Saiyan and shit, having Choi Min-sik in the movie to actually represent a fearsome (although completely human) character is a nice way to help even things out. Although it doesn't even things out completely since Lucy is almost a freaking god by the end. 

I even loved how they actually built up his introduction in the movie. It was an introduction befitting to someone like him and people who have seen his Korean movies will probably get more out of it than anyone else. I'm not saying Luc Besson is referencing Min-sik's past work exactly, but it did feel like he was trying to sum up the man's career in a few brief seconds as he was getting introduced in a big budget picture to audiences all across America for the very first time.

It is certainly a fitting introduction both for his character and for the actor. I do wish the movie around him had been just a bit more... Well, less Roland Emmerich-ian would be a decent way to put it. Of course, I thought the film kicked ass and I do recommend it, but I suppose you can go to next blog post for more details. 

Part two of my review can be found here

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The World is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii)

This is the first anime in a while that I just haven't felt like reviewing. I suppose you can just consider it to be the anime version of jet lag on my part or maybe just the fact that I just haven't felt like blogging lately. It could very well be a mixture of both. I have been hitting the anime pretty non-stop for quite a while, making up for lost times and whatnot. It's only logical to assume that I'd want to slow things down by now and blog about other things. Since I've got two blogs now that's a lot easier to do, too. 
However, I honestly didn't care for this series that much. It was okay, but I am not a big fan of the "reverse loli" kind of thing. In fact, I'm not a big fan of the loli schtick to begin with. Every now and then it's okay for laughs, but other than that I don't actively say to myself "I could use some loli right now." That'd just be a bit weird. Even for me. 

But instead of a late teenage male character and a younger female character you get the late teenage female character and younger male character. No one bats an eye, though. It's odd enough when done the "normal" way, but when done the opposite way it makes things even more bizarre. Of course, this anime was primarily directed at teenage Japanese girls so I'm sure they might have appreciated the absurdity of the situation a bit more, but it's kind of lost on me. 

To be fair, this anime has a fantastic soundtrack worthy of a high-budget Disney movie. The Beautiful Rain song isn't what I'm talking about, either. That song has its moments, but it gets played way too much during the anime. I'm talking about the background music. It's very, very good. 

This series as a whole reminded me a bit of some Disney films, too. A princess from a poor kingdom being married off to a young (very young) king she's never met and adapting to a completely new lifestyle. That just sounds Disney-ish to me. Very majestic and classy-sounding kind of story. I already know that this anime has plenty of fans and I can understand why. I'm certainly not knocking their tastes.

There isn't a lot of action to be found here, though. Not a lot of slapstick humor, either. It's mostly just a fish-out-of-water romance kind of thing. Which isn't what I normally go after, but I don't mind watching different genres every now and then just for the fuck of it. What made things bizarre though was the straight-faced way the whole "underage king" card was played. Within the confines of the story it works, but it is definitely odd to make a romance out of it. A bit more awkward comedy would have made this anime go down just a bit easier for me. 

This anime wasn't really my thing. It could have used some zombies or some shit like that. 

Still, this anime is very well done from an animation and soundtrack standpoint. It looks and sounds good. Although the hair styles for the leads could have been a bit different because it really is getting harder to tell characters apart these days. If not for King Livi's height I wouldn't have been able to tell him apart from Kirito in Sword Art Online. Livi's voice also seemed much deeper than someone his age. Of course, that tends to happen when the voice actor is 25 years old. Nothing against Shimazaki Nobunaga, though. Sounding fifteen years old (or however young King Livi was supposed to be) isn't something most men can do. 


I've seen quite a few Korean movies by now and have gained a healthy respect for Korean cinema, but as far as Korean television dramas are concerned I have only ever seen IRIS. I started that show in May, but Naruto Shippuden was my primary focus at the time so I made it to about episode eleven before I took a hiatus from it. I knew it was good enough to come back to later on when I could really focus on it, though.

Well, last night I went on a three episode bender to finish it up. Man, oh man, was that good. 

At the time it was made, IRIS was the most expensive Korean drama ever made and I can believe that. This show felt like it was one giant movie and when the action started happening it was pretty amazing. There's a lot of action, too. There are only twenty episodes, but each episode is about 62 minutes long. This show is twenty hours of espionage and action and it is so intricately plotted that I'm pretty sure you won't see the next plot twist coming. After finishing it I'm still not even sure that was enough time. Luckily, there's Athena: Goddess of War and IRIS 2 to help resolve everything (I hope), but I'm not sure I'll get to see those with the lack of Korean dramas available for viewership in the States even with the help of streaming sites.

Starring in this drama as the lead character Kim Heon-jun is Lee Byung-hun. You should be familiar with his name by now since I have talked about him plenty in posts past. He and his best friend Jin Sa-woo (Jung Joon-ho) were in the 707th Special Mission Battalion before getting approached to join the secret organization dubbed NSS (National Security Service). They agree to join and earn the respective names of "TK1" and "TK2." 

However, conspiracy threatens their friendship when Director Baek San (Kim Yeong-cheol) sends Heon-jun on a mission that will end up with not only Heon-jun being a wanted man on both sides of the Demilitarized Zone, but with NSS being one of the organizations that must hunt him down in the aftermath. 

Of course, this is a Korean drama so you are going to have a love story and some melodrama involved. With each episode being an hour long (without any commercials... so none of that "the episodes are really 45 minutes stuff") there's plenty of time for the episodes to branch out in multiple ways. There could be insane action during the first half hour and then a soothing quiet period that gets all lovey dovey for fifteen minutes before going back to insane action. I really liked the format because all of the characters grew in ways I really didn't expect and their interactions were fascinating. 

I really had no idea how it was going to end from the start of each episode. I didn't even trust the previews. I can't even accurately describe how things went from what they were in episode one to episode twenty. It's just such a whirlwind.

I do think T.O.P's character Vick could have been fleshed out a bit more because he really was a brutal bad guy. Of course, he was meant to be more of a minor character anyway, but he did well with what he had and should have received a little bit more of a backstory. 

Another character I found myself really appreciating was WPK supporter Park Cheol-young. Kim Seung-woo did a great job in that role and the unlikely alliance his character forms with Lee Byung-hun's character is one of the better moments of the show. 

Lee Byung-hun definitely carried the show, but Jung Joon-ho and Kim Yeong-cheol also deserve a lot of credit, too. The two of them were a devastating and evil tag team. Especially Kim Yeong-cheol. You are going to hate that motherfucker by the time everything is over. 

There are a lot of other things I could delve into because there's a lot of material to deal with here, but I don't want to dig too deeply. I'm not sure how things would hold up on a second viewing, but I'm really impressed with how everything ended up. I could have done without the final six minutes of the finale, but it was realistic ending given the nature of IRIS. It was an ending I don't think most American shows would have the guts to pull off. 

Highly recommended. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

Okay, I admit it. I just haven't been in a mood to blog lately. That's not to say I don't have anything I want to blog about because I do. I recently came off a rather impressive movie binge and finished up another anime series so I've got a batch of reviews I'd like to get around to and to kick things off I'd like to dissect Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, the finale in director Park Chan-wook's Vengeance Trilogy.

One thing I really liked about this movie was how Park Chan-wook brought back almost everybody from his prior installments in the Vengeance Trilogy. The most notable star returning is Choi Min-sik, who had portrayed the hero in Park Chan-wook's Oldboy (as well as the detestable villain in Kim Ji-woon's I Saw the Devil). Min-sik is probably my second favorite Korean actor (next to Lee Byung-hun), but here he isn't the main focus of the attention. Although he is certainly fascinating with what screen time he is given and I can guarantee that you won't like his character at all. 

Kang Song-ho, Shin Ha-kyun, Yu Ji-tae, and Yoon Jin-seo also return from previous entries in the Vengeance Trilogy for cameo roles. 

Lee Yeong-ae's character Lee Geum-ja is the focus of this movie, though. She plays a woman who is released after being in prison for thirteen years. The reason she went to prison was because she was accused of killing a young schoolboy named Won-mo. She even confessed to the murder even though something always seemed off about her description of certain events. There's a reason for that, though. 

After being released from prison Geum-ja takes it upon herself to hunt down the real killer of Won-mo, Baek Han-sang (Choi Min-sik). 

But why did she choose a decade in prison over turning Baek Han-sang in to the police? Well, that's one of the reasons why you have to watch this film. 

The final hour alone is also worth watching this movie. What happens in the final hour? Well, it's one of those things you just have to watch to believe. It certainly makes this movie more than worthy of being the finale of this Vengeance Trilogy. This isn't just revenge, but epic revenge. 

Lady Vengeance was definitely stylish in ways that Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance wasn't while not being quite as over-the-top (for the most part) as Oldboy. It is primarily told in chronological order but with plenty of flashbacks to her time in prison in order to help fill in the gaps of the story. 

You'll definitely feel for Geum-ja's character even though you'll realize that she has her flaws, too. You could even say that she was just as guilty of putting Won-mo and herself in that position as was Han-sang. 

But you'll root for Geum-ja anyway because she got the short-end of the stick compared to Han-sang. 

All in all, I am very impressed with Park Chan-wook's Vengeance Trilogy and I highly recommend all of them. It doesn't matter if you watch them in order or not, but only that you do watch them. I really don't have any complaints about this movie, but if I were to try to make one then it would probably be something like "Choi Min-sik needed more screen time." That's just me and my respect for Min-sik's considerable screen presence seeping through, though. 

P.S. - Choi Min-sik made his English movie debut in Luc Besson's new film Lucy. Now I've got to see that one. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ichi the Killer (Koroshiya 1)

Is your iron stomach getting rusty from non-usage? Is your barf bag more like an ordinary non-barf bag these days? If so, it's time to take those out of retirement and give this 2001 Japanese extreme mob movie a view. And, when I mean "extreme," I don't mean "Ooh, it's kinda violent" or "It's almost as violent as Hostel." Cuz, when I say extreme, I am talking about the level of insane torture porn violence a lot of people think they mean when they talk about movies like Saw or Hostel.

Ichi the Killer is a balls to the wall gross-out gore flick with absolutely no redeeming qualities. Story? I'm not even sure I know what that is anymore after watching this movie. I mean, holy shit, do I feel like I need therapy.

Well, okay, this movie does have a decent story. In fact, the idea of a brainwashed mercenary with an incredible guilt-complex and the mental maturity of a ten year old facing off against a sadomasochistic yakuza enforcer with a fetish for needles is pretty damn good. The direction is a little bit too surreal at times, but the way everything is presented from a strictly objective level makes this a pretty decent movie. I'd certainly like to read the manga on which this movie was based. A lot of the characters could have used a bit more background, but I don't think Miike Takashi was all that concerned with digging into the supporting characters too deeply. Which is a shame. 

The violence and the gross-out scenes, though...


I don't really get grossed out. My iron stomach is in its prime right now. I've read Laymon, Ketchum, Lee, Keene, and just about every other author associated with the more extreme side of horror. I'm always on the lookout for other authors, too. I've seen a shit-ton of movies that were gross and overly violent. I can count on one hand just how many movies legitimately make me feel ill. 

Ichi the Killer, congratulations. You grossed me the fuck out. You are in an elite category as far as that is concerned. That's not to say this movie is scary, though. In a way, this movie is kind of funny because everything is so over-the-top that all of the bloodletting becomes like that Willy Wonka slogan, "What will he think of next?" 

If you need a movie that's great for a challenge this is it. You know, one of those "Hey, man, I'll bet you ten bucks you can't sit through this movie without squirming" kind of challenges than this movie is a must-see. Another great challenge would be "Let's take a shot of Early Times for each evisceration we see." 

I think it's kinda funny how the guy who played Kakihara went on to portray Hogun in the Thor movies, too. I don't even remember seeing him in the Thor movies, but I think that I won't help but recognize him now after seeing this movie. Of course, Asano Tadanobu was very blonde-haired and very much psychotic in this movie and it's not my fault I didn't recognize him. I'll recognize him from on, though. Boy, will I. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

My 12 Favorite Ozzy Ballads

Ozzy will always be one those names I go back to, no matter where I am in life. While I certainly haven't agreed with many of his professional decisions, I find myself always looking forward to an Ozzy-related release. Right now there don't seem to be any releases in the near future, though. Ozzy's last solo studio album was 2010's Scream and Black Sabbath's 13 is already over a year old, too. 

With nothing else eminent, I suppose I will make do with what I have and see if I can't conjure up a decent list of the material that Ozzy and the gang of musicians that have accompanied him over the years have managed to accumulate. As you know, I am a fan of all eras of Ozzy much like I am a fan of all eras of Sabbath so I'm sure my list will always be vastly different from yours. But that's part of the fun, I guess. Everyone would be boring if they were exactly the same. 
A runner-up on this list was Ozzy's beautiful
duet with Miss Piggy. 

This list concerns the ballads that Ozzy has made during his solo career. I mean, he only made one ballad when he was in Black Sabbath and while I certainly could include that I won't because then that'd open a whole different can of worms. While I like Changes, I wouldn't call it one of my favorite ballads. I much prefer the instrumentals Laguna Sunrise and Fluff. Now those are technically Ozzy-related so I could include them, but... anyway, that's why I won't include Sabbath material here. However, you will see a lot of Ozzmosis here. No, it's not one of my favorite albums, but it does feature more Ozzy ballads than any of the other Ozzy albums. 

12. So Tired - Sadly, this is Jake E. Lee's only appearance on this list. I suppose this is more of a guilty pleasure kind of entry on this list. But what the hell. I do think the harmonic backing vocals are a bit much and maybe the orchestra could have been toned down a bit, but all in all this is one of those songs that's perfect for those frustrated souls on Valentine's Day. 

11. Here For You - Yeah, I know. A lot of people didn't care for Black Rain. The good news is that I don't care what people think, either. I do think this is a better song than Dreamer, although it was a toss-up between this or Life Won't Wait at this spot. Zakk Wylde, say what you will about his guitar playing techniques, has always had an ear for ballads. This song is an unabashed lighters-in-the-air love song and it isn't the only one of its kind on this list. 

10. Running Out of Time - This is the "other" ballad from Down to Earth. Although I suppose it is a bit too heavy in parts to considered an actual ballad type of song. And it's not about anything too lovey dovey. This is about what the bitter wear of time can do to someone. 

09. Old L.A. Tonight - For a minute you think you are listening to an Elton John song, but nope, that's Ozzy. I could have done without that synthesised drum sound on this song, but this was the Ozzmosis period and the entire album was kinda like that. 

08. Mama, I'm Coming Home - I've heard this a gazillion times, yeah. At times I didn't always like it because I have heard it so much. I'm feeling charitable today, though. But it's still not my favorite ballad from No More Tears

07. Back On Earth - I wish this song would have been on Ozzmosis. Unfortunately, it's only available on the often forgotten compilation The Ozzman Cometh. Don't know why, maybe it's the post-apocalyptic feel I get from the song or the fact that it invokes shades of See You On the Other Side, but this has always been on my list of favorite Ozzy gems. 

06. I Just Want You - Not quite sure what half of the lyrics mean, but it's some damn good songwriting neatly wrapped up by the phrase "I just want you." Not sure if it was ever performed live, but he could have introduced the song as I just want you to show me your fucking cigarette lighters!

05. See You On the Other Side - I suppose you could say this is really Ozzy's most "down to earth" song, if you catch my drift. I know Ozzy prefers the demo (definitely worth hearing if haven't heard it yet), but I love the original version heard on the album. It's my go-to grieve song next to Type O Negative's Everything Dies... and one other song higher up this list. 

04. Road to Nowhere - I went through a phase when I was younger where I listened exclusively to No More Tears. I think it was probably my freshman year in high school although it could have been sometime during middle school. This song in particular spoke to my teenager mind in a way such "heavyweights" of the mid-2000's like Korn (yawn) couldn't do. 

03. Tonight - Can someone please explain to me how this song has vanished off the face of the earth? I've always liked it and I think Randy Rhoads really nailed the guitar work. I mean, he always did in every song, but you'd think this would be one of those that wouldn't get shoved aside during the passage of time. 

02. Aimee - Obviously, this song is for Ozzy's out of public eye daughter Aimee. This was also left off of the album Ozzmosis and it's another of those songs that have just kinda fallen off the face of the earth. Someone needs to make a music video of this involving cat pictures so this song can be revived immediately. 

01. Goodbye to Romance - I used to hate this song intensely and I never knew why. Then I later heard the song in a different light. This song is about dealing with loss and starting over when I first heard this song I just wanted hard rock songs and I didn't really get it with this. After Dimebag Darrell died I listened to this song a lot. I wonder if that's ironic or not. 

Well, this concludes my list. Should I have included The Liar? Close My Eyes Forever? Fire in the Sky? Or maybe You Can't Kill Rock N Roll? Although, I don't think that last song is a ballad, I do consider it to be one of Ozzy's strongest songs ever. It's tough to say what is and what isn't a ballad these days. I consider what I feel while listening to it to be a large ingredient, too. 

These are the ones I think are Ozzy's best ballads. My list is final. Until tomorrow. 

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

Before director Park Chan-wook would go on to direct the now famous Oldboy, he directed what would be known as the first chapter in his "Vengeance Trilogy." While certainly not as good as the film that would precede it in this set of thematically-related movies, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is a much quieter film that boasts of two very strong performances by two very talented lead actors. One of the main characters doesn't speak a word the entire time and yet still manages to become an endearing, albeit misguided, character. 

Perhaps the one thing I loved about this movie is that each of the characters were understandably sympathetic and repulsive in turns. I suppose that the "bad guy" of this movie would probably be Shin Ha-kyun's character, the deaf-mute Ryu. Although the other guy gave him a run for his money, if you'll pardon the pun. 

Ryu's sister is going to die from kidney failure and Ryu is not only not a match but he is also without a job. Feeling that all hope is lost, Ryu decides to give his severance pay and one of his own kidneys to the black market so that they can get his sister a kidney that matches in exchange. Of course, the black market takes his money and his kidney, but disappear quickly.

Wouldn't you know that after all of this the hospital has found donor? Unfortunately, Ryu can no longer afford the operation. 

Ryu's extremist girlfriend is pissed and hatches a plan to kidnap the daughter of Ryu's ex-boss in order to get the money. However, Ryu changes the target to a daughter of the his ex-boss's friend in order to help avoid suspicion. 

It was all supposed to be so easy... They get their money and the guy gets his daughter back. The daughter wouldn't have been lacking for anything, either. Ryu's sister would be watching over the girl the entire time, believing her to be a daughter of one of Ryu's friends. 

Unfortunately, accidents can happen. 

The Good, The Bad, The Weird's Song Kang-ho co-stars as the frustrated and grieving father who little by little begins to realize just how far a person will go to get revenge. 

For the most part this film really is quiet, an exercise in characterization. It certainly doesn't seem anything like Oldboy. Don't sleep on this one, though. Bleak is a good way to describe this movie. Bleak, with a side order of bleak, and extra bleak on top with bleak filling. If there is anything that you can learn from this film is that revenge is a dish best served cold. But I suppose the real question is... Who really deserves revenge? 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Good, The Bad, The Weird

While technically an Italian film with the exception of the trio of stars Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach, The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly is also the archetypal US film. This is mostly due to the fact that there was nary a word of Italian uttered in the final dialog and because Westerns just have to be set in the Old West, correct?

Well, this is where things get fun. The Good, The Bad, The Weird is an unapologetic Oriental Western set in 1930's Manchuria and not a single word of English can be heard here. This 2008 Korean film clearly takes its inspiration from Sergio Leone's final entry in his Man with No Name films, but that is not to say that this film is a note for note remake. For one thing, The Good, The Bad, The Weird stands on its own and is a lot of fun. Yeah, we have the three central characters and a hunt for treasure, but The Good, The Bad, The Weird contains some seriously fantastic action scenes and an even more "Bad" character than Lee Van Cleef's character was. This film is also not a strict Western since there are things like motorcycles, big-ass guns being shot off by the Japanese Imperial Army, and an especially cringe-worthy scene involving a guy getting his finger cut off. I mean, this is Korean movie, after all. 

The best way to describe this movie is by calling it an amalgam of Western and Eastern influences and it is marvelously handled by director Kim Jee-woon (who also directed two other films Lee Byung-hun films, I Saw the Devil and A Bittersweet Life). 

Lee Byung-hun had never portrayed a villain before this film and he fit the mold perfectly. You could tell he was the bad guy because he was wearing all black, but it was his presence more than anything else that kind of gave it away. Although I am pretty sure that Korean audiences at the time fully expected him to play The Good. 

Jung Woo-sung is The Good, though. You could also tell because of how he was dressed and how quiet he was compared to the other two primary characters in this movie, but that's about where the resemblances end when compared to Eastwood. In the International version of this film, The Good doesn't really get a lot of screen time and I began to wonder if that was intentional or not. Since, you know, Woo-sung isn't quite the same as Eastwood. It turns out the Korean version features The Good just a bit more and how he managed to get roped into everything. 

I found this cool website that compared the two versions here, too. Even the endings between the two versions are vastly different. Although, based on what I've read, I think might prefer the International version just a bit, but I really want to watch the Korean version now. 

Regardless of which version you might have seen or want to see, I don't think anyone can debate that The Weird, portrayed by Song Kang-ho, is the main character of the film. He's the goofy guy who somehow manages to find himself in one bad situation after another. After stealing an important map (without knowing of its true importance) before The Bad could steal it, The Bad and his gang begin an epic chase to get the map back. Of course, The Good will soon be along for the ride to not only bring The Bad to justice, but The Weird as well. 

Depending on which version you see, this film is about 130 minutes. So it is nowhere near as long as Sergio Leone's defining masterpiece. And no, it's not as good, but I don't think a lot of comparisons should be made, though. Even Leone drew his influences from elsewhere (specifically the Japanese film Yojimbo) so I don't think it would be proper to sell The Good, The Bad, The Weird short by calling it yet another knockoff of the Man with No Name. For one thing, all of the characters in this movie have real names. I just haven't called them by their names because "The Good" is easier for me to type. 

This is the first film in a while that made me get in a Western mood again and it is one of the few Westerns made recently (if six years ago can be considered recent) that I would consider worth watching again. So that would bring me to three if I include the 2007 remake of 3:10 to Yuma and Tarantino's Django Unchained

I think that should put this film in fairly "Good" company. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Get Carter (1971)

Michael Caine is one of those actors I have accidentally overlooked here in the Blog House, ahem, I mean the Ginger Twilight Zone. Sure, he rose back to prominence for today's audience thanks Christopher Nolan's Batman movies, but the argument could be made that the man never fell out of prominence. Not entirely, anyway. Perhaps the closest he came to that point was the early 80's when he made such flops as Beyond the Poseidon Adventure and The Island. Those certainly weren't the last flops he ever made, but that is probably when he was the most generous with them. 

Get Carter was from Michael Caine's pre-flop era and it is far superior than the remake that starred Sylvester Stallone and even featured Caine in a supporting role. This is a film that I hope a lot of young people will discover after having seen all of the newer Batman films, Inception, and The Prestige. Because, while all of those movies are quite good, they don't quite have that distinct British flavor that best represents Michael Caine. Of course, I know how bizarre it is to say that since Christopher Nolan was born in London, but Nolan never tried to direct a British movie. Outside of Following, that is. 

Get Carter is a British movie through and through and the main character is a real cold fish and thoroughly unlikeable. At least, he is unlikeable to those that don't appreciate the quiet badass murderer types. It's no surprise that this movie didn't make any real money in the UK when it was released or even make the crossover to the US. Aside from Caine, this movie had no real bankable star that either the US or even the UK would recognize. The US, in particular. Telly Savalas was the popular name that studios tried to sell director Mike Hodges, but Hodges stuck to his guns and made the movie using an all Brit cast. Later on Telly Savalas and Caine would be in Beyond the Poseidon Adventure together, but I don't think that was quite the result anyone was hoping for. 

While Mike Hodges wouldn't go on to make many other sound decisions in his directing career, I think the planets just aligned for him when he made this film. This film shouldn't have worked, but it is now considered a masterpiece of the British crime genre as well as of British cinema in general. Most of this is due to Michael Caine's presence and contribution to minute changes of the script, but I think the ending is what seals the deal. It's bold and daring and practically everything that the Sylvester Stallone version isn't. 

If there's a movie that should be on anyone's bucket list then this version of Jack Carter's quest for vengeance is it. 

Otaku House Word Search Vol. 2: Dragonball Edition

G F A L I P P V Z X C F S L Z 
S O R B P Y P R S U R E E B O 
I V H E R C U L E C N Z L P Z 
M R I A E O C Q L Z O J R L T 
A K R C N Z L D U D B U U C I 
K S U H M P A Y S T R U T O D 
C K D A C U L H P S A A E E A 
A H E M A H E M A K Z P G F R 
J I G P M N I B C N E H I O Y 
O N A I L B D A P U Z G S O N 
B A R O U A T R O R H H V I N 
A M N N B E M D O T I O I U I 
L G A U G B I O S I Z D D K R 
L R R E L O O C T R D U E K A 
S A V N A M E K V B Q S L B K 


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Attack On Titan Vol. 9 by Isayama Hajime

It's been quite some time since I visited the world of Shingeki no Kyojin. I've certainly had the ninth volume sitting in my Kindle for a long time now, but I just couldn't wait anymore. The second season of the anime seems like it won't be out for forever and now that I'm caught up on the Naruto Shippuden simulcast I really need a new "thing" to do. Yeah, I still have One Piece to get through, but I'm waiting for more episodes to get uploaded and that seems to be taking for fucking ever. Otherwise, I already would have eclipsed episode 600 by now and would be caught up with the simulcast. 

So I decided the other day to crack open volume nine and wouldn't you know that I'm on volume ten already?

Volume nine just flew by and I'd be willing to say that this volume is the most bizarre one so far. That's really saying something, too. 

In this volume the titans go beast mode.

At the end of the previous volume it was discovered that there were titans in the walls that protected all of humanity from the titans. I suppose you could call them Wall Titans. Obviously, you've got to wonder why the titans would want to destroy the wall if the walls are actually made of titans. Another question is why would any titans want to protect humanity by becoming part of a wall? Or, if that wasn't their choice, then how the hell did the wall get made?

But none of those questions are answered here. Instead we get a bunch more questions that need answers. 

At the end of the previous volume titans were spotted inside of Wall Rose, too. The natural assumption to make would be that Wall Rose has been broken by the titans, too. Something seems amiss, though. Four squads have been sent to reconnoiter the area, searching for the damaged area of Wall Rose. Yet, oddly enough, no one has seen a crack in Wall Rose. 

How did the titans get in if they didn't break through Wall Rose?

Perhaps an even more important issue to resolve is the appearance of a large Bigfoot-like titan that not only seems to be intelligent, but also seems to be able to talk. This Beast Titan is not the only one able to talk, though. While searching through his house in his hometown, Connie discovers a titan that cannot move. Connie swears that the oddly-formed titan not only talked to him, but also bore a slight resemblance to his own mother. What could this mean?

Volume nine seems to carry this story in a different direction than the previous installments. With Annie Leonheart now out of the picture (for the moment anyway) and Eren Yeager still exhausted from that battle, the focus of this volume was on the other characters that had only been in supporting roles up until this point. Sasha Braus, Connie Springer, Ymir, and Krista Lenz are more or less the primary players this time around. Of course, Eren Yeager, Levi, Mikasa Ackerman, and Armin Arlert make their appearances because it seems a bit obligatory to feature them at this point in the series. Since they are the main characters and all that.

In typical fashion volume nine ends with a serious cliffhanger. Or, in this case, I suppose you could call it a "castle-hanger." Two groups of the party sent to investigate Wall Rose are holed up in Castle Utgard when titans start attacking the castle. Coincidently enough, that's that very same castle that Eren and his gang are going to so they can find someone who might be able to explain the presence of the Wall Titans. Will Eren be able to make it in time to prevent a full scale slaughter?

Find out next time... on Dragonball Z, I mean, in the next volume of Attack on Titan!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Five Easy Pieces

There are no answers. No directions are given. Often people, when they feel they have no direction, will purposely take the wrong direction. When faced with questions or doubts, they jump ship again and chart a new course.

That is the message of Five Easy Pieces

They don't make them like this anymore. Five Easy Pieces is typically considered to be one of Jack Nicholson's best roles and movies although it's also one of his quieter movies, too. This movie was released in 1970, one year after his rise to prominence in Easy Rider and five years before he really hit it big with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

This was an important time in Nicholson's career and Five Easy Pieces was perhaps his most important film at the time because it was his first time playing the lead actor in a movie. There was no Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, Dennis Hopper, or Peter Fonda around to help Nicholson do the heavy lifting. This film relied primarily on Jack Nicholson's ability to make something out of nothing. What was first glimpsed in Easy Rider comes to fruition in Five Easy Pieces and you see a performance that was robbed of the Oscar refused by George C. Scott. 

His surrounding cast isn't without merit, though. Karen Black (one of Nicholson's co-stars from Easy Rider) turns in a good performance in only her fifth movie. She won a Golden Globe for it and was even nominate for an Oscar. Of course, her numerous horror movie (mis)adventures later on in her career sort of undermine the fact that there was a time when Black could actually act in good movies. I mean, she wasn't amazing or anything, but she held her own with Jack Nicholson in his prime and not many people could do that.

Ralph Waite, two years before his successful run as John Walton in The Waltons, makes the most of his role as one of the straightest and most conservative of bumpkins in the whole movie. His conservative simpleton is meant to help contrast Nicholson's "lack of direction" and "rebellious" lifestyle so you don't get to see Ralph Waite own the screen, but he does make a boring character slightly more likeable. You couldn't ask for two different brothers.

Perhaps one of the more surprising performances in this movie is given by Helena Kallianotes. Hell, I'd never heard of her, either. But she plays a witty hitchhiker and her very brief time spent traveling with Nicholson and Black is memorable. I'm not too surprised to see that she also had a role in Easy Rider, albeit an uncredited one. She didn't stick around in the acting biz much, though. Seeing as she only has fourteen roles to her credit. 

However, Sally Struthers, more well-known for her role in All in the Family, serves no purpose in this film other than to have on-screen sex with Nicholson. Not quite sure why they chose Struthers for this, but I suppose this is just one of those "for historical purposes only" kind of roles for die-hard fans of hers. Not sure how many of those there are, but I'm sure there are a few. She doesn't really act or anything here.

I imagine that lots of folks either loved this film because of its rambling no-strings-attached approach or hated it for those same reasons. 

It spoke to me, though. Oddly enough, one of the scenes that spoke to me more than anything was the diner scene. I got a kick out of that. As someone who works in the fast food industry, I don't consider it to be ironic at all. If you can't get a customer what they want then you should get them what you can without being a bitch about it. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

No Game, No Life (Nōgēmu Nōraifu)

Much in the same way that Black Bullet was hyped because of Attack on Titan, I think No Game, No Life was hyped because of the success of Sword Art Online. Why? Well, for one thing Matsuoka Yoshitsugu is the star of each. However, No Game, No Life takes the exact opposite approach of Sword Art Online and Sora is just about as far from Kirito as you can get. 

Sora wants to be stuck in the game world forever with his younger step-sister Shiro so they can play games. They were brought to the world by the "God" named Tet for the primary purpose of making the world where everything is decided by games interesting. In real life, Sora and Shiro had been a dynamic duo of harcore gaming NEET (Not in employment, education, or training) hikikomori (shut-ins) and when they played games they were known by their codename "blank" because they never actually filled in a codename. Blank never lost a game in the real world and it is for that reason that Tet summoned them into the gaming world. 

Needless to say that Sora and Shiro consider this to be the best thing that ever happened to them. 

Hikasa Yoko (whom I completely forgot helped to traumatize me in Aku no Hana) also lends her voice to the helpless and hopeless Stephanie Dola, a member of the Imanity and granddaughter of the former King of Elkia. Yet somehow, despite being the "eye-candy character" she seems to be the smartest (or at least the most driven) of all of them. 

Elkia is in desperate need of a new king and the selection process for this king should be obvious: a game where all members of Imanity are welcome to play. 

Whoever makes it to the end of the selection process without losing will be crowned king unless someone else challenges him (or her) before that can happen. Like a marriage ceremony there's that part where anyone has a chance to object. 

Blank, who have never lost a game, consider this to be a perfect opportunity to test themselves. 

Of course, becoming the King(s) of Elkia isn't enough for Blank. Their ultimate goal is to challenge the God Tet to a game so that they can become God. 

This series is only 12 episodes so it will fly by, but unlike Black Bullet (which runs one episode longer) it doesn't feel like this series is forced. In fact, this series seems destined to have a sequel because it leaves so much room for more development and feels unfinished. Not everything was crammed into the 12 episodes and that feels refreshing. The jokes and references (of which there are plenty) sometimes seem to come at you at a million miles an hour, but that actually helps this series when it comes to re-watch value. More can be gotten out of it the second time this series is watched because will inevitably be that one thing no one else caught. I think I caught pretty much everything, but I must have not been paying attention to the Castle in the Sky reference.

Of course, it should be noted that this series has plenty of fanservice, but none of it felt particularly overwhelming to me. In fact, a lot of it was rather creative in the way that they intentionally stepped around the censors by breaking the fourth wall. While certainly a modern day anime fan's anime, it also has a bit of intelligence to it that might attract fans who miss the days when an anime about games could be more than an advertisement for toys at Wal-Mart. It certainly won't become massive like Sword Art Online, but I imagine that it should make it's way to the states with a dub and a nice blu-ray set without too much hassle. The crossover appeal for this anime seems to be strong, though. 

I would certainly welcome a sequel series. 

P.S. - I should also mention how much I loved the animation, too. I've been watching anime for a while now, but the way things were animated in this show really helped to separate it from the competition and that's something that just doesn't happen a lot these days.