American Crime: Season 2

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If there’s anything I’ve learned after 21 years on this Earth, it’s that having expectations is never a good idea. All you’re doing is setting yourself up for disappointment. I bring this up because, I went into the second season of American Crime, a show that I reviewed on here, and really loved, with expectations, and wound up being highly disappointed. Now, I’m not trying to say that the second season was terrible, it just wasn’t quite to the same level that the first one was. And I wanted to tell anyone who might have been looking to watch it, be warned. It might not be what you expected, or hoped for. Continue reading

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The Man From Nowhere (2010)

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Cha Tae-Sik is the owner of a small pawn shop in Seoul. A widower, his only friend is Son-Mi, a juvenile delinquent with a drug addict mother. The film actually begins with the latter stealing some heroin from a group of local gangsters, (always a good idea), and, as you might expect, the criminals wind up coming after her, and everyone she knows. This includes Tae-Sik, who, much to everyone’s surprise, displays incredible agility and combat skills, suggesting that there is more to him than meets the eye. Continue reading

The Keeping Room

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

“War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.” This quote from William Tecumsah Sherman is what opens The Keeping Room, a contained, period-piece thriller that came out just last year. It also seems to be the film’s motto, since the movie is cruel, and it definitely leaves you wishing it were over sooner.

Set in “The American South” in 1865–seriously, that’s what they call it, not Alabama, or Georgia, or anywhere specific like that–the film focuses on three young women, two white sisters and their black slave, struggling to defend themselves from two marauding Union soldiers. While it boasts a talented cast, some realistic costumes and sets, a beautiful landscape, and passes the Bechdel test with flying colors–all things which I usually love to see in a movie–The Keeping Room is not a film I feel I can recommend to you all. The reason is simple: it is extremely boring.

This picture moves at a SNAIL’S pace. The first eight minutes, in addition to not having anything super important happen in them, have absolutely no dialogue. So straight off the bat, you’re left waiting, and wondering. On top of that, the film features tons of long, unbroken shots of characters just doing stuff, like chopping wood, or getting water. And when I say long, I mean just that. See, the average length for a shot in a movie is about 5 seconds. I counted, and the average length for a shot in this movie is eight seconds. That might not seem like much of a difference to you now, but, trust me, when you watch this film, it feels like an eternity. All my professors have told me the same thing, don’t linger on an image unless its important. Unless that swing, that broken wagon wheel, or that bowl, are somehow vital to the story, don’t just keep it on screen. Otherwise you’ll leave the audience wondering, “why am I staring at a swing, a broken wagon wheel, or a bowl?” That’s precisely what I thought when I watched this movie, and that is never a good sign.

In addition to the slow pacing, the film is frightfully serious, and wants you, the audience, to recognize how serious it is by having super long pauses with dramatic musical swells after anyone says or does something remotely important. In one scene, for instance, the younger sister, Louise, says that she doesn’t want to work in the fields anymore, declaring, “She [meaning Mad, the slave] is the n****r. Make her do it.” Everyone literally stops what they’re doing for about five seconds to stare at her, and then the older sister says in a super grave tone of voice, “We’re all n****rs now.” I honestly felt like laughing after I saw that. And the film is full of moments like it.

Now, I don’t want to be too hard on this movie, since, like I said, it does have merits. The acting is good. The costumes and the sets are nice. And the women do speak about subjects other than men, which is rare in most movies. But I honestly don’t feel like any of that matters, when you consider how boring it is, and also how horrific some of the violence gets. If, however, you don’t mind slower pacing, unnecessarily long shots, and rape in your entertainment, you might enjoy The Keeping Room. As for me, I don’t think I’ll ever watch this movie again.

The Chaser (2008)

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If you like stories about kind, good-hearted people, you’ll probably want to avoid The Chaser. Because this film has exactly none of those in it. The story of a pimp trying to find his missing prostitutes, and thereby uncovering the crimes of a serial killer, the film is absolutely disgusting. And completely amazing. Continue reading

Hush

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

Imagine you’re out in the woods, miles away from any kind of help. Someone’s nearby, and that someone means to kill you. Now imagine that this killer, this boogieman in the dark, can’t be heard. Because you can’t hear. And the killer knows this. And he’s gonna use this to his advantage. If you can picture all this, then you’ll have a good idea of what to expect with Hush, the subject of today’s review.

A contained thriller set in an isolated cabin, Hush follows Maddie, a deaf author, as she gets stalked and taunted by a killer who likes to play with his food before he eats it. While hardly boasting an original premise, the film does move at a brisk pace, and offers up some very effective scares. I’ve always said I’ll take a well-crafted thriller over an “artistic,” “award-winning” movie any day, and this film is precisely the kind of thriller I’m talking about when I say that. The acting is good, the characters are given just the right amount of backstory for you to care about them, the cinematography is appropriately creepy, and the sound design is superb. This film doesn’t try to be anything but suspenseful and entertaining, and, by god, it manages to be both in every scene. The opening shot alone, which is accompanied by this loud boom, instantly sets you on edge, and keeps you weary for the rest of the picture. The film also does a really good job of visually conveying information to the audience. For instance, we learn that Maddie is deaf, not through someone telling us that she is, but by watching her cook. We hear her chopping vegetables, boiling water, and so on. But then the camera pans over to her ear, and, suddenly, there’s no more chopping, boiling, hissing or sizzling to be heard. It’s a clever and effective way to get out necessary information without needing a huge exposition dump.

I was also pretty impressed with the way the filmmakers represented this disabled character. So often in movies, people like me are shown as weak, childlike, or helpless. Usually, we’re just portrayed as pitiful objects you should feel sorry for. Here, though, Maddie is shown as being intelligent, self-sufficient, funny and social. Her disability doesn’t prevent her from living by herself, and that’s great, because its true. Most, if not all, disabled people are capable of living on their own. I just wish the movies would show that every once in a while. The only thing I would say about the representation of deafness in this film is that the actress playing Maddie never makes a sound. She keeps her mouth shut the entire movie, and signs everything. The truth is, that’s not really how it works. Most of my deaf friends do make noise when they sign, it just doesn’t sound like words. The reason is, they still have vocal chords, and even if they can’t hear the noises their making, they’re still capable of making them. And they do. They cry if they get hurt, they laugh if they think something’s funny, and so on. These are just natural human reactions to things, and people make them, whether they can hear them or not. Think of it this way, I can’t see my own facial expressions because I have poor eyesight, but I still know how to smile and frown, because those are just things that human beings instinctively do. This isn’t so much a criticism of the filmmakers, because, like I said, they did a good job of making this deaf character sympathetic and self-sufficient, it’s just something misleading I wanted to point out.

So, in conclusion, Hush is a well-paced, well acted, well-shot thriller, with some good scares, and good representation. If you want to be engaged and entertained for about 80 minutes, give this film a look.

Following

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I’ve always been a fan of watching famous director’s early films. Partly because it humanizes them–they didn’t always have huge budgets and A-list actors at their disposal– but also because it shows how much, or how little, they’ve changed over the years. Sometimes, like with Martin Scorsese’s The Big Shave, there’s nothing in these early works that indicates who made them. Other times, as with the subject of today’s review, Christopher Nolan’s Following, it is extremely apparent who helmed these pictures, and that these filmmakers haven’t changed their style or subject matter that much over the years. Continue reading

The Wailing (2016)

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The story of a small town detective trying to solve the mystery surrounding a series of bizarre deaths, all of which seem connected to this weird Japanese hermit, The Wailing mixes a lot of different genres and tones. At once a mystery, police procedural, supernatural horror film, and comedy, the picture shifts from silly to gruesome on an almost scene to scene basis. In one moment, the protagonist’s daughter will catch him and his wife banging in their car, and in another, a deranged man in a hospital will be shown disemboweling himself. It’s an odd dichotomy, to be sure. There’s also a lot of inconsistency with the characterization here. What I mean by that is, in one scene, the protagonist will be shown as doubting there’s any supernatural cause for the deaths, then, in the next scene, he’ll be more than happy to let a clearly crazy woman walk through an active crime scene and tell him stories about satanic rituals, and then, immediately afterwards, he’ll be acting all skeptical again. It’s weird, to say the least. And yet, for all the inconsistency with characterization and tone, for all the idiotic choices the protagonist makes, for all the blending of genres and motifs, I was consistently riveted by The Wailing, and would honestly recommend it to you all. Continue reading