The Fifth Element (To Infinity Retrospective)

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HEY! HI! HOW’S IT GOING? WELCOME TO THE TO INFINITY RETROSPECTIVE, A SERIES I CREATED IN PREPARATION FOR STAR WARS 9. WHICH WE NOW KNOW IS CALLED “RISE OF SKYWALKER.” ANYWAY, ON THE FIRST DAY OF EACH MONTH, I REVIEW A DIFFERENT SPACE OPERA, AND, THIS MONTH, WE’LL BE LOOKING AT THE FIFTH ELEMENT, A WACKY, WILD AND WEIRD OFFERING FROM 1997. What’s it about? Well… Continue reading

A Cure For Wellness (2017)

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When his superiors catch him stealing, ambitious banker William Lockhart is blackmailed into retrieving a colleague from a wellness center in Switzerland. The big shots explain that if the colleague in question, Mr. Pembroek, fails to take responsibility for the irregularities in their books, then not only will they be unable to perform a major merger, but they’ll all be up for criminal charges. So with no other options, Lockhart sets off for the Alps, eager to get back as soon as possible. But when he arrives at the wellness center, and begins interacting with the patients, he realizes that there’s something sinister going on, and that he might not be able to leave. Continue reading

The Hateful Eight (2015)

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Have you ever been to a murder mystery party before? In case you haven’t, it’s when you and your friends get together, and are given a scenario; “We are these people, at the so and so mansion, for this reason.” Each person is assigned a character, and then gets told that there’s a killer in their midst. You spend the rest of the game trying to figure out who said killer is, hopefully before he or she gets to you. It’s silly, but very fun, and gives people the chance to get creative and show off their improv chops. Plus, who doesn’t love hanging out with their friends? Well, imagine that you’re at a murder mystery party, but things are a little different. You don’t know anyone there, and when you do get to know them, you realize that they’re all bigots, rapists, and murderers. There’s no fun involved with the discovery of the killer, only necessity and petty jealousy. On top of that, certain people keep repeating the same lines over and over again, and it’s really starting to grate on your nerves. If you can imagine what that party would be like, then you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect with The Hateful Eight, the latest film from writer-director Quentin Tarantino. Continue reading

To The Nostalgia Critic, Regarding Your Video On White-Washing

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While you do make some valid points about audiences being complacent with height washing (casting non Little People To Play Little People), and various other forms of impersonation, the crux of your video is both flawed and troubling, and I don’t believe that you are aware of this. Continue reading

In The Miso Soup (Book Review)

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

How are you all this jolly January day? Are you comfortable? Are you warm? Are you snuggled up in bed with someone you love? If so, you might want to stop reading this review right now, because it’ll likely make you feel cold and empty inside. That’s certainly how I felt after I finished reading today’s novel. “What novel is that?” you ask. Why In The Miso Soup, a horror story from Japanese author Ryu Murakami.

Now, I’m just going to put it out there, I really, really, REALLY didn’t like this book. It’s dark, twisted, sexist, and thoroughly xenophobic. I feel that it’s my civic duty to warn you all about it. But, before I go any further, I feel I should provide some background.

So, for those of you who don’t know, the author of this book, Ryu Murakami, is fairly famous, or infamous, in his native Japan. His 1976 debut novel, Almost Transparent Blue, was a huge critical and commercial success, even winning that year’s Akutagawa Prize; the Japanese equivalent to the Pulitzer. It dealt with disillusionment, drug use, promiscuity, and the influence of Rock and Roll on young people. And even though it lacked a clear narrative, the book was praised for capturing the spirit of the time, and Murakami was hailed as a counterculture hero, and even likened to figures like Jack Kerouac and Hunter S Thompson.

As time went on, however, his writings grew consistently darker and less accessible. Novels like Piercing, Audition, Coin Locker Babies, and Popular Hits Of The Showa Era were either trashed by critics, or became lightning rods for controversy due to their extremely graphic violence and bizarre content. People also started to notice trends in his writing, like the fact that all the female characters in his books are either prostitutes, psycho, or both. In this respect, Murakami is not unlike the American comic book writer Frank Miller, who won tons of critical praise in the 70s and 80s for returning characters like Batman to their darker roots, but is now lambasted by most people for sexist portrayals of women, and excessive amounts of violence in his work.

But perhaps no single book encapsulates everything that Mr Murakami is, or was, than his 1997 novel, In The Miso Soup. It’s got sex. It’s got violence. It’s got characters whining about how messed up Japan is. It’s the story of Kenji, a 20-something Japanese man who takes foreigners on night tours through Tokyo’s red light district, and follows the same basic premise as the movie Collateral. There’s a guy who takes people to various places in the big city, no questions asked, one night he gets a client whom he finds suspicious, things start to get violent and crazy, and the story becomes one of survival, as the main character tries to get away from this dangerous individual. In the case of In The Miso Soup, the dangerous client is a fat American man named Frank, whom it is later revealed is a serial killer, occultist, rapist, and necrophile. How charming. And what makes this even worse is the fact that Frank, an absolute monster, is not the most disgusting character in the novel. See, you don’t really like Kenji, the main character and narrator, because it’s revealed early on in the book that he’s dating a 16-year-old girl. And while you could make the argument that he’s not a pedophile, because maybe the age of consent is different in Japan, he’s still really annoying and xenophobic. Every few pages he’ll stop and whine about how Japanese people are like robots, how, since the economic boom, they’ve lost all interest in things that are real, that they’re all lonely, walking corpses, blah, blah blah. He also talks about foreigners in a really condescending, bigoted manner. He says that the Chinese are stupid and dirty, that all Americans are naive, greedy assholes, and so on. He also uses the term gaijin, a fairly xenophobic slur, to refer to foreigners. (Sigh).

Look, I’ve read tons of books that are critical of America before, but none of them made me angry like this one. Maybe it’s because, more often than not, those other books are written BY AMERICANS. And even if they aren’t, like the last book I reviewed on this blog, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, they usually try to provide a more balanced portrayal of the US. The Reluctant Fundamentalist shows good Americans, and bad Americans. When you read it, you can tell that the author had actually visited, and maybe even lived in, the United States. In The Miso Soup doesn’t have any of that. Frank, a fat, sadistic, corpse-raping serial killer is the only American we get to see in the entire story. It’s clear when you read this book that Murakami has never visited the US, and doesn’t care who he offends. Looking back on this novel, I feel reminded of Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu series from the 1920s, books that are so casually racist and ignorant of fact that its not even funny. The only different here is that it’s the Asian people stereotyping Whites, instead of the other way around.

All I can say is that, unless you want to read a book where every woman is either a prostitute or a bitch, the main character is a xenophobic pedophile, and the antagonist is the most vile and disgusting American stereotype imaginable, don’t buy this novel. It’s a 4 out of 10. I hated it, and feel ashamed for having read it. Be smarter than I was, and avoid it like the plague.

The Remake That I Will Not Call “Point Break”

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

Before I begin the review today, I’d like to take a minute and tell you all about my Dad. He’s a fun guy, in every sense of the word. Not only is he kind, easy-going, and funny, he’s also adventurous, and the sort of person who likes to try everything once. He kayaks, hikes, and surfs, and even though he might not be “great” at any of those things, he always has fun doing them, and is always looking to try more challenging, athletic stuff.

Keeping this in mind, it seems quite natural that his favorite movie of all time should be the 1991 cult action film, Point Break. The story of a group of surfers who rob banks in order to fund their extreme lifestyle, the film is as fun, goofy, and free-spirited as my father, and has as much love for extreme sports as he does. It was one of the first movies I ever saw with him, and to this day, it holds a special place in both our hearts. That’s why, when we heard that they were re-making the beloved classic, we went to go see it together. When we emerged from the theater, however, we were anything but happy.

This movie is AWFUL! All the fun, the humor, and the color of the original film is lost. Imagine if someone went to Disneyland, looked around and said, “You know what would make this place a whole lot better? If someone made all the rides ten times bigger, turn them grey, and had them be identical to one another.” That’s essentially what this remake did, and I’m not just saying that. In a promotional video for the new film, the director said that “this movie has all the stuff you loved about the old Point Break, only bigger.” Well, the stunts in the movie are certainly bigger, but that doesn’t make the story interesting. They just feel like salt to cover up bland food. And, to be honest, they are all so big, and so similar to one another, that they kind of get boring. There are at least 5 times in this film where characters launch themselves off a cliff, and even though you know you should be frightened for them, you just aren’t. They’ve done it 10 times before, and on 10 times bigger scales, so why should you get invested?

But, as I said before, the biggest thing that this remake did wrong was lose the sense of fun. The original Point Break was set in California, and had a warm color palette, featuring tons of red, orange, and yellow. The characters joked with one another. The humor was light-hearted. The filmmakers recognized that the premise they were working with was pretty darn silly, and so didn’t take it seriously. There’s a point in the original film where the main character, undercover FBI agent Johnny Utah, is talking to the main antagonist, Bodi, about surfing. Bodi is spewing some quasi-philosophical crap about surfing bringing you into harmony with nature, and Utah jokes “You’re not going to start chanting, are you?” and Bodi winks and smiles and says, “Not yet.” Little moments like that let you know what kind of film you’re watching, a fun, dumb thrill ride that you shouldn’t take too seriously.

The new Point Break is the total antithesis of everything the original film stood for. First off, it’s set in Europe, instead of California. Secondly, it has a cool palette, as opposed to a warm one, with grey being the most prominent color in most scenes. And thirdly, and this is the worst part, it takes itself completely seriously. There isn’t a hint of irony anywhere when, at at least ten different points in this movie, the new Bodi sits down, and drones on in a monotone voice about how mankind is destroying nature, and how skydiving off of buildings somehow heals the Earth. The filmmakers don’t realize just how stupid they sound when they try to sell us on the idea that this surfer heist film somehow has something meaningful to say about life or religion. The original movie includes scenes where characters say things like, “Listen, you snot-nosed little shit, I was taking shrapnel in Khe Sanh, while you were crapping in your hands and wiping it on your face,” and “You’re a real blue-flame special, aren’t you, son? Young, dumb, and full of cum.” No film with that kind of dialogue can be taken seriously. How, filmmakers, do you not get that?

All I can say is that you shouldn’t go see this film. If you loved the original, you’re bound to be disappointed. If you’re just a fan of good filmmaking, don’t expect anything either, because this movie is poorly acted, poorly written, and contains many scenes that don’t make any sense. This abomination is an absolute 5 out of 10. If you want to see Point Break, watch the original. Do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT give the remake ANY money!

Wild Side

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

And it’s official–Joan Chen loves weird, sexually perverse stuff. Why else would she star in this god-awful erotic thriller?

Wait–that doesn’t make sense to you all? Well, all right then. I guess I’ll just have to start from the beginning.

So, for those of you who don’t know, Joan Chen is a Chinese-born American actress, screenwriter and director. She came to international prominence in the late 80s after she starred in the multi Oscar-winning movie, The Last Emperor. Even though parts for Asian women were–and to be perfectly honest, still are–extremely limited, her beauty and acting talent were enough to allow her to star in multiple acclaimed films and TV series–including David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution, and most recently, the Netflix Original Series, Marco Polo. I’m a big fan of hers–I’m a fan of any Asian actor who manages to make it in racist Hollywood–but as I watched more and more of her films, I started to notice a certain…motif in her work. That being that all her projects feature graphic and/or bizarre sexual content. The Last Emperor has several orgies, and some weird lesbian foot scenes between her and this woman who’s supposed to be her cousin. Lust, Caution was banned in several countries because of all its sex scenes, including one where Tony Leung practically rapes Tang Wei. And Twin Peaks: well, Twin Peaks is directed by David Lynch. Enough said. I didn’t see the thematic connection between all these films until a friend of mine heard I was a fan of Miss Chen’s and recommended that I watch the 1998 erotic thriller, Wild Side, which she starred in. And then, oh lord, then I saw the light.

This movie is trashy in every sense of the word. It’s not just that its story is ludicrous, offensive and smutty–there’s heterosexual rape, homosexual rape, sex in airplanes, sex in bathrooms–when you learn about where it came from, you also can’t help but feel a little disgusted. It was written and directed by the late Donald Cammell and his wife China Kong–yes, before you ask, that is actually her name–who met and had an affair when the former was in his 40s and the latter was 14. Yes, I did just say 14. And as if that weren’t bad enough, I did some research, and found that, when Donald Cammell saw the finished cut of Wild Side, he thought it was so bad that he ended up committing suicide. That’s right. This movie was so horrible that it sickened the pedophile who wrote it to the point of killing himself. Now, before any of you get scared, I didn’t think it was THAT awful. Yes, it’s bad, but it’s not so bad that I feel like slitting my wrists. But what, you might be wondering, is this bad, but not THAT bad, movie about? Well, I’ll tell you.

Wild Side follows the trials and tribulations of Alex, a banker and part-time hooker from Long Beach. They never really give a reason for why she solicits sex when she has such a good-paying job, but, to be honest, you learn to stop questioning this film after a while. Anyway, the movie begins with her doing the deed with a client named Bruno, played by Christopher Walken. Bruno, it turns out, is a big-time money launderer hoping to upload a virus to her bank, and his driver, Tony, is an undercover cop looking to bring Bruno down. Tony blackmails Alex into sleeping with him, and helping him set up a sting. Alex tries to get help from the non-corrupt police, but finds that she can’t acquire protection unless she reveals how she and Tony met, and, thus, lose her job at the bank. It’s at this point, when Alex is at her absolute lowest, that Joan Chen, playing Bruno’s wife, Virginia, enters the picture. And, as much as I love Miss Chen, and believe that there should be more Asian characters in movies, I really didn’t think she was necessary to the plot of this film at all. She doesn’t actually do anything that’s vitally important–yes, her and Alex start having an affair in some of the most graphic lesbian scenes ever put to celluloid–but that affair could just as easily not have been in the movie. You could still have had a story about a woman being trapped in a bad situation without needing to throw in a gay romance. It just seemed like the director wanted to masturbate to two beautiful woman making out and touching each other, because there are several–rather long–scenes in this movie that don’t go anywhere, and that are just the two of them having sex. Now before anyone accuses me of being homophobic, I’d like to remind you all that one of my favorite shows right now is Sense8, a series that has several gay and transgender characters in it, as well as A LOT of gay sex. But there, the filmmakers establish, early on, what these characters’ sexual orientations and genders are–prior to Joan Chen’s appearance, Wild Side never gives any indication that Alex likes women–and the writers of Sense8 actually bothered to go into all the politics and nuances of identity and sexuality. They talk about homophobia. They talk about AIDS. They talk about PRIDE and the gay rights movement. They don’t just have two women kiss and hope that it’s shocking or stimulating enough to get audiences to want to buy their product. They actually treat gender and sexuality with the respect that they deserve.

And that, loved ones, is why Wild Side is so horrible. It doesn’t give it’s characters personalities. It just treats them as fleshy tokens to be exploited and drooled over. It tries to shock you into watching it by including controversial things, like rape, without actually addressing why these things are controversial and horrifying. I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody, and am sad that Miss Chen decided to be a part of it. I’m just glad that she went on to do better things, and is still working to this day. As for this entry in her filmography, though, it’s a 5 out of 10. Don’t watch it.