Directed by Stephen Chow
What would have if you fleshed out a Tex Avery animated cartoon short and mixed it in with a whole lot of homage and parody of other films while still maintaining clever, fresh, and fun originality for two hours? You get this film. I heard so much about this movie but was not really aware of Chow’s other films like Shaolin Soccer that preceded this film to prepare myself. I am actually glad I knew so little about this film before I saw it.
I actually think viewing this film now in 2011 compared to its original 2004 release helps in the fact there are definitely movies out there that took away from this film. Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is an obvious example, especially in the battle scenes between Scott and the Seven Evil Exes, especially in the case of Evil Exes 5 and 6. The pre-fight hysteria breaking into music also seemed like another nod to Kung Fu Hustle. Hell, David Edelstein of New York Magazine constantly made comparisons between the two films in an ultimately, predictable short-sighted negative Scott Pilgrim review. But the film also has plenty of parodies and homages to plenty of other films that are so obvious and so endless, I do not even feel like talking about them. Some viewers may clearly see a comparison to Kill Bill Vol. 1 with the Axe Gang resembling The Bride fighting The Crazy 88, and in fact, the two films had the same company doing the CGI. I also read the many homages to Hong Kong cinema but since I know nil about that, I do give Chow props over how accessible he made the film by even incorporating Hollywood elements.
Kung Fu Hustle is fun to watch and does no take itself that seriously at all. The cartoonish violence and special effects just work with the characters never questioning this world where The Axe Gang is waging fury against Pig Sty Alley or the ridiculousness of The Landlady, Sing, The Landlord, or The Beast defying the laws of physics. Sure there are one too many characters and some humor did get lost in translation (My, oh, my did that flaming Tailor have a butt crack) but this is a fun film that maintains its entertainment value all the way through from its great score and action sequences full of humor.
Directed by Roger Avary
This felt like a necessary re-watch. I remember watching this on late-night cable when it came and went in its release to mixed reviews and unable to catch the public’s imagination. I was 13 and fascinated by the college life. Now that I am living it, I now know that while certain elements ring true in this film, no place is like the fictional Camden College brought to you by Bret Easton Ellis. But that is not even on my list of problems with this film.
The style at the beginning was like editing masturbation. It goes on forever. Dialogue and actions are rewound to show our central characters, even hearing them speak backwards is used. There are also the split screens that are pretty clunky and in no way seamless when you transition to a normal mid-shot to the profiles of two characters. I can take the multiple voice-over narratives that all manage to sound like the same person but the interactions of Sean Bateman, Paul Denton, and Lauren do not make me think these people were even on talking terms or liked each other or even were potential sex partners. Avary writes these people as incredibly chaste to each other despite the fact in the book they all did it with each other. If you want these characters portrayed be superficial shallow people, at least let them have at it so we get what they are worth (or not worth) to each other. I am not sure if Avary had to deal with a studio not comfortable with all of this potential sex on screen or he knew the potential WB audience for James van der Beek and Jessica Biel could not see their wholesomeness forever transgressed but it is not a strong adaptation despite BEE’s own personal opinions (for the record, he hated American Psycho for reasons that probably had to do with the fact it was better than the source material). Some blame it on the fact it is so adrift from the Bateman brother universe (I did hear they tried to get Bale for the film) but again, the script fails in showing the relations of these characters that were supposed to be so impersonally carnal.
I know The AV Club wants to consider this a cult movie but I just found it a disappointment since it had potential to be pretty interesting despite the whole subtext of atypical BEE. I am sure James van der Beek was banking on this film as a breakout. I actually found him incredibly riveting as Sean Bateman and the film still had some good things. Ian Somerhalder was clearly having the time of his life as Paul, and the Victor segment was the standout sequence of the film (and really transcends the film altogether), even though the inclusion of his character did not really hold enough ground. It is certainly not The Informers level of bad but I think it says a lot about Avary when he has the balls to reference his other film Killing Zoe in a shot where Dawson Leery punches Mary Camden in the face.
Directed by Isao Takahata
I am guilty along with the general population who often thought that Walt Disney Animated Films being way too traumatizing and packing an all too powerful punch for children to watch. But this is a film that goes where I know a Disney film, or any Hollywood studio for that matter, would not dare tread.
This is closer to Roberto Rossellini’s War Trilogy films than any animation film which may sound strange but it fits. It also serves better that it was in animation than live-action despite the fact the film inspired two longer live-action films of the same name and story. Roger Ebert said it best about the images you see in this film, and there are plenty of devastating images: Had the film been in live-action it would really be too much to bare for the viewer. This film manages to maintain realism, despite the manga animation, through the personal tale of a teenager and his younger sister trying to survive. We never see the enemy in this tale, the United States, except with the airplanes in the distance. Nagasaki and Hiroshima are not mentioned but fire bombing is shown and we see dead corpses, decay of the flesh, and bandaged up bodies that show people caught in the cross-hairs of two empires at war. The brother and the sister never asked for this and the growing understanding and resignation of their lives becomes apparent to them at an all too young age.
The details and the little things to life are shown in the film to almost balance out the hard images that make the film seem very real. The film is anti-war in the respect of showing who are usually the victims of this war. It is a sad movie and has been considered too hard to watch for some people but it is thankfully an 89 minute long film that knows its limits. It is adult animation in the best sense of the phrase though definitely not for everybody.
Directed by Alexandre Aja
Okay I saw it on my laptop in regular, boring 2-D. I am actually glad I did not see this in theaters because I would have not been able to handle the notion of spending $12 on a ticket for a film no more than 85 minutes long. I know this immediately sounds like a negative review but let me say this, I kind of liked it.
The film knows what it is and it wants you along for the ride. The teenagers are oversexed, the villains that do not live underwater are quite cartoonish, there are characters just thrown in there to pay homage to their iconic characters in other films, and the children are so damned precocious it would make Steven Spielberg blush. It definitely held my attention with some heart-thumping moments and some gross-out moments that still give me the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it again. Where the 3-D was used was pretty obvious in the 2-D copy I saw and I sort of wish I did have the experience, but I am a broke college student who cannot afford that sort of fun.
Aja (High Tension), who has made a career for himself doing remakes and Hollywoodizations of the horror genre is almost too talented to be doing this movie but then again, so was Joe Dante and John Sayles who were behind the original Piranha movie. The dialogue is pretty wink and nod in a ‘so bad it had to be on purpose’ sort of way. I know there were complaints that the film had too much focus on the teenagers and not enough on Ving Rhames and Elizabeth Shue. The teenagers did not bother me nearly as much as those damned precocious kids, especially when their stupidity was the trigger for much of the tension in the movie. Hell, I could have done without Christopher Lloyd and Richard Dreyfuss if it meant more Ving Rhames and Elizabeth Shue fighting off piranhas. Hell the scene where Elizabeth Shue is basically telling her children to buck up as they cross a rope moments after the character Danni (her death was so unfortunate, I liked her ‘hooker with a heart of gold’ quality) gets chewed apart by piranhas right in front of them is pretty hysterical.
Now as far as the ending, yeah I get why people are pissed but it fits the whole fact it is a remake an exploitation horror B-movie. It knew its place the whole way through and should not have to apologize by such a blatant formatting to a sequel. I do agree it cut to the credits too fast, and the fact I think it could have been 10-15 minutes longer, but I was entertained. Paying top dollar to watch this film in 3-D is another story, however.