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Posts Tagged ‘Ken Watanabe’

Tampopo

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

tn_tampopoRemember when I wrote about the Japanese remake of UNFORGIVEN and THE LAST SAMURAI and I was talking about how great Ken Watanabe is and how I wanted to see him in more things? Well here’s a movie as far back as 1985 where he plays Gun, a stranger who drifts into town and helps out by… well, to be honest he helps a lady improve her noodle restaurant.

And actually he’s not the main guy, he’s the younger sidekick to a truck driver named Goro (Tsutomu Yamazaki). He doesn’t have that much to do. But in the opening he’s reading a book about the author eating with an old man who “has studied noodles for 40 years.” The scene illustrates a long, OCD process of eating soup with steps including skimming the surface with the chopsticks “to show it affection,” moving the pork slices and dipping them into the right side for later, and then eventually picking them up and tapping them on the edge of the bowl to drain them, even apologizing to the pork. It’s ritualistic, fetishistic, doesn’t make alot of sense, but it introduces the movie’s worshipful attitude toward food. And toward whatever you choose to value during your days on earth.

As the protagonist pointed out in my book Niketown, food is something you eat and then later you shit it out. But TAMPOPO argues for getting the most out of these basic things. Executing them at the highest possible level, showing them respect, enjoying them. If we could appreciate anything as much as this old man does his bowl of soup we would be living a great life. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

tn_trans4For God’s sake don’t take this as high praise, but TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION is the most legitimate movie in the TRANSFORMABLES saga so far. Not too legit to quit while they’re ahead, but competent in ways the others weren’t, and overall much less annoying. The downside: less crazy. Michael Bay has earned an expectation of escalating preposterousness and headscratching whatthefuck moments in each chapter, but this time he verges on tasteful, at least by the standards of his filmography. Only mild racism, no leg humping, only one scene with a hero threatening an old lady with a baseball bat. Robot hyenas with fur and a trigger happy fat Transformer with the voice of John Goodman seem kinda tame after the robot baby factory on the moon, Robot Heaven and peeing and farting robots of previous chapters. And we’ve gotten acclimated to the robot beards. He’s gotta go further than this if he wants to shock us.

And guess how he did it? I cannot fucking believe I’m typing this, but Michael Bay – the George Washington of the cinematic movement that forced me to invent the Action Comprehensibility Ratings system – has made a movie with genuine action clarity.

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VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

The Last Samurai

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

tn_lastsamuraiBack in 2003, when THE LAST SAMURAI was new, I had a cynical, kneejerk reaction to it. “Yeah, right… Tom Cruise is the last samurai? Who’s next, someone from the brand new TV show this year America’s Top Model?” I was offended that they wouldn’t make a movie just about samurai, it had to be about the white guy that meets the samurai.

Some things I wasn’t taking into account at that time:

I. The DANCES WITH WOLVES type story of a westerner taken in by an enemy tribe of some kind and learning their ways is a longstanding tradition, and it’s a cool idea to do one with samurai instead of Native Americans. In fact it was partly inspired by real stories of a French soldier who did something like that.

II. There are hundreds of great samurai movies made in Japan, and director Edward Zwick of COURAGE UNDER FIRE was not about to beat them at their own game. It’s simply more interesting if he does his own thing here than if he just tries to imitate Japanese samurai movies. Come on.

III. What the fuck are you talking about here 2003 Vern, you LOVE the white ninja tradition of movies – ENTER THE NINJA, NINJA, AMERICAN NINJA, Steven Seagal… how could there not be value in seeing the big expensive studio from-the-director-of-GLORY version of that?
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VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

SIFF review: Unforgiven (2013 Japanese remake)

Friday, May 30th, 2014

tn_unforgiven13There has long been a beautiful cultural exchange between America and Japan. They captivated us with their ninjas and their karate, we let them use our rockabilly. We loaned them Steven Seagal, they sent him back polished into an aikido master. A few samurai movies have been famously remade as westerns, but it’s about time it went in the other direction. Director Sang-il Lee (HULA GIRLS, VILLAIN) has taken a little 1992 movie by the name of Clint Motherfuckin Eastwood’s Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Best Film Editing Oscar winner UNFORGIVEN and faithfully remade it as a samurai picture.

I think this is the type of remake that’s a sign of respect, not exploitation of an existing title. It’s saying “we all know this great movie UNFORGIVEN, I mean what kind of assholes do you take us for, but here is another take on it for you to enjoy a bit before returning to the original.” Even in that case the impossible part about remaking a Clint Eastwood movie has got to be finding a guy to replace Clint Eastwood. I gotta say, Ken Watanabe was a brilliant choice. He has a stoicism and masculine presence that’s reminiscent of Clint, he kinda looks like him on the poster, and he even knows the guy well as the lead in Eastwood’s underrecognized-even-while-nominated-for-best-picture directorial work LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA. But his character Jubei is not just an imitation of Clint’s William Munny. He’s a little less gruff, and even more internal. He talks a little less I think, even skipping a perfect spot to fit in the famous line “Deserve’s got nothin to do with it.” I guess he figures it goes without saying. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Godzilla (2014)

Monday, May 19th, 2014

tn_godzilla14Godzilla is one of those great icons who’s been around for fuckin ever because he re-invented himself many times over the years. Like the Madonna of Japan. He started all depressing and black and white in the ’50s, then he got crazy in the ’60s, kinda psychedelic in the ’70s, a little bit preachy about the environment in the ’80s, kinda garish again in the ’90s. There was that one movie in 1998, Godzilla’s iguana period, a laughable mistake like when MC Hammer tried to go gangsta rap. In my opinion that movie doesn’t even exist anymore since they used the exact same title for this one. Technically there can only be one American movie called GODZILLA, so they had to delete the other one to get this one.

Director Gareth Edwards, who did that found footage movie called MONSTERS that I still haven’t watched but heard was pretty good, is responsible for the one and only American GODZILLA. I think he has the right idea: treat it serious, no wackiness, but let the situations be humorous sometimes. The gloomy, often ashen-gray cinematography and Spielbergian sense of awe (lots of dollying in on kids that notice something dangerous approaching before the adults do) makes me suspect he was going for a little less silly than what he came up with, but I dig what he ended up with anyway. It’s a straight-faced movie where survivors of massive devastation aren’t scared that the giant radioactive dinosaur they’re standing next to is still alive and about to stand back up, because they know he’s the good guy. And I respect that they weren’t ashamed to use Godzilla’s trademark energy breath (though I’m not sure why they didn’t want to build up to it, like he gets some source of radiation that powers him up to be able to use it at a crucial moment). (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Summer Movie Flashback: Inception

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

tn_inception

2010
2010

The best way to explain the genius of INCEPTION is just to describe what’s going on at the climax. The main characters are all asleep on a jet, dreaming that they’re in a van that’s crashed and is falling off a bridge. All but the driver, Dileep Rao, are asleep and are also in a dream-within-a-dream where they’re tied together floating weightlessly in an elevator. Joseph Gordon Levitt is preparing to wake them up, the rest are asleep and in a dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream about blowing up a snowy fortress. But Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page are asleep there because they’re actually in a dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream where Leo is making the emotional decision to leave behind a SOLARIS-type living memory of his dead wife Marion Cotillard to go into a limbo to rescue his client, Ken Watanabe, who has lived a whole life there and is now an old man and forgets that he’s not in reality, because time passes at a different pace within each of these worlds. And there is a decades long slowed down music cue that tells Leo the van in the first dream is about to hit the water and wake them all up.

And here’s the kicker: all of this was understandable even on the first viewing for knuckleheads like me and the millions of people who made it a huge hit summer movie. I mean, you don’t have to like it, but it takes a silly motherfucker to deny the accomplishment of making such an effective mainstream thriller out of a concept this complicated. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Inception

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

tn_inceptionWow, I must’ve really misread the ol’ zeitgeist. I thought for sure with that depressing new Ben Stiller indie drama having come out on DVD last Tuesday GREENBERG was gonna be all anybody had on their minds for weeks. But the comments thread there almost makes it seem like you guys are more interested in this “Inception” business.

Director Christopher Nolan first made his mark on cinema with the black and white (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Batman Begins

Thursday, June 9th, 2005

SPOILER ALERT !!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here… Now, of the three main editors of the Movie News of AICN, only one hasn’t seen this movie yet… Yeah, me. So, who’s the one dealing with all these spoiler-ific reviews? Yeah, me… At least I was having fun running around Chicago’s dastardly and evil O’Hare airport, missing connections and having good times while the Austin screening of BATMAN BEGINS was rolling… Anyway, this is all to say that I haven’t seen the movie. I didn’t read the script. I want there to be some surprises in the movie for me, so I haven’t read any of the below reviews. I’m sure they’re great, but I’m gonna be selfish on this one. If BB’s as good as everyone and their mother is saying it is, I want to be as fresh as possible come next week. So, be warned. There could be tons of spoilers below.

We have a couple regulars to start off. Our main man Vern and Ghostboy. Vern is first up to bat! ZING! He also has some personal information to share with his mass of fans! Enjoy!

I got two thrilling stories for you today boys. First up is my review of this new Batman picture. Second is an unrelated, earth shattering movie scoop that you have not seen on access hollywood, E.T. – The Entertainment Tonight, the Michael Jackson trial re-enactments, or any of those shows. Possibly it was in some newspaper column in a city called Rochester, but I have not confirmed that yet. Anyway enough preamble let’s get down. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.