Archive for the ‘historical’ Category

Sword of the Stranger: Unfathomable

February 7, 2009

I try to support anime’s continuing struggle for mainstream recognition/viability whenever I can. I buy DVDs of shows I like, and I buy tickets to whatever theatrical runs trickle down to the American market. It seems that most of the theatrical animated features in Japan nowadays are annual One Piece/Detective Conan/Doraemon movies, sooo the pickin’s have been pretty slim for a while. The first one I ever saw while it was actually in theaters was Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade. I saw a review of it in the paper and persuaded Film Walrus to come with me and check it out at this awesome independent theater which is now defunct. And it turned out to be great!! Since then, the experiences have ranged from the sublime (Cowboy Bebop: The Movie with Film Walrus’ whole clan in a packed theater downtown) to the underwhelming (last year’s Paprika where I was one of three people in the theater and one of the others brought half of the concession stand back with him).

So it was with enthusiasm that I read an article about a new original film getting an exclusive one-night premiere in the U.S. before getting dumped onto DVD. It was through Fathom, that company that makes its business off of selling tickets to one-night events that they stream through satellite to theaters so that you can see Naruto or whatever on the big screen. I had gone to a rather costly screening of a This American Life event last year that… could have gone better. But this one was cheaper and the movie looked intriguing. What was that movie, you ask?! Sword of the Stranger!

The movie may have stunk, but its SOUL still BURRRRRNS


My Man – American Gangster

April 20, 2008

More than any other director Ridley Scott has defined the alien Other. A quick look at his oeuvre confirms a fascination with putting a human face on threats to the status quo. Blade Runner is the ur-text. Deckard hunts down Replicant slaves for simply being. Black Rain, another 80s urban noir deals with the Japanese economic threat. Thelma & Loise looks at destructive feminism. Kingdom of Heaven‘s extended cut delves much deeper into the war between Muslims and Christians. Though it may look like an Army recruitment ad Black Hawk Down‘s depiction of gunning down Somali slums disturbs for its Counter-Strike-like detachment. And of course, Alien.

Er, not exactly sure how A Good Year fits in the scheme.

His latest, American Gangster, takes aim at black gangster/entrepreneur Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), who pulled together a drug empire in Harlem using an impressive array of know-how passed onto him by his late gangster mentor “Bumpy” Johnson, played in flashbacks with lasting aplomb by Clarence Williams III (the wacko storyteller from Tales From The Hood). Using Bumpy’s wisdom – mainly: be smart, stay hidden – Lucas butts heads (shoots them, too) with the flashier crime lords of the neighborhood and beats them all at the drug game thanks to his U.S. military connection in South East Asia. With easy access to a Bangkok village brewing pure heroin Lucas sells to the entire tri-state area, gaining the attention of honest Newark police detective Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe).


Some Kind of Movie – I’m Not There

December 14, 2007

I’m Not There is the type of self-conscious back-patting art flick I’d normally balk at but I’m glad I saw it if just for the performances and to say it is very weird.

It’s very weird. Abstract, surreal, you name it, a movie about Bob Dylan that jumps back and forth between various timelines and narratives and settings and actors — it’s fucking maddening. It shows some semblance of structure as each vignette finds some way to segue into the next portion, making you temporarily forget it’s a fat mess. Bob Dylan’s music also ties everything together even though I have no clue what most of what’s happening in the movie means.



(grumplet) Pathfinder – Why Can’t Karl Urban Get Better Jobs?

September 9, 2007

Most of you won’t remember Pathfinder. It was released quickly and silently into theaters in the spring amid much more publicized movies such as 300 and Grindhouse. It got lost in the shuffle and made its way humbly to DVD about a month ago. But really, Pathfinder deserved that.

See, it’s such a straight-to-DVD movie. Nothing about it is all that professional. The biggest names in it are Karl Urban (Xena, Lord of the Rings) and Clancy Brown (LOST, Carnivale, almost every animated Superman property since the mid 90s): two names that no one but the nerdiest, most genre-hungry among us would recognize. That’s because 90% of the other actors in this film are unknown Native Americans or nameless stuntmen. Still a smidgen more star power than 300, though. Seriously, who had heard of Gerard Butler or that Brazilian guy from LOST before then?

If there’s a reason I keep bringing up 300, it’s because these movies share a similar thread. The story of Pathfinder is that a Viking ship crashed upon the rocks of a North American shore and some kindly natives take in the only surviving crewman, a young boy they name Ghost (because of his skin lol). He grows up into Karl Urban who gets lots of loving shots of himself shirtless and travels with his tribe to visit a shaman who has the title “Pathfinder” (what this entails I have no idea) and he macks on a hot young dish named Moon Bloodgood. Of course, this was not meant to last as yet more Vikings arrive and generally kill everyone Ghost loves, including his adoptive mother. Enraged, he teams back up with the nearby surviving village and attempts to get the rest of the natives to safety while taking sweet, sweet revenge on the Vikings.

Obviously the similarities between this and 300 are that they are both action movies set in olden times and featuring lots of machismo and scantily-clad men. Unfortunately, while 300 takes this too far, Pathfinder doesn’t take it far enough. While Pathfinder SHOULD be a blood-soaked rip-roaring thrill ride, it unfortunately seems to think it can ascend towards legitimacy by building character and plot. This is impossible since the artistry behind this movie is only a notch above made-for-TV and the actors are largely just pulled from a stable of actors that only get roles when someone wants to do a Native American movie. I mean, I’m glad they’re getting work, but they’re all amateurs. Watching them during the interminable first act is dreadful and is not helped at all by an awkward, bland script. Throw in a tacked-on romance plot and blehhhh. An example of this awesome writing:

Pathfinder: You have become the Pathfinder for the Dragon People. Good!
Ghost: I’m dying.
Pathfinder: Don’t complain to me about it!

Though the blood flies quite well during the action, it’s all fairly rudimentary and unimaginative, doing nothing to earn its “UNRATED” tagline (seriously, all directors have to do to get an unrated DVD is to… NOT RATE IT). Seriously, although I rip on 300 for using its slow-mo/fast-forward trick ad nauseam, at least it gave it a unique gimmick. There’s nothing unique here at all, and it’s all the worse knowing that they probably made this movie with $5, spit and a prayer.

Karl Urban is okay and of course Clancy Brown does menace to a T, but aside from that, there’s not a whole lot to recommend about this movie. The titular Pathfinder is your general wise old shaman with some bits of winking sarcasm thrown in, but it doesn’t do much to endear him. Instead it makes his silly dream visitations to Ghost interminable. And for being only around 90 minutes, the movie seems to last forever. This shouldn’t happen! And don’t get me started on the myriad of plot holes and historical inaccuracies in the film. Why is Ghost SHAKING HANDS? Isn’t that a European custom that doesn’t get started for hundreds of more years?!?!!?

All in all, unless you’ve got a fetish for Native Americans, Vikings or shirtless Karl Urban, don’t bother watching this heap. And even if you do, please reconsider!