Category Archives: Reviews: Films

Side Comments of the Month X

Side Comments of the Month X

1. I’m a firm believer in serendipity. So when I get unexpected invitations to book launchings, I go. Last week’s chance event was Kate Perry’s book launch at the Presidio Social Club.

I’m usually shy around absolute strangers—especially in a tightly knit crowd—but the atmosphere was warm and accommodating. Kate and her team made me feel at ease at once! I haven’t started reading her book, Say You Will, but it’s now in queue on my “to read” shelf.

I met some fabulous people like Regency romance author Sara Ramsey, who just kept me in stitches. I had a good time and I can’t wait for more events like this to come my way.

 

2. Adam and I just finished the latest South Park three-episode arc. It’s a fine skewering of Black Friday, HBO’s A Game of Thrones, and the never-ending video game console wars.

I always adore South Park episodes that have the kids role-playing. It’s amusing to watch Stan and Kyle in medieval attire, debating the merits of the Xbox One versus PlayStation 4. This arc doesn’t surpass the brilliance of Imaginationland, but it tries hard. The social commentary has a clean bite.

In these episodes, Eric Cartman channels his inner Littlefinger while Kenny unleashes his love for blonde braids. Kenny’s newest incarnation as magical princess Kenny is the polar opposite of his other alter ego, Mysterion. I don’t know which alter ego I like better.

 

An example of the film's beautiful symmetry. And I'm not referring to Christian Bale's cheekbones, either.

3. When the weather is temperamental, nothing compares to curling up on the sofa and watching a guilty pleasure on Netflix. So over the weekend, I found myself watching Equilibrium (2002) again.

I’ve had a thing for Christian Bale forever (trust me to have a crush on him since Empire of the Sun). Sure, I loved him as Batman, but his portrayal of John Preston brings on the giggles and the glee. The look of consternation on his face when he first holds a puppy is priceless.

Equilibrium has many hammy moments, and maybe mixing guns and martial arts is an idea that the Mythbusters should debunk. I don’t know. I think these elements are balanced out with the film’s beautiful shots and immaculate symmetry.

Among dystopian movies, Equilibrium not as bleak as Terry Gilliam’s Brazil or as hip as The Hunger Games. Still, I re-watch this film when I want to see Christian Bale kill as many opponents as possible. He never disappoints.

Side Comments of the Month IX

Side Comments of the Month IX

My current books for review, courtesy of San Francisco Book Review and Penguin USA.

1) I have no idea how I landed on the Penguin Books marketing list but I was stoked they sent me a preview copy of Nora Roberts’ latest book, Dark Witch. It was absolute serendipity. The day before the book arrived, I was staring at all the Roberts novels in the Berkeley Public Library, puzzled over which book I should check out first. But getting a free book solved my little conundrum!

I wish I knew who to thank for this unexpected treat. Since I don’t, I will just say this: thank you, anonymous person at Penguin USA, for putting me on your mailing list. I want you to know I am an absolute sucker for free books.

 

 

The awesome Ender's Game poster by Martin Ansin.

2) This weekend, I watched Ender’s Game with my ten-year old nephew. As one of those books I felt was unfilmable when I first read it, I checked it out mainly to satisfy my curiosity. The adaptation shifts many things about but it’s a perfectly satisfying science fiction film. I liked it. I’m glad I didn’t stay away just because Orson Scott Card is Not a Nice Person. Some days I do manage to convince myself that yes, “the author is dead.”

I was relieved that most of the controversial scenes in the book were toned down and that the ages of the characters were adjusted. Like the adaptations of Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire and G.R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, Ender’s Game would have been impossible to film if they stuck to the original ages. (Ten year-old Kirsten Dunst played the six-year old vampire Claudia; a fourteen-year old Maisie Williams first played nine-year old murderer Arya Stark. At the start of Card’s novel, Ender is six.) I think Asa Butterfield did a good job as Ender Wiggins, a child with a fragile psyche and the instincts of a killer.

When I read the book, I really loved the idea of a mind-controlled video game. I don’t know what I was expecting but the filmmakers visualized the game well. While I was disappointed that Valentine didn’t have enough screen time, with so many scenes toned down or cut for a PG-13 rating, it was inevitable that some subplots would be discarded, too.

On a fangirl note, Asa Butterfield has the most intense blue eyes I’ve seen on the large screen since Elijah Wood first wore hobbit feet.

 

A Space Brothers manga cover by Chuya Koyama.

3) I haven’t seen Gravity yet but two other fictional astronauts have kept me at the edge of my comfy chair. Adam and I got totally sucked into the ongoing anime series, Space Brothers (2012). Its Japanese title is Uchuu Kyoudai.

The Nanba brothers, Mutta and Hibito, love space exploration so much that they do goofy things like trace the progress of the International Space Station and look for UFOs. As kids, they both swore that they go into outer space. As adults, though, only one brother is on the road to reach his goal… until the other one gets a huge wake-up call, and becomes hell-bent on catching up.

Space Brothers is set a few decades into the future so some of the technology feels like pure science fiction. Yet I can’t doubt the rigorous training for astronauts—both mental and physical—that’s depicted in all its minutiae. From  JAXA to NASA, both Mutta and Hibito jump through hoops just for a shot at their shared dream.

While sometimes heavy-handed with extolling the virtues of scientific discovery, the real soul of Space Brothers lies in the strong, complicated bond between the two main characters. They’re always competing and yet they’re always protective of each other. It’s sibling interaction at its best.

Fullmetal Alchemist is the only other series I can think of that depicts such a complex sibling relationship. If you loved that aspect of FMA and can appreciate “info dump” series like Nodame Cantabile and Bakuman, Space Brothers is definitely worth checking out.

 

Side Comments of the Month VIII — the Casual Fan Edition

Side Comments of the Month VIII — the Casual Fan Edition

We called it "X-Men Live."

1. Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of watching Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart in Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land, now on its August run at the Berkeley Rep. It never occurred to me that I’d have the opportunity to watch these giants of theatre in action, so I felt incredibly blessed.

The performance went well. At one point Stewart fell flat on the ground and I almost had a heart attack—I wanted to call 911! Thankfully, it was just his character’s drunken stupor. It’s amazing how Stewart still has complete mastery over his body. I know people half his age who don’t.

Several times during the play, Stewart and McKellen sat opposite each other and got all snippy with bon mots. During these moments, I half-expected Billy Crudup to wheel in a glass chess set. No, that didn’t happen. But it would have been cool if it did.

No Man’s Land is a depressing play to watch if you hang out with a) old people, b) alcoholics, c) writers, or d) any combination of the above. Still, I’d watch it all over again in a heartbeat if I could. Hell, I’d probably watch McKellen and Stewart read a phone book out loud, they have so much expression in their voices and their faces.

 

2) I watched two “old” movies, The Hunger Games (2012) and Shaun of the Dead (2004), just in time for their sequels.

Despite my distaste for shaky cam, The Hunger Games was okay. It’s a slick, well-made popcorn movie. Jennifer Lawrence made that film a blockbuster; I think her performance alone sustained my interest.

Incidentally, I know the battle lines are drawn between fans of The Hunger Games and Battle Royale. If anyone is asking, I prefer Battle Royale for its development of minor characters. The other tributes in The Hunger Games do not get the same treatment. The one thing Battle Royale doesn’t have is Jennifer Lawrence.

(I think I am working my way backwards through this trope. In the future, I might tackle The Running Man or The Lord of the Flies.)

A romance with BRAAAINS.

I tend to avoid horror movies so Shaun of the Dead was a pleasant surprise. I think I was worried it wouldn’t entertain me as much as Hot Fuzz (2007). Despite the zombies, Shaun is a sweet romantic comedy. I find the concept so refreshing I might even give Warm Bodies a try now.

Nick Frost plays such a jerk in Shaun—I have to say I agreed with their beleaguered roommate on so many counts—so I’m counting the days to World’s End. I want to know which Nick Frost shows up: “Nice” Nick or “Jerk” Nick.

Of course, I’m also waiting for Martin Freeman to have some speaking lines in a Simon Pegg movie. Martin Freeman is great in comedies.

 

3) Here’s a quasi-serious question for anyone reading this: is it possible to a casual fan nowadays?

I’ve been pondering this question ever since my brother-in-law asked me, “do you know who the new Doctor is, and do we care?”

I could actually answer his question because I lurk nerd sites like i09 and the Mary Sue. I might be crucified for saying so, but I only care about Doctor Who when the show bothers my friends, because I hate to see my Facebook wall explode with nerd rage.

I remember asking my friend Mary Ann, a longtime Doctor Who fan, where to start watching and she was at a complete loss. I think she started watching Doctor Who when she was in her mother’s womb, and for that reason I feel that getting into Doctor Who is like getting into Star Trek: it’s a lifelong commitment. I don’t have that sort of time or energy.

My brother-in-law snorted at this idea. He said he just read some good Doctor Who novels when he was a kid, and he just thought of them as alternative reading material to The Hardy Boys. “It’s possible to like something without going nuts over it,” was the subtext.

That made me remember… I didn’t grow up on the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew, I went straight from junior editions of Sherlock Holmes to the complete, unabridged canon when I was twelve. The anecdotes and the conversation may seem pointless, except it illustrates my idea of “lifelong commitment.”

So… is it possible to be a casual fan of anything nowadays? Sometimes I feel it’s impossible, when the internet is booby-trapped with hardcore fans intent on protecting their “turf” and misogynist trolls persist in thinking that fake geek girls exist. What do you think?

Side Comments for the Month VII – the Mindless Violence Edition

Side Comments for the Month VII – the Mindless Violence Edition

There are spoilers for Battle Royale and Hellsing Ultimate in this post. To read the spoilers, highlight the invisible text with your mouse.

 

The "class photo" from the ending credits of Battle Royale is a disquieting coda to the film.

1. In Things I Should Have Viewed Ten Years Ago, I finally got around to watching Battle Royale (2000) on Netflix. It’s a beautiful movie. Now that’s what I call gratuitous violence done right! It also has just the right amount of gravitas. While watching I tried not to get attached to any of the characters in case I’d have to see their heads blown apart. The massacre in the lighthouse is especially poignant. I was rooting for the guy with the GPS system; unfortunately, he does not survive.

Incidentally, I can’t believe that the mousy male lead, Tatsuya Fujiwara, also plays the villainous Light in the Death Note movies. He will play Shishio Makoto in the upcoming  Rurouni Kenshin sequels, too. I think I need to catch up on my live action film adaptations.   

Going back to Battle Royale, though, the film ends on an optimistic note in spite of its high body count. I haven’t heard good things about the sequel, so I’ll probably won’t touch it. I might check out the novel. But yes, I’d love to see Battle Royale again.

 

2. Adam and I also finished watching Hellsing Ultimate (2006) a few days ago. It’s one of those anime series that I cannot figure out if I liked it or not. It has a lot of objectionable content, ranging from gratuitous amounts of blood to rape (specifically, mind rape and necrophilia.) While I seek out violent entertainment of the Quentin Tarantino variety, I do draw the line at scenes depicting the rape of a murder victim, with the violation carried out in full view of her young daughter. That’s just sick.

Still, objectionable scenes aside, Hellsing’s vampire anti-hero is fun to watch. I never latched on to the sparkly vampire trend so I’m happy that Alucard is a throwback to the old gothic traditions. I do wish, though, that Hellsing Ultimate’s basic plot was more than Vampires versus Immortal Nazis. Nazis can get so tiresome

Hellsing Ultimate reminds me of the second season of Code Geass with its ability to make my eyes roll hard, with such things as the Vatican deploying its secret army of gun-toting priests. There’s also a female character perennially addressed as “Sir” in complete ignorance of the proper forms of address. (That seriously does not make sense. Integra

I like giant robots.

Hellsing is supposed to be the last member of an ancient noble family. Even if she was a marchioness, a viscountess, a baroness, or a baronetess in her own right, she should still be addressed as Lady Hellsing.) Call it nitpicking but a major theme of the story is the love of tradition and the continuity of the social order. A character that’s supposed to uphold these things wouldn’t allow anyone to call her Sir. I know it’s irrational on my part, but this bothers me more than the gun-toting priests!

 

3. Lastly, I caught Pacific Rim with my nephew and my brother-in-law over the weekend. I know it’s not doing well in the United States, but since I am a fan of Stringer Bell I hope it earns most of its money back overseas. Pacific Rim is a great popcorn movie. No heavy cerebral processing is required! The film definitely satisfies the ten-year old boy part of me that wants to see Giant Robots Fight Giant Monsters. I love that my two adopted home cities, Manila and San Francisco, are both destroyed within the first five minutes of the film. 

Pacific Rim probably the closest thing I’ll get to a good live action Neon Genesis Evangelion film. Even if it doesn’t have a whiny Shinji or a tsundere Asuka, I’ll take it.

 

 

Side Comments for the Month V

Side Comments for the Month V

There are spoilers for Iron Man 3 and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes in this post. To read the spoilers, highlight the invisible text with your mouse.

 

Any excuse to use this photo is good enough for me. From Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes (2009).

1. So I watched Iron Man 3 like the rest of the world. I liked it a lot and I found it superior to Iron Man 2. Then again, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of my favorite movies, so anything that teamed up Shane Black and Robert Downey Jr. again was bound to hit my sweet spot.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3 actually have many things in common: the seemingly pointless voiceover narration at the beginning, the red herrings, the lead character being a fish out of water, the holiday decorations, the bait-and-switch bad guys.

I read a few reviews online, and I can see how the film probably upsets some of the hardcore comic book fans. (I grew up reading more Uncanny X-men myself, and you cannot imagine my nerd rage with X2 and X-Men: The Last Stand. So I can sympathize.)

I digress, though. As someone who likes Robert Downey Jr. and the film that revived his career, I am willing to cut Iron Man 3 some slack. It’s not The Godfather of superhero movies but it’s an above average popcorn film.

Incidentally, this may be the second time RDJ’s been handcuffed to a bed frame. He’s beginning to make a habit out of it.

 

"Did you ever try to do embroidery with a gun in your hand?" Mrs. Hudson is a woman to emulate.

2. For the past few weeks, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970). I picked up the soundtrack, purely out of curiosity, from the classical music section of the Berkeley Public Library. I was actually looking for more Hans Zimmer when I found it. (Zimmer’s work on Guy Ritchie’s Holmes films—especially the main theme in “Discombobulate”—has been great music for writing.)

Since I liked the idea of song titles like “221B Baker Street”, “The Diogenes Club”, and “Watson’s Rage,” I gave The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes a good listen and it exceeded my expectations. I cannot claim to be any sort of expert in musical matters, but this particular musical score pleases me. I’m terrible at identifying musical motifs and themes, but I have no problem picking out the Sherlock moments as it recurred throughout the entire CD.

 

3. Due to my enjoyment of the soundtrack, I did not hesitate to borrow the film when I found a copy at the Mechanics Institute.

I’m not sure if I liked Robert Stephens’s conventional interpretation of Sherlock Holmes. (I confess that the idea that he was Maggie Smith’s ex-husband fascinated me more.) Colin Blakely as Dr. Watson was uninspired but I attribute this to the writing. When he started ranting at Holmes—for having started a rumor that they were gay lovers just to be rid of a client—was hilarious. Too bad Watson wasn’t given more scenes like that.

The Holmes brothers having a "friendly" conversation.

The idea of a young-ish Christopher Lee as Mycroft Holmes just floored me. My mental image of Mycroft Holmes remains that of a rotund man with rosy cheeks, like Richard Griffiths or even G.K. Chesterton. Christopher Lee seems better suited to play Sherlock himself, which he has done so several times.

A lovely French actress named Geneviève Page played the main female client. She’s definitely a throwback to all the dainty damsels in distress who seek Holmes’s advice throughout the canon. It especially pleases me, for obvious reasons, that Billy Wilder did not name her character Irene Adler.

It’s just too bad that the central mystery was child’s play—some of the clues were just too obvious—and better editing would have fixed the pacing. Despite these complaints, I still finished watching The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes because the dialogue was incredibly witty. Bon mots were distributed equally among characters—even Mrs. Hudson got a couple of quips.

As it’s usually the case with non-canonical adaptations, I enjoyed this for its fannish interpretation. Billy Wilder’s take on Holmes’s sexuality and his gentlemanly reticence is totally in line with more contemporary revisions of Holmes. Laurie R. King’s version of Holmes, for instance, is that of a consummate Victorian gentleman—a man who would never take advantage of a woman, even a naked amnesiac spy.

Maybe in the future, I will tackle the Basil Rathbone DVDs and content myself with Holmes vs. Nazis. When I think about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s penchant for secret societies and the footprints of gigantic hounds, I can’t really fault Billy Wilder for writing Holmes vs. the Loch Ness Monster. It actually makes sense… at least, more sense than Nazis.

My overall verdict: The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is flawed but interesting. The music makes all the difference. Check it out if you can find it.

My, my. This has been a very Sherlockian entry, hasn’t it?

Side Comments of the Month III

Side Comments of the Month III

There is a mild spoiler for Life of Pi in this post. To read it, highlight the invisible text with your mouse.

 

1. My annual winter visit to Saskatoon resulted in the consumption of a lot of mass media, including thirteen manga volumes of Yoshiyuki Sadamoto’s Neon Genesis Evangelion, some re-reading of Calvin and Hobbes, and a bunch of other books.

Detective McNulty knows exactly what the f*ck he did. An HBO poster.

Since Adam is taking a course on HBO’s The Wire (2002), I “helped” him with homework and watched seasons one to three. I haven’t followed a police procedural since I weaned myself off CSI: New York, so it was engrossing. Why did I spend the 2000s watching Tony Soprano in therapy when I could have been ogling following the clues with Detective McNulty? It boggles the mind.

2. I also caught two vastly different films this month. Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained has lots of blood and exploding guts. Christoph Waltz should be declared a national treasure and Leonardo DiCaprio needs to play more villainous roles. Their performances are riveting, so once they were off-screen I was less interested. I feel this weird urge to apologize to Jamie Foxx, who did a great job. The last act of the film just felt too long.

Ang Lee’s Life of Pi is a lovely bit of cinema. I overheard one woman in the theatre calling it “Hollywood artistic,” a phrase I found amusing if yet degrading. Life of Pi certainly seems more accessible to a larger audience than Ang Lee’s other films like Lust, Caution or The Wedding Banquet (which I both loved, by the way), but it doesn’t make it any less ambitious. I usually hate 3D but there was nothing quite like seeing an entire zoo drowning in a turbulent ocean.

Maybe I’m just biased, I have a soft spot for any director who has the balls to tell Emma Thompson to “stop looking so old.” Ang Lee must have balls of steel!

I digress, though. It was entirely fitting for me to watch Life of Pi in Saskatoon, since Yann Martel is probably the most popular contemporary novelist who lives there.

3. The restaurants in Saskatoon continue to be great. For such a small city, there are so many good places to eat. While I didn’t get to each brunch at Poached again, Adam did take me to The Rook and Raven twice. I like it there. We also revisited Truffles Bistro, because nothing says Canada like French cuisine.

4. Now that I don’t have to get on another plane for a couple of months, I think I can start listening to the new season of BBC Radio 4′s Cabin Pressure. Every time I mentally dubbed the pilots Douglas and Martin, the plane I was riding would be subject to some freak delay—like frost on the wings in SFO, one of the largest airports in the world without anti-frost equipment. “Douglas” cheerfully informed us passengers that wings frosting over in San Francisco happens once a decade. I’m dead sure “Martin” refused to fly until the sun came out. This resulted in a three-hour delay that made me miss my connecting flight.

Moral of the story: do not dub any real pilots Douglas or Martin! None of them look like Benedict Cumberbatch, anyway.

Film Review: Moonrise Kingdom

Film Review: Moonrise Kingdom

This review contains some minor spoilers for the film. To read them, highlight the invisible text with your mouse. 

 

To prove that I just don’t watch dusty old DVDs, I went out and caught Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom a few days ago. Of course I sought out something new—and happened to pick a film set in 1965. I have no excuses to offer in defense of my taste, except “hey, at least it’s a couple of decades past World War II.”

Moonrise Kingdom takes place in a sparsely occupied island somewhere in North America. It is a tale of two not-quite-children who meet briefly, become pen pals, and decide to run away together. It’s as quaint as only knee-high socks, Boy Scout uniforms, and portable LP players can make it. Update the era and substitute the words “tween” and “email” and the film probably won’t work, simply because teen runaways in the current decade would probably involve alcohol and gratuitous nudity.

In an alternate universe, Sam and Suzy could have been Romeo and Juliet. But because they are in an oddly cheerful Wes Anderson movie, they traipse around the shoreline in their underwear while playing French pop music, ignoring that almost all the adults on the island are searching for them.

Why they get along becomes obvious even if they have little in common. Suzy doesn’t fit into the natural order of her well-to-do household. She longs for adventure. Sam, an orphan shuttled between foster parents, is an expert at camping and just wants to be loved.

The children are natural in their roles; it’s a testament to their skills that they don’t seem to be acting. (Maybe they aren’t.) Kara Hayward could probably be cast as a young Scarlett Johansson. I find Jared Gilman is a little harder to peg down and that makes him more intriguing. He has great timing and delivery; his eyes are older than the rest of his face.

The adults of Moonrise Kingdom. Images on this post belong to Focus Features.

Whenever there are up-and-coming young actors in films I like, I wring my hands like a maidenly aunt over their futures. I’d prefer if these kids end up to be more like Elijah Wood and less like Lindsay Lohan. Still, even if these kids decide not to pursue any more acting in the future, this movie ensures they will be remembered for being part of something beautiful. Moonrise Kingdom is full of fascinating, subtle details and lovely landscapes. The art direction alone merits a second viewing, and even a third.

The adults aren’t given much to do in the film, but honestly, Moonrise Kingdom is not about them. I’m not sure what it’s all about either. All I know is, once it was over, it was over much too soon—just like the thunderclap of youth.

All Clues, No Solution: Two Reviews

All Clues, No Solution: Two Reviews

Movie poster from Icon Productions.

Some say that Robert Downey Jr.’s 2003 film The Singing Detective is better left forgotten. I have to disagree with that assessment. It is an interesting failure, as only a film with gratuitous sex, cheesy musical numbers, and a sprinkling of seething anger can be put together to make a whole. Several times while watching I tried to shut it off but I couldn’t. It made me think so much my head hurt.

Based on the beloved British series starring Michael Gambon (Dumbledore, a badass detective?), the movie is one hot mess, but that’s pretty much the point of the exercise.

Downey plays two men in the film: one is a swaggering ‘50s gumshoe and the other is the bedridden, bitter writer who created him. The film starts with the vicious killing of a prostitute who is drowned in a bathtub.

Who is the woman? What does she know? As the film unfolds, at first it seems there is one central mystery. Then the clues begin to pile up and an overwhelming feeling of bafflement sets in. Is the writer so sick that he can’t tell reality from pulp fiction? Is he remembering the novel he wrote or is he living it? Is the murdered woman merely a memory of his mother or is it wish-fulfillment regarding the fate of his estranged wife?

I wish I knew. The film certainly doesn’t. I wonder if digging out the original series would help answer some of these questions, but my gut tells me the unsettled feeling will only get worse.

A promotional still from Almega Projects and Native Voice Films.

The 2011 film The Bengali Detective, oddly enough, continues with the merry disarray that The Singing Detective started in my head. As a documentary, one might expect it to be dark and gritty, and nothing more. Reality, however, likes to surprise the genre-savvy.

The Bengali Detective follows the life of Rajesh Ji, the head of the Always Detective Agency. He’s a simple, kind man, who loves his wife and child and treats his employees with paternal affection. He likes to sing duets with his wife, and for relaxation he and his employees try to shimmy to the latest Bollywood dances. So yes, just like The Singing Detective, there are dance numbers in this one, too. Sometimes it seems like a detective’s life is all fun and games.

The three cases we are allowed to see, however, are not of the heartwarming sort. A young man needs to know who murdered his cousin and his cousin’s two best friends. A middle-aged woman, physically and emotionally abused, needs proof of her husband’s infidelities in order to move on with her life. A local manufacturer of hair products demands to find the sellers and source of counterfeits.

The Always Detective Agency relies on its men to get to the facts, which they manage to do for most part. The murder case, however, is beset by tremendous hurdles, including a missing witness and suspects who are on the run. They become preoccupied with proving motive, since most of the physical evidence are in the hands of the police. The official police are portrayed as bureaucratic and unhelpful: they don’t want to give any of their information away, even if they don’t seem to be solving the case themselves.

That the bodies of the three men were found by the railway tracks might stink of red herring to a mystery fan (The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans, anyone?). Of course it is highly possible that they did die there, but not even this angle can be fully explored. It’s a bit frustrating for the viewer.

So, does the agency catch the unfaithful husband, the hair product fakers, and the murderer? Sort of. Only one case is fully resolved. The Bengali Detective ends on several notes for everyone involved—for the people who hired the agency to the detectives themselves. Distrust, resignation, and hope all abound.

Personally, I’m curious to see what the feature film adaptation of The Bengali Detective will be like. Will it leave many things open-ended, or will it go for absolute closures? I guess I’ll have to wait for 2014.

 

Some friends might be wondering why I’m bothering to review these two films together. Thematically, they stand together in my mind as deconstructions of my favorite genre. There are other detective films that may be more brilliant and satisfying, but I would probably have less to say about them. Enamored as I am with Golden Age mysteries, these films serve as a reminder that the genre has shifted, in so many crazy ways, since Dupin and Holmes were first written.

I cannot recommend these films, good and flawed as they are, to whodunit fans who demand justice and a neat tying up of loose ends. These films will only infuriate and frustrate anyone seeking quick catharsis. To anyone who wants to experience films that mirror, as closely as possible, the mystery of living, then these films might just fit well.

Review: Wizard People, Dear Reader

Review: Wizard People, Dear Reader

A longer version of this post first appeared on my old blog last June 27, 2009. 

 

Okay, let me start at the beginning. There’s this cartoonist named Brad Neely. He recorded an audio track meant to be played alongside Harry Potter’s and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) with the original sound turned off. In fact, you can download the entire thing and play it as an audio book over here. (Update: the original link is now dead! Sorry.)

If you’re lazy, though, other HP fans have made it easy by playing Neely’s audio over the film and posting it all over YouTube. Since it’s an unauthorized piece of genius, the videos keep getting flagged, so most of the links might go stale after a couple of months (or years).

Why am I reviewing this? Because it’s funny in an insane sort of way, and it kept Adam and I in stitches for over a week (we were watching it in installment.) With his harsh, raspy voice, Neely re-imagines the space of the film into something superior to the original. The humor is spontaneous, with a lot of ad-libs and meanderings. His language is colorful, with the most purple prose never seen in print since The Fireless Inferno.

For instance, Neely refers to Harry most of the time as “HP” or “Harry fucking Potter,” and never fails to give him a moment of badassery, profanity, and drunkenness. Coupled with the moving images of a very young (and clueless) Daniel Radcliffe, it’s just… brilliant.

I guess it’s easy to laugh when Maggie Smith is called “Hardcastle McCormick” and you are being told that Alan Rickman is a woman, and that Turkish Massage Owls are on the to-buy list of school supplies for freshmen, and…

Oh, forget about me, just watch it on YouTube. Seriously.

Since I am being an effusive, complete dork about this, I hope someone starts a campaign for this guy to make the sequels, although I’m pretty sure he can’t because of all the lawsuits already filed. Sigh.

Ten Reasons Why Wolverine Really Isn’t Canadian

Ten Reasons Why Wolverine Really Isn’t Canadian

A slightly different version of this post first appeared in my old blog last May 7, 2009. 

Spoilers for what does NOT happen in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. 


Adam and I were talking about X-Men Origins: Wolverine and we concluded we were both disappointed in the movie, but for different reasons. Adam wanted blood and gore because how can Wolverine use his lethal claws without spilling a drop of blood? It isn’t reasonable.

As for myself, I wanted a Sabretooth that had fur and grunted like a crazed animal. I wanted a Gambit with a decent Cajun accent. But most of all, I wanted some other plot twist for Wolvie to lose his memory, ugh, because his mysterious past was an epic thing when I was reading the comics back in the ’90s.

Anyway, Adam also pointed out that the movie proves beyond reasonable doubt that Wolverine really isn’t Canadian. I asked him to come up with ten reasons. Here they are:

1. Wolverine was born before Canada was a full-fledged country.

2. Canadians invented peacekeeping; Wolvie keeps fighting in American wars.

3. Wolvie doesn’t sit around all day watching hockey and drinking beers.

4. Can Wolvie don a pair of ice skates?

5. He is never shown having a double-double.

6. He never makes a patriotic stop at Tim Horton’s.

7. He doesn’t use the metric system.

8. He hates a lot of people but doesn’t seem to hate Americans in particular.

9. None of his X-Men costumes are plaid.

10. Wolvie never wears a maple leaf toque.

 

Regarding the last item, I decided to rectify this matter immediately. See how much better Logan looks with the right headgear?