Archive for the 'Movie Reviews' Category

28
May
08

Super Disco Friends – Dimitri from Paris and DJ Muro

Super Disco Friends – Dimitri from Paris and DJ Muro [2005]

Yes, everyones favorite DJ is back. Although born in Turkey, and of Greek decent, most people simply know him as Dimitri from Paris. Or ‘Dim’ for short.

This time he has brought with him another huge underground DJ. DJ Muro from Japan. Dim’s favorite past time is record digging, and while on hunt for rare gems, he met DJ Muro. While Dim was into soul and disco, Muro was into hip-hop. But they very similar taste, because hip-hops origins and roots come from soul and disco.

DJ Muro took him to a club in Japan where he began spinning tracks. Dimitri was blown away by his skill, and also the fact that he was playing sweet jams even Dimitri could not name. Although there was a language barrier, they got along great and decided to bring their collections together to make compilation album.

DJ Muro is big into early hip-hop. A/B rhyme scheme and old school breaks. Dimitri on the other hand loves late 70’s disco and rare dance beats. The two decided to make their album a tribute to the emerging block party scene in late 70’s and early 80’s.

This album is definitely another side of Dimitri most may have not seen. Gone are his white tuxedo and 60’s MOD hair styles. Instead, as shown above, he goes for the RUN DMC leather fedora and Adidas sweats. And I gotta say its a transition that is easy for him to pull off.

I am a HUGE fan of pretty much any black inspired music of the decades all the way up to the 90’s. Soul, R&B, Funk, Disco, and Rap are all expert areas for me. While this may seem out of character to some, to me it is not at all. Rap began as a way to get the crowd going at parties. Little short rhymes here or there done over breaks in the disco songs. Its a simple and easy marriage.

The album consists of 2 CD’s. Both CD’s feature old school rap and breaks. The first one is Dimitri’s go at it called “The Underdogs”. Almost every track is pure art. My favorites right now include:

Get Fly – TJ Swan

Boggie to the Bop – Mantus and Omega 88

Family Affiar (Instrumental) – Family

Very funky. Family Affair is a AWESOME break that makes me want to work on more break-dancing moves right away. And could someone tell me who the hell TJ Swan is?!?! Man that track is hot, but I cant shake that it sounds like a rap from a dancing video game.

The second CD is DJ Muro’s turn to show his stuff. Its no wonder Dim chose him to work with. He really is one of the best hip-hop DJ’s in Japan. And he knows his stuff too! His disc is called “The Foundation”. Current favorites include:

Positive Life – Harlem World, Lovebug Starski

Nobody Can Be You – Steve Arrington’s Hall of Fame

I Just Wanna Do My Thing – Edwin Starr

Ultimate Rap (Holiday Rec) – Nice & Nasty

Ultimate Rap and Positive Life are great A/B rhyme scheme party raps. Great beats and great lyrics. I Just Wanna Do My Thing sounds like a 70s barbecue sauce commercial. In a good way. But my only criticism of Muro is not that bad at all. Its only that his tracks are all cut short. Like one of my favorites, Nobody Can Be You, is barley over a minute. I’m hungry and I want my prime cuts in large slabs.

Dimitri’s average song is 5-7 minutes long, where as Muro’s are 2-3. This may not be such a bad thing as it depends on where your coming from. Old soul and disco are known for 12″ LP’s that last forever with large instrument solos. Where as hip-hop is all about the break beat, or the small part of the song that is your favorite. So, I think this is merely a matter of taste.

I’m gonna go with 4 stars for now. Its not the best Dimitri from Paris I have heard, but it sure gives the best a run for its money. If you are looking for this kind of music, or this era, I dont think you could ever find anything more up your alley.

 

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21
May
08

God of Gamblers (賭神 or Dǔshén; lit)

God of Gamblers [1989]

This classic from Hong Kong stars Chow Yun-Fat as ‘Ko Chun’ AKA ‘Chocolate’,  one of the best professional gamblers in the world.

Ko Chun agrees to clean out a Singaporean gambler when its learned he killed a friends family member. The match is set up, but Ko Chun accidentally falls down a hill and hits his head the night of the game.

He suffers from amnesia and is picked up by some local pranksters and pickpockets. He regresses to a child like state and they name him Chocolate. His life is still on the line since he is a target for gangsters. He must gain back his ability and learn his past so that he can beat the Singaporean and put an end to all the mess.

Either this is a huge classic, or its just hard to find. The average price is like $25-$30 on amazon for a used copy. I always wanted this as I am a fan of romantic gambler movies and card manipulation. I found it at a local import store that was clearing out their movies for $6. I was very excited and picked it up right away.

Dang… I sure was disappointed. Chow Yun-Fat is awesome and a favorite of mine. But I don’t understand the draw to this movie. It has plenty of appeal, but never delivers. There is some action. There is some laughs. There is even a little XCM! But its too far, too few, too little, too late.

I think the thing that killed it the most for me is, in most gambling movies, (Maverick, Cincinnati Kid, Big Hand for the Little Lady, etc) people are blessed with extreme skill, wit, and even lady luck. But in this film, how good you are is completely based on how well you cheat. Everyone cheats, and everyone knows it. This includes our protagonist. So the question is, HOW did they cheat. To me, there is no honor in that. Where are the poker face mind games we all crave?

Unless you work security in a casino, why would you want to watch a movie where you have to tell how they cheat?

I’ll make this quick. 2 stars. Its got a tiny bit of action, comedy, charisma, and even card manipulation. But its lack of more delivery and the fact that cheaters always win that irks me. I traded in in and got $10 cause it was ‘rare’. I hope someone else gets their moneys worth.

21
May
08

Death Proof (Grindhouse: Death Proof)

 Death Proof [2007]

Death Proof is Quentin Tarantino’s 5th major movie and is also a part of the Grindhouse collaboration.

Kurt Russell plays ‘Stuntman Mike McKay’, an ex-stuntman that now, for whatever reason, roams the streets in search of young ladies to  murder.  His weapon of choice is some Detroit muscle.

But not just any car will do. Before he puts the pedal to the metal, he must “death proof” his car. This is a old stuntman tradition, done by heavily reinforcing the fame and placing an intricate web of roll bars into the car. When he is strapped into his seat harness, he is in an almost magical way, invincible. With this in place, he can now prey on helpless women around the highways with no fear of getting injured himself.

The movie can very easily be described in halves. Most people who have seen this movie know that there is the first set of girls and the second. Each set takes up a little under an hour to wrap up and tell their part of the story.

OK, this is gonna be a long one, so you want me to start with bads or goods first? Fine, lets get it out of the way.

The bads are quite a list to say the least. WOW. Where to begin. First of all, boring. Boring, boring, boring, boring. The first 45 min of the movie is hard for ANYONE to watch and be 100% engaged into the film. Why is that? Well, because the story, for the most part, follows around 4 of the most uninteresting young women you could ever hope to not meet.

These would be girls you see that work at Mervyns and are always outside on a smoke break. The girl that gave you a quick ride home last year. Remember? When you got in her car, it smelled SO bad and was completely trashed from top to bottom. She thought after High School, she would meet a doctor and run away. But he never showed up, so they continue their vain attempt to find a decent guy using booze and cheap perfume to lure him. For some odd reason, she has multiple PETCO P.A.L.S. cards in her purse. You get the picture. I already know too much about these girls based on their lifestyle and appearance. Why would I want to know more? Well too bad. You get novels of dialogue between them. Back and forth. Talking about weed, humping guys, bars, liquor, laziness, and…………………………. under ground, rare, impossible to find, old, soul music?

Wait… what?????

My main problem with the dialogue in this movie, is that it is obviously writen by a guy. These girls talk like guys. And not just any guy. They all talk like Quentin Tarantino himself. Its shown with their quirky taste in everything from t-shirts, poems, music, and yes, movies too. You ever wonder why Big Bank Hank from the Shugarhill Gang sounds like Grand Master Caz? CAUSE GMC WROTE HIS RHYMES! The same goes for this. Its TOTALLY obvious. The first 45 minutes is almost completely unbearable and I always find myself fast-forwarding through parts.

The first half also has the ‘Grindhouse’ feel with the cheap horror music, bad editing, and damaged film. This look is one of the better parts of the first half… but for some reason… its gone in the 2nd half? Totally doesn’t fit or make sense.

Another thing about this movie is that is almost a collage of references. As if it was the art project where you cut up magazines and make a big ugly poster of all the things you like. Its no secret Tarantino is a fan of the old road movies, so you may call it a “tribute”, but it borders on the line of straight unoriginal. Its everywhere. Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, Convoy, Vanishing Point, Gone in 60 Seconds, Smokey and the Bandit, Gator… the list goes on! Every time I see a road movie, I see something that Tarantio took! There are so many ‘nods’ in this movie, it may as well be a giant bobble head!

Sounds pretty abysmal doesn’t it? Well, he’s not the great “QT” for nothing. He can work wonders at times… It seems he needs a big knock out to recover from this brutal beating. Can he pull it off?

Well, there is many great things about this flick as well. The 2nd half of girls have much better lines and its way easier to care and follow whats going on. Although its still obvious a geeky film buff wrote this script, based on their very niche interests. The acting is better, the lines are better, and the pace is better.

Tarantino is not of big fan of CGI (nor am I for that matter!). And this is clear as he set out to make a car movie with no computer animated driving or stunts. THANK YOU QT! Because of this film, he put plenty of old stuntmen to work. Hollywood now a days doesn’t want real action. It costs too much and takes too much time. They would rather pay some gord in his parents basement to computer animate a sequence because its faster and cheaper. The chase scenes are some of THE BEST in history in my opinion. Gets me excited every time. Hats off to QT and the stuntmen who worked very hard on this film!

Also, Kurt Russell does a great job of the “Cowardly Lion” like killer. He plays a washed up has-been stuntman that thinks hes still slick. Even though no one has heard of the TV shows or movies he as worked on. He really thinks he is impressing these girls with his credentials and his John Wayne impression! That may work on girls in the 70’s, but not now! What a great out of touch creep he plays. It was said by Kurt that the character was actually based on a stuntman he grew up around.

Every car is hand picked to be a killer! You get a Nova, a Charger, a Mustang, and a Challenger. Great picks and nice variety. The abrupt ending is fantastic, and very ‘Grindhouse’ / B-movie feel. I couldn’t have ended it better!

Well, when its all said and done, this movie drains the life out of you, then pumps it back in. It would easily gain a 5 star rating if they had just been more careful what they put in. But instead you get a 0 star that works its way back up to 3 star.

So, if I confused you, 3 star. You will love and appreciate the best stunt driving in history. The story may make you laugh in the end. And Kurt Russells performance is perfect. But the first half of the movie will drain and drag you down, leaving you to fast forward the first parts over and over.

07
May
08

Youth of the Beast (野獣の青春 or Yajū no seishun)

Youth of the Beast [1963]

Youth of the Beast is one of Seijun Suzuki’s best known films. This film was made 4 years before his departure from Nikkatsu Studios in Japan.

Joji “Jo” Mizuno (Joe Shishido) is the new tough guy in town. For now, he may join a yakuza or two, but only if it helps him on his quest for vengeance. He seeks justice for the death of an old friend, and he wont stop until everyone involved has paid their price!

Well, I cant say TOO much about what goes on in this movie, for fear of giving too many plot twists away. But even if you knew the entire story, you would be surprised at how great it was.

I bought this not knowing anything about it. I liked the cover on the DVD, I knew it was part of the Criterion Collection, and I saw through Amazon that it had no real negative rankings. Boy was I in for a treat! Right in the first 5 minutes, the movie leaps out of the screen and you are suddenly in for a ride.

Joe Shishido does a wonderful job playing the tough guy. And I’m sure his overtly large cheeks helped out quite a bit. Lots of style and charisma. Its also very easy for him to fly off the handle and loose control. Very very well played. All the characters did a good job acting. I cant think of one bad performance in the entire movie, even if I tried.

A twist ending can make you remember a film long after you have seen it. This movie has its share of twists, and the final characters demise is unforgettable. The action scenes were terrific for a “old Japanese movie”. The parking lots, office buildings, fields, and even dining rooms were transformed from average to full out thrilling locations!

Although not as “artisically liberal’ as some other Seijun Suzuki flicks, (Tokyo Drifter, Branded to Kill) you are still treated to some eye poping colors and visuals that Suzuki is ever so famous for.

If it sounds like I am going to give this movie 5 stars, you are correct. 5 stars. You need to watch this movie. You need to own your own copy to show to others. I have not shown it to anyone yet that hasn’t absolutely fallen in love with it.

07
May
08

August Rush

August Rush [2007]

My wife is a big Freddie Highmore fan, and she has to see everything he is in, because, “He’s just so cute! That’s OUR son!” So off we went to the theaters to see ‘August Rush’.

August rush is the story of orphaned boy named Evan Taylor AKA August (Freddie Highmore). August dreams of finding his parents and has an exceptional talent for music. Well guess what? His musician parents (Keri Russell and Jonathan Rhys Meyers) also dream of finding him.

August goes from orphanage, to the homeless streets, and to the halls of Juilliard to hone and practice his craft. All along, he believes music will reunite him with his parents. When this musical prodigy gets a gig with the New York Philharmonic, his separated parents find him and each other under extreme coincidence and fairy tale bliss.

Hmmmmm. Well, I didn’t really care for this movie much. Perhaps it is because, if you read the last two paragraphs, you know all about the movie already. If you even read the back of the DVD box, you’re sure to never be surprised.

The movie was strange because it was trying to make things seem so dark, depressing, and deep. Most of the time, he spends his time being homeless with other kids. But in trying to paint such a realistic picture, they forget that you cant do ‘magic’ out of nowhere and suddenly make it a puff piece. It was VERY sappy, and not touching at all. EXTREMELY predictable. It felt constantly like they were trying to make you cry. But its hard to cry when you feel nothing for the actual characters. You may know a little of their story, but none of them have much depth or presence. All you know is that they all like music a whole bunch.

OK! And we get that August can pluck guitar strings and pound on the sound box! If they show it one more time, or try to impress me with the same tired song again, Im gonna freakin throw up!

The movie had some OK parts. A vagrant simply called ‘Wizard’ (Robin Williams) is creepy. Robin Williams proved once again that he can play a good lunatic. But didn’t we already know that??? (Death to Smoochy, One Hour Photo, Insomnia, etc) Terrance Howard has a small role as a child services worker. He is always smooth, even in tiny roles.

But that’s not enough to save this sinking ship. 1 star. I wouldn’t touch this movie. If you read about it, you know all you need to know. I guess if you were a SUPER fan of classical music, and the wanted to see Julliard on screen or the New York Philharmonic, then you could justify your viewing and make it perhaps 2 stars. But I’m not a fan. And neither is my wife now of Freddie Highmore. I want my money back.

04
May
08

The Cincinnati Kid

The Cincinnati Kid [1965]

This classic card shark film is highly regarded as the best poker movie of all time.

Steve McQueen is ‘Eric “The Kid” Stoner’.  Edward G. Robinson is ‘Lancey “The Man” Howard’. The Kid is about to play the biggest game of his life against The Man. Once he wins, he will become The Man.

But its going to be much more complex than that. Soon, trusted friend and dealer Shooter (Karl Malden) is threatened by Slade (Rip Torn) into cheating in The Kids favor. Also, Shooter’s wife Melba (Ann-Margret) is constantly attempting to seduce The Kid away from his current rocky relationship. In the end, it is up to The Kid to wipe out all distractions, confusion, and obstacles so he can beat The Man on a fair playing field.

Like most movies starring Steve McQueen, this has that same flowing vibe. OK, so he is the ‘King of Cool’. I hear it all the time. And I DO think he is a cool guy and actor. But I refuse to call it a ‘cool’ vibe, because its different. Its difficult to explain. It’s similar to Bullitt or The Getaway. No filler or fat, all straight forward. This movie is more of that. Flows very nicely.

One great thing is that you don’t need to know poker to enjoy the movie. Everything is played out in such a way, that you can understand whats going on, even if you don’t get the jargon. The story is very gripping, and the acting is extremely natural. It all boils down to the all famous ending that you just cant beat.

Also, Ann-Margret is very easy-on-the-eyes in this film. From what people tell me, she usually is. Although I was shocked to find out she was the not-so-easy-on-the-eyes mom in the rock opera ‘Tommy’. And If you love rare Jazz funerals (like the one in Live and Let Die), make sure to catch the opening!

The downers are there. The movie can appear very ho-hum. At times, it seems overly built up, but the tension is at an all time low. With little regard for audience, the last poker game is casually going by and WHAM you’re suddenly at the last match. Was not a smooth lead in…

3 stars for The Kid! Its very well done and solid. But nothing will really blow your mind, and compared to other Steve McQueen movies, its not as much fun.

04
May
08

The California Kid

The California Kid [1974]

The California Kid is a 1974 TV movie starring Martin Sheen, Vic Morrow, and Nick Nolte. It has gained a cult status over the years and has recently been resurrected on DVD.

In this small town, would be speeders find there is no escaping the long arm of the law. It is rumored that the local sheriff (Vic Morrow) is so strict about speeding, he will do ANYTHING in his power to stop lead foots.

Fiction becomes fact when the sheriff decides to ram two naval cadets off a cliff when caught speeding. Too bad one happens to be the brother of Michael McCord (Martin Sheen) AKA The California Kid. McCord rolls into town in his 1934 Ford three-window coupe. After doing some research on the death of his brother, he finds it is no accident. From then on, it is his personal job to settle the score and bring justice to the sinister sheriff.

This movie no doubt gained cult status for one of three reasons. One, it has a mean classic beast of a car. Two, it is one of Martin Sheen’s earliest roles. And three, it is an odd premise… a killer whos choice of weapon is a car. Perhaps this is where Tarantino got his idea for ‘Death Proof’?

I liked the car very much. And Martin Sheens cool as stone demeanor was a perfect compliment to the automobile. Vic Morrow does his ‘Cowboy Cop’ routine with ease. And…. that’s about it….

Its a very short movie, probably because it was made for TV. There’s not a lot to it. Very short, simple, to the point. No one part particularly stands out. But its not worthless. Good short Sunday movie.

2 Stars. It has its use. Watch it to pass time or veg out. Luckily, its very cheap. I got it sealed for $5.99 and Amazon has it for less.




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