Oldboy Reboot – Booted off the tracks

Oldboy2013

MOVIE REVIEW

Oldboy (2003)
40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, OB Prod, Vertigo Ent, US
104 Mins
2.35:1
UK Release: 6th December, 2013

DIR Spike Lee
EXEC Nathan Kahane, Kim Dong-joo, John Powers Middleton, Peter Schlessel
PROD Doug Davison, Roy Lee, Spike Lee
SCR Mark Protosevich, Garon Tsuchiya, Nobuaki Minegishi
DP Sean Bobbitt
CAST Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley, Samuel L. Jackson

Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy is a cult classic that navigated the globe after it was picked up by Tartans home video distribution label, Asia Extreme. It created a surge of other South Korean and Asian titles to be sought out and appreciated by Western audiences. It indulged ‘fanboys’ to traverse the Asian market and become further engrossed in the movies abilities to shock audiences. Why was Oldboy so enthralling? Because it’s a badass movie (as Quentin Tarantino would say), and because it is a masterpiece that is interminable. I think you can see where my approach to this review is heading; I’m just building up some steam. A masterpiece of great fixation shouldn’t and can’t be remade. I will try and approach this review as if it weren’t a remake, a grave challenge indeed. However, otherwise my review would simply read: an utter waste of everyone’s time, go and watch the original or get some sleep. 1 star.

Some critics have taken mixed approaches to the film however, though most say “it’s got no kick to it” (Peter Travers), “it’s just drab” (Michael Phillips), which is the common consensus that I can very much agree to, if we compare it with the original. However, critics like Bruce Ingram for the Sun-Times call the film a “vengeful, respectable homage to a cult favourite.” Ingram then talks through the story in a step-by-step review for people who have most likely never seen the film before; he makes no reference to the original in doing so. So, are we sure it’s respectful Bruce? Lying somewhere in between but just under the surface, I can appreciate the effort: the impressively groomed performance by Josh Brolin in the lead and Lee’s creative homage to various scenes, such as the hallway fight scene, the cctv operator torture scene and the passionate love-making scene (though, the fight choreography and suspense was laughable in comparison).

The overall twist of Oldboy is there; in fact it is made slightly more complex than it should be thanks to screenwriter Mark Protosevich trying to be too clever. It doesn’t hit you as hard as it does with Chan-wook’s. The timing of events is all off and some of it superfluous, which offsets the entire themes of misfortune and revenge at play, which are so essential to the film. If I hadn’t seen the original, my mind would be all over the place, the new script crams a fresh backstory and key plot signifiers into one solo act. Then it’s all over. This reminds me, the film felt extended (never a good sign), as if I was sat there for over three hours. Yet, to my surprise, the film was only 100 minutes long. It’s a mystery as to how Lee crammed all that rustle and hustle into under two hours (the length of the original). I didn’t realize I was that disconnected, what a drag.

The film will have some appeals for mainstream audiences however, with Samuel L. Jackson putting in a “mother-fucker” line here and there and the newly acclaimed young actress Elizabeth Olson looking delightful. Of course, the crime, the violence, the action, the muscle man and the emotional pain will always satisfy ‘fan-boy’ audiences and those seeking a bit more from their cinema outing. Lets not forget, that despite its baloney, this film is a big achievement for Hollywood. They are letting loose and firing an ostentatious canon cross the world, at least it is opening more eyes to national cinema cultures. Two of my friends are now seeking out the original because they liked the movie, bravo.

Spike Lee is an artist of variation, a stylistic dicer, a respectable director. But, this film needs Park Chan-wook at the helm. Park’s demanding, rigorous and intensely prim visual style simply can’t be matched.

2 stars.

Watch the trailer below:

Big Bad Wolves – shock value and comedy go hand-in-hand

bigbadwolves_01

MOVIE REVIEW

Big Bad Wolves
United Channel Movies, Israel 
110 Min
2.35:1
UK Release: TBA for 2014 by Metronome Distribution

DIR Navot Papushado, Aharon Keshales
PROD Tami Leon, Chilik Michaeli, Avraham Pirchi
SCR Navot Papushado, Aharon Keshales
DP Giora Bejach
CAST Lior Ashkenazi, Tzachi Grad, Rotem Keinan, Dov Glickman, Menashe Noy

Hailed by Quentin Tarantino as the best film of the year, so far, at Busan international film festival, it’s easy to see why with the flair, punch and shock value that Big Bad Wolves brings to the table.

The film is, ultimately, a black comedy that takes you headfirst into the rather corrupt underworld of the Israeli police. However, it is also a spin on the horror film with torture scenes designed to make your jaw drop one minute, and the next, to laugh out loud. This is by no means a new experience, but there is something fresh about the way Navot Papushado and Aharon Keshales (the directors) combine horror and comedy. The horror itself, is not funny, it is overwhelmingly shocking, but it is constantly being switched on and off with unforeseen interruptions of almost burlesque value. We are bounced back and forth in our seats.

The story is quite straightforward: A reckless cop, Miki (Lior Ashkenazi), and a missing girls irate father, Gidi (Tzahi Grad), are drawn to the attention of Dror (Rotem Keinan) who they relentlessly believe is guilty of raping and beheading the girl. The pair duo up and take things into their own hands in order to find a way to extract the truth from Dror. It is the classic set-up for an acrimonious torture scene.

It is within this torture-ology that the film swims in the murky waters of good vs. evil where perspective is the only thing separating the two. You are left constantly trying to guess what the characters will do next, which keeps us tied right to the edge of our seats. This tense atmosphere infuses an air of moral superiority into the narrative. You can’t help wondering, surely there is a better way to go about this? There is also a comical play-off between the local Jews and Arab communities – a statement of change and novel friendship between the two.

The only thing lacking for me in the film was the absence of any real character development. Okay, it is not entirely necessary for the script to work as our squirming and laughing out loud soon sidetracks us. Also, part of the reason this film is so impulsive lies in the lack of back-story. However, there is also nothing to explain why Miki and Gidi are so focused on Dror, the man they are targeting as the killer. Towards the beginning, there is simply an anonymous throwaway line regarding someone alleging to have seen Dror with the child.

Big Bad Wolves is, nevertheless, beautifully crafted, from its apprehensive and muted prologue to sinisterly lit forest scenes and pronounced, sweeping camera shots of the basement corridors and walls. The film is innovative in nearly all respects, it is brimming with the unusual and it boasts a brilliant genre fare. Not since Park Chan-wook’s pictures has a director managed to maintain such a light tone whilst depicting a deeply troubling subject matter.

4 stars

Watch the trailer below:

Quotation Inflation

 

So here is my relatively long list of favourite quotations, though I’m sure there are many great quotes I am yet to discover. I find all these quotes stimulating, thought provoking and most of all inspiring. Many of these are from famous film directors or those involved in the industry. Enjoy the wisdom and please comment below as I’d love to hear your favourites.

 

“Anybody who comes to the cinema is bringing their whole sexual history, their literary history, their movie literacy, their culture, their language, their religion, whatever they’ve got. I can’t possibly manipulate all of that, nor do I want to.” – David Cronenberg

“Every great film should seem new every time you see it” – Roger Ebert

“All you need to make a movie is a gun and a girl” – Jean Luc Goddard

“Drama is life with the dull bits cut out” – Alfred Hitchcock

“We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies.” – Walt Disney

“People have forgotten how to tell a story. Stories don’t have a middle or an end anymore. They usually have a beginning that never stops beginning.” – Steven Spielberg

“A Hunch is Creativity Trying to Tell You Something.” – Frank Capra

“Photography is Truth. The Cinema is Truth Twenty-four Times Per Second.” – Jean-Luc Godard

“I Am Certain There is Too Much Certainty in the World.” – Michael Crichton

“The Only Safe Thing is to Take a Chance.” – Mike Nichols

“Why Pay a Dollar for a Bookmark? Why Not Use the Dollar for a Bookmark?” – Steven Spielberg

“We tend to do period stuff because it helps make it one step removed from boring everyday reality.” – Ethan Coen

“Good artists copy, great artists steal.” – Picasso

“I have always preferred the reflection of the life to life itself.” – Francois Truffaut

“Surrealism had taught me that reason comes after creation, and creation is a true deflagration when confronted, not with a solution, but an obstacle.” – Georges Franju

“For me, the cinema is not a slice of life, but a piece of cake.” – Alfred Hitchcock

“People say I pay too much attention to the look of a movie but for God’s sake, I’m not producing a Radio 4 Play for Today, I’m making a movie that people are going to look at.” – Ridley Scott

“I cannot just make a film and walk away from it. I need that creative intimacy, and quite frankly, the control to execute my visions, on all my projects.” – Michael Mann

“I’ll rebel against powers and principalities, all the time. Always, I will.” – Paul Thomas Anderson

“I think that the Internet is going to effect the most profound change on the entertainment industries combined. And we’re all gonna be tuning into the most popular Internet show in the world, which will be coming from some place in Des Moines. We’re all gonna lose our jobs. We’re all gonna be on the Internet trying to find an audience.” – Steven Spielberg

“To me, watching a movie is like going to an amusement park. My worst fear is making a film that people don’t think is a good ride.” – Darren Aronofsky

“There’s a certain truth that you do end up making the same film again and again so if you vary the genre you have a chance of breaking that cycle.” – Danny Boyle

“I think audiences get too comfortable and familiar in today’s movies. They believe everything they’re hearing and seeing. I like to shake that up.” – Christopher Nolan

“The audience seems hazy to me, shrouded in a veil through which I can’t see.” – Park Chan-Wook

“I don’t know how much movies should entertain. To me I’m always interested in movies that scar. The thing I love about JAWS is that I’ve never gone swimming in the ocean again.” – David Fincher

“Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out.” – Martin Scorsese

“If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed.” – Stanley Kubrick

“I don’t believe in elitism. I don’t think the audience is this dumb person lower than me. I am the audience.” – Quentin Tarantino

“I don’t think about technique. The ideas dictate everything. You have to be true to that or you’re dead.” – David Lynch