The Actresses (2009)

“Their egos make it difficult for them all to be in the same room”

words: Desmond Childs

Actresses-2009-K-Movie

What an interesting concept for a movie. Gather some successful actors/actresses from throughout the decades. Have someone who was a movie star in 1950s, someone from the 1970s, etc. Then, get them all to agree to do a shoot for Vogue magazine‘s holiday issue. What’s the worse that can happen?

This movie essentially has one thing going for it: it features several movie stars of various walks in one setting. A couple of older actresses. Some middle-aged ones. And a few rising stars are thrown into the mix as well. It all culminates  in a very emotional, honest sort of dramedy (comedy+drama). It’s one of those movies where the players involved are playing heightened versions of themselves (more or less). We hear the older actresses talk about how much closer actors and actresses were to each other. At one point in Asia’s movie industry, there wasn’t a “Star system“. In other words, according to these actresses, no one actor was recognized for their work above the rest of the cast. They also discuss (and joke) about growing  older. After the eldest actresses have told their story, we hear from the middle-aged stars. They all discuss how fame has affected their personal lives. topics like the media covering divorce and how jealousy ruins chemistry; keep the movie interesting. Well, it’s interesting if you are curious about the lives of Asian movie stars.

There is an extra bit of intrigue in regards to how the women interact with one another. Many of the stars display less than friendly sentiments toward one another. Sometimes the women would gossip about another actress while she stepped away for a break. The egos of the women were in full effect, but they were all still able to poke fun of themselves too. Even when the actresses become emotional, the movie doesn’t try to lighten the mood. The camera sits and lets the actresses do all the work. Which meant plenty of uncomfortable moments. But also a handful of sincere, sad, and sweet interludes of truth. And even in mocumentaries like this, there always tends to be those interludes of truth. Sometimes what’s revealed is humorous. Sometimes it isn’t. I always felt like the people in this picture did their very best to be true to themselves. The result being a bunch of movie stars who have more or less survived being cut with a double-edged sword. Being able to do something they love, but also dealing with the fame and misfortune that accompanies it.

I do not want to make it sound like this film was depressing. It wasn’t at all. It generally stayed pretty light, and the snark humor made me smile. At times I was surprised at how relatable some of the actresses were even being from another country. Well, maybe not surprised. Our movie stars deal with the similar problems. However I did enjoy getting insight into the way a few actresses feel about their careers.

This a movie I’d only recommend to fellow film nerds or students. Otherwise anyone who just likes to go “behind the scenes” to learn more about the personal lives of their favorite Asian actresses, will enjoy this. It is also pretty fun to watch them all try out their outfits and model for the magazine. Be sure to watch the ending credits as you get to see the last image of vogue.

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Recapped!: “Bullet Explosion” (2004)

Little Brother! You are no longer allowed to call me your brother!”

words: Desmond Childs

I often think back to the simpler times of my life. I was making moves. Training hard. My brother and I were going to take the next big step toward becoming true Yakuza. We only needed to kill this rival boss. Oh my gosh! This is the best day ever, because I also just got a text from my girlfriend saying she’s pregnant! Wow! Things sure are looking up. Oh wait. Maybe I shouldn’t be a gangster. Hey, little brother? I killed this gangster, but I won’t you to take the credit for it. I want to go straight and work hard to support my new family!

The above text was me paraphrasing the main character of the movie Bullet Explosion‘s thoughts, both verbal and unspoken early in the movie. The film kind of shows us how much of a drag it is to be this has-been gangster. We see him wake up. He changes pants, lovingly dropping the discarded pair on his sleeping girlfriend’s face. Then they say their goodbyes as he heads over to the nearest gambling establishment. There he actually manages to win a decent amount of cash. Then things take a turn…FOR THE WORSE! He gets jumped in an alleyway and is saved by his younger brother, who is a Yakuza. His brother (who I’ll refer to as little brother), is a captain in one of the bigger gangs in Japan. Er, I mean Tokyo. So little brother tries to wine and dine our protagonist into joining the gang as it’s enforcer (hitman). From here the movie becomes a very pedestrian story about a silly, pointless feud between family members. The movie tries to throw some “tried and true” themes at us with things like loyalty and honor. The silly thing about this movie is how quickly the relationship between the two brothers devolves int o pure hatred.

The older brother, the one the movie wants us to side with, is clearly crummy, stale shell of a person. He gambles on a daily basis. One can only imagine how promiscuous he is, as his wife seems to only go to work or stay home most days. Don’t get me started on how the women in this movie are portrayed. I’ll just say that director Atsushi Yamamura needed a dumb, housewife and a trophy-hooker and he hired people to fill those roles. Not really any character development. No real depth. Just girlfriend, hooker, and housewives in this movie. Uh, really? This movie came out in 2004. There’s no excuse for that. I’m not saying we needed the women in this movie to be like uber-Yakuza ninjas or anything, but the writers and Yamaura needed to give them something to do. Anyway, the two brothers in this film, who never really appear to be that close to each other, battle through the last two-thirds of the film. What lead to this intense, deadly showdown. Was it because of a woman? Was it because of a betrayal? I won’t spoil. I’ll let those who are interested indulge.

If I sound unimpressed with Bullet Explosion, it’s because I am. It was just so boring! You’d think with a title like Bullet Explosion, there’d be guys being shotgun blasted through windows. But instead we get a fat, smelly standoff at the end. I wasn’t connected with the characters. The writers didn’t flesh them out well enough for me to care. I didn’t like how the actor who portrayed the younger brother was unable to show any real emotion. He did a lot of glaring. I dunno if that’s like scary or something, but it just made it seem like he was a weird, awkward jerk. The story itself, at least the premise, easily could have contained more action sequences but instead we’re stuck following characters through alleyways as they try to escape. What are they escaping? Who cares. Maybe the running in this movie signifies the running into the ground of what could have been an otherwise, gun-tastic thrilling film. And one more thing, I don’t watch movies called “Bullet Explosion” for the story, but when the action is lacking like it is here, and the rest of the movie is mediocre; I’m going to attack! It’s only right. Don’t ask me if I would recommend this. Cause if you do, I’ll be there-RAINING DOWN A BULLET EXPLOSION ON YOUR @#$!

NOTE: I could not find a trailer for this movie because it’s awful. At least I’m not the only one who thinks so.

63 and counting!

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WHEW…!

I just spent about 30 minutes going through and organizing the site. It was about that time, and now the Recapped! Reviews page is up to date. You’ll also notice that marathon movies are now in the mix with the other reviews I’ve done. Once I have the new list of movies to watch, I’ll setup the preview posts for the coming days. Capeesh!? Also, I’m looking for a new job in the real world so this blog is pretty much the only thing I have going outside of job searching. That probably means more reviews in a shorter amount of time. Probably.

SVMB: ‘City of Life and Death’

Running Time: 1hr. 22min. 6sec.

  • Box Office Breakdown
  • Top3/Bottom3
  • Discussion of ‘City of Life and Death’
  • BONUS: 7 songs after the end of the show

 

Extra notes: There is a point when I take a break and all of a ‘transition’ song is played. It’s about 2 minutes so if you want to skip ahead abit, it’s fine.

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FIST-FOOT MARATHON: Kiss of the Dragon (2001)

Kiss of the Dragon

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July 6, 2001 (US Release)
August 1, 2001 (French Release)
Directed by: Chris Nahon, whose also directed the movies, Empire of the Wolves and Blood: The Last Vampire


Who you’ll recognize:
Jet Li (FearlessFist of LegendThe One), Bridget Fonda (The Godfather IIIPoint of no ReturnJackie Brown).




What’s all this about? 

There was a certain amount of buzz surrounding this movie. I’m not talking Oscar-buzz forJet Li or anyone else involved here. What generated a lot of anticipation for this film release was the action scenes of course; in terms of making them less “fantastic”. Fans of Jet Li had been clamoring for their movie-star to star in a movie where the fighting felt “real” and more “grounded” than the typical superhuman feats they had become bored with. Their wish was granted, and what we as the audience get is a film that helped usher in an era of “stylized,   
phenomenal, yet grounded” take on martial art films. Ironically enough, Jet Li was a big part of continuing this popular take on shooting fight scenes in this manner. The style of most of the 90s fighting style, especially in America where martial arts isn’t heavily practice; was rough, messy, and “over-the-top” gun play. The new wave of action flicks, kept a decent percentage of that style. It also mixed in a large batch of mixed martial arts, and some fascination with the different ways to damage or manipulate the human body and mind. In fact, the name of this film derives from a certain forbidden technique involving jabbing needles into sensitive part of the body.
The film itself deals with a story that feels familiar, but is not often used as the main plot. A Chinese cop is sent to France to bring back a culprit, and ends up being framed for his murder, along with the murder of a prostitute. After his frame, he runs into another prostitute, who was there that night of his being framed. The story is essentially the two of them trying to escape the clutches of a corrupt inspector and his squadron of French cops. The deal the Chinese cop makes with the prostitute, is that he’ll get her daughter back; and she’ll testify against the corrupt police officials and there involvement in the conspiracy against the Chinese cop. The end result was a very anti-climatic thud, but the movie sort of switches between a “dead sprint” of a pace into more of a nervous jog. The players on screen are better seen as opposed to being heard. As if the first paragraph of the article didn’t hint at already, the action sequences were the stronger points of the film; and dominated most of the runtime. Good move, Mr. Chris Nahon; director of a cool, gritty action film.

The American whose scenes are were badly written:

Bridget Fonda. In a matter of about 15-20 minutes of screen time; we’re suppose to believe she not only understands Jet Li’s drive, but is right in condemning him for being too dedicated to his job. What the hell?

Jet Li’s cop truly has nothing to live for:


You wanna know a sure-fire way to get out of writing depth for your main character? Make it so that he has no wife, kids, girlfriends, real aspirations, or interests other than the current mission. Also make it so that he has no where to really run other than the “sleeper” whose hidden within the city. Aside that he has the heart of a lion (or Dragon), Jet Li’s character is a blank, boring slate. It sorta waters down the film, when the audience isn’t allowed to connect with the hero of the story. My suggestion would have been to rewrite the film from Bridget Fonda’s character’s perspective, that way Li’s character works. His basic purpose is to be a tool, let’s focus on the people who has use of the tool. The villain and the Bridget Fonda prostitute (very incompetent one at that).




Recommended?
Sure. On Netflix.