And You Thought It Was Safe(?)


13 Assassins (2010)
Now that's what you call a "Big Damn Hero Shot."

Now that’s what you call a “Big Damn Hero Shot.”

Remakes don’t have to suck. Admittedly, a lot of them do, but there’s a critical concept you might’ve heard of called Sturgeon’s Law, most commonly articulated as “ninety[-insert number here] percent of everything is crap.” If I may paraphrase the writer of more short stories than you or I will ever write and the original Star Trek episode “Amok Time,” remakes simply conform to the same trends of quality as all other art forms. It’s not pretty, but we live in a beautiful, ugly world, as the director of tonight’s film well knows. A world where genuinely good filmmakers with interesting, original visions have to churn out remakes before major studios risk financing anything original.

So 13 Assassins is a remake of a 1963 film of the same name, distributed by the house Godzilla built, Toho. It’s made by people who got famous riding the international wave of love Japanese horror movies surfed into the New Millennium. It’s screenwriter, Daisuke Tengan, wrote The Eel, which is a fucked-up movie, and Audition, a movie scientifically designed to fuck you up. Director Takeshii Miike went on from Audtion to Ichi The Killer, the Dead or Alive trilogy. Neither one of them would be my first choice for a period piece samurai drama. Never mind a remake of one that already exists.

Yet that’s just what they made and, not only does it not suck, it’s actually one of the better remakes of 2010. Much was made of the Cohen’s True Grit, but did Rooster Cogburn and Mattie Ross ever once mow down a street full of samurai in their quest to bring Tom Chaney to justice? No. No they did not. Point goes to 13 Assassins. Continue reading



Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)

"Let the hero born of woman crush the serpent 'neith his heel..."World War II films and I have an understanding: I don’t watch them and they can go on propping up whatever brand of historical whitewashing is popular at moment. Rare is the film that consciously sets out to subvert the usual tropes of their perpetually John Wayne genre, or the deification of Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest” Generation. Whenever such a film emerges from the vacuous, exploitative, corporatist, Hollywood hive it is duly acknowledged by critics, nodded at by the Academy Awards…and promptly forgotten about. Case in point:

Begun as a companion piece to Flags of Our Fathers, Letters hopes to turn the American War Film upside down by dramatizing the Japanese side of the Battle of Iwo Jima, just in time for its sixty-first anniversary, with all the historical histrionics that entailed (on both sides of the Pacific). Opening sometime in 1945, the film attempts to (and largely succeeds at) do(ing) for the Honorable Imperial Army of Japan what Das Boot did for German submariners: portraying them as actual human beings trapped in a horrific situation. And since I can’t think up a proper joke to end this paragraph, I’ll go for the long hanging fruit and ask how many Bella Swan’s does it take to screw in a lightbulb? {More}



Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995)
November 21, 1999, 11:56 am
Filed under: Movies, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , ,

GameraLooking back, Gamera’s rebirth was almost inevitable. History repeats itself and the movie industry eats its dead. Inspired by the success of the modern Godzilla films (beginning with 1984’s Godzilla and ending, on a dower, cliffhanger-note in 1995’s Godzilla vs. Destroyah), Daiei brought their own terrible terrapin out of retirement exactly nine months before Godzilla’s (latest) death. In black and white, as I’ve mentioned, Gamera can be somber, dynamic, dark…creepy in his own, lantern-eyed way. But the advent of cheap color film technology was no friend to the Friend to Children Everywhere.

Like the daikaiju genre as a whole, by the 1970s, Gamera grew down right silly. After all, we are talking about a giant, fire-breathing turtle who flies by projecting jets through his shell’s arm- and leg-holes. (Of what? Don’t ask. My sainted father always assumed it was flatulence. ) Thankfully, the makers of Guardian of the Universe made the informed and, dare I say it (dare, dare), enlightened decision to treat Gamera seriously. Whatever the shortcomings of the Heisei Godzilla series, they were never less than serious films, susceptible to all the snares and pitfalls of the Action/Adventure pictures they emulated. Guardian of the Universe, for the most part, avoids these thanks to its narrower focus. It wants (insomuch as a film can want anything) to be only what it is: the perfect giant monster picture, complete of its kind. {More}