Ahoy, squirts! Quint here to introduce Dimnix who has been doing a kick-ass job of covering the Wellington arm of the New Zealand International Film Festival. He's got reviews of the Korean monster movie, THE HOST, which has been getting lots of ink recently, as well as a Monica Bellucci romantic comedy called HOW MUCH DO YOU LOVE ME?, a "real deal" documentary AMERICAN CANNIBAL, an Aussie flick TEN CANOES and a film called TWELVE AND HOLDING that Dimnix really seemed to love. Enjoy!!!
yo, dimnix again with my second to last lot of reviews from this years New Zealand International Film Festival. The first review here is for Korean monster movie "The Host", and I've also got reviews of reality-tv documentary "American Cannibal: The Road To Reality", Aussie Aboriginal film "Ten Canoes", and looks at "Twelve and Holding" and Monica Bellucci's hot bod in "How Much Do You Love Me?". The festival ends tomorrow. It's been great sofar, I've seen more films at this years festival than any one before, and luckily the films have mostly been really kickass. It's also been pretty crazy, at times taking in up to 5 films a day and having to run from one cinema to another, but I cant complain. It's been great.
Anyway, enough of that. Reviews! Here you go:
"The Host" is the much hyped Korean monster movie from director Bong Joon-Ho, in which a bizarre monster rises from the Han river and causes chaos in Seoul. It was a hit at Cannes and has had some really glowing reviews (including one a couple of days ago) that had me really looking forward to it.
I've gotta say, I was a bit disappointed. Now, dont get me wrong, this is definetely going to be a positive review, but I feel that before I get to what I liked about "The Host" I need to talk a bit about how the film differs from what people might expect, because there's alot of hype (especially after that last review on this site) and I think unrealistic expectations could hurt the film.
That last review seemed to sell a big dramatic monster movie with political statements and "even" a bit of humour. Well, I dont know what movie they saw, because "The Host" is a b-movie horror/comedy with a bit of drama amongst the craziness. Like "Shaun Of The Dead", the situation is a pretty serious one but the characters and how they react to it all is mostly comedic. Right from the start you can tell they're going for laughs. For the most part it's pretty funny and enjoyable, but the film is also really random and the story goes off on lots of tangents. There are even long periods where the monster seems to be ignored. The tone is pretty uneven and I think that hurts the more dramatic scenes because after all the slapstick and downright parody it's hard to take the film all that seriously.
Apart from an "agent yellow" storyline that goes nowhere, this film's "political statments" are pretty weak if thats what they were trying to do. But personally, I dont think they were. I think the film-makers knew exactly what they were making: a crazy, goofy monster b-movie, and from a certain point in the film I actually found its random nature really quite charming, like it's all one big joke and I suddenly went "ah, I get it" (the scene in question involves a main character having a brain biopsy for no real reason, but just to make us laugh).
So, on to the positive. "The Host" is alot of fun and I can see this becoming a cult classic. The monster itself is a bizarre, goofy (but definetely dangerous) creature that swings around under bridges and moves really awkwardly on land (and I think that awkwardness is intentional). There are some really kickass sequences with the creature throughout the film - it's first big scene is fun, and the climactic scene is great, but my favourite is a sequence taking place in the rain about halfway though. The CG is unfortunately pretty bad, but whenever that monster is on screen the film is pretty awesome. As for the rest, it's okay. The characters are a decent enough bunch, and the dim-witted main character's quest to save his daughter, no matter what stands in his way, does hold the movie together pretty well. As I said above the dramatic bits do stand out, but they actually work pretty well (the grandfather character in the film has some really nice moments), and I liked that not everything works out and the conclusion is somewhat bittersweet.
It's definetely flawed, but "The Host" is at times really cool, and while the whole film doesnt live up to the promise shown in certain sequences this is enough fun that I still enjoyed it. I think others will too, just make sure you dont go in expecting a movie that this isn't.
AMERICAN CANNIBAL: THE ROAD TO REALITY
I only skimmed the description of this in the program, and while I knew they were describing it as a 'documentary', when I read that it was about the making of a reality show called "American Cannibal" where starving people are put on an island and cannibalism apparently plays a role - I was certain this was really going to be a 'mockumentary'. And for much of the film I was still pretty sure that the bulk of what I was seeing had to be made up, it was just too bizarre and funny not to be. But, here's the thing... "American Cannibal: The Road To Reality" is the real deal, a legit documentary, no 'mock'ing here. And the fact that I was so sure it had to be fake for much of the film is probably reason enough to check this out.
"American Cannibal: The Road To Reality" starts as a documentary following two New York tv writers trying to pitch shows. Their pilot for Comedy Central fails, and they're told they really need to try pitching reality tv. So, just to get that foot in the door, Gil S. Ripley and Dave Roberts cave and agree to try it out. Their ideas are pretty horrendous and they arent having much luck, but when they go to Porn king Kevin Blatt (the man who distributed the Paris Hilton sex tape), they find a man eager to use one of their ideas to break through to 'mainstream' entertainment. But here's the hilarious part - the idea Blatt latches on to is one mentioned really as a joke by Gil, the idea of starving people being put on an island where cannibalism is legal. So "American Cannibal" goes into production, and like "Lost In La Mancha" we see the reality show slowly fall apart (with a bloody accident on the island being the final nail in the coffin). Mixed in with this behind the scenes look are several interviews with people who work in Reality Tv, being completely and awesomely honest with their opinions of the genre.
I really enjoyed this. It's often hilarious, and some of the personalities shown here (mainly Kevin Blatt) are just outrageous. I definetely recommend it to documentary fans or people with an interest in (or hatred of) reality tv, and what's great is that you get both the crazy story of the production of "American Cannibal" and an inside look at how these shows are made and what the people who make them really think of it all. Also, the guys who made the documentary (and Gil, one of the two writers followed) came down for the film festival and did a q&a after the screening, and they seemed like really friendly guys so hopefully their film can get an audience.
"Ten Canoes" is another Australian film in this year's festival, but it really offers something different.
Set long ago, "Ten Canoes" is a story about one tribe of Aboriginal bushmen and the repercussions that come from the disappearance of one of the chief's three wives, while at the same time the younger brother of the chief is in love with another of the wives. It's a simple little story, and whats great is that the whole thing is narrated by "The Storyteller", a man with a great voice and sense of humour (the first thing he says is "Once upon a time, in a land long ago... Ha! Just kidding."). The Storyteller really sounds like an old man telling a tale, and he fills in all the bits of exposition and tells us of the rituals of the tribe and how they live. The narration is all done in English, but the rest of the film goes for authenticity and has the characters speak in their aboriginal language.
In fact, the authenticity here is pretty staggering. I imagine that most (if not all) of the people seen in the film aren't actors at all. The huts and tools used by the tribe seem old and worn. We see them building and then using canoes made out of tree bark, and based on the confidence with which they build these canoes I imagine these men have definetely done it before. Also, like the real bushmen - everyone in this movie is pretty much buck-ass naked throughout. It all really creates a vibe that you are watching a real tribe, and the acting from everyone is really solid. The film is also beautifully shot, right in the swamps and bush, and the cinematography is fantastic.
Whats great is that they dont let this be a long, drawn out, boring story like similar tribal films have been in the past. The story and narration are constantly entertaining and there are some great characters amongst the tribesmen. There's a lively feel and sense of fun to the movie, and when the drama comes it's really effective. A 'death dance' sequence is so beautifully done it's almost hypnotic. All in all, it's an interesting and authentic-feeling look at the Aboriginal bushmen while also being a well done little story.
TWELVE AND HOLDING
This has had a limited American release, so I'll keep this brief. "Twelve And Holding" is really fantastic, an extremely well done movie about three 12 year old friends who over the course of what seems to be a year transition from the fun and innocence of childhood, to trying to understand the real adult world and deal with issues like tragedy, sexual awakening, and their own health and responsibilities - and just like in real life they don't always get it right. Funny, tragic, shocking, touching - you name it, this film gets it right. I couldn't recommend this more.
HOW MUCH DO YOU LOVE ME?
This is a quirky little French romantic/sex comedy about a man (Bernard Campan) who has apparently won the lottery, and offers a prostitute (a gorgeous Monica Bellucci) thousand of euros a month to come and live with him. She agrees, and over the course of the film he has to deal with the fact that she is, afterall, a hooker and therefore may not have legitimate feelings and also issues like a weak heart and another man in the woman's life (a really great Gerard Depardieu).
You know, some people might love this, but it wasnt really my kind of film. It's very european and artsy, with a lounge jazz soundtrack and some weird plot turns, especially at the end where Monica Bellucci's outfit constantly changes all in one scene and you dont really know whats going on, whats being imagined, or what the fuck it all means. But there's some pretty funny stuff here, and the whole film is basically about how badly every man wants Monica Bellucci and we are suitably treated to her getting undressed several times and constantly looking gorgeous. So, it's got some good, and fans of this sort of quirky european comedy might find more to like. Personally, not my thing, and I admit I was getting a bit impatient for it to end.
This next one is out in most countries so all I'll say is:
Kicks ass. That is all.
Right, a big haul of reviews there. One more lot to go - and that'll include reviews of "The Science Of Sleep", "Who Killed The Electric Car", and "The Road To Guantanamo", along with my top picks from the festival. Expect to see that in the next couple of days.