Saturday, April 14, 2012

Film Festival Confessional: The Sarasota Film Festival Day One

Last night, I went to the opening night film and party for the Sarasota Film Festival. I got there a little early, rolling up in my boldly emblazoned taxicab (the venue where the event was held is within walking distance, but oi with the sweating and the nice clothes, so no thank you) and I took a deep, fortifying breath before walking up to a volunteer to ask about doing the red carpet. They didn't know so they asked another volunteer who said that I couldn't walk the red carpet.

I asked this volunteer: "Even though I'm an artist with a film in the festival, I can't walk the red carpet?"


"So it's reserved for the big names like Frank Langella?" (Who is very nice, by the way, at least in my limited interaction with him.)


Welcome to the Sarasota Film Festival!

After that, I got in line to get into the venue to watch Robot and Frank starring Frank Langella and Susan Sarandon (unfortunately, either she said no, the festival couldn't afford her, or they didn't try to get her because she wasn't there...though there was one woman in the audience who resembled her.) It was a cute flick, though it felt a little long. And needed more Susan Sarandon (but I'm biased as I love her like whoa.)

Afterwards was the opening night party replete with fog and lasers and a video D.J. playing music by the Black Eyed Peas, but the volume was at a reasonable level since the doors were open. I said a few hellos, I was interviewed by SRQ Magazine (it's not up yet and lord knows if they'll put it up), I met Frank Langella, and I had a chocolate cake pop, then I walked my ass home.

All told, it was an okay night. Let's see what tonight holds!

Friday, April 13, 2012

More Kimyoo Films screenings!

JUSTUS screens this week in Sarasota, Florida, at the Sarasota Film Festival, April 19 at 1:30 pm and April 22 at 11:45 am! AND I WILL BE THERE! :D I'd better be, I live there, dammit (Janet)!

JUSTUS also screens this week at the Bare Bones Film Festival in Muskogee, Oklahoma (I'm unsure about exact times and their website doesn't list the times independently.)

Next week, JUSTUS screens at the Motor City Nightmares Film Festival in Novi, Michigan, Saturday, April 28, in the 1:30 shorts block and Sunday, April 29, in the 11:30 am shorts block!

AFTERSHOCK plays in Toronto May 15 as part of the Viscera Film Festival and Fangoria's Fright Nights at the Projection Booth! My soul sister Karen Lam's feature film Stained plays first so if you're going to see the Viscera films, you should definitely go early enough to watch Stained, too!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Movie Reviews: The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

I've been excited to see this film since...Jesus, wasn't it shot in 2009? You attach Joss Whedon to my beloved genre, then add in David Leroy Anderson and AFX Studios (and, of course, therein adding Heather Langenkamp in a slightly tangential way and whom y'all know I adore :D) and you have an extremely happy fangirl who's been anxiously awaiting this flick and has been building it up in her mind for three years. With that kind of build up, there's plenty of distance to fall. And then, it was torture as some of my friends got to see it super early and were posting reviews and stuff and I was all like "LALALA! I'M NOT LISTENING!" while my fingers were stuck in my ears and I turned green with jealousy. I wasn't jealous in a hateful, spiteful way like "f**k them for being awesome..." or something, I was jealous because I would've loved to watch it with them and had someone to talk to about it.

Here's the gist of the plot: Five college kids go to a secluded cabin in the woods. Even though the film is fairly straight forward, to say any more might be a disservice to the film and to you, the viewer. As much as I've wanted to see this film, I've remained spoiler free for three years, watching only one trailer and not looking at any galleries or my Fango or even reading certain interviews with Whedon. I KNOW it helped me enjoy the film that much more. Trailer cutters put entirely too much into trailers these days.

I don't want to say too much more than that and possibly spoil anyone else's experience, but listen now and listen good: GO SEE THIS FILM IN THEATRES. It's fabulous! I loved it from fade in to blue band. The cast is pitch perfect, the story is awesome, the make-ups are spectacular (the visual effects were...okay), and keep your ears open for a very familiar voice. Though *NAME REDACTED*'s cameo is kind of random, especially considering that *GENDER SPECIFIC PRONOUN REDACTED* career never went into this territory, it's still freakin' awesome! For me, it's an instant top favourite.

Here's to hoping that the flood of ripoffs is more like a trickle.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Muoi: The Legend of a Portrait (2007) is a South Korea / Vietnam co-production about a young Korean writer who travels to Vietnam to chase down the legend of the century-old curse of Muoi, the spirit of a vengeful woman, for her second novel. While there, she’s taken in by an old high school friend whom she wronged by writing a novel based on rumours about her being promiscuous.

The film is fairly obvious from the get-go in a set up heavily reminiscent of Ringu with a side of Ju-on. Muoi doesn't look like the onryō of those films as the producers opted for a more gory visage, but the similarities are so striking as to lead me to wonder if Vietnam (or Korea for that matter) have their own version of onryō or if they were simply compiling all of the Asian ghost cliches they could for what was (apparently) Vietnam’s first horror film.

That all sounds fairly negative, and it is, but the film isn’t without its good points and, surprisingly, one or two of those good points was in the writing. Even while being derivative, it was engaging enough a film to make me stick with it and it ended almost exactly as I would’ve done it. The performances were excellent across the board, too, which goes a long way toward making this flick watchable.

I wish they’d taken more care when delivering it for streaming as there were scenes that were far too dark and this even ruined a few of the scares. The score was good, it just faded into the background like a good score often does, and added that extra bit of dimension to the scenes.

Overall, an okay film. It doesn’t revolutionize horror or Asian horror, but it does a pretty good job of telling the same ol’ story in a pretty, new (to American audiences) setting.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Movie Review: JU-ON: WHITE GHOST / BLACK GHOST (2009)

In celebration of the ten year anniversary of his monster hit JU-ON, director Takashi Shimizu produced two “short” films called JU-ON: WHITE GHOST and JU-ON: BLACK GHOST (2009). I used quotation marks because they’re each an hour long and made up of tiny non-linear segments dealing with a ju-on which is described as the curse born of the death that happens when the perpetrator is in the grip of a powerful rage.

Here’s some background on this’s a little confusing, but it needs to be gone over. The first film is called Ju-on: The Curse which was followed by Ju-on: The Curse 2. These were released directly to video, but because they did so well, Shimizu-san was given more money and made Ju-on: The Grudge and Ju-on: The Grudge 2 for theatrical release.

He was then given a pile more money to make The Grudge and The Grudge 2 for American audiences (and to produce The Grudge 3 which went directly to video here.) All six films revolve around the vengeful spirits of Kayako and her son Toshio who were brutally murdered by her husband when he thought she was stepping out on him and that the boy wasn’t his son. Everyone who comes into contact with her house is touched by the curse and will die.

In both White Ghost and Black Ghost, the house plays a huge part. Toshio even makes an appearance for no reason. Kayako actress Takako Fuji declined to return; thankfully, they didn’t simply replace her. They took the Kayako character out completely which is kind of confusing in White Ghost, the first of the two films, especially when Toshio appears and Kayako’s trademark sound is heard.

White Ghost is about a family who is murdered in Kayako’s house and how the curse spreads out from there.

While technically accomplished, it’s quite obvious that Shimizu-san is not behind the camera on White Ghost; Ryuta Miyake wrote and directed this segment. It felt strangely...American and, a couple of good set ups aside, it wasn’t very frightening.

Black Ghost departs drastically from the formula Shimizu-san set up and used in six films (I haven’t seen Grudge 3, but I’m sure it’s exactly the same as the rest, but with 100% more American people) and it’s not a bad thing. In this story, a woman contacts her sister (a psychic Buddhist) to heal her daughter who, it is discovered, has a cytoma formed from the absorbed embryo of her twin sister who is now starting to assert her personality in the form of the grudge she’s held since birth at how she wasn’t born instead.

Black Ghost is also technically accomplished and far more interesting in its story, though if you’re not at least vaguely familiar with the anime version of Buddhist monks, the film can be unintentionally funny at times. Also, and I admit a great deal of surprise when I looked this up, but it was written and directed by a woman named Mari Asato! I don’t know what the percentages are for Japanese women as directors, but I have to think they’re pretty low. Now I know of one! Yay!

Overall, they’re okay entries to the series, but I think it’s time to just let the curse die out.

The trailer:

Movie review: BURKE AND HARE (2010)

I pranged my knee whilst exercising yesterday (or, more likely, during yoga the night before) so I took today off and watched...

BURKE AND HARE, directed by John Landis and starring Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis respectively, which is a black comedy based on the true story of two poor Irishmen in 1800s Scotland who found out that the medical colleges in Edinburgh paid very, very well for fresh corpses. They’re the source of the term “Burke’d” wherein a victim is suffocated by smothering and compression of the chest (if the lungs and diaphragm can’t expand, they can’t take in enough oxygen and it’s all down hill from there.) The film also stars Isla Fisher, Jessica Hynes, and Tim Curry (whom I call Timmykins because I love him so and he doesn’t know me.)

Pardon my American, but how in the world did John Landis fuck this up?

Seriously, you have an amazing cast supported by people like Bill Bailey, Stephen Merchant, and Ronnie Corbett and not one damn laugh in the entire film. Is it the fault of the screenwriters, Piers Ashworth and Nick Moorcroft? Yes, in part. Making a comedy out of the true story of a pair of murderers who racked up a total of seventeen lives taken is dicey at best. I think they needed at least one more pass on the script. And, how do you end a comedy where the one character you want everyone to like has to die? (This isn’t a spoiler unless you know nothing about the West Port Murders...oh, wait...)

John Landis knows comedy (Animal House, Blues Brothers, Trading Places). He knows horror (An American Werewolf in London, Innocent Blood, Blues Brothers 2000.) He knows how to combine them. Subject matter aside, comedy and horror are not that different and both types of films rely on timing to work. Jokes were rushed or cut too short, like the director was embarrassed by what was going on on-screen when he sat next to his editor in post. Or, even worse, one joke was held a little too long (at least, when compared to the rest of the flick.)

The film was, surprisingly, shot on 35mm, and I couldn’t be more disappointed with how it looked. It was blown out and weirdly graded and the vignettes on the actors faces (used to isolate them so as to make them brighter) were painfully visible.

All in all, a terrible disappointment.

The trailer (the worst trailer ever y/y?):

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Movie Review: THE RING VIRUS (1999)

Wow...haven't done one of these for a while, but I watched something tonight that I really wanted to mull over a bit, figure out what exactly was it that I didn't like...that and I want to get back to writing reviews. I should write one for Mahakaal: The Monster, which I saw last night.

Anyway, when I first saw Ringu (1998), the amazing film directed by Hideo Nakata based on the amazing novel by Koji Suzuki, it was probably 1999 or 2000. It was a bootleg VHS we’d rented from an art house video store so the quality wasn’t the best and we were watching it in broad daylight.

And it scared the crap out of us.

Before you spit your drink of choice all over your computer, just know that I don’t scare easily. I make horror films, for cryin’ out loud. I’ve been watching them since I was six. But there was something so compelling about this film and how Nakata-san handled the material (which, let’s face it, could have easily veered off into Velveet-landia) that I was completely enthralled and I honestly did not sleep that night. It probably didn’t help that I had a television at the foot of my bed.

The Ring Virus (1999) is almost exactly like the Japanese film. It’s about a young female journalist named Sun-Joo who starts investigating the mysterious deaths of her niece and three of her friends seven days after watching a videotape while at a resort. She finds the tape and discovers that it places a curse on whoever watches it that they will die in seven days if they don’t -- and then you don’t know what will break the curse because some damn fool’s recorded something over the most crucial bits of information.

As the film progresses, she gets a young man -- in the Korean version he’s a stranger whom she contacts only after she’s seen the video, but in the original film it’s her ex-husband -- and her daughter -- another deviation from the original film -- involved as they both see the video and are cursed.

Eventually, they track Eun-Suh (the Korean Sadako / Samara) back to where it all began: the well underneath the room at the resort where she planted the images on the videotape using telekinesis. They find her remains and give her body a proper burial. If this had originally been made anywhere else, that’s probably where the story would end, but in a brilliant twist, that’s not at all what Eun-Suh / Sadako / Samara wanted. She wants the WORLD to feel her pain and her anguish. Our pretty young journalist is spared because she made a copy of the video for her compatriot and because he didn’t propagate Eun-Suh’s virus, if you will, Eun-Suh came out of the television and killed him with fear.

The journalist figures it out and takes her VCR with her when she goes to pick up her daughter from her parents’ house where she will make her daughter copy the tape and pass it her grandparents.

It’s interesting to see the subtle (and not so subtle) changes between all three films and how much they differ from Suzuki-san’s novels, particularly in the realm of gender. Sadako (novel) / Eun-Suh is what is now referred to as an “intersexed” person; or a hermaphrodite, possessing the genitalia of both a man and a woman. The Korean version is a little more interested in sex than the Japanese one. Neither the Japanese nor the American versions of the film touched upon her condition or the incest / rape.

In the novel, Asakawa (the main protagonist) is male. In each of the three films, they made the character a woman. I read somewhere that the Japanese producers felt that a woman would appeal more to the box office and to have a love story so, voila! sex change! In the Asian versions of the film (moreso in the Korean one than the Japanese one), she’s whiny and marginally useless, constantly told by the male protagonist to calm down and to use her head.

The male protagonist in the Korean version takes the whole thing almost too lightly, delighting in the “game” of it all. I desperately missed the slow burning intensity of the wonderful Hiroyuki Sanada who played Asakawa’s ex-husband in the original Japanese film.

Technically, this flick was just as fabulous as the original. The cinematography was great (I have to note here that I watched the Tai Seng special edition and it looked like it had been mastered from a VHS or VCD. It added a special touch to the film, made it look like I was watching a bootlegged version, but I don’t think that was the intention) and a special mention must be made of the score and sound effects. Both were excellent!

The only problem I had with this version is that it lacked the intensity, the punch, of the original Japanese film. The score, the sound effects, the cinematography, the acting and direction, they were all great, but they weren’t utilized to their full potential and at the end, I felt kind of deflated and disappointed.

There was no tension, no fear, nothing in the male protagonist’s final moments. It’s like they took their time with the whole film trying to craft something more than just a heartless ripoff, and when they got to what should’ve been the big payoff (Eun-Suh climbing out of the well and through the television) they said, “Let’s just get this over with, this is stupid...” Even the American remake had more oomph to it. It was good and worth seeing if you’re a completionist like me, but if you haven’t seen Ringu or The Ring, I wouldn’t make this your first sojourn into the world of Sadako. See Ringu, then The Ring. Read at least the first book.

The Ring Virus trailer:

This summer, as is the traditional time of releasing horror films in Japan, SADAKO 3D (written by Koji Suzuki!!1!!) comes out. We'll probably never get it over here, but I wants it, precious. Oh, how I wants it.