DVD Review: The King and the Clown

DVD Review: The King and the Clown

The King and the Clown bears a strong resemblance to the Hong Kong movie Farewell, My Concubine. Both feature a pair of performers, one of whom always plays female roles. Each of the more feminine men is gay and in love with his partner. In both films the performers are threatened with destruction by powers far beyond their control. But in Concubine the menace is the Communist government’s Cultural Revolution; in Clown it is a traumatized, maddened king. Gong-gil and Jang-saeng are 15th-century street performers. Gong-gil’s feminine beauty dictates that he plays women’s roles, and the troupe’s manager often pimps him out to rich audience members. This infuriates Jang-saeng. Eventually things come to a head; in the resulting confrontation the manager is killed. Gong-gil and Jang-saeng flee to Seoul, where they join up with other street performers and create a new troupe. The ruler of Korea is the cruel, tyrannical Yeonsan, and when the troupe puts on a play mocking him and his favorite consort, Nok-su, they find themselves swiftly arrested. Jang-saeng manages to get the troupe an audience with the king; if their skit makes him laugh, he reasons, then they’ll be allowed to live. It works, and the performers become King Yeonsan’s personal entertainers, put up in the palace itself. Yeonsan is especially interested in Gong-gil, and often calls him to his chambers, to the dismay of Jang-saeng. But Yeonsan seems almost as enamored the troupe’s art as he is in Gong-gil; instead of buggering him silly, as one (well, I, because my mind is filthy) might expect, instead he asks Gong-gil to teach him the art...
DVD Review: Ju-on (The Grudge)

DVD Review: Ju-on (The Grudge)

POP! Goes the Dead Kid I’ve seen nearly all the famous Asian horror films. And by ‘famous’, I mean the ones that Hollywood tried to remake: The Eye, The Ring, A Tale of Two Sisters, Pulse, Dark Water. There was just one I’d missed: Ju-on, aka The Grudge. That’s been rectified. The movie begins, as all good movies do, with a murder. More than one murder, actually. We don’t know who or why, but you do know where- so it’s hardly a surprise when Social Welfare Office volunteer Rika shows up on the doorway of the House’o’Murders to check up on the joint’s inhabitant, a really old lady who has let the place go to hell. Like all the idiots in Pulse, when Rika finds a door that’s sealed shut with packing tape, she just has to open it. She finds a cat. Oh, and a little dead ghost kid. The film then jumps to some unspecified time (but the same bat-location), when the old lady’s son and daughter-in-law are complaining to each other about the mess and ruckus the old lady’s making at night. The daughter-in-law, Kazumi, finally seems to get a clue when little-dead-ghost-kid handprints show up on the doors, and a random cat appears in the house. The son (who has a truly wretched haircut) comes home from work to find his wife all comatose with terror, just before she becomes an ex-parrot. Then Kazumi’s sister comes over for dinner, barges in without knocking, and is promptly treated to the son acting fucking crazy. He kicks her out. Then we get the sister’s POV- she’s called...
February Review Blitz: Inside North Korea

February Review Blitz: Inside North Korea

[wdgkt_img source=”http://geekyandgenki.imaginaryexercise.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2011/02/515HnSnQbeL._SX500_.jpg” thumb=”http://geekyandgenki.imaginaryexercise.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2011/02/515HnSnQbeL._SX500_-225×300.jpg” align=”right” width=”225″ height=”300″ alttext=”Inside North Korea Cover”] [/wdgkt_img] Back in 2006, reporter Lisa Ling snuck into North Korea by posing as a medical assistant to a Nepalese eye surgeon. Of course, when she tried it again a few years later, she got caught and sent to a North Korean prison camp, where she was rescued by Bill Clinton. But the information she got in 2006 was made into a National Geographic documentary Inside North Korea. The beginning of the documentary doesn’t tell us much we don’t know; small country (Mississippi-sized), no outside media influence, Kim Jong-Il is god etc. The Nepalese doctor seems like a nice guy. He travels the world showing third-world country doctors how to treat cataracts. He planned to do one thousand surgeries in ten days in the hermit kingdom. Understandably, he’s nervous about the presence of the reporters. North Korean minders monitor every movement the medical team makes, starting at the airport in Nepal. Ling and the cameramen surreptitiously take some footage from the car (they were allowed to shoot inside the hospital; as they were supposed to be documenting the surgeries). The streets of Pyongyang look oddly depopulated; images of Kim Jong-Il and his father Kim Il-Sung are literally everywhere. Ling’s footage is intercut with scenes from a Dutch documentary approved by Dear Leader, which shows a Communist paradise. Artifice and deception is a staple of North Korean propaganda; Ling shows a town visible from the South Korean border, an idyllic little hamlet that is composed of empty buildings. The danger Ling and her comrades are in is ever-present; at one...
February Review Blitz: 8 Masters

February Review Blitz: 8 Masters

[wdgkt_img source=”http://geekyandgenki.imaginaryexercise.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2011/02/8masters-e1355006315551.jpg” thumb=”http://geekyandgenki.imaginaryexercise.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2011/02/8masters-e1355006315551-201×300.jpg” align=”right” width=”201″ height=”300″ alttext=”8 Masters”] [/wdgkt_img] I know what you guys have been thinking. “She’s already on Day 8, but she hasn’t reviewed a single kung fu movie? WTF?”. Well, here it is, in all its spoiler-ific glory. 8 Masters opens with a fight, as all good kung fu movies do. As credits fill the screen, two men meet for a duel. One of them asks for a temporary reprieve of three months, as he is sick. The other refuses and they fight. The sick guy, unsurprisingly, kicks the bucket just as the credits end. In the next scene, a man shows up to his sister-in-law’s house with the news that her husband is dead, poisoned by the 8 Masters, a group of fighters who are pissed about being defeated by him. The uncle takes his dead brother’s son to a Shaolin monastery where he will be safe from the 8 Masters, but dies as soon as they get there. He makes young Chu Sao Chieh promise that after he grows up, he will leave the monastery and find his mother and his uncle’s daughter and take care of them. Of course, it’s a Shaolin monastery, so next we’re treated to a bunch of scenes of the kid learning kung fu from the monks, including a scene that is apparently not related to anything, where a bunch of ninjas attack the monastery and get their asses kicked. After a while the kid wanders off screen, and when he comes back into camera range he has turned into a fully-grown, perpetually pissed-off looking Carter Wong. Chieh wants...
DVD Review- The Midnight Meat Train (spoilers)

DVD Review- The Midnight Meat Train (spoilers)

Ryuhei Kitamura is kind of a hit-or-miss director with me. I love his cult classic Versus, and Godzilla: Final Wars, but his other stuff hasn’t been that great. Sky High was boring as Hell, and Azumi, while it had great action sequences, was at least an hour too long. I used to think Kitamura was only good at one thing- action- and things like dialogue and plot just slowed him down. But after viewing his English-language offering, The Midnight Meat Train, I think he’s also pretty good at suspense. Which is good because The Midnight Meat Train doesn’t have a lot of action. Leon (Bradley Cooper, whom Shapiro Keats says is the New Hot Thing with the ladies- I don’t why, he looks pretty ordinary to me) is a photographer in L.A. who’s trying to make it big. He might have a chance with artist agent Brooke Shields, if he can take raw, dark pictures of the city’s underbelly. His girlfriend (who is played by the lady who was the reporter in Iron Man– the one Gwyneth Paltrow booted out of Tony Stark’s house) is worried he’ll get hurt, but Leon is determined. He photographs some thugs harassing a pretty Japanese girl in the subway, only to find out later she went missing. He goes to the cops with his information, but they seem strangely unwilling to listen to him. He keeps taking pictures of midnight L.A., and his quest carries him to a meat packing plant. He takes a photo of a hatchet-faced man (Vinnie Jones, who I think was in Guy Richie’s movies) chopping meat, and is...
DVD Review – Resident Evil: Degeneration

DVD Review – Resident Evil: Degeneration

[wdgkt_img source=”http://geekyandgenki.imaginaryexercise.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2010/02/resident-evil-degeneration-movie-1-e1355022951736.jpg” thumb=”http://geekyandgenki.imaginaryexercise.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2010/02/resident-evil-degeneration-movie-1-e1355022951736-201×300.jpg” align=”right” width=”201″ height=”300″ alttext=”Resident Evil Degeneration”] [/wdgkt_img] A decade or so ago, finding anime and other Asian media used to be hard.  Fans had to settle for whatever mediocre dubs made it onto television, mail order from small suppliers like AnimEigo, lurk Usenet for fansub contacts or scrounge for low-quality videotape dubs at fan conventions.  Today, though, one can pick up DVDs of the new Astro Boy series or Godzilla: Final Wars at the local grocery store, and for a mere ten bucks, yet.  That’s how I found the subject of this review: Resident Evil: Degeneration, an all-CGI feature film of the venerable survival horror franchise. (For that matter, not long ago I got DVDs of Dario Argento’s giallo Deep Red and Mario Bava’s Kill, Baby, Kill at a truck stop in the middle of nowhere, Indiana, of all places!) Resident Evil: Degeneration is the film longtime fans of the survival horror classic have been waiting for. It’s essentially a feature-length CGI cutscene, but still offers plenty of fun for fans of the franchise. Co-produced by game creator Capcom and Sony Home Entertainment (Japan), the film features two popular characters from the series, Claire Redfield and Leon S. Kennedy, and the English-language voice actors who portray them in the games. It’s also, naturally enough, much more faithful to the source material than the live-action movie series. The film’s opening chapter feels like the lead-up to the Left4Dead game campaign that’s set in the ruins of a zombie-plagued airport.  A newscast brings the viewer up to speed: It’s been seven years since the zombie outbreak portrayed in...