Hana-Bi (Fireworks) (1997)

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I will confess that I’m not that familiar with the career of Takeshi “Beat” Kitano. Kitano has had a long career in Japan, where he began his early years in the 1970s as a comedian and television host, and then transitioned to filmmaking in the late 1980s, writing, directing, and starring in his own films. It was just earlier this year that I was able to view his 1989 directorial debut, Violent Cop, in the theater for the first time. The film is just what you’d expect from the title, where he plays a rogue cop taking down a drug trafficking ring using unconventional and violent methods. When Kitano was offered the chance to direct the film, he used it as an opportunity to force audiences to start seeing him as being able to tackle more serious roles outside of his comedic profession.

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I Watch Too Many Movies, or: How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Between not one, but two summer colds, plus being allergic to basically anything that can be airborne, I spent a lot of time this past summer as a tissue walrus, sprawled on my couch watching tv and/or staring at the blank documents of various things I’m supposed to be writing.  Needless to say, despite managing to make it out to the theater a few times, I spent the bulk of my summer with Netflix and the various TV movie channels.

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How I spent my summer vacation.

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A Bad Idea Gone Wrong (2017)

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Leo and Marlon are two friends looking for a little excitement and more money in their lives. As the film opens, they are getting ready to order breakfast at a diner before they go to work at their menial jobs. They want to perform a heist in the hopes to get some decent amount of money so Marlon can take a trip somewhere and for Leo maybe the money can help him move on after a bad breakup with his fiancé. But they don’t have a concrete plan yet (they’ve never done a robbery before) until Leo suggests a house they can break into whose owners are on vacation. The house is in a gated community, so they just have to figure out how to successfully get in and out past the security guard. As they cobble a plan and the next scene begins, the movie’s title, A Bad Idea Gone Wrong, pops up. At this point, I know what I’m getting into, and I’m officially along for the ride.

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Tragedy Girls (2017)

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If you’re looking for a fun horror comedy, then Tragedy Girls is what you need to watch. Having had the opportunity to view this film as part of a local horror film festival called Psychorama, I find the film still enjoyably sticking in my head weeks later. It’s like a hybrid that combines horror films like Scream with teen comedies like Clueless (let’s say Scream was told from the point of view of the killers, and they happen be a pair of fashionable teenage girls).

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This Is Not What I Expected (2017)

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I honestly can’t think of a more appropriate title for a movie than This Is Not What I Expected. It’s a Chinese film that showed up at my local theater recently and I went into it not really knowing what to expect at all. I had only seen a trailer for it but still wasn’t sure exactly what type of film it was going to be. So by the time it ended, it wasn’t what I expected, but that was a good thing.

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Another Year (2016)

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The documentary Another Year from filmmaker Shengze Zhu is about a year in the life of a poor Chinese migrant family. Migrant workers typically travel from their rural hometowns into the city for factory or construction jobs. This film takes place in the city of Wuhan, China, and we meet a family of six: a husband and wife, their three children, and the husband’s mother. This three-generation family lives in just a 200 square-foot apartment in the city, and the documentary attempts to provide a glimpse into their lives through 13 takes, one a month, over the course of a year. Each take is filmed in real-time, lasting anywhere from around seven to 20 minutes, and takes place during meal times.

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Yoyo (1965)

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I have to admit that lately I’ve had a major obsession with the Turner Classic Movie channel. It’s been a great resource in catching up with classic films, and I also stumble across some memorable gems every now and then. Some of these are titles I’ve never heard of before so I feel fortunate to have stumbled across them. The other day I sat down to watch a film titled Yoyo having never heard of it before. The film was written and directed by French filmmaker Pierre Étaix, who unfortunately never became well known outside of France due to the unfortunate distribution deals that prevented his films from being released stateside for a long time. But Étaix did have an influence on modern artists such as Woody Allen and Terry Gilliam. I also can’t help but wonder how much Yoyo influenced the 2011 film The Artist which immediately came to mind as I started watching this. Continue reading

Take Me (2017)

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I can’t remember the last time I viewed a good modern-day screwball comedy, which is why Take Me was so refreshing. It’s not a deep thinking type of film, rather it’s entertaining and funny and a gem worth watching. Take Me is the directorial debut for actor Pat Healy (Cheap Thrills) who also stars in the film alongside actress Taylor Schilling (Orange Is the New Black). I will admit I have a bit of bias toward Healy, because I got to meet him a while back and he’s a pretty cool guy to hang out with and I fully support his endeavors.

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The Little Hours (2017)

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When I first viewed the red band trailer for The Little Hours it was full of nuns speaking profanities, exploring their sexuality, and had an impressive cast of comedic actors (including Alison Brie, Kate Micucci, Aubrey Plaza, Molly Shannon, Fred Armisen, Nick Offerman, and John C. Reilly). So I immediately couldn’t wait to see it. The film is inspired by a couple of tales out of the 14th century book The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio. I say “inspired” since I haven’t read The Decameron and I’m pretty sure it’s not laced with the numerous F-bombs that this movie has. All I can say is that this movie did not disappoint, and I felt my expectations were met. Now if you’re someone who’s easily offended by crude humor that takes place within the confines of a convent, then maybe this film isn’t for you.

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