Friday, March 12, 2010

War is Hell

So I have slacked off and let a bunch of films stack up in my pile to blog about. I am going to write a few brief statements on these films to get them out of the way so I can try and catch up again. Same on me.

Platoon - 1986 - Dir. Oliver Stone
Location: The Comfort of My House
AFI Top 100

I saw this originally when it first hit VHS in the late 80s but remember very little from it. While watching again I was shocked to see what a great ensemble cast this film has. Keith David, Kevin Dillon, Forest Whitaker, John C. McGinley and Johnny Depp round out the incredible supporting cast while the three main lead duties are handled by Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe and Charlie Sheen. Each of these actors, some of which were very green at the time of filming, give commanding performances of a company on tour in Vietnam. Yes the film is about Sheen's struggle to keep the right path in this land of insanity when he is pulled back and forth from the bad and good sides by higher ranking soldiers, but it's so much more. The realism of the situation is shocking and pretty damn depressing. Highly effective.

There were three war films release around the same time - Platoon, Full Metal Jacket (1987) and Hamburger Hill (1987). Out of these I've seen Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket the most and it's probably my favorite. To be fair I don't think I've ever seen Hamburger Hill and Stone's film is relatively new to me too. Still it's an amazing film that deserves to be seen. Pick it up
on DVD here.

The House Bunny - 2008 - Dir. Fred Wolf
Location: My Couch

Is there a better way to follow-up an epic war film than with a flick about a Playboy bunny becoming the house mother of an unpopular sorority? I think not. I figured this would be crap,but I like Anna Faris, Emma Stone and Kat Dennings so I figured it would be stupid fun. The film is about what is to be expected, except for the fact that it's rated PG-13. How can you have a college sorority film with Playboy bunnies and have no nudity? Isn't that breaking some sort of rule? Bah!

What I didn't realize, or expect, is how much of the plot is similar to the awesome 80s flick Revenge of the Nerds. In no way does this even come close to being on the same plane of cool as the nerds but a lot of the plot points come close to being a rip-off. One of the co-stars is American Idol alumni Katherine McPhee who sings a cover of The Waitresses' 1982 hit "I Know What Boys Like." Much like the film itself, the song is an empty shell of it's 80s parent.

I'm not sure what Anna Faris did plastic surgery wise, but I really miss the way she used to look. Not that she isn't still attractive, but go back and watch Scary Movie and then this film and tell me which version is less fake looking. If you want to see Faris prance around in next to nothing and have a few forced chuckles then you can snag the
DVD here for twelve bucks.

P-Star Rising - 2009 - Dir. Gabriel Noble
Location: My Living Room

This documentary came on PBS' great series Independent Lens and I remembered seeing a trailer for it months ago so I set the DVR. It follows preteen Priscilla "P-Star" Diaz who is the youngest female rapper in the game and lives in some very small temporary housing with her dad and older sister. The doc follows the young girl around as her dad, a former rapper, tries to get her a contract and make her famous. It's undeniable that the kid has talent, but it's a shame she has to live with some of the things she does. A lack of money and an absent, drug addict mother are just a couple examples. As she begins to get places things heat up between her, her father (who acts as her manager) and her record label. At times it's sad and inspirational others. If she can keep up with everything she will be a huge star someday.

The DVD will not be released until May 4th but you can
pre-order here.

God of Cookery (Sik san) - 1996 - Dir. Stephen Chow & Lik-Chi Lee
Location: My Couch

Most people know Stephen Chow from his big American crossover hits Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle and I was one of those until recently. I heard much of his older stuff was just as good as these two films so I started with this Kung Fu-ish style of cooking. In Hong Kong Chow is the God of Cookery and hosts a show where chefs try to challenge him and make food that he will find appetizing. Unfortunately this never happens. He always finds something wrong but is soon ousted as a fake by another and must fight his way back to the top. Some scenes of competitive cooking seem a little like Iron Chef if only Chef Morimoto had the ability to cook food with fire shooting from his palm.

There are plenty of laughs but I still prefer the other two films I mentioned above. That said, I highly recommend this to Asian film fans and will continue to track down Chow's back catalog to devour.

The Hurt Locker - 2009 - Dir. Kathryn Bigelow
Location: The Comfort of My Home

I watched this a few days before the Oscars because I had a feeling this would be winning, and I'm glad it did. The story of an Army bomb squad in Iraq and the intense situations these men put themselves in daily is rough and eye opening. The film opens with the unit working on a bomb and shoving guns in the faces of any Iraqi who comes near them. You feel bad for these people until you realize the person on the other end of that bomb could be anyone in the crowd and a few buttons pressed on a cellphone is all it takes to kill anyone nearby.

Jeremy Renner leads the group as their new Staff Sergeant with a very different way of handling things then they are used to. He doesn't respond to the radio, he takes off his bomb suit and plays by his own rules. The team struggles to deal with this in their highly intense job after the death of their former leader. Bigelow deserves all the accolades she has been getting. Her film takes you inside a world most of us will never be a part of and really puts you in the soldiers' boots. When the film was in theaters I really didn't have a desire to see it but after watching it at home I wish I would have gone. This seems to happen a lot.

If you haven't had a chance to watch the movie pick it up with the rest of the other post-Oscar rush on
Blu-Ray here or
DVD here.


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