Masterofoneinchpunch wrote:What are your guys worst Milkyway film?
Not sure I have one yet! I haven't seen the entire Milkyway oeuvre, but I've seen about 90 per cent of it, and I've yet to find a "worst". Mind you, of what I have seen, I'm sure there's some that rank lower than the others, but I don't recall ever going lower than a 7 on the pictures I have seen. Perhaps WU YEN will be my first?
I also have one in the to-watch pile called LET'S SING ALONG which looks worrisomely silly. I've also long-wondered if MY LEFT EYE SEES GHOSTS is to be approached with caution.
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The Toronto Film Fest is in full swing here. I've got 20 tickets (including 2 tickets for one show), so I'll be seeing a total of 19 this year, a personal record. Depending on how the week goes, I may add to that. Once you're downtown, in the thick of it, it's soooo tempting to jump in the rush lines and see something with no foreknowledge whatsoever. So far, I've seen four shows, all quite good, but this one really popped:THE RAID
(Indonesia; 2011) 9/10
In the future, when someone tells you a movie it wall-to-wall martial arts and gun-fu action, you should have no choice but to ask them how it rates against THE RAID. This show has so much
gunfire and brutal martial arts action -- all of it stunningly choreographed in ways more refreshing than I'd ever have thought possible in this world of peak-performance Donnie Yens and Tony Jaas -- that I literally nearly lost the hearing in my right ear. Granted, my hearing is hyper-sensitive (probably to make up for my status as a four-eyes), and Colin Geddes' Midnight Madness presentations always have the sound cranked to 11 (which is rather cruel), but usually I can take an extended donnybrook or three without having to plug my ear. No such luck with THE RAID, which had me kicking myself for not bringing an earplug or two, so relentless is its onslaught of combat action.
Star Iko Uwais is the real deal: wiry, lightning-fast and evidently the leader of a team of experts that truly takes martial arts choreography into new territory with this film (and, to a lesser extent, MERENTAU before it). If there's a downside to his inevitable celebrity because of this film, it's that Indonesian cinema in general will fare no better than Thai cinema has in the wake of Tony Jaa. Like Jaa, anything Uwais makes from this film on -- especially if he keeps teaming with writer-director Gareth Evans, as he should for at least a couple more pictures -- will gain instant and welcome interest from the west, while the rest of Indonesian cinema (such as it is!) will remain the domain of low-brow entertainment that caters largely to the locals, with the exception of the occasional horror movie that can be scooped up for exploitation by "Asian Extreme" DVD labels in the U.S. and Europe.
What really separates this picture from the hordes of martial arts films from the region is its heavy use of Silat, the native martial art of Indonesia. I've seen a billion martial arts pictures over the years, and a million "styles" to go with them, but I'll admit my knowledge of Silat was absolute zero, and this movie turned out to be one hell of a wakeup call. The key thing about Silat is that it involves knives, lots of 'em, and the film's heroes and villains deploy them with extreme predjudice for almost the entire duration. One stab won't do, but ten capped off by a throat slashing is a good way to gauge whether you've won the battle. By way of example, picture the exemplary alley-fight-with-sharp-weapons between Donnie Yen and Jackie Wu Jing in SPL (a personal favourite scene). Now, double the speed (!), and make the ultimate goal to stab, slice or otherwise eviscerate your opponent into oblivion, and you've got most of the hand-to-hand combat in THE RAID. Hero cop Iko Uwais has this neat little trick where he stabs a long blade deep into your upper thigh, then yanks that sucker clean down to you kneecap. Friggin ouch! This thing is Bloody with a capital B, but it's so exceptionally well choreographed, photographed and edited that you never lose sight of the geography surrounding the combatants or feel like you've missed a single blow or puncture as each new pair (or group!) of fighters grinds each other down. The editing in particular here is a standout, and it largely isn't used to hide little bits of phony business or make the fight participants look more skilled than they really are, such as it often is in so many action pictures these days (both in western, and, sadly, many Asian cinemas; CHEN ZHEN I'm looking at you). Evans' actors know their stuff, and his editing does more showing than telling.
As to the picture as a whole, if you thought the final 40 minutes of John Woo's HARD BOILED were collectively one of the greatest pieces of action cinema from anywhere ever, imagine that self-contained bliss expanded to feature length, and with virtually no unnecessary padding. The movie starts with a team of elite cops attempting to covertly secure a maze-like high-rise slum apartment building run by a merciless drug lord (when we first meet him, he's executing five bound and gagged men in his office, but he runs out of bullets for the fifth guy, which causes him to casually grab a hammer out of his desk drawer). WIthin literal minutes, though, the baddie' goons -- who populate every floor of the building like cockroaches, fight like rabid dogs and spontaneously appear around every corner and out of every doorway -- turn the tables and wipe out most of the fleet in a monster battle of guns, fists, feet and the ubiquitous knives, trapping just a precious few of our heroes on the sixth and seventh floors with little hope of escape. Aside from a couple of quiet moments where allegiances on both sides of the field shift, not unexpectedly, that's pretty much it in terms of plot, and it obvious the filmmakers would have it no other way. This is a showcase, for Silat, for Indonesia and for Iko Uwais, who is very much the "next Tony Jaa" (as I'm sure he'll be labeled far and wide), for better and, somewhat regrettably, for worse in terms of his country's film industry, for he may very well come to represent it around the globe. Not that I'm complaining after having been winded by such an audacious effort as THE RAID.
Trailer, just released Sept. 9
I also shot the Q&A, in case anyone's interested:
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Other TIFF screenings so far:FROM UP ON POPPY HILL
(2011; Japan) D: Goro Miyazaki 8/10URBANIZED
(2011; USA/UK) D: Gary Hustwit 9/10
From the director of the fantastic HELVETICA, this exploration of urban development, and how it often fails as much as it succeeds, should be required viewing for anyone who lives in or near a city.
And finally, one that Shawn in particular will get a kick out of:THE ARTIST
(2011; France) D: Michel Hazanavicius 9/10
This is by far the finest love letter to Hollywood's silent film era that I've ever
seen (not that there's too many to pick from, but still). In a nutshell, it's about a silent movie idol (Jean Dujardin) whose stock plummets with the advent of talkies, while the career of starlet Bérénice Bejo skyrockets thanks to an inadvertent photo op at the premier of Dujardin's latest blockbuster. Utterly charming throughout, and the period recreation -- and the era-specific techniques of filming -- is impeccable. For most of the duration, the film doesn't explain why its leading man is afraid to make the transition to talkies, and I confess that the lack of an explanation irked me throughout the film (as did the excessive time spent on Dujardin's down period), but the clever stinger at the end made me realize what a complete dupe I'd been. I suppose it was the casting of all those familiar American actors (John Goodman, James Cromwell, Malcolm McDowell, Penelope Ann Miller, many more) and the legitimate Hollywood locations -- that completely threw me off, much to my own delight when it was all over.
I also can't wait to get my hands on Ludovic Bource's beautiful soundtrack.