Friday, February 8, 2013

Assualt Girls - aka Easiest Blog Ever...

Ok. This week we chose to spin the roulette wheel of "foreign action films" and pick something we knew nothing about. And, sometimes when playing roulette you win big.

That was not the case with "Assault Girls" - aka Easiest Blog EVER! Why you ask? Well, let's get down to brass tacks here folks...

"Assault Girls" is a 2009 release written and directed by Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in a Shell, Ghost in a Shell 2, and various other anime titles). And, one would have thought perhaps that with such experience and directorial clout that this film would have been knocked straight out of the park.

No.

ABSOLUTELY no.


Our story begins with the longest, most epic backstory of all backstories in the history of backstories. However, there are no subtitles and the narration is drown out by the orchestration and electronic/video game blips, whirs, squees, etc. Only through the assistance of a few online resources (mainly IMDB) were we able to piece together that this is a movie about video game play.

(And with that, Kelly should have shut the movie off. ^_^)

ANYWAY!!!

So the film starts with "HOLY BACKSTORY BATMAN", which eats up a solid 5+ minutes and still somehow communicates nothing. Then you are dumped into the middle of the desert to watch an un-named man with a ridiculously large gun walk... for another solid 5+ minutes.  Where is this going? Not even the character seems to know. And so he walks, with the wind, and the sand, and the sun, and the gun, and the clanging cookware on his back, and the clouds. OH THE CLOUDS!!!! And as he walks you get the sense the he is all alone, and he shouldn't need the gun. But, he must be hunting.

And he's walking... and he's walking... and you're wondering if Netflix is somehow playing the wrong movie because you're a good 10 minutes in and there have been no girls or assaults as of yet. Oh, and there's some napping, too! At some point he stops and sets up his gun and decides, for no apparent reason, that this place of all places is going to be a really great spot to shoot stuff. And then promptly goes to sleep in what looks like the rubber chips they cover playgrounds with.

Then come the sand worms. Ok, so maybe his spot selection wasn't entirely random. Or maybe he just got lucky. But now these big land whale/worm things that look like they *may* have been stolen from a Kevin Bacon movie start popping up out of the ground. J├Ąger (that's the name of our hobo renegade) jumps up, starts shooting, and it suddenly clicks that this dude is playing a fully immersive RPG.

NOTE: If you read the description on Netflix before you press play (which we obviously didn't) you would know this. And now we all slap our foreheads.

So anyway, Mr. Hobo kills some big wormie things with lasers mounted on their heads. And while you are wondering where the land whale/worms got lasers, and how they managed to get them mounted up there, and whether they are controlling these lasers telapathically or what, the girls FINALLY show up, and get Mr. Hobo eaten by a wormy whale thing.

MMMMMMmmm NOM NOM NOM...Tastes like chicken.

A brief rundown of the "girls" in the movie, as is also provided at this point in the film, which is now already 25% over (yay!):

Gray - Just about as boring as her namesake, she flies about in a fighter plane with a cloaking device, and occasionally stops to snipe worms.

Colonel - Machine gun lady in a red feathery cape.

Lucifer - Conveniently, her player number is 666. She wears all black, and a little bowler hat, can turn into a giant raven, and dances. A lot. An unreasonable amount. Remember playing in your favorite MUD, there was always some jerk sitting in a corner of the tavern typing:

"dance <enter> dance <enter> dance <enter> dance <enter> dance <enter> dance <enter>" 

... and everyone had to holler at them to cut it out because no one could see what else was going on in the room? No, just me? Anyway, that jerk is Lucifer. Though more entertaining than the other two, she's like a semi-evil Charlie Chaplin that can sprout wings.

And NOW we get a title screen. 17 minutes into a 70 minute movie. What? There are also these chapter screen break things throughout the film that read like an RPG bible and make you feel like you're watching live action anime (oxymoron?) and teach you nothing.

It is also here in the coming scenes that we learn that the entire film is subtitled, despite the fact that most of it is in english. Very very bad english that is spoken only because its use is required within the game... which makes NO sense at all. OH... and it's all spoken through crazy gas masks that serve little to no purpose, as well as gunfire, screaming beasts, and Lucifer's squawking.. *sigh*

"Player 0538 (Hobo Renegade), it's too bad that you had to die. Do you wish to access the field again?" 

You're gonna hear this line a lot, from the disembodied voice that is the Game Master. He's going to float around in the ether giving advice and regenerating people

So Mr. Hobo is regenerated, and starts walking around again. The girls duke it out over a bunch of worms they are each trying to kill, blah blah blah, petty childish banter, blah blah blah, and then the Game Master tells them all they've pretty much used up all of their resources for the day and they should all just go home.

Kelly's dog and husband are now snoring. And the movie is.... 38% complete. *sigh again*

And then we notice, you know who's not subtitled? The freaking Game Master. The random dude from New Zealand who has so much reverb the television speakers threaten to go on strike. The man we could not understand in the beginning, and cannot understand now. Nice. So what is he trying to say?

In his very convoluted, roundabout and entirely garbled way, he tells each of the four players individually that they should probably consider joining a party to beat the biggest worm thing in the level, the name of which is incomprehensible, otherwise it will take them months to level up. What's this? A plot point? No... it can't be! He also tells hobo boy that he should probably look for some kind of transportation, which would not only help us out so we don't have to watch him walk everywhere, but is also ironic foreshadowing. It would be funny later, if you cared at all about the film.

The players promise to think about forming a party. And they do think. For the next 7 minutes. Staring into space, contemplative thinking, complete with lots of cloud scenes, no talking except for a replay of the Game Master's advice, a really bizarre solo dance scene for Lucifer.

And then there's a snail on a rock. It's a metaphor... BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN??? We don't know. We looked it up, and we still don't know.

More walking. Now everyone! More thinking. It has now been... oh wait, more clouds. More "better form a party because you cannot win this level solo" repetition from the Game Master. It's been 10 minutes. TEN! T-E-N!

And anyone who ever considered playing WoW but didn't is breathing a sigh of relief. If this film were a hard sell for video game play, we will all take a PASS, thank you.

So now Colonel comes across this statue of a person kneeling with a pack on their back and reading some kind of book. I can has cheat guide? Hmm... no, not so much. The statue appears to serve no purpose, except that it seems Colonel has picked up the previously aforementioned snail from the rock he was so happily sitting upon, and has walked him miles across the desert to place him on the head of this statue.

"Dammit woman! Do you have any idea how long it took me to get over there??? Now I'll never get home! YOU OWE ME RESTITUTION!!!!" 
- The Snail
(We're bored. Can you tell?)
We watch the snail crawl around on the statue for another few minutes (more clouds), Lucifer comes and puts her hat over the snail, who is now blinded and terrified and far from home. Hobo comes along a moment later, picks him up, and eats him. Right out of his shell. Umm. What? He puts the shell back on the statue, and then Gray comes along and smashes it.

WE DON'T UNDERSTAND YOU! 
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?????

More nature shots. Random dog wandering by statue. Probably looking for his friend snail who has been snail-napped and brutally slain. And then there's this really angry looking shaking daisy that's all like "ERHAMAGERRRRRRD!! CAN WE END THIS ALREADY???" 2/3 of the way in and there hasn't been a single assault. Well. Ok. Perhaps upon my intelligence and time. And maybe that empty snail shell. No assualt. No with the waputcha. And we really were looking for the waputcha.

Ok, we're gonna take a breath and recommit to this film. Hey look, eggs. And a lot of things written on the screen of augury. Hobo appears to be making a dinner of bread and eggs and bacon whilst the Game Master attempts to teach us about characters used in augury. What is Augury? And why aren't his eggs cooked properly? And why is he haphazardly slicing sectioned off bread?

OH THE HUMANITY WITH THE SLOPPY FOOD SCENE!?!!?!? 

What is it with the friggin Japanese and their slurping 10 minute food molesting scenes?? He hasn't even finished chewing and he's stuffing more... oh god... oh... blech.

And now the film is suddenly in Japanese. Sort of. What? Gray shows up to be a buzz kill and ruins the bacon molesting. Hobo renegade is angry, but follows her anyway. She leads him to a different middle of nowhere. Apparently somewhere in all of the cloudy business the three girls formed a party, and feel that they need this guy and his massive gun to join to help them kill the big boss wormy whale thing. Lucifer laughs like a bird, Gray and Mr. Hobo have a ridiculous Mortal Combat style four round fight to decide whether he will join their party (yay, some really bad punching!!!), he loses badly, they try to make it funny.... and... moving on.

So now they're all off to fight the big bad guy. 12 minutes left! The end is in sight! Aaaaaah, it's called a Madara. We know this only because it's written plainly on someone's GPS. Ummm... Oh no!! General Grievous has just popped out of the Apollo 13 space capsule and is plummeting toward earth! Or something. And I hope, for a moment, that the YS I just noticed on the back of Hobo's hat is somehow paying homage to the RPG of the same name, but that's neither here nor there.
Hobo is set up to shoot, the girls are all set to distract, and General Grievous is on his way, though we're not sure why. Ooooh, that's why. Colonel apparently ordered him and is now controlling his large crazy body telepathically to blow things up. Lucifer dances some more. DAMMIT WOMAN STOPPIT! Oh wait. Apparently when she decides to stop dancing, Lucifer has the power of green aspoldie hands. So there's some asploding.... hobo shoots... and the madara is dead. Holy anticlimactic. Even Luke Skywalker missed once.

So everyone gets all excited, Mr. Hobo gets all emotional and weepy, celebrations abound... and then the girls take off in their transport devices, leaving hobo in their dust to go collect their points. He gets ticked and tries to shoot the girls down.

And it's over. Wait, what? Where did the movie go? Stuff was blowing up. I... wait... oh never mind.

Brimming with high-impact action and breathtaking special effects, this film will... hahaha. Just kidding. Don't watch it. Seriously. Unless you really like clouds. And the angry flower is ok. And maybe Lucifer's dance stuff is entertaining for a second. It's only 70 minutes of your life I guess, but I'm sure you could come up with better things to do with 70 minutes.

So, until next blog... don't watch this film.

- The Mavens

Friday, February 1, 2013

Sacrifice -

SACRIFICE - 
An epic tail of manipulation, betrayal, murder, and what happens when you just can't let things go.


So, we started our year off with a bang, watching "Sacrfice", a classic, epic, loooooong Chinese style tale of epic manipulation and tragedy. We weren't sure of the punching, kicking, swords, with the SCHA-WIIIIING... but it looked good, and there is a cute baby involved. And who doesn't love a classic Chinese tail of manipulation, betrayal, death and burning?

Sacrifice is a 2010 film written by Ningyu Zhao, directed by Kaige Chen, and stars:
-You Ge
-Xueqi Wang
-Xioaming Huang
- Bing Bing Fan
... and a WHOLE other huge cast of poeple.

Our film starts during one of the MANY feudal time in Chinese history. Is this story based on real events ? Pffft... we don't really know. Could be. China has probably one of the most complex, diverse, socially colorful, never ending, massively sized feudal histories that has ever been documented.

None-the-less!!!

The story is set in the Jin state (11th Century BC), which was part of the Zhou Dynasty. The Jin state has fallen apart and has been split into three squabbling states: Han, Zhou, and Wei. This move ended the "Spring & Autumn Period", and marks the beginning of the "Warring States Period". Good times...

Ok so, our story begins as follows: The leader of the state is a bumbling moron. He was put into place as a puppet for the General of Badassery, Tu'An Gu, and has pretty much been manipulated the entirety of his life. And, this is not uncommon in these stories. The leader's sister is Princess Zhuang, and she is married into the Zhao family.  Soon the Princess Zhuang shows up on the scene preggers and with husband (General Zhao Shuo), in tow. General Zhao and his Dad, Zhao Dun, have a bit of a terse relationship with Tu'An Gu. 

NOW, in a random noodle house along the processional route, you are introduced to Dr. Chen Ying, who has been asked to check up on the pregnant princess as she prepares to deliver a son, and heir, to the Zhao family. Dr. Chen's wife has juuuust delivered a son of their own. Keep that in your mind for later. It's important.

Ok. So, in the interest of you all, and to prevent an insane amount of confusing story line twists and turns, and subtleties that are larger implications of stuff and things... we will sum up the structure of the first half of the film as follows:

Tu'An Gu is a bad man. A very, VERY bad man. His interested are in power and domination. And, since he has no wife to keep him in check or to soften his demeanor (as is the case in most historical films), no children to lose to war, he's just a bad man.

He sets up an elaborate scheme to kill the ruler of the state, but frame the Zhao family. Upon this framing, he intends to "justifiably" slaughter the Zhao family as traitors... including the unborn baby. BUT, he sort of wants to spare Princess Zhuang... because she's pretty hott. 


Death and burning, General Zhao dies in the arms of Princess Zhuang. She goes into labor. Baby is born. She asks the doctor to sneak the baby out of the guest house. Right hand man to Tu'An Gu shows up to confiscate said baby. Wrestle, wrestle, wrestle... sword drawn, bad guy slips on a fish, baby flies through the air, princess kills herself as a distraction technique and point of bargaining, baby escapes with doctor, right hand man gets his eye cut out for letting it happen.


Ok. Ya' got all of that? 
Good. 
Let's move on.

So, Doctor Chen is trying to rush home with the Zhao family baby. His wife has a newborn baby as well, so the doctor "asks" her to be the wet nurse to the baby. Naturally she's a bit pissed off by this as her husband has now put his entirely family in peril as the baby-hunt is on by Tu'An and his henchmen. He heads out to find the "point man" that he has been instructed to hand the baby off to. While the doctor is out, the henchmen go door-to-door all "Moses and the Pharoah" like, collecting all of the baby boys for ransom. See, their going to find this Zhao kid, even if it wastes time and resources and makes Tu'An look like a giant jackass. Because Tu'An WILL have the last word. And that's final. Period.

So, the Zhao baby get's taken, the doctor's baby get's left behind. The husband is irate with his wife. He  quickly develops an elaborate scheme wherein he sends his wife and son into hiding while he tries to get the Zhao baby back, claiming a switched at the crib scenario. 

The guards and Tu'An threaten to kill all of the boy babies unless the pilferer of the Zhao baby comes forth. Yaddah yaddah yaddah, the doctor gets the baby back, claims that his wife escaped the city with the baby and Mr. Point Man. Tu'An heads out to investigate, find the Point Man, the Doctor's wife, and their son... slaughters them all, punting their sun into the floor as if he'd made a Hail Mary touchdown, and then hands the living Zhao family baby back to Doctor Chen, because... well, let's be honest. I think even Tu'An was confused by all of this Scooby Doo back and forth business. 

And it is at this point that you WILL want a box of kleenex as this whole thing is about 60 minutes of sad, sad, sad slaughter of innocent people. 

Ok. NOW to get into the meat portion of the movie. You are left with the inconsolably destroyed Dr. Chen and the helplessly orphaned Zhao baby. Dr. Chen goes home, locks the baby safely away and proceeds to drink himself stupid. How many days is he out? Who knows. But when Chen awakens, he realizes what he's done and rushes off to check on the well being of the baby. THANK GOD all is ok. He dedicates himself at this point to raise the baby as his son, according to the wishes of Princess Zhuang. Insert montage of him scraggly and worn looking, feeding rice porridge to this infant, mumbling to himself... (insert the crying here)

All of sudden, one night, a young man with a gashed up face comes to his door for help. He's obviously an outcast or bandit trying to NOT be seen... OH WAAAAAAIT!!! It's that fish slipper from the palace! His life was spare, his face mangled, and essentially given a "dishonorable discharge" for being an utter screwup. Dr. Chen heals his face, and over time they become friends and discuss the future of the infant Zhao. With time it is revealed that Dr. Chen intends to raise the child, allow him to get close to Tu'An so that he may murder and thus avenge his family line AND Dr. Chen's family as well.

Shortly after this conversation, Dr. Chen marches to the palace and pretty much demands that Tu'An take him in because "YOU OWE ME!!!", which in our book was a pretty bold step. Bravo Chen. Bravo. And so the painstaking process of "forming a bond between the man you despise and the surrogate child you have come to love in order to pull off THE BEST payback of epic burnination ever" begins.

Insert a long montage regarding Tu'An becoming close to Chen's adopted son, spoiling, training to become a guard, lectures on trusting no-one, angst, burning, rejection, denial... And yes, we're sort of glossing over this because, if we give too much away there will be nothing for you to truly enjoy in this film.

The whole film ends with a gut wrenching "Go into the light" montage that one cannot aptly summarize for the purposes of this blog. However, the story is good, the ending is in fact gut wrenching, the costuming is SUPERAWESOMAZING, the cinematography great, the storyline is one of classical Chinese political power struggles. Not a whole lot of WHAPUTCAH (punching) in this film. But, it is a good film. 


SO, enough with this typing and talking. Go rent it. Watch it. Love it. Bring your Kleenex. Meet us here again next week (hopefully) where we will discuss the finer points of "Merantau: Becoming a Man, Indonesia style"

- The Mavens