Quickie: Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder (2003)

Ha. You and I both know that David Fincher wishes he had made this bombastic movie.

Memories of Murder contains: an ingenious script, an ingenious premise, ingenious directing, ingenious execution, ingenious characters, ingenious performances, ingenious twists, ingenious reveals, ingenious asperities, ingenious pacing, and man, if that isn’t an ingenious finale that just gashes you in the heart, then I don’t know what is! These are ALL the key ingredients needed to make a PERFECT mystery, crime thriller—which Memories of Murder most certainly is.

Well, that moment at time-stamp 1:41:53 was REALLY stupid. Like, c’mon.

But other than that scene, I’m supremely determined that Memories of Murder is a faultless movie. I think the toughest scheme that this movie manages to accomplish is allowing the viewers to grasp firmly why detectives are sometimes inclined to get down and dirty with their suspects. There’s just so much awful shit out there in the world, you know? It’s hard not to let your emotions take over control instead of your more lawful mindset. I got Prisoner vibes all over again—this is a swell thing, by the way.

I’m still a tad shook that this stuff actually happened in real life, howbeit. 

But please, let’s get Bong Joon-ho on the next Scooby-Doo project this instant! #FulfillMyChildhoodDreamsBong

Verdict: A

“Memories of Murder” is now available to stream on YouTube, Amazon Prime, iTunes, and Google Play.

Quick-Thoughts: Takashi Miike’s First Love

First Love, the 90th flick in Takashi Miike’s chaotically spacious and blood-drenched filmography, is a relatively diverting performance that unapologetically attempts to be the Fargo of Japanese cinema; evident in its developed moral intentions yet miserably underdeveloped and overcrowded plot. 

First Love’s acting, dialogue and (some of the) action spectacles, however, are substantial and prove that Miike, writer Masa Nakamura, and their casting manager still have their creative dexterities intact. Phew. 

In the end, at any rate, I wouldn’t say that I fancied First Love, but I’m far from saying that I hated it. It’s just a thing that…exists, to me. Ouch, I know. 

Verdict: C

2019 Ranked

“First Love” is now playing in select theaters. 

Quickie: Ichi the Killer (2001)

Tarantino must have lost his shit when he saw this movie.

I’ve got to hand it to Takashi Miike, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a more intimidating gang of killers than Kakihara’s coldblooded squad. Ichi the Killer is like if Twisted Picture’s insanely graphic, distasteful Saw sequels were mildly artistic. It…uniquely…explores how murder can be an act committed not necessarily by one’s self directly, but through the selfish manipulation of another, tormented host. Kind of like…Saw? Hold up. WAIT A MINUTE. 

If you know me though, I’m one sick f###, so I can safely say that this film was a BEYOND peachy experience. It’s violent-er than violence and weirder than weirdness. Can’t wait to see Audition, 13 Assassins, The Happiness of the Katakuris, First Love, and more!

Lastly, Kakihara is a prime example of a supporting character who outshines the main protagonist. Spin-off, spin-off, SPIN-OFF! 

Verdict: A-

“Ichi the Killer” is now available to stream on Amazon Prime, Vudu, YouTube, and Google Play.

Todd Phillip’s Joker Is (Sort Of) This Century’s Fight Club

WARNING: SPOILERS FOR JOKER AND FIGHT CLUB AHEAD 

Click Here to Read My Spoiler-Free OG Review!

2nd Viewing

After reconceiving Joker, I’ve concocted this crazy correlation. Ready? Joker is this century’s Fight Club. Now, hear me out.

• Both movies purposely tampered with the execution’s perspective so that the viewers could feel as schizophrenic as the film’s characters. The whole affair feels spontaneously soiled so that it can allow us to sympathize with our protagonist who is audibly mentally ill.

• Both movies use violence as a means to show what can happen to a group of overlooked individuals. Even if Fight Club’s intentions are fleshed out SIGNIFICANTLY more, Fight Club is more of a hate-film towards consumerism rather than how we handle civilians. Joker, suitably, motors more as the hate-film towards how we manage and “deal with” people who have mental illnesses.

• Both movie’s main protagonist is somebody who starts off as a nobody and progressively rises to a position of leadership amongst vicious individuals who feel oppressed and corrupted by the system.

• Both movies are partially a character study of somebody who is mentally ill and is suggested to have suicidal tendencies.

• There’s a Tyler Durden twist in Joker involving Arthur’s lover. That’s a given. 

• Critics initially didn’t really support Fight Club because of its rebellious messages that it accomplished through anarchist-inspired activities. But give it a decade or two down the road and maybe, people will start to understand the unorthodox, grim genius of it all.

Yes, I’m a little tentative to see that people are complaining about how The King of Comedy and Taxi Driver references are too imprudent in Joker, but I honestly believe that the whole ordeal is more stoutly influenced by the ungovernable tendencies of Fight Club.

Okay, but in spite of this movie basically being the comic-book, origins version of Fight Club with a creepy Joaquin Phoenix sprinkled in the mix, this re-watch confirmed to me that Joker is still, with no ifs or buts, brilliant. I needed this immediate revisit to confirm these feelings on such an interesting film.

And, the Joker’s big talk-show moment is certainly a contender for my top three favorite scenes of 2019. Powerful, unsettling stuff.

“The worst part about having a mental illness is that people expect you to behave as if you don’t.” Quote of the year right there. Damn, that’s hefty.

Verdict: B+

2019 Ranked

“Joker” is now playing in theaters. 

Joker: Controversial, Maniac, Political, Ambitious; It’s Exactly What Mainstream Cinema Should Be All About

Spoiler-Free Review!

Wow, I have…so much…to say about this…

Todd Phillips’s Joker is one of the most forbidding pieces of cinematic design to come to mind especially in recent years. Using its visually repulsive presentation to seize uncanny validity and to strike audiences worldwide of the truth about a terrorizing infection that’s leaked into the veins of every individual around the world, this film rivets its audience through all the grimmest corners of life before eventually abandoning them, pretending like they don’t exist, and giving up on them like how a fictional yet inspired world would give up on a supposed nobody like Arthur Fleck—a man dealing with the life-threatening weight of psychological anxieties. It’s brutal because it needs to be, and it’s unrestricted because it should have that right to be. I mean, how dare Hollywood try to make a legitimately compelling movie that’s produced for an exceedingly wide audience while finally dealing with serious matters like the dire consequences of avoiding mental health issues! Right?

I’m being sarcastic, by the way. In case you didn’t catch on.

Joaquin Phoenix transforms the character of the Joker into his own cynical, little puppet. He’s nothing like Ledger, nothing like Hamill, nothing like Nicholson, and thank goodness nothing like Leto. He’s putting on this petty “I’m fake happy” act throughout the majority of the nightmare and it just screeches all the crucial attributes of a “troubled sociopath.” It’s mind-boggling and frankly inventive how off-beat from society Phoenix makes Arthur appear in the film’s execution—which goes hand in hand with Todd Phillip’s surprisingly impressive directing. At this point, I’m not going to say that Joaquin Phoenix deserves an Oscar. He’s far past that. He’s far BETTER than that. They need to make like a whole, re-innovated rendition of the “Oscar” for people (limited to like, five individuals) who will be looked at as acting gods in the future. Whatever that may be, he deserves one of those instead. 

Todd Phillips’s directing in Joker is, again, I can’t believe I’m saying this, kind of astounding. Coming from a guy I was unnecessarily skeptical about considering he’s made only one out of maybe like three movies that I’d consider “good,” the dude does some fairly bewildering work on making the presentation of the movie feel evocative. Lawrence Sher’s cinematography needs recognition, bearing in mind, it’s inherently flawless. Most folks seem to be split on Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score, but I found it to be absolutely fitting with the film’s unmatched tone. It’s brilliant, shocking, and emotional during all the right moments. She did an underrated job on Sicario: Day of the Soldado and now she’s doing an underrated job on Joker.

While Joker’s directing, acting, cinematography, and musical composition may seem to be operating victoriously, the one deficiency that I believe held Joker down from being some “magnum opus” of violent, entertainment affairs, were portions of the script. The story for about the first half of the movie felt very convenient, and I began to get reasonably worried that the movie was going nowhere. All that banal “bulling” material that happens to Arthur was as barbarically absurd as they were in the trailers, and Arthur and Zazie Beetz’s character, Sophie’s relationship, (at first!) felt more underdeveloped than the entire city of Detroit. However, as the story progressed, plot details only got brawnier and characters became meatier through fresh plot disclosures. I’m not afraid to admit that I love what Phillips has done with the Joker story. He’s completely twisted in a way that will have comic-book loyalists in a hissy-fit but optimistics bewildered.

Even with these advantages, nevertheless, I’m not going to sit back and prattle at you that this movie’s script is perfect; it’s a tad chaotic. Clearly, though, it’s going for an exaggerated interpretation of its content which I was acceptably fine with. I can suspend my disbelief for one, whole, enthralling movie.

In the thick of it all, I think I’m just predominately riddled by Joker because I didn’t expect it to feel so Indie-like? Candidly, it’s not fast-paced, it takes its time, and its progression of being dry to becoming brilliance may seem unwelcomed to contemporary viewers (especially to those who are used to seeing the average, pedestrian comic-book adaptation). I’d almost describe it as if the perspective was purposely mucky and arbitrary but for a good cause. The consecutive experience feels very delusional, as if the story isn’t supposed to be told sensibly, but with, instead, some cinematic party tricks that catalyzes you to feel like you’re seeing the world through Arthur’s wrongly tampered mind.

One element I must applaud is probably also Joker’s most unexpected strand. I think it’s crucial that viewers recognize and discuss what Joker has to say about avoiding “abuse.” What Phillips’s script is concerning in terms of poor parenting and how it can truly take a toll on children while entirely shaping the future of human society is so unforeseen yet momentous. It really sold me on just how intuitive this movie is hidden under its painted, camouflaged skin.

And yes, let’s (without spoilers, of course) talk about that third act. Talk about maliciously intense stuff! I don’t think I’ve felt this tense because of a finale since I saw Martin Scorsese’s The Departed for the first time. Clearly, this strenuous climax isn’t some sick campaign to make us vicious individuals. It’s, preferably, meant to scare us and to show us how easy this or a country can fall apart if we continue to ignore the less unfortunate people in this world—especially those trapped in poverty. Yes, the whole ordeal isn’t meant to really dig extraordinarily deep but is simply aimed to show us that it exists and that it’s TERRIFYING.

If the “professional” reviews for Joker (69% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 58 on Metacritic) and Captain Marvel (78% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 64 on Metacritic) can, at the very least, tell us anything, it can confirm that there is a serious, damaging political and company bias lodged into American entertainment culture these days. Joker certainly isn’t a flawless masterpiece, but it certainly isn’t vanilla, copy-and-paste cereal like Captain Marvel. This sort of topic is for another article, another day, nonetheless. Excuse my outrage.

I find it funny how this new, sensitive world we’re dwelling in whole-heartedly believes that Joker is “inciting violence,” when clearly it’s using the detestable city of Gotham—a place that is on the mere verge of losing its marbles—to impersonate the current state of America (or the plausible future state of America, or sincerely, at this point, the future state of any other country) and how violent we’ve currently become as a collective. In a modern-day society where people are primarily focusing on banning material properties to stop violence, rather than chiefly concentrating on digging at the root (the science! the humanity!) of the problem (mental health) which so many Americans are suffering under today, it makes sense that ignorant individuals would perceive Joker as some annihilistic wake-up call to ignite violence.

I want to leave this review off on a joke though (let’s end this with a smile!), so I guess I’ll say that I didn’t expect Joker to be so...serious.

Haha.

Verdict: B+

2019 Ranked

“Joker” will be released in theaters on October 4, 2019. 

Quickie: Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull (1980)

I feel like Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader are one person. They both understand each other as if they shared the same, ingenious brain. They’re indisputably an unstoppable union.

Raging Bull is officially my all-time favorite sports movie as of now. Considering I’m more of a “people” person vs a “jabs and punches” person—even though the jabs and punches in this movie are INSANE—it would explain why. Martin Scorsese’s black-and-white drama creates paranoid characters like no other tour de force through some of cinema’s sharpest dialogue and acting. Rocky wishes it could be The Bull.

George Carlin is right, ya know? We should all be worshipping Joe Pesci. That dude knows how to get shit done.

Verdict: A+

Martin Scorsese Ranked

“Raging Bull” is now available to stream on YouTube, Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, Netflix, and Cinemax.

Quickie: Hoop Dreams (1994)

3 reasons why Hoops Dreams is currently my favorite sports movie (besides The Wrestler, Moneyball, and I, Tonya) ever:

1) There’s no cheesy hogwash sprinkled in it—but that most likely has to do with the fact that it’s an impartially told documentary. The whole ordeal is brutally honest.

2) The movie tackles many years of two individuals’ lives; it’s not just about one “special” game that a team gravely must win or something of that matter. We get to see the strong-willed progression of two passion-driven careers in the making. 

3) Kevin Costner, Dennis Quaid, or Charlie Sheen isn’t blabbering and coaching someone on how we should live our lives because some buffoon missed the ball on one of his/her batting hits during a game. 

This is also the only time that I will accept a movie that was filmed on a potato. It’s that good. 

For those concerned, take my rating of Hoop Dreams with a grain of salt. Me giving a documentary a “B” is like the everyday cinephile giving a documentary an “A.” Documentaries are really not my forte—generally speaking—but when I’m able to genuinely enjoy one, that’s mighty-high praise from mwah. 

And the next time The Criterion Channel stops my viewing of a movie (a whole two hours into it, not to mention) that’s leaving at the end of the month before that month actually ends, I will rain hell upon the company with furious anger! I had fifty minutes left on Hoop Dreams! ONLY FIFTY MORE MINUTES. 

Amazon Prime coming in with the clutch save though.

Verdict: B

“Hoop Dreams” is now available to rent and buy on YouTube, Amazon Prime, Google Play, and iTunes.

Quickie: Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy (1982)

It’s tough being a celebrity, and it’s even tougher being a fan. 

The King of Comedy is possibly the finest character study about an individual who craves a celebrity status. It dabbles with obsession, daydreaming, retribution, expectations, and the subliminal consequences that come with these notions. I think if there’s anything we should learn from this intuitive film, it’s that, you should never strive to be your muse. Strive to be something different and not just someone who’s famous; none of that copy-and-paste, miracle rubbish.

Wait, one last precept: legitimately do the activities you want to do as a career in public. Like, if you want to be a comedian, don’t just practice in your mom’s apartment building until your 34-years-old. Perform at clubs; start at the bottom and work your way up! Like a wise man (Shia LaBeouf) once said, “Just do it!”

Verdict: A-

Martin Scorsese Ranked

“The King of Comedy” is now available to stream on Vudu, YouTube, Amazon Prime, iTunes, and Google Play.

Men I Trust’s Oncle Jazz is the Musical Highlight of 2019

Men I Trust, an alt-pop/neo-psychedelia band from Montreal, Quebec, Canada, continues their reign of producing the most heavenly-inspired, borderline Twin-Peaks-porn music there is on the platform by gifting fans of the wildly pacifying and transcending tunes with their brand new 24-track (yes, you heard correctly) album, Oncle Jazz.

A few songs on this LP, to be fair though, have been released before in the past two years; Tailwhip being the band’s most popular single in all their 5-year career and placed slightly behind Tailwhip‘s #1 spot, we also have their exotic hit Show Me How. The atmospherically dynamic piece You Deserve This has been around since 2017 and their more recent single Say Can You Here rides victoriously due to its refreshingly speedy pace. Then comes Numb (my favorite song of the year thus far), Seven, and I Hope to Be Around; the three being my all-time personal favorites of Men I Trust’s entire discography. And last but certainly not least, Norton Commander, being their latest bestseller. The track has nearly a half-million views and was released only four months before the album’s official release.

The weight has been lifted off my shoulders because I can safely say the rest of the tracks on Oncle Jazz are nearly as emblematic or as fruitful as the tracks previously mentioned above. Emma Proulx’s vocals on every single track are so heavenly and divinely presented that many may consider them the closest sound that can convince one into a pure, unalloyed relaxation mode.

Oncle Jazz (the track) is an endearing introduction to the album, in fact, all of the short interludes on the LP are exquisite; this is not limited to tracks like Slap Pie which has an orgasmic bassline and immediately right after, Fiero GT which sounds like it was pulled straight out of Pink Floyd’s The Wall with a Men I Trust touch to it. Poodle Mud would have to be my favorite intermission of the group considering its droopy aesthetic but slight edge and rebellious bassline really adds a neat tonal inclusion to the album.

Found Me, All Night, Pines, and Pierre are definitely the newer standouts on the LP that clearly aim to be the more mature pieces of Men I Trust’s discography; the production sounds grander and more applicable to a wider range of music listeners. These four songs additionally have the potential of becoming smash hits for the band since they embrace their pop recipe with vitality. Found Me reminds me of an 80s synth hit (and a good one at that) with Men I Trust’s usual catchy ballads. All Night takes the band a decade further and presents itself as this mixed mutation of a 90s jazz/pop piece that took its tempo down to a much slower pace in order to produce soporific implications. Emma’s vocals even seem to be a bit more prideful than usual on this track. Pines is an interesting song that has graciously authentic acoustics and an unexpected robotic vocal accompaniment that secretively sounds like one of the legendary robots from Daft Punk. Pierre sees Emma distinctly at her most persuasive and boldly takes the spot as the LP’s primary emotional puller. The instrumentals are dazzling especially when it came down to the involvement of flutes which was a delightful surprise.

Tailwhip Revisited is the only track I would have to say I wasn’t too cheery about on Oncle Jazz. It’s a pointless remix that should’ve unquestionably been replaced with their single Lauren, which I’m still left a tad confused on why it isn’t on the album in the first place. Furthermore, one could argue that a lot of their songs are too tonally similar, and while I do think it’s a fair criticism, I think there’s just enough musical diversion in the album as a whole to justify its extensive mood. It’s hard to argue or deeply critique such a gifted group of individuals who produce some of the dreamiest of dreamy melodies. You simply don’t really witness music like this being crafted anymore in the 21st Century.

Men I Trust are doing what The Beatles did for Rock and Roll or what Madonna did for Classic Pop, but, instead, with Dream-Pop. Yes, indeed; Oncle Jazz will be forever remembered as a quintessential landmark for its genre.

Verdict: A-

“Oncle Jazz” is now available to stream on Spotify, Deezer, Play Music, iHeartRadio, and Apple Music.

My Slightly Mismatched Opinions I Now Have After Watching Avengers Endgame Again

Spoiler Alert! Duhhh.

2nd Viewing  

• I still dig Avengers: Endgame, don’t get me wrong, but man oh man does this movie NOT hold up on a rewatch when compared to comic-book films like Guardians of the Galaxy, Infinity War, The Dark Knight, or etc., etc., etc.

• The first thirty minutes and maybe the last thirty minutes of Avengers: Endgame are the two grandest accomplishments Marvel Studios has ever produced—if you subtract all the time-travel portions. The simple, hardy moments between the Avengers are quite frankly my favorite moments. Seeing superheroes act as humans always cease to disappoint.

• RDJ is clearly the best asset of the entire MCU. Needed to mention that again.

• The second act manages to simultaneously be a respectful love-letter to long-time fans but also a cheaply-constructed nostalgia cop-out. During this act, the plot is shiftlessly convenient-heavy—more convenient-heavy than possibly any other Marvel movie out there. Some segments are sweet and peachy though, I’ll admit that.

• The way this movie attempts to introduce/explain/execute all the time-travel, mumbo-jumbo stuff can go to hell, sorry. Everything completely contradicts itself when you get down to it and it’s genuinely obnoxious how the film seeks to treat it like it’s more measured than other time-travel movies.

• Noobmaster69 will be revealed as Thanos’s backup plan in Avengers 5, mark my words.

• Tony Stark miraculously figuring out time-travel in a matter of minutes is one of the most insensible plot conveniences in cinematic history.

• You can certainly feel the time in Endgame especially when compared to Infinity War. Like…significantly.

• Hawkeye is one of the best Avengers. Prove me wrong.

• It’s devastatingly awkward watching Endgame without an audience. There are so many moments where there are these mini-pauses, which I believe the filmmakers intentionally lodged so that fans could clap for a while. Haha.

“And I…am…Iron Man,” will go down as one of the most famous movie quotes of the 21st Century. Most likely.

• Wasn’t Tony’s funeral just wonderful? Glad to see that Natasha got one just as marvelous as he did…

• I couldn’t have asked for a finer closing shot.

Shazam > Endgame. Sorry, fellas!

• I almost love this movie 3000. Almost.

• Watching this right after binging The Boys season 1 was quite the mistake. That show takes the cake for best superhero property of the year by a landslide. I know this is off-topic, but if you haven’t seen The Boys and you are a fan of comic-book films or TV shows, you are doing yourself the biggest disfavor by missing out on it. Amazon Prime, baby!

Verdict Change: A- —> B-

MCU Ranked

“Avengers: Endgame” is now available to stream on Vudu, YouTube, Google Play, and Amazon Prime.