The Movie Buffer

Thursday, September 28, 2006

You're looking at the newest BlogCritic!

I was recently accepted into a sinister cabal of online critics known only as BlogCritics. It's a pretty keen site. I'll still be posting here, because they don't want articles that just shoot the breeze. You can reach them here:

So, this site may be getting an influx of new readers and more comments on each post! As a side bonus to joining this team, I'll be able to get press releases and perhaps review copies of upcoming movies.

The only difference between my postings here and the ones will be that in the versions I am required to link to related items on

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science News

Here's some news that have happened over the the past few months:

On july 5, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released their new member invitation list in all its glory. Found here.
* Note: Dakota Fanning is on the list. Trying to get them young, just like the tobacco companies.

A month later, they invited 83 foreign countries to submit films, in the category of foreign language film, to be judged for their prestigious awards. Found here.

Afterwards, the IRS wants to tax the pants off anyone who accepts the gift baskets. Peaceful resolution found here.

Ellen Degeneres was chosen to be the host of the awards ceremony. Found here. Chris Rock or Jon Stewart would have been my picks to reprise their roles as host.

Yesterday, the contest for average-joes to win tickets to see the fabulous award ceremony from the red carpet closed. Hopefully, my entry is picked so on a frigid February morning I would be boarding a plane to sunny Los Angeles. Found here.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Azumi 1 and 2

*** Note ***

Do you think your small spoilers can defeat my wu-dang style?


These movies were released in 2003 and 2005, respectively. My friendly neighborhood, mom and pop video store in china-town had copies for rental. The versions I got were the Japanese cuts, there certainly will be different editions for North America. Azumi is slated to be released on October 6.

These movies are based on a particularly graphic comic book of the same title. The movies are set at the beginning of the feudal wars in Japan – a tempestuous time when no one had any control over of the country and the future seemed as bleak as the hard times of the past. What does this mean for the casual viewer? Lots and lots of ninjas.

A former army general rounds up and trains a group of children to be master assassins. As the kids grow, their expertise surpasses any regular warrior. Once their training is complete they finally learn the truth about their mission. Then they realize that war and killing is a complex and ethically ambiguous endeavor. Azumi, who is the female lead and the heroine of the story, is very conflicted about all her actions, whereas some of her teammates approach the debate with cold, mechanical efficiency and others absolutely break down. As the mission continues, more and more of the Azumi’s friends are killed off, leading up to a final confrontation and battle.

The first movie flows into the second without missing a step. It would seem that they made the movies simultaneously. But, I should warn you that they weren’t actually shot by the same director. Azumi was directed by Ryuhei Kitamura and Azumi2 by Shusuke Kaneko. Once the second film pulls away from the end of the first movie, this becomes rather apparent because Kaneko does not have the same level of artistry or expertise with creating the shots and maintaining the action.

The movie stars Aya Ueto, a well known Japanese Idol, meaning she acts, sings and is very cute. This was not a very complicated part to play but she did it as well as anyone could have expected from a martial arts movie. The other actors can’t stretch their acting skills because their characters are one dimensional. There are some notable cameos in these two films: In the first, Video game designer Hideo Kojima (Metal gear Solid Series) appears as a wild, staff wielding ninja. In the second, Chiaki Kuriyama (Gogo from the Kill Bill series) appears as a temperamental traveling performer.

Azumi was a fun filled ninja movie with plenty of action and enough backstory to make the viewer care about the characters. Though there are flaws, the production values of the special effects was pretty low, the acting was suspect and there wasn’t enough character building to make the characters very interesting, these are all present in every other action film.

Azumi 2: Death or Love, on the other hand, was brutally difficult to watch because the director tried retcon all kinds of new information into the previous movie. Since the separation of the films is non-existent, it cheapens watching the first movie because none of the details remain. An example of this in the he first film, Azumi buries her fallen comrades and in the second film some of them have escaped their graves and again walk the earth.

The first film was an interesting film with a few plot holes but as a whole it worked for me. For the great fight scenes, the interesting if not goofy side kicks and overall enjoyment of this film it gets a 7/10 or 3 out of 5 stars.

The second film was a dreary attempt to recreate the first movie without any consideration of the logical evolution of the characters, the story or the action. There are many fight scenes but they are haphazardly pasted together with a with a paper thin plot. For the terrible new additions to the story, the unpolished looks of the shots and a general failure to build on the framework that was left by the first movie, this film gets a 4/10 or 1.5 stars out of 5.

Monday, September 11, 2006



If you read under 50 words a minute, this movie will be spoiled.


Putting aside all the other Speed pot-shots that can be made…well, maybe just one more - Crank is even another name for speed. Okay, with that out of the system on to the review.

This is a simple, summer flick but that is little excuse for the huge shame this movie is. I was surprised at how bad this movie was all I was expecting was an angry British guy, some soccer hooligan-type violence and a couple explosions.

Crank revolves around an assassin Chevy Chelios (Jason Statham) getting poisoned and his last wish to get revenge on the man that has essentially killed him. The poison is supposed to work into his heart, over the course of one hour, and cause it to implode. Cue the chase music, lights, camera, pyrotechnics and we’re off to the races.

This film was written and directed by a duo of fresh new film makers, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. With two guys working on this film they definitely should have found a better way to spend 87 minutes. There was nothing about this movie that attractive of eye catching. They really should have watched some other pictures in the same vein to see what works and what doesn’t. I guess they tried to eyeball lots of the shots and it ended up being sloppy.

Statham (Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, The Transporter) and Amy Smart (The Butterfly Effect and a bevy of Teen flicks) are on autopilot throughout this movie. Statham, who I know can play desperate and angry, should have channeled far more into his part. Smart just had to look good and play innocent but she didn’t even do that well, but she did get naked for the part. The directors tapped, Efren Ramirez (Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite) to lighten up the film as a drug-addled raver. As funny as that sounds, it doesn’t come off like that on film.

The single ray of light from the actors in this film is Dwight Yoakam, who plays a Hunter S. Thompson-like mob doctor. His was the only character that didn’t utterly phone their performance in. Unfortunately, he appears for only about 5 minutes.

To put it simply:

This movie is excrement.

Save Yoakam and Ending scene, everything was terrible. There was nothing to make the viewer care about any of the characters, there wasn’t an interesting villain and no comical one-liners. When a car chase was running long they just threw in something like, the hero needs to say goodbye to his girl-friend, to break the monotony. The poison could have incited some interesting visuals effects but they relied on boring, blurry slo-mo graphics. After an hour of utter failure I was dreading the ending, but it surprised me: they finished the movie in a logical way!

Rather than watching this film you should watch Speed and The 25th Hour and then imagine them combined. Now that would be a great movie! This piece of junk gets a 2/10 or 0.5 star out of five. The greatest relief in this movie is that they didn’t tack on a Disney ending where everyone is happy, and some dancing bears show up and the music swells.