Tag Archives: seedy underbelly

The Chaser: Korea Keeps Kickin’ It

Should I ever be surprised now when Korea delivers with another amazingly dark and heart pumping thriller movie? I think at this point I just accept that those Krazy Koreans know just how to do it right. Chan Wook-Park and the Revenge Trilogy, I Saw The Devil, and now The Chaser. I hadn’t heard much about this one, but now I will actively be on the lookout for Na Hong-jin after this one. In his debut film, we are

A pimp pushed to the edge to use his strong hand.

introduced to a sadistic killer and a former cop turned pimp and his desire to get back his employees. With a seedy feeling underneath the whole thing, this movie explores the shortcomings of the justice system in catching what’s right in front of them.

As I said before, Eom Joong-ho (Kim Yoon-seok) is an ex-cop turned more lucrative business owner of a ladies of the night agency. He has recently been sending his ladies to the same man and they don’t seem to be coming back to him. This troubles him (he is losing money, after all) and he starts actively seeking out this man stealing his livelihood. What he discovers is something far worse. Based on an actual serial killer in Seoul, Ha Jung-woo plays Je Yeong-hee, a young and aspiring serial killer being looked for for years. This game of cat and mouse just got more dangerous.

The deranged serial killer. Chilling.

And what I liked about it were the stakes. Yeong-hee admits to the murders and the police find he’s a serial killer they’ve been looking for for a while. Eom Jonng-ho brings him in (well, he beats him in) and demands they arrest him and find his women. But there is a justice dilemma that favors Yeong-hee. There’s no evidence, and he was beaten severely, against fair and humane punishment laws. He was treated poorly and, without a warrant, they can’t hold him for very long. With a ridiculous police scramble for evidence, Eom Jonng-ho uses his police skills from way back when to find the conviction.

That’s a pretty good hog-tie right there.

This movie is very twisted in the same way that it is a bit more refined and elegant. There’s not too many bloody dismemberment scenes or gory, blood spurting elements to it. It’s very brutal with the beatings and depravity of it, but it holds back on the reigns when it comes to showing things. It is more of a Streets of Seoul type of film than having to do with a slasher film. The police and “ex-police” call the shots and do all they can to uphold justice. It was an interesting change of pace.

The justice beatdown dance.

A lot of the Korean actors in this film I wasn’t familiar with from other films. The daughter, Eun-ji was from Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, but that was about all I recognized. It was nice to see new faces that I can start to follow like I do with Choi Min-sik, Lee Byung-hun, and Song Kang-ho. Those guys are really legitimate good thriller/action actors, and I’m glad their work is recognized, even over here.

What I don’t appreciate is the fact that U.S. movie makers in Hollywood think it’s cool to remake these movies in a more American way. They’re planning to remake The Chaser with Leo DiCaprio as the leading man. Martin Scorsese in the the talks for directing. It’s gonna be an Infernal Affairs/ The Departed situation all over again. The original Asian make was just fine, why go and jumble it up with a poor remake that attempts to improve on the one before? Is it that

He has a very Choi Min-sik feel to him in this film. Think Oldboy.

Americans don’t wanna watch Asians and read subtitles or something. Come off it then…

But I loved this movie. It’s dark with all the right amounts of thriller/gory/horror/action/police work that you want in a psychological thriller like this. There’s some powerful acting and a chilling, “you gotta hate me” performance from Ha Jung-woo playing the serial killer. It has a good I Saw the Devil feel to it as well. Keep it coming, Korea, you gotta love all these dark Asian films. 8.9 out of 10.

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Black Lagoon: Viewers, Meet Your Maker

Oh, the wonderful women of Black Lagoon.

In a bust out and mind expanding experience, this show kicked my ass and said, “We won’t apologize for that.” Black Lagoon, in its entirety and breadth, covers Western cowboy shootouts, Piracy and the high seas, and in-your-face American splendour violence with guns and swords. There’s nowhere this show won’t go, and all of the women have big boobs, just how male viewers want it. I don’t care that the show jumps from arc to arc like a pogo-ing hoodlum. This show delivers heaps of entertainment and doesn’t give a single damn for it. With anime like this that can take a modern action movie

Sexy Lara Croft anyone? Thank God for you, Two Hands.

and slap it with their Desert Eagles, I get behind that anime 100%.

With this dazzling introduction, I had better “WOW” my readers, right? Well strap into your El Camino there, Wild Bill. This show will clash cars in the air, and unleash more shells than the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans combined. More carnage, more elite killings than anything I’ve seen since Christian Bale unlocked the gates of Hell in Equilibrium. And its done more graphically. As I’ve always said, what a cartoon can depict, when done maturely, can be more gruesome than any movie can depict. And you don’t need stunt actors or movie make-up special effects. This show depicts mass carnage on a monumental scale, and the main character has the mouth to back up the high content rating.

The crew of Black Lagoon (minus Benny).

Who is the main character, you may ask this post? Well, Revy (Maryke Hendrikse) provides the tomboyish, action star who looks quite similar to Lara Croft in this rollercoaster ride. Hendrikse provides an unlikeable, demeaning voice to Revy that let’s you know she wasn’t brought up by any Chinese American tycoons. She was backstreet, cat alley, chopshop material from day one. And she has the backstory and sailor’s mouth to prove it. She has a soft spot like any action star needs for the audience to connect with her, but it’s a small one at that. For her character in particular though, you may wanna check out the subbed version, her dubbed is a little bit harsh.

But be sure to check out the dub in general for everyone else! This Canadian dubbing team has worked on Gundams, Death Note, and various other anime worth checking in on. Hell, Ocean even did

The wonderfully frightening and sexy Roberta.

the original Dragonball dubbing! For a lot of the lines and attitudes to come across as cool, I was happy to see that the dub shows that. Even a lot of the lines in the original and in the manga were written in Japanese/English, showing that it was always meant to be transferred into an English context. And with all its praise for spaghetti Westerns and American action films with its references, it was only a matter of time.

As gritty as it gets for Rock.

So, yes! The dubbed version. You have Brad Swaile as Rock, the male lead of the show. Used in contrast to the rest of the characters in the novel, Rock is dropped in to a world he would never survive in. As chronicler of this tale, Rock acts as a moral compass in this show that has no meaning or need for direction. His white collar lifestyle and good guy attitude should’ve gotten him killed at this point, but the port town of Roanapur is amused with what he has to offer. He’s determined to change things, and this is an interesting role for a main character whom you’d expect to be pissing himself 90% of the show (the other 10%, would involve the other end).

 

Look familiar?

There’s Dutch (Dean Redman) and Benny (Brian Drummond), respectively, the leader and muscle of the squad with his big black attitude, and the brains behind the operations with his American ideals and his Jewishness (which I didn’t get at all in this show). Dutch is a fantastic leader and motivator for the team, staying neutral at all times so as not to jeopardize his crew and endeavors. Benny lays low like Rock does, leaving the crew to 50/50 on manpower and gun control. With the rest of the cast of Roanapur’s finest, there’s bound to be bloodshed, booze, and boobs galore.

The tag says “She’s back.” Perfect.

What this show follows is an erratic plot of gigs and tradings that the Lagoon Company gets themselves into. At first, it was just Dutch, Revy, and Benny. But after a botched job that lands Rock in their laps, the Japanese get involved and that’s where the show turns into a Japanese man’s perspective on the seedy underbelly of the Southeastern area of Asia. There are heists, Nazis, shipments of drugs and guns, and fights between the clans. I don’t want to give too much away, but every clan becomes involved at some point in the show, with one of Black Lagoon’s dealings or another. There’s a great secondary cast of mercenaries who always populate Roanopur, but there’s one character you have to look out for.

That character is Roberta, the maid. This Columbian maid has come to find her charge in one of the arcs. After that, she becomes one of the most badass characters in the show. She’s calm, cool, and collected, and never leaves anything to chance. She won’t die, and there’s so much more I could be telling you that I’m leaving out. Let’s just say she’s so amazing that they made an OVA storyline about her. Get some of that Columbian underground.

One of the great secondary characters!

I can’t talk highly enough of this show. It has everything an adrenaline junky is looking for, and then some. Action fans of the world unite and check out this anime, especially if you have no idea what an anime is. The plot and dialogue is insightful enough for a gun toting anime, and there are some unbelievable things that will surprise you. Entertaining to the end, Black Lagoon is one of those few shows that I watched everything related to it. Even those cute and funny little omake episodes they made that’re on Youtube. Everything about this show screams badass. And it should make you scream too. So check out this pumped up gun ride on the high seas. It was never more f#$%ing cool to be a pirate. A 9.5 out of 10. 


The Onion Movie: Film News at its Finest

So I’m sure there are those of you out there that follow The Onion News Network and enjoy all their satirical articles and videos. But the pinnacle of The Onion News Network? The Onion Movie. This movie takes all the best things of the 2000’s and put it all together into one satirical piece. With lead news anchor Norm Archer (Len Cariou) this movie destroys America and everything that has laid underneath its seedy underbelly for the last 100 years.

The layout for this movie is fantastic. Interspersed with reports from Norm (almost SNL style but with a serious delivery), this movie goes through a wide range of staged skits that connect one to another, characters bounce in and out in some

Norm Archer. You master.

wild ride of hot topics of 2008 and before. It’s pretty much ridiculous. I mean, a lot of the skits deal with stereotypes, racism, failed products, the American war machine, economy, and entertainment industry. In this movie, nothing is safe. And I loved every minute of it.

With my second time viewing it and showing it to an Onion News virgin, it was fantastic to anticipate all the sketches that were coming. I mean come on, the Queen Nathan? That is completely unexpected and a slap in the face with homosexuality’s member. The unknown stereotypes? I mean, who knew Peruvians jump in to save the day and shoot laser beams? With a multitude of black jokes (alcoholics, robbers, intelligent black men in search of the local library via asking a bartender, etc.) and a complete shakedown of the current sex fueled pop music scene (Take Me from Behind), people are getting destroyed.

A trio for the ages!

And how does this movie summarize? A complete collision of all characters and situations. A terrorist hijacking of the ONN studio in leu of ONN selling out to the corporate machine taking over with their damn annoying penguin? Perfect. Let’s hope those Peruvians come to save the day (Wink, wink). My favorite sketch? Obviously it has to be the white man mistaken for a black guy. I think that’s what all wiggers (white kid posers) deserve. Don’t dress all killer gangster unless you expect to pay the price of being hilariously profiled. Oh, and Cockpuncher. That’s a legit movie I would see with Steven Seagal. He’s a master and not that many people know it, but, come on, if he punched your cock, you’d notice in a hurry.

I could keep going on about every sketch and just how excellently they’re pulled off with an amateur cast of serious comics. With the help of Todd Hanson and Robert D. Siegel, writers of the film and directed by Tom Kuntz and Mike Maguire, this film delivers without the flash. Just like the real news. (Weird fact, Robert D. Siegel wrote the screenplay for The Wrestler? What a twist! Shows you how ballin’ these guys are.) So check out this little satirical film of the American Machine. It’s well worth Brendan Laroux, and you gotta support a hockey player without legs or wrists. 8.6 out of 10.


Death Note: Simply Amazing

So this is one of the best anime I’ve watched. Ever. I mean hands down ever. I think this should be a mandatory requirement for all anime fans to watch. In one sitting. I had to load episodes from the internet, but I loaded them 1o at a time and would site for 3 hours watching al 10. This show blew my mind. It has the most intricate plot with twists and turns. It’s one of those pieces of art that you watch and you have to choose a side. (Clearly there’s only one side to choose in this anime.) But it’s harder than that. It’s about morality.

Light vs. L. Who will win?

Ethics. The worth/cost of a life. And whether or not it is just to take a life in the pursuit of justice and goodness. And if humankind can itself be gods.

So this anime is about Light Yagami (Brad Swaile). One day this 17 year old student, top of his class, suave, genius prodigy finds this notebook. And in it are instructions. If a name is written in this book with the persons face in mind, that person will die of a heart attack in 40 seconds. If a cause of death is established in those 40 seconds and the

Light Yagami. God of the New World.

details written in 6 minutes and 40 seconds, then the person will die that way if the means of that death can be accomplished. This is basically disregarded by Light as some ridiculous joke. Until he tries it. Then Light is thrust into a world of possibilities no one before could possibly imagine. And, using this Death Note, Light will become the God of the New World.

There is some baggage that comes with the Death Note. A Death Note can only be found by a human on Earth if it is dropped by a Shinigami. These quite strange, queer, funny creatures come from “limbo” as best I can figure. Their world is dissolving and Ryuuke

Ryuuke. He likes apples.

(Brian Drummond) has grown tired of the days of gambling bones and sleeping. He hungers for intrigue and excitement, and nobody better than Light can give that to him. Light’s attitude towards the power to kill brings surprising results. Light only kills criminals. Ryuuke follows him around, unseen by humans other than Light, for only humans who have touched the notebook can see Shinigamis. And it is Ryuuke’s duty to remain on earth with Light until it is his time to leave Light upon his death.

And from there the show picks up. Light soon becomes Kira (the Japanese pronunciation of Killer. Stereotypical right?) and creates a following. But the justice system won’t stand for that shit. They’re gonna put a stop to him right? So L(Alessandro Juliani), the greatest investigator/crime solver in the world, better than the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew combined, will do just that. And the chase begins. From here, the twists and mind games that’re played throughout the show display the amazing mind behind Tsugumi Ohba, creator of the manga.

I love Light Yagami. Thank you Brad Swaile.

Let me just say that my explanation/review of this anime comes nowhere near doing it justice. Although this anime was picked up by a Canadian company for dubbing, this doesn’t detract from the quality. Canadian voice actors are just as good as American voice actors. Case in point: Light Yagami’s voice actor, Brad Swaile. This guy must rock the mike when he’s recording. His manical laughs, his brilliantly intelligent air about him, it all fits the character. To a tee. Forget watching the subbed version, this guy brings this show home himself. Also of notable mention is Alessandro Juliani, the voice of L. Although his noises when interacting with food may seem off-putting, it enhances the strangeness that is L. L’s character is quirky and cold, intelligent and funny, but, to me, altogether annoying. And that’s why I chose the side of Light. Okay, not just because of the voice acting. To put my own opinion out there, Light’s sense of justice and genius mind are completely superior to L. In every way. Besides that, yes, L is respectable. But altogether inferior. But that’s where the dichotomy of the show comes from. And that’s why I enjoy the battle of the minds so much.

Also of notable mention in the voice acting department is Brian Drummond,  the voice of Ryuuke. All these Shinigami have sort of a grating, holier than thou, tone of voice to them and Ryuuke is no exception. Although he may play the part of jester, Brian Drummond brings an almost threatening aura to Ryuuke that makes him seem capable of anything being a God of Death. Chris Britton also gives a great performance as Soichiro Yagami, Light’s father. (I’m not gonna go into details about him, you must watch!) The grave, business air of Soichiro is what gives a respectable dignity to himself. Chris Britton’s caring and

Soichiro Yagami. Badass Dad.

intelligent voice lends itself to the character and really helps to envision a father worried for his family. Vincent Tong gets my honorable mention as Touta Matsuda, the goofy, caring, blundering police investigator of the Kira case. (This is inevitably what develops from Light’s mass killings of criminals.) He cares about the case, but he’s young at heart and this comes through strong and clear from Vincent Tong’s performance, making him an endearing character.

Teru Mikami. You'll see...

Another boss character from Death Note with a great voice actor is Kirby Morrow as Teru Mikami. (Now I can’t go into detail about this character, but look out for him!) Kirby does a great job of a devotional character willing to do whatever it takes for justice. Take that explanation as you like it. This show’s also great because there’s a culture crossover with Americans involved as well. And this shows itself in Raye Penber, voiced by Michael Adamhwaite. Adamthwaite (although a minor character) gives a great performance being an English speaking actor doing a English speaking character (not having watched the subbed, I don’t know exactly how this crossover works) and is quite the interesting character with a humble background.

But enough about voice actors. I could go on for far too long. The art is great too. It’s subtle dark colors mixed with flickering lights and dark corners gives it that seedy underbelly, nobody is who they say they are, investigation feel. This show is dark. I mean, come on, it’s about death. Characters are messed up in this show. But it’s all about the intelligence, it’s about the wording, and, most importantly, it’s all

Oh, did I mention there are live action movies?

about the deductions. The Shinigami, although otherworldly, become believable in this setting that seems it could never happen. I was never surprised or in disbelief by this anime, because it makes the impossible, possible. And that’s where the magic comes from.

So watch this show. Please check it out. It’s well worth its weight in gold. This show sets the bar unbelievably high for anime, and I think could make the jump into pop culture. Or, I wish it would. Love it, love it, love it. 11 out of 10. (Because I can.)

Oh, and this anime has one amazing intro. Check it (if you’re a metal fan).


Collateral (2004)

So last night as I was sitting in my dorm room I thought, “What would be a great movie to watch right now? Something I could review?” And then one word popped into my head. Collateral. This movie is entertaining in a fast-paced, don’t know what’s gonna happen type way, fused with a great plot, characters, and look. I first saw this movie 6 years ago and was blown away by it. I watched it 4 times in a week. It was a movie I hadn’t seen in a while. It was gritty. It was the life of L.A. at night. It was unique.

So, Max Durocher (Jamie Foxx) is a taxi cab driver. He works the night shift, more relaxed, better tips, we all know that deal. One day a man named Vincent (Tom Cruise) steps into in taxi and his whole world is changed as he’s taken on a hit spree throughout the burroughs of L.A. As the story unfolds, we find out exactly why Vincent is killing at seemingly random, and we accompany Max on this death-filled ride and we live/die with him. The endings great, definitely worth the watch.

There are a lot of great scenes in this movie, a lot of interesting feels to each hit that Vincent does. You have the ghetto-style hit, the businessman hit, the jazz hit (hilariously and well played) and even the club scene hit. (I hope that’s not giving too much away…) Every murder comes with a different feel to L.A. and creates a real atmosphere for what one city can offer. At every twist and turn, you wonder who’s going to live and die, it’s never certain. And as you go along, unlike most movies, you get development with the action and thrills that gives you emotional stock in the characters.

What I loved is the script of this movie. The rapport between Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx is ridiculously entertaining, witty, and quite thought provoking in its intensity. Max and Vincent, in a weird way, develop a friendship that doesn’t seem to break until the very end, although it may have started out driver/assassin and transformed into kidnapper/hostage. Although I’m sure most situations such as this wouldn’t develop into a long-standing story, this one instance still feels as if it had the capability to occur. And it stands alone as an experience that none would ever forget.

The acting in this movie is quite phenomenal. You don’t necessarily get a feel that you’re watching actors in this situation, but more that these are real cops and thugs going about business as usual. Yes, Tom Cruise is the odd man out in this situation. Hired assassin. Although the salt and pepper hair look is quite good for Tom, you get the feel he’s out of place, although that works perfectly for his character. Jamie Foxx is quite good, but doesn’t give the real feel of a cabbie for me. Granted, I’ve only been in taxis in New York, but I feel that the cool grooves, Marvin Gaye style Jamie portrays in this movie is a bit off. Jada Pinkett-Smith is fantastic as always (one of my favorite actresses. I mean come on. Niobe. Matrix. Ridiculous.) as no nonsense lawyer. Mark Ruffalo, another of my favorite actors, plays a street cop that is always for justice, a kind of character I’m always for. Peter Berg makes a nice little appearance along with Bruce McGill who play cops alongside Ruffalo. Even Javier Bardem makes a great appearance, almost unrecognizable as Felix, the drug running boss. He has a great speech and plays his part amazingly well. Another little fun cameo comes from Jason Statham at the beginning of the movie in the airport scene where he passes off a brief case to Cruise, solidifying Cruise as a badass action star. (I mean, come on, Mission Impossible, Minority Report, Rain Man.)

Overall, the feel of this movie is great. The gritty, wobbly shooting style, mixed with the incredible night scenes give a great late night business/seedy underbelly feel to the film. Although they may give street names and locations to the film, you don’t feel lost or out of the loop as the action progresses. Michael Mann is a fantastic director/producer/writer, and Collateral is no exception. His last three movies, Miami Vice, Collateral, and Public Enemies, all have a conventional gangster style to them that really draws in audiences. (Although I wasn’t a big fan of Public Enemies. Not shot right. Not well recorded.) With this cast and crew, combined with an amazing story, this movie is sure to entertain and give you a feeling of the unexpected of what life brings. 8.7 out of 10.

 


The Skull Man

Okay, so I really can’t talk about much of the plot without revealing a lot of what is revealed over this 13 episode anime. But I’ll say what I can. Hayato Mikogami is a journalist, sent back to his hometown of Otomo to investigate the mysterious killings committed by the notorious Skull Man. Hayato is followed by an curious and rambunctious photographer, Kiriko Mamiya. The two of them together, over the course of an all too short show, uncover the mysteries and secrets that lie under this dark town.

And that’s about all I can say. I watched this with my friend and we thought, “Hey. This’ll be pretty badass. It’s an anime about a man with a skull for a head.” I know what you’re thinking. I thought it too. Japanese Ghost Rider. Turns out not. I’m a real sucker for Ghost Rider, and I guess you could consider this an equivalent.

The show starts of kind of slow. But that all ends about six episodes in. After about episode 7, every episode becomes nonstop discovery and thrills. There’s one scene in episode 6 that surprised me so much I came close to crapping my pants. You really don’t know what to expect when it comes to this show, so when something happens, it flies at you from out of left field.

After some research, I found that this wasn’t the first rendition of Skull Man. There have in fact been 2 mangas that take on a slightly different approach. The original in 1970 was a one-shot manga that told the story of Skull Man and his quest for revenge. If you look at it, Skull Man is a really dark and sinister brother to Batman. In the 1998 version, we are given the Skull Man’s rise to power through mutation experiments and his battles with evil animals. Neither of these really have anything to do with the anime. If you’re expecting that/read the mangas, I apologize.

Besides that, the anime is really quite good. It has a detective style approach with dark undertones, coupled with violence and the outrageous discovery or two. The voice actor for Skull Man is great, and it’s really enhanced by the lines from Hamlet that end every episode and the theatrical judgment laced lines that Skull Man delivers. You don’t want it to end by the last episode, and at the same time, you want the back story. You want more. You want everything explained step by step. In a word. Hooked. You become hooked on what’s going on, and quite literally, you could watch this anime in one sitting and not be disappointed. The fight sequences and art direction are fantastic and give this great otherworldly feeling, yet tied into reality. Definitely something cast right out of the abyss. 7 out of 10.