Movie of the Day – Django

So I just got back from seeing Django Unchained this evening at the Alamo Drafthouse.  Fun time with some wonderful friends that make the movie even better.  While I was watching the movie this evening, which the review will be coming shortly, I was excited to see Franco Nero in the movie making a nice little cameo during a bar scene.  It’s a nice little nod to the man with the same name as our intrepid hero.  Now Django Unchained is not an retelling of Django from 1966, but Tarantino did take a few flourishes with the movie and also a badass name for a hero.

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Movie of the Day – The Good the Bad the Weird

Time to combine two of my favorite things into one post, westerns and Korean cinema.  How is that even remotely possible, well considering the Korean cinema is already leaps and bounds ahead of Hollywood films, having them take a stab at genre bending themes isn’t a big stretch.  Kim Ji-woon makes yet another appearance on my blog after his most recent movie I Saw The Devil and now we get to witness his stab at the spaghetti western genre with not one or two, but three of my favorite Korean actors sharing the same screen in a homage to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Song Kang-ho from The Host, JSA, and Memories of Murder plays the weird character Yoon Tae-goo.  Lee Byung-hun (A Bittersweet Life, JSA, and I Saw The Devil) plays the devilish bad character named Park Chang-yi.  Last is Jung Woo-sung (Musa and The Restless) plays our good character named Park Do-won.  All three of these incredible actors and a icon director all coming together for a Korean westerns is probably the greatest thing since Peanut Butter and Jelly in the same jar.  Here’s the reasons why…

The Good

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Movie of the Day – Sukiyaki Western Django

I am in the mood for a little western today.  Western films to me always seemed like the American answer to a lot of Samurai films.  Both genres usually deal with a lone gunman as opposed to a lone swordsman.  You usually have an oppressive sheriff or rival gang plaguing a small western town.  In samurai movies you get oppressive lords or rogue ronin warriors terrorizing a small village.  A lot of the parallels in these genre movies is more of a product of each culture that it was developed.  So as with every genre of film out there, the chance of genres being mashed together is always an exciting prospect.  Sukiyaki Western Django is a melding of both the Samurai and Western genres, with a big mix of over the top gun play and classic spaghetti western tropes.

Now Sukiyaki isn’t the first movie to do this Asian take on the Western genre.  South Korea produced a kick-ass version of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly with their own The Good, The Bad, and The Weird.  I also covered the Thai throwback movie Tears of the Black Tiger, which was a mixture of spaghetti western and classical Thai action movies of the 60’s.  What I love about these Asian takes on the spaghetti western genre is that they have absolutely nothing to lose in terms of what they can do with the genre.  They can throw ridiculous shootout scenes, over the top villains and unique backgrounds to make their take on the genre their own.

The story of Sukiyaki is pretty straightforward in terms of the western genre.  The backdrop of the movie is centered around an actual historical feud between two warring clans in Japan, the Genji and Heikie clans.  So movie the movie forward to include it in the Western setting, you have two clans fighting over a particular province.  A nameless gunman waltz into town and decides to help a local prostitute to get revenge on the warring gangs for the crimes they have committed.  Naturally this gunman helps out, he intervenes in the gangs war and finally gets swept up in the huge battle.

Pretty cut and dry in terms of story line, but what the movies lacks in intricate story telling, the movie makes up for in crazy action scenes.  If there is one thing that director, cult film icon Takashi Miike, can do and that is over the top violence and action.

Sukiyaki is an incredible spectacle of action set piece after action set piece.  Miike takes the spaghetti western genre and just amps it up with ridiculous guns, samurai sword combat and just general mayhem.  The battles that takes place between both faction just progresses to a point where it become a video game and you just wanna pick up a controller and join the fray.  Overall it is the action that is the big focal point of the movie.  The setting and background set pieces are wonderful to look at and have a very simplistic, but effective western look to it.

My biggest complaint of the movie though is the acting.  Miike made the weird choice to have all their native Japanese actors and actresses speak in English, not Japanese.  What you get in the movie is just choppy and garbled line delivery from most of the actors.  They are not native English speakers, so when the movie is an homage to spaghetti westerns and it includes certain western phrases, it is not effective in the least.  Why Miike decided to go this route with shooting the movie is lost on me.  They do provide subtitles throughout the movie, so not sure why they didn’t just have the actors speak Japanese.

If you can get past the fact that the movie is spoken in English, when clearly it shouldn’t be, this is an incredibly enjoyable movie.  If you love westerns and action flicks, this film delivers it and more.  I love the mix of gun play and sword play when it comes to the final action scenes.  I think Miike does a great job in making a fun and funky western movie and always adds his little touch of flair to the movie.   Put it in your Netflix list and sit back and enjoy some crazy western movie.

Movie of the Day – Tears of the Black Tiger

After watching the trailer for this Thai film, you probably have a lot of questions. I certainly did after first viewing the movie. Mainly the question was “What the hell did I just watch?” This is understandable really as for most people, we are only familiar with Thai movies that involve some sort of fighting or horror themes to them…really though just the fighting themes as evident by the breakout Ong Bak movies. But this has to be one of the most unique films/homages/parody to ever really come out of the Thailand, at least from what I have seen in my movie viewing time.

So what exactly is this movie? Well from the dialogue free trailer, this is a melodramatic spaghetti western. Now when i say parody and homage, it’s not the homage to contemporary spaghetti westerns done by Sergio Leone or Sam Peckinpah, but homages to older Thai movies of the 1950s. I am no expert of Thai films, so I read up on what the director was influenced by when he made this movie. Apparently during the 60s, cowboys were a very prominent figure in Thai cinema. There were big action movies (in Thailand) that had many western style shootouts.

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