The Cove (2009)

Starring Ric O’Barry, Louie Psihoyos, Hayden Panettiere

Directed by Louie Psihoyos

Expectations: High. I’ve heard nothing but good stuff.


The Cove is an interesting documentary. It seeks to expose the fishing practices of the Japanese village of Taiji, specifically the capture and killing of dolphins that goes on there. The practices are legal due to a few loopholes, but are definitely not right. The fisherman capture hundreds of dolphins at a time. Trainers from amusement parks and “Swim with the Dolphins” places come and select the dolphins they want. The fisherman kill all the unselected dolphins and sell them for meat. The film follows Ric O’Barry, who became famous after capturing and training the dolphins used in the 1960s television show Flipper. He now crusades to stop any and all wrongdoings against the creatures, feeling somewhat responsible for their rise in popularity. Ric worked with the dolphins on a daily basis and realized that they are not only incredibly smart, but that they are also self-aware.

Most of the film chronicles Ric and the team’s struggles to film the goings on in the killing cove. It is highly guarded and dangerous to get to. The team has to go to extreme lengths to plant cameras and sound equipment to capture what constitutes the last quarter of the film. The footage is shocking and disturbing. The politicians interviewed in the film may claim that the dolphins are killed humanely and instantly, but when the killing footage is revealed, it is anything but.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Blacula (1972)

Starring William Marshall, Vonetta McGee, Denise Nicholas, Gordon Pinsent, Charles Macaulay, Thalmus Rasulala

Directed By William Crain


Transylvania, 1780 – Castle Dracula

It is a dark and stormy night and Count Dracula is entertaining African Prince Mamuwalde and his wife. (Because, as we all know, Dracula was well known for his important contributions to politics in 18th century Europe.) The lovely couple are enjoying small talk and champagne with Dracula when the Prince gets down to business and discusses the concerns of his people. All is going fine until Dracula scoffs at the prince’s attempt to convince him to do something about the slave trade. Tensions flare and the Count even has the audacity to propose a deal for Mamuwalde’s beautiful Zulu wife!  Dracula’s honkies of the night restrain the Prince, as the lord of darkness bares his fangs and sinks them deep into his neck, cursing him for all eternity and christening him… “Blacula.”

Transylvania, Present Day – Castle Dracula

Dracula’s castle has fallen on hard times. The Count has long been vanquished, and an interracial couple of flamboyantly gay interior decorators are sizing the property up in an attempt to strip it clean of its stylishly gothic furnishings and mark the prices up stateside. The real estate guy repeatedly warns them of Dracula’s curse, dark spirits, foreboding evils, and a lot of generally spooky talk that would turn most folks away. But these are gay guys in a blaxploitation film, so unfortunately you already know they are gonna ignore all common sense and be the first to get it. These films seemed to have a vendetta against homosexuals for reasons I could never really figure out. Yeah, it’s a little troubling… but look, if you’re watching a film titled Blacula chances are you aren’t going out of your way looking for political correctness anyway.

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Mini-Review: Seasons (1987)

Narrated by William Shatner

Directed by Ben Shedd


An IMAX movie on the small screen is always going to be a downgrade, but sometimes the film is good enough to transcend the transition and remain entertaining. Seasons is one such film. It features beautiful nature sequences intermixed with human activities during each season. There’s also some killer vector graphics of the Sun and the Earth. You can’t go wrong with vector graphics in my opinion and these are top-notch. It also features a few sequences of time-lapse photography. William Shatner’s narration is perfect and matches the images well. The script might be a little over-the-top but who better to handle overly serious dialogue than Shatner? Also, the film only runs thirty minutes so it makes for a quick viewing.

All of these elements add up to a film that plays out similar to a narrated version of Koyaanisqatsi. Can’t say that I learned anything, but I was definitely entertained.

Check it out if you like both Shatner and the seasons, as I’ve heard a lot of negative feedback from people who don’t like Shatner.

The Blind Side (2009)

Starring Sandra Bullock, Quinton Aaron, Tim McGraw, Jae Head, Kathy Bates

Directed by John Lee Hancock

Expectations: Super low. I’m only watching this because the Academy in all their stupidity granted this one of the abundant ten best picture nominations and I am a glutton for punishment.


Okay, here’s the deal. If I were to rate this movie purely on its technical merits, it would be low. One star perhaps. I won’t do that though as the basis for this movie, the true story, is good enough to add a star to this otherwise boring and pedestrian film. This is post-Oscars and everyone knows that Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for this role. If you had any shred of faith left in the Academy, if No Country for Old Men‘s sweep a couple of years back had you re-thinking your hatred, then awarding Bullock the Oscar here should quickly stomp out that last dying ember. She does well enough in the role, but she’s exactly the same as she’s been in countless other movies, albeit with a southern accent this time around. To me, that doesn’t spell Oscar worthy. I’d like to see Sandra Bullock play a truly different role and surprise me sometime. I’m not holding my breath though.

The only award I would have given this film is the award for Worst Editing in a Motion Picture Scene, going without question to the scene in which Michael Oher fights a gang member and busts up his apartment. In the space of three seconds there’s about 15 cuts that serve no purpose whatsoever except to confuse the viewer. Did he just hit that guy? Or did the guy just hit him? Who knows? It defies all good reason and neither shows or tells us anything meaningful.

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Born to Fight (2004)

Born to Fight [เกิดมาลุย Kerd Ma Lui] (2004)

Starring Dan Chupong, Nappon Gomarachun, Santisuk Promsiri, Piyapong Piew-on, Somluck Kamsing, Kessarin Ektawatkul

Directed by Panna Rittikrai

Expectations: High. I saw the trailer and expected this to be fantastic.


Wow! If you like high-octane action to the X-TREME! then I’ve got a movie for you. Born to Fight is directed by Panna Rittikrai who was Tony Jaa’s mentor and is responsible for the martial arts and action choreography for Ong Bak and The Protector, among others. He leads the Muay Thai Stunt team and if you haven’t seen them in action, you are seriously missing out on the most exciting, ridiculous and horribly painful stunts ever to grace the screen. The level of “Oh shit!” is off the chart, and I am instantly brought back to the feeling of when I started watching Hong Kong movies.

Dan Chupong, member of Muay Thai Stunt, gets his first starring role and does very well. The film opens with Chupong and his buddy/mentor cop raiding the dastardly General Yang’s hideout. It quickly escalates into an extended action sequence involving guns, martial arts and some amazing stunt falls from moving semi-trucks. On one of the falls in particular, if the stuntman had landed maybe one or two inches differently his head would have been fatally crushed like a grape. It’s crazy stunts like this that let you know how committed the Muay Thai Stunt team is and just how far they’ll go to film a quality looking stunt.

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Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire (2009)

Starring Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz, Sherri Shepherd

Directed by Lee Daniels

Expectations: Moderate.


Precious tells the story of a 16-year-old girl, pregnant with her second child, and her day-to-day struggles to overcome her abusive mother and her second grade reading and writing levels. The film is an incredibly emotional tale and it is hard to watch at times. Gabourey Sidibe is fantastic as Precious. She really hits the early scenes when Precious is illiterate and then skillfully handles the character’s transformation into a strong woman, focused on her education and her children. For me, this is the stand-out debut performance of 2009 and I hope that she is able to get some more roles that can really showcase her talent and range. Mo’Nique is also fantastic as Precious’s mother. Her Oscar was very well deserved.

From a filmmaking standpoint the film is a bit uneven. There are moments when I felt that director Lee Daniels knew exactly what he wanted to do and he executed it well. For almost every time I thought that though, there would be another time when I felt that he was struggling to figure out exactly how to handle something. I mostly had problems with some of the scene transitions. There were a number of fade-to-black moments after scenes that didn’t make sense and only served to drain the momentum of the film. There’s also a lot of handheld work and on-the-fly snap zooming that really serves no purpose. Handhold it if you want, but we don’t need to see you zoom in, then decide that you need to zoom in more, then to finally zoom back to where we started, all within the space of three seconds.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: My Young Auntie (1981)

600full-my-young-auntie-posterMy Young Auntie [長輩] (1981)
AKA Fangs of the Tigress, The Senior, Lady Kung Fu

Starring Lau Kar-Leung, Kara Hui, Wang Lung-Wei, Hsiao Ho, Gordon Liu Chia-Hui

Directed By Lau Kar-Leung


Criticizing a film like My Young Auntie is, I’m afraid, beyond my ability. The film is so unabashedly all over the place that any attempt to lasso it all together and rationalize it is something akin to stacking grains of sand on top of each other in an attempt to reach the moon. It is one of those train wrecks so beyond the scope of rational thought, that the only way to experience it is by surrendering yourself to the notion that for the next two hours this film will have its way with you and you will take it like the fresh young piece of meat you are. With all that said, if you have ever thought that square dancing by grown men in pink wigs and guys dressed up like Robin Hood was criminally underrepresented in Shaw Bros. kung fu films, then this may be the movie for you.

Kara Hui plays Cheng Tai-Nun, a young girl of about twenty who marries a wealthy old man in an attempt to keep his estate from falling into the greedy hands of his third brother. She is instructed to hand the deed over to the man’s younger nephew, who is coincidentally about 30 years her senior. She also has to deal with his completely batshit son, Charlie, who has been studying in Hong Kong and is now westernized beyond any hope of redemption. Charlie and his buddies speak an unholy union of profane Chinese and sloppy English, that is actually extremely amusing. (This may be the only time you will hear the English word “fuck” uttered in a subtitled Shaw Bros. film.) Anyway Charlie harasses the shit out of his new, young great-auntie (?) and belittles her with his newfound knowledge of things like basketball, Shakespeare, folk music, boxing, and Christianity. (I’m not making this up.)

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