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.

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

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.)

Continue reading Uncle Jasper reviews: My Young Auntie (1981) →

Mini-Review: An Education (2009)

Starring Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Rosamund Pike, Dominic Cooper, Emma Thompson, Olivia Williams, Cara Seymour, Sally Hawkins, Matthew Beard, Ellie Kendrick, Beth Rowley

Directed by Lone Scherfig

Expectations: Super low, but Nick Hornby wrote the script so I do expect it will be well written.


There’s nothing wrong with this movie, but there isn’t really anything special about it either. Sure, Carey Mulligan is a great new talent and really shows off her ability in her role, but there’s not much else to get excited about here. What’s the point of it all?

The film is competently made and the dialogue is well written. The acting is very good all around. I’m a big Alfred Molina fan and I wasn’t aware that he was in this, so that was a welcome surprise. Despite the fact that they got these key things right, they forgot to have an interesting story. The whole thing for me just exudes this air of being wonderfully okay.

Continue reading Mini-Review: An Education (2009) →

Uncle Jasper reviews: Heroes Two (1974)

Heroes Two [方 世玉與洪熙官] (1974)
AKA Kung Fu Invaders, Blood Brothers, Bloody Fists, Temple of the Dragon

Starring Alexander Fu Sheng, Chen Kuan-Tai, Fong Sam, Bruce Tong Yim-Chaan, Wong Ching, Wu Chi-Chin, Zhu Mu

Directed By Chang Cheh


Before I get started I’d like to mention that this film is prefaced with a short feature from the Shaw Studios titled Three Styles of the Hung School’s Kung Fu. It features the stars of Heroes Two performing actual solo demonstrations of the Hung style kung fu, which is featured throughout the film. Spoken narration details the characteristics of the style and how it came into being. It makes for a classy introduction, and really piqued my interest as I had no clue the Shaw Studios made shorts as well as features. With the amazing restorations from the folks at Celestial Pictures, I hope these become a more common bonus on these DVDs.

Heroes Two falls into the classic “Manchu vs. Chinese rebels” template that the Shaw Studios loved to crank out in their heyday.  Second only to the “rival kung fu school poisons the master who is then unable to do kung fu for three months, so the top student must take revenge” film. What makes this movie stand out is that it tells the quasi-fictional tale of not one, but two Chinese folk heroes. I instantly think back to those Marvel team-up comics from the late ’70s. When you saw both Spider-Man AND The Thing laying the beat-down, you knew that shit was gonna be gold. Heroes Two carries forth that basic concept and features the killer combo of Hung Si-Kwan (Chen Kwan-Tai) and Fong Sai-Yuk (played here by the legendary Alexander Fu Sheng).

Continue reading Uncle Jasper reviews: Heroes Two (1974) →

Idiocracy (2006)

Idiocracy (2006)
AKA Planet Stupid

Starring Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Dax Shepard, Terry Crews, Anthony Campos, David Herman, Sara Rue, Kevin McAfee, Robert Musgrave, Michael McCafferty, Justin Long, Andrew Wilson, Kevin Klee

Directed by Mike Judge

Expectations: Moderate. I knew close to nothing going in except it was about stupid Americans and Mike Judge made it. What else do you need to know?


So there’s this movie about ridiculous, satirical, future extremes of American consumerism? And I haven’t seen it yet? What? Somehow this slipped under my radar but that has now been rectified. This kind of thing could go so wrong though. It could end up being so ridiculous that it misses the point. It could be great for the first twenty minutes and then devolve into fart jokes. Thankfully, it mostly steers clear of convention and I found myself thoroughly entertained.

An Army librarian (Luke Wilson) is chosen to test a new human freezing procedure. Along for the ride is a prostitute played by Maya Rudolph from SNL. Anyway, the cryo tubes get lost and the test subjects aren’t awakened at the prescribed time. Instead they wake up in the year 2505, where, after 500 years of the stupid people having babies, the American public has degenerated into infantile, entertainment-consuming idiots. Shows such as Ow, My Balls! on the Violence Network top the charts. People can’t even speak correct English anymore.

Continue reading Idiocracy (2006) →

Pickup on South Street (1953)

Starring Richard Widmark, Jean Peters, Thelma Ritter, Richard Kiley, Murvyn Vye, Willis Bouchey, Milburn Stone

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: High. Sam Fuller. He’s good.


Sam Fuller knew how to shoot a movie. He’s under the radar for a lot of people, which is a shame because his camerawork is undeniably fantastic. In one of the DVD extras Fuller states, “The power of the camera…is exactly like bold-face type. You cannot compete with it.” Sam Fuller is the perfect example of a director that focuses on showing and not telling.

The film opens with Jean Peters on a subway. Quick cuts establish that she is being watched by two men. There is no dialogue. A third man enters the scenario. He is a pickpocket (Richard Widmark). He lifts the wallet from Jean Peters’ purse and exits the subway car. The two men push their way to the door, only to have it close in their faces.

One of the men says, “What happened?”
“I’m not sure yet,” his partner replies.

The viewer isn’t quite sure either. A fantastic opening with very quick editing (to good effect) for the early 1950s. You can watch it on YouTube if you want to get a sense of it for yourself by clicking here.

Continue reading Pickup on South Street (1953) →

Movie Q & A Thing

Well, I generally don’t like these sorts of things, but what the hell. Kevin over at The Pork Chop Express linked me in this, so I will do my best.

1.  What was your first movie-going experience?

The earliest movie I can remember seeing was 1985’s Follow That Bird, the Big Bird movie. I loved it. I doubt it holds up.

2.  How many DVDs do you own?

Eh, over 100 but I’ve been trying to slim it down lately. I used to want an archive of all these movies I love, but I realize now that a core set of watchable favorites is more ideal.

3.  What is your guilty pleasure movie?

I don’t really feel guilty about the stuff I like. Not that I don’t like some trash, just that I have aged into not caring so much what others think about my tastes. That being said, I like Weekend at Bernie’s way too much. So awful, but so so good.

4.  You’ve compiled a list of your top 100 movies.  Which films didn’t make the cut?

Weekend at Bernie’s. No really, I don’t make it a habit of making lists, especially one of 100 films. I’d have to have a huge, months long Battle Royale tournament to decide something like that. Just off the top of my head I’ll say Lawrence of Arabia. When I see it on the big screen at some point, I’ll probably change my mind though. I feel like I haven’t really seen it until then.

5.  Which movie(s) do you compulsively watch over and over again?

The Big Lebowski, Ghostbusters, Back to the Future. I could probably watch Inglourious Basterds a lot and not get tired of it as well.

6.  Classic(s) you’re ashamed to admit you haven’t seen yet?

Um, this is a hard one as I’ve seen most of the big ones. I’ve never seen Giant. I like James Dean and it looks good, but something about it just makes me not care. One of these days.

7.  What movie posters are hanging in your room?

At the moment none. Rolled up in my storage are:

Vertigo
A Clockwork Orange
Enter the Dragon
Dawn of the Dead (signed by Tom Savini and Ken Foree)
L.A. Confidential
and probably a couple I’m forgetting.

I’ll tag JP @ J.P.’s I’m Outta Here Movie Thoughts in this because I know he hasn’t done it yet.

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