Rob-B-Hood (2006)

Rob-B-Hood [寶貝計劃] (2006)
AKA Robin-B-Hood, Project BB

Starring Jackie Chan, Louis Koo, Michael Hui, Teresa Carpio, Yuen Biao, Gao Yuan-Yuan, Charlene Choi Cheuk-Yin, Terence Yin Chi-Wai, Conroy Chan Chi-Chung, Andrew Lin, Matthew Medvedev, Ku Feng, Ken Wong Hop-Hey, Ken Lo, Hayama Hiro, Cherrie Ying Choi-Yi, Candice Yu On-On, Chen Bao-Guo, Nicholas Tse, Daniel Wu, He Jun, Ng Kong

Directed by Benny Chan

Expectations: Kinda high. I’ve come to expect good things from Benny Chan.


Rob-B-Hood is kind of a weird movie. Contrasting the modern realism in Benny Chan and Jackie’s previous collaboration, New Police Story, Rob-B-Hood feels like an attempt to revive an ’80s style focused on providing wild entertainment over believability. Apparently the film was originally intended to finally reunite Jackie, Sammo and Yuen Biao, too, lending further credence to this idea. But while the criminal character dynamics between Jackie, Louis Koo and Michael Hui recall early ’80s movies like Wheels on Meals, Rob-B-Hood owes an even bigger debt to the Aces Go Places series. The obvious connection is the baby who is often in harm’s way, but elements of that series’s James Bond riffs also find their way into Rob-B-Hood.

Thongs (Jackie Chan) and Octopus (Louis Koo) are master safecrackers, and we meet them in a hospital’s pharmacy. They are stealing high-priced drugs while their leader, Landlord (Michael Hui), waits in the getaway van outside. Crosscut with this is the birth of a child, which seems insignificant at first but wouldn’t you know it, they showed this birth to us for a reason! Imagine that. Mid-way through the criminals’ escape attempt, a disgruntled and mentally unstable ex-boyfriend of the baby’s mother abducts the kid. At first, he even tries to drag the mother along for the ride, still in her hospital bed. This fiasco gets the heat off of Thongs and Octopus, but as luck would have it, when the crazy ex-boyfriend loses control of the baby and it falls down a couple of stories in the hospital’s open lobby, Thongs is able to jump off the escalator, save the kid’s life, and return him to his mother. Thongs and Octopus are now free to leave the scene of their crime, but their story with this infant is far from over.

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Quick Takes: Nightmare City, Your Highness, The Foot Fist Way

nightmare-city-poster-161Nightmare City [Incubo Sulla Cittá Contaminata] (1980)
AKA City of the Walking Dead

fourstar

Starring Hugo Stiglitz, Laura Trotter, Maria Rosaria Omaggio, Francisco Rabal, Sonia Viviani, Eduardo Fajardo, Stefania D’Amario, Ugo Bologna
Directed by Umberto Lenzi

I’ve had Nightmare City on my radar for a while, but the arrival of Tom Savini’s crowdfunded remake-to-be gave me that extra little push in the right direction. Simply put, Nightmare City is a fuckin’ blast. I’ve always been a firm supporter of traditional, walking zombies, with the focus on the incessant nature of the never-tiring horde instead of the more immediate threat that running zombies deliver. But Nightmare City, the first film to use running zombies, proved to me that they can be just as fun, if not more. Director Umberto Lenzi crafts a film with scene after scene of pure balls-out madness, and the way it all bursts forth and inundates the unsuspecting viewer is incredible fun. One moment I was in tense apprehension for what might be behind that aircraft door, and then WHAM! A fucking horde of mud-faced, bloodthirsty fiends runs out, and the rest of the movie never lets up. The running zombies work here because Lenzi still embraces the overwhelming nature of the horde, while also delivering more fun than I think I’ve ever had with a zombie movie. It’s firmly a B-Movie, though, so many will scoff at its low-budget FX, but I say fuck all that and just have a good time with it!

yourhighness_1Your Highness (2011)
threestar

Starring Danny McBride, James Franco, Rasmus Hardiker, Natalie Portman, Toby Jones, Justin Theroux, Zooey Deschanel, Charles Dance, Damian Lewis
Directed by David Gordon Green

Not sure how to review this one because it’s the kind of movie you pretty much know how you’ll feel about it before you watch it. If you liked Eastbound & Down and you’ve come on a quest for more Danny McBride to put in your head, Your Highness is a hoot. It helps if you also have an affinity for ’80s movies, specifically ’80s fantasy flicks like Beastmaster or Conan the Barbarian. If you’re not that person, I can’t imagine this being anything close to entertaining. But for me, I’m firmly in the first group, so I really enjoyed seeing Danny McBride in a fantasy setting. The ’80s-style CG lightning was also a quick way to my heart, but I think the perverted, Yoda-like Wise Wizard, brought to life by a puppet, really sealed the deal. Where a lot of ’80s throwbacks just feel like modern movies, Your Highness actually gets the spirit of ’80s sword-and-sorcery movies down pat, and it’s got more than its share of hilarity if you’re in the right frame of mind.

foot_fist_way_xlgThe Foot Fist Way (2006)
threestar

Starring Danny McBride, Mary Jane Bostic, Ben Best, Spencer Moreno, Carlos Lopez, Jody Hill, Ken Aguilar, Collette Wolfe
Directed by Jody Hill

Your Highness got me in the mood for some more Danny McBride, which naturally led me to The Foot Fist Way. McBride plays a Tae Kwon Do instructor that is every bit the foul-mouthed blowhard you’d expect him to be. The character is not as defined as McBride’s Kenny Powers role on Eastbound & Down, but you can clearly see the beginnings of that idea in The Foot Fist Way. Fans will definitely enjoy this one, but as this is the roughest of the McBride films, it’s not one to show everybody. Of course, I love me some martial arts, so the parody of that environment and the characters that inhabit it hit very solidly with me.

Stephen reviews: Paprika (2006)

paprika-movie-poster-2006-1020689313Paprika [パプリカ] (2006)

Starring Megumi Hayashibara, Tohru Furuya, Akio Ohtsuka, Daisuke Sakaguchi, Katsunosuke Hori, Kouchi Yamadera, Toru Emori, Akio Ōtsuka, Hideyuki Tanaka

Directed by Satoshi Kon


The final film of Satoshi Kon’s is something of a combination of all his previous ones. It has the reality warping confusion that characterizes his usual style, and it blends both the lighthearted cheer of Millennium Actress with the despondent terror of Perfect Blue, then adds in quirky-but-loveable characters like Tokyo Godfathers.

The standout feature of Paprika is its sci-fi premise. The plot revolves around a new device that lets you jump into other people’s dreams (just like the later film Inception would do). It was developed by a psychiatric research team for treating patients, but someone stole the thing and is using it for mysterious terrorist activities. But the science in this film is just there to trick you into thinking Paprika is a science fiction film. Once you peel back the layers, however, you find that it’s actually compete fantasy, and the weird stuff going on by the end of the film just can’t be explained by the device alone.

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The Host (2006)

host_ver6_xlgThe Host [괴물, Gwoemul] (2006)

Starring Song Kang-ho, Byun Hee-bong, Park Hae-il, Bae Doona, Go Ah-sung, Lee Jae-eung, Lee Dong-ho, Scott Wilson

Directed by Bong Joon-ho

Expectations: Very high.

fourstar


The Host is a monster movie featuring scenes of terror and peril that will give you goosebumps, but to be technical it’s not really a horror film. Not the best review to post on Halloween, but it’s the only one I have so it’ll have to do! So while it’s part monster movie, part action movie & part horror movie, under the surface it’s actually a drama about the nature of family — in this case, a dysfunctional family — and how they deal with the life-threatening, horror-movie circumstances they find themselves in. This might make the film sound like it’s not the type of thing that warrants viewing for a genre fan, but the opposite is true. The Host walks the line between genres exceptionally well, allowing the drama, the horror, as well as lots of comedy and action to work together brilliantly. It combines into one of the finest and most enjoyable monster movies I’ve ever seen.

The Host opens with an Army officer (Scott Wilson, who played Herschel on The Walking Dead) instructing his Korean assistant to dump a whole shit-ton of hazardous chemicals down the drain. The Korean man cautions that these chemicals will go straight into the Han River, most likely causing major damage, but the ruthless American cares nothing for this. So the assistant begins the long task of dumping hundreds of bottles of the stuff down the drain.

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Something Just Right

SOMETHING OLD

somethingnew_6Something New (SN) challenges the old way of thinking that we should “stick with our own.” This is not a stereotypical interracial comedy like Guess Who, where there is no development of characters or the deep-rooted issues of dating “outside your race.” SN is an endearing love story that touches on the realistic struggles of dating interracially. I was skeptical on whether to include SN into our Black Love Fest, but SN details factual challenges from the perspective of a black woman. Kenya (Sanaa Lathan) is a senior accountant. She is obsessive-compulsive, neurotic, and complex. She works hard but plays little. Her main social life is with her besties: Judge – Cheryl (Wendy Raquel Robinson), Pediatrician – Suzette (Golden Brooks), and Banker – Nedra (Taraji P. Henson). They get together often and school each other on looking for an IBM (Ideal Black Man). They make a pact to, “Let it go, and let it flow.” Their mantra sets off a chain of new experiences such as Kenya going on a blind date.

SOMETHING NEW

somethingnew_7Something new can be a serendipitous experience. But it can also make us vulnerable and fearful of the unknown. Kenya accepts a blind date with a landscaper, Brian (Simon Baker). They meet at a Starbucks in L.A.. Kenya is so shocked and uncomfortable by Brian being white that she abruptly ends their date. Later, she unexpectedly sees Brian at a dinner party of their mutual friend. She discovers that Brian did the beautiful landscaping. I love when Brian tells her, “If you’re ever ready, call me.” This definitely has a double meaning. Kenya only agrees that he can be her landscaper after he sends her a copy of Charlotte’s Web. Charlotte is crossed out and replaced by “Kenya’s Web” after a “spider incident” at the nursery. It is during an unplanned and unwanted hike that they share a kiss. Kenya loses herself in the kiss until she realizes whom she is kissing. She is disturbed and asks to be taken home. When Brian drops her off she tries to get rid of him, but he starts to kiss her against the wall. His hands are all over her. He takes charge and they make passionate love, which is followed by an endearing pillow talk scene where he caresses and kisses her face. He unfortunately ruins it by asking her if can she take her hair off. That is a “hell no” with black women who wear weaves. He said he was just wondering what she looks like completely naked, but she was pissed, and kicked him out.

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Something New (2006)

somethingnew_1Starring Sanaa Lathan, Simon Baker, Blair Underwood, Donald Faison, Alfre Woodard, Earl Billings, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Katharine Towne, Stanley DeSantis, Mike Epps, Julie Mond, Lee Garlington

Directed by Sanaa Hamri

Expectations: Moderate.

threestar


Something New begins with a picture-perfect wedding — until the blaring sound of an alarm shatters the peace! Turns out it was only a dream for our main character, Kenya McQueen (Sanaa Lathan), a workaholic accountant for a major Los Angeles firm. She simply doesn’t have the time for a relationship, and even if she did, there isn’t a guy she’s met that can stack up against “The List,” AKA all the things Kenya just won’t do or tolerate in a man.

But her loneliness is strong, so after the prodding of her girlfriends, she decides to agree to her co-worker’s offer of setting up Kenya on a blind date. But she never expected her date to be Brian (Simon Baker), a white landscape architect that ticks off just about every negative on Kenya’s list. What Something New does exceptionally well is walk the line between interracial cultural drama and romantic comedy, painting its story and characters with equal swaths of both. This makes for a film that is always entertaining and charming, as well as thought-provoking.

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Stephen reviews: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society (2006)

solidstatesociety_1Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society [攻殻機動隊 STAND ALONE COMPLEX Solid State Society] (2006)

Starring Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Ohtsuka, Kouichi Yamadera, Kazuya Tatekabe, Masuo Amada, Osamu Saka, Takashi Onozuka, Taro Yamaguchi, Toru Ohkawa, Yutaka Nakano, Yuya Uchida

Directed by Kenji Kamiyama


When I started this journey through the Ghost in the Shell films I fully expected them to go straight downhill and never recover, and even though I still think the original 1995 film is the best, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well the franchise has held its quality. Solid State Society keeps that tradition going with another good blend of cyberpunk thrills and intellectual depth. I think that’s what holds the series up and keeps it from grinding to a halt. It has never drifted so far into action fluff that it becomes mindless, but it has also never forgotten to keep that visceral edge honed sharp.

Unlike the previous Stand Alone Complex films, this one is actually meant to be a film. It is not a compilation, or even an adaptation. The story was intended from the start to be a movie, and that has helped it avoid the flaws that brought down Individual Eleven. I was hoping that would translate into better animation, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. It still looks about the same as the other Stand Alone series. That’s no terrible insult or anything, but it would have been nice to get a visual boost.

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