THE FILM YAP » 1940s We Never Shut Up About Movies Fri, 21 Nov 2014 19:48:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Heroes of the Zeroes: Pan’s Labyrinth Sat, 14 Aug 2010 04:01:27 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“Pan’s Labyrinth”
Rated R

Streams of blood course through “Pan’s Labyrinth,” but only because of the huge, hard-pumping heart beating within this grim, but unexpectedly hopeful, adult fairytale.

Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro has always been a meticulous master of the macabre, composing reams of sketches and notes for ornate grotesqueries in his horror films. More invigorating in this 2006 film was his emotional awakening to what lessons could be learned from harsh brutality and how one’s pain propels frantic scrambles for beauty and solace during an indeterminate time on earth.

Soaked in as much soul as crimson gore, “Labyrinth” washes viewers over with lavish filmmaking, but makes them feel suffering at three levels — the larger world of a nation (fascist 1944 Spain), the personal world of a child (Ivana Baquero) and the supernatural world of magnificently created characters.

Young Ofelia has moved with her mother to the stronghold of Capitan Vidal (Sergi Lopez), a menacing military man whom her mother has married for safety and security. Venturing into nearby woods, Ofelia discovers remnants of a decaying otherworld. Soon, her personal and paranormal fates are irreversibly entwined.

As the real-world tendrils of Vidal’s menace spread to Ofelia, Lopez creates one of the decade’s most horrifyingly full-bore villains — a man whose emotions eroded long ago and who seeks only a male heir in preserving his violent bloodline.

Employing elegance, tension, fright and invention, “Pan’s Labyrinth” held court with rapture and awe from start to finish, with a resolution solidifying it as the stuff of stories turned legends.

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Heroes of the Zeroes: My Dog Skip Thu, 29 Jul 2010 04:01:49 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“My Dog Skip”
Rated PG

Not a mawkish dying-dog tearjerker, 2000’s “My Dog Skip” carried a touch of Mark Twain, with quasi-dangerous tall tales and awareness of the gap between childhood and boyhood. Plus, as it’s said of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” there’s cussin’ in it.

It’s sometimes tough to see through hazy Hallmark Channel cinematography or hear between strains of a William Ross score in which the strings swell so much they’re oozing pus.

Still, this kinda-rambunctious, kinda-relaxing adaptation of anecdotes from Willie Morris’ memoir took a tactful, wistful look at bygone days of a boy’s life circa 1942. It’s a less-timeless, Southern-fried twin to “A Christmas Story,” with Harry Connick Jr.’s Cajun-cadence narration replacing Jean Shepherd.

Honestly, Skip is the least interesting character — a Jack Russell Terrier whose cute tricks (“driving,” drinking toilet water, etc.) are purposeful diversions from themes of war, death and racism. Skip is the constant pal to scrawny young Willie (Frankie Muniz, then a seedling), bullied at school and babied at home by his war-veteran father (Kevin Bacon).

Every kid’s life gets to a point beyond good parenting where it’s simply trial and error, and “Skip” sends Willie through those tests — of friendship, perseverance and prejudice. Without slathering it on thick, director Jay Russell shows that children of any era goad themselves into what they think is adulthood — emulating, imitating and learning from mistakes.

Although you know “Skip’s” final frame from the first one, it arrives there via such graceful, gentle and bittersweet nostalgia that it hardly matters.

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Heroes of the Zeroes: Kung Fu Hustle Wed, 16 Jun 2010 04:16:49 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“Kung Fu Hustle”
Rated R

Writer/director/producer/composer/star Stephen Chow delivered easily the most exhilarating, breathlessly silly pure kung fu movie of the Zeroes in this 2005 U.S. import (originally released in 2004). It out-beautied “Hero” and easily outpaced the second “Kill Bill” in close-contact adrenaline.

Sing (Chow) is a gangster wannabe in 1940s Shanghai who inadvertently sparks a war between the Axe Gang and the shantytown community of Pig Sty Alley. While it seems the Axe Gang’s otherworldly ace in the hole — kung fu master The Beast — is unstoppable, Pig Sty’s landlord and landlady have their own skills, as does Sing.

Marvel at “Hustle” for both its crackerjack comedy and violent-ballet battles. It’s peppered with physical humor (Sing and the landlady become human Road Runners in a Looney Tunes-style chase), sight gags (The Beast’s magnificently ironic appearance) and self-spoofing (Chow referencing “The Shining” only because he has a long hallway and the sheer inclination to do so).

But “Hustle” also fused mysticism, music, mood and movement better than any live-action kung fu film since “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” A face-off between Pig Sty Alley’s unexpected heroes and supernaturally aided assassins delivered a roundhouse to “Hero’s” pretentious predictability. Plus, the epic “Matrix Revolutions”-style conclusion lightly poked at that film’s philosophy while delivering a heavens-shaking showdown that was every bit as exciting.

The mentality of genre-based grab-bagging doesn’t always work. But Chow used such wacky tools to forge so much mind-blowing fun that the last thing “Kung Fu Hustle” felt like was a phony con job.

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