Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ju-On 2 (this review might be spoiler-y)

 If you know that sound, you might have some idea about what this article is about. But I bet, at this moment in time, you won't have any idea of the amount of crazy and supposition that is going to happen in this "review". Be warned.

This afternoon I decided to sit down and watch Takashi Shimizu's Ju-On 2, 2003's sequel to the 2000 Ju-On. For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, these are the movies that were re-made in the US starring Sarah Michelle Gellar under the name of The Grudge.

Pictured: Not the movie I watched. 
Now, here comes the section of the review where I try to compare the two series somewhat. Keeping in mind that I saw the re-make of the original in theaters, but only saw part of the original on tv one night; and the reverse is true for the sequels. I have seen the original Ju-On 2 all the way, but not all of the re-make. This gives me lots of speculation room as to how the two series are not similar. For starters I kind of think Kayako (the Grudge ghost) probably does not come raging out of Sarah Michelle Gellar's vagina at any time in the US re-makes. Just saying.

I am also thinking that, aside from horrible Grudge birth, the plots aren't going to be that much similar between the two sequels. Ju-On 2 is about a film crew, and an actress specifically. Which is not what SMG character was in the first re-make. I also tend to think that, theme wise, the movies are not really that similar. While both feature the aspect of Kayako cursing anyone who meets her as she is a grudge the overall feeling I got from Ju-On 2 and what I've seen of Ju-On was that it is presented more like a disease. The re-makes had more of an outsider living in a completely different culture vibe. I can go further here and say that the grudge infection in the re-makes seems to be focused more on a foreigner trying to resist being assimilated into the different culture.

There, I was a good reviewer and even tried to go a little deep for a minute there! Now it's time to get back to doing what I do best... not really reviewing things!

So, Ju-On 2. I enjoyed it. There was some really good, unsettling filmography going on. Rather than being in your face about everything, much of the ghost stuff seemed to be really subtle. Things that you wouldn't notice right away. This is the trend my mother complains about the most in US horror, everything is so in your face.

The movie is not presented in a linear format (that one took me a minute to figure out) and each character that comes into contact with Kayako has their story shown. One of these characters seemed tacked in for extra padding; her story was presented differently than the other characters and I had no idea who she was when they first started her segment because she had appeared for less than a minute in an early scene. I'm not sure why she was there, really. Well, I know why she was in the earlier scene, but I'm not sure what made her special and singled out.

Most of the rest of the characters are dealt with in the same format. They go into Kayako's house, and then they die. The main character, Kyoko, lasts a little longer and has some different stuff happen to her. This is expected, she's the heroine. The other girl, not so much.

Anyway. Rather than just being killed, Kyoko survives a car accident with her boyfriend who is put into a coma and sent to the hospital of death. That's probably not it's real name, but that's what I like to call it. I would not be visiting that hospital anytime soon. Really inept staff, we'll get to them.

Kyoko has a few bumps and bruises, but begins to suspect that something is wrong with her baby/fetus after the accident. Protip spoiler: it's an evil grudge baby and you are going to name it Kayako.

People start dying, and Kyoko has some really weird stuff happen to her. Like an evil stain appearing in her house. The same evil stain that was in Kayako's house and is probably, most likely, Kayako's blood. Of course, even though Kyoko knows the stain is evil and gives her a weird feeling she sleeps in the same room as it. She really should have called someone to take care of the stain before taking a nap with it, but whatever.

The director who featured Kyoko in National Examiner type news show at the grudge house is putting all the dead/missing people pieces together and contacts Kyoko while she's at the death hospital with her, up until now comatose boyfriend to tell her of all the creepy missing people.

Now, at this point I became a little mixed up on the time frame because; Kyoko was up on the hospital roof with her boyfriend, the director contacts her, she goes to speak with him and leaves the hospital. Que scenes of more weirdness happening to the director and Kyoko, then we were interrupted by the superfluous extra who is also killed by the grudge. For some reason this girl is in the grudge house, but not, she's really only there in her mind (?) but Kyoko gets to see all this because, for some reason she is also at the grudge house (but maybe not, it could be her own house?) where the director stumbles in and finds her passed out on the floor.

He takes Kyoko to the death hospital where doctors are shocked to discover that, women go into labor when their water breaks! Seriously, all three of them stood in amazement and watched. Of course, once the lights started to flicker and evilness started to happen....

Meanwhile, Kyoko's boyfriend who happens to still be on oxygen and in a wheelchair is still on the roof by himself where he goes into convulsions. What sort of a hospital is this?

I will leave the rest up to your imagination, or for you to see for yourself. It wasn't a bad movie, I did enjoy it. There were just some absurdities that had me pausing to go...wait...really? I do think that I might have to sit down and watch the original Ju-On and The Grudge 2 so that I can get a better picture of what it is that I was watching. Right now I think I've got two puzzles that have some clear differences, but not really, and am trying to put them together.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is full to bursting with atmosphere and really expresses a strength of the first time novelist's writing that she can actually place you in the circus with her colorful of characters.

While the characters are colorful, the circus is not.

The descriptions of the circus contained inside are what made the book for me. This was everything I have always wanted a circus to be. Feats of amazing magic contained in everything from the smallest act to the largest. The images of the tents and rides so perfectly captured in prose that I found myself wondering if anyone had thought about making this book into a movie yet. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there is a studio that has already bought the rights and now can just sit back and wait to see if they do these beautiful black and white acts the justice they so truly deserve.

Aside from the circus and descriptions of acts, there is a plot to the book. But don't fool yourselves, I would have read about nothing but the circus itself, the different acts and rides and performances. To the plot though.

The actual plot and setup of the book was also something that I found refreshing. It involves two magicians that are pitted against each other in a game devised by their teachers. For the game to end, one of the magicians needs to die.

There are many places where this novel borrows from Shakespeare, but no so heavy a place as this. The two magicians, a man and a woman, have been trained their entire lives for this game. They know that they are going to be competing. They aren't sure right away who their opponents are, but when they found out they happen to fall in love. Romeo and Juliet anyone?

Even with this common plot, the author has done such an astounding job of making the romance and subsequent tragedy believable in more ways than even Shakespeare did. No, I was not a fan of Romeo and Juliet and by telling you that this is what the plot reminds me of does not actually give anything away. See, I'm still spoiler free!

Earlier I said that the magic aspect was also refreshing. Witches and wizards seem to be the most popular magic humans, so it was nice to see magicians! Actual magicians being called magicians or illusionists. Not that they are a separate breed of humans, but that magic is a talent and can be learned and cultivated. I am sure that this is not the only book to look at magic like this, but it is, in my opinion, one of the better ones.

While I did enjoy this book overall, there were a few things about it that made it a little difficult for me to get into right away. The biggest is that the book skips around in time. A lot. And it can be very hard to tell when you are supposed to be as the characters, aside from a special few, never change. Superficially at least, there is some character growth and what not. The other thing I found myself getting frustrated with was how slow it took some of the characters to step into their actual parts in the book. Mentions of these characters would come and go, chapters would be spent looking at them, and it wouldn't be until chapters later that the reader would figure out where the pieces fit together. These things don't detract too much from my enjoyment, but they did keep me from finishing the book as quickly as would normally have done so. 

I would recommend this book to people who like beautiful imagery, Victorian times, circuses, and magic. Even people who are afraid of clowns can read this book.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Ernest Scard Stupid

If you couldn't tell, this blog is updated kind of randomly! I tend to update when I feel like it, if I've seen something that I think needs to be reviewed or whatever.

This time around, I'll be reviewing a classic that I have loved since I was a wee little child only so high. Of course I am talking about the troll-tastic Ernest Scared Stupid!

How can you not watch this at Halloween? Even Christmas, I mean, it's got the spirit of Christmas to it. Gifts to the town come from a tree, etc. 

This show made my Halloween when I was younger. I loved every minute of Ernest's slapstick and most everything about this movie. It wasn't until later, as I grew older, that I thought how weird it is that the people in this town let their children hang around Ernest. But that's my jaded era showing through. On a recent re-watch, though, I didn't find the movie too dated (other than thinking about how a movie where an adult hung around a bunch of little kids would not be treated so lightheartedly in our current cultural climate) which is not something I can say for other movies made around the same time. I'm not sure if it's because this movie wasn't too focused on looking at "hip kid culture" and was more looking at a man who is not the brightest crayon in the box, but has a good heart.

Movies like this just aren't made anymore, it was like watching a live action cartoon. Reality didn't matter. There was a Jack Russel that was fully capable of driving a dump truck, so nitpicking about the physics of some of the "troll traps" and what have you was kind of pointless.

The entire premise of the movie revolves around a troll that left a curse on the town. Part of the curse ended up being Ernest himself, while the other part was that Ernest would bring the troll back to life. Ernest is the town idiot so no one believes him (or the children that hang out with him) about the trolls. Trolls which Ernest brought back while pointing out how stupid the curse was and how it would never happen.

Anyone who has seen another of my favorite cheesy/"scary" movies, Killer Klowns From Outer Space (if you have not seen that one, go, now... I'll wait) might recognize the trolls as they repainted the Klown costumes to use in this one.
Also with some adjustments to hair....and pies...

I am aware that some of my friends feel themselves to be too cool to watch movies like this, but you know what I say? I say that much like Ernest you need to keep your childlike heart with you and you should never know when to quit (things like this).