Stream Police: Oddball Edition
It's me again, your friendly neighborhood John Lein. This is technically my third Stream Police, but last time I had that dead weight that was our Editor-in-Chief holding me back from the truly odd and interesting Netflix picks. This week I'm back off the rails with truly interesting suggestions that everybody should watch. Unfortunately for you dear reader, none of my suggestions this week are for Television shows, so you'll have to check in next week for new choices once you've torn your way through mine.
Kundo: Age of the Rampant is a film that came out of Korea just last year. Korea has quickly developed in to one of my favorite foreign film markets, as they seem to love fusing awesome martial arts with the best genre of all time, the Spaghetti Western. In Kundo, a butcher, the lowest class in ancient civilization, is hired to kill a young pregnant woman. When he fails, his employer kills his mother and sister and leaves him for dead. The Butcher, named Dolmuchi and portrayed by Jung-woo Ha, is saved by a clan of bandits and joins their ranks, learning their strategies, their moral values, and their way of life. Despite the film following Dolmuchi, every character has an equal level of depth and motivation behind their actions. The villainous Nobel seeking revenge for the death of his younger step brother actually wants to kill his step sister to prevent the birth of a new heir to replace him. The leader of the bandits is forced to decide between sticking to his ideals of justice against tyrants and the need to survive. Each character manages to be engaging and interesting, and even the main antagonist is sympathetic and relatable.
The cinematic aspects of the film are stunning. The actions is on par with any other martial arts film I've seen out of East Asian markets. As with all the best films from Korea, this entertaining action takes place in a backdrop of lush and vivid environments. Deep green bamboo forests and pure white falling snow function as colorful settings for engaging and some times humorous fight scenes. The bamboo trees even become a key part of one conflict, providing a more in depth look at the tactics of ancient combat. The soundtrack is probably my favorite part. I often hardly notice the music behind the diagetic sounds of a film, but the audio in Kundo was so reminiscent of the soundtrack for Once Upon a Time in the West that I couldn't help but grin like an idiot at the haunting notes and pace.
One note is that the film does require the use of subtitles, so if you aren't in the mood for a little light reading, move on to my other suggestions
For fans of: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Hero, Once Upon a Time in the West, The Good The Bad and The Weird.
Three Kings is one of the less eccentric film on the list this week, but it does have the most racial slurs against Middle Eastern ethnicities. In Three Kings, 4 disillusioned vets played by George clooney, Mark Whalberg, Ice Cube, and Spike Jones, at the tail end of the first war in Iraq, find a hand drawn map stuffed up a prisoner of war's rear end. The map leads to a series of bunkers, the soldiers assume one of them is filled with gold rumored to be hoarded by Saddam's best guardsmen. Since the treaty between Iraq and America has already been signed, these soldiers decide the risk is worth the reward and steal a humvee and their weaponry and set out to find the gold for themselves.
The visuals are striking and visceral, with a heavy use of dutch angles, slow motion, and hazy motion blurred action shots. At one point, while describing the effects of a bullet piercing a human chest cavity, a shot of a man’s insides being peirced by a bullet and filling with bile is both unsettling and enthralling. The soundtrack is full of both fast paced jazz percussion with Arabian melodies and iconic songs of the west from Bach to The Beach Boys.
All in all the film is not only an entertaining movie that mixes comedy with sobriety, but also an interesting commentary on America’s involvement in the Middle East. It was released before the second war in Iraq, and the existence of the second conflict only serves to create additional layers for the piece.
For fans of: Jarhead, Oceans 11, The Peacemaker (It should be noted that I couldn't think of any movie exactly like Three Kings, so this list simply covers aspects of the film as a whole.)
Chaos is a film that seemed to fly under the radar in 2005 and has been greatly unappreciated since. It's the closest to standard Hollywood style cinema of all the choices on the list, but it's twists and turns are enough to gain it entry on this week's Stream Police. It casts Jason Statham as a cop on probation alongside Wesley Snipes as a bank robber with a vendetta against him. It also features a notable supporting cast made up of Ryan Phillippe, Henry Czerny, Justine Waddell, and Nicholas Lea. When Statham kills a hostage taker and the hostage one night on duty, the hostage taker's brother takes to robbing banks, with the intent of punishing Statham. Phillippe, a young rookie assigned to baby sit Statham, follows along and helps piece the bread crumbs together to figure out whats going on. The film is a thrilling suspense movie with engrossing twists and turns that will keep you on thinking till the very end.
Also, the ending really does it for me.
For fans of: The Game, Inside Man, Swordfish
The Big Empty stars John Favreau as John Person, a struggling actor drowning in debt. When his neighbor gives him a job offer to transport a suitcase to a small town in the middle of nowhere, John is sucked in to a confusing, surreal series of events culminating in a finale that is out of this world. The film is filled with interesting secondary characters, from Bud Cort’s Neely, the neighbor that offers John the job, to Sean Bean’s Cowboy, the intense man John is meant to deliver the case to. It also has appearances from Joey Lauren Adams, Adam Beach, Kelsey Grammer, and an extremely young Rachel Leigh Cook. The Big Empty is an oddball thriller that is equal parts suspense and humor. It keeps the audience guessing from start to finish.
For fans of: John Dies at the End, Made, The Big Nothing
A Fantastic Fear of Everything is a Simon Pegg vehicle made in 2012. It follows the story of Jack, Simon Pegg’s character, as he researches death and murder in preparation for a book he’s writing. Jack becomes more and more deranged, certain that someone is out to kill him for reasons unknown. Pegg narrates the story as the audience watches Jack dip further and further in to his psychosis. His interactions with both his friends and complete strangers take on a sinister tone as slow moving piano tunes drip through the background of the film. The question of the film becomes whether or not his paranoia is founded in fact, or if it is simply the overactive imagination of an eccentric writer. The ending is also odd and unexpected, warping in to a claymation story about a hedgehog. The film itself is bizarre and off the wall, and the pacing isn't always on point, but with Simon Pegg as it’s primary player, the gravitas of the piece is undeniable.
For fans of: Burke and Hare, Tucker and Dale Vs Evil, (I honestly can't think of any other ones, and even Tucker and Dale is pushing it a bit.)