Tuesday, December 28, 2010

REVIEW: Luna Papa

Luna Papa
Director: Bakhtyar Khudojnazarov
Year 1999

Luna Papa is a marvelous modern day fable set against the backdrop of the beautiful expansive landscapes of Tadshikistan. Directed by Tadshikistan native Bakhtyar Khudojnazarov and written by both Irakli Kvirikadze and the aforementioned director, Luna Papa tells the story of a young innocent girl named Mamlakat, played to perfection by the beautiful and extremely talented Chulpan Khamatova, as she struggles with family problems and the fact that she has recently become pregnant by an unknown stranger.

What makes this film so unique, is the fact that it is all being told from the perspective of the unborn child. With this creative method, the film is able to really stretch within a child like frame of mind, allowing for a more fantastical representation of the world that we've come to know. Along with the fairy tale element of viewing the world from a child's eye view, the film also follows similar cues found within shakespearean tales, providing a comedy that's filled with tragedy, unique characters, and plenty of poetically charged visuals.

 My god, I'm talking to a pile of rocks!

What really makes Luna Papa such a glorious success is the flawless performance by young Chulpan Khamatova. I had only recently become aware of her screen presence earlier this year when I stumbled across a Russian super hero film called The Sword Bearer that I reviewed in April.  Watching her subtle performance in that film had me hooked and I had to hunt down the rest of her more universally acclaimed roles. After seeing her portray the troubled Mamlakat in Luna Papa, I've made it my film loving duty to obtain the rest of her films. I've recently viewed Goodbye Lenin where she doesn't exactly have that much screen time, but in the scenes that she does appear she steals the show. She's an expert actress and the performance that she gives in Luna Papa is beyond words and simply original in every and all aspects.

 I pledge allegiance to the flag....

The rest of the cast does an equally superb job with bringing their vibrant characters to life. Moritz Bleibtreu of such stellar films as Run Lola Run, Das Experiment, Munich, and The Baader Meinhof Complex, gives an interesting and sympathetic turn as Mamlakat's estranged and confused brother Nasreddin. Suffering from shell shock and constantly getting into trouble, Moritz conveys Nasreddin as a gentle yet highly troubled young man who, in previous events not seen in the film, is dealing with a lot of demons from warring as a soldier. His antics of racing around the town knocking things over, mimicking an endless battle with evil, gives his character a frayed yet harmless quality that allows us to sympathize with his plight and all that's going on within the film's story. It was actually surprising for me to see him in a role like this, because I'm used to always seeing him representing a more controlled character. With Nasreddin, Moritz is able to step outside of the norm and play a more obscure role, one that definitely progresses the story-line but through none traditional ways.

 And the winner is Pops in his red speedster!

The directional efforts of Bakhtyar Khudojnazarov is just astounding and it really breaths life into the world of Luna Papa. The camera swoops along with the action and gracefully soars from one scene to the next. I'm often caught off guard on how amazing the entire film flows and how set we are as the audience in this world. It almost feels like were part of the adventure, getting to know the subtle nature of these characters and sharing in on the madness of it all. Nothing is taken at face value and grounded in the world of the ordinary.

Everything is epically overblown and dramatic in flare. There's many outstanding uses of a propeller airplane that, as the story progress, we come to find means a great deal to the overall story arch. There's just some very masterful shots in this film that will have you really appreciating the great efforts that the director and crew must have gone through to get the timing of some of these said scenes that perfect, yet make it look so effortless in the process.

 So what, I like standing on cars. No big whoop.

To watch this film, is two experience the lives of this tight knit family that we follow throughout its length. There are some scenes in the movie that really show a great deal of heart and soul. Little moments that if placed in other filmmaker's hands would have been normal and uneventful, but within the world of Luna Papa, these moments come off as a stupendous endeavor that has a life of its own.  Much like how a musical relates the feelings of the actors through expressive songs, giving a great deal more weight and impactful nature to their sung words, the director uses this same technique but with sweaping camera movements while acquiring a delicate focus on the wimsical nature of his characters and fantasy infused world that they inhabit. The recipe results in something entirely watchable and extremely enjoyable to experience.

 Mamlakat is pissed that she missed Top Cruise, and who wouldn't be.

The world of Luna Papa is an eyepopping one, with never a dull moment or frame to be seen. The colors pop across the desert landscapes and the nighttime locations are infused with such a fragile and beautifully placed lighting scheme, that it does wonders to bring us into each new beautiful location. The visuals that Tadshikistan provides are ones that really can't be placed anywhere else in the world. It really is a wonderful location filled with such diverse landscape and colorful places, that I can't imagine this spectacular story being told anywhere else. Tadshikistan is Luna Papa and both film and place blend admirably together.

 Prepare for takeoff.

The comedy within this film is picture perfect for the characters and world that they've set up. Nothing ever feels out of place or simply put in to get a cheap laugh. Most of the humorous scenes that really work have to do with how the character is dealing with a given situation. One of the most memorable moments that had me cracking up, was when Mamlakat sneaks out to visit a doctor to get an abortion, which in the end never comes to fruition because of extenuating circumstances. After telling the doctor her sob story, he finally conceeds to the operation and tells her to lie on the table. Mamlakat, seeing the leg sturrups and never being in this situation before, mistakes them for arm sturrups and lays flat on her belly with arms straight out, looking like she's about to take off like some kind of airplane.

Now you'd think that the situation of getting an abortion wouldn't be a funny one in the least, but through the niavity of Mamlakat and the expert timing of actress Chulpan Khamatova, combined with the horrible situation that she is in, the director is able to slip in a comedic moment that doesn't feel thrown out of left field. It's natural in its execution and normal for a woman as young and inexperienced as she is in this story to be confused yet to go about it in the most oblivious way. It's also interesting that the shape of an airplane and also stylistic cues come up again and again throughout the film, but that's another one of those everlasting charms that the film throws out to you after repeat viewings.

 Why the hell can't I grow tomatoes for shit?

Not only is there some great comedic moments in this film, but there's also some heart felt drama that tends to creep up from time to time. Sometimes these dramatic moments are intersected with comedic touches that have you feeling multiple emotions at once. One of the best examples of this is when Mamlakat's father, played by Ato Mukhamedzhanov, is pleading at his wife's grave asking when it is his time to join her. He's fed up with all that life has thrown at him after her passing and he wants nothing more then to be with her again. He frustratingly begins clawing at the ground digging a small hole just big enough to place his head in and then proceeds to bury his head under the sand.

The scene starts out heartbreaking and then suddenly dips into comedic flavor as he basically gives up on any kind of dignity and kneels there with his head buried firmly in the ground. The scene is also a great play of how fathers deal with finding that their daughter has become pregnant while still in their care. They figuratively bury their head in the sand and pretend that it's not true. The visual metaphor is brilliant and you'll find constant instances like this throughout the film.

 What a beautiful time for a ferry ride.

Luna Papa is just plain fun. It's an adventure movie with a comic twist, created from the mind of an innocent unborn child who views the world from a sort of fairy-tale storybook perspective. The adventures that Mamlakat and her family get into as they search far and wide for the father of her baby, is so sprawling and unpredictable that you can't help but be swept up by the unbridled ambitiousness of the story. The characters that they meet along the way are equally matched by the boldness of the narrative. You will literally not know what is going to happen next. The film has such a random nature to it, but at the heart of it, it has so much stability and coherency that you won't consciously notice the mad cap nature of it all. You just fall in line with the characters and go along for the ride. In my opinion that's the epitome of masterful story telling. If you can lose the audience into the world that you've created then you've done your job to the fullest.

 The whole worlds come undone, Mamlakat's got a gun!

Now this wouldn't be a very thorough review if I didn't mention the glorious music that accompanies this impressive film. Daler Nazarov provides some jovial and uplifting themes along with a slew of haunting and melodramatic melodies that add another layer of mastery to the overall movie. One of my favorite pieces entitled Loneliness, crops up from time to time and when it does it perfectly captures the feeling of desperation and seclusion that Mamlakat is going through trying to deal with living in a society that frowns upon unmarried pregnant women and dealing with the fact that any happiness that she finds seems to die a quick and painful death. The score for this film by Nazarov is one that provides the perfect visual sound needed to catapult this story into legendary and story book status. The mythical allegory that the film lays out for its audience is perfectly represented with the melding of characters, locations, visuals, and music.

Probably the coolest and strangest birthday card to give someone.

Luna Papa is a type of film that you will likely never again see in your lifetime. It's originality will be hard pressed to match and the execution of the film is something that seems to be only possible in that moment of time when it was filmed. To be truthful, this is not a film that is visually seen, but emotionally experienced. It's a ride through someone else's life, yet through the eyes of a child. Such a confusing conundrum seems destined only to end in a muddy mess of incoherent patch-worked scenes, but from this madness emerges a film that truly reveals itself to be something of a lost gem.

The lively story, combined with the wonder of each characters impact on the overall narrative, gives birth to a film like no other. One with heart, soul, and a compelling nature that never seems to dim as the story expands into the absurd. Luna Papa is a film that you must see for yourself to gauge its worth. Some might get lost in the frantic nature of the story, but if you're willing to cling on and open your mind to a film that breaks the mold of storytelling, you might be pleasantly surprised that you come out the other end of this surreal bombshell with a film that you've absolutely fell in love with. I can't recommend this movie enough to any and all cinema lovers.

5 out of 5 stars      A Fantastic Experience Like No Other!

X-MAS LOOT: 2010

Christmas has come and gone, and thanks to my beautiful wife and daughter, my movie collection is a little bit bigger. I received some pretty top grade flicks in the haul this year and some interesting films that I've still yet to check out. I'll give a quick run down on some of my favorites and then later on in the next couple of weeks I'll be reviewing the ones that really quench my insatiable and warped cinephile mind. I also included a choice image from each of the DVD's so enjoy the randomness of it all and I hope your Christmas was a blast.

Director: Stanley Donen
Year 1963

This is one of those films that, I hate to say, I've still yet to see. I've heard nothing but great things about the film though and I'm really looking forward to finally checking it out. The movie stars Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, two amazing actors, in what is described as a romantic comedy, thriller hybrid. I just finished up with a similar film, Arabesque, where Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren play a faint resemblance to Grant and Hepburn's characters and that movie was highly entertaining so I've got high hopes for this one.

 Now I told you, no more Christmas sweaters.

Director: Leslie H. Martinson
Year 1967

I have been blazing my way through the spy genre as of late and have tackled films from Modesty Blaise, to the two Flint films, all the way to some obscure Eurospy films like Fury in Marrakesh and a handful of Agent 077 films, so I'm highly looking forward to checking out the lovely and talented Raquel Welch as she dives into the genre. The film looks like an absolute blast and I can't wait to give it a watch. Welch plays a skydiver named Fathom Harvill who is approached to take on a secret mission of utmost importance. FUN.

 The pilot thinks the view from here is just fine.

Humanoids from the Deep
Director: Barbara Peeters
Year 1980

Ever since I watched the crazy ass finale for this film on TV way back when I was a young lad, I've been dying to catch the whole bloody affair and finally my time has come. The film follows a group of wild and out of control aquatic hooligans as they rape, pillage, and basically massacre an entire population of a small fishing village. Sounds like a good time to me. Doug McClure of The Land That Time Forgot, The People That Time Forgot, At the Earth's Core, and Warlords of the Deep fame, takes top billing as Jim Hill who I only assume takes the fight to those damn dirty humanoid scum. I've enjoyed all of his previous roles, so I'm really looking forward to this one.

 The reactions from seeing grandma get run over by a reindeer.

Icons of Horror Collection
Sam Katzman

The Icons of Horror Collection consist of four movies, The Giant Claw, Creature with the Atom Brain, The Werewolf, and Zombies of Mora Tau. I've only seen The Werewolf and Zombies of Mora Tau from this set and both were pretty great flicks, so I'm looking forward to cracking open the other half of this set.

Creature with the Atom Brain
Director: Edward L. Cahn
Year 1955

Creature with the Atom Brain features the diabolic stylings of an ex-Nazi scientist who lends a friendly hand to an American mobster by providing him with a small army of radio-controlled atomic-powered zombies. Sounds pretty crazy and I have really no idea what to think. I'll just have to watch it to find out, but I really enjoyed Edward L. Cahn's Zombies of Mora Tau, so maybe it will end up being entertaining.

 The touch... the feel... of cotton. The fabric of our lives.

The Giant Claw
Director: Fred F. Sears
Year 1957

The Giant Claw.. Wow.. just from that picture below means an instant watch in my book. I mean where the hell are you going to see something like that in a film nowadays. They just don't make them like this anymore and wether that's a good thing or a bad thing, it doesn't really matter. The Giant Claw stars, you guessed it, a giant claw which happens to be attached to a big, angry ass bird. Again, see pic below. I have a strong feeling I'm going to be smiling a lot throughout this film.

 Holy Shit!

The Werewolf
Director: Fred F. Sears
Year 1956

The Werewolf is actually a really solid addition to the rather large collection of wolf man movies. It follows a similar plot as most in the genre, where a lone man is haunted by an inexplicable and highly dangerous ability that enables him to transform himself into a blood thirsty animal without remorse. Steve Ritch plays the inflicted man who spends most of his time stumbling and bumbling through the woods, as he struggles to come to grips with each murder that he commits. It's a damn good movie with a classy feel that really reminded me of the old Universal Monster flicks. The film's definitely a great addition to the set and it's one of the main reasons I've been itching to add it to my collection.

 Bruce Campbell, you leave that nice wolf man alone!

Zombies of Mora Tau
Director: Edward L. Cahn
Year 1957

I immensely enjoyed Zombies of Mora Tau when I first viewed it a couple of months ago. For some reason it doesn't get much love amongst the cinema circle, but I thoroughly enjoyed its camp flavor and atmospheric nature. The film holds close to its voodoo origins, yet presents the walking dead as cursed sailors who are doomed to guard the wreckage of their ship that has been rumored to harbor a legendary container of diamonds. The film moves along at a brisk pace as a group of intrepid treasure hunters attempt to recover the diamonds, while fending off the slow but menacing advances of the undead crewmen. If you're into zombies, I'd recommend checking it out. It's a fun little film.

 Come here and give me a Christmas hug you old softy.

Return of the Living Dead 3
Director: Brian Yuzna
Year 1993

Zombies! More Zombies! I've been holding off on buying this film for a long while now and it's finally time to take its rightful place next to its brethren, Return of the Living Dead 1 and 2. Not having anything to do with the first two installments, other then containing the same toxic canister that reanimated the dead in the first two movies, the third installment breaks from the more comedic style of the original two and takes a more serious stab at the sub genre. Frankly I love it and I'm glad that they chose to do something different. Glad this baby is finally home where it belongs. Viva La Zombies!

Kind of beating a dead horse when your doing dental work on zombies.

Director: Gabriele Salvatores
Year 1997

Now here's a curious little movie that I'd not heard of until doing some research on different kinds of cyber-punk flicks. Nirvana kept creeping up on my radar, again and again, so I've been dying to get my hands on this film and see it for myself. It stars Christopher Lambert whose career has been all over the damn place, so I really have no idea what to expect from this movie. Lambert has done some pretty great science fiction and genre films like Fortress, Subway, and Highlander, so this could be another one of those cult hits that makes it on one of my favorite lists. Only time will tell, but you might be getting a full blown review if I end up really liking it. If nothing else, the screen shot below is enough to warrant a thumbs up from me.

 Look at all the pretty colors.

OSS 117: Lost in Rio
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Year 2009

Dear god, is there nothing more perfect then the overall tone of OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, the first film in hopefully a long run of OSS 117 films. I've been counting the days to Christmas, until I was able to open up my copy of OSS 117: Lost in Rio, the sequel to one of my favorite films of recent memory, because this was the one DVD that I told my wife was a must have for Christmas. Luckily she heard my pleas and granted my wish, because it stands at the ready, next to my DVD player, waiting for the time when I call it to action. I'll definitely be reviewing both OSS 117 films, so stay tuned for that update in the near future.

 What a spectacular view... to a kill. Cue Duran Duran.

Director: Rob Stefaniuk
Year 2009

Another interesting flick that came out recently, is the cleverly titled Suck. I've been hearing some good things about this film and I kind of went out on a limb when suggesting it as something I wanted for Christmas. I'm sure that I'm going to like it, but I thought the same thing with Repo! The Genetic Opera and that one just didn't float my boat. I probably should give that flick another chance though, because it did have such a vibrant style to it.

Anyways, Suck is about a band that hasn't really made it big yet, that is until one of their members gets mixed up with a vampire and becomes all sexified! Yeah, I said it. Sexified! There's a large mash up of celebrity rocker cameos like Alice Cooper and Henry Rollins, so at least the music influences within the film should be rather interesting to have a listen too. This is another one of those flicks, that if I really dig, will be getting a review in the coming months.

 Malcolm McDowell is checking his list.. and checking it twice.

The Tingler
Director: William Castle
Year 1959

Ah, Tingler. The name just rolls off the tongue. You really can't go wrong with Vincent Price. Everything the man touches is gold and when you add to that already perfect equation, the directorial efforts of the legendary William Castle, well your in for a rather pleasant evening of fright and macabre filled acting. The story is actually pretty interesting, if not insanely out there.

Vincent Price plays a pathologist who comes to the conclusion that the fear that one feels during a scare is caused by a creature that lives inside us. Say whaaaaaaat? From that premise we're catapulted into a series of situations where Vincent Price is determined to provide the proof of this creature and obtain it any way necessary, even if it means MURDER. Like all Vincent Price movies, I can do nothing else but to highly recommend this for any horror movie cinephile.

Vincent Price didn't get what he wanted for Christmas. What a baby.

Well, there you have it. This was just a select handful of my Xmas Loot and hopefully you found something in there that might have peaked your interests and given you a inclination to hop on amazon.com and order it for yourself. Now I'm off to put one of these bad boys into the player and get lost in Christmas bliss. Later for now and Merry Xmas.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Hey everyone. I've just finished a small little video that pretty much summarizes the yearly event that my friends and I have called Cottage Chaos. I've mentioned it before on here, but never got into any real detail. It's basically a glorified home video of the things we do in one chaotic weekend at my cottage in the month of June.

I gather all of the footage that we shoot throughout the event and I put together a DVD of all the antics for everyone to see and revisit. I also add some random videos, like the MUSKY trailer that I posted up a couple of days ago, to flesh out the dvd and mix it up a bit.

Anyways, I thought I'd throw it up here just so you can get an idea on what Cottage Chaos is all about and to see the various different projects that keep me busy. Hope you enjoy.


In the next few days I'll be posting my review on the recent remake of The Wolfman, directed by Joe Johnston and starring Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, and Emily Blunt. In the meantime, I thought I'd give you all a collection of stills that show the interesting end title sequence that follows this sadly under appreciated film. Some of the images are pretty interesting and rather abstract, so here you go, and the review will be up soon. Enjoy.