Beefs with The Village & The Last Samurai

I saw both these movies last weekend, and both of them take an excellent premise and potential and just sort of poop it away.

Spoilers abound.

The Last Samurai

I don’t know what the world would do if it didn’t have Tom Cruise and Kevin Costner stomping around saving people and cultures and worlds alla time. So Mr. Cruise was already in a hole when I plugged in the DVD, but fortunately I found lots of other stuff to bug me. Where my Samurai Jack is at? AKUUUuuuuuu!

  • When we first see his character, Nathan Algren, he’s drinking straight from a tiny flask, because drinking straight from a tiny flask is the international hand sign for “tortured in a period piece” — see Hidalgo, Interview with the Vampire, Blade Runner, Miller’s Crossing or pretty much any other movie ever. But soon we`ll scratch through the facade of tortured drunk jackass to find his true identity of tortured sober jackass.
  • There’s an unceasing march of exposition — and when the chatty white dudes aren’t around to help out with it, there’s the voice-over of Nathan’s diary, which contains such plausible notes-to-self as “since I left the farm at 17.”
  • The presence of the only female in this movie, Taka, could have been created from footage from other movies. There’s even a moment where she’s uncomfortable at the dinner table (I`m also remembering now that everybody seemed to be sitting in chairs — that would be weird; and she pauses with this tiny piece of rice on her chopsticks and looks over at 8 o`clock in the ultimate stock footage of “uncomfortable at the dinner table.” The only unpredictable thing she does is fail to schtupp Tom Cruise. Not the actress` fault, mind you, because even her subtitles are overwrought. She says “sumimasen,” which as I understand it is just “I`m sorry” or “excuse me,” and the subtitles show she said “forgive my weakness.” Damn, that’s some serious inflection. The same kind of thing happens when Tom Cruise finds her bathing and says “ikimasu,” which (again, could be wrong — this is just as I understand it) means “I go” or “I`m going,” and the subtitles say “I must go away.” I know Japanese is fraught with texture and meaning, but DAMN.

    Actually I could relate to Taka cause she speaks little girl formal Japanese like you learn in school. And she has wet hair alla time.

  • There are a lot of weird fast-motion flashbacks that are less Kurosawa and more Xena Warrior Princess. And then there are a lot of fight sequences that are less Princess Mononoke and more Story of Ricky. There’s more orange bloodspray than Kill Bill Vol. 1, which reminds me that the whole movie would have held my attention better if Taka had been Gogo Yubari.
  • It had bad guy from Ghost. You know. Bad guy from Ghost?
  • There were flutes and violins in the background of every scene, which is like the cinematic equivalent of “Sakura” in a Japanese restaurant. Got on me nerves.
  • The scene where Tom Cruise and the other two dudes met the emperor for the first time reminded me a lot of when the scene in “The Compleat Al” where Weird Al asks for Michael Jackson’s permission to parody “Eat It.” White glove and everything. I haven’t seen UHF all the way through — maybe Last Samurai is just a huge Weird Al homage.
  • It makes my dad crazy when guys with no access to razors or beard trimmers stagger around with the same beard day after day. The whole LOTR trilogy was lost on him. Maybe Taka was focusing her schtupping energies into maintaining Nathan’s beard — who knows? — but he spends weeks in the same western clothes he fought a battle in, and my his whites stay white.
  • Bad guy from Ghost says “Come, man, tell us what you saw” with no pause between “come” and “man,” like he’s reading his lines phonetically. I know he’s not a bad actor — it’s like he was reading the script for the first time, or the director had a grudge against him and used his worst take. While I`m picking line-reading nits, the westernized Japanese dude who approached bad guy from Ghost in the first place says “Engrish,” with a hard R, like he’s faking a Japanese accent and not doing so good. Weird. Tragic.
  • The whole time I was thinking how Tom Cruise’s haircut is the same as Diane Keaton’s in Something’s Gotta Give, and wondering how it would look on me.

So it was easy to dislike The Last Samurai, and it conformed to my expectations, and all was right with the universe. But then there’s The Village, which I wanted to like, and I didn’t hate, and that is a different matter entirely.

The Village

Gotta get these kids peeing indoors. Issis as yellow as the Washington Times.

  • Looking back, a lot of things made sense. The first scene, with Brendan Gleeson at his son’s grave — I thought his son had been killed by a creature. It added heft to the creature thing, like when William Hurt gets up at the funeral dinner and says something like “this makes us wonder if we made the right choice by settling here,” and to me that meant “where all these damn hell ass creatures are,” and it went in the spooky file even though later it looks like Brendan Gleeson’s kid just died of regular sickness and not-having-medicine-ness.

    Also, when Ivy takes Adrien Brody to the quiet room for hitting but lets him off the hook, it’s clear that the kind of hitting he must have done before was much worse than what he was guilty of there. So you got some violent tendencies. But there really should have been more foreshadowing for “of COURSE we keep a creature suit under the floorboards of the retard room,” so there wasn’t that “OMG it was Old Man Ferguson all along!” moment when the elders discover it. Still, once you see it, you got Adrien Brody gone, and floorboards up, and animal skins — you can figure it out — saying “OMG Adrien Brody stole our secret creature costume heretofore hidden under the floorboards” out loud was very silly.

  • The stabbing non-sound in The Village contrasted nicely with the stab sounds in The Last Samurai. In fact I thought the whole stabbing scene was perfect and disturbing though it would have played out better if Lucius (not Malfoy) had died instead of become a plot device.

  • William Hurt kept calling Joaquin Phoenix “the boy,” although he is THIRTY. Silly.
  • I would have preferred 1) that the monsters be real. And a little less dude-in-a-suit looking. Like just a red cloak with shadow underneath would have been nice and spooky, if you could get around feeling like you were being attacked by Orko.

    Oh no! It’s the safe color, Ram-Man!

  • If Ivy knew the creatures weren’t real (barring William Hurt’s voice-over that the fake monsters were based on real monsters of legend; why did she panic when she realized her safe color cloak was covered with mud? And why was she crying all through the woods, and pretty much non-stop through the last act? (Sidebar on crying: I like a good crying actor as much as the next guy, but you got to parcel it out — it’s hard to relate to somebody on a non-stop crying jag. I knew I wasn’t going to like The Messenger when Milla Jovovich showed up already with the waterworks, and she pretty much kept it up through the whole movie. Maybe it was allergies. I dunno.)
  • If you HAD to have the monsters be fake, and the movie be set in the 20th century (which I totally called like 5 minutes before it was revealed; I would have preferred 2) that there be some subtle anachronisms. There’s no way you could be exposed to the culture and crapola of the 20th century and not have some sneak out from time to time. What made The Sixth Sense so great (aside from the acting `n` family drama `n` stuff) was how he took the way you naturally fill in the blanks when watching a movie and used it against you. He could have done the same thing with The Village — check it out — you could have one character singing a little bit of “You Are My Sunshine.” It kind of sounds right, but you think, wait — that’s like 1940, that’s an anachronism. And you chalk it up to BAD FILMMAKING. This is because you are exposed to BAD FILMMAKING all the time, and you’re used to overlooking it. And then SHEPOW you were right all along.
  • Also I`m thinking a couple of characters refer to “quarts.” If you were going to create a perfect society, wouldn’t you go metric?

Wow, that was a lot. Mocking will resume tomorrow.


Draws. Sweats. Eats too much sugar-free candy.

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10 Responses

  1. lucasgreen says:

    I was really disappointed when I saw the advertisements for Last Samurai, well before I actually saw the movie.
    There is a true story of the last samurai which is basically the story presented of the Japanese lead male in the movie.
    That story is plenty enough for a whole movie right there. Adding Tom Cruise`s character just took time away from the real story here and basically hurt the movie. Why do we need the good looking white guy to make us interested in going to the cinema?

  2. Tory says:

    While I`m at it, I would have liked it if there had been something made of the fact that blood is the bad color. Like maybe somebody`s out near the woods, and they get a nosebleed, and just by virture of bleeding they are totally boned.

  3. Sanguinity says:

    Whithering Tom Cruise reviews! Yay! Your reference to `karma` reminded me of something a friend posted to clarify the meaning of the word — I could see you being interested, assuming you don`t know it already.

  4. Tory says:

    That`s “virtue.” And I`ve been spelling Shyamalan wrong. Hoo for error checking.

  5. astarael says:

    I loved Last Samurai, but could have done without Tom Cruise. And the chick was okay. But Ken Watanabe made me very happy. I cried at the end. (The REAL end, with the dying, not the crappy add-on bit where Tommy gives the sword to the emperor. That was silly.)

  6. Cristiane says:

    I haven`t seen The Village (and won`t) but I was wondering why they pretend it`s the 1880s – the children won`t know the difference if they tell them it`s 2004 – they don`t know any other culture. But what I really want to know is how you get those teeny tiny bathing suits for the shrimp larvae?

  7. Lauren says:

    You know what else I noticed about The Village? The 8 or so elders founded the village – so how were all of these other adults running around, also clueless about the creature? Remember the 3 long tablefulls of people when they ate? I doubt those 8 people are the fathers and mothers of ALL of them. Anyway. I thought that how the people were Amish – but not quite (Ivy had short hair, etc) was artful.

  8. Alena says:

    I just watched this last night, and how bad did the last half suck? OMG. I was totally into it up until the halfway mark, the twist comes, and damnit, it`s lame. I agree with Lauren; I couldn�t figure out the logistics of the 8 elders and the hundreds of random, clueless adults running around (where they hell�d they come from, and why don�t they know?). I did notice subtle anachronisms, but maybe only noticeable to history freaks like myself. In one scene, one of the elders is wearing a suit and tie. I was like, Huh.. that`s weird, I didn`t think they had that kind of garb back in 1700-1800-whatever. Also Ivy`s short hair and the boundless uncovered heads are not period, but often movies take a bit of liberty because watching wind blow through streaming locks is, like, so totally poetic. Then dude totally wrecks my suspense movie by actually showing the creature. Doesn�t he know it�s much scarier if you can�t see the weird fake-looking thinger with the fangs?? What a disappointment.

  9. Laura says:

    So after thinking a bit, I`ve decided that Shyamalan makes the creature look stupid for a reason. It looks like something a little kid might think will jump out of thier closet. Our fear and suspense is built up so much. `The creatures are out to get us; they are the enemy.` Then it turns out the enemy is all in our head, built up by the collective fear. My belief in that isn`t all that firm, but I just think there has to be a reason he made them look so obviously fake.

  10. Tory says:

    Laura – I like your theory. You gotta figure how many millions and how many guys they had working on The Village — there are no accidents. No accidents!

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