Saturday, January 31, 2009

Action at its Finest - Taken (2008)




Taken is everything you could ever ask for in an action movie. If you've seen District B-13, you know what the director, Pierre Morel, is capable of. I'd need to watch B-13 again to give specifics, but he injects the genre with a much needed freshness that only comes along once every five or so years. He frames fights in a such a way that you can see every single hit, and you know exactly what is happening at any given moment. The Bourne movies were great, but sometimes you couldn't tell what the hell was going on during the fight scenes. Not so with Taken. The attention to detail is incredible, and Morel is a rare example of foreign filmmakers making the leap to American film with no love lost.


The plot is nothing out of the ordinary: Liam Neeson is a retired government agent whose daughter decides to spend the summer abroad in Europe. Traffickers kidnap her, and it's up to him to find his daughter and exact vengeance upon those who stole her from him. It's been done before, but not to the precision that Taken demonstrates. The film doesn't waste a lot of time getting started, and once it does, the tension ratchets up and doesn't stoop to any of the bullshit that often plagues these types of movies.




Before the movie started, I was treated to a trailer of an upcoming movie called 12 Rounds. It stars John Cena as some police dude whose wife is kidnapped and nefarious things are planned - there's something to do with a bomb strapped to someone, there's lots of explosions and time is running out. It looks like an extremely low-rent version of Taken. That just goes to show that you can't have any ol' buff dude running around crying about his family and punching people in the face to make a successful film. Taken gives all the background information you need to know: Liam Neeson is a badass spy type, and you don't want to fuck with him. He spent his entire career protecting his country from evil, and a bunch of pimps aren't going to get away with taking what's dear to him without getting fucked in the face. And believe me, faces get fucked. I mentioned the framing of fight scenes earlier, and when you see it done right, it really makes a difference. There's no endless shaking of the camera to the point that everything is a giant blur of fists and blood. Instead, you know exactly what punches and blocks are executed the whole time, and the fights have an immediacy that is only equaled by the perfect distance the camera keeps from it.


And it bears mentioning just how goddamn awesome Liam Neeson is. At 56, you wouldn't know it from looking at him. He moves and behaves like someone in his early 40's, and his action sequences rival anything Matt Damon or Daniel Craig has ever done. It makes the fight scenes at the end of A Phantom Menace almost worth going back and watching, just to see him kick ass. Almost. Another thing this film nails is the stunt work, or lack thereof. There are no death-defying car leaps off of bridges to catch up to the bad guys. Everything Liam Neeson does is pretty much within the realm of reality. He goes from clue to clue until he gets the information he needs, and the people he intereacts with are nothing more than conduits; once he gets his information, there's no need to keep them alive. This movie is rated PG-13, but it's a pretty fucking hard PG-13. People are killed indiscrimenantly, and you'll find yourself shocked by what happens a lot of the time.




I don't think any more cajoling is necessary to get you to see this film. If you like action movies at all, this is a fucking MUST see. Death Sentence with Kevon Bacon is a movie in a similar vein, and the craftsmanship is the same in both offerings. There's no extraneous bullshit, no melodrama, no moral quandries about killing the bad guys. Everyone involved with the horrible human trafficking is fair game for a bullet to the head, and they get what they deserve. I can't stress enough how refreshing it is to watch something like this, and I can only hope it does well enough at the box office to encourage more films of the same quality to be green-lit. Stop reading right now, check your local listings, and go see Taken as soon as possible. As an action junkie, there's nothing else I can say to you except you're missing out on a great start to 2009 by not plunking down your 10 bucks for a great night's worth of entertainment.


Horror Movie Remakes - The Cash Cow's Tits Are Raw and Bleeding.




I just finished watching the Halloween remake by Rob Zombie, and I have some things to say. First and foremost: why? Why remake this? The first problem with it is the fact that it even tries to humanize Michael Meyers in any capacity. Yes, I see the angle Zombie was going for. He became a monster because his childhood was shitty. That, and he had no sense of right or wrong - more so than most people with shitty childhoods. The first half of the film is about just how shitty his was, and that's all fine and dandy. But the second half is about the super-human freak of nature he became, and yes, he is a fucking monster. He might as well have been a demon from hell, and the way the film tried to ground him in reality only served to make half of the movie pointless. Which half that is depends on what you found more interesting. Myself, I prefer Michael Meyers to be the personification of pure evil, and he definitely embodies that to perfection in both versions. And sure, there's tits and lots of killing. In fact, my favorite parts were when he was a perfect storm of death and destruction. But again, showing him as a child with a mother he seems to love and a sister he doesn't want to kill totally goes against everything his character stands for. The other thing the first half ruins is all the tension the original film got so right. It spends so much time building up Meyers the person that when he gets shot 3 times from close range with a .357 magnum and keeps going, well, I just don't see why this movie even bothered with the character setup.


But that movie alone isn't what I want to talk about. The word for today is "remake." And more importantly, the question I want to ask is why the fuck are there so many of them? We all know how fond Hollywood is of taking other people's work, putting American actors in place of whoever was there first, and sticking it in theaters to make some dough. But are you really aware of just how many remakes there are of horror movies alone? No? Good, because I'm going to tell you. My list is probably far from complete, but I think it will give you a pretty damn good indication of just how creatively void the people responsible for most of these are. There are some good remakes on the list, but I included every remake of a horror movie I could think of, good or not. The list is also in no particular order. I hope you're ready:


The Amityville Horror
Friday the 13th
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The Fog
Halloween
Halloween 2
Last House on the Left
The Hills Have Eyes
The Hills Have Eyes 2
A Tale of Two Sisters ( The Uninvited )
Ringu ( The Ring )
Pulse ( Kairo )
Shutter
Ju-on ( The Grudge )
Ju-on 2 ( The Grudge 2 )
Dark Water
Dawn of the Dead
Prom Night
My Bloody Valentine ( 3D )
Let the Right One In
One Missed Call
When a Stranger Calls
Willard
Psycho
The Omen
Black Christmas
The Wicker Man
Premonition
The Hitcher
House of Wax
The Haunting
House on Haunted Hill
Thirteen Ghosts
Hellraiser
The Eye
Phone
A Nightmare on Elm Street
[REC] ( Quarantine )
Mirrors ( Into the Mirror )
Infection
The Birds
The Host
Long Weekend
Piranha ( 3D )
Poltergeist
Susperia
The Wolf Man


Holy fucking shit, that's 47 movies right there. And that's pretty much just what I could come up with on my own, plus a few I randomly checked up on, and sure enough, they were being remade. That's pretty goddamn bad when I can just randomly pick a horror movie out of thin air, and it's actually being done. I mean, seriously, this is fucking awful. Just look at all of this - this whole decade is full of mostly asstastic American ripoffs. It's really shameful in my eyes, and god knows how the studios dupe enough people over and over and over and over again to go see this horseshit. Can you name me one good, original horror movie to come out in the last 5 years from this country? And no, I won't let you count The Strangers, as that's pretty much based off of Ils (Them). So what the fuck? The latest taste of shit I got was when I watched the trailer of The Uninvited for the second time. Before doing so, I happened to skim through the synopsis, and what's this? Two sisters come back home from being in a mental hospital after their mother commits suicide, and creepy things happen? Dear God in Heaven, this day has finally arrived. Kim Jee-Woon's A Tale of Two Sisters has finally been remade, and now there's puke all over my keyboard. They didn't even have enough respect to keep its title. The Uninvited? Seriously? how about The Unoriginal, or The Unworthy? Do you know what I am right now? Uninterested.


And let me tell you another thing: Dario Argento and Alfred Hitchcock are off-fucking-limits. Period. Fuck whoever wants to touch anything directed by those two men. And Let the Right One In? The DVD for that damn movie hasn't even released yet, and this shit's already happening. Jesus, I think I just went blind in one eye. That just gave me an idea for an original horror movie, though. A man sees to many remade classics and goes blind. But instead of seeing nothing, his mind replays Psycho over and over, but its fucking Anne Heche instead of Janet Leigh. Oh, the nightmares that will inspire. And the argument that without these remakes, a lot of people wouldn't know about the originals is complete shit. Some of these movies aren't even 5 years old, so that's about all of that nonsense I want to hear.


We Americans need to get our fucking heads out of our asses and make some good horror movies again. Sam Raimi is trying, but he's only one man. One man who's going to show every dumbass suit buying up every license for every fucking film a thing or two. Drag Me to Hell is going to be awesome, and I can't wait to pay money to see it. On the opposite end of the spectrum, this weekend I'm going to go see The Uninvited Assfuck Fest for a review, but I'll be damned if I'm going to give them any money for raping me. I'm going to buy a ticket to Taken instead, and just go into a different theater. I'm still giving money to people I want to keep making movies, so I feel like Michael Meyers in a way - my conscience doesn't see the wrong in it.




THIS COUNTRY HAS LOST ITS SOUL.


Friday, January 30, 2009

One of the Best Classic Horror Films to Come Out in a LONG Time – The Orphanage (2007)





The classic haunted house movie has seen so many incarnations that it's almost impossible to count them all. A lot of them are utter crap, and it's only so often one comes along that doesn't adhere to the rules this sub-genre has set up for itself. If you've seen the trailer, I'm sure it looks a lot like every other haunted house movie you've ever seen, but believe me, it isn't. The story does share some superficial similarities -- a couple moving into an old, spacious house, a child who sees things no one else can see, a mystery that extends farther than initially believed, and even a séance. The difference here is that none of those examples are part of a checklist the filmmakers needed to get through in order to make a horror movie. They don’t feel like plot devices; everything that happens is believable and speaks to your emotions. There's a subtle grace to the way every scene was filmed, and the result is a movie that's beautiful to watch but heart aching to feel.


The story is about Laura and Carlos(Belén Rueda and Fernando Cayo), a couple with a seven-year-old child, Simón. The house they just moved into used to be the orphanage where Laura grew up, and they plan to turn it into a place for helping a few children with down syndrome. Simón is HIV positive, and his parents don’t want him to know about it yet. They give him pills daily, which seem to curb its effects. The thing that struck me most about this aspect of the story was how underplayed it was. There were no doctor or hospital visits, no melodrama; Simón had a disease, and that’s just the way it was. He was also adopted, and I didn’t feel it was anywhere near as important as him being HIV positive, but only because Laura comes from the same background. But I also would have reservations about telling a young child something like that too early, and I think Laura and Carlos were doing the right thing by keeping it from him for the time being. From the beginning, Simón has imaginary friends. And when he and Laura go down to the beach to check out a big cave, he starts talking to (seemingly) himself while inside the cave. She thinks nothing of it, since he’s been doing that sort of thing for a long time. However, Laura does shine the flashlight in the direction of his conversation, and of course, sees nothing. The foreshadowing says something different, but there are no false jump-scares here. In fact, this movie has literally zero jump-scares. Everything has a suitable build up of tension, so when something does happen, it’s that much more intense.


One day, Simón tells Laura about a game his “imaginary” friends play with him. They take something of his and hide it, and he has to find it. He wants to play the game with his mom, so they go all around the house, finding the various clues strewn about. When the clues lead to a locked drawer where Laura keeps Simón’s medical files, she yells at him to not touch anything in there. Apparently, though, a new invisible friend told Simón that he was adopted and was going to die, so he screams everything the friend told him back at his mom. I think that’s a hard thing for a kid to be told, and especially by someone that everyone else thinks doesn’t exist. Simón runs off, leaving Laura in stunned silence, and they don’t speak again until the next day. Like I mentioned before, I really think this story element was done in just the right way. Too much of it would lose the creeping tension, and too little would make it pointless. But here, their love is definitely shown as reciprocal. Even so, the burdens of his ailment and origin strain them both to the point where Simón lets Laura have it with all his bottled-up emotions. All of this is paramount, because what happens later hits even harder when you know the sad facts that surround Simón and his future.


The family decides to have a party for the children who will be staying with them, but it doesn’t go as planned. Before the party starts, Simón gets into an argument with Laura and she ends up slapping him. She immediately regrets it, and tells him no one is forcing him to come down to mingle. That exchange ends up being the last she ever has with her son. A little ways into the party, she goes looking for him, but he’s nowhere to be found. Frantic searching turns into a full-fledged search party combing the beach and surrounding water for Simón, but he’s never seen again. Flash forward 6 months, and their search has turned into an obviously hopeless cause. Laura and Carlos have a whole room of the house dedicated to maps of the area, replete with news clippings and thumb tacks holding up various pieces of information, but at this point the chances of finding their son are virtually non-existent. The couple is shown attending a bereavement group, and it’s there that Laura confides her belief that ghosts are inhabiting her house, and it has something to do with Simón’s disappearance. There’s a very touching moment during the group session, where another mother describes seeing her daughter a year after her death. She explains that her appearance wasn’t a fearful one, but rather a source of comfort that her daughter was in a better place, and it greatly eased her suffering. There are plenty of scenes like this, and it’s one thing that elevates The Orphanage above most other modern horror offerings.


What follows is a journey of discovery not only about the fate of her son, but also that of her past. It’s up to her how far she’s willing to go to find out what happened, and the film conveys the sense that no matter the outcome, things will not turn out the way everyone wants. The director, Juan Antonio Bayona, displays a mastery of dramatic horror that few others even aspire to reach. His film does much more than just creep you out – it takes you to a place of such high anxiety and sympathy that it’s hard to not expect the same from every like-minded film you’ll see from now on. In a way, it reminds me of Don’t Look Now and The Devil's Backbone, both horror movies that cared more about its characters than scaring the shit out of you. I simply can’t express with words how much I love this film, and I suggest you immediately seek it out and experience it for yourself.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion (1970)




One of the worst things that can happen to any film is to start out soaring high for the first half, only to crash and burn in the second, leaving the end as nothing more than a flaming pile of wreckage. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion falls into that unsavory category. The plot initially has promise, but once you get to that half-way mark and things start being uncovered, all that promise is rendered useless.


My problem isn't with the direction by Luciano Ercoli(he hasn't done much), the acting by Dagmar Lassander or any of the other cast members. It isn't with the editing or the music, which was done by the all-time great Ennio Morricone. Rather, the plot just caves in on itself. The film revolves around Minou(Lassander), the wife of some kind of deep sea diving engineer. One night while she's walking on a beach, a stranger assaults her and says that her husband is a murderer. The next day she's blackmailed by the same man, with an audio recording of her husband talking about the murder. If she wants to save him from the police, she'll have to comprimise herself mentally and physically with the unknown assailant/blackmailer. He doesn't want money, only her willful submission of body and mind. Or so he says. All he really does is fuck her once and walk around kinda creepily for a lot of the film.


I might have found a clue that foreshadows this film's inability to make good on its promises. From the back of the DVD case, "Dagmar Lassander stars as a repressed young wife whose traumatic sexual assault triggers a depraved obsession with her attacker." Sounds good, doesn't it? It has the making of a really perverse giallo, or so says the back cover. But once the movie is over, you realize she never had any remote attachment to her attacker except for her wanting him to leave her alone, which he won't do.


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The spear-chucking pervert makes his first appearance. And no, she doesn't like it. Fuck you, DVD case.



I could see how in a better film, Minou could believably be attracted to the danger and violence she was given a taste of, but ultimately spared. But not in Lady Above Suspicion. If that truly was the intention, the filmmakers failed pretty miserably. But maybe it wasn't, and the DVD case is just lying right to my face. I guess I'll never know. But what really kills the cool start is when the clues start coming together to form a picture of a giant turd. For reasons I can't get into for fear of spoiling something already pretty rotten, I can't say why Minou becomes so confused. But I can say that she supposedly starts doubting her own memories because no one will believe what she tells them about her ordeal. But a problem arises in the way her character was written, because she's supposed to be a normal girl with no mental disorders. If some guy tried to assault me, only to blackmail me later into pleasuring him all night in his creepy incense-laden stinky pit of love rape, I sure as shit wouldn't agree when you told me I was dreaming it all up in my head. I'd tell you to get your head out of your ass and smell my freshly pillaged crotch, which should be all the evidence one would need to come to the correct conclusion. But she doesn't do that. Instead she cries about the guy being real and how she's not lying, she swears! Again, I'd be pissed at this point. It just seemed like her reactions were only played out to facilitate the plot instead of them coming from her personality or something that happened in her past.

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Minou takes everyone's incredulous looks a bit too well. It's crotch-smelling time.




The DVD case also says there are "fiendish red herrings and mind warping twists." Um, ok, but not really. There's only one real case of a possible red herring, and then it's promptly never spoken of again.


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What the fuck? Nazis with fashionable eyewear do not figure into the plot.


And the twist comes so out of left field it's ridiculous. I'd have never been able to guess how this film were to end, because it's some weird giallo deus ex machina type conclusion that just left me scratching my head. I guess my expectations were a bit too high for this film. I'd heard good things about it, and again, the synopsis sounded like it would be a sexy thriller that did some outlandish things. Nothing outlandish ever happened, though, and it ended on a more bizarre and silly note than I could ever come up with. Dagmar Lassander was fine as Minou, but she's definitely no Edwige Fenech, and she didn't really even get naked. I thought that was a staple of giallo, but oh well. I still have All the Colors of the Dark to watch, so I should be in good hands. This film really needed a pair of those.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

They Don't Make 'Em Pt. 2 - Capricorn One (1978)



I have to agree with Sir Phobos on the fact that good sci-fi is hard to come by these days. Sure we have the most awesome FX money can buy, but more often than not, plot and character usually get chucked to the curb in favor of eye candy. That's where Lucas lost me with the prequel trilogy.....it sure looked pretty......but I didn't give a shit about any of those wooden characters. Just like a young lover of rock and roll music inevitably discovers the Beatles, film lovers have the luxury to go back and uncover some truly great genre treasures. Let me share one with you that's got everything good about sci-fi story telling.....and a whole lot more. My friends.....I happily present to you.......1978's Capricorn One. It's the story of three astronauts....Colonel Brubaker (James Brolin) Lieutenent Peter Willis (Sam Waterson) and Commander John Walker (O.J. Simpson) as they try to make history on NASA's first manned mission to Mars. But for these heroes, the dangers won't come from the vacuum of space....oh no....instead they will be tasked with trying to survive scorching deserts, poisonous snakes, black helicopters, and a conspiracy that could lead all the way to the White House. Can you say "Houston...we have a problem?"



It was discovered a little too late that a defect in the life support system would have killed the space travelers on the way to Mars, but now what is NASA supposed to do? A restart means failure.....and failure means that Uncle Sam is less likely to continue pumping dollars into the space program. They decide to do the only logical thing.......fake it. This keeps a historic dream alive in the public eye as well as keeping their wallets fat with funding. The plan is brilliant....send an empty spacecraft to the red planet.....tuck the astronauts away for a few months.....and broadcast the landmark moment of the first man on Mars from a fake studio set. There's only a couple of things that they didn't plan ahead for. What if our heroes aren't so excited to go along with the ruse? Also, what happens when the empty spacecraft is destroyed during re-entry to earth's atmosphere? Will the astronauts let themselves be sacraficed for the sake of the conspiracy? Hell no! The three of them make a jail break and the chase is on. With the bad guys in hot pursuit, only a nosy reporter (Elliott Gould) dangerously close to the truth can help expose the man behind the curtain and save the pilots' lives.

This movie is a rollercoaster ride that will have you behind the wheel of an out of control car....trying to survive the blistering sun of the desert....and hanging on to the wing of a cropduster during one of the films best sequences. Check out the great cast that includes names like Hal Holbrook, Karen Black, and even Telly Fucking Savalas......awesome! It's a little strange to watch O.J. pre-murder rap and all, but he doesn't really have a lot of screen time so don't let it distract you from this great popcorn flick.


O.J. as an astronaut on the run (he didn't do it)

Capricorn One doesn't rely on fancy effects. It has science, but it's the fiction the villains try to create that dazzles you. It's just a great piece of entertainment that you will appreciate for the action, characters, and great music from the Jerry Goldsmith orchestra. Still readily available on DVD for your viewing pleasure......jump on board and blast off!

They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To - Andromeda Strain (1971)




I miss the old days of science fiction. Stories didn't(and a lot of the time couldn't) depend on snazzy special effects and gross amounts of action to to keep you engrossed in the proceedings. A prime example of this would be 2001: A Space Odyssey, but you all know about that one. Instead, what I have for you here is a nice bit of 1971 hard sci-fi directed by Robert Wise, the man responsible for The Day the Earth Stood Still, Somebody Up There Likes Me, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and a lof of other really cool stuff. Seriously, he was one of the best directors working in the 1940's all the way through the late '70's.


Andromeda Strain is about a biological distaster unleashed on Earth when a satellite crashes in a small town in New Mexico, killing everyone in the immediate area. But there aren't any aggrandized scenes of catasrophic panic and death. This film is more centralized, and only deals with the few scientists and military personnel directly involved with what's going on. I label Andromeda Strain as "hard" sci-fi because it's very procedural in the way the scientists try to figure out what caused all the deaths, and a lot of the film simply shows them working in their labs doing experiments and the like. It's not a character piece, and you could say they aren't explored in any meaningful depth, but you'd be missing the point. This is what sci-fi used to be about; no hokey romantic melodrama about astronauts and their loved ones while they're trying to blow up an asteroid on a collision course toward Earth. And if you want comic relief, go watch that pile of trash movie instead(you know which one I'm alluding to, so I don't have to name it). Andromeda Strain is about very smart people doing very scientific things in an isolated location, but in the back of your mind you still get that there are far-reaching ramifications and a lot is at stake.


It's not that I don't like a lot of modern sci-fi, but they really just don't make them like this anymore. Nothing is dumbed down for the popcorn-chewing, text messaging mouth-breathers that frequent the cinema these days, and it's refreshing to go back and see how a true master of the genre handled material like this. While it may put off some viewers, the clinical nature of the film is what draws me in the most. Sure, technology has improved and the sets may look outdated for that reason alone, but the underlying fascination with science and problem solving never gets old.


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Monday, January 26, 2009

Movie Review - The Keep (1983)



Film buffs usually know of director Michael Mann for two reasons. The first as being the creator of the classic television series Miami Vice and the second because he excelled at giving us some of the grittiest and just flat out awesome crime stories ever committed to film like 1995's Heat. But, if you take an earlier look at his career before all the cops and robbers hoop-lah, you'll come across a caper of a different sort. One that involves demons, spooky contact lenses, and lots of dead Nazis. Believe it or not....Michael Mann made a horror film. Though not as well done as some of his later work, 1983's The Keep is still an interesting attempt at supernatural storytelling.



Set during WWII, the plot has Captain Klaus(Jurgen Prochnow) and the German Wermacht dispatched to a remote village in Romania. The objective is to block the nearby mountain pass from allied forces and keep it under German control. They decide to make camp in an old citadel that overlooks the village despite warnings from the caretaker that no one must stay there. The caretaker gives no explanation as to why, nor does he explain the meaning of the hundreds of silver crosses that adorn the walls of the keep. It's Nazi business as usual until a couple of guards on the night watch decide to steal one of the silver crosses and then all hell breaks loose....



The greedy soldiers are found dead and mutiliated the next day with no evidence left at the scene except for a message carved into the wall in an ancient language that they cannot translate. Klaus's superior officer (Gabriel Byrne) believes it to be resistance from the villagers and has several of them executed. When more people in the camp turn up dead and the German command orders them to hold the fort....they enlist the help of a Jewish historian named Dr. Cuza (Ian Mckellen) and his daughter Eva. Both are awaiting their fates in a concentration camp so they are eager to get out and help solve the riddle of the keep. What they discover could destroy the world with an evil far greater than even Adolf Hitler could imagine. It seems that the keep was not built to ward off attackers....rather it was constructed to imprison a demon named Molasar and keep him from laying waste to mankind. There's also a mysterious stranger (Scott Glenn) who is compelled to travel many miles to reach the keep and confront Molasar. Is he going to join him........or send him back to hell?


Scott Glenn as the stranger...spooky contacts make him mysterious

As far as horror stories go....the set up for this one is excellent. The scenario of the Nazis asking the Jewish characters for help is an ironic twist. Unfortunately you can tell that there was a much bigger story here. I've heard that the original cut clocks in at four hours, but the theatrical run was only about ninety six minutes. It definately shows as there seems to be no build up in the action and things seem to rush to a speedy conclusion. Molasar was a pretty cool villain and the FX were unique at the time. A lot of Nazis were harmed during the making of the keep and you will delight in seeing every one of their heads explode and their bodies being torn asunder. I remember Molasar gracing the cover of Fangoria magazine back in the day and every kid I knew that loved horror films was chomping at the bit to see this one.

Molasar was banned from Heaven for illegal steroid use...



the wrath of Molasar...just another Nazi brick in the wall....


One of the strongest things this film has going for it is the appearance of a younger Ian Mckellen. We all know him now as Magneto....or Gandalf......so this was interesting to see him before he was famous. It's not his best acting job, but due to studio interference, we probably only see part of the whole performance. Another highlight is the music from Tangerine Dream. It gives the film an other-worldly feel that you normally would not get for a story set in WWII.


Ian Mckellen confronting evil with a flashlight and trusting Duracell


For those that are curious enough to investigate... The Keep is worth checking out. The hard part will be finding a copy to own or watch. There is no DVD and a decent VHS copy may cost you a hundred bucks. Who the hell watches VHS anymore???? Lucky for me a good samaritan had the whole film posted on youtube. It's definitely not the preferred method of getting my flick on, but sometimes you have to soldier on and hold the fort.




Today's Crazy Japanese Action Movie - Machine Girl (2008)




Machine Girl -- she's a girl with a machine gun on her arm. It's not a concept that should lose you in its translation to film. At least I hope not, because with a title and cover art like this, I think the filmmakers gave away the entire plot. If they had named it something like "Happy Fun Time School Girl Action" and just put bullet holes through the words, you'd be wondering what the fuck is going on. But no -- they went the spoilery route, so here we are with Machine Girl, a film about a Japanese schoolgirl who loses her arm in fierce, vengeance-minded combat and gets it replaced with a mini-turret. Alrighty then, sign me up for the next 2 hours, please.




Its George Lucas-sized budget is pushed to the limits within the first 3 minutes of the movie, and it's a good thing, because I don't know if heads being ripped apart by machine gun bullets will ever be shown with more realistic detail. The beginning of the movie isn't really the beginning, though, so I'll skip to where the plot actually starts. Her name's Ami Hyuga, and her brother was killed by some schoolyard bullies. The leader is the son of some yakuza dude, and in Ami's road to vengeance she finds this out and goes after the brutal sons of bitches that murdered her dear, sweet half-retarded brother.





In the process, she also finds out that she sucks at fighting yakuza, and gets chained up and her arm chopped by an anime-looking dude with a sword. I think he was the father of the kid who killed her brother, but whatever.




In her post one-limb state, she comes upon the help of a couple who also have an axe to grind with those dirty pirate yakuzas. There's something in the plot about Ami's family being hated for some reason, but I was too busy staring at her sexy stump to file those facts in my memory banks. Anyways, after some reluctance, they help her out by building her a machine gun that apparently doesn't attach to any of her nerve endings, but somehow still fires on command. Whatever, they convinced me because the guy had drawings of it on paper so it must be logical. So they go on about training her to use her miraculous new weapon of mass killing in the hope of taking down said pirate yakuzas. Some more stuff happens and then they get to the final showdown. I don't remember what happened in between, but it probably wasn't pretty. Ah, yes. Some bits are coming back to me now.




So they get to the final showdown, and guess what? Ami triumphs over dirty pirate yakuzas, and the world is full of sunshine and rainbows again. Or something. She wins, I remember that much. Machine Girl is somewhat of a difficult movie for me to recommend. It wears its aspirations on its sleave, or lack thereof -- sometimes to its benefit, but other times to a fault. The gore, provided by the aforementioned Lucas-sized budget, does what it does. Severed heads are puked on like I showed you above, and there's a fuck-ton of blood and guts all over the place. Not to mention there's a generous amount of Ami up-skirts. I sure as shit demanded that be included, so her white-pantied crotch is one thing I checked off my list. Machine Girl is not something I would plan a week in advance to watch, but if you ever find yourself with nothing to do for a couple of hours, pop it in and marvel at the metal spinning titties of this dirty pirate yakuza chick.





And here's a few minutes of the opening for your viewing pleasure:



video


I watched it in Japanese, but for my purposes, it's more fun this way.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Movie Review - Sexy Beast (2000)



As much as Don Logan would like this movie to be about him, it isn’t. Throughout his persistent buggering, it’s about the frustration of a man who just wants to be left in peace. The writers of this movie crafted a script so full of venom that it’s initially hard to sympathize with anyone involved. But after the shock wears off, you quickly gravitate towards Gary Dove (Ray Winstone), a “retired” thief who’s had enough of the game and lives a secluded life with his wife, Deedee, in their palatial digs somewhere out in the countryside. Life is great until one day, Don Logan appears like a bull in a china shop and fucks it all up. I’ll get to his character in a bit, but his only goal from the get-go is to convince Gary to pull off one more job. Gary says no, and the rest of the movie is about how his life is made a living hell from the constant vitriol spewed by Don in order to get him to cave and go with him.


There’s not a lot of setup -- be it characters, motivations, or anything of that sort. Gary just wants Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) to get the hell out of his life as quick as possible. But that won’t happen unless he agrees to do the job, which involves drilling a hole underneath some place to steal something. What it is, I have no idea. Sexy Beast is not a heist movie, and it doesn’t bother with any details concerning what they’re after. It’s all about the pressure thrust upon Gary to actually do it, and how he handles himself after he declines the offer. I was expecting to write a much longer review, but that’s pretty much everything this movie is about. The only thing I haven’t talked about at length is Don Logan himself. He deserves a novel dedicated to his character, but it looks like he’ll only get a paragraph or two.


Don Logan is a heist man. What kind, we’ll never gather from the film. All we know is that he’s part of the plan, and for the plan to work Gary needs to be in on it. He flies in to visit him and get him to commit to the project. Don is an incessant asshole who doesn’t take bad news very well. Gary’s refusal sends him into fits of rage, and he’s a truly scary person when he’s pissed. I don’t know if I’d be able to say no to anything he asked of me. But Gary does, and it doesn’t sit well. I wish there was more to say, but that’s really all the movie goes into. There’s only a few locations seen, and most of it takes place in Gary’s home while Don berates him over and over. Speaking of Gary, Ray Winstone turns a character that could easily have been played with little effort into the heart of the movie. I really felt for the guy, and I wanted Don to get the fuck out just as much as he did. For fans of the HBO series Deadwood, Ian McShane makes an appearance in the film, and while he's not a huge part of the story, his scenes are great and he turns in a performace of the calibur you'd expect from him.



Ben Kingsley gives one of those performances that really makes me wish he would do more serious acting. Lately, he’s been in a lot of shit movies, and it’s really sad to watch his career unfold in the manner it has. Bloodrayne? Really? He couldn’t have been paid that much for phoning it in from the airport on the way to the set. I will say that it hasn’t all been horrible of late, though. You Kill Me and Transsiberian are both worthy films that almost allow him to wash the stain of Uwe Boll from his resume. Almost. Once you’ve been in one of his films, it’s pretty much going to haunt you until you die or have radical facial surgery and change your name. Regardless, Don Logan is a character that will endure the test of time and come back twenty years from now to spit in the face of whoever decides to watch him. Nothing I could say would do justice to his douche bagginess, so I’ll end with just a taste of what’s in store when you watch this movie.

video

Friday, January 23, 2009

I want a Swamp Thing remake dammit!



The re-boot....it's a popular trend in Hollywood these days. The Batman franchise got one....Superman got one...hell...even the Hulk got a new kick start only a few years removed from his first big screen outing. So why no love for my beloved Swamp Thing? Second tier heroes like Iron Man are also getting the hundred million dollar movie treatment. If Iron Man came to the bayou to fight Swamp Thing....he'd just get stuck in the mud and his balls would rust. Wolverine has a new flick soon to be slashing up movie tickets near you....and if that adamantium plated meathead tried to cut off Swamp's arm...he could just re attach it...or instantly grow a new one. He's pretty much the coolest super hero ever.....period.

For those not in the know......the Swamp Thing comic was created in 1972 by Len Wein.....and has continued off and on for several decades. At one point, writer Alan Moore (of Watchmen fame) took the reins for a spell and wrote some of my very favorite storylines for the character. The book follows Alec Holland..brilliant scientist who is transformed by his own experiments into the Swamp Thing. The series has him fighting evil and seeking to regain his human form. He doesn't have any type of special body armor. Nor does he speed around town on a nifty tricked out motorcycle. Hell...he doesn't even have a costume. He's just a big pile of living, muddy, mossy, shit. The Swamp Thing has super human strength coupled with the ability to communicate and control the world's vegetation, but the neatest thing going for him is that there are these swamp potatoes growing on his body that you can eat......and get really high. Totally organic swampy psychedelic bliss baby.


pass the potatoes please.....

Can you just imagine a new movie version of Swamp Thing made with today's special effects? He could be fighting a desperate battle against whatever evil nemesis the screenwriters throw at him...then all of the sudden it seems like he's going to lose.......he quickly shoves a power potato down the bad guy's throat and all is right in the world. No other super hero in comics or film has this ace up their sleeves! I usually favor practical FX over CG these days....but seeing a swamp trip done proper on film would justify the use of a computer.

in-a-gadda-da-vida-honey!

For now, all us fans of the mean green plant machine have is a low budget effort from 1981. I think they had their hearts in the right places getting Wes Craven to direct. This was pre Elm Street, but he was fresh off the success of Last House on the Left and Hills Have Eyes so it was the right choice when considering the dark nature of the comic books. Fans of Adrienne Barbeau can rejoice. She takes center stage as a feisty action heroine sporting excellent cleavage and an 80's curly afro. Actor Louis Jourdan (he was the Bond villain in Octopussy) holds his own as the immortality seeking Dr. Arcane. Sadly, the titular character played by stuntman Dick Durrock leaves something to be desired. It's not that he does such a bad acting job....you can just tell that he's wearing a silly rubber outfit that wrinkles every time he moves. Not a good idea for such an action heavy film. At one point during a chaotic scene, there's a hole in the suit and you can see the guy's blue jeans underneath for a second....unacceptable! When Arcane transforms into a monster in the end and the two titans battle....it's no better. I couldn't even find a picture of this terrible creature creation to post, but let's just say Arcane looks like something from a bad episode of Power Rangers. I read that they spent three million dollars on this film and you can tell it was not on the costumes.

the 1982 film poster showed promise...



Dick Durrock as Rubber Suit Thing did not....


Hollywood continues to produce new Spiderman and Fantastic Four sequels every year (same shit...different summer), but hopefully one day a major studio will get their head out of their ass and give the swamp devil his due. Swamp Thing's material is very unique and in the right hands with the right budget.....we could get one hell of a super hero romp. Hey......I can dream can't I?

My take on the whole Watchmen/Fox ass-fuckathon.


With the news of Fox and Warner Bros. reaching a settlement that could probably fund my retirement 40 years early, I'd like to take a moment to explain why I think Fox can have a nice warm cup of shut the fuck up.



First of all, they've had the license for this goddamn property for a long, long time. If they were going to make a move before my unborn grandchild bites the dust, they were sure taking their sweet time with it. I'm sure a lot of studios have projects that get shelved for a number of years, but this is fucking ridiculous. On the flip side, I guess we can all be thankful they didn't turn it into a shitty Saturday morning cartoon to air alongside their X-Men show(which I like a lot, but Watchmen would have blown shit). Still, the relief that comes from knowing something great wasn't turned to ass doesn't change the fact they COULD have made it great. Wolverine sure looks great, though. Good job on that, Fox, because everyone worth a shit knows X-Men: Last Stand was stellar.


As far as the legal issues are concerned, yes, Warner Bros. had to know this was coming. They didn't have any right to make this movie, and being a money-grubbing, artistic black hole of a studio, Fox saw their free ride gravy train pulling up right on time with a big blue man riding shotgun. Obviously, this could have turned out to be shitty for everyone, but did you honestly think Fox wanted to outright stop the production and release of Watchmen? What money was there to make in that? If the movie never came out, they wouldn't be able to get a huge settlement for doing nothing, while someone(probably low on the totem pole at Fox) wondered at what point he thought it was a good idea to join a company with the temperment of Ebenezer Scrooge and the output of a past-his-prime Uwe Boll. But hey, Wolverine is doing some re-shoots, so that must mean they're taking it seriously. Strange timing, don't you think? Fox gets some inheritance cash and Hugh Jackman gets to do some more acting. Hmm....


I'm not bagging on Wolverine for any particular reason, mind you. It's just the only thing I can think of that's being released by that crap hole of a company. I hope it's a good movie, and Hugh Jackman is bad ass as Logan. They even made a great pick for Sabretooth, so that's two points for them. Subtract 1000 points for being lazy bastards with their hands out, and their final score is, like, way negative. Math isn't my strong suit, but it sure is theirs.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Does Heath Ledger's Joker deserve the last laugh?


On the one year anniversary of his passing....Heath Ledger is nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of the joker. Let me be the first to say that I thought he was a great talent with a body of work that started with teeny bopper crap and ended with more meaty roles worthy of his promise as an actor. I do however feel that we shouldn't give him the golden dude just because he's dead....especially when there are other actors on the nominee list whose careers could benefit by winning the best supporting actor nod.


Consider Robert Downey Jr. for a moment. Here is a guy that has fought his own personal battle with drugs and alcohol and lived to tell the tale. His rise back to the creme of the acting crop is feature film worthy itself. Yes, the extreme method actor Kirk Lazarus that he plays in "Tropic Thunder" is ridiculous, but is it more so than a guy playing a comic book character with green hair and messy clown make up?
Downey Jr. as Kirk Lazarus playing Sgt. Lincoln Osiris
Or what about Josh Brolin? His performance as Dan White in "Milk" gives us an interesting glimpse of the man who in the 70's assassinated gay rights activist Harvey Milk. Surely this insight into a piece of history that many people were perhaps not aware of should be considered when deciding.


Brolin and Sean Penn in "Milk"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The best of 80's fantasy pt. 3- Dragonslayer (1981)



Why is it that Hollywood can seldom get dragons right? They try......and for the most part....fail miserably. I do give some credit to 2002's "Reign of Fire" which shows the fantastical creatures as they should be....mean....nasty....killers. I don't want to see movies about charming dragons that love people and are voiced by Sean Connery...or Rachel Weisz. I want to see the mother of all badass fantasy monsters turning peasants into charred remains with fire and tearing them apart with unholy brute strength. It's sad....but dragon lovers prayers have not been answered since 1981's "Dragonslayer." It's a tale of an ancient terror named Vermithrax....she's a grumpy old bitch so vicious that people maim themselves just to get away from her. She's here to slay.....or be slayed.

The plot has a band of desperate villagers led by a young man named Valerian seeking out the last known sorcerer Ulrich of Craggenmoor (Ralph Richardson). He alone is their only chance to rid the land of the last and oldest dragon. For many decades the kingdom of Urland has been ravaged by Vermithrax and twice a year they offer her virgin daughters chosen by lottery to avoid her wrath. Ulrich is old, but seems to be up to the challenge. The only problem is that King Casiodorus doesn't like this plan and dispatches the captain of his guard Tyrian (John Hallum) to test the old man to see what power...if any...he really has. It's Tyrian's blade vs Ulrich's sorcery....but alas....everyone knows you never bring a wizard to a knife fight and Ulrich is mortally wounded. With Ulrich dead....the villagers have no hope for the future. Enter Galen Bradwarden (Peter Macnicol)....the young sorcerer's apprentice who takes it upon himself to challenge the dragon and the corrupt government of Urland. The task is mighty and only the power of a mystical amulet that he is too inexperienced to use can help him.

The characters in this film are great.....there are plot twists galore (especially when Valerian's true colors are revealed)....and we begin to wonder if Galen actually stands a chance against the villainous Tyrian....not to mention the dragon. Keep a lookout for an early movie appearance from Ian McDiarmid. You might know him as the Emperor Palpatine in the "Star Wars" prequels. Here he has a bit part as a priest that stands against the dragon with nothing but his faith in God to help him. (spoiler...the force is not with him) At first Galen seems like a real whiney shit....but give him time....he eventually rises to the occasion and when his magic fails him...he takes on Vermithrax with one of the most awesome movie weapons ever...the Sicarious Dracorum. (roughly translated....the dragonslayer)



Forging the Sicarious Dracorum AKA the badass spear


The FX were done by ILM and still hold up pretty well in my opinion. They kind of take the "Jaws" approach and don't show you the monster until much later in the story. It works to build suspense and you'll really appreciate it when Vermithrax is finally revealed. I should also mention that this film was co-produced by Disney, but don't be fooled by the PG rating. "Dragonslayer" is dark and bloody as hell....it would definately get a PG-13 today...if not R. Vermithrax must have scared the crap out of movie makers because celluloid dragons have pretty much been pussies ever since.


"flame on" Vermithrax is ready to cook thy nuts...




Monday, January 19, 2009

The best of 80's fantasy part 2 - The Beastmaster (1982)



Yet another classic from my youthful days...whenever this film came on cable...it was like the call of the mythological sirens luring me to my brainless doom. This film flopped at the box office, but had a huge impact on television. TBS aired the film so often that it was dubbed "The Beastmaster channel." Never again in the future of fantasy films will a guy with a sword and a bag of ferrets be so friggin cool!

Directed by Don Coscarelli... (horror buffs know him as the man responsible for the "Phantasm" film series)....it's the tale of Dar (Marc Singer from V the classic alien invasion series) who as an unborn infant...was magically teleported into a cow's uterus by a witch. The plan was to sacrifice Dar so that his father King Zed would have no heir...and the evil priest Maax (pronounced may-axe..and played by Rip Torn) could take power with his ultimate cult of evil. (I guess kings never had secret service protection back in the day) Dar is saved however....and taken in by a bunch of kind villagers. Sounds like the typical fantasy crap right?....Ah....but the plot thickens.

You see...because he was born from a cow's womb...Dar grows up and finds out that he can communicate with all creatures in the animal kingdom telepathically....it doesn't make any sense...but come on...it's fantasy! After years of living peacefully, Dar's village is attacked and destroyed by a race of barbarians known as the Jun-Horde...that wouldn't you know...is controlled by Maax. Dar survives the massacre because the movie would just end if he didn't...and sets out on a quest for revenge and possibly a reclamation of his birth right.

Along the way he befriends a hawk, a couple of ferrets, and a black dyed tiger. Each of them contribute to the smiting of evil. The hawk can scout out miles ahead....and he can link up and see through its eyes. The ferrets can sneak around and steal keys from clueless guards...and the tiger can kill, eat, and shit out on a log anybody dumb enough to fuck with a tiger.

He meets some human allies as well.....the warrior Seth (John Amos from Good Times) and his young friend Tal (nobody special)...who happens to have some family ties with Dar. Throw in sexy red headed Kiri (Tanya Roberts..from that 70's show) who knows how to break into Maax's castle....and you have a youself a nice little fantasy fondue.

This movie had this kind of dark cool vibe to it. Rip Torn was a menacing villain.....there were witches that could walk up walls and turn dudes into evil leather clad S&M zombies by shoving glow worms in their ears. Our heroes also had to deal with the barbarian Jun army and these strange winged monsters who could snare a person...eat them...and crap them out into green foam. All worthy adversaries for Dar to go up against.

Marc Singer does the job well as Dar. He buffed up for the part and has cool 80's feathered hair. Along with his trusty sword and animal companions...he also has this razor boomerang thingy that he tosses around and causes mayhem with....I always wanted one...but they never had them at K-mart.

"The Beastmaster" rises to the cream of the fantasy crop. Easily one of my favorites that I enjoy even as an adult. Don't stick this one in a cow's womb and sacrafice it to your evil diety of choice...it's surprisingly good fantasy fluff!


Understanding the Icons: Contemporary American Film


I've spent a lot of time on this site talking about foreign films. I've waxed poetic on German, Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Spanish films, with, if memory serves, only two American offerings. However, if you read my Gran Torino review, I think you could see my deep appreciation for the American Icon. And by writing this, I want to expand on the idea that American film has carved itself a huge piece of cinema history.


Let me start by describing one of the reasons our films have hit such a nerve with people all over the world. If you ever travel abroad, there might be a situation where you're talking shop with a film lover of another country. You might start by mentioning local directors, or what's hot at the moment. But as the conversation progresses, you find yourself digging into movies where you don't even have to mention their names to get a tremendous response from them. You might say something like, "Have you ever seen any of the Rambo..." "Ah, Rambo!" would be the response from the man of foreign persuasion, before you were even allowed to finish your sentence. He would then make a knife-jabbing motion with his hands, smile with that shit-eating grin that only someone who's seen something way too many times could make, and then give you the thumbs up. Good times.


That's what I mean when I say the American Icon. The actors or characters that don't need an introduction, no matter where you happen to be. The movies that, after you finished watching them as a kid, you would immediately head to the back yard to re-enact your favorite scenes, yelling and screaming while running back and forth with a stick or a piece of plastic as a substitute for whatever the famous weapon of choice might have been. This is what I point to when film snobs tell me American movies suck, and I'm not cultured enough to appreciate the finer things in life. Fuck you, my friend, where have you been for the last 30 years?


And with that sentiment laid out on the table, I'd like to present my case for understanding the great American Icons of the last few decades, and why they're still relevant today. I'll start moving forward chronologically, so as not to disturb the memories any of these characters or movies might hold for whoever decides to read this. I'd also like you to make note that you've probably already seen all of the movies I'm going to bring up. Otherwise, there's no point in writing this, and I can go back to watching my Ingmar Bergman box set, thank you very much. And if I miss something, it's not a slight, unless you bring up a movie so obscure or out-dated that Clint would happily tell you to get off his lawn.




Dirty Harry



Harry Callahan made being a loose cannon of a cop cool. The way he walked around with his shades on, telling people to make his day before blowing a hole in their chest will always hold a place in the hall of greatness. Say what you will about the sequels, but as a persona, Dirty Harry embodied the American bad-ass for over a decade. Personally, I hold the Dollars trilogy in the same high regard, but as a whole I'm guessing Harry Callahan holds a bigger place in peoples' hearts. Regardless, the films are classics, and nobody will tell you any different.


Raiders of the Lost Ark


Indiana Jones was my hero for a long time, and he still is. Harrison Ford oozed charisma every time he moved or spoke, and he almost made me take up archaeology. If, in reality, that profession was the same as an Indiana Jones movie, there would be a lot more archaeologists, and the world would be a lot more awesome. By day he would fight the Nazis and take all their shit, and at night he would bed the women I lusted after. Yes, I wished I was Indy, but who wouldn't? They jumped the shark with the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but I blame that on the good ol' Lucas Curse, and not the character becoming stale. Seriously, fuck George Lucas. But that's a tale for another day. Right now, I simply can't tell you how much of an influence Harrison Ford had on every other high adventure film to be made after 1981.


First Blood


John Rambo was a loner, a survivor, and a distraught human being. I greatly sympathized with him as the po-dunk police parade tried to shit on his homecoming party. However, that was alleviated when he drove spikes through the knees of one of those assholes. He had it coming. Of the movies I've mentioned so far, this is by far the most serious. But it handles itself with class, and still holds up as one of the greatest action movies ever made. I really wish Stallone would have made more out of his career with more than just Rambo and Rocky, but as of late he's redeeming himself with damn fine resurgences of both franchises. Not much else to say about Rambo, except that I wear a bandana to sleep every night.


The Terminator



Much more could be said of Arnold Schwarzenegger's career, but to me, his defining moments are still encapsulated in the T-800 model terminator. In the original movie, he was the stuff of nightmares. His glowing red eyes would haunt my dreams for years, and I thanked God I was not the mother of the leader of the resistance meant to combat a robot apocalypse. In the sequel, he was the greatest ally you will ever know, as long as you gave him your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle. His strength and loyalty would never be broken, and the human race always stood a chance as long as he was around. Many would try to duplicate his on-screen badassery, including the third Terminator movie, but they all ultimately fail, and bow down to the greatness that is James Cameron's vision of our possible future.



There are more to speak of, for sure, but I think I've made my case for the American Icon thus far. People will be quoting lines from these movies until the end of time, and I'll take this opportunity to pride myself in being born in the country where these epic tales originated. That's all I have, and I can think of nothing more apropos than to end with the truth: I'll be back.



Anime Afterthoughts - Satoshi Kon, Round 1



If you've never watched any anime before, it's hard to say where you should start. A huge majority of them fall under one category, and if all you've been exposed to is the usual shonen fare, I could forgive you if you tipped your hat and said "Good day, sir." There's a place for everything, and I happen to enjoy the occasional fluff, but that's not why I'm here with you now.


Satoshi Kon's body of work is so far removed from the adolescent male oriented, action heavy serials that it's almost a genre of its own. His movies have depth and meaning that rival anything Hollywood has to offer, and in a lot of cases, surpasses them. In this first round of conversation, I'll talk about two of his films: Perfect Blue and Paprika. While they're both wildly different in plot, their executions do bare a similarity, which I'll touch on in a moment. So without further adieu, I give you two examples of Satoshi Kon's excellence in anime:



Perfect Blue




Mima is part of a J-pop girl trio, who sing about the usual J-pop girl trio stuff, such as love, finding happiness, believing in yourself, yadda-yadda. But early on in the film, she decides she's had enough of repeating silly choruses and making cute faces, and decides to give acting a shot. She wants to be considered a serious actress, so she sets out to land a role on a murder mystery tv show. She gets the part, but one of the requirements is the inclusion of a rape scene, and her publicist/agent is none to happy about it. She agrees to do it anyways, but the ramifications are abrupt and unsettling. The ghost of her old self starts appearing to her, and she begins drifting in and out of a dream-like state, unsure of who she really is.


Throw into the mix a psychotic stalker who seems to be hanging around just about everywhere Mima goes, and you've got yourself a damn fine drama. I've seen comparisons made of this film to David Lynch, but honestly, Perfect Blue is much easier to digest than the "what the fuck is going on?" style Lynch is so fond of. However, there will be times you're not sure exactly what's really happening and what's in Mima's own mind. It's just not so damned out in space about it. Perfect Blue is really worth checking out, and I recommend viewing it at least twice before coming to any solid conclusions about the film's turn of events.






Paprika



Paprika starts off inside the mind of a man. In his dream, he shifts between a circus, a scene out of From Russia With Love, a Tarzan movie, and finally something from his own past. When he wakes up, we find out that his dreams are being monitored and recorded by a device called the DC Mini. The purpose of this device is to help therapists and psychologists better understand the minds of their patients. A noble effort, indeed, but soon after the therapy session, a DC Mini is stolen and all hell breaks loose. You see, the device that was stolen had no security protection installed, and whoever operates it can go in and out of the dreams of whoever is using a DC Mini. As more and more people start going insane, it's up to the creators of the DC Mini to find the thief and undo whatever damage they did.


Apart from the great story, the visuals become more and more stunning as the dreams of many people begin to mix and grow. There's a character in the film who, if they were ever to do a live-action adaptation(I hope they don't), should be played by Max Von Sydow. The resemblance is uncanny, and you could compare the character to Von Sydow's Burgess in Minority Report. It's a fun ride, and has the added bonus of making you think about the ramifications of technology on society.






As I said before, these films share a common trait: the blending of reality and dreams. They handle it in vastly different ways, and it's a testament to the brilliance of Satoshi Kon that he's able to make two films about the same subject, yet come away with pieces that stand on their own two feet.


In the next installment, we'll have a look at Satoshi's Millenium Actress and Tokyo Godfathers. So let me know what you think of Perfect Blue and Paprika, and hopefully you'll stick around for round 2 of Anime Afterthoughts, unless you've gone on a Miyazaki binge or something. Which again, I could forgive you for.