Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I Come in Peace- The checklist for 80's & 90's action!

Ah.....the crap-tacular action films of the 80's and 90's ruled the school! But, to truly qualify as a fine slice of upper echelon era gorgonzola, certain criteria must be met without fail. Let's go over the list shall we?

1) Everybody knows that a big action story must take place around Christmas. Spoiling holiday cheer is a bonus for bad guys, and it gives some random character a chance to say "one hell of a way to spend Christmas!"

2) The villains must be either drug dealers or terrorists.

3) The main hero is usually a cop that plays by his own rules and his partner must be killed early on so that he can take revenge.

4) The captain has just about had it with his loose cannon shenanigans and requests that the hero take some vacation.

5) He must have a new partner that he initially hates, but comes to appreciate as they combine their talents to vanquish evil.

6) At some point, there must be a clever catch phrase worked in by the hero in a situation where it makes the most sense. For example, if it is an older cop, he might be running while a building explodes behind him and he would shout something like "I'm getting too old for this shit." Or even better, when the hero inevitibly defeats his nemesis he might say "yippie-kai-yay-motherfucker!" It is important that whenever the master villain's plan is foiled, the last thing he hears is a smart-ass remark by the protagonist before meeting his grisly fate.

7) Stuntman Al Leong must cameo and die as a henchman. Most notable blow the shit out of the world flicks had Al henching for the bad guys at some point. (Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, Big Trouble in Little China)

8) This is probably the most important. A major character, whether it be the good guy or one of the bad guys, must have a mullet. This shows that on top they are all nut stomping business, but in back they know how to be bad and party. that we have that out of the way I can present to you 1990's "I Come in Peace." An action era gem with a sci-fi twist that includes everything on my commandmant list.

Al Leong in Die Hard and Lethal Weapon

What makes this movie stick out in my memory is the villain. He's a drug dealer, but from outer space! On his planet, endorphins are the addicting drug of choice and he can only get his supply on Earth from human brains. So basically he goes to L.A. and kills a bunch of drug dealers to get their heroin. He then catches a person, injects them with an overdose of heroin to stimulate endorphin production, and sucks it out with a spike to the head. Whenever he approaches a victim he tells them "I come in peace" hence the title.

B-level action meister Dolph Lundgren plays cop on the edge Jack Caine. (as in he raises cain throughout) He gets involved because he was working a case against a yuppie group of drug dealers called "The White Boyz." The White Boyz killed his partner during an undercover sting (big mistake) and he wants them to pay. But many of the White Boyz were slaughtered along with his partner by an unknown third party. Now he must break in a new partner and trust an alien cop who has come to bring the endorphin dealer to justice on his home planet. Failure to do so will have the population on another world become addicts while Earth becomes a target for other would be galactic drug runners.

even alien drug dealers had mullets in the 80's

The alien drug dealer is just plain bad-ass! He's 8ft tall and has a platinum blonde mullet. He also has all kinds of nifty gadgets to help him do his dirty work. There's a remote controlled hose that he shoots into the victim's heart and fills with heroin. He's got this razor sharp CD that ricochets all over the place and is only vulnerable to stereo speakers. The dealer is also equipped with an enormous hand cannon that gives Dolph a headache and Dirty Harry a hard-on.

the whirling disc of death metal....

I've never much cared for Dolph except for when he played Drago in Rocky. In that movie he only had to say a couple of lines though. He's basically a big wooden turd with no personality or acting skills to carry a lead role. At least guys like Van Damme and the Schwartz had charisma to help them with their dramatic shortcomings, but Dolph doesn't. Despite the absence of a likeable hero, "I Come in Peace" is a worthy walk down the ole action memory lane. Check it out!

Dolph about to deliver a catchphrase....


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Around and Around We Go - Izo (2004)

Izo is a strange one. Then again, Takashi Mike is infinitely strange, so I’m not sure what I was expecting. If you’ve read about this film before, you know what you’re getting into. If you haven’t, then my advice would be to not expect a traditional vengeance/sword fighting film. Izo has both vengeance and sword fighting in spades, but goddamn, it’s bizarre. I think that’s what I like about Mike – he turns otherwise straightforward stories into something twisted and unique. There are plenty of films about violence and swords and all that, but when films like Izo come along, they make you go “what the hell?” Then you end up watching it two or three more times before you’re finally satisfied with the experience.

From what I could gather in a single viewing, Izo is about a man who is killed and becomes doomed to wander the space-time continuum; he’s a vengeful spirit out for the blood of anyone he comes across. At seemingly random intervals, he instantly transports between eras and locations, and everywhere he goes he leaves a bloody mess behind him. All the while, there is a group of men, who I think are some kind of keepers of the afterlife, and who Izo is ultimately seeking. They act more like a board of directors, which is why I wasn’t sure who the hell they were for about half the film. But once I figured that out, I thought it was an interesting depiction of the way things work out there in the infinite space and time beyond death. Izo, however, doesn’t think it’s so interesting. All he really wants is to kill everyone and be spared his fate of aimlessly wandering around. What makes Izo different from other vengeance films is the way he fights. He’s not a martial arts master, and neither are most of the people he fights with. Instead of gracefully slicing through foes, it sometimes takes him a long time to get the job done. His style communicates anger and frustration, and a lot of the time it entails just flailing and hacking at someone until they drop. He’s not very efficient, and since he’s an immortal spirit, he can’t be killed. That means he takes a lot of punishment over and over again, and he simply outlasts everyone else. I’m not even sure who “everyone else” really is. They might only exist in Izo’s demented hell of an afterlife as punishment for whatever he did while he was alive. But I don’t really know, and I think the film works better that way. Not knowing makes it that much more strange to behold, and I think a definite narrative structure would have ultimately lessened the impact. It’s a little like a David Lynch film, in that you sort of know what’s going on, but at the same time, you have no fucking idea what the hell is happening. It just so happens I like Lynch, and Izo strokes the same muscles in my head that long for this kind of mental exercise.

Make no mistake, this is a fairly bloody film, but I was actually expecting a bit more. That said, there are some rather gory bits, but I actually liked the more normal sword-stabbing and fighting better than the times when something totally over the top happened. For instance, he slices someone in half, and the guy freezes for a few seconds while his upper torso slowly slides down to the floor. I’ve seen that exact thing at least three times before, so it wasn’t too interesting to me. But the fighting itself is really cool, mainly because of what I mentioned before – Izo isn’t interested in looking good while he’s running people through. He’s pissed off and full of futile rage, and no matter what ere he’s in, the outcome is always the same. He gets stabbed and shot about a thousand times before the film is over, but still he struggles on, repeating his actions, I guess, forever. There are also frequent acoustic guitar solos by this weird musician who pops up every now and then, and his songs always have something prescient to say about Izo’s situation. His songs are pretty fucking bad ass, though, because he doesn’t really sing them. He just kind of yells and chokes a lot and gets really emotional. You’ll have to watch it to understand what I mean, but trust me, he’s great. I think I’ll get a better understanding of this film with every viewing, and once really isn’t enough. I’d guess a deeper view of what’s going on only comes from understanding small things here and there, and honestly, I can’t wait to piece this crazy ass puzzle together.

And, no, I don't know why there is a S.W.A.T. team.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The NeverEnding Story Remake, and My Newfound Hatred of Life.

It’s no secret: I complain a lot about remakes, and rightly so, I think. But a lot of the time, I’m more opposed to the general principle of remaking a film instead of the quality of the original film itself. However, the news of The NeverEnding Story possibly being remade has re-ignited my inner nerd rage to previously unseen heights. Let me make this as crystal-clear as I possibly can: YOU DON’T FUCKING REMAKE THE NEVERENDING STORY, YOU FUCKING EVIL ASSHOLES. I mean, what improvements could conceivably be made? It sure as shit doesn’t have to do with the dark material (I haven’t read the book, and I never plan on doing so), and the animatronics are, to this day, fucking awesome.

I'm not sure how you can get any more amazing-looking than this.

The story is just beginning.

The NeverEnding Story is one of my all-time favorite fantasy movies, and I watched it a shit-ton as a kid. It excited me, it scared the holy hell out of me, and it was breathtaking in every possible way. The story has a really, really dark element to it, and every time I would watch it, I was totally creeped the fuck out by the Nothing. G’mork, on the other hand, wasn’t just creepy – he genuinely scared me. But it wasn’t all horror, all the time. Quite the opposite, actually. There are a lot of wondrous elements to the film, including the snail racing, the rock biter, and, of fucking course, Falkor the luck dragon. Let’s stop here for a moment, and ponder how these characters would most likely be treated in a remake. My best guess puts animatronics out of the question, and with it one of the most striking aspects of the film. The visuals have stayed with me since the first time I saw it in the late 80s, and just from taking these screen caps, it’s obvious it wasn’t my retarded child-mind turning shitty special effects into something more awesome. Every fantastical creature in this film still looks goddamn impressive, and using CGI for the new versions will instantly deflate any lasting impression they might have had otherwise. I mean, seriously - a CGI Falkor? Kindly get the fuck out of my face with that horeshit nonsense. And I bet Atreyu will look like Prince Caspian, Bastian will be obnoxious as hell, and I’ll end up wanting to punch him in his face. Dammit, I’m getting pissed just thinking about this.

This is what animatronics you don't fuck with look like. You know...good.

If you saw the film as a kid, these glowing eyes should be enough to make you check your pants.

Have you ever wondered why there haven’t been too many quality family films recently? It’s because they’ve taken out everything that made those movies great for the whole family, and now simply cater to the 10-and-under crowd. I did enjoy Matthew Vaughn’s last film, Stardust, but that’s about it. Golden Compass was alright, but holy shit – neither of these films are a hair on The NeverEnding Story’s humongous nutsack. Since when do family films have to just be for children? Look at this list and weep: The NeverEnding Story, Labyrinth, Legend, Dragonslayer, The Dark Crystal, Return to Oz (yes), and The Princess Bride. All from the 80s, and all fan-fucking-tastic. So my question to Hollywood is this: what have you done for me lately? Remaking one of the greatest fantasy films ever isn’t going to qualify, so fuck you. On a side note, the production company in talks to do The NeverEnding Story is also apparently planning to rape Akira by doing a live-action remake. Puke.

If you’ve never seen The NeverEnding Story, I envy you. You still get to experience it for the first time, and I couldn’t be more adamant that you should do it as soon as possible. Just looking at the DVD cover makes me want to call in to work tomorrow and have an all-80s fantasy day. I would dress up and shit, too – a robe and a wand should be enough, I think. Even if you suck and wouldn’t do the same, you still need to buy this movie and watch the shit out of it. It’ll amaze you every time.

There are so many great moments in The NeverEnding Story, and I thought it worth including a screen-dump of some of my favorite parts:

The duel Sphinxes, and a place I don't want to have to pass through.

That shit all over the screen? It's called atmosphere. Look it up.

A really creepy, yet cool scene where two destinies meet.

Another one of the many memorable characters. He'll probably be totally fucked up and retarded if this remake gets green-lit. Enter ANGRY NERD RAGE.

/end rage.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Wanna Share the Rent? No Thanks, You Crazy Bitch - 2LDK (2003)

2LDK is short for an apartment with 2 bedrooms, a living room, dining room and kitchen, and that’s exactly where the entirety of this film takes place. But before I get to the film itself, I think the reason it came to be is almost as interesting, and bears mentioning. The director, Yukihiko Tsutsumi, along with fellow Japanese director Ryuhei Kitamura decided to make dueling films that adhered to a single rule: they must only involve two characters fighting in a single space for the duration of each film. Kitamura’s film was Aragami, and 2LDK was Tsutsumi’s contribution. This kind of competition is something I’ve never heard of before, and I think it’s a fun exercise that more filmmakers should take and run with. With 2LDK, Tsutsumi created a brisk (at 70 minutes) depiction of obsession and delusion, and a damn entertaining one at that.

The setup is extremely simple: Rana and Nozomi are both actresses who share an apartment together, and they happen to also both be up for the same leading role in an upcoming movie. From the beginning, it’s obvious the two girls are polar opposites – Rana is a neat-freak who comes from a well-educated background, while Nozomi is a former model-turned-actress who wears designer clothing and is generally pretty vain. I have no idea why they share an apartment together, other than the possibility that the production company they’re working for put them up for a discounted price. It’s irrelevant, really, because the film isn’t about how or why they got to where they are. Instead, it’s all about their personalities clashing to the point of total chaos. It starts out innocently enough, with Rana getting upset at Nozomi for using her shampoo and leaving hair in the bathtub. But if that was all that happened, this would be a pretty sucky movie, so that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Rana: anal-retentive cleanliness freak and rule-abiding whore.

Nozomi: big-mouthed, annoying bitch. Incidentally, they're both incredibly hot.

As I said, it’s a brisk look into the main characters’ lives, and at just over an hour, the film doesn’t waste any time getting to the meat of the story: the fighting between Rana and Nozomi. They do some really fucked up shit to each other, and it’s at once hilarious and brutal. There’s a chainsaw, samurai swords, electrical appliances in water, a toilet tank, and many more instruments of death and destruction used to great effect by both girls. Honestly, there’s nothing more to say about 2LDK, so you'll have to excuse the shortness of this review. If you like seeing two people beat the living shit out of each other for about an hour, this is the film for you. Due to the nature of the film’s creation, that premise is the sole reason for its existence, and as such, delivers everything you could want from something like this, without all the distractions more complicated stories come with. Simply put, 2LDK is an awesome, bloody good time for the short while it lasts, and believe me, you could do way worse with 70 minutes of your time.

I saved most of the good bits for your own discovery, so don't worry, I'm not giving away a whole lot here: