Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Turkey:Candy Von Dewd and the Girls from Latexploitia (2002)

This is the brief story of a bunch of male space explorers looking for women to impregnate before they are no longer able to have children. Somehow they end up on a planet where they are captured and chatter as women in latex clothing fight each other and roll around on the floor to really bad music. I can't say more than that because there really isn't much more to it than that. (There may have been but I stopped caring)

Can we say cheap? Can we say shot on video badness? Can we please have an Ed Wood film, or better yet Orgy of the Dead where the women were at least topless? Could we please have anything perhaps even a large rusted needle to poke out my eyes? This set bound disaster is billed as being in the style of Barbarella. Say what you will that had a plot, and acting, and something approaching other than a bad TV talk show style set. This is awful.

Should you be stupid enough to actually watch this you may want to be warned of the use of about ten or fifteen seconds of hardcore sex appearing during the solarized entrance from the desert to the blue bubble. Its off to one side of the screen and would not be really noticeable except the video effect only partially obscures it and so its the only thing you can really see.I had to go back to see what it was since it seemed out of place. Its not a reason to pick this up, but parents who intend to destroy their children's minds by showing this film to them may be offended, I was bored. (I mentioned the sex in a review at Alpha Video who releases this pile of trash but they removed my review)

Simply one of the worst piles of dog waste ever made.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving Turkey: Extraordinary Seaman(1969)

TCM occasionally runs the legendary EXTRAORDINARY SEAMAN with David Niven Alan Alda and Faye Dunaway, not to mention Mickey Rooney and a few other great character actors.

This is a really bad movie, not fun, just bad. The premise has Niven as a dead sea captain haunting a boat until he does a heroic act (Its WW2 and he's been dead since WW1). He's always in white and constantly drinking and never eats. Eventually he confesses his state to Alda who is a high strung CPA who can't figure out whats wrong with the Captain. Intercut with the funny footage is newsreel material cut mixed with witty lines and odd music.

Its almost like MASH in some technical ways (the camp announcements say relating to the newsreel narration) but the effect is a stone faced silence. I kept going on with the film to see what was wrong, and its purely the fault of the direction which treats the material too realistically, and Alda who's patented shtick and mannerisms are completely wrong (think MASH at his silliest). How Alda survived this horrible miscasting amazes me, but then weirder things have happened.

Not quite one of the all time stinkers that the Medveds once dubbed it in their 50 Worst Films book, but its bad

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Dr Who:Day of the Doctor in 3D (2013)

Monday night I went to the rebroadcast of the 3D version of the Day of the Doctor which is the 50th anniversary special of Dr Who. It was for me, a 40 year long fan of the Doctor, something that was required viewing especially on the big screen.

Before I get to the film itself I want to take theater to task for their handling of the screening. Who’s idea was it to run the prescreening material staring at the start time? Normally at Fathom events that stuff runs in the half hour before the show starts, here they ran it at start time which brought groans from the packed theater- more so when they ran it a second time. Thank you Westbury Stadium.

The plot of the special has the Doctor (Matt Smith) getting called in by UNIT to help with something at the National Gallery. This leads into the reappearance of an old enemy, and encounters with Queen Elizabeth 1 and two of his earlier selves (David Tennant and John Hurt). I’m not going to go into details of the plot since if you haven’t seen it you’ll want to have the surprises revealed in due time, and if you already have seen it you don’t need me to tell you what happens.

For me, a fan of the show before I ever saw an episode (I was hooked based on a write up in Famous Monsters of Film land in the 1970’s) Dr Who is like manna and deeply part of me. I’ve seen pretty much every one of the original run through the Paul McGann movie and a good chunk of the recent series. While I have some of the related merchandise, I’m not overly crazy in picking it up partly because it’s too damn expensive and partly because I don’t feel I need it since I have the stories and such in my head already.

What I liked about the special is that while it is concerned with celebrating the 50 year run of the series, it doesn’t go overboard and try and fit in every single Doctor in its story. Yes they are there, but they are not there, they only appear where they should. Mostly the story is just the three doctors at the center of the story. We have a story that takes in the history while driving the current series forward. For me it’s the first time since the series was revived that the new series truly connected with the old series in a way that wasn’t a kind of riff on the old. Here at last the two series have been welded together.

There has been some speculation about whether this was intended to be a Christopher Eccelston story instead of John Hurt one. Perhaps it was, John Hurt has said that he was brought into the show right before shooting began, but at the same time the presence of Hurt gives a weight that Eccleston wouldn’t have delivered. We see the lines in Hurt’s face. He see the weight of the world on his shoulders, and if you’ve seen the short with Paul McGann you realize that when McGann becomes Hurt he was youthful, years, perhaps centuries have passed for Hurt and so we know why he feels there is no choice but to destroy the Daleks and Gallifrey. Eccelston, as good as he is could never have shown the pain of centuries of fighting just by being, he is too young, too unbattered.

At the screening I attended the appearance of two additional doctors in the flesh and not reused clips met with cheers of delight…and yes the second one is the doctor, the credits list him as such.

Day of the Doctor is a great episode.

Thanksgiving Turkey: From my Animation on DVD Days: Legend of Lemnear

This is a repost of a review that ran (or was this just submitted?) back when I had a very short stint on Animation on DVD right before the site closed down:

The second the closing credits began to roll on US Manga Corps release of Legend of Lemnear I ran as fast as I could to the computer to get the word out, this movie is a to be avoided at all costs. I don't want to over sell this by saying that it isn't the worst animated film I've ever witnessed, but this is a forty minute time waster that really is a time waster.

The plot of the film condensed, no doubt greatly, from a manga, concerns the female warrior Lemnear who is out to avenge the death of her people at the hands of some dark lord. The rest of the plot, or the parts that didn't involve close ups of women's breasts, had something to do with Lemnear being the Champion of Silver who must come together with the Champion of Bronze to defeat the Champion of Gold. You really don't get much more than that except for topless women and acts of violence that may have been exciting in some other movie, but not in this one.

The trouble is that the story is so leisurely that there is no way that the story its seeking to tell could be compressed in to a mere forty minutes, especially when time is taken out for a rape and the fondling of breasts. I assure you that I am not a prude, but there is simply way too much attention on breasts in the second third of this movie for anything other than a porno film. Why its not listed as hentai (adult animation) is beyond me, especially when the amount of nudity seems greater than some hentai titles I've seen. I think my annoyance at the nudity is the result of it all being handled in a second grade manner, the breasts are pushed to the forefront as if they by themselves, mean something. Were the scenes designed by adults or seven year olds? And why is it, that in a story that is told through limited animation,do they take the greatest care to animate the bouncing bosom when everything else remains static?

It boggles the mind.

Despite the over all vapidness of the release there are some really good things in the movie. The Japanese voice cast is fine and I wished that they had been given something better to do. (The English cast is just okay) The designs are mostly wonderful, from the giant stone god, to the flying fortress, to the monsters and Lemnear's birdlike lizard (a steal from Heavy Metal's Tarna?) this is a good looking movie that begs to have had story tellers that matched the visuals. I liked the music as well.

One last bitch,and its one that's directed at the companies that put out animated DVDs. Why is it that this movie, which runs only 40 minutes has 20 chapter stops while other films, both equally short or even longer will have a mere handful? Blood, The Last Vampire runs fifty minutes and has eight stops, Wings of Honneamise which runs over two hours has ten ,as does Garzaey's Wing. Why the lack of stops? With an animation which is a form of art there are times when you want to go back and really look at the art, or a sequence to study just what exactly was done to achieve an effect. Animation, more than live action needs more stops so you can go back and marvel at what has been put up on the screen.

For those who might care there are several previews for other title, a commercial for US Manga's comic like and cast bios, which is nothing more than clips from the show where each character states who they are. The disc is also 40 minutes long not 45 as the back states.

Legend of Lemnear is a release that isn't worth the time or money to watch even as a rental. Even if you should come across the film at a bargain price (I picked it up in specially priced two pack with Garzey's Wings for 15 bucks) you should avoid it unless you are a big fan of the manga or you get it for free. Even then, the leaden pacing and confusing story line will have made you turn this off before the end credits roll.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Misfire: The Rise and Fall of The Shooting Gallery (2013) DOC NYC 2013

There was something great about coming of age and becoming a movie nerd in the 90s. There was the rite of passage working for a movie retailer, and there was the thrill of the hunt at mom and pop video stores. More importantly, there was the indie boom of the 90s--when Sundance was for obscure gems rather than an early launchpad for prestige releases, when that slew of new films and filmmakers seemed adventurous and fresh, when "indie" (or "indy") still meant something as magical as a phrase like "college radio."

In Whitney Ransick's documentary Misfire: The Rise and Fall of The Shooting Gallery, it's as if the whole of the 90s is condensed into the 10-year history of the production company. We get the boom of indie film and the boom of the internet, and the twin stories of the decade careen out of control and crash--the tech bubble bursts and takes The Shooting Gallery with it while the indie bubble goes through an irreversible metamorphosis. Misfire is the sign of the times, and yet there's a common tension that recurs in all stories of artistic endeavor: the creative people vs. the money people.

Started in 1991 by a group of film students from SUNY Purchase, The Shooting Gallery is probably best known for three films: 1992's Laws of Gravity, 1996's Sling Blade, and 2000's You Can Count On Me. It was the premiere New York arm of 90s indie filmmaking. The primary mover on the creative side was Bob Gosse; the primary money mover was CEO Larry Meistrich. Ransick was also part of The Shooting Gallery when it began, though he'd leave the group after a few years.

Misfire goes through interviews and old footage of The Shooting Gallery, and we get to see the players speak then and now. Well, most everyone's there except for Meistrich and his friend/CFO Steve Carlis. It's a given why they declined to be interviewed for the film once you find out how The Shooting Gallery went kaput. I wouldn't want to talk about it either, though it's a shame we don't get to hear from them.

In some ways Meistrich is the de facto villain of Misfire. Rather than focus on filmmaking, he tried to turn The Shooting Gallery into some nebulous media conglomerate. It was the 90s, and "dot com" had a far more mystical allure than "indie" and "college radio," even though no one knew for sure what The Shooting Gallery's media wing was really up to.

As someone pointed out in the Q & A after the screening, Meistrich was a little different than some money men involved with production companies. He never tried to tamper with certain movies directly and allowed the filmmakers a lot of creative freedom. But to that, Meistrich greenlit some less-than-stellar films as attempted money grabs. Ultimately, it was his attempt at expansion that grounded numerous film projects that The Shooting Gallery could have gotten off the ground.

There's a genuine sense of nostalgia for the 90s in Misfire, which makes sense given that The Shooting Gallery is where and how Ransick, Gosse, and many others in the film got to where they are today. The incidental music in the doc reminded me of stuff I'd hear in a Starbucks back then--a bright and inoffensive acoustic pop rock. Hal Hartley gets noted and appreciated (as he deserves to be). Gosse was living with Parker Posey at the time (a fellow SUNY Purchase alum). While she isn't an interview subject in the film, she's on screen for a few moments, and Posey may be the Platonic form of the 90s indie It girl.

I couldn't help but sense that The Shooting Gallery was a kind of club house and a posse for its core group, even at the end of its life. It was a scrappy gang who did it and blew it and are now able to look back fondly at the decade. Maybe its that nostalgia that allowed me to find weird patterns and correspondences in the story of The Shooting Gallery and the decade as a whole; maybe personal stories can't help but reflect the over-arching story of the period in which they occurred. Misfire is like the high school year books of the 90s indie boom.

American Commune (2013) DOC NYC 2013

Communes have fascinated me for years, though I haven't done as much research on them as I should. The utopian ideas behind communes have been the main intellectual draw. I'd never join one myself, but I do admire the underlying impulse to create a collective and be part of it even though it's bound to collapse after surpassing a sustainable number. These are temporary enclaves, temporary families or extended families, and yet the larger sense of community tends to outlast the actual community itself.

That's a broad stroke version of what I felt watching American Commune. Co-directed by sisters Rena Mundo Croshere and Nadine Mundo, the documentary goes back and forth between memoiristic moments and a broader examination of The Farm, a collective community in Tennessee started by Stephen Gaskin in 1971. The two sisters were born and raised there until their teenage years, when they eventually left. Throughout the film, we hop back and forth in time while also examining a very personal family history and how it intertwines with the history of this larger commune-as-family.

It's an interesting parallel history since the filmmakers' mother was one of the original members of The Farm when it began. The group was intended to be self-sufficient and took all comers who arrived. Growing up on The Farm had lasting effects on the nature of the sisters' immediate family as well as their perception and feelings about the world. The sudden integration of people who are used to one way of life suddenly being immersed in the thick of the 1980s could comprise its own doc. Instead, Rena and Nadine shoot through the differences by an immersion in the commercial culture of the time. It's so drastically different of what's seen at The Farm that it gets the point across, though I'm still curious about the adjustment period, especially for teenage girls.

Much of American Commune is driven by intimate home video footage that serves the personal family story set alongside extensive footage of The Farm from various reports through the years. There's something equally fascinating in the film footage taken at The Farm, the family video footage taken after leaving The Farm, and the TV clips of people outside The Farm looking in. Phil Donahue seems befuddled as he interviews Gaskin and other Farm members, and they seem defensive in response.

For the first quarter or third of American Commune, the material didn't quite click with me. It was watchable, but it seemed like the shape of the material was a little off. In some ways, it was as if the film was trying to find the right balance and voice as it negotiated the family history and the history of The Farm as well as the hops through time. In retrospect it makes sense to start where the film starts. Rena and Nadine worked for MTV, and we see them shooting footage for My Super Sweet 16, chronicling the height of ugly, opulent, 1% excess and privilege. By going to The Farm by contrast, we see not just a place driven by ideals about sustainability but a higher-minded ideology driven not by mere materials but by a real sense of honor in toil.

When American Commune finally clicked, it became clear how these notions of family and extended family function together. The footage in which Rena and Nadine return to The Farm also resonated more as the film continued, revealing a new ideas about home and family. There's a surprising poignancy as the documentary draws to a close, and it's all related to this idea of the families we live in and the families we create. Maybe that's the reason communes fascinate me so much and why American Commune wound up touching me the way it did. It comes back to an apolitical ideal I sense in communes: they offer a reprieve from feelings of loneliness and isolation. While one may feel homeless and alone in life at times, there is an idea of home an there is an idea of family, and these ideas persist.

Comic Con-age: WOLF CHILDREN's Howl of Sophisticated Pleasure

Wolf Children (おおかみこどもの雨と雪/ookami kodomo no ame to yuki), the third feature length anime from director Mamoru Hosoda is a gripping and heartwarming tale of cross-generational appeal. Essentially, anything you could think of saying to distinguish a work of fiction as a classic of its genre could aptly apply. Going over my NY Comic Con itinerary, I became wary of the movie’s FUNIMATION and Hero Complex sponsored screening when I detected the strong family friendly vibe of the anime. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but after long days of navigating the crowded convention floors, one looks for the comfort of entertainment he is most naturally drawn to, and my tastes tend toward the darker, grittier assemblage of moving images. No matter. Wolf Children proved to transcend genre leanings. It revealed itself to be a multilayered work, supporting recent ripples of acknowledgment that Hosoda-san is well on his way to achieving status as a master of feature length animated films, putting his name in the same realm as one Hayao Miyazaki. Even the English dubbed version they decided to screen, which initially caught me off guard (though it really should not have been that much of a surprise considering the wide audience its releasing company must aspire to reach), did not end up hampering my enjoyment of the experience. That in itself is a huge testament to the power of the film.

WOLF CHILDREN begins wrapped in a mood of idealistic romance as high school student Hana, speaking wistfully and mature beyond her years, falls into a whirlwind courtship with a werewolf.  Their enchantment with one another supersedes the importance of fitting in with society around them (a theme that recurs tunefully throughout the film) and soon the pair are living the sort of life experienced by those who grow up too fast – raising two children in a cramped metropolitan apartment.

Despite the couple’s upbeat attitude, invigorated by a sense of freedom, the feral qualities of Hana’s mate make him not long for the world around them and soon Hana is left to care for the two were-children alone.  Her plight is easily relatable to the real life world around us, in which such supernatural creatures don’t necessarily exist: a single mother trying to take care of two very rambunctious children.  Add to this the particularly Japanese norm of valuing fitting in and not disturbing the carefully structured order of things around you, and Hana becomes a truly empathetic figure.

Here emerges another theme, that of going against the grain and forging an unfamiliar, potentially challenging path for the sake of one’s family, as Hana decides uproot her clan and move to a remote countryside. Here the children, Yuki and Ame (which mean ‘snow’ and ‘rain’ could indulge their wolf sides as they scramble about the wondrously depicted surrounding wilderness. Yet challenges of surviving this naturalistic setting abound: Primarily, yielding food from the earth and contending with savage bouts of weather. And although the rural community is portrayed as more compassionate than that of the city, it still presents a challenge for newcomers to fit in to its established ways.  In contending with these obstacles, Hana is shown to be a strong, determined female protagonist who handles her interactions with members of the new community gracefully.

Meanwhile, Yuki and Ame develop stronger individual characteristics. The older Yuki is brash, fearless and unashamedly comfortable with her wolf form. Ame, on the other hand, is a more timid, delicate younger brother. These traits follow them through to the start of their attendance at school. However, after the passing of some years, a thought provoking reversal occurs, one that speaks rather accurately to the gendered experiences of children. Yuki becomes self-conscious, determined to fit in, even if it means the suppression of her once joyously flaunted wolf form. This is especially when interactions with a boy in her grade begin to take place. At the same time, Ame, who has not grasped the same success at school as his sister, grows more and more detached from his classes. He finds himself drawn to the wilderness, much to the concern of his mother, where he pursues a connection to the animal side of his family’s history. Through these situations, school is viewed as another complex social structure with demands to fit in that are challenging, yet of critical importance.

By telling a story with simple, joyous images for children to enjoy, true-to-life situations that adolescents can relate to, and themes of fitting in and dealing with identity crises that are substantial enough for adults to wrap their minds around, WOLF CHILDREN is an assured classic. An impressive feat is the complex manner in which children grow and change, something I do not find to occur in Miyazaki films I am familiar with. This is not a point of disparagement toward Miyazaki, but rather is something I find truly fascinating about Hosoda’s latest work.

In terms of visuals, there is a unique color palette, which I also took note of in the director’s previous film Summer Wars, consisting of cool blue-ish grays and pastel colors. They are at once easy on the eye and suggestive of the more subtle shades of the films’ human subjects.

Then, there is the delightful style of animating the children’s transformation into their wolf forms. They morph quickly and with a sense of ease from human to creature forms, turning into large, roughly sketched circular shapes. Bouncing about frantically, they are immediately disarming.

WOLF CHILDREN is a film I would love for you to be able to experience on the big screen. Then again, owning the DVD and being able to show it to future generations in a warm, familiar atmosphere would also be ideal.

WOLF CHILDREN is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from FUNIMATION.

Me on twitter = @mondocurry.

Thanksgiving Turkey: The Mummy and the Curse of the Jackal (1969)

Oh boy what a stinker. This is a painful sort of riff on the Universal mummy series with a were-jackal thrown in.

The plot has an archaeologist adding the well preserved body of an Egyptian princess to his collection. When she is revived she goes out on the town with the archaeologist and friends. But then her not quite undead lover comes looking for her…oh and did I mention that the guy is cursed so that he turns into a werewolf… er… jackal?

Yea, this is late 60’s low budget badness. I mean really bad with plot turns that are just one WTF after another- I mean the Goddess Isis shows up (and who knew she was related to Mr. Spock?).

The make-up is awful, with the jackal mask being a werewolf mask from one of the directors earlier films. The mummy is, oh boy, beyond bad. I mean he , it looks like it was shellacked and it has this one eye popping out of the bandages and is the size of a softball. It’s laughable for a while and then it becomes just kind of sad.

Actually what is sad about this movie is that this film rapidly goes from a good bad movie to one that is kind dull and makes you wonder why you’re watching it. This is one of those worst of all movies, a time waster. It feels sooo much longer than its 80 minutes, I mean I kept wondering when was this turkey going to end…some day maybe.

Avoid this one- even if you’re a bad movie lover avoid this one…

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Richard Jeni - The Beach Crowd (2011)

Comedian Richard Jeni was one of the best and funniest stand-up comics of all time. He had several HBO and Showtime specials, some more for Comedy Central, he appeared in a few films (including The Mask with Jim Carrey), and he even starred in a short-lived sitcom based on his material called Platypus Man. But for all that, he was basically a nightclub comic. And this 75 minute DVD, The Beach Crowd, presents him in his "natural environment", as he tackles subjects as diverse as the relationships between men and women, The Crocodile Hunter, The Perfect Pancake, and rats in the house...and along the way you also get Robert Stack and Walter Matthau impressions, a dog that sounds strangely like Jimmy Durante, plus a recurring Joaquin Phoenix impression from The Gladiator film that Jeni was obviously rather taken with. And his dolphin impression is so spot on, it will leave you wondering "IS that a dolphin up there?!?"

The material on the DVD was all taken from single-camera footage, as Jeni recorded all of his performances. This DVD combines 4 separate evenings from the Comedy & Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, California. Two of the performances were from August 2002, and the other 2 were from late June/early July of 2006. As mentioned, this is not on the scale of the big cable network comedy specials. There's no elaborate stage, no multi-camera shoots, no vast auditoriums filled with a couple thousand people. It's one man alone on a stage barely big enough to accommodate the average family car, playing to a packed house...except the house isn't much bigger than your house. There is absolutely no glamour in this production whatsoever. Which is the point. You get to enjoy Jeni doing what he did best: performing night-in and night-out for 25 years, constantly honing his craft, able to weave stories together in immensely funny and entertaining ways.

Since this footage was never intended for public consumption, it needed some work to make it viewable. According to his sister, Mary Colangelo, who manages Jeni's estate and put this DVD together, "the footage spent a year in post production to bump it into a level where it could be viewed without the audio and visuals pulling the focus away from the performance."  One of the reasons she picked these particular performances was because of the unusually high amount of audience interaction. There's quite a bit of people shouting things out, sometimes relevant to what was being discussed onstage...often not...and watching Jeni handle it all perfectly in stride is another treat for the viewer. Seeing someone perform something they've practiced over and over is one thing, but watching someone handle a bump in the road and incorporate it into the practiced performance makes it even more enjoyable. 

Another thing to note about the contents of this DVD is the fact that the audience reaction is genuine. Since this WASN'T a cable network special, the crowd wasn't being overly-hyped up by producers, or just overly-hyped up themselves knowing they would be on TV. You're witnessing, and are practically a part of, a real comedy nightclub experience (aside from the two-drink minimum, which you may or may not want to participate in of your own volition). This is a very entertaining look at a real comic doing what real comics do for the majority of their careers. Perhaps the best part of The Beach Crowd is that practically none of the material contained on it was ever released in any of his cable network specials. For fans of Jeni, this is a chance to essentially see a "new" performance from the man who, at the time of this writing, has been gone for well over 6 years. If you were lucky enough to have seen him live, you may even recognize a bit or two, and the chance to have those laughter-filled memories brought back in great detail is one well worth taking.

Thanksgiving Turkey:K Gordon Murray's Santaland Trilogy

K Gordon Murray’s Santaland Trilogy is best described as a cinematic bash in the head with a sack of coal. This is one of those times when you clearly see what sort of greedy individual some producers can be.

The trilogy, three short films that were to be inserted into various K Gordon Murray holiday extravaganzas and clip collections follow The Big Bad Wolf, Stinkie the Skunk and Puss N Boots from some of the other films Murray imported into the US as they carry on at Santa’s village at the North Pole. Actually what it involves are some poor knock off costumes of the characters (The wolf is the wrong color and Puss’s face is all wrong) as they wander around a low rent storybook theme park in the middle of summer. Variously poorly costumed elves wander around as do lots of children who look completely bewildered by what the adults amongst them are doing. You can feel their embarrassment.

Each of the films runs about 12 minutes with its own opening and closing. They are also post dubbed so that when in the third film the princess sings her voice is just ever so slightly off from the lip movements. Doing it this way also allows for the voices of the costumed characters to be added in later. The plot of each part is a variation on a theme, looking at various locations in the amusement park…er… Santa’s village before the Big Bad Wolf causes trouble. It’s an anemic thing to do, especially when one part has the wolf causing trouble in an invisible dimension so we don’t see anything happen we just watch people’s faces for four or five minutes while we hear the wolf battling with Merlin.

If you ever wanted to see the classic example of a rip off film this is it. This was put together as purely a money grab and nothing else… It’s such a money grab that the segments themselves are beyond bad. Murray clearly didn’t care what sort of crap he put on screen and it shows. For all I know this was filmed by some tourist at the park and Murray simply knocked the poor man down and stole his film.
Yea it’s that bad.

Worse any fun you might have watching these films dies about three minutes into the first film when it hits you what a turd ball this is and how its never going to get better. In a weird psychotronic way I love the Red Riding/Puss N Boots/Big Bad Wolf feature films (see separate reviews) but this piece of trash is awful.

I hate these films a great deal- but I’ll be damned if I’m going to give up my DVD with them on it- I mean one needs away of nonchalantly clearing a family gathering fast- and if you ever put these films on and say you like them not only will family leave they will flee and never return.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Serbian Film (2010)

"That's fucked up", those were my exact words as the closing credits fell during my first ever viewing of A Serbian Film. Perhaps I'm reluctant when it comes to films with Warning's attached all over it, that led to me passing on this for the past few years. I'm a fool for listening to the internet. I've been burned one too many times, and by that I mean my wallet has been burned for buying into such amateur crap like August Underground, Murder Set Pieces, just to name a few examples. Those films are trash. I don't mean to turn this into a name dropping effort, but it's slightly amusing how so many of these newer films try so hard and yet have come nowhere close to producing such nightmare inducing horror like Cannibal Holocaust, The 120 Days of Sodom (Salo) & Nekromantik. Those films are over 20 yrs old, and in my opinion nothing since has surpassed them in the 'shock' factor. That was until…

A Serbian Film follows the story of a retired middle-aged male porn star named Milos, who receives an offer to do one final film. Something that will leave him, and his family financially set for life. Reluctant at first, especially after meeting the director of the questionable film, Vukmir, Milos signs onto the project. Despite having no knowledge or impute on anything that will be filmed. And that ladies & gentleman is where things take an extremely dark and twisted turn. 

I can't recall the last time I watched something that has stuck with me like A Serbian Film. It went down roads that I didn't think were possible. And here I thought I've seen it all, but nope clearly not. I suppose when something has left this kind of impact, that must mean it was a great movie? I honestly don't know the answer to that though. I had some issues with certain characters in how they seem to switch back and forth with their intentions. It does go a tad over the top during the final act, but it is exceptionally well shot which came as a pleasant surprise. I suppose I've become accustomed to expect low budget, poorly acted, film school-esk production from these types of films. Yet I don't know how I could possibly recommend this. That would be a much easier task to put on someone I dislike. Though here it is a few days after watching it and it's still heavily on my mind. I suppose I really did enjoy it, but geez that just sounds wrong. 

Despite the film's disturbing nature, and trust me if you've never seen it, it is quite something,  it never feels exploitative. Some may disagree, but it all depends on how you view it. The near 10 min-long rape scene in Irreversible, is exploitative. A chain link of people attached from mouth to anus in Human Centipede is...ok, well that's just stupid. Bad example. The director of A Serbian Film, Srdjan Spasojevic has said that his film is supposed to show how his own government, the Serbian government has controlled its own people to do such heinous acts, as portrayed in the film. It's uneasy to watch, it's gritty, it's brutal, but that's reality.

I don't want to get into spoilers, but the never ending pit of despair that our main character Milos is forced to go down is surely something that will be forever be burned into your brain. With it's graphic depictions of rape, necrophilia & pedophilia, it's no wonder why this has been banned all around the world.

It's not often that I can say this, but for me it lived up to everything that's been said about it. Despite my initial hesitation.  I've spent nearly my entire life watching Horror, thousands upon thousands of films, and A Serbian Film very well may be the most disturbing damn thing I've ever watched. This is truly the real deal.

Thanksgiving Turkey:The Fall of the Louse of Usher: A Gothic Tale for the 21st Century (2002)

This is my IMDB review of this film which I called the titled the worst film by any director of standing ever:

This is nothing more than a cheap ass home movie done by a director who should have known better.Its not that there is anything wrong with this being made but the look and feel of it is that of a goof made among friends over a weekend for their own amusement. Regrettably someone though the rest of the world would find it equally enjoyable and released it on an unsuspecting world.

The plot has Roderick Usher ending up in a asylum for murder where goth and allegedly racy things are going on. There music and jokes and tasteless stuff. Mostly there is an undying urge to turn the DVD off and put on one of Ken Russell's other films...anyone of them.

I'm a Ken Russell fan. I've always liked that fact that no matter what he did there was always something interesting to look at or see somewhere in the movie. Here there is nothing. Its a complete waste of time.

Oh how one of the cinema's great directors has fallen....

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Nightcap 11/24/13- explanations

Thanksgiving is Thursday, what are you thankful for?

I’m thankful for festival season being largely over (only the South Asian Film Festival remains). Quite honestly the festivals damn near killed me. Don’t get me wrong I had a blast but the toll of it all was simply too much. I’m going to have to rethink what I’m doing next year. I can’t run at the level I do and remain standing and its not age, younger guys think I'm insane, its just too much.

I do have to say DOC NYC was a great deal of fun. I got to see a lot of great films, talk to lots of people and I connected with several people I knew on line. I can’t wait for next year. It was a killer year where even the bad films were good, but only seemed bad when compared to the real highs.

I’ve been asked about why I reviewed some shorts and not others at DOC NYC here’s the explanation. I had originally asked Brian who handled the PR work for the festival on the ground about getting a chance to see Lost Vegas. He said he could arrange it, and by the way he could get me to see some of the others as well. Thrilled, I gave him a list of films, and he gave me review copies to screen. The films I reviewed were all the titles that I had asked for and was given.  Then I was  contacted by Christian Svanes Kolding asked about a review for his film THE EMERGECY KIT and I said I would take a look, Friday night and I posted a review.
I feel I need to say something about the Donnie Yen interview that ran earlier in the week.

Originally when Hubert and myself sat down to talk to Donnie Yen we went in with a list of questions that numbered around 30. Most of the questions were not your standard what’s your favorite sort of thing. I know they slipped in, but that wasn’t my intention. What happened was early on Yen began to give answers that partly answered my question, but which did so with a weariness of I know where this is going and what they want. He seemed to be in a head space from another interview. He gave answers which on the face of them answered something we didn’t ask. He threw in answers about Special ID with the implication that we knew what he was talking about. We didn’t. We had to play a kind of catch up. I also had to throw out a good number of my questions because of the way he answered things early on. I’m guessing that some of his sleepiness at the start may have been a boredom, he had done this before. I think the waking up was the result of our not going down the same road again and again. In listening to the interview yet again I realize that in answering the nonstandard questions (Favorites) he sounded more excited than when I tried to stretch or fill the allotted time to get to the good questions (role choices). Thankfully Hubert was there to save things.
Between December 20 and early January the IFC Center in Manhattan is doing a look back at the first 5 years of films from GKIDS, the theatrical arm if the New York International Children’s Film Festival. This means there will be Ghibli films, Oscar nominees and some real treats. While the titles haven’t been announced I’m hoping this mean Ernest and Celestine will be screening. I will post info when I get it.
Tuesday at the Tribeca Cinema’s the Korean Cultural Service is running the Grand Heist for free. This is a period Korean heist film that I saw back in July at Fantasia and loved. It’s a must see film. Go see it. Here’s my review from July.
Coming this week at Unseen we have a few things going on-

First thing on tap is six days of our annual Thanksgiving Turkeys. Six days of really bad movies for your enjoyment and puzzlement.

This week also features the return of two of our writers who don’t really review quite nearly enough. Tomorrow the man known as Frank Grimes will be taking another look at A Serbian Film. Then on Tuesday the much too long absent Ken returns with a look at a new release of Richard Jeni material.

Later in the week I’ll be chiming in with a look at the 3D theatrical presentation of The Day of the Doctor, the 50th anniversary special celebrating Dr Who.

At the end of the week I’m hoping to have a review up of The Punk Singer, which I saw at DOC NYC and wrote up in a capsule review. This new review will be by Eden who has a better grasp on Kathleen Hanna and what she means to music and the women’s movement.

And Hubert will be dropping in more DOC NYC reviews.

I also want to point out that starting next Sunday our month long look at films released from the Criterion Collection. Every film reviewed was put out on either DVD or Laser Disc by Criterion. Since any film put out by the company is automatically worth at least trying, many of the pieces will be less critical examinations and more anecdotes connected to the films. For example during Christmas week when we turn to look at five of the recent releases of Chaplin films, some of what I had to say is in context of seeing the film and his place in history or at least my history.

Lastly another round up of links from various sources- which means Randi has been feeding me material

Second Life Machinima as part of a real life exhibition 

Gravity Spin off

The Bowery Ballroom in NYC

The Google Uk DR Who Doodle which became the US doodle

Ghost Ships

Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart Talk

Alison Moyet in NYC

The Brooklyn Paramount today

Saturn from another POV

Movies in Color


The purveyors of anime at Aniplex have decided to serve up a slice of misanthropic, festering imagery with GYO: TOKYO FISH ATTACK, and gave curious New York Comic Con 2013 attendees an early look at it. The story is based on the work of Manga artist Junji Ito, whose not at all subtle classic horror stories tend toward the classically gruesome and vividly surreal. More well known works, such as Uzumaki and Tomie, have originated from the flow of his inkwell.

GYO sets its sights on 3 young women (Kaori, Erika, and Aki) vacationing in tropical Okinawa. Things are fine, save for the heat and a bit of boredom, until a rancid smell permeates the air, perturbing the friends all the way back to their accommodations. Only once there, its presence is even stronger. The source reveals itself to be a grotesque creature with a spindly bug-like torso carrying an aquatic animal’s upper body. No sooner do they destroy and dispose of the disturbing pest than they are roughly greeted by an even larger, shark-like monstrosity. Cut to a vast horde of scaly oceanic monstrosities filling the once quiet streets of Okinawa, and you get a sense of GYO’s briskly paced nightmarish vision. 

Having wasted little time in setting up the unlikely doomsday premise, the film spends the majority of its time depicting futile attempts to run both to and from the chaos; since Kaori‘s boyfriend Tadashi is in Tokyo she finds herself on the next flight there where she finds an ally in a reporter covering the story. An equally sized portion of the suffering wrought unto those exposed to the epidemic is also doled out. Logic and pacing only rarely make their way into the equation.   

Despite the achievement of some surreal moments that set this anime apart from many of its peers, GYO still often indulges stereotypes that too often go are a part of the genre. The main characters are familiar archetypes: the traditionally beautiful, successful and selflessly devoted Kaori is the flawless leader. Her first companion is Erika, who is obsessed with her looks and getting laid, the latter being a pursuit she commits herself to with insanely reckless abandon. Then there is Aki, whose lack of concern for maintaining an attractive appearance is accompanied by neurotic insecurity and, as the horror around them increases, a legendary spitefulness. While most characters suffer a cruel fate, Aki seems to bear the worst of it, suggesting a somewhat juvenile contempt for those not yearning to achieve conventional feminine beauty.

While Erika and Aki self-destruct under the pressure of a marine marauder onslaught and their stereotyped flaws, Kaori races through an already besieged Tokyo, encountering some coincidences that very handily serve the narrative. For instance, her boyfriend is not only caught in the onslaught of mutated ocean dwellers, but a Frankenstein-like scientist uncle of his appears to play an integral role in the creatures’ presence, and by extension so does he.

Twists of convenience such as this don’t do much to increase appreciation of the story. It’s the anime’s eyebrow raising dedication to pushing its grim messages to surreal extremes that does. As Kaori and her reporter ally confront Dr. Koyanagi and uncover very hastily explained theories about the attack, the predatory visitors take on new robotic features and expel flatulent blasts of noxious fumes that themselves appear to be made up of some kind of otherworldly energy. In the midst of the carnage that has befallen the city, Kaori encounters a big tent circus of all things. Right in the middle of the street…Sure. Here, a showy carnival barker incorporates this energy into part of the show. I’ll leave the fate of Tadashi at the hands of his uncle’s unscrupulous tinkering up to your imagination for now, but it is not pretty to say the least.

While the anime rests largely on one consistent note of endemic doom, there are a few curious references to some Japanese film favorites that may or may not be intentional. Tadashi’s afflicton as well as the creatures’ own later stage metamorphoses, may remind one of wild physical transformations found in Akira, or even Tetsuo: Iron Man, as pipes and other tangles of metal running rampant. The conclusion, meanwhile, is strangely reminiscent of the melancholic yet hopeful boat seen of Kurosawa Kiyoshi’s Kairo (Pulse). When Kaori finally declares she has begun to get used to the stench of death and decay surrounding her (“もなれていました”), it’s not much of a leap to presume GYO is referring to our own present day invasion-less reality. In this context, the aforementioned disappointing stereotypes may serve a purpose of showing humanity mired in its worst attributes. While not always rising above the tropes of most commercial anime, when it does it achieves levels of derangement that seep down to the bone.

GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack is available on DVD from Aniplex. Visit the site for details.

Me on twitter = @mondocurry.