June 30: Subterfuge
in front of the TV tonight with Atragon
(1963) from Toho studios, the people who brought you Godzilla.
Like all of the films starring Big G & Co, this film has
a giant monster (Manda),
massive property destruction and fleeing Japanese citizens.
But the star here is the super-submarine from which the film
gets its title. The movie sort of reminded me of Gerry
Anderson's Stingray, but with real people instead of puppets.
(2002) stars Jeremy
Northam, an actor I like, and Lucy
Liu, one that I usually avoid like egg salad. It's a technological
thriller from Vincenzo
Natali, director of Cube
(1997), set in the world of high-stakes industrial espionage.
Northam does a nice job of transforming himself into the nerdish
Morgan Sullivan. Lucy Liu is -- well, Lucy Liu. The suspense
is kept alive with plenty of twists and turns, but I felt that
the end was a bit of a let down. But it wasn't so bad as to
ruin the film.
June 27: Day of the Dead
Larry took the whole Glass Eye Pix team out to see George
A. Romero's Land
of the Dead (2005). While it may not approach horror cinema
classics like his first two zombie films, "Land" has
some pretty entertaining sequences, with a heavy helping of
social commentary added for weight.
To me, the
film felt like it was over a bit too soon, so I guess that means
I was enjoying it. I don't want to over-sell this movie, but
it does have the best looking zombies of any previous Dead offering
and some pretty cool scares.
it's a zombie movie. What else do you need?
June 25: Fly by Night
than Batman? Why, Super-Batman! Well, not really. This hero's
got copyright-infringement written all over him, but that doesn't
stop him from leaping into action in Korea's Super-Batman
& Mazinger V (1990).
robot warrior Mazinger
is in trapped on Earth in the form of a child's toy. Cheaply-costumed
manimals (guys in lycra unitards and monster masks) descend
upon a group of humans, looking for the mechanical superhero.
Unable to reactivate the robot, our heroes are thankfully saved
by Betaman (aka Super-Batman)!!!
does eventually come to life, but appears in this film in cartoon
form only. There's also a crazy and crudely animated sequence
where Super-Batman goes deep into the earth. The whole film
is a super-low budget effort that appears to have been costumed
out of a Halloween Store.
sequences are of varying quality, mostly slightly below Power
Rangers level. But to be fair, this production doesn't appear
to be aimed at adults. It's more for really young kids who ride
the short bus.
By the way,
do you like Mazinger and other Giant Robot heroes? We've got
a bunch of toys and stuff that you'll love in the "Japanese
Heroes" section over at the MonsterPants
Store. Go there
now and BUY! BUY! BUY!!!
it's all about ninjas, Owls'
Castle (1999), isn't an action movie, it's a historical
drama from director Masahiro
Shinoda. The film tells the story of the last survivors
of the Iga ninjas, ten years after the clan was all but wiped
out by the warlord Oda Nobunaga.
is slowly paced, but engaging. The scenery is breathtaking and
the cinematography is absolutely magnificent. Unfortunately,
the movie also features some of the worst bald caps that I've
ever seen. A bit of an unwelcome distraction in an otherwise
June 24: She had to leave...
way behind here.
I just got
back from shooting scenes for the MonsterPants movies, Death
to the Automatons (2005) and Satan
Hates You (2006), in Los Angeles. The days & weeks leading
up to my trip were pretty hectic, so I let things slide here
at the old blog.
reverse order, is my attempt to catch up. I'm sure I'm forgetting
something that I saw.
I liked Batman
Begins (2005), despite the over complication of the
caped crusader's origin, changes in traditional story
details and the complete neglect of the genius detective
aspects of the character.
nice to see a superhero film that appears to have been
made with adult sensibilities in mind.
Jeremiah invited me to join him for a preview screening
Devil's Rejects (2005).
Zombie's sequel to House
of 1000 Corpses is much better than the first film.
Actually, Rejects is a completely different kind of movie
than the original. So much so, that if not for the main
characters, the two films would almost seem to be completely
is a raw and brutal film, true to the movies that inspired
it, with an army of genre stars filling out the cast.
But, as with "House", I have to wonder if this
new movie is offering its audience anything they haven't
seen many times before.
I've always been a Peter
Gallagher fan for some reason. No, I don't watch The
OC, but I did watch this version of Brave
New World (1998) starring Mr. Galagher and Leonard
decent, but forgettable. I'm only saying that because
I can't remember a thing in the movie worth writing about.
June 11: Marvel Mania
Not every film based on a Marvel comic is a Spiderman
or X-men, or even a Hulk. The
Punisher (2004) is a lifeless and sloppy representation
of the comic book vigilante.
only one punished in this movie is the audience. The guy
in this film is more of a male model-turned-punching bag
than Mighty Marvel's infamous tough guy. He just teases
people and lets them go. Wuss.
film is no fun. Go watch the
much-maligned Dolph Lundgren version instead. At a
fraction of the budget, it at least delivered some thrills
and did it with style, unlike this bloated and poorly
step below The Punisher is Man-Thing
(2005). Not that it's any worse of a film, it just
never got a theatrical release. I guess that means the
movie's title is still available for any of you guys making
gay porn out there.
story is pretty generic and you barely see the title creature
until the last ten minutes of the movie. The filmmakers
also crapped out on exploring the only thing that separated
"Manny" from DC Comic's original Swamp Thing
-- the fact that all who feel fear burn at the touch of
movie premiered on the SciFi Channel and is now available
cleared my palette with dozens of clips from classic films
via the documentary Z
Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (2004). The film
is the story of an early and revolutionary Los Angeles
pay-cable station and its troubled programmer, Jerry
Harvey, who killed himself and his wife in 1988.
couldn't get over how good Theresa
Russell looks. Check it out, if you have IFC.
If I saw anything else over these busy last few weeks, it wasn't
worth remembering. Many thanks to everyone who helped out on
the LA shoots and my apologies to those I had to blow off due
to our tight schedule. You guys rule.
June 5: Vengeance is Mine
(2003), I didn't think his earlier film, Sympathy
for Mr. Vengeance (2002) is as violent as its reputation.
In fact, Sympathy is much less action-driven and a much more
sophisticated film than last night's Park selection. The violence
occurs mostly off screen, and less frequently. It's this control
and restraint that makes it much more shocking when things finally
do get rough. Another really good film from this Korean director.
As I did
yesterday, I followed the Chan-wook Park film with something
to to lighten the load. Tonight it was Shin
Kamen Rider (1992). It's a direct-to-video feature film
that was an attempted to launch a new, "true" version
of the popular Japanese superhero Kamen
Rider. The old Rider (known as Masked Rider in a
hacked-up US version of the show) was a cyclist in a bug-themed
uniform. In "Shin", the costume is now part of the
hero, who is a man genetically crossed with a grasshopper!
pilot for a TV show that never took off, the film is almost
entirely backstory. It takes way too long for us to get a look
at our transformed hero and there is far too little monster-on-monster
action overall. I'm a big fan of the classic Rider of the 1970's
(we sell Rider
merchandise in the MonsterPants
Store), but I have to admit that this slimy version is pretty
cool as well, with its throbbing temples and chomping mandibles.
obviously wanted to make the show much more adult than the Power
Rangers-esque stuff that US audiences are accustomed to.
The production values here are much higher, and there's also
a lot more realistic violence and even a little nudity! The
hero's transformation is an obvious homage to The
Incredible Hulk TV series, with the Bixby
change mimicked almost shot-for-shot. There's even a flying,
glowing fetus at the end of the film! But we never do get to
the "Real Masked RIder" actually ride anything. Which
is a little odd, considering the name of the show.
June 4: Tae Kwon Do's & Don'ts
a couple of popular Korean films this evening. Oldboy
(2003) is currently the belle of the ball as it enjoys a
limited theatrical run here in the US. I'd say Chan-wook
Park's film deserves the the good reviews it's been getting,
but not the condemnations for the violence.
Yes, I know
there's something wrong with me. But people are talking about
this thing like its a two-hour torture session. It's really
not all that bad, and a lot of the rough stuff is pretty cartoonish.
I actually found moments in the film quite touching.
I loved the film, and you should check it out for yourself.
Go see it in theatres or watch an import DVD, as I did. There
are plenty of Hong Kong 0-region ones available, as well as
a 2-disc special edition PAL version that my friend, Rich, was
kind enough to share with me.
lighter in tone is the hyperactive teen action film Volcano
High (2001). You may be familiar with the rapper-infested
English dub version of this movie from MTV. I haven't seen
it, and never plan to.
a DVD of the film in its original language with English subtitles
instead. Though, to be honest, you could almost watch Volcano
High without dialogue, as its backstory is far too complicated
and confusing for the movie's simple "I don't like you,
you don't like me -- let's fight" plot. It's all power-charged
eye candy -- empty calories to give you a ninety-minute blast.
A good waste of time, as long as you're not expecting another
June 3: Far-Out Space Nuts
to watch a little TV before bed and ended up viewing the Spanish
(2002). It stars Vincent
de Medeiros and Joaquim
de Almeida as the first people to land on Mars. Well, maybe
not "land"... "crash" is more like it. As
the title suggests, they're stuck there and have to make some
tough decisions in order to survive.
is uneven -- sometimes good, sometimes not so. But the story
is interesting and intelligent enough to carry me through some
of the rougher line readings. The real treat in this film is
Ramone's only real performance as an actor. He plays an
astronaut orbiting the red planet. That alone should make the
film worth seeing.
June 2: Space Wars
I had to
cancel Movie Night again this week, but Laree, Don and I sort
of made it up at their house last night, with some good old
fashioned science fiction trash.
Earth (1954) promises "Raw panic the screen never dared
to reveal." The film does show some scenes of panic, attempted
suicide and a touch of hysteria, but I guess the screen still
wasn't able to reveal the army of automatons that we're told
are invading the city. We only see one at at time, because the
producers only built one robot for the film. You'll just have
to take the characters word for it that there are hundreds of
them, just around the corner, and hope that the army (two jeeps)
has the resources to stop the invasion. But still, my friends
and I had some good laughs at the corny dialogue, mock-scientific
gobbledygook and scenes of 1950's socially acceptable domestic
made some pretty cool science fiction films back in the day,
and U.S. producer Roger
Corman knew it. The
Heavens Call (1960) was another one of those films Corman
imported and then turned over to his lackeys to re-cut and dump
on America's Drive-in audiences. None other than Francis
Ford Coppola chopped up the film about a futuristic Soviet-American
space race and called it Battle
Beyond the Sun (1962).
the Americans are the bad guys here, so in order to make it
acceptable to domestic audiences, the film is set in the post-apocalyptic
future, with the Russians and the Americans replaced with the
"South Hemis" and "North Hemis". Optical
effects were added to hide the Russian insignias on the ships,
but eagle-eye Don spotted the red star on the tail fin.
Now I don't
know how Corman came up with the title for this one, because
there's no battle and the astronauts never go beyond the sun.
They never even make it to their planned destination, the planet
Mars. They do make it to a dark, craggy asteroid, where a couple
of "interesting" looking aliens live. These creatures
are not in the original Soviet film, but puppets added by Coppola,
in order to give Corman something cool to put on the poster.
Though nothing added to these films was ever as cool as the
amazing sets and incredible special effects that this and a
few other Russian space operas from this era already had. It's
the one space race that the Soviets won.
June 1: Hurts Like Hell
(1999) is an odd one. It starts out as the story of a living
girl's visit to Hell, so that she can report to mankind what's
waiting for them if they don't straighten up. The film's version
of Hades immediately brings to mind the one from the dream sequence
Night I Will Possess Your Corpse. It has a similar color
scheme and home-made theatrical feel. Filled with actors in
costume depicting demons, this Netherworld is sort of a Dante's
Inferno as conceived by Sid
and Marty Kroft.
is told to observe the sins of a child molester/murder on Earth
and then witness his punishment in the afterlife, before viewing
her own past. Here the film shifts gears and becomes a docudrama
about the Aum
Shinri Kyo cult, which released sarin gas into the Tokyo
subway in1995. The connection being that the girl was once a
member of the cult.
is obviously a combination of two unfinished movies, but it
all comes together in the end. Jigoku is currently available
on DVD under the title "Japanese Hell" from Media
Blasters' Tokyo Shock label.
eagerly await every installment in the Hellraiser
film series. Yes, I know that every sequel to the 1987 classic
hasn't lived up to its origins, but I keep hoping for a taste
of the pure evil that made the first one my favorite horror
film of the 1980's. I'm not completely deluded, some people
love the 2nd & 3rd Hellraisers as much as the first. But
to be honest, even those early sequels haven't aged well. If
you don't believe me, watch them again.
Smithee"-directed fourth Hellraiser movie, all other
films in the series have been released direct-to-video. They
haven't been all that bad, but all share the same glaring fault:
very little screen time for the only reasons that anyone revisits
the franchise: The
Deader (2005), is guilty of the same crime. For a straight-to-video
thriller, it's pretty good. But our beloved demons are there
for mere minutes of the entire running time. What's the point
of bringing in Doug
Bradley, the actor famous for portraying the Cenobite leader,
if you're barely going to use him?
I said, if you weren't eagerly awaiting Pinhead & crew,
the film isn't bad. The real surprise of the film is C-movie
Wurher going above and beyond, by giving what may be the
best performances of her career.
yet again, but not discouraged. I'll be running to the video
store in a few months to pick up Hellraiser:
Hellworld (2005) starring one of my modern genre heroes,
Henriksen. Call me "Sucker".
sorry that the month of May was so
lame here. I told you I was going to be too busy to take in
many movies, let alone make time to comment on them.
I also feel
that I let my enthusiastic hopes for the then-upcoming final
Star Wars film carry me away. I'll try to control myself
this month as I eagerly await the release of Batman
Begins, a couple of years back there was a lot of buzz about
this little sci-fi film that came out on video to cash in on
the release of The
Matrix Reloaded. I checked it out and was quite taken by
action film starring Christian
Bale. While watching the film, all I kept thinking was,
"That's it -- I never saw in in any of his other performances
-- but Christian Bale would be perfect to play Batman!"
It was announced
shortly after that Bale was indeed to be the next Caped Crusader.
I like to think it was because of that film, which is this month's
first recommendation, Equilibrium
(2002). I doubt that's actually the case, but I like
to think so.
Not so action
packed, is the second film on your "to see" list,
Saragossa Manuscript (1965). It's a Polish film based
on the book
by Jan Potocki. I first saw it at my favorite movie house
in L.A., The
Egyptian. The film is haunting and atmospheric period piece
that stretches on for three hours with stories within stories
within stories. Not for the impatient, this is a great film
with a little weight to it for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
talk about Ichi
the Killer all you want, but The
Happiness of the Katakuris (2001) is my
favorite film by uber-director, Takashi
Miike. This movie has everything: laughs, zombies, gore,
musical numbers and even claymation! If you haven't seen it,
you must. Immediately. It's one of the most original things
I've ever seen, even if it is a remake (of 1998's The
1958 pairing of Jimmy
Stewart and Kim
Novak may be Vertigo,
but mine is Bell
Book and Candle (1958). It's a sentimental old favorite
staring Novak as a witch who falls in love with a mortal (sound
familiar?). Not everyone loves this film as much as I do, but
the great comic performances by Jack
Lemmon and Elsa
Lanchester alone make the film more than worthwhile.
Nothing, that's what. But the Mechani-Kong
Kong Escapes (1967) is pretty close. I mean look
at that thing! The film also has a bad guy named "Dr.
Who". What more can I say?
Now go enjoy
this month's selections.