Saturday, February 23, 2008

Mandingo

Lame Hammond Maxwell goes to town and buys a proper Mandingo slave named Mede (beating a lonely German woman at the bidding), who he trains to be a fighter. Hammond has a thing for the female slaves himself, and his jealous wife decides to reciprocate by forcing herself on the strapping young buck. Hijinks, hilarity, and a bunch of other h-words ensue.

Standout performance by James Mason as straight-talking patriarch Warren Maxwell, whose untimely death was cheered by the bulk of the audience I saw this with, and sadly lamented by myself. Ingrained racist though he was, Maxwell seemed to be the only character in the film with a lick of good sense.

All sorts of good stuff in this one: bloodsport, slavery, mint juleps, abortions, lynchings. A real trip to the dilapidated mansions down south.

* * * R A T I N G * * *

Mandingo (IMDB)

Wince : [**___]
Flinch : [***__]
Retch : [*____]
Gape : [**___]

Beerequisite : [***__]
Pornability : [**___]
Obscurity : [***__]
Explicability : [****_]

Scene Stealer: Topaz!

The Wayward Cloud

The master of the long take brings us his Ode To The Watermelon: a musical about love, lust, pronography, crabs, drought, and urban alienation.

There is truly no way to do this film justice with simple narrative. If you haven't seen it, run right out and to the following:

1. Buy a watermelon
2. Find a victim
3. Watch The Wayward Cloud

* * * R A T I N G * * *

Tian bian yi duo yun (IMDB)

Wince : [**___]
Flinch : [**___]
Retch : [**___]
Gape : [*****]

Beerequisite : [***__]
Pornability : [*****]
Obscurity : [***__]
Explicability : [*____]

Awards:
*Best integration of a random corpse (or, at the risk of overusing the phrase, the application of Chekov's Corpse, as you know exactly where it will end up) into the storyline.

* Least quotable. Was there any dialog that didn't consist of grunting?

Best Musical Sequence: The umbrellas or the plungers? The plungers, definitely. Though the umbrella song is far superior.

Gangster VIP

Fresh-from-prison (on a murder rap!) yakuza Goro returns to his turf and finds things radically changed: his gang are now losers, getting the short end of the stick from the other gangs.

After things get bad and Goro loses a finger, he decides to force a confrontation with a rival gang, which doesn't seem to have been a good plan in retrospect.

* * * R A T I N G * * *

Burai yori daikanbu (IMDB)

Wince : [*****]
Flinch : [*____]
Retch : [_____]
Gape : [*____]

Beerequisite : [*****]
Pornability : [*____]
Obscurity : [***__]
Explicability : [**___]

Reality Check: Flailing about in the mud is the new martial art school, eh? Really hands it to those in the hitting-like-a-girl school.

Lessons Learned: When trading your finger for the release of your friend, demand to see him first.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Donnie Darko

Ever have one of those days where a jet engine destroys your room and a man in a bunny suit starts advising criminal activity? Young Donnie has them all the time.

OK, cult classic, coming of age film, the high-school trauma of misfits, blah blah blah. The film is successful in portraying its sociopathic protagonist in a sympathetic light. There's an end-of-the-world thread with no payoff, and a rather vague and hand-wavy time travel (or rather, hole in the fabric of space and time) wrap-up at the end.

All in all, enjoyable to watch once, but probably not more than that, and certainly a little disappointing after all of the hype (or whatever the cult film equivalent is) these past few years.

* * * R A T I N G * * *

Donnie Darko (IMDB)

Wince : [***__]
Flinch : [*____]
Retch : [*____]
Gape : [***__]

Beerequisite : [****_]
Pornability : [_____]
Obscurity : [*____]
Explicability : [**___]

Standout bits: Cool bunny costume.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Caramel

A romantic comedy centered around a beauty shop (and the crazy homeless lady next door).

It seems odd to label a Lebanese rom-com formulaic, but so it is: the non-virgin must find a way to appear pure on her wedding night, a woman having an affair with a married man cannot get him to leave his wife for her, a lesbian hairdresser is looking for love, and so on.

The titular caramel is used for hair removal, offering the only painful scenes in the film.

* * * R A T I N G * * *

Sukkar banat (IMDB)

Wince : [*____]
Flinch : [**___]
Retch : [_____]
Gape : [_____]

Beerequisite : [*____]
Pornability : [_____]
Obscurity : [**___]
Explicability : [****_]

Naked

Young everyman (ha! just kidding) Johnny flees Manchester after raping a barfly and makes his way down to the big smoke in a stolen car. He shows up at on an ex-girlfriend's doorstep, hooking up with her and her roommate before the two of them drive him crazy and send him back out on the streets.

What follows is a series of largely unconnected episodes that serve as a character study of the feckless drifter: commiserating with a Scottish lout, bantering with a security guard, seducing various unsuspecting females, drunken encounters with scattered laborers, thugs, and his ex-girlfriend's sex-crazed yuppie landlord.

The quality of the dialog is what makes this film top-notch: quick-witted enough to entertain, incisive enough to leave a mark. A slice o' life out of Merry Ol' E.

* * * R A T I N G * * *

Naked (IMDB)

Wince : [*____]
Flinch : [***__]
Retch : [**___]
Gape : [**___]

Beerequisite : [***__]
Pornability : [**___]
Obscurity : [**___]
Explicability : [***__]

Blood Diner

Two brothers open a vegetarian diner (well, it serves vegetarians, often to other vegetarians) after exhuming their sorcerer/serial-killer father and transplanting his still-living eyes and brain into a jar in order to guide them in their virgin-mutilating (and sewing back together) quest to reincarnate the five-million-year-old goddess Shitar.

Quite a mouthful, eh? And I didn't even mention the zombie-rock concert finale!

This film truly has everything. A must-see, and see-again.

* * * R A T I N G * * *

Blood Diner (IMDB)


Wince : [***__]
Flinch : [***__]
Retch : [***__]
Gape : [****_]

Beerequisite : [****_]
Pornability : [**___]
Obscurity : [****_]
Explicability : [**___]

Reality Check: Wait, the human race is HOW old again?

Character Most Likely to be Reborn as a WWF Star: Little Jimmy Hitler

Things I've Never Seen Before: Did he just cut off his own penis and threaten to use it as a weapon?

Other Notable Moments:
* Ouch! Killed by a deep fryer in the most horrible head-battered fashion!
* Who is manning that ventriloquist dummy?
* Topless Aerobics! Yay!
* Another Hitler?
* It's the build-your-own-cheerleader store!
* "The killer was last seen with a knife in one hand, and his genitals in the other."

Bab'Aziz

A blind dervish and his (naturally precocious) grand-daughter set out into the desert to attend a dervish reunion that occurs every 30 years. Being dervishes, they naturally have no map and no plan; each sets out in a different direction to find his own path to the reunion. To keep the story moving, Bab'Aziz and his grand-daughter encounter a number of characters in their journey, including a brother bent on revenge, a man who jumps into wells seeking the kingdom of his dreams, and a musician searching for the woman who stole his passport (and, of course, his heart).

The heart of the film is its "the journey is the destination" theme, though it is beautifully-shot and has an excellent soundtrack. The Sufi mysticism is watered-down to an almost Arabian Nights-level fantasy, which serves to make the film a bit more palatable to Westerners and irreligious types than might normally be the case.

* * * R A T I N G * * *

Bab'Aziz (IMDB)

Wince : [_____]
Flinch : [*____]
Retch : [_____]
Gape : [**___]

Beerequisite : [*____]
Pornability : [*____]
Obscurity : [***__]
Explicability : [**___]

The Death of Mr Lazarescu

European horror at the state of the Romanian health care system is what fuels this film. Mr Lazarescu, an aging alcoholic, calls an ambulance after getting a sharp pain in his guts, and gets shuffled from hospital to hospital as doctors refuse to treat him first due to his alcoholism, then finally because he will obviously not survive. All of this occurs in more or less real-time, making for a slow crawl of a movie.

To an American audience, the film rapidly becomes tedious, inured as we are to horror stories of the health care system in the States where the wrong limb is amputted, flesh-eating strep is contracted, and so forth. Hey, if the doctor refuses to treat you, that means he can't mess anything up, right?

* * * R A T I N G * * *

Moartea domnului Lazarescu (IMDB)

Wince : [*____]
Flinch : [**___]
Retch : [***__]
Gape : [**___]

Beerequisite : [***__]
Pornability : [_____]
Obscurity : [**___]
Explicability : [***__]

Monday, February 11, 2008

Szamanka

An anthropology professor obsessed with shamans begins an affair with the girl renting his brother's flat, and things end badly.

This is a fairly standard destructive-love film, with a nod to Last Tango in Paris in the beginning. Of note is the girl, known only as the Italian, who is driven purely by primal urges and adds an intensity to the film that is usually lacking. Her reaction to the anthropologist ignoring her in favor of a mummified shaman dug up in an industrial lot serves at the turning point from obsession to destruction.

* * * R A T I N G * * *

Wince : [**___]
Flinch : [**____]
Retch : [***__]
Gape : [**___]

Beerequisite : [***__]
Pornability : [*****]
Obscurity : [***__]
Explicability : [**___]

Scene I'd watch on endless loop: The teacher and his students smoking up and dancing around the mummy, chanting and pouring yellow dye on it.

Demonlover

A European finance company is attempting to close a deal with a Japanese animation firm that specializes in hentai films. Problem: just about everyone in the European company is working for someone else, usually at odds with each other.

The corporate intrigue eventually becomes personal as the one of the true employers, the operator of a BDSM site at demonlover.com, begins to exert its control.

Well-acted, well-shot, with a love-it-or-hate-it Sonic Youth score. Tension is fairly consistent throughout, even though the plot is mainly concerned with white yuppies trying to drive each other crazy.

* * * R A T I N G * * *

Demonlover (IMDB)

Wince : [*____]
Flinch : [***__]
Retch : [**___]
Gape : [***__]

Beerequisite : [*____]
Pornability : [***__]
Obscurity : [***__]
Explicability : [***__]

The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai

Guaranteed to be the only film you'll see where the (cloned) fonger of George W Bush is a major character!

Sachiko Hanai is a call girl specializing in teacher fetishes. In the course of killing time between clients, she gets innocent-bystandered in a shootout at a cafe. The bullet lodges in her forebrain, unlocking (in defiance of all known neuroscience) her latent potential and turning her into a supergenius.

The finger of George Bush penetrates her, er, consciousness and delivers a message: she must track down a stolen Doomsday Device before the bad guys do.

Not surprisingly, Sachiko Hanai proved itself well-suited to repeat viewings.

* * * R A T I N G * * *

Hatsuj├┤ kateiky├┤shi: sensei no aijiru (IMDB)

Wince : [****_]
Flinch : [**___]
Retch : [*____]
Gape : [****_]

Beerequisite : [*****]
Pornability : [*****]
Obscurity : [**___]
Explicability : [*____]

Most enduring exclamation: Noam Chomsky!

Unexpected sexual advice: The Bush Technique

Aachi and Ssipak

Poo, glorious poo!

A cyborg cop battles a gang of popsicle-addicted proto-smurfs while two disaffected youth try to rescue their lust-interest (and her popsicle-generating sphincter) from amidst the carnage.

Motorcycles. Oppressive government. Organize crime. Porn. Tremendous amounts of spent ammunition. Can this film do no wrong?

* * * R A T I N G * * *

Achi-wa ssipak

Wince : [**___]
Flinch : [****_]
Retch : [***__]
Gape : [****_]

Beerequisite : [****_]
Pornability : [**___]
Obscurity : [***__]
Explicability : [***__]

Scene I'd watch on endless loop: The fight scene on the steps.

Memories I want to erase: Jimmy doing his trannydance in the mob boss's jail cell.

Man From Earth

A caveman who never got around to dying throws a house party, where he proposes his existence as a thought-experiment to his guests. They attempt to use their expertise in anthropology, history, biology, etc to disprove his theory.

Dull, dull, dull. I had high expectations for this film, being generally drawn to minimalist (aka low budget) 'thinky' movies. This one bored the crap out of me: any bit of conflict was painfully contrived, the attempt at a twist ending was laughable, and the thought experiment wore out its welcome after 30 minutes.

The best: using the example of a ballpoint pen to explain why a ten-thousand-year-old man wouldn't have any obsidian axes lying around. The worst: dredging up yet another "Jesus was just an average Joe whose message got hijacked" revelation in a mishandled attempt to shock the audience.

* * * R A T I N G * * *

The Man From Earth (IMDB)

Wince : [****_]
Flinch : [_____]
Retch : [_____]
Gape : [_____]

Beerequisite : [**___]
Pornability : [_____]
Obscurity : [***__]
Explicability : [***__]

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Slither

Meteor crash-lands, parasite infects local man, spawning an alien invasion of slugs that turn their hosts into zombies. The small town is doomed!

Firefly's Nathan Fillion is horrible as usual (psst! Nathan, act!) as the town cop, but Don Thompson more than carries the weight of the film as the foul-mouthed mayor.

* * * R A T I N G * * *

Slither (IMDB)

Wince : [***__]
Flinch : [***__]
Retch : [***__]
Gape : [***__]

Beerequisite : [***__]
Pornability : [*____]
Obscurity : [**___]
Explicability : [***__]

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Phil the Alien

Take me to your leader, eh?

Phil's dad crashed the car, dying in the process and leaving Phil stranded far from home. Phil and his dad are shape-shifting aliens from a planet of peace (with periodic eruptions of ultraviolence), the car is a spaceship, and far-from-home is Canada.

A fun film with a drunken alien, a talking beaver, a whale-loving secret serviceman, a messiah cult, polychromatic fur coats, an alien dissection lab, and lots of White Dog (beer, whiskey, whatever).

* * * R A T I N G * * *

Phil the Alien (IMDB)

Wince : [**___]
Flinch : [***__]
Retch : [*____]
Gape : [****_]

Beerequisite : [****_]
Pornability : [*____]
Obscurity : [****_]
Explicability : [***__]


Best off-the-menu ordering: "Sammy the alien". See the quote on IMDB.

El Topo

El Topo or, Holy God, Why Did I Agree To This?

Attacking El Topo for being pretentious is like attacking Macbooks for having only one mouse button: a must.

Positive reviews of this film will tend to have words like "hypnotic", "mystical", "allegorical", "trance", and other vague descriptions that attempt to hide the fact that no, they didn't get the film either, and neither did Jodorowsky.

OK, there's a cowboy, a naked boy, a quest to defeat the master gunmen or whatever (which the cowboy does by cheating), a crucifixion (you knew there had to be one at some point), a town of the deformed .. well, you get the idea. The main story is something like this: drifter exacts revenge for a massacred people, wanders into the desert to become the Best Gunman, ends up becoming the object of worship for a group of deformed people in a cavern, and decides to fund a tunnel connecting them to the nearest town by (Franciscan) busking.

* * * R A T I N G * * *

El Topo (IMDB)

Wince : [***__]
Flinch : [**___]
Retch : [**___]
Gape : [***__]

Beerequisite : [***__]
Pornability : [**___]
Obscurity : [*____]
Explicability : [*____]

Best viewing method: Slam a few beers and find a midnight showing close to a university with a decent film school (in this case, NYU). You'll be the only person in the theater laughing until the students finally realize that no, it's not genius filmmaking and no, they shouldn't be taking this shit seriously either.

The Slaughter

"You can't spell slaughter without laughter!" And apparently you can film The Slaughter without a slaughter.

Six college students (the jock! the slut! the misfit! the valedictorian! the pothead! the other one!) with a crappy job (clean up an abandoned house, where have I heard that before) are attacked by a racked demoness. Throw in a sleazy corporate exec and his aide, drop some blood on a buried occult book, stir, and let set.

OK, there are some potentially funny references to other horror films ("what kind of zombies are those?", "we're not going to split up like they do in the horror films"), but the timing is quite bad, and the quality of the acting isn't exactly top-notch either.

Ultimately an enjoyable college-kids-killed-by-demons-and-zombies film, though it does overreach a bit.

* * * R A T I N G * * *

The Slaughter (IMDB)


Wince : [*****]
Flinch : [***__]
Retch : [***__]
Gape : [***__]

Beerequisite : [*****]
Pornability : [***__]
Obscurity : [***__]
Explicability : [***__]

Important zombie fact: In addition to slow-moving Dawn of the Dead zombies and fast, kung-fu master Evil Dead zombies, there are slow-moving-with-fast-reflexes Slaughter zombies.

Election

A democratic election is taking place to determine the new leader of the Hong Kong triad: longtime gangster Lok, or ambitious moneyman Big D. No prize if you can guess who wins, and who gets pissed off.

Slow-moving but captivating film, with a race to recapture a sacred triad artifact and one quite good found-object fight scene. In fact, that last bit is so important it deserves its own category.

* * * R A T I N G * * *

Hak se wui (IMDB)

Wince : [*____]
Flinch : [****_]
Retch : [*____]
Gape : [****_]

Beerequisite : [*____]
Pornability : [*____]
Obscurity : [**___]
Explicability : [*****]

Scene I'd watch on endless loop: The spoon-eating scene. Or maybe those crates being rolled down the cliff.

The Four of the Apocalypse

Mysteries abound. Who are the Four? What happened to the Apocalypse? Why did I rent this?

Fulci's spaghetti western is a confused, meandering film about four misfits (a gambler, a drunk, a whore, and a retard) who flee a violent western town and strike out across the desert. They meet some quakers, a peyote-loving psychopath, a town of (only) men, and all sorts of other Jodorowskyesque elements. Pretty much everyone dies, albeit not apocalyptically. And there's a standout urine scene.

* * * R A T I N G * * *

I Quattro dell'apocalisse (IMDB)

Wince : [****_]
Flinch : [**___]
Retch : [**___]
Gape : [**___]

Beerequisite : [****_]
Pornability : [**___]
Obscurity : [**___]
Explicability : [**___]

Black Night

The world is shrouded in darkness save a few minutes of daylight each, er, day. Why? What effect does this have on society? What irreparable psychological damage will result?

These are not important enough questions to warrant screen time. What *is* important is that the main character, an entomologist specializing in moths, has dreams of the younger sister that died when he was a kid. As is usually the case, one of the staff (black+ imported - educated = a slave?) where he works appears in his bed, feverish and pregnant, and after getting killed forms a cocoon from which emerges, naturally, his ex-sister incarnated as an adult.

Don't expect any more sense out of this one: an atmospheric film with absolutely zero payoff (except for frequent breast shots).

* * * R A T I N G * * *

Nuit Noire (IMDB)

Wince : [****_]
Flinch : [*____]
Retch : [*____]
Gape : [***__]

Beerequisite : [*****]
Pornability : [**___]
Obscurity : [****_]
Explicability : [_____]

Hollywood Shuffle

Robert Townsend drives right to the heart of the modern dilemma: How does one succeed as a black actor in Hollywood without playing any stereotypical, derogatory roles? Answer: work for the Post Office!

A send-up of 80s Hollywood that for obvious reasons is a bit hit-or-miss to watch now. Worth watching for the Movie Biz thread, but try to avert your eyes during the Bat Boy scenes.

* * * R A T I N G * * *

Hollywood Shuffle (IMDB)

Wince : [***__]
Flinch : [*____]
Retch : [*____]
Gape : [**___]

Beerequisite : [****_]
Pornability : [_____]
Obscurity : [**___]
Explicability : [***__]