Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Death Powder (1986)

(This write-up is based on the new fan subtitles for the film as found on Cinemageddon; the old Video Search of Miami ones are supposed to be even worse than usual from that source.)

Japan, in the near future of the near past. Kiyoshi (Takichi Inukai) and Noris (Rikako Murakami) are hired by a group of, well, whatever those guys are, called the Scar People to find and steal the female android Guernica (Mari Natsuki) who belongs to the luckless artist Harima (the film's director Shigeru Izumiya). As the film will explain much later in something that might be flashback or a drug-induced hallucination, Guernica was once gifted to the artist by her creator Dr. Loo (Kiyoshiro Imawano) to acquire the essence of humanity through his love and is now at the end of her four-year life-span. Said essence would be a valuable commodity to sell, it seems, and Harima does owe the Scar People money, so it's quite natural that they want Guernica.

Alas, Guernica is already dead when Kiyoshi and Noris arrive at Harima's hideout, and Harima is not willing to let them steal his dead lover away without a fight. In the ensuing struggle, the dead android infects Kiyoshi with something called Death Powder ("the power to create new life"), making him all melty and hallucinating a lot of backstory. Oh, and somehow he loses a hand, too.

Some time later, the Scar People themselves arrive to die in a shoot-out with Harima, Kiyoshi (who is possibly taking on parts of Guernica's personality; or not) and Noris. Later again, guys in hard hats arrive and die screaming in a mass of slimy stuff with eyes our protagonists have become.

Then, the slimy stuff turns into something humanoid. The End.

Death Powder is one of the number of weird, always cheap and short and often drifting into the direction of the abstract or trippily metaphorical Japanese movies made in the 80s and 90s that are often put together under the umbrella of Cyberpunk, although they don't always have much to do with the literary sub-genre.

What these films have in common is an admirable insistence on putting together a future scenario not out of expensive special effects they couldn't afford anyway, but out of the most scummy and dubious elements of their contemporary Japan. Also, they're usually batshit insane.

Where Western SF (or Japanese Cyberpunk manga and anime, for that matter) outside of Space Opera usually tries to pretend to be believable and scientifically sound, this Japanese variant is all about the feeling of disorientation, the strange dislocation that can set in when a film takes a dirty empty warehouse and just pretends it is a dirty empty warehouse of the near future. It's also about the sort of philosophical thoughts that might arise from drugs, youthful exuberance or badly digested apple pie.

Death Powder is as disorienting as they come. The first part of my plot synopsis above might sound relatively coherent, but the way the film presents it, with dialogue mostly conveyed through sub-titles although there obviously is on location sound, the use of heavily shaking hand-camera and counterintuitive editing, and lots of state-of-the-mid-80s-art video editing effects, makes the plot at times nearly incomprehensible. I suspect that most of what is shown to happen in the warehouse is a hallucination in the group mind of the Kiyoshi/Harima/Noris/Guernica blob creature (something akin to David Cronenberg's New Flesh), but I don't have the slightest idea how much of it or which parts exactly. In fact, I'm not even sure the thing the film shows in the end really is such a creature or does possess such a group mind - for all the film makes explicit, it might as well be someone's mutant grandmother coming for a visit and eating the hired help. It's pretty in a squamous way, anyway.

Clarity just isn't in Death Powder's field of interests. It's all about the floating trippiness and moments of cheap coolness (exploding heads! street samurai! eye-poking! whatever that other stuff is!) and the audience's attempts at making sense of it all. I see it as the 80s version of all these serious 60s attempts at reproducing drug experiences in film form, just with more leather, goo and gore.


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From Twitter 06-29-2010

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

In short: Light The Fuse…Sartana Is Coming (1971)

aka Cloud Of Dust…Cry Of Death…Sartana Is Coming

The gunman Sartana (Gianni Garko) and his organ come into one of these deadly, corrupt Old West towns. First item on Sartana's agenda is to kill three members of the local army of corrupt sheriffs and deputies, and turn himself into the local penitentiary for the deed.

Of course, this is part of a harebrained scheme of Sartana's to bust an old buddy out of prison. Granville (Piero Lulli), as the man is called, is held captive by evil Sheriff Manassas because Manassas thinks he knows the hiding place of five-hundred thousand dollars in gold that have disappeared during a highly illegal transaction between the Sheriff's brother, Granville's partner, and a follower of the local bandit general Monk (Jose Jaspe).

Stupid as his plan may be, Sartana breaks his friend out without much of a problem. Granville professes not to know anything about the gold or the murders connected to it, so Sartana decides to send him off to safety, and make his own way to town to see if he can't find out where the gold is hidden.

Sartana's job is not going to be easy. He will have to juggle quite a few different factions, the widow of the dead Manassas brother (Susan Scott/Nieves Navarro), the "best gunman in the west", a mysterious killer wearing gloves, a shady one-eyed character and assorted armed thugs. Fortunately, our hero is rather clever, the best gunman in the west without ironic quotation marks, and owns a very interesting secret weapon that will make Django intensely envious.

Light the Fuse is supposed to be the best of Giuliano Carnimeo's Sartana films, and this might very well be the case.

As is the case with other of Carnimeo's movies I've seen, this one too suffers a bit from being a light piece of fluff that doesn't want to really engage with the darker sides of humanity or the political themes the Sergios of the Spaghetti Western often liked to ponder. That doesn't mean the darker sides of humanity aren't in here at all. In fact there's torture, betrayal and untrustworthiness in spades, and the film's body count must lie at about fifty people, but Carnimeo treats it all as a lark, avoiding any attempts to make an emotional impact above the feeling of "fun".

Luckily, I am able to cope with a film that doesn't want to take sociopathy and mass murder seriously, especially when it is so hell-bent on being entertaining as Light The Fuse is. Carnimeo ensures that there is never a dull moment on screen. When Sartana isn't in one of the film's rather inventive shoot-outs, he might very well be seen pole-vaulting onto the back of his horse or using a little mechanical Indian as a booby trap. The film's certainly not afraid of silliness, but utilizes it with such a well developed sense of timing that it never feels preposterous, but rather delightful. If you want to call an organ that moonlights as a cannon and a machine gun delightful, that is.

An abundance of shady and slightly bizarre characters - all well played by the usual suspects - helps keep the film's pacing up and the action varied. While there's never a deep or moving moment on screen, there's also never a dull one.

Add to that Carnimeo's sprightly, zoom-loving direction and a nearly absurdly typical Spaghetti Western soundtrack by Bruno Nicolai, and you have yourself an excellent ninety minutes of fun.


From Twitter 06-28-2010

  • New blog post: From Twitter 06-27-2010: Wow, really really really really really loved the Doctor Who season finale...
  • New blog post: Music Monday: Music Edition: Technorati-Tags: music monday,music,beach boys
  • Not impressed by the Ghostbusters game I bought in the insane Steam sale; too high difficulty and no-good save system are not what I look
  • for in comedy gaming. Think the voice acting by the original cast is not better than alright. Well, it did cost me only 4 Euros.
  • So, the Guardian has a TV critic too dense to parse the Doctor Who finale? It's impressive, in a way.
  • Fine interview with Alexey Pajitnov, the man who wrote Tetris.
  • Is there a reason why I can't see that AT-AT video everybody's linking to in Germany?

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Music Monday: Music Edition

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From Twitter 06-27-2010

  • Wow, really really really really really loved the Doctor Who season finale. Now I just need to wait till Christmas.
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Sunday, June 27, 2010

From Twitter 06-26-2010

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  • When RPGs began to show an interest in the real world. Or something.
  • Dragon Age DLC that actually looks interesting? Will wonders never cease?
  • Sugary lawn zombie sweetness (via everyone)
  • Sure, I'll tag my Japanese music in kanji, so that I'll (not being able to read kanji) will never find them again.
  • Or it, even.
  • By the way, the Japanese jazz-noise-pop-screech-whatever band Midori I shouldn't tag as "Midori" is quite lovely.

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

From Twitter 06-25-2010

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  • Lovely American visitor gone. Now it's time to get back to my curmudgeonly ways again.
  • Wait, DC Comics canceled the Suicide Squad Showcase collection again? Insert expletive here.
  • And I'll believe in the colour collections when I see them. Not that I'm going to buy those after pre-ordering the Showcase two times &
  • getting no book in return.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

From Twitter 06-21-2010

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Monday, June 21, 2010

From Twitter 06-20-2010

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  • Okay, Darkness Within 2 is not as good as the first one. Technically better, the translation is definitely better, but the mood completely
  • destroyed through some of the most noxiously over-complicated first person adventure puzzles this side of Myst. One of 'em so bad it's even
  • a chore to solve it following a walkthrough.

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

From Twitter 06-19-2010

  • New blog post: From Twitter 06-18-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 06-17-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 06-16-...
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  • Something Left, Something Taken - very fine animated short. (via Metafilter)

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

A short interruption of service

Scandalously, I won't have time to follow my usual attack plan of rambling about movies nobody has ever heard of for a few days.

If you can't live without your adventures in my brain, please make your way into the archives.

I'll still be on Twitter from time to time and will be answering emails and comments, so feel free to talk to me.

I'll be back to my blogging ways on the 28th.



From Twitter 06-18-2010

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  • Yes, I'm sure giving the US president a kill switch for the US Internet is a great idea, Lieberman.
  • At least half of the US political class seems to be completely deranged & shouldn't be let outside as to not endanger civilians
  • RT @scottlynch78: QUEEN OF THE IRON SANDS returns to benefit @booksandcorsets after a housefire
  • This could very well become the greatest game ever made.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

On WTF: And God Said To Cain (1970)

Antonio Margheriti makes a Gothic Spaghetti Western with Klaus Kinski in a surprisingly stone-faced leading role.

I react by singing songs of praise and love for the film on WTF-Film, as I should.

From Twitter 06-17-2010

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  • Setting the end of a review embargo to a week after a game's release speaks louder of its lack of quality than a bad review could.
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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Uninvited (1988)

Some things can only happen in Florida. A poisonous killer kitty escapes from the lab that created it, killing a handful of people with its powerful cat fu on the way out.

Through a peculiar set of unbelievable circumstances Killer Cat will land on the yacht of the especially evil Wall Street shark Walter Graham (Alex Cord). Right now, Graham is trying to keep up his appearance of being a suave slime bag, but is living in desperate fear of the SEC. He's desperate enough to let his henchalcoholic Albert (Clu Gulager) drown a potential whistleblower in the yacht's Jacuzzi, while Walter and his partner Mike (George "I was in Towering Inferno, so what's this dignity you speak of!?" Kennedy) watch gleefully.

They could have spared themselves the murder rap and the audience two scenes of little import, because the next day news come in that tell Wally and Mickey they'd better grab their traditional silver suitcases full of money and make off to that equally traditional safe haven of scumbags with money, the Cayman Islands. How impractical that Walter has scared off his boat's crew and only the captain, Rachel (Toni Hudson) is left! The film explains her staying with a long and tragic story about the yacht once belonging to her father and her wanting to buy it back to start a charter business. Captain Rachel is also too morally upright to sleep with Walter, which is a definite plus.

The crewless bastards are in luck. Two bimbettes (Clare Carey and Shari Shattuck) Walter has invited to a party that will never happen arrive with three male bimbos who look quite ideal to become the new crew in tow. The blonder bimbette has also brought an adorable little cat she found in a garbage can in port…

Of course, kitty will start killing again soon, the boat's motor will strike, the cat will poison the food supply and everyone will go batty, except for Captain Rachel and Martin (Eric Larson), who turns out not to be a bimbo at all, but a student of biology. Instant smittenness ensues. Of course.

Whoever might survive the adventure on the high seas?

Thanks to his much earlier work on films like Wacko and Satan's Cheerleaders, I possess a certain amount of respect for Uninvited's director and writer Greydon Clark. The man has talent and a skewed sense of humour I appreciate. Unfortunately, this film about an adorable killer kitten seems to be meant to be taken seriously, how improbable that may sound.

Clark might be surprised (or not) to hear that a single, normal looking cat is not all that believable as a threat for a boat full of people, even people as dumb as the intolerably stupid characters this film is filled with. Strangely enough, the script doesn't even use the opportunity to make one of the characters an ailurophobe. Walter certainly doesn't like cats, but that is only another instance of the bastard being a man of dubious character (who will, after the rules of bad horror movies, have to pay for his bastardness in the end, don't worry).

What seems to have been on Clark's mind isn't making something as unthreatening as a cat look dangerous and sinister on film anyway. In fact, his thoughts seem to have moved in quite a different direction: how to make his unimpressive killer beast even less impressive. And man, he realized the dream with the help of true special effects magic. Turns out that the one thing that looks less dangerous than a cat is a large (hand?-) puppet standing in for a cat, and what looks even less dangerous than that is when that first cat puppet vomits up another, slightly blackish and mangy looking cat puppet, which then does most of the killing (and changes rapidly in shape and size throughout the film). It's like a matryoshka doll of high monster hilarity.

Obviously, Uninvited is at its best whenever the kitten of doom is on screen, either in its adorable animal form or in one of the excellent kitten muppet attack sequences.

Alas, a bad movie does not live from monster attacks alone (although they all should). The rest of the film doesn't always reach the heights of these core moments or the sheer attractiveness of its feline star, yet you can't say it doesn't do its best with the help of some excitingly bad work in front and behind the camera.

First and foremost (and therefore dead way too soon) there are Gulager hamming it up (or just being really drunk, I'm not sure about that) like a cowboy John Carradine and George Kennedy kicking butt in an ineptly choreographed action sequence while wearing the same pained facial expression he always wears.

At first it seems as if the rest of the cast is just no fun at all. But they're just keeping their full non-powers in check for the first parts of the film. In the last half hour or so, everybody goes into screeching hysteria mode (excellent whining there, Miss Shattuck!), which always has its charms and additionally keeps one's ear drums well trained.

For the connoisseur of the ugly, there's some 80s bikini fashion so eye-gouging even I noticed it and a short aerobic sequence. The latter scene is of course filmed with a leering eye. The film as a whole does - to my great disappointment - not venture deep into the realm of the truly sleazy. There may be one-and-a-half sex scene(s), but Greydon does all in his (in this case considerable) power to let them look as unexciting as possible. At least the half one ends in a stealth hand-nibble scene right out of "Metal Gear Feline" or "Kitten - The Dark Project".

Further highpoints are a great sinking ship model - as known from my bathtub - and an inane "man and woman versus cat puppet on a life boat" fight that just repeats itself for a second time, and which words fail me to describe correctly.

There is much to love about Uninvited.

From Twitter 06-16-2010

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  • Wow, the last two weeks of Rock Paper Shotgun comment threads have taught me something new: people are even worse than I suspected.
  • Virgil Finlay art!
  • New blog post: In short: The Brain (1988): The regional psycho babble TV show of Dr. Blakely (David Gale) is quite...
  • Oh, a new version of Desktop Dungeons with Derek Yu's tileset as the new default.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

In short: The Brain (1988)

The regional psycho babble TV show of Dr. Blakely (David Gale) is quite a success in its area. People seem to be, well, totally hypnotized by the show and it is only a question of time until Blakely will first go national and then global. Alas, some people react rather violently to the programme and go on hallucination-driven murder and suicide sprees. Which seems fair enough to me.

Could the hypnotic effect of the most boring TV show this side of Murder She Wrote have anything to do with the hypnotic mind control rays of the giant (and growing) brain-with-a-face the psychologist keeps in a tank in his psychological institute?

When the intellectually brilliant (or so says the script) teenager Jim (Tom Bresnahan) is condemned to lose his attacks of Bart Simpson-like practical "humour" through a good old brain-washing by the good Doctor Blakely, he is soon hit by the strange after-effects of his therapy.

Only with the help of his girlfriend Janet (Cynthia Preston) will Jim find out the truth about the brain and safe mankind from mental slavery.

Ed Hunt's The Brain is a mildly diverting example of the giant, hypnotizing man-eating brain genre with a few sparks of genius and a double dose of friendly silliness.

The film's true star is of course the giant killer brain with its ridiculous (and cutely grumpy) little face and its appetite for human flesh. I couldn't help but smile blissfully whenever the MASTER used its mind-control powers on me the brain appeared on screen to look silly, hypnotize people and/or pounce on them to eat them, as every good brain should.

Unfortunately, the brain is the best actor on screen, everyone else - even an experienced mad scientist like David Gale - comes over rather flat, which of course is fits the flat way the roles are written and presented well enough. At least Gale gets to say the perfect mad scientist line of "Your mediocre mind can not begin to comprehend the importance of my work!" before the brain jumps his rebellious assistant and eats her.

The film's young heroes are of course as boring as all get out - but when weren't young heroes this way?

The Brain is the sort of popcorn movie I'll have forgotten everything about tomorrow, but it is pleasant enough to watch while it is running. Apart from the brain's excellent shenanigans, there are two scenes of teenage paranoia, a bit of gore, much running around and screaming, one skinny male chest and two breasts to see. That's perfectly acceptable to me.


From Twitter 06-15-2010

  • New blog post: From Twitter 06-14-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 06-13-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 06-12-...
  • What does a TV network do when it has a show with a diverse cast? Fire the women, obviously. No girl cooties.
  • New blog post: At Mystic Skull: Blood Beat (1985): A French director making a horror film about a displeased samur...
  • Sometimes I wish the default mode for artsy indie weren't "platformer".
  • Part of my dislike is of course based on the fact that I'm rather crap at them, but I hate the rinse and repeat of platformer challenges.
  • RT @davidkidd: The bullshit inanity of Appleian censorship
  • Holy crap! Michael Moorcock has done a Doctor Who tie-in novel.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

At Mystic Skull: Blood Beat (1985)

A French director making a horror film about a displeased samurai spirit with amateur actors in rural Wisconsin? What could go wrong?

As it turns out, not much. Or everything. My review at Mystic Skull Mag explains it all. Or nothing.


From Twitter 06-14-2010

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  • Kinect?
  • New blog post: Music Monday: Candi Staton Edition: Technorati-Tags: music monday,music,candi staton
  • You know, guys like this make me really happy that the music industry will be dead soon.
  • Looks as if Al Williamson is dead
  • Turns out I really like "Darkness Within (1)", by the way. Has some of the typical problems of a contemporary adventure, but a good sense of
  • creepiness and Lovecraftian doom. Which isn't exactly common in games.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Music Monday: Candi Staton Edition

From Twitter 06-13-2010

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  • Huh, about an hour and a half into "Darkness Within" and it's good Lovecraftian adventure fare. Until now, it's a fine game, if you can
  • live with some of the typical design peculiarities of adventures. The writing's a bit iffy, but the mood is oh so very Call of Cthulhu.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sister Street Fighter (1974)

The Hong Kong police has lost contact with one of their undercover agents who was trying to get the goods on the up and coming drug trading organization of a man named Kakuzaki (Bin Amatsu).

The best way to find out what happened is obviously to send their agent Mansei's (Hiroshi Miyauchi) sister Koryu (Etsuko Shihomi) to Yokohama where he was last seen. She is after all a martial arts expert and half Japanese with an uncle and cousins in Yokohama and therefore the perfect choice to catch drug dealers. It certainly isn't a job for the police.

The only actual information the HK cops give Koryu is a way to meet Fanshin (Xiu-Rong Xie), their other agent in on the project.

It doesn't take much time after her arrival in Japan until Koryu has to violently deal with the first of Kakuzaki's cronies. That's not too difficult for her, but getting actually helpful information or just keeping Fanshin alive are much more difficult prospects.

At least, Koryu has the help of her brother's former martial arts school, which includes the help of Emi Hayakawa and the gut-ripping talents of a guy named Hibiki (Sonny Chiba in a long-ish guest role).

Koryu will need the reinforcements, too, because Kakuzaki owns a private zoo of martial artists (that's his description, not mine), and also secretly has his grip on the fighter's uncle. Of course, in the long run there's no problem that can't be solved by persistence and hitting people in the face.

After the success of The Street Fighter with Sonny Chiba and some other films in that style, it must have looked like a good idea to Toei studios to make as many martial arts films in as short a time as possible. Chiba was certainly game for anything, always willing to do his duty as a guest star, at least in films that made use of the members of his Japan Action Club like Sister Street Fighter's Etsuko Shihomi. And what studio would resist a group of young, athletic, well-trained actors like that? Toei certainly didn't.

Etsuko Shihomi is one of my favourites among these protégés of Chiba, with her easy confidence and the determined professionalism she shows in her fights. The Toei school of exploitational martial arts cinema lived or died on that sort of charisma. With scripts that usually didn't leave much room for the finer aspects of acting or anything amounting to subtlety, acting in these films often became a thing of people dressing up in outrageous outfits, doing athletics and showing physical presence, even more so than in other martial arts films.

This works out nicely for Sister Street Fighter and also fits the rather unsubtle yet from time to time manically interesting directorial style of its director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi. He would have slaughtered any slow and ponderous scene anyway. Yamaguchi's work here is fine if not exactly inspired. It's the usual assortment of close-ups of eyes and pained expressions, peculiar camera angles and some really fine semi-psychedelic lighting (especially in the pre-finale). The set design, on the other hand, is full-blown Japanese mid-70s eccentricity with some very strange ideas about interior decoration of hidden lairs and will surely affect anyone's mind - for better or worse.

Compared to the Street Fighter films, the action here doesn't start out as insane, but slowly and surely increases from friendly punching and kicking matches into the bone-crunching, blood-spattering style of non-realist martial arts Toei films were good at.

In comparison to Hong Kong or Taiwanese productions of the time, the fight choreography in Japanese martial arts films was always less complex and less acrobatic, but the Japanese films tended to make up for their lack in these aspects by ramping up the blood and the violent effects. Sister Street Fighter's highpoints of silly brutality are both in the grand finale, with Chiba ripping out someone's guts with his bare hands and Shihomi re-orienting another guy's head rather dubiously. So that's alright.

When it comes to weirdness, Sister Street Fighter again loses out against the Chiba film, but it doesn't feel right to complain about a film not being weird enough when it contains drug smugglers transporting their heroin in the form of wigs ("Save the wigs!"), a blowgun assassin with a mohawk or an evil former priest in full preacher garb who murders his victims with a harpoon gun (or is it a bolt pistol?). So that's alright, too.

What distinguishes Sister Street Fighter (and many of Toei's films of the era) is a singular mixture of exploitational values (in this case only one pair of breasts - not Shihomi's -, some drug withdrawal fun and a not too gruesome rape scene), weird yet typical-for-the-era visual obsessions, martial arts fully concentrated one the bone-crunching and the blood-spattering and a wild and often uncontrolled imagination. That combination is more than alright for me.

From Twitter 06-12-2010

  • New blog post: From Twitter 06-11-2010: Man, a military shooter about the _North Korean_ invasion of the USA? Ther...
  • New blog post: Django, Prepare A Coffin! (1968): A gold transport protected by a guy named Django (Terence Hill, d...
  • The rampaging X-Com "fans" wandering through comment threads have turned my skepticism towards the new shooty one into pure enthusiasm
  • through the power of their sheer arseholishness. I just don't want to become one of them.
  • US local/regional/extra-planetary filmmaking from the 60s to 80s still rules (my head).

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Django, Prepare A Coffin! (1968)

A gold transport protected by a guy named Django (Terence Hill, doing a rather stiff impression of Franco Nero as Django) is attacked by a gang of bandits. Everyone except for Django is slaughtered, the man himself left for dead. Among the victims of the massacre was Django's wife, so he gets even more grim-faced than before and does the obvious. Namely, he starts to dress up like that other Django from a certain Corbucci film.

Five years later, Django has somehow found out that two old friends of his, David Barry (Horst Frank) and Lucas (George Eastman) were the ring-leaders of the attack. In a sense, they're still living off the interest of the old incident by blaming the old attack on the gold transport (and possibly also newer crimes - the storytelling is rather obtuse) on people whose land they want to steal. It doesn't make much sense, yet still seems to work for them.

Fortunately, Django is now working as an official executioner and only seemingly hangs the victims of Barry's and Lucas's plans. In truth he is building a small gang of their victims to take revenge.

Alas for Django, not every one of the people he has saved is truly trustworthy. A guy named Garcia (Jose Torres) would prefer getting gold to getting his revenge on the people who framed him and soon Django's plan is in tatters. Of course, the usual torture, escape with the help of an old coot and a woman (Garcia's wife Mercedes as played by Barbara Simon) and final revenge follow.

The more of Ferdinando Baldi's Spaghetti Westerns I see, the more I come to the conviction that the wild and weird The Stranger Gets Mean is a positive aberration in his body of work in the genre. Django PAC! is just as easily distracted from its main plot or any form of sensible storytelling, but it's neither as batshit insane nor as imaginative as the later film to make up for its ADD sensibilities.

Again, as was the case with the other films of his I've seen, Baldi only seems to go through the motions of the Spaghetti Western, copying some of the surface elements of other films of the genre, but never getting to either the thematic reasons for using these elements or just developing some themes, or even just ideas, of his own.

At times the film is just another solid Spaghetti Western, but whenever I got my hopes up of it staying at least a solidly entertaining genre piece, Baldi does something to undermine this - usually by introducing yet another element that could potentially be used to provide some depth to the film (like Barry's political ambitions or a monologue by Garcia that informs Django and the audience that being poor is rather shite), but that he'll drop immediately after without ever truly making use of it. After a time, this and the film's permanent detours into boring talky sequences without any substance where silent, moody sequences with substance belong, become somewhat infuriating.

Django PAC! has its moments, though. Django's confrontation with Lucas in a burning house is surprisingly tight - if held back by Hill's stiffness -, and there are short sequences that put an emphasis on the casualness with which Django kills that seem to belong in a much less bland film, but for each of these scenes, there are three others mindlessly plundered from better films. Baldi even shoehorns a machine gun in a coffin in (just because he didn't have a better idea for the finale and there was a machine gun inside a coffin in that other Django film?), without even bothering to introduce the gun beforehand. And might I just mention that there's a dramatic reason why Django doesn't use the machine gun in the final battle in Corbucci's original film?

The photography is pretty, though.


From Twitter 06-11-2010

  • Man, a military shooter about the _North Korean_ invasion of the USA? There's stupid and then there's just too stupid.
  • And I bet you're not playing a North Korean.
  • When a gamer says a game "doesn't hold your hand", he inevitably means it is unreasonably difficult and the designers were too lazy or
  • clueless to implement anything that would make it less tedious to play.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

On WTF: Run And Kill (1993)

Sometimes, a cult movie fan just needs to watch a really unpleasant and deeply nihilist Hong Kong CAT III movie.

Sometimes, this cult movie fan finds that film, but also finds a better film than he expected. Read about this fascinating case in my write-up on WTF-Film.


From Twitter 06-10-2010

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  • New blog post: In short: The Embalmer (1965): aka (The) Monster of Venice Quite a few young women have disappeare...
  • Howard's "Red Nails" on Project Gutenberg:

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

In short: The Embalmer (1965)

aka (The) Monster of Venice

Quite a few young women have disappeared in Venice in the last few weeks. The police don't believe that anybody is responsible for the disappearances. Only the reporter Andrea (Luigi Martocci, working under the most excellent nom de plume of "Gin Mart") believes that "a sexual maniac, a monster" is stalking the streets at night. Alas, Andrea can't convince the cops of his theory. We're never told what exactly the cops think is happening to all these young women - the Rapture? random vampire attacks? alien abductions? - but they are adamant it can't be serial killer.

Alas, Andrea is spot-on with his theory. A guy in a wetsuit regularly drags women down into his lair, where he embalms them and holds long, boring monologues about preserving their beauty for eternity to them.

Andrea for his part spends most of his time leading the tourist group of a certain Maria (Maureen Brown) through disturbing amounts of boring touristy footage of Venice, unfunny comic relief sequences and the most terrifying nightclub sequence I've ever seen outside of a Santo movie. He's of course also romancing Maria, but honestly, who cares?

The plot finally starts again when the killer murders a professor who accidentally stumbled on his lair and Andrea decides to finally do a bit of investigating on his own. And go out with Maria. And sit around on his behind.

I suppose The Embalmer is what happens when an Italian director (the guilty party here is Dino Tavella, who only made two films in his career; I'm thankful for that) tries his damndest to copy only the dullest moments of the German Edgar Wallace krimis. The film seems completely without a care for the fact that people will try to watch it and want to stay awake through its running time.

From time to time Tavella manages to show a decent shot of something - there are two, perhaps three moments with a slightly noirish use of shadow and one or two very gialloesque (a genre this one just doesn't seem to want to belong to) mirror shots. Alas ninety mildly effective seconds do not a watchable film make, especially when said film consists to ninety percent of brain-numbing, painful filler. This might possibly be the most filler-rich film I've yet seen, which is a thing I'd better not contemplate much further. Apart from that, there are only the freeze frames of the killer's future victims to mention, a visual trick that would have been ill-advised used only once, but becomes ridiculous and annoying when used six or seven times.

The Embalmer's lack of excitement (or its deadly dullness) is also a bit sad: it's not difficult to imagine what a better director (or even someone just vaguely competent) could have made out of the same elements Tavella used to brew a sleeping draught. There's a masked evil-doer living in a secret cellar, leaving his lair through unconventional means, there's the promise of necrophilia and exciting hunts through catacombs or of a look into human abysses - everything that could make for a great horror film or an excellent thriller. I find it unfortunate that, having all this at his disposal, Tavella went for a film full of non-descript people walking through the least interesting parts of Venice.


From Twitter 06-09-2010

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  • The "sue your customers" model worked so well for the movie industry & music industry, hm, manga publishers?
  • New blog post: In short: Superstition (1982): Terrible murders and mysterious deaths are happening in a boring hou...
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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

In short: Superstition (1982)

Terrible murders and mysterious deaths are happening in a boring house somewhere in the US. A dead witch who's supposedly trapped in a pond on the property is the guilty party, but only the mad caretaker and her mute son know the truth. Mum prefers to do the mad inconcrete warning bit, though, and the son feels it to be his duty to protect witchy-poo.

The utterly ineffectual police think the son is guilty of the deaths, but those guys couldn't even catch a cold.

Because the house is church property, the new parish priest decides to put an annoying alcoholic colleague, his two stupid and annoying daughters, his perfectly annoying wife and their transcendentally annoying little boy up in the house. After a renovation that costs further lives, that is. Nobody cares about the body count, so the family moves in, and dies, dies and dies. Other people get killed too. Between the killings, the young priest tries to find out what is wrong with the place (probably something he should have checked before he sent people there?) and is rewarded with some unhelpful flashbacks into the story of the dead witch. He learns that she's a dead witch out for revenge.

Could somebody please explain to me why this is a comparatively well-regarded example of early 80s US horror? Sure, I get that it's neat that Superstition is vaguely influenced by Italian horror, but the only thing its director James W. Roberson really seems to have learned from Italy's output is to put only the most punchable of characters into his film.

Well, okay, the story doesn't make much sense either, but where the lack of proper plotting in an Italian film is usually helpful in enhancing a film's uncanny or just plain strange mood, Superstition is just kinda boring and slow without much on screen that could keep one awake.

I just didn't find anything of interest in the film beside the killings. Those come fast and in large numbers, but are (after a promising and ridiculous beginning with a microwaved head that proceeds to explode and a defenestration of the gory kind) mostly much too plain and boring. If a film is only interested in the murders, then it needs to be creative with them. Superstition is as far from being creative as I am from being King of Luxemburg.

The film's complete lack of creativity and life is further reinforced by its terribly bland look. There's just nothing about Superstition that works.


From Twitter 06-08-2010

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  • New blog post: At Mystic Skull Mag: Una Rata En La Oscuridad (1979): For some reason, Alfredo Salazar, one of the ...
  • Torchwood is like some sort of insect - it will survive us all!
  • Umm, or outlive. Don't mind me, I'm just rambling.

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

At Mystic Skull Mag: Una Rata En La Oscuridad (1979)

For some reason, Alfredo Salazar, one of the omni-present Salazar brothers of Mexican genre cinema, thought it would be a good idea to make a haunted house movie in the Italian style.

I'll explain how that turned out for him (and me) in my write-up at Mystic Skull Mag.


From Twitter 06-07-2010

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  • New blog post: Music Monday: One Of The Damn Best (And Saddest) Music Videos I Know Edition: Technorati-Tags: mu...
  • Good thing of the day: that Project Gutenberg is now quite regularly putting up texts from the pulps; especially for the more obscure ones.
  • On the minus side: PG still only organizes by author name, so one has to comb through the newest submissions on a daily basis to find them.
  • Off to try Alpha Protocol now. At least I paid less than a third of the typical price for it.
  • So, Alpha Protocol: crap shooting, crap sneaking, crap save system, even a crap options menu. There are a few good ideas in it, sure, but
  • I'm not willing to wade through a game in which everything is broken to get to them. What good are ideas when the implementation is so bad?
  • Oh, hey, the sentence level writing is pretty good. Too bad about the game, though.
  • Man, sometimes the deinstallation of a piece of software can be so satisfying.
  • RT @matociquala: RT @seananmcguire: The world is complete. I give you...OCTOCAM:

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Music Monday: One Of The Damn Best (And Saddest) Music Videos I Know Edition

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From Twitter 06-06-2010

  • New blog post: From Twitter 06-05-2010: Oh no, I'm falling down a Wikipedia rabbit hole of articles about the hero...
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  • New blog post: The Magic Crane (1993): We are in martial world China. The Emperor has ordered a meet-up of the nin...
  • The absence of Chibnall is strong in this one.
  • Everything you wanted to know about writing incidental dialogue in games but were afraid to ask: (via RPS)
  • Philip Haldeman's "Shadow Coast" is a very fine horror novel in the weird tale tradition of the genre. More Blackwood than Lovecraft,
  • but mostly a thing all its own.
  • RT @bournecinema: A must-read for Hong Kong film aficionados. RT @wildgrounds Mapping HK film locations

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Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Magic Crane (1993)

We are in martial world China. The Emperor has ordered a meet-up of the nine great martial arts schools, so that the groups can peacefully arrange those things which usually end in large fights between them.

Alas, being peaceful is not in the program of the upstart Dragon School and their master, the nastily disposed So Pang Hoi (Lawrence Ng). So Pang Hoi wants to become the master of the martial world, and what better way is there to achieve his goal than to attack the congregation with poisoned rubber bats? The bats of evil nearly do everyone in, but an oversized crane (doll) kills them all.

The crane belongs to a girl named Cloud/Pak Wan-Fai (Anita Mui), excellent martial artist and kung flute player. Her further assistance is needed, because all masters of the various schools, except for Yat Yeung-Tze (Damian Lau), the "leader" of the very insignificant Diancang School, have been poisoned by the bats and now need all their concentration to stave off death. Fortunately, Yat Yeung-Tze's only student, the loveable-but-only-mildly-competent Ma Kwun-Mo (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) has already had several meet-cutes with Cloud and asks for her help in curing the poisoned. So Ma Kwun-Mo and Cloud ride off on the crane to kill a giant fire-breathing turtle whose bile is the only cure for the poison. At the same time, Yat Yeung-Tze will take care of business at the home front.

Both projects shouldn't be much of a problem, but Cloud, or rather her master Lam Hoi Ping (Norman Chu), has an enemy the girl does not know about: Blue Butterfly (Rosamund Kwan), who has sworn to kill Lam - her father - for having left her and her mother to die in a burning palace he rescued Cloud from (further explanation not forthcoming). Blue Butterfly uses her superior lute fu to make everyone's life miserable.

At the same time, Yat Yeung-Tze has to fight through the usual squabbles and conspiracies amongst the martial artists and against the ambitions of the power-hungry General Tsao Hung (Zhang Tielin). And it's only getting more complicated from then on.

Benny Chan's The Magic Crane seems to be the Tsui-Hark-produced--and-written wuxia nobody likes to talk about. That's patently unfair, because this is an absolutely awe-inspiring film.

Sure, Chan is a gun-for-hire director without much of a personal touch, but Tsui Hark's hands-on production approach prevents the film from ever becoming boring or merely competent.

The script is - as is the wuxia genre's wont - telling a basically simple story in exceedingly complicated ways, with a large cast of characters, all of which turn out to be equally important. Depending on how you look at it, it's either sprightly and sprawling or utterly chaotic. I'd go with the former, if possibly only out of thankfulness for The Magic Crane's incessant madness and manic energy. I also suspect that the film was made with an audience in mind that knows at least the basics of the wuxia novel it is based on, making some of its elements less clear to those like me who haven't.

But "Understanding the plot" isn't the point here anyway. Forward momentum rules the screen.

The film just doesn't seem to know where to stop, and if it knew, it still wouldn't do it as a matter of general principle. There's something absurdly wonderful or wonderfully absurd to be experienced in every scene. Besides the lute fu and the flute fu, the ridiculous crane and the possibly even more ridiculous turtle, there's also sex fu, a lady fighter with underwear trouble (feel the power of Hong Kong "humour"!), a deadly poison that can only be cured by sex, an utterly random evil old guy who is chained up in a hole in the ground and feeds a magic martial arts manual to someone (with terrible mutation consequences, of course), bell fu, a peculiar tornado, a wonderful sound wave stance fight - it just goes on and on. Whatever weird thing you want to imagine is in here, so many weird things even that the usual scenes of people flying through the air (which is of course in here too) seem perfectly quaint in context.

Oh, and did I mention that the film's big bad is disposed off by being blown up with a flute? Or that the film ends with the sweet, sweet promise of legal polygamy (oh, the wonders of Chinese culture!)?

Of course, this high concentration of madness leads to a certain lack of depth in characterization (although the actors are doing what they can), and doesn't exactly help to make the film's themes clear, but complaining about it is like complaining that there are noodles in your instant ramen.

I'm pretty sure the world would be a much better place if everyone would just go with the program and watch The Magic Crane.


From Twitter 06-05-2010

  • Oh no, I'm falling down a Wikipedia rabbit hole of articles about the hero pulps!
  • Wanna see a trainwreck? First have a look at this
  • and then cry about the responding forum thread
  • That's when I reach for my revolver.

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

In short: The Deathless Devil (1973)

A Professor (Yalin Tolga) has invented the most fantastic of inventions: a magicscientific lamp thing that works as a universal remote control for just about anything. The Professor wants to make this wonderful gadget a present to his beloved country, so that Turkey has an easier time controlling its military planes to slaughter minorities with, but the mysterious evil mastermind Dr. Satan (Erol Tas wearing the stolen moustache of Fu Manchu) has other plans for it, namely using the lamp to control an army of killer robots that will make him the ruler of the world (mwahahaha).

Alas, Dr. S has made the capital fault of killing the foster father of a guy named Tekin (Kunt Tulgar). Tekin had just learned that his real father was the masked do-gooder known as the Copperhead and decides to take up that mantle to right the wrong of his foster father's death by protecting the Professor and the Professor's charming daughter Sevgi (Mine Mutlu). Copperhead's job would be much easier if he wouldn't put other people's lives into the hands of his comic relief idiot friend Bitik (Erol Günayadin) - who'll spend most of the film calling himself "Bitik Holmes" and wearing a well-loved deer-stalker and cape - but what can a hero do?

At least this and the fact that Copperhead is about as effective a hero as Santo's ancestor, the Caballero Enmascarado de Plata gives Doctor Satan a chance to show his full bag of tricks, beginning with bomb belts and mind control, getting more interesting with the Professor's traitorous secretary (Tijen Doray) and a few simple death traps and culminating in an awe-inspiring/ridiculous robot that could be outrun by a snail. I promise, there will be kidnappings.

While large parts of Turkey's pop and pulp cinema of the 60s and 70s were heavily inspired by US serials of the 40s and 50s, only a few of them were actual remakes of serials. The Deathless Devil is one member of this copyright-ignoring species, and interestingly not the first one its director Yilmaz Atadeniz committed. Atadeniz had already remade (or ripped off, for those of you without a soul) the classic Spy Smasher serial with 1968's exciting Casus Kiran, and obviously had no compunction when it came to making a grab for the equally classic Mysterious Doctor Satan. Think what you will about Atadeniz, but his choice of serials to re-do shows excellent taste.

As it usually goes with Turkish cinema of this era, Deathless Devil races from one cheaply done, unconvincing looking, yet supremely fun action set piece to the next, making up for what it lacks in money and slickness with enthusiasm and the will to entertain its audience. Atadeniz follows the unwritten rule of pop cinema that no dialogue scene should take more than a minute before the next brawl starts, or before someone crashes through a window, or before a car chase begins. And really, what is there to say when there's a bad guy and good guy and a professor and short-skirted women (alas mostly without guns and completely without whips) and a cute killer robot and highly punchable henchmen (one of 'em even using deadly throwing cards like the X-Men's Gambit, automatically making him the most punchable of them all)?

The film's energy is even manic enough to help me ignore the unutterably dreadful comic relief delivered by Bitik, a creature so vile he nearly becomes charming again - an impressive feat if ever I've witnessed one.


From Twitter 06-04-2010

  • Writing the review I just wrote felt like a visit to the dentist, but the end product was worth it.
  • Masochism FTW!
  • The Pulse backdoor pilot is the first thing written by Paul Cornell I've seen/read I didn't like at all. It seems so unfocused and draggy.

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Friday, June 4, 2010

On WTF: Wolfguy: Enraged Lycanthrope (1975)

If there is anything more awe-inspiring than Sonny Chiba films from the mid-70s, I haven't encountered it until now.

Wolfguy is an especially fine example of its kind, with Chiba as a less whiny wolfman (alright, he's more like Wolverine without his claws), tiger-kinesis and a big ol' government conspiracy. Read more about it in my review on WTF-Film!


From Twitter 06-03-2010

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

An additional place to rave about Italian sex horror and inescapable entropy

I have been invited to contribute to Mystic Skull Mag, a new web-based magazine of the horror persuasion.

First up are two (very slightly reworked) re-prints of my write-ups of Malabimba and The Yellow Sign. Site-exclusive reviews will follow. Of course, I will link to them from here when they go up, but why not take a look at the site right now and see what the other writers have to offer?

(And if someone should be worried: nothing will change here or with my regular stint at


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In short: Jaws of Satan (1973)

A big damn snake of varying species (most often a cobra) kills its handlers with the help of its telekinetic powers and slithers into one of those typical US small towns which are often overrun by cannibal hippies, zombies, and giant rabbits. As the telekinesis proves, this ain't no normal snake, oh no. It's Satan himself, coming to kill the small town's pastor, the doubting Father Farrow (Fritz Weaver) to fulfil a druid curse that has been lying on the pastor's bloodline for centuries.

Because Satan wants to have fun, it/he, mind controls the local snake population into running amuck. The town's mayor (Bob Hannah) and Some Guy With Money are trying their best to keep the snake killings under wraps. He has the opening of the new dog-racing track to protect, and we can't have the people going to the racetrack not be killed by snakes, right?

But physician Doctor Sheridan (Gretchen Corbett) does not want to play the mayor's game, and calls herpetologist Dr. Hendricks (Jon Korkes) for help. Together with the priest, the duo of hapless idiots tries to solve the situation. Of course, Farrow will first need to renew his faith in the godhood that lets innocent bystanders be killed by random snake attacks, and Doctor Sheridan will have to escape the killer Some Guy With Money has set on her tail.

Well, I'm sure everyone will agree that the one thing the sub-genre of the Jaws rip-off needed to reach perfection (or is nadir the word?) is the addition of an utterly bonkers religious angle to the story. That should more than make up for the loss of even the little logic I demand from my horror films, and the utter idiocy each and every character shows, right?

Of course, stupidity has never prevented a film from being entertaining, but Jaws of Death is a disappointment on the unintentional humour front. Although the script is insane, the film's director (boring TV guy) Bob Claver treats its insanity with utter disinterest, putting all his energy into transforming the stupid into the boring and turning the potentially fun into a sloppy mess with some bonus scenes of real animal violence. Yes, let's make animals die for our crappy movie.

Especially bad are the "special effects" sequences, most of them much shoddier shot than those in a lot of contemporary films with much lower budgets. Seeing the glass plate between an actor and a snake is one thing, but hearing the snake's head hit the glass needs a director and an editor not giving a damn at all. It's too bad, really, because Dean Cundy's photography does look quite nice (and I know from his work with John Carpenter that it could have been even better than just "nice").

The acting is appropriately dreadful, alas in a boring (or in the case of Korkes "woodenly boring with extra wood") instead of an entertaining way.

Everyone before and behind the the camera is just going through the motions, it seems.

Did I mention that the film is boring?


From Twitter 06-02-2010

  • New blog post: From Twitter 06-01-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 05-31-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 05-30-...
  • So, they are asking James Cameron what to do about the oil spill? Lucky they're not so desperate they have to ask Brett Rattner.
  • New blog post: Alice in Wonderland (2010): The original Alice of Wonderland fame has grown into a pale young woman...
  • China Mieville rips David Grossman a new one:
  • Now that's what I call a useful Firefox plugin. (via Nerdcore)
  • Wanna see how rabid Deus Ex fans decide that Deus Ex 3 can't possibly be good after looking at half a dozen screenshots of cinematics?
  • No, me neither.
  • RT @matociquala RT @Gwenda: Admiring @sandramcdonald's *awesome* periodic table of women in SFF:

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

The original Alice of Wonderland fame has grown into a pale young woman (Mia Wasikowska) with not much to look forward to in life. Her beloved father is dead and her mother is trying to sell her off into a marriage with the most boring man on the planet. Alice doesn't remember much about her initial adventures in Wonderland anymore, and what she does remember, she takes (rather understandably) to have been a fever dream.

Nonetheless Akuce prefers to run after a white rabbit in a livery on her surprise elopement party (that is, a party where Alice is to be surprised by the fact that she is supposed to say "yes" to a marriage proposal from the least fitting husband for her) instead of falling into the arms of her future would-be husband. It turns out to be a sound decision that leads her back into Wonderland, or Underland, as the place is really called.

Things aren't well in the girl's home away from home. The rather rude Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and the rather dim, but at least not fixated on beheadings White Queen (Anne Hathaway) are at war - more or less. Worse, the Red Queen has won - more or less - and rules the place with, well, a tendency for violence and nonsense, so really, it's not much different from the old state of affairs. Be that as it may, the White Queen and her rebels need a champion to slay the Red Queen's champion, the Jabberwocky with the Vorpal Sword. And wouldn't you know it? Alice is the prophesied champion of all that is good and relatively sane. She only needs to find the sword, flirt with the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), find her inner strength (yes, it's one of those films) and slay the Jabberwocky.

I'm pretty sure that the things the young woman will learn in Wonderland will help her cope with her problems in the real world later on (it really is one of those films).

Ah, it is good to know that Tim Burton is still able to finagle large sums of money out of boring old corporations like Disney to finance an go-round through his usual visual obsessions. Most viewers will certainly know the typical Burton look by now, and will probably have realized that there is not much of that silly old substance stuff under all the gnarly trees and acid-influenced designs.

I can't say I have a problem with that. Fortunately, some of my visual interests are quite compatible with Burton's, and there's something joyful about the man's absolute aesthetic single-mindedness. He knows what he likes to look at (gnarly trees, Helena Bonham Carter, pale young women, weird floaty stuff, crooked things and candy colours), and by god!, he will throw these elements on screen again and again (and really, the reason why his Planet of the Apes is his worst film is that the original film and Burtonland just don't have anything in common), whether people shout "We have seen this all before!" or not. That's perfectly fine by me, although I can understand that it isn't everyone's cup of tea.

Burton's cinema is always one meant for the eyes and not for the intellect, and that is not something bound to make a director everyone's favourite, especially when he is as unapologetic about it as Burton is. Burton never tries to hide behind "social importance" or other stuff that wins one Academy Awards in his films and treats plot as something to ignore.

Alice does have a little message, of course, but, because Burton doesn't put as much importance in it as a different director would do, it doesn't ruin the film's pleasures at all. There's also the fact, that I find it difficult to argue with a moral that goes something like "a young woman should live the life she wants to live and not the one others want her to, even if what she wants is a little strange".

What I can and do argue with is Burton's weird idea to send his heroine to exploit China in the end, as if that's any sort of Happy End. I'm pretty sure though that this is Burton being naive and not Burton being malevolent. Compared to the dreadful morals Disney other films still tend to have, this is still quite a success.


From Twitter 06-01-2010

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Three Films Make A Post: Sixgun Sirens Shoot To Thrill!

My Left Eye Sees Ghosts (2002): This is the sort of movie that keeps Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai in enough money for their less marketable films - a quite sentimental romantic comedy with ghosts, as emotionally manipulative as they come. Fortunately, it's also quite funny and honest in its manipulation attempts and its sentimentality, and I for one could never resist honest manipulation.

Additionally, there's the joy of seeing the whole bubble of actors known from every other To and Wai movie with everyone looking in the best of actorly moods. It's also a joy to see a comedy from Hong Kong without rape jokes.


True Legend (2010): So, what happened here? The first 80 minutes of this return of Yuen Wo(o)-Ping to the director's chair after more than a decade are an awe-inspiring mix of classicist yet cleverly updated martial arts, awful but conceptually fantastic CGI and choice (thanks to the performances of Vincent Zhao and Zhou Xun; even Andy On is non-shitty) melodrama taking place in semi-mythic China. After this part of the movie ends rather tragically, writer Christine To decides to repeat the worst parts of her script for Fearless and the film crashes down in historic China, does a few sentimental and dishonest character bits that just don't work and climaxes in one of those crappy drunken boxing versus Western wrestlers sequences that never work because those wrestling types are just too slow to look interesting in a fight against a martial artist. I know, it's all based on the "true story" of Beggar So, but that's no excuse; after all, this isn't supposed to be documentary.

What do I call a film whose beginning two thirds are one of the finest martial arts films made in the last two decades, but whose final third is just utter tripe?


The Cavern (1964): During World War II, a group of men and one woman of various nationalities are trapped in a cave system the Italian military used as a depot. Of course there are the usual tensions among the protagonists. Edgar G. Ulmer's final film, and not his best. The film is well-acted (by actors like a young John Saxon), reasonably well-written and at times tense, but it's also a bit slow and visually not very interesting.


From Twitter 05-31-2010

  • New blog post: From Twitter 05-30-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 05-29-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 05-28-...
  • New blog post: On the Run (1988): Ah, marriage. Hong Kong special branch cop Heung Ming (Yuen Biao) and his narcot...
  • RT @matociquala: New #shadowunit, with gravity!
  • New blog post: Music Monday: Fern Knight Edition: Technorati-Tags: music monday,music,fern knight
  • Boy, people are prudes.
  • I've now read more than one pieces calling Lady Gaga "hard-working" as if that were the highest compliment for someone who is supposed to be
  • an artist. Or "talented"? I prefer people who are actually making good music.
  • And yeah, I enjoy the pop art part, but what's it good for when the music sounds like Cher?
  • How unpleasant.
  • Now that the German Federal President has stepped down because people don't respect him enough (=criticize him; we surely can't have that in
  • a democracy), might there be any chance of getting rid of our chancellor by writing a strongly worded letter?

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