Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Total Recall...

That movie is still great; I am talking about the original, of course; sometime next week I plan on seeing the infamous 2012 remake, but I figured it was time to see the original again, and to give it a better review on Letterboxd. That review can be read by looking below at what I posted on Letterboxd earlier tonight:

This is a movie I've seen a decent amount of times; in fact, I had up a brief review of it from a few years ago when I first joined Letterboxd. I figured it was time to see it again and give the film a better review. Besides, I am thinking it will be next week that I see the Director's Cut of the much-maligned remake, and that will make comparison easier for me.

I imagine everyone is familiar with the bare bones plot of how Arnold has to get his ass to Mars as he had his memory wiped and he's actually fighting against Ronny Cox and his minions in order to expose a huge discovery and to save the poor denizens of the planet. Yet to me the best part of the movie isn't all the great one-liners still remembered today or Arnold's exaggerated facial expressions or his famed yelling in pain noises, or even all the great ultra-violence. Rather, it's the ambiguity and how the film leaves it up to the viewer to decide what is real and what isn't.

It can certainly be believed that Arnold as Hauser has his memory wiped and set up on Earth so he's an average Joe (or in this case, an average Douglas, as in Douglas Quaid) married to Sharon Stone, only to have those memories of Mars and after a failed implanting of memories at the Total Recall office, goes on a wild adventure where he returns to Mars and helps lead the resistance. Yet, it is very well possible that everything which you see after he sits down is the secret agent adventure he paid to have put in his mind and nothing more. Maybe he went crazy after going to Recall, and heck, maybe he died after Recall and we are looking at his dying memories... there are several ways to look at it and from what the movie presents throughout, all of them are not out of the question. As a mutal mentioned in his review of this, bad things happen to a few people that get on Quaid's case in "real life", so that is evidence of "it was all a dream."

That makes the movie rewatchable and it is certainly more thoughtful and intelligent than a typical Schwarzenegger picture; having a talented director like Paul Vorhoeven behind the camera and loosely adapting the Phillip K. Dick story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” will do that for you. And all that is in a motion picture where a woman with three breasts appears.

In addition, Jerry Goldsmith provides a memorable score, all the practical effects are great to see and many of them are still effective and believable today, the cast all does a solid job (to bring up one example, it is no surprise seeing both Ronny Cox and Michael Ironside do a swell job playing bad guys, as they are always great when they play bad guys) and I imagine this blows the 2012 remake out of the water. Still, I'll try to be fair with that.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Star Trek Beyond

Star Trek Beyond (2016)

84% on Rotten Tomatoes (out of 191 reviews)

Runtime: 122 minutes

Directed by: Justin Lin

Starring: The typical crew, plus people like Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella and Joe Taslim

From: Paramount

I saw this movie last night, and I am glad it was something I enjoyed, as I really don't like Star Trek Into Darkness. Below in my Letterboxd review, I explain why I felt that way:

I've mentioned it in other reviews but to be brief, while I am not a hardcore Trekkie (or Trekker) I watched The Original Series as a kid and saw the first six movies in the franchise at least once and usually a handful of times each. The 2009 reboot I enjoyed despite some faults but Into Darkness was pretty bad, an illogical mess that represented the worst of modern Hollywood blockbusters. Despite a new director and new writers, I wasn't sure what I would think of this. Thankfully, despite it being ridiculous-some moments probably won't hold up to scrutiny-the all too common trend of some action scenes not being done as well as they should, and some moments I'll just describe as “polarizing”-especially with one moment in particular, I imagine a segment won't laugh in disbelief like I did and instead it'll leave them fuming-the picture was something I still thought was fun and entertaining.

Thankfully this was a 180 from Into Darkness even when it came to spoilers; while I thought Into Darkness would still be a bad movie even if I hadn't had some key things spoiled beforehand, I am glad I went into this cold aside from halfway paying attention to the trailers... which of course were misleading, but that's a problem with too many trailers in recent years; they either reveal too much or inaccurately present a movie all for the sake of getting a customer's cash no matter what; it's gross but a giant rant about it will have to come at another time. I won't spoil anything myself so I'll just briefly mention that it's a story about the Enterprise exploring uncharted areas and trying to foster peace among all the sentient species they come across. They experience trouble, led by Idris Elba, and there's a young lady who wears white paint... why she does so is never really explained, come to think of it...

Like I said, this movie is fun. There's a sense of adventure in exploring alien (in every sense of the word) new worlds & between that and a positive outlook (quite different from the dour Into Darkness) it seems appropriate when you compare it to The Original Series. The villains, both in the way they operate and why Elba (as Krall) acts the way they are are different from the norm and aren't the same old same old, which is a relief these days. All the main people on the Starship Enterprise get a decent amount of time (including the late Anton Yelchin as Chekov) so those characters have their moments to shine. As for the new people introduced here, it is nice to see that there's further diversity aside from the diversity that the franchise always had since The Original Series; they include an Indonesian martial artist-actor, a black man from the UK, and a woman born in Algeria. Unfortunately, such a multi-ethnic and multi-racial cast in a big Hollywood movie is exceedingly rare.

The movie happens to look nice too so I am glad I watched it on a giant screen; the 3D image was at times too dark... then again that's an issue with every 3D movie, really. It was nicely directed aside from my complaints about some of the action; I really dug the musical score from Michael Giacchino; the actual songs you hear in the film... I'll just say that I did not stick around to the part of the end credits where the Rihanna song Sledgehammer played. Besides the fact that I think Rihanna makes terrible music & is a pretty repugnant and gross human being, I don't even have to hear the song to know the Peter Gabriel Sledgehammer is a million times better. Yes, I did see the “nice tribute to both Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin” part of the credits, which is something that everyone should see.

I am glad that a supernerd fan of the franchise in Simon Pegg got to work on the script as it helps make it not seem like such a soulless and brainless Hollywood pile of crap that we get too often these days. While it may not be liked by some hardcore fans, at least it was a motion picture I found to be better than expected and simply a good time.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Sonny Chiba Doubleheader

The Streetfighter (Gekitotsu Satsujin Ken) (1974)

Runtime: 91 minutes

Directed by: Shigehiro Ozawa

Starring: The great Sonny Chiba, Goichi Yamada, Yutaka Nakajima, Tony Cetera, Masafumi Suzuki

From: Toei

Return of the Streetfighter (Satsujin Ken 2) (1974)

Runtime: 85 minutes

Directed by: Shigehiro Ozawa

Starring: The great Sonny Chiba, Yoko Ichiji, Masashi Ishibashi, Claude Gagnon, Hiroshi Tanaka

From: Toei

Yes, I saw both these movies as they were both on Turner Classic Movies late last night. First, my review of the original:

I had a late night last night; on TCM Underground they showed this then Return of the Streetfighter; as I hadn't seen the sequel before and only saw the first movie once a long time ago, it was a perfect double bill for me.

The movie is about “Terry” (TCM had the dubbed version; I guess that added to the grindhouse feel; the great Sonny Chiba) protecting a rich heiress from what the dub says is “the Mafia and the Yakuza”, but it's actually a collection of over the top scenes where things get very violent & bloody and Chiba's martial arts is far from elegant-in fact, it's rather brutal-but it is effective in every way. W/ a bumbling sidekick known in the dub as RATNOSE, Terry tries to protect that young lady while dealing with such things as a family feud popping up at an inopportune time, a blind swordsman who wasn't Zatoichi, and racism because Terry is half Japanese and half Chinese.

The film's ridiculous and Terry forcing himself upon women looks rather bad in this day & age, but otherwise this rough and tough character (who does have a few poignant moments) is quite entertaining as he lays waste to many different people yet isn't invulnerable and at times takes a beating himself. It should be no surprise that the one thing I remembered about the movie from the one viewing many years ago was when he, ahem, castrated someone. With all the graphic violence and Chiba making all sorts of exaggerated faces it's no surprise this became a cult classic.

Now, the first sequel (not sounding the Sister Streetfighter spinoff):

Right after TCM Underground showed The Streetfighter, they played this film, which I had never seen before; I had to stay up real late to check it out. While it's a little lesser than the original, it is something I am still glad I saw.

Things aren't too different from the first movie: he once again deals with the Mafia and the Yakuza; as someone else here said, the leader of the Mafia looks like a young bearded hippie. He also deals with the cops, but that's a sideplot. Unfortunately, there's plenty of padding to make this feature length; there are some ancillary characters we follow for stretches at a time and several minutes is at an academy where we see people being trained in the martial arts and the English dub version nicely tells us what the particular breathing exercise is and says what all the weapons are, even for the obvious ones like 'samurai sword” and “nunchaku”; still, it's the thought that counts.

That said, it is a fun movie to watch as you get more of what you expect: over the top moments throughout, wacky facial expressions from Chiba, and graphic violence; oh, are there ever memorable moments that you can't possibly forget. “Terry” even gets a romantic scene of sorts, although that turns sour. It was a perfectly fine wacky martial arts picture, in other words.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Book Of Shadows: Blair Witch 2

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000)

Runtime: 90 minutes

Directed by: Joe Berlinger

Starring: Kim Director, Jeffrey Donovan, Erica Leerhsen, Tristine Skyler, Stephanie Barker Turner

From: Artisan

This is actually a first-time watch, as I had never seen this infamous movie before due to its toxic reputation. Well, even if there are some people out there who want to be hipsters and champion this for being “so underrated”, this is indeed as bad as its reputation says it is. I explain why in my Letterboxd review below: 

After the big news of last night, this seemed appropriate to see... now, I actually heard rumors not that long ago about how Adam Wingard's The Woods was actually a sequel to The Blair Witch Project (it's why I saw that movie again recently) yet hearing that those whispers were true still raised my eyebrows. As I dig the people involved, I have very high hopes for the movie. As for this picture in particular, I never saw it before as I only heard the worst things about it. Yet, as of late I've actually come across some positive reviews and people saying that the movie should be reappraised. After seeing this... I have to agree with the majority.

I imagine many of you know why this is infamous; unlike the original this is presented as a traditional film, although in its world the Blair Witch Project is a film that happened, and it's all fake. We follow a bunch of unlikable asshats as they participate in a guided tour of the region and the tour is led by a REALLY unlikable asshat, and weird things start happening. Now, some of the ideas presented are fine in theory... I am talking about such things as how publicity wasn't always welcome in the real life town of Burkittsville, Maryland (even though most of The Blair Witch Project wasn't actually filmed in that tiny town), how there were different groups of people tramping all across the woods, and how some exploited the publicity from the first movie. However, most of it wasn't well done and instead came off as ham-fisted. The same goes for the stereotypes of the characters (arguing couple, stoner D-bag, Wiccan woman with a persecution complex, goth girl who is apparently psychic) we have to deal with.

I know that after the original cut was filmed, the dreaded “studio interference” happened and I feel bad that director Joe Berlinger had that happen to him. It certainly explains why the movie is a gigantic mess all around and even taking into account the main plot point of how everyone suffers a mental breakdown, things don't make a lot of sense. I imagine the original version wouldn't have such bad music (for the most part) throughout, despite the presence of some talented acts... and NICKELBACK. Yet, studio interference can't explain away how all the characters are pretty loathsome and you don't like them even a small amount, or the pretty bad acting from everyone or some of the horrid dialogue. They didn't successfully polish a turd, but it's still a turd. Honestly, a reason why I don't have it rated even lower is that I got some solid unintentional laughs of this pile of crap.

At least Blair Witch has a real low hurdle to jump over in order to be better than Book of Shadows.

Friday, July 22, 2016

District 9

This is a movie I saw once before, back when it first came out almost 7 years ago... yes, 7. I don't believe it either. I imagine some won't believe that I didn't like the movie then and I still don't like it now, but 'tis true. I reviewed it back in the early days of my blog, so I'll just copy and paste below what I said about seeing it again on Letterboxd:

I haven't seen this movie since watching it on the big screen late August of 2009 before I gave it a second viewing last night, but back then I was a rare person who didn't like it and boy did some people on a messageboard not like hearing such an opinion. They just acted like asshats, but it's all good, as they (I have no memory of what their handles even were) were just giant man-babies and their rude actions meant nothing to me. It certainly did not change my opinion. During Amazon Prime Day earlier this month, the Blu-ray set of all three Neill Blomkamp movies went on sale for only 10 dollars and change; I decided to do that as it was hardly more than renting all three of those films from Amazon and streaming them.

Watching this again last night... sorry folks, but I still don't like it. Honestly, even rating this as 2 stars is being awfully generous on my part. I don't need to recap the plot as I am sure most know it already. The fact that this is actually an allegory about Apartheid, I figured it out rather quickly. It doesn't mean that I find the movie to be logical when it's done via an alien ship being stuck over South Africa and weird-looking bipedal creatures are supposed to represent black people. A second viewing made me realize all the glaring plot holes this has. I won't list all of them as I don't want to give out massive spoilers here... but the big one to me: how exactly did those creatures with those massively popular weapons end up living in a hellhole slum? Why didn't they destroy humanity? It makes no sense!

It's even worse than how those aliens and humans are able to understand each others languages, why the aliens have human names (back in '09, people gave me crap for having the gall to note how stupid it was for the lead alien to be known as Christopher Johnson), or various dumb moments resulting from this being a ham-fisted allegory. I've talked before about my biggest issue with modern filmmaking is how too many big movies are completely illogical, and this includes people that most people (including on Letterboxd) love but left me cold. Gone Girl is one huge example of that. An ugly mean-spirited tone is another big problem I have (Gone Girl also fits in that category); sadly, I think the movie has both of those things in spades.

Really, what makes this even watchable for me is how good the movie looks and how the special effects worked then (and still work now) when the movie only cost 30 million dollars to make... at least that's what “they” have always claimed. It's a whole rant I won't get into when it comes to why movies are so expensive these days; it shouldn't be that way, and I'll leave it at that. I noted at the time and it's been proven by big movies and those smaller ones that skip a wide theatrical release or are only made for discs/streaming, it is cost-effective and you get a lot of bang for your buck.

I wish I could love this like most do; it did not cost a fortune to make and the core idea is original... at least when they don't rip off superior movies like Alien Nation or Cronenberg's version of The Fly, which are movies I'd rather watch again than possibly see this a third time. This picture just doesn't work for me. It doesn't make me thrilled to see Elysium or Chappie sometime in the future, as unlike with this, both those flicks are incredibly polarizing.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Marihuana

Marihuana (1936)

Runtime: 57 minutes

Directed by: Dwain Esper

Starring: Harley Wood, Hugh McArthur, Pat Carlyle, Paul Ellis, Dorothy Dehn

From: Roadshow Attractions

This is another pot-based exploitation film from the 1930's. It is not as famous as Reefer Madness but I say it's just as hilariously bad. My explanation of why is below: 

I figured that since I recently reviewed Reefer Madness here, it only made sense to see the other 1936 movie involving marijuana. This isn't as popular or infamous as Reefer, but those two are meant to be seen together as both are similar in terms of unintentional hilarity. I had watched this once before, but that was like in 2003, so my memories were faint. And the guy who distributed Reefer (Dwain Esper) directed this, from a script written by his wife.

This is sleazier than RM; the opening credits has a background painting of three women, one of them topless. What an opening crawl that was, being racist against “the Asiatic countries” for being the origin of ganja and not being educated enough to stop that area's addiction to narcotics. I won't even get started on how wrong such a statement is. Then again, almost in the middle of the picture, there are several fully nude women seen. In addition, there's a gag where a drunk is spilling his beer in a nightclub and it's made to look like he's pissing right at the bar. Remember that films like these at the time went out on tour across the United States under the guise of being “educational”.

Anyhow, this is ridiculous claptrap about how some more teenage squares get roped into smoking the chronic and it immediately causes problems. In this case, there's skinny-dipping, a drowning, and the lead girl-for some reason named BURMA-becomes pregnant. From there, a lot of melodramatic things happen, including a kidnapping and the dealing of heroin. It's all so laughable, and aside from all the giggling, not an accurate depiction of what bud is like. At least the picture is less than an hour long.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Red Sun

Red Sun (Soleil Rouge) (1971)

Runtime: 111 minutes

Directed by: Terence Young

Starring: The incredible duo of Charles Bronson and Toshiro Mifune; there's also Ursula Andress, Alain Delon, and Capucine

From: Several different European countries

Charles Bronson and Toshiro Mifune starring in a movie together? Yes please! I talk all about it below via what I copied and pasted from Letterboxd: 

This was another movie this month that I watched on Turner Classic Movies. To me this is something well worth watching. It's directed by Terence Young and features the likes of Ursula Andress, Capucine, Alain Deleon, Anthony Dawson and Luc Merenda. Plus, Maurice Jarre did the Spaghetti Western score to this Spaghetti Western film... and oh yeah, the two stars comprise what has to be one of the manliest duos-and certainly one of the most awesome duos-in cinematic history, as they are Charles Bronson and Toshiro Mifine.

The film is about a gang that Bronson is in which holds up a train which just happens to be carrying a ceremonial sword destined for President Grant. The gang turns against Bronson so he and Mifune form a relationship after initially not trusting each other; they are forced to team up, you see. Yeah, the movie Shanghai Noon wasn't all that original with its plot. Oh, and Andress is eventually unwittingly dragged along too. In addition, Bronson's character is Link, but he isn't looking for the Triforce and he isn't going after Ganon.

To me, this ends up being as awesome as it sounded on paper. The action scenes are entertaining, the scenic Spanish views are nice, and while improbable at times it is just a lot of fun to watch. Thankfully the two stars are made out to be equal and at times Old Toshiro is shown to be superior; plus, there's such wackiness as Bronson eating sushi and other stereotypical Japanese food, and Mifune using his samurai weapons against such people as bandits and Comanche Indians. That helps make this stand out from the typical Western; it certainly is a standard one, right down to the casual racial stereotypes and the misogyny. As that's what I expected going in, I ignored those problematic things and overall this is a pretty cool Western well worth seeing.