Friday, December 9, 2016

Woman of Fire

Woman of Fire (Hwanyeo) (1971)

Runtime: 100 minutes

Directed by: Kim Ki-Young

Starring: Namkoong Won, Jeon Gye-Hyeon, Yuon Yuh-Jung, Choi Moo-Ryong

From: Woo Jin Films Co., Ltd.

Here is something I saw via the free Korean Film Archive that anyone can watch on YouTube. It's a curio, as I explain below: 

Wednesday night I did not see any movies; instead I watched some documentaries about Pearl Harbor. As it was the 75th anniversary of that important day in American history, I figured that would be the most appropriate thing to do. Last night, I decided to see another Korean movie; it had been awhile. A few will be leaving Netflix Instant last next week and I hope to see at least one of those but but this isn't one of those. Instead, it's from the official YouTube Channel of the Korean Film Archive, which has over 100 movies available for free. Even to a lot of film fans, they really only know the past 15 to 20 years of filmmaking from that country, as they produced many acclaimed works. Well, even before then they made motion pictures that were worthy of being watched. It's just that things were different back then and international distribution did not happen too often, or at least to the United States.

Around this time 2 years ago I saw The Housemaid, a 1960 movie from Kim Ke-Young. It's about the title character entering the life of a young family and due to her predatory ways and being insane, she absolutely tore that family apart. Well, this film is a remake of that, from the same director. The general story is the same but various things are different; it's not just that the original was in black & white and this is in color. The housemaid here doesn't start off as predatory; she's just a girl from the country who ends up in Seoul to try and earn money for her poor family. Because of the husband being henpecked and weak, even though he brags about being faithful, he has issues... he becomes unfaithful after getting drunk. Things happen, and that's when the housemaid becomes crazed.

While this is a good movie, I find The Housemaid to be great. Just personal preference, that's all. Both have crazed moments that make you realize South Korea didn't just start making movies w/ outrageous moments yesterday; it's happened for decades now. Those moments in the two movies are sometimes different. It's a shame that plenty of the director's films are lost; from what I've seen he is quite good, and also lenses things in a unique way, with interesting shots and camera placement. The prints for both films would be lost if a hardcoded French subtitled version wasn't around. When the World Cinema Foundation put out The Housemaid, they took the painstaking task of erasing all those subtitles; Woman of Fire still has those, but hopefully they won't be a bother.

You'll notice that this movie also has a bold use of red and blue, and also has songs that I presume are early 70's version of K-Pop. Oh, and this is a rare film which takes place on a chicken farm. Apparently, you're supposed to knock on the door of chicken coops before you enter, else you scare the chickens. Hey, that's what they said!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Silent Night, Deadly Night 2

Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 (1987)

Runtime: 88 minutes

Directed by: Lee Harry

Starring: Eric Freeman, James Newman, Elizabeth Kaitan, Jean Miller, many people from the first movie, via the lengthy and copious flashbacks

From: Silent Night Releasing Corporation

I finally saw this infamous movie in full. It is famous for several different things... or rather, infamous. I explain all that below: 

A few times in my life I've seen the original Silent Night, Deadly Night. It's an interesting story and you actually feel bad for Bobby and his little brother Ricky; while it has its faults, I always thought it was entertaining. Before last night I hadn't seen any of the sequels. Sure, I knew that most of the first half of this is stock footage as a now-adult Ricky talks to a psychiatrist and the second half includes a scene simply known as GARBAGE DAY, where we see an overacting Ricky due a bunch of crazy things in the span of a few minutes as he walks around a suburban neighborhood. Now that I've finally seen it in full, the film is awful and yet it's about 5 stars in terms of sheer entertainment value.

As I already mentioned, the first half is Ricky talking to a psychiatrist-who turns out to be a real dick, to put it bluntly-and long clips from the first film are shown. After that, Ricky stops talking about his murderous brother Billy and chats about himself; he's also a murdering SOB and this is where things really ramp up. The stock footage is definitely better made than the new footage, which is comedy in of itself. Then there's how Ricky (Eric Freeman) constantly overacts; as others have noted, he loves to emote with his eyebrows. Among the hilarious bits:

* Ricky being adopted by a Jewish couple, so he doesn't have to worry about Christmas being celebrated. Really.
* Ricky's relationship with his new girlfriend.
* Ricky running over a Tecate-drinking man a few times due to that man being rather rape-y.
* A kill involving an umbrella
* The entire scene inside the movie theatre.
* The address of where Mother Superior currently lives. Not to mention, the goofy way they try to disguise that the actress playing her was different than in the original film.

It's amazingly bad. I wish that GARBAGE DAY was still in full on YouTube, as I first saw it a few years ago. While I do recommend renting the movie so you can witness the badness from beginning to end, it'd be nice for those who have never seen anything from this before to bask in the majesty of the scene and how surreal it really is... although there is a killcount video up on YouTube and it is amusing. From the jumper cable death to a Chevy Chevette blowing up after only a few gunshots (well, that may not be so hard to believe...), from Ricky constantly laughing at the mayhem he's causing to the cops here being as inept as in the first movie... in context or out of it, the scene is incredible.

This should be a bad movie cult classic, if it isn't already is. There's more insanity than just an unforgettable 5 or so minutes, trust me. 

Black Sheep

Black Sheep (1996)

Runtime: 87 minutes

Directed by: Penelope Spheeris

Starring: Chris Farley, David Spade, Tim Matheson, Christine Ebersole, Gary Busey

From: Paramount

You know, this isn't that bad. It's no Tommy Boy, but it's still watchable. I try to explain why below: 

A few nights ago I used Netflix Instant to watch this. The only other time I watched it was shortly after Farley died, so it's been a very long time. I remember it being not as good as Tommy Boy and only a few bits stuck out. The biggest one was Farley yelling, “Kill Whitey!” I had no memory of it being after Mudhoney performed at an MTV Rock the Vote event.

The plot is simple: the writers realized that a politician dealing with a buffoon brother (as Roger Clinton was in everyone's mind as the headache half-brother of Bill Clinton) can be pretty funny, so the story is that Tim Matheson is running for Governor of Washington state and he's trying to dethrone current Governor Christine Ebersole. Matheson's brother is Farley, and he is embarrassing so he has David Spade try to control him, to little effect. Gary Busey is also present, as a militia man sort of people who lives off the grid. His character is seen as sort of a hero; in late 2016, such a character probably wouldn't be a hero..

The movie is quite silly and also on the stupid side. Yet I can say that this is average. I still laughed enough to where I could get past how the story wasn't so strong, and when they tried to introduce an actual plot with actual intrigue, it's not always great. There's some good physical comedy also. While apparently the director hated Spade and Farley had to be convinced by Spade to make the film, it's not so bad that it deserved the savage attacks the critics gave it at the time, treating it like the cinematic scrapple for 1996. It's not as funny or memorable as Tommy Boy but it's still watchable.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Spirited Away

Spirited Away (Sen To Chihiro No Kamikakushi) (2001) 

Runtime: 125 minutes

Directed by: Hayao Miyazai

Starring: I saw the subbed version, so it was a bunch of random Japanese voice actors

From: Studio Ghibli

Would you believe I had never seen this before? It's true. Would you believe that Fathom Events showed it both dubbed and subbed, so I got to see it subbed last night? Also true. Would you even believe that I did not love this movie... or even really like it? It sounds impossible but regrettably, also true. I try to explain why this was such a letdown below: 

I just don't get it.

I will admit that by now I thought I would have seen more of Studio Ghibli's movies. If there was a legal way to stream them by paying just a few bucks each... I can say that last year I saw Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and thought it was really cool, and Porco Rosso... well, that was fine and that's it. It's been more than a year since seeing something from them, but when I saw that Fathom Events would be showing this both dubbed and subbed, what better time to check out what I understand is the studio's most beloved and most popular film. Don't worry, I saw the subbed version.

There have been various times in the past where here and elsewhere, I've stated that I did not care for a film most everyone else loves. Fury Road is the most famous example but there have been others. I never thought beforehand that this could possibly go into such a category, as it has universal acclaim among critics and fans; I literally knew nothing about the story besides seeing .gifs and pictures of a few characters. As I presume most have seen this already, a plot descirption shouldn't be necessary.

Now, I won't get into what drugs I may or may not have done in my lifetime. However, maybe I would have been better off smoking some pot before seeing this! Sludge monsters, animals that are now walking bipedal things, a person changes into another animal, soot w/ legs and eyes, garish creatures all around... this was WAY weirder than I expected. Unfortunately, I found it to be off-puttingly weird, especially when you factor in how most of the characters you see are real a**holes, even some that end up helping out our heroine. I did not enjoy the bizarre nonsensical story either, nor how our heroine was more often than not a clumsy buffoon, although finally in the final act she became more of a hero; there isn't a lot of character growth with her, regrettably. The ending... in various ways, it came across like a wet fart.

This movie just left me cold. The rating reflects that the animation was top-notch and the musical score was great. It's just the story and characters... I am disappointed in that I am disappointed with the movie. I could have lied and said that this was great, but I wanted to be honest here, even if I know that everyone else will vehemently disagree with my opinion. I don't know if it's me never liking Alice in Wonderland-there are obvious parallels-or something else... I was just not enchanted with the story or the unpleasant characters. I'll still watch more Miyazaki in the future; from what I understand I shouldn't have such a detached, negative feeling to his other stone cold classics.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Squall

The Squall (1929)

Runtime: 102 minutes

Directed by: Alexander Korda

Starring: Richard Tucker, Alice Joyce, Loretta Young, Myrna Loy, ZaSu Pitts

From: First National

This is a pretty obscure movie I saw last night. It's not great but at least it was watchable, if a little silly. I talk about this bunk below:

Here is a random movie that was played late last night on Turner Classic Movies. All this month, each Friday they will show plenty of Myrna Loy movies; I will see some of them. This one is pretty obscure but it sounded so odd, I wanted to check it out. Basically, Loy wears bronzer and is a Gypsy (not to use what the Romani people say is a slur against them. It's just an easy way to describe the type of character she played, as it was greatly stereotypical, including the accent she used) who ends up on a Hungarian farm during a squall (i.e. bad storm) and as she claimed she was mistreated, she was allowed to stay on that family farm... only to act like a vamp and thus cause a lot of trouble among the adult males who live and/or work there.

Things are cliché and some of the acting is rather not good. Yet it's still watchable. Some of the cast does well, including Loy (playing an ethnic character, as she often did early in her career), Alice Joyce, and Loretta Young. Plus, this is the only film I've seen where a guy sings to his horse as ducks quack LOUDLY in the background. There are several songs heard; I understand, as the talkie era was still new and people weren't used to hearing such things as the cinema.

While this is overlong and the play this was based on was probably better on stage, I at least can say that this is average. I can laugh that the title girl caused a lot of problems but it was mainly because the men were all horndogs and figuratively couldn't keep it in their pants. There's melodrama about broken relationships, stolen money, etc. The fact that the cast includes some other familiar faces (Alice Joyce, Loretta Young, ZaSu Pitts) does help make this hokum palpable.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Noah's Ark

Noah's Ark (1928)

Runtime: 100 minutes

Directed by: Michael Curtiz

Starring: Dolores Costello, George O'Brien, Guinn “Big Boy” Wiliams, Noah Beery, Louise Fazenda

From: Warner Bros.

Here's a random movie I saw on TCM a few hours ago. It has a small appearance from Myrna Loy. I hadn't seen something from her in months. The movie has a whole isn't great but it does have some noteworthy things. I explain what those things are below: 

Maybe it made more sense in the 135 minute original version that is now lost in the annals of time... instead, there's a 100 minute restored version.

A few hours ago I watched this film on TCM. It is mostly silent, with a few “talkie” scenes and the rest is augmented with various sound effects. Comparing such things as the Tower of Babel and the Golden Calf to the problems of the late 1920's stock market, I get. That was the opening few minutes. But, the rest of the movie tries to tie in Noah & The Great Flood to World War I, and the connection is tenuous, at best. Intolerance, this ain't.

The plot: the majority of it is following a few people during World War I. There's Travis & Al, who at times have a homoerotic relationship. Travis meets a German gal named Marie and they fall in love. Both Al and Travis enter the first World War, where of course tragedy strikes. Then there's the parallel story about Noah and the building of his Ark, where the same actors play different roles. The story is not the greatest and there's plenty of goofy or eye-rolling moments. Yet what does help is that the effects still look nice even 88 years later, especially those that bring the Biblical world to life.

The standout scene is the Great Flood. Unfortunately, part of the reason why is that safety standards were rather lax... or actually, they were nonexistent. Three people were killed and many others were injured, some pretty badly. A year later we finally got regulations there. The full sequence can't be found online so unfortunately you can't stream just that and forget about the rest of the picture. As for the cast, many were silent stars that did not have as much success in the talkie era, although Myrna Loy appears in one scene and both John Wayne & Andy Devine were extras, albeit ones that you can't spot on camera. Wayne even worked on the prop department.

The movie is only best as a curio. There definitely are better World War I films to see. As for works concerning Noah and the Great Flood, there have only been a few flicks and Aranofsky's Noah left many disappointed. I guess you can read the original Scriptures...

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Werewolf of London

Werewolf of London (1935)

Runtime: 75 minutes

Directed by: Stuart Walker

Starring: Henry Hull, Warner Oland, Valerie Hobson, Lester Matthews, Lawrence Grant

From: Universal

Here's a not so famous Universal horror movie from the past that is nonetheless pretty entertaining and worth seeing, especially if you enjoy the werewolf genre. I talk all about this and how the famous song did take its title from the movie, below: 

As sometimes happens, a messageboard conversation spurned me to watch this film. Indeed, The Wolf Man was not the first Universal horror film to focus on werewolves. Note that while this actually WAS the source for the famous song, the lyrics have nothing to do with the film.

Instead, it's about botanist Wilfred Glendon (Henry Hull), who is in Tibet looking for a wacky fictional plant that grows in moonlight. Later on, you see another fake plant.. that eats frogs. He encounters a werewolf and that goes badly. From what I understand this was the first piece of fiction which stated that people could become a werewolf in this way. Instead of holding a Chinese menu in his hand, walking the streets of SoHo in the rain or drinking a Pina Colada at Trader Vic's, he goes on a prowl and he does mutilate ladies late at night, but it's young ones. There is obvious subtext as Wilfred feels inadequate around his much-younger wife Lisa (Valerie Hobson) and when an old flame from her past shows up, he's howling at the moon. He's just an Excitable Boy. Oh, and Warner Oland is also here, playing what would be known during the time as yet another “Oriental character.”

The movie doesn't follow all the conventions you'd expect from the genre, and yet that is OK. Wilfred as the hairy-handed gent is actually a well-dressed gent during his lycanthrophic time, showing that he's not a feral beast. I even learned that there's a time where a werewolf can be rather loquacious. Overall, this is still a good film. The story is interesting, the actors do a fine job, and I enjoyed such touches as the pair of drunk women & the jabs at the upper crust of British society. Plus, it's only 75 minutes so you don't need to invest too much time in order to check this out. If you enjoy werewolf movies and lament that the past few decades, most of them have been less than worthwhile...