Tuesday, 14 April 2020

MOVIES XXXI

CRAP CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC EDITION
In this time of confusion, fear, perplexity, anxiety, governmental hesitation, sheer idiocy, tension and isolation I bring a somewhat lesser version of mo movies. A big shout out to my peeps in Italy & America (my two biggest demographics) my thoughts and prayers are with you along with everyone else too.


Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (1972)
The first in the four Female Prisoner Scorpion film series from Japanese studio Toei. This is great gripping stuff. I failed to mention last time that the spectacular manga stories upon which these pop art exploitation extravaganzas are based were created by Tōru Shinohara. Nami Matsushima (Meiko Kaji) gets entangled in espionage. Once she discovers that she has been betrayed by Sugumi her detective boyfriend she attempts to stab him to death in broad daylight but to no avail. Matsu gets sent to prison where there are inventive antics, sadistic violence, sexual abuse, escapes and a prison riot. Will Matsu Prisoner #701 rise up to avenge her wrong doers? Or will it all go awry? Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion is a stunning directorial debut for Shunya Itō.


Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life & Ghastly Death of Al Adamson (2019)
This is terrific lil doc about Z grade exploitation movie maker Al Adamson. Just because he was a schlock-meister didn't mean he wasn't successful. He seemed to do quite well financially out of the drive-in and grindhouse circuits. Most of this film covers his absurdly fun boobs, blood and biker movies, his career and personal life while the last quarter turns into a true crime documentary as horrifying events about his death unfold. One of the best documentaries I've seen in a while. The question is will I ever watch an Al Adamson movie in my remaining time on this mortal coil?  


Rewind This (2013)
I think I've spoken about this before. It's a good documentary on the rise and fall of VHS. If you haven't seen one of the other hundred docs on this topic check this one out because it's got Phil Blankenship as an astute talking head. Side note: There are two very cool co-producers of Rewind This Panos Cosmatos and good ole John Carpenter.



Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey Of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr Moreau (2015)
The bizarre and true story of the shooting of The Island of Dr. Moreau, the 1996 film that was a disaster. Lost Soul is an Incredible story that is stranger than fiction. The Island of Dr. Moreau was shot just outside of the tropical Cairns in Queensland Australia. The film shoot went haywire right from the get go as young up coming autistic rock star director Richard Stanley had his project hi-jacked by arsehole actors, stupid film company people and was eventually usurped by veteran director John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate, Seconds, I Walk The Line, Ronin). I get the feeling we're only getting part of the story here though, the one seen through the side of team Richard Stanley. I mean we don't really get to the bottom of why Richard taken off the picture. Was he mentally ill or unstable? Was he indulging in too much drugs and alcohol? He certainly wasn't quite right as he had to be coaxed out of his house to attend the set. Anyway that's a minor quibble as the rest of the gone troppo antics are also totally mental. Why would anybody become a film-writer or director? Their lives and art are put in the hands of absolute morons who don't seem to give a damn. I am constantly amazed that any good movies ever get made. So 2019 was a huge surprise in film-making because it was the best year in film since 2003 or maybe even 1999 with many finely made films and entertainment on offer ie. Parasite, Uncut Gems, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Joker, 1917 etc. Anyway this is well worth a look.

Baby Driver (2017)
It was on Netflix so I thought I'd give it a go somewhat reluctantly. The movie lasted less than 10 minutes maybe. The car stunt work at the start had me excited. Then the kid driver had this sequence where he was walking down the street for several minutes and I think it was meant to be cool or something but it was fucking horrible. I felt like it was meant to be some kind of homage to the so called cool kids in John Hughes movies but they were never cool. They were so phoney and scratchy as in I wanted to scratch my eyeballs out and I was a teenager during the 80s. This kid walking scene made me want to vomit like I'd accidentally put on a fucking Wes Anderson show. It felt like someone who's old and definitely not cool trying to film a cool scene of a cool kid but he has no idea what that could be because he's like 40 so it was fucking embarrassing. I didn't wanna miss out on a car chase movie because I love 70s car chase movies like Vanishing Point (1971), The Driver (1978), Two Lane Blacktop (1971), Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974), Hooper (1978) etc. but... You know what's wrong with Edgar Wright these days? No Simon Pegg. Those early films are fucking classics because they are Pegg films. Wright was just lucky to get to be part of them! Hot Fuzz (2007) & Shaun Of The Dead (2004) Rule. Baby Driver though?


Final Cut: Ladies & Gentleman (2012)
I'd never even heard of this until someone mentioned it last night on Josh Olsen and Joe Dante's Movies That Made Me podcast. This is a mash up of hundreds of historic movie scenes that ends up telling a cohesive romantic tale. This is an incredible feat in editing and film knowledge. Final Cut contains scenes from some of Hollywood's worst films, some of the best movies ever made plus plenty of foreign and silent films too. Final Cut is riveting from the get go and is a film buff trainspotters dream. It's undeniable experimental film-making innovation. Depending on how much romantic cheese you can hack you just might like it. I hate rom-coms but this is a spectacle that has to be seen and it was 85 minutes well spent. It's got creepy shit too and violence, something for everyone. The only other major precursor to this I can think of is Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982) but there are no Steve Martin inserts here, just a great idea executed wonderfully. Of course this could never get commercially released as it would be a copyright nightmare but you can find it on Vimeo and it looked great.


The Yellow Sea aka 황해 (2010)
This is long journey so you have to be prepared and amped for an epic of the South Korean horror-action-thriller variety. If you thought Park Chan-wook and Bong Joon-ho were THE dark souls South Korean cinema forget it because writer/director Na Hong-jin (The Chaser and The Wailing) takes that crown hands down. This is a monumental tale of absurd incompetence. The Yellow Sea contains bad gamblers, inadequate spouses, neglectful parents, crap criminals, totally inept police, shit gangsters and even worse rival gangsters. I hope I haven't made that sound bad as it is all framed in a strange sometimes funny blood soaked criminal underworld between China and South Korea. Knives and axes are the weapons of choice here with nary a gun in sight. Gu-nam (Ha Jung-woo) is a bad father/husband who is a degenerate gambler in the border-town of Yanji, China. His wife  has gone to South Korea in the hope of finding work but he hasn't heard back from her. He loses his job as a taxi driver. His life is in utter turmoil and he's mentally tormented. He gets an opportunity to wipe his huge gambling debt slate clean by going to South Korea as a hitman to kill some bloke otherwise his family will be in diabolical danger. This is just the tip of the iceberg as unexpected shit then begins to unfurl. Look out for spectacular car chase/crash sequences, bloody knife wielding fight scenes, many a foot chase, bloody axe violence and even some stunning truck action. Gu-nam is no tough-buff Schwartzenegger type of specimen so it is pretty funny and amazing that he gets though so many close scrapes with the gangsters and cops. This is one lucky unlucky fella but there is pathos too. Will he find his Mrs? Will his hit sort everything out? Will he end up a happy man? All these questions will be answered in this saga that gets pretty fucking convoluted at times but thankfully coalesces in the end.


Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 (1972)
The second in the Female Prisoner Scorpion series. Shunya Itō once again directs Meiko Kaji as Nami Matsushima aka Scorpion aka Matsu and we are blessed once again with a terrific movie Jailhouse 41. Meiko Kaji has become my new favourite actress this year. I just love her minimal bad arse style. I'd love to see her script for Jailhouse 41. I can't recall if she even muttered one word throughout the entire movie. Nami is being kept in solitary confinement in quite a sadistic manner but one day she is brought out into the yard while the prison is being visited by dignitaries so she attacks the head Warden Goda (Fumio Watanabie). A riot begins but soon a bunch of six of the worst and most degenerate ringleaders are sent off in a bus to a hard labour camp along with Nami. How do you think that goes down? Fucking chaotic, strange, bloody and rapey events unfold. If you like your revenge on the edgiest and most demented side of the genre this is for you. This is so outrageous you will hardly believe your eyeballs. Once again we get high art meets the scuzziest of exploitation which is of course a delicious combination. Late Night Movie of The Week.


Annabelle Comes Home (2019)
Emma and I have tried to watch this like 10 times but something kept coming up to stop us from watching it. So by the time time we got around to watching it, it was on Netflix and let's face it we probably only finally watched it because of COVID-19. So it is with much disappointment that I have to say it just didn't live up to expectations. Perhaps the pandemic is part of the problem ie. I'm already so tense and terrified that the usual cheap and cheerful jump scares of this movie weren't even doing it for me. How can you build tension for me when I'm already in need of two valium every minute of every day? A movie like this might just be for when your life is on a relatively normal even keel and you are in need of thrills. The baby sitter at the house where the Annabelle doll is kept and her friends become involved with the the spooky doll but due to Corona Virus our minds were on far more horrific things.


Fatal Attraction (1987)
The sort of film that is just taken for granted. Lumped in with a hundred other late 80s/early 90 erotic-thrillers. After re-watching this I'm pretty sure it's a masterpiece though. Director James Dearden makes it look easy in that seamless lose yourself engagement, where you don't realise you're watching a film kind of style. Fatal Attraction has a simple premise executed with absolute precision. Dan (Michael Douglas) meets Alex (Glenn Close) while his wife and child are out of town and psychotic antics begin to unfold. If you haven't seen it since the 80s it's well worth another look. Oh and there's a bunny.


Profondo Rosso aka Deep Red (1975)
Profondo Rosso is Dario Argento's fourth Giallo film which many consider the  best he did in the genre but for me it's probably his directorial debut The Bird With Crystal Plumage (1970). I prefer the other two in the Animal Trilogy Il Gatto E Nove Code (1971) and Four Flies On Grey Velvet (1971) more than this one as well. That doesn't mean Profondo Rosso isn't very good, I like it and love the immense style, the grand cinematography, the acting and the phenomenal soundtrack from Goblin. A British musician Marcus Daly (David Hemmings) working in Italy witnesses Helga Ulmann (Macha Méril) get murdered with a meat cleaver. Marcus becomes the classic Gialli amateur sleuth as he puts the pieces of the mystery puzzle together. More murder ensues with black gloves no less. The mystery is all neatly tied up and solved in the end befitting the genre.

Swallow (2019)
Emma has misophonia so this film didn't last long. Also do I wanna see someone do number 2s wipe her bottom then fish a marble out of her faeces? Nah that's shit.


The Awakening (2011)
This is how you do a good spooky ghost story. This was a first time watch for me and it was surprisingly excellent. It's not like I had a reason to believe it wouldn't be good though, I just missed it at the time. The Awakening is set in the early 1920s in an empty isolated British boarding school. Florence (Rebecca Hall) is a professional debunker of charlatans with their phoney supernatural shenanigans. However she gets a case that's not so easy to shrug off. A top notch story that doesn't miss a beat. The best cinematic ghosty thing I've seen since The Orphanage (2007). Also stars The Wire's Dominic West plus Imelda Staunton and that kid from Game Of Thrones.  

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