PERFECT BLUE (1997)

rumiAt one point in our cultural history, Satoshi Kon’s PERFECT BLUE was a monumental anime achievement introducing a new level of realism, gore, and nudity. Plus it confronted its audience with the psychological implications of Japanese fan culture.

PERFECT BLUE’s influence is profound. Some say that BLACK SWAN was a shot for shot ripoff…erm…homage to the anime.

What is most interesting to me, at this point, having just re-watched it, isn’t all the ground that has already been covered exploring the various and uncanny ways the film illustrates (see what I did there) the creep factor as fandom becomes murderous psychosis.

Nor am I all that interested in the long visual shadow the film’s design and choreography have cast over other media. Instead, I was appalled at how poorly the movie has aged.

The movie’s quaint relationship with the emerging internet, aside, there are several problematic aspects to the plot. For one, the whole issue of sexuality – as a pop idol, Mima is constantly shown as a personal doll for the creepy Me-Mania. This forced perspective rendering of Mima reduces and negates the (over)-sexualization of the virginal pop idol (to say nothing about the fetishization of the pop outfits). As a pop idol, Mima is real only as sexually inert sex object – a collectible doll-  hyper-sexy but ineffectual as a mature sexual partner.

That is why it is horrific when the older, overweight woman attempts to fulfill the pop idol role. Her age and her weight negate her functioning as anyone’s dolly plaything. So once again, the delusions of a fat, embittered, old woman steer the murderous schemes to undermine and strip the younger, more desired woman her emerging successes.

There are other issues with the transition from soft entertainment (immature pop idol) to hard entertainment (serious dramatic “acting”) that is transversed only through exposure (display of nudity) and violence (sexual attack). This metaphor for growing up is ham-fisted and fraught with problems. For instance, the pop idol needs to be punished for abandoning the dolly-verse of her innocence.

Overall, PERFECT BLUE maintains its cache’ but not without complications and potential spots of groaning dismissal.

The Hills Run Red (2009)

danceDavid Parker’s THE HILLS RUN RED is so very meta. It could be a horror movie about horror movies. It could be a movie about the godlike insanity of auteur movie directors. It could be a mockumentary about mockumentaries. Get it? Unfortunately, since it never settles down long enough to really explore any of these potential commentaries, it never really gets any good.

Much like BEHIND THE MASK: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, THE HILLS RUN RED starts with an group of young, amateur movie-maker wannabes setting out to investigate an urban legend. This time about a horror movie that no one has ever seen. It is a solid premise and has David J. Schow on board as screenwriter, so I expected a little bit…more.

The movie spends much too much time getting the fresh meat into the clutches of the dreaded backwoods Babyface killer. There is way too much pointless set up. There is an unnecessary subplot about cheating friends which goes no where. There is a silly montage about babysitting a detoxing heroin addict that is so unrealistic it almost ruins the movie.

By the time the characters catch on to big reveal (which is blatantly obvious to the audience long before), all hope of meta-criticism is gone. The movie slinks into a double crossing, gotcha moments that sink so many horror movies. There is chasing, hiding, endless blood-spray deaths, and an invincible family of bad guys.

Once the movie, itself, is finally revealed, the audience just gets another pointlessly stupid montage. But, maybe, that is the ultimate meta-point of the movie – THE MONTAGE!!

Regardless, disappointing.

Red Sun (1971)

andressBy all that is right and just in the Universe, Terrence Young’s RED SUN should be an epically awesome western. It has an amazing ensemble cast, a strong plot, and a director who understood the era’s idea of action.

Terrence Young directed three iconic James Bond movies and the Audrey Hepburn thriller Wait Until Dark. He was no hack Spaghetti western director making up his movie as he went. In fact the story was by novelist/screenwriter Laird Koenig of Little Girl Down the Lane fame.

Then there is the cast. Starting with the greasy hair of Charles Bronson, who stars as a double crossed train robber. Add Toshirô Mifune as a samurai intent on recovering a stolen sword. With Alain Delon and Ursula Andress as boyfriend and girlfriend bad guys attempting to reunite to spend their stolen loot.

While the plot is solid (involving a train robbery and the long chase to enact revenge on the double crossing baddies), the acting is stilted. For one thing, Bronson attempts to play it funny. He is a lot of things, but comedian is not one of them. Mifune does his best, but ultimately has very little to do (when not falling down hills). Andress is window dressing and gets kinda naked. While Delon is barely in the movie.

The movie is over-long and padded with stretches of silhouetted horse-riding against the blazing RED SUN! Plus the deus ex machina of native american attack that allows all the bad guys to work together, is as cheezy as it is overly convenient. There might be a message of honor among thieves, but, seriously by the end of the picture, I was kinda bored.

Beast with a Gun AKA La Belva col Mitra (1977)

beast with a gunSergio Grieco’s La Belva Col Mitra  AKA Beast with Gun AKA Mad Dog is a typical Italian crime picture with no surprises and barely any performances.

The movie begins with the easiest prison break in cinematic history. The bad guys basically run out of the prison, hop in a waiting car, blow up the single police car following them. That’s it, no more cops. They scoot away scott-free.

The bad guys are lead by the sadistic psychopath Vitali played by Helmut Berger. He struts around with very little to do and hardly any scenery to munch on. He beats up and sexually abuses gangster moll Marisa Mell. Berger is pursued by Richard Harrison, who’s whole performance is based on his luscious mustache.

The film exists in a weird alternate world where there are like three cops, endless goons to pose around, and where the bad guys can make simple, turn around and walk away escapes. Granted most crime dramas exist in some variation of this, BEAST WITH A GUN could not happen if there were a single competent person present.

For instance, the scene where the bad guys storm the airport and shoot the place up with grease guns? How is that a thing that they just stroll casually away from? Idiots. Everyone is an idiot. Its the only answer.

Overall, it is not the worst crime film ever, but it probably has the worst criminals I’ve seen in a long while.

Finders Keepers (2014)

findersMade for the SyFy Channel FINDERS KEEPERS is surprisingly full of murder and mayhem. I mean especially for a creepy doll movie.

While the story is absolutely unoriginal – family in crisis moves into a house where a haunted doll lives. The doll attaches to the little girl and the family must battle demonic forces for control of their child.

Yawn. If Jamie Pressly wasn’t in this I would never have watched it. I just think she is the bees knees.

Anyway, back to the murder and mayhem. The movie opens with the doll killing a whole family then taking out two cops. TWO. COPS. In short order, the doll kills some cats, blows up a diner, blows up a garbage truck, murders the neighbor, pushes a woman out of a window, hangs the SAW bad guy on an antler chandelier, slices up a grad student, sets fire a folklore professor.

I mean…

Over all everyone in this movie is pretty repugnant and I was rooting for the little doll the whole time. Both Mom and Dad are complete idiots and their kid would have been better off an orphan.

Though, really, this isn’t as bad as most of the SYFY movies, basically because there was hardly any CGI creatures superimposed on the action. But that does not mean anyone should watch it unless nursing a hangover on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

 

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children (2015)

birdboyAlberto Vázquez’s BIRDBOY: THE FORGOTTEN CHILDREN, for all its weirdness and intentionally drugged visuals, is still a fairly linear story. Three children attempt to leave their horrible island home, only to come face to face with harsher realities than they face back home.

Birdboy is a drug addict running from a monster inside. He is pursued by murderous police, who can’t seem to kill him because of the magical nature reserve that Birdboy cultivates. In fact, once could argue that his real failing is to understand what he has hidden among the brambles.

It is a large vibrant tree filled with emoji spirits that heal the wounds inflicted by society and people. That tree has the power, if allowed to be unleashed, to revive the bleak and dark world.

Unfortunately for him, Birdboy is too focused on his own dark potential. When he is not seeking to quash it through the hallucinations of drugs, he is sulking around unthinkingly rehashing the few hints his dead father tried to instill in him. But the hints seem to be run-of-the-mill encouragement to fly.

The trek of the three friends as they try to escape the island is fraught with highway robbers, murderous gangs, exploiting merchants, and depressing realities they are too young to process.

The animation is interesting and clean. While the movie is probably too dark for most adults, it does fit nicely into any dystopian quest collection.

I give it 5 out of 8 wing flaps because the cops are such jerks.

The Pyx AKA Hooker Cult Murders (1973)

pyxHarvey Hart’s The Pyx aka The Hooker Cult Murders is a straight forward police procedural that happens to have a Satanic bad guy.

The film is not about foiling the work of the Devil, instead it is a character study of a heroin addicted prostitute’s fatal last days.

Karen Black embodies an empathetic seediness. She is rightfully freaked out by her pimp’s insistence that she take on a mysterious, creepy, and exceptional new client. A client who has her followed, humiliates her, and clearly has some perversion that is too horrible to name.

Of course, the perversion is that Black is going to be the Devil’s Bride in a Black Mass. The fact that the fallen woman is able to resist, assert her will, and stop the Devil’s machinations is the point of the police investigation. Ultimately, she refuses to defile the Eucharist, instead gobbling it down before falling to her splat-filled death.

Christopher Plummer arrives on the scene of the  literately fallen woman – the corpse of Karen Black. Plummer spends the whole movie retracing Black’s final hours, as the bad guys keep killing the witnesses.

As Plummer chases Black’s killers in the present, Black’s last hours are inter-cut. So we see happen what Plummer uncovers. This back and forth structure is incredibly effective and gives the movie a real sense of the two stories becoming one.

Of course Karen Black is amazing as the frightened and doomed prostitute, who cannot find a friend anywhere. Plummer is handsome enough, but does not have much to do as the cop. I was disappointed that, once again, the Satanic Cult was filled with real dummies.

I give this movie 6 out of 10 little baggies of Canadian drugs.

The Wife (2017)

side eyeBjorn Runge’s THE WIFE is a masterpiece of loathing and resentment – as long as you don’t pay too close attention to the melodramatic and predictable story, the overacting of the supporting cast, and Christian Fucking Slater.

I couldn’t help but wonder what about this script did not appeal to Meryl Streep, because it is clear that this movie is just a vehicle to showcase a performance. Additionally, Glenn Close is doing her best Meryl Streep impression for most of the movie. That is not to slam Glenn Close, she does a fantastic job of letting the seething anger build to a calm resolution. I was just distracted the whole time that THE WIFE was not Meryl Streep.

Anyway. There is nothing special about the film making – it is standard narrative tricks, including the slow reveal through flashbacks.  As is the plot wrapped up in a neat little death that solves all the problems faced by our long suffering heroes. Its lazy, work shopped writing.

I couldn’t help myself and began re-writing the story as a freezing Russian modernist might have done. For instance, it could have been more interesting for Glenn Close to die, thereby forcing her embittered and hateful son into the role she filled for her charismatic husband. The doom laden implications would be disheartening, damning, and delicious!

 

Oh well. I give this movie 2 Nobel Prizes out of 5 Nobel Prizes with a little twist of irony.

The Mole People (1956)

molepeople054Virgil Vogel’s THE MOLE PEOPLE is a terrorizing tale of failed colonization! Actually, it is the sad tale of an ancient society destroyed by Western intervention.

While THE MOLE PEOPLE should be a throwaway science fiction monster movie, it focuses its action on the callousness of modern man. Two white heroes – Jon Agar and The Dad from Leave It To Beaver –  are hunting a ruin of a lost civilization in the icy mountains of Asia. When one of their fellow white guys falls through a hole in the ground, they descend after him. A cave in caused by an Asian assistant – played by Native American character actor Rod Redwing – kills their white friend and the non-white friend and traps the two heroes in the caves. The heroes do not even acknowledge the death of their friends because they are self-centered jerks.

Meanwhile, some creatures appear out of the sandy ground to abduct our sleeping heroes. The effect of the rubber hands emerging from the gravel to pull down the stunt doubles is creepy and effective.

While in the clutches of the mole people our heroes are sentenced to death, escape, shine a flashlight on some dummies, are considered gods and given a woman, then they are shoved into the execution chamber which turns out to be a tunnel with sunlight in it. All this while starting a war between the cave monsters and the pale humans that destroys the whole underworld civilization.

So, basically, two jerks fall in a hole. Their friends die, but they don’t really care. Then they escape by starting a war. Pretty much the Western Colonial Project in a nutshell.