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Cartoon Review: Lost and Found Nov. 21st, 2014 @ 01:23 pm
Lost and Found

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Lost and Found (2008/ Dir. Philip Hunt/ Entertainment One and Studio Aka)
Here is the short version of this review: Go buy this, it’s excellent.

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My Horror Movie Quandary Sep. 21st, 2014 @ 06:45 am
As we close in on October, it becomes that time of year to pull out all the old horror movies and get involved in Scary Movie Month. This is where I face my annual challenge. See, a lot of people watch scary movies to get scared... of movies. Which is something I don’t really understand. Not the desire, I’ve been in and around the BDSM community long enough to understand pleasure gained from discomfort, so I get that part. No I just don’t get the being scared part.

You see, I have never been scared by a movie. I’m not sure I’ve ever really been scared of anything, but certainly not a movie. I have been disturbed, or been shown things I don’t necessarily want to see, but never actually scared. It just never happens, nothing ever gets to me that way. I’m also bad company in a haunted house because I tend to look at the ghouls as they come out of the walls and judge them on their make-up choices. I know I’m perfectly safe, this is all for entertainment, and even if someone gets stupid I know I’m at least six times meaner than a sporadically employed actor is prepared to deal with on an average Tuesday night.

I’m not particularly fussed when safety is questionable either. I’m wary, because the person who is unaware of their surroundings is a victim waiting to happen, but I’m never afraid. Partially, again, I’m not the sort of person who just walks into an unknown alley and even if I have to for whatever reason I know that I’m at least four times meaner than most muggers are prepared to deal with on an average Sunday night.

This issue became such an issue for me, that I eventually had to come up with a formula so I could separate fantasy from horror. I don’t think many people would argue that fantasy and horror share a common wall, and sometimes the smells from one can seep into the room of the other. In trying to decide where to place things, or how other people might place them, I eventually came up with this idea.

If the powers of good can easily and readily assist the hero, then it’s fantasy. If the powers of good are helpless, or non-existent, then it’s horror. Gandalf can always show up on the back of an eagle, but The Turtle cannot help you. Now with something like the Elric series, you simply adjust your definition of “Good” to mean “On Elric’s side” and you’ve more or less got the idea. It’s not perfect, because by that logic Labyrinth is a horror movie, but if there weren’t exceptions, how else would we prove the rules?

This is actually a huge reason why I’m sort of uninterested in large swaths of horror. Gore flicks tend to bore the shit out of me. Oh, you’ve got sprays of blood? Bitch, I watch samurai movies, come back when it’s a geyser. You’ve got arms and legs hacked off? Second verse, same as the first! Pig parts loaded into a latex body mold don’t do much for me either. Any movie that relies on guts and gore over story or invention is going to bore me rigid.

I look at all horror as I would any fantasy or thriller. I get the same feeling watching Saw as I do watching Kiss the Girls, a deep and profound sense of loss for Carey Elwes ability to act. Seriously, he is TERRIBLE in both of those movies. What the hell happened? He was almost okay in Cat’s Meow. Seriously. But then, that movie had Eddie Izzard pretending to be Charlie Chaplin and if ever an actor was miscast...

What was I saying?

This is why I often can be found at the fun said of the horror aisle, with my copy of Creepshow and Corman’s Poe Cycle. If I go in for a serious horror movie I at least go for the really good ones. I need something interesting to watch, a story that can unfold, not just a treasure chest of jump scares and people screaming. The Blair Witch Project for example, I must have turned off four or five times while it ran on cable because it just didn’t work for me in the slightest. Watching annoying people bicker might be a horror movie to you, for me it’s Thanksgiving. Actually, I’ll admit on that on that it’s the found footage thing. Found footage can eat a dick. I mean, if I’m going to complain about bickering, what else is Night of the Living Dead, other than watching people bicker? Watching interesting people bicker about interesting things other than sticks tied up with string and where did the map go, comes the answer.

I know most of us here are grown ups, and most people aren’t really scared when they go to see a scary movie, but I have heard a fair amount of “these used to scare me and I watched them to conquer them and became them and now I’m not scared anymore.” and I hear a good deal of “these are literal fears, they’re metaphorical.” The example being no one is really afraid of the wolfman (or rather becoming the wolfman), they’re afraid of becoming something they can’t control. No one fears Pinhead, the cenobites just represent people who are more into BDSM than you are, and they want to show you all the fun. Only, somehow that’s supposed to be scary? I think? Help me out on this. Are the cenobites scary, sexy, or a monastic tradition that stresses community life? Even then though, I’m not particularly fussed by these things, so I don’t get the same effect. Not even the idea of kinky sexy monks can get my heart racing.

So in conclusion I would just like to say that Falco deserved way better than he got from the world.

So Why These Movies? Aug. 8th, 2014 @ 07:43 pm
So Why These Movies?


I was depressed the last two weeks or so, and I watched some movies. We’re not talking basic depression, we’re talking Allie Brosh depression. Stupid, pointless, meaningless, reasonless depression. You just sit there, fighting the urge to cry with every fiber of your being because that seems important somehow. I can’t say that everyone else has my reactions, but I can say that there were a few movies I watched and that helped. Not solved the issue, not cheered me up, but helped ease the stupid, pointless, random pain. I want to share with you the movies I watched, and the reasons I picked them...


Interview With The Vampire
A movie that is full of depression themes. Louis is clinically depressed, that cannot be denied with any truth. However, there is more to it than that. Louis is beautiful, and people want to have him be with them. The problem is, they want him to be as they want him, with little regard for how he feels about anything. He’s basically expected to just follow along passively and not get people down with all his complicated feelings and longings and being depressed and stuff.

I can identify with Louis, so I like the story a little more than some of the other people I know. Lestat is not a villain because he’s evil, he’s the villain because he’s selfish and stupid. He selfishly complains about Louis’s depression, and stupidly does stupid things to try and “fix” the unfixable. He tries grand gestures and then can’t understand why that doesn’t make everything all better.

This isn’t about “feeling better” or “cheering up” or even “not curling up under my desk and sobbing” at all. It’s about being able to have a moment where I can say “Yes, someone else has felt the way I do and they put it on screen.”

Speaking of which...

The Crow
Say what you like about Detroit not being as vast, as tall or as swank as the city depicted in the movie, it gets something right. If you are a man, living with issues, the patriarchal system has left you with only a few options. You are allowed to suck it up and be stoic, or you are allowed to be angry and take your rage out on deserving targets. I’m not sure there is another movie where those two sides are as well represented as The Crow.

The movie does manage to get to the heart of something else though. The stoicism falls away in a few scenes (Particularly the apartment scene with the ever underappreciated Ernie Hudson) and you can just see the utter and complete sadness. You watch the pain on Brandon Lee’s face, you can see him reaching down to something and bringing it to the surface in a very honest and personal way. It’s a movie that manages to say something, and be something, that I’m not sure everyone who was making the movie was aware of. They snuck it past the guards and gave us something we can hold onto. Here is a movie that understands that you feel trapped, that you haven’t really been given the equipment or the training to deal with this thing that has been laid on you. It also says it’s okay to explode and let all that rage out, which isn’t healthy, but I wouldn’t have been able to hear an alternate message at the time anyway.

Guardians of the Galaxy
An understanding of a different kind. Misfits have feelings, it’s okay to have feelings, even Rocket can have feelings. I’ve seen this movie twice this week, and I’m still processing some of it, but I haven’t been to see a movie a second time in the theater since Sin City and the last one before that was Schindler’s List. Everything wrong with so many comic book movies is addressed here, and Rocket says something that has been sticking with me.

Drax: All the anger, all the rage, it was just to cover up my loss.
Rocket: Oh boo-hoo. Everyone has dead people, that’s no excuse to make everyone else dead though.
I feel like that’s a one-line argument against Grimdark right there.

The movie surprised me by being a story that had some depth and a lot of feeling. I was expecting a fun, silly movie, what I got were characters I genuinely cared about developing in ways that made me feel better. Consider for a moment, that this is a movie where a raccoon cradles a stick and sobs. Now, consider that instead of being absurd, I’m sitting there going “Yeah. *sniff* You let it out Rocket. *sob* You cry if you gotta cry. *weeps* It's okay.” Again, I find something I can identify with in this movie.

Also, I’m going to be hard pressed to find something that fills me with as much joy as watching little mini-Groot dancing to The Jackson 5.


I feel like this list needs more on it, but these are really the only three movies I watched. I mean, I’ve had trouble sleeping lately and letting MST3K run in the background helps, but I can’t call that watching. I could end this by saying something like “What I can say is that a big part of the reason I think we like the movies we like is being able to identify with someone in the story. Or at least know that someone behind the scenes understands us.” but it feels silly to say something so obvious. Problem is, I don’t know how obvious that is and as depression makes you think everything you say is stupid anyway... it becomes kind of a problem.

Sad little film fest... Mar. 16th, 2014 @ 12:23 am
I realized something. I only ever seen to watch Koyaanisqatsi and Silent Running when I'm alone, and it's like... midnight. And then it occurred to me that Goyokin fits that pattern as well. And The Dark Corner and Under The Cherry Moon too. And now I want to watch them all, in that order, and have the weirdest One-Man Film Fest in history. This is why I can't be left alone unsupervised.

So I watched all of Zatoichi... Feb. 5th, 2014 @ 12:21 am
I don’t have any children, I have cats. Specifically, I have one cat that is MY cat. This is going somewhere. So at Christmas, I decided to allow my cat to get me a nice present. She decided to get me the Zatoichi Boxset from The Criterion Collection. See, I don’t have kids, so Syd can’t get some something and put their names on it. I’ve got to go on Amazon for the cat, and find something she would think I would like, and buy it for her. Cats, as you may have heard, are lazy creatures. So that’s how I came to own most of the Zatoichi movies, I already owned recent films under the brand name (more on that later) and I acquired the latest and the one film Criterion didn’t put in their boxset (again, later) so I could have them all. I then decided to watch all of them during January. I watched all the original movies during January, but life got in the way for the last three films. I watched them during the first few days of February.

So what it is?
The Zatoichi movies are an action series that spanned both movies and TV. There are 25 movies in the original set of films (which were made in only 11 years) and then it went to TV for four seasons. Then, in 1989, one more movie came along. All of these stared Shintaro Katsu in the title role (all the movies had the name Zatoichi in the title) which means it’s really not the James Bond of Japan, since those losers drop out after four or five movies. Even Dr Who tends to get a new guy to be its lead after three seasons.

Who Is This Guy?
The main character is a blind masseur, who wanders from place to place, getting in adventures. It’s okay that he’s blind though, because he has a cane with a sword in it and Mad Skillz (with a Z damnit) that even Daredevil would find impressive. He’s also part of the yakuza, even though he’s not part of any particular group. Yakuza have a different relationship to mainstream culture in Japan than The Mafia have in America, evidently. Zatoichi is very specific about how things should be done, and has no time for any yakuza boss who works with a corrupt official or victimizes people who aren’t asking for it. He’s got no problem with gamblers and even tolerates thugs, but if they break The Rules, then they are toast. Thing is, he’s not very high ranking, the Zato part of the name indicates that he’s the lowest rank of masseurs. He’s supposed to be just one step above a beggar, he’s the lowest rank of the lowest legal profession.

What Surprised Me
What I found most surprising is that the series never started to feel stale. There was only one movie in the original 25 that I didn’t like and that was Zatoichi Meets he One-Armed Swordsman. Every other movie was great, and I really enjoyed each and every one of them. I was also a little surprised at the fact that it wasn’t the same thing over and over again. Certain themes cropped up, but there are repeated themes just within the Samurai movie genre as a whole. That a few things seem to come up over and over again wasn’t a failing of the movies, so much as the beat of their rhythm. That there were regular badasses for Ichi to fight, or that Ichi would guess the dice by the sound they made was just part of the movies.

The thing is, the stories at the heart of the movies was always something a little different, and they were actually developed. A local boss would have a scam, and he would have reasons for the scam, and the people who would be helped and hurt are generally shown and fleshed out within the movie. It would have been very easy for this series to get lazy, but I never felt like it did. I always felt like the movies had fully realized stories and characters that you could actually care about. And at the heart of the whole thing is a fantastic actor playing a really captivating role. Katsu is sort of amazing as Zatoichi, and he’s incredibly fast. There are several action scenes I had to watch over to really catch everything.

I was also taken aback at how modern the movies felt. They’re shot with a style that was less prevalent then, but is more so now. This was kind of a trendsetting series though, so it’s easy to see how this might be the case.


Thoughts
The first 25 come in such quick succession that it was like watching a TV show (which the series later became) but one where a little more time and money was lavished than the average show. It’s a really excellent series, and very populist. The poor people, the exploited masses, these are the heroes, while the rich are corrupt bastards. Ichi is a tough guy, and a sweetheart, so he was adored by yakuza and grandmothers alike. You can see how the series was as popular as it was, and why it gave Katsu the power it did.

The last movie (the 26th) came some 16 years after the previous film, and is so 80s it kind of hurts. The movie itself it fine, even if it comes off as Zatoichi’s greatest hits. The music is super 80s pop though, as is much of the rest of the movies. I liked it though, and it’s got no shame in standing next to its brothers.

Now, in 2003 Kitano Takeshi made a new movie, with himself in the title role. He’s often the star of movies he directs, so there was nothing odd there. And Katsu directed two of the original Zatoichi movies, so that’s okay. The movie was weird though, because it was very much a Kitano Takeshi movie and those two styles don’t naturally suggest each other. Also, while paying tribute to the originals, they are also sort of a parody as well. Several things are made jokes, while other things are followed along exactly as they should be. It was sort of the perfect mix in a world that grasped that kind of humor.

In 2008 a movie with a woman starring as Ichi (the blind swordswoman). This movie played the whole thing far more seriously, and had a plot that followed Ichi more than it examined the bad guys. The movie was different than any of the Zatoichi movies, but I felt like that was in a good way. It was inspired by the original, but it wasn’t a slave to it. It was also longer than any of the others. Most the Zatoichi movies clock in at under 90 minutes, this one went a full two hours.

Finally, at the end (and I’m exhausted by the way) come 2010s Zatoichi: The Last. To be honest, less said about that the better

The Greats Recap Dec. 18th, 2013 @ 03:19 pm
Great Series

Horror

Fantasy

Historical Movies

Crime Pictures

Sci-Fi

Westerns, Samurai & Kung-fu

TV Review: Christmas Eve on Sesame Street Dec. 1st, 2013 @ 12:57 pm
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Christmas Eve on Sesame Street (1978/ Children's Television Workshop/ Dir. Jon Stone)




Friends, Interneters, Countrymen? Look, lend me your eyes okay? I come not to bury Big Bird, but to praise him. The good men do, may sometimes live after then, while what little evils the commited may be interred with their bones. So let it be with Big Bird. Many hath told you Henson was ambitious? If it were so, it was a magnificent joy; and Henson hath answer'd it. You all did love him once,--not without cause: what cause withholds you, then, to mourn for him? O judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason!--Bear with me; my heart is in the coffin there with Henson, and I must pause till it come back to me.

...


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The “Why Did You Do That” Moment Nov. 20th, 2013 @ 01:50 pm
I’ve got a thing about movies, and stories in general. I like things to be logically consistent. I don’t need everything to follow real world rules for everything, but I need a touch of verisimilitude to run through the tale. It’s okay for Batman to run around with a cartoon bomb over his head and have to stop for a moment and say “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb!” because it follows the rules the world has set. Batman doesn’t want to endanger anyone else, or even risk endangering them, so he runs away from anyone walking towards him when he tries to dispose of the explosive. Yes, to humorous results, but the ’66 Batman was a comedy after all. There is a consistent through line and I don’t find myself asking why he’s acting the way he is.

That’s one of the things that will always pull me right out of a movie, if the actions of someone make no damn sense. If I find myself asking “Why did you do that?” or “Why would anyone ever do that? Like, ever?” then I am pulled out of the movie and my enjoyment tends to suffer. I can get to a point where I’ll just start shouting my questions at the screen, which annoys some people because they’re enjoying the movie and annoys others because they hadn’t seen the problem until I mention it. I’ve ruined Batman Begins for at least two people I know because I pointed out all the problems I had with the movie and now when they try and watch it, all those problems leap out at them. For all Batman Begins did right, it’s loaded with “Why did you do that?” moments and they piled up so high it killed any enjoyment I had from the movie.

This can become a real problem for something that moves slowly, like Game of Thrones, where I’ve been informed that some of my “How does that work?” questions are answered. The problem is those problems are going to be addressed in book/season 4. Sadly, I am not willing to wait the 5 years it’s going to take HBO to get to that point. One assumes it will take as long to get to their 4th season as they did with Deadwood and The Sopranos.

Now there are ways around this issue. One of them is through simple lamp shading. In Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Tom Cruise is trapped in a car that’s upside down in a river with guys shooting machine guns at him for reasons too complicated to go into here. In order to escape, he grabs a corpse, lights a road flare and sticks it in the sleeve of the dead man, shoving him down river. The soldiers shooting see the light of the red flare and start shooting at it allowing Cruise and Jeremy Renner to escape. Now, watching this I was saying to myself “How the hell does that work?” and about three seconds later, Jeremy Renner turns to Tom Cruise and in the first lines anyone has spoken since the flare incident says “How the did that work?” which leads to a conversation of all the questions someone might ask and Tom Cruise blowing it off saying he played a hunch that it might attract their attention long enough for them to get away. I laughed at the end of that scene because it was just after I had asked those questions that the movie addressed it. Ghost Protocol was great for that by the way, a smart movie that didn’t have to devolve into stupid exposition and plot movement based on questionable logic.

The other way is to deal with the issue simply and easily by having something not work and having the character say something like “Well, that didn’t work” or “Seemed like a good idea at the time.” which isn’t perfect in all situations, but it can help. Sometimes, it’s interesting mistakes made in the heat of the moment that can drive a story towards an unexpected conclusion. Just so long as it makes sense that it’s a heat of the moment mistake, or a logical idea, or something that could possibly be planned. Bat-Shark Repellent only works in a comedy where the joke is “Yeah, right, he has Bat-Shark Repellent in the helicopter for just such an occasion.” Anywhere else, and you’re left asking “Am I really supposed to believe that Q knew damn well Bond would need an inflating jacket or a buzz-saw wristwatch?” Bond is rarely questioned as all the gadgets get used and as such lead to the answer “Well, he needed them.” Except we do question it later, at least in some small way.

Not everyone notices these things, some people never see the problems I do until I point them out. If that helps them enjoy a movie/book more, I shouldn’t complain, but sometimes it really bugs me. I keep wanting to demand why they didn’t notice the problem, why it doesn’t affect their enjoyment, how can they just let so much crap slide. Of course, the answer is that people are bothered by different things at different times. Lots of people don’t get how I can enjoy the Batman TV show, particularly given its incredible flaws in logic. I’ll only state that A) The flaws in logic are sometimes the point of the joke and B) Those do bug me, but I forgive a joke that fails when there are henchmen doing Brooklyn accents so badly that you wonder if they actually know that Brooklyn is a real place and not some made up shit like Narnia or Belgium.

An idea Apr. 23rd, 2013 @ 04:32 pm
I had an idea this morning, that I should have a film festival of movies with years in the title, silly idea, but I had it. This is what I would be watching, but I have to get the movies first.

1492: Conquest of Paradise

1900

1911

Gold Diggers of 1933

Gold Diggers of 1935

Gold Diggers of 1937

1941

Back to 1942

1984

2001: A Space Odyssey

2010: The Year We Make Contact

2012

2046

Movie Review: Goyokin Apr. 6th, 2013 @ 03:41 pm
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Goyokin 1969/ Toho/ Dir. Hideo Gosha


For reasons of my own, I was watching some heist movies. I like a good heist flick, and there aren't enough of them. There are lots of heist flicks, but only a few good ones. I had gone through the usual line-up of movies, and after I had exhausted my supply I still felt the need to go once more into the heist film vault. So what I did was examine what you need for a good heist movie. That led me to this Japanese samurai movie set in the 1800s. As opposed to a French samurai movie set in the 1460s I guess? Well, some samurai movies are set during the 1600s, that seems to be the two times we generally get. During the early days of the Tokugawa shogunate or just before the Meiji Restoration, which is the end of the Tokugawa shogunate. Soooo, during the Tokugawa shogunate. You know what? Forget this part! I've already said shogunate way too many times.

Why do I call this a heist movie and not a samurai movie?Collapse )
Soundtrack: Billy Joel - Tell Her About It
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