Sunday, December 20, 2020

I still really enjoyed Tetsuo: The Bullet Man (2009).

Sure, I prefer 16mm or 35mm over the early digital look but I still liked this film a lot. I really wish great Japanese genre directors like Tsukamoto could get crazy 50-150 million dollar budgets for their work. It seems rare for the budgets to increase for sequels in Japan unfortunately. At least, the director Yoshihiro Nishimura appeared to have gotten more money with the sequel to the 2005 film Meatball Machine since the cinematography was much improved on Meatball Machine Kodoku but digital also came a long way in the 12 years between those films. Back to Tsukamoto's work though, Body Hammer also looked to have a much larger budget than the first film so I'm sad that doesn't seem to be the case with number three. I always wish we could get more behind the scenes details on these Japanese films. Joe Bob Briggs was saying that Tarantino tried to help Shinya Tsukamoto get this third film off the ground but it never materialized. After reading interviews with Tsukamoto, it's easy to see why that didn't pan out since American producers wanted Tetsuo to be more understandable to US audiences, they insisted on a famous lead actor, etc. I think it's good his vision wasn't compromised by doing his third Tetsuo in Hollywood. Regardless, the ingenuity, insane passion, and creativity will forever impress me on this belated third entry. He still managed to do a ton of FX and action with some very cool sequences. Of course, I would've preferred grungy 16mm or 35mm but regardless, I very much enjoyed it. Tetsuo is such a unique interesting trilogy. I hope one day we can get a fourth film with more money behind it but only if Tsukamoto can do it his way.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Wicked City (1992) proves to be incredibly strange and oddly entertaining.

I really love the 1987 anime this is based on so I should rightfully hate this live-action version because it pretty much takes the great story of the original and repeatedly runs it over with a freight truck until only a gory mess remains then it sets that on fire until dancing on it with neon tentacles. Yeah, I think that's an accurate summary of how this treats the source material. But... this film is so crazy weird and kinda similar to the anime like a long lost mutated cousin that I rather enjoyed it. I had no idea what it was going to do next. The opening scene is pretty much straight out of the anime minus the nudity (come on guys) then it goes haywire with a demon drug, kung fu, wire fu, non-demon cops that still have powers, a psychic-projected plane (I think?), the aforementioned neon tentacles, etc. It's really all over the place and the English synopsis said something about "Rapters" but in the subtitled version I saw, they never mentioned "Rapters" once so I'm thinking someone took some liberties with the dubbing or someone got confused on the packaging. Confusing is a good word to describe this movie although you can pretty much follow it but why they threw all this extra stuff in a blender with the already-fantastic anime is a good question. Maybe the filmmakers were trying to put their own stamp on it and it is certainly unique so I guess they achieved that but it's very odd. I do like the inventive FX with some of the demons. Unfortunately, I wonder if any great live-action adaptation of an anime can really be done because they all seem to turn out inferior to the source. I did really enjoy Parasyte: Part 1 and Part 2. Those actually had pretty good CGI too, which surprised me even more but even with those, they're certainly not better than the anime. They're just a good adaptation, which is maybe all we can hope for. I guess the same argument can be made for books vs. films but sometimes, I think, films have surpassed the books. Or I have no clue what I'm talking about and there is some 5,000 lb levitating purple blowfish here with a bazooka and nunchucks forcing me to write this. It's definitely the latter, and that about sums up this movie.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Space Amoeba (1970) is charming.

I love seeing these old Toho kaiju movies. Even the lesser ones. I read reviews where a lot of people gave this film grief over how the giant squid Gezora walks on its tentacles as if the FX looked really bad. For 1970, in Japan, I think it's fine. They hid the performer's legs pretty well, and it's a unique way of doing it. I love these men-in-suits giant monster movies. There is a charm CGI can never match. Sure, some FX shots aren't the greatest but I still respect it. Not every kaiju film can be Godzilla (1954). I watched the Japanese giant Frankenstein flicks as well. I really enjoy these older films. It's funny how different some of the titles are in Japanese. Space Amoeba is actually Gezora, Ganimes, and Kamoebas: Decisive Battle! Giant Monsters of the South Seas in Japanese. I guess they thought that was too long or confusing for American audiences. That is a pretty damn long title but I like how they emphasized the three monsters and even try to hype you up.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Gargoyles (1972) is a bit lacking.

But it's a TV movie. From the '70s. And now I'm reminded of Duel, which was fuckin awesome. Well... uhm... yeah, this film pales in comparison as do most. I wanted to see Gargoyles because Stan Winston did the FX. Unfortunately, the flick is rather dull and the titular creatures don't really hold up. Maybe if they were in the shadows more. You do get to see them a lot (too much I think) and there are several varieties. But it won an Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Makeup so what the fuck do I know. The original Frankenstein has much better makeup although that wasn't a full body suit but it was way back in 1931. Jack Pierce deserves a lot more praise. Gargoyles definitely isn't a horror classic, just a so so monster movie. The best gargoyle on the silver screen goes to Tales from the Darkside. I doubt anything will beat that although I'd love to see some more modern gargoyle films with practical FX. As it stands, I can't really recommend Gargoyles (1972).

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Personal Shopper (2016) amazes and impresses.

A unique, incredible film wonderfully executed. Kristen Stewart has really grown on me between this and Underwater. She has great taste in projects, and this French director is phenomenal. No spoilers but I was genuinely surprised a number of times since I knew nothing about this before seeing it (the best way to watch a movie). It's funny how the poster tries to emphasize her sexuality. I guess you have to sell it somehow. At least, it doesn't give anything away. The way this movie deals with its subject matter is quite revealing and very different from other similar films. I can't quite say what that is without ruining it but it's not the typical flashy Hollywood style. It feels far more real and impactful here. I keep thinking about this movie and I love it. I'm getting older haha life sucks but movies rule. I wish there more subtle mature films like this one. The atmosphere in Personal Shopper is truly magnificent. I'm sad I never heard of this until it was recommended to me.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Cruel & Unusual (2014) blew me away.

I really loved this film. The characters were sympathetic, the cinematography was polished and professional, the script was smart and unpredictable, etc. You've seen movies like this before. At least I have but this one still felt new and unique. The other guilty individuals Edgar meets were funny but also endearing and real. Truly excellent acting all around. I don't want to spoil anything but you should absolutely watch it if you can and don't read anything beforehand. I saw it on the Japanese Amazon Prime. It has gotten amazing reviews and it's easy to see why. It's really a brilliant film that is also moving and powerful but fun too. It reminds me of The Shawshank Redemption, which is crazy high praise I know but it was awesome. I also thought of Cube and some other smaller indies I've seen. I won't give anything away but the ending is spectacular. I was so floored after I watched this. I hope the director makes a lot more films. I can't believe this is his first feature. It's unbelievably good.

Friday, June 26, 2020

New Trailer for The Superdeep aka Kola Superdeep aka Freakin Awesome Russian Monster Movie

This is definitely my most anticipated new film. It looks like it has amazing practical FX right up there with John Carpenter's The Thing (don't you dare mention the prequel). That's going off the first leaked teaser that spread like wildfire but was removed since it apparently wasn't official. Damn, it was badass though. This new trailer is ok (sorry it's all in Russian but I'm desperate for any new footage). Check it out below. Update: changed to English trailer.

But the truly amazing first teaser can be found here (thank you Wicked Thrilling Freaks for keeping it online!). I recommend you watch that to see why everyone is so excited. According to the latest from Variety, XYZ Films and Pulsar Content are teaming up for international distribution with a special sales reel being shown at the visual edition of Cannes. Wish we could see that. Hard to believe this was made for only $4 million (The Thing was made for $10 million 38 years ago in 1982). Anyway, some images from the first teaser are below.

Can't fuckin wait!

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Rawhead Rex (1986) is... interesting.

Good, bad, ugly. I love all monster movies. Yes, Rawhead Rex definitely falls on the lower end of that spectrum but it's very easy to watch. I think a lot of that comes down to Clive Barker and the fact that there was so much more to the story that he wrote but plenty got lost on the way to the big screen. The biggest problem, of course, would be the monster itself specifically its face. It just doesn't look that good although its red eyes are great and it has its moments but the FX don't quite work. They do show the monster quite a bit and the story keeps chugging along, which saves it from boring mediocrity. You also get some surprising kills so I would give the director some credit. It's nowhere near Hellraiser but it's fun to watch, and it has some cool sequences. This could definitely benefit from a remake although films like this will never get one but now I'd like to see the director's earlier Clive Barker film Underworld (1985) aka Transmutations.

Monday, May 25, 2020

The Perils of Filmmaking in Tokyo

Yes, that idiot in the photo is me. So how is Tokyo different from a big city in the US? Some things you just can't get here. Well, you can order them from overseas but shipping is gonna cost you. Good luck finding FX stuff. Those 8 TB external hard drives you need so much. $25 more a piece for the same thing. Hey, $25 isn't that much? The problem is all those little price hikes add up. And pretty much everything is more expensive. 100 Yen stores (like our good ole $1 shops) do really help though and the quality seems better in Japan at those stores.

But if you're like me, you have to bring back a bunch of gear on the plane. Then depending on where you're filming (and whether you're doing an FX heavy movie or not), you might need a storage unit because space is extremely hard to come by in Tokyo.

Shooting outside is very tricky too. You better be ok with people in the background because an empty street is hard to find and usually once you find one, it doesn't stay that way for long so you have to wait (particularly difficult on long streets). Or you can try to remove unwanted cars and people in post (not recommended). Random pedestrians coming and going can create continuity nightmares unless you're very careful with your shots. But Tokyo is of course an extremely cool and unique shooting location so I'd say it's worth it. The noise from trains, cars, bikes, etc. is another hassle but that's a big city for you (heck, even in the woods of rural Missouri I was surprised how many planes and distant cars you could hear).

I don't think actors are too hard to find with such a large population especially if you're filming inside Tokyo. One invaluable tool to help you would be Cinema Planners. That website is amazing and completely free to use. You might need someone to help you post in Japanese or you can try your hand with Google Translate (risky) but it's a phenomenal resource. Meetups can also be good too for connecting with actors and crew.

So is it more difficult filming in a foreign country vs. your own? Unequivocally, I think that answer is yes. The language barrier really can't be underestimated since it can become an obstacle in so many ways: the script, finding people, communicating with them (not just on set but messaging prior to get them there and make sure they have what they need), etc. Misunderstandings are inevitable. You probably also don't want to just take an idea imagined in one country and throw it into another since cultural differences could make it irrelevant or silly (at the very least, some revisions might be advised). You need to know the place and the culture where you're shooting unless the film is about not knowing and being an outsider (even then you don't want to incorrectly portray the culture and place where you're shooting so research is essential and obviously you should respect both).

Tokyo is an extremely interesting, amazing city. One of my dreams was to make a movie here so I feel very fortunate to have such an opportunity. Any time you create a film you have to expect it to be difficult. Problem solving is like 99% of filmmaking but it's also incredibly fun and exhilarating. After all, the more you roll with the punches, the better you get at it and the more you learn.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Mon Mon Mon Monsters (2017) is a wicked great movie.

The bullying is hard for me to get through but the payoff is awesome. That last scene... wow, and the scene before that, wow. I'm trying to avoid spoilers so just watch it. I love it when a film makes you care for the monsters. This does that in spades (what a weird expression). And I don't think I ever saw a Taiwanese horror movie before. Way to go guys. You knocked it out of the park (trying to hit my idiom quota for the day... let's put some more cliches in here). We've seen stories like this before but not exactly. The execution is what makes all the difference. The tiny details and the big swings at the end. It's really amazing, and I still feel bad for what happened in this film. That's a great movie. Now they really need a better poster for this thing. Seriously. I saw a badass Blu-ray cover though. A monster and bubble gum. Such a brilliant scene. This film better get some more love or I'm gonna cry. Thank you, Shudder.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Bliss (2019) fuckin rules.

I really love this flick. So gory and captivating with outstanding performances especially Dora Madison. You got to shove this into your eyeholes right now. I'm so overjoyed I got Shudder (Joe Bob Briggs!!!) but I need to buy the Blu-ray. The lighting and cinematography are incredible but the story is what immediately pulls you in. And the lead actress. She really deserves so much credit. It isn't an easy role at all but she kills it. I hope she keeps working with this director. She looks badass in VFW too. They make a great team like Carpenter and Russell. I wish they would do a whole film about her character in VFW. I think a lot of actresses would shy away from a role like this but she totally embraces it and they take it so far. Even I was surprised but it is just outstanding. Insanely good practical FX (so much blood) and I love where the story went. I didn't expect that but it makes perfect sense and adds another layer.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Happy Death Day 2U (2019) is a surprisingly good sequel.

I don't think there has ever been a sequel to a time-loop movie until now. Groundhog Day and Edge of Tomorrow are only one-offs although I hope Live.Die.Repeat. or whatever the heck you call it (I prefer All You Need is Kill) gets a number two but this sub-genre of "repeat" movies (sorry I guess my first try was a better descriptor) really is incredible so far. I saw an indie that also did the same gimmick. Unfortunately, it wasn't as good as these Hollywood movies (it had a tiny budget in comparison) but it did have a stellar explanation for why and it was still pretty darn cool. Shanda's River or Evil River is the title of that one (Italian indie horror!). Anyway, I was shocked how well they did with this sequel. The first film was excellent but I was quite curious what they would do with a sequel since it's very much uncharted territory. Like all good sequels, they kind of shift the genre too into more sci-fi comedy but it works brilliantly. Not scary really but great nonetheless.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Stay (2018) is an excellent indie film.

And I mean indie as a compliment. Nothing is more amazing than finding a real indie that kicks ass. Making a movie is insanely difficult, and true indies (if you have Brad Pitt, a million dollars, or Fox Searchlight, that would be Hollywood masquerading as an "indie") require years of sacrifice, pain, and dedication. So often personally financed at great risk by the filmmakers themselves, these are passion projects. Even putting all that aside, Stay is still an awesome film with characters you can care about, relate to, sympathize with, and understand. It is a gripping story about an addict struggling to recover and finding romance along the way. I love how when we first meet Ryu, you wouldn't know he is the main character. Working at a fish market rearranging trash, he blends right in like a real person just doing their job and the way you see shots before that of other real people around him working sells that. Little details make all the difference. These actors do such a fantastic job you really believe in them. They have a chemistry that is undeniable. You get to see so much of Tokyo too and not the common touristy areas but more so, the real life here. The score is great as well. After four long years, fifteen festivals, and six awards (yes, I stole that from their website), the film has finally come out on Amazon Prime so please support it here. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. It's not horror but it's great.

Monday, January 27, 2020

All hail the return of Richard Stanley!

Color Out of Space (2019) is pure Lovecraft bliss. Not only do you get great creepy moments where you can't quite see what's lurking in front of our eyes, you're also treated to full-on The Thing monsters and Cronenberg body horror. It's truly a beautiful sight to behold. No complaints from me. I hope Stanley gets to do more adaptations and soon. This is definitely a film I can rewatch and I can't wait to check out the special features. Can't believe Hardware and Dust Devil were so long ago. Really a shame what happened with The Island of Dr. Moreau. If there's any justice in the universe, he'll get to finally make his version of that someday. I'm just so glad I finally got to see this movie. It was everything I hoped for and more. I was afraid they would skimp on the monsters and transformations, etc. but hell no, they deliver, and Cage is fantastic. Between this and Mandy, he's really knocking them out of the park.