Saturday, August 30, 2014

Updated Review #5: Yo-Yo Girl Cop

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers and is the best review ever!

Plot Summary: A troubled girl is coerced into working for a clandestine agency in order to stop a series of mysterious bombings.

Review: What better way to close out the month than with one of my favorite movies of all time, "Yo-Yo Girl Cop." You're probably thinking, "Really, dude, this again?!" Yes, really! It stars my goddess, Rika Ishikawa, and an entire slew of gorgeous could I not love it? I mean, just look at the movie poster for god's sake! They had me at konichiwa. I'm going to do things a little different than usual though as this will probably be my most visual review I'll ever do. I mean, come on, we need some visual cues to understand the glory of this film after all.

First off, let's get a few technical details out of the way. This is another one of the films to feature ladies from the "Hello! Project" which is the all girl, idol division of a company called "Up-Front Agency." If it sounds like you've heard this all before from me, it's because you have; I've covered a few movies similarly to this...and, well, I've already covered this movie once. Anyway, the main character, Saki Asamiya, is played by Aya Matsuura. One of the main villains, and my dear goddess, Reika, is played by Rika. There are two bullied girls, Tae and Kotomi, which are played by Yui Okada and Erika Miyoshi respectively. Essentially, Aya is a solo singer for the most part, and Rika was a member of the legendary group, Morning Musume, while also forming a trio group, V-u-den, with Yui and Erika. Hopefully that's not too much all at once. The other thing worth noting is that this film is based on the "Sukeban Deka" franchise. While I have not watched the other incarnations, this movie is meant to be, at the very least, a continuation of the original TV show. The character, Saki Asamiya, is actually a code name that is picked up by whoever fills the role. As it turns out, this newest version is meant to be the daughter of the first Saki Asamiya, who is played by the original actress, Yuki Saito. Another cast member, who plays the chief here, also returns, so I thought this was a nice connection rather than a flat out reboot.

Aya as Saki:

V-u-den from, what I feel was, their best music video. Erika on the left, Rika in the middle, and Yui on the right.

As you might recall from my original review, this movie is soooooo fucking corny, but in the best of ways. Sure, it's no "The Machine Girl" in the over the top department, but it's entertaining nonetheless. The film actually begins with another idol singer getting blown up. It would appear she was also a member of this secret group--working within the police I guess--that calls themselves special K or something. The cereal? Hell if I know. This leads us to the introduction of Saki after she has been captured by the police in the USA and deported back to Japan. I have to say, they have some fat chick from the CIA, and I think she's speaking English deliberately slow to space out the subtitles or something; way to represent USA, hun! Don't ask me how Saki is so tough, but she's supposed to be like an incredible martial artist or whatever. I guess it was all from living on the mean streets of New York. Right. I do like that the very first thing Saki says in the movie is "fuck." Well, I guess if you come to the USA you might as well learn the curse words, right? After a failed escape attempt, an agent working for special K, named Kira, tells Saki that she must help them with this bombing case and in exchange they will help her mom get out of a prison sentence in the USA for alleged spying. Of course Saki goes along with this despite having mommy issues.

Even though Saki was covered in bruises, beat to hell, and even bleeding from one eye, the next day she is back to looking like a movie star. I will hand it to Ms. Matsuura though, she did perform her own stunts in the film so maybe she is a true badass. Special K gives Saki a special schoolgirl outfit (now we're talking!) and the weapon of all secret agents: a fucking yo-yo. Well, I suppose it is technically better than nothing, but there is that saying about bringing a knife to a gunfight--what do we say to someone who brings a yo-yo to a gunfight? Of course Saki has to assert her prowess the moment she shows up by doing cliched Japanese tough-guy stuff. It's at this time that we see Tae is bullied by the classmates and Saki is confronted by Reika who is the popular girl of the school. Once Saki realizes how brutally Tae is bullied by Reika and her flunkies, she decides to beat up a number of Reika's goons to make a point.

I wish you had your natural hair color though my dear Rika.

Easy ladies, there's enough of me for both of you!

In an effort to uncover the mystery surrounding the bombings, Saki talks to Tae, but she doesn't spill the beans just yet. It doesn't matter, because Saki comes across two dorks trying to blow themselves up. This leads Saki on a pursuit around town and to a mall where she must stop the one dork from blowing everyone up. This is where we see Saki has not mastered her yo-yo abilities and actually knocks herself out momentarily. This sheer buffoonery brings the dork to his senses and he decides not to blow himself up anymore. Later on, special K cereal interrogates the dork and they realize he was given parts for the bomb by some mysterious "Romeo" character. It would appear this Romeo guy also captured the second dork that had a bomb as Romeo is being aided by a gang of flunkies.

Saki slowly starts to gain an appreciation for Kira who acts somewhat like a father-figure to her. While riding a bus home--to what home, I don't know--Saki is confronted by the Romeo bitch who tries to flirt lamely. I can't believe this shit works. Then we see Romeo's pathetic operation of flunkies who are arming themselves up with guns. They try to make the flunkies feel distinct, but none of them really do anything in the movie besides get their asses kicked. Then we see Reika nearby Romeo's operation as she has called in police backup to bust the criminals...or so it would seem. Oh noooess, my dear Rika is a villain! The cops are killed as the execution is broadcast. To my great annoyance, they make my beloved Rika also like this Romeo bitch boy. This is simply unacceptable.

Look at that angel face:

Saki realizes that this gang of losers wants kids to blow themselves up for a specific reason and warns that they will come to reclaim the other dork that had a bomb...which they do. This part is painfully stupid, because one guy could have killed Saki but chooses not to. Then literally seconds later they are trying to shoot her. Ugh. Good lord. There are contrivances and then there are fucking contrivances! The next day, Saki looks for Tae, but she's off playing hard to get and text-tag with Saki. Tae discloses that she and her friend, Kotomi, were the original Romeo and Juliet for a website that tried to help bullied kids since the two of them were tired of the bullying. But, over time, Kotomi's mind was warped by a mysterious man, whom she had a crush on, and he inspired her to blow herself up. Magically, Kotomi survived the explosion with all her movie star looks intact. Some time later, Tae realized their website had been hijacked by a gang calling themselves "Enola Gay" and featuring a new Romeo and Juliet who had a dangerous message. Considering how lighthearted the action in this movie has been, all this bullying, cutting, suicide bombing, and Enola Gay are kind of fucked up themes to tackle; the Enola Gay was the plane that dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima. Saki and Tae visit Kotomi at the hospital where Saki realizes the guy that gave Kotomi the bomb is more than likely the same guy that Saki likes. Aaarrrrggghhh! So this douchbag, bitch boy won over Rika, Erika, AND Aya? Oh no...OH HELL NO!

What's that...give you my heart? Oh Aya...what would Rika think?

Saki bonds with Kira a bit as she learns his history with her mom. Despite saying that Saki's father was some random dude, they give the implication that Kira is probably Saki's dad. He cares about Saki for no particular reason, he has a photo of her as a baby that he hides when Saki shows up, he has Saki's mom's original yo-yo, and Saki's mom seems to care deeply about Kira. Maybe I'm reading in too much or they had hoped to have a sequel touch on it, but it's ambiguous as of now. Moving along, Saki confronts that dumb bitch boy as she realizes he is the mastermind of all these shenanigans as well as being the same guy that tricked Kotomi. Saki ends up getting captured followed by Tae being tricked by the bitch boy into trying to blow herself up the next morning at school. Of course Saki breaks free and gets to the school to try and stop the bad guys; Tae also saw through the trick and tried to stop the bombing. While Saki fights some flunkies, Reika captures Tae as this loser gang reveals their grand scheme: to rob a bank. Oh for fuck's sake. You did not just pull a "Die Hard?!" So the point of all this bullshit was to get the police so distracted by shenanigans that they would be unable to stop these idiots from robbing a little ol' bank. Instead of all the police teaming up to stop this gang and end the ridiculous scheme, they simply allow Saki to take on the entire legion of flunkies by herself. Psh that's a good one. It's okay though, they gave her some kind of bulletproof bodysuit, and I'm loving it!

Since Reika couldn't let Saki steal the show, she is also decked out in a new, sexy outfit as the two come face to face for a yo-yo showdown. To Ms. Ishikawa's credit, she did learn to use a yo-yo in reality, but most of the final battle scenes are CGI. I know it is probably hard to imagine making yo-yo fighting feel epic, but I think they pulled it off well enough. Looked damn sexy that's for sure! Stereotypically, Reika is kicking Saki's sweet ass all over the place before a last minute move finishes my precious Reika off by dropping a bunch of pipes on her. Hey, she could have survived!

After beating Reika, Saki comes across the gang of flunkies as Romeo gives her three minutes to beat his minions or else the two dorks from earlier and Tae will be blown up. Despite being shot like a hundred times, Saki manages to beat or kill all the flunkies until only Romeo is left who busts out a sword; they just had to add that extra layer of cheesiness. As you may easily guess, Saki defeats the bitch boy and stops the bombs from going off. Thankfully for me and the audience, the bitch boy wired himself with a bomb that blows up and takes him to hell with his stupid troll-doll-looking hair. Though, why did he give off a shock wave? I see someone went to the Lucas school of explosions. With everything wrapped up, Saki magically heals again to regain those movie star looks as she checks on her mom who had the charges against her dropped. Kira offers Saki the chance to continue being a secret agent which she accepts. The film then ends with Saki hanging out with Tae and Kotomi who seem to be dealing with these traumatic events quite easily. Well, until next time...which will more than likely never happen since this movie is already 8 years old. Damn it!

What can I say? This movie is ridiculous through and through, but I can't help but love it. I know it's corny, the effects are subpar, the acting is flimsy, it needed more action, and the story is farfetched and stupid. None of these things deter me however. The ladies are too beautiful, there is a certain charm to everything, and it's simply a fun little movie. I don't think I can necessarily recommend it for everyone, but I think you will know ahead of time if this is going to be a movie for you. Of course it has my goddess Rika, so it was a must-see for me, but I still believe there is enough so-bad-it's-good going on that it may appeal to more audiences than you'd expect. I also want to mention that the behind the scenes featurette is worth a view for sure as it sheds interesting insight on a few things. And finally, Ms. Matsuura sings a few songs on the soundtrack with her partner from a duo she had called "GAM." That partner is another sexy girl named Miki Fujimoto and is worth looking into as well--not sure why she wasn't in the movie to be honest.

Here's one of Morning Musume's more popular songs that actually made fun of the girls themselves. The first person they talk about in the song is Rika and the second is Ms. Fujimoto so you can see her. Also, this is Rika at her best look:

Notable Moment: Too hard to pick. I love every moment.

Final Rating: Screw it, 11/10, I don't care!

I almost forgot...there's actually a rare, alternate ending to the film almost no one has seen. In this ending, I show up and save the day. And Rika's all like, "Aishiteru, Ryan!" and I play it cool and say, "I know." They should have stuck with that ending...

Friday, August 29, 2014

Brick Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After his ex-girlfriend reaches out for help, a young man tries to solve the mystery of her murder.

Review: The first thing someone should understand about this film is that it is meant to be an homage to the noir sub-genre--or if you're feeling fancy you would simply call this neo-noir.  I've read so many dumbass reviews about this film by, what I'm guessing must be, ignorant little kids or something. Yeah, noir is a genre that died out like 60 years ago, but welcome to the internet boys and girls. You don't have to be a film buff to figure this out that's for sure. Now if you're simply not a fan of the genre--I know it's not my field of interest--then that's fine, but the complaints I've heard don't indicate that being the case; the complaint I heard most was in regards to the dialogue with many claiming it's "unrealistic." Really? That's like watching a musical and questioning why is everyone singing. Noir is stylized imagery with the characters employing colorful language. Ughh...well, the critics at least understood what the film was striving for, and the movie does portray a faithful noir-feel while implementing a unique take on the genre. So, instead of the story involving a shady part of a city with a burnt out private detective, we get a suburb with a high school student.

Essentially we see the tale of Brendan, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as he is contacted by his ex-girlfriend who appears in over her head about something. Brendan serves as our detective in this instance although I felt he needed a better back story. As with many crime dramas, Brendan interrogates random suspects and tries to fish for information. Using the high school setting works brilliantly here as you can easily create the parallels between high school life and the seedy underbelly of a big city. Brendan has a go-to man that is like the school geek who gets him that extra information. The criminal hierarchy is essentially the school's cool kids and then down the ranks. The brothel-like atmosphere is supposed to be the drama department. The chief of police and that whole ex-cop banter is provided to us via the school principal and staff. It's really clever the way the classic noir plot elements are presented through mundane high school cliches.

The writer/director certainly had a vision for what he wanted to see, and I think he accomplished this perfectly. The attention to detail is maybe the single best triumph of the film. However, the film starts to drift from a satire of the genre to a more straightforward crime drama which creates a conflict in direction. What I mean to say is that many plot elements come off almost comical due to the situation. For example, when we meet the main criminal mastermind he is just some dork living in his mom's basement. But the subject of the overall film is serious...that being the murder of Brendan's ex-girlfriend. I can't really reconcile this approach in my mind. If the crime being investigated fit the tone of the film, it would match, but you have a satirical tone mixed with serious crimes; beyond the murder you have the very basis of the plot involving drug dealers. Then we have the added layer of the final reveal as to why everything started happening. Although this too was a perfect throwback to how a noir mystery would be resolved, it makes things that much more serious when the films ends. I won't spoil it this time, but let's just say the murderer isn't always the person physically pulling the trigger. And the last twist was kind of messed up considering the final shot had like a "see you in homeroom tomorrow" feel to it.

Overall, I would have to advise that this film is not for everyone. No doubt, it's a solid detective story backed with a creative setting and an apropos resolution to the mystery, but the noir genre is an acquired taste. In regards to the noir aspects, the film is spot on, accurate in the finer nuances, and as faithful as any classic in the genre. On the other hand, the film may successfully utilize an everyday setting to tell a dark story, but it keeps making it apparent that outsiders aren't taking things seriously. There are a few weak aspects in the story as well, but I can overlook and appreciate what they were going for. If you're curious about something different, or are an actual fan of the genre, then check this out. It's well acted, quite clever, and serves as an excellent movie that provides a unique experience.

Notable Moment: Probably when Brendan is eating breakfast at the Pin's house. What a surreal moment. They definitely should have decided ahead of time whether they wanted this film to be taken entirely serious.

Final Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Forbidden Floor (aka Hidden Floor) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After a woman and her daughter move into an apartment they discover there is a phantom floor beneath them.

Review: This is another entry in the "Four Horror Tales" that I have been covering in the most roundabout way imaginable. I already reviewed "February 29" and "Dark Forest of Death" way back so that leaves us with just "Roommates" left. Eh...this film probably would have worked better as a TV show episode. In fact, that's probably a complaint for all four films in general. They should have simply been in an anthology together rather than four separate films. Even though I really like "February 29," they could have easily cut down and shortened the story to be 30 minutes. "Dark Forest of Death" certainly should have been cut down as that entire piece of shit is nothing but filler. Essentially, this film is more or less a "Dark Water" clone mixed with Kayako's Korean cousin or something. If that weren't lame enough, you know there had to be shenanigans thrown in for good measure. I mean, come the fuck on!

The story has to do with some Chinese superstition regarding the number four sounding like their word for death. Because of this, they don't usually include it in brands or on and within is the case in the film. Although, is this widespread in Korea? Regardless, this is as senseless to me as westerners with the number 13. It's just a number people. More so, your perception of removing the number visually doesn't change the fact that the number exists spatially. What can I say...I suppose it makes for a great plot device.

Anyway, a mom and her young daughter move into some new apartment complex on the fifth floor which is actually the real fourth floor. Big shock, the apartment complex is haunted. The building that existed in this spot before had a woman and her son murdered on the fourth floor. Now that floor exists supernaturally and occasionally overlaps with reality. In theory, this sounds like a cool premise, but it's super inconsistent and not thought out properly for shit. One instance, the main woman comes across the ghost in human form and later we see her Kayako-ing the place up. I really hate this and too many ghost movies do this. You are either a scary ghost, a good ghost, or you don't know you're a ghost--none of this business in between. For the most part, the ghost is simply enacting revenge on the people that murdered her and Toshio 2 (who conveniently live in the building), but that alone wouldn't stretch a film out for 90 minutes. To pad things out a bit we get bullshit with the idiotic cops, the main girl's daughter semi-possessed, a dumbass babysitter, stupid flashbacks that make no sense, multiple scenes of someone cliched tasting the food they're cooking, and a horrible attempt at drama with the mother/daughter relationship. The kid is fucking six years old and neglected as hell--she's a terrible mom--end of story; don't try and tell me otherwise, movie. None of this "Dark Water" ripping off matters, because everything gets wrapped up in a nice little package while still setting up a retarded final zinger. Yippee.

Despite the sheer idiocy rampant in this film, it's more on the mediocre side than anything. They did manage to squeeze in a few decent scares, I liked the idea of the fourth floor existing in a kind of state between worlds, and I'm always a sucker for Kayako-wannabes. The film also has decent atmosphere and the acting is okay. If you haven't watched "Dark Water" you will probably enjoy this film significantly more, but, let's be honest, this is a really blatant ripoff. If they stopped the bullshit for two seconds, and added a sense of focus, this had the potential to be a good movie. Oh well.

Notable Moment: When the first girl gets killed. I'll admit, this was kind of a decent scare, albeit, a straight ripoff, but still cool.

Final Rating: 5/10

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Sixth Sense (1999) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A child psychologist tries to help a boy who can see and communicate with the dead.

Review: Now we come to one of the most famous and iconic horror films in history; this is one of those films that has become almost embedded into the culture. I mean, if you haven't heard someone joking about "I see dead people" then you've been living under a rock for the past 15 years. "The Sixth Sense" was a critical and financial success that resonated immensely with the public the world over. Presenting an elegant story and, of course, the infamous twist that blew audiences away, it has, so far, aged extremely well. Although I did predict the twist before I watched the movie, it doesn't change the fact that the twist was still implemented masterfully. And I've already gone over my experience with "The Hitch-hiker" episode of "The Twilight Zone" and how it allowed me to understand the twist. Since everyone and their mom has watched this movie, or is aware of the basic plot, I'll try and save the details to a minimum.

First off, I want to give my accolades to M. Night Shyamalan. I know Mr. Shyamalan has fallen out of favor over the years, and deservedly so, but I can't deny the sheer brilliance to the writing and directing of this particular film. Not only did he capture all the themes and motifs he wanted, but the film showcased his unique style and artistry. I think any director would love to say they created a masterpiece and this certainly was. However, I feel he was burdened by the success and it came too early in his career. I think we can all agree he has never been able to live up to this level of hype again. I could go on, but let's leave it at that and appreciate the effort put forth.

Taking things a step forward, the look of the film is simply beautiful. The cinematography is top notch with many subtle aspects hidden within the sets. I especially loved the Fall look and instances of coldness that establish an unsettling environment. The use of Philadelphia as the backdrop was a wise choice as they were able to use the aged landmarks to enhance the sense of dread. Also, given the plot, it provides a variety of spirits that can potentially appear. Speaking of which, the ghosts are a little tamer than I would have liked, but there are still considerable scares to be had. It's probably important to note that the anticipation of fear is stronger than the actual scares though. Nevertheless, this notion can be more effective than outright scares since it plays off the audience's fears and the general belief of ghosts or supernatural forces beyond our understanding.

As for the actors, they perform wonderfully to the point that I would say this is Bruce Willis' best work. Clearly this is the best role from Haley Joel Osment, but he needs special adulation since he was so young and outperformed veteran actors of the industry. The two main characters, Malcolm and Cole, have great chemistry and play off one another amazingly. The development of their relationship works well and feels natural; this really is a greater feat to convey than many would realize. If that weren't enough, the relationship between Cole and his mom, played by Toni Collette, is emotional and even touching. You definitely feel her sadness and concern for Cole. The background characters are good as well--even the bit roles. You'd be surprised by how much depth is interjected into the characters through minor nuances.

I must, of course, address the twist since it was one of the aspects that took this film from the excellent category into legendary status. Malcolm being dead all along is fantastic and is that incredible "oh shit" moment any serious film strives for. The successful way in which this twist is pulled off was the best technical accomplishment. It stands up to the scrutiny of further viewings and even offers up that very notion of repeated viewings whereby you can search for clues. People can downplay the impact of this twist all they want, but few films have offered up notorious, mind blowing moments as this. But what truly makes this film so great is that the twist is more of a cherry on the sundae rather than what defines the film itself...which would, unfortunately, be the problem with Mr. Shyamalan's later films.

At this point, what is really left to be said about this movie? Critics and fans alike adore the film and have exhausted every conceivable aspect to explore and discuss. Quite simply, the film is a technical marvel and a must-see. The only reasons why I'm not giving this movie a perfect score is because I thought the ghosts needed better makeup effects and there are a couple tiny qualms I have with the story. If you're still holding out on watching this film, what, are you waiting for...the apocalypse? In the case you haven't seen this yet, rest assured, it lives up to the hype. Now go out and see it or watch it again!

Notable Moment: Obviously when Cole tells Malcolm "I see dead people." Though the line has been parodied to hell and back, it's still iconic.

Final Rating: 9/10

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Nightmare (Korean 2000) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Years after a woman seemingly committed suicide, a group of friends are picked off by the vengeful ghost.

Review: Way back I reviewed the Chinese movie named "Nightmare" thinking it was this particular film. Well, here it is for realzies this time. Made in the year 2000, you can pretty much guarantee this was going to be a straight up "Ringu" wannabe...which it is. I don't entirely hold that against the film though since they knew it would be popular regardless. They were definitely playing it safe with the story and feeble scares--something that is atypical for what Korean horror would come to be known for. The film is cliched and corny, but it's still kind of entertaining nonetheless and vastly superior to the Chinese film. In fact, some of the scenes are so ridiculously stupid it makes the movie start to straddle that so bad it's good line.

The story is nothing fancy what with a bunch of people who are allegedly friends but clearly wouldn't be friends in reality. Something about a damn garden club or whatever--hell if I know. One crazy night, one of their friends, Eun-ju, committed suicide under questionable circumstances and her ghost appears to have returned for revenge years later. Not sure why the wait though. Half the movie is a flashback with horrible transitions letting you know when they're switching back and forth; you pretty much have to look for the ghost or see if she's still alive in the scene. They also commit one of the most annoying film aspects: a flashback within a flashback. In other words, a character is having a flashback, but in that flashback they have a flashback? Yeah, just think about that for a while.

Anyway, Eun-ju is played by Ji-won Ha who was that little darling from "Phone." She's supposed to be some outcast loser, but, come on, look at that face. Actually, all the ladies in this movie are exceptionally good looking. There's something about Eun-ju having psychic powers, or being possessed by a demon, and killing the main girl's dad. I really don't know--this is majorly brushed over when you think it would be pivotal to the plot. Come to think of it, there are a lot of oddball moments making me think this film went through heavy edits with entire scenes missing. For example, there's a scene after they kill Eun-ju that she is stripped down to her underwear while someone else is dressed up as her. Then all of a sudden Eun-ju's body is redressed and they fake her suicide. Whaaaat?! I guess you could argue they wanted witnesses to see her, but that's reaching in my opinion. By the way, in case you couldn't figure it out, yes, the friends killed Eun-ju and faked her suicide with only the main girl being oblivious to this truth. Hilariously, the whole reason this all got out of hand was over a cat. I wish I were making that up. This one bitch, for some strange reason, keeps throwing a tantrum over a cat and magically Eun-ju makes it attack with psychic powers in a terrible, home movie-looking scene. When Eun-ju tries to help the cat, they accidentally kill her in the struggle and pull a "I Know What You Did Last Summer" moment. Okay, maybe I'm not being fair...technically the fight started when one of the friends revealed Eun-ju was the girl that supposedly killed the main girl's dad. But that cat, man...

Eun-ju as a ghost is really inconsistent and not thought out. Sometimes she appears as a little girl, sometimes with makeup effects, and other times looking like her normal self. The scares are weak with maybe only one worthwhile moment. They even blew a potentially amazing scare with a guy who was painting a full length mural of a woman. You'd think, "Oh yeah, make the ghost come out of the painting," but they said screw that just make her appear in front of it in the dark. That's another thing--this film absolutely fucking loves these stupid lightning effects and flashing lights in general. I seriously thought I was going to have a seizure at one point. Knock it off! So, long story short, everyone dies but the main girl with the implication that maybe she was the killer all along. Since that idea is beyond stupid and makes no sense, I will simply believe the ghost eventually killed the main girl or the two spend together, forever, tending to that dumb garden club.

In spite of my numerous complaints, I still find the film amusing to a degree. It's like they were scrambling so hard to shit out these movies, fast, in order to capitalize on the Asian horror boom. This minimal effort somehow allowed for the rise of both genius film making and pure cheesiness; this film falls into the latter category. It's kind of funny to look back at these early attempts to get in on the success, and this is what creates a certain charm for the film. The lameness makes this "Nightmare" feel more entertaining, and there are some laughably wonderful moments for sure. On top of that, the babes make the shenanigans that much more pleasant. I don't think I can necessarily recommend this film for newbies, but I think I can say Asian horror veterans may get a kick out of this.

Notable Moment: When they show the alleged tape from the night Eun-ju died. Seriously, where the hell was the script supervisor at?! You've got all kinds of angles, shots, and shenanigans supposedly coming from only two cameras and one is stationary on the ceiling! This would have made a lot more sense if they started the scene from the tape's perspective and then cut to it as a flashback especially given this film's love for those. I really should be a set consultant.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

You're telling me this doll face is what constitutes for a loser in K-horror? I will gladly take these "losers" off your hands! Hell, I'd still take her, even in ghost form, over like 80% of chicks out there.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What Dreams May Come Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After a man has died and gone to heaven, he must journey through hell to rescue his wife.

Review: Typically I wouldn't do any kind of tribute or anything, but I did like Robin Williams quite a bit especially in more serious roles. I suppose others preferred him in comedy, but I think he had a range more fitting of drama, with the exception of "Aladdin," but I like that for different reasons. So why not cover at least one film that highlighted his career? And what film could be more apropos than "What Dreams May Come?" The film touches on the themes of love, loss, and redemption, and offers a bit of solace toward Mr. Williams' death. Based on a book of the same name, that appears to be much different, this film didn't do that well when it was released but was critically praised. I think people missed out big time on this little gem. This is one of the most beautiful looking films out there with a scope and scale to rival any big budget blockbuster; the grand imagery is reminiscent of Dante's "Divine Comedy" which was clearly an inspiration. While it certainly has some flaws, both technical and story-related, it's still a very touching film.

Early on you will notice the sheer brilliance to the set designs and exceptional CGI for that era. They were going for this living-painting concept and it succeeded admirably. I mean, if you're going to try and portray heaven and hell things better look pretty damn epic, and the film accomplishes this. This was an important aspect to capture since the majority of the film takes place in someone's heaven. I'm not going to say this film doesn't have direct Christian themes, but it tries to look at the afterlife in a broader sense with some philosophical debate along the way. For example, they discuss where is "God" in all of this and one of the characters explains he's out there somewhere...with the caveat that "he thinks" this. Most of the time things are kept vague and ambiguous as not to alienate any group of people. In other words, heaven will look however you believe it to be and on occasion things will be altered in order to help you clear up loose ends from your life. This was one of the better plot elements as the people closest to Mr. Williams' character, Chris, appear in different forms. They explain that this was important to remove the boundaries of certain relationships and titles; like a father and son will act different toward one another if those titles define the relationship.

As for hell, they stress that there are no judgements per se, but evil people will torment themselves internally due to their flaws in life. Also, due to their wickedness, they will find themselves incapable of escaping this torment. The film tries to offer the notion of redemption at some point through reincarnation, but it's a bit fuzzy on that plot line; the book I believe goes over it in more detail. The main conflict of the film revolves around Chris trying to go through hell in order to find his wife who committed suicide after years of depression due to her children's death and, at some point, the death of Chris. Bringing someone out of their torment is supposed to be impossible, but Chris and his wife are allegedly soulmates destined to be together. I'm not going to lie, this is a bit overly sentimental and corny for me, but I can go with it. As Chris journeys through hell, we get that Dante's "Inferno" imagery I discussed, but the effects aren't quite as good as they were for heaven. There are oceans of bodies, endless deserts, and a field of people buried up to their necks which are cool looking. I probably should mention that there clearly appears to be more people in hell than heaven, so I'm not sure if that was intentional or not. Another thing to point out is that the film loves water as a motif or something; even hell has a ton of water. Well, as you may have easily guessed, Chris rescues his wife from hell by sacrificing his heaven to bare her torment alongside her. This noble sacrifice snaps the wife out of her torment and they all go back to heaven. Sadly, this is probably where the book and movie both drop the ball in one way or another. In the film, they will simply remain in heaven forever but decide they want to pointlessly be reincarnated so they can fall in love again. What?! If I literally went to hell to rescue someone, you bet your sweet ass that's a one time offer. Fuck that, I'm lounging out in heaven forever after that. The film ends with the couple as little kids meeting each other with a rage-inducing glance at the camera from one of the kids. In the book/alternate film ending, the wife must be reincarnated in order to atone for her suicide. Chris simply says he will reincarnate with her to help her go through the second life...which they stress will be more difficult in order to make up for this life. Yeah, yeah, I'm sure this sounds great on paper, but if you watch the scene it is horrible and ruins the tone. On top of that, this notion introduces nearly endless philosophical dilemmas. Okay, so they already know what kind of life the wife will live up until death...that means the suicide would have also been preordained from this life! My god people, this is a paradox that has been discussed for thousands of years! How can someone be punished for crimes that they are "destined" to commit? Plus, this is a shoddy way to explain life's misery. You got cancer? Tough shit, you shouldn't have been a douchebag in your last life. I can't accept that fact as reality, and, even if it were real, I suppose I have the moral high ground over any supernatural entity. I could go into great lengths regarding this subject, but I'll skip it since the film didn't go with that ending anyway.

This was an excellent movie that showcased Mr. Williams' acting skills a lot better than the comedies and family films he's more widely known for. He still has that charm and joking manner to him, but you feel his emotions in this role. In fact, most of the actors involved do a great job and the dynamics to the relationships are presented well. I obviously love the look of the film and the many marvels it portrays. However, I will mention that they do a weird slow motion effect throughout the film that did look shitty. The theological and philosophical ideas presented act as a wonderful conversation piece and are worth exploring naturally. The film can be overly sentimental, even sappy, but I found it more endearing without being preachy. Overall, this is a fantastic film that, unfortunately, few have had the chance to experience.

Notable Moment: It's tough to sort through all the epic designs, but I think the best concept would be the ocean of the dead.

Final Rating: 7.5/10

Monday, August 18, 2014

Cult (Japanese 2013) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Three actresses tag along for an exorcism as antics ensue.

Review: I swear this was not intentional, but this is the third movie in a row I've reviewed that was pretty much just sequel-baiting! What the hell?! Unlike the last two movies though, this film was lame as all fuck; it's loaded with endless cliches, and the effects are plain horrible. If that weren't bad enough, the story is full of more holes than a screen door. They try to spice things up halfway in, but that only turned the story into a joke. And, if this is how you establish a part one, I don't want to see part two that's for sure. The guy writing these needs to go easy on the fake documentaries for realzies...this is like his forth one already.

Honestly, I don't even know what the hell is the point of the film since it's about actresses coming along for an exorcism for no apparent reason. I suppose it's for a show, but this is glossed over quickly. The actresses are playing themselves I guess in a pathetic attempt to make people think this is real--I don't know. To say the film is full of shenanigans would be an understatement as characters are seemingly possessed and exorcised multiple times. The demons, or whatever, look ridiculously terrible--brought to life by image blurs and other shoddy effects. At first the characters think the house is haunted, then they believe there is a spiritual current under the area, then they finally discover it has to do with a cult, hence, the title. The first half of the film is your typical bullshit, but then they call in some powerful psychic who calls himself Neo. Yes, that Neo; he's apparently a fan of "The Matrix." While Neo can be funny, often making fun of the actresses and fanboying at one point, this screws with the tone of the film. It doesn't help that Neo looks goofy with blonde hair and a Michael Jackson glove that covers his magic hand...yeah, I'm not making that up. The cult somehow captured a little girl and made her believe the cult was her family as they prepared her as a portal to allow a god to enter our world and destroy it. Well, something along those lines. Let's just say the cult is stupid and we don't learn much about them; saving it for the sequel I guess. After like the millionth exorcism, Neo appears to defeat the cult, but then they learn one of the actresses is completely enthralled. The film ends out of the blue with Neo saying the war is just beginning after the cult claims their god will destroy the world. Uhh...yeah...sure...why not?

You know it's bad when the film can't even decide whether this is a fake documentary or a regular film. I mean, what was with the music playing all the time?! Considering everyone else gets possessed fifty times, no one once wonders if the camera girl may also be possessed--good thing she never was, right? Ugh, this movie blew chunks. It seemed quite promising, started off decently, but spiraled into absurdity way too soon. And you have to be shitting me here with the sequel-baiting! I'm fine with having an ending that could set up a sequel, but when you deliberately structure your film to leave shit out intended for the next movie, that's going too far. The only redeeming aspect was Neo and he's nothing more than a lawsuit waiting to happen. I'm definitely going to say not to waste your time with this one. While the film is more mediocre than outright bad, the laughable effects and tone shift lower the points more. There's worse out there, without a doubt, but that doesn't mean your money and/or time shouldn't be put toward more worthwhile pursuits.

Notable Moment: Pretty much any moment when Neo is chewing up the scenery. Also, it's hard to take him serious when he looks like the Japanese cousin of the kid from "Night of the Creeps."

Final Rating: 4.5/10

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Mr. Brooks Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Attempting to resist his urge to murder, a serial killer is pursued by a persistent detective and a witness who wants to become his protege.

Review: While "Mr. Brooks" is an engaging thriller, I would say it was, perhaps, too ambitious in all that it tried to accomplish in one film. Much like "Haunters," it was as if they were trying to set up elements for a sequel when that time could have been put toward the primary story. Unlike "Haunters," however, this film was the first of three scripts that will probably never see the light of day. So it is somewhat understandable they established a lot in, what they believed, was the first entry. Regardless of the finer details, Mr. Brooks, the character, is a unique serial killer, and I wish this film received more acknowledgement. Sure, this is no "Seven," but there are a lot of interesting aspects, and the film knew how to commit murder without getting caught--a hell of a lot better than a piece of shit like "Murder by Numbers."

I'm going to go over each of the plot lines that way you can see the oddity to the action and overabundance of exposition. Let's start with Mr. Brooks' story first since that would be most appropriate. Kevin Costner plays Mr. Brooks in a nice and creepy manner while taking the role in a more subtle direction. My rough interpretation of his psyche is that of a schizophrenic with mild psychopathy. It's tough to determine due to the fact that he sees an imaginary friend, named Marshall, claims he's addicted to killing (though he does enjoy it), but he isn't a sociopath and is trying to stop killing. At the same time, he's highly intelligent and calculating despite his inability to control himself when it comes to killing. By the way, Marshall is played by William Hurt who actually turns in a commendable performance compared to his typical bullshit. Also, Marshall acts as inner dialogue with Mr. Brooks, and I do thoroughly enjoy their conversations. His method of killing was pretty solid using a wrapped gun, and I've even seen people on youtube test out his style and it works. The way Mr. Brooks accomplishes a lot of his feats is due to his wealthy lifestyle, as he owns a packaging company, and has all manner of equipment at his disposal as well as easily accessible alibis. Anyway, Mr. Brooks quit killing for a couple years when entering AA meetings, but before this he was known as the "thumbprint killer" since he'd leave that mark at each crime scene.  One night, after winning a business award, Mr. Brooks decides to kill a couple who were apparently exhibitionist fuckers. This leads Mr. Brooks down a path of shenanigans that crosses over with all the other characters. I'd actually say most of Mr. Brooks' back story is a true mystery that should have been discussed more instead of the other characters. We get hints at what drives him, but he's relatively unexplored as a character which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Next we have Mr. Smith, amusingly played by Dane Cook, who is an amateur photographer who liked to take pictures of the exhibitionist couple. He catches Mr. Brooks in the murderous act, but, rather than turn him in, he decides he wants Mr. Brooks to help him kill someone. While that is super contrived, Mr. Smith does come off as that kind of weirdo. Mr. Brooks rightfully doesn't want to deal with Mr. Smith, but he is strangely intrigued by the situation and indulges things for a time. As he tries to impart tricks of the trade to Mr. Smith, Mr. Brooks grows increasingly irritated with Mr. Smith who is too impatient to be a proper killer. Since Mr. Brooks has been trying to quit killing, and is failing at this, he sees an opportunity arise where he could allow Mr. Smith to kill him while hiding his serial killer ways in order for his family to never learn the truth. Angering Mr. Smith enough that he would feel compelled to lash out, Mr. Brooks concocts a scheme where he would be shot and dumped in an empty grave, and he'd leave a note to his family saying he disappeared to avoid facing a terminal illness. But having plans within plans, Mr. Brooks changes his mind at the last minute by sabotaging Mr. Smith's gun in the off chance he changed his mind. Then Mr. Brooks kills Mr. Smith and dumps his body in the grave instead. The last step is Mr. Brooks sets up Mr. Smith as the thumbprint killer through various actions he took earlier. Honestly, this plot line and establishing Mr. Brooks should have been the only things going on in the film. While the other plot lines could have been lurking in the background, they eat up a lot of time that should have been dedicated or reworked to only focus on Mr. Brooks meeting Mr. Smith and the antics that ensued. This change would have allowed for more time to develop the two men, their relationship, and the serial killer training.

The third main plot, and definitely one that should have been reduced and simplified, has to do with the detective hunting the thumbprint killer. Her name is Atwood and she's played by Demi Moore. I'm perfectly fine with this character, even if she's a bit cliched, but they threw in too much back story on her that would have been better in a sequel. Atwood is going through a divorce that is getting ugly, and she happens to be the daughter of a rich banker or something. If that weren't enough, another killer Atwood was chasing escaped prison or something and is gunning for her. So this character alone has four plot points! That's way too much. The way Atwood's issues are resolved is that Mr. Brooks and Mr. Smith kill the husband that's divorcing her, Mr. Brooks arranges for her to stumble across the other killer who ends up killing himself, she is tricked into thinking that Mr. Smith is the real thumbprint killer, and Mr. Brooks gets to the bottom of why the daughter of a rich banker would become a simple detective. I felt Atwood was interesting enough to be the main adversary for Mr. Brooks, but her role should have been reduced especially if she wasn't going to be anywhere close to catching him. The banter they have at the end of the film should have comprised the dynamics of their relationship more, and I think that would have made for a better plot line than what we got.

The last and most pointless story arc involved Mr. Brooks' daughter, Jane. Jane suddenly drops out of college and Mr. Brooks suspects there is more going on with that decision. At one point Jane claims she is pregnant but that is not the reason she's dropping out. Later, when cops show up, Mr. Brooks realizes she more than likely murdered a classmate at school, and that's the real reason she dropped out in an attempt to escape the situation. This plot line is compounded with absurdity as it's implied Jane is a potential serial killer as well, and we don't need that much in a film still trying to establish its own star. Mr. Brooks fakes a killing in the style as Jane's in order to throw the police off. This is probably the main motivator for Mr. Brooks wanting Mr. Smith to kill him since he blames himself for Jane's apparent condition. He also knows Jane is a stupid serial killer to boot and would have been caught fairly easy if not for Mr. Brooks' intervention. The part that bothered me most about this plot point was the fact that they do a fake-out kill where Mr. Brooks dreams Jane kills him, and they imply she may want to take over his business by eliminating him. Please--if this were a trilogy, then maybe you could leave little hints to this conclusion in the first two movies, but not going all in right out the gate. Besides, a more fitting end to Mr. Brooks would be a showdown with Atwood.

Hopefully you can see how the film was incorporating too many plot lines that should have been divided up over the course of multiple films. Does this hurt the film overall? Yes and no. It would have made for a more concise story with less going on, but they do manage to tie all the story threads together in a meaningful way. I just wish if they were going to put so much in they would have taken the "Dick Tracy" route and wrapped everything up just in case there was never a sequel. It's okay to establish elements to be explained later, but this was taking it a little too far. As I mentioned, I would have rather they made it about Mr. Brooks getting back into killing and his discovery at the hands of Mr. Smith. As the two plotted to murder, we could see glimpses of Atwood closing in with maybe slight acknowledgements of her problems. Then have Mr. Brooks develop a rapport with Atwood since he respects her quite a bit. This could have established a cat and mouse type of story for the second film.'s all moot though since a sequel is unlikely. In light of my qualms, the film is still good and felt original to a degree. Mr. Brooks himself is an interesting killer and presents something different which is hard to pull off at this point. I don't see this film as changing the face of crime thrillers, but it offers enough originality to warrant a viewing for sure.

Notable Moment: When Mr. Brooks calls Atwood toward the end. Now this is what I would have loved to see more of. Killer and detective banter is always awesome.

Final Rating: 6.5/10

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Haunters (aka Psychic) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A man who can control people with his mind clashes with the one man he cannot control.

Review: A big hit in Korea, this is sort of like a more action based "Unbreakable." It's definitely a great and imaginative film, but it most certainly lacked the depth and storytelling present in "Unbreakable." Considering its success, I'm surprised there hasn't been a sequel yet. I only bring this fact up, because a sequel could easily alleviate many of my problems with the gaping holes in the story. In fact, I would have rated this so much higher if it weren't for a nonsensical ending and the fact that answers, as to what's going on, never come despite a buildup throughout the film. I'm not saying we need to be spoon-fed plot points, but there should be a balance between being intentionally vague and leaving the audience completely in the dark.

The film begins with the introduction of the villain, Cho-in, when he was a child. He has his eyes covered and is told to never take off the blindfold except for split seconds when bathing; he also has a prosthetic leg for whatever reason. Hiding out with his mother, the two are interrupted by the abusive father who beats the mother bloody forcing Cho-in to intervene. This is when we realize he possesses the power to control people by simply looking at them. Eh, it's kind of ambiguous as to how he uses his mind to do the controlling, but he needs to physically see the person--I guess they wanted some limitations. Anyway, Cho-in makes the father kill himself as we cut to a later point with the mother trying to kill Cho-in. I guess the solution to all these Samara/Sadako people is to kill them, but Cho-in uses his powers to stop her and spares her life. We then see Cho-in as an adult, and he's become a bitter person who uses his powers to get anything he wants.

The film shifts gears a bit as we see the protagonist, Kyu-nam, working at a junkyard with all foreigners. This struck me as very odd, since I have rarely seen a non-Korean in a Korean film before, and here we have a bunch. In fact, this may be the most foreign-friendly Korean film I've ever watched. You have Kyu-nam's best friends, Boba and Ali, coming from Ghana and Turkey respectively, Kyu-nam's eventual boss was married to, what I'm guessing was, an American girl (given the whole cowboy look), and the boss' daughter was implied to be mixed and even referred to herself as Rachel. Moving along, Kyu-nam hangs out with Boba and Ali one night after work when he is unexpectedly run over by a car. Recovering miraculously quick, he appears to have been fired from the junkyard job and stumbles across a job at a pawnshop where he meets that boss and his daughter. The boss says he has noticed money disappearing and recently installed a camera yet no one is picked up. On the first day of work, Boba and Ali come to visit Kyu-nam and they all hang out together with the boss and the daughter, but Cho-in shows up to rob the place. This is the first true glance at the range of his power as he can control many people at once and they have no memory of what he does during this period. While the boss hands over the money, Cho-in notices that Kyu-nam starts to fidget until completely breaking free of the control. Scared at first, Cho-in then uses everyone else to fight Kyu-nam which includes the daughter stabbing him. Shrugging most of this off, Kyu-nam kicks Cho-in's ass...forcing him to resort to making the boss try and choke himself; this gives Cho-in time to escape while Kyu-nam tries to save the boss.

Sure enough, the boss does die, but Kyu-nam tries to explain to his friends the circumstances of the death. They have an extremely quick funeral service as Cho-in tests his powers in an attempt to rationalize why Kyu-nam could resist it. When recovering the surveillance footage for evidence, they are startled by the fact that Cho-in has come back at the same time to collect the said footage. Unfortunately for Kyu-nam, Boba, and Ali, Cho-in brought a small army of people to do his bidding. There is a bit of a standoff as Ali and Boba flee the group of controlled people, and Kyu-nam hides in the rafters with the surveillance tape. As they take the fight to the streets, Cho-in finds himself alone, with no one to control, as Kyu-nam chases him with a van. This is when Kyu-nam discovers that Cho-in has to see the people in order to control them since he blinds Cho-in with headlights when he goes to control a guy dumping his trash. In light of the revelation, Kyu-nam still gets jumped by a bunch of controlled men as they try to stab him with a broken bottle. Luckily, Kyu-nam had a taser the boss gave him, and he shocks Cho-in which in turn stops his control.

Idiotically, Kyu-nam takes Cho-in to the police who don't believe his story and end up controlled by Cho-in. After a quick shootout, the two take their fight to a subway filled with many patrons. You'd think Kyu-nam would realize this is dumb, but he still charges Cho-in. This is when we fully realize Kyu-nam has powers of his own as he overcomes all the people trying to stop him. Desperate, Cho-in controls a mother to throw her baby onto the tracks as a train is coming. Of course Kyu-nam intervenes but collides with the side of the moving train. Kyu-nam appears dead for a time as Cho-in goes back to a hotel he hides at only to discover police are all over it. Kyu-nam, alive and recovered, asks for Boba and Ali to help him hunt down Cho-in as he feels he must be stopped. They agree and run across a few goofball characters who serve no purpose in their pursuit to find Cho-in. Ali develops a makeshift flare gun to blind Cho-in and Cho-in robs a bank and gives the money to his mother who was being questioned by the police; he does consider killing her, but I suppose he can't kill her for whatever reason yet was willing to kill a baby.

When coming toward the climax, the movie oddly decides to have Kyu-nam, Boba, and Ali driving around, and Kyu-nam falls asleep and then they're suddenly under attack by Cho-in. What a lame way to force them back together. They head into an apartment complex where Cho-in forces people to commit suicide as he escapes, but he runs into Ali and Boba who are easily enthralled. For some reason, Kyu-nam goes back to the pawnshop and finds Ali and Boba strung up to be hung; Kyu-nam is knocked out and also put in a similar hanging position. After villain ranting about how this is all Kyu-nam's fault, which we hear throughout the film, Cho-in leaves them all hanging, but Kyu-nam narrowly survives by using a utility knife nearby to cut his rope; sadly, this is the end for Boba and Ali who die. Kyu-nam immediately chases after Cho-in who is driving in a car with the boss' daughter he controls. After a mildly amusing car chase, Cho-in crashes and uses all the nearby drivers to block Kyu-nam, but Ali had enhanced their van with nitrous which allows the van to outrun the controlled cars. Cho-in then flees to the top of a building and forces the boss' daughter to the top of the neighboring building. When Kyu-nam catches up, he is once again faced with a dilemma concerning stopping Cho-in or letting the daughter die. This allows Cho-in the opportunity to shoot Kyu-nam a number of times. When he goes in for the head shot, Cho-in is distracted by Kyu-nam mentioning that no one even knows who Cho-in really is, because he uses fake identities. For some reason this bothers Cho-in which gives Kyu-nam the opening to throw them both off the building. Cho-in dies but Kyu-nam survives once more. We then cut to a future point where Kyu-nam appears paraplegic, and he's seeing the boss' daughter off at a subway now that she has become a stewardess. Conveniently, a kid falls onto the tracks as a train is coming, but when the train passes they see that Kyu-nam is on the other side of the tracks holding the kid. Well that would have been a hell of a lot cooler if we simply cut to that scene, without the daughter and Kyu-nam, and it demonstrated that Kyu-nam found his calling in life as a superhero rather than some paraplegic bullshit. Actually, if the film really wanted to have fun with the material, they would have ended the movie with maybe a third person with powers.

Now I just want to address a few things that didn't make sense or needed clarity. First, was there a connection between Kyu-nam and Cho-in? We know nothing about Kyu-nam's backstory except a line about he did things he didn't want to mention when at the job interview. I've read others suggesting they were brothers, but that would be beyond cliched and I don't see any evidence of that. I believe the contrast between the two, much like in "Unbreakable," had a narrative purpose that the two being brothers would negate. Although, why did Cho-in have the prosthetic? What happened to his leg in the first place? Was there more to that or was that to emphasize his physical weakness being compensated by mental strength whereas Kyu-nam had those physical abilities instead. Okay, we get that Kyu-nam had powers, but why are his all over the place and he never accessed them until meeting Cho-in? I know the film wanted to emphasize that the two meeting was a twist of fate, but that really only works if the two influenced the other's creation in a way similar to "Unbreakable." Ahh, I keep making the comparisons, but it's because "Unbreakable" handled these aspects better, but "Haunters" did the action better and had more fun with the film. Anyway, my problem with the inconsistent powers is due to the ending and Kyu-nam being pointlessly paraplegic. Wouldn't it stand to reason the powers were natural and he'd heal like with the car accident at the beginning? Another weird aspect was that Cho-in was feeling weakened or blinded the more he fought Kyu-nam. Again, what was the meaning behind that? There just too many aspects that needed to be addressed in some shape or form. I mean, were they simply sequel baiting or what?

Despite my gripes, this is a cool flick. You've got solid action, a charming lightheartedness, and it doesn't follow a conventional presentation and avoids lameness like a romance subplot. The acting is pretty good and the effects were better than I thought they would be. However, I felt they held back or added plot aspects deliberately for the intent of a sequel which who knows if we'll ever get. I do wish they got rid of, or modified, that lull in the middle of the film when they are looking for Cho-in, because then the film would have been a nonstop battle; this would have been significantly more entertaining. I definitely recommend checking this bad boy out especially when I'm sure others won't care about the story related holes that bothered me. If you ever felt like "Unbreakable" needed less talking and more action, this is the film for you.

Notable Moment: When we see all the men working at the junkyard. Maybe it's common place in Korea, I don't know, but I've never watched a Korean film with this many non-Koreans in it. It's amusing to me for some strange reason.

Final Rating: 6.5/10

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Batman: Under the Red Hood Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After a new crime lord enters the fray, Batman must come to terms with a failure from the past.

Review: The thing I like most about these standalone films is that they feel unique visually and story-wise. If, say, you didn't like one of these entries, that doesn't mean another won't be completely amazing. This movie, specifically, is one of the best that's been produced thus far. Based on the similarly titled story arc from the comics, this film delves deep into Batman lore and tells a surprisingly compelling story. We actually get to see Batman's morality in question and are provided more insight on what keeps him going. At the same time, the action is balanced well, showcasing many villains, while never distracting from the core plot. Essentially, this is everything a Batman fan could hope for.

The story gets rolling with a flashback to when the Joker killed the second Robin, Jason Todd, who had also been killed in the comics during the '80s. Batman obviously blames himself, but we all know that adds to the brooding nature of our beloved caped crusader. At this point, should there really be any mystery as to the identity of the Red Hood? Yes, it's Jason who was resurrected by Ra's al Ghul. Don't worry though, Batman figures it out fast enough, and it's not as though this revelation was central to the story as opposed to what was his goal. The other clue was that the Red Hood was an old alter ego for the Joker which Jason is using ironically as the Joker was the one who killed him. Jason, as the Red Hood, gathers various criminals to work for him knowing they will end up battling each other for control of Gotham. Along the way, Batman tries to fight the Red Hood as he continues to establish himself as the major crime lord in the city. This is when Batman realizes the truth as Red Hood's training is expertly designed to counter Batman's gadgets; Nightwing also helps and points out these abilities from Red Hood. But like I said, it's not a big secret as Red Hood refers to Batman as Bruce at one point, and Batman is more in denial than anything. After battling some assassins, Batman gets a DNA sample from Red Hood and confirms it is, indeed, Jason.

Batman reflects on the better times of Jason and finds it hard to believe he would disregard Batman's teaching and freely kill the criminals. The main kingpin of Gotham, Black Mask, resorts to freeing the Joker from Arkham to help him capture Red Hood as they know that was one of his identities. This is when Ra's al Ghul explains the process of resurrecting Jason. Ra's felt guilty for Jason's death as well since he had hired the Joker as a distraction that got out of hand. If you're wondering why Ra's, a villain, would, it has to do with the whole respect for Batman angle that is sort of understood and Ra's style. Anyway, the Joker betrays Black Mask, but this is what Red Hood has wanted all along--for the criminals to kill each other and for him to get payback on the Joker. After capturing and beating the Joker senseless, Red Hood and Batman fight once more and take off their masks. For a time, the two are evenly matched with each one disarming the other of their "toys" as they like to call them. But, big shock, Batman gains the upper hand and beats Jason. This leads Jason to reveal the endgame of his scheme: to force Batman to shoot Jason, in order to save the Joker, or let Jason shoot the Joker. The best part is how Jason wants to know why Batman wouldn't have sought revenge on his behalf since he didn't blame Batman for his death; he was only angry Batman allowed Joker to go on hurting people. Jason questions Batman's code and how he doesn't want to cross the line into killing, but Batman explains that it's not that it's too hard to cross that line but it's actually too easy. Batman knows if he ever started killing he'd never be able to stop and that everyday he struggles not to kill people like the Joker. When Batman must decide what outcome will happen, he drops the gun Jason gave him. Angered, Jason tries to shoot at Batman who throws a batarang into the muzzle of the gun, forcing it to backfire. Jason then activates explosives as the Joker tries to stop anyone from escaping the blast. Narrowly surviving, Batman finds Joker but the movie oddly says nothing about Jason; I'm assuming he lived. At the end, Batman reflects more, but he says nothing has changed. Cold as ice bats.

I just loved seeing this side of Batman and watching his enemies bring out the side he tries to bury. Speaking of which, most villains had a time to shine in this film which was impressive for the short running time. This was also a more brutal Joker usually only seen in the comics. Besides the strong story, the voice acting is pretty good despite not having my favorite voices. Most notable would probably be Dean, Jensen Ackles, playing Red Hood/Jason. SAAAMM! With all of this said, however, I can't deny some glaring flaws. My biggest gripe is the ridiculous abilities of everyone. Come on now, I know we all love Batman, but he's not physically capable of the shenanigans witnessed here nor was Red Hood. Amazo, appearing to have Superman's powers, should have killed Batman and Nightwing, and everyone was jumping around like they had Spider-man agility. Once more, the film is super short and only padded out with a bonus feature with Jonah Hex...which I don't care about. But don't get me wrong, the faults are more nuanced complaints and definitely won't detour casual or even hardcore fans. This was a faithful adaptation of the material, and what changes were made felt better to me. If you're a Batman fan I think you should thoroughly enjoy this little adventure.

Notable Moment: When Jason forces Batman to choose between killing him or letting the Joker die. Although they could have played up the tension longer, this is the kind of dilemma Batman needs to face more frequently rather than simply how will he overcome increasingly more goofball villains.

Final Rating: 7/10

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Jaws in Japan (aka Psycho Shark) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Something about girls and a shark and whatever.

Review: What if I told you there was a movie calling itself both "Jaws in Japan" and "Psycho Shark," and then proceeded to show you that movie poster? You'd probably think it will be lame, but hopefully similar to a film like "Piranha 3D" or at the very least be an amusing shark movie, right? WRONG! The movie is actually about a human killer while trying to pull a "Ringu" or something. There is a shark--the worst fucking shark of all time--but it only pops up for the most retarded ending imaginable. Oh, who fucking cares, this movie is one of the worst. Yeah, I know...another one! I promised myself no more shit for a while, but I failed. Never in a million years would I have imagined a movie calling itself "Jaws in Japan" would be this level of off the charts stupid. Besides being a borderline copyright lawsuit, this has to be a form of false advertising. I am livid!

You know, I think I'm going to just rave like a lunatic for a bit. First off, this movie is mercifully short but still feels like an eternity. There is more filler than actual film. I swear to Rika, somebody was just on vacation and slapped together the footage and called it a movie. How else can someone explain this? The story is about girls who go to a shitty hotel or something and a random guy kills them. Fuck, I don't know...I don't care either. One of the girls finds a tape from the last group of girls that were killed like this is the fucking "Ring" and watches it. Then she realizes the guy her friend is hanging out with is that killer. When she goes to help, a giant, piece of shit shark jumps out of the water and eats them all...I guess. Then the film ends with another girl watching the tape. They act as if all of this is scary and creepy; the movie surprisingly takes itself seriously. Forget trying to make sense of anything. There's no point and it's a complete waste of time. The tape appears to be magical and can show different footage upon further viewings which is beyond stupid. Essentially, this was a way to keep rewinding the same scene to eat up more of the running time. Absolutely nothing happens and the blood looks like ketchup. You have no idea what the point of the killers are although I guess they feed the, it's ambiguous. Plus, why is the shark a fucking megalodon? That CGI god. I could draw a shark with crayons and superimpose it on film and it would look better than this. I just love how this fucking behemoth can't be seen in shallow water until he magically leaps into the air so he can dive onto the land to eat everyone. They don't even have the courtesy to show this. This is the breakdown of the film: girls frolicking about, repeat scenes a few times, random shitty shots, girl sleeping, more bullshit, more frolicking, more filler, girl sleeping, realize who the killer is, then a shark appears...the end. Oh and another thing is how does the shark get back into the water after beaching itself? This movie makes me want to kill someone...painfully. Okay, yes there are bikini clad girls, and they are hot, but they can't save this shit. Besides, it's not like this movie was meant to be fanservice or pander to the audience. They couldn't even get that much right! There's no nudity so you best stick to porn, son. I will say though, the one girl, Nonami Takizawa, was like exploding out of her top...I honestly think each tit was bigger than her head. If this movie was nothing more than the girls in bikinis jumping around in the water and then a shark ate them during the last shot, that would have been better than this! I just can't get over how much of a fail this was when it seems like this should practically write itself. Imagine how cool this would have been if done similarly to "The Machine Girl." Aaaaaarrrrrrrrrrggghhhhhh! FUCK!

Alright, time to wrap this nonsense up. Hopefully you made sense of that shit I was saying. All you need to know is not to waste your time and definitely not your money. If by chance you want to see the ladies involved, I'm warning you, they simply aren't worth it. Look up photos online or something. This movie is trash in every sense of the word. It plays like a home video with shoddy camerawork, terrible angles where you're looking at feet, and nothing happens except the most horrendous-looking shark on Earth says hello. This ranks right up there with the worst movies I've reviewed, but it gets a few points for all the T&A which is more of a tease than anything. I hate this movie.

Notable Moment: When you see that piece of shit shark. Uuuggghhh. Just thinking about that ending makes me want to kill someone.

Final Rating: 2.5/10

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Shocker Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After being executed, a serial killer returns as an electrical demon that jumps from body to body.

Review: Don't ask me why, but I really liked this movie when I was a kid. In fact, we had a kind of "tag" based off this movie due to the possessions the killer used. So when you'd tag someone, they had to do the limp the killer does to signify you're "it." Also, if you tagged someone without limping we counted that as cheating and you're still it. Hey! It was fun to us! Anyway, this movie does not hold up as well as I had imagined. This is like '80s cheesiness on PCP. I can't tell if it was meant to be completely serious, but, even if it weren't, there are still too many goofball moments. On top of this, we have to consider that Wes Craven made this film with the intention of establishing a successor to Freddy and the Nightmare franchise. Can we say fail. I'm not going to lie though, I would have thoroughly enjoyed a "Shocker 2," but this movie did not do well at all. Don't worry Wes, you had "Scream" to save the day.

One of the biggest problems is this movie takes a long ass time to get going. The structure of the story is nonsensical and needed to be reworked for cohesion. I mean, the killer doesn't even take the "shocker" form until halfway into the film. I get that they wanted to give us some back story, but this was going overboard. Oh well, at least the movie opens with a song that is based off the title of the film...a true '80s wonder. Then we meet our lead, Jonathan, who is presented as an idiot by falling all over the place during football practice. This was dumb because Johnny ends up being somewhat likable, but his initial impression is that of a jackass. John-boy has that hot kind of '80s girlfriend, named Alison, who you know will end up sliced and diced. When the two walk home, we suddenly shift into "A Nightmare on Elm Street" as Jonathan dreams about the serial killer, Horace Pinker, just as he's murdering Jonathan's family. There is a distinction, however, since John-boy has a psychic connection to Pinker and can astral project or they aren't simply dreams. Honestly, it doesn't matter and becomes nothing more than a contrived plot device after awhile. Living in a town with the worst news station ever, they keep announcing the details of the story almost begging for Pinker to retaliate. Jonathan convinces his dad, a police lieutenant, that he knows who Pinker is and where he's at. Of course the cops all get slaughtered, because they are morons. John-boy, being the sweet guy that he is, gives Alison a necklace for her birthday amidst this chaos, but Pinker is conveniently there to carve the girl up like a Thanksgiving turkey. Getting super pissed, Jonathan and his best friend concoct a Freddy-esque scheme of astral projecting to Pinker then being woken up before Johnny can die. Of course this works and they go to fight Pinker, but the cops followed John-boy and screw it all up. Keep in mind, Pinker has that limp I talked about yet never appears to have trouble outrunning people. Jonathan manages to catch Pinker, the two fight, and when Pinker is about to kill Johnny, the cops intervene and arrest Pinker.

I don't know how much time is meant to have passed, but I'm calling bullshit anyway. Pinker is already prepared for execution in the electric chair--do you know how many years down the road that would actually be? With a serial killer like Pinker we'd be looking at a trial that took years. Then we'd deal with endless appeals followed by appeals to the execution verdict plus time stuck on death row. Forget all that shit. Pinker is getting executed before John-boy's wounds from the fight are done healing apparently! Pinker has a plan though as he makes a deal with a magic TV demon who gives him powers by merely saying, "You got it, baby." I mean, of course magic TV demons would be all '80s hip and stuff and look like that fucking plant from "Little Shop of Horrors." Oh for the love of fuck. Don't even tell me this was the inspiration for those idiotic dream demons in "Freddy's Dead." Ugh...I shudder at the thought. After being a little bitch, Pinker is brought to the execution where he reveals he's actually Jonathan's father.'s not true....THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE! I'm not joking, Pinker really is Johnny's father since it was briefly mentioned he was adopted by the lieutenant when he was a child. Whatever, Pinker gets fried. When he seemingly survives the execution, the entire area erupts in bursts of electrical flashes, the lights go out, Pinker's body disappears, and we know Pinker has possessed the doctor that checked his vital signs. When they search around the facility, they find Pinker's body that disintegrates just as Pinker, inside the doctor, possesses a cop that crashes his car. Jonathan suspects something is not right, but he's too busy having nightmares of a bloody Alison who somehow returns that necklace to him.

Pinker, inside that cop, comes to Jonathan and they set into motion one of the most ridiculous action sequences you could imagine. For one, Pinker, with that limp, always manages to be just behind Jonathan in each shot; this is sloppy editing and continuity at its finest. Pinker appears to have gone to the stormtrooper school of aiming as well. Jonathan comes to the conclusion that Pinker can only possess someone for so long before their life force is worn out and he must find another body. Despite this, John-boy runs around a park they end up at without any effort made to get out of there and get help. Pinker jumps from a few bodies with the dumbest one being inside a little girl. Terrible. When accidentally dropping Alison's necklace on the possessed little girl, it forces Pinker out instantly revealing that it's Pinker's kryptonite. When possessing another guy, Pinker decides instead of simply killing Jonathan, he'd rather get rid of the necklace first by throwing it in a lake. Sounds smart. Johnny finally escapes the park and seeks help from his football team and coach. Man, try and watch this scene and imagine your friend is telling you the plot of this movie as if they believe it's real. But it's okay, you have to get the exposition out of the way when you're already at the 1 hour mark. Conveniently enough, Pinker is listening in as they discuss a plan to get the necklace from the lake Pinker tossed it in. Later on, John-boy checks to see what happened to his coach and finds he's possessed by Pinker now. Then Alison's ghost pops up to fight Pinker...uhh...yeah, sure, why not. Okay, I admit I may be describing things in a ridiculous away, but come on! If you can fight Pinker, then just fucking kill him yourself instead of making John-boy do it.

Through shenanigans, the coach gains the willpower to kill himself and force Pinker out who then puts himself into the electrical wiring itself. When the cops show up and find the bodies, they arrest Jonathan just as Pinker possesses the lieutenant. Conveniently though, Johnny's best friend shows up and rescues him from Pinker who takes to the streets to chase down Jonathan. Gotta love how outlandish this whole scene is, and they included more of the limping Pinker always keeping even with Jonathan who is clearly outrunning him. The pursuit leads to the top of a television broadcast tower where Pinker is once again willed out of the body, but he flees into the TV network itself. Jonathan finally concocts a plan to destroy Pinker that doesn't make any fucking sense whatsoever. After having a dream with Alison and Pinker's other victims, Johnny magically has the necklace just as Pinker is possessing a chair. Okay, okay, now things are getting so stupid I'm laughing. Mission accomplished, movie? There's something about luring Pinker to the room where he murdered Jonathan's family, but whatever. The two then end up traveling into the TV and jump from channel to channel while fighting each other which was admittedly cool. Not sure how they don't die, but the movie finally stopped taking itself seriously; I guess this was their attempt to show-up the shenanigans in the Nightmare franchise. But it still comes off more stupid than funny. Like, if you saw someone come out of your TV, all Samara/Sadako-style, then proceeded to have a wrestling match in your living room, would you be concerned about where the butter for your popcorn was? Don't get me started, son. The two end up fighting their way back to that room I mentioned through Johnny using a remote control he finds. Pinker is stalled long enough for Jonathan's friends to knock out the electricity for the town which will leave Pinker with no bodies to possess or electrical outlets to save himself with...I guess. John-boy escapes the room and there are explosions and stuff and Pinker is somehow dead. The movie ends with Jonathan looking at fake stars and Alison's ghost saying they're beautiful. My, my, my...

You know, there are still a few good aspects to this movie I enjoy. You obviously must appreciate the over the top cheesiness associated with the era. Pinker is kind of imaginative despite his wannabe Freddy personality. Alison, as some kind of x-factor, is unique and original in many respects while providing a few legitimate scares. And surely this film crosses into that so bad it's good territory. On the other hand, the story is a fucking mess and shows us many scenes that could have been left out completely. The best way I can describe this aspect is that it felt like these were ideas that should have spread out over a franchise rather than shoved into one movie. Most things that happen make no sense, are laughably stupid, or are simply pure bullshit. I think if this movie had come out earlier in the '80s, as opposed to '89, this would have been successful. It's not terrible, but it's corny as fuck. I think it's worth a view, but I can see why a lot of people hate this movie.

Notable Moment: When Pinker possesses a stupid little girl and tries to run Jonathan over with a bulldozer of sorts. Not only is this scene laughably bad from start to finish, but the little girl trying to limp was pitiful. Oh goodness gracious.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Alison, played by Camille Cooper, hotter as a ghost? I think I'm going to say yes.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Zoo (Japanese 2005) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: An anthology of five unusual tales based on the works of a guy calling himself Otsuichi.

Review: Once more, we combine two of my loves: anthology films and Asian horror. To be fair, however, I think this barely qualifies as a horror anthology since the stories are all over the place genre-wise. Actually, I'm really surprised I had never heard of this film before considering it is quite good. After finishing up "Forbidden Siren," I was looking over Yui Ichikawa's filmography to see if that was going to be the last we saw of her, but I noticed this oddball horror movie amongst the list; though, after "Zoo" there's only one other movie I'd be interested in so this is close to the end from our friend. Anyway, the five tales felt unique and had a layer of depth I wasn't expecting. There was a hint of pretentiousness here and there, but, for the most part, these are imaginative tales that offer respectable and original ideas. Let's take a look, shall we?

Kazari and Yoko: To start things off we don't have much in the way of credits and sadly there is no wraparound. That was definitely a poor choice when considering the weird poster art that does not show up in any of the tales. Looks disturbing as hell, right? So we meet Kazari and Yoko who are twin sisters, and we are shown that, at some point, Yoko will fall to her death. Kazari is the adored and cherished kid while Yoko is abused to a degree that I question the validity of the scenario itself. I mean, the poor girl is covered in bruises, dirty, and clearly not taken care of yet no one intervenes or cares? Hell, kids openly make fun of her bruises for fuck's sake! The two girls are raised by their bitchy mom who lives somewhat vicariously through Kazari and vents all her anger on Yoko--all the while forcing her to live in conditions that would make Harry Potter blush. Kazari does come off bratty but not as bad as you would think which will be important later. A scene that demonstrates this bratty behavior is when Kazari gives her scraps to Yoko, knowing how hungry she is, and starts to be cruel with it by making her eat food she spits out; to be fair, Kazari's friends do try and stop it. However, at other points Kazari will try and ease Yoko's make of it how you wish; keep in mind they are teens too, and is there really a worse form of female than that?

Eventually Yoko finds a missing dog, when pitifully taking a shower in the rain, and returns it to a happy old woman. This old lady rewards Yoko's kind act by cleaning her up and later promising to take her away from the horrible life she lives. Coinciding with this is the mom taking a book the old lady gave to Yoko. When trying to retrieve the book, Yoko watches Kazari spill beer all over the mom's laptop. Knowing that something like this would drive the mother possibly to murder, Kazari takes the book in order to pass the blame to Yoko to make it appear she spilled the beer while taking back the book. Yoko tries to go to the old woman, but she is conveniently dead. It is then that Yoko decides she must stop being a wimp and tricks Kazari into thinking the mom knows she ruined the laptop. Afraid of the beating, Kazari agrees to a plan Yoko proposes of the two switching roles in order for Yoko to look like Kazari and take the beating. Thinking this is a good idea, the real Kazari, as Yoko, goes inside their apartment and is promptly thrown from the building to her death--just as we saw at the beginning. For some reason, no one calls the police as the real Yoko is asked to write a suicide note to cover the mom's butt. The segment ends with Yoko running away with the old lady's dog as the two live happily ever after I suppose. I thought this story was a good way to kick things off. The girl playing both twins, Ryoko Kobayashi, did an excellent job adding a layer of depth to both roles while making them feel distinct. I just wish there weren't as many absurd moments: such as no one caring about an obviously abused girl and that a kid can die in broad daylight with no cops showing up...really?

Seven Rooms: I think this is probably the best of the bunch due to it's creativity and being the most horror-oriented of the five. In this segment, a sister and her young brother wake up suddenly to find themselves locked in a dingy room; the sister is played by Ms. Ichikawa by the way. The two discuss how the last thing they remember is being hit over the head, thus, implying they have been captured by someone. They are given one piece of bread for food and there is a small stream passing through the room that is meant to be a toilet of sorts. The design of the rooms are cool...just wanted to put that out there. The sister realizes the stream's pathway is just big enough for the little brother to swim through. Upon swimming through both ends of the stream, the boy reports that there are seven rooms total but a grate blocks escape on either end of the stream. In each room is a young girl with each having been captured for varying lengths of time. One of them, a crazy lady, tells the brother that the guy who captured them will kill someone each day at 6 PM and then bring in a replacement girl to fill the void; so you have a week to live pretty much. At first, the siblings don't believe this until one day they notice the pieces of one of the more distinguishable girls floating down the stream. At one point, the brother catches a glimpse of the killer and claims that he's a big guy carrying a chainsaw. As the days pass, the sister tries to form a plan of escape while the brother collects any useful items the girls are carrying before they die. On the day that the sister would be killed, she breaks her room's light bulb, to make the room dark, as she props up a dummy of the brother behind her that was constructed out of the belongings of all the girls. As the killer moves in close, the real brother pops out of the corner and locks the door from the outside...leaving the sister trapped with the chainsaw-wielding killer. I should mention the killer is amusingly some white guy. Hey, are you trying to insinuate something?! The brother frees all the girls, but he cries over the sacrifice of the sister in order for the rest to live. Although, could you ladies hurry your candy asses up a bit and call for help rather than casually taking your time to exit?! Ever think he may not be working alone? Needless to say, this segment ends bitter-sweet. I liked the overall approach, and it's hard nowaday to make a crazed killer feel original. The dynamics of the brother and sister relationship was endearing and everything felt natural and realistic. Definitely a bit disheartening that Ms. Ichikawa did not stick with the horror genre after appearing in a pretty good lineup.

SO Far: This next tale can be a bit convoluted so bare with me here. A girly looking boy is home alone, working on a puzzle, when the film greatly suggests his parents were killed in a car accident. The boy notices his parents return home, one at a time, and both claim the other is dead but they are the one that survived. Both parents also claim they cannot see the ghost of the other spouse yet acknowledge the son can communicate with them regardless. Keep in mind, it's established that this is a miserable marriage as well. At first the son finds the situation awkward but everyday life progresses smoothly enough as if nothing had ever happened. This does not last long, however, as the parents begin to bicker angrily using the son as the middleman for their squabbles. They stop showing what the two are saying, and I can't read lips, especially in Japanese, so your guess is as good as mine as to what insults were hurled; they were obviously pretty fucked up since the ball got rolling with the dad saying he's glad the mom is gone. This leads to dilemmas placed on the son as he must choose which parent to give his time toward as he can no longer see them both at the same time. Coming to terms with the notion that his parents are fading to him, the son must decide which parent he will stick with permanently. He obviously chooses the mom since she is the nicer of the two...or maybe it was because the dad knocked over that puzzle--you don't fuck with a girly-boy's puzzle. At this point we get a pretty obvious twist whereby it's revealed neither parent is dead. Gee, ya think?! What--the kid was paying the bills all this time and no police or relatives came to check on the kid? Sounds legit. While at a doctor, the parents say they started this ghost game after realizing they hate each other, in a manner of speaking, except the son began to believe it to the point he has blocked his dad out of his mind. As the bitter couple tries to deal with their crazy son, the film ends with the implication that the son is actually toying with everyone and perhaps trying to get them back together through...shenanigans...I guess. I don't know! Okay, I know I make this sound dumb, but this was pretty good. The "SO Far" title looks suspicious because it's meant to mean "significant other far (apart)." I think it's best to view this tale as a metaphor for divorce and how it impacts the child and puts them in weird, awkward situations where they must choose between the parents. In this regard, this segment is brilliant and felt realistic to me. It can be needlessly confusing with many ways to interpret things, but that adds more to think about. And that milf...

Hidamari No Shi (When the Sun Shines): Taking things in a whole different direction, we get into an introspective sci-fi tale that's strangely animated. This entry begins with the creation of an android girl at the hands of scientist. The girl starts off naked so you may think this story is going down a perverse route, but you'd be way off. Oh...only I thought that? Umm...moving along. Suspiciously, there is a photo of a couple that looks very much like the scientist with a more human-looking android girl. The scientist is trying to teach the android girl various aspects of living as we get the idea the world is not what it seems. More importantly, the scientist wants the android to interpret death, love, and a reverence for life. Slowly, the android girl reaches these conclusions through experiencing a near death from a fall and the loss of a rabbit she grew a liking toward. After repairing the android, it is revealed that the scientist is dying and created the android girl to bury him and continue onward. Angry that she will be left alone to bury the scientist, whom she loves, android girl comes to terms with this fact once she understands that humanity is extinct; she saw the ruins of society when she fell. Making things more interesting is that the scientist himself is an android whose only memory of the past comes from a "woman" who made him 150 years prior. Hmm. When the scientist finally dies, android girl buries him in a massive graveyard as the audience realizes this is a cycle that may have been happening for thousands of years. With a final shot of the couple in the photo, we can infer that the two androids swap roles and recreate the other as their end draws close every 150 years. You are definitely left with a sense of wonder as to who the original couple was and how this cycle began. I really liked this entry as it was deep, thought provoking, and addressed multiple philosophical concepts in regard to life, its meaning, and the continuance of life through death. Some heavy shit here to say the least. On top of that, the atmosphere was perfect which is impressive for an animation. I really wanted to know more...if only the shitty "Matrix" sequels could have been like this.

Zoo: To close things out we have maybe the weakest entry. It's ironic, since this is the segment the movie is named for, but it simply doesn't make any sense. It's not that it's inherently bad, it's just that this entry needed some blanks filled in considering we aren't left with enough clues to piece together an explainable narrative. Switching to a grainier film quality, we initially get an intriguing beginning with a man waking up and flipping over a polaroid photo that reveals a decomposing skeleton. We then see that there are many photos on the man's wall of a woman as we cut to 104 days earlier. Oh shit, is this the true "500 Days of Summer" sequel I always wanted? 100 days of dead bitch?! We get the idea that the man obsessively loves the mystery girl seen in the photos as we see the two spending time together. The woman expresses her annoyance to the guy taking her photo constantly, but then the two prepare to bang. Oddly enough, the woman bites the guy's lip and then kisses his shirt with the blood-stained lips; she says this is her mark or something like that. Uh...okay...kinky...I guess? We then cut back to the present to see that the guy has a polaroid for each of the last 104 days of the girl's dead body decomposing. Cutting back to the past again, we see the couple driving through, what I'm guessing is, oblivion, as the girl notices a zoo advertised. The couple turns back around and goes to the zoo which is actually closed down. They meander about and have pretentious conversations regarding zebras when the guy takes another photo. Pissed by yet another photo, the girl says they need to break up and vaguely mentions there are more men in the world. This sends the guy into a homicidal fit as he chokes the girl to death and sets into motion the first photo we saw of the decomposing body. Coincidentally enough, the man sees a zebra watching him commit the murder as he comes out of the tantrum. When we cut back to the present, we get a barrage of nonsensical scenes including a photo of the girl unburning (not even a word and I don't care), the girl crawling on the guy and leaving him another bloody kiss, a phone call from the girl saying once more he's not the only man in the world, the implication that the 104 decomposing photos appear at his doorstep each day, the man claiming he can't find the zoo, and a shot of the girl now with a zebra in it. The end. Yeah...I have no clue what all that means. I don't know where to begin honestly. Although I liked the imagery a lot, what is up with the oblivion setting? Is this the same dystopian universe as the last segment? I mean, where the hell is anyone? Is this why the guy freaked out over the line about other men in the world? Or is he imagining this girl as the center of his universe and can't see anyone but her? And I'm sorry but this chick is busted. I kept thinking the twist would be she was a dude. What's with the zoo? And the zebra? Ugh, I don't get it! So someone is leaving the photos or is he? He seems to feel guilty, but that doesn't explain jackshit. I don't know about this one. It started off very promising, had great atmosphere, but then spiraled into madness and took me with it. Help!

Despite the flaws I had with each story, this was an extremely well made anthology with consistently good entries; if the last story hadn't dropped the ball, I would have rated this higher. More so, if there were a wraparound, with that weird character on the poster no less, I might be calling this the best anthology I've seen. Unfortunately, that's not happening though. I liked the atmosphere, imagery, and thought provoking aspects to the tales as each one had a lot more going on than surface level ideas. The stories stood strongly and independently from each other and that's another great feat. The acting was good and, often times, impressive from the younger stars. Lastly, the production value was exceptional when I'm betting they weren't working with much of a budget. I definitely recommend checking this out especially for the Asian horror fans out there. The film has it's flaws, for sure, and some may view the segments slightly more pretentious than I, but if you know what to expect you should be pleasantly surprised by the quality provided here. Unknown gems like this need significantly more recognition.

Notable Moment: At the end of "Seven Rooms" when poor, little Ms. Ichikawa dies. Still love that it was some random white dude as the killer.

Final Rating: 7/10

Bye bye Ms. Ichikawa!