Sunday, January 31, 2016

Logan's Run Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Centuries after a past calamity, humanity lives in a futuristic, domed city where you can only live until the age of 30.

Review: With the rise of dystopian fiction for young adults, you'd think this film would gain more recognition. Maybe it's the whole '70s vibe that holds it back for modern audiences? Regardless, this is classic sci-fi at its finest that typically takes a backseat to things like "Star Wars" or "Blade Runner." Sure, this film has a few technical flaws, occasional pacing issues, and an abruptly stupid ending, but the imaginative story is fantastic. This isn't necessarily an accurate depiction of a possible future, but it serves as an interesting "what if" plot line. If anything, this allows the film to delve into a more visionary direction since they are free of trying to tie things to any era.

So what is going on in this future? While we never learn what destroyed most of humanity, what's left of the people live inside a giant, domed city. Here, the population is protected from the outside world and, seemingly, controlled by automated machines that lurk behind the scenes to maintain day-to-day functions. As for the people, they live a life I would describe as orderly hedonism. You can fuck whoever, take drugs, play video games, eat whatever, get surgery on a whim, etc., but there are certain rules that must be followed. Honestly, this is probably the kind of future most humans would desire. Did I mention everyone looks like movie stars except for one poor, unfortunate extra? I might also add I think this movie invented the first hookup app--something they refer to as "the circuit." Oh goodness gracious. As with any dreamy future, there is always a catch. Besides the fact that humanity has been reduced to shallow and idiotic drones, you are only allowed to enjoy this pampered life until you are 30. After that, you must "renew" in a process they call "carousel." Apparently the people have been brainwashed into believing some kind of reincarnation awaits them after year 30 or something; this aspect could have used further exploration and clarity. If you try to violate this rule, you must answer to the Sandmen, a police-like force that kills anyone resisting renewal; they call these people runners. With all things considered, I like this setup, and the film tries hard to present this strange world in an easy to understand format.

As for the meat of the story, it involves the titular Logan, a Sandman, played somewhat nervously by Michael York, who has been tasked to infiltrate a group of runners that have successfully escaped over the years. They simply refer to this group as Sanctuary. Logan is assisted by his love interest, Jessica, played by the super sexy Jenny Agutter, who has connections to these runners and trusts Logan. Oh man, Ms. Agutter...those eyes...that voice...that killer! I'm sorry, where was I? Oh right...Logan and Jessica fight their way through the city, to the outside, and eventually find what's left of Washington, DC. There are few bad and good points along the way. Logan never reveals to Jessica that he was initially just using her which felt like a plot line that needed addressing. Of course he does fall for her, but she always assumed it falsely. They also do not handle Logan's Sandman friend, Francis, properly. He kind of magically tracks them down and dies without character resolution. On the other hand, I love their reactions to nature and trying to survive without someone to care for them. Likewise, the reaction to seeing an actual old person was amusing. By the end, Logan and Jessica try to make the people of their city realize the truth about aging and the outside world but are captured. Somehow the central computer that controls everything blows up upon realizing that Sanctuary wasn't real. I don't know! It felt like they gave up or something. The movie simply ends with humanity escaping the confines of the city, but would that truly be the end of the story? I'm 100% confident humans would miss the security and confines of the city. But, hey, Hollywood endings.

This pic hardly does her justice.

Overall, this is one of those movies you hear about, probably through pop culture references, and you never end up watching it. I'd highly recommend you change that. While it's not as life-changing as "Star Wars" or as stylistically beautiful as "Blade Runner," this film more than makes up for it with raw creativity and an intriguing story. The cinematography, set designs, and effects were also pretty good for the era. There are undeniable flaws throughout, like failing to emphasize the elite nature of the Sandmen, but none are detrimental with the exception of the ending; I'll admit, that could hurt the film's overall impression to a viewer. If you can overlook the obviously '70s-inspired coating to everything, and appreciate the story being told, you should be pleasantly entertained.

Notable Moment: When Logan and Jessica pass through that sex shop or whatever. A slow motion orgy, with everyone implied to be on drugs, accompanied by trippy camera work and psychedelic colors? Surrre, why not?

Final Rating: 7.5/10

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Bloody Reunion Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A reunion between former students and their teacher turns dealy as old wounds are opened.

Review: This film may be known by numerous alternate titles, but I'm going with the most logical of the bunch. Also, don't let the poster mislead you, there are no precious schoolgirls to be found here (noooo!). In actuality, this is a straightforward revenge flick with a twist that will either make or break the film for you. For me, it broke it. It's not simply that the twist is predictable, but it's the annoyance that all the events of the film are cancelled out in the process. Thus, the movie wastes your time. I get that some people may find the twist surprising or creative, but I've watched more than enough Korean horror that these reality-altering twists have become a cliche. This doesn't mean the film is inherently bad as it still has decent production value, unique ideas, and redeeming qualities; for example, the killer's motive is, admittedly, sympathetic.

What exactly is going on here? Well...the film starts off with the main girl, Mi-Ja, explaining to the police the events that led to her hospitalization along with the teacher that this reunion was centered around. Supposedly Mi-Ja was staying with this teacher when she decided to invite a group of former classmates to meet up since the teacher's health was waning; think of it as a last hoorah of sorts. Of the people who do decide to show up, they're all screw ups who were somehow traumatized by the teacher. You'd think these people would have moved on, considering the teacher was from elementary school and they're in their 20s, but I guess these grudges go deep? You will probably suspect something is not right since this teacher is a combination of so many negative traits that they start to contradict with one another. Nevertheless, people start to die at the hands of a masked killer on the loose mixed with the ex-students trying to kill the teacher as well. In this respect, the movie is fun and keeps you somewhat guessing despite never properly keeping the killer's identity discreet; you know there will be more to it than that.

The deaths are quite brutal and gory so I'll give the film a little credit for that. Unfortunately things fall to pieces with contrivances and goofball subplots like with the deformed kid trapped in the basement (yeah, okay). When everything is said and done, Mi-Ja and the teacher are the last two alive after the killer is revealed to be some guy anyone would easily suspect. However, when the cops investigate the killer, they realize Mi-Ja's story is full of holes. Excellent police work by the way.  And what is with that mom seemingly dying to "The Ring?!" You've got a zombie-looking corpse, a TV with static, and a pool of water? Hmm, sounds like the calling card of our dear Sadako/Samara! Anyway, in case you didn't see it coming a mile away, Mi-Ja is the real killer, and everything she has said is a lie. Rather than being this hated teacher with students that want her dead, the teacher was beloved and had yearly reunions with her favorite students. Mi-Ja was the exception however. All the horrible things that happened to others throughout the film were actually events focused solely on Mi-Ja. Over time, Mi-Ja's life was ruined and her mom horribly crippled--things that she blames the teacher for. I did really like the explanation of how Mi-Ja's life unfolded especially with how her mom became entangled in the process; it's certainly compelling, and you can see why Mi-Ja might lose her shit. Somehow escaping the hospital with the teacher, Mi-Ja goes to a pier where she commits suicide. Her final act of revenge was to reveal her motivation and then force the teacher to live with the guilt. Eh, that's pushing it for me.

The ending should feel satisfying, but it feels shallow somehow. Why would Mi-Ja even allow herself to be hospitalized in the first place? Why not finish this scheme all before the cops show up? The twist simply feels forced as an attempt to blow audiences away. There are ways they could have kept this twist yet made it meaningful. Many of the plot tangents become too nonsensical when we realize nothing Mi-Ja was saying was true. Like, why bother with the deformed kid plot at all? I just can't forgive that they chose to negate their own film rather than trying to incorporate the reveal into the shown events. If you can get over this cliched twist and its predictable nature, I think you may enjoy this film more than I. The acting is decent, the mystery keeps you interested, and the deaths are weird enough to be original. For the most part, this is a good film for the first hour or so, but the ending hurts the final experience and definitely leaves a bad aftertaste.

Notable Moment: When that one guy is forced to swallow blade shards. That's a painful way to go...though, I suppose he never did die that way after all.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Severed (2002) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Do you ever wonder if, perhaps, you've died and gone to hell without realizing it? No? Well, you will after watching this movie.

Review: Oh hell no. Rika, NO! It has finally happened...I have found something as shitacular as "Howling 7!" How...wha...umm...who? FUUUUCK. Let's get one thing out of the way, this is the seventh entry in the 8-pack with "Bloody Murder." And, seriously, how much shit can you cram into one set? It should be a crime to charge money for this DVD. These movies, and I use that term loosely, are all abominations to cinema. What ungodly creature is out there funding this trash?! If you contributed more than $10, I'm sorry, but you were scammed--demand your investment back. I am embarrassed for everyone involved in this production.

So what is the "story?" Uhh...something about a serial killer called the Head Hunter running around decapitating people. I guess he's supposed to be a voodoo demon or makes little sense. The cops hire a bounty hunter who used to work for the FBI, because surely that will make the difference. Shenanigans ensue until the main guy kills the Head Hunter, but he's possessed by the demon or whatever at the end. There you go...what a film. Believe me, I have done you a service in explaining that nonsense in a succinct way. Following the plot is quite difficult since the lighting is the worst I have ever seen! No exaggerations. No jokes. This is the absolute worst lighting--you cannot see half the godforsaken movie! Not that you'd want to, but, still. It's pretty damn atrocious when your best lit scene is in a mall parking lot. The "acting" is a cruel joke with horrendous line delivery and occasional dubbing over; however, believe it or not, it's just a tad above "Howling 7" in this respect. The camera work and picture quality is akin to someone's mom filming their kids playing in the snow in 1992. The sound is a mess; it's as if they only had access to AOL instant messenger soundbites from 1998. There are also instances where they comically forget to add sound. I really don't know how to explain it--the technical aspects are the worst that could possibly be achieved outside of someone randomly pressing pause or seeing overlapping tape (which is why I've yet to dish out a 0/10 or a 0.5/10). Needless to say, the story is something an emo 14 year old would come up with and probably did.

As I tortured myself with this teeth-pulling experience, I kept ticking off thresholds it was crossing. It was like, "Oh, there goes 'The Haunted Dollhouse.' And there goes 'Asian School Girls.'" When they finally had the Head Hunter start talking was when it hit me this was as horrific as "Howling 7." That was a hard truth to come to terms with. My fucking goodness. One important difference I want to stress is that "Howling 7" can be funny to the right audience. This blight to humanity, on the other hand, is not nearly as entertaining. I don't know what else to say. This is currently the second worst movie I've ever forced myself to endure. If you're even half familiar with my past reviews, you should know how much weight that statement carries! The overwhelming levels of stupidity of this film will leave you questioning reality itself.

Notable Moment: When the main guy shoots some criminal at the beginning. Not only is he using, what appears to be, an Uzi with a suppressor attached, but it makes a shotgun sound accompanied by the shot guy using a soundbite scream. In other words, I died of laughter.

Final Rating: 1/10

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Iron Girl: Ultimate Weapon Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: The Iron Girl is back, but this time she's taking out a gang of flunkies in order to get her memories back.

Review: this is a sequel I never expected to be made. The first "Iron Girl" was incredibly disappointing so how did this one fair? Well, it's a step in the right direction at the very least. The creators still do not know how to handle this material in a fun way. I often compare these over the top movies to "The Machine Girl" or "Deadball," because they are among the few to get it right. If your premise is to have a Japanese porn star playing an android fighter in an apocalyptic wasteland, is it really that difficult to indulge your wildest fantasies? However, it's not all bad though as there was a concerted effort to make improvements, and this was noticeable.

 Still sexy.

First and foremost, Kirara Asuka is back as the Iron Girl and looking as hot as ever. Her intro was near perfect--showing her sexy side and her kickass side all in one fell swoop. The entire sequence gave me a false hope this would be a huge improvement over part 1. To spice things up they gave Iron Girl a sword which I guess was a given for Japanese cinema. There is an attempt to build a greater universe around the character which, despite failing to do so, was a novel idea. Of course this meant sequel-baiting which is kind of brazen for a movie like this. Are they really this confident there will be a part 3? I liked the idea of Iron Girl becoming a kind of bounty hunter, but her goal of saving enough money for a "memory device" was preposterous. Can't they work out a bargain or, I dunno, just give it to her?! Nevertheless, the villains Iron Girl must kill were a lot more creative and memorable. In fact, the main adversary (since he was technically a crony of the main villain) was awesome! I loved his design and the badass presentation of this character. Too bad they pulled a Darth Maul and went and killed him off right away; he was infinitely more interesting than the Iron Saint from part 1. I also liked that his identity was that of Iron Girl's boyfriend from pre-World War III. Ugh...why did they waste this plot line in such a frivolous manner? Finally, the plentiful amount of girls are all cute, and we are treated to an ample amount of fan service...just not nearly enough for a movie like this.

Kill and Poison. Not exactly original in the naming department.

As you can probably tell, the flaws are nearly as massive as the first movie. The action is simply not relentless enough. Come on, Iron Girl is supposed to be a living weapon with superhuman abilities yet she has only had a handful of scenes in two movies to demonstrate this? Why are there so many scenes of walking around and idle chitchat? There are even multiple scenes that act like they are about to set up some softcore action only to blue ball the audience. What the hell are they thinking? If the budget restraints are a barrier to better special effects and action sequences, why bother at all? Likewise, if you need to invest more in the story line to offset the budget, then step up your game and tell a compelling story. That one chickadee, although sexy as hell, doesn't do shit except serve as a convenient excuse for why Iron Girl never gets to use the memory device. That's absolute shit writing. That time could have been spent establishing Iron Girl's boyfriend and how he turned evil. I mean, he appears to know Iron Girl was once his girlfriend yet he wants to kill her why? More importantly, what happened to everything established with part 1? What became of the Iron Saint or that prophecy? Or what about Iron Girl's friends? Why did Iron Girl ditch her awesome cloak--I loved that thing!

Once more, if you're expecting a kind of over the top splatterfest like "The Machine Girl," you will be sorely disappointed. While I appreciate the improvement from part 1, it's not a significant enough change. The humor is still bizarre, the action scenes too scattered, and the villain completely wasted yet again. Ms. Asuka is hot as the titular character, going topless a few times along with other cast members, but this is more icing on a cake than a legitimate incentive to watch. I'd love to recommend these two films as a double feature, but, as it stands, there isn't enough going on to warrant such a viewing. Hopefully, if there is an "Iron Girl 3," they will go all out and deliver the potential this story is more than capable of providing.

Notable Moment: Shower scene. Hot. More please. That is all.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Forest (2016) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A woman attempts to find her missing twin in Japan's infamous suicide forest, Aokigahara.

Review: At a glance of the trailer, this looks to be nothing more than a high-budget version of "Grave Halloween." Needless to say, my expectations going into this film were extremely low. Surprisingly, this was a lot more entertaining than I imagined and significantly better than "Grave Halloween." However, this still wasn't a very good movie with all things considered. The main problem being the abundance of wasted potential and a lingering feeling that a good portion of the story was left on the cutting room floor; I likened the problem to taking a 200 page script and reducing it to 100. There are numerous plot elements at play, and you sense the climax is building up to some amazing reveal, but the ending delivers nothing. In fact, when the lackluster ending concludes, you are left with a million questions due to all the plot tangents that went unanswered or glossed over. Ehh...what can I say...January horror movies certainly have a reputation for this shit.

What works? The cinematography is great--better than this movie deserves. Truth be told, I've laid this claim against multiple movies so, perhaps, the cinematography industry is stepping their game up with inferior films to display their talents. The atmosphere is captured extremely well with unique shots and an ominous tone throughout; the polished look to every scene and the use of creative angles enhances this dark mood. Overall, the technical aspects were topnotch. There isn't much I can praise about the story other than the interesting ideas that go nowhere. The play on duality with the twin sisters, seeing things from a reverse perspective, this notion of one sister seeing while the other closes her ideas that should have significance to the story. Admittedly, the main mystery is presented well enough as you wonder where things are going or how it will all tie just never happens. Specific scenes I want to give credit toward are the Hashiko transformation; she looked successfully creepy pre and post transformation. When Sara is running around and there is a ghost behind every tree--it gave off the idea that every tree represented a spirit. Lastly, when Sara is getting mixed up with the direction they were going. This disorientation needed a greater importance in the grand scheme of things. I mean, come on, this is Aokigahara Forest for fuck's sake, make damn good use of it! By the way, this was not filmed in the actual forest in case you're wondering.

As for the film's faults, the most glaringly obvious are the dead end plot lines. Why did the twins' parents kill themselves? Why build up a connection with grandma that led to jackshit? What is the point of the Hashiko ghost/demon--to embody the forest's evil? So the forest is actively trying to trick you into suicide? Why was the distrust between Aiden and Sara hyped when it went nowhere? More so, what was Aiden's deal after all? His character was not handled realistically at all since a normal person would have dropped Sara like a sack of potatoes when she started going crazy. What was the point of the guy in the hood? Where the hell was Jess at during the events of the movie? Sara goes through all this trouble to rescue Jess, and Jess simply walks away without a care?! Nice. Sara is instantly evil the moment she dies...because reasons? Honestly, I could go on all day with plot lines that were introduced only to amount to nothing. It's hard to explain, but when you see the movie you feel that the events are connected and building up to something. Like, there should have been a twist that brought the story full circle or showed us something was never true from the start. I had plenty of ideas I thought could have spiced things up; the best one being to make the hooded guy's mask come off and reveal that it was either Aiden or Michi. They could have easily made it so the twins' identities were reversed or actually explained what triggered Jess' apparent suicide attempt. This chickadee just started a new life in Japan yet wants to commit suicide...why? Why not, right? Give the audience something to work with here! This sense of wasted potential is especially painful when they start to cut back and forth between Sara and Jess as if they are coming together in a meaningful way. They don't. There were too many aspects done commendably for me to believe this shoddy storytelling wasn't due to forced editing. I'll tell myself that.

Besides that, the use of Natalie Dormer to begin with irked me. Nothing against Ms. Dormer, but there's no reason she needs to be playing American twins. I get it, we can't have an Asian lead (for whatever reason), but was it necessary to not have Ms. Dormer departing from the UK instead? Would that have changed anything other than her accent? I get that this is a minor nuisance, but this decision baffles me to no end. The real icing though is with Aiden. I don't care if you unrealistically want non-Japanese characters in Japan, but can it not come off as such a huge ass contrivance?! Of all the people in Japan, Sara keeps running into people who speak English and meets up with the one white guy in the area?! That's a good one.

In the end, this is a slightly above average film that had the potential to be great. While there are definitely numerous cliches abound, the material is worked with in a distinct way. The atmosphere is depicted excellently and establishes the intrigue meaningfully. Unfortunately, the same care given to the design was not taken with the story. The premise is interesting yet the general plot is a mess, and the ending is pointless and needlessly abrupt. Not enough is explained given the structure of the story's events nor are the various plot elements tied together coherently. Nonetheless, I do believe this is worth a watch, but only at the rental level when you're out of ideas.

Notable Moment: When Hashiko transforms into...well, whatever the hell she was supposed to be.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Ramblings of Ryan Volume 7

Typically I have a lot to discuss with these rambles, but there is just one topic this time around--something so ridiculous it needs to be discussed all by its lonesome. It would appear Japan has decided the time has come to create "Sadako vs. Kayako" the movie!!! Oh man...that's a good one! Is this going to be serious? Will they follow the "Freddy vs. Jason" formula and have it be half parody? Japan, are you really going there? How the hell will this even make sense? Sadako and Kayako are both ghosts already...they can't die. Scratch that, Kayako was reborn in "Ju-on: The Grudge 2" so what the hell?! This leads me to the problem of which continuity do they use. Do they use the original "Ring" franchise or this "Sadako 3D" bullshit? Do they follow "Ju-on: The Grudge," "Ju-on: the Curse" or the dumbass reboot series? I still need to get around to watching "Ju-on: The Final" by the way.

I've already said before I prefer Kayako to Sadako, because she looks scarier and the "Grudge" franchise has consistently better movies. However, I highly doubt we will see the triumphant return of Takako Fuji reprising her role as Kayako. Sadako can be played by any chickadee in a wig at this point, but maybe they will handle the character with more grace compared to the lackluster "Sadako 3D" movies. Japan has more reverence for Sadako so I suspect she will gain the upper hand. Likewise, Sadako had powers in life and simply grew stronger in death. Kayako is essentially just a regular woman--albeit, a pissed off, evil spirit that can seemingly time travel--but a normal woman nonetheless. This may be interesting after all depending on how creative they get.

I think I can picture the plot already: a new family moves into the Saeki house. A schoolgirl character is mandatory so the family has a daughter who winds up watching Sadako's tape as a prank with her new schoolmates. I'm not sure how to work it in, but there needs to be some nurses involved one way or another. MUST HAVE nurses and schoolgirls! After being haunted by Kayako for a time, Sadako comes to collect her victims after 7 days but Kayako isn't having it. The two then get into a DBZ level fight that takes them to the top of Tokyo Tower since all epic showdowns must end up there. Okay, seriously, how the fuck is this supposed to work? They just do a catfight? Pulling one another's overly long hair no doubt. Realistically, is there a feasible way to kill either of these two for good? Maybe the schoolgirl and a helpful nurse friend manage to trap Kayako in the well and have Sadako forced to change Toshio's diapers forever. The end. Oh wait, fuck...gotta have a final zinger. I got it! The final scene can have the schoolgirl's cellphone ringing with the "One Missed Call" ringtone. Then "Sadako vs. Kayako vs. Mimiko" flashes up on the screen. Bam! Done. Give me my writing credit. The only thing left to say do we get Natre involved in this action...

Here's the trailer by the doesn't show much though. Not sure if this is from the actual production company or not, but this looks to be official.

Cinco (Filipino 2010) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A horror anthology where each story focuses on a part of the body.

Review: I'm not really sure why they went with calling this "Cinco." Sure, there are five stories, but "lima" is five in tagalog, is it not? Anyway, I liked the attempt at a unifying theme among the stories, but none are particularly good or memorable. There is no wraparound, however, the ending of the fifth story does link back to the first; I definitely appreciated the stories coming full circle in that regard. One thing that really took me out of each story was unnecessary humorous moments; the tone shifts too much midway or starts off comedic and tries to become serious. This is an ongoing issue I have with Filipino horror movies in general, but maybe others can appreciate it more.

Braso (arm): The first story kicks us off with three guys going through some kind of hazing which involves being locked in a morgue. The guy leading this looks way too old to be college-aged but, sure, let's go with it. After delivering forced banter, the guys come across a severed arm that is undead somehow, and it tries to, seemingly, kill them. Giving in, and running away from the morgue, the three guys leave the leader and his flunkies to rot. The leader then decides he wants to fuck his busted girlfriend in the morgue...because why not, right? Unfortunately for him, the arm, now reduced to a hand by the three guys, magically gets lodged in his throat and kills him. And that's it. This really wasn't the best start, but if they wanted to tie it all together I suppose it had to be this way.

Paa (foot): This is probably the best story of the bunch, but that isn't necessarily saying much. A poor woman attends the funeral of a little girl who died recently; the little girl lost a foot as well when she was run over. It's obvious the woman was responsible, but the segment does a commendable job in setting up the circumstances that led to the death. Shortly after this, the woman is haunted by the little girl's ghost who afflicts the woman with a disease that begins to eat away at her foot. The woman appears to have stolen shoes from the little girl in order to give to her own daughter in an upcoming award ceremony. The woman tries to return the shoes, but the ghost is more interested in stealing the woman's daughter as payback. Eventually we learn that the woman was feeling depressed, because her daughter had worn out shoes and would presumably look foolish during the award ceremony. Unable to afford new ones, the woman saw the little girl's mother nonchalantly buying expensive shoes with little concern over the price. Feeling as though they wouldn't be at a loss, the woman stole the shoes and ran away. Unintentionally, the little girl chased afterward and was hit by a car in the pursuit; this was followed by a second car running her over and ripping off her foot. Deciding to show forgiveness, the ghost lets both the woman and her daughter live, however, the woman lost her foot due to the infection. Eh, she got off easy. Just be glad you didn't steal from Samara, Mimiko, or that brat from "The Locker."

Mata (eye): I have no idea what the hell was going on with this segment. The main highlight was seeing Maja Salvador who played Joya in "Sukob." Still waiting on that "Sukob 2" by the way. A couple is hanging out at a bar or whatever the hell when the girlfriend wants to go home. The boyfriend is such a huge bitch-boy my goodness. These two are engaged or something, but, hun, are you serious? This guy has a neck tattoo for fuck's sake! When driving backward down a one-way street, the two come across a, rightfully, angry driver who wants them to move. The boyfriend shoots the guy in the eye, and they move on like no big deal. Surprise, the ghost of the driver haunts them, but, this time around, the girlfriend finds herself in a kind of time loop. She tries to change things each time, but the outcome comically stays the same. At the end the girlfriend decides she's had it up to here with these mother fucking neck tattoos on this mother fucking douchebag and blows him away. Believing the time loop to be over, the segment ends with the girlfriend apparently dying to the boyfriend's ghost now. Uh huh. Well whatever.

Mukha (face): This could have easily been the best story of the five, but they chose to start things off with slapstick levels of comedy for some odd reason. Also, were they trying to say this is Christmas time? So a crazy bitch boss fires the janitor, because he's the janitor and who else do you fire in a cliched story? A few employees repay the bitch by tricking her into believing the janitor committed suicide. They torment her around the office with relentless photos of the guy and wear printed pages of his face. The bitch does figure it out when one of the employees' phone rings alerting them to the fact that the janitor really did commit suicide after all. At the end, the bitch is trapped in an elevator with the real ghost...and is more scared...I guess. The ghost doesn't do anything so what's the point? Right then. Let's move on.

Puso (heart): Closing us out is the tale of a deformed woman, living in some kind of carnival, who just wants to be loved. Don't feel too bad for her though as the material is not taken seriously at all. In fact, the woman is continually berated by a stereotypical gay guy. I think I could have tolerated this segment's outlandish nature more if it weren't so unoriginal, the longest entry, and placed at the end. So the woman has a crush on a guy who works at the carnival, but he's getting married to some hot chick. Assisting the woman in fulfilling her dreams is, like, the resident psychic or whatever who concocts a love potion. Oh, gee, wow, I wonder where this plot line is going? Surprising no one, the potion makes the guy become psychotic with his love for the deformed woman. The only change they make is that the guy transforms into a kind of ghoul as well. After the guy kills half the carnival people who gets in his way, the woman realizes something is not right with her loverboy. The two give chase until the guy is trapped in a ditch with dirt buried on top of him. This doesn't fully shut him down as his arm reaches out to grab the woman, but she cuts it off with a shovel. Now we come back to the first segment as that is the undead arm. The arm kills the woman, and it's obviously implied that this is how the two ended up in the morgue together. If only the whole movie had the kind of imagination the film ends with.

Overall, the stories aren't completely terrible, but they aren't exactly good either. In fairness, the segments are actually presented competently--they're simply lackluster in storytelling. Plus, the production value was better than I thought it would be so I'll cut them slack in that regard. There was too much mediocrity spread around when they could have capitalized on the better ideas. Linking all of the stories was a great approach, but it's not accomplished meaningfully; supposedly you see the carnival guy with the undead arm in each story, but I missed it. Maybe with more cohesion between the directors or writers this could have been worthwhile, but, as it stands, this is essentially a pass. If you just want to check out the "Paa" segment that would probably be the best move.

Notable Moment: During the Paa segment when we learn what led to the little girl dying and losing her foot. The segment isn't as moving as it could have been, but I liked the way the series of events unfold.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Network (1976) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A news anchor reaches a state of enlightenment, or madness, as his rants land him the highest rated show on television.

Review: This is, without a doubt, one of the most powerful films to come out of the '70s. Although this is a satirical look at the media during a time when TV mattered, it covers all kinds of material regarding the political, societal, and philosophical. You do need a certain working knowledge of '70s America to fully appreciate the passing dialogue and the weight of some of the comparisons, but the heart of the story is universal. I like to think of this film as more of a peek behind the veil of propaganda--a glimpse at the kind of soulless individuals who run the show. One unfortunate aspect worth mentioning is that Peter Finch, who plays the central character of Howard Beale, died while promoting the film in early '77. While he rightfully earned his Academy Award for this performance, it would have been great to hear further insights regarding the character.

To quickly sum things up, Howard is a news anchor who goes off the rails when the network intend to fire him for low ratings. The cast is more of an ensemble, and they do turn in spectacular performances as well, but Howard's character arc is what truly makes this film shine. First Howard says he will commit suicide on air which draws attention to his show. This is followed by other instances of him going on profanity-laced rants. While the network is trying to figure out what to do with Howard, he has an epiphany or reaches a state of enlightenment...somehow. It is unclear as we can assume anything from he's gone insane to becoming one with the force (he really does mention the force before Star Wars!). Regardless of the cause, Howard decides to use his platform to vent the frustrations of society on behalf of the average citizen. This is the point when the famous line "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore" is uttered. You could say this was sort of the anthem of an era when people weren't completely brainwashed yet. Again, the references in this scene are specific to the time and place, but you can apply the general message to any time period or country in the world quite readily.

Eventually Howard is given a show, that becomes the highest rated, where he can go on similar anger-fueled rants. The "I'm as mad as hell" line is most remembered, but I think there are two scenes that easily eclipse it in importance. In one scene, Howard discusses the illusion of the media and how controlled and manipulated it is. This is especially important nowaday since it has become impossible to decipher what is real and what is propaganda--what's the agenda at hand. And that's if you can even sort through all the bullshit and fluff pieces we simply refer to as "clickbait." No longer are these shenanigans relegated to America or even the Western countries. Propaganda and bullshit have spread like a plague across the globe creating a swarm of mindless drones to engulf the planet in idiocy. To further cement the hopeless situation we find ourselves in, Howard finally pisses off higher ups in the system when he rallies people behind protesting an insider business deal. This is when we come to the third main scene and probably the most powerful in the film overall. The guy who runs the entire company wants to meet Howard face to face in order to explain to Howard how things really work and that he's angered "primal forces." This character addresses that money controls the world under the guidance of conglomerates, banks, and corporations working in tandem. As he elaborates, there are no more countries or people...there are only companies and their business transactions. After this, Howard is manipulated into becoming, more or less, a shill for the corporations, but his ratings slip as the public does not like his defeatist shift in philosophy. The network executives then plot to have Howard assassinated on live TV to get rid of him and boost the ratings in the process. This is the one part of the story I found to be stupid, but I get the emphasis on the kind of lengths these people will go to for money and ratings.

A few other things worth discussing: the bizarre terrorist organization the network recruits to make a lame TV show. The way these terrorists sell out and become fixated on their own ratings and shit is hilarious! The dysfunctional affair with Max and Diana is weird to say the least. For me, I look at it as more of an old school meets new school. Max, while often laughing at the notion of things being better in the past, actually does represent the integrity of an industry. Diana, on the other hand, represents the shift toward things being bigger and louder instead of focusing on substance. This metaphor can be extended into their own fates. Max mentions he will even have that classic happy ending while Diana will probably end up taking a swan dive out her window in the next 10 years; Max's ending is cliche while Diana's fate is "edgy." In regard to Diana, her character perfectly represents the way pandering works in the industry: no one gives a fuck about the causes...just push the agenda and make money. Hell, this movie should be shown in schools and colleges, but I suppose we can't have pawns realizing their role on the board, right?

As you can probably guess, there is a lot going on in this film, and it's hard to do the material justice. This is one of those movies you're better off simply watching, but be aware of the era and the pacing if these things bother you. Honestly, I haven't watched this movie in years, and, yet, the parallels to modern time never cease to amaze me. In as few words as possible, this film is thought-provoking--it touches on a great many themes and satirizes them incredibly well. The acting is solid from everyone, the story is engaging, and it's surprisingly very funny. The only major detriment I have ever had with this film is the lack of clarity on Howard's enlightenment and the ridiculous nature of the ending. I understand that younger people will probably not want to give this film a go given the emphasis on '70s life and culture, but the insights alone are worth exploring.

Notable Moment: When Howard meets with the head of the corporation. The sinister lighting and over the top condescension in order to get Howard's attention is brilliant. I also think Howard's palpable fear represents the average person's reaction to learning the truth about how the world really works.

Final Rating: 9/10

Monday, January 4, 2016

Tag (Japanese 2015) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After her friends are killed by a mysterious force, a girl embarks on a strange journey.

Review: What the hell happened here? Rarely have I watched a film that opened up with this much potential only to throw it all away by the end. The audience is only a few minutes into this film when two buses carrying a ton of schoolgirls are severed in half. The bodies...the's awe-striking. It's as if the director saw "Ghost Ship" and thought, "I can top that." Speaking of which, the director, Sion Sono, is no stranger to killing off large quantities of precious schoolgirls with movies like "Suicide Club" (that I've covered). Unfortunately, the momentum cannot be maintained, and the movie slowly degrades into pretentious nonsense by the time the ending rolls around. In fact, the ending appears to be left intentionally vague just so you wonder about what it could all mean.

Honestly, any interpretation of this film could be viable as we have little to work with. The main girl, Mitsuko, is attacked by this strange force until she finds herself at a school where people claim they know her. Is it all a dream? Is Mitsuko warping across dimensions...time and space? The story tries to be deeper and philosophical but doesn't know how to properly explore the concepts. In fairness, the character "Sur," pondering these ideas, was interesting if not totally wasted. Next thing you know, more schoolgirls are getting killed by their teachers this time around. I have to say, if you ever wanted to see hundreds of schoolgirls die, this movie has you covered 100%. The next thing you know, Mitsuko has become a girl named Keiko, played by ex-AKB48 member, Mariko Shinoda. Keiko is being prepped for a wedding as we start to realize everyone in this world is female. A world full of nothing but Japanese girls you say?! Hmm...

Things make little sense as Mitsuko is still herself within Keiko all the while Keiko is still a separate person. I don't know! After more killings break out at this wedding, with the groom being some kind of pig monster, Keiko transforms into yet another girl, Izumi. Izumi is played by the lovely Erina Mano, another ex-idol singer, who I mentioned was in the movie "Kai-Ki: Tales of Terror from Tokyo" as a film I really want to cover due to it being the final part from the "Tales of Terror" franchise. Anyway, Izumi is running a race with teammates as, you guessed it, more killings break out. The film insists each girl is a separate person yet Mitsuko is the main personality within them or something. They really were not clear at all. Things become further complicated when Mitsuko's friend, who was trying to help all movie long, reveals the only way of escape is to pull wires from her body. Uhh okaaay. After doing this, Mitsuko goes through a doorway and discovers she is a character in a video game...seemingly. An old man is shown to be playing the events of the film in video game format as he explains it's roughly 2184; I could be wrong, but I'm basing this date on his claim that Mitsuko died in 2034 and then about him "waiting" for 150 years. There is something about having the DNA from a handful of girls, but how does that make Mitsuko real magically? Some kind of bio-organic technology? After explaining jackshit, the old man's avatar, I'm guessing, wants to fuck Mitsuko. Instead, she hits him with a pillow and kills herself in the video game. And this accomplishes...stuff...I think. The end?

What the fuck does any of this mean? What, real girls are being used to create video game characters? If the background fodder dies endlessly, how does Mitsuko dying have significance? If the other girls can be resurrected forever, why can't Mitsuko and crew? Why does Mitsuko live through the other characters if they too exist in a way? If this world is post-apocalyptic and women are dead, how would someone have the time and resources to casually create living video games? How come Mitsuko's friends had a form of sentience if they are as disposable as the background fodder? Why is Mitsuko even important at all to the old man? She's awkward-looking as hell, and every other chick would have been a better pick if you're just looking to fuck. What is the significance of "man's world?" Does this mean both worlds are video games? Is everything a video game? Is the old man in a video game? WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR, HUH?! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!

Although this movie progressively makes less sense as it goes on, it is exceptionally awesome at the beginning. There are great ideas strewn about even if they aren't fully capitalized on. The cinematography is perfect and enhances the scenes better than the storytelling could accomplish; the music too helps in this regard. There are plenty of cute girls with a ton of fan service if that's a highlight for you; it certainly raised the rating from me. However, the final conclusion is lackluster, nonsensical, and crosses well beyond into the realm of pretentious. I don't mind a movie not spoon-feeding the audience, but there are ways to do it correctly. This was not one of those ways. Overall, this film had an unforgettable opening, intriguing middle, and terrible finale. If endings make it or break it for you, you may hate this movie. However, if you can appreciate the aesthetics and the journey over the destination, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Notable Moment: When the bus is suddenly split in half and all of Mitsuko's friends are killed. If you watch enough horror films you kind of sense it coming, but, still, it is a shocking scene.

Final Rating: 6/10