Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Kuroneko Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Returning after years of war, a samurai is assigned to kill two monsters that turn out to be the vengeful spirits of his murdered wife and mother.

Review: Taking us back in time a bit, we have some truly classic, Asian horror with "Kuroneko." While I don't imagine this scaring modern audiences, the material still holds up remarkably well. In fact, it feels like a timeless ghost story or fairy tale so it pulls audiences in quite readily. I loved the dynamic between the ghosts and the main character, Gintoki, since neither knew what became of the other until their paths crossed in the most fateful of ways. This is a powerful plot line and delves into a conflict I have expressed we need more of in fiction: the protagonist and antagonist loving each other. Outside of the main story, the look, effects, and cinematography are all impressive for the time; hell, probably better than most of modern cinema. Unfortunately, the one thing that hurts the film considerably is the ending.

The pacing starts off incredibly fast as we immediately see a group of roaming samurai rape and murder two women minding their own business; these woman are the mother and wife of Gintoki. A black cat, seemingly the physical manifestation of some kind of demonic force, resurrects the women as vengeful spirits. I do want to acknowledge they aren't ghosts in a traditional sense; they have physical forms that are part cat-demon/part human--it's tough to explain. After killing many unsuspecting samurai with their supernatural abilities, the ghostly women upset the local government who, in turn, decide they need a skilled warrior to dispense with them. Due to luck, Gintoki is the last man standing after a decisive battle and impresses the local government with his alleged fighting prowess. Returning home, Gintoki attempts to find his wife and mother, but he cannot disobey the orders of his leader. In order to move forward with his life, Gintoki is told he must unwittingly defeat the ghosts of his wife and mother. Pretending to fall into the trap of the two ghosts, Gintoki and the ghosts are both shocked to discover that their adversary is the person they have been fighting to be with all this time. This part is awesome as Gintoki just wants to be with his family again, and the two women are relieved that Gintoki had not died in battle after all. Sadly, their happiness is short-lived since the two women have traded their souls for revenge and cannot stop killing any samurai...including Gintoki. Despite this, the wife decides to go to hell rather than to kill her beloved husband, however, the mother fully embraces her demonic side and continues to kill samurai. In a fight, Gintoki cripples the mother by cutting off her arm which is used as proof that Gintoki has attempted to defeat the spirits. Oddly enough, the film kind of falls to pieces at the very end when the mother retrieves her arm, flies in the sky, and Gintoki decides to go to sleep in the snow. Yeaaah...uhh...I got nothin' for ya. I'm sure there is some meaning in this conclusion I do not realize, but it definitely hurt the final impression.

I know it's harder for the current generation to give older movies a chance, especially when they're black and white, but I think any Asian horror fan will not be disappointed. The action and pacing are doable, and the story is both touching and tragic. Each actor pours a lot of emotion into their roles, and this successfully enhances the compelling nature of the events. The ending is up in the air and nonsensical, which does hurt, but it's not as though it ruins the film or anything; it is simply disappointing that an otherwise fantastic film closes out in such a lackluster manner without efficient resolution. If you've watched all the legends like "Ring" and "Ju-on," before switching to the realm of mediocrity with the likes of "The Locker," perhaps you should give this one a shot instead.

Notable Moment: When Gintoki first appears before his leader--dude looks like Goku or something with that hair and wannabe power pole.

Final Rating: 7/10

Monday, September 26, 2016

In the Mouth of Madness Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: When an insurance investigator is tasked to find a missing horror author, he learns that the author's books are not fiction after all.

Review: This is yet another work from John Carpenter that I'm surprised failed. You take 75% Lovecratian horror, mix in about 15% of Stephen King, and finish off with 10% of pure, Carpenter style--how can you go wrong with that formula? "In the Mouth of Madness" perfectly captures themes from Lovecraft while adding an original spin to make things contemporary. Does it all come together seamlessly? Definitely not. However, the imagination and creativity are impressive--the story successfully engaging the viewer with many layers to consider upon completion. I'm certain this would have been a hit had it come out in the '80s, rather than mid-90s, but that's neither here nor there.

I guess I'll provide a short summary to help address the potentially convoluted story line. Sam Neill, fresh off "Jurassic Park," plays an insurance investigator named Trent who is hired to find an author, named Sutter Cane. The story is revealed through a large flashback as we open with Trent institutionalized. Basically, Sutter Cane is supposed to be a Stephen King equivalent except they stress that he's even more popular, an international phenomenon. Furthermore, the books are said to have a mental affect on susceptible readers. In the pursuit of Cane, Trent discovers a hidden location that connects all of the books--a sinister town where all manner of evil forces intersect. Throughout, you will see numerous homages to Lovecraft's works so, if you're a fan of that, this movie has you covered. Eventually Trent learns that Cane believes his writing is warping reality--that he is somehow opening a doorway for cosmic beings beyond human comprehension to enter our world. Admittedly, the events are not completely clear nor straightforward. Was Sutter Cane always a writer who discovered his works were based on reality or are all the events of the film the manifestation of something already written? Is Trent nothing more than a character in a book? Trent manages to escape from the town only to go nuts once he realizes he can no longer distinguish reality from his own ravings. Cutting back to Trent's institutionalization, we see that those cosmic beings have swept over the world, seemingly eating everyone. Free from his confines, Trent stumbles into a movie theater where he watches the events of the film itself, "In the Mouth of Madness." This ending provides further ideas to ponder since maybe all the players we've seen were nothing more than actors, creations of Sutter Cane brought to life.

For the positives...I've mentioned before I love reality-questioning stories. So this resonates with me. Plus, we kind of get a mix of everything with books and movies both coming to life. Whether there is a definitive answer to the questions is up to the viewer to decide. Regardless, this notion of madness and going crazy once you encounter cosmic forces is right in line with Lovecraft's core themes; as I already addressed, this is the strongest part of the film. The way they incorporate the various plot lines--such as the hidden town, supernatural creatures, and bizarre warping of reality--is fun to see and there aren't a lot of other movies to compare it to. While many effects do not fully hold up, it's good to see practical effects for the creatures as well. Another powerful part of the production is the use of the sleepy town, including that creepy, real life church. In fact, the atmosphere is incredibly strong at times in spite of music that is not complementary at all.

As for the film's faults...the acting is a mixed bag. I don't know, it's like no one is playing their role with conviction save for a few characters. The pacing is certainly an issue due to unneeded scenes combined with general pointlessness. For example, Trent having a dream within a dream scare that makes no sense anyway?! Um, no thanks. Likewise, the events after Trent escapes from the town drag on badly. Another glaring issue I have is with too many events of the film being experienced by Styles, a chick sent to oversee Trent. Yeah, you could argue her POV makes sense if we are witnessing imagined events brought to life, BUT the story is meant to be a flashback from Trent's would he know what she saw?! I strongly believe this was an oversight during post-production. Finally, there are just scenes and shots that are unintentionally stupid. I'm not fully holding these scenes against the film's rating, but a shot like Sutter Cane standing in the doorway of the church while it's flapping is bad or that miserable performance from Sam Neill during the ending. What were they thinking?

I know this film is often considered among Carpenter's misses, but I think it's sorely underrated. I have my issues with this film, without a doubt, but the faithful tribute to Lovecraft is hard to ignore. On top of that, I appreciate what the crew was trying to depict despite the times they failed to present these concepts clearly. Maybe with a bit more polish, or another edit of some sort, a definitive vision could have been realized. Still, the effort is not lost and there is a lot to love here. I fully understand why even many Carpenter fans dislike "In the Mouth of Madness," but I will humbly disagree. This film is a unique, genre blend that mesmerizes the viewer with a massive universe we only scratch the surface of. If you missed this one over the years, seek it out with the understanding that it's not necessarily every horror fan's cup of tea.

Notable Moment: At the end when Trent is watching the movie's events on the big screen. This scene was intended to be disturbing, but it comes off as comical instead. It's painful to see an otherwise great film close out so pitifully.

Final Rating: 6.5/10

Friday, September 23, 2016

Train to Busan Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A father must do everything he can to save his daughter when a zombie outbreak occurs while they are traveling on a train.

Review: Apparently this has been quite the success in Korea--successful enough to receive a USA release. I can definitely understand why this was such a huge hit, but I don't think I enjoyed this film to the degree of others. Sure, it's a great movie with a ton of cool concepts, however, the characters were flimsy and the plot is unoriginal and contrived. It's worth acknowledging that there is an animated prequel called "Seoul Station," but I haven't watched that; perhaps it provides more context for "Train to Busan" since the zombie outbreak is kind of sudden. Another point to consider is that, from what I can tell, the first girl that infects the train passengers was played by Eun-kyung Shim; Ms. Shim was the Gretel equivalent in "Hansel and Gretel" from 2007 (one of the best Korean movies I've watched I might add). I only bring this up because she voiced the main girl in "Seoul Station" so I guess they're the same character? It's actually disappointing that she doesn't play a main role in the film too.

What "Train to Busan" does right is it effectively makes use of that train setting. Although we've seen pretty much every kind of creature fight it out on trains at this point, I think this was one of the best set designs to date. Likewise, the way the characters fight their way through the individual cars, or even at the stations, is fun to see and gets your blood pumping as a viewer; the one tough guy in particular was amusing to see beating up zombies. The action and pacing are both solid in presentation despite the clear inspirations from "World War Z's" style and cinematography. While most of the characters were not compelling whatsoever, I do want to separately acknowledge that tough guy, his pregnant wife, and the daughter...I did not want them to die and that's saying something. In particular, they handled the daughter exceptionally well since usually little kids in these types of movies are soooo fucking annoying. Finally, the effects were pretty good given that they didn't have hundreds of millions of dollars to blow like Hollywood would have on the budget.

As for my grievances...the story is nothing to write home about. It's just the same zombie outbreak we've seen for the millionth time except with a train. I also have never liked this notion of fast zombies or the inconsistent pattern of turning into one based on how important your character was; this is a painful contrivance in most zombie films. Now, what could have made me ignore the cliched nature of the story would have been the characters, but they're mostly one-dimensional with little backstory. For example, what is up with the baseball player and that ex-member of Wonder Girls? Were they fighting, breaking up, what? Likewise, I love how contrived that asshole guy was that gets everyone killed. He is seriously throwing people to the zombies as a distraction rather than simply shutting a door? It's like they really wanted a villain for the audience to get mad at. Another thing that bothered me--that many critics were not bothered by--was some serious overacting from a couple zombie extras. My goodness! There were many times I was laughing at their shenanigans. By the way, how were the zombies able to climb, jump, and do other activities that would require situational brain functions yet are unable to push a door open? Finally, the ending is disappointing. The dad dying was contrived as fuck to give the film a deliberate, emotional resolution when it actually would have been less cliche if he lived. Plus, the further contrivance of the daughter singing so the soldiers know she's not a zombie was nonsensical. This girl knows that the zombies are attracted to sound, and she's walking through a dark tunnel...why on earth would she be singing?!

I hate to make it sound like I'm ragging on this film, because it is really good; I admit I am being overly critical. In fact, I'd fully recommend anyone to check this movie out whether or not you're into K-horror since this is mostly an action movie anyway. The running time is close to two hours, but you will not feel that one bit. While I may not have felt an emotional investment with most of the characters, I did have the few to root for, and I'd imagine others becoming fully invested with the plight of the passengers. There are only a handful of problems from a technical standpoint, which is good, but contrivances are a huge and persistent issue with the story. Ignoring a few contrivances merely comes with the territory, but when crucial moments, including the ending itself, rely heavily on contrivances that is not proper storytelling. Okay, last thing...if you aren't as nitpicky as I am, you will certainly be fully engaged and entertained with this strong entry from Korea so seek it out; you might have the added side effect of recovering from zombie fatigue.

Notable Moment: When the dad dies pointlessly. The level of contrivances to kill him off--just to have that "emotional" ending--are off the charts and it was too forced. You're like, "what the fuck, dude?!" Why would anyone grab a zombie by the mouth?! And why didn't this guy just throw the zombie overboard? Come on, son!

Final Rating: 6.5/10

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Sky High (2005) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: In a world where having powers is common, a teen enrolls in a high school that trains superheroes.

Review: A warning: don't confuse this with the Japanese film and TV show of the same title. Anyway, this particular "Sky High" was essentially Disney's early foray into the superhero scene (pre-Marvel) and a failed attempt to reel in the boy audience. Despite the motivations, this is another Disney film I actually do does reek of Disney's typical, bullshit hallmarks. My conclusion--and feel free to disagree--is that Disney was losing power as a brand until the whole "princess" market took shape in the late '80s and early '90s. During this period, Disney became the De Facto brand for kiddie garbage although they focused too heavily on girls. Wanting to capitalize on the male demographic, and realizing they were too idiotic to handle it themselves, Disney simply bought out things like "Star Wars" and Marvel to fill the void. Now, Disney and their conglomerate cohorts, ABC, Mickey fucking Ds, Coke, etc., are rolling in billions while ruining these properties. Argh! Sorry...gotta get back on track.

The criticisms laid against this film typically are that this is a "Harry Potter" clone of sorts. Eh, "Harry Potter" is already an amalgamation of existing ideas so I don't really see the similarities beyond that they're in school. I'd say this film is more satirical of how classic superheroes worked blended with the Disney formula. In this case, the lighthearted aspects work well and the characters are more interesting than you'd imagine. The main character, Will, is cliched, but I felt the way the secondary characters interact with him helped to flesh him out a little. As such, these characters also get a time to shine despite their pathetic powers. Due to these lackluster powers, the film sends a decent message that is applicable to all audiences. The twist with the villain isn't hard to predict especially if you recognize Jim Rash's dual roles from the onset. Nevertheless, I did like the way they handled the villain and her scheme. Some of the more nuanced jokes were funnier than I expected like the random couple admiring their house right before it's nearly destroyed or Lynda Carter joking about being Wonder Woman. And speaking of milfs...goddamn Kelly Preston was killing it! Another aspect done well was the pacing--the events flow in just the right way to keep you interested. The ending is Hollywood cornball shit, but it's what I'd expect from a family movie of this tone. Still...even "The Incredibles" had a fairly violent death scene, and that came out only a year earlier. Oh well.

Other than the "Harry Potter" critique laid against "Sky High," I'd be lying if I didn't address a few glaring issues. First up, the special effects are absolute shit; for 2005 they made things look like 1995. I mean, this is a superhero film after can't really skimp this much on the effects. As I already alluded to, numerous plot elements are predictable and cookie cutter. I'm not exactly expecting groundbreaking writing from the hacks at Disney but c'mon. Connected to the overly simplistic writing were the many loose ends. From what I can tell, Disney hoped to expand this into a franchise so there are plot lines that go nowhere. As an unintended side effect, these loose ends appear as filler since we never got sequels; for example, Warren Peace's background is important to the story yet we don't know any of the details.

I understand why a lot of people didn't care for this movie, but it deserves a little more credit than it receives. Believe me, if I can overlook the shortcomings of a Disney film and be entertained, then I don't see why you can't pop this on and have a nice, family pizza night. I really need to stop finding ways to mention pizza in every other review! The shit CGI does not help it stand the test of time, but the movie did manage to succeed in paying homage to classic comic books. The tone is where it needs to be and the action is satisfying enough. The distribution of powers and the dynamic of how this universe works is balanced too. Overall, this is a fun, little superhero movie made for kids and families not quite ready for the likes of "Captain America" just yet.

Notable Moment: When Will first figures out he has super strength and lifts the table. This isn't a particularly interesting scene or anything, but I will never forget my friend's stupid reaction to this moment--becoming way, way too engaged with the events!

Final Rating: 6.5/10

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Gun Woman Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: While fleeing from a hit, an assassin regales his wheelman about the tale of a druggy prostitute turned assassin known simply as the gun woman.

Review: You can probably tell whether you're going to like this or not just by the poster. If you're looking for gratuitous amounts of blood, nudity, and zany antics, this film has got you covered from the very start. I mean, the opening scene alone is some chick in the shower taking a bullet to the brain. Sadly, they do not deliver the kind of action you'd hope especially given that title of "Gun Woman." The thing that interested me most was the production being another example of East meets West--this created a unique combination of exploitation and over the top carnage. However, the primary problem is the ridiculously slow pacing that forces the viewer to slog through a good portion of the film. The payoff is there at the end--this is true--but I don't know if it will be satisfying enough; it sure wasn't enough for me to say I liked this movie.

In essence, I suspect someone imagined the core plot where a chick had gun parts implanted in her body, and then a script was written around that concept. For the most part, this idea is acceptable in theory. Unfortunately, far, far too much of the running time is wasted during the preparation for the assassination rather than actually delivering on it. They include a cornball training montage so you'd think that would be good enough, but, nope, it continues on significantly longer. I understand that they wanted to establish why the gun woman, Mayumi, would become loyal to the doctor that trains her yet the motivations still felt flimsy. Making matters worse is that the film starts to take itself a bit too seriously when it should have fully embraced the over the top premise and ran with it. The other detractor is that things that should be pander points, like the gore and nudity, come off as more gross than titillating. Brace yourself, I'm about to compare another movie to "The Machine Girl!" BUT...both of these films did star Asami Sugiura (usually going by the name "Asami") so the comparison is all the more relevant. Anyway, Asami is, once again, no Minase Yashiro and the action is nowhere near as entertaining. Maybe I just want every movie similar to this one to take notes from "The Machine Girl?"

Now this isn't to say the film has no redeeming qualities. Obviously others might like some of the aspects I'm criticizing, but, beyond that, there are legitimate positives. Going back to Asami, she does play the role completely straight which helps the tone of the film. I did like the blend of heist meets revenge flick--somehow this meshed cohesively. The ending in particular is a major highlight as it successfully brings the story full circle in a meaningful way. The revelation regarding the first chick to die, the motivation of the first assassin, and the identity of the wheelman...these things helped enhance the final impression. Of course, having an ending theme song based on the film's title is an automatic, freebie half-point!

Had the second act been drastically shortened, and that running time added to the actual revenge scenes, this would have taken the film above the mere average range. As it stands, I'd classify the merits of this movie toward mediocrity when the potential to be fun was right there...squandered. If Asami is your kind of girl then she will have you covered with plenty of nudity, but she's not doing it for me whatsoever. Even the gunplay was lacking considering this is a film called "Gun Woman" for fuck's sake! Overall, you're going to get exactly what you expect here, however, if you're anticipating anything exceptional to occur, you will be sorely disappointed.

Notable Moment: At the end when everything comes together regarding the wheelman and who was the first chick shot. Also, the humorous nature of who hired the wheelman is the kind of humor that should have been present all movie long!

Final Rating: 5/10

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Last Starfighter Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: An average Joe discovers the arcade game he has mastered is actually a training simulator for an elite group of alien pilots.

Review: This is yet another '80s gem many have missed out on...even those who grew up in the era. Sure, the film has become a bit dated, but, if you have a serious appreciation for the decade, or video games for that matter, you should still find a lot to love here. At the time these would have been amazing special effects, and the "Starfighter" arcade cabinet would have blown away any other game on the market. Speaking of which, I agree with many reviewers that this film is probably a big inspiration for the "Polybius" urban legend. Although this film was probably intended to capitalize on the "Star Wars" audience, I'd say it appeals more to the "ET" and "Goonies" crowd in hindsight.

The best aspect going for "The Last Starfighter" is the creative premise and high degree of entertainment; this movie fully embraced the kid-friendly tone in a way that appeals to the young and old alike. You have a relatable everyman. Alex, who dreams of making something out of his life, but is held back by his circumstance; you can feel the Luke Skywalker in him without a doubt. The only thing Alex really excels at is a video game called "Starfighter" whereby he is apparently the best in the world (it's ambiguous). As it turns out, the video game is actually a simulation of what it's like to be a real Starfighter--a group of ace pilots gathered from various planets in the galaxy. As we come to learn, a portion of the galaxy is protected by a barrier that keeps out evil aliens who would threaten a peaceful alliance of worlds similarly to the Federation in "Star Trek." Whenever aliens would try to invade, Starfighters are there to kick their ass. Unfortunately, all the Starfighters are killed in a sneak attack by cliched, evil villains leaving behind only Alex as--you guessed it--the last Starfighter! Coming as a shock to no one, Alex manages to defeat the aliens using his skills at the video game, gets the girl, and becomes a hero to the whole galaxy. Sooo cheesy but you know you love it! I'm just unsure why there was never a sequel given the loose ends deliberately left open.

Setting aside the fun-factor and satisfying nature of the story, the technical aspects are also impressive. As I mentioned, the special effects were incredible for the time. Yeah, admittedly, they look like shit by today's standards, but only a handful of films during this time could have competed. The music is respectable as well with yet another attempt at rivaling "Star Wars." Many characters are not fully fleshed out, especially the villains, but the actors tried to add flavor to their roles that is worth noting; the amusing little brother, the overacting old ladies, etc. all spice things up. Also, the usage of the arcade cabinet in general is awesome! I'd somewhat lump this into the category of good video game movies since the game does contribute so heavily to the plot.

Now, there are a few downsides that will hold it back--doubly so for younger audiences. The details of the alien races and how everything works in this mythos is certainly sketchy. I forgive a lot for this being meant for children, but many plot elements are too thin. The villains are dumb and cartoonish too. Alex takes far, far too long to shut up about not wanting to be a Starfighter. Bitch, they keep stressing Earth will get conquered at some point if the invading aliens aren't stopped so quit bitching about dying! Connected to this, it's never stressed that Alex really is some kind of prodigy or next level ace pilot. Sure, you could say everything is implied but no one is dazzled by Alex's abilities despite him single-handedly obliterating an entire fleet of ships without formal training! Yeah, he gets his own "throne room ceremony" moment, but, c'mon, the rest of the Starfighters died like fookin' nooooobs! Finally, the romance aspect was on the lame side, and the drama on Earth probably could have been handled more efficiently.

If you can get over the dated aspects, or, better yet, appreciate them, this movie will not let you down. "The Last Starfighter" might not be a classic like "The Goonies," but that doesn't mean it's any less of a fun, family-friendly adventure. Between the epic music and space dogfights you get everything you'd hope from a cheesy '80s film. Blending the combination of a geek's fantasy come to life meets "Star Wars" works amazingly. If you ever imagined that the game you were playing would turn out to be real, and you're the only one who can save the day, then this is the movie for you! Definitely seek this out asap--simply bear in mind the shortcomings, and you will be totally set for some good ol' fashioned, wholesome fun.

Notable Moment:

Alien 1: What do we do?

Alien 2: We die.

Such a terrible line, but the delivery of said line is off the charts levels of cornball! Plus, what is up with that scouter from DBZ? Insert obligatory "it's over 9000" joke.

Final Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Zombie Hunter Rika (aka Rika: The Zombie Killer) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: When a zombie outbreak occurs, the only one who can save the day is a schoolgirl visiting her grandpa.

Review: Rika, you say? would have been infinitely better had it been my Rika in this movie! Oh well. Once again, I figured this would be another film along the lines of "The Machine Girl," but, alas, it's more on par with "OneChanbara." These cheap, splatterfest types rarely understand how to pace themselves which results in things like "Iron Girl" where they should be good or, at the very least, entertaining! In this instance, the plot continually comes to a screeching halt out of nowhere, characters are wasted, and the action is dull. What made "The Machine Girl" work was the relentless nature of the action, the all-in approach to the gore, and the utmost commitment of Minase Yashiro to the role. None of that is present here.

 Zombie Hunter Rika herself.

There are hints that this could have been fun, but the execution is lacking. For example, giving Rika the arm of some white guy who also served as a parody of "OneChanbara." The subtle gags like trying to fight zombies with a flyswatter could have worked too. Unfortunately, these moments are fleeting while boring moments of sitting around last significantly longer. Furthermore, most of the actors aren't taking their roles that seriously and it shows. Dialogue appears ad-libbed frequently in the worst of ways. The Rika character is not handled with conviction by Risa Kudo--she looks bored or sleepy far too often. I mean, Ms. Kudo is cute and everything with the schoolgirl outfit on, but she's no Minase Yashiro and can't hold a candle to my dear Rika Ishikawa. We do get titties, unlike "The Machine Girl," but they kill off those characters, like the maids, fairly quickly. The comedy relief characters are noticeably tacked on to waste time and add little to the story. There are plot tangents that could have been explored more thoroughly like what the symbols on the zombie hunter's arm mean, where the leader zombie came from, or even the backstory of the grandpa. I fully intended to boost the rating a tad for all the fan service, but the moronic ending made me take those points right back away. A movie as cornball as this really decided the smartest move was to kill Rika, your lead?! This decision baffles me.

 I actually would have preferred this chickadee, Kotoha Hiroyama, playing Rika.

The potential to make this an entertaining flick was right there and they squandered the chance. Movies of this caliber are already a niche market, but so few can match the ridiculousness of "The Machine Girl" or even "Deadball." I can easily forgive the limited budget, but you have to engage the audience. The effects were especially pitiful and lacked any degree of imagination with the kills. Including a few topless babes and schoolgirls will do wonders for me, but that can't be the extent of the effort put forth. In the end, I think if the Rika character were presented in an epic way, and Ms. Kudo didn't look tired during every scene, that could have compensated for the mediocre story and action. As with the other films in this vein, you will either be into them from the start or not. In the grand scheme of these cheap movies, this is nothing worth seeking out when "The Machine Girl" always remains the superior option.

Notable Moment: When the maids are each comparing tatas. It would never happen this way...true...but that's pandering I can live with!

Final Rating: 4.5/10

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Scribbler Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A woman with dissociative identity disorder attempts to eliminate her alternate personalities as shenanigans ensue.

Review: Mix "Identity" with "The 4th Floor" and add a dash of every superhero movie ever, and you get "The Scribbler." Considering the strange assortment of actors involved, and the bizarre nature of the story, I figured this would be something special. Alas, this is a total mess from start to finish. I mean, maybe if you're a wannabe-edgy teen, this will probably appeal to you, but for everyone else you will be wondering what the fuck is going on. 'K, here's the thing...if you want to depict an incredible world--where fantastic things are simply to be accepted by the audience--you need to actually provide a reason for the audience to suspend their disbelief! You can't also attempt to ground the story in a realistic setting and expect things to still make sense. For example, 99.99% of people, upon seeing a levitating man, are not going to just brush that shit off as business as usual.

So we've got a topless, punker Katie Cassidy, a non-porn version (unfortunately) of Sasha Grey, Raj, that dude who beat up J-Lo one time, a noir-styled Eliza Dushku, some naked chick running around while covered in blood, the poor man's version of Stephen Amell, Buffy's sister, and Gina Gershon. That's an interesting array of characters, right? Sadly, the cast is the best thing going for the film as a whole. I don't even know how to explain the story. Some crazy chick, named Suki, with a bunch of multiple personalities is given a device that eliminates said personalities. However, this process parallels with an apartment complex full of crazy chicks that keep committing suicide. Suki thinks she's killing everyone, because one of her personalities, the scribbler, has...ughh...powers. I love how casually people gain superhuman abilities here--with literally the push of a button. Then there is a talking dog and elevator because why not? That personality device merges with the wall for no reason too which I love because making sense is for pussies! We come to learn that another crazy chick with powers is killing all the residents and only the scribbler can save the day! If this were done in a comical way I might overlook a lot, but they were going for next level pretentiousness instead. I don't forgive that. At the end, cops that have been interrogating Suki all movie come to realize her zany story is true as she flies away on them. Oh for fuck's sake. And I want to cut them slack so badly for trying to tackle a lot of action on a limited budget, but everything is so painful to watch.

There are redeeming qualities throughout like the music and grimy style. I did like the cast and their unusual presentation, but most have little background to go on nor are their eccentricities explored meaningfully. If only the story were put together coherently. While there are plenty of moments of shoddy editing, the script itself is the problem. There is little effort to explain why things are happening and why no one reacts properly to these events. This film is based on a maybe that goes into better detail? Regardless, I'd pass on this one. "The Scribbler" is well below average, but the actors and ambitious nature of the filmmakers compensate greatly to boost the rating up to average. Still, I can picture others appreciating the minimalism to the storytelling and there is certainly cult following potential here.

Notable Moment: During the final "battle." I can appreciate the difficulty in trying to make an epic fight on a shoestring budget, but the editing was utterly horrendous; you can hardly tell what's happening.

Final Rating: 5/10