Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Documentary 00's

The Best Documentaries of the 2000s - Part IX of a series

The Fog of War (c) 2005 Sony Pictures Classics

The 2000s treated the Documentary genre quite good. In fact, the genre had a certain resurface, as the films are quite cheap to make and there are plenty of interesting true stories to be told. So it's no wonder inventive filmmakers, both old and new, tend to take the opportunity to do a documentary. I even had to drop out music documentaries and some war documentaries from the list (they will probably appear in later lists). This time around doing a mere Top 10 proved to be hard, so here's a Top 15.

The 3 Rooms of Melancholia (Melancholian 3 huonetta, 2004)
Director: Pirjo Honkasalo

One of the most acclaimed Finnish films of the decade was this documentary by the veteran filmmaker Honkasalo. On the surface the film is about the war in Chechnya told from three different perspectives. Yet there is quite little narration and Honkasalo allows her strong imagery to do most of the storytelling. The end result is actually a film more about mood than story, which is quite a rare feat for a documentary. The athmosphere is very intense all through and one could even compare this piece of art to certain other anti-war art pieces, such as Picasso's Guernica. Both give the strong impression of grief, chaos, fear and death lurking around every corner during the wartime.

Bigger, Stronger, Faster (2008)
Director: Chris Bell

A Michael Moore -like populistic documentary about American steroid abuse. The twist is that the film is not actually against the use of steroids per se. Rather it takes on the mindview that makes people want to grow big, phony medical firms, and two-faced politicians and athletes. It brings up some important questions such as what is considered cheating, and is funny at the same time. The whole movie even starts with Hulk Hogan beating the Iron Sheik. What's not to love?

Bowling For Columbine (c) 2002 Dog Eat Dog Films Inc.

Bowling for Columbine (2002)
Director: Michael Moore

Say what you will about Moore, it's a good chance someone has already said it. At least his example brought documentaries to multiplexes and revitalized the political agenda in films. As such, he may be one of the most important directors of the 21st century (so far). I myself am a Moore-apologists, although I do recognize he has a tendency to go over the top at times. Not so here, his most balanced work which takes on the American mindset of fear as a explanation of the nation's obsession with guns. One would be amiss to think of the film as journalism. This is a pure pamphlet, although entertainingly told and very funny to boot. And this time Moore still had the ability to go around unbothered to ask annoying questions to the people in power. Okay, the much-maligned bothering of Charlton Heston is maybe a point where Moore goes too far. But people keep forgetting that the demented old man, looking almost symphatetic, was an extremely powerful frontman of one of the biggest lobby groups in America, which had even power over legistlation. Why shouldn't he be asked some hard questions?

Capturing the Friedmans (2003)
Director: Andrew Jarecki

While Moore's filmmaking style is to start searching for proof to his presupposed answers, Jarecki stumbled upon his own story while attempting to do a film about birthday clowns. The end result was a film about a normal-looking American family. The Friedmans appear regular to the point of boredom until it's revealed that there is evidence that the family's father and son have committed cruel perversive acts with small children. Jarecki's film is one of the most equal towards its interviewees I've ever seen. Everyone gets a turn to speak their mind, whether they believe the Friedmans are guilty or just framed. Everyone can make their own mind what to think about the charactera. At the same time the story is a clear tragedy happening before our eyes. The Friedman family is slowly disintegrating as the tensions grow and the final judgement seems imminent.

The Cove (2009)
Director: Louie Psihoyos

I've always said that the measure of a good movie is how big emotions it wakes up in the viewer. The Cove made me furious. And I expect I'm not the only one. The documentary about the mass-murder of the second-most intelligent creatures on the planet for altogether petty reasons should have awoken a number of activists. I'm glad they won the Academy Award for the film so that the message will get across. This is essentially another pamphlet-like documentary, but one which destroys every argument the opposing side has with a clear, unnegotiatable argument. The Japanese fishermen are depicted as brutal and ruthless, yet the film wisely has time to interview also regular Japanese people that are as appalled at the treatmen of dolphins as the filmmakers (and the viewers). The world of humans is shown to be ugly and dirty, yet the underwater shots are amazingly peaceful and beautiful. The message is clear: as people have destroyed their own habitat on land, they will move on to destroy the life on the sea. I probably won't go to any dolphinarium as long as I live. If I'll ever have children, I'll make sure thay won't either.

The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003)
Director: Errol Morris

Man, oh man, is it hard for me to think of anything to say about this wonderful film that wasn't just said in Helsingin Sanomat in a column about this film. So you'll excuse me if I have some similar arguments.

There are a couple of movies on this list that feature only one old man talking about their life. They all are fascinating looks back and tell a lot about the past times and the world itself at the same time. Morris's film focuses on the former Secretary of defense Robert S. McNamara. He was an extermely controversial figure, with having planned military operations in WWII and Vietnam which killed a lot of people. Yet in the documantary can be seen that he was an extemely intelligent man who just happened to be put to these hard decision points. McNamara was the kind that learned from his mistakes and used working methods again. Thus he's just the right man to tell about lessons in war. It's obvious that it's not easy to make decisions that kill people, and McNamara takes his responsibility and is even moved by some painful memories. All in all, the film is a fascinating look behind the curtains of some of the biggest decisions in the military history in the 20th century.

Grizzly Man (2005)
Director: Werner Herzog

This is truly a story too weird to be fiction. A man loved bears with all his heart and lived with them every time he could. Eventually he became too trustful and one of the wild animals killed and ate him. Chillingly, the movie makes you ponder whether the worst thing a man could do to an animal is to treat it as a fellow human. And what about man's relationship with nature? If one tries to be one with it, will he destroy his mind first and eventually his whole life? This is a very unexpectional film, which dares to ask these hard questions.

Werner Herzog utilizes much of the material left behind by Timothy Treadwell. There is a strange beauty and poetry to Treadwell's images. Yet at the same time the film material portrays a really sinister spiral into madness. It's clear why Herzog has chosen him to be a worthy main character for a film. The man has so many times depicted men with obsessions which come to overtake them as well as the ultimate power of nature over man. In Treadwell's madness there is something Kinski-like, which Herzog himself confesses in his narration. Gold.

Jesus Camp (2006)
Directors: Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady

From one man's madness to a whole community's. Jesus Camp is a film that may be seen as a hilarious comedy or the most spine-chilling horror film of the decade. It takes us to children's camp in mid-America. The kids are brainwashed there by one-sided opinions and charismatic evangelist speakers. I don't care what your religious stand is. When one subject dominates your life in every category and is the only thing which you think about when reasoning, it is dangerous. And one shouldn't pass this narrow-mindnessness to children. Yet this is a film that addresses some of the core issues of being an American. As such it's much more than the chance for a liberal European to laugh at the stupid white trash.

The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002)
Directors: Nanette Burstein, Brett Morgen

Another documentary that has an old man speaking. Yet for anyone interested in the history of Hollywood, this is a must-see. For the man interviewed is Robert Evans, one of the most important figures in the 60-70's revitalization of American film industry. The man produced, both individually and as a studio chief, classic films such as The Godfather, Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown, Love Story, Marathon Man and the Odd Couple. Yet like the case usually is in these sort of cases it's a Rise and Fall story. Evans is a very likeable main character in that he doesn't shy away from his weaknesses. He has a certain amount of regret for doing mistakes, yet it is clear that this is a man who lived for his work and the results can be seen in a wonderful filmography. The film material in the film itself is good too, and although nothing shocking or particularly new isn't shown, it suits Evans's speech well. It doesn't feel flat and obvious like someone like even Errol Morris can sometimes fall into.

Murderball (2005)
Directors: Henry Alex Rubin, Dana Adam Shapiro

I'm not a sporting man and don't usually like sports movies. Yet I'll have to say this film was quite captivating. It's about the world of full-contact rugby for paraplegics. Even though these guys don't have functioning legs, they are every bit as macho (maybe even more so) than any other athletes. The will to win is big. The film follows American sport-hero Joe Bishop who has jumped to coach the Canadian team, which is seen as betrayal by many fans and athletes themselves. Joe himself just wants to prove himself, which he felt he couldn't do back in the American team. The paraplegic-stuff is handeled pretty early on. The rest of the movie the viewer is just captivated by the sporting drama unfolding before his (or her) eyes. Like in the world of sports, I imagine one can have their own hero in the film which one can root for. It is a good sign of the documentary's quality that one is allowed to do so. There are no real villains here, save for the natural competitiveness of people.

The Pervert's Guide to Cinema (2006)
Director: Sophie Fiennes

This is an unresistably charming entry gate to the world of Slavoj Žižek. The film features just the undeniably charismatic old communist-philosopher Žižek talking about the way to interpret films via psychoanalysis and sexuality. It may jump from one subject to another quite quickly, but the interpretations are very clever and the film gives a great deal of why-the-hell-didn't-I-think-of-it-like-that -moments. I could listen to Žižek talking for hours, which is good because the film is a bit long. Yet it doesn't feel a minute too long and the viewer is kept at the edge of his (or her) seat to hear all this wonderful analysis.

The White Diamond (2004)
Director: Werner Herzog

Herzog again, and once again with a tale about both aviation and the jungle. For doing so much films about similar themes, Herzog is an incredibly inventive filmmaker. Every one of his films has something unforgettable. This one tells the story of an attempt to build a blimp in the middle of the jungle to shoot the treetops and caves. The film has the luxury of a great main cast from the friendly main character who carries a lot of guilt over his friend's death and ambition to do things properly this time around. The supporting cast of exentrics is memorable too, the highlight being Marc Anthony, the rooster-owning family man. Herzog himself is also prominently a character here too, going so far as to affecting the outcome of some situation just so he could get to shoot his film. And great shots he does achieve, from the weird and wonderful nature of the jungle to the technicity of blimps to a crew member dancing like Michael Jackson with the majesticity of waterfalls behind him. The emotional centre however, is the confession of the tragic events that happened previously near the film's end.

The Winged Migration (Le Peuple Migrateur, 2001)
Directors: Jacques Perrin, Jacques Cluzaud, Michel Debats

An extremely impressive nature documentary. The French filmmakers decided to follow birds on their migration flight. This required an insane amount of time and the construction of a huge number of complex flying cameras. Not to mention getting the birds used to being photographed. But the end result is nothing short of breath-taking. To see the birds in the air one feels like flying himself, so I would recommend watching this on a canvas a sbig as possible. Time is also spent on following the bird's life on the ground. Although these scenes aren't bad themselves, they are more of the regular nature documentary stuff.

Workingman's Death (2005)
Director: Michael Glawogger

Yet another documentary without narration. As Glawogger also trusts a lot of his storytelling on his strong images, this list has gone a clear circle from Honkasalo to here. Glawogger has toured the Earth to find places and occasions where work is still the activity which creates and defines a man. People go to weird extremities just to do their work from a sulphur mine in Asia to a meat-market in Africa. This all is contrasted when we finally come back to Germany, where an old factory building has been put to museum use, and children are playing among the once-dangerous machinery and platforms. I don't know whether the documentary is nostalgic towards old times or hints that the western countries make the poorer countries do all the actual dangerous work. Yet it is a powerful piece of filmmaking however one wishes to interpret it and a terrific mood-piece as well.

Bubbling under:

The King of Kong - A Fistful of Quarters (2007)
Man on Wire (2008)
Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (2008)
Standard Operating Procedure (2008)
Viva Zapatero! (2005)

To be seen:

Darwin's Nightmare, Hell House, The Staircase, Stevie, Wings of Hope

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Bruce Lee's Birthday

Last February while in Amsterdam I got an idea that Bruce Lee's birthday was going to be somehow significant. At first we were going to have a bigparty with my friend about the subject, but it didn't work out because of our differing schedules. Nothing too significant happened to me this November 27th, so I thought I might just write a few words on what Bruce Lee means to me. Of course I'll be also taking a look at all his films, both in the text and as I'm writing this (I'm re-watching Way of the Dragon. You can never see too many times any film which features Chuck Norris dying).

Bruce Lee was not only a star, but a fighter, sportsman, mentor and the man who brought kung-fu to the West. Nothing in cinema hasn't quite been the same after him, in good and bad. His moves have been copied and parodied to the death and all he has achieved may not seem that impressive today. But this was a man who made push-ups with just his fingertips. Bruce Lee certainly isn't a legend because of the quality of his films, but because of his charisma and mean fight-moves, many of which are even too fast to be captured on film cameras of that time. He's also the first asian matinee idol in the west, which helped cross stupid race-barriers. On the other hand, he also might have created the myth that all asians of all sizes know kung-fu. So give a little, take a little.

I am too young to remember Bruce back in the day, so he has always lived as a legend long since passed in my life. I developed an interest to him and the school of ass-kicking cinema at the time I was in Junior High School. The combination of ass-kicking with hilarious bad dubbing was made available of the video cencorship law getting banned at that time and VHS cassettes of his films getting released at long last. Enter the Dragon was even showed on Finnish television, and I saw the film for the first time. I don't recall whether it was cut or not on TV, but as I rushed to buy the DVD of the film, I remember it certainly being so. There were scenes with people just readying for a kick and the scene then suddenly cut to the villain being dead on the ground. Needless to say, I was outraged.

One of the biggest times for Bruce-admiration for me was when I was in the Army. At the time my hongkongese friend had given me a painting of Bruce to hang on my wall. I rewatched Enter the Dragon on a new, uncut DVD, and admired how such a little guy could defeat all the burlier, more dangerous men. I felt it represented also me in the group with bigger guys. I also watched the films made after Bruce's death for novelty value. I was amazed how good the actual Bruce-footage still seems and how the filmmakers didn't even bother too much to try to get anything near the quality of that footage.

I haven't thought about Bruce Lee for a while, let alone seen his films. So I'll just write about what I can remember, which is usually a pretty good indication of what is good in films.

The Big Boss (Tang shan da xiong, 1971)
Director: Wei Lo

Bruce's first film is the one that has been the longest since I saw. But as I recall the story of a worker fighting his way along evil bosses for the oppressed workers, was a total borefest. Not enough fighting and too much pointless plot. It's like watching softcore pornography.


Fist of Fury (Jing wu men, 1972)
Director: Wei Lo

The second try from Wei Lo has also a too slow-moving story, but at least the action is kickass enough this time around. Lee's fight with "the Russian" Robert Baker in the Chinese garden is particularly cool. Lee is playing Chen Zhen in this one, who is a legend in China for standing up for the japanese oppressors. It has a few juicy racial tension-scenes, yet the ending feels a tad pathetic. May still be the best of Bruce's Hongkong films.

★★★ 1/2

Way of the Dragon (Meng long guo liang, 1972)
Director: Bruce Lee

One of the most legendary of Bruce's films as he fights Chuck Norris in this one. Legends of the film started circulating in Junior High so I got a VHS copy of the film. However, seeing as I watch it again as I write this, it isn't as good as my memory serves. It takes 30 minutes for the first real action scene and before that the pointless plot is slow and full of cringe-worthy humour.

Yet once Bruce gets hold of a pole or nunchakus, things starts picking steam. His fight-choreography is top-notch and it's the only reason to watch any of these films. It helps that Lee himself directed the whole film. Lee once again rises on big money-makers and gangsters like a little guy should. And needless to say, every scene with Chuck Norris is awesome, from the unauthorized use of The Man with the Harmonica to his mean moves.

★★★ 1/2

Enter the Dragon (1973)
Director: Robert Clouse

This one is the coolest. I love the greatness and the essential stupid-cool of making this actually plot-wise a Bond movie with fighting instead of shooting. The cornerstone of Lee's stardom, philosophy and fighting abilities. It's so sad he never got to even try to top this. As it is, it stays lofty on its mountaintop. This is filled with great 70's actors, compelling plot-moving and memorable kick-ass fights. Every superhero movie ever made should take note on the final battle with Bruce and the evil Mr. Han. I also love dearly the ZAZ-penned parody of the film, A Fistful of Yen from the Kentucky Fried Movie. But that's a story for another time.


Game of Death (1978)
Directors: Robert Clouse, Sammo Hung, Bruce Lee

A truly macabre piece of using the last footage of Bruce Lee - this makes Ed Wood look downright considerate and tactful. A number of stupid plot-twists and bad Lee-filling material has to be gotten through - not to mention actual footage from Bruce's funeral! - to get to the good, meaty part of the fights in the Tower. These were the only ones Bruce himself shot before his death. Yet even those are cut short, unlike Lee originally visioned them. This is pretty horrid to be even watched while drunk.

Game of Death II (Si wang ta, 1980)
Directors: Sammo Hung, Corey Yuan, See-yuen Ng

The sequel has even less actual Lee-material, but it is actually its strength. Rather than having to wirite the plot around surviving material, the film kills Bruce early to leave his brother to go on an actual adventure. It's all good fun, but rather unmemorable.

★★ 1/2


Bruce is one of the toughest names for a man there is. Yet even if there are the likes of Bruce Willis, Bruce Dickinson, Bruce Wayne, Bruce the shark, Lenny Bruce and Bruce Campbell, Bruce Lee is and will always be the toughest for me!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Movies I-wanna-see Rises

First things first. You may notice a small difference in the title of this blog. Yeah, I figured that since I usually spend weeks to perfectly tune each blog post to be absolutely perfect, it's not so Fast any more, is it. So with just changing one letter I made a reference to a british sketch comedy a reference of a rarely-seen arthouse film. And what does "Last" mean? Is this the last, final word on movies and you don't need to turn to any other blogs for advice afterwards? Or is it just that each post takes so long that this will be the last one to report? You be the judge. As I'm fairly sure that my Best-of-the-2000s series will continue to 2012, while other blogs finished their lists about a year ago, I'll try to do it as a little bit of both. I'll also keep developing the blog. The URL will stay the same for now, but if some morning you won't find it in the old address, try to change the letter as well. And now, to business.

You know what we haven't had in a while? Pointless lists of awesomely shitty movies I haven't seen yet. Having a little more ambition with this blog certainly didn't mean you would get rid of those. So, like a zombie or the Dark Knight, here's another installment in our exciting series.


Some of my friends have seen this batshit insane Indian actioner and say it's the greatest thing since the domestication of the horse. Unfortunately the link of the awesome tractor fight from the film has been removed from YouTube, but at least this scene is some compensation for it.


It's the Philippenean Death Wish meets Delta Force - and so much more including a ninja picture.


This is a match I'd like to see! Although I do hope Billy has some Blade-like garlic weapons or something or this'll be a one-sided match.

CEMETARY MAN (Dellamote, dellamorte, 1994)

I'm not entirely sure if all of this comedy is intentional or not. This could be the italian Evil Dead II.
"Why?! You were always so understanding!"


If people missing limbs can play music, they can do kung-fu too!

DARK ANGEL (a.k.a. I come in Peace, 1990)

Dolph Lundgren vs. a Mortal Kombat-powered alien! YES!

E'GAD, ZOMBIES! (2010)

Ian McKellen in a period zombie film?! Yes, please!


If you don't want to see Bruce Lee meet (and fight) Popeye and James Bond, you're dead to me.


But Jackie Chan doesn't meet Popeye...
...Jackie Chan BECOMES Popeye. Mind = blown.


This is crazy film based on a a Russian folk tale, not the Michael Keaton snowman movie, although that sounds awful too.


This is the sort of thing most french movies would need. Take notes, Godard.


I wonder what shrooms the makers were on?


I see Re-Animator got some ideas here - but toned them down. This is one of the most fucked-up-looking films I've ever seen!


I have a thing for Scandinavian ninja movies.


The first Bobby Suarez film I-wanna-see, inspired by the documentary Machete Maidens Unleashed.

OUTLAND (1981)

According to Empire magazine it has Sean Connery making Space his bitch. Ace.


It's got only two states of being - dangerous or dead. It being a murderous giant wild hog.


“Over studying makes you a moron.” - tag line from Righting Wrongs.

R.O.T.O.R. (1988)

Or Robotic Officer Tactical Operation Research. With a name like that, you'll just know it has some robots going on a rampage!


This chinese Ultraman-clone seems to be even more insane.


I heard from trustworthy sources that this is mad as hell. Chainsaw fights and the lot. And seems to be cheerfully misogynistic to boot. Nice.


I miss Mr T. The T used to mean Tough.


Nothing silly about this one, just seems kickass enough for my tastes.


Seriously THIS is how to do low budget films. Uganda rules!


Dead Snow didn't invent nazi zombies, although they weren't as lovelorn in that one.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Night Visions Maximum Halloween 3010 report

After missing out on the most exciting biannual film festival in Finland last spring, I wanted to take part of this Halloween's Night Visions festival a little wider than usual. Unfortunately I had a job and a big party to keep me occupied, yet I managed to see quite a large number of festival films. As Night Visions has grown larger, also it's variety of different films has grown. It depends whether this is a good or a bad thing, as many festival goers didn't care too much to have mainstream films like Due Date in the festival lineup. Yet much of the stuff I saw was weird as ever so I won't complain that the festival has lost its cool just yet. In fact, I'm eagerly waiting for April when Back To Basics will blow my mind!

I'll leave a couple of films I saw to be discussed later on in different blogposts. There's too much to write about anyways.

Frank Henenlotter: Bad Biology

The festival had chosen interesting guests this time around. Frank Henenlotter is remembered for the cult classic Basket Case. All of his films I've seen deal with characters that have problems with some mutated part of their own body. His newest film, his first in 19 years doesn't break the trusted formula. Bad Biology is more twisted sex-comedy than body horror, but it's still pretty icky. It deals with two characters: First with a girl with seven clitorises and an hungry man-eating appetite. The second a young man who has trouble from his monstrous-sized penis which seems to have a mind of its own.

This bad-taste parade is shot pretty cheap and it shows. Yet it has a nice aura of just trying crazy ideas together and seeing what fits. The sexual subtext is left pretty thin but it's a fun ride nevertheless. Particularly with an eager festival audience with the author also present with amusing anecdotes.


Juha Rosma: HARMAGEDON (Suomi 1986)

Jussi Parviainen, Juha Rosma: Harmagedon

Perhaps the biggest highlight of this year's festival was the unforgettable Finlandia Gala of the nigh-forgotten finnish art-action film Harmagedon. Jussi Parviainen is a big name in the finnish theatre circles and he produced, wrote, directed and starred a series of plays in the 80's which starred his own alter ego, Juska Paarma. Harmagedon the film is the conclusion for this series, and it sure goes out with a bang.

Juska Paarma (who had been killed in the previous play) is resurrected to kill everyone he knows with a white shotgun. Thus after his own destruction he will destroy everything he held dear in the world as well. The world is seen in Paarma's point of view - women pine for having sex with him, men either fear him or love him as a hilarious drinking buddy. Even though the film is repetitive, the arty photography, often hilarious script and a cavalcade of 80's finnish actors holds the whole thing together. I particularly love Aake Kalliala.

Maybe even more incredible than the film were screenwriter-star-producer-uncredited director Parviainen's anecdotes before and after the film. After stories about killing a child as a five-year-old, an explosion at the prop factory, surviving the war in Afghanistan and hoping to meet Osama bin Laden, it's a night to remember.


J Blakeson: The Disappearance of Alice Creed

This one managed to surprise me! The best crime-film in a while, it tells the story of two men excecuting a kidnapping. And like the best heist films, it makes you almost hope that the criminals get away with it, so well-planned is the crime, however despicable. The film is told with considerable patience, in that it doesn't give away all its cards in the beginning. The starting montage of the criminals silently preparing an apartment for their hostage is intriguing enough.

With a couple of suitable twists that don't feel forced, we get to find out that it actually deals with a power-play. Every one of the characters has some strengthness and weaknesses over the other two. Thus, the film never loses its drive and the viewer keeps on the edge of his seat until the end credits.

HERE BE SOME MINOR SPOILERS, although I try to articulate them as vaguely as possible.

One jackass complained about the ending being too uplifting after the film. I don't think so. A crime always leaves traces and thus no one walks away from the tangled triangual drama intact.


Mark Hartley: Machete Maidens Unleashed!

Documentary-maker Hartley continues on the same path than his previous Not Quite Hollywood, this time focusing on B-movies made in the Philippines. I got dozens of MIWS from this, which was probably the intent. So in that, the film fulfills its function. It is always fun to see old clips, even brief ones, but the real meat is the wide array of interviews with fun anecdotes. Unfortunatelly, the focus of the film tends to stray from time to time. If I wanted to hear from the making of Apocalypse Now, I would've watched Hearts of Darkness instead. Also too much time is spent on describing Roger Corman's producing tactics. I would've wanted (nay, NEEDED) to hear more about Weng Weng, one of the greatest actors that ever lived.


Yannick Dahan, Benjamin Rocher: The Horde

The first dud of the festival. This french crime-film swiftly turns into a zombie film. Kudos for keeping it mostly serious but the problem here is that it's all been done better by oh, so many times. I couldn't care less about any of the characters even if they have been written tension among themselves. There are gleeful moments here and there (cocky cops on a bust get taken down at the first door, the gun-toting old fat neighbour), so that one watches this through without too much pain, but mostly it's just droll.


Seiji Chiba: Alien vs. Ninja

I had a very troubling text message just before the screening of this film. So it tells about the quality of the movie that I was able to forget the threat of my loaned car being towed away, and just sit, watch this and have a good time. The start doesn't promise much. A shitty-looking film is shot with a digital camera at some forest with either wimpy-looking ninjas or annoying comic sidekicks (that ALSO are wimpy-looking) having boring battles.

But once tha Aliens arrive the fun begins. It's obvious that the creatures are copied from the Aliens of Ridley Scott and James Cameron. But with their slimy green rubber-suits and dolphin-like beaks they look kind of cute. Not to mention their tiny offspring. And at the same time the creatures are very blood-thirsty (not to mention thirsty for some boob-grabbing). So we soon get rid of the most annoying chracters and have a good amount of silly WTF-moments. It's a very stupid film, but unashamedly so. With the goofy humour, gratitious violence and interest in female anatomy it is a clear movie for a boy's night out. And there is certainly nothing wrong with that. The audience loved it judging by the applause.

★★★ 1/2

RED (c) 2010 Summit Entertainment, Di Bonaventura Pictures

Robert Schwentke: RED

RED is a big ensemble action movie, and thus must be compared to the recent The Expendables. RED is better. But it is by no means a perfect movie either.

Like The Expendables, your enjoyment of RED depends largely of how much you get a kick out of the actors on screen. And I for one love more old, crazy character actors than wrestlers and other muscle stars, even though I love 80's action films with all my heart. In addition to leading Bruce Willis, you'll get John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, Morgan Freeman, and a couple of smaller parts I don't care to reveal yet, even though they are found on the cast list. And all these actors seem to have a genuinely good time - for once they get to shoot guns instead of doing boring drama. Except for Bruce who has a boring romantic subplot - that at least happens among all the action and not bizarrelly stopping it a'la The E-movie. Without the cast, or even with just Bruce, the film would be sort of a lacklustre spy thriller, even if it has a few truly kickass sequences (most of them are found in the trailer). But Malkovich and Cox in particular always bring a smile to my face, even with some lesser material.

One thing that really bugged me about this film was the use of music. It was way too generic and comedic and always too loud. I get that RED is supposed to be an action comedy, but the makers should take a page from the ZAZ filmmaking: Everything is much funnier when done with a straight face. Without the wink wink -attitude this could've been an even greater action film. But I still enjoyed it a lot.


Pasquale Festa Campanile: Hitch-Hike (Autostop rosso sangue)

Here is a just about perfect sleazy italian thriller to play at an all-nighter. About as sleazy as you can get Franco Nero plays a wife-beating sleazebag, who gets kidnapped by even bigger scum. There is no good, or even shades of grey. Everyone in the film is either bad or ugly or even badder and uglier (on the inside that is). The film quality is suitably dirty-looking for a film like this as well.

Like The Disappearence of Alice Creed, the story doesn't flow from start to finish like you would expect it. A couple of suitable twists take the story into all new layers. The film is about as nihilistic as can get, yet it isn't hard to watch as action and outrageous sequences follow each other. Even the notorious rape scene feels like a parody of the one in Straw Dogs. Yet you won't be walking from the film with a happy-go-lucky attitude, that's for sure.


Frank Henenlotter: Brain Damage

And here we are back with Henenlotter. Brain Damage rivals Basket Case as his magnum opus. He told that he poured a lot of his own experiences with cocaine into this film. It sees a young man getting connected with euphoria-causing brain parasite, which seeks to kill a lot of other people. This is not a subtle film by any mens, but Henenlotter keeps adding up the shots nicely and keeps the pace comical enough but not turning into a huge farce at any point. Both the scenes with carnage and scenes of drug-euphoria are done extremely well. But it still feels a little padded and the acting is very bad indeed. Elmer the parasite is a likeable villain with a sweet voice and one wonders why he hasn't become a bigger pop-culture icon.

★★★ 1/2

Todd Phillips: Due Date

Who doesn't love a good road trip movie? Todd Phillips, the director of Road Trip, returns to the genre with a dream pairing of Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Galifianakis. Both are considered some of the funniest actors in Hollywood today.

It is mostly thanks to its leading men that the viewer keeps up with the story. The crazy hijinks of the film are usually not particularly funny and sometimes outright annoying. Not to mention obvious at certain points. For instance, who among the audience doesn't get what is going to happen to a coffee jar full of a dead man's ashes the minute the topic is discussed? A couple of rewrites should've worked wonders. Particularly Galifianakis's character is close to being so utterly, life-threateningly moronic that it's nearly impossible to like him. The actor saves what he can, but is still not my favorite comic sidekick. Downey Jr.'s character's rage towards him is meant to show the character to have some anger issues, even though he's acting mostly pretty reasonable given the circumstances. Towards the end the hijinks get so crazy, this overplayed comedy works better.

Actually Due Date is one of those comedies like Knocked Up that's about the main character growing up and adapting to boring mediocre family life. At the beginning RDJ is shown to not get along with children and even though his methods of handling a problem child are hilarious, they are hardly good parental advices. But during the road-trip with a huge man-child he learns to suppress his anger towards simpler people and thus is allowed to enter the family life.

How sweet, but there are dozens of better road trip / buddy comedies. Here's waiting for The Hangover 2.


Noboru Iguchi, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Tak Sakaguchi: The Mutant Girl Squad

I loved Tokyo Gore Police back in the day, but Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl bored me. The modern japanese gorefests have plenty of sick ideas, but they work in such a fast pace, it can get tiring. The idea behind Mutant Girl Squad is that three different directors have taken each a part of the same story to direct. It brings some new joy to the project, even if it is a bit hit-and-miss.

A teenaged girl finds out on her birthday that she's a half-mutant. Her mutant parents get killed so she joins a secret society of mutants to take revenge on humans. This much I understood about the plot. It may be getting tired, but I was lost after the first part. The second part is the most boring and confusing one, but at least the best ideas are saved to the end. So we get to see an adrogyn Astro Boy-copying mutant, a girl who has a chain saw coming out of her ass and a girl who has katanas coming out of her tits. It's extremely bad taste, but it's the sort of film where you can't help but love the never-ending madness that's put to the screen uncompromisingly. I had fun with this one in the end.


Yun Je-gyun: Haeundae: The Deadly Tsunami

Yet it didn't get any better from there. One of my happiest Night Visions -memories was the screening of the bonkers chinese catastrophy film Super Typhoon a year ago. The ultimate film for preaching trust in the authorities was a suitable send-off. The Korean catastrophy film is a lot more boring one. Bad South-Korean films are usually packed with both horrible comedic bits and overdone melodrama. One should've guessed this would be too. Laughs were few and the film follows the basic Roland Emmerich plot too closely without doing this so over-the-top that one would have fun. Okay, one dog gets kicked and some people electrocuted. But I digress, I slept through most of this shit.

Ken Wiederhorn: King Frat

I had to question my sanity of paying money to see the final film, which is more than usual in Night Visions. A bad, bad, BAD Animal House rip-off is so tasteless, I wondered why more people weren't vomiting on the floors. King Frat barely has any plot at all, more than the hijinks of the most awful fraternity on campus. Seriously, these people make the Animal House boys look like Christian role models. Most of the humour is based on farts, boogers, burping and various other body fluids. One particularly idiotic scene sees a beautiful blonde accidentally starting to have sex with a guy in a gorilla suit in an ambulance (dont ask, I didn't understand it either) and then getting miraculously stuck. The scenes end suddenly and flowing in an order which makes me question the sanity of even the editor of this thing.

The theme is an odd ear-worm with a sweet lady-voice singing too fast about all the Fratboy hijinks for me to catch the lyrics. The theme has been playing in my head ever since, partly because not 5 minutes pass in the film without the fucking song. So all in all, it wasn't even so bad it was funny. It was so bad it made me and everyone else in the theatre feel very uneasy. That may be why it was certainly worth a view.


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