Movie A Day!: Wired Asian Action

Once again, I did not forget to post this or abandon the blog. I just flat out didn’t get much watch the week before last, so rather than post a 2 film blog, I held off. My blog my rules! So while the world burns, floods and possibly nuclear rains (if we have a nuclear war before I finish FALLOUT 4, I’m going to be pissed off. I’m really close!), here’s what I watch the past couple week. After the Vinegar Syndrome catch up, I’m back with subtitled foreign films to catch up with before the Scary Movie Challenge. “Subtitled Foreign Films” sounds fancier than “Yakuza/Kung Fu action films”.

Also impacting my movie numbers is my binge viewing of:


257 08/24 The Wire Season 3 (2004) 4.5/5   After the focus on the larger crime world in Season 2, Season 3 gets to what the series is really about: an indictment on the war on drugs. A west division major sets up a safe zone for the drug trade. It’s in the realm of fantasy, but damn if it doesn’t make for some thought provoking television. I’m not even getting into the stories of the cops and drug dealers that started in Season 1 are doing. It’s arguably the best season of the best crime show in television history.

258 08/25 More (1975) 2/5   Another low rent hardcore feature from Ralph Eli, this one manages to be more game to run a detective plot with Harry Reems investigating a murder and the widow basically fucking everyone involved. It’s so poorly made that it’s actually fun to watch, and has a stolen Led Zep soundtrack to boot. I can’t really recommend the triple feature that this is on, but it was kind of a fun watch regardless.

New Battles Without Honor and Humanity The Boss's Head.jpg
259 08/26 The Boss’s Head (1975) 3/5   Second film in the New Battles Without Honor And Humanity series is more of the same. Bunta Sugawara is back, this time as a stray dog Yakuza that is fresh out of a seven year prison bit for doing a hit and getting caught up in Yakuza politics. It’s good for what it is, but failed to knock my socks off.


260 08/28 Last Days of the Boss (1976) 3.5/5   This one wraps up the New Battles Without Honor or Humanity series and I liked it best. It starts off sleazy before settling into one of the more action packed installments which helps it to stand out from the rest. Aside from the action, it’s the usual Yakuza intrigue. The New Battles trilogy of stand alone stories never reach the heights of the original, and end up being more of a tonal tribute. Good for what they are, but didn’t wow me.


261 08/30 The Killer (1989) 4.5/5   Revisited the film that put John Woo on the map and it holds up remarkably well. It’s corny as heck, but damn, those action scenes are still completely bonkers and it’s clear that it’s influence is still reverberating around THE RAID and JOHN WICK twenty plus years later. Chow Yun-Fat is the suavest mother fucker since Cary Grant and the only knock you can have against this film is that Woo followed it up with HARD BOILED which might be the greatest action film of all time.


262 09/01 Kung Fu Girl (1973) 2.5/5   When the DVD cover calls the film “Kung Fu Girl” and the film on the disc is called “None But The Brave” (imdb has it as “Tie Wa”), you know you may be in trouble. Ends up that this one wasn’t too bad. A country kung fu girl heads off to the city to confront the evil Japanese imperials that killed an adopted sister. It’s over long and the fights are clunky. What helps set it apart is the casting. Jackie Chan makes an unimpressive appearance in a small role early on, and Diamond Guy Jo Shishido plays the Japanese baddy which helps to make this one a little more interesting. Star Pei-Pei Cheng Manages to be both engaging and disappointing in that her kung fu is a little to dance-y/staged compared to other leading actresses like Angela Mao. So it all adds up to being mostly a miss.


263 09/02 Throat… 12 Years After (1984) 3/5   Gerard Damiano returns to Deep Throat, only not really. The tag line is “A Reflection NOT A Sequel”, only it has nothing to do with the original film. Which is probably a good thing since despite it’s fame, it’s actually pretty terrible. This one is basically an episodic film about a couple of couples figuring out their relationships. A great cast but it never really stands out as anything too special. (That said, the extra feature interviews on the Vinegar Syndrome disc make it worth picking up as they are more interesting than the feature.)


264 0/03 The Wire Season 4 (2006) 4.5/5   One of the joys of this series is wondering where it can go after the conclusion of a season. This one finds the focus shifting to the war on drugs impact on the school system. It’s the kind of thing I typically don’t like since it follow a group of kids. It’s handled so good, and with none of the fake emotional manipulation that these topics usually have. While this is going on, it the story continues to push forward with the political/police stories that are the base of the series. It might be the best season.

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Movie A Day: Secrets Of The Triad Women Ups

Moving into the third week of Summer Cold and now trying not to spiral into depression over it. It’s been tough, I’m covering the warehouse at work, it’s tough when you can’t breath. Anyway, movies!

223 07/16 Secrets from Another Place: Creating Twin Peaks (2007) 3.5/5   A really well done documentary on the making of the TV series. Talks to pretty near everyone that should have been in it, with the exception of David Lynch which isn’t much of a surprise.


224 07/17 The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947) 4/5   Humphrey Bogart stars as an painter who may be poisoning his wives for inspiration. Bogart is fantastic in this one, and Barbara Stanwyck more than holds her own opposite him. She plays an absolutely lovely woman, which only seems strange when you’ve seen her in dozens of pre-code films playing gloriously manipulative bitches. Man, I love Stanwyck. Anyway, this one is pretty great and worth your time.  


225 07/18 Hail The Conquering Hero (1944) 4/5   Preston Sturges nails another movie. This one about a small town boy who flunks out of the Marines, but ends up being hailed a hero against his will upon his return. Every joke lands, the political commentary is razor sharp and holds up, star Eddie Bracken is perfect in the bewildered lead and I fell in love with Ella Rains. What more can you ask for in a movie?


226 07/18 Shinjuku Triad Society (1995) 4/5   You might think an early Takashi Miike Yakuza picture would be a bit run of the mill and you would be wrong. Really wrong. This one is as bonkers as his more well known films, only playing with Yakuza tropes. Basic plot is the old standard where a cop’s brother has started working with a gang specializing in organ harvesting. There’s more than that going on. The first in a trilogy, I’m hoping the others are as good.


227 07/19 The Clock (1945) 2.5/5   Judy Garland gets a serious non-musical role in this one, starring as a secretary in New York who stumbles into soldier on leave before shipping out. It’s basically like the Before Sunrise series, with the two wandering around falling in love except it’s pretty near charmless and there’s too many bits. A milk delivery scene goes on way too long. I found Robert Walker as the soldier annoying and none of it really worked for me.


228 07/19 Rainy Dog (1997) 3.5/5   The second film in the Black Triad Trilogy has no narrative connections to the first film. This one deals with a Japanese hitman stranded in Taiwan who discovers that he has a child. There is zero sentimentality to this one, it’s got a really bitter feel to it and while not as gleefully bonkers as the first film, this one manages to stick with you.


229 07/21 The Women (1939) 3/5   The most striking thing about this film should be that there are zero men featured in it. I don’t believe you see a single male the whole time, you certainly never hear them. That said, the most striking thing ends up being the shocking array of mysterious hats the leads all wear. The other striking thing is Joan Crawford is almost a bit role but she manages to steal the entire film. Which is saying something considering the strong cast. (I’m also still in love with Paulette Goddard.)


230 07/21 Ley Lines (1999) 3.5/5   Final film in Takashi Miike’s Black Triad Trilogy is another stand alone film, this time dealing with a group of Chinese/Japanese youths in Japan going to Tokyo in an attempt to get some money to leave the country. It’s interesting that the real theme of the trilogy isn’t Yakuza/Triad warfare or gang stories as it is about people stuck in a place they don’t feel like they belong. It makes for three distinct films exploring similar aspects as opposed to traditional film series. They all work in their own way.


231 07/22 The Seven-Ups (1973) 3.5/5   A sort of unofficial sequel to the The French Connection, this one sees Roy Scheider leading a police task force with a license to pretty much break the law in order to catch criminals. It plays it pretty straight and ends up being better than the actual sequel to The French Connection. A good crime plot and a spectacular car chase in the middle make it worth checking out.

 

That’s all I got this week.

Mooooveee a day!: Immortal Epic

Thin week this week, film fans. Been going through the extras in that Twin Peaks boxset and catching up on other things, but if you read to the end you will find an absolutely fantastic documentary series that recently aired on PBS/BBC4.


171 06/12 The Immortal Story (1968) 3/5   This one was Orson Welle’s final completed fiction film, and his first in colour. Technically it’s perfect like all his films. It starts strong but I found the story wandered a bit halfway through.


172 06/14 Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces (2014) 3.5/5   A collection of deleted scenes edited by Lynch is pretty interesting stuff and a great compliment to the main film. That said, this isn’t a film in it’s own right. It fleshes out some ideas but the main draw is that it catches up with a bunch of the cast from the TV series that didn’t make it into the film. If you’re a fan of the film and series, it’s worth a watch.


173 06/15 A Slice of Lynch (2007) 3/5   This one finds Lynch sitting round table with actors Madchen Amick, Kyle MacLachlan and producer John Wentworth as they discuss all things Twin Peaks. It’s fun and interesting, but also slightly awkward. I would have preferred solo interviews.

174 06/16 Return To Twin Peaks (2007) 2.5/5   Another short found in the complete mystery boxset is about the fan convention. It is what it is.


175 06/17 American Epic (2017) 4/5   This is a four part series documenting the birth of American Music. In the 20’s, record recording left the big cities and went rural, and by focusing on artist as diverse as The Carter Family and Charlie Patton, the story is told. Part four features Jack White and T-Bone Burnett bringing in artists to record sides on the only surviving machine. It’s fantastic stuff, but I am biased since I have loved this music since discovering The Anthology of American Folk Music 20 or so years ago.

Movie A Day!: Master Falstaff Peaks

Last night I had a dream that I went to the secret Chinese food restaurant at West Edmonton Mall. Secret because it’s where the old China Town part of the mall used to be. Just down from Bourbon Street, and to get to it you had to go through double delivery doors beside the Fuji Banana Frosty stand. The restaurant is much nicer than it sounds, with classy, modern decor. This is the third time in about 16 years I’ve gone to the restaurant. The same guy is running it and pulling customers through the delivery doors like a club hawker, leading them down the maintenance hall to the restaurant proper. The food is good, though I can tell they are on hard times. The visibility is terrible after all. You have to look for it. The wait staff were sneaking pieces off of my plate. I left without paying. None of this is real, none of this existed in the past, but I have strong memory of it. My brain takes this as “Happened”, not “Dreamed”.

Thin on the movies this week, for reasons apparent in the reviews.


167 06/09 Twin Peaks Season 2 (1991) 4/5   People consider this one as going downhill compared to the first season but I really enjoyed it this time round. It’s true, it goes for a bit of a wander once the Laura Palmer stuff winds up, but once the Windom Earl plot ramps up it’s just as good as that as what came before. The final episode is one of the best in the entire series that absolutely drips in an almost Lovecraftian horror.


168 06/10 Chimes at Midnight (1965) 3/5   I’m really torn with this one. I’ve been wanting to see it for ages, one of the final fictional films Orson Welle’s completed and a Shakespeare adaptation to boot. Technically it’s wonderful, the acting it perfect, Welles is fantastic in the lead as Falstaff. The look of the film, shots, editing, all what would expect from Welles and not hurting from a limited budget. Halfway through the film is one of the best medieval battles I’ve ever seen. The problem is I couldn’t understand it. It took me three sessions of watching, backing the film up to re-watch, I just couldn’t follow the plot. I don’t know if it’s the time of night I was watching or I’m just too dumb about Shakespeare but I couldn’t tell you anything about it plot wise. I’m giving it three stars since I think it’s better than I found it and I will give it a second chance some day.


169 06/10 Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) 4/5   Time has been kind to this one. I remember how hated it was when it came out and looking at it now, I’m guessing it’s due to not being fun. Instead it’s a terrifying look at the last days of someone suffering from serial abuse from a parent and the film looks at it while asking “What if the evil that men do was an actual entity that could control us?” It’s more horror film than anything else and the only sour note I have is Chris Isaak is way over his head in the opening scenes.

170 06/11 MasterChef Canada Season 4 (2017) 2.5/5   More of the same. The nice guys finished first.

My Letterboxd profile is currently caught up and reviews appear their first now. I’ll probably shutter this blog. Be sure to follow there if you are interested in movies.

Movie A Day!: Gilmore Spectre Girl

Another week and another list of things I’ve watched. I wrapped up the Gilmore Girls this week and now begins trying to catch up on other things. I had the weird experience of having a news article quote me heavily this week and entered into the wild. All of it is anonymous, but it’s still weird to see deeply personal stuff aired in public like that. There will not be links at this time.


072 03/20 Gilmore Girls Season 7 (2007) 3.5/5   And here is where the journey ends. I’ve heard nothing but complaints about this season, and for the first half of it I can see why. Both Lorelai and Rory make all the wrong decisions and it is absolutely infuriating to watch. The interesting thing though is that these horrible decisions don’t actually conflict with the characters behaviour as set up previously, so it’s sort of brave for the creative team to make them so unlikable despite how unpopular it was. Second half of the season is much better, with things resolving relatively naturally for the end of the series. According to Wikipedia, this season had different show runners which might explain some of the confusion at the start. The wiki also says that the original show-runners wanted to have a season 8 to wrap up all the storylines. Which would of been interesting, but as it plays out, it wasn’t really necessary. As a whole, I really enjoyed revisiting the series and am glad I finished it after all these years. It mostly holds up. Some of the pop-culture stuff is dated of course, it was hard not to snicker/weep over the many references to future president Hillary Clinton seeded though out. I’m still a little in love with Lauren Graham. As far as this style of show goes, the writing helps to keep it more relevant than some of the other soapy dramas of the era. I think? I’m no expert on soapy dramas. 


073 03/22 His Marriage Wow (1925) 3/5   Harry Langdon takes the lead in this slapstick comedy, starring as the groom who ends up convinced that his wife is only after his insurance. This one wasn’t as wild as the genre is typically, but it’s charming as hell. Langdon is more quiet and naive like Stan Laurel (the commentary track confirmed my suspicion that Laurel was influenced by Landon) and it makes for an interesting juxtaposition to the wilder action to see him work small in a genre that is so broad.


074 03/24 Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life (2016) 3.5/5   Ten years after season seven ends and the girls are back. Presented as four 90 minute movies as opposed to a series of episodes, it was both a joy and a mixed bag. The shocking thing is the sheer number of the cast they were able to bring back. It’s great, but it makes the episodes very busy to fit everyone in which makes for nice moments that work against actual cohesive storytelling. There was also more than a few music montage type deals that I found flat out annoying and excessive as opposed to fun and charming. Episode three I found to be the strongest of the four, and episode four nearly falls apart before redeeming itself in the later half. They could probably continue with another series after this one, but I won’t lose sleep if they don’t.


075 03/24 China Girl (1975) 3.5/5   Annette Haven stars in this one as a biochemist who is kidnapped and tortured with extreme pleasure in a bid to get her to give up the recipe for a drug that allows mind control. An exceptionally well done hardcore feature that actually delivers dramatically (in a grindhouse sense) more than just the sex scenes. Haven does a great job at both aspects, and the big surprise is James Hong (you’ve seen him in movies and television) making a non-sex appearance as the crime boss. Overall it doesn’t fully work as a kung-fu sex drama since it’s not fully committed to the drama (probably due to budget limitations for action scenes), but it works enough to be legit and worthwhile. A perfect example of the period of porno chic when it looked like hardcore was going to go legit, the bluray from Vinegar Syndrome is fantastic.


076 03/25 Spectre (2015) 3/5   The latest Bond film hits all the marks that is expected which is kind of the problem. It’s hard to get swept up in the action when you’re thinking “There’s the car ad, ah, there’s the watch commercial.” It all feels a bit outdated instead of fun. Especially now that we literally have superhero movies in which unstoppable feats of action fit more than in a “real world” spy film. The great Christoph Waltz gets to be the villain and they give him nothing to do. It’s not the worst Bond film, just a serviceable one.

That’s it.

Movie A Day! Gruesome Night of Spanish Fly

Not much for news this week. Time seemed to drag and go by to quick to accomplish much at the same time. Now it’s daylight savings time Sunday and I already feel jet lagged so I’m keeping things short.


063 03/06 The Gruesome Twosome (1967) 2.5/5   Herschell Gordon Lewis attempts a horror comedy that is baffling in its ineptitude. The first 5-10 minutes is made up with a bit with two Styrofoam wig display head puppets discussing matters to set up the plot. The only reason is to shamelessly pad the run time to 70 minutes since the film fell short in editing. Once the film begins it barely improves. A wacky old woman wig maker who talks to her stuffed wild cat Napoleon has a drooling idiot son that she gets to scalp young college girls for her wigs. The gore is the only reason to watch this, despite being crappy and actually looking worse in spots compared to Lewis’s earlier pictures (The beheading by electric night bit being the exception). This is one of those films that you have to wonder why it exists since it’s not the worst plot in the world but the planning and execution of it is so piss-poor. Take out the comedic wackiness that doesn’t work and play up a Psycho rip with the boy and his mother and you would have something. As is, it’s a bonkers curio more than anything.


064 03/09 A Taste of Blood (1967) 2/5  Another HGL opus, this one see’s him doing an update on Dracula. A smarmy business man gets a mysterious shipment of blood-laced brandy, becomes a vampire and learns that he is an heir to Dracula himself. He’s then tasked with killing of the heirs of Van Helsing and all the other people responsible for killing the original Dracula in the book. It’s not a bad plot, it’s the execution that is horrendous. The usual HGL cheapness shines through, bad set-ups, ine-take acting, things out of focus, but it’s the pacing that really kills this one. Extraneous scenes go on forever, eating up the screen time to a glacial paced two hours. On top of all this, Lewis cut back on the gore so there’s no payoffs. Yet despite all that, it’s not his worst film.


065 03/10 Gilmore Girls Season 6 (2006) 3/5   This season improved over the last in that it felt like they pushed the characters ahead instead of spinning the wheels like the last one. That said, instead of just making Luke unlikable they also made pretty near every other character infuriating in their actions. Which is either brilliant writing in that it fits their patterns as established, or an unfair challenging of the audience’s patience. Main plot is Rory and Lorelai dealing with the end of last season blow out and Luke having a life changing revelation. Which are interesting plot points for sure, but had me tearing out what little hair I have left when watching them make one bad decision after another. Jess comes back for a couple of episodes and ends up being the voice of reason. Who would have thought? After all that, I’m curious to see how they wrap it all up in the next and last season.


066 03/10 The Night of the Spanish Fly (1976) 2/5   This one was the co-feature on the DVD with The Night Bird (reviewed last post) and was certainly the weaker of the two. Go-Go Wieners have been unknowingly laced with a potent spanish fly that causes the hot dog loving women of a metropolis to become overwhelmed with desire! It’s a fun plot to type out but the execution kills it with a jokey annoying voice-over setting up and rambling over uninspired sex scenes with a mostly unknown cast. I found it plodding and uninspired.

With this post I’m halfway though the Herschell Gordon Lewis boxset. I might take a time out and spend the week back in Silent Movie Land with the Mack Sennett set since My plan was to watch one disc (two films) from the HGL and spend the rest of the week watching the silents. I’m not getting in the time to do that, and I feel like I need to give my brain a break from genre films. Especially when the next pack of filth from Vinegar Syndrome is on it’s way. So maybe next post will be a little different?

Don’t hold your breath….

Movie A Day!: Extra Oscar Lounge!

Another tough week of struggle out here in the west. Weather seems to be torturing us into death by being both too cold and then warm in the same day. I’ve felt like I’ve been coming down with a cold for the past two weeks. I think it’s the barometric pressure kicking my head in. I’m ready for winter to end.


056 02/26 The Extra Girl (1923) 2.5/5   Mabel Normand stars in this Mack Sennett comedy about a young woman who wins a contest to go to Hollywood for a chance to be a star after her rural parents refuse to allow her to marry her mechanic boyfriend. Lots of intrigue, not many laughs in this silent feature. Mabel was an incredible talent but this one doesn’t give her too much to do despite a plot that goes all over the place and allows her to do a bunch of stuff. It just never really works out aside for the chase sequence with the loose lion.


057 02-26 89th Academy Awards (2017) 3.5/5   The night we have all been waiting for! The one where the starving artists we enjoy on the big screen are finally fed via airdrops of food! It really is a beautiful sight, millionaires enjoying Jr. Mints. they really are just like us!. This one ended up being pretty good. Show moved about as quick as these things can, only one of the bits (tour bus) went on too long and there was an epic fuck up with the best picture award going to La La Land instead of Moonlight, so that was fun. I had no horse in the race so nothing stuck in my craw or had me orgasmic in delight. It was just a mostly nice show and Jimmy Kimmel did a good enough job as the host that I wouldn’t mind seeing him do it again.


058 02/28 Gilmore Girls Season 5 (2005) 3/5  I’ve reached the part in the series where old is new and I’m hitting the episodes I missed the first go round. This season was a let down from previous ones. Lorelai finally gets with Luke, and the writers do a thing where they turn Luke from the greatest guy/only decent guy on the show to a rage-aholic asshole. Rory is still in college and is now interested in Logan, a rich kid prick and it all makes the season a bit insufferable compared to the heady joys of season 3. It’s still good though since the performances and writing continues to stay true to the characters (aside from Luke), and while the Gilmores are floundering it gives space for Kirk and Lane to steal the show.


059 03/01 Color Me Blood Red (1965) 3/5   Herschell Gordon Lewis wraps up the “Blood Trilogy” with this one, a comedy about a bonkers painter who discovers that blood is the perfect colour of red and gets inspired. It’s basically a rip-off of the superior in every way Roger Corman film Bucket Of Blood (which is probably more famous for being the one that wrapped production in time for Corman to crank out the cult classic Little Shop Of Horrors over the 2 day weekend before he had to return the rental equipment), only on the cheap and with more gore effects. This one suffers from the typical Lewis corner cutting. Rather than stop the camera and doing a second set-up, he’ll do things like let it run while a second actor gets ready and then pan and focus to shoot them and it just slows the film down to a crawl. Which is saying something when the film is about 70 minutes long. There’s a reason why he’s considered a hack, and it already starts to show in this one. That said, it’s still fun, and I always watch it since it’s billed as the third film in the trilogy so my mental illness dictates that I have to watch it after Two Thousand Maniacs.

The weird thing watching the Blood Trilogy in this day and age is how chaste they are. I don’t think a single swear is uttered and despite Lewis and Friedman coming from the Nudie Cutie circuit there is no explicit nudity. There’s just buckets of gore all over the place. It’s probably what saved them from the censor to some degree. Still a fun watch even if they are dated, and Two Thousand Maniacs really is a classic. After Color Me Blood Red Lewis and Friedman will split up, but both will keep on making films on their own.


060 03/03 The Night Bird (1977) 2.5/5   The Night Bird is the hot underground disco club that was built for sex. This one was an odd hardcore title in that it plays like Saturday Night Fever meets Mean Streets. The first half is actually pretty good but it falls apart in the end. It sets up an emotionally cracking lead that never plays out, instead you get a never ending orgy sequence that is cut with disco dancing. The quality of this one is first rate so it’s a bummer it never gels into something more.


061 03/04 Something Weird (1967) 3/5
062 03/04 A Hot Night at the Go Go Lounge! (1966)2/5
An odd pair of Herschell Gordon Lewis cheapies. Something Weird is exactly as titled. A guy is electrocuted and ends up with psychic powers, joins a witch that tricks him… there’s murders as well… a guy gets attacked by his bed sheet… and I’m out. You can’t describe it. It’s a comedy, it’s a murder story, it’s psychic flim flam and an LSD scare film all at once. You have to see it to believe it. The craziest thing is it’s actually pretty accomplished in form compared to most of Lewis’s films.

A Hot Night at the Go Go Lounge! is a nudie short in which the first half seems to be footage from other films and the last half featuring surprisingly plain topless dancers. More of a curio as opposed to something worth seeking out.

I try to mix up what I watch, to find a balance, but I’m finding that the weeks are getting away from me so I end up not getting anything in other than genre films. I might have to take a time out to feed my brain.