Sunday, July 15, 2018

Lost in Translation?: 1990- The Bronx Warriors

Italy loved to rip-off Mad Max- specifically The Road Warrior.  This is one of those Films.

As a bonus, this is the German Poster with the confusing new Title.

After the tease earlier, I might as well deliver...
Honestly, a great Poster.

That said- the German Title listed at the bottom is 'The Riffs- We Are the Violence.'

I still don't know where 'The Riffs' comes from.  Sorry.

Here's the untouched original...
No need to 'reinvent the wheel' here- just make it look nicer.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

'90s Trash: Skyscraper (1996)

No Rock to be seen anywhere!  This is Skyscraper, the 1996 rip-off of Die Hard (as opposed to the 2018 rip-off of Die Hard).  In the new Film, Rock has a fake body part that defines his Character.  That's basically the same thing here, it just isn't the leg!  This is Anna Nicole Smith's finest hour!  She's not only a Star (with Above Title Billing), but she's also an Associate Producer.  It is still for *this* Movie, but its something.  The Story is, well, a barely-changed version of Die Hard.  It's almost a Funhouse Mirror version of it, as all of the stuff is there, but doesn't quite look the same.  Bad guys still take over a building and a lone Hero(ine) must stop them.  I'll go in to the differences in the actual review, but there's no mistaking the influence.  It's probably a dumb question to ask, but, is this good?  To find out, read on...
ANS is playing a Helicopter Pilot- contain your laughter- in Los Angeles who shuttles rich folks around.  What a nice, 'everyman' job to have.
Some bad guys are after some MacGuffin (does it really matter?) and violence ensues.

I don't say this enough, but DAMN, Stunt People have dangerous jobs.  Look how close that explosion is!
Immediately following that, ANS goes home and takes a shower.  Why else was she hired?
The Cop role is taken by her Boyfriend Character, who knows he's close to something big, but the henchman won't talk.

They make you think its not Die Hard by only getting into the titular Building about 40 minutes in.
There you go.

Oh and it is during the day, so that's...not a huge difference really.
After inadvertently helping the villain get the stuff he needs, ANS is finally in peril and somehow manages to slide down the building and swing into it using a metal coil.

It sure is a good thing that she took that Urban Base Climbing Course, I guess.
We do get a flashback to show her boyfriend teaching her how to use a gun.

And yes, this flashback does also include the second of three Softcore Sex Scenes.  It was important that she remembered all of that- clearly!
Seriously though, they hit Die Hard nearly beat-for-beat in the second half, including the long, blond-haired and foreign villain being killed by a cowardly cop (a Security Guard here) & the guy who betrays our Hero(ine) only to be killed by the bad guy.
After lots of silly fighting and about three deaths via falling, the main Villain falls to his death...and somehow isn't turned into paste from a 70-story fall!  The End.
Bad, but inoffensive stuff.  Well, there is the part where ANS gets raped, so...mostly-inoffensive stuff.  She obviously kills the guy, but it is still a weird way to insert the third and final bit of sex here.  Speaking of which, ANS does little to dissuade from the idea that she was only cast for certain reasons.  She tries in this one, but her emotional range is about as big as Donald Trump's hands.  It really boils down to happy, mildly-concerned and trying to sound angry.  It's not for lack of trying, just talent.  In her defense, she's not exactly surrounded by the best of the best.  Nobody is *that* good in this Film, so maybe we can chalk some issues up to direction.  The whole thing always kind of looks cheap.  On the plus side, that does give you some gritty-looking explosions and stunt work that you wouldn't get now with CGI.  There are far better showcases for this kind of thing, of course.  Skyscraper is not a good Film.  It can be somewhat enjoyable if you are a fan of '90s Action Films and cheese though.  The continuity, naturally, is a bit off...
Next time, I attempt to get things back on track.  That just means more trashy Movies, most likely.  Stay tuned...

Friday, July 13, 2018

Holiday in My Crazy Youth: The Friday the 13th Crew vs. Vampire Bees!

Basic Math appears to escape me sometimes as this Friday the 13th seemed to sneak up on me again!  Instead of doing a Movie, why not another Episode of the Show?  There are over 70 of them and I've only done, what, two of them, right?  I scoured the depths of Wikipedia to find an Episode with a weird, silly premise and a guest star.  Sadly, I couldn't find another big-time Director Episode, so I went with this.  Art 'I kept running into him by accident for a Year' Hindle is an evil Beekeeper in this strange Episode.  To see how much weirder it can get, read on...
Art tricks a man into letting him put honey on him (who hasn't?!?) and unleashing his bees, which kill him.  Why?
A bit later, a sick man shows up and willingly puts his hands in this beehive-connected hole.  Why?
After being stung, the sick man is the body of the man killed earlier!

That's right- these bees drain the blood of people and then inject them into others, thus taking on the form of the blood's former owner.  Why?  Magic!
The man in his new body recruits his friend, who conveniently is also dying.  Is the air just really bad in this Town?!?

In any event, Hindle kills his Boss (who appears to be from The Matrix) and gives the body to the man.
Due to Hindle covering up the deaths (with stuff like combine maiming and car accidents), our Heroes are slow to figure out what is going on.

If you want to know why a container for holding bees is magic, you're still out of luck.
A side effect of the transformation is that it doesn't last too long, which Hindle uses to exploit the men to kill for him, amongst other things.
Our Heroes finally figure it out and, after some close calls, escape from the bees...for the moment.
Thankfully for them, the last body-switcher has a conscience and wounds Hindle, making the bees target him, thus ending the cycle.  The End.
The best and worst aspects of the Show on full display.  This Show was never great, but it was two things: inventive and fun.  This Episode really shows both of those aspects off nicely.  Vampire Bees- unique.  An evil Beekeeper- pretty uncommon.  A Story about body-swapping due to magical Bees- fun.  Hindle plays the part to perfection, being just shy of mustache-twirling villain here.  He has a plan- if a silly one- and is committed to it 100%.  That's the other side of that though- the bad aspects of the Show.  The basic premise- retrieved a number of magical antiques- is obviously tailor-made for Television.  One item a week- with an unclear number to start at- and room for stuff like two-part Episodes or side-Episodes- you're set for years!  The trade-off, of course, is that you know what to expect every week with something like this.  The formula is perhaps a bit too rigid and only allows you to go on so long without mixing it up.  On top of that, the formula requires you to come up with some many MacGuffins that the bad are eventually going to outnumber the good.  Stuff like magic boxing gloves, pins or dolls are natural.  Stuff like evil Kamikaze Pilot Jackets, John Wilkes Booth's Make-Up Case or a magic wheelchair- kind of silly.  Why did Satan make a magic bee holder?  What is the point of cursing random objects held by dead people like Louis XVI or The Marquis De Sade?  It's just plain silly- which you will either love or hate.  In small doses, at least, the Show can be fun.  Plus, how often did you get such great Director names?
A silly premise treated 100% seriously- just the way it should be.  I mean, just go all in if you're doing Vampire Bees!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Pilot Wings: Blue Thunder (1984)

It's way too late to actually build off of this Pilot, but I don't care.  I have the DVD and hadn't watched any of it yet, so I figured this way I would 'force' myself to act.

Blue Thunder was a hit Movie in 1983 (the best Year ever) and was turned into a TV Show the next Year.

Let's see how that went...
The true Star of the Show is the titular Helicopter.  It was destroyed in the Film (35 year old SPOILERS).

In the Show, they call it Blue Thunder 2, but don't acknowledge the Film, so you decide what is canon.
It's Pilot is a Veteran and a bit of a loose-cannon.  If he doesn't like a rule, he'll bend it.
This is especially true when it comes to the Villain- PVC (the late-great Richard Lynch).  He's killing Police Helicopter Pilots to draw out our Hero.

He also loves to sing Irish Bar Songs, since, Character, I guess.
Assisting our Hero is the Ground Team, two ex-Football Players (Dick Butkus and Bubba Smith) playing...ex-Football Players.

No, really.
Can the team work together and against protocol to stop PVC?  Will they meet a quick end?

Well, you know the latter isn't true, so no SPOILERS there.
What really stopped the team?  A different, more popular team.
More like blue something-else if you were expecting a second Season.  Yes, this Show only got 11 Episodes, which conveniently fit on 2 DVDs.  Its more famous cousin (above) obviously got a bit more than that.  There are many things to like about the Show.  It has a simple, cheesy feel to it.  Other than the dark subject matter of a guy killing Cops and dealing drugs, it is a fun Episode.  They give simple conflicts to each pairing on the Team.  The Pilot and his Tech Guy have to overcome their differences.  The Ground Team must learn to not antagonize each other.  The Pilot and the Boss must learn to respect each other's wishes.  It's not rocket surgery.  The use of Stock Footage is a bit apparent, but understandable.  I've seen far worse, even from this time period.  Is it better than Airwolf?  Probably not, I'd say.  That said, the two only share the idea of Helicopter-based teams- that's it.  It's ironically only in the last Episode that the Plot shifts away from protecting the City and moves into Airwolf territory dealing with foreign villains.  If nothing else, you get to see a young Dana Carvey trying out his craft before SNL made him a Star.  It's silly, it's cheap and it's kind of fun for those reasons.  If you don't think of it as a 'classic,' try re-watching it/watching it for the first time.  It even had Toys!
A fun, but very-dated bit of nostalgia.  Having little familiarity to the Film, it still worked as a Show.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Impossibly-Cool Cover Art: Evils of the Night

I've had this one for a while, but never got around to it.  It is too good not to share though.

This 1985 Film is pretty obscure- my standard being if I've heard of it, since, you know, I'm a nerd- but has a promising Poster!

Alien Astronauts, Blond Teens and the Millennium Falcon- oh my!

I love this thing.

Here's the original (as always)…
Good, but flat.  The added color makes it 'pop,' doesn't it?

Monday, July 9, 2018

Animondo: Beautiful Bones: Sakurako's Investigation (A Corpse is Buried Under Sakurako's Feet)

Welcome back to Animondo. It's time for another mystery anime!

Beautiful Bones: Sakurako's Investigation, also known as A Corpse is Buried Under Sakurako's Feet, largely concerns the exploits of Kujō Sakurako, an osteologist who spends her days hunting for bones, constructing skeletons for display, and finding human corpses. Accompanying her is Tatewaki Shōtarō, a high school boy who assists Sakurako in her work...though most of his time is spent preventing her from pilfering bones that they find and managing her interactions with living human beings. Sakurako does not have the most winning personality...or the best understanding of societal obligations.

Understatement of the year.
What she does have is a brilliant mind and a talent for getting to the bottom of mysteries. Frequently, Sakurako and Shōtarō will encounter a mystery associated with the bones they've encountered, and Sakurako uses her knowledge of bones, skeletal structures, deformities, and injuries - and sometimes just her general perceptiveness - to get to the truth of what has happened.

What's interesting about Beautiful Bones is that these actually aren't usually murder cases we're talking about. Some are, certainly, but not all or even most. The mysteries Sakurako solves sometimes have to do with criminal intent, but more frequently, they simply deal with, and life's various endings.

It makes Beautiful Bones a different sort of detective show. A lot of the elements you'd normally expect to see are missing. This isn't a show about witnesses, evidence, conflicting testimonies, and a confrontation with a suspect...but it also isn't a show about the adventure of being a detective.

It's a show about bones, and the stories they tell.

I came to really appreciate that. There are plenty of mystery anime out there, but Beautiful Bones feels different from all of them. Sometimes, Sakurako might be trying to find out how a corpse washed up on a beach, or why a child showed up somewhere with blood in her footprints and signs of an old arm injury...but other times, she's seeking to understand why a woman came to throw an envelope from a bridge but ended up leaving it there, or what the story is with some human bones that surfaced in the school's bone collection, or just what an elderly grandmother's final days were like.

Beautiful Bones, then, is about the mysteries of life as much as it is about the mysteries of death.

It's a very quiet sort of show most of the time. There are moments of danger spaced throughout, and there is a slow build to the revelation of a villain - more on that later - but the heart of the show is the understanding that we gain of the lives of those whose lives have ended, and in turn, the things that the search reveals to us about Sakurako and Shōtarō themselves.

Sakurako and Shōtarō are the main focus, and they're wonderful characters that play off each other quite well. Shōtarō finds Sakurako fascinating, even if he's disturbed by her interest in bones and her rather morbid lifestyle. Sakurako clearly finds Shōtarō endearing, a worthy companion, albeit one who tends to hold her back from what she'd actually like to be doing and gets annoyingly squeamish when they stumble upon something as beautiful and wondrous as a corpse.

The two are just plain fun to watch - they feel variously like friends, rivals, mentor and student, social recluse and manager, and loads of other things...most of all, they just feel real. They have a relationship that just works. They feel true to their characters, always, and it feels like you get to know where each is coming from at every moment.

The show isn't quite as good at using its side characters - there are a number of them, and some are explored much more than others. Kōgami Yuriko, Shōtarō's classmate, is developed well and gets a lot of screen time and some of the more powerful emotional moments of the series - in particular, my favorite episode actually focuses almost entirely on her, exploring what it means to make an effort to save someone, and what stresses it puts on you.

Gran, Sakurako's kindly old caretaker, is wonderful every time she appears, and serves well in keeping Shōtarō and Sakurako working together (she even gets to explain a case once, and amusingly imitates Sakurako in the process).  There's also Hector, who has to be one of the fluffiest and most huggable dogs in anime history.

Others aren't quite as strong. Isozaki Itsuki, the life sciences teacher at Shōtarō and Yuriko's school, is interesting but doesn't get quite enough time to fill the role it feels like he could fill - though he still gets some nice moments from time to time. Utsumi Hiroki, a police officer, is a fun character but more seems to fulfill the role of kindhearted cop than get a lot of development. Other characters show up repeatedly, but just in small moments in the start of an episode or during a break from the main plot of an episode, and don't really do much of consequence. This isn't a show with a large regular cast, and while it uses some of its regulars well, others just don't get that much time or development.

The art in Beautiful Bones is strong. It still has an anime style to it, but it feels like more of a grounded, somewhat more realistic style than others. It's rare to see particularly exaggerated expressions or cartoonish movements here - in part because of the show's generally calm and quiet mood, but in part just because it wouldn't fit its style. Much like Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, it makes excellent use of color to set the mood and add to the feeling of mystery. It also makes some nice use of a sort of painted look from time to time, which can give some striking visuals.

But Beautiful Bones doesn't always come together perfectly. Some episodes are more interesting than others, and some tales the bones tell just aren't developed as fully as you'd expect. There are cases where the show just spends too little time on a story and doesn't allow it as much room to grow as it needs, and others where it takes a little too much time with a story that isn't quite as interesting as it thinks. It never really hurts things much - Sakurako and company are always interesting enough to carry things - but there are points where it feels like a difference in focus or some work on pacing could help.

In some ways, though, this could be more personal preference than anything else. I found myself generally appreciating the show most when it strayed the most from crime it may be more that I simply appreciated the points where the show was at its most unique compared to other mystery anime.

There are a few points, as well, where a character just has a skill that we've not been shown before, and honestly, that we may not be shown again. It's not frequent and again, it's not very problematic for the overall plot, outside of one dramatic moment that's somewhat hurt by a "well, of course I know martial arts" kind of thing. It feels like the sort of thing that should've been mentioned considering how the show is structured - something the audience should know about, but doesn't - and honestly, it isn't necessary. There were other ways to accomplish the same moment, but without the problems this method brought to the table.

The biggest issue, though, is simply that the show isn't complete.

Hector's trying to convince people to make another season, but it's hard when so few executives speak doggy.
It's not that there's a cliffhanger ending or anything. The stories that Beautiful Bones sets out to tell in the season that it has received are told well and told to completion. But...there are other threads raised during the telling, threads about Sakurako's past and about a mysterious villain who may be behind some of the few actual crimes Sakurako encounters...and as of this writing, sadly, the show doesn't appear to be continuing on to get to explore those points. That said, it aired in 2015 originally, and I've seen anime make a sudden comeback even after more than ten years, so it's not outside of the realms of possibility that we could see more of this.

It also helps that for the most part, the episodes of the show can be watched independent of each other - there are character developments, but there's no feeling of a long-running plot in general. Each case is pretty separate from the others, and that means that you get a lot of satisfying conclusions to plots that help ease the blow of those hanging threads.

Beautiful Bones is a wonderful show with an interesting concept and a different sort of mystery tale than many others that you can find in anime. It tells quiet, reflective stories that express the beauty of life and the various sorrows and triumphs it - and its endings - contain. It is well worth your time...just be aware that it hasn't told its own story to completion yet. I still believe it's a satisfying watch, and it wraps up with at least a feeling of resolution...but just go in knowing that in the end, you're still going to have some questions. Like Sakurako, you're going to end up hoping to unearth more old bones, with more stories to tell.

Dubbed or Subbed?: To the best of my knowledge at time of writing, Beautiful Bones is only available subtitled. Characters come through strongly in the subtitles, and the show's easy pace tends to let you have time to read - there's not a lot of action scenes or even fast-paced arguments that might make it difficult. Even if you tend to prefer dubbing, if this show sounds interesting to you, I'd say to check it out.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Quick Reviews: Rampage (2018)

Thankfully, there is no Uwe Boll to be seen!  Is it good though?
Due to some really tricky Science, George the Gorilla gets mutated, growing both in size and level of aggression.
A Scientist shows up and tells them it is related to a Company doing gene experimentation and offers to help.
When things go awry, can the pair get past their differences to save the World?
Will the arrival of a giant Wolf make things even worse for us?
How about a giant Alligator?  Yeah, probably.
Can The Rock save us from the brink of disaster (again)?  To find out, watch the Film.
 A pretty by-the-numbers Film.  This is the Film with a giant Gorilla, a giant Wolf and a giant Alligator.  It Stars The Rock.  Yes, he will always be The Rock to me.  This isn't going to be a Classic of Cinema by any stretch of the imagination.  It is what it is.  To be fair, they try to add some Drama and subtext to the whole thing.  Whether it is The Rock's monologues or the backstory that did little, they just didn't work all that well.  The Rock killed some Poachers- yea?  They try to make it feel like there is more going on, but there really wasn't.  This is all just a mix of Destruction Porn and Giant Monsters- not that there is anything wrong with it.  If you expect Rampage to be anything special, you will be disappointed.  If you want a basic, competent Story to put three creatures into battle with the Army (and each other), this will work.  It all looks nice, but is pretty hollow.  It is kind of like seeing the footage before they digitally-added in the Gorilla...
A decent 'popcorn' Film.  It isn't great though, so don't expect much from it.