Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Import Flix: Tattoo (2002)

I'm not sure what this says about how my Brother sees me.  This is the final Film that I got for Christmas to get around to.  It is...dark.  Real dark.  I mean, DAMN!  The Film is Tattoo, a 2002 movie by Robert Schwentke, a man who's had a somewhat-dubious Career here in America.  Before he made stuff like R.I.P.D. (really?!?), he made this 2002 Film over in Germany.  The Film starts with a bizarre murder, escalates into a personal war against illicit dealings and ends...well, I'll get to that.  To mix things up, we don't have a normal lead.  Instead of being a young, idealistic Cop, he's a Slacker who is basically blackmailed into working for a man that needs his help.  He'll certainly regret ever joining the force in time!  Like I said, this thing gets really dark and bleak.  I'll try to lighten things up...but no promises.  To see why I feel validated for having no tattoos, read on...
A naked lady is wandering the street at night with a wound on her back...before she's hit by a truck.
Our hero just wants a safe, boring job in the German Police Force...but his partying is discovered and a grizzled Cop recruits him for his knowledge of the Underground.  He doesn't have much of a choice.
They find some gross evidence which leads to a suspect and a filthy crime scene.
A key piece of evidence is the skin off of the lady's back, which is covered in a tattoo.  Gross.
A random encounter with this junkie leads our young hero to discover a second skin trade- tattoos!
Apparently some crazy, rich people collect tattoos.  Most buy them legally(ish), but some kill for it!
This young lady was a friend of the victim.  Can she be helpful in bringing the man/men to justice?
The Police work out a sting operation to draw the villain out...but I won't SPOIL more than that.  The End (for you).
This is nice, well-made and really depressing.  The whole thing absolutely works on a technical level.  It is shot well, lit well and doesn't look cheap.  It is well-acted and presents a Story with a unique edge.  I can't complain about any of that.  I should also mention that there are a few Scenes of extreme gore that are merely-implied.  These work especially well given the emotional context of them (which I won't SPOIL).  That's not to say that this Film isn't gory, because it really is!  It is appropriately gross and disgusting, given the subject matter.  This is dismemberment and all, you know!  It tows the line at times, so it doesn't turn into something like Saw.  This one was clearly inspired by stuff like Seven and thankfully came before the Saw Franchise.  Seeing people try to keep up/top that Series as far as gore was not pretty.  This one keeps things balanced by having good, strong Characters and nice Writing.  It is not all about the gore- yea!  It feels as gritty and real as I can only imagine being a Homicide Detective in Germany can be with a case like this.  They don't shy away from the emotional responses here either, helping you deal with it.  If they were all callous and bitter, you might feel disconnected.  As it is, you can relate to their situation and be glad that you aren't really in it!  It would be interesting to see what other people would do with it.  For example, would Luc Besson just cast Liam Neeson and have him running everywhere?
Next up, I cover something lighter.  How about some kung-fu and espionage...from Hammer!  Stay tuned...

(International) Streaming Standard: Danger 5- Series 2

***UPDATE: Available on Streaming in North America via Netflix (and Others?).  Please just ignore the first paragraph.***

Sorry, America- you don't officially have this yet.  Through a source I won't reveal, I have gotten to see the second Season/Series of Danger 5.  Awesome!  If you don't recall what the show is, go here.

For the rest of you, here is a mostly-SPOILER FREE take on the Series that just recently ended in Australia.  Before it shows up officially, enjoy this look at it...
The show jumps from the 1940s to the 1980s with no explanation.  It just does, okay!

The show begins with the return of Hitler and an attack on a Supporting Character.
This brings the whole Crew together after a long absence, although their time apart has affected them all differently.  Oh and Pierre is Black now.

He just is.  You got a problem with that?
Instead of SPOILING anything major about the next 6 Episodes, here is a random series of Shots from them with no real Context.

What?  Did you expect anything different?
Holy shit- this is just crazy!  This Show is just ridiculous and I love it.  Little things like explaining how time has passed properly is something they don't have time for.  They did start with Phone Guns, an Eagle-headed Colonel and Nazi Dinosaurs though.  What do you expect?  In contrast to Series 1, every Episode does link up and move through one Story.  There was always an overall Story to the original run- 'For God's Sakes, kill Hitler!'  In this one though, it is a more coherent narrative and things set up in Episode 1 pay off through Episode 7.  The Story continues to get stranger and stranger as it builds to.  All the stuff we love about the Show is still there- the silly Plots, silly Characters and faux Low-Budget Style.  In fact, they seem to one-up it throughout the Show.  The bottom line is that fans of the original Series are going to love it.  If you weren't a fan, even the sheer joy and absurdity may not be able to win you over.  The lesson I take from Danger 5- if something is worth doing, it is worth doing way over the top!
Great Show!  If it ends here, I can live with that.  I'd love to see what else they could do to up the ante though!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Quick Reviews: The Monster Maker

Another Old School Film that doesn't suck.  This is The Monster Maker, a 1946 Film featuring some curious science, a dubious Costume and...otherwise decent stuff.  Let's see more, shall we?
The man on the left is obsessed with the girl in the middle.  Her dad tells him to back off.  What could go wrong?
When they have a confrontation, the Doctor knocks him out and injects him with Acromegaly.  No, really.
The dad- who's a Concert Pianist- starts to experience some freaky side-effects, including mutation!
Being an asshole, the Doctor agrees to work on him at his Clinic...as long as the Daughter visits.  Oh and he has the cure.  I told you he was an asshole!
Eventually, he takes it a step too far and the deformed Pianist kills him...after the Police arrive.
Don't worry- he won't go to Jail AND the Assistant (who isn't an asshole) has the cure.  The End.
A bit dry at times, but still fun.  This is all about the conflict between the people and designed to highlight the evil Doctor.  To that end, it works.  He is good at playing crazy here.  You believe that he is up to no good.  Nice work, probably dead by now guy.  The best part about the Film is the freaky make-up used on the Dad when he's supposed to be suffering from Gigantism.  Mind you, the Film Quality isn't great (despite this copy being allegedly Digitally-Remastered), but it still looks quite good.  It is some nice, ugly stuff.  In contrast, the Ape Suit they use is...goofy.  I've seen this same suit in half a dozen Films by now, mostly on stuff shown by Svengoolie.  That thing got used more than the original Godzilla suits!  Wow.  As a whole, this is very dated...but that's kind of the fun.  Again- the make-up is great, so that's something.  Roar.
A little dry and melodramatic, but still good fun for fans of Old School Horror.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Bob's Birthday Bash: Animen- The Galactic Battle

Not Anime, but a vague representation of it.  Leave it to China to copy Japan, since they are both fighting over the right to make all of our Electronics.  Today's Film is Animen: The Galactic Battle, a Film picked out by Bob.  It is apparently his Birthday or something, so I have to/get to watch this thing.  Right off the bat, there's an issue: this is the 2nd Film in a Series.  The first is a 2010 Film called Animen: Triton Force...which I haven't seen.  That one sounds like it sets everything up, so...crap.  Here's the gist of it: Humans evolved into two different Races.  One of them are Frogmen, who are, well, guess.  The other are basically Cockroaches, so they are evil.  Can the Bug Aliens be good for once?  Yeah, they are gross...but they are a part of our Eco-System and all.  So with that set-up out of the way, we now get...basically one long Battle Scene.  There's really not much to talk about here, so I may cheat a little.  Who's gonna tattle?  Not you, right?  To find out more about this odd bit of Chinese Animation, read on...
These are the Animen.  They are...

oh right, these are the Marvel Characters.  My bad.
No, this is what an Animen looks like.  They are kind of ugly, right?

These are the good guys and they are fighting to get a hold of some hu'Chips.  They are...something important.
As you can see, they are quite well-regarded.  These guys are part of Triton Force, a group of Frog Mech-controlling Soldiers who battle the evil Bugs.  Yes, Frog Mechs.
This Starcraft reject is the main bad guy.  He tries to kill their General and take the Chips.  He wants them as part of his plan to destroy everyone.

What- you thought he'd have a different goal?  Any guy with neck pincers on his face can't be up to any good, right?
After all the Character Set-up, we get some Star Trek: The Motion Picture-style 'Ship Porn' (long, sweeping shots of the Mechs) and then one long battle scene.

It looks nice enough, but it is just loud noises and techno-babble by the end.  The weird part: they make their Comic Relief Character (voiced by Keith David!) into the big hero by the End.  Other than that, no SPOILERS.  The End.
It is decent enough when the Action starts, but nothing special.  The Characters are either really Stock or just not that interesting.  We get Fat Comic Relief Guy, I'm The Leader Guy and Obviously Going to Die Heroically-Sacrificing Himself Guy.  At least we have a few good Voice Actors here like David, Bruce Boxleitner and Steven Blum.  The best performance goes to Veteran Voice Actor Jim Cummings, who really hams it up as the Villain.  He plays it up like he's Dracula or something.  Fun stuff.  I should note that one of the main Voice Actors does an Australian Accent (or just is Australian) which stands out in a Film with no other Accents.  I guess he's an Animen that is just generations removed from Australia...or something.  It isn't a big deal, but when the Film is this flat...it stands out more than it should.  Once you get past the 'Should I know this stuff' part of the Story, you pretty much just get Action.  It is not bad Action, but it isn't really great action.  That part is definitely Animated better, I will give them that.  With the lack of a great Story, all that Action just disconnects you all the more.  If you don't mind and just want to watch a George Lucas-style spectacle of CG Lasers and Explosions, this will work.  As for me, I can just hope that I don't get this next year on this day...
Not terrible, but it could have used more hair-sniffing Werewolf Cops or Tindalos Dogs.

Twin Piqued: Cooper's Dreams

As Saturday has dawned, so too has another day in...
In this Episode, Cooper gets close to the truth, key evidence may have been found and people continue to scheme...
Important Stuff
- Cooper and company find Log Lady, who provides key details of the night of the murder.  They also find the possible murder site at a nearby Cabin.
- Leo finally gets his, getting beat up and shot in one night.  What's his status though?
- More dark secrets about Laura come out.
- The Student Investigative Duo recruit Madeleine, who finds a tape and tells them to meet her...
Investigating plays a big part here, starting with a Penthouse knock-off and ending with a Cabin where the murder may have occurred.  On the flip-side, Leo has people working against him, leading to a rough night.
Speaking of which, People working for their own goals happens alot here.  One person blackmails their way into a job they want (see below), while two others point the investigation at Leo.  The Hotel Owner is doing all sorts of stuff, whether it is entertaining a new contingent from Iceland, scheming to burn down the Mill or...scheming with Jocelyn to save it?  He's playing all sides!
Wacky Stuff
While not as overtly wacky, their is an awkwardly-wacky bit where Leland starts 'sad dancing,' so they have someone dance with him to cover up the sadness.  Weird stuff.
This was an odd one, but also a good one.  The Investigation parts were really interesting.  I love how it begins with 'Dear Penthouse'-style letters and somehow ends up at the important site they need to get to.  Who doesn't love Log Lady too, right?  She's...a very Lynch Character.  I liked seeing the continued efforts of the young people in town to solve Laura's murder as well.  It makes it all feel very multi-faceted, since we aren't either just following Cooper work the case OR seeing the townspeople.  Obviously Laura's very public death has affected everyone in Town too, so that makes sense.  These people should really learn WHERE to discuss the case though.  If there's someone behind you, maybe don't discuss it!  This is another great example of how the Show can keep momentum between the major revelations.  The whole thing keeps going and keeps you guessing.  I don't know how this will end, but I am still doing better than this Investigator...
Next week, we inch towards the Season 1 Finale.  Will we finally learn the truth?  See you then...

Friday, March 27, 2015

Existential Cover Art: Phantasm

I've had this one for a little while, but wasn't sure how to use it.

This Film's Poster in Japan is a little...vague.  It is pretty, but vague...
Here's the thing: I like it, but...what does it tell you about the Film?

Nothing, really.

It is a real neat piece of Art, but...yeah, it doesn't help the Film one bit really.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Rare Flix: Society (1989)

What the hell is this?!?  I have seen alot of Films.  I have seen alot of bizarre effects.  I've seen (Queen) Cobra Women, killer Tasmanian Devils, reincarnated Goddesses and flying Sharks.  Even so, the stuff I saw in here is...something else.  Today's Film is Society, a 1989 Film Directed by Brian Yuzna.  It is officially his Directorial Debut, but the Film was released 3 years later in America, so it seemed otherwise.  This one starts innocent enough, but slowly builds into something else.  By the End, you have to wonder what the hell this thing turned into.  A young man (Billy Warlock) is questioning all of the people surrounding him and how he will fit into society.  When bizarre proof of his paranoia appears, he decides to investigate...but he'll probably regret it.  Two things to note.  First, our Lead is the son of Dick Warlock aka The Original Shape/Michael Meyers.  With the last name 'Warlock,' I kind of guessed.  Secondly, this Film features the make-up work of Screaming Mad George, a man whose FX work should be more appreciated.  His body of work includes Predator, The Guyver (which he Directed), Bride of Re-Animator, The Bite, Arena and Beyond Re-Animator.  So that tells you that this Film is going to feature some freaky stuff.  To find out what, read on...
Billy here is confused.  He sees weird things that nobody else does and doesn't quite fit in.
He gets some confirmation for his paranoia when an audio tape from his Sister's 'Coming Out Party' implies that they are up to some freaky, sexual stuff.  Ew.
In typical Conspiracy Movie routine, people who get close to it (other than Billy) start to die and weird stuff starts to happen.  Let's get to the crazy now...
Early on, our hero sees what looks like his sister in the shower...with her boobs sticking out of her back.  Later on, this lady's leg...doesn't look quite right.

After some craziness and misdirection, he's drugged and declared dead...only to return home...and find lots of company.
At the big event, he learns that the rich people in town- or the Society- are some sort of weird, shape-shifting creatures that literally feed upon the poor!  They are gross as hell!

He learns that he was adopted as part of some grand experiment to set this all up.  These people love long-term planning!  He ultimately fights his rival- also a monster- and manages to win in a way that I won't SPOIL...but you can see the end result in the bottom right corner.
After all that craziness, he makes it out of the house with his friend and the one, good rich person.  They...leave and that's it?  Okay.  The End.
Wow.  Just wow.  I did NOT see this one coming!  I can see why my Brother gave this one to me- he knows how twisted I am.  For as much bizarre shit that I have seen, Body Horror is always a soft spot for me.  Stuff like Tokyo Gore Police find a way to freak me out.  Can you blame me?!?  There all sorts of freaky stuff in the last 20 minutes or so that show me just how much insanity one can make with Practical Effects.  I'll spare you the lecture on it- don't worry.  The Story does a nice job of a 'slow burn,' giving you little things (like the freaky image in the Shower and others) before finally 'going for it' with the finale.  What a finale!  The only mark against it is the way the Film just kind of ends without any real closure.  I was expecting them to burn the house down, blow it up or something.  They just leave?  Kind of weak.  Regardless, the Film as a whole was a real delight and now I feel silly for putting it off for so long.  What else have I been missing?!?  I think I'll just go before I, well, you get the joke...
Next up, I go into yet another Film blind.  If it is anything like this, I can only imagine!  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Screener Flix: Infernal (2015)

Another day, another October Coast Film.  My track record with them is only so-so, but not every Film is a winner.  Today's Film is Infernal, a 2015 Horror Film from said Company coming soon to DVD and VOD.  I like to see this kind of thing early, even if it isn't my kind of thing.  Let's get this out of the way first: this is a Found Footage Horror Film.  Yea.  Like I've said before, I don't inherently hate these things.  If anything, I like them more...before I see them.  My bar for them is so low after so many Paranormal Activity Films and stuff like The Devil's Due.  I keep watching them hoping for another one like Trollhunter, which just nails the formula right.  I should note that one my colleagues- who shall remain Austrian...er, anonymous- was not looking forward to this one, so I'm also doing him a favor by checking this out.  The Film is about a family raising a Daughter with developmental problems...or is it something evil?  The Story takes some odd, dramatic turns throughout...but I won't cover them too much.  The key thing is whether or not this is something to check out.  To find out, read on...
In a very random opening, a young couple decides to get married...after the girlfriend awkwardly announces her pregnancy.  Off to a great start, guys.  When she says 'yes' and they hug, the Soundtrack (which was just a generic Pop Rock Song before) freaks the hell out!

If Hans Zimmer's soundtrack was backed by a death metal band, you'd get an idea of how insistent the Soundtrack is.  Their cross slowly (and awkwardly) turns upside down and one of the THREE Cameras filming them moving in falls over to reveal something freaky in a mirror.
The baby is born and, after the last time you ever see these people really happy, we jump ahead 8 years!  Apparently NOTHING happened at all of note for nearly a Decade and these two don't age.

While seeking help for the child's diagnosed issues (most likely Autism, according to the Doctors), all sorts of weird little things start to happen.  Dogs start congregating at night, weird noises can be heard in the daughter's room (apparently the Attic!) and even the camera itself seems to move on its own.
As things get worse (for the couple and their souls, possibly), you must ask- how will this end?  I won't tell.  Go see it for yourself like these fine people...
It is kind of in the middle for me.  On one hand, there is not a single, major Found Footage Trope they don't cover.  That could be a good thing- if you are into that kind of stuff.  If you are, great.  If you aren't, this will be everything you expect it to be and not much more.  On the other hand, the stuff they do different is...interesting.  Basically, the couple bicker...alot.  The one thing they really agree on is that they love to fight with each other.  Mind you, it is represented as compiled stress from raising the kid and dealing with all of the problems related to it.  Fine.  As a Film, though, we see them happy and then constantly bickering.  By jumping ahead so far, we miss the transition and they really feel like different people.  The Husband especially goes through many mood swings and alternates between nice guy and total asshole.  It is kind of like if you alternately click Paragon and Renegade in a Mass Effect Game...only it was every few minutes.  Some of that can possibly be explained by the Plot, but not nearly enough.  The result of it is that you start to lose a bit of empathy for these people, which is key for a Story like this.  You must like the people, so when things start to go bad, you really feel concerned.  Here, well, I'm not sure I cared about some of these jerks.  If that was the goal, then mission accomplished.  I wanted to like this one, but it was too jarring for me.  If you ever wanted to see Paranormal Activity mixed with Ordinary People, then you are in luck.  It is worth noting that this Film even uses the 'Guy Watches the Footage' Trope and...it also goes nowhere..
Next up, I finally stop putting off two Films given to me on Christmas.  They both are supposed to be...interesting, so let me see how they