Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Rare Import Flix: Zebraman 2- Attack on Zebra City

At long last, the Zebra returns!  I suppose that sentence needs some context, huh?  Today's Film is Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City, the Sequel to a Film that didn't exactly translate big in America.  I found a copy online- as a U.S. DVD is hard to find- and burned it many months ago.  I said to myself 'It is on a DVD now, so there is no way that you can put it off for long.'  I sure showed...me.  With that needless back-story all done, let me get to the Film.  The original Zebraman- also by Takashi Miike- told the tale of a Teacher who could secretly become the famous Superhero.  He was famous...from a TV Show made about him in the 1970s.  Now we're getting weird.  He managed to save the day in that one, but things go awry here.  I won't SPOIL the whole thing for some of you, but I'll give the gist of it all.  This one is really, really weird.  All ready for the crazy?  Too late to back out now...
In the wake of saving the City, Zebraman- with no secret identity- is overwhelmed by the Press and his Family has left him due to the strain.
Something strange happens and now we are in 2025, a fifteen-year jump from before.  The City is now Zebra City and overseen by a crazy lady in all black who wants to be Lady Gaga.
Our hero has no memories of the ensuing years and hides away with some victims of 'Zebra Time'- a sort of mass amnesia in the City.
While recovering, he starts watching a more recent version of the Zebraman Show (made after his fame in 2010) and his Counselor just happens to have been the Star!
He befriend a mute girl who is the key to the whole situation- no SPOILERS as to why- and he feels invigored with a mission of sorts.
He eventually learns the strange reason for his time-loss, amnesia and problem with his powers.  Again- no SPOILERS.  I couldn't make this shit up if I tried though!
When the truth comes out, all sorts of shit goes down.  Hopefully this WASN'T what the Villain had in mind...
Why is this lady dressed like our hero, but in all black?  Why is he in all white?  To find out, watch the Movie.  The End.
Wow.  Just...wow.  I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I expected a Takashi Miike Film to NOT be weird.  The day he makes a Film that plays straight, somber and serious- like The Straight Story- will be the day that Sun burns out.  With that in mind, this was still a pretty damn strange and disorienting Film.  It takes about halfway through for them to really explain everything- as crazy as it is- so you're left wondering for a bit.  Throw in all sorts of events, Characters and the fact that they have to explain something called 'Zebra Time' to you and this all gets to be pretty odd.  Thankfully, there are good, likable Characters there to take the journey with, so you never quite get too lost.  With a Film like this, it is a must.  I'll definitely say that the Film walks a fine line between being a Film and just talking about its own Mythos.  Some of you will like it more for that, while others will like it less.  The CG Effects look good enough when they are supposed, but nothing more.  Given the oddball nature of the Film, you can forgive some of them for being a bit esoteric.  The Practical Effects- like the Suits- looks quite nice and definitely don't disappoint.  Overall, good stuff.  Weird as hell- yes.  It does, however, contain a very good message...
Next up, one of the many Alien knock-off Films.  Will it be good, bad or fun bad?  Stay tuned...

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Poor Bastards of Cinema: H. P. Lovecraft's The Unnamable II (Pt 1)

The Unnamable II is about a Lovecraftian Monster getting loose and killing people between it and its goal.  This leads to lots of random death.

Let's keep the theme of the last one going...

After our heroes leave the Cave with the Monster, it kills John-Rhys Davies and escapes.  This Cop gets a report of strangers near the Murder House (from the last Film and the beginning of this one) and investigates...
Now more animalistic, the creature is angry and loose nearby...
...and the Cop is dead.  It won't be the last time in this Film.
Here's the thing: the other Cops were called to kill the Monster, so I can't really induct them.  They died in the line of duty and it was part of the Plot.

This guy knew nothing and just died entirely because our heroes separated the creature from its human host and freed it in the process.

Alas poor Cop, you knew nothing at all.

Next up, random co-eds feel the wrath of the creature.  That's what you get for...being in your Dorm.  Stay tuned...

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Twin Piqued: Masked Ball

As the Morning sun rises, so do we return to the infamous Town of...
In this Episode, we get many little Reveals, some important information and one big Twist!
Important Stuff
- James meets up with a mysterious lady who agrees to let him stay in her house and fix her car.  There's a real Rebecca DeMornay thing going on here.
- Cooper gives a statement (in true Cooper fashion) and is told that the DEA Investigator will be coming.  He learns that it is Dennis Bryson, someone he's worked with before.

However, Dennis (David Duchovny!) is now going by Denise.
- Ben Horne loses everything officially and seems to go a little bit crazy.

- Andy and Dick try to one-up each other by bonding with a strange little kid from a Big Brother program.

- Josie exposition dumps her back-story (finally!) to Truman and later agrees to work for Catherine to protect herself.  When she leaves, we learn that her dead Husband is...alive!

- Finally, Cooper and Denise discuss the case.  The evidence was planted successfully, but the DEA Agent may be on his side.
This is getting complicated!
The big Theme is Letting Go of the Past and a lesser one is The Past Comes Back.  Let me elaborate...

- Cooper's past with Denise may help in his defense.
- Nadine has regressed to her past self and can't let go.
- Josie's past is literally coming back to haunt her as her seemingly-dead Husband is against her!
- Ben has some serious issues with his present and won't let go of his past (literally!)
He needs help!
Weird Stuff
A tough one this week as there are a few good picks...

- Nadine embraces High School life and makes a play for a Wrestler.  She casually sits on a Leg Press next to him...and effortlessly pushes 600 lbs!  Damn!
- We get a voice cameo from David Lynch's Gordon. Always fun stuff.

- Finally, Cooper's crazy, random bit of positivity when talking to the Board elicits this reaction...
That is some Ending!  This one is another slow-but-steady build Episode.  Given that last Week was all about wrapping up Plots and setting up new ones, this is no surprise.  What they give you here is so good that you don't care.  We finally know Josie's back-story.  Catherine make a new power play.  David Duchovny is Denise.  Not to get too side-tracked, but I'm a little unclear as to what is up with that Character right now.  She explains that she self-identifies as Denise, but also says that she started feeling this way while dressing as a Transvestite undercover.  I guess she might be pre-op...but I don't know.  This wouldn't be as notable if it hadn't been for recent events that people couldn't help but talk about.  I'm curious to see where this goes, so I'm not judging it as a good or bad example just yet.  The other interesting timing is seeing Duchovny on a Cult TV Show with the imminent return of The X-Files and Twin Peaks.  Depending on how things worked out in the Show (which I intentionally don't know yet!), could he be on both in some way?  We'll see.  This was an overall fun and interesting Episode.  Since it featured a little Log Lady (at the Mayor's Wedding), why not feature Sesame Street's Log Lady Parody...
Next up, the mystery deepens and thickens.  What the hell is going to happen next?  See you then...

Thursday, June 25, 2015

New Crap: The Woman in Black 2- Angel of Death

****Before you go any further, check out my Review of the original Hammer Film here.****

When in doubt, make a Sequel to your Remake of an Adaptation of a Play that is an Adaptation of a Book.  Today's Film is The Woman In Black 2: Angel of Death, the much-delayed Hammer Sequel.  According to my sources (IMDB and Wikipedia), the Film was Shot in 2013, planned for a 2014 release and then dumped out in 2015.  It must be great!  To be fair, Cabin in the Woods sat on a shelf for 4 years and it was really good.  Mind you, Red Dawn (the one with Chris Hemsworth) also sat on that same shelf (or a different one) for 4 years and wasn't all that good.  In this Sequel (Hammer's first in forty years!), we jump ahead to 1941 and see how bad life in England was.  It was rainy, full of political strife and not getting alot with its sister countries in the UK.  Oh wait- that's today.  In 1941, they were being bombed the Nazis too!  With things desperate, why not hide your kids in a haunted house?  To find out why that is a bad idea, read on...
In war-torn London, a group of children is taken out to the Country to escape the bombing campaign and the blackouts.
They end up in the House of The Woman in Black...which is slightly-safer, I guess.
One of the two Teachers is haunted by an event from her past via these Dream Sequences.  If you don't realize that this will connect to the evil Woman, then...

Congratulations- you are watching your first movie!  Not the best Film choice, but whatever.
One little boy- traumatized by loss- is targeted by the Woman and given the Junior Blair Witch treatment.
After some bad stuff (which I won't SPOIL happens) happens, our heroine suspects that someone else is around and to blame.  She acts a little crazy.
She starts a brief romance with this Pilot, but there is more to the situation than either one of them realizes at first.
Can they escape The Woman in Black?  Will the curse be broken?  To find out, watch the Film.
A disappointing follow-up- authorized or not.  This one could be great.  According to what I've read, the original Pitch had a bunch of wounded Soldiers holed up in the House under the care of a Nurse (the Lead).  A bunch of shell-shocked, wounded men in a ghost house- sounds good.  By the time they Filmed this, we got a half-dozen kids getting Schooling there during WWII instead- less good.  The whole thing just isn't as effective.  Without giving SPOILERS, I can say that there is less on-screen activity of interest and the Title character doesn't do a whole lot.  It is kind of like how 'Dracula' is barely in Doctor Dracula...although that one is explainable for different reasons.  You know that a Film isn't that good when I bring up Al Adamson!  In this case, it is just a mediocre retread that doesn't give you much to see, give you much to care about and just generally looks 'blah.'  On the plus side, they brought back the Original Lead from the 1989 Film...even if his role is minor.
Next up, I finally stop putting off a Japanese Sequel that has been waiting for me.  Will this part-real/part-fictional Hero save the day again?  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Rare Flix: H.P. Lovecraft's The Unnamable II

Bigger, louder and just a little bit sillier.  Today's Film is H.P. Lovecraft's The Unnamable II: The Statement of Randolph Carter, a Title that might be a tad too long.  Let's get the obvious out of the way: 'The Unnamable' and 'The Statement of Randolph Carter' are two different Stories by Lovecraft.  It would be like if they made William Shakespeare's The Tempest II: A Midsummer Night's Dream or Dr. Suess: The Grinch Grinches The Cat in the Hat.  Wait- that last one is real!  On the plus side, they didn't just have a guy named Randolph Carter in the first one as a pointless Easter Egg like those Resident Evil Films seem to do.  In this Sequel, secrets of the beast are revealed, people are killed and butts are flashed.  They seemed to have more money to get more of the Suit on-screen and to get some nice C to D-List Stars.  You get such staples as David Warner (one scene), Maria Ford (usually naked), Julie Strain (in a monster suit) and John-Rhys Davies (just the first half).  The stakes are bigger, the Sets are bigger and the whole thing is just plain sillier.  To find out if this one works with more flash, read on...
Right away, we get some odd Continuity as the Final Girl never appears, but our other lead is now being tended to by EMTs at the scene (alongside the Police).

I guess they walked all the way to Town, called the Police, walked all the way back and then got him help at the House.  Makes sense!
Carter sneaks out the Book he found and tries to decipher.  His Asian friend knows Quantum Mechanics (positive Racism?) and tells him that it is what is written in the Book.  Okay...
In the Hospital, our other Lead is visited by the Ghost of the guy who died at the start of the first Film, only he now has white hair (aging in Heaven?) and says that the Monster is his Daughter...even though it was his Wife in the last Film.
The pair recruit an expert (Davies) who goes down into the Tunnel with Carter to find the truth.
They discover that the Monster is trapped in the Tunnels (somehow) and Davies tricks the Demon into departing the body by...giving it Insulin shock.  Words fail me, Gentlemen.
Davies stays behind and gets killed while Carter takes the now-free (and naked) girl (Ford) to the University to document her condition- being someone from the 18th Century.  Magic!
The Creature follows him and goes on a path of destruction.  I'd go into more detail, but I'm getting at least 2 Poor Bastards of Cinema Inductions out of this one.

Oh and the Creature looks different than it did earlier...but I guess that might be explainable.  Why it looked different in our Lead's Dream/Jump Scare is NOT explainable though.
After many, many deaths, Carter stops the creature from re-absorbing its human host by...putting a chair in the way and making it merge with that instead.  No, really.
Unfortunately, the girl now ages up to what she should be with the magic gone.  As a bonus, the picture taken by Davies amounts to nothing.  Oh well.  The End.
Ridiculous, but kind of fun.  This one is comparable to the first, but also quite different.  The first one was all about being stuck in the House, while this one moves to the Miskatonic University Campus.  The first one is all dark and moody, while this one is far more of a Creature Feature.  Yes, they both feature a Monster (the same one, really).  This one feels like it is more about letting the Creature run wild, rather than building up its mystique.  If you want an old-school comparison, it is like comparing The Creature From The Black Lagoon to Revenge of the Creature.  The Creature- which is nice-looking suit- runs wild in this one, offing people left and right.  Adding to the cheesy nature, you have some over-the-top Acting.  The most notable one for me is the Lady Police Officer (who's name escapes me) who has 2 Emotions: Stewing in Anger and Raging!  Given how wooden her actual Delivery is, it turns out to be kind of hilarious.  With all of that said, this one is goofy, ridiculous at times and much more 'fun' than the original.  It isn't necessarily better or worse- just louder.  Is it too late to start a David Warner Is Not Amused Meme?
Next up, a recent Sequel that disappointed critically and financially.  Will I be more kind to this Lady?  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Rare Flix: H. P. Lovecraft's The Unnamable

Dare I hope for a good Lovecraft Film not made by Stuart Gordon?  Today's Films is H.P. Lovecraft's The Unnamable, as opposed to Dr. Seuss' The Unnamable, I guess.  Before I begin, let me bore you with some brief back-story.  I got the Sequel (next Review- duh) from Netflix, but this one isn't available.  Thankfully, I found a less-legal source of the Film so that I wouldn't be too lost.  If there is simply no normal way to watch a Film, why should I feel bad using YouTube or DailyMotion?  So this one came out in 1988, right around the same time that Re-Animator did.  Shocking, right?  They aren't really that similar, but they obviously share an Author (sort of).  There's obviously a pretty tenuous connection for Re-Animator, while this one seems to be closer to the source.  The Story involves a freaky creature that kills a bunch of people.  There is *slightly* more to it than that, but not much.  Unlike the Sequel, there aren't alot of notable names here, but that won't stop me from going on.  To find out how this rare Film turned out, read on...
In a flashback, this guy lets his wife out of a locked room...only for her to be a Monster and kill him.
In the present (of 1988), the guy on the right finishes telling his friends this Story about the House behind them.  The guy on the left thinks that he is playing a prank and decides to spend the night...
...only for the Monster (still trapped for some reason) to come out and kill him.
Coincidentally, these 2 Jocks from Miskatonic University take some girls to stay over at the House the next night, not knowing about the creature.  Why all the sudden interest?!?
The pairs split up and one of them goes off to 'make whoopie.'  They discover the guy from earlier's head and all hell breaks loose.
Our Leads eventually figure out that their friend is 'missing' and go to the House too.  They...learn to regret it.  Hi, Madonna.
The whittled-down group tries to survive as one of them- Carter- finds an ancient book that may help.
They escape the house, but the creature goes into hiding in the tunnels beneath the House.
The trio (our Leads and the Final Girl) escape wounded and scared...until the Sequel.  The End.
A decent Thriller, but nothing special.  I went into this one with little to no expectations.  I like the Re-Animator Films (well, at least the first 2) and Dagon is quite good.  There are also a bunch of sub-par to bad Lovecraft Films like Cthulhu too.  This one kind of falls in the middle.  They don't really get anything wrong per se- it is just so generic.  They have good Sets, good Cinematography and the Acting is honestly not bad.  Despite all the Lovecraft-related trappings, this is mostly just Monster in House Kills People.  There's not much in the way of big Twists, shocks or otherwise jarring moments.  The Creature looks nice enough once you get to really see it.  You definitely see less feminine Monsters in Film, so that was nice.  I like that they tried to dress this one up a bit- it just didn't do all that much in the End to make it stand out.  Take it away, Cthulhu censoring...
Next up, the Sequel with more C-List Stars than ever.  Is this the superior Creature Feature though?  Stay tuned...