Tuesday, November 30, 2010

In Honor of Irvin: The Eyes of Laura Mars

So, giallo. Hey.
I know I’ve said some iffy things about you in the past, but maybe we just got off on the wrong red high heeled foot. Perhaps I’m simply a narrow-minded American who can’t handle dubbing or synth scoring. Maybe I can only savor my boobs, black gloves and blood when flavored by McDonald’s and Ruby Tuesdays.
And so, with a clock ticking on Instant Watch, I queued up Irvin “Empire Strikes Back” Kershner’s 1978 thriller, The Eyes of Laura Mars.

Several months ago. And then he, maker of one of the most universally loved films of all time, passed away at the age of 87. So even though I (spoiler alert!) didn't love this movie, I hereby dedicate this post (at least, the good stuff in it) to the late Mr. Kershner.

Quick Plot: 
Faye “Forever Mommie Dearest” Dunway plays Laura Mars, a controversial photographer known for staging macabre spreads to highlight high fashion (recall the Jaslene-winning Cycle of America's Next Top Model wherein the girls had to pose as brutally murdered corpses. I imagine most of you Gents are familiar with said shoot).

On the night of her huge NYC gallery opening, Laura learns that one of her models has been murdered in a similar style to a featured picture. Later, her agent suffers a similar fate as Laura sees it from own head simultaneously.
So what’s the deal, you might ask. Is Laura psychically connected to the killer? Is she breeding violence with her own aesthetics? And of course, who exactly is running around Manhattan, gouging out the eyeballs of lesbian models that bare eerie resemblances to Nomi Malone?

Here may I present the suspects, in spoiler free fashion (plus their astoundingly awesome ‘70s hair):
Limo driver Brad Dourif, who can always be counted on to do any and all of the following:

1-give the best performance in a film
2-burn holes through viewer’s heads with the power of his crazy eyes
3-lapse momentarily into a gleefully cuss-filled Chucky trill that inspires audience members to immediately queue up Child’s Play following whatever lesser movie he’s currently in
and 4-always, as a character, be responsible for something bad.
Hair: Curly, springable, sensational
Rene Auberjonois as Donald, Laura’s blah and unlikable assistant.

Hair: Ready to wear Farrah
Raul M. Bison Julia as Laura’s alcoholic ex.

Hair: Slick and on its way to Gomez Adams
Tommy Lee Jones as Lt. Neville, a policeman assigned to the case and of course, Laura’s bear-fur covered bed. He sports typical Texas charm and a farmer’s tan.

Hair: Flowy and fabulous, with sideburns to boot
Laura Mars herself

Hair: Chic...ish
One of the problems I’m learning I have with the giallo subgenre (and I know: Laura Mars is American and therefore not giallo, but c’mon: everything else is there) is the tease ‘n cheat game it tends to play with its audience. Sure, plenty of viewers will probably finger the killer within his or her first five minutes of screentime, but not for any other reason than “Well, could be that person.” The resolutions, at least from what I’ve seen, are shocking but arbitrary. This would be fine if the films didn’t seem to devote so much energy to dropping clues or red herrings, only to then in the last scene, substitute a usually ridiculous explanation to justify the previous 90 minutes.
And yes, The Eyes of Laura Mars is as guilty as Tenebrae of opening a jack-in-the-box of an answer that ignores lots of details and fails to come near addressing the basic mystery of the film. For all its fascination with point of view and fabricated violence, The Eyes of Laura Mars ultimately just wants to make you say “It was THAT person?”
Faye Dunway is not just a great actress; she’s also a genuinely interesting film presence that instantly makes Laura Mars a woman worth following. That the film never really does anything with her place as a female artist staging violence against women is its own shame, but Dunway remains in control throughout. And truly, her legs are spectacular

Stray High Point
I was raised to salute a film any time it features an AMC Pacer, so The Eyes of Laura Mars, cheers
Make Or Break
See: rant about mysterious and unspoiled ending
Lessons Learned
Unless you’re in a movie about a talking baby, it’s fairly safe to assume that most NYC cab drivers are jerks
Conducting gackground checks on personal staff is never a bad idea
In the late 1970s, everybody’s hair was awesome

Score: 6.75
The Eyes of Laura Mars is a well-constructed films aided immensely by fine performances and made a little more interesting by some serious ‘70s style (did I mention the Streisand sung song that opens and closes the credits?). I’m personally annoyed by its plotting, which is overly tangled and unresolved. It’s like a woman with a knotted mane who just gives up and gets a pixie cut. Not. Fair. But hey, it has plenty to hold your attention and ponder some time later. Just don’t expect the film to give you any real closure.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Class Of 1999 (1990): Review

Directed by Mark L. Lester
Starring Bradley Gregg, Traci Lind, Malcolm McDowell, and Stacy Keach.
Running Time: 99 Minutes

When the very first shot of a film is Stacy Keach with his head turned to reveal a white mullet pulled into a rat tail, you can only hope that the rest of the film will live up to the awesomeness of that initial sight. Fortunately, the "youth gone wild" cult classic CLASS OF 1999 not only lives up to the awesomeness of its lead villain having a mullet/rat tail, but it surpasses it. In this opening scene, Keach's character reveals a group of cyborgs who will pose as teachers and infiltrate a gang-infested high school with the intention of laying the smackdown on a bunch of punk kids. But, of course, things don't go as planned, and the cyborg teachers end up abusing their privileges - and the students!

CLASS OF 1999 is obviously set at the turn of the century, except in this film's version of the year 1999, gangs have taken over the United States in a post-Apocalyptic and almost dystopian setting. The cities have been reduced to wastelands, the high schools resemble prisons, and teenagers all look like futuristic members of the Sex Pistols and drive around in modified cars and dirtbikes. You know, your typical 80s post-Apocalypse movie stuff. Except with angry teens instead of Road Warriors in the Australian outback who kill people for gasoline.

The lead character, Cody (Bradley Gregg), has just been released from prison (in the "future", teens are incarcerated just like adults) and returns to school with his gang, the Blackhearts, being considerably lower on his list of priorities. He deals with a younger brother (the weird kid from RIVER'S EDGE and NEAR DARK) who wants to follow in his footsteps, as well as members of both his rival gang and his current/former gang. He also meets a new girl in school, which sets up the love story sub-plot. As it turns out, the girl is the principal's daughter, which obviously creates a problem for our hero.

The cyborg teachers (played by Pam Grier, Patrick Kilpatrick, and John P. Ryan) end up at the school and attempt to blend in as humans very early on in the first act of the film, so there's really no build-up. The film is basically ninety or so minutes of the teachers beating up the students and doing some rather odd shit in general, with leads to the inevitable showdown between the out-of-control teachers and the students who want to stop them. One of the teachers actually puts not one, but two students over his knee and proceeds to spank them in front of the rest of their classmates. This scene of an older man spanking the bottoms of two young adult males is both hilarious and extremely awkward. And, perhaps one of the coolest aspects of the film is that we frequently get to see from the teachers' point of view, which results in this weird Robo-Vision that includes a menu which determines what method of attack each individual cyborg will utilize.

As a whole, CLASS OF 1999 really is a balls-to-the-wall Action movie, except with teens instead of adults. Extreme violence, tons of shit blowing up, motorcycle stunts, drug abuse, and even an almost-rape scene are just a few of the things you'll find in this film. If I were to talk about every single one of the awesome, noteworthy things about the film, I'd basically be reciting the entire movie for you. With the exception of some minor pacing issues towards the middle of the film when the action slows down considerably to make room for some actual developments in the plot, from beginning to end, CLASS OF 1999 is a blast and well-deserving of its cult status. I mean, if you're not already sold on that picture of Stacy Keach seductively eating a banana, then chances are this movie is simply not for you.

Make or Break: My "Make" is the scene where Pam Grier's character introduces herself to her class and then goes on to rough up a couple of disruptive students. Before Ms. Grier stomped a mudhole in the students, however, the film cuts to her Robo-Vision and we're shown that one of her Attack options includes "Karate Moves". From that point on, my heart belonged to CLASS OF 1999.

MVT: In a movie full of MVT's (including the great soundtrack, which I failed to mention earlier), it's really hard to narrow it down to just one thing, but if I had to pick one, it would be Patrick Kilpatrick as the cyborg Gym teacher. Throughout the film, he's so over-the-top and looks like he's on a 'roid rage, but his shitty haircut makes him anything but intimidating. Kilpatrick's shining moment (and one of the film's best scenes, in my opinion) came when he absolutely manhandled Cody in the gym whilst wearing wrestling tights and then proceeded to snap the neck of one of his friends with ease.

Score: 7/10

Not an amazing or original piece of filmmaking, but well done for what it is and a whole lot of fun. It's a great Saturday night movie. A buzz isn't required, but highly recommended! Class dismissed.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Episode #108: Yor In Style

We welcome back good friend of the show and fellow Gentleman Rupert Pupkin this week for some good old fashioned film talk and good times.

This week we cover Going In Style (1979) directed by Martin Brest and Yor, The Hunter From The Future (1983) starring Reb Brown.

Emails to midnitecinema@gmail.com

Voicemails to 206-666-5207


Monday, November 22, 2010

Bonus #23: Interview with Laurent Bouzereau

Laurent Bouzereau is the author of The De Palma Cut, The Alfred Hitchcock Quote Book, The Cutting Room Floor, Ultraviolent Movies, and Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays. Bouzereau has written, directed, and produced recent documentaries on the making of Steven Spielberg's Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1941, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and The Lost World: Jurassic Park; George Lucas's American Graffiti; Brian De Palma's Scarface; Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather Trilogy; Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho; and Lawrence Kasdan's The Big Chill and Silverado.

He sat down for an interview with our West Coast Correspondent Rupert Pupkin for an interview for the GGtMC listeners, sit back and relax and enjoy the show.

Emails to midnitecinema@gmail.com

Voicemails to 206-666-5207

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Parade(2009): Review

I’m really not the kind of guy that’ll be afraid of admitting that a movie is smarter than him. I always like to think of myself as a relatively perceptive guy when it comes to interpreting films, but I won’t think twice about openly admitting that a film flew right over my head. Sometimes that doesn’t even pertain to my enjoyment. There are usually two questions tumbling around in my head once I run across a movie that I can’t quite grasp: Does it fail, because it can’t sufficiently express itself to the audience? Or Does this require multiple viewings and ample time for the film to gestate in my mind? Isao Yukisada’s Parade is one of those great cinematic treats where I can ask both questions and come up with suitable answers to both.

The film focuses on four roommates in a cramped Tokyo apartment: rural slacker Ryosuke(Keisuke Koide), ditzy and dependent Kotomi(Shihori Kanjiya), artsy Mirai(Karina), and shiny jogging-suit enthusiast Naoki(Tatsuya Fujiwara). They all share a typically amicable friendship with one another, even though their only common tie is that they share a living space. Then, one night, a mysterious stranger named Satoru(Kento Hayashi) starts to shack up at night and mill around during the day, even though no one claims they invited him or even know who he is. Is he related to the series of murders around the city? Does he have ties to their neighbor, who has illustrious visitors that include government officials?

The film starts out innocently enough, as it plays out like a slacker comedy of sorts as Ryosuke and Kotomi look for solutions to their love lives as well as trying to figure out what the hell is going on next door. This all plays out with a heaping helping of whimsy and soft lighting, but as the characters’ stories progress, we gain greater insight into the darker corners of their lives. Each roommate has a section of the film focused on them, but Yukisada thankfully opts for a sequential narrative. Ultimately, you can’t let the first hour fool you, as the film goes into some pretty stark, harrowing areas by the end of the movie. What starts out as light and fluffy, later delves into themes about identity, our perception of others, and the length at which we’ll go to sustain those perceptions for our own self-preservation.

There isn’t a whole lot of cinematic trickery to be found in Parade. What you have is a tight screenplay(written by Yukisada), capable actors, and a director who knows how to manipulate how the film is viewed to bolster the thematic beats. It initially appears like the movie is split in two and suffers from a sharp identity crisis, but it becomes revelatory once the film ends as to why Yukisada uses this specific form of deception. Yukisada is also a director who knows when to take himself away from the film and just let the actors breathe and he has a great young cast to work with. Each actor does a fantastic job at showcasing their own individual form of isolation and how they use each other to protect themselves from the lower depths. The standout is easily Keisuke Koide’s Ryosuke, whose character shifts from loveable dope to someone who is nearly broken by metropolitan isolation. Even Tatsuya Fujiwara showcases some serious development as an actor that wasn’t really seen in his mainstream fare(Battle Royale and Death Note).
This all reads like glowing praise for a dense, complex treat of a movie and it really is. I think. Once the film ended, I couldn’t help but feel like I had watched a film that had too many loose strands. I’m not so much talking about plotholes, but moreso the feeling that the movie just wasn’t as tight as it could’ve been. As subtle as the film is as a whole, there are still moments where it comes on way too strong, whether it be Naoki randomly blurting out ideas about the multiverse or ruminations on the nature of “truth”. While those moments uncomfortably spell out the themes, there are digressions such as fortune telling and the true purpose of Satoru that don’t seem to support anything else in the film. These digressions, among other things, can be revisited and possibly explained on future viewings. I just can’t help but feel that the film could’ve benefited from some more judicious storytelling. Maybe either trim the fat or just simply keep your hand closer to the vest until the final act. I’m going to give the film a lower score than it probably deserves, but that’s only based on my feelings at the moment. I get the distinct impression that Parade has more in store for me and that’s an exciting treat for any film lover.
Make or Break: It really all comes down the final scene. Yukisada builds up everything until this moment and it wasn’t until then that it really came together for me. It isn’t the most explosive finale you’ll see, but it really hit me square in the chest and gave me a lot to chew on.

MVT: I have to give it to Isao Yukisada. It should be mentioned that this is an adaptation of a best-selling Japanese novel by Shuichi Yoshida, but it is an adaptation that works very well for the screen and his direction is assured, but not remotely over-bearing. Unless you’re a real visual auteur, this is the kind of combination that I love the most in a director. Sometimes I just like someone who knows when to get out of the way and just let your film work on its own.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gotcha! (1985): Review

This is another guest review from a friend of the show and the blog, Scott from Toronto. Enjoy.

This nearly forgotten 1985 film is a hybrid of many different genres. Let’s call it a Teen Comedy/Road Movie/Romance/Spy/Action film. It begins with a fun credit sequence, in which university student Jonathan (Anthony Edwards) plays the Gotcha game; essentially a form of campus-wide paintball assassination. It’s a lively way to start a lively film, although it’s a bit strange seeing student walk around with handguns.

Jonathan and his pal Manolo, played by Nick Corrie (now Jsu Garcia), are anxiously awaiting a short European getaway. Edwards plays the nebbish wingman to his charming friend. He handles this role very well, at one point asking a woman who has turned him down “You mean, you’d rather do nothing than go out with me?” to which she replies “Yes”.

We’ve all seen this before in a variety of 80s teen comedies, with the likes of John Cusack or Anthony Michael Hall playing the part of Jonathan. What sets this one apart, however, is that once our principals have relocated to Paris, the film switches gears and genres. Killing time in a café while Manolo is conquering the women of Paris, Jonathan is approached by the mysterious Sasha (Linda Fiorentino), who has some sort of generic ‘behind the Iron Curtain’ accent. After a rather forced montage of Europe vs. America gags, the two take a tumble in bed and Jonathan loses his wirginity. Completely smitten, he agrees to accompany Sasha to Berlin, where she has a job to perform.

Of course, nothing is as it seems and Jonathan is soon swept up in some Cold War intrigue. He is separated from Sasha and ultimately makes his way back to California broke and soaked. He discovers that his troubles have followed him home, and he must sort out whom he can trust as the CIA is causing as many problems as the Russians. Ultimately, we come full circle as some of the skills Jonathan has acquired playing Gotcha come in handy – but it’s all a bit forced.

It’s a lot of goofy fun, with some decent set pieces and a lot of charm. Alex Rocco appears as Jonathan’s long suffering father, who never wanted Jonathan to go to Europe and is more concerned with the state of his Nikon than his son. Although some of the Cold War humor is ham-fisted, there are some truly funny spots, including a punk band obsessed with Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.”. The soundtrack is also worth mentioning, as it is a terrific mix of mid-80s pop tunes.

I’ve got to give props to the director, Jeff Kanew. He really knows how to keep the pace going, and while nothing is truly inspired, I’ve seen worse directors have much longer careers. Kanew also directed Edwards in Revenge of the Nerds, so they were one film away from becoming the Scorcese/De Niro of the 80s. I hope to find the time to write a review of his 1983 film, Eddie Macon’s Run in the next little while.

MVT: Anthony Edwards is perfect as the everyman – very charming with terrific comedic timing. He is one of the most underappreciated actors of his generation.

Make or Break: The credit sequence in which we see Edwards stalking people on campus, hiding behind bushes and in a garbage can. This lets the viewer know exactly what sort of film is in store.

Score: 7.5 out of 10. For a mid-80s, Teen Comedy/Road Movie/Romance/Spy/Action, you can do a lot worse. It’s the kind of movie that they just don’t make anymore.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Episode #107: Rolling with Eddie Coyle

If you guys knew how much labor and time consumption went into this episode you would be amazed, it was a long tough day involving failed technology and children being children. The important thing is the episode is done and out!!!

This week we cover Rolling Vengeance (1987) with Ned Beatty and a Monster Truck and The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) with Robert Mitchum and directed by Peter Yates.

Two weeks of listener feedback and our thoughts on the greatness that was Horrorhound Weekend Cincy!!!

Emails to midnitecinema@gmail.com

Voicemails to 206-666-5207


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Don't Look Back (Ne Te Retourne Pas) (2009): Review

Directed by Marina de Van.
Starring Sophie Marceau and Monica Bellucci.
Running Time: 111 minutes.

If the name Marina de Van sounds even remotely familiar, there's a good chance you've seen her very disturbing film about self-mutilation, titled IN MY SKIN, in which she also starred. For those who don't know what I'm talking about, IN MY SKIN is a notorious French film that tells the story of a young woman who becomes addicted to mutilating herself and, eventually, eating her own skin. It's part Psychological Horror, part Body Horror, and a lot better than it sounds. Not an easy movie to watch, but I'm a fan. Having said that, knowing that Marina directed and co-wrote this film really upped my level of anticipation; never mind that it stars two wonderful and gorgeous actresses, Monica Bellucci (IRREVERSIBLE) and Sophie Marceau (BRAVEHEART).

DON'T LOOK BACK is a lot of things, but for the sake of keeping it somewhat simple, let's just call it a psychological thriller, and one that I have to be very careful with while discussing it. That being said, I will be vague when describing the film so as to not include spoilers. Jeanne (Sophie Marceau) is an amnesiac who doesn't remember anything before a certain age. As she finally sets out to do some soul-searching and find out more about her past, she notices strange things happening to her body. The more she finds out about herself, the more her body changes. Even her mental state begins to suffer: a fading equilibrium and sense of direction, severe paranoia, hallucinations, and an inability to recognize those closest to her. Amongst her hallucinations are visions of Monica Bellucci's character and a little girl; neither of whom she recognizes.

I think I've said enough. I threw the bait out there, and it's just a matter of whether or not you want to take it. To say anymore about the plot wouldn't necessarily be going into spoiler territory, but it would give you an idea of what to expect, and to go into this film with expectations, story-wise, could possibly ruin some of the little pieces in the film that make up the bigger puzzle. The viewer is supposed to be just as unaware of what's going on as Marceau's character is, and with the character in the film, we too make discoveries. It sounds very pretentious, but just trust me. There's a great deal of mystery to the story, as well as a level of surrealism that I wasn't expecting.

What I can talk about, however, are some of the obvious influences, filmmaking-wise. Hitchcock, Lynch, Cronenberg, and even a director who I'm not particularly fond of, Nacho Cerda, all came to mind while watching the film. Even Brian De Palma to a certain extent (but, of course, that always goes back to Hitchcock). Yes, there are specific films from those directors (especially Lynch and Cerda) that also came to mind, but, again, that would be giving too much away. The Body Horror aspect of the film was unexpected, but not surprising. Marina de Van's IN MY SKIN dealt with the same themes of Psychological and Body Horror, as well as self-discovery, but were approached and presented differently in both films.

So, there's an emphasis on the level of secrecy in describing the film, but does that mean it's a film worth protecting? DON'T LOOK BACK is almost two-hours in length and a bit slow at times. Personally, there wasn't enough of an issue with the pacing to make me tune out, but I did occasionally lose patience with a lot of the build-up and the general lack of answers (until the end, that is). Whether or not I was satisfied with the pay-off or not is beside the point, but I will say that the journey there, for me, was somewhat worthwhile. Not a very original or re-watchable film, but beautifully-shot, great performances from both leading ladies, and an effective and haunting score. And it's only about a minute into the film before you see boobs!

Make or Break: The scene that made the movie for me took place about thirteen minutes in. Marceau's character is at home with her husband and two children, watching a home video that her husband filmed that evening while playing around with a new camera. As she's watching the footage, she notices a few strange things about it that everyone else in the room seems oblivious to: her children are looking directly at the camera while making signals with their hands, as if they're trying to communicate with someone. This scene in the film marks the beginning of Marceau's descent, if you will, and it's also quite eerie.

MVT: Bellucci was great, but the most valuable "thing" in the film, for me, was Sophie Marceau. Her character seemed to demand more of an emotional performance, and Marceau delivered. The cinematography was also great, and, as I already mentioned, so was the score and even the special effects that were used at certain points in the film, but Marceau stood out above all else.

Score: 7/10

If you like French cinema, check it out. Worth a rental. This will either be a really frustrating film or a moderately satisfying one, but I honestly can't see this film blowing anyone who's not a casual movie fan away.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bonus #22: Interview with Jeremy Richey

In this interview, West Coast Correspondent Rupert Pupkin interviews Jeremy Richey. Jeremy writes the excellent film blog Moon in the Gutter which you can find at mooninthegutter.blogspot.com and the Jean Rollin tribute site Fascination: The Jean Rollin Experience which you can find at requiemforjeanrollin.blogspot.com

Emails to midnitecinema@gmail.com
Voicemails to 206-666-5207

Prime Time (1977): Review

Directed by Bradley R. Swirnoff.
Running Time: 75 minutes.
Also known as: American Raspberry

The great thing about those Mill Creek 50-packs is that (for better or for worse) you'll never run out of movies to watch. At this point, my use for the Mill Creek sets is comparable to the relationship I have with my family: under normal circumstances I don't want anything to do with them, but if I'm in desperate need of something I'll turn to them. Such was the case this evening when trying to decide what to review for the ol' Gentlemen's Blog. I try to be careful with what movies I pick, but in my opinion anything with Warren Oates is an automatic green light. Being a big fan of the late great Mr. Oates, I was thrilled to see that I had a movie in my collection with him in it that I didn't even know I had. Another perk of owning at least one of the Mill Creek 50-packs: surprises! But, sometimes surprises aren't necessarily a good thing.

PRIME TIME is a pretty bizarre movie. The television airwaves across America are taken over by an unknown source, and the unsuspecting public are treated to a number of strange television shows and commercials that not only take shots at politicians, Christianity, and the Catholic church, but are unbelievably racist as well. PRIME TIME is basically a series of these commercials and short clips that give you the gist of the television shows, and we as viewers of the film are watching them just as they're presented on TV. There's a bit of wraparound footage in which the President of the United States and his entourage are in a state of panic because of the television content that they have no control over.

As a comedy, PRIME TIME does indeed deliver the laughs. Some of the fake commercials and TV shows are genuinely hilarious and shockingly un-PC, but for the most part they're duds, and in general PRIME TIME overstays its welcome and gets really old, really fast. The film's highlights include a hunting show called the Charles Whitman Invitational, a Sex Deviant Telethon, a commercial for a product called Stay Down (to help prevent unexpected erections while in public), and a breaking news clip in which its stated that the Supreme Court ruled that parents have up to five years after birth to abort their child (or "the fetus" as they call it). Seeing as the film is basically a series of skits for about seventy-five minutes, the film has to keep a certain momentum in order for it to work, and in that respect it fails.

Make or Break: I'm actually gonna go with a "break", and that would be the tampon commercial that is shown at about the one hour mark. As the film approached this point, there were a lot more misses than hits, and the film just wasn't living up to its really strong opening. This particular skit was pretty much the nail in the coffin for me as far as how many failed attempts at comedy I could take. I normally don't mind tasteless humor or a lack of political correctness or what-have-you, but you eventually become numb to the jokes after being constantly exposed to the same style of dumb humor. The tampon commercial didn't make me completely tune out of the film, but by that point I had given up hope that it would win me over.

MVT: This would easily be the Charles Whitman Invitational, which was the skit that featured Warren Oates, and it was actually funny to boot. The joke is a lot funnier (and more "wrong") once you understand who Charles Whitman actually was.

Score: 5.75/10

Overall, not terrible, but badly paced. The cast was fine and a lot of the jokes (and commentary) were effective, and the film is also a testament to how much has changed since the 70s in terms of what lines are considered OK to cross when it comes to jokes, but, like I said, it overstays its welcome and loses momentum in a big way. If you own Mill Creek's Drive In Classics set, you'll be able to find this film and see it for yourself. I do think it's worth checking out, but I wouldn't recommend making a point to see it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Episode #106: Never Too False To Move Or Die

This week the Gents bring in correspondent Uncoolcat Chris for an episode covering Never Too Young To Die (1986) with John Stamos and One False Move (1992) with Bill Paxton. It was a spirited conversation and I want to thank Chris for coming on and helping us with some great reviews.

We skipped feedback this week due to being extremely tired but you still get a massive show, so sit back and enjoy!!!

Emails to midnitecinema@gmail.com

Voicemails to 206-666-5207

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Matsugane Potshot Affair (2006): Review

The Matsugane Potshot Affair opens up interestingly enough. An aerial shot shows an immobile woman lying in the snow as a young boy wanders upon her. What starts out as a macabre introduction, takes a turn for the decidedly…perverse. Instead of the boy recoiling in horror or taking an interest in finding a dead body, he goes in to cop a feel. This serves as an excellent introduction to the mood of the movie. It’s a little dark, a little humorous, well-shot, and has a healthy dollop of innocent perversion.

Nobuhiro Yamashita’s film centers around two brothers: police officer Kotaro(Hirofumi Arai) and dim slacker Hikaru(Takashi Yamanaka). Kotaro is dealing with a possibly imaginary rat infestation at the police station and Hikaru has his own issues to deal with as he’s seen trying to hammer out a dent in his car. You can draw your own conclusions from there. I don’t want to spoil anything from here, but pregnancy, sibling inferiority, a sinister man related to the woman in the snow, and a bag containing gold with a severed head play prominent roles in the rest of the movie. If I had to resort to shorthand, I would say it’s a mixture of Fargo with the emotionally arrested development of Wes Anderson characters.

As assured as the cinematography is, the most accomplished aspect of the film is the acting. I’ve been a massive fan of Hirofumi Arai ever since his impassioned performance as Aoki in Blue Spring. This film allows Arai to exercise entirely different acting muscles as he swings from a simple police man to an affectionately loyal brother. He has the perfect wide-eyed, but not cutesy expressions to play up the deadpan humor. Like everyone else in the movie, Kotaro can barely comprehend how he’s supposed to deal with the problems at hand. Upon digging up the severed head with his brother, Kotaro proclaims “Let’s go the police”. Yamanaka’s Hikaru doesn't fare any better in dealing with the quiet menace of Yuichi Kimura’s character as well as his own sibling inadequacies.

The cast helps deliver the humor with subtle charm and inspired physical comedy but, Yamashita isn’t a director to rest on the strength of his cast. His assured shot composition not only assists in the visual gags, but is also quite handsome to boot. There’s a luring depth to the composition as the director is content to let scenes play out with a stationary camera. The camera focuses on all characters in the composition instead of zipping from close-up to close-up and helps the measured pace of the comedy considerably.

The Matsugane Potshot Affair isn’t the most accessible film though. Even though subdued dark humor is nothing new to a Western audience, much of the humor can pass by before you can really register it. Sometimes the humor is just too subtle to elicit any sort of immediate response. Although, just like a horror movie doesn’t have to scare in order to be effective, comedy doesn’t really need to bust a gut either. The movie grew on me more and more as it went on and I became fully invested once the familial strife comes to the forefront. In terms of the ending, I appreciated that it didn’t go the saccharine way of showing the joyful banality of everyone’s lives, but rather showed it’s nothing to celebrate nor mourn. Life ain’t exactly grand, but it ain’t half bad most of the time.

Make or break: The relationship between the two brothers is what the emotional core of the movie consisted of. This is what really draws in the audience aside from the whacked out crime aspect and the droll characters. Aside from their likeable presence, their bond is what really makes the audience care about whether they can manage a solution to their predicament.

MVT: Yamashita’s direction provides the cohesion to what could’ve been a muddled mess of a movie. His confident cinematography and deft treatment of the actors helped realize a uniquely humorous slice of fun. I would strongly encourage everyone to check out Linda, Linda, Linda which was my introduction to this interesting talent.