Sunday, February 18, 2024

TV series: Monarch - legacy of Monsters


Evidently I have been n a Japanese monster kick lately. We had a chance to watch the Legendary TV series Monarch - Legacy of monsters recently. Legendary is the studio making the new American Godzilla and King Kong movies which have been getting worse with each one. I have to say the Series was much more interesting and better put together. There are damn few monsters but much more interesting characters and situations and mysteries to get you involved. 

A young  San Franciscan woman goes to her father's in Tokyo and discovers he  has another family there. She meets her new brother and the two go on hunt to find their father with the brother's ex girlfriend and get caught up in the history and intrigue of Monarch, the organization that is trying to control the giant monsters appearing over the earth since Godzilla attacked in 2014. The series at the same time follows the beginning of the organization by following the scientists and military man who founded it. 

I won't spoil much but everyone seems to be related and no one is to be trusted. It moves along and throws in enough monsters to remind you they are still there and it has Kurt Russel and his son playing the same character in different time periods. Like most of these mystery mongering plots, it takes awhile to find anything out but it's not boring. I will say the last 2 episodes basically cover everything in the first 8 and you could watch those two and be pretty much up to date and not have missed too much. It, of course ends on cliffhanger and I will watch if a second series comes around. I liked everyone in it more than anyone is any of the films and while not earth shattering, it did leave me curious for what happens next. 

Thursday, February 15, 2024

3000 years of Longing (2022) directed by George Miller


This fantasy film starring Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba took me by surprise. Not because of the actors, having them both in a film was enough for me to want to see it, but more because of my idea that it would be a simple, low budget film more psychologic in nature when it was an extravagant looking, beautifully filmed piece that definitely landed more on art film than blockbuster but nevertheless managed to include some amazing effects. 

Swinton is a narratology expert and begins to see disturbing visions while talking at a conference in Istanbul. She finds an antique bottle and while cleaning it find a Djinn has been trapped inside. 

I don't want to spoil the film too much but I will say the interaction between the two main characters as the Djinn tells his life story to convince Swinton to ask for 3 wishes, the first being "her heart's content" really pulls you in. All the performances are great and the film doesn't drag during it's 106 minutes. 

I will say there are some elements that bugged me. The Djinn is described as being electromagnetic in nature. Fine. But when he begins to suffer from information overload in London because of all the cell phones etc etc it was confusing. Istanbul is at least as full of tech as London and we see that clearing at the start of the film. It's that old only European and the USA are first world nations prejudice rearing its ugly head. I also found the leads character's sudden need to be loved and less lonely made me angry. She was self sufficient and not lonely at all until suddenly she was.. another trope. All women are supposed need a family and man to be happy and if they say they don't they are fooling themselves. There is a potential issue of what is real and what isn't for some viewers. In some instances the Djin is clearly real and in the world while others, including the end, he might be all in her head. This bothers me less since I like that sort of discussion it brings but it did seem the film wasn't sure what to do with the magical elements. 

Well worth seeing despite the plot holes and missteps. I have not read the story it was based on and that might clear up some of the problems but films should stand on their own, even if based on outside material. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Friday, January 12, 2024

Shin Ultraman (2022) directed by Shinji Higuchi

 While not as familiar as Godzilla, Ultraman was a huge hit in Japan in the 60s and has a continuing fandom to this day. When I was very young in the 60s my dad and I would go to church and then to my grandparents house. They had a TV, probably the first I ever saw, as we would watch Ultraman before my mom came by later for the Sunday family lunch. So I do have some nostalgia for this character and was happy to see some of the references that are al over this new reboot. 

Unlike Shin Godzilla, this was not a hardcore, serious reimagining of the franchise but more light-hearted. Also unlike Shin Godzilla it doesn't really work. The story follows the TV show lore with some nicely updated elements but it really goes all over the place. It starts with monsters attacking then moves into some sort of alien taking over the world by discrediting Ultraman, to another alien going to take over the work in another way to a giant robot spaceship showing up and about to destroy the planet. It's really a mess and too long. 

The cinematography has been given high marks and I honestly don't know why. 40% of the film takes place in a board room where people talk constantly and don't do anything while camera angle wildly change and they seem to be using webcams and surveillance cameras to do it. So much is shot through legs, chairs on the floor, at woman's feet... it is really hard to figure out what is happening. The characters have no real connection to each other and Ultraman love of humanity seems to have no basis. 

I HAVE to talk about to 2 super weird things you can't miss if you watch the film. The lead woman out of nowhere slaps her own butt hard enough to break a hip throughout the movies... for.. motivation? And the human form of Ultraman smells her for some reason, she look uncomfortable and she should he even smalls between her legs! WTF?

The fight scenes, monsters (who disappear after the aliens arrive) and other effects shots are well filmed. The look of the hero is a nice update but the movie itself is too rambling to hold your attention fr the over 2 hour runtime. 

Super fans of the TV show and other versions of Ultraman will surely get a lot to chew on some scenes are shot by shot from the TV show, there are graphic, sound and musical elements taken directly from the 60s as well and they might be fun to spot. 

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Godzilla Minus 1 (2023) directed by Takashi Yamazaki


I will admit that after seeing trailers for this film, I was excited. It looked AMAZING and the setting, post WWII Japan was intriguing since Godzilla was not supposed to appear until the 50s when the first film was released. 

This is, in many ways, a return to the tone of the original Japanese film although I was glad to see it was not as big a downer as I anticipated. It's no laugh riot, but in a film about lost hope, lost honour and loss of everything, it had its uplifting moments. I was not sure what the title meant but (thanks to my friend George) it was cleared up for me. Japan is literally starting at the lowest point in its history... zero at the film begins and then it manages to drop even lower, to minus 1 when Godzilla arrives and makes things even worse. 

The leads are a Kamikaze pilot who is dishonoured by living through the war, a homeless woman who has found and decided to take care of a baby which makes her also dishonourable in may people's eyes who assume she is a prostitute and how they eventually come together as a family of misfits trying to figure who they are after the devastating war. In my assessment, Godzilla is the representation of that devastation and loss after the war as he comes in keeping anything from being rebuilt and no one can move on while he is proving how small and weak humanity is compared the the terrors the have released on themselves like the bomb, the war and of course Godzilla itself. 

Despite the heavy subject matter, this movie is still, at is roots, a giant monster movie. The integrate the original Godzilla theme music, come up with ridiculous ways to destroy the menace, destruction is everywhere and it even manages to reference previous films without being too "canon driven". There are extremely sad parts and the willingness to talk about the how the Japanese government put very little value on human life while fighting the war was refreshing. The Americans are not shown as being all that much better in the end. It's a rare kaju film where the human characters are not just front and centre but the  driving force of the plot. It really works. There is real drama in here without Godzilla having to show up at all, but boy does he ever show up. Massive and looking better than I have ever seen despite a low 15 million budget as opposed to the American Godzilla films which I believe average 200-300 million each and are not nearly as interesting to watch. He is massive, scary and his look references not just past versions but mythological dragons. It is an unstoppable force of nature brought to life by atomic bomb tests and is now asserting its dominance over us. It is treated as a real living creature and as our punishment for being into being in the first place. 

Of course no movie is perfect. I would say 20 minutes could be cut not because it drags but because I think a quicker pace would make it even more exciting to watch. I also found the end a little too Hollywood for me which robbed it of some of it's most powerful scenes of loss. There is also a very clear leading into a next film, which I will see 100% but I don't think we needed it. 

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Polish posters: Barbarella


Jane Fonda gets top billing even over the title which makes me thing this was made long after the film was. Not sure where she is or why she is pressing that button, or why she has starfish on her nipples. These are questions that might never be answered. 

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Walked with a Zombie (1943) directed by Jacques Tourneur


Started October Horrors with an early Zombie flick and so ending with another seemed appropriate. I am not a Zombie fan to be honest, but this and "White Zombie" do tick some boxes for me. 

While this film about a nurse sent to take care of a woman with zombie like symptoms after a fever damaged her spinal cord does not have Bels Lugosi to give a fantastic performance, it does have Frances Lee as the nurse and was produced by "Cat people" Val Newton. Somehow, Lee doesn't get top billing despite being the lead and the strongest performer. I had forgotten how fearless her character is on trying to help the mysterious woman in her charge. She doesn't flinch in situations I think all of the male characters would have run screaming from. 

The lower budget in this is made moot by a really interesting story that never really says if the voodoo depicted is real magic or not, even though it is strongly hinted there is something supernatural going. There is a scene where a practitioner is pulling a doll made to look like the stricken woman on a string while almost preforming a sort of dance. It's hard to describe but i have seen similar in real ceremonies. It is a very effective scene. 

I won't go too much into the plot as it's fair to say it's better to watch this unspoiled. I will warn the ending isn't exactly a happy one and a little shocking they went there. 

Sunday, October 22, 2023

The City Silent (2023) graphic novel by Mike Luce


A break from the October Horrors and a plug for the release of the first half of Mike Luce's epic opera/comic The City Silent. Years in the making and with a few more to go, this is follow up to his previous comic The City of Dream of Tamino the Cat (which you should also buy). There really isn't much like it out there and Mike has poured his artist's soul into telling the story of an artist's soul. 
Click that link and get a copy! 

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Les deux orphelines vampires (1997) directed by Jean Rollin.


Once again we found ourselves watching another Jean Rollin film. To my credit, it was a double feature and I stopped the second film early on. This was only slightly better than "Requiem for a Vampire" and only slightly less confusing. The premise is pretty interesting, however. Two blind orphans live with nuns in... Paris? ...New York? ... but can see at night with everything having a blue tint, except when they forget to add it or the budget doesn't allow it. They are also somehow vampires. I liked the idea of being blind in the daytime and sighted at night and 2 vampires hiding their secret by living in an orphanage run by nuns was intriguing. Sadly, the plot is a mess and makes little sense. The orphanage is clearly in Paris but the girls run around New York, I guess it's a flashback but it, like most things in this movie is not made all that clear. The two run into other supernatural creatures, or not, they might just be crazy people. One seems ot be another sort of vampire who lives in Père Lachaise Cemetery has massive bat wings in place of arms and wears a tight disco outfit not seen since Studio 54 was open. 

Like his other films, it drags on and characters wax poetic about their fate. The vampire children are pretty reckless and tell anyone who will listen they are vampires it seems. After being adopted they get drunk and one is shot by their adopted parent who thinks there is an invader on his property. They run away and the the one gets shot and they drown each other in a river. 

A positive for this film over his others is in this one the underage girls are not naked and having sex all the time though they are sexualized. Their blindness is sometimes forgotten and time is pretty fluid. The visit Père Lachaise Cemetery, fall asleep, wake up hours later yet somehow the 2 other couples they passed early in the day are still there. 

Rollin is known for these vampire films although he has made plenty of others types of movies but I am not sure why he has a following. I guess we have seen three so far so I shouldn't criticize! 

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Naked Vampire Double feature

As luck (?) would 
have it, we caught 2, count 'em 2, naked vampire movies in a row on a French movie channel. 

Requiem pour un Vampire (1971)

From wikipedia because I have little idea how they got so much plot from watching this film. I have added commentary. 

Two women (Underaged girls) dressed as clowns and a male driver are being chased through the countryside, for unknown reasons (this whole film is for unknown reasons). As the man drives, the women shoot at their pursuers. When the man is shot, the women are forced to burn the car with his body inside and once they remove their costumes, they run through a forest, and later a cemetery, in which one of the women, Michelle, is almost buried alive.

Walking through a field, they come to the outside of a gothic castle. There they are bitten by vampire bats, which lead them to go into the castle, where they make love in a cozy bed (fulfills the lesbian vampire trope but somehow this does not count as them losing their viginity). They tour the castle and discover a few skeletons along with a woman playing an organ. She begins to follow them, so they shoot at her, but she doesn't die. They run away and are caught by some men who force themselves on them. A vampire woman stops the men, and the vampire woman who chased them almost bites them until they break away. They soon come across a male vampire, the last of his kind. He has plans for the women. They are bitten in order to continue his bloodline, but they must stay virgins. Michelle likes the idea of everlasting life but her girlfriend has serious doubts, and by sleeping with Frédéric, a random passerby (cute and a total asshole who call her a slut when they escape from the vampire), she not only jeopardizes the vampire's plans but also puts the mutual love and friendship between her and Michelle to the ultimate test. The vampire realizes that he must not continue the bloodline, and lets Michelle and her girlfriend escape.

The filming goes randomly from day to night and so many shots are just plain weird and you have no idea what you are looking at. Characters appear from nowhere, and there are two woman in league with the vampire but they look so much alike we thought there was only one until they are in a scene together at the end. There is an EXTENDED scene of one of the girls letting some random chase her throughout the castle for hours? days? and he never manages to actually fuck her. NONE of this makes any sense whatsoever! 

La Vampire Nue (1970)

In a strange laboratory, three men in weird masks take the blood of a naked young woman in a hood. Another woman in an orange nightgown is wandering the streets and is followed by a group of people also wearing weird masks. The woman comes across a man named Pierre who tries to help her, but the masked men corner them and shoot the woman; Pierre escapes unharmed. (pretty easy since the masked people walk so slow he could have crawled away from them). The masked men take the woman into a building, and Pierre follows. Guests then arrive for some sort of party, but Pierre can't get into the building. Another scene reveals his father is behind it.

He gatecrashes the next party, and a woman commits suicide in front of the other guests when a man shows her picture up on a projector (with an obviously fake gun that doesn't seem to make a mark nevermind blow what should have been a chunk out of the other side of her head). The woman in the orange nightgown appears and drinks the woman's blood. Pierre's face then appears on the projector. (How? When did they take the photo?) The other guests turn on Pierre. He escapes and is stopped by a man in a white cape (The guy is just walking are the street in a cape and some sort of weird robe and no one notices?) who tells him to go to his father's office, where more mysteries await him. (like WTF is happening in this movie.)

Pierre goes to his father's office and confronts him, who explains (suddenly become an exposition factory to try and make some sense of this) that the girl he saw is his protégée and an orphan. Pierre's father was a friend of her family. The girl has an unknown blood condition, and her wounds heal right away; she is also believed to be a goddess by certain fanatics. What the father is saying is that she is a vampire. (IS that what he was saying?) People are working to find someone with the same condition so that they can find a cure. The hoods and masks hide human faces from her so that she does not know she is different. (What? She looks like everyone else, she is different because she is the ONLY person not wearing a mask!) They are hiding her from a group of vampires.

The vampire in the white cape takes the woman and tells Pierre to protect her. A fight then occurs between the vampires and the humans, (We had no idea there were other vampires in this movie even at this point) leading to a beach where the woman sees the sunlight for the first time. They explain that they are not vampires but mutants and that the human race will one day evolve and all have the power of immortality. (Sure, OK)

This movie was so slow and plodding it was impossible to stay awake. The director was trying for artsy artsy but it just looked like the edited in everything they shot regardless of whether is helped tell the "story" or not. The protagonist, is an asswipe rich kid with REALLY high cheekbones so isn't sympathetic at all. The wiki page leaves out the scene with the protagonist's friend is "Painting" a naked woman with large gold fake fingernails who inexplicably painted her toenails blue so no match-y match for here! She touched herself in the most tedious non erotic way imaginable until he gets call and just leaves her in his place trying to find her own breasts. 

Do NOT watch this movies! OMG I wish we had an excuse for sitting through them other than we were captured by un unbelievably terrible they are!