Bond Girls post for 007 Blogathon

Greetings, Glancers. Just a quick update for now – I’m taking part in a 007 Blogathon which is being hosted over at Maddylovesherclassicfilms – check out the link if you wish to take part. All you have to do is write about any part of the James Bond franchise – books, movies, and beyond and share your post on her blog. It’s taking place on 21st, 22nd, 23rd of July this year.

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As you know, I’ve written a few posts about the man with the golden shlong recently and I was in the process of finalizing another when I saw the blogathon so I’ll hold off from posting until then. For anyone who can’t bear the anticipation of finding out what I’ll be yapping about this time – I’ll be putting together a simple list of actresses who I think would have been good as Bond Girls. It’s all imagination, and it’s all in innocent bad taste, so I hope you’ll hang around to see what I write and check out the other entries taking part in the Blogathon!

Carne

*Originally written in 2004

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The short film which got Gaspar Noé on the movie map, introducing us to his horrific, but thoroughly interesting character The Butcher, played brilliantly by Philippe Nahon. Noe’s direction here has all the hallmarks of his later films, showing he was carving his own voice and style from the beginning. His sudden cutting along with harsh, loud noise, skipping flashbacks and many other techniques all are used to disconcert the viewer. And it certainly works. Also, he is not afraid of showing violence, as viewers of Irreversible will know. Here the violence is equally powerful, and in the sequel Seul Contre Tous, it is almost unbearable.

The film opens with a horse being killed. It is shot in the head, and we watch it writhe on the floor, its pool of blood flowing out. We then see a human birth in all its bloody glory, the daughter of The Butcher. He was orphaned in WWII, and has grown up hating the world, and everyone and everything in it. He serves his customers, but his interior monologue constantly reminds us of his thoughts – he wants them all dead. His daughter Blandine Lenoir, who would also reprise her role six years later, is the only thing he cares about, and we watch them grow older together. She is however mute, and the subject of bullying and toying. The Butcher’s relationship with her is almost incestuous, bathing her when she is old enough to do it herself etc, but this is explored more in the next film. When she is attacked by a man, the Butcher explodes with rage, stabbing an innocent man in the mouth. He goes to prison, taken from the only things he wants – his shop and daughter. In the short 40 minutes we see all this and more, his time in prison and release back to his world. Because of his daughter’s state, autistic as well i think, she is bland, does little except stare, and is under the full control of her father. The film continues in the exceptionally bleak Seul Contre Tous – both are come with high recommendations and warnings and both feature some truly excellent acting but both are harrowing and relentless.

Let us know in the comments if you have seen Carne or it’s fully fledged sequel.

Visitor Q

*Review from 2004

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This must rank with Dead or Alive (1-3), and The Happiness of the Katakuris as one of Miike’s most weird, and along with Audition as one of his best. Thanks to the Tartan DVD distributors once again, as no-one else would have the bravery or intelligence to release such fantastic films as these.

The thinking behind Visitor Q involved a company called CineRocket who made 6 films with the COMBINED budget of under £400,000! Miike’s Visitor Q is the final part of the non-connecting series, and according to critic Chris Campion the only rules he had to follow were ‘that it had to be shot on digital video and deal with the theme of pure love’. It is probably true that most viewers of this film will find it sickening, insane, and depraved while having no involvement of love, pure or otherwise. However, it is the lactation of the mother which, in a way brings the family together in love for each other, while before there had only been coldness and isolation. Apparently the act of breast-feeding releases oxytocin in the body, an addictive hormone sometimes called the ‘hormone of love’ (Campion again). Therefore Miike shows love in its purest form.

The film, like so many other Miike features deals with the family, both looking at it as a whole, and looking at the individuals within it. The father is a reporter, shamed by one of his past pieces of work which saw him anally abused by a group of kids. He is searching for a way to boost ratings, to keep his mistress happy, and perhaps redeem himself. He decides to make a film about the youth of Japan and when he decides to get a young prostitute to interview he is surprised to find that it is his daughter who recently ran away from home. One thing leads to another, and almost the first 10 minutes of the film involves Kiyoshi and his daughter in a bed. Questions are asked- ‘Have you ever slept with your daughter? Have you ever been hit on the head? Have you ever hit your mother?’ Kiyoshi is struck on the head by a mysterious young man who then ends up in Kiyoshi’s house. We meet his wife, a heroine addict who is constantly physically abused by their son, who is constantly bullied by other kids. The mysterious Visitor begins to get involved with the family, and when Kiyoshi decides to make a film about the bullying of a son (his) from a father’s perspective, the visitor helps, doing some of the camera-work. He does not seem moved in any way by the violence around him, but he manages to teach each member a lesson which brings them together, apparently against the world. He shows the mother how to lactate which proves to her that she is a normal woman, which completely rejuvenates her. Kiyoshi continues to make his film – we see more violence, death, rape, drugs, necrophilia etc etc. It all becomes completely absurd and hilarious, but the narrative never falls apart and by the end we have been completely sucked in.

Filmed on digital, Miike proves to be a master of the format even with his first attempt. If you get past the first 15 or 20 minutes the film will become less revolting, but no less shocking, and you will find yourself laughing uncontrollably with everything happening. Every scene breaks a taboo or shows something new. The story is interesting throughout, each performance is excellent considering the amount of nudity and the content, the scenes of violence, drugs, and sex all look flawlessly real, and we cannot look away. Of course, most people in the West will never see this film, and many that do may switch off before getting to the end because it is extreme. If you cannot handle extreme films, then stay away. Also, Koji Endo provides another excellent score, the final song-‘Bubble of Water’ by Real Time is perfect for the conclusion ensuring that those final scenes will stick in your head for a long time. If you are a fan of Miike, Japanese film, or extreme movies in general, put this at the top of your list. Unmissable.

Let us know in the comments if you have seen Visitor Q or any other Miike films and what you thought!

300: Rise Of An Empire

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Right, so, I liked the original – it looked all stylish and fancy, there was uber-violence, shouting, muscle men and hot women, and a basic plot which allowed the action to run riot. The battle of Thermopylae is one I had always been interested in at an early age, and continued to learn about as I studied Latin in school and Classics at University. This entirely unnecessary sequel is a mess, leaping about in time without warning, introducing new characters and battles which are not as interesting as those in the first movie, and there is a heavy focus on the visuals which are no longer as attention grabbing as they were first time round. It probably made a bunch of money though, right?

Lets start with the positives – there’s a decent cast with Lena Heady, David Wenham and others reprising their roles from the original and Jack O’Connell and Eva Green joining in. O’Connell is a great actor but doesn’t have a lot to do while Eva Green relishes the role, throwing her all into it and coming over as both impressive as hammy. There is plenty of action in the film, bone-crushing fights, swordplay, naval warfare…. and that’s about it really. Even on the positive points we have negatives – Sullivan Stapleton is a good actor but seems too wooden here, like a beardless Gerard Butler with less SHOUTING, while the fighting and gore is all very samey and gets boring quickly. Every fight is disappointingly repetitive, with the same slow-down and zoom-in technique to show yet another blade slashing through flesh and CG blood bubbling towards the camera. The naval scenes aren’t as epic as they need to be – scenes like this only work if they are massive in scope and you can see what is happening, but here everything is too small, too dark, and there’s only so many times you can watch a naked guy fisting a man in a helmet before it gets silly (usually between 1-2 times). The original managed to avoid being boring by offering something different with each battle sequence, almost like a beat-em-up videogame – each enemy required a new tactic or had some new type of weapon to cope with. Here it is just wave after wave of faceless nobodies with Eva Green shrieking in the background.

The plot is basically the same as the first movie, with Greece facing the onslaught of a massive Persian Army – on one front Gerard Butler’s 300 defended Sparta, while here Thermistocles defends the beaches. Eva Green is the face of the enemy this time around, a Greek defector with a brief backstory who is the true tactician and ruler of the Persian advance rather than Xerxes. There is an interesting conflict going on at various points, with Green’s Artemisia simply looking for a worthy adversary or someone to help her conquer the world. The film takes place both before, during, and after the events of the first film but fails to make the necessary connections between what is happening elsewhere and why any of it actually matters. The story doesn’t matter, it’s just an excuse for shouting and fighting, and you’d get as much sense by hanging around outside a city club at 1.30 am and watching the drunks fight. It’s all so stupid, pointlessly masculine, but without anything that made the original… what’s that word….. fun! There are much better movies out there which look better, with better fights, stunts, action, so there isn’t really any point in spending any time or money on this unless you’re a die-hard Eva Green fan.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of 300: Rise Of An Empire. Was I too harsh? Did anyone like it?

The Gate

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The 80’s, horror movies, and kids go together like the noughties, The Daily Mail and pedophilia stories. As a younger audience began to take up a bigger slice of the market in the decade, horror movies starring and marketed towards kids and teens became the norm and we saw a number of now classic movies being released. The Gate is one of this group, and while it isn’t in the same league as something like The Lost Boys, it is a fun watch with a load of practical special effects, laughs, and scares.

We have a classic 80’s movie set up – kid boy and older teenage sister are being left alone in their house while their parents go away for a weekend of sexing. The boy is like any 80’s kid and has a geeky best friend, the sister is a bit of a bimbo wannabe and has a group of annoying friends. Due to a host of 80’s reasons – prophetic dreams, weird rocks, unintentional blood-letting, and heavy metal, the boy (Glen) causes a gateway to hell or something to open up in his garden, and a variety of demons, possessions, and little claymation freaks lay siege to the house. The three kids try to fend off the hordes and work out how to close The Gate, and we get some laughs, actions, soft scares, and snazzy effects along the way – it’s basically The Evil Dead for kids.

If I’d seen this regularly in the 80’s I probably would have enjoyed it more, but as such it remains an interesting artifact for newcomers. There will be nostalgic charm for many viewers of a certain age, but not a lot for modern audiences to get out of it. Steven Dorff is good in the lead role, showing a lot of skill at a young age while the rest of the cast are fine if unremarkable. The film takes a while to get out of first gear, but the last part of the movie emulates the likes of Poltergeist as it tries to pack in the thrills and the special effects. While the effects do not hold up, some of the model work is excellent and would have been impressive at the time of release, the scares are not going to have an impact on anyone but the youngest viewer, and the dialogue and laughs are likely only going to be enjoyed by the nostalgic viewer. Still, this makes a nice introduction to horror movies for the younger kid along with classics like Ghostbusters and Gremlins and would still provide some spooky fun during a Halloween party.

Have you seen The Gate? Let us know in the comments how you feel it ranks against other classics of the genre from the same time.

The Dark Tower Multiverse Part 2

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We’re back it again. Last time I rambled on through various Stephen King works only to realize that a single post was naive. Here we are with part 2!

Salem’s Lot

We’ve already seen two versions of this – David Soul and Rob Lowe – but given how deeply it ties in to The Dark Tower as well as some other works it’s only right that we return to it.

Best Suited As A: Mini Series

It’s another book that you could cover in a single movie, but again you’d lose much of the richness, texture, and character – it’s not easy to get to know an entire town of people and then wipe them out in the space of a hundred minutes. If we wish to expand upon the character of Father Callahan, and we do, then this needs to go further.

Major Crossovers/Cameos: DT Series. Night Shift. 

Following Father Callahan’s rise and fall and years int he wilderness can be divided between a Salem’s Lot series and the later DT movies. I never found those parts overly interesting in the books as they took me out of the action and Roland’s journey, but they make for stronger ties to important characters. It’s not an easy one to work out though – in the books Callahan’s adventures continue long after the events of Salem’s Lot – who would want to watch that when Ben and Mark have already slaughtered the vampires and left? Do you create some sort of after story where Ben and Mark are slaying in another part of the country and stumble upon Callahan? Or, do you take some liberties with the overall story and have the events which occur afterwards in the book actually occur before in the series? Like this: Father Callahan is a recently disgraced priest who lost his faith and path… bla bla… seeking both solitude and a reason to keep going he relocates to the sleep town of Jerusalem’s Lot. After a few slow months/years of integrating into the community, a writer called Ben Mears arrives just as a number of mysterious deaths swoop through the town.

I think that honestly works better than some tacked on coda. You can have Callahan bare his soul to Mears and co and show that he still has some way to go on his journey of redemption, which then leads him to In World and Roland. Then in Wolves Of The Calla you can fill in the blanks without spending too much time on them – we would know already that Callahan has done wrong and has been actively pursuing the good fight. This would doubly make his character in Salem’s Lot more interesting – whether or not his faith holds or not in the face of Barlow and Straker remains to be seen. Or of course, just stick to the books – the book does end with Ben and Mark returning to the town, so I guess at that point they could find Callahan and see what he has been up to but again you would need something more exciting to end the series on – more vampire slaughter perhaps, everyone loves that.

That leaves us with the two wrap around stories from Night Shift – one which takes place around 100 years prior to the events of Salem’s Lot and one which takes place a couple of years afterwards. For the first one you could film it as a short few minutes prologue and then reference its events later in the main series as Ben investigates the history of the town. For the second, it could form part of the final stages – a family travelling through, towards Derry or Castle Rock naturally, being besieged by bloodthirsty creatures only for Ben and Mark to show up and kick ass.

The Talisman

Another opportunity to bring in the non-horror audience, this tale has the hallmarks of being another cult hit like Stand By Me. 

Best Suited As A: Movie

It’s another big book and should probably be a mini series of split into two movies, but I don’t see it getting a lot of interest outside the King hardcore, so condense into a single rip-roaring adventure and you’re all set.

Major Crossovers/Cameos: Black House/DT Series

The book has a sequel – Black House – where Jack is now all grown up. No chance of using the same actor though for that role, but there’s still potential for some characters appearing in both… The DT references only come into their own for the sequel in the books, but you can easily throw in some connections in the Talisman movie, foreshadowing and otherwise.

Pet Sematary

There’s really only one way to follow up a heroic tale of childhood adventure, and that’s with the death of a child and the destruction of a family. King’s most horrific story had a pretty good movie outing already, followed by a less pretty good sequel. If you’ve been reading these posts you’ve probably already shouted, like a loon, ‘we don’t need any more remakes’! No-one can hear you, jackass. But you’re right, we don’t really need any more remakes, especially for things like this and The Shining and many others which were done perfectly well first time around. However, this is all just fantasy so you can decide for yourself which books to adapt and slot together. Can I proceed? Good.

Best Suited As: A Movie

While the origin has its fair share of shlock, as you might imagine, theoretically you could remove much of that and have even greater impact. Don’t bill this as some gore-fest about zombie kids and cats, bill it as a horror film about grief and guilt and loss, and show the true human outcomes which such events and torments inspire.

Major Crossovers/Cameos: Misc.

There aren’t too many overt crossovers here, aside from being set near Derry. It should be simple to add in some lines about missing kids in the big city, but it being much safer out in the stick, hardy har. Alternatively, set it near Castle Rock and tie things in, or keep it further separate and tie it to the places and events of The Talisman or The Shining or The Tommyknockers or whatever. One other crossover which only comes later is with Insomnia – one of the bald doctors who works for The Crimson King is said to keep Gage’s shoe. Probably better to reference that once we get to Insomnia. 

The Waste Lands

As you will know, I already said we should release Wizard And Glass first. In that series we learned all about Roland’s past and much more about his world and mission. We can reference that here through some quick snippets cut from the Wizard And Glass series, and an impassioned yet stoic speech from Roland. But the majority of The Waste Lands movie should involve bringing Jake over from his New York and restoring his and Roland’s sanity, Susannah and The Speaking Demon, finding Oy, passing through River Crossing, on to Lud, and finally to Blaine (the pain). The frantic riddle contest seems like a thrilling enough way to end things.

Best Suited As: A Movie

There’s plenty to pack in here, but it can be fairly action packed with the Lud and Shardik set pieces prime for big screen thrills.

Major Crossovers/Cameos: DT series.

No need for a lot of crossover here – potentially the New York scenes could contain something – when Jake buys Charlie The Choo Choo from Calvin Tower’s shop there could be a store on the opposite side of the street called Needful Things which makes him uneasy. Too on the nose?

Firestarter

The Drew Barrymore Firestarter isn’t great – it’s just Carrie with a younger girl and less interesting all around. That’s a shame though because at its core we have a decent story about exploitation and shady government types, and parenthood. It’s also a good time to introduce ‘The Shop’, a group underused in King’s works but who apparently have their fingers in a lot of pies.

Best Suited As: A Movie

There’s no reason why this couldn’t be a successful enough standalone movie – it doesn’t need a huge budget and you could always make the star a teen to give it that sort of audience/direction. A short, sharp tale of rebellion and evil dealings and the power of one girl could be just what the doctor ordered.

Major Crossovers: Tommyknockers. The Mist. The Stand. Potential Dark Tower.

As suggested in Stranger Things – messing with portals to other places rarely leads to pleasant results. It’s one of the aforementioned pies that ‘The Shop’ has been fingering. They are really only mentioned in passing in other stories, but why not make them an altogether more widespread and villainous corporation? Why not make them a wing of the Sombra Corporation? In the movie we could get a quick Passover of the experiments they have planned, conducted, and are planning – from work with deadly viruses, to attempting to make contact with alien civilizations, to their work with opening doors to other worlds than these. Their headquarters should be glossy and 21st Century bland, but offer the odd unsettling Crimson sigul or well placed 19. And should it be suggested that Charlie is a breaker, or the shining, or is somehow tied to Jake Chambers, Jack Sawyer, or Danny Torrence? Maybe we should see files or a quick flash on a screen of some of these kids as proof The Shop is looking for them? Maybe it should end with Charlie actively looking for them? There’s potential for tie in here more than what is actually there in the novel, and I think that should be exploited.

The Dark Half

A bit of a meta novel which received and okay treatment thanks to George Romero. A complex one to make successfully, why not treat it as straight as possible as a noir detective novel with supernatural elements. You have sympathetic characters, familiar faces from Castle Rock, and a terrific bad guy who just wants to live – it could be a slasher movie with that thing most slasher movies lack – an interesting, fully realized villain.

Best Suited As: A Movie

Most people will have forgotten the original by this point, and why not even many hardened fans would ask for a new version, if you make it good they will come. Who wouldn’t want to see a young family being terrorized by a cunning supernatural monster who is seemingly framing them for his unspeakable crimes?

Major Crossovers/Tie Ins: The Dead Zone. Cujo. Needful Things.

No major crossovers with The Dark Tower here, but plenty with the Castle Rock world as we catch up with Alan Pangborn and a few of the other cops and citizens of that part of the world. Depending how far you wish to take the Castle Rock side of things, there can be a lot of set up here for Needful Things – why not see Pangborn’s family as they currently are, making the events of that other work all the more potent.

Tommyknockers

It’s that rarity – a Stephen King book about aliens. I mean, it’s Salem’s Lot all over again with a small town being taken over by an evil exterior force, but you can make it about obsession, about bad men in suits, about anything you want really.

Best Suited As: A Movie

You could have another mini-series sure, but I don’t think there is enough here that we won’t have seen already, not without adding in a lot of unnecessary soap opera elements. Instead, make it an action packed siege/paranoia movie and give The Shop more overt involvement – agency staff arriving in the town and apparently ‘allowing’ things to take a certain course naturally. If they can make fifteen of those Furious movies about stealing cars, they can make a decent 100 minute movie out of this.

Major Crossovers/Tie Ins: The Mist. Firestarter. Potential Dark Tower. From A Buick 8.

Now that we established The Shop as having some dodgy dealings with super-powered kids, we can explicitly show how interested they are in ships from other worlds. We could even hint that it is in fact, their own ship, designed from parts scavenged and discovered by folks who have been travelling to other worlds than these. Another nifty one could be referring Low Men somehow, or at least their modes of transport – cars mentioned in a variety of King books and shorts which somehow have the power to suck you away completely. Lets say they harnessed such a power and created an aircraft – an aircraft which could appear and disappear at any point in space and time, and which could transport any manner of weapon or disease. If they didn’t create it, it’s something they would be very interested in getting for themselves. We wouldn’t need a whole From A Buick 8 movie then, and it would set up the outlandish cars for when we get to Hearts In Atlantis.

Needful Things

Lets head back to Castle Rock again. There’s a new shop in town, perhaps one which recently moved from New York, and one which claims to have exactly what you need. Whatever could anyone need in Small Town America? You’d be surprised.

Best Suited As: A Movie

Another case of the original movie being a mild diversion rather than something truly good, this has potential to work as a minor hit. It’s not going to break box office records, but it doesn’t need a huge budget either. Remember, many of these movies could work just as well as Netflix original type things rather than getting a theatrical release. It’s a big book, but again you can break it down to its most essential parts – grieving cop, mischievous bad guy who manipulates locals, carnage ensues.

Major Crossovers/Tie Ins: The Dead Zone. Cujo. The Dark Half.

Aside from the obvious Castle Rock stuff, which should have sucked the fans in by this point, is there any way we can squeeze The Dark Tower in? Should Gaunt have some connection to Sombra? Could it be made to look as if Gaunt is actually Flagg? We could have him played by a different actor, but in a short scene he could show his true face. That’s probably unnecessary and overkill, and moving too far away from the stories. Gaunt is a Flagg type character though – we know he moves from town to town doing te same thing over and over again – maybe it could end on him moving to a town yet to be featured in our movies? I’m sure more enterprising folks than me can come up with something.

I think that’s more than enough for now. If your eyes and brains can withstand further pain, follow my blog and I’ll eventually get round to a Part Three and as always, leave your comments below!

Ju On – White Ghost

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It has been quite some time since I first watched The Grudge and loved every second of it. Since then I watched the original Japanese TV movies (which The Grudge is a sequel of even though it seems like a remake) and the director Takashi Shimizu’s own US remake. I haven’t actually watched the US The Grudge 2 (also directed by Shimizu) and US The Grudge 3 (not Shimizu) partly due to bad reviews and partly due to Part 3 sounding like a straight to video mess. And of course partly because I was burned out on J Horror by that time. Black Ghost and White Ghost had been popping up on my Amazon Prime Viewer for quite some time but I’d avoided them as they sounded like even worse straight to video cash ins, but I finally relented and gave them a shot. Made to honour the 10th Anniversary of the series, these are two stories which deviate from the main plot of the main series, but are they any good!?

White Ghost, like it’s partner and predecessors has a labyrinthine plot which unravels in a deliberately non-linear fashion – events at the start of the film may happen weeks or months after events shown at the end, and vice versa, and more than that there appear to be certain elements which transcend time – echos of events which have not yet occurred. The story follows a group of characters who come into contact with a curse – a man murders his family, an old friend investigates, and several randomers are drawn into the pit. As I said in my review for Black Ghost, it is definitely worth watching each movie twice to appreciate the finer points and attempt to bring together a timeline in your head. Ironically, I fond this plot even more dense than Black Ghost but it appears to be handled more professionally. There is a lot of leaping about from time to time to character to place and back again, but it is engrossing.

There is some fairly dark stuff at work here – the murders and the curse of course, but an unsettling lump of incest, pedophilia, and suicide, none of which are shied away from. It’s unusual for a film in the Ju On universe to dwell much on the events which kicked everything off – mostly it’s shown in brief flashbacks, but here we are front row witnesses to the slaughter. This one is less atmospheric than Black Ghost, but still has plenty of tension and has more jump scares. The actual character of the White Ghost is not on par with Kayako, but her appearances rarely fail to scare to the point that you are dreading her next pop up. A few of these moments don’t quite work, and end up being almost funny, but for the most part the scares are particularly effective. That strange shimmering effect I mentioned in the other review is present here too. Again the performances are good, the soundtrack works well, and there is a grimy worn out look to proceedings. I watched Black Ghost first, but the stories don’t link together in any way so feel free to pick whichever you wish. BG has the atmosphere, WG has the bulk of the scares, but both are well worth a go for J-Horror fans.

So, who would I recommend this to? Grudge fans obviously, first and foremost. This doesn’t fill in any gaps from the main series or provide any resolution, rather it seems to be a similar story set in the same universe. There isn’t enough time to form much attachment to the characters, the plot is convoluted and non-linear, and the scares don’t offer anything new. With all that said, I enjoyed it, I was a little scared in places, and the idea still intrigues me as much as the execution. You won’t lose much by sacrificing an hour – so if you find this on streaming, give it a shot.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of White Ghost and how it compares to Black Ghost and the other movies in The Grudge franchise.