Tokyo Vampire Hotel

Review: Tokyo Vampire Hotel

What the balls!? I feel like I could begin any post about Sion Sono with that time-honoured phrase, and I could probably just end the review right there. That wouldn’t be fair to the madcap artistry of Sono, or his fans, or anyone who stumbled upon this very odd Amazon Prime show from the Japanese master. Having been a fan of Sono’s work since the late 90s or early 2000s, a part of me wants to get all of these posts out of the way so that once his first US movie is released – the upcoming Prisoners Of The Ghostland In starring Nic Cage – people will have a nice spot to find reviews of his other work. And party because everyone Tom, Harry, and Dickhead who has never watched a foreign movie in their life is going to jump on the bandwagon, assuming Prisoners is going to be as wacky and successful as I’m hoping. 

A very brief intro to the dude if you’re new here, or to Sion Sono; he’s a Japanese movie and TV director, and he also writes. He is one of a batch of very interesting and unique Japanese filmmakers whose work divides opinion and is frequently controversial, bewildering, and critically acclaimed. If there’s one aspect which sets him apart from his peers, I would offer that it’s his use of music and editing – songs and recurring score motifs feature heavily in his work, and he frequently breaks rules and fourth walls with his editing and directing techniques. Most people will know of his work either by name or by notoriety – Suicide Club (famous for its opening shot of school girls leaping to their deaths in front of a train), Tag (already meme bait thanks to its wacky intro where a bus of school kids and teachers are sliced in half by an invisible force), and Tokyo Tribe (an unusual Japanese hip hop musical). He started out in the 80s as a director of ‘Pink Movies’ and has tried his hand (successfully) in most genres you can think of – straight supernatural horror with Exte, poignant drama in The Land Of Hope, thrillers with Cold Fish and Himizu, fantasy courtesy of Love and Peace, and of course whatever the hell Love Exposure (arguably the best film of the last twenty years) is. While he recently did a show with Netflix – the unsurprisingly controversial (and good) The Forest Of Love – he worked with Amazon Studios first on his 9 part series of whatthefuckery known as Tokyo Vampire Hotel.

The title tells you the basics – there’s a hotel in Tokyo used by vampires – but within minutes (and throughout the entire running time) the plot becomes grossly overcomplicated, confusing, and increasingly bizarre. But don’t worry – it’s purposefully silly, it has one fanged tongue firmly in the corner of its mouth, and it’s ridiculously violent and perverse; in short, it’s wonderful. It will be difficult to write about any of this without getting into spoiler territory, but I’ll do my best to summarize the premise without giving too much away – it’s enough to simply say that there are tonnes of characters whose significance wax and wane drastically, and that certain story elements and twists are introduced which may be important and others which seem important but aren’t. A. Lot. Happens.

We begin with a young girl called Minami who is out with her friends one night. Out of nowhere, a violent gang enters the restaurant she’s in and murders everybody. They apparently let Minami live. Then a rival gang comes and there’s a huge shoot-out – everybody wants this girl. Turns out the gangs are from rival vampire clans and a prophecy foretold the importance of Minami, sort of explaining why they are fighting over her. Meanwhile, there’s a fancy pants party going on in an exuberant hotel. It’s an Invitation only affair, and while some of the guests seem to know one another, most are strangers who think they are being selected for some sort of game or dating show. Our host – Yamada – is a charismatic vampire of some respected standing and he informs the guests that they have been purposely selected because of their hyperactive libidos, and that in a few hours time an apocalyptic event is going to end all life on the planet. The sex fiends will be the last surviving people on the world and it will be their job to shag as much as possible and have as many delicious babies as possible so that the vampires have a never-ending food supply. That’s about the gist of everything, but a succession of new plot reveals and characters lets us know that there’s a hell of a lot more going on under the surface – literally.

It is a confusing show and I wouldn’t hold it against anyone who bows out early. Anyone already a fan of Sono should stick around, and anyone who becomes curiously invested in any of what’s going on – the story, the characters, the punk tone, the gorgeous and zany look and feel of the things – will be rewarded with layer after layer of bonkers goodness. Everything about the show is wildly over the top – the acting, the violence, the seedy nature, the secrets. Sometimes in a show like this you need an anchor to keep you grounded – maybe you find that in Minami, maybe you find it in the vampire K, maybe it’s your need to find out what the hell the point of any of it is – for me it was simply to enjoy living inside Sono’s brilliant, demented mind for another few hours. The story has plenty of moments of intrigue and the characters who come and go at a moment’s notice all have their charm, but it’s how Sono squishes all of these aspects together in an apparent middle finger to form and expectation which kept me watching until the end. If you’re looking for a satisfying story with a beginning, middle, and end which follows the outlined premise you’ll probably be disappointed, but if you’re after a big pile of wacky stuff to laugh at and tell your mates about all punctuated by moments of sublime cinematic beauty, then Tokyo Vampire Hotel may be for you. There’s nothing like it on the market now – I’m not sure if there has ever been anything like it – and there’s no-one quiet like Sion Sono.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Tokyo Vampire Hotel!

The Password Is Courage

The Password is Courage original film poster | Movie Poster Studio 1184

If there’s anything to learn from The Password Is Courage it’s that Dirk Bogarde was a bad-ass. Check out any biography or discussion of his past, his own part in World War 2, and many other antics; bad. ass. The Password Is Courage was by no means the first POW movie, but it’s one of the most underrated and lesser known, with an opening 10 minutes which must rank among the most entertaining I’ve seen in the genre. Make no mistake, this is neither gruelling nor overtly political, or even particularly serious, sharing more similarities with something like The Great Escape. 

The film opens with Bogarde’s Sgt-Major Coward and cohorts already in a POW camp. We don’t get to see this camp actually being as horrific as we know they could be (there were of course limits to what movies could show and what audiences could tolerate back then) but we know the Allied soldiers want freedom. Coward consistently makes a nuisance of himself and is trying to look for ways to escape – on a forced march he slips away and hides in a farmhouse. Unfortunately for him, this farmhouse is already about to be taken over by the Germans as a hospital – luckily, the Germans are idiots and they mistake Coward for an injured German soldier and award him the Iron Cross in a particularly amusing scene. All of these antics are merely set up for his actual escape as he is quickly recaptured and sent back to his POW camp. A brave move to have a fake-out escape in the opening moments and which takes up a fair chunk of the running time.

The rest of the movie follows Coward continuing to lie, cheat, and steal his way from Camp to Camp – pissing off both Germans and Allies equally in his search for freedom. He gets a friend, he meets a pretty lady, and there are moments of both action and humour. The film never comes close to striking a serious nerve and while I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a jolly romp through the worst period of the 20th Century so much as offering a clearly fictional more light-hearted take on the audacity, bravado, and luck of some of those involved.

Let us know in the comments what you think of The Password Is Courage!

The Wisher

*Originally written in 2003

Spliced (Movie Review) | Bloody Good Horror

Another cheap horror movie which borrows heavily from both big and cult hits of the genre, but one which manages to be quite enjoyable even if we have seen it all before. There are some good performances, some not so good, a few typical scares and jokes (some which hit, some which miss), a fair amount of blood, a simple but well executed story, and quite a creepy bad guy. Probably not worth searching for, but worth watching if it is on TV especially if you are a horror fan.

Mary is a teenage girl with a love for horror movies, always searching for the next scare. When she hears about a new film called The Wisher which has been getting good reviews from terrified audiences, she and her friends go to see it, against her father’s wishes. Mary has a habit of sleepwalking which her father believes is caused by all the rubbish she watches. A short time into the movie, Mary vomits and leaves knowing the film is too much for her. After an argument with her father she wishes he would just go away. Soon her father is dead, and Mary believes she keeps seeing the Wisher creature from the movie. She becomes paranoid and after a few more gory events related to what she has innocently wished for, she believes that The Wisher, or someone dressed up as him is stalking her, obsessively carrying out her wishes in the worst way possible. She finds out that the film makers imbued the film with subliminal messages, and thinks that school hunk Brad, who likes her, has been hypnotised by the film. She tries to find a way to reverse the process, planning to watch the film to see how it ended. The Wisher is on to her plan though…

Although everything is pretty predictable there is still enough fun to warrant watching this. There is some cheesy dialogue and effects, and you would think that once you believed that your wishes were coming true you would immediately wish for The Wisher to leave. Liane Balaban is very good as Mary, at times carrying the film on her own, and Ron Silver is good though seems uninterested in a smaller role. The rest of the cast are OK, but the film is quick and never tries to over-achieve. The Wisher itself does look scarier than your typical cheap horror movie bad guy, and the director’s best moments are when the Wisher is stalking in the shadows or on reflections. There is not much heavy violence and nothing is over-the-top. Give it a go if it’s on, but do not expect a masterpiece, just a quick piece of entertainment.

Let us know in the comments what you think of The Wisher!

Nightman’s Updated Top 17 Movies Of 1993!

17: Falling Down (US/France/UK) Joel Schumacher

Schumacher continued the 80s success of the likes of The Lost Boys and St Elmo’s Fire into the 90s, with Falling Down probably his best film of the decade. It reinvented Michael Douglas, casting him as a classic anti-hero and the sort of bloke we have all wished we would like to be at some point. Maybe that’s a tad too far, but which of us have not wanted to just say ‘fuck it’ and go on a rampage around the city? Schumacher nails the atmosphere of sweaty 90s LA, a boiling pot of race, pressure, and violence, and manages to make the film action packed, violent, funny, and smart all at once.

16: Mrs Doubtfire (US) Chris Columbus

It’s a family film with its fair share of risque humour thanks to a tour de force performance from Robin Williams. Not all of the jokes land, as it always the case when Williams was given free reign, but when there are so many and when they are delivered with such pace, you barely notice. It’s also another charming watch and kids and older members will find plenty to enjoy.

15: Schindler’s List (US) Steven Spielberg

A contender for the finest war movie ever made, and for the best movie of the decade, Schindler’s List is obviously an exhausting, difficult, but important watch. There are two must watches for everyone on my list today – both are by Spielberg, and this is one of them.

14: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (US) Lasse Hallstrom

Johnny Depp’s star was on the rise, and this was another notch on his bedpost. Lasse Hallstrom was looking for a US hit while Juliette Lewis was another hot property. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape was not the sort of film which was ever going to be a hit, but even before it took on a cult status it was clear to any viewer that it was a powerful and humble and perfectly well made and well acted drama. Naturally it was the film which broke DiCaprio, his film stealing performance earning an Oscar nomination. People have maybe forgotten this one now, but with the star power involved its a hidden gem which will continue to be discovered.

13: Cliffhanger (US/France/Italy) Renny Harlin

Arnie had exploded into the new decade making sure that the 80s action hero still had a place in the new, more self aware era. His 90s exploits had not been successful so he found a new action vehicle with up and coming director Renny Harlin. It’s basically Die Hard on a mountain, but it has plenty of action, plenty of violence, a classic batch of hammy villains, and lots of one-liners – in short, everything you want in an action movie, with the added bonus of great scenery and spectacle.

12: Benny And Joon (US) Jeremiah S Chechik

Another offbeat character for Depp to tackle, this is the less mainstream version of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? It’s one of a select few romances or Rom Coms that I hold dear, and another film for people who have maybe forgotten what a great actor Depp is should check out.

11: Dazed And Confused (US) Richard Linklater

Linklater always makes watchable movies, regardless of genre, but his best movies are those which feel like a group of best mates hanging out – with Dazed And Confused being the prime example. Like the movie itself, you can stick it on and just chill. The various characters, the various groups all somehow feel like personal friends and Linklater has a way of making you feel like part of the gang, even as a guy from Northern Ireland who wasn’t alive in the time period predicted. You don’t even need the performances to be good – they are – but you do need the soundtrack and the setting to echo the vibe – it does.

10: The Vanishing (US) George Sluizer

Frequently named as one of the, if not worst, but least most unnecessary and least interesting remakes of all time, The Vanishing still remains for me a gripping and eerie watch. Sure, it’s not as powerful as the original but I saw this one first and those first impressions are hard to shake. Remember, this is a favourites list, not what I think is the best. What I still love about this remake is the cast – Bridges, Sutherland, Bullock, and Travis are all committed and Sluzier does a great job of maintaining the mystery and tension of the original. While the ending is a prime example of Americanisation, I don’t necessarily mind. Sure it would have been cool if they’d shot alternative endings or went with something similar to the original, but the original is still there to enjoy in all its bleak glory.

9: Carlito’s Way (US) Brian De Palma

Carlito’s Way is one of those latter day Mafia movies which was still flying the flag for the sort of violent stylized thriller which would become out of vogue once Pulp Fiction came along. It’s not as good as Goodfellas, and not as memorable as Scarface, but it’s just as engaging with the benefit of being more underseen – get ahead of your mates and stick this one on your movie night list once Lockdown is over and enjoy Pacino, Sean Penn and Leguizamo, acting to Eleven while De Palma cranks up the tension.

8: The Nightmare Before Christmas (US) Henry Selick

I’ve spoken about this movie plenty of times on other lists on this site; it’s great.

7: A Perfect World (US) Clint Eastwood

Clint had been directing for about 80 years by the time he made A Perfect World, and had been acting for roughly 300 years on top of that. His follow up to the universally acclaimed Unforgiven is a light crime drama which I prefer to his masterful Western. I’ve always suspected the light tone came from Kevin Costner’s involvement and that another actor may have brought a more cynical vibe, but Costner and Eastwood were a perfect match and foil for one another, and created one of the least seen finest movies of the 90s. Assuming most reading this list may not be familiar with this movie – it follows two escaped convicts in early 60s Texas who pick up a hostage in the form of a young Jehovah’s Witness boy completely innocent of the ways of the world. What begins is a road movie mixed with coming of age mixed with buddy comedy mixed with violent thriller as Costner learns responsibility from the boy and the boy learns right and wrong from the criminal, all while Texas Ranger Eastwood and criminologist Laura Dern chase them down. It’s an incredibly, unforgivingly (ha) underrated film with a terrific cast, nuanced, funny, touching, and never bogged down by its 2 hour plus running time.

6: Demolition Man (US) Marco Brambilla

I’ve spoken plenty about this one on the blog before – it features in my Top Ten Stallone movies.

5: Last Action Hero (US) John McTiernan

I’ve spoken plenty about this one on the blog before – it features in my Top Ten Arnie movies.

4: Body Snatchers (US) Abel Ferrara

It gets undue hate for not being as good as the 70s or 50s version. Don’t sleep on it. It’s in my favourite movies of the decade list… I think. If it’s not, it’s fantastically grim vision of the famous story with a more claustrophobic setting.

3: True Romance (US) Tony Scott

It’s in my top movies of the decade.

2: Tombstone (US) George P Cosmatos

It’s in my top movies of the decade.

1: Jurassic Park (US) Steven Spielberg

It’s in my top movies of the decade.

Life

Life movie review & film summary (2017) | Roger Ebert

If movies have taught us anything, it’s that travelling to space will either lead to jolly adventures with feisty bikini clad Princesses and furries, or gruesome/slimy/explosive death. Life explores the second option, placing the viewer in a realistic present day landscape rather than the not too distant future of Alien – one of several movies it is more than inspired by. By camping us inside the orbital real world ISS alongside a skeleton crew of cross-continental familiar faces, yet giving us fleeting glimpses of what is happening back home – births, parades, cute kids asking cute questions – Life aims to alarm us into thinking what if the guys up there right now discover something hostile?

We join our crew of six as they collect soil samples from Mars which may contain evidence of <insert title here>. Turns out there is life out there, of the single celled variety, and turns out the cell just needs a touch of glucose to get it up in the morning. One taste of sugar and the little bastard begins sprouting, stretching, and expanding. Like all babies, translucent or otherwise, it wants to explore and wreck shit. Once named (by some cute Earthlings), Calvin crushes his daddy’s hand, yeets out, and begins an adolescent rampage. While the film has rightly been called an inferior mixture of Gravity and Alien, it’s probably more accurate to say that it’s a retelling of every parent’s experience with a toddler ever, with more CG. Like every movie set in space, there’s a frantic race against time, lots of clamouring to solve impossible problems, and people picked off one by one as they fight for survival and try to prevent the ever growing, increasingly wobbly Calvin making his way to the good ol’ US of Earth.

It’s a fine watch from start to finish, without really offering anything new. It feels more like a case of updating every aspect of the movies it apes; updated special effects, updated creature effects, updated dialogue – everything to make the film more appealing to today’s audience. The only time the movie puts its neck on the line is with its ending – a refreshingly un-Hollywood ending but one you know is coming so that, once again, it comes as no surprise and dilutes any shock value it was meant to generate. Most attempts at fleshing out each character – and to the film’s credit it does try to do this – most of these attempts feel trite and not genuine. Rather than any individuality, the film offers a stock archetype and then gives each one a single thing which marks them as different from the other. Sanada is Japanese, and has a kid on the way. There’s the disabled dude who, for some reason, becomes obsessive at bringing Calvin to life, Gyllenhaal is calm and cold, but is perfectly happy living in Space, Ryan Reynolds is Ryan Reynolds etc. Each aspect totalled up amounts to a perfectly average film – if you haven’t seen Alien or Gravity then maybe this will have more of an impact on you and for a night in it passes the time without forcing you to think or become too invested, while equally staving off the boredom.

Let us know what you think of Life in the comments!

Nightman’s Least Favourite Movies Of 1994!

Greetings, Glancers! As you’ll have seen in my other 1994 post, this was one of my favourite years for Cinema with maybe more personal favourites than any other year. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t a steaming pile of turds as well. Hold your nose, and dive in below.

Ashes Of Time

Wong Kar Wai is a director of phenomenal visual talent. Nevertheless, I do find his movies can be hit and miss in terms of character and storytelling – but sometimes his films use characters and story as a mere backdrop for metaphor and suggestion. Ashes Of Time is a mesmerising and bewildering affair – frequently gorgeous, but ultimately dull. The Redux version is a little more fluid, but the shorter running time still feels like a slog. It’s not surprising that Wong Kar Wai would make a Wuxia film with very little action, so if you’re coming to this expecting Crouching Tiger you’re likely to be disappointed and more than a little confused when instead you get Solaris with swords. The story follows a nomadic swordsman who interacts with various characters in separate yet intertwining chapters, as he works through love, loss, and longing. I think.

Baby’s Day Out

It is what it is. I’m sure kids at the time got a kick out of the antics of a baby being chased around New York by hapless criminals, and I’ve no doubt this would work well as an animation with a decent script, but as it stands it’s a bit of a mess.

Beverly Hills Cop III

I was never the biggest Beverly Hills Cop fan in the world, but the first two movies are classic 80s Action comedies. It’s rare that the third entry in a franchise is good, and it’s even more rare when there has been a significant gap between the second and third. It’s disappointing because there’s a good cast with (some) returning faces, it’s directed by John Landis, and it’s set in an amusement park – all things I approve of. Each of these normally positive attributes is spun into a negative – Murphy seems disinterested, Judge Reinhold is too old to be pulling the same shtick, Landis was on a major downturn in quality, and the setting isn’t used in any sort of interesting way. It’s simply not as funny or energetic as the others and the low stakes of the story mean we don’t care about any of it.

The Flintstones

I was never a huge fan of the show, but it was one of those ‘well there’s nothing else on TV on Sunday morning and I refuse to get out of bed yet’ cartoons so I still watched it. To the film’s credit, it kind of nails the look and the cast, but it also looks very cheap and some of the casting choices are miserable. I could see a bigger budget remake of this doing well now, just make sure the cast are all good fits rather than the 80% on show here. Obviously the story needs to be interesting and there needs to be jokes – both lacking in the 90s version.

Four Weddings And A Funeral

The bastard which started it all. After this the world was crying out for soppy British Rom Coms and Hugh Grants. It fares better than much of what followed in its wake and it does have a collection of British stars who deserve recognition for performances elsewhere. But it’s very dull, very foppish, hits all the quirky notes which nauseate my mind, body, and soul, and like all Rom Coms no matter how you dress it up they all end up in the same spot. I’d like just for once for the Rom Com to end in a shocking, completely random tragedy with no resolution or happy ending – just boom – wtf – end credits.

Junior

Another one of Arnie’s experiments at branching out from just punching heads off and exploding shit. Which is fine, some of those were good. Increasingly though you now look back at Arnie’s mid 90s output and think ‘man, you were still in peak physical condition, why didn’t you make another action movie’. Lets not forget – T2, Total Recall, True Lies, Last Action Hero, even End Of Days were all ostensibly action movies but which elevated the genre and did something different. Eraser and The Sixth Day tried but were not very good. An average Arnie action movie is still better than whatever bollocks this is, a diluted comedy free from the laughs of Kindergarten Cop and the charm of Twins, with added romance. It’s watchable, as Arnie always is, and there’s great cast support, but there’s nothing memorable, no laughs, no one-liners, nothing exciting or funny – the one joke (man gets pregnant) could have worked with any actor. Arnie could have made one more great action movie in that period – a true Expendables, King Conan, his version of I Am Legend. Sigh.

Muriel’s Wedding

It’s Australian Four Weddings. But somehow even more for women.

Mission To Moscow

I’ll defend the Police Academy series to the death. Even number 5 which didn’t know how to recover from Guttenberg leaving the series, and 6 which wasn’t very good. Mission To Moscow is basically unforgivable. There’s another fake Mahoney, most of the cast has buggered off, and it’s extremely cartoonish. Rather than being a series of loosely connected vignettes highlighting the ridiculous characters, this one somehow tries to focus more on plot, but forgets to make the plot interesting or coherent. There aren’t really any laughs – I mean, I’ll laugh watching Lassard do anything, even if that is him trying to communicate with Russian jugglers or whatever he’s doing here – and there’s a bit where fake Mahoney’s moustache goes ‘woop’…. you can see I’m struggling here. The most interesting thing is that we have Ron Perlman doing his finest Zangief impression, Christopher Lee as a Russian Cop, and Claire Forlani looking effing gorgeous. It’s best to forget this exists.

Renaissance Man

Danny DeVito – what were you thinking?

Sirens

It’s more Hugh Grant. Lets be honest, there’s only one reason anyone would watch this, and if anyone does foolishly watch this for that one reason, they’re going to be sorely disappointed. It’s about an English Church dude who goes to Australia and is shocked to see boobs. It’s somehow less interesting than that sounds.

Let us know in the comments if you enjoyed any of the films listed above, and feel free to share the movies of 1994 which you couldn’t stand!

Nightman’s Introduction To Foreign Cinema – C

Let’s move on to C! See!

Canada

Neve Campbell | Attrici, Neve campbell, Canada

For any unadventurous Americans, Canada should be right up there with Australia and the UK to get used to the concept of Foreign Cinema. Many big budget and hit films and TV shows are filmed in Canada with a Canadian crew and cast to save money, while the Country also has its own expansive and dedicated industry featuring both English and French language productions.

Key Gateway FilmsBlack Christmas (The original slasher), Eastern Promises (sex trafficking and gangsters with Viggo Mortensen), Ginger Snaps (incredibly overrated but watchable teen werewolf fare), Incendies (twins discover war and mystery in The Middle East), The Decline of The American Empire (sex and laughs between intellectuals), Resident Evil Series (zombies and freaks loosely based on the game series), Meatballs (it’s not Star Wars), Porky’s (sexy teen romp), Scanners (head explosions), Splice (man makes creature and gets horny), Trailer Park Boys (movies based on the show).

Notable Directors: James Cameron (The Terminator, Avatar), David Cronenberg (Scanners, The Fly), Sarah Polley (Away From Her Take This Waltz), Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Prisoners), Jason Reitman (Juno, Up In The Air)

Notable Stars: Malin Akerman, Dan Aykroyd, Pamela Anderson, Will Arnett, Raymond Burr, Genevieve Bujold, Neve Campbell, John Candy, Jim Carrey, Hume Cronyn, Michael J Fox, Lorne Greene, Corey Haim, Laurie Holden, Michael Ironside, Joanne Kelly, Margot Kidder, Eugene Levy, Evangeline Lily, Rachel McAdams, Rick Moranis, Carrie Anne Moss, Ellen Page, Mary Pickford, Anna Paquin, Christopher Plummer, Matthew Perry, Keanu Reeves, Seth Rogan, Donald Sutherland, Keifer Sutherland, Jennifer and Meg Tilly, Michael Wincott.

China

Hero (2002) - Rotten Tomatoes

The first thing to clarify for any newbs is that China and Hong Kong are separate entities – different place, different business, different movies, though there are obviously many similarities. If you want any more info, go to a news site as we’re here for da movies. Ho. China is huge, and it does make huge movies with many focusing on history and martial arts, yet I’ve seen far fewer films than those which fall under Hong Kong.

Key Gateway Films: Red Sorghum (Zhang Yamou drama about… pissing in booze), Raise The Red Lantern (that man again, gorgeously shot drama about one of many wives), Farewell My Concubine (Leslie Cheung masterclass about a circus/opera group destroyed by love and politics), The Opium War (ignore the plot and enjoy the sights), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (swordplay and skipping over rooftops), Hero (more epic swordplay), The Ghost Inside (fairly conflicting horror story with a dash of realism, or vice versa), Thru The Moebius Strip (3D animation sci fi), The Warlords (Jet Li, Andy Lau, Takeshi Kaneshiro are badass), Red Cliff (John Woo goes epic).

Notable Directors: Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine), Diao Yinan (Night Train), Feng Xiaogang (Aftershock), Huang Shuqin (A Soul Haunted By Painting), Tian Zhuangzhaung (The Blue Kite), Zhang Yimou (House Of Flying Daggers).

Notable Stars: There is too much of a crossover here with Hong Kong and Taiwan, so I’m not going to even bother – I’ll leave this for the Hong Kong entry.

There are also notable films from Chile, Croatia, and Czech Republic but I don’t know enough movies from those countries to adequately comment. If you have seen any from those places or any other ‘C country’ let us know what you thought in the comments!

Nightman’s Least Favourite Movies Of 1995!

12 Monkeys' Speaks to Our Current Crisis - Hollywood in Toto

12 Monkeys

We’re coming in hot today, with the beloved by most 12 Monkeys, Terry Gilliam’s crazed tale of time travelling, airports, disease, and Brad Pitt’s hilarious attempts at acting. I have an amount of admiration for 12 Monkeys but a deeper look unravels what a shambles the plot is, and the twists are of the usual sort you find in time-travel movies. I came to the film late, spurred on by heaps of praise by people whose opinions usually mesh with my own. It’s good, but it’s not movie of the year good. If there’s any lesson here, it’s probably that your friends are dicks and you can’t trust their recommendations. BECAUSE THEY’RE A FUTURE VERSION OF YOU. But yeah, one of Brad Pitt’s early attempts at ‘big, real, acting’ following the much more interesting Kalifornia and Interview With The Vampire, are hilarious and I will never understand how he was nominated for any Award, never mind an Oscar.

When Nature Calls

I love the first Ace Ventura. I don’t love the second. Less interesting story, a re-tread of jokes and one-liners which were already over-stated by the time the second film was announced, but beyond that it’s simply more of the same. Normally I would say ‘bring it on’, but I would have much preferred more of the same of The Mask or Dumb And Dumber, or more of the same of Ace Ventura, but with some effort.

Assassins

I’m still not sure how you bring together 1995 Antonio Banderas, Sly Stallone, and give a Wachowski’s story about guns and killings and hitmen to Richard Donner, and make it a dull slog. It’s such a nothing story – the Wachowskis had clearly been watching a lot of John Woo movies and thought they could make their own take on homoerotic machismo (plus guns), but forgot to make it interesting, then everyone else involved didn’t bother giving it any style or attempt to flesh out the characters or assign any sense to whatever the hell was going on.

Get Shorty

Another one of the post Pulp Fiction movies which every studio was pumping out between 1995 and 2000, but this one comes with some genuine cred, based on a story by Elmore Leonard. Cool cast too. I don’t know why ‘cool’ is equated to jazz in movies, when any music fan knows that jazz actually equates to ‘shit’, so we’re subjected to a shitty score, people in sunglasses, dialogue which feels as if the characters are ripping pages from a bad book of poetry and passing them to one another instead of speaking. It’s a hideous bore too, though every time I’ve seen it has been late at night when I’ve already been tired.

Haunted

Haunted may be the most boring, sleep inducing movie of all time. There was a lot of it this year – it’s as if they knew Desperado and Goldeneye were coming out this year and thought ‘why bother’.

Moonlight And Valentino

I get there’s a market for this sort of thing – lonely, middle aged housewives for example – and because I’m not one of those, Moonlight And Valentino was never going to do anything for me. It’s not even good enough for any awkward ‘look, it’s John Bon Jovi’ laughs. As with any other year, there were a number of equally unacceptable shitty rom coms/dramas/costume nonsese that I could have added in this spot – The Englishman Who Climbed A Hill, The Scarlet Letter, Sabrina, Miami Rhapsody etc, but this one commits the cardinal crime of being such an up itself story of unrealistic soap opera relationships that you can neither take it seriously, not laugh at it. Plus it has Gwyneth Paltrow.

Nine Months

I’m surprised this didn’t have Gwyneth Paltrow, but it does have Hugh Grant which is essentially the same thing. It’s a remake of a French film where the comedy simply doesn’t translate. The story is basically about your typical bloke, drifting along, happy with his life, career, relationship who knocks up his girlfriend and begins freaking out. The Simpsons did it better in a single episode. Not only does the humour not translate, there is no attempt to attune the humour in any way, Hugh Grant will never be funny (unless he’s attacking snake people), and like every movie of its ilk you know precisely how it’s going to end from the moment the opening credits run. It’s a shame, as this year had a few decent movies in this genre – While You Were Sleeping, Waiting To Exile….. and Showgirls.

Rob Roy

What a load. Of. SHITE.

To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything Julie Newmar!

Another film where we have to whip out the checklist of things I don’t like; ridiculous name. Quirky camp comedy. Drag. Stockard Channing. Being tame. The only thing going for it are a few interesting cast choices and the fact that it’s a road movie, but those aren’t enough to save it.

Village Of The Damned

Carpenter was on the verge of checking out by this point. I feel like if he had achieved a hit with this, regardless of quality, he would have been more prolific throughout the rest of the decade and into the 2000s. To be fair, it had a lot of positives going in – unusual cast, the genre is precisely in Carpenter’s wheelhouse, and Carpenter has a track record of making good remakes. I would have loved Carpenter to have tackled a Bodysnatchers story, but Abel Ferrera got there first. Instead, he updates the 1960 British classic of the same name. Sadly it’s clear that Carpenter doesn’t give a shit – there’s none of his usual style or flair, the characters don’t feel like real people or even caricatures, and it’s dull. Even the Soundtrack doesn’t help. It does provide some darker twists which set it apart from the original, but it’s a disappoint on all fronts. It was a failure at the Box Office too, and so Carpenter stopped caring about movies.

Let us know in the comments what your least favourite movies of 1995 are!

Fanboys

Making a fan service movie, which is also about fan service/fandom, is a tricky prospect these days. Geek fandom and its associated privilege, is King. People can kick and grump and moan to force someone to lost their job, to force someone into a job, to keep dissenting voices out of fandom, or to cause enough of a stink so that the fandom eventually gets what it wants. Fandoms have always been a vague mire of toxicity and inclusive joy representing both the best and worst of humanity, and both aspects have only been exacerbated by the pervasive and all encompassing nature of social media. Fanboys was released as social media was beginning to explode, but it gets around some of these issues by setting the film in the more innocent, greener pasture of 1998.

If you were a Star Wars fan in 1997 and 1998, it was a particularly exciting time. I was a lad of 15 and a fairly large fan of the franchise – not as big as my older brother, not as rabid as others, but certainly keeping an eye online for snippets of information such as they were dispersed back then. Fanboys follows a group of typical 90s nerds – comic book and sci-fi fans, but not the entitled geeks of today, and not the bullied party avoiders of the 80s. Having recently left High School and each figuring out the trials of adulthood – whether that be living in your mom’s garage, following in your father’s footsteps, or working in a comic book store – the gang meet up at a Halloween party and reconvene in anticipation of Episode I. There is an undercurrent of anger due to one of the gang seemingly growing up and leaving his friends behind, but when it is revealed that one of the group has terminal cancer and only has a few months to live, the tension is put temporarily on ice. The main problem is that the dude wants to see Episode I before he dies, but it is due for release in six months while doctors have given him no more than four. The guys decide that the only solution is to break into the infamous Skywalker ranch and catch a pre-release copy, and so they set off on a road trip across the Country.

This being a Road Movie, it hits all of the expected trappings – every mile travelled brings a new discovery about a particular character and their coming of age, each new destination features an associated humorous interlude, and as the gang get closer to their goal they learn that the journey and those you make the journey with are often more important than the final destination. Being a movie about fandom, there are plenty of in jokes, cameos, and nerdy discussion – some more ill-advised than others – from recurring battle between Star Wars and Star Trek fans, from Billy Dee Williams appearing as a character called Judge Reinhold and cameos by William Shatner, Ray Park, Carrie Fisher, Kevin Smith and other, to Harry Knowles appearing as a character (played by an actor). Sadly the film became more known for its controversial re-shoots. Early buzz was positive and George Lucas was a fan, but later re-shoots attempted to add more raunchy humour and remove important character and story elements. These re-shoots were done by director Steven Brill, famous for only making shit movies, and when a genuine fan campaign was raised pleading for the original vision of the film to be released, Brill responded with a highly publicized and idiotic rant about fandom. Eventually the original vision was mostly restored, though director Kyle Newman had barely any time to complete. This seemingly resulted in a mish mash of a film, one which has fleeting moments of potential, genuine warmth, and humour, while much of the film feels a little disjointed and unsure of what it wants to be.

Star Wars fans should nevertheless get a laid back kick out of the movie. It’s harmless and has a collection of laughs to go with the decent performers from recognisable faces – Kristen Bell, Jay Baruchel, Dan Fogler. Whether or not the reshoot controversy prevented the film from being a more rounded and well received movie we’ll likely never find out, but anyone looking for an underseen coming of age Road flick centred on friendship and fandom might want to give this a watch.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Fanboys!

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 1994!

 

Here is my updated list of favourite films of 1994 – there aren’t actually any new entries, I’m simply adding a few blurbs on each film. First, the few which missed out on my Top 20 – Heavenly Creatures which saw Peter ‘I kick ass for The Lord’ Jackson, branching out from his shlock horror comedies and making something more emotionally substantial and mainstream. The Last Seduction aimed to single-handedly bring the noir genre kicking and screaming back to life, with a great performance by Linda Fiorentino, while The River Wild is Die Hard in a dinghy.

And now, the Top Twenty:

20: Little Women (US) Gilliam Armstrong

I don’t know why, but I generally enjoy the Little Women movies. That’s not strange in and of itself – what’s strange is that I can’t stand the original novel. This movie is gorgeously shot and has all of the hair and clothing and all of that crap that people seem to love, but more importantly it has a badass cast of people just coming into their own or at the top of their game – Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon, Christian Bale, Samantha Mathis, Gabriel Byrne, Trini Alvarado, Eric Stoltz and more. As acclaimed as this one was at the time, it’s a bit sad that it will now be overlooked by the overblown success of the 2019 version.

19: Ace Ventura (US) Tom Shadyac

Jim Carrey was maybe on the greatest sequence of starring roles in history in 1994, with a trio of all time classics. All three are on my list, this one and the next one are interchangeable in their quality and my enjoyment of them. This and The Mask are great fun. Pity the sequel is balls.

18: The Mask (US) Charles Russell

See above.

17: Stargate (US/France) Roland Emmerich

I loved Stargate when it was released – it was such a spectacle, plus it dealt with a period of history I have always been curious about, and it was done in a cool 90s way. AND you get Kurt Russell. It has since been overshadowed by the epic TV spin-offs but this was the starting point of one of the greatest, most underrated expanded universes in fiction.

16: Forrest Gump (US) Robert Zemeckis

It’s one of those films which I never feel like I need to revisit. It was fun, heartwarming, sure a little saccharine, but features one of the most iconic performances of the decade, one of the most recognisable characters in movie history, and some memorable one-liners. It’s an all round good film which hasn’t lost any of its potency.

15: The Lion King (US Disney)

It’s The Lion King. People love this a lot more than I do, and while I agree it is massively overrated, it’s still wonderful. Superb anmiation, great songs, amusing characters – classic Disney – before they sold out.

14: Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein (US/Japan) Kenneth Branagh

Lets face it, the 90s produced arguably the best movie version of Dracula and almost certainly the best movie version of Frankenstein – coming from a big fan of both Universal and Hammer. It’s not without its problems, much of that is simply to do with bringing the story to the screen in the first place, but it gets the pathos and the monstrosity of the original text correct, and offers Robert De Niro the chance to portray the sort of character A-listers wouldn’t usually come within 50 miles of.

13: Timecop (US) Peter Hyams

Did I ever do a TTT for Jean Claude Van Damme? I don’t know man, I’ve been doing this blog for generations. Timecop is the movie Looper wishes it was, with added mullets.

12: The Shawshank Redemption (US) Frank Darabont

Frequently listed as the greatest movie of the decade, and often as the greatest movie of all time, it still gives me great pleasure when ardent anti-horror or anti-Stephen King fans begrudgingly admit how good this is. Sure the movie succeeds based on Darabont’s direction and the terrific cast, but it all comes down to the story by King – a story of hope and of crawling through all of the shit life pours on you. It’s another fine example of The Academy completely ignoring Horror – or even anything with the stench of Horror attached to it – as the film was overlooked in every category it was nominated in (though fair enough, there were some excellent movies and winners this year).

11: Ed Wood (US) Tim Burton

Ed Wood is Tim Burton Oscar bait… I think. It’s one of those movies about movies, about the love of making them, about the whole system and the business. While movies like this have always been critical darlings, Burton decided to flip the whole shtick and make the focus one of the most notoriously ‘bad’ filmmakers in history. Wood is presented as an exuberant guy with a dream, a man who refuses to allow reality to crush his pursuit of making his dream come true or dull his love of the movies. Depp and Landau are on top form here, and it’s another Horror adjacent movie which The Academy couldn’t avoid.

10: Natural Born Killers (US) Oliver Stone

One of the most controversial movies of the 90s, this was certainly ahead of its time with its protagonists/antagonists taking their murder and mayhem to the road accompanied by an orgasmic media. Lewis and Harrelson have a natural born chemistry and whip out career best manic performances, ably backed up by a ‘remember me, everybody’ Robert Downey Jr, Rodney Dangerfield, Tom Sizemore, and Tommy Lee Jones. Few films whip up such controversy in their wake and few films have such a unique mish mash of styles and genres, creating an orgiastic fever-dream of drama, comedy, and violence.

9: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (US) Wes Craven

If you want to breath life back into a dying series, you can do worse than handing back the reins to its creator a decade later. In a precursor to his meta mega-hit Scream, New Nightmare upends series and genre tropes as it peels back the curtain and blurs the increasingly more fragile walls between the real and fictional world. Wes brings back original cast members to tell the story of Heather Langenkamp – actress most famous for her performances in the Elm Street series – whose fictional arch enemy Fred Krueger has somehow found a way into the real world. The movie dispenses with much of the humour of the popular sequels, instead posing questions about fandom and the impact of fame and exposure to violent material on those who are both part of these worlds and help to create it. The film doesn’t scrimp on the gore even as it dispenses with many of the creative setpieces and kills which the series had become known for, but ends up being all the more nasty and interesting for it.

8: Clerks (US) Kevin Smith

There have been few better or equivalent Indie first times movies than Clerks – a movie of its time which capitalized upon the torchlight being shone on Indie film at the time, but which nevertheless remains fresh, vital, and hilarious even decades later. Smith would hone his writing and directing skills over the years, but this may be his most pure effort, pulling together friends and familiars and shooting on a shoestring, yet managing to create a much funnier, much stronger product than almost any other studio comedy of the decade.

7: True Lies (US) James Cameron

James Cameron doesn’t make many films, but when he does they’re either record-breakers, masterpieces, or at worst perfectly entertaining B genre fare. True Lies is neither a record breaker nor a masterpiece, but he did release it in between T2 and Titanic, so it can be viewed as a palette cleanser. More than that, it’s a send up of the spy/secret agent/Bond genre as Arnie leads a double life as a boring family man and a world-saving action hero. It’s the lightest, funniest film in the Cameron-verse, bolstered by an amusing trope-twisting script and fun takes by Jamie Lee Curtis and Bill Paxton.

6: Speed (US) Jan de Bont

The undisputed action movie event of the year, and one of the best of the decade. While the 80s featured muscle-bound bullet dodgers mowing down hordes of faceless bad dudes, the enlightened audiences of the 90s needed something more. Something like a bad dude who used to be a good dude, and a good dude who is flawed and hasn’t experienced the bicep sprouting pleasures of steroids, and a story more inventive than ‘bad dude kidnaps x and good dude must destroy everything’. Speed is one of the finest examples of the 90s take on the genre – reckless rookie Keanu Reeves comes up against crazed ex good guy Dennis Hopper and has to stop him blowing people up. The bulk of the movie takes place on a bus – a bus filled with passengers and Sandra Bullock – a bus armed with explosives which will go off if the bus goes under 50MPH, but there’s also a gripping climax involving a subway. Like its central plot device, the thrills, action, and tension never let up once they start, and the cast have a whale of a time.

5: Pulp Fiction (US) Quentin Tarantino

See my favourite movies of decade post.

4: Interview With The Vampire (US) Neil Jordan

See my favourite movies of decade post.

3: Leon (France) Luc Besson

See my favourite movies of decade post.

2: The Crow (US) Alex Proyas

See my favourite movies of decade post.

1: Dumb And Dumber (Top Ten Of All Time) (US) Peter Farrelly

See my favourite movies of decade post.

Let us know your favourites in the comments!