Wednesday, May 22, 2013
The Raid : Redemption I wasn't sure I believed all the hyperbole. However this might be the best action movie ever. Cross hard-boiled with Carpenter's Assault on p.13 and spice it up with the brutality of Rambo IV. I’m not going to say much because it seems I was late to the party. If you like brutal and over the top action movies and have not seen it then you need to. Hollywood could learn a lot here.
Chickbassist by Ross E. Lockhart 109 pages paperback Lazy fascist Chickbassist is a short and sweet novel just crossing the line between novella and novel. In rock and roll terms it is a very solid EP, one where every song is destined for the setlist devoid of filler. This is a passionate period piece of early 80’s rock and roll that flow with a prose rhythm. Lockhart has a way with words most on display in Track 10 (Chapter if you’re a stickler) which an almost poetic piece about warming up on drums at a band’s practice space. The book is mix tape dictated by Lockhart. I was lucky enough to see Lockhart read from that track at Bizarrocon here in Portland. Since I had a functioning tape deck I still use from time to time I was given a copy of the soundtrack the author made as a mix tape. I am sure he has a setlist some where and you can track down the songs on youtube or Itunes. It doesn’t hurt the effect of the novel for sure. The story of many characters who fade in and out of the story the main characters are Eden Locke the IBenz playing bassist for a band called Heroes for Goats, a Trans woman named Terrri and a rocker named Robbie Storm to name a few. There is a reggae band on the rise, a Grrrl band full of Jennifers named Jennifer Army and several other interesting settings in this short novel. The period stuff is done gently and effectively in a powerful opening chapter meant to sync up Eden’s life to her favorite tape that has Velvet Underground’s White light/white heat on the A side and Live at Max’s Kansas City on the B side. I loved the effect of this chapter, but that leads me to what makes this a solid 5 for 5 star book. The effect it has. In the hands of someone less assured of their use of language this might be a boring tale. It’s not, Lockhart catches lightining in bottle by grabbing a hold of the raw feeling and energy of the era and buttering it up with all the smells pleasant and unpleasant of a pre-internet rock and roll. Chickbassist would be a great opening act for Robert R.Mcammon’s rock and roll novel The Five. Doesn’t matter how you get to the show but this is cover charge worth paying
Monday, May 20, 2013
Gone South Pocket books Paperback 391 pages Gone South is a part of one of may favorite literary sub-genres. Weird Crime, adding horror or bizarro elements to a crime novel almost always works for me. This is one strange southern gothic crime novel but it is so perfectly with brutal and beautiful moments it is hard for me to imagine anyone not enjoying it. Opening with an amazing first line… “"It was hell's season, and the air smelled of burning children...." It is the story of Dan Lambert a Vietnam vet who is having a rough go of it. He has leukemia, his wife kicked him out, he can’t find work and now the bank wants to take his truck. He tries to reason with the loan officer and stuff goes well south. He didn’t mean to kill the guy things just got out of control. So he takes off. The bank puts a reward on his head and before long every two-bit bounty hunter in Louisiana is after him. The characters in this novel are vivid and interesting including A bounty hunter named flint who was recruited out of freak show(he has a third arm, well actually he has a little twin brother he absorbed before birth) and his Elvis impersonator partner. Well trying to escape Dan has an adventure meets up with a young woman disfigured by a large birthmark and they journey together as she is looking for a healer. Dan doesn’t believe in the healer known as the bright girl but as they travel deeper into the bayou the journey continues to get even stranger. McCammon is one of my favorite writers and may be the best pure story teller writing genre novels. He gets compared to King, but he is far more consistent than King. He milks the south setting in this book to create a novel that is unsettling , funny and at times charming. Is it McCammon’s best? No and that is the scary thing. Fans of weird crime should not miss this one.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Space Battleship Yamato So a few years back Japanese director Takashi Yamazaki made an above average sci-fi action movie The Retunrner. It involved alien invasion, time travel and giant transformer robots. It is not exactly high art but I enjoyed it. So I decided a few days back to look up what he had done since. Recently he made this film and I wanted to see it. SBY is based on a classic Anime show, it has been updated and made live action here in a highly entertaining space opera. With awesome CGI space battles, dog fights and a slightly dark tone it is pretty much like a Japanese BSG. Here is the set up. The earth is almost dead after a war with an alien species. A battle in orbit of Mars may have been the last stand. A message sudden arrives telling the humans that solution to the radiation on earth could be found on a far off planet. So on desperate mission to save humanity Battle Yamato heads into deep space to try and save humanity. Fans of Japanese anime science fiction like Robotech/battle of planets can’t really go wrong. I really thought this movie was fun. Fantastic space battles, and an interesting story. Sci-fi fans check it out.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Casshern Film review Casshern is an amazing Japanese sci-fi film remaking a classic 1973 Anime. This film mixes a classic Anime feeling with a steampunk feel and it looks often like Terry Giliam designed a lot of the sets and fictional equipment. This film takes place in alternate history where a block of Asian nations and Europe just finished a war that lasted 50 years. A Japanese scientist discover something he calls neo-cells which he uses to create Neo-sapians super humans. The government tries to exterminate them. Thus begins a battle where the evil Neo-sapians resurrect the robot armies of Europe and Casshern fights them to try and save the day. I saw this film when it came out in 2004 at the Asian film fest in San Diego. Shortly after that Dreamworks bought the U.S. Rights but only released the film on video. I believe they re-edited it slightly to try and make the story more clear. This is a really neat looking movie that requires a strong suspension of disbelief but as a super hero sci-fi movie it is pretty impressive. I think the movie pretty enough to watch without even following the story it looks that cool. Check it out.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
My Kingdom Film review So serious Kungfu fans know that the roots of Wuxia cinema pre-date film with the long tradition of stage operas. Three of the biggest names in Kung fu movies have their roots in Peking Opera. Famously Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao were classmates in one of the schools which have reputation for brutal methods. Jackie Chan is not here, but Yuen Biao has a great cameo in the opening duel scene and Sammo Hung has an excellent job directing the action. My Kingdom is the story of two young Opera actors who are training under their master played by Yuen Biao. Their master is disgraced after losing a duel challenge from a big city stage actor. When they go to Shanghi and challenge the man who disgraced their master they become stars in the big city. Soon the stardom effects the brothers. At the same time a series of murders incite a mystery. The stage fights are amazing and the best thing about this movie. The story is confusing; characters behavior changes in nonsensical ways just to move the plot. In the end I can’t tell you this is a good movie, but I can say that the amazing stage duels by Peking Opera actors are cool as hell and worth seeing.
Red Claw by Phillip Palmer Orbit books 451 pages I have very mixed feelings on this book. A part of me really liked it. It is a bold novel in many ways. Seeming on some levels it seems to be a gonzo tongue in cheek version of Avatar. The text breaks lots of rules. First person journal entires with footnotes, Third person action, present tense, past tense…the writing style is kinda of a mess. A pretty and often inventive mess I was laughing often and entertained reading it. The novel takes place on a hostile jungle world called New Amazon. The main characters are scientists and military types. One on the planet they discover a race of Godzillas one of whom they capture. There are killer robots and just about everything on New Amazon wants to kill humans. At first I thought it was a beaituful mess, but towards the end of the novel I wasn’t laughing much. I was tired of the narrative crazy-ness. The novel started to feel long. In the end I felt this novel was not for me. I couldn’t pan it because I liked most of it. I was impressed with it’s invent-fullness and I did laugh a bit. Towards the end the novel finally seemed to be more clearly making a point. I think readers looking for more bizarro style Sci-fi will enjoy it.
Monday, May 13, 2013
Good for Nothing ( A Kiwi Western) While the setting of most Westerns are mostly American many international cinemas had produced some of the Best Westerns ever made. Of course every knows Spaghetti Westerns often filmed in Spain from Django movies to the best films of Sergio Leone all of the Italian westerns took place in the American West or Mexico. In recent reason two awesome westerns were made that had international settings. The Korean western “The Good, The Bad, The Weird” was set in a old west like 1930’s Manchuria. The Australian Western “The Proposition” took place in a dirty nasty old west like outback. I was hoping for something similar setting out of this western filmed in New Zealand. While the setting is never spoken or identified in the film it takes place somewhere in the American West. Good for Nothing is a low budget film by a first time director and it shows. Some of the performances are strong but most are flat. The plot and the film has potential to be darkly humorous but the delivery is not there. The best part perhaps is the performance of lead actor Cohan Halloway. He manages to make his Character despicable for most of the film and later likable. All this with out saying anything for the first half an hour except “My dick is broke.” As good as he was, I was equally unimpressed with the other lead Igne Rademeyer. Her performance was flat to me, and since she was producer on the film I wonder if the director had bias that favored her despite the weak performance. Uneven with a weak script that fails to deliver on the dark humor of the concept. The suspense and tension is well done, but there are so many moments where the female lead fails to act in her own defense(just to drive the plot) that it will drive many viewers nuts. If you are going to watch a western from down under stick with the Amazing aussie one- The proposition.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
This Shaw Brothers movie directed by long time Chang Cheh Director of photograhpy Pao Hsueh Li. This gore drenched, adult kungfu movie is not one of the best Shaw movies but it is fun. The first half an hour is strong with well done fights, has awesome music cues. The story is same is loosley taken from the novel the Three Kingdoms and was made into better movies like Peter Chan's The Warlords(starring Jet Li) and the much better Chang Cheh film Blood Brothers only two years after Oath of Death. None the less here it is if you want to watch it.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Blood Crazy by Simon Clark Leisure books 397 pages This 2001 British horror novel has been on my radar for a number of years. I believe I first read about it on a good reads list of Apocalypse novels. It is my third Simon Clark novel and my favorite so far. Blood Crazy could easily be pitched to Hollywood as a simple twist of The Crazies and Lord of the Flies. It is the story of Nick Aten a young adult who we meet at the start of a long journey. In the beginning we don’t know much about him except there is another young boy named Tug Slatter. A lot of Nick’s energy and anguish comes from his fear and anger of Tug. The action starts quickly, Nick is alone trying to survive a sudden upheaval in his little English town. The adults have gone crazy, it seems any over the age of about eighteen is affected. They’re driven by an uncontrollable urge to kill and eat the flesh of the young- especially their own children. Nick tries to escape and finds a group of survivors who struggle to make up for their lack knowledge and skills. At the same time he receives messages from his parents who are trying to trick him into their reach. As they try to survive the social groups form, petty tyrants rise including bullies who dangle the tools of survival in the faces of those they want to control. One method of torture is a pretty horrible game called carrying the can (which involves a lit fuse to a bomb) up a hill to defuse it. Some of the most suspenseful moments of the novel involve this set-up. The climax involves a bridge of humanity that I don’t want to spoil but let me just say created a very disturbing Image. As much as Blood Crazy works as disturbing apocalypse novel it is equally effective of a coming of age novel. While I feel it did an excellent job of exploring a world suddenly devoid of adults I felt like there was plenty of issues that were not touched on. Clark does a great job with characterization and building suspense. The only weakness in this novel for me was the explanation of the whole apocalypse is explained over two chapters and found myself not entirely following these ideas. I think the cause might have been better left a mystery and indeed you can still interrupt it that way. Overall this novel is not a zombie novel but should appeal to zombie fans as well as readers who enjoy reading about the world ending. The best novels in the sub-genre of apocalypse tend to feel like a long journey and this novel has that feeling. Well worth a read.
Nightbreed: Cabal cut One of the highlights of the HP Lovecraft film fest was a screening of a film I hoped I would see but assumed that I never would. Coming off the success of his first horror film Clive Barker set out to make a film based on his novel Cabal. It is a story about monsters coming from Clive Barker it seemed like a no brainer for the studio Morgan Creek. Pretty much the only thing I know about Morgan Creek is that they have a troubled history with horror films. Exorcist III was also produced by the same studio and that film’s director novelist William Peter Blatty had many battles with the studio who forced him to tack on a cheesy ending (that was not in his novel) to an otherwise amazing horror film. I still enjoy Exorcist III myself but it is sad this studio could trust the directors they hired because Barker had a similar battle over Nightbreed. I am not sure if anyone at Morgan Creek the novel or cared about what Barker was trying say but Cabal is not about monsters being evil. It is about a place called Midian a home for monsters shunned and hidden from the world. The film has been out for a long time so I don’t think I need to too much into the plot except to describe the differences between the two versions. After Barker finished the first work print the studio test screened the unfinished film to their target audience and the film tested poorly. The studio wanted Barker to cut more than half an hour of material, film six weeks of re-shoots and punch the horror aspects mostly centered around the serial killer character of Decker played by Horror director David Cronenberg. I always enjoyed Nightbreed as a movie but when I read about the amounts of re-shoots and lost footage I always wondered what could have been. This was before the age of deleted scenes, if Nightbreed were made more recently then perhaps Barker could have done a director’s cut. At least a DVD would have deleted scenes. As that trend started Barker tried several times over the years to get the footage back from the studio, either it was lost or they would not give it up. So it seemed that it would never happen – enter Clive’s friend Russell Cherrington . He found an old PAL video of a Nightbreed work print that matched the film test screened before the re-shoots. A lot of footage is super crappy quality. I mean it looks like cam-corder footage shot on beta-max and stored under a couch for a couple decades. So the cabal cut uses this footage unrestored and is cut together using as much of DVD footage as possible. So the quality goes up and down. I enjoyed seeing this strange cut which really does change the film. It is a much richer story that plays up the romance of the main characters and follows the novel more closely. In this reguard the hicks getting all worked up to fight the monsters receives more time including the asshole sheriff. The priest who joins them is kind of a throw away character in the theatrical cut, in the cabal cut that character has a real arc. That was cool for those of us at the screening because the Actor Malcolm Smith was there for the post film Q and A. (I asked three questions before I had to just stop myself) As a fan of Cronenberg’s performance which I always thought was strong it was hit and miss to see some aspects of his story not really cut back but diminished by the added story lines. That said Decker has a cool scene where he talks to his mask that was only in the Cabal cut. The only thing that confused me was scenes that I remember clearly from the theatrical release that surfaced in the shitty grainy footage. Often I could not tell what the difference was between the scenes and often the restoration said it was minor things. All that could be smoothed out with a proper restoration. Look I think both versions should exist. Morgan Creek owns the rights, and if they would kick in 50,000 bucks (nothing in movie terms) the shitty looking footage could be restored to Blu-ray quality. The DVD’s would sell. They would make that back. As a huge Clive Barker fan I am bummed about the battles he had with the studios over Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions. It seemed to kill his desire to direct and understand. I am glad over the last few years he returned at least to producing. It is a must see for Nightbreed fans, but Morgan creek needs to get either step up and pay for it, or give Clive the freedom to do it on his own.