Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dire Movie Review And Other Stuff

I got to hang out with the Cool Shite lads last night. It's been a while since I've been able to do that regularly... just too damned busy, or screwed on the schedule, to take that one evening in a week to do something for my own enjoyment.

It's always good watching films with them. Even if the films are awful, it's fun to take the piss out of them - and frequently, I get to see really nifty films I'd otherwise have missed. The Fall, Sauna, and The Brothers Bloom are three in the latter category, just off the top of my head. There are plenty more.

Still, last night was a cinematic failure. While I enjoyed the conversation and the mickey-taking, the movie was so disappointing I'm actually going to review it... like this:

Bruce dug out a pile of DVD's still in their wrappers. There must have been two dozen of 'em. He started going through, eliminating all the rom-coms and chick-flicks and documentaries about Eastern European armpit-hair growing customs. Quinny and I, meanwhile, made helpful comments about the films we thought might actually be interesting.

Of course, Quinny rejected Bloody Malory, a French monster-hunter film in which the Pope gets kidnapped and has to be rescued from demons before the world is annihilated... apparently it was too schlocky for Mr "I Teach Film, You Know" Q-Dog David Quinn. Pay close attention here. That's an important point.

A few more films went past. Several of them sounded interesting. Bruce put them aside for future weeks. But then we got to a thing called Chanbara Beauty. The cover depicted a Japanese lass in a red bikini and cowboy hat, holding a couple of katana. The blurb declared that she was Aya, and the movie was about her exploits slaughtering zombies in a post-apocalyptic setting.

Apparently, this isn't too schlocky for Mr Quinn, because he got all enthusiastic at this point. Yep. The mix of bikinis, samurai swords, cowboy hats, zombies and post-apocalyptic settings is obviously a weak point in his film-critic armour. Mind you, I'm not claiming to be innocent here. I liked the idea just as much. But of course, I'd also quite happily have watched Bloody Malory. I have no illusions about my cinematic tastes.

Tiarne got kind of excitable too. She decided she'd seen the character before, perhaps in a computer game. Tiarne's Google-fu is strong: within minutes, she had summoned up an Internet image of a computer-game character dressed very similarly to the lass on the front of the Chanbara Beauty DVD case. So... was this a game derived from a movie? Or was the movie derived from a game?

Neither. Apparently both were developed from one of those inevitable Manga series. Okay. Fine.

So, Bruce stuck the DVD in the player. The credits came up... and that was the last good thing that happened for the next eighty-six minutes, as far as cinema was concerned anyhow. (There were some pretty good lime-chili potato crisps. And some funny conversation. But neither of those reflects on the film itself.)

Chanbara Beauty... This movie is the cinematic equivalent of a cold coffee enema. If you're stupid enough to plan on watching it after you read this, please: remove ALL sharp objects from your person and your immediate vicinity, because the urge to gouge out your own eyes to protect your brain may be overwhelming.

How can a movie with a samurai-sword wielding, bikini and cowboy-hat wearing, zombie-slaughtering heroine have such an utter lack of fun? Was it the shitty SFX? Was it the fact that the lead actress had clearly been instructed to appear stone-bored and insomniac tired through the whole film? Was it the bleach-blonde Japanese fat bastard with a head like an animated bowling ball who supposedly supplied comedy relief? Was it the mechanistic, perfunctory, largely incomprehensible fight-scenes that rolled on endlessly, despite their shitty lack of anything like coherent choreography?

The film had all the ingredients to be entertaining. It sure as hell took itself seriously. Usually when a film aims to be serious and fails on this spectacular a level, it gains a life of its own, and becomes one of those movies you remember for years because of the lingering cramps in your belly caused by near-fatal attacks of hilarity.

But not Chanbara Beauty. Nope. Not even the random breasts of a female character introduced about twenty minutes into the piece solely to endure a single sex scene and then be slaughtered by unconvincing zombies were sufficiently interesting to make this film anything other than a brain-grinding, arse-numbing chore. By the end of the flick, Bruce was working on his i-Pad, Quinny was reading some sort of shit on his MacBook, and I was watching Tiarne play a peculiar computer game. Every now and again we'd look up, and beg the characters onscreen to die. Horribly. And quickly.

Mostly they did. But not quickly enough.

All copies of Chanbara Beauty should be rounded up in the name of humanity, and buried in that same landfill somewhere in New Mexico which contains all those copies of that infamously bad ET video game... Then the director, the producers, and the writers should be hunted down and publically executed. Only then can we truly feel safe about going back to the cinema.

And in other news:

Genghis has hit the zoom function with his reading. He didn't take off as early as his brother, but at eight years old, he's just discovered the Skullduggery Pleasant books by Derek Landy. These are young-adult fantasy, and they run to about three hundred pages each. Genghis is literally burning through these things at the rate of a book a day or so. At least, on weekends. On school days, he only gets through half a book.

It's great to see him discover something like this. He's not as narrative/fiction oriented as Jake. More typically blokey, he likes reading histories and factual stuff. He adores his books on the Darwin Awards, for example. I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or not, but I figure it's good cautionary reading, at least. Anyway, he's well into the most current book in the SP series, so he's about to run out. We're going to point him to Artemis Fowl next, and probably Pratchett and the Discworld. Thirty books of fantasy/comedy should keep him occupied for a couple months.

Meanwhile, Jake has learned to make popcorn. He takes it seriously, and does it properly. No microwave bullshit for him: he's been raised right, and his few encounters with the awful shit that comes out of those prepackaged bags have taught him that popcorn has to be cooked in oil, and if butter is to be involved it must be real butter, not crappy yellow powdered toxin.

He's good. He gets down the beat-up old aluminium saucepan (because the thin layer of near-enough sapphire on the inner surface is smooth and strong, and you can scrub it clean. But if you burn popcorn into steel, for example, the carbon will enter the fine pores of the metal, and that pan will always burn things forever after, no matter how carefully you clean it.) and adds the oil and the popcorn. Then he fires up the stove, cooks the stuff, and pours it into the big serving bowls. He melts butter in the hot pan, and meanwhile, he adds salt and seasonings of choice -- citric acid, powdered beef stock, cayenne pepper, powdered chicken stock, parmesan cheese... there are flavours for every occasion -- and then tosses the lot together.

I have mixed feelings about this. I'm glad to see him learn, and I like the idea that he's taking this task onto himself. But it's kind of odd watching him do what has been the "dad thing" with our movie nights. I always figured there was a kind of gemutlichkeit comfort in watching movies or TV with your family, munching down on a big bowl of dad's special popcorn...

Still, he's very proud of himself, which is good. And it saves me the job. And I still step in from time to time, so I guess he'll keep associating all those memories of dad and family and stuff. I hope so, anyway. I want my kids to look back on their collective childhood, and be able to pick out things that made them feel like a family: close, and together. Movies and popcorn and rare late nights have those associations for me - so why not?

All right. It's a green and gorgeous spring day outside. I have stuff to write, more stuff to read, and stuff to cook. I also have a bunch of potatoes to plant, and an evening of martial arts to plan and then carry out.

I'm outta here.


  1. On behalf of the entire zombie apocalypse industry I wish to unreservedly apologize to you and all the cool shite boys for the maggot ridden, putrid corpse of a thing that Chanbara Beauty. I'd like to say there were script problems from the start, that the directors and producers struggled over artistic direction. That the actors were struggling through the burden of caring for war orphans while they tried to fulfill Timmy's 'make a wish request that there was a bikini clad, post apocalyptic zombie flick made just for him.

    But I can't say that.

    When I saw it it was called Onechanbara and the boys over at Quiet Earth tell us

    "it's based off a Japanese slasher game where a women kills a ton of zombies to save her city. Most of these titles were Japanese exclusives, which translated in English to "the big sister chanbara", but some were released in Europe as Zombie Zone or Zombie Hunters, and one is planned for the Wii".

    more scarily was they went on to say
    "It seems like the dust didn't even settle on the first ONECHANBARA movie before they made this direct to DVD sequel called ONECHANBARA VORTEX! I haven't seen the first film so I can't say whether it even warranted a sequel or not but this trailer feels a little flat and I doubt the film will be stellar. (truer words never spoken)

    In the year 20XX, the world is coming to an end because of infestation of fierce zombies. A ultimate battle sisters Aya and Saki, fight against the new enemy Himiko, who is manipulating the marauding zombies and devises a evil scheme. Aya tries to hunt down Himiko and save mankind. . .

    so if you sit through the sequel you are a You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din.

  2. Good news on the reading front, Artemis Fowl is of course excellent. You might also want to try The Rangers Apprentice series by Australian author John Flanagan.

    I am introducing the weapon to H P Lovecraft via these books http://www.selfmadehero.com/title.php?isbn=9781906838287

  3. There's a fucking SEQUEL? Holy motherfuckin' SPUNT!