Thursday, May 28, 2015

Short Film: Henri 2, Paw de Deux (USA, 2012)

OK, you've probably seen it already, but then, as Roger Elbert once said, Henri 2, Paw de Deux is "The best internet cat video ever made."
The second of (currently) eleven Henri films, Henri 2, Paw de Deux remains our favorite encapsulation of pretentious ennui that we have yet to see. The first Henri short was made as a film project at the Seattle Film Institute by filmmaker William Braden, a former wedding videographer, who has since parlayed his series of Henri shorts into a book deal and TV commercials (for a cat food we would never feed out cat). Henri, by the way, is actually Henry, a former shelter cat and Seattle native that is by now in the twilight years.
In the same flavor as the video above, let us share with you another old chestnut that we go in the mail some years ago: Dog's Diary  vs. Cat's

8:00 am - Dog food! Oh boy! My favorite!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! Oh boy! My favorite!
12:00 pm - Lunch! My favorite thing!
1:00 pm - Played in the yard! Oh boy! My favorite!
3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favorite!
5:00 pm - Milk bones! Oh boy! It's my favorite!
7:00 pm - Got to play ball! My favorite!
8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite!
11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed! Oh boy! My favorite!

Day 983.
My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength. The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet. Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a "good little hunter" I am. Bastards! There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of "allergies." I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage. Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow — but at the top of the stairs. I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released — and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously on their side. The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicating with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe... at least for now.

Lastly, let us not forget the terrors of: Kitler!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Empire of Ash (Canada, 1988)

Full movie
as Empire of Ash II:
Aka Maniac Warriors. A lot of films tried to ride on the wave of the original Mad Max films — Mad Max (1979 / trailer), Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981 / trailer) and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985 / trailer).* Few are still remembered today and some, like this one, a relatively late entry in the genre, weren't even noticed when they came out. (Oddly enough, for a film that no one has ever heard of, it not only spawned a real sequel, Return to Ash III [1989 / trailer] aka Last of the Warriors, but was re-released at one point as a pretend sequel to itself as Empire of Ash II [1988]) — so, in other words, you can watch both Part I and Part II by watching Part II above.
* Of which only the first has aged gracefully. One wonders what the new Mad Max flick, Fury Road (2015 / trailer) is going to spawn for imitations. Where is The Asylum's version? Did we somehow miss it?
We stumbled upon Empire of Ash in a "For Free" crate at a second-hand shop full of crap like David Cassidy and David Hasselhoff CDs — and while we were left speechless at learning that there even was any such thing as a David Cassidy CD, it was the DVD to this movie that really caught our eye: even amongst all that competition, Empire of Ash looked so terribly trashy, so terribly cheesy, so terrible bad that we had to have it. And now that we've seen it, all that we can say is that it met all our expectations and more. Empire of Ash is indeed truly an Empire of Trash. If you like laughably terrible acting, ugly men and overly made-up babes in bad 80s style, maladroit direction, and ridiculous action interspersed with gratuitous nudity and out-of-the-blue scenes that do nothing for the already incompetently told all-over-the-place narrative, this film is for you. It is truly one of those kinds of films that are so bad that it is truly entertaining — despite the occasional dead kid, the concept of which we have learned seems to really disturb some people.
As is the nature of post-apocalyptic films, the events in Empire of Ash take place after some great disaster, assumedly a plague that has caused civilization as we know it to collapse. The tale at hand occurs in a new "nation", for the lack of a better word, called New Idaho, which is ruled by religious fanatics who, going by the "warriors" sent out to patrol the well-paved by-ways and backroads of the incredibly green and fecund-looking forest landscape,* consists primarily of overweight rednecks in leather and motorcycle babes with mile-high teased hair and 80s make-up. When they aren't busy killing LARDS — for "Leukocytes Acquisitors for Remission of Disease", of course — they amuse themselves by hunting and killing all the normal folks who just want to live their own way or wish to leave the religiously oppressive New Idaho. (So, basically, the "warriors" spend their time killing everyone.) LARDS, in turn, when they aren't busy running around out in the open so as to be easily shot, kidnap healthy normal folk and drain them of their blood, which the LARD folk need in order to survive. Basically, no matter which way you turn in Empire of Ash, you're fucked.
* Considering how little "ash" is found in the landscape, the name of the movie is totally inappropriate, Empire of Green is more like it.
Sounds like the framework conditions for a passable plot and movie, but instead what you get is an admittedly violent but completely bungled (usually) unintentional comedy full of what-the-fuck moments and plot turns that usually leaves you laughing on the floor, or at least giggling in your seat. The gratuitous nude shower in a stream scene by the lead female good girl, Danielle (Melanie Kilgour, below) with beautiful brown areolae and eternally perfect make-up, is great, and so desperately needed so that the lead male good guy, Orion (Thom Schioler, above, of Xtro II: The Second Encounter [1990 / scene]), can be kidnapped by LARDs, thus giving way for the female lead to sneak into the LARD city and shoot everyone up and free Orion, an act needed to lead up to one of the most lifeless love scenes ever — a series of events made all the more logical by the fact that Orion basically kidnapped Danielle at gun point and up to her gratuitous shower scene was holding her hostage.
Every event that occurs in the movie — like Danielle just happening to have a trunk full of weapons hidden in the forest despite the fact that she and her sis and grandpa are just passin' through — leads to another similarly logical event. Like when, for example, at one point the big bad girl with teased mile-high blonde hair (Michele Chiponski) gives her orders to her second-in-command decked out in super-skimpy S&M gear (a scene including a shot from just below her butt and between her legs) before, out of the blue, doing a "sexy" dance to the moon. Yep, Empire of Ash is a class act.
Characters come and go and fall out of the sky in Empire of Ash, so you do have to listen a bit to follow what happens and who is who, if you even want to bother. As to be expected in a movie like this, characterization is null, painted instead in broad brushstrokes by non-actors who were probably hired because they were for free. (And indeed, the cast is large — and game: there be a lot of lithe female no-names showing flesh in this flick. Luckily, the men remain dressed, as most are so beefy and hairy as to really be physically unattractive even when dressed, so nekkid they might have made the film vomit-inducing. No Dad Bods here, only Bad Bods.)
Special mention must be given to the Rocket Launcher (David Gregg, who popped up a year later as an extra in Flesh Gordon Meets the Cosmic Cheerleaders [1990 / trailer]), a concept so daft we loved it: he walks into two scenes with a ridiculous piece of head gear from which he launches rockets — not because it make more sense than using a real rocket launcher, but because he can. (He returned in the sequel.) The deep point of the movie is a cringe-inducing remake of Born to Be Wild (original) used for the big final showdown in which five people wipe out all the bad guys, a showdown staged so badly that half the time it looks like the bad guys want to die and thus keep running into the line of shooting on purpose.
Empire of Ash is pure, unadulterated zero-budget exploitation trash: it evidences zero talent across the board — directional, thespian, editing, scripting — but for that has a lot of umph, nudity, and faith in itself. We loved it, particularly since it does have flashes of total inanity. Empire of Ash is a primer for how not to make a good film, and a ludicrous piece of celluloid shit perfect for anyone who likes wasting time on ridiculously entertaining crap.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Misc. Film Fun: Otres Aires — Milonga Sentimental

Just so you know, there is no such thing as Argentinean Tango — but let's move on.
Many, many a moon ago, our better half took us to South America to see the country of her origin, Uruguay. The nation, and its oddly timeless and forgotten capital Montevideo* — not to mention the little hole-in-the-wall villages up the coast closer to Brazil — have been favorite places ever since, and were we only much more fluid, we would go there regularly, if not move there. (The problem is not always whether one can find a job somewhere, or whether one can speak the language, which we in regard to Spanish — better half excepted — cannot, but whether one wants to live on the same pay as the natives. Plus the concept of, for the second time in one lifetime, eternally losing physical, true contact with all friends and family — which is one of the drawbacks of becoming not an ex-pat for a few years, but a bona fide resident of a foreign country.)
It was during the first visit there that tango infected us, and since then tango and, even more so, milonga and various contemporary electro tangents of both have remained our favorite music.
Of course, while there in Montevideo, a visit to Argentina and Buenos Aires was du jour, and while neither that city nor the country impressed us as much as its smaller, usually ignored relative across the Rio de la Plata, what we were introduced to in Buenos Aires one night, wafting as it was from a store close to our fleabag hotel, was the music of Otres Aires, which then and there and ever since has been our favorite bands.
And today, we discovered a video to one of our many favorite songs by Otres Aires, Milonga Sentimental,** incorporating an old cartoon the name of which we do not know, though we would hazard to guess that it is from Max Fleischer. The combination, we find wonderful, as it conjoins two things we love: the music of Otres Aires and the cartoons of yesteryear. 
Now all we need is an asado on the pampa with some good red wine and skies filled with more stars than you could ever conceive.
Enjoy! And buy their CDs — we have them all!
(Here you find an early version of worse quality but with images of Otres Aires in concert.)
* Screw Prague, screw Berlin (and we say that as a 30-year resident of the city on the Spree): Montevideo is the city waiting to be discovered by hipsters. Go here to see Montevideo destroyed by robots from outer space.
** A remake, of course. The original is from the great Uruguayan (born in the admittedly extremely quiet town of Tacuarembó) Carlos Gardel.
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