Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Il Grande silenzio/The Big Silence (Italy, 1968)

(Opening credit sequence with great title music.) Although he made more than enough crappy films during his active years as a one-man, non-stop Italian film factory, at his best Sergio Corbucci ranks up there with Sergio Leone as one of the makers of some of the greatest Spaghetti westerns ever. Alongside his other masterpiece Django (1966), The Big Silence is probably Corbucci’s best film in the genre. Without a doubt, it is also one of the most disheartening westerns ever to be made anywhere, which might explain why it was never made it to the USA, which generally prefers its westerns sanitized.
Deep in the snowbound mountains of Utah, the amoral, psychopathic bounty hunter Loco (Klaus Kinksi) likes to kill before he captures, and often lugs around a variety of dead bodies which he plans to eventually turn over for the rewards. (Those he cannot take with him, he buries in snow mounds to come back for later.) Across his path rides Silenzio (Jean Louis Trintignant), a quick-draw killer of bounty hunters, forever silent since his childhood, after some nasty men, having killed his wanted Daddy and defenseless Mommy in front of him, slit his vocal cords. A truly great, depressing spaghetti western set in a snow-bound hell....
Had Albert Camus written westerns instead of novels, he would have written movies like this one. (The ending for the Japanese market, an extra on the current DVD, makes the film a philosophical joke.)

Killjoy (USA, 2000)

(Spoilers) What a killjoy. Some guy named Michael (Jamal Grimes) really likes his classmate babe named Jada (Vera Yell), but she’s got a gang-banging (and sorta sexy) boyfriend named Lorenzo (William L. Johnson) who doesn’t like old four-eyes invading his personal space. Lorenzo and his buds T-bone and Baby Boy eventually off Michael some night, but not before Michael does what every studious ghetto chil’ does when in need of protection: perform (a seemingly unsuccessful) attempt to raise a demon clown from hell named Killjoy (Ángel Vargas). A year later, Jada has broken up with Lorenzo and is now doing sex ed. homework with some cute dude named Jamal (Lee Marks). (At this point, we knows that Jada is the good girl of the film ‘cause she never gets neked for any of their under-the-cover sex scenes.) While Lorenzo is off getting laid, Killjoy the clown shows up in a decrepit ice cream truck. When a highly stoned T-bone (Corey Hampton) and Baby Boy (Rani Goulant) get into the truck, they are magically transferred to a large and filthy downtown artist’s space and promptly and unspectacularly killed. Before Lorenzo bites the dust in much the same way, the best scene of the whole movie occurs: the bitch he done porked takes a shower and, hey! She got the tits! She got the bod!
Once Lorenzo is done gone, Killjoy’s aim starts getting indiscriminate, but then some bum (Arthur Burghardt) pops up to tell Jada, Jamal and their friend Monique (Dee Dee Austin) all about Killjoy. Before they can say “we gonna die,” all three are transported off to Killjoy’s domain where they learn that Killjoy is actually (sorta) Michael possessed. Everyone runs around too much and the film starts getting real boring but then Michael and Killjoy get destroyed. The heroes would have lived happily ever after if the film didn’t have that predictable, never-lacking final scene needed to lead into a sequel should the film be a hit. This time around, the “twist second ending” scene is of Jada and Jamal in the sheets and partially dressed refining their sex ed. homework. Jamal goes under the covers to taste the taco, but a cackling Killjoy then pops up in his place to laugh and drool on Jada’s screaming face. (This direct to video celluloid turd obviously did well enough, for 2002 did indeed see Killjoy 2: Deliverance from Evil.)
Yo! It is easy to imagine what the producers told the scriptwriter of this film: “Give us some sort of inner-city Freddy rip-off that we can maybe turn into a franchise.” As for Carl Washington, the scriptwriter, he probably saw Stephan King’s IT on television the week before and was suddenly was hit with the truly creative inspiration of taking Pennywise out of Bangor, Maine and into gang-banging Compton with the new name of Killjoy. An aptly named film, to say the least.
Lacking tension, suspense or any real gore, Killjoy is a low-budget body count flick that for a change (but as can be expected of an inner-city exploitation flick) features (mostly) African Americans being bumped off instead of rich and socially advantaged white folks. The concept of an ethnic body count movie is in itself not new but is always a rather nice change of pace, but this turkey is definitely not a high point of the genre.
Killjoy is one of those types of films in which characters suddenly know life-saving information without being told, such as the magic “don’t break the circle.” Likewise, they are just as probable, within a five-minute span of time, to say both “we gotta stick together” and, after they get transported into Killjoy’s personal domain, “we gotta split up to find him.” In itself all this could be overlooked and forgiven if Killjoy were at least well-made, suspenseful or gory, but it isn’t, so jack-shit can be forgiven. About the only reason to rent this film is out of political correctness: we gotta keep them poor ghetto actor kids working and off the streets, so any money spent on the film’s rental or purchase can be seen as going for a good cause, right? So, if you ain’t gonna do any of your social duties like, say, eventually voting the Republicans out of the White House, then rent this movie and feel all warm and fuzzy inside cause you know you are helping our put-upon brothers advance economically! (Fat chance, actually, seeing that Charles Band has his fingers in the pie here.)

Ong-bak (Thailand, 2003)

(Trailer) When it comes to plots, Thai director Prachya Pinkaew's movie Ong-bak has one so old and so slim that it is a miracle that the film is as entertaining as it is. Basically: good boy from the country goes to the big bad city on a mission where he defeats and is defeated but remains true to his mission and finally saves the day and leaves the big bad city behind him to go back home. In Ong-bak, Tony Jaa is Ting, the good boy that is on the mission. He also happens to be a young master of Muay Thai, a tradition-rich form of kick boxing also known as "The Art of the Eight Limbs" that is the national sport of Thailand (the "eight limbs" are the hands, shins, elbows and knees).
One day a low-level thug named Don (Wannakit Siriput) comes to Ting's village and steals the head of the local Buddha statue called Ong-bak. The true soul that he is, Ting volunteers to retrieve the head and journeys to Bangkok, where he ends up an unwelcome guest of ex-fellow villager Humlae (Petchtai Wongkamlao), a young man who has long since left his country-bumpkin past behind him and now crawls through life as an incompetent low-rent con man (named "George"). Although Ting is a Buddhist who has promised his master never to use his fighting skills without reason or for personal gain, all cards always land in a way that requires him to use his prodigious talents. Numerous fight and chase scenes later—including a truly fabulous chase incorporating an untold number of with three-wheeled scooter-taxis and a mega-cool scene during which Ting kicks butt while on fire—not only does Humlae regain his sense of honor, but the mismatched pair regain Ong-bak’s head and also bring the downfall of mobster Khom Tuan (Sukhaaw Phongwilal). (Although, in truth, one could argue that Humlae actually loses more than he gains, but this could be a matter of cultural attitude.) The movie ends with the parade honoring Ong-bak's return to the rural village.
One-time stunt man Tony Jaa does a star-making in Ong-bak, and it is not without reason that he is being hailed by some as the next heir to (take your pick) Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan or Jet Li. Fit and good looking, Tony Jaa's emotionless straight face permits one to read what one wants while his stunt work and fighting skills leaves one either breathless or winching in amazement and/or imagined pain. Director Prachya Pinkaew often shows the more astoundingly nimble stunts from three of four angles, and from every angle they are eye-openers. No hidden wires here: when the villagers being tossed from the tree in the movie's opening scene land on the ground with a thump after falling untold yards, there are no edits, nor are there any when Jaa glides under cars or across tables or defends abused women or runs over the heads of a line of bad guys. (Of course, as happens only in films of this ilk, even when ten bad guys are out to get him at the same time, they always attack one after the other, but hell, that happens to Batman too and no one ever complains about it, so why should we here?)
Clocking in at around 104 minutes, Ong-bak is truly a fun ride that easily feels as if it were in fact a lot shorter—something that many other films of lesser length cannot claim. An adrenaline rush of fight and chase scenes that defy believability and gravity, the film's liberal dose of humor and excellent production values helps make Ong-bak one of the most enjoyable and watchable sock-'em, knock-'em films to come out of the Far East in a long time. Definitely the right choice for anyone who in any way has any slight affinity for vintage Jackie Chan or Eastern fight films in general.

Aufklärungsrolle –Als die Liebe laufen lernte ([West] Germany, 1988)

(This review appeared in a print copy of the excellent film magazine Shock Cinema some half-dozen years ago. If you don’t know the magazine, you should. For more info on Shock Cinema, check out their homepage).

Roughly translated, the name of this movie in English would be "When Love Was Learning How to Walk." It is definitely one of those films that makes a person glad that they can understand German, for Als die Liebe laufen lernte would never work dubbed or subtitled, not that it ever would be. A hit in Germany when it first came out, it was quickly followed in 1989 with Als die Liebe laufen lernte, Teil 2, directed by Anthony Waller. How much the individual directors of each film actually had to do with the movie is questionable, for the only name that carries through in both films is that of the producer, Richard Claus. (Michael Strauven, who directed the first film, has never been heard of again; Waller went on to make the excellent Hitchcock influenced thriller Mute Witness (1994) and the barely bearable An American Werewolf in Paris (1997), both of which had Claus as a producer or co-producer.)
Als die Liebe laufen lernte is a hilarious combination of outtakes edited from the German “aufklärung” (or “clarification”) films of the 1960s and early 1970s. With titles such as Helga, Die Schulmädchen Report or Die Hausfrau Report (Parts 1 to ad nausea), these films were the German film industry’s response to the changing mores of society at the time: soft-core sex films disguised as studies or clarification. They purported to explain the changing mores of the youthful society as well as the how, what, when, where and why of sex. Depending on the slant of the film, they were either relatively informative, unbearably boring or completely negative – not something you would want to sit through from start to finish in any event.
For Als die Liebe laufen lernte, the filmmakers selected some of the most laughable or outrageous outtakes, either due to the content or the way the content is presented. Love that explanation of different positions shown through the use of wooden drawing puppets, the commentary of which finally informs the viewer that “this position” (69) should not be done because it results with the man’s nose being subjected to the unpleasant smells of the posterior. Or how about how some women become lesbians because they get flashed as a child? And did you know that “petting”, like Rock ‘n’ Roll, came to Germany from the United States? Some sequences are positively surreal, such as that of the naked girl running down a beach being pursued by a bulldozer with its shovel full of about 8 men dressed like English businessmen with bowlers.
Als die Liebe laufen lernte is easy to see several times and almost makes you want to see the original sources, though any person who had the honor of seeing those films when they first came out is quick to warn you against doing so. (Actually, some of those films are now to be found on late night television in Germany, especially on the local, low budget city television stations. In general, if you suffer from insomnia they work better than a sleeping pill. Even uncut they reveal the innocence of their time.) This selection of outtakes is well worth seeing, even if you don’t understand German. And club owners take note: Als die Liebe laufen lernte is an excellent film to project in the background as moving décor.
The German CD firm Crippled Dick Hot Wax has released an excellent compellation CD of music from the Schulmädchen series composed by Gert Wilden, one of Germany's great B-film composers. A definite must for fans of Sleazy Listening.

The Village of the Damned (USA, 1995)

(Trailer to Carpenter's remake; Trailer to the much better original.)
You know a film is bad when Mark Hamill supplies the best acting job in the entire project.
Sometimes a person fucks up, and this time around John Carpenter really fucks up. Again. And we ain't just talking about the umpteenth version of the identical abysmal, monotone score that he threw together for the flick. Hell, can he
really claim to make music? Is there really any difference between any of the scores he has ever supplied for his movies? When will he finally stop sabotaging his own work and start contracting the soundtrack out to someone who can actually compose music? Of course, in the case of this film, even a soundtrack composed by Beethoven (or John Williams, for that matter) wouldn't have helped any…
Needless to say, unlike his reworking of The Thing, Carpenter's version of The Village of the Damned will never be reappraised as an unsung and unjustifiably crucified genre film. If Carpenter is any way lucky, people will one day simply forget that he ever made this misbegotten turd of a third-rate television film. What? The Village of the Damned isn't a TV movie of the week? Shit, then the film is even worse than what it seems to be: a low-budget rent-payer filmed primarily because the television rights to the newest Stephan King snoozer haven't yet been ironed out.
The original Village of the Damned (1960) is a sleek, effective B&W thriller from England starring George Sanders. (Both films are based on the novel The Midwich Cuckoos, written by John Wyndham, who also wrote the original novel to The Day of the Triffids.) For his remake, Carpenter and scriptwriter David Himmelstein kept most of the original film script but moved the action to Marin County, added color, a few new characters and a lot of padding. The final result is an effective sleeping pill.
The Village of the Dammed starts off by introducing us briefly to a variety of inhabitants of a pleasant little town of Midwich. That very sunny, beautiful day, a cloud blows over and everyone passes out. The lead Jill McGowan (Linda Kozlowski, in a rare appearance outside of a Paul Hogan production) loses her husband Frank (Michael Paré) when he conks out behind the wheel of his truck and has a fatal accident. After some hours, those who didn't crash their cars or pass out into a barbeques awake no worse for wear, but soon after Frank's funeral, ten of the women — including one virgin — find themselves pregnant. The strident, chain-smoking government-sent epidemiologist Dr. Verner (Kirstie Alley) hypothesizes that they have all been impregnated by aliens, but no one seems to really hear her and in no time flat all the women give birth en-mass to identical-looking babies in a converted barn, with a chain-smoking Dr. Verner delivering the singular miscarriage. Well, the kids grow quickly and they be real evil: virtually identical tow-headed tots with perfect haircuts, in no short time they cause one woman to jump off a cliff, Rev. George (Mark Hamill) to blow his head off, some other guy to drive into a conveniently located gas tank and all sorts of other nefarious stuff. (Of all the aspects Carpenter kept from the original film, the most ridiculous is the gray-toned, almost identical outfits the little demon kids wear: in the original movie set in a gray and rainy England, where the youth often wear identical school uniforms, the concept worked well by taking something ordinary and making it monstrous. In the new version, set under the sunny Californian sky, the outfits become laughable.)
Carpenter plays a bit with the idea that the demon kids might be able to become something more emotional and human under the right circumstances: the little David (Thomas Dekker) actually develops a sort of understanding of pain and loss since he is the only one of the group without a mate — his mate having been the singular the miscarriage. This idea, however, is seemingly presented less for any intellectual discourse than to permit the possibility of a sequel. (A sequel that one hopes will never happen.) In any event, waves become brick walls, the town falls into chaos and everything burns and almost everyone dies and somewhere along the way the scriptwriters totally forget that the government is sending planes to bomb and destroy the place. The Village of the Damned is an example of some pretty sloppy filmmaking, to say the least.
In his book The Fearmakers, author John McCarty charges that Carpenter "has fallen into the trap of turning out FX-oriented drivel for big studios in need of product." The Village of the Damned is probably the best example to date of this, but for the fact that the special effects are relatively seldom and definitely don't look like they had the budget of a big studio. The film is a long, meandering and pointless waste of celluloid totally lacking in any suspense in which one or two effective ideas get lost by the overall ineptitude of the project. It is a soulless studio quickie, populated by a variety of cheaply had second rate actors and lacking any and all artistic intentions. The Village of the Damned is product in the same way that a Big Mac is: a mishmash of stuff thrown together in imitation of the real thing.
Carpenter himself has never made any bones about how he "would have been happiest" in "the forties and the studio system," but going by the quality of this and so many other past projects of his, he would have been working for the Poverty Row studios like Monogram, Republic, and PRC. But even as a second feature to a double bill, Carpenter's version of The Village of the Damned is a sorry excuse for a film. Avoid this one like the plague. (Ye be damned if you don't...)

Nicotina (Mexico, 2003)

(Trailer) That this film gets so many mixed to negative responses by US American reviewers could possibly have more to do with the nation’s general population’s distaste for their immediate Spanish-speaking neighbors that are slowly re-conquering the hallowed shores of the U.S. than for the actual quality of the film itself. For, more than anything else, Nicotina is an excellent, fast-paced and comic Mexican crime flick that, while being far from deep and meaningful, is blackly humorous and wonderfully entertaining.
The dominoes begin to fall somewhere in Mexico City when two cruising hoods, Tomson (Jesús Ochoa) and his younger partner Nene (Lucas Crespi),
set up a deal with a Russian mobster (Norman Sotolongo) to exchange a computer disk of access numbers to Swiss bank accounts for a small fortune of diamonds. Computer hacker Lolo (Diego Luna) has no problems downloading the access numbers, but he is continually distracted by his sexy neighbor Andrea (Marta Belaustegui) whose apartment he has rigged with hidden microphones and webcams. The altercation that ensues when Andrea suddenly realizes that he is spying on her causes a spiral of events that pulls in a choleric pharmacist (Daniel Giménez Cacho), his suffering wife Clara (Carmen Madrid), an unassuming barber (Rafael Inclán) and his hard-as-nails wife (Rosa María Bianchi) as well as a few other tertiary faces. The wake left behind is one long path of blood, bullets and death...
In his second directorial project, Argentinean-born director Hugo Rodríguez — who usually sits in the producer’s seat — has created a highly stylized crime flick that proudly wears the influences of Tarantino and Guy Ritchie on its sleeves when it comes to the witty dialogue, insightful characterization, excessive violence and flashy editing. (To wander momentarily in thoughts: Once we spoke of Eisenstein-editing, then we spoke of editing like Russ Meyers, then of MTV-editing, and now of Guy-Ritchie-editing...)
Nihilistic to the extreme, on its simplest level, Nicotina posits that you might as well smoke because you never know — and can't control — how or when you are going to die. Told in real-time, Nicotina leaves the viewer no time to breath as it chugs ahead at full speed, knocking everything down along the way. For all the damage and death and speed, however, Rodríguez and his editor Alberto de Toro (who definitely had to have had a controlling hand here) never lose control of their film. Nicotina keeps the viewer entertained, interested and laughing, and even manages to surprise on more than one occasion. It is a film that can be watched both with and without a joint in hand. Rent it now.

Demons (Italy, 1985)

(Spoilers) Produced (and co-written) by Darion Argento, "the Italian Hitchcock," and directed (and co-written) by Lamberto Bava, the son of the great master of style over substance Mario Bava, Dèmoni (or, as it is known outside of Italy: Demons) is a nicely cheesy gorefest with a decidedly 80s feel that offers everything all true lovers of senseless Italo-gore or blood-drenched eurotrash know and love. A respectable hit when it came out, it went on to inspire numerous official and unofficial sequels of varying success. (Demons definitely remains the best of the bunch, but both the official sequel a year later Demoni 2... L'incubo ritorna (also directed by Bava) — which simply moved the same plot into a locked luxury high-rise — and 1989's La Chiesa/The Church — which simply moved the same basic plot into a gothic church — are also highly satisfying in their own way.)
What makes Demons (and Demons 2 and The Church) so much fun? Well, how about: a total lack of logic, bad acting, horrendous dubbing, total predictability, extremely excessive blood and guts, hilarious plot and character development (when either is even present), bad 80s music and styles, sporadically intentional black humor and a wonderfully futureless ending all served up at a relatively breakneck speed with some occasional visual verve.
Demons takes place in pre-fall-of-the-Wall West Berlin — an extra visual added attraction to me, who moved here a year after this flick was made — not that the Wall in any way features in the film. The flick starts with Cheryl (Natasha Hovey), the main heroine, seemingly joy-riding on the Berlin subway as she ganders typical scenesters of 80s Berlin as if their black clothing and proto-new-wave hairstyles are something from Mars (anyone familiar with Berlin will notice that during the opening scenes she obviously and illogically must have transferred 3 to 4 times for a ride that should have been a straight line). Some weirdo wearing a metal half-mask gives her a few free tickets to the premiere opening of a movie house (the Metropol, an Art Deco structure on Nollendorf Platz which, after innumerable changes in usage and direction, is currently once again a disco). She and her classmate Hannah (Fiore Argento) decide to skip school for the premiere, which slowly fills up with a variety of people that likewise have free passes, including a pimp with two whores, a blind man and his niece, an unhappily married couple, two young dudes and a smattering of other "types." One of the obnoxious hookers (Geretta Giancarlo as Rosemary) plays around with a mask that is part of the lobby decoration and nicks her face, an innocuous event that anyone who ever has seen a horror film knows bodes later bad tidings. Once the film preview starts, it proves to be a horror film about a group of young people that break into a cemetery and discover the grave of Nostradamus, which is empty but for a book and the very mask from the lobby display. While one of the youths tries on the mask and promptly nicks his face, the other reads from the book in which it is written that demons shall walk the earth and "They will make cemeteries their cathedrals and the cities will be your tombs." Just then Rosemary's face begins once again to bleed, so she runs off to the Lady's Room to powder the cut, but before she can actually do so it begins to pulsate and ooze and then suddenly explodes a massive zitload of green puss — even as more or less the same thing occurs in the film within the film. Transformed into a monstrous demon, she goes on a rampage and from here on the patrons of the theatre gorily get slit, bit or their eyes poked out before they too one-by-one turn into demons. (The transformation of the co-whore is particularly disgusting, with her teeth being pushed out from her slobbering mouth as fangs grow, her fingernails oozing as they change into claws — which she promptly uses to rip open the male half of the unhappily married couple.) The non-demons try to escape the theatre but the exits are suddenly all bricked shut and there is no way out; most of those that have not yet been demonized manage eventually to take refuge on the theatre's balcony where they use the seats to barricade the door. Safe they might be, but they are also trapped.
Intercut and parallel to this narrative strand is that of four thugs (3 guys and one butt-fuck ugly gal with a teased-out hairstyle that I hate to admit I also had for a few weeks in back then in Berlin, until I got tired of the daily teasing) riding through Berlin in a stolen car as they snort coke from a coke can. What seems first as an annoyingly unnecessary (though highly sleazy) interruption of the movie's limited narrative flow reveals its dramaturgic necessity when the four, on the run from some typically ineffectual German cops, manage to break into the very theatre that no one inside is able to break out of. In doing so, one of the demons manages to escape, but wimpy cop number two blows the demon away after it bites his partner.
Needless to say, the body/demon count in the theatre continues to rise and, soon after a magnificent full-scale slaughter on the balcony, Cheryl and George (Urbano Barberini — the guy that turned out to be the "surprise" murderer of Opera, Argento's fun giallo of 1987) are the last non-demonized in the theatre — but for how much longer?
After a hilarious scene of George and Cheryl vrooming around the aisles and across the seats on a motorcycle as they cut down the demons with a sword, Argento and Bava throw in one of the most hilariously enjoyable deus ex machinas ever: A helicopter crashes through the ceiling and, after using the rotary blades to cut down a few more demons, our heroes use a grappling gun conveniently found on the back seat to escape through the hole in the roof. Safe, sound and free? Not quiet: The demon-bit cop obviously turned as well, for West Berlin is now a hellish landscape of bloodthirsty demons... Can they get out of the city alive? And what about the Wall?
Obviously inspired by the original 1978 Dawn of the Dead (a film that Argento also worked on) and Evil Dead (1981), Demons is a great party film: socially irrelevant, bloody and senseless with some breath-taking gore sequences, its slender plot is milked for all it can give. And Bava, though hardly the master of mood and visuals that his father was, nonetheless even tosses in a few nice cinematic turns to complement the mostly non-stop action and nonsensical plot (the distorted track shot along a red brick wall, the glowing eyes of the demons, and the film within the film to name a few). Demons is definitely a must-see among the numerous Italo-trash classics of the last quarter of the twentieth century — Watch! It! Now!

Tokyo Raiders / Dong jing gong lüe (Hong Kong/Japan, 2000)

(Trailer) This car accident is called Tokyo Raiders primarily because most of the "action" takes place in Tokyo. In truth, an apt title would be Tokyo Boredom, for though nothing gets raided in this film, much of it does bore. It's truly bad news when the most exciting thing a movie has going for it is its soundtrack, which in this case is heavy on the salsa instead of the synth.
It takes about ten minutes before any sort of plot kicks in, but even the unexpected introduction of a minimal story-line doesn't make the flick any better. Director Jingle Ma has obviously spent much too much time watching MTV and has shot the movie in the style of one extended and disjointed movie video. The result may be visually kinetic, but does little to improve the movie. At best, he comes across like Oliver Stone on acid, which is lot worse than it sounds. Jingle Ma has been the cinematographer for many a Jackie Chan film and he shoots most action scenes in a humorous vein somewhat similar to that found in a Chan movie, but somewhere along the way the humor, like any and all excitement, gets lost. (It is seemingly replaced by some of the most blatant and annoyingly unfunny sexism to be found in a movie ever.)
An irritating mixture of James Bond, Inspector Gadget, Mission: Impossible and What's My Line, all the movie's flash can't hide the fact that there was no real script. The movie does feature some nice girlies, a halfway decent boat chase, an entertaining skateboard & bike chase and a great tour of excellent contemporary Japanese architecture, but all that doesn't help jack-shit. Actually, most of the girlies look so young that had there been any nudes scenes — there aren't, of course — Tokyo Raiders might have qualified as kiddy porn.
After the opening and pointless fight scenes, the movie tells the story of Macy (Kelly Chen), who gets stood-up at the altar in Vegas by her businessman lover-boy named Ken and heads home for Hong Kong, where she is confronted by an interior decorator named John (Ekin Cheng) waving a rubber check written by her fiancée/boyfriend. Searching for Ken, she heads off for Tokyo, John tagging along behind her. In no time at all John is saving her life from endless streams of bad guys, kicking their butts all along the way. They end up joining forces with private investigator Lin (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) and his team of nubiles who are also searching for Ken. No one is who they seem and everyone, including a ton of Tokyo gangsters and the CIA, is out for something. Who will find Ken first? And who cares?
Nice architecture in Tokyo, though.
(My opinion about the flick aside, it was a huge hit in Asia and was even followed by a sequel in 2005.)

Bones (2001)

(Trailer) After gaining an experienced eye as a cinematographer and before moving into the realm of TV direction, director Ernest R. Dickerson had a brief run of well-made genre films in the 1990s that, while never overly original, tended to be good rides with a definite Afro-American slant but cross-racial appeal: Juice (1992) was one of the better ghetto flicks to come out in the 90s, Surviving the Game (1994)—starring Ice-T, Rutger Hauer and a dozen slumming character actors—is one of the better versions of The Most Dangerous Game (1932), and Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995) is simply fun, unadulterated trash. Which is pretty much what Bones is: a Canadian-filmed inner-city horror film that is well made and well shot, but that pretty much requires the viewer to check their brains in at the door. Though visually interesting and entertaining on a number of levels, the film is far more cheesy than it is scary; and if there is indeed any social commentary to be found in Bonesmore than one reviewer has mentioned something about how the sins of our fathers come back to haunt us—the (to be expected) "shock" ending pretty much negates the commentary, for everyone ends up paying no matter who the father is.
Bones opens with a nicely blood-drenched scene circa 2001 that manages to introduce a couple of secondary characters while likewise showing why rich white students should not buy their drugs in the ghetto. Then the flick jumps back to the pure and funky Blaxpliotation 70s. Snoop Dogg plays the titular man in full Candy Tangerine Man (1975) regalia, the locally loved and respected good-guy godfather of his poor but happy 'Burg. Whether he is a pimp, pusher or whatever is never really explained, but a man of morals he says no the introduction of crack to his 'Hood and is promptly double-crossed and killed by his business partner (Clifton Powell), a crooked cop (Michael T. Weiss) and the crack dealer (Ricky Harris). Buried in the basement of his brownstone, the flick jumps back to the modern urban decay of today, the by-product of the crack he didn't want to have dealt. His run-down brownstone is now in the hands of a bunch of interracial twens—three of which happen to be the offspring of Bones’ traitorous ex-partner—out to open a club. Throw in ghostly shadows, a blood-thirsty shape-changing demonic dog, an always hot Pam Grier as Bones ex-squeeze Pearl (still living across the road), Bianca Lawson as her equally hot daughter Cynthia (much sexier here than in Dead & Breakfast (2004), where she plays a bitch) and some supernatural mumbo-jumbo about alternative universes, and before you know it Bones is up from the dead wreaking revenge—leaving a trail of blood and bodies that is played less for horror than for laughs.
Actually, considering the supernatural power that Bones inexplicitly possesses as a bag of bones, it makes no sense that he waits so long to get revenge; his shape-changing doggy could have done it years ago. And, for that matter, even if he wanted to do it personally, it seems odd that the blood of one white stoner DJ is so much more rejuvenating than that of two white rich college cokeheads. Likewise, once he goes on his spree, it also makes no sense that he is suddenly so without scruples that he drags both is ex-squeeze and their (surprise!) daughter Cynthia into perdition... But maybe death does that to you.
But then, it is not the logic of this film that makes Bones fun. It’s the great cinematography (including visual homages to films ranging from Nosferato (1922) to Susperia (1977) to The Beyond (1981), amongst others), the film’s retro-Blaxploitation feel and the humor that keep this film from being, well, a boner. As a genre film, Bones is a low-budget stew of great and lesser-great ingredients that don’t really work all that well together but is still waaaaayyyy better than the average TV dinner. Keep your expectations low and you might just like it. But, damn: Why do so many of the trash genre films of today show such little skin? Whatever happened to good ol' T & A?

The 4th Floor

(Trailer) An annoying mess of a film that once again simply proves that Hollywood can make some truly crappy films. Director Josh Klausner gained his experience as a second director for Farrelly Brothers' comedies, and while he might have a hand for filming tastelessly funny scenes for the films of other directors, he makes a mess of this horror-cum-thriller. In the end, The 4th Floor is neither. Instead, it is a confusion of illogic that will leave you pulling you hair out by the roots in annoyance. Not to say that Krausener doesn't let the wrong film and filmmakers influence him, it just that his film is like sugared sparkling water in a champagne bottle: you might maybe think it is the real thing up until the first sip, but definitely not after that. Polanski, Kubrick and Hitchcock all are given the nod to in The 4th Floor, but the film itself never comes close to being an iota as good as its sources. The feeling of paranoia is similar to The Tenant (1976), while a shade of the hidden malfeasance as found in Rosemary's Baby (1968) peppers all the characters surrounding the film's heroine. The apartment has a rear view of half-told stories reminiscent of Rear Window (1954), while the moving eyehole of the apartment of the 4th floor spies as inertly as that of HAL in 2000: A Space Odyssey (1968). Great films, one and all, but this turkey comes nowhere near to being a smidgen as interesting. Juliette Lewis, a one-trick pony from Hollywood, plays Jane Emelin, an interior designer who is incapable of properly hammering in a nail. When her aunt dies from a nasty fall, she "inherits" the lease to a dream NYC apartment with the fabulous rent of $400. No wonder she wants to jettison her plans of moving in with her career-driven, cold-fish weatherman boyfriend Greg Harrison (played by a William Hurt as a somnambulist). The brownstone proves to be inhabited with nothing but wackos and weirdoes, including the busybody Martha Stewart (an old, ugly and well-cast Shelley Duvall) and the meek, lonely trench-coat wearing loser Albert Collins (Austin Pendleton). In no time flat, Jane has possibly witnessed a murder in an apartment next door and is being terrorised by a batty, secluded and unseen old lady living in the apartment below. Maggots start crawling from her drain, her apartment is overrun with mice and everything seems awfully scary. But, is it all really happening, or is Jane simply losing her marbles, as everyone else seems to think? Who gives a shit and why doesn't Jane just go and die? Full of red herrings and lacking a single likeable character, the main stars have no chemistry and the big final twist is not only seen miles away, but totally destroys the supposed motivation of the movie's psycho. At roughly 90 minutes in length, The 4th Floor lasts approximately an hour and a half too long