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
Empire of Ash:
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.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Zero 2 (Lithuania, 2010)

We caught this flick under the title Shoot 'Em Down, not knowing that it's actually a sequel to a Lithuanian flick made four years earlier by the same director, Emilis Velyvis, entitled Zero. Alyvine Lietuva (2006). The AKA title of this flick here, the sequel, is an obvious play upon Shoot 'Em Up (2007 / trailer), another kill-happy, bullet-ridden film which, in all truth, we have yet to manage to catch despite the presence of the babalicious Monica Bellucci. And since we haven't seen Zero. Alyvine Lietuva, either, and have no idea how this flick and that one interconnect (if at all), we'll just approach Shoot 'Em Down here as a stand-alone movie.
When Shoot 'Em Down hit the film festivals in 2010, it was picked up by the L.A.-based Epic Pictures, but it seems that they chose to lock the movie away for it has yet to get an official English-language release. Too bad, 'cause as misogynist as the movie is, it is also a relatively funny if contrived Tarantino cum Guy Richie wannabe that would be popular with the male market segment and, perhaps, less sensitive females or those who are husband-beaten. A few people must have seen it, however, 'cause director Emilis Velyvis' follow-up project, Redirected (2014 / trailer), now has some international names in it — if you count Vinnie Jones (of Slipstream [2005]) and a few other even less well-known English faces as "international", that is.
Told in a typically Tarantino non-linear fashion, Shoot 'Em Down is set in a violent world in a big city small enough that everyone seems to cross every else's paths just by chance (much like in Pulp Fiction [1994 / trailer], where in the middle of Los Angeles, with its millions and millions of inhabitants, crime boss Marsellus Wallace [Ving Rhames of Day of the Dead (2008), Zombie Apocalypse (2011), Piranha 3D (2010) and Piranha DD (2012)] just happens to opportunely cross a crosswalk directly in front of boxer Butch Coolidge [Bruce Willis], whom Marsellus wants dead). In Shoot 'Em Down, it is fairly certain that if two people who have never seen each other before meet briefly in a gas station or fast-food joint, elsewhere in the movie they'll meet again and a dead body will suddenly be involved, a dead body of someone that in all likelihood also crossed the path of some other character elsewhere and earlier in the movie. Not very believable, needless to say, but it makes for a streamlined narrative and some good laughs — and a lot of dead bodies.
Set in a world where no one is clean, the basic plot involves a drug heist, two killers contracted to get the drugs back, a bunch of people involved with a daily soap, and a variety of other people, mostly women, connected to the various testosterone-heavy men all leaving a trail of blood behind them. Everyone's paths cross bloodily and ferociously, and the bodies pile up in one tasteless and meanly hilarious scene after the other. There's nothing remotely PC or elegant about the humor in this flick, but if you're not squeamish about stuff like that you could well find yourself laughing throughout the movie.
The first sight gag in the opening scene of a cop selling some SWAT uniforms to some low-scale gangsters more or less sets the tone for how women are viewed in the movie — they're there as sex toys — and elsewhere it becomes apparent that in the world the film moves in, it's also really not that bad if you occasionally knock 'em up the side of the head. (Although one woman, at least, does take offense to the latter and takes some pretty extreme action — OK in our book.) And you know what? In this flick, it's also more or less OK to cut the silicone bags out of... uh, well, see the movie yourself to find out that.
That's about it, actually. There is no message to the movie, no subliminal text, no political statement (unless you count a blatant undercurrent of misogyny as a political statement). It's just a tight if contrived, violent and sickly funny flick that is shot well, edited well, and for the most part acted well.
Shoot 'Em Down never really stops to let you, the viewer, breath or think but instead barrels straight on down the highway and over the dead bodies until the final scene, tossing every possible tasteless, brutal, blood-spattered, and sexist sight gag and joke and body part at you as it goes. Once or twice the narrative stumbles — we really don't know why the one guy didn't emasculate the bathrobe-wearing hitman when he had the chance — but before you can really think about it the movie is already miles further. Shoot 'Em Down definitely ain't for the ladies, but the rest of you might enjoy it. (We did — our other half didn't.) One thing for sure, however, is that Shoot 'Em Down sure makes Lithuania look like the kind of place you don't want to visit — as did, for that matter, J. Jackie Baier's tragic documentary film Julia (2013).

Monday, May 4, 2015

Soft Target / Crooked (USA, 2006)

To put it bluntly, Soft Target — aka Crooked — isn't exactly a masterpiece of action. True, we did enjoy watching it — what male isn't made happy by naked love pillows (plastic or not) and shooting guns and an occasional hearty belly-laugh? — but never once did the movie ever transcend the level of low grade sub-mediocrity that every scene, every aspect of the movie, exudes.
Admittedly, we did have hopes, at first, for despite the flimsy familiarity of the plot — to quote imdb: "two police detectives must protect a beautiful call girl from mob hitmen and a crooked cop" — the lineup of headlining names is impressive. But, at the latest, when the great Fred Williamson, as Dt. Jack Paxton, exits five minutes into what is at best a glorified guest appearance (done either as a favor or to pay a bar tab), we knew we had once again popped a loser into the DVD player. Luckily, however, the loser of a film was at least entertainingly funny, if always unintentionally... and there's nothing we like more than a crappy film that's funny crap.
Our first laugh came when the Afro-American dude (Maurice Lamont) staked out in front of the hotel actually said "Two years more and I'm out." We knew then and there he would die — and two minutes later, he did, along with Fred Williamson and some dozen others, in a hail of bullets. And though the face of the crooked cop is never shown, the early voiceover opening the movie already reveals the mystery — and thus renders the whole "Who could it be?" aspect of the movie a farce.
Hero Number One, Danny Tyler (Don 'The Dragon' Wilson of Night Hunter [1996 / trailer]) shows up a minute later, in a bar scene that looks tacked on from another movie, and soon thereafter he, the by-the-book man, gets partnered by Chief John Rouse (Gary Busey of Piranha 3DD [2012], A Crack in the Floor [2001] and The Gingerdead Man [2005 / trailer]) with the break-the-rules man Phil Yordan (Olivier Gruner) to find Angel (DianaKauffman, of Ted Bundy [2002 / trailer] and Glass Trap [2005 / trailer]), the hooker with plastic mammaries who saw it all. (Kauffman, by the way, followed this flick with an appearance in the video World's Sexiest Nude Women [2007], where everything she has totally pales in comparison to Erica Campbell's 100% naturals.) That the hooker also has a heart of gold is of course to be expected, as Soft Target is not only very much by-the-number but a romantic interest is needed for Danny the Dragon and his dragon. Mr. Break-the-Rules, on the other hand, has a stewardess at hand — and a very well-earning one, too, going by the look of her house.
The high points of the movie, if not the most professionally executed, are indeed the silicone mountains, which are displayed in longer nude scenes than are normal for contemporary flicks of this ilk. Likewise, we do admit having a soft spot that gets hard for Olivier Gruner (of Re-Generator [2010 / trailer], Nemesis [1992 / trailer] and Savate [1995 / French trailer), who gets naked for a tub scene but, regrettably, totally fails to deliver the full frontal we've dreamt of for years. The fight scenes, on the other hand, are far between and all extremely disappointing and disjointed affairs that fail to deliver any thrill, and while the background is filled with oddly familiar faces — Martin Kove and Bret Roberts, for example — they are not really given all that much to do.
There really isn't anything to recommend about the Soft Target in regard to drama, tension, acting, narrative, direction or even action, but we did laugh a lot — deep, heartfelt belly laughs that only true jokes and religious people can normally give rise to. We don't watch many action films, but of all those that we have, this is probably one of the most cheap-looking, badly acted ones yet — it makes The Tracker (2000), for example, look like a masterpiece of cinema in comparison.
Hampered with its dull, poorly executed fight scenes and unfocused shootouts, a love-story subplot as convincing as plastic flowers, and way toooooo much background character information (hooker with heart of gold, straight cop with a corrupt suicide dad cop, etc.), Soft Target is truly a fiasco of an action film. Were it not that it kept us laughing, we'd probably be yelling for the director's head. But it did keep us laughing, and is you have an appreciation for the absurd, the stupid, the bad — Look! Don in a Tree! Look, the hooker loves Don! Watch her run away instead of back in the house! Look! Look! Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!   Soft Target might make you laugh, too.
On the other hand, you might just see it as the piece of low-grade, sorry-ass shit it is. A wasted cast, if you get down to it, and though everyone involved has done worse, they have also all done better — and could and should do better.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...