Monday, September 30, 2013

You're Next (2011) Review

You're Next poster
You're Next opening
Wendy Glenn as Zee in You're Next
Fox mask in You're Next
AJ Bowen in You're Next
Margaret Laney in You're Next
Sharni Vinson as Erin with axe in You're Next
Fox mask in window in You're Next
Sharni Vinson as Erin in You're Next
Purchase from Amazon: DVD - Blu-Ray

Other films by Masato Harada: Pop Skull, A Horrible Way to Die

Director: Adam Wingard
Stars: Sharni Vinson, AJ Bowen, Barbara Crampton, Amy Seimetz, Wendy Glenn, Ti West
Genre: Horror, Black Comedy

I went into You're Next fully hoping to like it. It's gotten nothing but praise since it first screened at a festival in 2011, and the trailers seemed interesting enough. It's been said to play with genre conventions and is funny, scary, and unique. Unfortunately, I didn't find those things to be exactly true.

Three brothers and their girlfriends/wives along with their sister and her boyfriend go to visit their parents in their vacation home for a family reunion. However, during the family dinner, much to their surprise, they are attacked by mysterious crossbow-wielding men in masks, who leave them trapped in their own home and seem intent on picking them off one by one.

I've always believed that while a film that avoids convention is almost always a good thing, a film that uses such conventions to its advantage and shows them to the viewer in a new way takes a very special talent. To my dismay, I didn't quite find that in You're Next. It doesn't play with tropes, it's just filled with them. From the "final girl" trope to the predictable twists.

The first half of the film has a fair amount of enjoyable suspense and mystery. You're constantly wondering why these people are being attacked and who it is that's attacking them. Are these masked men really even men? The answers to these questions are hardly satisfactory. In the second half, the unknown and mysterious protagonists become familiar and understandable. Their motives are made clear and thus the mystery and much of the suspense is lost; we see their weakness and thus much of the terror is lost. After the first twist the film goes from being suspenseful and scary to merely thrilling and gruesome. The first half builds up their power and ability, whereas the second half shows their vulnerability and stupidity. 

I understand that a mystery can't necessarily stay mysterious forever. I understand that motives will eventually be made known. I understand that suspense must be building up to something else. But the mystery reveals itself to be predictable, the motives to be idiotic, and the suspense to be building towards little more than straight up gory violence. The film worked much better in the first half with suspense and mystery, but it seemed to not know where to go from there and failed to capitalize on a solid opening. 

The film is extremely repetitive because of this. One of the most repetitive movies I've ever seen. The entire film consists of people trying to kill people inside of a house. It never really becomes anything more than that and it gets pretty old fast. The opening is exciting, as are the first few kills, but after that it's purely cyclical. Kill after kill, escape after escape, trap after trap. This wouldn't be so bad if the kills were unexpected or creative, but they're not (okay, the one kill involving a certain kitchen appliance was sort of cool). The film becomes stale long before its 95 minutes are up. 

Unlike many slashers that consist of mostly teenage characters, You're Next has the interesting setup of having the characters be a family. This obviously opens up a fantastic avenue for not only natural feeling character development but for compelling character relationships, drama, and unique humor as well. You're Next does realize this potential to a certain extent, not so much when it comes to character development but certainly when it comes to relationships and humor. It does at times almost feel like a dysfunctional family sitcom placed in the middle of a horror movie. Some of the funniest moments come from Joe Swanberg as Drake and his relationship with his brother Felix. 

Though I was still expecting there to be a bit more comedy in here. Obviously the humor that is in here is very dark, but there's really not too much of it. Nothing that funny anyway. Sure, the whole film kind of has a metafiction/self-conscious feel to it, but that doesn't make it inherently funny or clever, especially being that it does little with its meta-ness. It's not very much of a satire or parody, nor is it a reworking or deconstruction of the genre. It's really just a fairly typical slasher / home-invasion thriller with a few mildly enjoyable moments. 

For the most part the acting was acceptable, save for a few scenes (notably the horrendously acted first scene with the mother and father). Sharni Vinson as Erin the Super Australian (in fact, I think Super Australian would have been a more suiting title for the film. Probably would have sold more tickets, too. What kind of name is You're Next anyway?) does a good job kicking a lot of ass (because, of course, she conventionally was raised in a survivalist camp) and playing a fairly likable and empowered character (scream queen she is not). You never really get to know or care for the characters that much. For the most part the characters are performed as dully as they are written. Which is a disappointment being that the family aspect had potential. Oh yeah, and Ti West is in here for a few minutes. And scream queen Barbara Crampton as well. 

My favorite part of the entire film is probably the soundtrack. The whole film was definitely going for an 80s slasher vibe and it's most evident in the repetitious synth score that dominates the latter half of the film. Along with the great electronic music there's the also repetitious use of Dwight Twilley's "Looking for the Magic," which is used to great effect. The end credits song was also a joy. 

I don't regret the time and money I spent on You're Next, I enjoyed myself while watching it, but it certainly didn't impress me and due to the rave reviews it was a bit of a let down. As a fan of the horror genre I didn't find it to be anything but typical. 

2/5 stars

Friday, September 27, 2013

Film Adaptations of 1984 by George Orwell

[A series in which I go through the film adaptations of novels, authors, comics, television shows, video games, etc.]

1984 by George Orwell paperbackNineteen Eighty-Four [1984] is a dystopian novel written by George Orwell in 1948. It's a brilliant book that tells the story of a totalitarian society, a tyrannical Big Brother, and a man who rebels and finds love. Orwell had previously written the also political warning that is Animal Farm, which, like 1984, shows that out-of-check politics can be a very scary thing. Orwell himself was a devoted socialist, so devoted in fact that he made it his goal with all his writings to warn people of false-socialism and how it can be abused by leaders. I think it is without doubt that he achieved that goal. Terms like "Big Brother" and "doublethink" have worked their way into everyday vocabulary, and we owe 1984 for that. Even the author's name is constantly used to describe similar works, with nearly every dystopian work that followed 1984 being called "Orwellian" by at least someone.

George Orwell on a typewriterDuring the first half of the 20th century there were many popular dystopian (or perhaps better called Negative Utopian) novels written, many even before 1984, like Zamyatin's We or Huxley's Brave New World. It's not hard to see why; two World Wars and the beginning of a paranoid-filled Cold War all in less than half a century tend to cause people to reevaluate their governments and societies. Orwell wasn't quite original in his concept of a dystopian future, but he undoubtedly was in his delivery and details. 

Before watching any movies based on 1984, I would highly recommend reading the original novel, as it is unmatched by any imitators or adaptations.

Along with its massive influence on the genre of dystopian fiction, 1984 spawned many adaptations in all fields of media and art. Countless musicians and bands such as The Clash or Radiohead or The Kooks or Bad Religion have turned the novel into song. It's been adapted to radio plays and stage plays and even operas. Even other authors have paid tribute to 1984 with Anthony Burgess's 1985 or Haruki Murakami's 1Q84.

But today I point my focus towards the film adaptations. I will go through them chronologically and compare each one to the novel and, in the end, conclude which one is not only the best of the lot, but also the most faithful. Spoilers will follow.

1984 (1953)
The first ever screen adaptation aired on September 21, 1953 on the CBS anthology series Studio One in Hollywood. It starred Eddie Albert as Winston, Norma Crane as Julia, and Lorne Greene as O'Brien. Directed by Paul Nickell.

1984 - Studio One - Title ScreenThe first thing any 1984 fan will notice while watching this is how many classic lines and quotes from the novel it misses, including the famous “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever," or  the famous proclaiming of love towards Big Brother at the end. Then again, this was made less than five years after the book was published so maybe they didn't adore those quotes as we do today, perhaps it took time to reach the iconic status.  

The plot gets all the basics down, though the total run-time is less than an hour so some necessary simplification was required. The one disappointing scene (unsurprisingly) was the torture/interrogation scene with Winston and O'Brien. It's incredibly hard to live up to how excellent that part was in the novel but this portrayal of it was much of a let down. Also, Emmanuel Goldstein's name was, for one reason or another, changed to Cassandra. 

Eddie Albert in Studio One's 1984The characters are pretty accurate to the novel's, but they just didn't feel real. Maybe it was a lack of passion on the acting part or an over-simplification in the writing, but they just didn't feel likable or even believable.

The rendition of "Under the spreading chestnut tree, I sold you and you sold me" sounds very good here. It's a chilling and haunting delivery.

Overall it's not a terrible adaptation and it never strays too far from the novel, but at the same time it misses many of the novel's best traits and in the end fails to capture its essence. There are, as we will get to, better alternatives to this first screen adaptation.

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1954)
Only a year after the first screen adaptation another one was broadcast in the UK by BBC. Created by director-writer duo of The Quatermass Experiment fame Rudolph Cartier and Nigel Kneale and starring pre-Hammer Films Peter Cushing.

Peter Cushing as Winston with Julia in Nineteen Eighty-FourThis live teleplay, which runs for nearly two hours, captures the novel's plot excellently. Just about all of it is there, including, unlike the last adaptation, all the best quotes. I was actually fairly surprised how truthful it stayed to the novel. It does have the advantage of being double the running time of the American television adaptation, but everything is very well executed. As one must expect from a film adapting a much longer novel, not everything is as thawed out or as well paced as the novel, but the effort is impressive.

I did feel like it might be a bit confusing for people watching it that have never read the book. It's visuals didn't relay all the information as well as the novel's words did. Someone who didn't read the novel may feel a bit lost at times. It's hard, however, for me to say whether this is absolutely true or not, being that I am indeed familiar with the novel, but it's just the way I felt while watching.

One of my favorite scenes was the scene where Winston and Julia were arrested. I found that scene in particular to be very well executed, with the telescreen on the wall being vocalized so well. The torture/interrogation scene, though an improvement over the last film's, could have been better, I think. It wasn't bad but it again lacked the intensity and length it had in the novel. Some scenes were done fantastically, some were bit lackluster, some were just decent.

Big Brother in 1954 BBC teleplay of Nineteen Eighty-FourThe characters here are also very spot on. The marvelous Peter Cushing portrays Winston excellently, there is no doubt there, but it is not only the acting that make the characters very accurate, but the writing too. The writing really did capture Winston, Julia, and even Syme very well. O'Brien was well written and solidly performed, but for some reason I felt he could have been better.

When it aired it flared much controversy with people complaining of the film's "subversive content and horrific nature," which, I think, is a good indication that the film captures the essence of the novel. 1984 is indeed a frightening story.

Overall this is a very good adaptation, and though not perfect it is an impressive effort and a largely under-appreciated work.

1984 (1956)
Here is the first theatrical adaptation and, at the time, the largest budgeted and highest produced adaptation. And it certainly shows.

Big Brother in 1984 (1956)Like the 1954 version, this is a UK production, though it feels more like the 1953 American version. This makes sense being that the same writer from the 1953 American version, William Templeton, also co-wrote this one. However, not only does this film have connections with the 1953 one, but it also does with the 1954 in that Donald Pleasence, who played Syme in the 1954 version, returns here as Parsons.

The film is nowhere near as faithful as the 1954 one was, unfortunately. It's an improvement over the first one in 1953 both in terms of faithfulness and quality, but the Peter Cushing 1954 one still has it beat when it comes to faithfulness. The story here seems to focus more on the love between Winston and Julia and turns it almost completely into a love story. That's terribly unfortunate; as any 1984 fan knows it is far more than a love story. However, despite its inaccuracy, the love story, I thought, was very well done.

Winston and Julia in 1984 (1956) movieThe torture scene was the best hitherto, though it still had room for improvement. The film has absolutely beautiful cinematography and what the camera angles did so well during the torture scene was to put you in the same position as Winston. During the torture scene much of it plays out through Winston's perspective, like a POV shot, so it makes you feel like you're Winston. What made the torture part in the book so effective was that it put you in Winston's shoes; this film adaptation attempted to achieve the same thing and, all in all, succeeded.

As expected, the film changed a few minor things from the novel. Again, as with Templeton's last 1984 screenplay, Emmanuel Goldstein's name is changed, this time to Cellador. O'Brien is also changed to O'Connor, my guess being in order to avoid confusion between actor Eddie O'Brien who played Winston. The film missed a few great quotes from the novel, but it manages to get some of them. The ending was solid.

1984 (1956) movieAll the characters were portrayed very well, especially Julia and O'Connor. Winston, however, was not very good at all. Eddie O'Brien is a fine actor, but he's just no Winston. He doesn't look like Winston, talk like Winston, act like Winston. It was a terrible casting decision, especially since the last two adaptations had pretty good Winstons.

This adaptation is not as faithful as the 1954 one, but as a film I feel it is better. Its larger budget and high production values really make clear the difference between film and teleplay. It's a worthy adaptation, though far from perfect.

1984 Commercial (1984)
This isn't exactly a film, it's actually a 1 minute advertisement for the Apple Macintosh that aired during Superbowl XVIII. It was directed by Ridley Scott, of Alien and Blade Runner fame.

1984 Apple Macintosh superbowl commercialObviously there's not much of a plot here, and in terms of faithfulness to the novel, it has little. It has a nameless heroin whom is not from the novel and the only character recognizable is Big Brother, played wonderfully by David Graham.

The commercial intended to associate Apple with non-conformity and IBM with the power-hungry Big Brother (a bit ironic by today's standards). It's often hailed as one of the greatest commercials of all time and it certainly is very well-made. Ridley Scott directed this on a budget of $900,000. Yes, nearly one million dollars just to make the one-minute commercial, and that's not even accounting for the money they paid for the Superbowl spot.

It has cinematic nods to Metropolis (another great dystopian work) and it's a very beautiful looking world (as expected from the man behind Blade Runner). I just felt I should mention this, though it's not really an adaptation. Hell, it's only one minute long, go watch it on YouTube.

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)
This is the film that most people will think of first when thinking of Orwell films. A British production, directed by Michael Radford and, very appropriately, released in the year 1984.

Big Brother in Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)The plot here follows the novel's story very closely. Of course there were the obligatory omissions, as a 2 hour film can rarely adapt everything from a 300-plus page book. But what it does do it does well, and stays faithful to the source text. It does a fantastic job of maintaining Orwell's vision, world, and message.

The film visualizes a very melancholy and depressing world, devoid of color and emotion. Like the novel, it's a world that is dystopic yet believable. The film's sets and color schemes definitely match the tone of the novel. It's quite the downer of the film, not unlike the novel, but that is the job of a warning, after all. In contrast to the industrial visuals, Winston imagines a world of green grass and love, with a landscape less resembling a Hugh Feriss sketch and more like an Andrew Wyeth painting.

Suzanna Hamilton as Julia in Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)The characters are written and portrayed great. They're mostly carbon copies of their prose counterparts, and the performances here are very impressive. John Hurt as Winston is perfect, capturing the weariness and helplessness of the character. Richard Burton is great as the intimidating though somewhat sympathetic O'Brien. Suzanna Hamilton as Julia is good here also.

The 1954 teleplay still stays a bit more faithful, but the larger production values and wonderful performances make this one a very worthwhile adaptation. It also conveys the atmosphere of the novel, I feel, better than any other adaptation.

Brazil (1985)
Directed by former Monty Python member Terry Gilliam, Brazil, which was developed under the working titles The Ministry and 1984 ½ (a nod not only to the novel but to Fellini's 8½ as well), is perhaps the loosest Orwell adaptation there is. Terry Gilliam has even admitted that he wrote the script before ever even reading the novel.

Typewriter in Brazil (1985)Expectedly, the film's story isn't very faithful to the novel; aside from some similarities and parallels, it's very much a work of its own. What Brazil does share with 1984 though is the totalitarian themes and dystopian world. It achieves almost all of the same messages and warnings that 1984 did, and in that respect is a faithful adaptation.

It's also interesting to see an adaptation done by someone who has never read the source material. It brings a certain freshness and unique perspective to the Orwellian dystopia. It also goes to show just how much Orwell's novel has seeped into the public consciousness and culture, making itself familiar to people who haven't even read it.

Baby face mask from torture scene in Brazil (1985)The visual style evokes not only a dystopian aesthetic but a a blend of German expressionism, film noir, retro futurism, and surrealism as well. Mixed with comedy and fantasy, this may not be the 1984 adaptation one would expect, but it's undoubtedly a masterful work that, at its core, I'm sure would do Orwell proud.

This also, out of all the adaptations, has possibly the best rendition of the torture scene.

A loose adaptation that touches on many of the same things Orwell did. If anything an enjoyable film for its visuals and set design.

Though very rarely does an adaptation outdo its source, there have been some interesting adaptations of Orwell's novel. None of them are perfect, and none are, I'd argue, as good as the novel, but every one is worth watching at least once.

Best Winston portrayal: John Hurt in Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)
Most faithful adaptation: Nineteen Eighty-Four (1954)
Least faithful adaptation: Brazil (1985)
Best film: 1984 (1956)
Worst film: 1984 (1953)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) Review

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow poster
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow title screen
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow empire state building
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow Wizard of Oz
Gwyneth Paltrow in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Angelina Jolie in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Giovanni Ribsi with ray gun in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow snowy mountain landscape
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow ice cave
Gwyneth Paltrow in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Gwyneth Paltrow in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Gwyneth Paltrow in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Purchase from Amazon: DVD - Blu-Ray - Stream

Director: Kerry Conran
Stars: Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Giovanni Ribsi, Angelina Jolie
Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
 is a dieselpunk fan's dream come true, with an unforgettable visual style and a fun pulp-style adventure.

The story concerns Joe "Sky Captain" Sullivan and his ex-lover Polly Perkins, a newspaper reporter. Together they aim to stop the mysterious Dr. Totenkopf, who they believe has been terrorizing the world with giant robots and is plotting to put an end to the world, and partake in an Indiana Jones-like adventure.

Like many pulp adventure stories, the plot is simple yet somehow manages to make little sense. There's plenty of plot holes and questionable logic at play here. But a lot of it seems very intentional. The film is definitely an homage to old pulp adventure and detective stories. This is sort of a double-edged sword, though. While a homage can be enjoyable for fans of that which is being paid tribute to, that still doesn't necessarily excuse the inherited flaws. A poor plot is a poor plot regardless. In this way it can be hard for a homage to both pay tribute and avoid the unenjoyable aspects of that which it is tributing, all while maintaining the necessary style and themes.

Sky Captain certainly does have a ridiculous plot that likely shatters most people's suspension of disbelief. And it does have cliched characters and plot elements. It certainly provides nothing you haven't seen before when it comes to those things. But all that doesn't hurt the film...too much. I felt it did detract from it a bit, because it was harder for me to care about the characters and the plot was terribly predictable, but at the same time it still managed to be fun. Really, you have to be in the right mind-state to overlook the flaws. You need to trick yourself into embracing the flaws; laugh at them.

The most notable and indeed noticeable thing about the film is easily its visual style. Sky Captain, along with some other films like Sin City, is one of the earlier films to be shot entirely on a digital backlot, which means that it was entirely shot in front of a blue or greenscreen, with the entire background being computer generated. The benefits of this are obvious: you can achieve things you couldn't in real life, and on a smaller budget. The problem is that CGI mixed with live action often looks very fake and artificial. However, Sky Captain, like Sin City, bypasses this unwanted side-effect by employing a unique visual style that doesn't conform to realism.

The visual style of Sky Captain is in a way simultaneously new and old. Impressive and cheesy. Good and bad. It nails the sci-fi pulp noir 1930s style, yes, but it also manages to look very...silly at the same time. This goes back to the idea that Sky Captain is in many ways intentionally bad. But yet, I wouldn't call its visuals bad, and they're actually very creative. It's hard to explain. It's like a cutscene from the video game Wing Commander III: its backdrops are very clearly fake and as a result it all looks kind of cheesy, but at the same time what it manages to achieve is actually pretty impressive. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is very similar to the full motion video (fmv) games from the 90s; like a weird hybrid of Wing Commander III and Tex Murphy.

The CGI isn't very impressive itself either. It looks like what it is: early 21st century CGI, i.e. not at all convincing by today's standards. Many of the models lack detail and come off looking like an early Playstation 2 game. But somehow Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow takes the poor CGI, the cheesy greenscreens, the 30s pulp style, and the dieselpunk aesthetics and combine them into something that actually works quite well. I can't really explain why it works; I think maybe it does because it feels not only like a homage, but like something that really would be made in the 1930s if they had today's technology. The director said that they "wanted the film to feel like a lost film of that era." Of course it's unconvincing as a lost film from the 30s, as we can recognize the modern technology being used, but what it does achieve is feeling like a a lost film from an alternate 1930s; a 1930s that, just like in the film's story, has the same style but different technology. 

A better descriptor for Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow's style, better even than pulp or dieselpunk, is retrofuturism. That is, the future as seen from the past. Think of a style along the lines of Brazil or Fallout. It's no surprise that this film took much influence from the 1939 New York World's Fair, a fair that set its focus on the future, and, as the fair's slogan was "the world of tomorrow", the place where this film gets part of its name.

At the end of the day though, Sky Captain does have some gorgeous imagery. My particular favorite being the part where two characters are talking while The Wizard of Oz plays in the background. Some of the landscape shots, particularly the snow and city ones, just look stunning as well. 

The cast here is solid. There's no great performances and everyone seems to be acting intentionally wooden, but a solid cast nonetheless. The beautiful Gwyneth Paltrow does a fine job as a clumsy news reporter. Giovanni Ribisi does a charming job as the Sky Captain's friend. Angelina Jolie's talents were certainly underused here, not just in screentime but in writing as well. Though she still does an okay job. The only one who sort of let me down here was the Sky Captain himself, played by Jude Law, who often felt uninterested and lacked any real emotion in his acting. 

The film, and even its technology, isn't incredibly innovative or revolutionary. It does little new: it tells a story we've all heard with character we've all met. But yet, Sky Captain feels more like a culmination of its influences rather than an evolution. It doesn't build upon them, it basks in them. It's homage through and through. And I can understand why many would see such a thing as a detractor. In a way, I do too. I wouldn't ever call Sky Captain a great or important film, but for what it does it's enjoyable and I think it achieved what it set out to do: to be a homage that sees the future from the past rather than from the present, to not be prophetic but to be intentionally wrong, and to have fun the with it the whole way through.

3/5 stars

Friday, September 20, 2013

Any and Every Which Way (2010)

Any and Every Which Way (Ushiro kara mae kara) poster
Bathroom rape scene in Any and Every Which Way (Ushiro kara mae kara)
Lesbian sex scene kiss in Any and Every Which Way (Ushiro kara mae kara)
Tomomi Miyauchi in Any and Every Which Way (Ushiro kara mae kara)
Car wash scene in Any and Every Which Way (Ushiro kara mae kara)

Director: Shoichiro Masumoto
Stars: Tomomi Miyauchi, Yoshiki Kanahashi, Hoka Kinoshita, Sotaro, Kotono
Genre: Pink Film, Sex Comedy

Any and Every Which Way
(Ushiro kara mae kara), not to be confused with Every Which Way but Loose starring Clint Eastwood and an orangutan, is a low-budget Japanese Sex Comedy, a Pinku eiga (pink film), that I came across randomly on Netflix (it's currently available for streaming) and was allured by its cover (namely the cleavage part).

It's about a lackluster taxi driver who has completely forgotten her past, but over time slowly remembers certain things. She encounters a man who just got out of prison for accidentally killing someone in a car accident, and is on his way back to his wife to see if she'll take him back.

In between all that there's some prostitution, some panty stealing, and...frogs. Like many Sex Comedies from all parts of the world, the plot is rather simple and predictable. Apparently it's a remake of an older film (directed by Koyu Ohara I think).

The appeal of this film (and indeed the only reason I ever clicked play) is the sex. And that part of it ain't so bad. The girls are beautiful, there's plenty of nudity, and the sex scenes are shot well. There's a few sex scenes, one of them is a lesbian scene (there's also a questionable rape scene). If you want to see naked Japanese girls, which is perfectly natural don't be embarrassed, then the film satisfies (while you possibly satisfy yourself).

The humor here is actually occasionally funny. I laughed a few times and thought that some scenes were genuinely hilarious. The scene in the hotel is classic; the main character gets horny every time someone holds her in their arms (it's a long story) and it leads to some funny moments (it also leads to a lot of sex). There's also that hint of Japanese ridiculousness that never fails to amuse. It's certainly not the height of comedic wit, but it's enjoyable. 

I don't know if it was just the version I watched, but the video quality is pretty bad. It's as if it was shot on a camcorder in areas with shitty lighting. It's not bad enough that it's unwatchable though; once you get used to it it's not that bad. Maybe there are better versions though.

For what it is, which is essentially softcore porn, it's not that bad. It may be worth a watch if you're in the right mood, it's running time is on the short side. Not a great film, but not awful. Just have to be the right person and in the right mood for it.

2/5 stars

Monday, September 16, 2013

Incident at Loch Ness (2004) Review

Incident at Loch Ness film poster
Incident at Loch Ness Werner Herzog nessie
Incident at Loch Ness film crew (Werner Herzog and Zak Penn)
Incident at Loch Ness Werner Herzog flare gun
Incident at Loch Ness Kitana Baker sonar girl in bikini
Incident at Loch Ness monster
Purchase from Amazon: DVD - Stream

Other films by Zak Penn: The Grand

Director: Zak Penn
Stars: Werner Herzog, Zak Penn, Kitana Baker
Genre: Mockumentary, Comedy

A mockumentary (fake documentary that presents itself as being real) about the behind-the-scenes of a new film by director Werner Herzog entitled Enigma of Loch Ness.

The mockumentary chronicles a film crew on a small boat making a movie about the Loch Ness monster. The crew deals with troubles and creative differences of their own, but could there also be troubles in the lake?

It's not so much the story of a film crew being attacked by a sea monster as it is the story of a producer who gets a little bit carried away and takes things a bit too far in order to try and produce a good film.

This is a must watch for any Wener Herzog fans. He's one of the coolest director/actors there is and he can make nearly any film enjoyable with his lovable personality and charming acting. The director, Zak Penn (who has written the screenplays for movies like Last Action Hero, Behind Enemy Lines, X2, X-Men: The Last Stand, Elektra, The Incredible Hulk, and The Avengers), who plays the producer, created such a great character; the producer is pretty much the worst guy ever but his portrayal is very funny and even slightly unnerving. Penn did a wonderful job playing him. There's plenty of guest appearances in here as well, which adds to the realistic behind-the-scenes atmosphere; you'll catch glimpses of Jeff Goldblum, Crispin Glover, Ricky Jay, and even Herzog's beautiful wife Lena Herzog.

It's a mockumentary but of course nearly everyone going into it knows it's fake, as is the case with most mockumentaries. There was a bit of confusion when it was first shown at festivals as to whether it was real or not, but nearly a decade later I think we've all got it figured out. It's shot convincingly enough that if one were to randomly catch it late one night on television, without knowing anything about it beforehand, they might be in for a bit of a surprise, but otherwise it's just pure, well crafted fiction.

The film doesn't really have any sort of a climax or anything (real life rarely does), and things are fairly slow paced and even during the more intense scenes it's nothing all too exciting. It's certainly not a "horror" movie or creature feature, but it's highly entertaining to watch a fictional crew go through fictional production hell.

It's a mockumentary film-within-a-film-within-a-film that is funny and entertaining. Must see for fans of mockumentaries, fans of Werner Herzog, or cryptozoology buffs.

3/5 stars

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