Friday, March 31, 2017


I'll be straight up front with you, I am not a Anime guy. I've seen a handful of them and only liked a few. One of them I liked happened to be GHOST IN THE SHELL. I didn't follow the story all that well but I liked the animation and action. Some of those images have been burned into my brain, like the spider Geisha cyborgs.

My interest in the classic Japanese Anime was because I had just seen THE MATRIX and wanted to see some of that films influences. One day I may revisit the original GHOST IN THE SHELL, but not until I've seen the American remake a few more times. Yes, a few more times! The GHOST IN THE SHELL remake is a feast for the eyes, and ears (the soundtrack is awesome!). When I do see the movie again it'll probably be in IMAX. The screen I watched it on was big but the image was dark and faded. I've come to the conclusion that this particular screen needs to be replaced.

There is a lot going on in GHOST IN THE SHELL plot wise. The script goes deep but not too deep with the philosophic and moral questions the story presents. Like when does a cyber-enhanced human stop being human and become a machine? I'm not the person to tackle such questions, I'm just going to focus on the movie.

In the future cyber-enhancement is a thing, and Major is the first of her kind. After a terrible accident a human is saved and becomes a cyber-enhanced solider to fight against the worlds most dangerous criminals. The movie is rated PG-13 so we're not talking JOHN WICK levels of gunplay, but the action in GHOST IN THE SHELL is pretty good. A there are some nice shot-for-shot moments on display.


If you haven't seen the movie yet then don't read any further. If you're a fan of the original and/or like science fiction movies, then I recommend GHOST IN THE SHELL. Go see the movie then come back and read the rest of my review.

My biggest issue with GHOST IN THE SHELL is that the story is pretty predictable. We've seen it done many times, a hero who realizes they have been playing for the wrong team. The company who created Major has not been 100% truthful to their cyborg. The terrorist Major is after is really a victim. That's enough set up for you to get the idea. I knew how this movie was going to end pretty fast, and that always bums me out. The cool special effects and awesome music more than makes up for the weak spots in GHOST IN THE SHELL.

As far as the whitewashing of the lead character, it's unfortunate, but there's nothing I can do about it. All I have to go on is Scarlett Johansson's performance of Major, and she does a fantastic job. Her performance makes me want to watch the original again and compare the two. I'm guessing she probably did her homework, because it sure seems like she did? I've been impressed with the roles Scarlett has taken on as of late. Who would have thought that the young woman in LOST IN TRANSLATION would be a kick ass action movie star! And let's not forget her amazing turn as an alien in UNDER THE SKIN. Seriously, if you haven't seen UNDER THE SKIN do yourself a favor and change that!

In conclusion, I recommend GHOST IN THE SHELL if your just looking for something cool to watch this weekend. If you're a cyberpunk fan you may love the movie! It's been awhile since Hollywood has given us a cyberpunk right? I don't think it's gonna start a American franchise or anything? Who knows, if the film is a hit then Disney might start making live action Studio Ghibli movies! Oh yea...

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Tarantino 101: BREATHLESS

This is a new segment I'm going to try out, the influences of Quentin Tarantino. When it comes to someone with film knowledge like Quentin has, the influences must be endless. I'm willing to bet they are. But after years of watching and reading, I've found a handful of movies that shaped the filmmaker we know today.

One big influence to Tarantino's early work is the 1983 film BREATHLESS. Directed by Jim McBride, the film is a remake of the beloved French New Wave film A BOUT DE SOUFFLE from 1960 directed by Jean-Luc Godard. One day I may blog about the 1960 classic, but today it's all about the remake.

First off, how dare there be a remake of the French New Wave classic! Automatic dismissal! In 1983 when the remake was released that was what most critics thought. A reaction still popular today among remakes.

From the get go it's kinda easy to see why Tarantino might like BREATHLESS. It's an American remake of a movie that more or less is a love letter to Hollywood crime films from the 30's and 40's. Both films are aware of their source material, but not in a meta way. It's similar to how PULP FICTION was a love letter to movies and of course pulp fiction.

Car thief Jesse (Richard Gere) has to get out of town quick after shooting a policeman on accident. But before he leaves he has to convince his new "girlfriend" Monica to go with him. The longer he waits the closer the law is to catch him.

I have never been a big Richard Gere fan, but he's is amazing in Breathless! The over the top performance he gives playing Jesse grew on me. He over does it, but there comes a moment where it all makes since. I love rock n' roll, so Jesse being a fan of Jerry Lee Lewis I dug quite a bit! There is a hilarious moment when Jesse steals a Porsche, he tosses out the owners music and plays his personal cassette tape of The Killer himself, Jerry Lee Lewis!

Another obsession Jesse has is the comic book character The Silver Surfer. If he can, Jesse keeps a issue rolled up in his pants or coat pocket. The creed of Norrin Radd starts to become allegorical to Jesse's plight.

If you're a fan of RESERVOIR DOGS and have seen it a few times you may have noticed a poster of The Silver Surfer. This easter egg was explained in a interview with Tarantino on the DVD. He went on to further discuss how the look of the film became an influence.

Having seen BREATHLESS several times now (thanks to Shout! Factory releasing it on Blu-Ray), I can really notice hints of PULP FICTION. For starters they both feature that bad ass guitar song from Link Wray called Rumble. If you're unsure what song I'm talking about it's most notable in my opinion when Vincent and Mia are having their 'uncomfortable silence' moment in Jack Rabbit Slims.

Another thing I noticed is Jesse's girlfriend Monica is French. In PULP FICTION Butch's girlfriend (or wife?) is also French. Coincidence, I think not! The way both couples fight and make up is similar to a degree.

So I know some of you are probably thinking "Cool, it's an influence to PULP FICTION but is the movie itself any good?". The answer is yes and no. Yes, in that the film is still entertaining for what it is. But no, of course BREATHLESS is not as good as PULP FICTION.

I loved seeing all the influences to Tarantino's early work, but I found things I liked on my own about BREATHLESS. Any chance the movie gets it's colors pop, sticking with the theme that Jesse is a fan of a comic book hero. Director Jim McBride is obviously a fan of rock music because his film plays fast and loose, just like rock n' roll!

In conclusion, I'd say if you're a Quentin Tarantino fan and have never heard of BREATHLESS, then it might be worth your time to check it out!

Sunday, March 26, 2017


So it's come to this? Have I become a fan of the films of John Waters? Probably not, I can only deal with trashy cinema in small doses. However, I could listen to John Waters talk about movies all day. His knowledge and opinion of film has interested me for quite some time now. His movies on the other hand never appealed to me. Sorry, no interest in watching a drag queen eat a dog turd.

Catching snippets of POLYESTER and HAIRSPRAY on cable made me realize there was a counterculture to John Waters's films that I didn't understand and didn't care to. The look of his films reminded me of how strange and unusual I thought Pee-Wee Herman was before he went mainstream. Yes, Pee-Wee freaked me out before PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE.

It must have been sometime in the late 90's during the boom of DVD and special features that I started paying attention to John Waters. I can't remember the movie, but a behind-the-scenes documentary had a interview with Waters, and the rest is history. I remember having conversations with a good friend of mine and we both agreed that we loved hearing John Waters talk about movies. Him and David Cronenberg to be exact.

The moment that I decided to go ahead and give his filmography a try was while I was watching the special features on my BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS blu-ray. I think I enjoyed more of what John Waters had to say about the film than Roger Ebert, who wrote the screenplay! Waters' knowledge of exploitation films amazed me, most importantly the rise and fall of them. And I found it interesting his explanation of why his films failed the exploitation and grindhouse market.

This month the Criterion Collection released MULTIPLE MANIACS, the second feature from filmmaker John Waters. Curiosity getting the best of me but still worried I didn't run out and purchase the movie. Once I saw that there was a Director's Commentary, I bought the film immediately! If I thought the movie sucked at least I knew I'd enjoy Waters talk about it. Luckily I got the best of both worlds! I found MULTIPLE MANIACS entertaining and the commentary enjoyable.

Released in 1970, MULTIPLE MANIACS was trashy, shocking, and offensive. Today the film would be seen as being politically incorrect more than shocking. The trashiness is still there but it's more ironic now in 2017 than it was in 1970. MULTIPLE MANIACS had me laughing (in a good way) even during the controversial moments. It's deffinatly a midnight movie for sure!

A traveling sideshow 'Lady Divine's Cavalcade of Perversions', is a front for a band of psychotic kidnappers/killers (I wonder if Rob Zombie is a fan?). Star of the show Lady Divine becomes enraged when she finds out that her boyfriend has been cheating on her. Divine proceeds to go on a murderous rampage and descends into madness.

It's really not the plot of MULTIPLE MANIACS that makes the movie interesting or worthwhile, it's the absurdity. And there is a sub plot that I found bizarre. The film was made during the Manson Family murders hysteria, and Charles Manson had not yet been charged with the Sharon Tate murder. It is left vague but it's suggested that Divine may have been involved in the Manson murders. At the time this was probably regarded as poor taste.

Spoiler Warning!!

Speaking of poor taste, MULTIPLE MANIACS is probably most known for one of the most craziest and tasteless things ever put on film! For those that don't know, I'm talking about the scene where Divine gets raped by a giant lobster named Lobstora! It has to be seen to be believed! The vicious and repulsive act sends Divine into madness and begins terrorizing the town. What a strange way to spoof the B-Movie science fiction films John Waters saw at the drive-in?

Another influence was black and white soft core Swedish art house films. According to Waters himself that's one of the reasons he thinks his films failed on the exploitation circuit, because they we're too art house and way too ironic. Patrons of grid houses wanted/loved to have their sex and violence real and gritty. For whatever reason the perversity of MULTIPLE MANIACS and his other films didn't register with the 42nd Street crowd? I'll admit I am a bit confused by this seeing that PINK FLAMINGOS (the follow up to MULTIPLE MANIACS) was a huge success in the midnight movie market. Maybe the gridhouses were dying off by then?

In conclusion, I love MULTIPLE MANIACS! For the type of film it is, it is a masterpiece! Extremely uneven at times but I admire the no-budget aspect of it all. Love his films or hate them, the fact remains that in the genre of trashy cinema there is only one John Waters.

Saturday, March 11, 2017


Season Two of BUFFY made me a fan for life. I already liked the show from what I had seen from Season Three (my favorite season), but binge watching the sophomore season on DVD I knew BUFFY was my kind of series.

In my all too brief post about Season One I forgot to mention a key element of the show, the “Scooby Gang”. The “Scooby Gang” consists of Buffy, Willow, and Xander. With the help of Buffy’s Watcher Giles, the “Gang” keeps Sunnydale safe from demons, vampires, and Monsters of The Week. Over the course of two seasons the circle of friends would grow to include Angel, and Oz.

Early on, the show emphasizes extremely well the importance of friends. Buffy Summers is the main character of the show but her two best friends are probably my favorites, Willow and Xander. When I started watching the show I quickly identified with these characters. Willow being the brains of the group and Xander being the class clown. It was easy to relate to Xander, too many times in my own life going after looks rather than seeing true love in front of me. And Willow, soft-spoken and shy, afraid to grab what she really wants.

During the course of the series I wanted these two characters to finally get together. But it makes sense why it never happened.

For me personally the best teenage romance stuff happened in Season Two and Three. Let me list some highlights and the main story arc for the season.

While BUFFY has it's fair share of monsters and vampires, the teenage soap opera elements we're good too! Let's face it, love stinks! While I was always rooting for Willow and Xander to hook up, I loved the triangles that followed. Willow, tired of waiting for Xander trades up and starts taking interest in Oz, the quiet cool guitar player in a band.

Oz ended up becoming a favorite of mine. Him and Willow made a good match. Plus later he gets turned into a Werewolf! More on Oz and the actor Seth Green in Season Three's post.

I don't remember the exact timeline of events, but also around this time Xander and Cordelia begin to sneak around and make out in broom closets. The Xander and Cordelia tryst was kinda strange to me. I wonder if the writers and producers were testing the waters wondering if she was Scooby Gang material? The whole lovers dance gets pretty dramatic and almost ends tragically for Cordelia!

There was however another romantic relationship in Season Two, one that was more apocalyptic, Buffy and Angel (the vampire with a soul). This doomed romance started in Season One and kept boiling right up to Episode 13 of Season Two. The episode, titled SURPRISE is a fitting one because Angel's ability to feel human emotion is jeopardized when an intimate moment with Buffy threatens to destroy his soul.

Knowing everything was going to be just fine (because I had seen Season Three), I still found myself in shock. Angelus (evil Angel) scared the crap out of me! I now understood the hatred Angel got in Season Three. This just showed me how awesome the level of writing was on BUFFY. I still get chills and think that Angel/Angelus won't be coming back!

Now here are some of my favorite episodes in Season Two!

Episode 3:School Hard

If I were to ever make a "Favorite Episode List", SCHOOL HARD would probably be in the top three! I love SCHOOL HARD, it is my most watched episode second to GRADUATION DAY and THE WISH (both from Season Three)!

Not only does SCHOOL HARD set the bar for the rest of the Series, it introduces my favorite villain, Spike! Angel's old friends Spike and Drusilla visit Sunnydale for The Night of Saint Vigeous. Buffy tries to protect her fellow students, the principal, and her mother from the uninvited guests who have crashed parent-teacher night. The hardest part is protecting her secret.

The entire episode is a blast and set's the tone nicely for things to come. The punk rock attitude is what I like most about Spike. Not even in town for a week and he starts running things, vowing to kill the Slayer. We also find out that Spike has a history with Angel, a mythology for the show is set. Another thing SCHOOL HARD did that took me a few viewings to catch was the tiny chess pieces the episode was placing for Season 3!

Episode 6:Halloween

The first Halloween episode of the series, and it's a good one! Buffy's costume causes her to lose her powers and the kids she, Willow and Xander are trick-or-treating with turn into their costume characters! Could Giles have something to do with all of this?

I remember this being one of the very first BUFFY episodes I ever saw. It and THE PACK made me want to start watching regularly.

Episode 11:Ted

Buffy's mom has a new boyfriend Ted, whom everyone adores - expect for Buffy. It turns out that there's more to him than meets the eye. The late John Ritter plays Ted and it's one of the best episodes!

Episode 9 -10:What's My Line?

This two-parter is a pretty important Spike and Drusilla episode. If Buffy was any other Slayer, Spike would have killed her by now. Not wanting any distractions while trying to cure the crazy from Drusilla, Spike sends a nasty batch of bounty hunters to kill Buffy. These two episodes are action packed with crazy bounty hunters and a new Slayer. Yes, a new Slayer! I'll get into that more with Season Three!

Episode 17:Passion

All the kids are falling in love, why not the adults? Hey, Watchers need lovin' too! That's right, in Season One and Two, Giles had a girlfriend. Computer Lab teacher Jenny Calendar was a sweet sweet character. So sweet that show creator Joss Whedon killed her off! This was something fans never got used to and often feared. I remember this episode hitting me pretty hard. I couldn't watch the next episode(s) for at least a week! Poor Giles.

That's it! I only had six favorite episodes in Season Two. Just kidding! There is actually just too many to mention. Like I said earlier, I love all the love triangles that went on this season and the Buffy + Angel romance as well. In my post for Season Three I'll discuss the events of Season's Two season finale and the repercussions of said events.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER turned 20 yesterday, but I'm going to continue talking about the seasons all year long. Next up is Season Three, my favorite season!

Happy Slaying!