Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ganheddo a.k.a. Gunhed (1989)







Directed by: Mastro Harada (the American version is an Allen Smithee production)
Runtime: 100 minutes

Toho Studios (home of Godzilla) and Bandai (home of Gundam) got together to make a movie. A movie full of explosions, giant robots, giant robots fighting other giant robots, McGuffins, a mustache twirling A.I. with a easily defeated plan for world domination, more explosions, weird looking junk robots, weird and annoying kids, and a plot. Sadly if this movie had not been dubbed by a bunch of muppets it would be a greater film than what it is.

The movie opens with two exposition dumps. The first one is a text only explanation about the McGuffin Texmexium. A element that makes super computers even more super and gives all your food that south of the border. There is also an explanation that computer chips and plastics are now more valuable than gold. The other exposition dump explains island 8JO. A island owned Kyron corporation and is home to their manufacturing facility. Overseen by Kyron 5 (the company AI) and a hand full of human caretakers take care of the day to day operations. Years later Kyron 5 starts behaving like a moody teenager and goes to war with the world because no one understands it. We then get to see the last battle between the Gunhed battalion and Kyron 5's defenses.

Years later the movie catches up with a mercenary group heading to island 8JO to steal computer chips from the Kyron 5. I would write more about the mercenary group but all but two of then will be dead before the thirty minute mark. The survivor Brooklyn is a mechanic and is afraid to sit in any cockpit. Babe is a near survivor and has a really cool cybernetic eye patch.

So the mercenaries land on top or the Kyron factory and notice a burning Texas Air Ranger's transport on another part of the island. But the mercenaries don't why their transport is burning or feel like telling the audience who the Texas Air Rangers or why they should care. Instead the mercenaries head into the factory so they can get killed off until Brooklyn and Babe are left alive.

Brooklyn and Babe avoid getting killed as they head the Kyron's and meet with Sgt. Nim. The only survivor of the Texas Air Ranger's transport and in pursuit of a bioroid that stole some Texmexium. So the three of them head to the central processor room where the Texmexium could be located. The trio arrives and finds that there is nothing there but the bioroid shows up and puts the Texmexium in to the processor stand. Having completed it's task, it dives into the Mountain Dew that cools the processor and waits to menace the survivors later.

Being that no one has died in the last five minutes, Babe falls into the Mountain Dew cooling system and dies for no reason. With nothing better to do, the two of them get out of the processor room and run into the end boss robot and are forced to fall into the second act and the rest of the cast are introduced. Brooklyn wakes up to meet Seven and Eleven. Two kids that have been living on their own in the lower levels. Eleven is an older girl who does not speak and Seven is a younger boy who does not shut up. It also does not help that whoever dubbed the voice of Seven is downright annoying.

With help from Seven, Brooklyn find a damaged gunhed and the two of them get it repaired and working. Nim and Eleven take the Texmexium and go climbing to the top of the factory. While Brooklyn and Seven have a repair montage as they fix the gunhed. Elsewhere in the Kyron factory a terminal menacingly counts down. It would be more suspenseful if we knew why it is counting down.

Remember the bioroid? It is still in the movie and stalking Nim and Eleven. The bioroid also possessed by Babe because dying in computer cooling Mountain Dew does that to people. So the bioroid has a hard time killing people but no problem stealing the Texmexium from Nim with a laser thing. At the bottom of the factory, the gunhed is fix, armed, and ready to fight again. This leads to the last act of this movie which is mostly the gunhed and Brooklyn bonding while trying to get to the lever where the central processor is located.

When gunhed and Brooklyn reach the central processor level they are confronted by the end boss robot. With quick thinking, effective use of fire power, and the power of bromance the two of them defeat the boss robot. Brooklyn and Seven meet up with Nim and Eleven who have made it back to the central processor room.
Eleven knows a word that can improve the Kyron AI, so her mouth starts glowing. With the destruction of the boss robot this stops the glowing and she can talk again. The Kyron AI seeing that is beat does the smartest thing a antiongist can do. It sets it's reactor to self destruct in fifteen seconds and it will take our heroes ten mintutes to get to the mercenary transport and escape. However gunhed saves our heroes by stalling the reactor. So our heroes fly away from the nuclear mushroom cloud. The end.

This is a flawed movie with insane dubbing but it is a fun movie. I suggest watching this but try to find the Japanese version.

MVT: The gunhed itself. It is a talking tank that can transform to a robot.

Make or Break: The crap dubbing is the major break for me with this movie.

Score: 6.25 out of 10

Episode #304: Point Blank Motel

Welcome to the GGtMC!!!

This week Sammy and Will return to bring you our episode sponsored by the fine folks over at diabolikdvd.com, please head over and order some flicks and tell them the GGtMC sent you over!!!

It was Sammy's turn to program and he chose Point Blank (1967) directed by John Boorman and starring Lee Marvin and Motel Hell (1980) directed by Kevin Connor.

Direct download: ggtmc_304.mp3

Emails to midnitecinema@gmail.com

Adios!!!



GGtMC at TIFF: '71

The GGtMC brings you a review of '71 (2014) directed by Yann Demange.

Direct download: tiff71.mp3 
 
Emails to midnitecinema@gmail.com

Adios!!!


GGtMC at TIFF: Black Souls

The GGtMc talks about Black Souls (2014) directed by Francesco Munzi.

Direct download: tiffBlackSouls.mp3 
 
Emails to midnitecinema@gmail.com

Adios!!!


GGtMC At TIFF 2014: The World of Kanako

Welcome to film coverage of the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival with the GGtMC!!!

Large William and Scott from Married with Clickers bring you coverage of The World of Kanako (2014) directed by Tetsuya Nakashima.

Direct download: GGtMCattiff2014-Kanako.mp3

Emails to midnitecinema@gmail.com

Adios!!!


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Split Second (1992)


POSSIBLE SPOILERS

I have held my fair share of jobs over the years, but to the best of my recollection, there was only one boss I ever had that I just didn’t get along with.  Maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement, but even when I was toiling away in the grill area of a local McDonald’s (a job from which I was expunged for reasons I won’t get into today, but no, it has nothing to do with contaminating food or equipment with my body parts or bodily fluids, so relax), I got along fairly well with my superiors.  Anyway, the guy I didn’t get along with was a manager at a supermarket where I worked as a bagger during high school and part of college.  I couldn’t stand being a bagger (and if you ever were one, I think you understand where I’m coming from), and I wanted to be a stocker.  Man, those guys sure had the life (from my perspective then).  So, every time that I asked this guy if I could get to be in said lofty department, I was told in no uncertain terms that I didn’t have “the eye of the tiger.”  Let’s never mind that it was a job stocking fucking supermarket shelves, not competing in a decathlon.  This is like being picked last for dodgeball (a game I was actually pretty good at) or football (a game I was abysmal at), and it consistently elicits a response from me of, “are you fucking kidding?”  If memory serves, I may have even said that when told about my substandard stock boy potential (most likely minus the expletive).  Consequently, I never jibed with this Type A jerkoff of a supervisor (am I being unfair?  You bet).  It doesn’t bother me so much today, but it is something that stuck with me.  Whether that’s because of his conflation of stock boy status with being chosen for NASA’s space program or my bewilderment at his asinine statement, I couldn’t say (and if I’m being totally honest with myself, I think he actually denied me due to my part time status at the store).  But whenever I think of the cliché police captain chewing the ass out of his subordinates in films, like Alun Armstrong’s Thrasher does to Rutger Hauer’s Stone in Tony Maylam’s Split Second, I think of this relationship most adversarial, and one young man’s crushed ambitions to arrange cans of cut green beans on a grocery store’s shelves.  I could’ve been a contender.

Torrential rains have all but submerged the futuristic London of…2008.  Maverick copper Harley Stone (who loves his first name so much he has scads of Harley Davidson logos and even a motorcycle in his apartment) is possessed by the ghost of a past failure and the unseen killer who orchestrated it.  Out of the blue, the murderer, who rips his victims’ hearts out and eats them, reappears, and Stone knows that his nightmare won’t end until this madman (or mad thing) is brought down.

One of the strongest elements of this film is the concept that Stone and the monster share a psychic connection.  Stone can feel when the creature is around, and he can even tell if someone else has seen it (a child, a dog, et cetera).  Nevertheless, it brings him no closer to capturing it.  All it does is places him in proximity to where the thing is.  If there is more to their symbiosis, we are never made privy to this information visually, which is disappointing since Stone tells his partner Dick (Alastair Duncan) that he “sees things” (and this is, after all, a visual medium).  It’s a great set-up, but I don’t feel that it was utilized quite as well as it could have been.  I also liked that said link was forged through traumatic contact.  Not only is Stone scarred mentally by his past with the killer, he is also scarred physically.  This relationship is represented by an almost constant heartbeat on the soundtrack, speeding up and slowing down, and anyone injured by the beast can hear it (though this is only addressed in an offhand comment).  In some way, this also gives the viewer some motivation for Stone’s obsession with coffee and sugar.  His vehicle is littered with cardboard coffee cups and empty candy wrappers.  Nonetheless, we are never told this is because he feels the need to be alert every moment of the day now, or if it’s simply some form of addiction he fell into after the tragic events that befell him, or if it’s a replacement for the alcoholism he fell into after his partner’s demise.  At several points, we are shown the toll these dietary habits have taken on Stone’s body, and we are lead to expect this will be paid off by the end.  It isn’t.  Sorry.

Hence, this was the big bone I had to pick with the film.  It has some very strong concepts going on.  It has a great, biblical/religious angle.  It has a cop who is unhinged and truly eccentric.  It has a compelling game of cat and mouse between the hero and the villain.  It has the idea of the bonding of villain and victim/hero.  It has a love interest (and Kim Cattrall no less, who at least does the audience the courtesy of getting naked a few times) where sparks should absolutely be flying, considering their history.  It has great production design and a lot of production value onscreen.  But it’s all treated insouciantly.  It’s all pissed away almost as soon as it’s introduced.  Further, the film’s climax simply falls apart, with characters suddenly behaving like completely different characters, rules being made up and discarded within seconds (the inspiration for the film’s title, perhaps?), and a showdown resolved with a facility that threatens to make utterly inconsequential the time spent with the rest of the story.  Worse, the finale of the film, which should tie everything up and pay off on all this (including finally giving us a decent glimpse of the killer; a design which is pretty solid, considering the production stills I’ve seen), doesn’t.  Almost everything in the film remains unexplained (I’m still unsure if this is a positive or a negative for me), though several intriguing theories are floated here and there like smoke rings.  Most perplexing of all is that the antagonist we are left to deal with at the finish simply doesn’t match the antagonist that has been teased and built up for over an hour.  One is an intelligent, devious, cruel psychopath.  The other is (again, from what we’re shown) nothing more than a blunt instrument (with really sharp claws).  So, yes, Split Second is most definitely a mess of a film.  However, I have to say that I did like it, and I would even recommend it despite my grievances with it.  True, it never fully surmounts the humongous problems that it has.  But it has an off-kilter charm that I couldn’t resist, so even if I was ultimately letdown, I really enjoyed the ride, so it all panned out.  After all, it’s not the fall the kills you.  It’s the sudden stop at the end.

MVT:  Hauer does his damnedest playing (by turns) crazed, haunted, and hardassed.  And he mostly pulls it off.  If nothing else, I was always interested to see what he would do next.

Make or Break:  The scene with the first kill Makes the film.  It’s graphic enough for gorehounds and intriguing enough to compel any audience through the rest of the runtime.  Plus, Rutger Hauer questioning a Rottweiler is priceless.

Score:  6.75/10           

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Vice Squad (1982)

I have been offroading maybe a handful of times (I may have talked about this before, so bear with me if this is old news for you).  The first once or twice was voluntary, but subsequent outings were forced upon me (to the point of kidnapping).  In fact, one time my “friends” went so far as to tell me we were going to a party (in a house, like normal humans do), only to swerve off the paved roads and out into the woods before I could make good my escape.  Never mind that I find it difficult to drink a beer while I’m bouncing around like the G-14 ball in a Bingo cage, my main grievance with these sojourns was that the vehicles we would take would invariably become stuck, stalled, or otherwise take a shit and always at the worst possible time.  This turned something which had a small potential for enjoyment into an impromptu workshop on how not to fix an automobile in the rough.  My dislike of the great outdoors has been documented in previous entries.  These trips are one of the things that soured me on them.  Because one of the last things I wanted to do after getting a good drunk on was trying to figure out how to get the fuck out of the woods before some animal decided I might make a tasty snack (actually, back then I was heftier, so I’d likely have been more like a three course meal).  Maybe if we had a badass truck like Ramrod (Wings Hauser) does in Gary Sherman’s Vice Squad, things would have turned out differently.  Then again, I don’t see Ramrod (an urban cowboy if ever there was one) as the type to take his cherry ride into the wild to begin with. 

Princess (then-Mrs.-Kurt-Russell, Season Hubley) is a prostitute working the weird streets of Hollywood.  When her friend and colleague Ginger (MTV VJ Nina Blackwood) calls in a panic, Princess fails to help out her pal before Ginger’s pimp (the aforementioned Ramrod) beats the woman to death.  After being strong-armed into aiding in a sting operation by douche bag cop Sergeant Walsh (Gary Swanson), Princess goes about her nightly routine, unsuspecting that her troubles are far from over.   

This film is not especially kind to women (and not that this was an expectation I had going into it).  The very first shot of the film is a camera tilt up the body of an anonymous hooker; the high heels, the leg warmers, the short shorts, the knit halter top, and finally her impassive face.  This type of shot will be repeated at several points in the movie.  First is when Princess finishes off her ensemble for the evening, again traveling from the ground up.  It’s an interesting way to reveal the character and what she does, because just one scene previous, we have seen her dressed very conservatively, so the switch works nicely.  Later, there is a shot traveling up the body of a woman from feet to head, although this time, the woman is lying down, her clothing torn, her face bloody.  Hauser slaps women at the drop of a hat (and he really connects, to boot), and even takes a stool to a woman’s head at one point.  His specialty, though, is whipping their naked bodies with a wire hanger.  A character is rolled by a trick who‘s dissatisfied with the service.  Even our supposed hero Walsh will snap a band and fly into a rage at the drop of a hat, going so far as shoving Princess’ face at Ginger’s corpse.  He screams, then comforts.  In this respect at least, he is the exact opposite of Ramrod.  In fact, had he not coerced Princess into trapping Ramrod, Princess’ life would likely have gone on as usual, for better or worse. 
 
The issue is that if part of the film is supposed to be about how mean the streets are to women (and especially women in this profession), that’s fine and dandy.  However, by leering as this film does at these female bodies, as objects of both sexual and violent urges, it takes some of the air out of that theme.  After all, prurient and empathetic feelings will often collide when placed in juxtaposition to each other.  I would also argue that if that’s not a partial reason why this film was made (especially considering we’re told at the outset that this story was culled from multiple actual events, though using the truth to sell the exploitative is nothing new), why spend so much time following Princess around, picking up her oddball tricks (and they are genuinely oddball), and not paying off on the more salacious elements?  If it’s nothing more than pure exploitation, the material could certainly use sprucing up in that regard (not that it isn’t an entertaining film; I’ve definitely seen movies like this done more poorly).  No, we’re supposed to feel something for Princess.  We’re supposed to sympathize with her troubles.  After all, she works “outlaw” (i.e. without a pimp), so she has no protection from johns who would take advantage of her.  It’s never indicated that she enjoys her work, but by that same token, it’s never indicated that she is ever anything less than professional.  She is, in effect, just a working stiff (pardon the pun).  That she and her colleagues have it so rough is lamentable.  That we linger on their curves one minute and their anguish the next is a bit creepy.

The film is in some ways also about duality and performances.  As stated above, our two male leads seesaw between rage and consolation, and both switch between the two instantaneously.  They can be dangerous or beneficial, though the situations under which they change posit them where they need to be on the friend or foe scale.  If someone in a film has a tongue coated in purest silver, nine out of ten, they will have the blackest of souls.  By contrast, people who start off coarse will usually wind up showing you their soft, endearing side.  Princess has a house in the suburbs and a daughter she is raising by herself, but she keeps her worlds separate (she even dislikes the babysitter calling her daughter “princess;” no surprise there).  She dresses primly for appearances to her friends and neighbors, but on the Strip, she dresses to impress.  It’s implied that all of her tricks involve her doing things she wouldn’t normally do (golden showers, roleplaying a bride at a funeral [shades of Buñuel’s Belle de Jour], et cetera) with people she (likely) wouldn’t do them.  She puts on an act for her clients (that is part of her job description, naturally).  Nevertheless, since we see far less of her in her home life, and in both of her aspects she lies to the people she encounters, one has to wonder which of these faces is the true one?  Our predisposition would be to the one she shows at home.  We expect the masks to come off when a person has entered their personal sanctuary.  Yet, she shows a mask to everyone in the film with the exception of Walsh, and even then she’s not totally forthcoming.  This leads me to the conclusion that there is no “true” Princess.  She is both of these things, mother and whore, when she needs to be, and because she can never be completely herself (whatever that may be), either to protect herself or to protect those she cares for, she will never find peace.  Like she states at the film’s close, “You’re never gonna change the streets…”

MVT:  Hauser gets the award.  He is one hundred percent psychotic for the entirety of the film, and even when he tries to disguise it (which is not often); it’s with the thinnest of veils.  The brazenness with which he rampages is something to behold.

Make Or Break:  The best example for me of Ramrod’s untethered nature is in the scene when Princess helps to ensnare him.  He goes off the rails like twenty freight trains.  And then he keeps going.

Score:  6.75/10