Monday, November 21, 2011

FLICKS OF THE WEEK: November 6-12, November 13-19


Alphaville is a harsh and stark depiction of a future society void of artistry, love, and self-expression. Set in the future on an unknown planet, secret agent Lemmy Caution must infiltrate this oppressive city of the future as a journalist in order to confront the evil scientist Von Braun, the overlord of this disheartened culture-less wasteland. Awashed in a Noir lit cityscape that seems lost in darkness, Alphaville tells Lemmy's strange story filled with intriguing possibilities and mind boggling revelations. Let's get down to it.

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard, this sci-fi spy mash-up is strangely hypnotic. The fish out of water tale that places Lemmy into an unfamiliar world, is interesting enough, but combine that with the film noir-like atmosphere and you've got yourself one hell of an original movie with enough mystery and mystique to compel the viewer onward for quite some time. Setting the film in 1960's Paris, as Alphaville's futuristic dystopian city, is a simplistic notion but one that pays off by use of some fascinating locales within the French metropolis. I had an interesting journey with this one and highly recommend you check it out if you haven't seen it yet. It's a rather unique flick with an abundance of subtexts that lie just underneath the main narrative, just begging to be explored by the determined cinephile, plus you can't go wrong with Godard. The man makes magic.

The H-Man is a Toho produced science fiction film that depicts the horrors of atomic weapons and the overall effects that the use of such devices have had on the Japanese culture, both inside and outside the cinema world . The film starts out rather mysteriously, with a drug deal gone bad resulting in one of the dealers to suspiciously vanish, leaving behind his clothes and all of his possessions. Soon, more bodies begin to come up missing, all with the same unexplainable conclusion, a pile of clothes with no body. Stumped, the police follow a few leads, but everything seems to add up to it being a simple result of warring gangs. That is until scientist Dr. Masada shows up, claiming that atomic bomb testing off the coast of the Pacific is to blame for the strange disappearances. Could radiation be the cause of these odd events, or is there another piece to the puzzle that has yet to reveal itself?

The film is a blast, relying on the mystery of the disappearances to move the narrative along. There's also a great deal of horror infused elements, like a ghost ship filled with green glowing ghouls that horrendously devour anyone they touch. The decision to focus this story in the more seedier side of the Japanese culture was a nice touch for this science fiction tale, taking more of a cue from the films of the time and their centralization on the gangster culture. It's an interesting mixture of genres that never ceases to entertain, while providing a highly original concept that warns future societies of the dangers of waging war with atomic weapons. Another great Toho film!

Mothra! What a hoot! This is my first time watching Mothra and what a funny and interesting film it is. The movie starts out with a shipwrecked crew being rescued from a highly radiated island, only to be free and clear of any signs of radiation. After deliberating the reasons behind this marvelous discovery, the crew theorizes that they must have been immune from radiation after drinking a special kind of juice that the natives had given them. Being surprised to realize that there are people actually living on the old atomic bomb test site, the Japanese and Rosilican (I assume American) government form a joint expedition to the island to investigate this strange tale. The movie follows the misadventures of a journalist and explorer, who along with the team of Japanese and Rosilican scientists, come into contact with a pair of miniature twin women who worship a creature called Mothra. Unknown to the majority of the group, one Rosilican representative plans to snatch the two miniature wonders and escape the island in order to peddle them to the masses as the next big thing in entertainment. One problem is that those are Mothra's girls.... and you won't like Mothra when he's angry.

Another great addition to the Toho catalog and my recent string of Toho viewings, Mothra is a well put together little film that follows in the footsteps of the great Godzilla's destructive path, yet sets itself as its own unique beast. There is a lot of fun to be had with this film for there are a plethora of comedic moments, mostly provided by the character of the journalist, who at first annoyed the hell out of me but then gradually I began to warm to. It's also interesting to see the comparisons to the country of Rosilican to the United States and we even get a nice set of destructive scenes as Mothra brings the pain to a very familiar location. Good stuff.

The Golden Buddha is a fun Asiaspy flick that takes the classy and cool moments of the James Bond genre and spruces it up for an Asian audience. The film tells of a simple man named Paul who does extraordinary things, like kicking ass and taking names. I kid, but not really. Well, I'll start at the beginning. After having his luggage mixed up with his long time friend aboard a plane, Paul's life goes from boring to action packed. You see the contents of Paul's friend's bag is somewhat of a hot commodity and it seems that every cutthroat son of a bitch is coming out of the woodwork to have himself a piece of the pie. This pie is in the form of a small Buddha figurine, that houses directions to a families long standing lost fortune. With the sudden assassination of his friend, Paul is forced to run for his life while at the same time track down the clues of the Buddha statue, slowly making his way closer to the famed treasure. It sounds corny, but it's tons of fun.

Infused with a great sense of Eurospy cool, the film has all the trappings of a 60's spy romp, including sexy femme fatales, diabolical evil masterminds, and armies of dangerous henchmen that fall by the hands of the unstoppable Paul. It's an extremely fun movie that never takes itself too serious, but is competently executed and filmed with a vivid style. I'm glad I hunted it down, cause it was entertaining as hell. Hopefully I'll be able to run across some more Asiaspy flicks during my cinematic journeys. Check it out if you're a fan of the Bond films or just love anything spy oriented in the 60's.


3 Seconds Before Explosion is another Asiaspy outing that has that cool and stylistic quality to it. An agent is sent undercover to monitor a group of scrupulous characters who are warring against each other for the obtainment of a cache of jewels. Setting them against each other, the slick agent defies death at every turn, almost seeming too cool for his own good. In other genres this fact would be a hindrance, but we're talking Eurospy flavor here so bring it on. Spying his way to the top of the gang, the super spy comes face to face with a fellow agent who is mixed up in this dangerous game for his own personal reasons. The clash of skill and wits is tremendously done, giving the film a little more to stand on other then its respectable visual style and 60's spy setting.

It seems that this film is another one of those Japanese lost gems, where only a handful of people are out there promoting it and giving their insight on the movie, but this is one of those flicks you really should hunt for. It has an extremely beautiful style to it, almost lavish in a sense, and respectfully succinct in providing an entertaining thrill ride of action and intrigue. 3 Seconds Before Explosion is another wonderful step for myself, into the wild world of Asiaspy flicks. Here's hoping for more gems like this.

Battle in Outer Space is my third Toho science fiction film of the past two weeks and it's another wonderful entry for the genre. This surprisingly epic movie, depicts what would happen if an alien race attacked Earth. After a space station's destruction and a mass number of strange phenomenon occur on the planet Earth, the powers that be come to realize that we have come into contact with an alien race that, unlike E.T., doesn't want to be our friends. The nations of Earth band together to combatant the extraterrestrial menace, enlisting an elite group of multinational astronauts to take the fight to the alien bastards. After reconstructing a pair of technologically advances rockets, two teams embark on a mission to destroy the alien's base on the far side of the moon. Will this hopeful victory end the advancing legion of munchkin sized invaders or will this only insight a more destructive battle upon the Earth's surface? Today is our Independence Day!

I was kind of shocked by how epic this film really is. There's a lot going for it in its rather modest run time and you definitely get more bang for your buck compared to the other films of the era. I especially enjoyed the way that they made the threat of the alien invasion so wide spread and ominous, forcing everyone on planet Earth to unify as one in order to collectively combatant this shared enemy. It was kind of inspiring and hopeful that if such a thing did happen in real life that us Earthlings would stop fighting amongst ourselves for one second and come together for the common good in its most dire of moments. In general the film is just grade A class all the way and an instant classic of the genre. I had a fun time with this one and I think you will too.

THX 1138 is George Lucas' most respectable film, in the dramatic and thought provoking sense, giving us a story of rebellion in the 25th century. This science fiction dystopian tale tells of an oppressed society, grinding on order and standards, and void of compassion and human feeling. Drained to the core, a man and woman attempt to rebel against the system, only to find that it is easier said then done. The main thematic impulse of the film is the pursuit of freedom. Freedom in every sense of the word, and the insurmountable odds one has to push through in order to obtain it. With its strikingly established world, filled with the visual burdens that come with living in an imprisoned state of loveless existence, THX 1138 is a tremendous statement on what it means to be human and it's a great example on how far we can go if pushed to the limit, in both life and filmmaking.

Lucas depicts an extremely humanistic story, built on the emotional and inherent needs found in all of us, making it all the more puzzling that his breakout film is Star Wars and not this more thought provoking piece of cinematic art. Now don't get me wrong, I love me some Star Wars, but the level of filmmaking on display in THX 1138 is on a whole other level then what he would eventually be known for around the world. Still, it is a hard film to wrap your head around and a lot of the content found within the story could be unsettling for some viewers. It still is a masterful piece of filmmaking that establishes itself quickly and gives an extreme amount of ideas for the audience to mull over long after the credits have finished rolling and we wander back into our own intimately entrapped lives. Way to go Lucas. I just wish you would have focused more on this kind of caliber work, then in revisiting your equally wonderful series of Star Wars films. What's a science fiction fan to do?

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