Monday, December 10, 2007

Tokyo Zombie, import disc paradise:

You can keep your Johnny Depps, Brad Pitts and other pretty-boys-gone-weird! Tadanobu Asano tops my short list of performers who could recite the phone book and somehow manage to make it an interesting experience. For such a good looking guy he has an uncanny way of making himself seem awkward and unsexy regardless of the situation, whether running from angry thugs through the woods in his tighty whities (Sharkskin Man and Peach Hip Girl), stomping his way clumsily through Dance Dance Revolution (Last Life in the Universe), or wandering naked in an unsettling, surreal landscape and burying his face in the stomach of a decaying corpse(Rampo Jugoku). He's played suicidal losers, homicidal sociopaths, and obsessed boyfriends for just about every notable maverick director in Japan -- Kiyoshi Kurawasa and Sogo Ishi just to name a few. In Tokyo Zombie he plays a Jujitsu-fixated, afro sporting moron who hangs out with his middle aged buddy, the awesome Sho Aikawa of Dead or Alive fame. Really all we're missing is Riki Takeushi and it would be Japanese cult-movie heaven. No surprise that director Sakichi Sato's most notable screen credits are as a script writer for Takeshi Miike's Gozu and Ichi The Killer. Fun fact: Sato has appeared in several films as well, including his performance as 'Charlie Brown Waiter' in Kill Bill Vol 1.

Asano's Fujio is a brute with the mind of a child, Aikawa's Micchan is an aging hypochondriac who dreams of passing his Jujitsu skills to Fujio before he dies. They work at a factory in view of a giant trash heap in the middle of Tokyo dubbed "Black Fuji." When Fujio kills their abusive boss they decide to bury him in the trash heap (not an unusual idea as indicated by a young man burying his mother alive at the behest of his bitchy girlfriend, a school teacher disposing of a pantless student, oh and the numerous zombies now digging their way to the surface). It quickly becomes evident that the zombies are a growing problem, so our two heroes jump in their gaily painted delivery truck (complete with lace curtains) and hit the road for.... Russia?!? Why Russia? Because its Manly! Never mind that you can't drive to Russia from Japan... Micchan directs Fujio to drive North (because Russia is North) so of course he mistakenly goes South, requiring the pair to back track through Tokyo again where they rescue a the foul mouthed Yoko who is trying to escape zombies with a convenience store cash register in tow. And you know it will just get sillier as the story progresses. Jokes about homosexuality abound considering the two leads spend a good deal of screen time locked in Jujitsu holds, everyone they encounter is either violent, corrupt or perverted which works out well when they are, in turn, eaten by zombies. Horror Manga legend Kazuo Umezo (in his trademark striped shirt) makes an appearance as an expert on Paranormal phenomenon who seems rather excited that Zombies have "finally" made it to Japan, and demonstrates with gusto the removal of the head as the only solution. An animated segue fast forwards the story into a post apocalyptic Japan with blood sport for the bored Nuevo Riche... and a cliff hanger ending to top things off!

If you've been pinning for a successor to Wild Zero, Tokyo Zombie is just what you've been waiting for. Ok, so maybe Guitar Wolf doesn't pop up, but Japanese indie band The Homesicks rock the credits and obscure Toyko club scenesters Kamaboiler are already rumored to have rolls in the yet un-filmed sequel. A love letter to Eastern and Western Horror and B-films, this pop culture matsuri made my day.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Rick Sullivan and the GORE GAZETTE

Without question, Rick Sullivan's GORE GAZETTE was one of the greatest grindhouse-film 'zines of all time. Throughout the '80s and early-'90s -- back when Times Square was still a beloved cesspool -- Rich cranked out 110 issues of his hilarious newsletter. I was one of its many fans, and if not for Rick Sullivan, there might never have been a SLIMETIME or SHOCK CINEMA.

Sure, I was writing film reviews long before I picked up an issue of the GORE GAZETTE -- during my college days I was Film Coordinator for Syracuse University's University Union Cinemas, and wound up writing hundreds of reviews for films that were being shown on campus -- but it wasn't until I read several issues of the amazing GORE GAZETTE that I decided to try out this self-publishing nonsense for myself (and just like Rick, I printed it at work, using office copy machines and supplies). Alas, Rick closed up shop after his 110th issue, but I still hear from the guy on occasion (often with a photo-Xmas card of him and his family) and he seems to be doing quite well.

Shifting to the present day, Mike Decker at Just for the Hell of It has recently devoted a lengthy section of his website to the GORE GAZETTE. We get 10 pages of classic Rick Sullivan opinions and rants, along with loads of nostalgic scans -- including Rick's premiere issue, numerous G.G. covers, plus several flyers for his riotous Gore Gazette Film Series.

Click on the image below -- the cover of G.G. #108 (the issue contained a hilarious editorial that ripped into FILM THREAT-pinhead Chris Gore for incorrectly saying that the GORE GAZETTE was run by li'l ol' me, hence its "Steve Puchalski takes over the G.G.?" headline) -- and the link will take you directly to The Best (& Worst) of the GORE GAZETTE.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Not so brutal...

Brutarian magazine is always a good read, so imagine my surprise when I saw not only a review of Shock Cinema #32 but the cover reproduced full sized! And Brutarian had lovely things to say about it, too, from praise of Steve's writing, to our choice of films and interviews. The only criticism -- well, as they point out, we DID ask -- the other film reviewers! And despite being one of those other film reviewers (I'm not an epigone, so I must be one of the feckless pendants), I still think the review was great and really look forward to future issues. These old school zinesters do not seem to have an official website, but click you can on their cover to visit their MySpace page...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Yes, you can rent these titles!

Available on Domestic DVD and still worth watching!

Along with the hundreds of import discs and out of print rarities we sift through week to week, we are also hard core Netflix users, turning around disc after disc, we consume movies! And believe it or not, there are some completely accessible releases that the casual viewer may have missed.

Rampo Noir is a dark string of related vignettes, based on the short stories of Edogaro Rampo. Really savvy anime fans (if such a thing exists) may have caught Rampo homages in the background of the Recent Rozen Maiden tv series. Anyway, Tadanobu Asano tops a cast of excellent actors, the creepy unsettling situations are well photographed and the director takes great pleasure in making very ugly images painfully beautiful. From start to finish, this is horror-gone-art-film worthy of early Cronenberg and Kiyoshi Kirosawa.

Staying in Japan but moving away from fiction, Perfect Fake, a Canadian documentary tackles artificial sexuality in the form of sex dolls, interactive media and... Araki Gentaro's toy sculptures? OK. Well done and informative if a little unsettling.

Princess Raccoon is classical Japanese Opera meets modern story telling. Surreal, beautiful and sometimes stupid but worth watching. Makes better use of Ziyi Zang then Memoirs of a Geisha did for damn sure.

Empire of the Wolves is your pretty basic French Crime yarn with Jean Reno doing what he does best. Works well with the Crimson Rivers films, but not directly related. And no, I will not watch "just anything" because Jean Reno is a cool action hero. I made it through about fifteen minuets of The Corsican Files before I gave up. The allure of French Comedy continues to elude me...

In the mean time I'm still waiting for the entire Alex De La Iglesia collection to be released stateside (I would so like to watch Day of the Beast again...). Or for Attack the Gas Station to slip in with the tidlewave of mediocre Korean cinema available on DVD. I'm tired of telling people about it then remembering the only available version for rental is dubbed into Mandarin and subbed in English-- still unacceptable to purists like myself. However Danger Diabolik came out remastered, and if you've only seen it on a crappy VHS, go, go go put it in your rental queue!

More imports and animation when I return...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Marcel Marceau 1923-2007

Marcel Marceau passed away on September 22, and since I have no great love for French mimes -- no matter how famous they are -- I figured I'd reprint my old review of his 1974 horror-movie fiasco SHANKS, from SHOCK CINEMA #4 (1992).

SHANKS (1974).
This barely distributed film was William Castle's last excursion into directing. Self-labeled a "grim fairy tale", it stars mime bigshot Marcel Marceau as a mad puppeteer. But don't go into it expected any of Castle's famed gimmicks like Emergo, for this is simply a creepy (or should that be crappy?) mess. So juvenile and crudely produced that it feels like a European AfterSchool Special instead of the twisted fable Castle was hoping for. And so filled with unintentional hilarity that it's simply embarrassing after a while.
Marcel, who can barely act in the first place, is saddled with a dual role. First, as the title character Malcolm Shanks, a deaf and dumb puppeteer (with tragically flaired pants) who's living in a hovel with his drunken, shrewish family and their outrageous foreign accents (if bad accents were a crime, the entire supporting cast would be in Attica). But one day Malcolm is hired by a rich old recluse (also poorly played by Marcel, under six pounds of cheap latex). You see, the old man is experimenting with reanimating the dead by stuffing electrodes into them, and he needs a "puppeteer" as talented as Shanks to make them walk about. After rehearsing on chickens, they move onto humans, which initiates some cheap slapstick at the expense of the dead.
It's admittedly bizarre to watch Shanks collect his deceased human puppets (though after a while I began to wonder why they never started to stink), and even more so when the corpses begin dancing and accidentally cutting off their own fingers at a li'l girl's birthday party. But for every offbeat moment, you get long boring scenes of Marcel pining for the jailbait girl of his dreams. Zzzzzz. And just when you thought it had hit its height of absurdity, a motorcycle gang suddenly roars onto the scene (with Don Calfa and Helena Kallicoates as a couple of the motorcycle sickos), as if they're escaped from some other movie! And suddenly Marceau turns into the most dubious action hero of all time! Hell, Mister Rogers has more macho charisma!
Castle takes a genuinely twisted concept and executes it with all the finesse of a Carol Burnett Show rerun. Sure, it's weird as hell, but it's also stunningingly inept most of the time. You can tell Castle was hoping to create a magical fable (similar to what Tim Burton accomplished with EDWARD SCISSORHANDS), but arrived only with a cosmic misjudgement, from its annoyingly cutsy credits/segues, to its interminably upbeat finale. I just kept shaking my head in utter disbelief, and the movie clocked a near record number of walk-outs at the Film Forum theatre...I often wondered why this movie hadn't been shown in over a decade. After grimacing through it, I now fully understand.

My Favorite Scene in DEATH PROOF

It was a very cool surprise to discover that SHOCK CINEMA makes a cameo appearance in the extended DVD-version of Quentin Tarantino's DEATH PROOF. We're also in good company, alongside FANGORIA, ESSENCE, FILM COMMENT, EBONY, VIDEO WATCHDOG. et cetera.
No question, this is the best 7-11 magazine selection you'll find anywhere in the country, much less Lebanon, Tennessee.

A big salute goes out to Monsieur Tarantino!

Gossip Mags: The '60s. Part 2

Friday, September 21, 2007

I think they should have Saturday Morning Cartoons for Grownups...

I've come to the slow realization that comic books are about to become a much larger part of my life... so in that spirit, I thought I would go over some of my favorite animated projects that have been available State side at one time or another.

I'll start with Tekkon Kinkreet: Based on the manga of the same name by French influenced Japanese artist Taiyo Matsumoto, this is the first real project by Studio 4C to reach the US legitimately. Long time readers of Shock Cinema may recall Mind Game from the Film Flotsam section of the magazine a few issues back. Well, this is the same group of people with an American ex-pat at the helm (don't be put off, all you anime purists, he's worked for the company for years -- hello, Animatrix). The film captures both the style and esoteric story telling of the source material and will probably confound your average US viewer. Case in point: They are eating it up in France.

Speaking of France, I recently went looking for the English language release of Les Mondes Engloutis, or Spartikus and the Sun Beneath the Sea. This aired in the mid 80's in the US along with a package of Japanese-animated-for-French-TV Saturday morning fare. This French made, two season series was by far the most memorable. While the animation is stunted, it perfectly compliments the design and story. It would make a nice companion to Tekkon Kinkreet, but it is unavailable. Oh poo. If you do find yourself confronted with a musty old VHS copy, be forewarned that the US and Spanish release included the treacley pop stylings of Menudo over the end credits. UK and German viewers were spared this indignity.

Because of the sheer volume of animation that comes out of Japan, it may seem like that's where all the cool stuff is. Sure, I'll happily watch Paranoia Agent for the third time, or FLCL for the tenth, but I'm not an anime fan over all. I mean, good animation is just, well, good animation. That is why the Popeye The Sailor 1933-1938 is still at the top of my Netflix queue. A four disc set, arranged chronologically, re-mastered... a wet dream for Fleischer fans everywhere.

Oh, what I wouldn't do for a clean copy of the English dub of Felidae, a German animated feature from the mid 90's. Complete with swearing, sex and violence, a feline Sam Spade tries to solve the mystery of grisly cat murders in his new neighborhood. The Disney-eque style compliments the dark subject matter perfectly. Watch it with The Plague Dogs for a double bill of not so cute and fuzzy.

I still have a stack of animated oddities to make way through, so I'll end my commentary for now, but I'm sure I'll be back with more as I'm always on the look out for the next mind blowing feature in my favorite film category -- Animation!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Missed it!

Aww, I don't have time this week to get to the last Joshua screening! Sorry guys, you'll have to find your reviews elsewhere. I'll post next when I get to see something new.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Gossip Mags: The '60s. Part 1

I dearly love those old gossip magazines and their "scandalous" scoops!

Friday, June 1, 2007

A Night with the Watch

I wrote about Timur Bekmambetov's DAY WATCH in SHOCK CINEMA #31 as the biggest Russian blockbuster of its time, and it's no secret that I'm a fan of the WATCH series -- movies and books alike. So when Fox Searchlight announced the Stateside release of DAY WATCH, I jumped at the chance to see what they had done with the translation, and hey, to see it on the big screen! I bullied a friend into coming along with the added incentive of the pr department's cocktail hour post-show. I was curious just what Fox would do with the two-hour-plus epic sequel, since NIGHT WATCH had odd changes (I understand swapping out the Soviet cartoon for reruns of BUFFY, but on a plasma screen TV too posh for most American households, much less Moscow...?). I am happy to say that there were few edits from the Russian print short of a recap added to the opening. The running time seemed on par with my memory of the international release, putting all those negative rumors to rest at last. They even kept the entertaining credit sequence (I waxed poetic about it in my print review, I wont go on again). The translation was good and the animated subtitles worked really well with the production. Best subtitle of the night? A chunk of beef thrown at a wall spells "...bitch" as it slides bloodily to the floor. I'm also still mystified as to why people find the storyline so confusing, since it's far less convoluted than US-franchises such as THE MATRIX and LORD OF THE RINGS. Fox treated us well with previews of both JOSHUA (though I still can't get much of a feel for the film yet, short of a more violent BAD SEED remake) and SUNSHINE (looks brilliant, but I like director Danny Boyle to start with -- the more obscure the themes the better). They also provided us with nifty swag including a DAY WATCH shirt which now means I really do have a WATCH shirt for every day of the week. You know, not as if I would (heh, you can't tell but I'm wearing one now!).

While I'm at it, welcome to the official Shock Cinema blog. Sorry, but I must confess, chances are you'll hear more from me here then you will from Mr. Editor, but he has real work to do. And it evens out: I write minimally for the magazine, so you can handle a little more from me here. Right? Right?