Saw a Takashi Miike picture called The Great Yokai War. "Yokai" is a Japanese term for monsters from folklore, as opposed to the more familiar kaiju. It's a kids' picture, about a young boy from Tokyo sent out to live in the countryside with his older sister and his intermittently senile grandfather. When a vengeful spirit appears, the boy gets caught up in a war between warring groups of yokai and must find his courage to become the "Kirin Rider", the hero who will set everything to rights. It's not a bad picture - nothing deep, but an amusing story. Some of the yokai are really trippy, Japanese folklore can get pretty "out there", apparently.

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"Skyfall?"

Give that man a rhetorical CEE-gar!

Anybody familiar with the films of Christopher R. Mihm? He makes very cheap black and white movies somewhat similar to the cheap B pictures of the 50s and 60s. Just watched his 2012 film, House of Ghosts.

A rich man invites his friends to his mansion where a medium has been asked to try to contact the dead. Just before he arrives, a deputy shows up and suggests everyone spend the night there, since a big storm is approaching and it wouldn't be safe for them to leave. The rich man tells his butler to inform his other employees that they can go home. (Why is it okay for the employees to leave but not his guests? That's sort of mentioned at the end.) The medium then comes in, sets up a strange device that flashes a bright light for about a minute, then packs up and leaves, saying it opened the doorway between this world and the next and they have only to step through it now. The rich man follows him as he leaves, then returns and says he insisted on getting his money back, since the medium didn't do anything but flash his device in their faces (and the audience's faces of course.) Again, this isn't the truth, but we'll find that out at the end. The rich man says he has a headache and goes upstairs to rest. One by one, the others see ghosts, as well as a horned skeletal "angel of death" and a hideously deformed creature that's supposed to be the son of one of the characters (he died mysteriously near a river that was so badly polluted the wildlife was mutated. As it eventually turns out, his mother sees him deformed because she was just reminded about the mutations and is wondering if it might have affected her son in the same way.) One woman is killed when the "angel of death" picks up her dog and suspends it over the top of the staircase. She leans over the railing trying to grab it and falls over the edge. The last victim goes to get the rich man and tell him what's going on. The rich man acts groggy and confused, as if he's been drugged. The other guy is then killed by the "angel of death." The "medium" returns to the house now full of corpses, and tells a new character, who turns out to be an army general, that his device they were experimenting with was just supposed to give everyone hallucinations, not scare them to death. The general laughs and says he had changes made to it without the scientist's knowledge. When the scientist tells him he's shocked and horrified, the general says they need such a weapon to defeat the Communists. The scientist tells him they're not at war with the Communists, to which the general insists they are. The rich man comes in and is very proud of how well the experiment worked, not caring that the victims were his friends and his wife. The scientist threatens to go to the news about how they murdered everyone, but the rich man says as the only survivor he'll be happy to insist that the scientist killed them with his device. The rich man and the general walk away laughing. The end.

The film credits William Castle for inspiration (it starts with the director warning people about the movie and telling them to be sure to use the card passed out to cover their eyes when they see the flashing lights to protect themselves, the sort of thing Castle did in his movies.) According to the credits it was a kickstarter project and everyone that donated money got their name mentioned in the credits. Clearly they made everything as cheaply as possible, the case the DVD came in won't close at the top. Wikipedia says the first of these films, The Monster of Phantom Lake, had a budget of less than $10,000.

Meant to watch both Skyfall and Spectre over the weekend, but only got around to Skyfall.

I'll get to Spectre next weekend.

The title song for Skyfall doesn't make any sense. Is skyfall the end they'll face together, or "where we start"? What's the "you'll never have my heart" bit about, and how does it fit with the rest of the song, which is about sharing intense love and being united?

I never gave it much thought. I'd say the song is about the relationship of James Bond and M.

Skyfall is where we start

A thousand miles and poles apart

Where worlds collide and days are dark

You may have my number, you can take my name

But you’ll never have my heart

M "betrayed" Bond (in a way) at the beginning of the film. They kept each other at arm's length throughout their entire professional relationship. ("You may have my number, you can take my name" = M took away his name and gave him the number 007.) That fits thematically. It's ironic that he does, in fact, open his heart only at Skyfall (literally James Bond's family estate in the movie), which is both a beginning (in that sense) and an end for them.

Streamline Express (1935)

Romantic comedy starring Victor Jory and Evelyn Venable. Theatre man Jimmy Hart (Jory) learns his star Patricia Wallis (Venable) has quit due to his verbal abuse just ahead of the opening of his new play. She means to elope with her suitor to California on the inaugural journey of a futuristic train. Hart manages to get aboard and bribes a steward to let him replace him. Meanwhile, a wealthy man leaving his wife has booked passage on the train with his mistress. His wife follows them rather than give him up easily. (This part of the plot is not played for laughs.) Another passenger is a crook with whom the mistress has a past. To keep him quiet she bribes him with a diamond she's just received as a gift, and she covers this up by pretending it's been stolen. Complications ensue.

In its lead plot, as others have noted, the film is a virtual remake of Twentieth Century from the previous year. That film was set on a real train, but the one in this film is science-fictional. I've not seen Jory do comedy before. He plays his role with comedic flair and romantic charm. Venable is lovely and matches him well. The love triangle of Hart, Wallis and her fiancée is reminiscent of the one from the later His Girl Friday, and similarly entertaining here. The film is wittily written, especially in its first half. The happy resolution comes a little too easy. Downsides: Hart's and Wallis's relationship has an abusive element much like that of Barrymore's and Lombard's characters in Twentieth Century, and there's a scene with a stereotypical black maidservant early on, whom Hart mistreats.

Saw Bone Tomahawk yesterday.

This is a surprisingly good western with some horror elements. The film starts off in a very low key almost Fargo-esque tone and then slowly builds to a pretty satisfying conclusion. It also has a strong cast featuring Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson and Matthew Fox.  Overall I really enjoyed it and thought it gave a fresh take on some well worn genres.

Slightly less satisfying was The 5th Wave, an action oriented sci-fi film that wants to appeal to fans of The Hunger Games, Divergent and Ender's Game.  Not great, but Chloe Grace Moretz makes it worth watching if you have a couple of hours to kill.

I'm adding Bone Tomahawk to my Netflix list.

I saw The 5th Wave. It was OK, not great. I've been a big fan of Chloe Grace Moretz since Let Me In. She has a long, brilliant career ahead of her.

Island of Doomed Men (1940)

Thriller starring Peter Lorre, Robert Wilcox, and Rochelle Hudson. Stephen Danel (Lorre) has a private island with a slave workforce he uses to mine for diamonds. He obtains slaves by offering work to selected new parolees. His wife (Hudson) hates him and is afraid of him. Mark Sheldon (Wilcox) joins the secret service and is renamed 64. He's assigned to work with 46, who has been investigating Danel. Danel has 46 murdered, and 64 allows himself to be convicted of the crime rather than reveal his identity. When he's paroled Danel includes him among his recruits. On their arrival at the island the new recruits are first dined and then enslaved. Some time after Danel reveals to 64 he knows who he is and has him whipped in an attempt to make him talk. But 64 manages to escape…

This must be a B picture given its short length, but it has A picture sets and photography and is acted well. It’s a movie with a pulp plot done with class. Lorre’s Danel is soft-spoken and menacing. Wilcox's acting reminded me of Tyrone Power's (but I like Power more). Danel is a well-characterised villain, jealous of his wife and frustrated by his inability to make her love him. The script is good, but doesn't fully realise its potential.

In the world of the movie secret servicemen give up their real identities when they join the service. They operate without institutional support. I've seen similar ideas about spies in earlier prose fiction.

46 probably already knows enough to have the racket busted up when the story opens, making 64’s whole adventure unnecessary. It’s not clear how long 64's in prison, but he’s convicted of murder in a high-profile case: presumably it’s years.

Fans of early alternative music might enjoy a documentary entitled A Band Called Death.

It details the career of a band of black Detroit punk rockers that recorded an album back in 1975; well before Bad Brains had come in to existence. The story is fascinating and the documentary is very well done. It's an interesting counterpoint to another music doc called Searching for Sugar Man which also features a cult music figure from Detroit. I recommend both to music fans.

Sicario

This was a really good crime film that features Emily Blunt as an FBI agent who gets involved in the drug wars with the Mexican cartels. The style is a gritty realism similar to Traffic.



Richard Willis said:

I've been a big fan of Chloe Grace Moretz since Let Me In. She has a long, brilliant career ahead of her.

Loved Let Me In. A rare instance where the remake might have been better than the original. I also really enjoyed Moretz as Hit Girl in Kickass.  She's definitely a star on the rise.

I liked Let Me In, too, but I preferred the original. I thought it so well done and compelling that I found myself not reading the subtitles and still following everything.

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