a few new movie reviews

Two of these are still in theaters, and the rest are just random.

Attack Girls Swim Team Vs. The Undead (C, 2007) aka Joshikyoei Hanrangun, Attack Girls Swim Team vs. the Unliving Dead, Nihombie 2, Nihonbi 2, The Girls Rebel Force of Competitive Swimmers, Undead Pool Okay, admit it -- you don’t really need to know any more about this movie than the title, and maybe that it’s Japanese. You’re probably already looking for a copy and if I’m lucky you’ll come back and read this review later. I know this because that’s what I’d be doing. Anyway, this Japanese shot-on-video exploitation fest follows the might-be-horrific-if-they-weren’t-so-silly events that transpire when Aki, a pretty-but-strange new girl in school, and the members of the girls swim team, are faced with shambling hordes of classmates and faculty who’ve been turned into zombiefied homicidal maniacs by injections of a supposed vaccine. The swim team is spared because the chlorine in the pool water counteracts the vaccine. In spite of this outbreak, Aki and another girl use birthmarks to determine that they’re separated-at-birth sisters, which for some reason inspires them to perform a long and realistic lesbian scene (marred only by the fact that Aki makes awful squeaking sounds when she has sex -- it sounds more like dolphin talk or even balloons being rubbed together than ecstasy). They finally join the rest of the swim team, who suit up in one-pieces and go on the warpath. Aki gets attacked by a flute player who can control her with his music (even though he doesn’t appear to actually know how to blow into a flute), but Aki fights back using swimming equipment. Be sure to stay tuned for the nonsensical-but-funny secret weapon scene. Overall it’s ridiculous and stupid, but it delivers pretty much what you’d expect from a movie with that title, so, score! Lots of gore (although it’s mostly of the cheap show-blood-splashing-the-wall-while-the-interesting-stuff-happens-out-of-frame variety) and everything-but-pubic-hair nudity. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was made by pornographers trying for a breakout project.

Gran Torino (C, 2009) Rumored to be Clint Eastwood’s last film as an actor, which would be a major shame because it’s a perfect reminder of how much I like seeing this guy on the screen. It’s kind of a combination of All In The Family, Slingblade, and Death Wish III. Clint must have made this in answer to all those people who clamored for another Dirty Harry movie while also making “get off my lawn” old-man jokes. Clint at 78 plays Walt Kowalski, a retired auto worker and Korean war veteran who’s just lost his wife. The rest of his family doesn’t want much to do with him because he’s a grumpy old grouch, and also a racist (although if the truth be told, he’s more misanthropic than racist, really -- even though he flings a lot of politically-incorrect language around, he doesn’t seem to have much use for most white folks, either, and he uses the same ethnic insults on the people he does like). So, he’s left alone in a Detroit neighborhood that’s being taken over by Hmong Asians, some of whom have been forming their own gangs as protection from (and then criminal competition with) other inner-city gangs. When the local Hmong gang tries to force his teenaged neighbor, Thao, to join the gang by making him steal Clint’s vintage ‘71 Torino, Clint has to start interacting with the neighbors… and finds out he likes them more than his own kids. He also finds a chance to undo some of his parenting mistakes by mentoring Thao, who needs a role model. But things get more violent with the gangs, and Clint decides that the only way the kids next door are going to have any kind of chance in life is if he takes some drastic action. It’s pretty predictable (I guessed the ending as soon as I saw the trailer) and shamelessly manipulative, but Clint’s got such presence (even being older and frailer he’s believably tough, and doesn’t have to pull off any superheroics) and the film’s extremely good at what it does; when it wants to make you laugh, you will, and even though I didn’t tear up, at least half the other people in the theater were grabbing for Kleenex). You won’t care much if you saw the ending coming, because it’s a good story, not a Shyamalan-style puzzle box. A definite crowd-pleaser, and hopefully not Clint’s last, because he’s still got it, big time.

Heavy Metal Parking Lot (C, 1986) It’s hard to say exactly what makes this simple 16-minute documentary so freaking great, but it became a legend in underground tape-trading circles, and most people who’ve seen it get obsessed with it. The first day I got a copy I watched it three times, then twice the following day. Most amazing is the simplicity of the whole concept: a couple of filmmakers took a video camera to the parking lot of a Maryland civic center on May 31, 1986, to film the crowd waiting to get in to see a Judas Priest/Dokken concert for their cable access show. What they captured was a time capsule, an incredibly hilarious unintentional comedy, a strangely endearing sociological document, a nostalgia trip for anybody who was a high-school metalhead, and a tape-trading phenomenon. The kids they interview are mostly drunk, silly, very enthusiastic losers, so high on various substances, metal, and camaraderie that they’re completely uninhibited and make total asses of themselves… yet it’s also basically harmless fun so you kinda like these dorks even while you’re laughing at them. You will witness such goofs as the Zebra man (a guy in a zebra-striped spandex outfit who rants against punk rock and Madonna while praising heavy metal), a goober with a Steve Perry helmet haircut who sings “Living After Midnight,” a jock-looking 20-year-old who makes out with his 13-year-old girlfriend, some scary (and horny) girls who want to “jump Rob Halford’s bones” (let us know how that project turns out), a guy named Graham (“like a gram of dope and shit”) who says “Let’s legalize drugs, that’s a fact!”, and others. Lots of embarrassing haircuts and fashion choices, worn-out Camaros, beer consumptions, and loud avowals that Judas Priest RUUULES! The DVD includes a lot of extras, including a great “where are they now” update (revealing that Zebraman now looks like Matt Lauer), plus similar (although not nearly as magical) documentary shorts, such as “Neil Diamond Parking Lot” and “Harry Potter Parking Lot” and “Heavy Metal Basement,” which is over 40 minutes of watching a middle-aged metalhead show off his memorabilia, mostly Judas Priest albums. That segment is way more compelling than it should be, entirely because the guy seems like a nice fella and his enthusiasm for his hobby is infectious. Anyway, even if you’re not into metal, this is a must-get film.

Hell Ride (C, 2008) If you’ve ever wondered what somebody means when they say someone’s “trying too hard,” you now have the perfect example rat’cheer. This movie wants really, really badly to be out-cool-style Quentin Tarrantino, Robert Rodriguez, and Guy Richie put together, but in the attempt it becomes cornier than a vegan’s dookie. In fact, it officially closes the door on a few things that are officially on-notice-as-no-longer-badass: slow-motion shots of guys casually walking away from something exploding without glancing back, a guy tossing a Zippo into a pool of gasoline someone’s sitting in, and guys talking while pointing guns at each other now have officially been done to death as of this movie, so dig the grave, hang the wreath, say your bye-bye’s. The dialogue is straining so hard to make every line Faster Pussycat Kill Kill-ish that it bears no resemblance to the way anybody actually talks anymore; it’s as artificial as Greek drama and has a fascination for playing with the repetition of words (if you can get through the “fire” sex conversation, the “number” conversation, or the “business” talk without rolling your eyes, then damn, you’ve got strong eyes). As for the plot, there’s not really one. Two bike gangs, the Victors and the Six-Six-Sixers, have a beef over a bro who got killed, and also over some keys to some cash that’s been in dispute since 1976. (1976, by the way, is probably considered a god by these filmmakers). All kinds of conflicts and double-deals lead to lots of riding, fighting, and shooting. In its defense, it is shot really well, and there are some great bikes, and the action scenes aren’t bad even if they’re pointless. The acting’s pretty bad even though the cast isn’t - Dennis Hopper, David Carradine, Michael Madsen, Vinnie Jones, Eric Balfour, and some talented lesser-knowns who are confined by having to act like cartoons. There are also some decent eye-candy female talent on display, too. It’s bad mostly because it had potential that was wasted, but it’s not boring, at least.

My Bloody Valentine (C, 2009) Sorta-remake of one of stateroom’s top unsung classics, with some great 3D effects to boost the octane. The plot’s basically the same, but it’s almost dispensed with so they could fit in more splatter. A homicidal miner who went on a killing spree after being trapped in a cave-in apparently returns ten years later to pick up where he left off. Wearing anonymous mining dear - helmet, gas mask, coverall - he kills about as many people as the running time can handle without just turning into a video game. The body count is massive and they’re not shy about the gore, either, which the 3D exploits to maximum effect -- lots of blood, eyeballs, and jawbone-chunks get flung in your face like you’ve got a front row seat on the night Gallagher loses his mind. There’s also a surprising amount of full-frontal female nudity. Even though the original has less gore (even the unrated version they finally released, which is splatter-laden), it had a lot more plot, characterization, and atmosphere, and it easily remains the classic version. Still, this remake shouldn’t disappoint anyone who didn’t have unreasonable expectations. The gore gets a little over the top, but manages not to come across as parody, which would have sunk it. The allure of this is going to suffer on home video, because the 3D was really the big draw (I’m a huge fan of the original, but since I know what the remake game is like, the 3D’s all that dragged me into the theater) but the pacing and splat should make it worth any gorehound’s time, even flat. See the original first, though -- it was a movie, while this is a pretty good carnival ride.

Tad: Busted Circuits and Ringing Ears (C, 2008) “I’m a jinx, I’m a jinx, bad luck follows everywhere.” No offense to Nirvana at all (they’re brilliant), but Tad is really the band that should have made Seattle a big deal. Unfortunately, this band’s phenomenal talent was matched only by their astronomical bad luck, which this documentary explores skillfully, from being sued over album covers (my 8-Way-Santa has the banned cover, lucky me!) to being dropped by record labels for weird reasons (right when they were supposed to get huge), to drug problems within the band. A very well-done production on a very worthy subject, who are unfortunately forgotten by most. I saw these guys open for Primus in New Orleans (they blew Primus away) and Tad had the crowd chant “Fuck Sub Pop” because they were supposed to send T-shirts for the merch table, and didn’t. More Tad bad luck! Help them make up for some of what fate robbed from them by seeking this DVD out.

Uncle Goddamn (C, 1987) Infamous underground “Redneck Torture Tape” filmed by a North Caroline family who amuse themselves by pulling really evil “pranks” on their drunken Uncle Robert. Uncle Robert appears to be a hardcore alcoholic… and with family like this you can understand why he’d drink. He passes out a lot, or drinks until he barely knows where he is, and theny spray his face with silver spraypaint, piss in his beer, wrap tape around his head and then tear it (and much of his hair) off, blow pepper up his nose, and repeatedly risk a trailer fire by squirting lighter fluid on him and setting it alight. His barely-aware response to all this cruelty is “Goddamn yew!” while his family all laugh it up. There are also scenes of other family members making idiots of themselves by yelling at wrestlers on television. This is supposed to be funny, but it’s really more sad and pathetic. Jackass is funny because it’s made up of willing participants, but this is just victimization of a pitiful wretch by a bunch of sadistic idiots. Plus, it’s so badly filmed that it gets on your nerves, with all the looping. It’s just not safe to give some people access to a camera. I got this cheap and it still wasn’t worth it.

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