Kim Newman’s Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen Since the 1960’s

Kim Newman's Nightmare MoviesThe cover has the quote:

‘Encyclopaedic, insightful and entertaining – no bookshelf should be without Newman’s frighteningly readable Nightmare Movies

The quote comes from film critic Mark Kermode (his opinion is always right – according to him at least). Actually I tend to agree with Mr. Kermode about almost everything  including this book because it is an insightful, detailed and well written look at the horror genre covering just about everything and is a must purchase for anyone interested in horror or films in general.

Nightmare Movies is in its third edition and has been updated for 2011. It offers erudite and entertaining cult film criticism from Night of the Living Dead to the recent remake of The Crazies. It takes in every cult film genre going adding context and depth. There are so many films over the 500+ page book that I’ll cherry-pick some for examples:

The Indian Summer of the British Horror Film

The Beast Must Die

Psycho Movies or: ‘I Didn’t Raise My Girl to be a Severed Head.’

Halloween

Cannibal Zombie Gut-Crunchers – Italian Style!

Zombi 2

At First Just Ghostly

Wicked City

He doesn’t just cover films but also includes novels, short-stories and TV drama like Supernatural. Kim Newman has clearly watched everything good and bad thus his writing shows experience and knowledge. When he analyses auteurs, trends, careers, gender and race politics, technical and thematic touches, and the influence of porn and indie or major studio output you can trust his opinion.

His writing is hugely enjoyable and detailed enough that you get a sense of history (and occasional spoilers) and he manages to remain witty, shaping chapters and paragraphs logically but with verbal flair using great imagery and humour (even the lists that frequently appear). One simple example is,

“Most disaster movies are bloated caricatures of Night of the Living Dead, floundering in their titanic budgets.”

As a fan of Japanese and Far Eastern cinema I was pleased to see films from the region were also included in the book in the analysis of genres and not just a short chapter. For example he includes anime like Hellsing and Blood: The Last Vampire as well as B-Movies like Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl in a wider discussion about vampires. Titles from Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong are explored in greater depth in his chapter focussed on ghosts and he gives a detailed account of the J-horror boom and the Ringu franchise. There are a variety of films from different years including Evil Dead Trap, A Tale of Two Sisters and A Chinese Ghost Story which which just adds further to the sense of Newman’s expertise although I would have liked an analysis of an auteur or two.

As for the pictures – there are many in two sections and they are pretty good (bloody creepy) although they are in black and white.

What I really enjoyed about the book is it brought back memories of why I like these films, why they caught my imagination. The main draw is the fact that this book is really useful and informative. I now have no desire to see Thundercrack! (not that I ever did) on the one hand and on the other his analysis of various auteurs has left me intrigued about DePalma’s 1966 Murder a la Mod. I no longer want to view the earliest output of David Cronenberg because his descriptions are adequate enough but something like Larry Cohen’s The Stuff warrants a viewing.

In this modern age of film viewing with legal so many platforms and sources for films I have so much content to watch and choice as to how I watch it but don’t get the chance to see everything so a book like this is both a gift.

For more information, look up Newman’s site or you can purchase it from Amazon

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Ben-To, The Lady, Baby Call Trailers

Three trailers this week and only one of them is from Japan. I’m busy reading Kim Newman’s Nightmare Movies – excellent read – so I’ll review that next week.

Ben-To

Release date:  October

Running time: N/A

Director: Shin Itagaki

Starring: N/A

Bentō boxes are a famous Japanese cultural institution but I have never seen them depicted like this! Directed by Shin Itagaki who did the so-so Devil May Cry, I thought I’d throw this trailer in just to beef this week’s trailer post and because it looks like a full-on comedy take on a brilliantly simple and silly idea.

Poor high school student Yō Satō. Satō goes to the supermarket and discovers a bentō box (boxed meal) on sale. Before he can get to it, he ends up on the floor unconscious. Why? Well Satō has just entered the “supermarket survival battle” for half-price bentō, a no holds-barred extreme battle for food!

The Lady

Release date:  N/A

Running time: 145

Director: Luc Besson

Starring: Michelle Yeoh, David Thewlis

 

A film about the Burmese pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi which stars martial arts legend Michelle Yeoh, it details her relationship with her British husband, Michael Aris (David Thewlis) which she maintained whilst under house arrest. I’m unsure about Luc Besson considering his directing career peaked with the underrated Fifth Element and has been walking wounded since but Aung San Suu Kyi is an inspirational figure.

Babycall

Release date:  N/A

Running time: N/A

Director: Pål Sletaune

Starring: Noomi Rapace

As a J-horror fan I took one look at the trailer and felt vibes of the Dark Water kind. I’m hopeful this will be just as good because Noomi The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Rapace is a brilliant actress.

After escaping her violent husband, Anna and her 8-year old son, Anders, are on the run and move to a secret address in an apartment building. To ensure the safety of her son Anna buys a babycall but strange noises echo from elsewhere in the building including what she believes is the murder of a child. Meanwhile, Anders gets a mysterious, dark-haired friend who comes and goes a she wants.

Sakuga

I have been watching anime for a very long time and yet I have only just recently run across explanations of Sakuga.

I have long read complaint and criticism of the limitations of anime – limited movement, reuse of animation and bland backgrounds. These complaints are usually trotted out by people who are trolling anime in zealot wars between fans of western animation and anime.

It’s hard to deny that anime suffers from money saving techniques like this. I have recently just watched twenty episodes of Steins;Gate and there are more than a few close-ups on a face as a character talks, their mouth moving and not much else. Other money saving techniques subject the audience to a series of shots consisting of cityscapes and backgrounds or zooms in on a static shot as somebody else off-screen talks.

Then there are the moments when the anime bursts into life, the animation budget is splurged in a glorious sequence – Sakuga, baby!

The animation magically becomes fluid with continuous motion and expressive animation that might even change its style. It’s the stuff that makes anime so brilliant. Episode 11 of Steins;Gate has it when the lead protagonist, fearing for the safety of his friend, bursts into a super-human run that reminded me of time travel as time and space seemed to be distorted. It’s heart-pounding stuff.

Anyway for my AMV of the week here’s an AMV with sakuga moments from 2011 with awesome J-rock!

 

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Free Asian Cinema All-Dayer in Aid of Indie Film Industry

I reported this on Anime UK News and I figure it should go up here to support the indie labels that were hit by the recent riots because indie film labels like Third Window Films (Villain, Love Exposure, Cold Fish), Terracotta Distribution (Breathless, Big Tits Zombie) and anime distributor Beez (Durarara!!) lost stock during the riots due to the fire at the Sony warehouse site which they were using as a storage facility for their DVD stock.

In an effort to support these indie labels a free Asian cinema All-Dayer has been organisd in order to raise awareness of their films. The screenings has been scheduled to take place at Bloomsbury Lanes’ cinema, Bedford Way, London on Saturday the 3rd of September. So far two films have been confirmed.

From 3pm: Fish Story (Third Window Films)

Synopsis:

Based on a novel by Kotaro Isaka, ‘Fish Story’ weaves together several seemingly separate storylines taking place at different points in time over a 37-year span to explain how a little-known punk rock song can save the world.

From 5:30pm: Red Light Revolution (Terracotta Distribution)

Synopsis:

China’s first sex shop comedy follows an unemployed Beijinger who risks it all to open an adult store, sparking a sexual revolution in his conservative neighbourhood.

Organisers put out the following statement:

A day of free Asian film screenings is scheduled to hit the Bloomsbury Lanes in Tavistock Square on Saturday 3 September. Eccentric tales of punk music saving the world (Fish Story), as well as China’s first sex shop comedy (Red Light Revolution) are amongst the films scheduled, with more to be announced shortly.

The event is being organised by Japan Underground, a club night and promoter of Asian entertainment, to raise awareness and support for the independent Asian film companies that lost their stock when the Sony DADC centre was burnt down in the England riots on 8 August.

Confirmed to be showing films at the event are Third Window Films, who recently released the critically acclaimed Japanese thriller Confessions on DVD and currently have the award winning drama Villain in cinemas, and Terracotta Distribution, the company behind London’s Terracotta Film Festival and films as diverse as Big Tits Zombie 3D and “Film of the Year” (Sight & Sound) Breathless.

“Business is tough enough in the current climate, it would be an utter shame if the Sony DADC incident resulted in these independent companies ceasing to trade. They have so many fantastic and quirky titles that appeal to all kinds of film fans. I hope this free event will encourage those that would not usually try Asian cinema to give it a go, as well as allowing existing fans to show their support to the companies behind the films,” says Japan Underground’s director Tom Smith.

For further information visit http://japanunderground.wordpress.com/ – Japan Underground’s club night will follow the screenings in the venue’s Kingpin Suite, showcasing Japanese music and live artists until the early hours.

Source Source Source

 

Séance Kourei こうれい 高齢 (2001)

This is a TV film made on a whim for Kansai TV execs who wanted to cash-in on the J-horror craze started by Hideo Nakata’s Ringu, it says a lot about the quality of its director, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, that Séance uses intellectual and cinematic rigorousness to create a compelling character study light on scares and more about a seemingly normal couple buffeted by the supernatural and feelings of alienation and aimlessness borne from their frustrated ambitions and failed family life.

Junko Sato (Jun Fubuki) is a psychic medium who is married to a sound effects engineer named Koji (Koji Yakusho). After a university turns down the opportunity to test her abilities, Junko finds herself returning to normality doing occasional séances for others. When a girl named Yoko is kidnapped the police call upon Junko to assist their investigation. Meanwhile Koji is in the woods collecting sound effects, his equipment surrounding him. Also in the woods is Yoko who, whilst fleeing her kidnapper, locks herself in Koji’s equipment case. Koji returns home transporting the girl home with him. He leaves the case in the garage for some days and it isn’t until Junko senses Yoko that they find her unconscious. Fearing that the police would never believe the coincidence and sensing an opportunity to exercise her psychic abilities in a far grander manner, Junko hatches a plot to keep Yoko in their home whilst she feeds information and evidence to the police leading to Yoko’s eventual rescue. The plan soon goes wrong.

Jun Fubuki conducts a Seance

Continue reading “Séance Kourei こうれい 高齢 (2001)”

Japanese Film Trailers and Toronto International Film Festival

After last weeks single trailer there has been a veritable flood and the line-up of films at the 36th Toronto International Film Festival looks awesome. I’ve focussed on the Japanese trailers, some of which I have already posted before, so if you like Japanese films read on!

HOLD IT! Done in the style of Phoenix Wright

Oh yeah, yesterday my entry for Front Room Cinema’s World Icon’s Tour went live. The chap I selected was Kiyoshi Kurosawa and I had a lot of fun writing about him so expect a series of reviews based on his films. Anyway, back to the post!

Oh how I wish I lived in Toronto. Not because of the high quality of life and the beautiful women seen in Scott Pilgrim but because of the Toronto International Film Festival. This year’s lineup of films has been announced but I’ll focus on the Japanese films which look impressive:

Himizu – Dir. Sion Sono

From Up on Poppy Hill – Dir. Goro Miyazaki

A Letter to Momo – Dir. Hiroyuki Okiura

Smuggler – Dir. Katushito Ishii

Monsters Club – Dir. Toyoda Toshiaki

Continue reading “Japanese Film Trailers and Toronto International Film Festival”

AMV of the Week Anime Girl Empire

Just to end my series of posts about anime heroines’ I have this AMV show-casing some of the best girls anime has created. Okay so I didn’t mention many of the ones in this video but I figure my list contained all of the most striking and interesting examples I have encountered.

Anyway the AMV offers a history of anime girls from 80’s/90’s and early 2000’s stuff like Gunsmith Cats, Noir, Azumanga Daioh, Armitage, Full Metal Panic, Black Lagoon, Blue Gender, Sailor Moon, Dominion Tank Police, Escaflowne, Ghost in the Shell, Perfect Blue, Dead or Alive 4 Cardcaptor Sakura, Ninja Scroll, Slayers, Soul Eater, Resident Evil videogames.

The AMV is excellently done. Music is unobtrusive and fits well, flowing the with action, dancing and transformation sequences (henshin a-go-go baby!… or should that be METAMORPHOSE!). I like the editing which overlays various anime together bringing together every trend seen in anime (as you can imagine, lots of magic, transformation, pantsu, moe, tsundere and what not) and the fact that so much content has been pared down to bring so many action sequences together shows a remarkable dedication.

Whatever complaints I may have about the way girls are portrayed in anime like Highschool of the Dead, many anime girls are probably the most likeable and exciting characters in any medium out there.

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Anime Heroines’ – Late 2000’s

Spoilers!

Hello once again dear audience. The final part of my anime heroines’ thread takes in the most modern of anime and the most modern of anime girls I watched in the years 2007-11 where a wealth of anime opened up online. Undoubtedly animation has become slicker and the stories are just as, if not even more entertaining than ever before but have the female characters improved?

I’m not sure.

I haven’t and won’t watch every anime out there, there’s far too much but I have watched a lot. Show’s like Monster and Le Chevalier D’Eon feature a cast of characters rich in depth and style, but most of them tend to be male. When I think back to 2010 with anime like Sora no Woto, Occult Academy and Durarara!!, the female characters ultimately turned out to be rather flat, adhering to one type or another, tsundere, moe etc. So who are the anime heroines that have impressed me?

Revy – Black Lagoon (Madhouse)

Revy in action in the anime Black Lagoon The anime I watched that got me back into the medium after a long break. When I watched the second episode of Black Lagoon online I fell in love immediately due to its ballsy combination of extreme action, over the top set pieces and a distinctive cast of characters. The lead character may be a Japanese salary-man/fish out of water named Rokuro but chinese-American gunslinger Revy muscles him out of the spotlight with her sheer bravado and ruthlessness.

Black Lagoon's Revy taking a hostage

Continue reading “Anime Heroines’ – Late 2000’s”

Torchwood Miracle Day Quick Post

Torchwood Miracle Day which is currently airing on BBC One and I am enjoying it.

Speaking as a fan of Doctor Who, I respect Russell T. Davies for dragging Doctor Who from the deepest darkest pit of science fiction and back into the mainstream. (That said I am more of a fan of the Steven Moffat era which is darker.)

When Davies left Doctor who to work on Torchwood I was intrigued but it never really caught my imagination. It was meant to be a more adult spin-off from Doctor Who but came across as a low-rent X-Files. The ideas were mostly good but the execution was occasionally lacking, dialogue could sometimes waver on terrible and the tone was uneven and they needed a bigger budget. Re-reading that I feel I’m being too mean because it was far more original than a lot of stuff on television.

When I heard it was moving to America courtesy of Starz network I was a little cynical about how it might work but with American money and the visions in Russell T. Davies’s head have a big enough canvas to be explored and enjoyed.

I think a lot of this comes down to the hiring of Jane Espenson. All of those criticisms I made earlier about the writing, gone. She’s a veteran of genre TV in America having worked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Battlestar Galactica and she has smoothed the transition and now the show is set-up and the forces are in place I can’t wait to see the resulting fireworks. What has gone down so far has been a mix of the gruesome and the action-packed with a tone that is far more familiar from big-budget American sci-fi shows but with the originality that Russel T. Davies brings.

The Torchwood GangActing is brilliant and the tone they get fits well for what I think Davies has always aimed for. John Barrowman is as charming as ever playing Captain Jack and Eve Myles plays her Welshness up well as Gwen Cooper. The new cast of Mekhi Phifer (from E.R. and the brilliant Spike Lee film Clockers) as C.I.A. Agent Rex Matheson and Alexa Havins as Esther Drummond gel in nicely. The American characters fit in rather well and moving the show to the US has been well handled. Although I’ll miss Cardiff as a location the bigger scope offered by the US is welcome.

Big name Bill Pullman (Space Balls, Lost Highway, The Grudge) is the only one who doesn’t sit as easily… I can’t say I really buy into Oswald Danes, a heinous murderer, becoming the new messiah of a world without death because his crime is just too great for the public to forget but this is more a problem with the plotting. Pullman should be praised for putting in a good performance – the man really does loathsome well.

So with the Walking Dead imploding with Frank Darabont’s departure, Torchwood remains the one bright genre TV spot for me.

For more information visit the BBC’s website!

Milocrorze: A Love Story Trailer

Only one trailer this week but this one looks brilliant.

Milocrorze: A Love Story

Release date:  N/A

Running time: N/A

Director: Yoshimasa Ishibashi

Starring: Takayuki Yamada, Anna Ishibashi, Seijun Suzuki, Maiko, Eiji Okuda

 

Having gained a reputation for being a bizarre and outlandish film even before it has been seen Milocrorze  follows multiple stories told from multiple perspectives which are delivered with different visual styles. When you consider that the three perspectives include a one-eyed ronin from a samurai drama, an unconventional relationship therapist and a man-child at the mercy of a mysterious woman’s whims this looks like it could be similar to Survive Style 5+. Directed by Yoshimasa Ishibashi who has worked on the wonderfully demented Vermilion Pleasure Night and The Fuccons (see the bottom of my おもしろいですね column for the vids) and starring Takayuki Yamada (13 Assassins), this looks like it will be enjoyable and inventive and stands out as one of the more interesting films getting a release this year.