Quick Takes: Fast Company, The Fly, Dead Ringers

fastcompany_1Fast Company (1979)
threehalfstar

Starring William Smith, Claudia Jennings, John Saxon, Nicholas Campbell, Don Francks, Cedric Smith, Judy Foster, Robert Haley, George Buza, David Graham, David Petersen
Directed by David Cronenberg

Just a few months before unleashing The Brood, Cronenberg released this love letter to drag racing. It is easily the least “Cronenbergian” film from him I’ve seen, but even if I didn’t go into it knowing he loved cars, Fast Company would’ve told me as much. The film’s cinematography is superb, capturing wonderful, wide vistas of the Canadian roadways, as well as close-up shots of gleaming engines, smoking tires and all kinds of other machinery. I was especially taken by an intense close-up of a spark plug gap being checked. Also of specific note is an in-car shot of a complete funny car run, with a timer on-screen to further add to the wow factor. I’m not an experienced fan of drag racing, so I was quite impressed with the speed and the precision with which everything is carried out. The film’s story is relatively cliched, and it gets super campy — AKA Fun! — as it goes along, but during the racing segments it actually feels closer to a documentary. It is real cars with real drivers doing some real racing, after all. I think it would be a fine choice for a rumbling double feature with Mad Max: Fury Road. Plus there’s a Springsteen-like theme song, what more can I ask for? Anyone that loves cars, specifically when they were hulking beasts of steel and thunder, should check this forgotten gem out.

theflyThe Fly (1986)
threehalfstar

Starring Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz, Joy Boushel, Leslie Carlson, George Chuvalo
Directed by David Cronenberg

As I worked my way through Cronenberg’s films, I was eager to re-visit his take on The Fly. It was the first Cronenberg film I saw (as a kid sometime in the late ’80s), and all I remember from that viewing was that I thought it was really weird. I didn’t know how to comprehend or process it. Then I watched it again about 10 years ago, and while I liked it a lot more that time, it still felt kind of emotionally cold and I couldn’t get into it completely. When I look back on these experiences after this most recent re-watch, I’m shocked at myself. The Fly is one of Cronenberg’s greatest achievements, and the FX work that slowly transforms Jeff Goldblum into the Brundlefly is absolutely exquisite. My journey with the film is a testament to re-watching films at different ages; the Brundlefly may evolve rather quickly, but it takes much longer for a human such as myself. Sometimes you see a film too early for it to resonate, and thankfully when I watched it this time it felt exactly right.

deadringersDead Ringers (1988)
threehalfstar

Starring Jeremy Irons, Geneviève Bujold, Heidi von Palleske, Barbara Gordon, Shirley Douglas, Stephen Lack
Directed by David Cronenberg

Dead Ringers is an interesting film for Cronenberg to make directly after The Fly. Where that film went hard into the grotesque, Dead Ringers is reserved and intensely psychological. I must say that I prefer the methods of The Fly, but Dead Ringers succeeded in winning me over despite this. Jeremy Irons plays twin gynecologists, and it’s this absolutely riveting dual performance that glues you to the screen. Irons manages to create two distinct, believable characters, and Cronenberg somehow managed to often include them in the same shot without any hint of optical compositing or other visual trickery. It’s really something to see. Definitely a weird movie, though, so I don’t know who I’d recommend it to other than people who are already Cronenberg fans.

Stephen reviews: Black Magic M-66 (1987)

blackmagicm66_1Black Magic M-66 [ブラックマジック M-66] (1987)

Starring Chisa Yokoyama, Yoshiko Sakakibira, Ichirō Nagai, Kyouko Tonguu

Directed by Hiroyuki Kitakubo & Masamune Shirow


The title of this anime has always confused me. First off, there is no magic at all; black, yellow, turquoise or any other color you can think of. This here is a sci-fi film. Nor is there any significant usage of the color black in a non-magical fashion. In fact, the M-66 robots the film is about are far closer to white than black.

Even the second half of the title is confusing. As the film opens, it states that the “M” stands for “Mario.” Is there a significant character named Mario? Of course not. Is there anyone playing a Nintendo, even in the background? Not a chance. The Mario reference is never mentioned, and it is only in the title screen that we ever see it at all. Thankfully I did luck out in searching for info on this, and it seems that Mario is actually short for “marionette.” Why they shortened it, though, is anybody’s guess. I’m just happy that I won’t have an aneurysm trying to figure it out now.

Fortunately the rest of the film is very straightforward and easy to comprehend, although that in itself makes the title even more confusing. If the film had been a nonsensical art house mindfuck, I wouldn’t expect the title to make any sense. But no, it’s just a run-of-the-mill action film ripping off The Terminator, but with less time travel, more half-naked girls, and a dash of goofy comedy.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Black Magic M-66 (1987) →

Police Story Part II (1988)

policestory2_1Police Story Part II [警察故事續集] (1988)

Starring Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung, Lam Gwok-Hung, Bill Tung, Charlie Cho Cha-Lee, Benny Lai Keung-Kuen, Ben Lam Kwok-Bun, Guan Shan, Mars, Lisa Chiao Chiao, John Cheung Ng-Long, Danny Chow Yun-Gin, Johnny Cheung Wa

Directed by Jackie Chan

Expectations: High. Can’t wait to see that playground fight again.

threestar


Like Project A 2, Police Story Part II begins by re-introducing the disgruntled, revenge-seeking villains of the first film, but then sidelines them for a completely new plotline. This works well in Project A 2 — the pirates are but a single cog in a very well-constructed script — but in Police Story 2 the returning baddies don’t serve much of a purpose at all. They drive the story a bit in the early going, and they facilitate the entire playground fight, but overall they could have been excised and the film would still make complete sense. I’m ultimately glad they’re around because that playground fight is one of my favorite Jackie fights of all time, but I just wish their inclusion was more meaningful.

This disillusionment also represents my general feelings towards Police Story 2 this time around. There’s a lot to like here, and the action is incredible, but it’s in bad need of some editing. It turns out the version I watched was the Japanese cut — supposedly Jackie’s preferred version of the film — which runs about 20 minutes longer than the original HK cut. I guess I’ll have to hunt down that shorter version for next time, although I’m not entirely sure it would really change my opinion all that much. I guess it depends on where those 20 minutes are coming from.

Continue reading Police Story Part II (1988) →

Top 10 Film Discoveries of 2015

2015 was full of great films for me, most of which I didn’t review for Silver Emulsion. What can I say, my time has dwindled and my interest in the blog has diminished a bit. It was bound to happen sooner or later, but one thing that hasn’t faded is my love of film. I usually watch mostly old movies, and in 2015 I cuddled deep under the warm blanket of older films even more than usual. I only saw eight 2015 movies in 2015, and two of those were right at the end of December so they hardly count. If you care, Mad Max: Fury Road is easily my pick for the best of the year (if not the last few years), and I doubt anything could unseat it. Anyway, enough about what this post isn’t!

Below I present the Top 10 films I saw in 2015 that were new to me. Maybe you like them, too?


#10 Q (1982)
Directed by Larry Cohen

q

I’ve always been interested in exploring film in its many forms, but having Silver Emulsion has really pushed me far beyond what I would have otherwise done. In some cases, this has been a huge waste of time, but delving into the films of Larry Cohen has been one of the most rewarding journeys the blog has set me on. I watched three of his films last year and I loved them all (Bone & God Told Me To were the others), but Q was definitely the one that I enjoyed the most. The sheer audacity of the idea is exciting all on its own; it’s the kind of idea that if made today they’d say things like, “This wouldn’t have been possible without CG,” but here it is in all its 1982 glory. Admittedly, some will likely balk at its relatively low-budget FX work, but I found the FX to be absolutely enchanting and perfectly fitting for the film. Highly recommended!

#9 Nightmare City (1980)
Directed by Umberto Lenzi
Reviewed May 21, 2015

nightmarecity

I’ve never been much of an Italian horror fan, and I hate running zombies. Nightmare City showed me that both can be absolutely amazing. The zombies are little more than crazed dudes with mud smeared on their faces, but it doesn’t matter. The energy with which they assault the living, and the fun creativity of the film’s locations, make for one of the most fun zombies films of all time. Just watch it and thank me later.
Continue reading Top 10 Film Discoveries of 2015 →

Speck (2002)

Speck_1Starring Doug Cole, Beverly Sotelo, Stacy Cunningham, Flynn Beck, Kaycee Shank, Sunny Lombardo, Cinderella Gatcheco, Dawn Hawley, Erin Shayla Cullen, Debra Mayer, Larry Dirk

Directed by Keith Walley

Expectations: I don’t know. Not much.

halfstar


Speck is of the rare breed of low-budget horror films that go the arthouse route. This is always shaky ground, because unless the filmmakers are very competent, “artful strokes” very quickly devolve into boredom and pretense. In the case of Speck, this is definitely the case. To be fair, Speck is made with some amount of skill, but its arthouse leanings never translated to any kind of meaning for the audience. I had lots of thoughts about the film while watching it, but instead of looking for insight into its murderous lead character, I found myself wondering more about the filmmaker behind it and why anyone would want to make this movie.

Speck seeks to dramatize a true story. On July 13, 1966, Richard Speck entered a Chicago home and one-by-one murdered eight student nurses who were living there. This brief description also serves as a plot synopsis for the film, as Speck is very much focused on this night and not much else. The film shows us the world from Richard Speck’s point of view, and it’s colored with hateful narration that informs us of his views on humanity and how we’re basically all worthless maggots. His victims are nothing more than women in a room in Speck — we know nothing more about them than Speck does — and their status as student nurses is only conveyed to us through some on-screen text as the film opens.

Continue reading Speck (2002) →

The Kiss of Death (1973)

KissofDeath_1The Kiss of Death [毒女] (1973)
AKA Poison Girl

Starring Chen Ping, Lo Lieh, Fan Mei-Sheng, Chan Shen, Chiang Tao, Hui Siu-Hung, Lin Wen-Wei, Lily Chen Ching, Wong Hon

Directed by Ho Meng-Hua

Expectations: I don’t know. I don’t expect much fighting, that’s for sure.

threestar


There’s just no way around it: The Kiss of Death is a sleazy movie. It begins with a horrific gang rape of our lead character Chu Ling (Chen Ping) by a group of local thugs who spend their days stealing jewelry and their nights raping women. While this is probably the most hard-to-watch scene in the movie, it is merely the beginning of the brutality these characters are in store for. I’m not much of an exploitation film fan so I didn’t go into this one expecting much, but I’m glad to say that there’s more here than simple shocks and gratuity. What really holds the film together is Chu Ling and her struggle dealing with her rape that opens the film.

The film is very fast-paced and wastes little time delving deep into her emotions, though. Thanks to the skills of director Ho Meng-Hua this merely means that many of her emotions are conveyed to us very quickly, and through the use of visuals rather than long, drawn-out scenes of dialogue. When we first meet Chu Ling she is working in a textile mill on rhythmic machines that pound in and out. After her rape, she’s unable to work on the machine without it reminding her of the previous night’s brutality, and she slashes the thousands of tight threads running through the machine. Her life has been shattered and she wishes for revenge.

Continue reading The Kiss of Death (1973) →

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

t3_1Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, Kristanna Loken, David Andrews, Mark Famiglietti, Earl Boen

Directed by Jonathan Mostow

Expectations: I remember liking the crane chase and the ending… and not much else.

twostar


If you’ve seen Terminator 2, you will know that by all accounts there shouldn’t be a Terminator 3. They destroyed everything related to the Terminators and Skynet, averting Judgement Day and saving the world from a future robot war. “But what if–” said the greedy executive, “What if they only pushed Judgement Day back?” Herein lies the foundation of Terminator 3, and it’s a rocky, unstable one at best. So understanding that this is where the film is coming from, it makes complete sense that it’s something of a mess.

What’s a little harder to take as a Terminator fan is how the film gives John Conner amnesia about the terminators. He actually asks Arnold’s T-800 if he remembers him! Remember him? John, don’t you remember the Terminator that came to save you as a teenager was lowered into a vat of molten lava? This one’s completely different! I can understand a normal person making this kind of error, but the future leader of the human resistance that has supposedly been educated and trained specifically in all things Terminator since birth? Come the fuck on! I get that the scene is there to help the first-time audience members or ones that don’t have a great working knowledge of the Terminator mythology, but we don’t need to make the main character forget something so integral to the series just so Arnold can explain it to us. Ugh.

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