Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The National Filmboard of Ivanlandia Only Reviews Films, It Doesn’t Censor Them; Part One

The National Filmboard of Ivanlandia has been screening some DVDs before allowing the campesinos to bootleg them in the bazaars and marketplaces of Prince Ivan Junior City or Playa de Sangre. Stuck as we are, between the icebergs of Peru and the sandstorms of Western Greenland, we often are confused by your films…

The Filmboard reminds all citizens that all movies noted as “gory” or “blood-spattered” or “gruesome” are still required viewing for all pre-teens.
Cinema ID cards will be checked!

Remember, in the United Provinces of Ivanlandia, film evasion is a crime!

Happy-Go-Lucky (2008)
Reserved recommendation—only because you could make a perfect short film (45 minutes to one hour) from the scenes of Poppy and the driving instructor, with maybe some scenes from Poppy’s life as filler or detail. But otherwise, much of this flick could be fast-forwarded through. Aside from Poppy and the instructor, the rest of the cast is kind of listless, and cannot bring life to scenes of so-called “real life.” I haven’t seen everything Mike Leigh has done, but I really enjoyed Naked, Topsy-Turvy, High Hopes and especially Life Is Sweet (and when is that coming to DVD?), so Happy-Go-Lucky was overall a disappointment.

Memo to National Ivanlandia Television Corp.: Check viability of “Poppy and the Instructor” sitcom. Improv comedy based? Multiple cameras, yes—but only one set! Budget must factor in potential price fluctuations in gasoline....

Fuck it: there’s probably a reality show called “Driving Instructors” out there already

Let the Right One In (2008)
As unique a take on vampirism as George Romero’s Martin--but Let the Right One In really takes much too long to go anyplace, in my opinion. On the DVD’s supplemental materials, the director admits that his flick is “very Swedish,” so I think much of your enjoyment of Let the Right One In will stem from your tolerance for Swedish movies and their--I won’t say glacial--but I will say quite deliberate pace. I also found the lead character of the little boy to be a pathetic wet noodle and quite boring. I know that his weak character is important in regards to his relationship with the little vampire girl, but I really grew exasperated at his languid masochism. However, all fans of vampire flicks need to check this movie out: it’s a worthwhile addition to the genre.
(Hmmmm….I wonder if my dislike of the protagonist stems from this film's bad translation controversy?)

Punisher: War Zone (2008)
Gory madness and style overload that’s often quite awesome. When Punisher: War Zone is not blood-spattered mayhem, the film is very stupid, almost laughably cornball.

But the ultraviolence is executed (heh-heh) so well, with a really nihilistic Eastern European (or “Extreme Asian”) vibe, that I can’t help but think that the filmmakers were originally going for some sort of Starship Troopers-like meta-joke. Or maybe not. But supposedly the director had plenty of fights with the studio regarding the flick’s tone or plotting, so who knows?

Eden Lake (2008)
Eden Lake is almost a great horror movie. Something just didn't click for me in the way the film ended, something about the tone and the script. But until then, the flick is really a tension-packed endurance test, that reinforces the often overlooked truth that KIDS ARE EVIL, while appealing specifically to those (like me) who enjoy watching possessions-obsessed smug yuppies tortured and murdered.

It's quite a nasty, nasty film that does much to make you feel bad inside, with some grueling moments of torture and gore. If Eden Lake was only one hour long, it would be perfect.

The Midnight Meat Train (2008)
The Midnight Meat Train is hardly flawless, but definitely worth a look for gorehounds and fans of occultish horror.

Despite an abundance of style and very inventive and often disgusting gore, this flick takes much too long to tell its tale. Fast-forward through the first hour (but stopping for the blood and any scene with a very good Vinnie Jones—especially Ted Raimi’s eye-catching (heh-heh) cameo), and then start watching the flick for real. You won’t miss much, just a lot of useless “character development” for the photographer protagonist. The script really needed some fine-tuning, but at least the filmmakers were people who’d actually taken the subway: they get the feeling of paranoia right.

BTW, the DVD commentary between Ryuhei Kitamura (also the director of Godzilla: Final Wars) and producer/writer Clive Barker is a hoot – sometimes Barker even sounds turned on by what he’s watching.

I wonder if Midnight Meat Train’s need of further script development/improvement was a result of English being director Kitamura’s second language? Hmmmmm...
Memo for future Ivanlandia report: Examine disconnect often noticed when foreign-language directors take on English-language genre projects—

Viy (1967)
Viy gets 3 out of 5 overall, but lemme tell ya: the scenes in the church with the undead, especially the over-the-top-and-beyond climax, deserve 5/5: The last eight minutes of this Soviet fantasy-horror flick are truly bonkers and worth waiting for!

Because of the ridiculous and boorish behavior of the main character at the beginning, I always took Viy to be a horror-comedy (or a horror movie with comedic elements), like Corman’s The Raven or Sammo Hung’s Encounters of the Spooky Kind (either of which would be an awesome double feature with Viy).

Meanwhile, the elaborate medieval production design really gives Viy the flavor and tone of a Tim Burton or Terry Gilliam film--and it wasn’t surprising to find out that the Nikolai Gogol story which inspired Viy is also the story that inspired Mario Bava’s Black Sunday, another film it is similar to in style. Although it can be slow in spots, if you’ve enjoyed any of the other films I’ve mentioned, as well as Bava’s Black Sabbath (from which the band got its name—I love that!) or the awesome and extremely recommended Japanese proto-ghost story Onibaba, then you’ll enjoy Viy.

Regarding comments I’ve seen in different places regarding Viy’s special effects: People who gripe about the effects from a 1960s movie made in Communist Russia need to get out of the hole they live in more often.

Lost Command (1966)
Lost Command is a better-than-average war flick that manages to tell a complex story in a straightforward manner. However, the action scenes are not as strong as they need to be--they are kind of slow and repetitive, actually--and show that Lost Command’s stunt and action departments weren’t up to snuff. Which is too bad, because with a greater visceral charge, Lost Command could’ve been a much more memorable flick. As it is, the film is worth seeing if only as a companion piece with the incredible Battle of Algiers: both flicks look at the same conflict, but Lost Command examines it from the paratroopers’ side.

[WARNING: There will be delays. The Cybernetics Division of the Ministry of Information has informed the National Filmboard of Ivanlandia that the big Colossus mainframe we’ve been using since 2000 is starting to glitch out. The Ministry of Finance and the Treasure Department aren’t going to like this…]


  1. The El Che t-shirt kills me. I want it so badly!

  2. Isn't it something? I wish I remember where I swiped that jpeg...

  3. I tried finding it online. No dice yet. Might be Canadian?

  4. Funny that you mention two movies I've seen and loved recently - Let the Right One In and Midnight Meat Train. While the first was pretty slow-moving, I found that refreshing compared to some American horror movies which don't bother with the whole "building suspense" thing. And Meat Train? Slow? The movie's like an hour long. :) I guess it is based on a short story and could have been cut, but then it wouldn't even count as a movie. Loved the ending though. Did not see that coming.

  5. Phronk,
    I may have seen the "unedited" extra-splatteriffic director's cut of MMT. Also, I'd read the short story it's based on, so maybe knowing the end made me impatient.