Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Versus (2000) Review

And the Story Goes...
Ok, this is kind of tough, so I'm just going to throw out the most basic premise that I can. There is a group of people who are apparently reincarnated over and over. I believe that this happens until they reach a point in time that they all come together so that they can enter the 444 portal to another dimension(?). In the process of working towards their goal, these people must fight zombies and each other in the 'forest of the dead.'

It's basically just a bunch of scenes that are slapped together in order to tie fight scenes together.

My Thoughts
There are two versions of this film that are currently available: Versus, and Ultimate Versus. I'll be reviewing Ultimate Versus, and I think that the only real differences is an added fight or two, and the music is changed up. The DVD box also states that "some attitudes [are] replaced by cgi optimizer." I'm not completely sure what that means, but it probably has something to do with fake looking cgi blood being added. Whatever it means, it sure does sound "ultimate."

I'll begin by saying that the Japanese are a wacky bunch. With things such as hentai, those game shows where people are maimed, and square watermelons, I've reached a point where if I see something that is incredibly weird, I usually have no issues with assuming that the Japanese had something to do with its creation. That's why I was in no way surprised when Versus turned out to be a completely strange, yet entertaining, film.

The movie begins with a kinduh-helpful back story as to why this shiz is going down. After our brief introduction, it is not long before we are given our first glimpse of all of our characters in ancient times, and then present times (remember how they reincarnate?). The first aspect that stands out is writer/director Ryuhei Kitamura's attempt to try to make Versus stylish and fresh. The back of the DVD box even says that it's "super cool & no rules." In reality, the characters actually come off as more goofy and funny than cool. I'll go so far as to say that they  look more like parodies of Japanese people playing non-Japanese people trying to be cool. They're supposed to be intimidating I suppose, but I ain't buying it. These foos would have a hard time punkin' a girl scout, let alone somebody that keeps it real.*

The situation isn't remedied by that fact that apparently Kitamura believes that fresh and super cool means that characters pose repeatedly throughout the movie. I love the Charlie's Angel style pose by the group of two girls and a guy who are known simply as the assassins. It lets us know not to take the experience too seriously. Funny? Yes. Fresh and Cool? Eh. In spite of all of this tom-foolery, I will admit that the director does manage to keep some energy circulating with the camera work, and this helps to offset the general corniness of the characters.

Oh, and I'm not using names because I want to. I'm not using names because nobody in seems to have a name in Versus. That may be why everybody is an exaggerated version of various stereotypes. We have a prisoner, a gangster, a biker, a guy that screams continuously, a girl (no certain type of girl....just a girl), a couple of cops, a group of assassins, and the main bad guy. Strangely enough, this is all we need to know about them. After all, most of their interactions with each other are nothing more than fighting.

So, I've ripped on the posing and general stupidness of the characters, but seeing as this is supposed to be an action/comedy/fantasy, I guess that this cheesiness was intentional. One of the best lines in the movie is by the armless cop as he proclaims that he has "500 times faster reflexes than Mike Tyson." That has to be a joke, right? And, who can forget about the Yakuza guy that turns into a bug type person that crawls around on trees? That's (Japanese) weird, and has to be intended for comedic relief. These are just a couple of laughs that get throughout, too.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "but Jack, aren't you going to discuss the fight scenes in your (Inimitable Movie) review©?" Of course I am!

The fight scenes are many, and pretty well put together. This is the area that Versus really shines. Throughout the film we get a healthy mix of hand to hand, sword and gun battles that are much better than what we got from many of the movies coming out of States during the same era. Ultimately, if you're in the mood for a bit of the old ultra-violence, then this might be the movie for you.

As a fair warning to those of you who like endings that make sense, you should know that the ending of Versus really doesn't make any all. It's worse than the ending to The Blair Witch Project. We have flip-flopping roles, shaved heads, futuristic settings, smoke, and laser guided swords (seriously). In fact, then only thing that we don't really get is a Japanese woman in a Catholic school girl outfit, which is something that I kept expecting throughout the entire film. Oh, those wily Japanese. Just when you think that you have them pegged, they throw you a curve ball!

Kitamura managed to put together a semi-coherent mess of a movie that ends up being pretty entertaining. If you're not able to completely suspend your disbelief for a while, then Versus may not be the right film for you.  If, however, you don't care about gaping plot holes, adequate character development, or even an ending that makes any type of sense, then you should definitely check this one out. The spectacle of it all is worth it, son!

I'll rate in keeping with the tone of the movie: On a scale of 1 to Boobs, I give Versus an Orange. Give it a Watch!

Attempt to reach a younger audience by making use of modern slang

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Prisoners of the Lost Universe Review

And the Story Goes...
A scientist, Dr. Hartmann, creates a teleportation device that he, Dan, and Carrie accidentally fall in to at various points. The folks enter a parallel universe where technology is primitive, and everybody somehow speaks English (conveniently called Venyan). It is up to Dan and Carrie to find the good doctor so that they can all go home, or else they will become prisoners...of the lost universe!

Unfortunately, this is the sexiest that we get
My Thoughts
I can't help but to think that writer/director Terry Marcel made Prisoners of the Lost Universe specifically for me. I mean, he took two of my favorite subjects, prisoners and lost universes, and made one complete Inimitable (Movie Reviews)© film out of them. For that I will forever be indebted to him, and his ability to turn seemingly ridiculous story-lines into actually ridiculous movies.

For those familiar with cheesy 80s sci-fi, or avid fans of Jack Palance, you will undoubtably recognize Terry Marcel's work in such classics as Hawk The Slayer or The Last Seduction II. He truly is one of the unsung heroes of low budget science fiction films of the early to mid 1980s, and he will not be forgotten by yours truly (he isn't dead. I just won't forget him).

Baldin's back, and lookin' for watches
If you've seen Hawk the Slayer, then you will certainly recognize two of the standout characters from that movie as they (seem to) reprise their roles in Prisoners. Of course I'm speaking about Crow the elf, and Baldin the midget thief. Baldin the thief, played by Peter O'Farrell, is now Malachi...the thief. Crow, played by Ray Charleson, is now The Greenman, called so because he's green and a man. I really can't help but to wonder if Signor Marcel couldn't come up with different characters, or if he just didn't feel like it. Baldin wasn't bad, but he wasn't so impressively fun to watch that there was a need for O'Farrell reprise the role in Prisoners of the Lost Universe. If a recurring character was needed, then Palance's Voltan would be the way to go. That hammy bastard knew how to work a script!

John Saxon, who can do no wrong (even when he does), was saddled with the responsibility of providing the villain, Kleel, to this gem. Kleel is a straight up thug who is not afraid to smack a ho. Eazy E would be proud, and as an interesting side note - sources close to the deceased rapper claim that he actually based his gangsta persona on John Saxon's Kleel. I checked for verification of these claims, but I wasn't able to find any information. Thus, I will continue to present this assertion as fact until further notice.

Kleel knows how to work the ladies
Alas, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the performances of both Richard Hatch and Kay Lenz. Hatch is a Kendo master named Dan who has a habit of calling women "lady" repeatedly. Lenz is a sassy reporter named Carrie who doesn't take merda from anybody! Together they form a dynamic team that can overcome anything. Both actors give much better performances than what you would expect from such an obviously low budget movie. Actually, it's kind of weird that  Hatch, Lenz and Saxon are in this. They already had careers going, so I'm not sure why they wanted in on this movie. Maybe they all had nasty meth habits.

Saying the production values of this bad boy are shoddy would be an understatement. Those of you who are not entirely familiar with the tell-tale signs of a bad movie shouldn't worry, for I will share with you a couple of indications that I personally use. Initially you will want to take a look at the set that is used. If the alternate universe looks exactly like South Africa, with absolutely no alterations to the landscape (like alien looking plants or animals), then you are probably watching a low budget movie. Keep in mind that to make it look different small people can be given goggles that light up. This is the B movie's answer to no alien costumes.

South African landscape - Check
Small people wearing glowing goggles - Check
Whoa, what planet are we on here!?
Also, keep an eye out for the scientific laboratory. There should not be any scientific equipment within the lab. Instead, there should be seven or eight random books, and a series of t.v. screens and flashing lights scattered across the walls. After all, laboratories are for inducing epileptic fits, and not for conducting scientific experiments.

Random books - Check
Flashing lights -Check
Everything appears to be in order in this lab
Finally, on to sound design. A famous director, I believe it was F.W. Murnau, once said "the sound and music are 50% of the entertainment in a movie." It is evident with The Prisoners of the Lost Universe that Marcel subscribes to this philosophy. When you hear creative sound effects such as that of a bell ringing as a man is kicked in the crotch, you can't help but to ask yourself "do I detect a slight David Lynch influence?" Ok, probably not. But, the crazy sound effects do fit the overall tone of the movie, and that's all that matters.

There really are many things to make fun of Prisoners of the Lost Universe about. Keep in mind that there are movies that are fun because they're so bad, but those involved aren't aware of the ridiculousness (The Room). Then there are the films that are bad, but those involved know it. It's apparent that everybody involved in this production know what type of movie that they are making, and it leaves us with a fun sci-fi flick. There are no Oscar worthy performances (with the possible exception of Bill Flynn as 2nd Prisoner), but if you're looking for that in a movie with this title, then it sounds like you have a lot of soul searching to do.

If you like a little/lot of cheese in your movies, and are looking for a fun adventure film, then give this one a shot. It's an enjoyable movie, and you have nothing to lose unless you're one of those morons that runs around proclaiming "I want the two hours of my life back," when you don't like a movie.

One thing that would have made Prisoners... better is if Marcel spliced in some Bruce Lee footage into the film (Game of Death style), and we could've had a Lee/Saxon reunion. A cracka® can always dream.


You can watch Prisoners of the Lost Universe here.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Flashback - Morderische Ferien Review

And the Story Goes...
A young girl, Jeanette, witnesses the murder of her mother and father in their home. She manages to escape from the killer, but spends her youth in a mental institution as she works to overcome the memories. Her doctor feels that she is capable of entering the real world, and he finds a job for Jeanette tutoring a family of rich kids to speak French. Strange events take place, people begin to go missing, and it is up to Jeanette to uncover the secret as to who the killer is, and why he is following her.
Tutor Jeanette arrives on the scene, do you know what I mean?
My Thoughts (This may contain spoilers)
It's no secret that Germans can be scary people. Seriously, they have an intense love of order, they have a real penchant for Polka music, and  they seem to feel a strong desire to push sauerkraut on you when invited into their homes. In spite of all of these terrifying characteristics that the filmmakers of Flashback innately possess, this is not a scary movie. In fact, I propose that what we are seeing is a comedy with some gore thrown in for the heck of it. Comedy/horror would be a more appropriate classification.
It's better that they don't show his face. Trust me
To begin I'd like to proclaim that I personally love just how unlikable all of the victims are. Honestly, the kids seem to be bigger sociopaths than the killer, so we end up just watching people, who do bad things to others, die. Tormenting a person to the point that they have a mental break down is not the best way to go about drawing sympathy. Maybe that schei├če flies in Germany, but not in my hood, crackuh®! This leads me to believe that the writer intentionally made them so horrible that their deaths become comedic, rather than scary.

Speaking of the victims, one thing that I was confused by is the exact age of the "kids" that Jeanette is hired to tutor. I assume that they are supposed to be high school aged, but they really do look like they would be in grad school. And, the fact that Jeanette sleeps with her male student, Leon, would suggest that he isn't a minor. However, out of curiosity I decided to take a stroll on over to the CIA World Factbook to see the age of suffrage in Germany, which is 18. However, according to Wikipedia ( I know, I know), the age of consent in Germany is only 14! This means that Jeanette could rock Leon's world without fear of prosecution as long as she isn't over 21 and in a position of control, e.g. a guardian or tutor, over him. In any respect the kids look a hell-of-a-lot older than teenagers, so I still have no idea what age group we're supposed to be dealing with.
It looks like Jeanette is tutoring Leon on more than just French (wink)
The dubbing is pretty much on par with 1970s chopsocky flicks, and calling the voices inappropriate would be a gross understatement. It is the opinion of us/me at Inimitable Movie Reviews© that the actor voicing Leon, and the dude voicing Chin Bo in Twin Warriors are, in fact, one and the same! I have no evidence to support this, but I'm sticking with the accusation. It's interesting to see that his ability to appropriately voice the characters that he is dubbing has not improved in a full 7 years. In his defense, the female voices every bit as tragic as his, so I'd like to believe that he may be just trying to fit in. In any respect, I feel that subtitles would be more appropriate (I'm looking in your direction Netflix).

Now I know what you're thinking, "but Jack, isn't there anything that is good about Flashback?" Well, yes there is. The choice of camera angles were interesting and fresh. Also, the scenery is very nice, and I liked seeing different types of locations than what we're used to seeing  in typical American slashers. The landscapes are beautiful, and the house is amazing. I can say with a clear conscience that I have never wanted to be a rich German more than I do right now.
The vibrator is mightier than the sword
As to be expected, the women in the cast are all pretty hot. Clearly director Michael Karen knows what the typical fan of cheesy slasher films looks for, which begs the question as to why there are no boobers. This is a European film dagnabbit, we expect no less than 6 nude chicks to be presented for every 90 minutes of footage! You failed us Mr. Karen.

There is a fair amount of human gore, and a lot of animal gore. If you're the sensitive type who can't stand to see dogs chopped in half, or cats in blenders, then you probably wouldn't like Flashback. I will say that it's pretty fake looking, and nowhere near as cruel as what we saw in Cannibal Hollocaust. Personally, I found the dog's death in Funny Games to be much more disturbing than this. Just be aware that animal murders do take place.
Ye get what ye deserve
For the record in regards to the killer, I don't believe that if you see your parents murdered, and you kill their killer in an act of self defense, that you would become a psychopathic killer. That seemed to be the angle that they were going for, but it just seemed weird. After the opening act we see that Jeanette is living in an institution, but appears to be a well adjusted young lady. As to why she is in an institution, I can only ask did she go insane, or was she being punished?

In Conclusion
It's interesting to see a German take on the typical slasher film. Flashback may not be an entirely original story, but it does an adequate job of keeping it entertaining. The twist ending isn't really necessary, and it actually raises a few more questions. This isn't giallo, so I don't understand the need to try to be clever and the constant barrage of twist endings that we as the audience are forced endure these days. If I want mystery I will watch La Signora in Giallo.
Those Germans know how to party!
All in all, Flashback isn't a bad movie, and you will probably get some laughs out it. It's a definite rent before you buy. Check it out with some friends, and enjoy learning about different cultures. Did you know that the standard mode of transportation in Germany is the ski lift?


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