Recently Seen, Part 38 (April 2020)


Member: Rank 3
Highly Recommended

Mon Mon Mon Monsters (2017) (Taiwanese Horror) - Pretty big surprise. Lin Shu-wei is a meek, straight-A student with no friends who gets harassed by his classmates. He has recently been framed of stealing the class funds, and is further humiliated in front of the class by a gang of bullies. All of them are punished and told to perform community service for the elderly, but they come across some nasty ghouls. The bullying aspect of this film is really emphasized. You do get the typical stuff like physical abuse in school. This adds a sense of frustration for the protagonist and the viewer, which is effective. But we also get a very multi-dimensional relationship between the protagonist and his bullies. This is the part that’s fascinating because it’s psychological and very fluid; your interpretation of their relationship changes at times. Also, the protagonist is pulled emotionally in a lot of different directions. I think the scriptwriters did a really good job and this theme is present throughout the entirety of the movie. I liked this quite a bit.

The Suspicious Death of a Minor (1975) (Italian Action/Thriller/Comedy) – A young prostitute is found brutally killed and one man (Claudio Cassinelli) decides to investigate the case. As the search progress he uncovers a girls trafficking ring with connections to powerful people. This is sometimes classified as a giallo, but it’s not. The killer is a hitman and you see his face every time he shows up, and the tone is more of a light-hearted suspense/action flick. The protagonist is unorthodox, a bit klutzy, and is a humorous ladies man. This is well-made with a likeable lead who gets in over his head. There’s a fun little car chase near the middle, as well as a rollercoaster shootout. Score is good too. Directed by Sergio Martino.

Virus (aka Day of Resurrection) (1980) (Japanese Drama/Horror) (repeat viewing) – After a deadly biological weapon is mistakenly released, the world’s population is systematically destroyed. This post-apocalyptic film by Kinji Fukasaku is a solid example of how such films should be made, because it actually has some balls and an overall bleak tone. The opening half is finely crafted in terms of the spread of the disease, while the second half focuses on the isolated group of survivors. There are a few plot developments that remain unexplained (and some unrealistic elements), but there are also some surprising twists late in the film. Due to the global focus of events, the cast mostly consist of non-Japanese actors, but they give good performances. The uncut 156-minute Japanese version was viewed; one should avoid the U.S. version, which cuts an insane 48 minutes of runtime.


Letters from Prague (2016) (Indonesian Drama) – A girl named Larasati (Julie Estelle) tries to fulfill her deceased mother’s last wish by delivering a box filled with letters to an old man (Tio Pakusadewo from “The Raid 2”) who lives in Prague. This has some strong acting, well-written dialogue, and even some emotional resonance. Surprisingly good.

10 To Midnight (1983) (American Thriller) – An LAPD detective (Charles Bronson) and his rookie partner are on the trail of a psychopathic young man who is murdering young women. The killer is given a lot of screentime early on, and his method of murdering is quite clever. The actress from “Beverly Hills Cop” is in this, and she’s quite good. There are a few genuinely funny moments, especially during the party scene. This has good drama and tension as well, especially regarding the moral dilemma of the policeman partner. The finale is suspenseful. A well-made flick.

The Cutting Edge (1992) (American Romantic Comedy) (repeat viewing) – A temperamental figure skater (Moira Kelly) and a former hockey player (D.B. Sweeney) try to win Olympic gold as a figure skating pairs team. This is a surprisingly engaging and well-executed movie. The characters are nicely developed and their relationship is good too. You really want to see them end up together. The skating scenes are nothing special, but this is a lot of fun. I still have a huge crush on Moira Kelly.

Violence Voyager (2018) (Japanese Anime Horror/Comedy) – This uses a “gekimation” animation style – using hand-painted cardboard cutouts, as well as real fumes and fluids. An American boy Bobby decides to go with his friend Akkun into the mountains outside their village, but they encounter horrific events. This is very bizarre and macabre, but certainly entertaining and unique. Lots of body horror imagery present. There’s quite a bit of funny black humor as well. This is memorable.

Bliss (2017) (Filipino Horror) – After involving in a film production accident that leaves her crippled, a successful actress slowly transitions into madness after experiencing horrors and torture in her own home. Psychologically, this film puts pressure on our protagonist because the side characters are reprehensible. This movie jumps around a lot so you don’t know what events are real and what events are in our protagonist’s head. Thankfully, it does have a few scenes that are objective in reality. The final revelation and explanation is pretty satisfying. There is a bit of violence and some uncomfortable sexual situations.

Foxtrot Six (2019) (Indonesian Action) – Set in the year 2031, an elite soldier unites his former comrades to assemble a highly trained team capable of liberating their home nation. Oka Antara, Julie Estelle, and some side actors from other Indonesian action flicks show up. Shot with English dialogue, which is slightly awkward, but the actors do a surprisingly good job. Plot and dialogue are pretty generic, but the action is satisfying in its quantity and overall quality. It’s hard-hitting and fun to watch. Some high-tech gadgetry on display here, which adds some creativity.

Mercenary (1996) (American Action) (repeat viewing) – A businessman (John Ritter) decides to get even against a group of criminals, so he hires a mercenary (Olivier Gruner) and tags along for the ride. Ed Lauter and Martin Kove (“The Karate Kid”) are also in this. This has a surprisingly good script and character motivations. Even the action is good, with the exception of the helicopter scene that uses very dodgy special effects. Solid flick.

Showdown In Little Tokyo (1991) (American Action) – Two L.A. cops (Dolph Lundgren, Brandon Lee) with opposing views on what is the best way to uphold the law have to work together to bring down the Yakuza, while trying to protect a smoking hot woman (Tia Carrere). The bad guy from Mortal Kombat is the villain (he’s really evil in this too), and there are some other recognizable Asian-American supporting actors in this. Brandon Lee is surprisingly funny, and his chemistry with Lundgren is good. Scriptwriting is basically crap, but it’s also cheesy enough to be funny (the shirts of the yakuza are totally early 90s style). This is also nicely paced and has a bunch of action to satisfy. “And when we get done, we’re gonna go eat fish off those naked chicks!”

Ninja 3: The Domination (1984) (American Action/Horror) – An evil ninja attempts to avenge his death from beyond the grave, by possessing an innocent woman’s body. Starts off with a fun little ninja attack on a golf course where the ninja kills a bunch of people. This evil ninja dude is really tough! There are some really entertaining possession scenes that use weird lighting effects. Some unintentionally funny stuff too. Sho Kosugi shows up as a good guy. Entertaining schlock.

Not Recommended

The Debutantes (2017) (Filipino Horror) – After an awkward high school gets publicly embarrassed by a prank, crazy horrific events follow. The trailer makes the movie look like a rip-off of Carrie, but it’s very different. The supernatural entities do look pretty good – there’s a humanoid monster thing, and there’s an evil-looking woman in red. Unfortunately, the horror sequences are set up and constructed in cliched, underwhelming ways. The protagonist is not interesting and the backstory is merely okay. The ending is kinda lame.

Love You . . . Love You Not (2015) (Indonesian Romantic Comedy) – A love triangle gets complicated when a female English tutor unknowingly gets between a hot-tempered guy and his off-to-the-United States girlfriend (Chelsea Islan). Islan is likeable but the “psycho” male lead is badly acted and his jokes are not funny at all. The script is this film’s worst aspect. It’s mostly unwatchable.

It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963) (American Comedy/Action) – A group of motorists hear about a crook's hidden stash of loot, and race against each other to get to it. This has a nice energy to it, with a few cool stunts near the end, but the characters are way too obnoxious with their non-stop screaming. That’s basically what this movie is: a bunch of people screaming for 2 hours and 40 minutes. No thanks.


Member: Rank 4
Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)

Werner Herzog directs Klaus Kinski as the titular creature of the night. It's got the characters of "Dracula" (incl. Jonathan Harker, Mina, Renfield, Lucy, and Van Helsing). And of course Count Dracula himself. But this is not Bela Legosi's Count, this is a reimagining of Max Schreck's Count Orlock. But, totally against type, Kinski plays his Dracula as a mopey, perpetually sad vampyre. I kept waiting for him to bust it out, but he never really did. (The film was rated PG fercryinoutloud). Very atmospheric, however. Afterwards, I just had to go watch Coppola's 1994 version, which has everything a good Dracula movie should.

Oh, and it has the most annoying Renfield in the history of film.

2.5 stars


Hoo boy, where to start? Werner Herzog, again directing Klaus Kinski. Yes, this is that movie. The one with the huge actual ship in the Amazon rain forest. I watched the movie; watched it again with the commentary; read various articles about the making of the movie (as well as the real-life "Fitzgerald" would-be rubber baron on which this film is based), which led to reading up on the psychotic Kinski and how the director and other cast tried to handle him. Usually, it involved threatening to kill him. Literally. It seems that the number of movies where someone threatened to kill Kinski was more than those where they didn't.

For example, at one point during the jungle shoot of Fitzcarraldo, one of the indigenous extras came up to Herzog and offered to kill Kinski for him. Not "threatened" to kill him, but offered to kill him, as a favor to the director, the cast, the crew, and possibly for the rest of humanity. Herzog thought it over long and hard (he himself had pointed a gun at Kinski during Aguirre and was all geared up to shoot the raging psychopath if he walked off the set one more time), and decided against it. Herzog had already had to reshoot half the film when the original actor (Jason Robards) got dysentery and had to quit the picture. And Herzog was damned intent on getting that ship over the jungle mountain. And he did. And only 3 people (if I recall) died during filming; not including the one crew member who was logging trees when he got bit by a very deadly snake. So he decided that rather than die right there in the jungle, he'd take his handy dandy chain saw and saw off his own foot. Well, he lived.

I really need to read/watch some of the documentaries and autobiographical works about Herzog and Kinski. This stuff is fascinating.

I guess I haven't actually discussed the movie itself. Well, my rating is 4.5 stars, mainly for the sheer audacity and spectacle. No other director would have done this. No other director could have done this.
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Member: Rank 5
I went through all that with Herzog myself. I even watched a series of "Master Class" on the PBS or BBC or somewhere. Utterly fascinating guy. I love the sound of his voice when he narrates. I think I enjoyed Nosferatu more than you, but yeah, a "mopey, perpetually sad vampyre".

Have you seen Incident at Loch Ness ? It's not really that good but Werner is always worth spending time with, especially when you know, and he knows, he's just fucking around.


Member: Rank 4
My Wife Is Having An Affair This Week (aka Listen To Love) (2016) (Korean Romantic Comedy/Drama Television Series)

I posted a more lengthy take on this 12-episode K-drama over in the "Doramas" thread. I liked it, but not super-liked it, mainly because all the good will built up in the first 9 episodes was shorted out just a bit by some really off-the-wall, out-of-the-blue ridiculousness of the last three or so episodes. But most of that dealt with the subplots. The main story of the couple was extremely well done and well acted. If they would have ended the show earlier, this would be a solid 4, but I have to deduct a half point for some of the annoyances of the last three episodes.

3.5 / 5