Horrors of Malformed Men

My fascination with Japanese culture has its roots firmly planted in my passion for video games and Godzilla; from the first moments in the mid-eighties when I saw the Nintendo system in action, and then held the rectangular controller in my hand, a curiosity and admiration planted itself within my mind. It wasn't just the games themselves, but the origin of these works and how they came to be. My parents would spoil me on a monthly basis with a plethora of video game related magazines, and within those tomes, I would read about the latest title causing an uproar in Japan, while we had to wait for our North American release of said game later on. 

We had a hand-me-down black and white television with a Betamax player connected in the basement's rec room while the colour set and VHS player were relegated to my parents living room domain. Maybe it was just availability, or an interest my father had, but we had amassed a collection of Betamax movies, both purchased and recorded off televisions, with a strong focus on Godzilla films. The syncronization in English dialogue with Japanese actors was incredibly fascinating; even being so young with no concept of a foreign film, I knew these movies came from parts of the world that I did not know about or understand, but I loved this place nonetheless. 

Ghostbusters (2016) Review

For whatever reasons, call it fate, call it karma, call it creative bankruptcy, I believe everything happens for a reason. I believe that we were destined to get a Ghostbusters remake. It's a real shame that the dialogue around the Ghostbusters remake released in 2016 was tainted by misogyny and general vitriol from armchair critics and trogloditic neckbeards that dwell in the deepest, dankest corners of the interwebs, because it was a genuinely mediocre summer blockbuster that in most other universes probably would have have been the start of a movie franchise. Or at least, some more marketable merchandise that would have helped grease the wheels for all those involved for a little longer.

I remember being pretty sour on the general concept of a remake of the 1984 cult classic Ghostbusters. Admittedly, it has to do at least in part with the fact that this was a beloved film from my childhood. I grew up watching Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II as well as the animated The Real Ghostbusters. To this day, I will still sometimes find myself randomly singing quietly to myself or in my head the Ghostbusters theme song, or the rap song from the end of Ghostbusters II, a movie from a more civilized time when every film got the pop-rap song it deserved to play during its end credits. (Too hot to handle, too cold to hold...)

Fantastic Beasts, Where to Find them and the (Unrelated) Crimes of Grindelwald

It’s entirely possible that I don’t really understand Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Upon seeing the movie in theatres a few short years ago, I felt indifference. Sure, there were beasts. Yes, they appeared fantastic. But I didn’t really understand why we were focusing on them so much, in a film where the plot didn’t seem to necessarily revolve around them. Knowing that this was the first in an ambitious series of movies set in the Harry Potter Wizarding World, I could chalk up my confusion to a few things: 

Thoroughbreds

“Heathers meets American Psycho” so, I guess it’s a good thing I’ve seen Psycho quite a few times over the years, and watched Heathers late last year during my project to consume the most popular films of the eighties. Honestly though, the tagline didn’t need to be said to push me there, as just a quick glimpse of the trailer, combined with the talent involved had me sold from the get go. 

But when did I watch that initial trailer? Yeah, it’s practically an afterthought: apparently the film had been sitting in post-production and doing the festival circuit for a while before receiving a wide release in March of 2018. Here we are, practically a year later and I have an opportunity to watch this film. 

Friday the 13th: Part III

As I work my way through a few different classic series, I stumble upon the third in a franchise and always forget one important trope from the '80s: the third movie MUST be in 3D.

Of course, I don't have the 3D version of Friday the 13th Part III, but the effect is obvious and quite frankly, distracting. Instead of panning across suburban street with kids playing baseball, the camera focuses on the child holding the baseball bat directly at the camera for a few seconds before moving on. We've got a yo-yo scene (which goes on for seconds too long), juggling, brooms and of course, lots of stabby weapons, including both ends of a pitchfork. This may seem like nipticking and it really is. I just can't help but think of all the scene setup and extra seconds here and there "wasted" on the 3D visuals, but on the other hand I would be really interested to see what these effects looked like in theatres back in the '80s, having only really experienced modern, Avatar-type 3D over the past few years myself.

Shin Godzilla

Immediately upon starting this film you have no choice but to notice how damn fast the dialogue and ensuing scenes are. As we cut through from scene to scene, and through dozens of characters I find myself nearly exhausted, especially since I simply can't listen to the dialogue: I have to read everything. Later on I would see in the IMDb trivia that the movie could be described as a Aaron Sorkin written political with a healthy injection of monster for good measure. The end result is brilliant, and a refreshing take on the classic Japanese monster film that I've enjoyed through my life.  

The New York Ripper

As I delve deeper into the world of horror movies of the 70s and 80s, I often skip across the surface of these famous Italian directors and producers. I was really impressed with Inferno and Pieces, and with that, I probably saw The New York Ripper on a list and managed to get my hands on it. I feel so dirty now. Gore is definitely a major factor in these films, but Ripper takes it a step further. The director, Lucio Fulci, takes New York and allows the city to breathe its dirty eighties breathe all over, not unlike what William Lustig's 1980 film Maniac. I thought it interesting that Maniac takes place, for the majority, in the dark, while Ripper embraces the daytime. They both showcase everyday places that you would find yourself and cranks the horror and gore to untold levels. This lit approach to the film leaves nothing to the imagination; it leaves nothing for you to hide yourself behind. You have no choice but to look away, as each murder escalates in intensity and terror.

Cape Fear

Finally sitting down to take in Cape Fear was a bit of a cathartic experience; we had the VHS kicking around the basement when I was younger, and I had vague memories of the film itself, although truth be told, most of those memories were probably formed by the smartly done Simpson's parody episode. The chilling music is something that would pop into my head on an alarmingly regular basis, but actually watching the film somehow slipped my priority until recently, and I'm quite taken aback with the idea of having seeing this as I was younger: it was quite a bit more disturbing, in both content and style, than I was prepared for.

Assassin's Creed

Tackling Hollywood’s latest video game adaptation was always going to be an interesting exercise. It’s a wonder that any of these become made; even in the face of an abysmal track record, producers will always make an attempt at adaptation when some semblance of a built-in audience is already around. Indeed, I got right into the video game when it first came out, and eagerly played the second (which was even better). I played the hell out of the third title, Brotherhood, and got burnt out on the fourth: Revelations. I believe there have been eight or nine main entries in the series to date.

With that many titles in the series, there’s a lot of story to pull from, and it’s easy to see the variety of ways that you could adapt these scenarios into compelling action and drama on the big screen. The base concept is interesting enough: it’s the story of two groups - the Templars and the Assassins - waging war for centuries in the hunt for pieces of eden, which apparently when combined, would allow for the control of the entire human race. Conveniently enough, the technology assists that allows an individual to relive the memories of their ancestors. In this case, Desmond is a modern-day man who comes from a long line of Assassin’s, which allows us - as gamers - to wreak havoc and see events unfold in a number of timelines.

You can see how the concept is well suited for a series of games: each game could take place in a different time, with one continuing story in the present to string it all together. THis is, of course, exactly what they do, as we start the series in the Third Crusade, then advance through history (and all over the world) with each iteration. It seems straightforward, then, to adapt the exact same premise into a movie franchise. It can’t be that simple though, right? Of course not.

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