Scenes I Love: Black Lagoon


During this past Anime Boston 2011 there was one panel where I and fellow site writer, pantsukudasai56, sat in and had one of the better times during the convention weekend. It was the panel being held by the on-line podcast and site, Anime World Order, and it was called “Anime’s Craziest Deaths”. It was pretty much two hours of just watching clips of some of the craziest death scenes in anime history. One which stood out and had quite a reaction from the crowd was from the action anime series, Black Lagoon.

This scenes qualifies as one I love just for it’s sheer audacity and craziness which typifies much of the action genre in anime. Black Lagoon has so many cool and crazy characters that it was only fair that the show contain scenes and sequences to match their personalities. This scenes pits the protagonists’ WW2-era PT boat versus a Soviet-era Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunship. Now one would ask how could an antiquated PT boat even take on such a heavily-armed and heavily-armored chopper gunship whose sole purpose is to take on tanks and armored vehicles.

Well, glad you asked.

The only way to answer that question is to watch the scene and just marvel at just how it’s level of craziness just continues to increase as the scene moves along to it’s surprising climax. All I can say about this scene is…

“Amen, hallelujah, peanut butter…”

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6 Trailers For A Long-Needed Saturday


I love Saturday and not just because it’s the weekend!   Nor is it just because Saturday is the day that I traditionally go down to either Northpark Mall or the Galleria and spend way too much money on DVDs, book, lingerie, and handbags.  I love Saturday because Saturday is the day that I get to bring you another edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Trailers.

1) Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (1976)

This trailer rhymes!

2) Raw Meat (1973)

It might not be obvious from the trailer but this is actually a really good, surprisingly somber film.  Director Gary Sherman later went on to make the infamous Vice Squad.

3) The Touchables (1968)

The writer of this film, Donald Cammell, later went on to co-direct Mick Jagger in 1970’s Performance.  As far as I can tell, The Touchables is not available on DVD.  (There is an earlier film called The Touchables that’s available from Something Weird Video but it’s a different movie.)  If anyone knows that this film is available, please let me know as I’ve just recently read a book on Cammell and right now, his films are something of an obsession of mine.

4) Stanley (1972)

“Stanley — a snake that learned that only man kills his own kind…”  All film trailers use to feature pompous narration but the best exploitation trailers managed to take the standards of pompous narration to such an extent that it became a work of postmodern art.  As for Stanley, I actually own this film.  It was on one of those 8-movie compilation DVDs that were all the rage a few years ago.  The copy I saw looked like it had just been transferred off of a beaten-up VHS tape (and it probably was) but the movie still gave me nightmares because I’ve got a thing about snakes.  (By the way, clicking on the above link will lead you not to the copy I watched but to a “special edition” Stanley DVD.  To my best knowledge, the special edition looks a lot better than the copy I own.)

5) Johnny Firecloud (1975)

Johnny Firecloud — a hate story!”  This appears to be one of those films that just asks, ‘What else can go wrong?”  I mean, not only is Johnny Fireclould having to deal with prejudice but the whole thing apparently involves a nuclear war as well.

6) Goldengirl (1979)

Admittedly, I probably wouldn’t have given this trailer a second thought if not for the fact that I’ve gotten into running lately.  Still, this trailer does feature the priceless “You can kiss my feet” scene, a scene that is memorable for a lot of reasons, the least being the look on James Coburn’s face.  And remember, you’ll love Goldengirl “even after you know her secret.”  

 (Interesting sidenote: On Amazon, Goldengirl is only available in VHS form.  You can either spend $126 to get a “never before watched” copy or you can spend $4.90 to get a used copy.)

A Quickie With Lisa Marie: The Source Code (dir. by Duncan Jones)


Okay, I’ll admit it right now: I’m way too late in reviewing this film.  Seriously, if you were planning on seeing The Source Code, then you’ve probably already seen it by this point.  You already have your own opinion about the film.  Why do you need hear mine?  You’re probably saying, “Girl, move on.”

And to that I say: “I do what I want!”

Anyway…

The Source Code is a surprisingly smart and occasionally even moving little sci-fi thriller.  Jake Gyllenhaal plays Colt Stevens, an army helicopter pilot who, as the film begins, awakens to find himself on a commuter train with no idea who he is or how he got there.  The woman sitting across from him (played by Michelle Monaghan) seems to know he is.  The confused Gyllenhaal wanders around the train trying to figure out who he is.  He goes into the train’s restroom, looks in the mirror, and sees a stranger staring back at him.  And then the entire train blows up.

Suddenly, Gyllenhaal wakes up again.  He’s apparently trapped in a dark chamber with his only link to the outside world being a computer screen.  An army officer (Vera Farminga) appears on the screen and explains to him that he was sent into the past in order to find out who bombed the train.  And he will continually be sent back into the past to relive the few minutes before the bomb goes off.  He’s told that the past cannot be changed, the people on the train cannot be saved, and his only mission is to discover who planted the bomb. 

It’s a clever little plot (one that would do Philip K. Dick proud) that has a lot more twists and turns than is obvious from a simple recap.  Along with a smart script, the film has a cast who bring a lot of conviction and nuance to their roles.  Jake Gyllenhaal, in particular, redeems himself after his unfortunate work in Love and Other Drugs.  However, the film’s real hero is director Duncan Jones who gives The Source Code both a heart and a brain.  His work here confirms that talent that was evident in Moon and I’m looking forward to what he gives us next.

Trailer: Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Official Theatrical)


OK, this latest trailer for Michael Bay’s third entry in the Transformers film franchise looks to try and ask forgiveness from it’s fans about what had transpired with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (cough, cough…Twins). This latest trailer looks to mine the current alien invasion trend happening in Hollywood for the last year or two.

I’m not going to say that Transformers: Dark of the Moon will be in the running for Best Picture, Best Screenplay or even Best Acting awards come awards season, but I do get a feeling from this trailer that this third entry will be darker and infinitely more fun and watchable than the second film. I actually think that Dark of the Moon is the true first sequel to the first film and that Revenge of the Fallen never occurred.

The look of Shockwave (one red-eye) is pretty awesome as are the look of the invading Decepticons (or are they another faction). I remember talk of Unicron (the giant planet transformer) was to appear in this film but I’m not sure if Unicron will appear as a planet or that giant snake-like transformer that was giving that Chicago high-rise a major case of the hugs.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is set for a July 1, 2011 release date.

Lisa Marie Conspires Against The Conspirator (dir. by Robert Redford)


Robert Redford’s new historical drama The Conspirator is the first prestige picture of 2011 and it’s also (arguably) the worst film of the year so far. 

Oh, I hear you out there: “Really?  Worse than even Season of the Witch and Your Highness?”

Yes.  Way worse.  Season of the Witch and Your Highness might have been bad films but they knew they were bad.  They never truly aspired to be anything other than bad.  The problem with The Conspirator is that it’s obviously meant to be a great and important film.  It’s meant to shape public debate.  We’re supposed to feel like better people for having sat through it and the filmmakers are supposed to be better people just for having made it.  There’s a smugness to these type of self-styled “prestige pictures” that elevates their badness beyond anything to be found in Your Highness.  Indeed, if the makers of Your Highness appeared to be getting high off of herb than the people behind The Conspirator are high off of their own good intentions and that makes them for more annoying.

The Conspirator is based on the trial of Mary Surratt, the only woman to be arrested, tried, and subsequently executed as a result of the conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.  The execution of Mary Surratt was controversial because 1) she was a civilian tried by a military tribunal, 2) the evidence against her was largely circumstantial (she owned the boarding house where the conspirators — including her son John Surratt — supposedly met), and 3) she was a woman.

Now, I have to confess that I’m secretly kind of a big history nerd and — unlike most of this film’s audience — I was already familiar with the story of Mary Surratt before I sat down in the theater.  The story of the Lincoln Conspiracy and the aftermath of the assassination is a really interesting one that is full of all sorts of weird twists and turns and odd characters all conspiring together and being mysterious.  It has all the makings of a great grindhouse film. 

However, director Robert Redford is too good to make a grindhouse movie.  No, he has something important to say and, as a result, The Conspirator becomes yet another one of those tedious films where every line of dialogue and every image is supposed to make us go, “Hey, they might be talking about post-Civil War America but, by golly, this is relevent to our post-911 lives!  OH MY GOD!”  So, we get Tom Wilkinson showing up randomly to give speeches about why military tribunals are the work of the devil.  Wilkinson is playing a historical figure Reverdy Johnson but they might as well have just renamed him “Prestige Actor Cast As Mouthpiece.”  And then Kevin Kline (as Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, though they should have just called him Dick Cheney) is there to go, “The whole world has changed.”  Meanwhile, the camera lingers over the conspirators being held in their dirty cells with bags over their heads (“OH MY GOD, HONEY!” we’re supposed to shout at our loved ones, “THAT’S JUST LIKE GUANTANAMO BAY!  WOW!”) and then we’re constantly reminded that Mary Surratt was a devout Catholic and that America in 1865 viewed Catholicism in much the same way that America views Islam in 2011. 

And, yeah, we get it and I’m not saying that director Redford is incorrect in his message or his beliefs.  However, a boring, heavy-handed film is just as boring and heavy-handed regardless of where its heart may lie.  The Conspirator is so busy being good for us that it forgets that it needs to entertain as well.  It preaches at us but it never bothers to engage us.

Mary Surratt is played by Robin Wright and she gives a good performance but because of the way the film is structured, Mary is never allowed to become anything more than a convenient symbol.  Instead, most of the film’s screen time is given to James McAvoy who plays the young lawyer who reluctantly defends her at trial.  Now, I love James McAvoy.  I’ve loved him ever since Atonement and that’s why it’s kinda heart breaking to see what a bad performance he gives here.  He’s good for the first ten minutes or so of the film but then he’s assigned to defend Ms. Surratt and I swear to God, he doesn’t stop yelling for the rest of the movie.  It’s not totally McAvoy’s fault.  As written, his character doesn’t really have much to do other than get mad.  As an actor, McAvoy can do anger quite well (again, check out Atonement) but here his anger just seems to spring out of nowhere.  At first, he is unconcerned about Mary Surratt and resentful that he has to defend her.  Then suddenly, he’s going all late style Al Pacino on everyone. 

Justin Long shows up as McAvoy’s best friend and seriously, if you’re making a historical drama, you don’t cast a guy who automatically makes you think, “He’s a PC and I’m a Mac.”  It’s not Long’s fault.  He’s a likable actor and he’s likable here even if his character doesn’t have any reason for being in the movie.  It’s just that typecasting is a bitch.  Alexis Bedel gets the thankless role of “rich snob who loses faith in her boyfriend” while Evan Rachel Wood, playing Mary Surratt’s daughter, is the only member of the cast who actually seems to truly connect with the material.

Regardless of the film’s historical accuracy, everything about The Conspirator feels false.   I don’t know if it was just the copy that I happened to see but the entire movie just looks like crap, a combination of soft-focus blurriness and respectfully muted colors.  This is another one of those films where the interior scenes are lit so that it appears that sunlight is just flooding in through the windows, making any white article of clothing just appear to throb with radiation.  Seriously, I had a headache after watching 30 minutes of this film.

As I said previously, there’s a great grindhouse movie waiting to be made out of this material.  For instance, did you know that Boston Corbett — the man who shot John Wilkes Booth — was also a religious fanatic who years earlier, in order to resist being tempted by a prostitute, castrated himself with scissors?  Also, did you know that Henry Rathbone — the army major who was sitting with Lincoln at the time of the assassination — was years later named Ambassador to Germany and, while in Germany, suffered a sudden nervous breakdown that led to him chopping off his wife’s head?  Also, one of the men who was arrested (though eventually released and never charged) for taking part in the conspiracy was Frances Tumblety who later moved to England where he would later become one of the many men suspected of being Jack the Ripper? 

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

However, The Conspirator is too busy being important to bother with being interesting.  While a grindhouse version of the story would have been both interesting and thought-provoking, The Conspirator is just a smug film that is never manages to live up to its own rather high opinion of itself.

Trailer: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 2


At the risk of revealing my inner fangirl, there is nothing — NOTHING, I SAY! — that I am more looking forward to than sitting in a dark theater and watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow, Part 2 on July 15th. 

Let’s just hope that, after this movie comes and goes — Hollywood doesn’t decide to remake the Harry Potter series with Daniel Craig as Harry and Rooney Mara playing Hermione under the direction of David Fincher.

X-Men: First Class (2nd Official Trailer)


Today we saw the release of the second official trailer for the upcoming X-Men prequel/reboot helmed by British director Matthew Vaughn.

X-Men: First Class looks to show the early days when Professor X and Magneto were still friends and allies instead of the adversarial relationship they had in the first three films in the franchise. This new trailer shows more of the characters who will be involved in this film. It also shows the mutants and their powers in action. I must admit that I wasn’t too thrilled with the previous trailers shown about this film, but this latest shows more action and finally reveals it’s summer blockbuster pedigree. The sequence with Magneto lifting the submarine out of the water was really cool.

It’s still not the superhero film this summer that tops my must-see list, but this trailer has put this film in the running as one of the films I must-see.

X-Men: First Class is still slated to have a June 3, 2011 release.