Anime You Should Be Watching: Redline


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Anime has always skewed towards the hyperkinetic imagery that most Western animation rarely, if ever, put on the screen. Where Western animation has a much more flowing style that tries to mimic realism in the artform with anime we get intense action in the animation no matter what genre.

One recent anime that pretty much takes this hyperkinetic style to a new level was 2009’s OVA (original video animation) title from renowned anime studio Madhouse simply called Redline. It’s a wall-to-wall scifi action film that combines futuristic setting and world-building with the speed freak action of the racing genre.

Redline was directed by Takeshi Koike and it took him and his crew of animators from Madhouse a total of seven years and millions of dollars to finish the project. This was a project that pushed the animation to it’s limits with the film using over 100,000 hand-drawn pages of animations that at times looked like it was something that looked more computer-generated. It’s a film that showed many of Koike-san’s artistic influences from his mentor Yoshiaki Kawajiri (well-known for classic anime titles as Vampire Hunter D and Ninja Scroll) right up to the thick lines and heavy blacks of Frank Miller.

The plot for Redline is really not that complex and for some it’s too simple that it became a flaw. It’s a story about the a futuristic race that uses the greatest groundcar racers in the galaxy (instead of the current hovercar this world has turned to using) to tell a story about the underdog fighting against adversity to win not just the ultimate prize but the love of a girl who also happens to be one of his main rivals in the film. The story revolves around the main characters of Sweet JP, with his ludicrous pompadour (the subject of many jokes in the film) and 50’s-style Greaser leather jacket, and his main rival and love interest in Sonoshee.

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Redline barely brings the main leads past being cardboard cutouts as characters, but the story gives the two enough backstory to make them easy to relate to. Yet, it’s not the story that will hook and pull in anime fans both veterans and newbies. It’s all about the action and animation that makes this film one of those anime that people really should be watching. There’s so much action going on in the film that one could easily lose themselves in all that kinetic energy to forgive it’s story’s basic simplicity.

Some have called Redline as the anime version of the latest Fast and Furious films (mainly the last two), but I disagree with that assessment. The latest Fast and Furious films are attempts to make a live-action version of Redline. The two share similar traits and follow that racing creed that the Vin Diesel franchise has popularized: “Ride or Die”.

Redline might not the be the greatest story ever told in anime, but for pure-adrenaline action from beginning to end there’s none better. One can watch it on Youtube on their streaming service, yet I recommend that people who have a huge HDTV (especially the latest 4K screens) watch it on that to see hand-drawn animation at it’s best.

 

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Film Review: Only Lovers Left Alive (dir by Jim Jarmusch)


Is it possible that the iconic American independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch is a fan of the late and beloved French film director Jean Rollin?

I ask this question because Jarmusch’s latest film, Only Lovers Left Alive, is one of the most Rollinesque films to have ever been made by a director other than Jean Rollin.

The most obvious similarity between Jarmusch’s film and much of Rollin’s work is that they both deal with vampires.  Rollin was the visual poet of vampire cinema and, if nothing else, Only Lovers Left Alive is a very poetic film.  The film tells the story of three vampires — ennui-stricken Adam (Tom Hiddleston), Adam’s wife Eve (Tilda Swinton), and Eve’s hedonist sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska), all of whom would be perfectly at home in any of Rollin’s vampire films.

But, to be honest, the horror genre has reached the point where ennui-stricken and decadent vampires are hardly unique. What distinguished both Only Lovers Left Alive and the best films of Jean Rollin is the way that they both use and defy the conventions of the vampire genre to explore issues of sexuality, religion, politics, and artistic expression.  Much like Rollin, Jarmusch understands what the audience expects from a vampire film and he makes his larger points by manipulating, defying, and occasionally even confirming those expectations.

In other words, Only Lovers Left Alive is no Twilight and we’re all better off for it.

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There are other similarities between Only Lovers Left Alive and the best films of Jean Rollin.  Much like Rollin, Jarmusch tells his story through a collection of sensual and increasingly dream-like images.  Even Rollin’s trademark lingering shots of empty beaches and ancient castles are duplicated, in Only Lovers Left Alive, with haunting shots of the empty streets in Detroit and Tangiers.  When, towards the end of the film, two hungry vampires find themselves searching for blood in an ancient city, it was impossible for me not to think of a similar scene in Jean Rollin’s Two Orphan Vampires.

Now, I’m sure that some of you are probably saying, “That’s great, Lisa, but can you just tell me whether the film is worth watching or not?”

To answer your question, it is.  It’s not a flawless film.  There’s a few comedic scenes involving a doctor played by Jeffrey Wright that aren’t quite as entertaining as they could be.  And while it’s an interesting idea to have Christopher Marlowe show up as a vampire, John Hurt’s performance did not quite work for me.  But, whenever the film concentrates on the chemistry between Hiddleston, Swinton, Wasikowska, and Anton Yelchin (who plays a hilariously naïve human), it works brilliantly.

So yes, definitely — see Only Lovers Left Alive.

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See it for the scenes in which Adam and Eva drive through the ruins of Detroit, looking for Jack White’s house (“Oh!  I love Jack White!” Eve exclaims) and discussing Adam’s belief that the “zombies” (his term for the rest of us) are on the verge of destroying themselves.  Adam serves as the film’s philosophical and political mouthpiece and often times, his dialogue runs the risk of being a bit too on-the-nose perfect but Tom Hiddleston is such a charismatic performer that it doesn’t matter.  Wisely, Hiddleston delivers his most portentous lines with just a hint of self-mockery, as if to let us know that even Adam knows he’s being overdramatic.

See it for the amazing sequence in which Adam plays music in Detroit while Eve dances to it in Tangiers.  If Katharine Hepburn had been turned into a vampire, she would have been a lot like Tilda Swinton’s Eve.

See the film for Mia Wasikowska’s hilarious turn as a petulant and immature brat who just happens to be vampire.  The scenes in which she goes out of her way to annoy the dour Adam left me convinced that, if I ever become a vampire, I’ll probably be a lot like Ava.

See it because the White Hills appear as themselves, playing in a club and absolutely killing it.

See it because it’s one of the few vampire films to strike a perfect balance between humor and drama.

Most of all, see it because it’s a good and unique movie and, so far this year, we’ve had a bit of a shortage where those are concerned.

As for me, if I ever meet Jim Jarmusch, I’m going to ask him for the title of his favorite Jean Rollin film.

If nothing else, it should be an interesting conversation.

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A Warning From The Past: The Last Prom


As I’ve mentioned previously on this site, I love old educational films.  Not only do they serve as valuable time capsules but they’re also often so melodramatic and over-the-top that I can’t help but appreciate them.

After all, there’s a reason why one of my favorite DVDs is entitled Driver’s Ed Scare Films Volume Five.

And one of my favorite films on that compilation is 1980’s The Last Prom.  Taking place in the small town Indiana and featuring a ghostly choir wailing away on the soundtrack, The Last Prom tells the tale of Sandy, a junior who makes the mistake of going to the prom with a senior who owns a van.  Needless to say, the entire film is a bit of a downer but its worth watching just to see all of the old clothes and the old haircuts (not to mention the Sandy spinning around in circles montage).

Having watched this film several times, I have to say — in Bill’s defense — that tunnel was way too narrow.  But, seriously, don’t drink and drive.

The Daily Grindhouse: The Long Good Friday (dir by John MacKenzie)


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Today, the film community woke up to the news that British actor Bob Hoskins passed away on the 29th.  He was 71 years old.  Over the course of his career, he appeared in over 100 films and is well-remembered for performances in everything from Brazil to Who Framed Roger Rabbit? to Spiceworld to Felecia’s Journey to Made in Dagenham.  However, perhaps his best performance is to be found in a film that’s still not very well-known here in the States.

In 1980’s The Long Good Friday, Bob Hoskins plays Harold Shand.  Harold is a crude, violent, and ruthless London gangster who, at the same time, remains oddly likable.  Perhaps his likability is due to the fact that, for all of his sociopathic tendencies, Harold does seem to be genuinely devoted to his girlfriend Victoria (Helen Mirren).  Or perhaps it’s because Harold is a fighter, a man who refuses to surrender and, as a result, has managed to make something of himself in one of the most rigidly class-conscious countries in the world.  Say what you will about his methods, gangster Harold is still more honest than your typical businessman.

However, ultimately, the main reason we root for Harold is because he’s played by Bob Hoskins.  Hoskins turns Harold into a true force of a nature, playing him as manic, charismatic, and — as the film progresses — more and more desperate.  The genius of Hoskins performance isn’t that he suggests that Harold isn’t as smart as he thinks he is.  The genius is that Hoskins lets us know that, despite all of his bluster, Harold understands that he’s not as smart as he’s pretending to be.

As the film opens, Harold is the most powerful man in the London underworld and is on the verge of staking his claim on the legitimate world as well.  All he has to do is convince an American gangster (played by Eddie Constantine) to agree to partner with him on a real estate deal.

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However, two assassins (one of whom is played by a silent and devilishly handsome Pierce Brosnan) are killing his associates.  Somebody is blowing up his businesses.  Even as Harold desperately tries to impress his American guests, he finds himself under siege by an unknown enemy.  At first, Harold assumes that a rival gangster is coming after him but, as the day progresses, it becomes evident that there’s a new threat to Harold’s power.

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Without Bob Hoskins’ performance, The Long Good Friday is an entertaining gangster film, one that is distinguished by John MacKenzie’s sure direction, Francis Monkman’s energetic and powerful score, and an absolutely perfect final scene.  With Hoskins’ performance, The Long Good Friday is one of the best gangster films ever made.

And, as today, it’s a tribute to a truly talented actor.

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Bob Hoskins, R.I.P.

Scenes I Love: Godzilla vs. Megalon


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It’s just 17 more days til the King of Monsters return to the big-screen. What better way to make a path for his triumphant return than showing you one of my favorite Godzilla scenes ever.

This scene was what got me totally hooked on Godzilla and his monster buddies. While Godzilla vs. Megalon was never one of the brightest stars in the history of the Big Guy’s filmography it definitely showed that Godzilla was more than just kicking and smashing buildings down and burning things with his atomic breath.

Say hello to the Godzilla’s Tail-Slide Double-Kick!

Cheer Yourself Up With The Brain From Planet Arous


Are you feeling sad?  Does the world seem to be oppressive and overwhelming?  Do you just need a break from all of the nonstop bullshit that seems to be the price that we pay for every day of our existence?

If you answered yes, all I can say is that I know where you’re coming from.  Seriously, I’ve spent this entire month feeling depressed and overwhelmed.  Whenever I feel this way, I’m glad that — nearly 60 years ago — a director named Nathan Juran made a movie called The Brain From Planet Arous.

Seriously, I defy anyone — ANYONE — to remain depressed after having watched this movie.  It’s just so wonderfully ludicrous and silly.  The Brain From Planet Arous is just that, a gigantic floating brain that comes to Earth from a planet called Arous.  The brain, incidentally, has a name and it is Gor.  Gor, it seems, is a criminal, and he’s hiding out on Earth.  He possesses a scientist named Sam (John Agar) and spends most of his time trying to force himself on Sam’s fiancée (Joyce Meadows).  Fortunately, another brain from planet Arous has come to Earth.  Its name is Val and it possesses Sam’s dog and…

Look, the plot is not important.  What is important is that this film features two giant brains floating around and arguing.  It also features an adorable dog and some atomic weapon testing stock footage.  It’s not good but it’s a lot of fun.

Sadly, I’ve read that director Nathan Juran thought so little of this film that he was credited under a fake name.  That’s a shame because you know what?  The Brain From Planet Arous makes me happy and it’ll make you happy too.

Watch it and enjoy!

Film Review: Instinct to Kill (Dir by Gustavo Graef Marino)


Hi there and welcome to another edition of Lisa Marie Watches An Obscure Film Via On Demand And Then Reviews It.

Last week, I watched and reviewed a 2001 guilty pleasure called Tart.

This week, I watched another film from 2001, Instinct to Kill.

Instinct to Kill begins with homicide detective Jim Beckett (Tim Abell) sitting outside a suburban house and secretly filming Tess (Missy Crider) as she dresses.  As Jim watches, Tess joins her parents for dinner.  Tess’s father strikes her mother.  In case we needed anymore reason to hate him, Jim chuckles.

A day later, Tess is at cheerleader practice and again, she is being watched.  Sitting in the bleachers, Jim films her until he finally approaches her and strikes up a conversation.  Jim may be creepy but he’s also charming. Agck!

The film jumps forward 3 months.  Tess and Jim are getting married.  Jim and his partner Lance (Kadeem Hardison) spend the reception filming the bridesmaids and leering over  all the cleavage.  Bad Jim, bad!

And again, the film moves forward by 3 months.  As all too often happens, the daughter of an abusive father has ended up with an abusive husband.  As Jim attempts to murder Tess, Lance rushes into the house with his gun drawn.  Jim is arrested and sent to prison.

3 months later, Jim escapes from prison and, after retrieving a disguise kit from his own abusive father, Jim starts to stalk his ex-wife, her family, and her friends.  As Lance attempts to track down his former friend, Tess gets a bodyguard and a self-defense instructor in the form of J.T. (Mark Dacascos).

According to the imdb, Instinct to Kill was rated R for featuring “brutal violence and strong sexual content” and yes, it certainly had both of those.  However, to be honest, if you toned down the violence and edited out all of the boob shots, Instinct to Kill would be an almost prototypical Lifetime movie. After all, it has all the classic Lifetime elements: a sociopathic ex-husband, a sensitive guy who teaches self-defense, and a female protagonist who comes out of it all newly empowered and confident.  Fortunately, I happen to love Lifetime movies and maybe that’s why, somewhat to my surprise, I actually found Instinct to Kill to be an effective B-movie.

Some of that may also be due to the fact that Instinct To Kill’s executive producer was Mark L. Lester, who has directed some of the best B-movies of all time.  (He also directed The Ex, which has become a bit of a staple on the Lifetime Movie Network.)  I don’t know how involved Lester actually was with the production of this film but it feels much like a Lester film — the villain is flamboyant, the action moves quickly, and the end result packs much more of an emotional punch than you would expect.

Instinct to Kill may have a generic title but it’s definitely not a generic film.  Tim Abell makes for a genuinely scary villain and Mark Dacascos is the epitome of strength and sensitivity.  That said, the film’s best performance comes from Missy Crider, who believably transforms from being a helpless victim to an empowered warrior over the course of the film and, as a result, elevates the entire film.

Missy Crider in Instinct to Kill