Wednesday, June 25, 2014

6ixtynin9/Ruang talok 69 movie review

Note:  This review was originally posted on my Epinions account.

What would you do if you found $25,000 in front of your door? Would you try to find the owners? Donate it to charity? Keep it? A Thai woman by the name of Tum is put to the test. Her company has to lay off three people and she ends up being one of them. Shortly after getting home, she finds a box containing the equivalent of $25,000 in front of her door.

Times are tough, economically speaking, and her hopes of getting another job are slim. The only problem is that the people that left the box in front of her door come back looking for it, and they’re pretty certain that Tum has it. She denies having it, but they barge in and look for it. These two people happen to be hired thugs; they’re not the kind of people that you mess with. Tum ends up killing both, which only makes her problems worse.

I’m not going to say much more than that, at least in terms of the plot. I can’t say that I liked the American version of the name. According to IMDb, the direct translation for the original title is Funny Story 6 9. The characters for 6 and 9 were placed so close together that people assumed that it was 69. When it was released here, it became 6ixtynin9, which I find to be just a little too annoying. I don’t like titles that try to be cute like that. The title comes from the fact that the number on Tum’s apartment door, a 6, keeps falling over, making it look like she’s in apartment 9.

The story is completely understandable. Who wouldn’t want to keep that kind of money, especially after losing your job? Things get progressively worse for Tum, but that too is understandable. There were a few parts that didn’t make sense. For instance, there was one scene where Tum was waiting to use the elevator. A bystander (who later becomes important in the story) points out that the elevator is out of order. Later in the movie, the elevator is working fine. There’s no mention of what happened to the elevator.

The big question, however, is why Tum didn’t get her number fixed. You’d think that she’d buy a screw or something to hold it up. Granted, that would have been too easy and would have negated the entire story, but it would have been nice to at least see Tum try a few times and fail. (I will admit that I’m probably that lazy, too.)

One major complaint I had was with the subtitles. Usually, they were fine, but there were a few mistakes. In one scene, the subtitles read “quite” instead of “quiet”. In another scene, one character speaks of a $13 note. I realize that whoever was translating it probably wanted the audience to know how much the characters were talking about, but it’s a little distracting to have to see something like that.

I’d still give this movie four stars. The acting was great. Also, despite what you might see elsewhere, Lalita Panyopas (who played Tum) was attractive. I wish I could find some other movies that she was in. I definitely recommend watching this movie.

Three Iron = Inert Hero

Note:  This review was originally posted on my Epinions account.  A few modifications have been made.

This is going to be a difficult movie for me to review. 3 Iron is a very different movie from what I’m used to. You see, the two main characters don’t say much. One character is Tae-suk, who breaks into houses. He has this method of figuring out which houses are empty. Usually, he’s able to stay for a few days, doing the sort of random stuff you’d do in your own house. He doesn’t steal much except for some food or toothpaste. In return, he usually fixes something, like a scale or a radio.

His method of picking empty houses has varying success. One day, he breaks into a house and starts going about his business, not realizing that a woman is there. She observes him for a while. Eventually, he figures out that she’s there. Instead of calling the police, she goes with him, staying in the various houses and apartments with him. This wouldn’t be a problem except that she has an abusive husband that wants his wife back.

I really don’t want to give away more than that. This is an amazing movie that I think you should watch without knowing too much about it. Everything about this movie was great from the acting to the sets. Because of the lack of dialogue, the movie has to rely on everything else more heavily, from direction to acting, all of which came together perfectly.

The movie is 88 minutes. I found that to be just the right time. I think that making it longer wouldn’t have been a good idea. I have to wonder how Tae-suk came to live the way he did. To go into more detail about anything would have been a mistake. Part of the beauty of the movie is that we’re still able to connect with the characters. (There are also a few parts of the story that are never explored beyond one scene, but I won’t get into that.)

As I said, there was very little dialogue in the movie, which pretty much makes subtitles a minor point. I really didn’t find it distracting at all. I know that some people don’t like foreign movies for this reason; if you’re among this group, I don’t think that you’ll find the subtitles to be a problem.

I would very highly recommend this movie to anyone. It’s a different hind of movie that really makes you pay attention. I could even see this movie holding up on repeated viewings. I’d give this movie five stars.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

The Living Dead

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Many, many years ago, back when I was working at Wolf Camera, I found these sets of movies for $7.99 each.  Each set had 9 or 10 movies that fit in to some theme.  One set is all Alfred Hitchcock movies.  Another is all science fiction.  This one is titles The Living Dead and has to do with zombies, vampires and strange cults.  (Or at least things that pass for zombies, vampires and strange cults.)

The thing that first attracted me to this set was that it had Dawn of the Dead.  This was a movie that I had heard about and had wanted to see.  I figured that I could get eight more reviews out of it.  (Nine, if you include this one.)  With that many reviews, it was just a matter of waiting for the right promotion on Epinions and I could make my money back.  (I ended up getting a few of the other sets when the store put them on sale.)

Well, I’ve finally gotten around to reviewing them.  Now, I have to review the set as a whole.  I don’t really want to write too much on each movie.  I doubt you’d want a 3,000-word review and I know that I don’t want to write one.  (Since I’ve reviewed all of the movies, I will link to the individual titles.)

This set has nine movies spread out over three discs as follows:

Disc 1:  The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, The House by the Cemetery, Fangs of the Living Dead

Disc 2:  I Eat Your SkinThe Last Man on Earth, King of the Zombies

Disc 3:  Night of the Living Dead, The Thirsty Dead, Messiah of Evil

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is about Lord Alan Cunningham, who likes to kill women.  He seems to think that marrying again will cure him of this.  It just leads to a strange and disjointed movie.  It’s more strange than scary.  Also, kind of light on the living dead thing.

The House by the Cemetery does have living dead that haunts a family.  They move into a house while the father finishes the work of a colleague who committed suicide.  It’s not quite as strange and disjointed, but that’s not to say it makes any sense.  Take the grave marker in the house.

Fangs of the Living Dead does have living dead.  (In this case, vampires.)  A young woman about to be married inherits a castle.  She goes over to sign the paperwork only to find out that her uncle really isn’t her uncle.  Also, there’s some question as to whether or not her mother is dead.  The movie comes across primarily as goofy.  (I don’t know how much of it was intended to be goofy.)

I Eat Your Skin was originally billed with a movie called I Drink Your Blood.  (I kid you not.  Check IMDb.)  The only likeable thing about this movie, in my opinion, was that it was filmed near me, albeit before I was born.  In this movie, a writer goes to Zombie Island with the intention of getting material for a new book.  He and his party get more than they bargained for.  This one redefines what it means to be low-budget.

The Last Man on Earth is the reason I got this pack in the first place.  I’d say it was worth it.  It’s one of two movies in this set that are worth the purchase price.  (The other one is Night of the Living Dead.)  The movie is about a man who seems to be the last human alive, hence the title.  He spends his days gathering supplies and his nights hiding from the undead.  It’s not a great movie, but it is worth seeing, especially if you’ve seen Omega Man or I am Legend.  All three movies are based on the same book.

The King of the Zombies is not even worth watching unless you want to get the review out of it.  It’s the shortest of the nine as well as the oldest.  In it, three men crash land on an island.  They discover a strange man in a strange castle with strange things going on.  This is another case where the living dead aren’t technically living dead, but it’s a minor point.  The movie is just plain bad.

Night of the Living Dead  is a classic.  Yes, it’s that Night of the Living Dead.  It’s the one directed by George A. Romero.  This movie does have actual living dead and is actually good enough to raise the bar for zombie movies to come.  This alone is worth the purchase price.  If you’re going to get this set, watch this movie first if you haven’t already seen it.

The Thirsty Dead does not involve anyone who is either thirsty or dead.  Instead, it involves a cult that lives in a remote area that drinks the blood of people to stay young.  They think they’ve found someone who is supposed to change the course of their special cult.  The only problem is that she wants nothing to do with them.  Ironically, one of the other women kidnapped with her does want eternal youth and beauty.  The shame of it is that she’s nothing to look at.  Neither is the movie.  It’s just plain ridiculous.  This is Mystery Science Theater 3000 material at its finest.

Messiah of Evil was somewhat decent.  It’s not as good as other movies I’ve seen, but it does involve some creepy scenes.  It’s about a woman looking for her father in a small town.  The small-town residents have some sort of infection that turns them into flesh-eating zombies during a blood moon.  The main drawback is the film transfer; it looks like St. Clair Vision used the cheapest one they could fine.  It’s worth watching, but only if you get it as part of this set.

In addition to the nine movies, there are three special features.  On disc one is classic movie trailers.  Disc two has vintage movie posters.  Disc three has a feature on the making of The Night of the Living Dead.  The only one I watched was the one on the movie posters, which is basically a slide show set to music.  I watched a few minutes, but didn’t see anything interesting.

I think the common thread running through all of these movies was that they were either public domain or had expired copyrights.  In other words, St. Clair Vision, who distributed this collection, didn’t have to shell out any money beyond what it cost to produce and ship the units.  Most of the movies don’t seem to have been restored at all.  I think very minimal effort was put into this.

If you find this collection and think (as I did) that you might be able to get your money back by reviewing the movies, I’d really think hard about it.  I only finished most of the movies because I wanted the reviews.  Had it not been for the site, I don’t think I would have finished (or even started) watching some of these movies.  Many of these are really old.  Release dates range from 1941 to 1981.  I’d say that all of the movies show their age to some extent.

The packaging was very basic.  It’s a plastic case with three places for the DVDs.  The only problem is that the back half has two holders that are arranged so that you have to take out one disc to get at the other.  It’s not a problem, but it might be a nuisance if you want to get to a movie on the bottom disc quickly.  On the back of the DVD case is a short description of each movie and the suitability for children.  Each disc is easy to get out of the case.

Interestingly, there’s a copyright warning.  I think all of these are public domain, so I think the only thing that would fall under copyright is the menus and maybe the special features.  I guess it’s one of those things that they have to put in just in case it ever matters.  I don’t really regret buying this.  I’d say that between Last Man on Earth and Night of the Living Dead, I got my money’s worth.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

The Thirsty Dead (1974)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

There are some things that defy explanation.  Why do we park in a driveway, yet drive on a parkway?  When the Bruce Banner turned into the Incredible Hulk, why was his shirt ripped to shreds, but his pants usually stayed relatively intact?   If the line at the ladies’ room is always so long, why not build more (or bigger) ladies’ rooms?  Why is a movie that’s about living people who don’t have an urgent need for consumable liquids called The Thirsty Dead?

Actually, The Thirsty Dead has its own set of interesting questions.  The story starts with two women being kidnapped by cloaked men.  The men take them to a small motorized boat in the city's sewers.  As they pull away, we see a doll floating in the water.  (First interesting question:  Is this supposed to be a doll or is it supposed to be an actual baby?  Second interesting question:  What’s the point of showing this to the audience?)

Cut to a scene in a river.  The boat pulls up to shore where everyone gets out.  We meet two other women who have presumably also been kidnapped.  The men take off their cloaks to reveal that they normally wear just about enough to keep the censors happy.  The women are taken to a small village where people worship a disembodied head that’s floating in a red liquid.  All of the people are either attractive or supposed to be attractive.  (The movie was released in 1975; since this was before I was born, I have no way of knowing how standards have changed.)

Baru (the only male character with any lines) eventually shows them around.  The people there have the ability to stay young by drinking a mixture of blood and some super-secret potion.  Laura, one of the four kidnapped women, is to be The Chosen One who can show them a new way or something.  The other three women are to be blood donors to keep everyone young and beautiful.

Laura doesn’t like the idea of living forever if it means draining people of their essential bodily fluids.  One of the other women, Claire, doesn’t mind.  She’d gladly trade places with Laura.  Sure, you have to spend the rest of your eternal life with the cult.  Who needs the outside world anyway?  Laura convinces Claire to escape with the rest of them, which they do pretty well until they stumble upon someone’s house.  The people living there give the four women shelter so that they can call Baru to come and take them back.

Shortly after bringing the women back, Baru realizes that it’s not right to keep the women there and helps them escape.  (Third interesting question:  Why help them escape so soon after bringing them back?  At least offer some lame excuse like, “I couldn’t do anything with the guards around.”)  Claire gets killed in the process, which the other three women get over pretty quickly. 

Baru takes them as far as he can, but soon ages rapidly.  Apparently, straying too far from the village means that your immortality is instantly revoked.  The remaining three women manage to make it to a road and flag down a man passing in a car.  The guards show up just in time to eat dust.  This leaves me with a fourth interesting question.  From what I can tell, the guards left right after Baru and the women did.  Baru and the women stopped several times to rest, but the guards didn’t seem to take any breaks.  How is it, then, that the guards didn’t catch up with Baru‘s party?

In the final scene, Laura is shown with the police, who have a plane flying around looking for the village.  There was at least one clearing, which should have made it easy to find.  The plane can’t see anything, which leaves the police to assume that Laura and the others are simply making up the story.  The people in the secret village are watching through some sort of telescope, apparently happy to cut their losses.

What I’m left with as a sense that this was a deeply flawed movie.  The acting is marginal at best.  The women don’t seem to be all that broken up about being kidnapped.  There’s no kicking or screaming.  In fact, Claire seems to be excited about the prospect of being sold into slavery.  (Why she’s so eager, I’ll never know.)  In one scene, the women spot a plane going overhead.  One of the women tries to call attention to the group, but does so with all the enthusiasm of someone that’s been drugged.

This movie was part of a nine-movie set called The Living Dead.  I’m not sure why it was included in this set, as there were no zombies, vampires or other undead to speak of.  It really wasn’t scary or spooky at all.  In fact, it’s one of those unintentionally funny movies.  The head that the cult worships has one line and it’s able to speak through the liquid despite not having any lungs.  (It’s possible that the head used telepathy, as the lip movements didn’t really match up to the words, but it‘s not really worth debating.)

Another interesting question is why movies use the plot device of one character drawing a picture of another character without ever having seen them.  This almost invariably indicates that the character that was drawn is someone special to the person that drew the picture or that the two people were meant to be together.  I’ve never really understood this.

There’s no nudity or profanity, although there were a lot of revealing clothes.  (Trust me: revealing clothing isn’t always a good thing.)  Most of the women wear something similar to a bikini, but slightly bigger.  Many of the women were attractive, but not all of them were much to look at.  As I said, the guards, all male, wear what can best be described as cloth diapers.

I think this could have been a good movie if you had gotten better actors, had some more attractive actresses, rewritten most of the script and actually put some effort into it.  I mean, it’s a PG movie.  How can you make a decent horror film that gets a PG rating?  I guess that’s one mystery for the ages. 

Monday, June 02, 2014

The Last Man on Earth (1964)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.  I have made a few modifications here.

I first became aware of this movie through Epinions. I had done a review of Omega Man and decided to read a few of the other reviews, which mentioned Last Man on Earth. Both movies are based on the same novel, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. When I saw a collection of movies that included The Last Man on Earth, I had to buy it. (I got this and 8 other movies for $7.99 plus tax.)

Vincent Price plays Dr. Robert Morgan, a scientist who is literally the last normal human on Earth. You see, there was this worldwide plague that affected every other human on the planet. Many were killed and burned to prevent the spread of the disease, but to no avail. Those that are infected become sick and die only to reanimate shortly thereafter. Dr. Morgan’s best guess as to his immunity is a bat bite that he sustained many years ago.

Either way, he lived and had to watch his wife and daughter die while his coworker thinks that everyone’s turning into vampires. Morgan dismisses it at first, but thinks twice when his wife comes home…after he buried her. He realizes that humanity may really be doomed.

For several years, Morgan has spent his days looking for supplies and his nights scared out of his wits, hoping that the 'vampires' don’t get him. Morgan finds out that garlic and wooden stakes have the same effects as in legend and the zombies also have an aversion to mirrors. (Amazingly, mirrors and fresh garlic are easy to come by, even after three years.) He finds hope when he discovers a woman watching him. If he can help her, there may yet be hope for humanity.

The first thing that I noticed was that the acting left something to be desired. Granted, most of the characters were zombies, but Vincent Price was the only one who seemed to give much of a performance. Even with the zombies, the acting seemed more rigid than one might expect from the undead, but I’ll get to that later.

The picture quality also wasn’t that great. The quality was good, considering that it’s a black-and-white movie from 1964. However, there were several points in the movie where the transfer was terrible. It wasn’t a major point, but it was a little distracting at times

I don’t know if this is to be expected from all versions of the movie or just the DVD that I got. The name of the collection I got was called “The Living Dead”. It’s from St. Claire Vision, which is known for distributing public-domain material.  They don't seem to put a lot of effort into restoring the movies or getting the bet versions.

Even though I liked the movie, I didn’t think that the story was developed very well. I realize that 86 minutes isn’t a lot of time to go into detail, but how was it that out of a total population of several billion, only one person was lucky enough to have immunity?  I always find it odd when exactly one person survives.  He also had plenty of food, garlic and other supplies. I would think that after three years, either the food would have gone bad or the zombies would have gotten to most it.

On that note, why was it that the zombies were so one-dimensional? All they did was moan and make a very weak effort to get to Morgan. The only reason they even seemed interested in Morgan was that he was unaffected by the plague. In The Omega Man, the zombies and their relationship with the last human survivor were both developed more.

Overall, I’d give the movie three stars. It was entertaining to watch, but I don’t think that the movie would hold up well to today’s standards. For what I paid for it, it was worth it. If you’re interested in this movie, I’d actually recommend getting Omega Man.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Note:  This is a review that was originally posted to my account.

Night of the Living Dead is one of those movies that’s relatively well known.  It’s not a particularly great movie, but it did seem to start the zombie-type undead movie.  (Note:  The undead in the movie aren’t actually referred to as zombies.  At best, they’re “those things”.)  Sometimes, you’ll see it on cable or maybe even broadcast if you’re lucky.  I managed to get it as part of a 9-movie collection that had a living dead theme.  (When I bought it many years ago, I think this is the only movie I had heard of.)

The movie starts out with Johnny and Barbara, a brother and sister minding their own business.  When radiation reanimates the dead, Johnny becomes one of their first victims.  Barbara manages to make it to a farmhouse where she meets Ben.  Having just lost her brother, Barbara can’t do much more than scream and wonder when it will all be over.  You see, the undead want to kill and eat the living.

At first Ben and Barbara think that they’re going to have to wait out the zombie apocalypse alone.  Turns out that there’s a family of three as well as a couple hiding in the basement.  They’re more than happy to wait there, feeling that it’s a more-defensible location.  Ben waits upstairs where he has access to television and radio and can see what’s going on outside.

Through television, the viewer is able to see how things are coming along.  Police and the military are trying to deal with the zombie threat as best they can.  They’ve figured out a few things that work, such as blunt objects and decapitation.  No one really knows what’s going on, but people are trying to rekill the undead.  Since there’s a sequel, you have to figure that the epidemic does eventually end with at least a few survivors.

Night of the Living Dead was George Romero’s first film.  This is not a big-budget movie by any means.  The version I watched wasn’t great in quality, but wasn’t horrible, either.   I don’t know if that has anything to do with the original production or the movie collection not being able to get (or willing to invest in) a better copy.  I’m sure that a movie like this has been remastered at some point in the last 46 years.

While the movie does deal with the undead trying to eat the living, the violence shown isn’t that disturbing by today’s standards.  People that grew up on later zombie movies will probably find it pretty tame.  (It’s strange how movies from 40 or 50 years ago don’t have the same kind of ‘horror’ in them, even if they are supposed to be horror movies.)

I’m not a big zombie/reanimated corpse fan, but I figured I might as well watch this movie.  It was worth buying; I did end up liking the movie and I got 8 other movies to watch and eventually review.  I don’t know that I’d recommend buying it to other people unless you’re a big undead fan, but it is worth watching.  If you can get it as part of a collection like I did, then go for it.  If not, maybe you want to wait for it to come on TV.