We’re just burning through Criterion movies here like the entry-level-hipster-self-proclaimed-film-buffs we are! Out of all of the films that sit on the Criterion shelf at movie stores, The one I’ve looked at more than any other has got to be The Complete Lady Snowblood. The simple elegance of the title alone was enough to hook me, and once I found out that Meiko Kaji starred as the titular assassin, I was sold. She was the best part of Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion and I was really interested to see what she could do in a less sleazy film. For those of you who read this blog just for the bad movies, I promise I’ll get back to Hellraiser soon.
Lady Snowblood (Shurayuki-hime) follows Yuki, a young woman raised from birth to be an assassin and carry out a vendetta against the leaders of a small gang in 1800s Japan. These ne’er-do-wells are responsible for killing Yuki’s father and raping her mother before her birth. When Yuki’s mother attempts to get her own revenge, she is imprisoned for life and decides to have a baby that can grow up to exact her revenge.
Now 20-something years old, Yuki prowls the countryside piecing together whatever information she can to track down those responsible for devastating her family, using her umbrella sheathed katana to doll out bloody justice whenever she sees fit.
As I continue to burn through my newest pile of DVDs, I decide to watch a film I bought on two principles. The first being that it was a movie inducted into the Criteron Collection, and the second being that I found a pre-Criterion edition of it on sale for under two dollars (Canadian, meaning it was roughly four American cents).
The Squid and the Whale is an independent dramatized autobiographical comedy-drama written and directed by Noah Baumbach and produced by Wes Anderson. Don’t worry, it’s not entirely as pretentious as I made it sound there.
The Squid and the Whale follows the Berkmans, a family of four in 1986 being torn apart by an incredibly messy divorce between Bernard (Jeff Daniels) and Joan (Laura Linney). Their two sons Frank (Owen Kline) and Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) immediately take sides, with Frank siding with his mother and Walt his father. While it isn’t apparent why Bernard and Joan are separating in the first place, information begins coming to light, further dividing everyone in the family and cementing which sides they have chosen in this petty battle of favors.
Let’s take a break from the Hellraiser series. No matter how much I might like some of those movies, most of them aren’t great. Barring the first, they aren’t really achievements in cinema. I’ve recently picked up a bunch of DVDs and Blu-Rays on clearance (rest in peace, HMV) and I really feel like I need to start working my way through them. So, I decided to start with one of the most highly praised films of all time.
City of God (Cidade de Deus in Brazilian Portugese) is a Brazilian (duh) crime drama set in the titular favela (rough slang for a lower class district or slum) of Rio de Janeiro that follows a large ensemble cast of characters across multiple decades of their lives. While they all grow up impoverished, their lives take different turns as they navigate the gang, drug, and violence filled City of God, a place where children are killed in the streets and you rarely make it past the age of 30 without being riddled full of bullet holes first.
While City of God follows the stories of over five main characters, the protagonist and antagonist that draw a through-line from one end of the story to the other are Rocket and Li’l Zé. Both starting the story as young kids who see the “glamorous” life of local low level street thugs, one develops a creative passion and becomes enamored with photography and journalism while the other indulges a thirst for power and blood that only violent crime can provide him. (more…)
For the uninitiated: Hellraiser (1987), Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988), Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992), Hellraiser IV: Bloodline (1996).
We’ve crossed the threshold now. Currently there are nine Hellraiser films (although a tenth is allegedly on its way), so we’re over fifty percent through the franchise. Too bad we can’t just round it up and call the whole thing done.
Hellraiser V: Inferno is the first direct-to-DVD Hellraiser sequel, and a big departure from the previous films. Inferno follows Joseph Thorne, a crooked detective who discovers the Lament Configuration at the scene of a brutal crime, and after solving the puzzle box begins to have vivid and disturbing hallucinations all while more ritualistic and sadistic murders begin happening to people he knows. Thorne finds out that someone or something known as The Engineer is behind the killings and that he has kidnapped a child, leaving a severed finger at the scene of every murder. (more…)
Fuck. I just finished Hellraiser IV, and I already spent the joke about pain surpassing pleasure writing about Hellraiser III. If you want to read my thoughts about the first three (read: the best three) Hellraiser films you can find them here for Hellraiser, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, and the link for Hellraiser III is above.
Hellraiser IV: Bloodline is directed by Alan Smithee. That’s all I need to tell you. Turn off your computer, go outside and do something productive. For those of you who don’t know, Alan Smithee is the pseudonym a director uses when they don’t want to be associated with a film, typically because of studio interference. It traditionally means the film is hot garbage.
Hellraiser IV is Hellraiser in space. Hellraiser. In. Space. Sounds awesome right? Like, Event Horizon but not as good, which is still pretty good. But, unfortunately for us, Bloodlines is an origin story for the Lament Configuration, the puzzle box that opens a gate to Hell and summons Pinhead and his Cenobites when solved. This film follows three different generations of a family known as the Merchants: an 18th century French toy maker, a 20th century architect, and a 22nd century space…man? It’s not really clear what he does for a living. Anyways, Hellraiser IV follows the Merchants across space and time, showing how the Lament Configuration has been intertwined in their lives since its inception. (more…)
The Cenobites in the Hellraiser series have always talked about how at extremes, pleasure and pain are indistinguishable from each other. Well folks, we’re less than halfway through this franchise and I’m definitely feeling the pain way more than any pleasure.
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth is the next in line of the progressively worsening Hellraiser films I’m trying to work my way through. It takes place some indeterminate amount of time after Hellbound, the second film, and generally has very little to do with its predecessors.
After being trapped in the Pillar of Souls at the end of Hellraiser II, Pinhead is trying to escape his prison so that he may roam free on the material plane, no longer bound by the rule of Leviathan, whom he served under in Hell. While physically weak, he begins to manipulate a local nightclub owner and general scumbag J.P. Monroe to fetch him human souls after attempting to beguile (and consequently slaughtering) some other, weaker-willed people. Once free, Pinhead must find and destroy the Lament Configuration, an occult puzzle box and the only thing that can banish him back to Hell. Joey, a young reporter has witnessed the aftermath of what the Lament Configuration can do, and after getting her hands on the puzzle box, is intrigued in following the story to its bloody ends.