10 February 2018

MOVIES I COULD NOT FINISH

SUBURBICON/AMERICAN MADE/THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US/THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX




AMERICAN MADE: Watched about 10 minutes of this. Read it was supposed to be pretty decent, with Tom Cruise returning to actual acting rather than doing another goofy ass acton flick. Well, big problemo amigos. Shaky cam work. Yup. Pretty shaky. I mean super shaky ass cam work. Plus 70's style camera zoom ins. Sometimes a zoom in while the out of focus camera is shaking at the same time. I cannot follow a story with this type of camera work.  Cruise appeared actually to be playing the same arrogant, cocky asshole he has being playing his entire career, since Cocktail. No Born on the 4th July here. This will not help anyone forget The Mummy dude.

SUBURBICON: Loosely based, very loosely, on a true story I understand of the first black family to move into the  exclusive all white suburb community of Levittown Pennsylvania and the racism they encountered there. Though from what I read it is all pretty exaggerated in this mucked up anti-white, anti-republican, anti-American movie. Whatever that story actually is might be interesting if told with a less whimsical and overblown approach by a movie making team who takes it seriously and is not blinded by left wing Trump hating politics. But this mess was over for me in less time than American Made was. I usually like George Clooney, at least as an actor. I usually like Matt Damon and the Coen Brothers as well. Not all the time of course. And in this case I didn't like like any of them. The weird exaggerated acting and the hammer over the head liberal message about how horrible white American truly is (as told by super rich and super liberal white guys with a social justice agenda) was not to my liking. I am just not into the new style of social message movies. 

THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US: A black man and white women are stranded in the snowy mountains of Colorado and at one time Hollywood would have made that into a vehicle for trying to tell a social narrative on races. Here, unlike Suburbicon's non-stop in face preaching, the race issue seems to not even exist at all. It is not a black man and a white woman. Swell, it is just two people, you know. Like John Lennon's Imagine. I couldn't finish it, though not for that reason, so I am not sure what happened towards the end. It seemed to start off almost okay, maybe becoming an edgy survival film. Except that both characters, played by Kate Winslet and Idris Elba, are both well educated, super successful professional progressives and above noticing the color of another person's skin. Hell, had one been a straight guy and the other gay, or the women been a basketball star and the man a dwarf it would have all been the same I think. Nobody is different at all. And the "romantic" scene is simply too painful to watch. Both actors seem visibly uncomfortable and detached and the camera shot from Winslet's POV towards Elba's face as he is plowing into her was just bad cinema.

THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX: And the last film here sort of got on my nerves quickly for a couple reasons. First I thought it might be a decent sci-fi flick but it just was not. Nothing ever happened. Okay, a guy pukes out some worms and a guy's arm has life independent of him, but it was mostly a bunch of tense talking and exaggerated emotions. See, people trapped in a closed, claustrophobic area  like a space station yelling at each other all the time creates, eh, tension and angst. But even more annoying was the (okay, I am almost afraid to bring this up after my last two films) fact that the station is ran a female person of color and that the majority of the crew are minorities. And the minority people hold it together while the few white folk, (who all seem to have some sort of annoying East European accent, meaning they ate not american white dudes but Euro white dudes )  on the ship are usually losing it and fighting amongst each other the most. The social justice style of movie making (director J.J. Abrams having turned the latest Stars wars feature in a SJW farce as well I understand as I have never seen one of new Star Wars movies) is consuming film themes like the Blob did theater goers.

Little skinny girls of color can lead the team better than any ex-marine white guy can and minorities of color (note, one has to constantly qualify groups with terms like "of color" now) make up the crew more and more while white dudes are relegated to secondary roles. In this case puking up worms and having their arms fall off. Remember in the old days it was always the black guy or Asian guy to die off first, well the tables are turning folks. Social justice is achieved! Which I guess is okay. No, actually it is not. It is absurd. In fact I am offended there was not a transgendered or non-binary crew member now that I think about it. It is really boring and lame and I find myself just hating newer films more and more because they all seem to think I need to learn to something from somebody in Hollywood. I really don't. I just need to see a good movie. Not one where Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi does not even bother speaking English and rather the crew speak Chinese to her. Oh yea... and where an actual monster is shown for like ten seconds at the end of the crappy movie! (I know this from fast forwarding through the film as I did not watch it because I felt like the cast were all from an America last, no borders rally.)




02 February 2018

CHINA TIGHTENING ITS ALREADY TIGHT GRIP ON THE INTERNET EVEN MORE... THREATENING THE FUTURE OF THIS CRAPPY LITTLE BLOG


If you are one of the three people who regularly follow this blog you may know I live in China. It is long and convoluted tale and I will skip the dreary details other than to note that I was here before the big Internet crackdown began back in like 2007 or so, the period leading up to the 2008 Olympics. When I first got here back in 2004 all the sites like Google, Facebook, Twitter and on and on were not yet blocked. I opened my first Facebook account here in China as well as began my first of many blog experiments here on Blogger and at Wordpress during that golden period. That all change quickly and over time the situation has only gotten worse and worse. I was able to figure out ways to get around what is called The Great Fire Wall of China by using various type of proxies and later VPNs. Over the last couple years all of that has gotten harder and harder to manage and it seems that China is on the verge of shutting down the actual ports that VPNs (and most all Internet traffic) use to get in and out of China. If you are in America where the Internet is not blocked you may not even know what a proxy or VPN is, or what port 8080, 80 or 443 are. You don't need to. The only reason people in the US use VPNs is to cover there IP address for some reason, but not in order to access the actual Internet and open their email account or to update here cheesy little horror movie blog. Already my VPN service (I pay for one from outside China) is struggling to get and maintain a stable connection. The only analogy I can think of if you have a large highway and want to prevent all red and green cars from traveling on it. Rather than trying to stop every red and car, and allowing a few to slip past in the process, you simply shut down the entire highway and allow no cars at all. What cars do get through are allowed to pass through a special highway and they have received special clearance in advance. Jeesh. 

One can always make the vapid argument that you do not need to be online and read all the useless information on the Internet. It is better for you to not go online with all the negativity that abounds here in the cyber world. And you read stuff like this all the time... on the fucking Internet! But it is one thing to say "I give up the Internet" and quite another to have it taken from you. The former can be seen as a triumph, a victory, while the latter is nothing short of a humiliating defeat. To detail the struggles I have gone through to maintain this blog and other projects and to just check on something on Facebook or Youtube would just take too long. It would turn into simply the longest post I have ever written. In the end I have become worn down and even a little paranoid. Right now typing this post into my Blogger (Google) blog I am using my VPN. Without it I could not even open this page. It is utterly impossible to explain to people who have never experienced constant censorship. So long as my Internet can connect even now and then for some sort of update I will continue to post a few things. Suddenly now I regret all the periods where I forsook the blog out of bitterness over a lack of comments or traffic. Now I realize the blog was something else entirely than all of that. It was important to me and now with the threat (Maybe by March 1st) of not being able to do anything or even having the use of a VPN service become a crime (it may happen) I have to just sit here and in a way accept defeat. Real defeat. Not the half-ass sort of defeat wherein still lies a glimmer of hope. Despite all of China's wonderful rhetoric about globalization and openness and welcoming this and that the truth is it has not advanced too far from ta true Cold War mentality and distrust of anything from the outside. And that is truly saddening to me.

I will continue with the blog and there is some chance I can still update now and then even after march 1st, or maybe not if those crucial Internet ports become shut down on the mainland and controlled by the government owned telecommunication companies here. If using VPNs to do something dastardly like watching Amazon jungle documentaries on Youtube become a crime punishable by jail and deportation then that is that. It would seem that China's goals with its "Internet Sovereignty" goals is to creates the world's largest and most tightly controlled Intranet. And in such a hostile, predatory world the innocuous little Uranium Cafe and its creator have little hope of resistance and survival. Lets hope the situation is not yet terminal and the plug cna be left in a while longer.


26 January 2018

A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT/2014

I had had this movie sitting on my computer for quite sometime and was not able to get around to watching it because it was an infernal Matroska (mkv) file and for the life of me I could get the subtitles to work. I got a new version of the film online and this time around all worked just fine and I have to say it was worth the wait and I really enjoyed this very strange and atmospheric film from director/writer Ana Lily Amirpour. The movie is shot in stark black and white and the look and some of the sound editing reminded me a bit of David Lynch’s Eraserhead. While the story takes place, in a fictional placed called Bad City, it was actually filmed in the deserts of Southern California. Most likely the film would not have been made had it been shot in Iran and the California location works out just fine, giving the film an even more jarring other worldly aspect.

While the residents of Bad City eek out their miserable existence from day to day, dealing with drug addiction, prostitution, crime, poverty and all the other things one might expect from a place called Bad City, The Girl (played convincingly by the darkly charasmatic Sheila Vand) skateboards alone through the city at night clad in her black chador and stripped t-shirt looking for someone to quench her vampiric appetite. She becomes entangled in the lives of a handsome young man, his heroin addicted father, a streetwalker and a most interesting cat (credited as Masuka). The film could be called a slow burn or even a no burn and some people may find the pace a little too slow for their taste, but I got rather hypnotized by the look and sound of the film and it was, sadly, over before I wanted it to be.

I have a comic book, er... I mean graphic novel..., that I will assume without verifying is an adaptation of the film rather than the other way around. It is extremely well drawn in high contrast black and white and to be honest I have never read it. I flipped through it and looked at the drawing only. I really do not read comic books too much anymore but like looking at the artwork as I used to do some drawing back when I wore and younger man’s coat. Some, or most reviews, call it a “vampire western” and that can be misleading. Some of the score does have a spaghetti western feel to it and shots of sagebrush and cactus gives it that feel as well. But the film is certainly something a little more. I do not know if it is a study on anti-misogyny as I read in a review earlier. That may be a little too much and I am blessed into I do not think that deeply about films I watch or try to project my own social agendas into whatever it is I watch.

If I had any criticism it would be there was a little too much of not much happening and not enough violence for me. Had there been a couple more kills it would have been perfect, since The Girl, when it comes time to kill, is very wicked and menacing. But it is okay and maybe it is even a good thing the film did not go down that path and as it is it achieves more of an art-house feel to it, a movie possibly with a bigger message (who knows, maybe even about misogyny, but I don’t care) but one that looks and sounds and feels sinister and bleak enough just as it. Can’t recommend it enough.









OKAY, YOU WIN. NO MORE PODCASTS


So about two weeks back  I wrote a post saying I had deleted all my old podcasts and was considering redoing the whole approach to how I did them. starting over from scratch. I felt my old ones were long and rambling and not focused and had some audio issues. I felt I would be able to do a new style and because of past experiences have them be a little more focused and sound better, and also they would be shorter in length. Putting together a podcast is lots of work actually, more than putting together a written post  with pictures for sure. At the end of the post I was unsure of what I would do and said if just two people, just two, said "yea Bill, I hope you continue" then I would continue with doing them. well, not even two people said yea keep it up so I am dropping the podcast project and moving on. I did get one comment on that post which I appreciate. It is the only comment I have received for the past twenty or so posts. Hang on. Let me check... I was wrong. I have received about six comments in the last year. So it has been a good year for me. But, he did not say I should continue. So that is cool. It was hard work to do it and I really did not enjoy it and I see no point. Of all the podcasts I had done I do not think I ever had one comment one way or the other on them. So, that means best to let it go, be a man about it  and just limp off into the sunset with my horse and empty six gun to strains of Ennio Morricone.

25 January 2018

TERROR BENEATH THE SEA/KAITEI DAISENSO/1966

When I first began watching Terror Beneath the Sea/Kaitei Daisenso (with a very, very young Sonny Chiba who is, these days, best known as Hattori Hanzo from the Kill Bill films) it looked like it was going to some sort of Creature from the Black Lagoon spin-off. But it wound up being nothing of the sort, and turned out to be rather a sort of 60’s spy thriller with some “gill men” type creatures created by some evil scientists at the bottom of the sea floor. It is directed for Toei Films by Hajime Sato who directed The Golden Bat (for Toei) and Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell (Shochiku) and it is not a bad looking film at all. Of course is utterly campy in the classic 60’s Japanese sci-fi/horror/spy flick tradition and succeeds in that department. There are a lot of Anglo faces in this one both on the screen and behind it in terms of cast and crew. The dialog is pretty bad and seems to be shot in English in many scenes. I am not sure, but you can tell sometimes in these films. The right sounding words come out when the lips move. Freaky, not used to it. Chiba’s handsome Ken character has a white girlfriend which is an interesting aspect of these films from this period. They sometimes showed a Japanese guy with a white girl but it is not easy to find the reverse relationship too often. In fact I cannot recall one single Japanese sci-fi type flick of the period where a Japanese girl had a white boyfriend. But if it is Sonny Chiba then it is the gal who is lucking out anyway. I don't know why that matters to me, but for some reason it does. Most of the American guys in these films are portrayed as sneaky oafs and arrogant "gaijin". But the gals are sweet and like Japanese dudes. Something weird going on as far as I am concerned. But, as long as it is Sonny Chiba, all is cool.

If you like these old Japanese Toei/TOHO style films you will like this one. If you don’t you will not be converted I promise. I like them and find that they're good clean fun, being as they were most often being made for kids I guess. But even avoiding the “so bad it is good” angle it is a well-made film in many other regards as far as this sort of film goes. The villains have a Bond villain aura about them and the amphibious sea-creatures are pretty entertaining and sport some really awful costumes that sag like pajamas as they walk about menacing whoever they are ordered to menace by remote control. The heroes resort to amazing bouts of over acting at the slightest provocation. Chiba is great as he whirls into the camera every other shot with a challenging stare. It is a classic of bad cinema and those who can enjoy for what it is are members automatically of the cult-film cognoscenti. Really. They are.









22 January 2018

A NEW GOAL FOR ME HERE AT THE URANIUM CAFE

I was looking at some of my early posts and I noticed over time my tone grew more and more cynical in terms of how I treated films I reviewed. There may be a couple reasons for this. One is very important in that in the middle area of this blog's post history there are about 100 posts from my discontinued Necrotic Cinema blog. The movie there were more recent horror movies and there cynical and critical tone of the posts was deliberate. Since I tended to not like the movie too much and expected more from it. With thins blog the original intention was to review older more "psychotronic" style films and I treated them a bit more gently although many of those films are known to be pretty bad and schlocky. And yet, I enjoy them anyway. Even recently with my return to older films I notice my tone is more easy going even wen I am panning the film in some aspects. 

So, this is the deal. It may come as a surprise but I am a Buddhist. Yea, I am a Buddhist who likes horror movies. Okay. But I do not like my cynical and angry tone any longer and from this point onward I will be changing that as best I can. Does not mean I have to praise movies that irritated me. But no more name calling and bad four letter words. It can be more of a challenge for me as a "writer" to express my dislike in fairer terms, as I still want to write about modern movies which generated more negative responses from me. But some are fairly decent as well. I recently quit a couple horror related Facebook groups because the tone of the posts was always so negative and even vile. Just bitterly putting down films as idiotic and even criticizing people who might like them. I suddenly saw some of myself in those post and decided it was not who I wanted to be. I want to be Bill the nice guy film critic dude. I also find that using harsh terms and profanity affects my outlook later in the day and is in conflict with certain Buddhist ideas I try to adhere to best I can day to day. Probably might be best, according to my Buddhist wife, that I did not even do something like this blog at all, but I am not that enlightened. 

I will do my best to tone it down but still keep it interesting. 

17 January 2018

WAR OF THE INSECTS aka GENOCIDE/1968

War of the Insects, or genocide, is an odd little film put out by the Shochiku company. It would later be more known for animated films and family fare, but it did put out a few interesting horror films during the 60’s period. Some of the titles a little more well known might be Black rose (1969), Black Lizard (1968), Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell (1968) and The Living Skeleton (1968). In fact, I am not sure if they are more well known or not. I personally have seen them or seen parts of them. Those films are a bit more “artsy” in style, and War of the Insects/Genocide is reminiscent a bit of the style, or at least intent, of films from TOHO or TOEI, with an emphasis on monsters spawned from some sort of radiation or evil human experimentation. Here we have a little bit of both I guess and while a goofy flick in many ways it is overall rather watchable if like this sort of thing.

Arrogant American Air Force officers are told “just because you won a war doesn’t make you right!” Greasy Japanese guys frolic with those always easy to sack white women. A white woman is the evil master-mind of a plan to wipe out mankind. A black guy has a known history of drug abuse and mental instability but passed the rigorous Air Force screening process and got to be on a B-52 with a hydrogen bomb. A black guy later goes nuts and freaks out on wasps (or bees) and shoots things to pieces in a state of insanity  and tries to rape a Japanese woman torture guinea pigs for the good of man kind. Evil landlords try to rape fragile females and stare at their butts while they clean up the floor. Hydrogen bombs are detonated by arrogant American Air force officers in order to save the whole world (but just eliminate most of Japan). Shady gangsters in sun glasses slither in and out of scenes. Doctors inject themselves with insect venom and hallucinate. And it pretty much goes on and on.

The big disappointment for me was the insects that wage war in fact are only bees. And in close ups they seem to be wasps. Mostly a bunch of stock footage and when someone is being attacked the insects becomes little black dots drawn onto the film surface. When I started watching it I thought there were going to be all these cool “kaiju” type creatures. Maybe not super giant, but some sort of animated tarantula puppet or man in a praying mantic costume at least. Nope. Just stock footage bees. But to be honest I enjoy these sorts of films for the most part and am planning on rewatching a few I have not seen in many years. Director Kazui Nihonmatsu (The X From Outer Space) works under the name Norman Cooper for some strange reason. 








15 January 2018

ALL PAST PODCASTS DELETED/MAYBE A NEW STYLE COMING... OR MAYBE NOT.

I deleted all old podcasts posts because, well, they all sucked. Either in terms of quality or content. After years of the blog I had only about thirteen podcasts total and so my heart was perhaps not super into it. Or maybe it was but I did not know how to really manage the format to get the results I desired. I would listen to them later and found I just did not like them. Many were too long and rambling. I am not writing off the idea of doing some sort of podcast however. But ti will have a different approach if and when it returns. I will do a video styled podcast through Youtube (or even better through Internet Archives) and so in that style I can like some other people do and use some images to make the podcast a little more interesting. I may use Internet Archive as the video hosting service  simply to get away from the whole Youtube thing. I will never forget how one day I turned on an old Youtube account to find it all gone, removed by Google. The whole product for that account with no hope for recovering it. My heinous crime? Hosting a movie from the 1950's that had a passage of copyrighted music. 

Another aspects is that for the most part I seldom find myself listening to and enjoying other people's podcasts. Like mine, they rambled and strayed way off topic and showed little actual preparation and were way too long. To the tune of like two hours sometimes. I can barely watch a movie in one setting that is two hours much less listen to some podcast. However, I did find I liked podcasts or video casts or just videos that were no more than, lets say, eight minutes in length. A little longer than Stairway to Heaven, which is a song I never listen to anymore because I find it too long. I just skip to the guitar solo. But over all I find podcasts to be excruciatingly long and self indulgent.  Many people seem to lack a good voice or ability to improvise quickly. And I guess I fall in to that category myself. But I think a shorter format one a single topic (i.e. one movie review) can produce some more listenable results. It is certainly something I wold like to explore since I have the software and hardware and know places to host. But podcasts seem to be going the way of blogging in general.  Not dying off or vanishing, but morphing into something new that I may not like that much. Meaning they are to be experienced more on an iPhone or Android smart phone than on a home computer. I know my blog is culturally irrelevant and lacks any sort of redeeming qualities but I just feel i do not want it to be scrolled over and viewed  on an iPhone while killing time on bus or subway ride between taking selfies.  It might be shit but it is still the effort demands more attention than that or none at all. And by the looks of my hits the latter seems to be the option people are pursuing these days. 



But, lets wait and see. As well I want to return to simply writing things. I am watching lots of movies these days and not writing about any of them. Most I do not like but a few are pretty decent and some are just fun in an old school bad movie fashion. I like writing and I find it more therapeutic than doing podcasts. In any case, the old ones are all gone though I have my audio files still hosted at Internet Archives. I started to host some at Youtube with images and I got a couple thumbs downs and I said fuck this shit and took them down. Youtube for me has always sucked. I hosted some original music before. After like two years one song had four listens. Again, I said fuck this shit and removed them. I do not expect a million views of my original music projects but after two years to only see four made me feel like crap while videos of girls farting into phones is hot stuff. 

So lets see. Maybe, maybe not for the Uranium Cafe Podcast. If just two people say please Bill do it I will. Just two.

03 January 2018

THE CURIOUS LINK BETWEEN THE OILY MANIAC AND THE GREASY STRANGLER

I was looking through trailers of old Shaw Brothers films on YouTube late one dark and stormy  night and came cross this one for a film called The Oily Maniac, or 油鬼子 (you gui zi) in Chinese. (Okay, just showing off that I know a little Chinese. I am typically a pretty humble bastard). What struck me from the trailer ( I could not find the full movie) was the title and a couple scenes reminded me of a schlocky and disgusting movie I reviewed here a while back called The Greasy Strangler. In particular I noticed that in both films the maniac/strangler washed off in a drive-thru car wash. Have I uncovered something of significance here? Nah, probably not. The Greasy Strangler was revolting and this looks like just another goofy ass Shaw Brothers horror flick to watch for a good time only. In fact I think it is pretty sad I am able to draw a possible connection between two really obscure films few people in their right minds would even want to watch. Well anyway, I am gonna see if I can find the full Oily Maniac on YouTube and if I can’t maybe time to damage my good rating at Cinemageddon a little. Greasy and Oily, just the way I like my maniacs and stranglers.

UPDATE: I managed to find this with English subtitles finally. Will be checking it out and most likely doing a short review (all my reviews are short now, just one Word Document or so). There does seem to be enough of a similarity in parts that I feel confident in saying the Greasy Stranglers most likely received some "inspiration" from this oily bastard of a film.