Katy’s Criterion Channel pick is my first Kiyoshi in a few years, having skipped the alien visitation movies. I found it barely recognizable as a Kiyoshi, not sensing the horror atmosphere that others mentioned in reviews. A few days in the life of Yoko, on location in Uzbekistan with an easily defeated TV crew (when one segment falls through they don’t have any backup plans, hadn’t even read Lonely Planet: Tashkent on the plane). They each become familiar over the fairly long 120 minutes: director, cameraman, flunky, and translator – though the viewer is always on Yoko’s side (Seventh Code star Atsuko Maeda).

The movie gives us a symbolic goat which the TV crew pays to free, then pays again after it gets recaptured, then Yoko sees it in the hills at the end. The one time the camerawork feels complex is when Yoko wanders into an opera house and gets jump-cut between ornate rooms before finding herself both in the seats and onstage. After visualizing her inner yearning, KK shows the absolute lack of imagination of her coworkers – the translator suggests shooting in that opera house, explains its specifically Japanese origin and his rich emotional history with the place, and the director shrugs it off, saying their viewers wouldn’t care.

Since I’ve watched In The Earth, why not catch up with the last Wheatley feature I’m keen to watch. Warehouse deal of cash for rifles goes wrong when the hired help have history and start attacking each other. They’re uncontrollable, and violence escalates, and soon everyone’s been shot in the shoulder, then in the leg, and they spend the second half crawling around after each other. There’s a little bit of who’s-double-crossing-who and who’s-got-the-money and can-they-escape but mostly we’ve got an hourlong gunfight, which is something a director with real visual/editing flair could have a field day with. Wheatley isn’t that director, so I’m not clear why he’d make an all-action movie, but spatial sense is pretty good and the performances kept me awake.

Copley, shortly before getting set on fire:

Arms dealers are District 9 star Sharlto Copley in a blue suit, capable guy (a bad shot) Armie Hammer, tough ex-panther Babou Ceesay, temperamental flunky Jack Reynor.

The Buyers:

Michael Smiley and Cillian Murphy are buying, with Brie Larson, druggie fuckup Sam Riley. Also each group has another flunky whose name I didn’t catch, and three new guys appear but don’t live long enough to matter.

A journey through Japanese cinema and political history by the wacky House dude should’ve been very fun. I liked the stock characters (the romantic, the nerd, the tough guy, and the girl) and the Sherlock Jr. screen-hopping concept, but would describe most events, the onscreen text, compositing and editing all as “annoying.” Movie is a history lesson but it’s… no there’s no but, it’s just a lesson.

Noriko:

Some sharp comic-book images. Trips through silents and animation, the lo-fi greenscreen of late Ken Russell, poems between scenes. Lot of time spent in wars and discussing the atom bomb. After intermission, the Tough Guy spends some time failing to rescue a prostitute. He is Takahito Hosoyamada of All About Lily Chou-Chou… romantic lead Mario is Takuro Atsuki of another Obayashi, film history expert Shoue is Yoshihiko Hosoda of Detroit Metal City, all chasing young newcomer Noriko around. I lost track of characters, but superstar Tadanobu Asano was in there somewhere, and Riko Narumi (the unblind girl in Yakuza Apocalypse) and Hirona Yamazaki of As The Gods Will and Lesson of Evil. Fanta G (Yukihiro Takahashi of Norwegian Wood) is the guy in the spaceship, but I dunno about Kinema G (older guy inside the movies with the kids) since sites are using different character names than my subtitles did.

Omniscient space traveler Fanta G:

L-R: tough guy, nerd, romantic

Evan Morgan in Mubi:

And like Godard’s magnum opus [Histoire(s) du cinéma], Labyrinth of Cinema is haunted by the possibility that — if only things had been different, if only the movies had been more true — cinema might have altered the course of the 20th century, might have thwarted its greatest horrors. That it ultimately failed to do so is, for Godard, a source of deep sorrow — shame, even. And, like a spurned prophet, he retreated into monasticism, fled to his little tower on the shores of Lake Geneva from whence he issues the occasional gnomic utterance, if only to remind us that the world remains irreparably fallen. Obayashi, on the other hand, earnestly believes — as he himself tells us — that “a movie can change the future, if not the past.” Labyrinth of Cinema may be composed of bitter, inalterable histories, but it exists to shape an undetermined tomorrow.

Extremely convoluted and vaguely offensive, with more ideas per minute than anything else I’ve seen this year… which is to say that my high expectations set by Bodied have been met. Set in a high school where all the kids are obsessed with the 90’s. There’s a “gotta fled” reference.

After a false start, Riley is our loser main girl (Shanley Caswell seemed up-and-coming then followed this up with a David DeCoteau movie) who decides to hang herself in the school hallway and ends up fighting off an axe murderer in a princess crown cosplaying the horror sequel all the kids want to see, Cinderhella 2. She and Josh “Hunger Games” Hutcherson try to stay alive long enough to solve the mystery. There’s body swapping and time travel and alien abduction. Dumbfounded from Bodied downloads an illegal workprint of Cinderhella 3 seeking clues from the future. Shout out to Adrian Martin for listing this as one of the century’s greatest films.

Kahn:

Horror was the bait that we were dangling so we could flip all the genres around … One of the conceits of the movie was to put each of the characters in their own genre: one of them is in a sexcapade, one of them is in a horror movie, one of them is in Clueless. And then over the course of the movie they sort of start to peek over into each other’s genres. The only one who can’t see outside of his genre is Sander, who is a version of those Columbine guys. He has no backstory.

“It’s not supposed to be funny, it’s actually a horror transmedia.” No supernatural activity here, it’s something scarier – darknet internet trolls murdering teens for the lulz. There’s bitcoin, SWATing, pizzagate conspiracies. I dunno about the masked conspirators breaking into houses and doing literal murders, that doesn’t seem the same style as the SWATing, but I had fun. Watched on my laptop – I kept seeing the cursor and touching my trackpad to see if it was mine. Good sound mix, not too realistic.

Matias maybe-steals a new laptop and hangs out with his crew on game night. Nobody dies for an entire hour, then they pretty much all die. The laptop was bait, “we did everything they wanted us to do.” The blu-ray presents four different endings, some real indecision here, including a cliffhanger and one where Matias gets Vanishing‘d.

Writer/director Susco started out writing Grudge and Texas Chainsaw Massacre remakes. Lead dude Colin Woodell was in Searching, weirdly specializing in desktop movies. Somehow didn’t recognize Betty Gabriel (Get Out).

Another movie about criminals doing One Last Job before they retire on their earnings, but this time it’s young, disorganized burglars trying to leave Detroit. Rocky is Jane Levy, star of Evil Dead Remake, casing a house with her partners, tough Daniel Zovatto (It Follows) and meek Dylan Minnette (Let Me In). Unfortunately, the house is occupied by dangerous blind army vet Stephen Lang (VFW) who keeps a kidnapped impregnated girl in his basement, a killer dog in his yard, and a few million bucks in his safe.

Fortunately there’s not much dialogue – the two guys sparring over the girl was unconvincing, and I think there were three appearances of “Let’s Do This.” Better is the camera, which finchers around, between walls and under furniture. It’s a good looking movie, especially considering it’s mostly set within a decrepit house. The girl escapes with the money and sees a news story saying the old man lived, which explains the existence of Don’t Breathe 2.

mini-Cujo at the end:

When your eccentric silent-film-worshipping Canadian indie feature opens with a credit for Louis Negin you’re definitely admitting a Guy Maddin influence. Convoluted, fictionalized story of Mackenzie King, a politician introduced at the Hospital for Defective Children falling for a harpist. Just in chapter one there’s an Isle of Dogs cable car, a muppet cockatoo, and Negin as King’s mother – with nine chapters to go, it’s all a bit much. That’s not a complaint, it’s an admission that I need to watch a second time.

Lotta androgyny and excellent deco designs… guy who looks like De Niro in Brazil with a cactus hand, and love interest who looks like a young Pearl Forrester (this is Catherine St-Laurent of Tu dors Nicole)… I had fun.

Justine Smith in Little White Lies:

In one sequence, a series of candidates pledge their allegiance to the Great Disappointment (aka the Canadian flag) and engage in a series of mediocre competitions to test their passive-aggressiveness and thresholds for shame. Far from being a representation of Canada’s best vying for leadership, the sequence reveals a succession of pitiful and desperately vain men who act as though becoming prime minister is their birthright. They wish to govern the country not to make it better but to facilitate their own ambitions.

L-R: muppet, dad, Mackenzie

Sort of a process doc, focused on hands and objects (no faces are seen until the last ten minutes), partly documenting its own making (you hear claps for sound sync, direction to move action into camera view). I usually can’t figure out what they’re doing but I got when they traced the faint remaining pigment lines from ancient pottery and recreated the original design. Anyway the end titles (in reverse order) tell us exactly what we’ve been looking at.

Darren Hughes in Cinema Scope:

The film seems designed to ensnare viewers in the unspoken fetishistic pleasures of collecting, archiving, and displaying — the same pleasures that drive the economies of poaching and museum-building … Rinland has consistently used a number of formal techniques that have, in recent years, become associated with ASMR. [This film] is a comprehensive catalogue of triggers.

It’s only been half a year since I’ve watched a Johnnie To movie, but Throw Down left a lasting impression and this one flipped a switch and set me frantically into Johnnie To Mode. About 25 lead actors here, 19 of whom I’ve never seen before, in a complex duplicitous undercover plot, and it’s all still thrilling and comprehensible.

Police Captain Honglei Sun (star of A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop) and undercover cop Yi Huang bust a busload of drug mules, and while they’re dropping their loads, injured methmaster Louis Koo is fleeing the warehouse explosion that killed his family. Koo is busted, and facing the death penalty he cooperates. Most of the movie is their duplicitous dealings, intercepting meetings between drug traffickers who’d never met in person, pretending to be the one guy, then the other guy, the highlight of this being a laughing dealer named Haha. After the offscreen deaths in the prologue explosions, no shots are fired in the first hour of a movie called Drug War… then all of a sudden, very many shots are fired, as docile collaborator Koo violently switches sides. Raid on a drug factory run by deaf-mutes goes bad, Suet “Fatso” Lam turns out to be the mastermind. Don’t think I’ve quite seen an undercover cop movie with this trajectory before.

Koo:

Cops:

Fatso: