The one thing I can’t really tell is whether the racing here is realistic or not, since I don’t understand much about NASCAR racing — but the way the cars bump and grind in this movie does feel farfetched. But hey, it’s still a pretty fun and silly ride, reeks of late 80s-style moviemaking (the machismo, the heavy Tony Scott color saturation), and all in all, I can’t say I disliked revisiting it — and I’m pretty sure it’s the first time I watched it since its original release.
I never got around to posting about what shows I checked out during this latest TV season, but I did do a Twitter thread about it, that I figure I’ll adapt as a post here. It’s getting more and more difficult to do a “start of season” post these days though, as a lot of these series that I’m watching are coming via Netflix, which just releases them whenever they feel like it.
Japan Sinks 2020 is one of those new Netflix series, and having watched it all I can say that I enjoyed it quite a bit. The opening credits sequence is a delight, and I really loved the pacing and overall mood of the show. Basically, a huge earthquake hits Japan, and it explores the aftermath. This was directed by Masaaki Yuasa, and it then got me to go and get caught up on all of the movies and series that’s he’s been producing in recent years, that I’ve been chronicling in this Twitter thread.
Based on the first episode, Deca-Dence takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting where humans are holding up in a moving fortress, to defend against the appearance of giant (and not so giant) monsters. My feeling was that I could go either way on this one, with the first episode being decent, and I was planning on giving it 1-2 more episodes. Well, I bounced off quickly, as I didn’t like the swerve it took in episode 2 (it’s a virtual game that weird cartoony bots/creatures are playing).
Dorohedoro aired in Japan late last year, but popped up on Netflix recently. I’ve watched the first few episodes and like it. It’s set in a weird post-apocalyptic world with forms of magic that deforms some people. I like the animation style — and it’s gory as fuck.
Great Pretender gets bonus points for its Lupin-like opening theme song. It’s about a Japanese grifter who in the first arc (of five episodes) finds himself in LA. It’s a very Lupin-like mix of humour and action, which is right up my alley (considering how big a fan I am of Lupin in general). I’m more than halfway through this first season, and I know that there are more episodes coming later this year. Again, it’s one of those Netflix series.
The only other series I wanted to watch this season was the return of The Millionaire Detective Balance: Unlimited, which was put on hiatus last season after only two episodes due to COVID. I like this show (it’s still airing new episodes), and episode 4 was especially fun.
I read it back in July, but I really need to highlight here just how much I enjoyed reading my old friend Matt Alt‘s fantastic deep-dive into Japanese pop culture of the decades following the end of the WW2. Pure Invention: How Japan’s Pop Culture Conquered the World is a ridiculously good read, and I found myself reading it in a couple of days because I couldn’t put it down. Each chapter focuses on a different topic (karaoke, anime, the Walkman, Hello Kitty, etc.), and it’s so satisfying to really dig into every single one of them in so much detail. I was expecting to enjoy more the chapters that touch on the 80s and later, but the context that you get from learning about what happened during those early post-war years — like the production of tin toys — was just so fascinating.
This is what you call a real page-turner, and sure, I’m of course partial to all things Japan and pop culture, but I can’t imagine someone not enjoying this.
Not only is this my favorite Schwarzenegger movie (at least, I’m pretty sure it is), but it was also one of my favorite movies from around that time. Even now, it’s still so much fun to watch, and it’s great to see that the practical effects still look so cool — sure, they don’t come off as realistic anymore, but there’s something really satisfying about them, that you just don’t get from the early days of CG (which I guess I’ll be hitting when I start re-watching films from later in the 90s). I’ll admit that I even liked the 2012 remake, but it’s definitely in no way better than the original.
I’ve always thought this was the weakest of the three. After the madcap thrills of all the time jumping we got in the second one, turning the last one into what ends up being a “comedy western” felt lazy. Re-watching it now — and maybe it’s because I was in the ideal mood to watch it — I found myself enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. The characters, the mood, the silly action, it all amounts to a plain ol’ good time.
My favorite thing about this movie is the presence of David Cronenberg in one of the main roles — sure, his acting isn’t all that great, but I just love seeing him on screen. The directing here is a bit weird — I’m pretty sure it was Clive Barker’s directorial debut — but I like this movie, with all its weirdness. I’ve generally always liked Barker’s brand of horror — the horror of the flesh that we know from Hellraiser — and it’s here, but weirdly with a more positive vibe. I wasn’t really sure if I was still going to like this or not, but I think I ended up enjoying it even more than expected. It’s not necessarily a great film, but there’s something very watchable about it.
I seem to remember this sequel being a pretty big disappointment at the time, that it just wasn’t really funny or interesting. Revisiting it now, maybe it’s because I went in with those low expectations, but I ended up having a pretty good time watching it. It just feels so end-of-the-80s (basically, they’ve got the 80s action-comedy formula to a tee), with all the visual style we’ve come to expect from Walter Hill films. And hey, there were some funny bits here and there, and the action is decent. Gotta love UZI shoot ups in night clubs.
I remember really liking Darkman back in the day. Watching it now, there’s still a lot to like in it — and for me it’s really all of the manic sequences that pop up throughout, my favorite being the one where he dances around with the tin hat, which feels so Evil Dead 2/Army of Darkness-ish. What I like are the Raimi-isms you get, and the rest is a bit of bore — the first 30 minutes or so of the movie are especially slowgoing, and it was really only in the second half that I was getting into it. It was fun to revisit though.
I decided to kick off my 1990 movie marathon with this for some reason. I seem to remember that it didn’t get a great reaction when it originally came out, mostly because of the lack of Arnie, but I think it was interesting to do something so different for the sequel, and to use a completely different setting (city instead of jungle). I didn’t remember the Robocop-like media parody though. The film came out in 1990, but it’s set in the far future of 1997, with everyone seemingly having a gun (and futuristic guns at that), and Morton Downey Jr. hosting an exploitive tabloid news show. As for the movie itself, it was alright, but I think it’s mostly let down by the direction — there’s an action sequence set in subway cars that’s especially annoying because it’s constantly strobing and you can’t tell what’s going on, and it lasts 5-10 minutes.
I’ve decided to fold out on my 1980 movie marathon at only five movies. I was planning on watching about a dozen, but considering that I watched the first one in February and it’s now August, I figure it’s time to move on. As with all of my other year-based marathons (1967, 1968, 1977, 1978, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, and 1989), I am glad I watched those movies, but for some reason I just haven’t been in the mood to watch more, even though I had stuff like Superman II, The Blues Brothers, and The Shining on my list (although for Shining, I did watch it fairly recently, so wasn’t particularly interested in revisiting it again so soon). So next up I move to 1990, which I’m actually quite excited about, and just quickly drawing up a list last night I already had about 40 films (I imagine I’ll end up watching 20-30). But here are my thoughts on the five films from 1980 I did watch, which you can also find under this tag.