Sunday, June 30, 2024

Viewings: June 2024

Two wildly different dystopian futures were the major bright spots for me this month. George Miller's post-apocalyptic prequel Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga and Jérémie Périn's animated cyberpunk thriller Mars Express were easily my fave titles.

I also listed my highest rated 21st century films on Letterboxd this month, before a software update briefly turned the app into an adpocalypse



The Flying Deuces (A. Edward Sutherland, 1939)

Planet of the Vampires (Mario Bava, 1965)*

The Flesh and Blood Show (Pete Walker, 1972)

House of Whipcord (Pete Walker, 1974)

Dominique (Michael Anderson, 1979)*

Nightkill (Ted Post, 1980)*

The Isle (Kim Ki-duk, 2000)*

The First Purge (Gerard McMurray, 2018)*

Challengers (Luca Guadagnino, 2024)*

The Fall Guy (David Leitch, 2024)*

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (George Miller, 2024)*

In a Violent Nature (Chris Nash, 2024)*

I Saw the TV Glow (Jane Schoenbrun, 2024)*

Mars Express (Jérémie Périn, 2023/2024)*

Under Paris (Xavier Gens, 2024)*



The Avengers - ‘Return of the Cybernauts’ (Sydney Newman, 1961 - 1969)*

Years and Years (Simon Cellan Jones & Lisa Mulcahy, 2019)*

Doctor Who - New Episodes (Sydney Newman, 1963 - 2024)*

UEFA Euro 2024*

*First time viewings.

Dada Debaser Notes:

  • We might onlyt be halfway through the year, but Christmas came early (or really late, the more I dwell on it) with the Pete Walker box set finally being released after such a long delay.
  • Furiosa and Mars Express weren't the only dystopian futures watched over this period. Russell T. Davies's neurotic writing for the highly praised mini-series Years and Years, turned out to be an unintentional comedy for me. Best things about it were his clairvoyant predictions and Emma Thompson's Nigel Farage-like villain.
  • Was enjoying Kim Ki-duk's psychodrama The Isle until it went into Pain Olympics territory with multiple fish hooks winding up in orifices. Like Roger Murtaugh, I'm too old for this shit.
  • Don't get the love for David Leitch's films, but all of my issues (of which there are many) are irrelevant compared to the tragic sight of Emily Blunt's botched face in The Fall Guy.
  • Wasn't feeling Challengers. Might be me still harbouring a grudge over Luca Guadagnino's pointless Suspiria (2018) remake, to be honest.
  • Both Dominique and Nightkill were solid Hitchcockian style murder plot thrillers, but done better elsewhere. Decent timewasters, regardless.
  • Not being available in my region, Mario Bava's Planet of the Vampires was a major blindspot. Sadly, despite its gorgeous cinematography and production design, I found it quite underwhelming. I can see the similarities with Alien (1979), though.
  • I Saw the TV Glow is a strong contender for most pretentious film of the year, while Under Paris might deserve an award for being the most idiotic.
  • Biggest disappointment this month was Chris Nash's In a Violent Nature. Such a low effort and horribly acted film. It continuously breaks the very concept which sold it to peeps like me. Expect the yoga kill to forever live on as a gory gif as it's the most memorable scene from it.
  • Overall, the episodes from the recent series of Doctor Who ranged from poor to mediocre, but I’ll admit the cliffhanger from the penultimate episode had me hooked and eagerly awaiting the finale. Shouldn't have bothered as it was a huge anticlimax.
  • RIP Donald Sutherland! A star of so many classic films and the face (and sound) of one of the most horrifying movie endings ever:
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Ending)
Philip Kaufman, 1978

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Once Upon a Time in the Wasteland

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024)

Considering George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) is arguably be the greatest film of the 2010s, it would be safe to assume his return to a franchise (and genre) he spawned with the spinoff prequel Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024), might be a tough act to follow. That thought rings true after seeing it. There's plenty to like about Miller's latest work; in fact, it's a highly impressive film, but it does fall short of its predecessor.

Cutting to the chase, the most obvious fault with the film is its run time. Quoting Chris Hemsworth's film-stealing villain, Dementus, "the question is, do you have it in you to make it epic?" Clocking in at a whopping two and a half hours, I'd say yes, but indulgently so. Pacing issues make it a downgrade to Fury Road's actions speak louder than words mantra. Structurely, Furiosa... is split into several chapters set over many years, with Anya Taylor Joy only making her appearance around the one hour mark as the titular heroine. Granted, Alyla Browne as child Furiosa is very good, and the continuous world building and lore of Miller's dystopian vision will never cease to be fascinating, but it's a stark contrast to the kinetic flow and narrative which Mad Max: Fury Road employed, which made it a masterpiece. Furiosa... is a distinct change.

Anya Taylor Joy does a sterling effort as an earlier incarnation of Charlize Theron's vengeful Vuvalini. In this current era of film making, it's a pleasant relief she wasn't turned into another boring girlboss. Her path of revenge isn't an easy road in the least. Her victories are earned. However, as previously noted, the real star is Chris Hemsworth relishing the opportunity as the villainous antagonist. Going completely against typecasting, it's fun to watch him being so charmingly over the top. Tasting Furiosa's tears and uttering "Sorrow is more piquant, zesty," as she's forced to watch her crucified mother being tortured, is so cartoonishly evil, it’s entertaining.

Much like its predecessor, it's a stunning looking film. The world of Mad Max is probably the most beautiful post-apocalyptic hellscape I've witnessed. The arid and desolate horizons are like twisted John Constable paintings. Of course, it wouldn't be Mad Max related without the freakishly insane looking vehicles. Dementus's chariot pulled by three choppers is another memorable entry that's on par with the Gigahorse and the iconic V8 Interceptor. Last, but not least, you really can't avoid how surreal the various tribal factions and folk look in these films. A minor complaint, but it's a real shame some visual FX shots look a bit shoddy. Composites, particularly near the beginning of the film, look very noticeable and are jarring at times. Flaws which were nowhere as immersion breaking as its predecessor.

The climax really exemplifies George Miller's steadfast portrayal of his road warriors over the decades. The final scenes between Furiosa and Dementus are reminiscent of vintage spaghetti westerns. The hunter stalking the prey amongst the sand dunes from afar. Picking off the pack until the big showdown, It's highly stylish and lends to an outcome which fuels the legends of the Wasteland.

In summary, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is a great film. Prolonged, but great. One of the best motion pictures released so far this year. Too bad the film flopped as we'll probably never get Miller's next planned Mad Max film. Maybe if he helmed that first instead of a spinoff, then both projects would have stood a greater chance. Regardless of this, Miller's auteur actioners have been far superior to the usual blockbuster dross we're constantly bombarded with, and for that I'm grateful.

Monday, June 24, 2024

The Moment I Feared: Part 9

Watching a bootleg copy back in the day of James Glickenhaus's classic vigilante thriller The Exterminator (1980) at a mate's house might have been the first X rated film for your host. Didn't get to see the whole film the first time as my friend's older sister turned off the VHS player so she could watch Little House on the Prairie (1974 - 1983) on TV — the Philistine! It was too late, The Exterminator poured enough nightmare fuel into my mental tank to leave a fearful impression for decades.

The pre-credits PoW camp sequence featuring a gruesome decapitation was frightening enough, but it was mafioso boss Gino Pontivini being lowered into an industrial meat grinder and ending up as potential spag bol that brought pure terror to a young Sparty. The screams are still haunting.

It was also the sequence where Robert Ginty uttered the line "If you're lying, I'll be back!". Heads like myself have often pondered whether Arnold Schwarzenegger's famous quote might have been lifted from The Exterminator. The infamous line would also appear as text on some of the film's promotional posters. What is an absolute certainty is Robert Ginty never looked anywhere near like the Mad Max style biker on the posters. Regardless, The Exterminator will always be a B-movie classic and deserves its spot in the vigilante movie hall of fame

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Inspectors from Mars

Mars Express (Jérémie Périn, 2023/2024)

Might as well copy and paste my Godzilla Minus One (2023) review for Jérémie Périn's directorial debut. It echoes a lot of my sentiments on an alternative industry delivering what Hollywood can't or will no longer deliver. Mars Express (2023) is a French, animated, science fiction film proudly wearing its inspirations - notably Blade Runner (1982) and Ghost in the Shell (1995) on its sleeve. It forgoes the popular, Marvel standard which has infected other sci-fi properties over the years, opting for the type of philosophical themes you would expect from an Isaac Assimov novel.

Set in the year 2200, Périn manages to construct an incredible amount of world building in his debut. Undoubtedly the film's major strength. Throughout its lean running time Mars Express impresses in marrying future tech in a human society; opening the books on various moral and ethical quandaries. Prime example is the topically relevant subject matter artificial intelligence.

Mars Express transitions from a conventional film noir/detective story to a conspiracy/espionage thriller. Its two main leads: Mars based private investigator Aline Ruby (Léa Drucker) and her robotic partner Carlos Rivera (Daniel Njo Lobé). Aline is very much reminscent of the traditional private dick with personal demons; notably her drink problem. Carlos is an interesting contrast; a dead human brought to life as a robotic back-up, replete with a hologram head. A chase sequence early in the film involving the two leads apprehending a jailbroken robot and a shady tech engineer really highlight the dynamic between the two leads and the amazing world(s) which they inhabit.

Artistically speaking, Mars Express looks distinctively European in style. Obviously inspired from Moebius and sci-fi themed bande dessinée books, it stands out in comparison to its American and Japanese peers. The entire reason the film even earned any time from me.

Périn's Mars Express is hardly a game changer, but it does handle its themes and topics superbly well for what's essentially a ninety minute feature. That's commendable, especially in the wake of the soporific and forgettable The Creator (2023)  a cyberpunk title that's already wreaked amnesia on everyone less than a year later.

File Mars Express as another surprising gem from 2023 which has eventually made its way onto the Dada Debaser telly box much later on. Still calling it a 2024 film in the end of year lists, though.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Nasty Habit

Killer Nun (Trailer)
Giulio Berruti, 1979

Swedish bombshell Anita Ekberg frolicking in the Trevi fountain in Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita (1960) might be peak cinema to snobbish cinephiles, but she'll be remembered as a drug addicted, dentures-stomping, horny nun in Giulio Berruti's nunsploitation/giallo and one time video nasty, Killer Nun (1979) by film degenerates like myself. At the risk of offending both sides of the kino taste spectrum, I can't say I'm a fan of either of those films. However, one particular track featured on Killer Nun by composer Alessandro Alessandroni has been a fave of mine for many years; which at least makes it somewhat redeemable.

Alessandro Alessandroni - Suor Omicidi, Seq. 4
 Killer Nun/The Strangler of Vienna/Lady Frankenstein compilation, 1999

Something about Suor Omicidi, Seq. 4's jangly acoustic guitar strumming away while the sounds of an ominous choral build in the background, concluding with a manic church organ, really does it for me. Little wonder it’s amongst my favourite giallo tracks of all time.

Killer Nun's soundtrack didn't get a vinyl release until twenty years later. The tracks finally appeared in an Alessandroni compilation containing two other scores of his: Lady Frankenstein (1971) and The Strangler of Vienna (1971). The latter, I have yet to see.

Lady Frankenstein (Trailer)
Mel Welles & Aureliano Luppi, 1971

From Orson Welles to Mel Welles; you know Joseph Cotten's career hit an even greater decline than Anita Ekberg's when he went from Citizen Kane (1941), Shadow of a Doubt (1943) and The Third Man (1949) to Italian horror Lady Frankenstein; a far cry from his classic earlier body of work. Far more entertaining than Killer Nun and La Dolce Vita, though.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Highest Rated Films of the 21st Century

When it comes to film reviews, Letterboxd is a reprehensible social platform for hive-minded narcissists. Not even worth posting a review there. But it does happen to be a useful site for grading and logging films when compiling miscellaneous lists. Handy for anyone running a film blog.

Here's a list of your humble curator's highest scoring films from the 21st century (minimum of ★★★★½ out of ★★★★★) logged onto Letterboxd:

American Psycho (Mary Harron, 2000)
Battle Royale (Kinji Fukasaku, 2000)
Sexy Beast (Jonathan Glazer, 2000)
Shadow of the Vampire (E. Elias Merhige, 2000)
Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
Training Day (Antoine Fuqua, 2001)
28 Days Later (Danny Boyle, 2002)
City of God (Fernando Meirelles, 2002)
Ju-on: The Grudge (Takashi Shimizu, 2002) 
Oldboy (Park Chan-wook, 2003)
Kill Bill: Volume 1 (Quentin Tarantino, 2003)
The Descent (Neil Marshall, 2005)
Apocalypto (Mel Gibson, 2006)
Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006)
Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, 2006)
[REC] (Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza, 2007)
Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright, 2007)
Love Exposure (Sion Sono, 2008)
Bronson (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2008)
Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)
Martyrs (Pascal Laugier, 2008)
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans (Werner Herzog, 2009)
The House of the Devil (Ti West, 2009)
Triangle (Christopher Smith, 2009) 
13 Assassins (Takashi Miike, 2010)
Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010)
I Saw the Devil (Kim Jee-woon, 2010)
Troll Hunter (André Øvredal, 2010)
Toy Story 3 (Lee Unrich, 2010)
Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2011)
The Raid (Gareth Evans, 2011)
The Skin I Live In (Pedro Almodóvar, 2011)
Berberian Sound Studio (Peter Strickland, 2012)
Dredd (Pete Travis & Alex Garland, 2012)
The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013)
Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2013)
It Follows (David Robert Green, 2014)
The Raid 2 (Gareth Evans, 2014)
The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 2014)
Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)
The Witch (Robert Eggers, 2015)
The Neon Demon (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2016)
Train to Busan (Yeon Sang-ho, 2016)
Brawl in Cell Block 99 (S. Craig Zahler, 2017)
The House That Jack Built (Lars Von Trier, 2018)
Hereditary (Ari Aster, 2018)
Mandy (Panos Cosmatos, 2018)
The Irishman (Martin Scorsese, 2019)
The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers, 2019)
Parasite (Bong Joon-ho, 2019)
Dinner in America (Adam Rehmeier, 2020)
Benedetta (Paul Verhoeven, 2021)
Mad God (Phil Tippett, 2021)
The Northman (Robert Eggers, 2022)
The Zone of Interest (Jonathan Glazer, 2023)

Dada Debaser Notes:

  • For the record, I couldn't be arsed to include the ★★★★ movies as originally intended since it would have been 246 entries rather than the 55 above. Ain't nobody got time for that!
  • Worked with release dates according to Letterboxd rather than when they came out in my region to avoid a massive headache.
  • Most of the entries were rated prior to a six year hiatus from Letterboxd (from 2016 to 2022). The cool part is how their ratings are largely unchanged.
  • Unapologetic about the overall horror bias. 
  • Some critically revered films that didn't make the cut were either rated lower than the minimum requirement, or were just shite. Make your own damned list if you don't see picks you expected!

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Walk With Me

In a Violent Nature (Trailer)
Chris Nash, 2024

After all these years, why do film release dates still differ depending on country? So much for globalisation. The latest example is In a Violent Nature (2024) not hitting my corner of the world until another month after the U.S.A..

It's as clear as Crystal Lake that slasher fans want another Friday the 13th film, but the film rights seem to be up in the air. Until that mess is sorted out, Chris Nash's In a Violent Nature serves as an adequate alternative.

Other than the obvious Friday the 13th vibes, the other draw of the film is it following in the point of view of its Jason Voorhees styled killer. The downright creepy clip of him observing two potential victims across the otherside of a lake and walking toweard them is what really sold me on the film:

In a Violent Nature (Lake Scene)
Chris Nash, 2024

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Picks of 2004

Greece winning the UEFA European Championship wasn't the only shocker of 2004. A number of films released that year genuinely surprised me. As a staunch opponent of films dear to me getting the remake treatment, who would have thought Zac Snyder's Dawn of the Dead would have been great. Don't get it twisted, anyone who prefers the remake over the original still deserves to be put in stocks and shamed.

Way too many blindspots in 2004 for your host, along with films which were enjoyable at the time, but scarcely remembered, hence left off.

The Aviator (Martin Scorsese)

Calvaire (Fabrice Du Welz)

Creep (Christopher Smith)

Dawn of the Dead (Zac Snyder)

Dead Man's Shoes (Shane Meadows)

The Incredibles (Brad Bird)

Kill Bill: Volume 2 (Quentin Tarantino)

Kung Fu Hustle (Stephen Chow)

Man on Fire (Tony Scott)

Mean Girls (Mark Waters)

Pusher II (Nicolas Winding Refn)

Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright)

Spartan (David Mamet)

Team America: World Police (Trey Parker)

Dumplings (Fruit Chan)

The Village (M. Night Shamalamadingdong)

Unpopular Opinions: 

Never fell under the spell of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Not sure how anyone could fall in love with Kate Winslet in the first place let alone be so heartbroken after breaking up with her you'd want your memories of the relationship erased from your mind.

Regarding the second chapter in Tarantino's Kill Bill saga, there's a lot that I like and a lot that I don't. It is a good film, but it's the turning point for me where his indulgences would really become irksome from this point onward.

Simon Pegg owes his entire success to Edgar Wright. Much prefer Hot Fuzz (2007) in the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, but won't front on Shaun of the Dead being a good film. Pegg is less of a whiny and annoying manchild in the second one.