Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Double Review: 'Blade of the Immortal' / 'Killing Gunther'

What better way to wrap up the cinematic year that was than with a double shot of Takashi Miike and Arnold Schwarzenegger

By: Jimbo X

I've been thinking about this for quite some time, but after some tempered debate, I've decided to go on ahead and publicize my formal view on the matter:

I think it's time we rounded up every marijuana user in America and summarily executed them.

Now, I know what you're thinking. "Gee, Jimbo, doesn't that sound a little harsh, not to mention despotic?" Well, right then and there I know you've never had the luxury of cohabitating alongside marijuana users, because if you have you'd know that there's really nothing of value to be lost here.

Marijuana users, point blank, are the WORST human beings on the planet, and by proxy, the worst kinda' drug addicts. My parents were rampaging alcoholics and serial drunk drivers, but by golly, at least they were functional rampaging alcoholics and serial drunk drivers. You can be drunk as shit and still turn in a full eight hour work day and halfway decent work - hell, my granddaddy missed just three days of work over a 45-year career working at the local chemical plant and I guarantee you his B.A.C. was at the point-two range for at least 44 of 'em - but people high on weed can't do fuckin' anything for at least three days after their last bong hit. 

What do people high on weed do? They just lay on the couch and laugh at everything on TV and keep farting and eat all the good cereal, then they fall asleep with their remote control wedged halfway up their buttholes so you can't even move the channel off Rick and Morty. People who smoke weed have the worst taste in everything. They listen to the shittiest kinda of music and watch the shittiest kinda TV shows and they even play the shittiest kinda video games. You ever seen some dude strung out on kush spend seven hours playing Dynasty Warriors before? Well, I have, and I can guarn-damn-tee you it's the greatest endorsement of straight edge living you'll ever encounter.

At least people who shoot up heroin are mostly quiet about it. People who smoke weed are roughly as loud as a turbo jet the whole time they're high, and if their ear-splitting cackling doesn't drive you to attempted manslaughter, they fact that they ALWAYS play musical instruments while stoned will. Long story short, if somebody owns an acoustic guitar, I can tell you right now they're a bunch of weed-heads, and they WILL be playing that shit at 3 in the morning when you have a job interview you've gotta' leave for at 6:30. Weed smokers have no concerns for the well-being of others, and I think it's only fair that we as a collective society show them an equivalent amount of existential concern and compassion - which, obviously, is fuckin' none.

But the WORST thing about living around weed smokers is the smell. I would rather smell ANYTHING besides marijuana - shit, dead animals, dead animal shit, you name it. That is legitimately the most disgusting scent in the world, and the fact that it lingers in the drywall for a solid week afterwards makes even the most spacious abodes unlivable. Have you ever tried to get the smell of weed out of the curtains before? Or even block the shit from seeping in under your bedroom door and making your entire wardrobe smell like a goddamn Phish concert? Well, if you have, then you'd know full well why I think these assholes need to be exterminated en masse. Fuck, at least crack heads and meth addicts have the decency to use life-destroying chemicals with only minimal stenches

Of course, somebody's gonna' chime in and say "hey there Jimbo, not all marijuana users are like that," or try to turn this shit around and say "well, if weed is so bad, then how come (insert famous person here) used it?" Well, that doesn't change the equation - if somebody uses weed, they ARE an asshole. Yeah, I admire the works of George Carlin and Bill Hicks, but there's no denying they'd be a pain in the ass to live with and it'd only be a matter of time before I was having to crack 'em upside the head with a mini-fire extinguisher for leaving the oven on at two in the morning again. Not all assholes are marijuana users, but all marijuana users are undoubtedly assholes of the widest, stretchiest and stinkiest caliber.

Oh, and I almost left out the best part - when these stupid fucks try to convince themselves that what they're doing to their bodies isn't destructive and stupid, but "mindful" and even by God "healthy." I can't tell you how many times I've heard weed-heads tell me "well, if marijuana is so bad, then how come nobody's ever overdosed on it before?" To which I always reply, "well, nobody's ever overdosed on cigarettes before, either, but they still kill hundreds of thousands of people each year, don't they?" Just talking to a habitual weed-user for five minutes is enough to tell you the shit is detrimental to one's health and mental well-being. Just fucking look at what people who've smoked weed for 30 years look and sound like - you either turn into some Bart Simpson-looking bull-dyke or a wall-eyed space alien that looks like a cross between that deformed baby from Eraserhead, a three piece KFC original meal and an old flea market rug. And of course, there are reams and reams of scientific research outlining how chronic weed use destroys a user's lungs, heart and brain, but I'll let you flip through those on you own time (and do feel free to email 'em to your nearest and dearest weed-smokin' chums - surely, they'll appreciate your concerns.)

Of course, I'm not saying I would vote, necessarily, for a candidate who said he was going to round up every weed smoker in the country and - irony of ironies - light them up like doobies in the killing fields of the Great Plains, but I would be more likely to attentively listen to him than other candidates. And if somebody pulled a page out of the last Kingsman movie and tainted the country's weed supply with a lethal poison, I prolly wouldn't shed too many tears. And it's pretty hard to deny that we wouldn't have a better overall country with all of the weed users factored out of the gene pool. Shit, just the fact we'd get rid of Widespread Panic and Ben and Jerry's in one fell swoop almost justifies the whole pogrom alone.

But then again, I guess it is a little inhumane to round up millions upon millions of drug users and systematically slaughter them. But you've got to think long term here - it'd be a lot of money as an upfront investment, but just imagine the dividends ten years down the road. Within a decade, nobody will have any recollections that Dave Matthews Band or Adult Swim even existed. 

And isn't a world that beautiful worth it, no matter the dire costs?

From now on, Miike oughta' be the only person making live action movies based on Japanese cartoons. Shit - just imagine him directing Gigantor!

Speaking of things that'll blow the back of your skull off, if you haven't already you DEFINITELY need to check out Blade of the Immortal, the latest flick from Takashi Miike, which - as fate would have it - just so happens to be his 100th movie. 

Yep, that's right - 100th. Miike is the anti-James Cameron; instead of waiting 15 years in between movies, Miike cranks 'em out like an assembly line. He's already made 17 movies this decade, which is actually a substantial step down from his rate in the aughties, when he directed damn near 40 movies, plus a couple of TV shows and even a few stage productions. But here's the thing; considering the dude is averaging three to four movies a year, you'd expect his oeuvre to be underwhelming, but no way, Jose - not only is Miike putting out a staggering number of great movies each and every year, he's also putting out a diverse slate of great movies across every genre you can think of. Slashers. Giant robot movies. Weird family comedies. Yakuza movies. Movies based on video games, comic books and old Japanese cartoons. 

But the one genre he's REALLY carved out a niche for himself is the neo-samurai movie, as evident by the rousing success of flicks like Sukiyaki Western Django, 13 Assassins and Hara-Kari: Death of a Samurai, which I'd easily consider one of the greatest remakes of anything everNow, we all know by now that Miike is my favorite living director and, by default, that makes me a shameless, biased as hell fanboy. But hear me out, this Blade of the Immortal truly is one of the best movies you'll see in 2017, and you need to go out of your way to see it pronto.

The flick starts off like your average Miike movie, with some samurai in a kimona named Manji slicing and dicing motherfuckers left and right while his sister plays with horse turds in a stable. Then a Hare Krishna punk rocker samurai hacks her up so Manji has to pick up his sword and massacre 40 people while dudes in the woods shoot at him with bows and arrows. The he gets his hand whacked off and has to have a one-handed sword fight against some mohawked dude in a dress, which ends with Manji stabbing that mofo right in the spleen. But you see, Manji is mortally wounded in the fight, until this 800-year-old ghost woman cuts his chest open and puts devil worms in his wound and it makes his hand re-attach itself, so now he's pretty much unkillable. Hence ... the name of the movie.

So 50 years later, there's this guy in light blue pajamas named Master Anotsu roaming around the countryside, wrecking dojos just for fun so he can cleave the senseis in half and rebuild the villages in his own graven image. Then the ghost woman visits a 10-year-old samurai girl after Blue Pajamas rapes her mama and murders her daddy and tells her to find the one guy in town who can't die and hire him as a bodyguard. Sure enough, he's living in a shack on the outskirts of town with scars the size of Earl Campbell's Hot Dog links on his face, eating deep fried squirrel guts on a stick. Then a 50-year-old dude with a fake mustache wearing a Shredder costume tries to rape her, but not before showing her her mama's severed possessed head. And that's our cue for Manji to spring to action - and if you've ever wondered what it would look like if Raphael from Ninja Turtles split a dude's head open with his sais, wonder no more.

Then Manji goes out into the woods and fights this ninja guy with huge ass anime hair who is really good at blocking and likes to give unsolicited details of his childhood while hacking away at people. Then Manji pulls out a big ass dagger shaped like The Artist Formerly Known As Prince symbol and pokes him right in the kidney. Then a monk wearing a basket on his head tells him where to find Anotsu. But apparently they have a misunderstanding and have to kung fu fight a little before it's revealed that the monk is ALSO immortal. Then the monk kidnaps the little girl and forces her to lick the bloody worms out of his palm (cue Ernest face ... ewwww) as a prank. Then Manji bursts through the wall like a samurai Kool-Aid Man and it's time for round two and they literally turn each other into human pincushions before the monk lets Manji know there's a poison that CAN kill his blood worms and by proxy himselfSo naturally, they kung fu one more time with the death juice all over their swords and Manji finishes off the monk for real this time - by dissecting him limb from limb, Evil Dead-style. 

Then Manji has to karate fight this girl wielding a pair of tree-trimmers on nunchucks. But she won't go down easy and keeps dropping bamboo poles on his head so he has to pick up a spear and a pair of sais and chase her around like Tenchu for a while. But then she cuts his hand off and starts monologuing about whether or not she's made the best life decisions then the little girl hops in at the last second to keep him from getting torn to shreds. After that the movie starts slowing down a little, with Manji visiting his sister's grave and being all wishy-washy about being too old to karate people's heads off anymore, then the little girl stumbles upon Anotsu. Anyway, this cues up a flashback to their grandfathers killing each other 50 years earlier. But he won't kill her, because it's just too dadgum easy.

Then the little girl decides to go on a suicide mission to kill Anotsu, knowing full well he'd rip her guts out in five seconds. Then Blue Pajamas gets set up, but that doesn't stop him from slaying about 40 samurais all by his lonesome. Then Maji fights three dudes at once and he's about to die and then the ghost woman shows up and taunts him and he calls her "a stupid cow" 'cause he can't die yet and has to save that girl. Then all of the remaining samurai in Japan show up to kill off Anotsu for good, then Manji shows up and now HE has to fight all of the remaining samurai left in Japan. So it's basically two against, I don't know, 600 or 700 in our paint-the-countryside-red HALF HOUR long katana fu grand finale.

And if you think they can't POSSIBLY top the part where a dude sharpens his own bones into stabbing weapons, just WAIT until Anotsu and Maji finally go at it one-on-one. This thing is already a candidate for best movie fight in history, and if absolutely nothing else, it definitely sets a new indoor record for the most number of times two dudes stab each other over a ten minute period in any kind of medium. 

Let's run down the highlights, why don't we? We've got 334 dead bodies. Zero breasts. Seventeen sword fights. Multiple rapes. One seppuka. One mass poisoning. One exploding body. Hands roll. Arms roll. Legs roll. Intestines roll. More impalements than dialogue. Throwing star fu. Throwing dagger fu. Axe fu. Sai fu. Two-pronged saber fu. Unkillable worm fu. And the thing more or less responsible for this movie existing in the first place - some SERIOUS katana wax fu.

Starring Takuya Kimura as Manji, the all-but-invincible swordsman with zombie worms crawling through his innards who says lines like "you're lucky, you can die" and "what kind of idiot would pick a fight with a maniac?"; Hana Sugisaka as the ten-year old who hires Manji to turn everybody who killed her family into teriyaki jerky; Sota Fukushi as Anotsu, the villain who doesn't want to rule the world or unleash some sort of supernatural evil force - he just wants franchisees for his kickboxing school; and Hayato Ichihara as Anotsu's most sadistic lieutenant, who can count attempted rape of a prostitute as one of the nicer things he does in the movie.

Written by Tetsuya Oishi - the world-famous anime scribe behind Death Note, among many, many others - and directed by the man himself, Takashi Miike, who more so than any other filmmaker on the planet, knows how to make his actors say "no matter how bad the memory, sometimes just remembering gives you incredible power" and make it sound like they dadgum mean it

This is the movie Logan wished it could've been, right down to the plot about the dude with healing powers trying to rescue a little girl from super evildom. It's The Professional meets Highlander meets Kill Bill meets Yojimbo meets every SNK fighting game ever made, and - needless to say - you need to see it

This one easily gets four stars out of four from me. Jimbo says check it out, and the sooner, the better.

Just wait 'til you hear him sing the flick's closing number!

Since it's only playin' in about four or five postage stamp-sized theaters right about now, I reckoned it was worth our respective whiles to let you know that there's a new Ah-nold movie out, and while it ain't nowhere near as good as his last flick Aftermath, it's still pretty decent and maybe worth checking out, if you really don't have nothing else going on with your life (and since the college football season is over and done with, that includes pretty much all of us.)

Anyway, the name of this flick is Killing Gunther, and it's one of those "found footage" style flicks, except this one is explicitly meant to be a parody. The movie starts off in Argentina and we learn about this guy named Blake who hires a documentary crew to follow him around on his quest to knock off the world's greatest assassin. So, to finish the job, he assembles a crack team of the world's best hitmen and hitwomen.

There's this fisherman guy from Chicago who dresses just like that one guy from The Big Lebowski who's an explosives whiz. And there's this middle eastern sniper chick whose dad follows her around wearing a sweater declaring himself her number one fan. And there's also this super nerd with mega hacking skills named "The Human Computer" and - you know, it's probably a lot easier if I just make it a bulleted list, huh?

  • Ashley - a poor man's Morgan Freeman who has a heart attack two minutes after being introduced as the team's secret weapon.
  • Crusher - a former Islamic extremist with a robotic arm (that isn't compatible with Apple devices, by the way.)
  • Pak Yong Qi - a self-avowed "master of poisons" who wants revenge on Gunther for killing his beloved pet snake.
  • The Bellaklakova Twins - a brother and sister duo who killed 14,000 people in a soccer stadium fire, love McDonald's and took the job just so they could go to Hollywood and meet Scott Wolf in person.
  • Max Palane - Blake's ex-partner and new de facto secret weapon - who, naturally gets shot in the head right before he can tell everybody where Gunther lives.

After all that, we get some exposition on Blake's ex-girlfriend, who stopped doing hit jobs and started her own erotic ceramics company ("I'm not killing people anymore," she says, "so I'm sleeping better.") Anyhoo, it doesn't take long for us to find out that she shacked up with Gunther, which is probably why Blake wants him dead so damned much, so he takes his comrades on a trip to Miami to buy some military-grade weapons from a dude with a mullet, but things take a turn for the worse when they get involved in a high-rise shootout and Ah-nold starts powerbombing people through all the IKEA furniture. They think they kill him with a car grenading, but even after celebrating with the worst Sister Hazel cover of all-time, they start to have their suspicions that maybe he ain't as dead as they thought he was once SOMEBODY starts picking off members of the crew one-by-one.

Around the 50 minute the movie starts hitting some serious snags. There's way too much subplot going on, with Blake trying to find a new apartment and discuss, ugh, his feelings and trying to convince the fat Chicago dude to rejoin the team after the Iranian chick's dad finds out he had sex with his daughter.

Then Blake gets piss drunk after Ashley's funeral and decides, damn it, he's gonna' off Gunther all by his lonesome (well, all by his lonesome with the documentary crew following him, if we're gonna' be sticklers for accuracy.) So he and the remaining assassins eventually find Gunther's mansion in California and he apprehends them all at gunpoint and reveals he wore a bunch of disguises earlier and that he and the documentary crew have been in cahoots the whole time. 

And that's our cue for Blake vs. Ah-nold in a knock-down drag-out brawl through the whole house, complete with the refrigerator door getting ripped off and used as a melee weapon and multiple flower vases getting cracked over multiple skulls.

Now, if the movie would've ended there, you wouldn't get too many complaints from me. The problem is we've still got about 20 minutes of post-script, with a buncha' unnecessary scenes about the fat Chicago dude and Muslim chick having a kid and Gunther retiring and moving to Austria to grow organic vegetables and coach a girl's field hockey team.

So yeah - it's about 50 minutes of a really great post-post-postmodern comedy and 30 minutes of shit that'll put you to sleep faster than a Nyquil sundae. Still, there's marginally more good than bad here, and it's probably about as close as we'll ever get to seeing a live-action No More Heroes movie (speaking of properties Takashi Miike ought to get his hands on next ...)

Anyhoo, we've got 21 dead bodies. Zero breasts. Two dead snakes. One exploding yacht. Multiple exploding cars. Gratuitous vomiting. Gratuitous The Running Man references. Gratuitous Predator quotes. Kung fu. Suicide bomber fu. Rocket launcher fu. Flash grenade fu. Karaoke fu. And the thing that really makes this flick noteworthy - for the first time in the history of cinema, a movie concludes with Ah-nold singing a country-western ballad, complete with lyrics like "I have a George Strait kind of sound, if you know what I mean" and "when she's around, I cant help myself, I want to hold on tight to her continental shelf." And no, I'm not kidding, and holy shit, is it genuinely one of the most amazing things I've ever heard in my life.

Starring, Ah-nold, who gets top billing despite only being in the movie for ten minutes and looking like he ate Carl Weathers (although he does get to drop at least one all-time classic quote - "that fuckin' cunt over there is going to get terminated."); Bobby Moynihan as the demolitions expert cosplaying as John Goodman from The Big Lebowski throughout the movie; Hannah Simone as the Iranian assassin chick (who was actually born in Canada and is half Indian); Ryan Gaul and Allison Tolman as the psycho Russian twins, the former who says "fuck you, you're not Mickey Mouse" to an arms dealer; and Cobie Smulders - yep, Maria Hill herself - as the antagonist's ex-main squeeze and hitwoman-turned-dildo-entrepreneur.

Written by and directed by Taran Killam, who also plays Blake, the movie's central "bad guy," so to speak.

Eh, it's a mixed bag of a movie, but I didn't really hate it too much at any juncture in the movie. For that, I'll give it a slightly above average two and a half stars out of four. Jimbo says check it out, but be prepared for this doldrums to hit hard.


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