Directed by Michael Bay
Written by Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman

Not that Bay ups robotporn stakes here nor does he one-up the Japanese in making mecha mayhem dance- - - and he really should put that overeager camera of his on a battery of downers - - - but it does get as big and loud and stupid and hooky as hair-metal powerchords. That preps you to forgive the ridiculous lashings of plot the way you'd forgive the ridiculous lyrics to, say, The Battle of Evermore for the sake of the kerrang! - - -and this headbang is spinal tap. A bit harder to forgive is the way it holds sacred the backstory of a toy line that had no mythic presence in the first place to justify its hold on a generation - - - other than as placebos for all that Voltes withdrawal we were going through . When it chooses to sideline the reverse-engineering and low tech vs. high tech when it's really grist for dark Patlabor revisionism and more vicious thrash-metal parallels that's the toy opera denying its metamorphic nature for the cozier confines of being a throwback. Bumblebee is sleeker as a Camaro, though , and that courtship sequence is a gas.* * *



Directed and Written by James Gunn

At what point does the pastiche go up a subversive notch? Brenda ballooning to a planet of flesh and that wet squish she makes every time she tries to move? Or when she pops like a zit spewing alien slugs over everybody? Or when one of the slugs crawls into a naked girl’s mouth and she gets flashes of its homeworld? Or maybe when that tentacle slices a guy in half and his guts slip out - - -but not before he blinks and makes the tear flap for a bit, also known as the part where the pastiche goes up a notch to gore nirvana. * * * *



Kimyo Na Sakasu (Strange Circus) (2005)
Directed and Written by Sion Sono

Incest fucks you up ,it's saying- - -um, you think, Sono-san? Go to Rampo for signifiers to where this draws its ero-guro wrinkles from- - -the metafiction, the daddyshagging, the orthopedic eroticism, the bod-mod, the blurring of what is and what isn't - - - but Sono's slight gift for the grand guignol has trouble reining in its garish enthusiasm that it does little but amp its own rococo noise. Unease would've been less annoying to tap into- - - Lynchian, or even Sigismondian. And a giddier ecstasy. Oh, but that cello case wants to be the sack from Audition so bad, it's practically touching for how it tries so hard. Shame. And to think Suicide Club was such a world-class gas, too. * *



Blackout (2007)
Directed by Ato Bautista
Written by Shugo Praico

It's Repulsion for the way it wrings murky delirium out of one man going to slow seed - - - at some point, you half-expect hands to emerge from the grimy walls and grope Robin Padilla's narcoleptic landlord. But his downward spiral doesn't root itself in sexual hysteria and, in fact, his psychoanalysis- - - his denial twist,if you will - - - you can see coming and is a bit colorless when it does. The piece owes him for owning you, though. Like Deneuve, Robin's a one-man band of emotive palpitations. His recurring blackouts ,the dead people he sees walking about and that stink coming off the septic tank could well be figments of a man at odds with his milieu ,and it's Repulsion for that ,too - - - the oppressive claustrophobia of one man held prisoner in the chokehold of his environment. * * * *



Tonari No Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro)
Directed and Written by Hayao Miyazaki

The whimsy's there if that's your thing and there are days this is like a down blanket for me, something to keep warm in - - -that bus stop vignette and my wanting to play it over and over again as if looping would somehow enable me to cross over, there's no way you can break that down to a science, no way to peg why it works in the way it does, no way to do it again, not even Miyazaki himself tried. Could be the wet, shimmery palette's what makes it - - -and the whole piece ,really - - - so immersive, a kind of hush. Also the absence of anything going on in the usual sense of anything going on - - -two sisters billeted in a country house, their mother in a hospital and oh, next door lives a family of snuggly tree spirits that help them plant a tree, take them on a bus ride and later flying through the night. It's ambient, almost. The magic circle aura holds until you get the sense that the supernatural never overwhelms the natural, that there's a certainty to the creeping uncertainty in its peripheries- - -and you get it. Miyazaki would go on to do more ornate work - - - wiser, prettier,better. But what he nailed here that he won't nail again to such a degree is what Erice nailed in El Espiritu De La Colmena : that blinding headrush of what it's like to be a kid - - - and the sense of wonder and threat that come with it. And he nails it not because the magic he taps into makes those wisps of foreboding go away, like they do in neo-Disney mollycoddle. But precisely because it doesn't. * * * * *

Post Written for the Ghiblogathon.



Directed by David Fincher
Written by James Vanderbilt

You're not overburdened by milieu the way you sometimes are when it thickened into an almost supernatural Other in Fincher's movies. His '70s San Francisco is pure backdrop : bland, anonymous even. It's Pakula's Washington from All The President's Men - - - those placid everyday surfaces swimming with society's night-thoughts like black filaments of dread. Dread, of course, has always been the other milk of Fincher's aesthetic. No less here , his first period piece - - - but without his usual cock and preen and showboat. It's all suggestive, evoking instead the passive brutality of Imamura's Vengeance Is Mine and leaving a freaky seepage you wish horror movies would leave you with more often. Fincher's always been adept at riffs. Here, his riffs gain sustain and - - -in a suspect's fiendish savoir faire in turning an interrogation around alone - - - deepen. Less about the minutiae of a manhunt than about the minutiae of obsession, a police procedural about the dismantling of procedure , that splendid chaos when method is subverted and the hunters - - - puzzle otaku Jake Gylenhall, maverick reporter Robert Downey (predictably brilliant), world-wearied cops Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards- - -get captured by the game, sustaining damaged aftermaths that beef up the Zodiac's bodycount much as the ones on the morgue slab.
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