Steam Boy aka Suchîmubôi (2004)

One from the to watch pile…

Steamboy aka Suchîmubôi (2004)

Film: It’s an interesting position that I am in where I find myself having to review an anime. As a rule, I am no fan of anime, but their are always exceptions to those rules.

In my case those exceptions are Kum Kum, the Macross Saga, Akira and Memories, and maybe I watched more recent things like Prison School, Keijo and Wanna Be The Strongest In The World. I’m not a Studio Ghibli guy (they are soooo slow and boring), I have little interest in Pokèmon (it’s dogfighting! You’re teaching your kids to like dogfighting!) and both Dragonball and One Piece have such a long history that I’ll NEVER catch up so why bother starting (i did recently attempt to watch Dragonball but by the 8th episode the enemies were STILL just TALKING about fighting… just fight, godammit!)?

Anyway, enough about that: Steam Boy is a Japanese animated film directed by Akira’s Katsuhiro Ôtomo based on a story by him and Millennium Actress writer Sadayuki Murai and tells the story of young James Ray Steam (voiced by Anna Paquin), a young inventor in an alternate steampunk-ish 1866, who has received a parcel from his grandfather, Dr. Lloyd Steam (Patrick Stewart) which is to be passed into the hands of civil engineer Robert Stevenson (Oliver Cotton) as it contains the secret of a powerful new source of steam power.

The problem for young Ray though, is that there is a nefarious group who wish to nab the invention for themselves.. and so begins a story that, except for the source of power, is still politically and industrially relevant today.

There is no doubt that Ôtomo’s hands are all over this film. The entire design of the characters is very similar to his previous works, though the pacing of the film is that of Akira.

Those who are fans of the aesthetic of steampunk should have a blast with this. The entire film is a feast for the eyes and somehow, no matter how fantastic, every machine looks as thoigh it could actually work. I imagine the research that went into the industrial revolution must have been long and arduous.

However, as pretty as the film is, it is quite slow. Some may say carefully paced, but I just found it to be a trial at times. Thankfully it is visually thrilling, so it’s not a complete loss.

Score: **

Format: This Umbrella Entertainment release of Steamboy runs for approximately 126 minutes me is presented is an immaculate 1.85:1 image with a matching DTS-HD 5.1 audio track.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s a decent bunch of extras on this disc:

Interview with Katsuhiro Ôtomo is, as the name suggests, an interview with the writer/ director of Akira, Memories and, of course, this film. The interview is in Japanese with an English dub over the top and is a fascinating look into his creative process.

Multi-screen Landscape Study is a triple-split-screen 20 minute piece of mixed media and interviews which was used at a ‘Steamboy’ exhibition. It’s slightly confusing at first but if you persevere you’ll see some interesting interviews with the creators.

Re-voicing Steamboy looks at the process involved with the casting and recording of the American dub of the film and features interviews with Anna Paquin, Alfred Molina, Patrick Stewart and vocal director Rick Zieff.

Voyage of Steamboy looks at the making of the film, in Japanese with English subtitles.

The Adventure Continues shows the end title sequence without the credit roll over it, which is pretty cool, actually.

Production Gallery is a slideshow of production paintings from the film with a portion of the soundtrack played over the top.

Animation Onion Skins shows 5 scenes in various stages of production, from storyboards to the final product.

Score: *****

WISIA: Probably not, but I enjoyed the amazing animation.

Hatchet (2006)

One from the re-watch pile…

Hatchet (2006)

Film: Writer/director Adam Green is one of us. He was shown Friday the 13th Part 2 when he was 8, and has never looked back. Thankfully, that movie fermented in his brain, and while at summer camp, a story about a murderer who dwelled in a cabin that was forbidden to the campers turned into something else, something that 20 years later evolved into this film, Hatchet.

Hatchet tells of lovelorn Ben (Joel Moore from Bones and Avatar) and his friend Marcus (Deon Richmond aka Token Black Guy from Not Another Teen Movie) who are visiting new Orleans for Mardi Gras, but Ben, who has just broken up with his girlfriend, isn’t into the idea of seeing a bunch of drunken women showing their boobs for beads.

Pfft, idiot!

So, instead of enjoying the frivolities these two friends decide to take a tour of the Louisiana swamps, in the ‘Scare Boat’ run by local Shawn (Perry Shen), and perhaps see where local legend Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder), aka Hatchetface, once lived. Once on board they meet kindly older couple Jim and Shannon Permatteo (Richard Riele and Patrika Darbo respectively), titty filmmaker Doug Shapiro (Joel Murray), his flashing females Jenna (Joleigh Fioraevanti) and Misty (Mercedes McNab) and mysterious, gun-toting honey Marybeth (Tamara Feldman).

Unfortunately, and of course, the boat comes to a crashing halt, and the gang of tourists and their guide become stuck in the woods, wet, cold, lost, and now with Victor Crowley, whom they realise is no legend but instead a horribly malformed mutant killing machine, hunting for them.

How many will make it out… if any? Will the survivors be horribly maimed and psychologically scarred? And where exactly did a mutant hillbilly get a petrol-powered sander?

The script is a fun adventure into 80s styled horror, and even though it has a few great and funny lines, at no point did I think ‘horror comedy’, which I believe to be the scourge of the genre. I think the reason that the comedy never overpowers over the horror is because the violence is just so damned nasty: spine rips, head splits, axings… a veritable treasure trove of blood spraying and sputum spewing gags that should keep most fans happy, and their non-horror friends crying ‘Ewwwwwww!’

One thing I have to pick on this film about anything it is the costume of the creature that is Victor Crowley. Rubber suits and appliance rarely look 100% perfect, but unfortunately this one doesn’t look as good as the worst of the Jason Voorhees ones.

The other is its biggest problem: this film has to live up to a expectations that started as hype on the internet after a teaser trailer oozed out, and those expectations were that it could be horror’s salvation. It isn’t, but what it is a bit of gory fun and what the DVD cover says: “Old School American Horror”.

It’s got gore, boobs, gore, violence, gore, Robert Englund, Tony Todd and Kane Hodder in it, and those elements make it alright in my book. While I don’t think the character of Victor Crowley has the longevity of Freddy or Jason it is a fun example of what a slasher film is supposed to be: gory, unpretentious fun. With boobs.

Score: ***1/2

Format: Nice clear picture presented in 16:9 with no artefacts or apparent damage. A really good Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that is clear as a bell, with the rear channels coming to life whenever Victor Crowley terrorises his victims.

Score: ****

Extras: Straight off the bat we are given a commentary by writer/director Adam Green and his Director of Photography Will Barratt, with a few do-drop-ins (specifically actors) here and there to add more colour to the proceedings. It is a full commentary that is both entertaining and informative. Yes, it is inforcational.

The Making of Hatchet is one of the better making of docos I have seen. It discusses the origins of the film from conception to … heh… execution. Mainly features interviews with Green, Barratt and producer Sarah Elbert (who I admit to having a micro-crush on) but also chats with most of the cast and a fair bit of the crew. This is the type of doco that makes me want to grab my video camera and go and film stuff.

Of course, no decent extras package is complete without the trailer, so here it be!

Also there are four behind the scenes pieces, which are all around the ten minute mark:

Meeting Victor Crowley is a look at Kane Hodder’s performance and substandard make-up. What it lacks as a visual though, he made up for in terrorising the cast with his on camera and behind the scenes routine.

Guts and Gore looks at the red stuff… which is why a lot of us are here. Well, this and boobs.

Anatomy of a Kill dissects the ‘pop top’ scene, from the original idea to John Carl Buechler’s effects teams result.

A Twisted Tale looks at the moral support that Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snyder has given Green over the years, both before and after they had met.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: There is far too many super slashers from the 80s that I could rewatch rather than give this another look.

The Hole (2009)

One from the rewatch pile…

The Hole (2009)

The cover to the Australian release of The Hole (2009)

The cover to the Australian release of The Hole (2009)

Film: This is one of those times where I felt like rewatching as it’s like comfort food. First, it’s directed by Joe Dante, responsible for 80s classics like The Howling, Gremlins and Innerspace, and the awesome late 90s kids flick Small Soldiers and written by Mark L. smith who wrote the Vacancy films and The Revenant.

The Hole tells of single mum, Susan (Teri Polo) who has moved to a small town and away from big city life with her sons, Dane (Chris Massoglia) and the younger Lucas (Nathan Gamble) and into a house which, as these sorts of movies alway do, is far to big for her ever to be able to afford.

Our hero, Dane (Chris Massoglia) tries to open his hole.

Our hero, Dane (Chris Massoglia) tries to open his hole.

This house has a weird secret in the basement though: a seemingly bottomless hole that cute next door neighbour Julie (Haley Bennett) suggests may have been dug by previous tenant Creepy Carl (Bruce Dern), but very quickly our young trio discover than maybe, just maybe the Hole has deeper secrets…

…supernatural secrets… secrets that drove Creepy Carl out of the house and into a state weird he fears the stones and what it hides. Will the kids survive the contents of this bottomless pit?

Dane and Julie (Haley Bennett) discuss the dangers of their open hole.

Dane and Julie (Haley Bennett) discuss the dangers of their open hole.

This film really is classic Joe Dante with the small town being attacked by ‘something’ and as usual, he hires a charming cast of good guys and an oddball bunch of weirdos. Special mention has to go not just to the casting of Kate Hudson lookalike, Haley Bennett, but to see Bruce Dern in a film again was a heap of fun, and you can throw in a bit of legend Dick Miller as a pizza boy for a great trifecta.

The unfortunate thing about this film is it’s SO damned generic. Every new boy in town moves into a cute, available girl and has an annoying/ embarrassing younger brother/ quirky aunt/ mental grandfather and there is something weird in the basement/ next door/ at the pier. I will say this film succeeds with its extremely likeable cast, and there are some genuinely creepy moments, but there is not much new being brought to the table to allow it to stand out. It just seems to be a classic trope of ‘kids’ horror movies… those gateway movies for young horror fans…that is wearing out its welcome.

Honestly that trope was the only thing I didn’t like about the Jack Black Goosebumps film. I just think audiences may have evolved beyond that point.

Anyway, all in all it’s not a hateful bad film, it’s a nicely shot slice of average with a loveable cast from a reliable director.

Score: **

The menu to the Australian release of The Hole (2009)

The menu to the Australian release of The Hole (2009)

Format: This film is presented on the disc as both a 3D or a 2D movie, but only the 2D was reviewed as I don’t have the capacity for a 3D viewing at home. The film looks and sound great with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and DTS-HD 5.1 Dolby digital sound, and runs for approximately 92 minutes, which is about the average attention span of an early teen horror fan.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for Aftershock, Uninhabited, Larry Crowne and Cane Toads The Conquest, which can also be accessed separately in the extras menu.

In addition to those spectacular trailers though, we also have:

Gateway To Hell: The Making of the Hole which is, well, the making of the the film, The Hole, featuring a whole bunch of interviews with various cats and crew members.

A Peek Inside The Hole looks at the special effects of the film.

Family Matters looks at the relationships between the lead actors and their characters.

The Third Dimension looks at the process of making a 3D film.

The Keeper of the Hole looks at a Bruce Dern’s Creepy Carl character.

Like a lot of extras, all of these featurettes could have been cut together nicely and made a decent 40 minute to an hour ‘making of’ styled thing, rather than a bunch of what feels like worthless little ‘bits’ but I guess more is better, right?

Score: ****

WISIA: The Hole is a cute kids film, but really doesn’t hold up like some of Dante’s other films. I wouldn’t probably watch it again.

This strange ghostly girl crawled out of Dane’s hole.

This strange ghostly girl crawled out of Dane’s hole.