GREEN ROOM (2015/USA)
I didn’t get to see GREEN ROOM at TIFF 2015.
Because I’m not a legit critic guy, I have to pay regular people prices, and because I’m poor I tend to go for the more economical ticket packages that — for whatever reason — mean you get to choose your films later than everyone else. Therefore, GREEN ROOM was sold out and I was stuck seeing some inevitably lesser film that I won’t mention here out of decency, and also because I can’t remember.
I was upset. Not only because a movie about a punk band getting kidnapped by a bunch of neo-Nazis led by Patrick Stewart sounds amazing, but it was also directed by Jeremy Saulnier, who made 2013’s BLUE RUIN which.. Wait, you haven’t seen BLUE RUIN yet? Get on that, son.
So, you have real life’s greatest villains — racist, Nazi fuckfaces — and real life’s greatest heroes — punk rock musicians — and a great, young director. But I had to wait until 2016 AND take a trip to Toronto (since movies like this can’t fit into my local multiplex, which currently is playing both MOTHER’S DAY *and* MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2) in order to finally see the fucking thing, and my anticipation went through the roof. In fact, my anticipation was so high, thanks to the positive reviews I had read (aka 140-character summaries of people’s thoughts on Twitter) that it was almost unfair to the movie. How could any movie live up to such expectations?
Well, it helps if it looks great. Saulnier got KUMIKO: THE TREASURE HUNTER‘s Sean Porter to make things appear properly grimy and grungy and punky, and he does some real wizardry in making a single small club seem both suffocatingly intimate and terrifyingly isolated. Now, for some reason, the digital screening at the Scotiabank Cinema in Toronto Ontario Canada looked a bit muddy and weird, and had some odd frame skipping happening, but I could still tell that this is a great-looking movie because I have a sixth sense when it comes to these sorts of things.
It’s also filled with pitch-perfect acting, particularly from Imogen Poots and Anton Yelchin, who have to take a journey from hysteria to resigned doom that could so easily have gone wrong. Instead, they anchor the (mostly) young cast perfectly. On the villain side, you’ve got Saulnier regular Macon Blair (who starred in BLUE RUIN) doing some deceivingly complex work, and Patrick Stewart being perfect in the sort of role I never would have expected him to be perfect in.
This is a violent, intense gem of a movie that confirms the promise that Saulnier showed in BLUE RUIN and his earlier MURDER PARTY. If you love punk rock and hate Nazis (like any good American should) you are going to want to go back for seconds. Or, an encore. Whatever.
WICKED PRIEST (1968/Japan)
Shintaro Katsu was obscenely prolific throughout the 1960s, starring in the 26-film ZATOICHI series, as well as the simultaneously running AKUMYO Yakuza series (with at least 15 films in the 1960s alone) and the HOODLUM SOLDIER series. Katsu would later form Katsu productions, where he would produce the legendary LONE WOLF AND CUB films (starring Katsu’s brother Tomisaburo Wakayama) as well as his own comically brutal HANZO: THE RAZOR series.
For most genre fans, Wakayama will forever be known as Ogami Itto (or, if you’re weird, the baseball coach in THE BAD NEWS BEARS GO TO JAPAN), but he found earlier success in various appearances in the 10-part BIG TIME GAMBLING BOSS series as well as the five WICKED PRIEST films, where he starred as a debauched monk in a largely lawless early-1920s Japan. The first film in the series owes some serious debts to ZATOICHI, despite Wakayama’s Mikuni Shinkai being a much more dissolute character who fights with his fists and feet rather than a sword.
It also shifts wildly in tone, from the beginning scenes of Shinkai whoring and gambling, to the contemplative middle section where the priest tries to help a (surprisingly good-natured) a group of prostitutes escape from their violent criminal pimps, to a final climactic battle filled with cartoonishly bloody action. Most of this middle section also involves Shinkai helping a young thug (and, uh, rapist) renounce his past and marry his former prostitute girlfriend. Also, that guy’s mother? She’s the former beau of the head of Shinkai’s monk order, and it turns out her kid is the monk’s son. How convenient!
While rather obviously a film — and character — trying to find its footing, WICKED PRIEST succeeds on the back of Wakayama, who brings an amiable sweetness to his character, which helps to differentiate his “wickedness” from the corruption that surrounds him. Even aside from his visual similarity to Katsu, it’s a character that often recalls Zatoichi, particularly in a brief scene where Shinkai dresses as a blind masseuse(!). Also like those films, this one ends with the monk moving on to another town, and another adventure filled with face-punching, sexual misconduct and a rapidly forgotten lesson.
CHICKS DIG GAY GUYS (2014/USA)
So, when I’m not sporadically writing articles for Daily Grindhouse, I co-host a couple of podcasts.
One of them is called Eric Roberts is the Fucking Man, where raconteur Liam O’Donnell and I watch all the film and television appearances of actor Eric Roberts (along with a guest) and compliment and/or talk smack depending on their quality, or how we’re feeling that day. It’s pretty laid back.
Anyway, recently we covered a film from 2014 called CHICKS DIG GAY GUYS, which somehow survived a disastrous attempt at crowdfunding to still waddle into existence. Based on the semi-true experiences of co-writer/co-star Nathan Anderson, CHICKS DIG GAY GUYS posits the theory that if women resist your pathetic attempts to woo them, it’s best to trick them into sleeping with you by pretending to be gay. That is seriously the fucking idea behind this movie. Seriously.
Real-life asshole Nathan Anderson plays “Scooter”, a bro-tastic shithead who seems to have surprising success with women considering his seduction method involves approaching people and asking if they are DTF. After an aborted attempt at a three-way (interrupted by Eric Roberts, who appears for all of two painful minutes), Scooter makes the entirely reasonable decision to start pretending to be gay so women will be more vulnerable and, therefore, able to be fucked by his greasy slime-dick.
Never is this presented as HORRIFICALLY immoral and terrible. Never is he (or his slightly more respectable friend Brad) forced to suffer any negative consequences from this deceit. In fact, Scooter is soon knee-deep in ladies begging for a chance to turn him straight. In one HILARIOUS moment, Scooter says he can only have anal sex with these ladies, because it’s what he’s used to. WHAT A CARD!
Oh, and need I even mention that gay men only exist as shrieking, effete stereotypes in this movie? The only legitimate gay character we’re introduced to tries to (playfully) rape Brad in a massively misguided attempt at comedy, before discovering his and Scooter’s terrible secret. Does he get pissed? Does he lecture them on how fucked up and awful both of them are? Nope! He helps them woo his female friends!
Monumentally offensive and wrongheaded, as well as painfully unfunny, CHICKS DIG GAY GUYS is a turd of a movie made by awful, awful people. The world is a lesser place for having this film in it. Everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves.