Massawyrm takes on REPO: THE GENETIC OPERA, FANBOYS, And MUEY THAI CHAIYA!!
Published at: Sept. 20, 2008, 8:54 p.m. CST by merrick
Hola all. Massawyrm here.
REPO: THE GENETIC OPERA
If ever there was a film that wasn’t made for me, this is it. But strangely enough, it isn’t a film I particularly dislike or even hate. It just plum isn’t for me. And frankly it isn’t going to be for a lot of people. This isn’t just a cult film. It is a film that ASPIRES TO BE a cult film, something that rarely, if ever, works. This is that rare one that does. You’ve never seen of its like – you could watch a thousand movies and never meet another of its kind. Strange, off-kilter and almost entirely hypnotic – even if you’re not feeling it, you still can’t for a moment take your eyes off of it.
Imagine if you will, Joss Whedon writing an Andrew Lloyd Webber spoof of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and you begin to get an idea of what this is. Do not let the title fool you as it is in no way simply being clever. It IS an Opera. Almost every word is sung, with entire patches of emotion and back story painstakingly described in lyrical verse. Musically this is a cross between the Once More with Feeling episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with Phantom of the Opera along with hints of Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog and patches of Tom Waits thrown in to create a gothic carnival-like atmosphere. Which this readily achieves.
Now add to that the notion that this is directed by the guy who made the last 3 Saw movies, and it begins to sway feverishly into Sweeny Todd territory. It’s bloody, gross and often downright macabre. The world is a dystopian future where the bodies of man began to deteriorate at a much faster rate and one corporation has stepped up to create genetically perfect organs for the masses…at a price. And what happens when you run late on your bill? Repossession, with every effort spared to keep the debtor alive. And if that isn’t dark enough for you, let me introduce you to our narrator, a man who drains a liquid anesthesia out through the nose of corpses. Yeah. It’s not exactly a pleasant feel good movie.
This film has a very specific audience. The RHPS watching, Tim Burton doll collecting, Vampire the Masquerade playing crowd. And they are going to eat this up like it was their Star Wars: Episode One. Already fans are showing up to these screenings in costume, singing along with the movie. I recognized a few folks last night from my misspent youth in the local RHPS scene – they’d purchased tickets to attend both shows. And they loved every moment of it. They were giddy and bouncing around, salivating for their second round with the savory goofy deliciousness of it all. And if this sounds like your cup of tea, holy god you are going to have a mad, passionate love affair with this. Hot Topic will be carrying T-shirts, soundtracks, lunch boxes and special edition DVDs from here until Gehenna.
However, if that combination sounds more like a misbegotten mishmash of pop culture into one grotesque pile of stolen body parts sewn into a rotting Frankenstein of a film – well, you aren’t far off from the reaction you’re going to have to this. But by no means does that mean you should miss it. Darren Lynn Bousman has created an entirely unique world, a completely original nightmare woven of Victorian era style, end of the world imagery and modern goth sensibilities. It is a low budget dystopian feverdream that embraces its limitations and instead uses them to create a look and feel unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. As a movie lover, this is one of those films you pretty much owe yourself to see just once – even if it is just to see the style in which it was done. This film just didn’t connect with me – but then again, having spent many years floating about with the crowd this was made for, I can honestly say that I’m pretty far removed from the target audience. It never really clicked and I was left to simply enjoy the costume, set design and the original way the film unraveled. But to its credit, it never annoyed me, urged me to walk out or came across in any way as pretentious – which considering the material and audience it was shooting for, it very well could have.
MUEY THAI CHAIYA
There’s not really a lot to say about this one other than martial arts fans are gonna dig it. This is yet another Asian Scorsese/Coppola style rise of the gangster film in which we watch three friends “from the neighborhood” rise from street youth to prominent citizens with their own story. Some go good, some go bad. And the movie is about what happens to their friendship. Well, in this case, the neighborhood is rural Thailand and the dream is to make it big in Muey Thai boxing. For those of you unfamiliar with it, Muey Thai appears to be Thai for “I’m gonna fuck your shit up hard and then beat you again.” It is a style of martial arts that uses shins, elbows fists and foreheads on the weakest points of an opponent’s body to make him bleed and drop to the ground with any number of broken bones. While it isn’t the pretty form of martial arts, it is one of the most frightening. Thai boxers are incredibly well conditioned, powerful fighters who are a marvel to watch. And this is a story about three of them.
When one of the three gets thrown out of legal boxing after being accused of throwing a fight, he slowly slides into the seedy underbelly of illegal underground boxing. This of course leads to a few muscle jobs, murder and eventually the life of a gangster. Meanwhile, one of the others finds glory as a national Thai boxing champion and begins to lead the life the other dreamed of. Throw in criminal activity and gambling on the big time boxing matches and you can see that these friends are on a collision course with one another.
This felt like old John Woo – kind of like his classic Bullet in the Head (but without the jump cut), with lots of great action, emotional pangs and dudes who aren’t afraid to cry…right before they cut apart two dozen people with a big fucking sword. It’s a solid, entertaining film for anyone into martial arts film – but certainly a must see for anyone hip to the current Thai martial arts explosion.
I first met Ernie Cline ten years ago on the stage of the old Electric Lounge, each of us competing in the local poetry slam. For those of you who have never experienced a slam, it isn’t at all what you might be thinking. This isn’t a bunch of dudes in berets sipping espresso, snapping their fingers and reading verse about their feelings. Oh sure, it’s kind of like that…but on ten cups of coffee. It’s more of a RANT slam than anything else. You get up on stage and for three minute you let out this inner beast of rage or anger or heartache (that has become rage and anger), and you just…to cop Ginsberg…Howl. Needless to say, Ernie blew me way the fuck off stage that night. He’s a world class slam poet whose stuff you can now find littered all over youtube in fan made montages set to recordings of his various works (I would recommend Dance, Monkey, Dance.) That night he did this piece about a job interview that ten years later I have never forgotten. That night I was testing out a new piece about my misgivings with George Lucas’s retooling of the classics with the special editions titled Pulp Fiction: Special Edition, in which Quentin Tarantino re-edited the film the way it was originally intended: digitally replacing Marcellus Wallace with Jabba the Hutt.
Needless to say, it was the wrong audience. There was only one person laughing that night, sitting in the back, occasionally clapping at a reference about dead wookie storage or Luke’s father asking Ben to hold something for him until he was of age. That man was Ernie Cline. And that’s how we met.
So when I heard from Harry that Ernie had written a touching little road movie about a couple of Star Wars fans trying to steal a print of Episode One before release, it didn’t surprise me in the slightest. What surprised me was watching the long, tortured road this film took before it finally found its way to the Alamo Drafthouse. There was a cut of this thing two years ago that we were sure HAD to play BNAT. But it wasn’t ready. No, much like Episode One itself, this film was a long time coming and being able to see it on the big screen after all that waiting was something to behold.
And it didn’t disappoint. Make no mistake, Fanboys is almost just as much of a niche film as Repo: The Genetic Opera is. It was not made for my mom, dad or sister. Rather, it is the movie they’ll watch and talk about how much these characters remind them of me. And they’ll call me to tell me about it. It is sweet, adorable and at times funny as all get out. But at its heart, the soul of this film has little to do with being a comedy. It is a love letter. Not just a love letter to Star wars, but a love letter to fandom in general. It is a film all about loving something so much that you ultimately use that love to relate to everything else in your life. Needless to say, if you read AICN with any regularity then you are one of US. And as one of US, you know exactly what I’m talking about here. Whether it be the Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who or the Whedonverse, odds are you have that world that guides you and makes you feel complete when around those that get it on the same level as you. And this movie was made for YOU.
As a film it certainly isn’t perfect. Not all of the jokes fire – and you can feel the various attempts at meddling in the film by the various forces that have come along and tried to make it a bit more mainstream. Most of the time, a swift and much needed Star Wars reference finds its way in to save the day – but there are a few scenes where they don’t. And my biggest beef is that as a road movie, this movie follows the formula painfully close. For those that have read my recent Sex Drive review, you’ll remember that I laid out the RULES OF THE ROADMOVIE. Well, this plays by them all. The breakdown, jail, the sexual misunderstanding, the big turnaround-and-go-home discussion. They’re all present and accounted for here as much as in any other film of its type, and just having broken in down recently in print it was even more painfully obvious.
And let me tell you this: there are few experiences weirder in life than watching someone else play one of your close friends on the big screen. There is something completely unnatural about it. Wait a second. Harry wouldn’t kick anyone’s ass. And what the hell is he doing asking someone about expanded universe? He fucking hates the expanded universe. And when did he stop talking like a diplomatic elf and suddenly get bass in his voice? When did his balls drop? This is all just too fucking weird for me.
That said, I loved the hell out of this film. The story of the dying friend takes this from the level of your typical teen/dork comedy and elevates to a heartwarming, endearing warm blanket of a movie that really captures the very best (and occasionally worst) aspects of fandom. It is exactly what it needed to be – a film of its type for US. The FANS. The folks who know how to love something so much that our lives become occasionally inseparable from it. And it is a film I will keep close to my heart for a long time.
You know, having been blown off stage and humiliated all those years ago, this night, with this film, I was glad it was by Ernie Cline.
Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.