Thursday, April 26, 2007

"Banzai Hard"

To combat the negativity of the last blog entry, here's two little pieces of awesome ness to brighten your day.

Firstly, allow me to introduce you to Puchi Bruce.

Anyone who knows me knows of my admiration of the work of Bruce Willis, the Die Hard film series -- even the third one which starts off great but goes as haywire as an old Batman TV rerun -- and for Japanese cinema, as well. Hell, I've even got both of Bruce's pop/blues albums (yep) and a T-shirt from his Boston show during his 2002 Tour with Ivan Neville (double-yep). But... there's a certain man somewhere in Japan who puts my fanboy-ness to shame. And I now have a new hero to add to the ranks. His name is Akihiro Suzuki, and he must be seen to be believed. reports that "This 47 year old actor from Yokohama was a former Japanese salaryman who dreamed of acting while working for the Supermarket chain Daiei. During this time he worked as a TV/movie extra and participated in Mono-mane (impersonator) programs for Japanese TV station TBS where he became “Puchibruce." His name derives from the French word ‘Petite Bruce’, meaning a mini-version of Bruce Willis due to his diminutive stature compared to the real Bruce. The Japanese word for Petite is pronounced ‘Puchi.'"

For me it all began with some youtube clips from Japanese game shows featuring Suzuki-san. Then a friend of mine showed me this fella's myspace page. And from there I found this site, which I've been watching over and over again for the last day or so. You've just gotta love this guy.

If anyone can help, I have a few questions. Just how big is this guy in Japan right now? Could Akihiro Suzuki be this year's "Star Wars Kid?" On that last site, there appears to be a date of 2007 -- I can't read Japanese but is this site advertising a movie or v-cinema offering to be released? Imagine him working with Takashi Miike, Sho Aikawa and Riki Takeuchi. Total bliss, right there. Enjoy some more Puchi Action...

A game show clip:
A myspace link:

On a non-related note, those of you in the New York area can currently see two of the best crime drama films to come out of Asia since the Infernal Affairs trilogy at the Film Forum in Manhattan -- Election and Election 2 (aka Triad Election).

Directed by master filmmaker Johnnie To, director of Running Out Of Time, The Mission, Throwdown and Exiled, the Election films are about the ever changing levels of power within the Chinese Mafia. In the films' large and powerful Triad (crime organization), the leader is elected by those who serve and operate within theTriad's structure. Election (Part One) is a detailed examination of the hunt for power between two opposing candidates -- a brash wildman (Tony Leung Ka Fai) and a more subdued man of the people (Simon Yam) -- and their various subordinates. Election 2/Triad Election deals with the desire to maintain one's power when a conflicted, young, new candidate from within the ranks pops up to challenge a Boss in the next leader election. If you enjoy Chinese cinema, mob politics and the occasional bit of ultraviolence, these are for you. Johnnie To's films don't typically get a lot of play in theaters around the USA (at least not yet) so take the time if you can. Very, very worth the trip.

Recent Theatrical Reviews:
Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters ***

DVD/Home Video:
Spider-Man 2.1 (Extended Cut) ****
Miami Vice: Season One ***1/2
Masters Of Horror: Homecoming ***1/2
Payback: 1999 Theatrical Cut ***1/2
Payback (Straight Up) : 2007 Director's Cut ***1/2
Criterion Collection: Border Radio (1987) ***
Criterion Collection: Atomic Submarine (1959) **1/2
Masters Of Horror: Pick Me Up **
Hurricane Smith (1992) **

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Customer Is Always... What?

Ever worked retail? Sucks, doesn't it? I mean it realllly sucks, sometimes. You can be as respectful and courteous behind that counter as you like but there's just no accounting for those people who just seem to come into your establishment for the sole cause of venting the issues they have in their so-called personal lives. A word of advice for those who fit that description: "Don't." We of the Retail Force don't need your anger nor your attitude. We're not your punching bags nor your understanding family members. We're at work. You're in our place of business. Unless you'd like to leave us the address of where you spend your days and critique your work style, feel free to stay home. Or better yet, stay home... and start drinking. It'll make all your problems go away. Trust me. You'll feel better. Give it a shot. ;)

Why the sudden nastiness in blogging? Three recent run-in's at my job with customers who just don't seem to get the finer points of human interaction and interpersonal communication. Let's look back, shall we?


MAN #1 comes us to the counter. He's normally an okay type; a regular. A bit of a wiseguy but no worries. He comes in tonight seeming a little off. World weary, maybe a little loaded. He comes up to the counter on a busy night and starts telling a story at top-volume...

Me: Hey! How ya' doing tonight?

Man #1: Lemme ask you... What kind of a fuckin' name for a poodle...

Me: (interrupting, smiling) Wait, wait! C'mon, shhhh! There's kids right behind you, man. Please, no swearing out loud... It's a "PG" store... (laughing) Okay, so what's this about a poodle?

Man #1: (dramatic, angry pause) Look... I'm sorry I used a word... that you found personally objectionable, but... (he leans in, to my face) Don't ever correct me again.

Me: (keeping my cool) I'm sorry, but like I said there are children not ten feet from us and we can't have swearing in the store. Okay? Please try to understand.

Man #1 (intense) I hope... you're hearing me.

Me: (intense back) That's the problem, Sir. I am hearing you.


MAN #2 enters the store and begins speaking heatedly at a NEW HIRE about the outside video drop-box being locked. About a month ago we began locking the box during the daytime in order to get customers to drop their movies inside the store and to help ensure quicker DVD check-ins and more efficient service, which we always point out to every customer during every transaction. Most appreciate the forward leap in service... but not all. The New Hire isn't yet equipped to handle surly customers yet, so I step in...

Man #2: That drop box is supposed to be open all day! You want me to leave my car running outside where it'll get stolen??

Me: Well, you block a fire lane when you drop off movies from your car at the box, Sir. And there are more than a dozen empty parking spaces in our lot out there. The drop box is pretty much for when the store's closed, only.

Man #2: Why doesn't it say that? (This argument has always made me laugh. As if everything in the world needs labels for those without common sense. This man is the type of mouth breather who sues McDonald's when their coffee is served too hot.)

Me: (joking) Well, it doesn't say a lot of things.

Man #2: (walking toward me, now) Are you getting snide with me?

Me: (walking toward him, now) No. I'm making a joke with you.

He takes my name. I give it. He leaves. We of the Retail Force are happy.


MAN #3 would like to do some renting but he hasn't been into the store for about two years and the credit card (or bank card) on his account has expired. Cards are required to back up member accounts so that the company has a way to get their money back if a customer never returns what they rent. This happens all day every day and is standard operating procedure. This fella just isn't having it.

Man #3: This is stupid! I'm not giving you my credit card! I'm paying cash!

Me: Well, I can save your movies for you until you can come back with one...

Man #3: Forget it. Just gimme the Coke. (The soft drink. Not the drug. He seems to be on enough of them, already.)

Me: That's $1.41 then, please.

Man #3 throws (yes, throws) a giftcard at me across the counter. I ring up his purchase and try giving back his giftcard, which still has quite a bit of money stored on it.

Man#3: Throw it away! I'm not coming back.

Me: Well... there's still close to $20.00 left on this gift card. You could always give it to someone... Otherwise you're throwing away close to twenty dollars, here.

Man#3: I don't care! You guys are assholes! (He leaves.)

Sure. He throws money at me, shouts obscenities in public and storms away. And I'm the asshole.

"Who's next, please?" :)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Bumping... and Grinding.

Having grown up in the New England sticks, I never had the chance to see proper "grindhouse" cinema in its legendary habitat. Oh sure, the Union Theater in Attleboro had a certain low-rent squalor and the Plainville Drive-In would occasionally show an awkward double feature along the lines of The Rescuers and Porky's -- but there were no real experiences to be had of this type in my formative moviegoing years. The Home Video wars (that is, VHS versus Beta) finished fairly quickly and many of the exploitation world's finest offerings began spilling into living rooms across the country in their hard plastic shells labeled "be kind, rewind." Of course, my film interests were more middle of the road back then (Spielberg, John Hughes and the like) but I'd grab the occasional Cannon Films or Vestron Video offering to mix things up a bit. I say this because I feel... well... saddened and dismayed that I missed out on what many would consider the true and proper Grindhouse Experience.

Which is probably just one of the reasons I enjoyed the new Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino film, Grindhouse... and why it's such an important movie for this particular generation at this particular time. Grindhouse isn't just a slick, thoughtful, bloody, twisted, hilarious and exciting movie. It could serve as a torchlight illuminating the genre and could lead the viewer to seek out and experience the films it pays homage to -- and is therefore better bang-for-the-buck movie goodness than anything released in quite some time. The youth of today are being lulled into a safe, green, motion picture pasture in which there's a computer-animated talking or singing animal movie being released pretty much every week on some format or another. These people could use a wake-up call -- and a film that features Disney's "Captain Ron" driving a black, crossboned, high-octane deathbeast over someone's face might just be what they need.

Rodriguez's Planet Terror is pitch perfect, if a little too highly competently made -- few zombie/action flicks of the old days are this smartly paced, sleekly sexual, self-aware or technically polished -- and Rose McGowan earns her new star status with humor and intensity. Tarantino's Death Proof achieves a neat trick with its indulgently lengthy set-up by delivering a visceral and hysterical punchline while giving Kurt Russell his best role in decades and delivering actress/stuntperson Zoe Bell into the hearts and fantasies of audiences everywhere. The icing on the cake is/are the "fake trailers" that appear throughout the film from the likes of Rob Zombie, Eli Roth and Edgar Wright. Hell, I could've watched ninety minutes of them, if they were all as good as Don't! and Machete. One can only hope that even a few theaters and cinema pubs across America will take a cue from the film and start programming similar double features in the spirit of recapturing the craziness and abandon of these howling, insane, often so-bad-they're-beautiful works of art. C'mon, people. Do it... for the kids.

I caught Grindhouse at the Boston sneak on Thursday night with a few hundred screaming movie fans; the type that will happily stay up until after 3:00am on a weeknight -- and just as happily go into work and/or school, bleary-eyed and sleep deprived the next morning -- if a good cinema experience is to be had the night before. And ever since then, whenever I found myself talking to someone at work or around the apartment, I'd find myself asking them a couple of quick questions.

"What are you doing here, right now?"
"Why aren't you at the movies right now seeing Grindhouse?"
And... "Are you a movie fan or not?"

Theatrical Reviews:
Grindhouse ****
Hot Fuzz ****
Roman ***1/2
300 ***

Home Video:
Masters Of Horror: Cigarette Burns: ***1/2
Masters Of Horror: Sick Girl: ***
Wild Side (1995) ***
The Dangerous Brothers/World Of Danger (UK, 1991) ***
Cross My Heart (1987) ***
Hellboy: Sword Of Storms **1/2