Moving Pictures

2014 is done and dusted and 2015 is well under way, which means it’s time for another “I watched these so you don’t have to” update from your intrepid author and humble servant, serving time here at Fiori e Baci HQ. In a twist that should surprise very few, I didn’t actually watch any of the movies I was going to in 2014, which means I get to keep the same New Year’s Resolution.

Penguins of Madagascar

(2014, dir. Eric Darnell & Simon J. Smith)

Boy, is this movie cheezy.

Boy, is this movie cheezy.

Now in glorious 3-D! Penguins of Madagascar is full of style and devoid of substance. Is this really what the target audience wants and expects? “Style” refers here to the quality of animation, which I must say is very good. There’s an abundance of breathtaking action sequences shot in a way that would be very difficult if not impossible to achieve in a live action movie. I’m using “substance” as shorthand for things like interesting storyline, characters one can relate to, plausible plot – all of which are sadly missing here. A quickly forgettable ride, if a fast and colourful one.

Uuno Turhapuro, Suomen tasavallan herra presidentti

(1992, dir. Ere Kokkonen)

Fan service is not a recent invention.

Fan service is not a recent invention.

Another installment in the epic saga of Uuno Turhapuro, Esq. (Previously.) Whoever said that “familiarity breeds contempt” got it horribly wrong. Familiarity breeds endearment, at least when it comes to anti-heroes of the silver screen. Anyone voluntarily watching this would already know what to expect: a barrage of lame jokes, a few genuinely funny ones thrown in, actors fully embracing the caricature-ness of their characters, Vesa-Matti Loiri as Uuno improvising his way through, an implausible setting & storyline – everything one would expect from a sitcom, here milked for 84 minutes straight.

Ripa ruostuu

(aka Ripa Hits the Skids, 1993, dir. Christian Lindblad)

It takes two to tango.

Ripa channels his inner Fred Astaire.

Speaking of familiarity and endearment, this must have been the umpteenth viewing for me, and I’m not quite sure why. There are more than a few parallels between Ripa and Uuno, and the brief but glorious appearance of V-M Loiri as Ripa’s father only works to underline these.

Ripa is a struggling movie auteur wannabe, whose movies (apparently full of sex & violence, although we never get to see any actual footage) have failed to make a dent in the annals of cinematic history. As a result, Ripa is struggling to make ends meet, which is kind of ironic in light of the fact that Sam Huber – who was rightfully awarded a Jussi (Finnish equivalent of Oscar) for his portrayal of Ripa – is a genuine real-life millionaire. Although it’s never spelled out as such, Ripa must be a big fan of Charles Bukowski, such is his womanizing laissez faire approach to everything in life, even if he does draw a line in the sand at a critical pivot point in the movie.

If you’re familiar with (and perhaps even a fan of) Aki Kaurismäki‘s brand of dry Finnish wit, you’ll be right at home with Ripa ruostuu. Recommended for all nihilists at heart.

Leprechaun

(1993, dir. Mark Jones)

Here's Johnny!

Here’s Johnny!

Leprechaun is famous for, among other things, featuring the big screen debut of one Jennifer Aniston. A horror comedy that does not (and could not) take itself very seriously, Leprechaun provides surprising amounts of light entertainment and silly scares even after 20 years.

Loputon Gehennan liekki

(aka Eternal Flame of Gehenna, 2011, dir. Sami Kettunen)

And an apple pie, and a strawberry milkshake, to go, please.

And an apple pie, and a strawberry milkshake, to go, please.

Now here’s a real labour of love: a documentary about the Finnish black metal underground scene that consists mainly of interviews with scene doyens with names like Lord Satanachia (pictured above), Nuclear Holocausto Vengeance and Satanic Tyrant Werewolf. Probably best appreciated with a jug of something vile and strong in alcohol content in hand.

Remo Williams – The Adventure Begins

(1985, dir. Guy Hamilton)

remo

See this finger? You don’t want to know where it’s been.

Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins was, as the name implies, intended to start a franchise based on the (in)famous The Destroyer pulp fiction series. Sadly, this half-baked attempt marks (so far, one adds with a heart full of hope) the only silver-screen appearance of Remo and his mentor Chiun. What went wrong? Well, not the casting, that’s for sure – Fred Ward is the perfect choice for Remo, and Joel Grey is just the right amount of funny as the always hypercritical Master of Sinanju. There are rumours of a reboot, but I’m not holding my breath.

Nightsatan and the Loops of Doom

(2013, dir. Christer Lindström)

Note to self: remember to buy toothpicks. And maybe some floss.

Note to self: remember to buy toothpicks. And maybe some floss.

A movie about a Finnish 80s flashback synth trio, reimagined as a 70s Italian sci-fi genre flick, with generous helpings of Jodorowsky-like surrealism (spoiler: one of the main characters is an egg-laying transvestite) – dubbed in Italian?!?!? The end result is just as ridiculous as it sounds, which should be enough for anyone to figure out whether they’ll enjoy it (as I did) or not. It’s also only 24 minutes long, which in this case is quite enough.

Hellraiser

(1987, dir. Clive Barker)

Didn't I meet you on a summer cruise?

Didn’t I meet you on a summer cruise?

There was a considerable amount of buzz when Hellraiser came out in the days of VHS. I must have viewed it at some point but promptly forgot doing so; nothing like a bit of déja-viewing to jog the old brain cells though. I doubt there’ll be a 3rd viewing – it’s not that good, to be honest. It’s a straight horror story made in a time when most horror was tongue-in-cheek, so kudos to Mr. Barker for that. However, there’s way too much promise (the Cenobites, who look like a washed-out punk band, to give you an example) compared with what is delivered. Apparently this started a franchise (unlike Remo) – I don’t think I’m in a hurry to look for the follow-ups, though.

Delta Force

(1986, dir. Menahem Golan)

Chuck Norris doesn't often use binoculars, but when he does, he makes them shrink just by squeezing on the sides.

Chuck Norris doesn’t often use binoculars, but when he does, he makes them shrink just by holding them in his bare hands.

Produced by The Cannon Group, directed by Menahem Golan, starring Lee Marvin (in his final role) and Chuck Norris as Special Forces operatives. That pretty much says it all, and frankly I doubt the script was much longer. The years have not been kind to The Delta Force, but I guess that was never the intention. Vincent Canby, writing for the New York Times, considered this the “film all others will have to beat for sheer, unashamed, hilariously vulgar vaingloriousness.” I think he may have meant to imply that vulgar vaingloriousness is a bad thing. Is it? Answers on a postcard please.

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