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366weirdmovies.com is back! September 26, 2018

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And the website is back up! You may have to clear your browser cache to see the homepage. Firefox is the only browser I encountered this problem with, Chrome and whatever Microsoft is calling their browser today seem to be handling it fine. 366weirdmovies.com

There is no need to visit this free version of the site now. It’s nice to have it as a backup in case disaster strikes again, though.

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CAPSULE: “DIRK GENTLY’S HOLISTIC DETECTIVE AGENCY,” SEASON 2 September 25, 2018

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DIRECTED BY: Douglas Mackinnon (episodes 1 & 2), Michael Patrick Jann (ep. 3 & 4), Richard Laxton (ep. 5 & 6), Wayne Yip (ep. 7 & 8), Alrick Riley (ep. 9 & 10)

FEATURING: Elijah Wood, Samuel Barnett, Jade Eshete, Amanda Walsh, Hannah Marks, Fiona Dourif, Mpho Koaho, Dustin Milligan, John Hannah, Alan Tudyk

PLOT: After the events of Season 1, Todd and Farrah are on the run and Dirk is a prisoner in a secret military facility; a new mystery begins when a visitor from the magical land of Wendimoor reveals that Dirk is prophesied to save their world from an evil Mage.

dirk_gently's_holistic_detective_agency_season_2

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: TV series, not movie. But it’s a series you may want to take note of: otherwise, we wouldn’t be reporting on it, would we? “Dirk Gently”’s mix of absurd humor, bewildering but addictively complex plotting, and fanboy-friendly sci-fantasy tropes was just intriguing enough that that BBC America took a chance on it as potential cult item, but also so weird and difficult that it was cancelled after only two seasons.

COMMENTS: “Have you noticed an acceleration of strangeness in your life?”

The following synopsis may not make much sense to a lot of you. This includes veterans of “Dirk Gently Season 1” as well as newcomers to the series. The one advantage Season 1 viewers have over total neophytes is that they understand “Gently”’s method—throw about a dozen subplots and random events at the viewer in episode 1, then spend the rest of the season slowly connecting the dots, with every little detail merging in a “holistic” (and fantastic) fashion. So, I’ll just lay it out: season 2 introduces a gay pink-haired hero with a scissor sword. A train in the sky. A fishing boat run aground in a field in Montana. A friendly, sort of slow sheriff and his hard-partying deputy. A beleaguered middle-aged woman with a limp, a crummy son, a crummy husband, and a crummy job at the quarry where her crummy boss is making shady deals. A dashing gangster in a snappy white suit with a black tattooed hand and a fabulous mustache. A magic wand. A car stuck in a tree. (The literal Purple People Eater won’t show up until episode 4).

It does all connect, naturally. This high-fantasy based plot is perhaps not as satisfying as Season 1’s time-travel yarn, but on the other hand the show devotes more time to building up its underlying infrastructure, dropping hints about Project Blackwing and introducing new “anomalous individuals” like Dirk and the Rowdy 3. (They’re all sort of a team of metaphysical X-Men gone renegade.) Rather than dominating the plot with his clueless exuberance, Samuel Barnett’s Gently is sidelined a bit this season, moping through most of the story in an existential crisis. He and Elijah Wood’s Todd Brotzman invert their Season 1 dynamic, with Todd now eager to solve the case for his own reasons, dragging the reluctant detective along with him. Other characters pursue their own arcs. Farrah shows more vulnerability, and there are hints of burgeoning romance between her and Todd. Todd’s sister Amanda develops magical powers, making her character more relevant–although this development feels a little forced. Ken is set up for a heel turn. And holistic assassin Bart (Fiona Dourif) remains the most fascinating entity. Her fans will be thrilled with her opportunities to prove she is the ultimate badass killing machine, and she gets by far the best lines: “I think that sometimes when you’re killing people they don’t like it, and it makes them unhappy, and scared, and also dead, which they don’t like, I don’t think…” If that monologue doesn’t intrigue you, then “Dirk Gently” isn’t the show for you.

Unfortunately, the series has been canceled, and we’ll never get to see where creator Max Landis was ultimately headed with all of this. The most bittersweet part of what turned out to be the series finale is that the last shot sets Bart up for a dramatically increased role in the unmade Season 3.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…a show where weird things happen in literally every frame…”–Hahn Nguyen, IndieWire (season premier)

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 9/21/2018 September 23, 2018

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This is a repost of the column originally published on 366weirdmovies.com on Friday, 9/21, just before the site crash occurred. Some links will necessarily be broken.

Our weekly look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs and Blu-rays (and hot off the server VODs), and on more distant horizons…

Trailers of new release movies are generally available at the official site links.

FILM FESTIVALS – Fantastic Fest (Austin, TX, 9/20-9/27):

The Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX may be America’s coolest movie theater. Their brand has grown so big that now they have franchised Drafthouses, and even distribute their own (generally weird) movies. One of the Alamo’s hippest projects is Fantastic Fest, going into its thirteenth year. As per usual, there is a fantastic slate of weird movies and some neato revivals here; this year, they are adding satellite screenings of select features in their Denver, Brooklyn and San Francisco locations. Coming at the tail end of the film festival season, much of the movies are retreads, but the Drafthouse folks always find a way to save some surprise debuts. reported on Cam, Chained for Life, Luz, One Cut of the Dead, Under the Silver Lake and Violence Voyager for his coverage. We noted Gaspar Noé‘s LSD orgy Climax, ‘s “romantic comedy” An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn, s fashion horror In Fabric, and ‘s long-awaited The Man Who Killed Don Quixote at earlier festivals. Here are the new-to-us films we’ll be tracking:

  • All the Gods in the Sky – A man waits for aliens to come and save him and his disabled sister. Screening Sep. 23 & 25.
  • Angel – An Argentine teen turns into a violent criminal, but sees his crimes as fantasy sequences. Sep. 25.
  • Between WorldsMandy isn’t ‘s only strange and over-the-top role of the year; there’s also this one, where he must defend himself from the ghost of his wife, who’s jealous of his new relationship with a medium. See it Sep. 25.
  • Blood Lake (1987) – A slasher movie made by a cast of Oklahoman amateurs during summer vacation at a lake, it’s supposedly . Sep 23, with the director in attendance.
  • Deadwax – This story about a possessed record that drives people mad was shown on Shudder in 15 minute episodes; it’s presented as a full movie here. From (who will be at the screening on Sep 23), so you know it will be weird.
  • Dog – French black comedy about a man who thinks he’s turning into a dog. Sep. 21 & 24.
  • Fugue‘s followup to her Certified Weird The Lure is about a woman with total memory loss. Don’t forget to check it out on Sep 21 or 27.
  • Keep an Eye Out returns with a comedy set during an all-night interrogation. Sep. 27.
  • Ladyworld – Eight teenage girls are trapped in a house by an earthquake in a surreal distaff take on “Lord of the Flies.” Sep. 24.
  • Laika – Stop-motion Czech musical positing that a dog the Soviets shot into space in 1957 actually landed on an alien planet. Sep. 26.
  • Lords of Chaos – The true story of the infamous Norwegian black metal band Mayhem, but with dream sequences. Screens Sep. 27.
  • Madame Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club – An aging temptress is ordered to bring one final date to her feminist cannibal club, but starts to fall for her prey. Sep. 24.
  • May the Devil Take You – The Devil comes to claim the father of an estranged daughter in this Indonesian horror. Sep. 23 & 25.
  • Murder Me, Monster – The chief suspect in a series of decapitations claims he’s in telepathic contact with the monster who is the real killer. Sep. 23 & 26.
  • Starfish – Things go from bad to worse for young Aubrey when her best friend dies, and then the apocalypse arrives soon after. On Sep. 27.
  • Strike, Dear Mistress, and Cure His Heart – Surreal microbudget drama based on Bergman’s Autumn Sonata, and recommended to connoisseurs of the “strange and unusual.” Sep. 25.
  • When the Trees Fall – Ukrainian tale of young lovers and a life of crime, with bursts of magical realism. Sep-23-24.
  • White Fire (1984) – Oddity about a gang of diamond smugglers after a massive jewel that burns anyone who touches it. The Sep 20 screening may be the first time anyone’s seen it in 34 years.
  • The Wolf House [La Casa Lobo] – Disturbing stop-motion feature about a girl who’s punished by being forced to spend 100 nights alone in a cabin in the woods.

Fantastic Fest home page.

NEW ON HOME VIDEO:

Cabin Boy (1994): A “fancy lad” takes a job as a cabin boy on a fishing ship. This absurdist comedy from Chris Elliot (of the David Letterman show) went way over the heads of 1994 audiences and flopped like a mackerel, but it’s gained a cult following sense. Now on DVD and Blu-ray with many extras including a commentary track from Elliot and director Adam Resnick. Buy Cabin Boy.

Damsel (2018): A cowboy () journeys across the frontier, miniature horse in tow, to join his strong-willed bride-to-be (). This somewhat bizarre Western died quietly at the box office and now is out in bare-bones DVD or VOD (no Blu-ray, sorry). Buy Damsel.

Horrors of Malformed Men (1969): An escaped mental patient assumes the identity of his own doppelganger and winds up on a mad doctor’s island. devised this macabre tale by merging several stories, now restored and out in a deluxe edition from Arrow Video (the Criterion Collection of schlock film). Buy Horrors of Malformed Men.

CERTIFIED WEIRD (AND OTHER) REPERTORY SCREENINGS:

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). We won’t list all the screenings of this audience-participation classic separately. You can use this page to find a screening near you.

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that I have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE September 23, 2018

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In regards to the title of this post: it’s tough to know. The big news, obviously, is that the main site—366weirdmovies.com—is currently down. This is not our fault this time: our web host had a major data disaster that’s affected 1,000s of websites, and we just got caught up in it. (It’s particularly bad timing for us, considering how we’re trying to build momentum for those final 20 Certified Weird movies!) The host is now predicting all websites will be restored within 48 hours, but we don’t know where we are in the queue. The host has been so apologetic that I almost feel sorrier for him then I do for us.

So I’m working from memory as to what will be posting next week when the site is restored. First off, it should be Part 2 of Alfred Eaker’s survey of Bela Lugosi’s “Monogram 9” Poverty Row horrors. We should also see El Rob Hubbard review Felidae, the 1994 German animated film about a feline detective pursuing a serial killer. Then, why not coverage of the second (and final) season of the bizarre comedy-mystery-fantasy series, “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency,” and a second look at Spain’s Birdboy: The Forgotten Children. I mean, why not?

Due to the circumstances, we’re not going to print our Weirdest Search Terms of the Week, or re-list the reader-suggested review queue. Those beloved features should return next week.

In the meantime, if you are religious, we are accepting prayers for the quick restoration of the website. Entreat God, Allah, Krishna, Satan, the Goddess, Cthulhu, or even ‘Bob’… let’s make it a competition and see which deity can get the job done!

CAPSULE: NINJA SCROLL [JÛBÊ NINPÛCHÔ] (1993) November 15, 2010

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DIRECTED BY: Yoshiaki Kawajiri

FEATURING: Voice actors

PLOT: Masterless samurai Jubei joins with an ancient spy and a cursed female

Still from Ninja Scroll (1993)

ninja to thwart a plot by an old enemy to overthrow the Tokugawa shogunate with the assistance of the eight Devils of Kimon.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It’s not truly weird, though the Devils of Kimon are novel and bizarre to Western eyes.  Ninja Scroll is, rather, a well-made fantasy adventure set in a magical feudal Japan, with gratuitous sex and violence that make it inappropriate for the age group most likely to be entranced by it. 

COMMENTS: There’s no scroll, and the main character, Jubei, is a ronin (former samurai now for hire as a mercenary) rather than a ninja; but, accuracy of title aside, Ninja Scroll is an average fantasy adventure with some shocking scenes and startling artwork.  Jubei is an archetypal wandering folk hero, helping out the less fortunate out of a sense of duty to mankind rather than avarice.  His eventual companions are a more interesting lot: a withered, gnomelike spy from the court of Tokugawa who’s willing to go to any lengths to trap others into working for him, and a virginal ninja woman under a sexual curse who’s even more of a loner than the ronin.  The story, often the red-headed stepchild of anime, is a strong point here.  The intrigues between the various feudal factions and the character’s backstories are richly detailed, yet free of plot holes and surprisingly easy to follow (although Jubei’s code of honor can be difficult to penetrate at times).  Even if you don’t catch all the intricacies of the plot on a single viewing, the basic strands—a quest for vengeance on a wicked old enemy, a succession of monstrous antagonists to defeat, reluctant companions with crossed agendas, dilemmas of honor and loyalty—create a familiar heroic context for the tale that makes it easy to pick up the gist of things.  The animation style is naturalistic rather than stylized (that is to say, the characters don’t have huge round eyes and bizarre hair hues).  As is frequently the case in amime, which tends to be cheaply produced, the animation is not fluid— most of the time, it’s almost a series of stills, with characters standing stock-still, moving only their lips.  But the frame rate picks up dramatically for fight sequences, and excellent editing creates a sense of movement that makes the fight scenes thrilling.  There are points where the animation overcomes its budgetary limits and becomes magical, as when Kagero stands in the eye of a swirling cyclone of bees and rose petals.  The Devils, partly drawn from Japanese mythology, are as grotesque a gallery of rogues as you could hope to find outside of the Mos Eisley cantina, and a good deal nastier.  There’s a giant with stone skin and a taste for rape, a snake-woman who stashes a spare serpent in an unusual hiding place, a dwarf who births wasps from the hump hive on his back, and one Devil is even a homosexual with the hots for the archvillian.  The frequent sexual content is sometimes erotic—the nude tattooed snake woman—but mostly gratuitous, as when one clan master delivers his directives while delighting himself inside a village geisha.  The violence is also extreme; monster rape, daggers in eyeballs, showers of blood, limbs torn off, and a man whose head is repeatedly bashed into a bloody pulp.  The strong (falling just short of ‘extreme’) content adds some cachet to the fantasy film for a certain age group (evidence that this ninjas vs. monster tale isn’t just “kid’s stuff”), but it serves little other purpose.  The truth is that the younger, and more male, you are, the more likely you are to groove to Ninja Scroll’s beat. It starts out as a five-star spectacle of awesomeness in your teens and early twenties, but you can expect to subtract a full star for every decade of life that passes until it flattens out and reveals itself as nothing more special than a darn good adventure yarn.  And the world could certainly use a few more of those.

Animator/director Yoshiaki Kawajiri was also responsible for the anime standout Wicked City (1987) among others.  The British censors understandably cut some of the rape scene for the original UK DVD release, but unexpectedly also removed two scenes with shurikens (throwing stars), apparently believing they constituted “imitable weaponry.”  The cuts were restored for the 2004 release and the movie is now uncensored.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“For those more accustomed to Anime or Japanese cinema in general you really won’t find anything new or ground breaking here… Yet it remains a solid entry essentially on all counts.”–Nakadai, Infin-tropolis