Nearly 15 years ago, I asked Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry what advice he’d give to young rockers. He said to “keep the video camera going all the time” because they will want that footage later. The Police’s drummer Stewart Copeland gleaned this notion early on because the 8mm footage that encompasses Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out (2006) gives us an unglamorous inside look at what it was like to be inside the studio, literally onstage and behind the kit, and in front of throngs of crazed fans back in the day. Encompassing the group’s humble beginnings up until the time that they essentially disbanded in 1984, Copeland’s documentary isn’t a grueling, warts and all examination of the band and its eventual collapse. It’s more of a nostalgic celebration of the good times that they had when they were together, with the drummer’s intermittent narration filling in the gaps to inform us of what was going on at the time. Copeland’s subdued narration never gets very emotional and just provides basic information to frame the footage, but as a travelogue of the band when it was active and capturing the genuine camaraderie that they exhibited, his film shows why The Police were a special band and why they made music that has lasted over time. Originally released on home video in 2007, the newly-released Blu-Ray of this documentary includes more live footage, outtakes, and audio commentary from Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers.
Japanese director Takashi Miike is generally known for doing two types of films—violent and disturbing genre pictures like Ichi the Killer and Audition, along with more family-friendly fare like Yatterman and The Great Yokai War (which is killer). Adapted from a popular manga which also inspired animated adaptations, Terra Formars (2016) is a trippy sci-fi experience that fits between those two areas. In the late 26th Century, a team of Japanese soldiers/social rejects is sent to Mars to check on a 500-year terraforming project that has involved moss and cockroaches. Since the bugs have served their purpose in helping spread the moss, the job of the misfits is to exterminate them. Unfortunately, the bugs have evolved into giant walking humanoids that are fast and deadly, and the soldiers also learn they have been genetically altered to allow short-term injections to bring out super bug powers in each of them. Hilariously, we get a breakdown of their entomological attributes when each one activates for the first time—science class, this is not. Terra Formars is one twisted dystopic flick that thrives on bug squashing action while fitting in some decent characterizations to give the story some emotional backbone. There is a predictable Japanese action cinema blend at work here—hyperkinetic fighting and warrior bravado mixed in with a message about protecting the environment, even the lowliest bugs. Don’t take it too seriously. For the curious, one of the bonus features included is a 90-minute documentary on the making of the movie. It isn’t high art, but it’ll appeal to people who like their genre cinema on the weird side.
If you thought Tree Gelbman’s problems from the original Happy Death Day were over, you’ve got another thought coming. At the start of Happy Death Day 2U (2019), we learn that at least one other person was affected by the bizarre time loop that trapped her. A nerdy science experiment gone terribly awry led to her Groundhog Day slasher predicament, but now another ripple in time creates an even worse scenario. She’s flung into an alternate reality where her boyfriend is with someone else but her deceased mother is alive once again. As she struggles to deal with this new paradigm (and repeatedly dying again), Tree must make a crucial choice: Will she return to her original timeline or stay with the one where her mother still lives? Although not as good as the original movie, this sequel still delivers a fun time because star Jessica Rothe embraces the insanity and gallows humor of it all, plus there is a surprising level of poignancy to the storyline involving Tree’s mother. The credits stinger reveals that the producers wanted to take this franchise into a more sci-fi direction for the third installment. Given the fact that the sequel made half of what the original movie did, that trajectory seems unlikely. Still, Happy Death Day 2U gets points for offering a twist on the original myth.
As one might expect, Jonas Åkerlund’s Lords Of Chaos (2019), the adaptation of the book about the origins of the infamous Norwegian black metal scene, has elicited sharply divided reactions. Some of the key characters of the real story have renounced it, while others originally wrote off the source book as sensationalistic tripe. (The film does attempt to acquit itself by claiming to be based on “truth… and lies”.) Åkerlund’s film ventures into the inner black metal circle that included members of Mayhem, Burzum, Emperor, and Thorns—although the latter two are not mentioned—and their activities inside of the infamous record store Helvete which spread to the Norwegian world beyond. Their Satanic revolution began as a musical insurgency against the institutionalized Christianity of Norwegian life and their boredom with it, but it soon descended into an orgy of church burnings, suicide, and murder. The movie walks a jittery line between disturbing crime fiction and a satire of young rock rebels without a clue who play a game of one-upmanship to see who is the most radical and “evil. Musical frenemies Euronymous (Rory Culkin) and Varg Vikernes (Emory Cohen) are portrayed as kids out of their depth who become corrupted by their own blackened quest. There are many things that deserve closer scrutiny here, from deeper individual back stories to the reported Nazi undercurrent of the scene at the time, and other books and documentaries delve further into those aspects. As a fictionalized version of the truth, The Lords Of Chaos is well-made, engaging, uncomfortable at times, and certainly not the final world on any of this. But as far as an examination of anarchistic youth gone wild, the portrayal of these misfits’ personalities is probably closer to the truth than many might like to believe. Rock and roll mythology is usually wilder than reality anyway, and it’s nearly impossible to romanticize aberrant behavior like this.
ALIENZ IN THE HOOD
If you ever wondered what a mashup of Quentin Tarantino and animation icon Ralph Bakshi might look like, MFKZ (2018) should answer that question. This trippy, ultraviolent flick is a collaborative effort between French director/original comic creator Guillaume “Run” Renard, co-director Shôjirô Nishimi, and Japan-based Studio 4˚C, and it plunges us into the chaotic world of pizza delivery boy Angelino and his friend Vinz (who has a flaming skull head like Ghost Rider). Their drab, dreary world is soon upended by the intrusion of guns blazing police and nefarious G-Men on their tail for initially unexplained reasons, not to mention dangerous run-ins with numerous henchmen. Suffice to say, a movie that mixes up thugs of all stripes, a cockroach family swarm, masked Mexican luchador wrestlers who are secret guardians of the world, and a hidden alien presence a la They Live is more than enough to make your head swim. As phantasmagorical as it is, the film has understandably been criticized for its racial caricatures (not that the white people come off well), while its nihilistic narrative streamlines the story and characters without giving us a lot of fat to chew on. It has its moments, for sure. Like the other movie featuring cockroaches this month, MFKZ falls into the area of off-the-wall, mind-bending entertainment. In that, it certainly delivers.