Saturday, April 26, 2008

X Rated

X: The Movie (1996, directed by Rintaro, original work by CLAMP). Kentai Films R2 subtitle patch. Translation and basic timing is Manga's, edits to remove stupidity are my own. "Augh!" is universal, and needs no subtitle.

The Manga R1 was released in 2000, and is non-anamorphic with Japanese 2.0/English 5.1, and no relevant special features. The R2 from Bandai Visual is anamorphic 1.85:1, contains a brand new 5.1 Japanese surround mix, TV spot, theatrical trailer, and an exclusive feature in which we watch the hands of CLAMP (no, that's not a euphemism) create the VHS cover for the title. All in all, a damn fine release that - predictably - eclipses Manga Entertainment's borderline competent R1 DVD.

Y'all know what to do if you want it.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Quick Fix For Messed Up Flix

I can't believe I never figured this out before.

When your JVC deck starts doing the jitter bug, do the following:

1) Eject tape.

2) Turn TBC/DNR off.

3) Push tape back in.


One of my mecha loving friends really has to tell me which Mobile Suit Gundam movie this is from, because this looks so horrendously, retardedly awesome that it could make up for the mind-numbingly bipolar emotional train wreck that was Char's Counterattack.

It's fucking magical. Turning the TBC off after it's already done the calibration won't help matters any for some unknown reason, but if you're one step ahead of it your recordings will look sweet as all hell. Yeah, you lack the awesome power of a TBC keeping your geometry steady and the NR will have to be done later on in software instead of in the sweet embrace of a Lite-On DVD recorder, but both of these are sacrifices I'm just going to have to live with.

However, nothing I did could save the opening of Genma Taisen from vomiting all over itself. Apparently despite the TBC handling both tape errors and funky signal issues in the same way, the cause itself isn't always the same thing. In other words, trial and error. But I can live with that. So long as okay-ish tapes can play on my JVC deck without looking like they're caught in an earthquake I have zero complaints.

...apart from the fact that half the videos I've recorded in the last week need to be re-recorded now. Oh well, at least this is one of those "yay, things work now!" d'oh!'s instead of one of those "oh crap, I spent $80 on a piece of hardware that only makes things worse!" d'oh!'s.

In an ironic stroke of bad luck whilst playing with the VCR to make the jitterring stop, I managed to perform some fatal button combo on the VCR remote, and the second episode of Genma Taisen's title card was thusly chewed up and fux0red beyond repair. Thankfully I could just splice out the card from the 1st or 3rd OP if I really ever felt the need to, I just wish I knew what the hell happened. Why do you have a reverse slow-mo on a machine if it kills the tape inside of it? This makes no sense!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Head Cleaning for Dirty Minda

Let it be said that a good VCR is hard to find.

I know, what kind of homeless hobo still has a goddamn VCR? Well, I keep one less as a means to keep the format alive and more as the proper weapon to put it down pain-free by recording every single tape I can find to a DVD-RW. The JVC HR-S9800U* is one of "the" VCRs out there, combining a built in Time Base Corrector to fix the geometry in the tape signal to Digital Noise Reduction to cut down on that analog video noise that makes VHS tapes look... grungy. Most VCRs made after the advent of DVD just kinda' gave up making the lowest form of video storage this side of VCD looking any good, and VCR quality has since gone down hill ever since.

*Okay, it's actually a Go Video deck, which is a rebadge of the 9800 model. So... blah.

Recently my wife and I took the mechanical baby and cleaned off the heads. Head cleaning tapes basically just push the dirt and grime in your VCR around and don't remove anything more than a non-faulty tape would, but some 70% pure alcohol, q-tips, and sheets of ordinary white paper can clean all the delicate parts without the need to take it down to a repair shop and pay $100. There are all sorts of little jigs they can use to fix alignment problems and they may well have additional belts and pulleys to replace genuinely broken parts, but honestly, the local repair shop constantly has 30 TVs waiting to be repaired that sit there for months, and when I inquired about a tune-up I was told that it would be a $50 retainer fee and then I'd have to pay whatever else was needed when all was said and done. Yeah, thanks, but no - I'll run this poor little bitch into the ground until it simply no longer plays anything at all and then risk giving it to the local Dr. Frankenstein.

Cleaning the tape heads did improve the image - not dramatic, night for day, glory glory hallelujah praise baby Jesus improvements, but there was far less chroma noise, which after the VCR's native noise reduction led to a stable, noise-free transfer. For 20 year old VHS tapes that ain't bad. Unfortunately, the reason it was scrubbed down was in the hopes that it would fix a certain issue that the machine was evidently just born with, an unfortunate vertical jitter which - should you care - can be seen on the HEAVY clip I uploaded a while ago. It doesn't happen on all tapes, but when it's there, it's always in the same place. It's either a tracking error (and this VCR has no tracking alignment - they figure the DigiPure and Calibration made such button mashing obsolete... pricks...), or possibly a fault in the hardware, neither of which I can directly impact short of MacGuyvering the guts of the unit with a screwdriver, and my expertise simply does not go that far.

Roughly 90% of tapes it loves and plays back just fine, it's just those 10% of tapes that the machinery simply doesn't have a hard on for, and there's literally nothing you can do to fix it. Turning the TBC/DNR off helps, a little, and the built-in tape stabilizer (which can only be used without the TBC) also helps, a little, but short of the entire tape jittering like a withdrawl fueled heroin addict the extra noise and geometry distortions instantly cancel out any good that making the tape stable may have provided. And - more often than not - these settings do absolutely shit to fixing the jitter bug. It's just the oft ignored achilles heel of all high-end JVC decks, and I'm absolutely dumbfounded that with all the love these machines get over at that this issue isn't more well known.

In short, if the JVC doesn't like a tape, it'll jitter its' ass. My options are as follows:

1) Record it anyway and live with it.

2) Buy a second VCR.

After the $200+ that went into my current VCR, I'm a bit wary of blowing a huge chunk of change on a middle-of-the-road Samsung or Sharp or what have you, though honestly for ~$50 on eBay just for those tapes that refuse to cooperate may be the only solution for tapes like HEAVY and MARYU SENKI 2-3, which the JVC turns into an absolute trainwreck. The only downside is that a ~$50 deck of any make won't have a built-in TBC. I've had it up to here - uh, you can't see it, but I'm slapping my chin - with stand alone TBC decks, after that 50 pound pro unit I bought which did absolutely nothing. Want to know what a VHS tape without a TBC looks like?


So, yeah... while this is an extreme case, you get the idea, what with all the crap geometry and everything. Is a tape like HEAVY really worth it? Maybe not. But I'm currently sitting on a half-hundred pilfered (so to speak) tapes, and so far 5 of them have shown jitters - some not so bad, others unwatchably awful. While I do the best that I can, I'm only one man, with only one VCR.

I think I'll hook up the VCR directly to my TV and see if the jittering is any better. If it isn't, it's a signal issue and could probably be fixed somehow, say, using an external TBC. Which, of course, my SCC isn't. Cripes, can't my hardware throw me a bone here? If I still get jitters with everything going into the TV, the signal itself is screwed, and there's literally nothing I can do about it sans buying a new VCR. I'll experiment and then return to bitch anew once I have the verdict.

In other work-ish related ramblings, the subtitle patch for DEMON CITY SHINJUKU went so well that I've already finished another disc. I'm going to yell at my cable provider and hopefully switch up my internet connection before I post it at Asian DVD Club, but once I'm ready to share a screencap confirming the title will be posted here to get your asses downloading. I'll give you a hint: Manga Entertainment released a non-anamorphic version of it, and I've (thankfully) done some minimal subtitle fixes so you won't have to read "Augh!" and "Hahaha!" anymore. You also won't see any "[Telepathy]" subs, since y'all are smarter than that. Anyone here will probably dig it.

Also, I leave you with the following too-fucking-awesome image from KAZE WO NUKE!

I'm gar for obscure anime.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Orgy of Fallen Expectations

Back in late 2006 I finished the subtitles on a rarely seen hentai OVA by the name of Datenshi-tachi no Kyouen/Orgy of Fallen Angels. It's a sick, twisted, perverse piece of pure and unflinching exploitation and I couldn't have been happier to have worked on it.

The funny thing is now I could keep the distinctly grungy VHS cover as-is and market it as a "Grindhouse Edition".

Based on an even more explicit manga by a one Dirty Matsumoto (who'd also write the script for the pinky violence feature Sex Hunter), Orgy tells the story of a family who gets in way over their heads. The younger sister owes the yakuza money, and when she can't pay they decide to take their fee out on her supple young flesh instead. The boss having decided that she isn't enough, the poor fool sells out both her elder sister, and her pre-teen niece, who's forced to watch as her own mother and aunt are defiled and violated. The boss, deciding that he's waited long enough, takes the little girl to her chamber, and... well, saying any more would kill some of the awesome power that this show carries, but noting that I've since nick-named it "I Spit On Your Loli" probably does the trick.

As this was done on the quick after much of my dilusions of building Kentai Films up into being the next Cannibal King or whatever the hell I was trying to do, the disc lacks menus and I only checked the subtitles twice instead of the usual dozen OCD passes. I don't feel like building the menus in photoshop from scratch and linking them and all the bullshit that entails, and even my lazy subtitles are usually above par (no worse than speedsubbers that's for damn sure), so for a disc nobody's ever heard of and that I have virtually no materials to work with, the disc starts, it plays, and when it's over it ends. I'm sure everyone will deal with it. There are chapter stops and the subtitles are removable via the remote, but it's far from fancy. Should I get a crazy hair up my ass I can always dump the A/V files with subs on a new disc with menus and whatever else, but at least what's available now is finished and anyone who wants a copy can let me know.

So, that's the "productive" update for the week. I'm feeling like ass for personal reasons and may not get a lot done in the coming weeks (as if I ever do), but I haven't given up totally, and with MAKAI TOSHI SHINJUKU having gone well expect to see some more R2 patches in the future on ADC, assuming it comes back of course. I've got one disc on my desk just waiting for the treatment, it's just a matter of me kicking myself in the balls hard enough for me to actually do something about it. Also, Makai Toshi Shinjuku needs a slight edit to restore subtitles that were originally overlays on the CPM DVD. Fucking Atari generated credits and whatnot... blah.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

You know where you are? You're in a rip-off, baby! (Welcome to the Jungle, 2007)

It's become abundantly clear over the course of my life that I simply hate myself. Why else would I, an otherwise sane and rational individual, have added the 2007 film Welcome to the Jungle to my Netflix queue? No really, even the 2003 action movie The Rundown (which sometimes goes by the title Welcome to the Jungle outside the US) starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson would have been bad enough, but something deep inside me said "Hey look, a no-budget remake of Cannibal Holocaust directed by Jonathan Hensleigh, who's only other directoral effort so far has been The Punisher in 2004, a film I had zero interest in. Why don't we waste that $6 per disc I'm paying on my monthly membership fee and see just how terrible it is?" I can only assume it's the same part of my brain that also says "hey, why don't you try pressing your balls in a hot waffle iron? Then you'd have non-stick nuts!", but thus far I've managed to recognize that non-stick nuts would just be silly. And how the fuck would I shave them after that?

For anyone who knows me but isn't into 1970s Italiano Cannibal Cinema Verite, which seems impossible but I'll assume one or two of you are just here for the hentai, here's the basic rundown: in 1980 Ruggero Deodato directed Cannibal Holocaust, the earliest "recovered footage" horror film in recorded history (think The Blair Witch Project with bloody money shots every few minutes). It was actually neither the first nor the last in a long line of jungle themed adventure/horror hybrids which rode on the back of the "Mondo" craze, and often featured plenty of sex, violence, and actual animal mutilation. Ironically the image of a monkey's face being chopped off was never the problem back in 1980: the issue was that the sound guys got mouthy and started claiming that the victims of cannibal attacks in the film were genuine, turning it into Italy's first snuff movie. These claims were thrown out of court in no time, but the film still carried with it plenty of infamy, and when the genuine coatimundi blood-letting looks just as authentic as a girl with a pole shoved down her throat and out her anus shot in psuedo-aged and scratched 16mm documentary film, it makes for a distinctly unsettling viewing experience. Plus Riz Ortolani gave the soundtrack of his life, elevating the horrific events to new heights with a sweeping score befitting any romantic epic.

Cannibal Holocaust was not a perfect film, despite being a gruesome, beautiful piece of the ol' grand guignol added into a larger and more interesting narrative. For a movie that tries to beat us over the head with the message that enjoying the suffering of real people is wrong and wicked of the media, Deodato had little problem with keeping the cameras rolling when an Amazon river turtle was decapitated or a live red tail boa was chopped in two (though, to his credit, it was at the request of the locals that these practices began). While I try not to use the word "pretentious" too often because at this point almost fucking using the very word is, in and of itself, an act of pretention, I do feel that when a film maker says "this is bad" in no uncertain terms and then does it himself endlessly, then yes, the film maker is pretentious. Ruggero Deodato is also a self important womanizing hate filled evil and man who eats babies and rapes school children, I'm sure, or at least that's what his leading man Jack Kerman (who, incidentally, actually did Debbie in Debbie Does Dallas) tells the world. The positive qualities - in my eyes, at least - outweigh the bad, and while a little more discression on Deodato's part would have made the whole thing a bit less hypocritical, it's still a fascinating and powerful film nearly 30 years later.

I wish I could say anything of the sort about Hensleigh's boring and insulting trainwreck. First of all, the setup is beyond jaw-droppingly down syndrome. Two friends and their new boy-toys are vacationing in Fiji, when one of the guys hears from his buddy that he's seen an old white man living in Papua New Guinea. They put two and two together, figuring out he may be John Rockefeller, the vice president's son who, in 1961, disappeared in cannibal country without a trace. Figuring an interview with a supposedly dead adventurer could be worth a fortune, the four of them trek off into the jungle to recover a man they don't even know exists.

Along the way they're attacked by locals with rifles who use children to set traps, one of them gets mouthy and gets his ass kicked by the border guard, and when they finally do reach cannibal territory the entire river is lined in human skulls. Not only do these four re-re's - two of whom are frat party stupid and lazy, the other two are just mental, I guess - keep the camera rolling bitching all the way, but they keep going deeper! At what point do you, with no guide, no window to the outside world, and no prayer of being recovered should something go horribly wrong, think "Gee, maybe I should go back to civilization before I'm raped and eaten alive out here?" Perhaps if the lot of them weren't so infuriatingly stupid (with most of their dialog ad-libbed... and not very well, I might add) we'd feel something akin to sympathy for their plight of being lost and hungry in uncharted jungle, but frankly I hated each and every character so much that I was demanding to see somebody get skinned or castrated some 35 minutes in.

The final reel (or "Tape #2" - a crappy plot device I'll get to in a minute) doesn't even deliver on the promised grue that everyone who's ever seen Mondo Jungle Cannibal Dinosaur Ferox Holocaust River Zombie* has come to expect! There's a brief moment of chunky gore left in the dark for the cast to find with a flash light like a boring stretch in playing Doom III, and the one genuinely interesting shot - a nude girl with a stick through her mouth and out her skull - literally ends up being a pale imitation of the infamous and iconic image of the impaled girl in the film's true inspiration.

*Mix and match pretty much any of those words and you'll wind up with an Italian flesh-eating film title. Go ahead, it's fun!

While I should post spoilers where applicable, I don't care and neither should you: the final shot blows. In it the remaining cast members are killed (out of the camera's view) and someone picks it up, looking over their dismembered corpses. He then puts the camera down and walks away, a hunched over man wearing khaki pants and limping as if he were an old man. If you pay attention you'll see that the masked assaliant who actually killed the two of them was him, and it all ends with JCR protecting his life in the jungle without saying a word. Fucking lame. No lengthy Apocalypse Now! monologues, even? Good god man, if you're going to rip off better movies at least do it right, will you? Also, there's no way in hell that fatso was 70-something, but whatever. I don't even care anymore.

If the cinema verite (by which I mean "you are there" factor) aspect were dramatically better then maybe the film wouldn't have been a total loss, but as it constantly cuts between shots in a manner that makes it look professionally edited, and an entire day's trek is literally compromised into a single 1 minute sequence, the whole thing just feels forced and fake, like Hensleigh was making a "best of" tape rather than an unedited and raw experience. Both Cloverfield and Document of the Dead have - to varying degrees - proven that cinema verite is a perfectly valid form of horror in the 21st century. While The Blair Witch Project is the film that made the concept known to a wider audience, the film is a one trick pony: there's absolutely nothing that a second viewing will give you. There's no deeper meaning or subtle hidden agenda cleverly woven into footage of trees rushing past and snot crawling down a girl's face, it's just a bunch of smoke and mirrors trying to add up to something and failing miserably. Welcome to the Jungle is exactly the same except it tries - in vain - to deliver on the promises of being an actual horror movie by throwing in some mostly uninspired gore. Unlike the Blair Witch Project, which at least has a natural progression from goofy kids in the woods that winds into inevitable madness and misery, Welcome to the Jungle just makes the characters progressively more irritating until we're on our knees, praying to some benevolent New Guinea Pagan god to save us by shooting a lightning bolt through our DVD player, and perhaps just a slight fizzle to our brains to make us forget the painful 82 minutes we've spent there.

As if to deny the only thing that could have amused me in this act of unending cinematic masochism, the flick doesn't even end with Slash playing over the credits while Axl Rose wails like he's lost his left testicle. "You know where you are?" If you're going to rip off the title to a fairly decent metal song as the title at least have the decency to stick it over the end credits, will you? I've heard festival screenings did, even, but the DVD ends with sounds of the jungle chirping and peeping as the credits roll over nothing. God, could this film get any more boring?

I wish I had some constructive criticism to give this turd, as I'd like to think that no film is without some artistic or thematic merit. Exploring John Rockefeller's disappearance could yet make an interesting film, but this was not it. The jungle it was shot in was gorgeous, and the (almost non-existent) set design for the local burial sites - or, more like "slap corpses up on a lookout" site - was pretty cool... but also TOTALLY FUCKING DERIVATIVE of the corpse-and-camera themed altar seen in, wait for it, Cannibal Holocaust. If I really wanted to stretch to find a positive quality I could point out that Sandy Gardiner has some awesome abs, but if the fap potential of Jessica Alba isn't enough to get me to watch Into the Blue you bet your ass miss Gardiner isn't enough to recommend anyone even try to sit through this uninspired dreck. I guess, if there's only one thing this film has a leg-up on next to Cannibal Holocaust - or slamming your face into a porcupine's back side repeatedly - it's that it isn't pretentious. Honestly, if Hensleigh had something to say that wasn't blatantly obvious and covered in every post-Hostel film about stupid teenagers fucking with the locals outside of the safety net of their homeland at least I'd have something to talk about.

I think after this pile I'm going to torment myself with D-WAR and HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD. If I really want to hurt myself at least I can make up for their stupidity with dragons and zombies. This didn't have nearly enough cannibal action to justify everything else involved.

Edit: God I fucking haet blogger not-reformatting everything properly.