Banned from rebroadcast on cable TV! That's harsh, but Takashi Miike's episode of Masters of Horror is a very strange, very surreal and very violent excursion into the realm of Japanese horror. The episode is called Imprint, and it is not to be watched while eating! Also, DVD sets for two unexpected hits: The Unit – Season 1, and My Name Is Earl – Season One…
Masters of Horror: Takashi Miike – Imprint
Christopher [Billy Drago, in an apparently non-villainous role] has scoured Japan in search of Komomo [Michie], a prostitute with whom he had fallen in love – and promised to return for. After years of searching, he comes at last to an island bordello that houses the least of those working the oldest profession. While he fails to find her, he is also unable to leave the island until the next morning.
At the madame's insistence, he takes a room in the whorehouse and, when badgered about a companion for the night, he chooses a Woman [Youki Kudoh, Smilla's Sense of Snow] whom he had glimpsed in the shadows. He discovers that she is deformed, but doesn't seem affected by her deformities – and asks if she knew Komomo. Her response is a tale of darkness and violence…
Imprint is based on Shimako Iwai's novel, Bokee Kyote, and is fascinating for its expression of the Japanese horror sensibility. According to Miike, these films are based on old grudges and vengeance – the horror comes not from the supernatural, but from the self. Christopher's torments are many – and the Woman deftly plays upon them. Of course, she is also tormented, and so she and Christopher make ideal companions for their one evening together.
Because the film is shot in English – with most of the Japanese cast reciting their lines phonetically – some of the performances don't have the same kind of impact as if they had been done in Japanese, with subtitles. Even so, the cast does a remarkable job of capturing the essence of their characters despite this handicap.
Youki Kudoh, at least, has the benefit of having learned English for her role in Smilla's Sense of Snow – this gives her performance the impact required. Billy Drago's Christopher is uneven at best – Drago's performance yo-yos between subtle and over the top. It might be a result of Miike's lack of knowledge of English.
If you can handle the graphic scenes of torture, and the revelations about Woman, chances are you will enjoy Imprint. It's a smartly conceived and mostly well-executed sixty-three minutes of mind and mood altering terror. It is not a popcorn movie – in fact, I recommend that food not be a part of this particular experience…
Features include: an Audio Commentary [by Chris D. – author, musician, programmer for American Cinematheque, and Wyatt Doyle – NewTexture.com] that looks at the films flaws in depth; I Am The Film Director of Love and Freedom – an in-depth interview with Miike; Imprinting – a fifty-minute making of featurette; Imperfect Beauty: The Make-Up and Special Effects of Imprint; Still Gallery; Takashi Miike bio; DVD-ROM Screenplay, and DVD-ROM Screensaver.
Masters of Horror: Imprint – Grade: B
Features – Grade: A
Final Grade: B+
The Unit – Season 1
When The Unit premiered – as a mid-season replacement – following NCIS on Tuesdays, its biggest draw was that it was created by noted playwright and filmmaker David Mamet. The idea was that the show would follow a Special Forces team on their various missions, while simultaneously following the home lives of their families. The series concept was taken from the book Inside Delta Force, by former Delta force member Eric Hanley. Like NCIS, The Unit became a reasonably big hit without a ton of fanfare – and without much critical recognition.
The series began with the arrival of Bob Brown [Scott Foley] and his family. In short order we met most the show's pivotal characters – the unit's commanding officer, Col. Tom Ryan [Robert Patrick], Sgt.-Major Jonas Blane [Dennis Haysbert], Mack Gerhardt [Max Martini], Molly Blane [Regina Taylor], and Kim Brown [Audrey Marie Anderson] among them.
Over the first season we saw the unit handle a hijacked airplane, assassinate an arms dealer, undergo SERE [Survival Evasion Resistance Escape] School and a great deal more – all the while, seeing how their wives and children dealt with the nature of their jobs and maintained at least an approximation of a normal life back home.
While The Unit may not be as all-out wonderful a series as one might have expected from David Mamet [the writing rarely meets his high standard, though it is very good], and the subject matter certainly tends to look [to the uninitiated, at least] like little more than propaganda, the series provides lots of action and almost as much intriguing family drama. It's a weird mix, but it does give the unit's missions rather more urgency than usual – after all, we get to know the people who most want them to survive [and have to deal with the possibility that they might not.].
Features are: one audio commentary [on SERE] by Executive Producer Shawn Ryan, Supervising Producer and Author Eric L. Hanley, and Demore Barnes [Hector Williams]; Inside Delta Force – a featurette built around Hanley and revealing that every episode of the series is based on one of his missions [and pointing out that most of what we see in the unit's actions is based in fact].
The Unit – Season 1 – Grade: B
Features – Grade: B-
Final Grade: B
My Name Is Earl – Season One
One of the most unexpected success stories for NBC, last season, My Name Is Earl is a sitcom unlike anything ever seen on TV. Combining trailer trash characters and a philosophical bent built around the concept of karma, Earl is the strangest feelgood show on TV – and literally antithetical to what has come to be known as the typical NBC sitcom.
Earl [Jason Lee] is a low-rent trailer trash punk – as the show's saga sell spells out very clearly. When he wins one hundred thousand dollars on a scratch lottery ticket, he promptly loses it when he's hit by a car while celebrating. Flipping through channels, while recovering in the hospital, he chances upon Carson Daly explaining how he lives his life according to the concept of karma.
Inspired, Earl decides he has to make up for every nasty thing he's ever done and comes up with a list of people he's wronged – so that he can make amends. Shortly thereafter, the breeze brings his lottery ticket back to him and he becomes convinced that he's on the right path.
One of the best things about Earl is its sweetness [without becoming cloying]. As Earl details his life with – and then without – hi
s former wife, Joy [Jaime Pressley], we see that he not only harbors any ill will toward her new husband Darnell/Crabman [Eddie Steeples], they actually get along better than either of them does with Joy! The there's Earl's slightly dim brother, Randy [Ethan Suplee] who worships the ground Earl walks on…
In the pilot, Earl decided to make amends with Kenny, a kid he'd hassled all through school. His solution? To get Kenny laid. The problem? Kenny turns out to be gay. How does Earl solve the problem? He takes Kenny to a gay bar.
Each ep takes one of Earl's misdeeds and applies his unusual sense of logic to making amends. Thus he finds himself trying to make up for such gaffes as: costing his father a mayoral election [Cost Dad An Election]; depriving Randy of his one possible moment of high school glory [Randy's Touchdown]; stealing a laptop computer [The Professor], and not paying taxes. Naturally, every time he tries to make things right, he runs into obstacles…
My personal favorite episode is Bounty Hunter, which guest-stars Juliette Lewis, as Earl's embittered ex, who comes to town to get Joy for stealing Earl from her. The episode plays on all kinds of action film clich