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JDIFF 2015: Electric Boogaloo // The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness

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Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story Of Cannon Films

★★½

electric boogaloo

Cannon Films were known in the 1980s as the purveyors of a particular type of cinema – low-budget, thrashy, cheap, schlock. Sometimes this resulted in decent films that pleased the audience like Runaway Train, Death Wish 3 or Breakin’, but for the most part they’re associated with fairly terrible pictures with ninjas, Charles Bronson on auto-pilot, Sly Stallone arm-wrestling, Chuck Norris blowing things up, and big failures like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.

Hartley attempts to condense the independent studio’s entire history into 107 minutes. To do this he gets about fifty talking heads, hours of archive footage and gets to work trying to edit it all together. With so much thrown in, it’s a challenge to really follow at timesas you start to lose the run of yourself working out who everyone in. Pretty much all of them want to moan and complain about the studio’s terrible standards, but amidst all this there are some fantastic stories about the dingier side of Hollywood film-making.

The two key men behind the adventure, Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, decline to be interviewed for the film, instead opting to get their own documentary made – I guess we can look forward to The Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films showing up somewhere later this year, from the trailer it looks identical but with a more positive outlook, with different faces spilling the beans. Pity everyone couldn’t have just worked together to make a single story.

Writer-Director: Mark Hartley
Year: 2014
Country of Origin: Australia
Duration: 107 minutes
Cast: Molly Ringwald, Dolph Lundgren, Bo Derek


The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness

★★★★

kingdom of dreams and madness

Mami Sunada’s documentary is an ode to Hayao Miyazaki (above, left), the man behind such animated classics as My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle. It follows him for a year as he works on his final feature film, The Wind Rises.

Officially speaking the documentary is really supposed to be an in-depth look at the workings of Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli, which was also producing  Isao Takahata’s (pictured above, right) The Tale of The Princess Kaguya at the same time. However Takahata is almost invisible throughout, instead leaving most of the screen-time to Miyazaki and their shared producing partner Toshio Suzuki (pictured above, centre) as they prepare The Wind Rises.

There is a friendly rivalry between the two directors, with initial plans put in place to release the two films simultaneously, seemingly for no other reason than shits and giggles.It’s notable as an outsider to see that while Kaguya went on to become the more critically appreciated with an Oscar nom this year the icing on the cake, The Wind Rises took home almost five times as much.

Where the film shines is in Sunada’s tendency to just observe. Without Miyazaki’s generosity and co-operation, perhaps we would have had to resort to talking heads but instead we’re allowed to watch a true master at work. The passion for his craft, and warmth felt toward him by everyone he’s worked with feels very  special. To see him at work clicking his stopwatch as he works out how long to hold a shot for when storyboarding is a joy, and you have to remind yourself this simple soul is one of the great story-tellers and artists of the last fifty years.

Director: Mami Sunada
Year: 2013
Country of Origin: Japan
Duration: 118 minutes
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Nigel

Nigel loves stupid films almost as much as he likes clever films. He'll watch anything but is usually drawn to documentaries, North American independent films, Irish cinema and gung-ho, balls-to-the-walls Hollywood blockbusters. Here's what he's been watching.

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