Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
June 1st, 2006

The Drop

Directed by Kevin Lewis
Written by Troy Scott, Kevin Lewis
Starring John Savage, Sean Young, Michael Bondies, Kevan Michaels
Produced by Steven Nash
84 mins

Join me for Tarantino Ripoff Theatre! This week's featured title, the upcoming soon to be languishing on video store shelves because no one in their right mind would rent it twice masterwork, "The Drop"!

So what we have here is the positively baffling story of Carter Wilson, a twenty six year old graduate student studying architecture and trying to keep things working with his fiancee of three years, Triste. Carter, like pretty much every college student ever, needs money. So when he gets a plum job offer, driving a luxury sports car from northern California to the wilds of Los Angeles for five grand, he does so happily.

Now, already, you can spot LOADS of things wrong with this concept.

The only people who get paid this kind of money to transport a car are 1. drug mules or 2. coyotes full of illegal immigrants.

Better still, engaged. For three years. These are feet so cold they could be used to cool a beer keg.

The interesting part is, you're not alone in spotting these gaffes. The plot holes are officially canon when Trista brings them up in a phone conversation with a driving Carter.

It is probably a bad idea to basically look at your audience and say, "Yes, we know the script is full of plot holes. Here, let us detail for you exactly what they are. In canon. In fact, we're not actually out to FIX any of these problems by the end of the movie, we're just gonna make the movie run around them."

Worse yet is the shooting style. This movie is packed to the gills with jump cuts and flashbacks less than one minute in duration and assorted flashFORWARDS, even, meaning that we're going to be jumping around all over the place.

Plus, at thirty six minutes and thirteen seconds, we get an exciting round of Fun With Visual Metaphors. The audience would be best served here by a nice text placard reading:

"Warning: Events Occur Having Nothing To Do With the Plot Next Minute And a Half"

But now we get to the part that really got me irritated, the Tarantino Movie Ripoff portion of the evening. Carter, you see, is going to get held up and assaulted by a collection of thugs with really evocative code names, designed ostensibly to keep anyone from knowing who they actually are.

The names they go by? Mr. Zero. Mr. One. Mr. Two. Mr. Pink. And so on.

Oh wait! No! Not Mr. PINK! The hell was I thinking--that's one of Tarantino's names! Can't use the color scheme-- Tarantino's big enough to sue!

So let's just break out the NUMBERS instead. Lovely, fellas. Tarantino can't copyright numbers, you know. So you're at least SAFE there, if not totally spineless.

And even better, after Carter is beset upon by the Reservoir..umm...CATS (yeah, that'll work!), we find out just what's been going on here after all. Carter's transporting not just a car, but also a random and all too familiar something in a random and all too familiar briefcase.

Remember "Pulp Fiction", folks?

Oh yeah. Carter's been transporting a mysterious briefcase full of light that causes everyone who looks at it to go bugeyed until they shut the lid.

The key difference is that, in "The Drop" the light is BLUE. Not golden like in "Pulp Fiction".

All levity aside, folks, this is the perfect summation of why "The Drop" is godawful: Bad plot. Bad execution. Some elements were abducted from other, vastly better films.

The ending is even worse. They're going to try to pull this mass of cinematic slop together into some kind of coherent form, and much like trying to sculpt a buffalo out of chocolate pudding, it's not gonna work real well.

There are a great many unanswered questions left behind--see if you can spot three for yourself at home!--and no one seems to be in any great hurry to fix THAT problem either.

The special features were limited to a trailer for "The Drop" on the disk I got, but that'll likely change in the full version.

All in all, "The Drop" is something I'd rather like TO drop. There's no sense in renting this one, folks, unless you really just HAVE to have a horror fix.

Vermilion Pleasure Night

Directed by Yoshimasa Ishibashi
Script by Yoshimasa Ishibashi
Starring an array of actresses and several mannequins
Produced by Takeshi Yokozawa, Masataka Izumi, Yoko Nakanishi
100 minutes

If you've been reading my work for any length of time, you'll know that, entertainment wise, I've often believed the Japanese to be a couple rice dishes short of a bento box. These are the guys who made the mannequin a viable series actor thanks to "The Fuccons". These are the guys who orchestrated the mass death of fifty schoolgirls via subway car impact in "Suicide Club". These are the guys that brought you the nonstop insanity fest that was "Crazy Lips."

These are the guys that got kicked off of Showtime.

And now, the Japanese firmly establish themselves as the nuttiest egg rolls in the entertainment game by offering up "Vermilion Pleasure Night".

"Vermilion Pleasure Night" is similar to dozens of stateside shows-"Saturday Night Live", "MAD TV", and "Blue Collar TV" are all solid examples of the kind of sketch comedy format that "Vermilion Pleasure Night" uses. However, there's an even better example here, "The Tracey Ullman Show."

It's a safe bet that very few people actually REMEMBER this flop-in-the-making, but one major cultural phenomenon emerged from its ashes: "The Simpsons."

And in much the same way that "The Simpsons" was birthed into a full-length series from the short filler material it started out as on "The Tracey Ullman Show", so too did "Vermilion Pleasure Night" give birth to its own full-series spinoff from filler, "The Fuccons." Otherwise known as "OH! Mikey!".

"Vermilion Pleasure Night", much like Ullman's long-since-defunct comedy, is a sketch show revolving around any of a number of topics, offering up recurring characters and great heaping doses of sexually-driven insanity. Which isn't to say it's all sex on "Vermilion Pleasure Night"-there's more than a share of violence here too, and lots and lots of laughs.

However, content-wise, "Vermilion Pleasure Night" will not be immediately comparable to any sketch show you've seen before or are likely to see any time soon. This is all Japanese humor, folks. Just for a walkthrough, we kick things off with a spear- bald drag queen surprising a woman getting ready for an evening out by screaming the name of the show. They follow this up with, among other things, a cartoon revolving around an interview with someone named Natsumi-chan interspersed with a guy in a bathtub chanting "nice body" repeatedly, a stand-up comedy act composed entirely of clay, several chicks acting like mannequins and slapping hell out of each other followed by dancing, and then the adventures of a juvenile delinquent named Takako who terrorizes a neighborhood comprised totally of herself and a bunch of mannequins.

What is WITH the Japanese fixation with mannequins?

And I haven't even told you about the English lesson yet. Let's just say, fellas and some ladies out there, you're going to wish you were Toshi by the time it's over.

If you showed up here looking for things that made sense, or some kind of rational overarching point, then you're going to leave sorely disappointed. But for those of us who love a good laugh, then you're not going to have a problem in the least with the crazy, sexy, and ultimately cool (just to be a bit derivative) antics of "Vermilion Pleasure Night".

I found myself laughing, and laughing quite a lot, at this dosing of strange Japanese humor. Sketches like "Starship Residence" hearken back to earlier models of Japanese humor, and sketches like "Cathy's House" show the most recent version. Whether you like your comedy physical, psychological, psychosexual, or just plain nuts, you will find a laugh in "Vermilion Pleasure Night". Somewhere. This broad appeal gives it extra appeal.

The disk I got came without special features, though the full version is likely to have several. Hopefully some deleted scenes.

All in all, "Vermilion Pleasure Night" is packed full of weird and bizarre situations that ultimately yield laughs in even the poorest sense of humor. They may be a couple rice dishes short of a bento box, but man, what they pack in is well worth the trip.