AKA Cowboy Bebop the Movie: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

DIRECTED BY: Shinichirô Watanabe

FEATURING: Voices of Kôichi Yamadera, Unshô Ishizuka, Megumi Hayashibara, Aoi Tada (Japanese version); Steve Blum, Beau Billingslea, Wendee Lee, Melissa Fahn (English dub)

PLOT: Based on the popular anime series, the film brings the core bounty hunting team

together for another mission, while adding a few new characters involved in an experimental super soldier program and a deadly virus outbreak on Mars.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: For the most part, Cowboy Bebop is straight sci-fi, notable for its stellar animation, eclectic soundtrack, and fascinating characterization.  It’s got a few strange bits—especially the character of “Ed”, an androgynous child hacker who speaks in nonsense—but nothing especially out of the ordinary, especially in the world of anime.

COMMENTS: As a television series, Cowboy Bebop was a mix between comedy and drama, action and mystery, single-story episodes and an overarching plot.  Released after the initial 26-episode run, the film takes place sometime before the end of the show, and can stand on its own as a film for anyone unfamiliar with the series.  The titular “Bebop” is a spaceship that serves as home and headquarters to a bounty hunting crew.  Spike Spiegel is a laid back but highly skilled fighter with a shady past; Jet Black is a gruff and sometimes fatherly former cop; Faye Valentine is a wily, scantily-clad con artist with a gambling addiction; Ed is a brilliant and fanciful young hacker.  Of course there’s also Ein, their fluffy “data dog.”  While chasing after a low-level bounty on Mars, the crew stumbles upon a sociopathic killer and his massive plot to infect the planet with a new kind of virus.

The dynamics of the group (always shaky as it is) are explored as each goes off on his or her own mission at various points, chasing down personal leads and hunches.  Spike and Faye are content to be on their own, while Jet and Ed hope for a more familial camaraderie.  New characters Vincent—the soliloquizing killer with a tragic past–and Electra—a government agent with impressive martial arts skills and questionable motivations—further the film’s investigation of isolation and outcasts  The city they explore (the capital of Mars) is packed with crowds preparing for a big Halloween festival, but our protagonists wander alone through the throngs with the weight of the world on their shoulders, adding occasional philosophical and mystical mutterings.  Well, all except for Ed, who seems content to hop around dressed as a pumpkin.

The story is solid, combining mystery and crime drama with thrilling action sequences and a dash of comedic relief.  The animation is gorgeous and incredibly fluid, with exciting fight scenes and high-speed chases (usually involving a space vessel) packed with R-rated violence . The colors vary from soft to bold, with hazy backgrounds and intricate settings that include fun futuristic details and references to antique technology.  The sharp HD upgrade is a welcome sight after the TV-quality Cartoon Network reruns that introduced Cowboy Bebop to many American fans.  Aside from the luscious visuals, the film features a truly kickin’ soundtrack from inimitable composer Yoko Kanno.  The combination of syncopated jazz, kooky soul, and thumping rock perfectly suits the story’s changeable tone and offbeat pacing.

So it’s not weird, especially not by sci-fi anime standards, but Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (also known as Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door) is a fun and involving film for longtime fans and curious newcomers alike.  It’s a little overlong but never boring, and the impressive action, set pieces, and ultracool characterizations are enough to keep everyone entertained!

BLU-RAY INFO: Unfortunately there are no special features for the US Blu-ray release. It’s a beautiful high-def transfer (1080p/AVC- encoded image), with Linear PCM 2.0 stereo sound. There’s a Japanese and English track (the English dub uses the same voice actors from the series, which I always liked).  Honestly, I think the visual upgrade is enough of a reason for fans to check this out on Blu.


“This switched-on futuristic anime noir is visually stunning — and it makes a lot more sense than ‘Spirited Away’!” –Stephanie Zacharek,


Future reviews like these will be read by you in the future: in honor of its recent (unfortunately bare-bones) Blu-ray release, we’ll cover the cult anime Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2001); we’ll try to figure out why essentially remakes his experimental (and certified weird) Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) as Tetsuo: The Bullet Man (2009); from the reader-suggested review queue, we’ll take a post-apocalyptic trip with A Boy and His Dog (1975); and we’ll gawk at Lon Chaney as a legless crimelord in The Penalty (1920).

Frankly, it was a terrible week for of weird search terms used to locate the site.  It was so bad that we have to mention the relatively normal (though distasteful) search string “free weird and abnormal sex organs” as one of our honorable mentions.  Equally disgusting, and even less comprehensible, is the search for “splashmyzits bizarre”  Anyone who’s willing to register that domain name knows they will have at least one loyal customer.  We passed that one over for our favorite of a weak field, though: “franz lezbo,” which we think would make an awesome name for a sapphic punk band.

Here’s the reader-suggested review queue: A Boy and His Dog (next week!); Perfume: The Story of a Murderer; Immortal (Ad Vitam); Dead Ringers; Kairo [AKA Pulse]; The Guatemalan Handshake The Seventh SealPrimer; 200 Motels; Private Parts (1972); Saddest Music in Continue reading WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE


A look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs, and on more distant horizons…

Trailers of new release movies are generally available on the official site links.


Impolex (2009): A soldier wanders around a post-WWII European forest talking to a woodland octopi and meeting pirates and old girlfriends as he’s supposed to be looking for unexploded V2s.  This may be based on the works of Thomas Pynchon, but it definitely looks 100% weird.  Playing at the ReRun theater in NYC this week, future screenings doubtful.  We’ll be looking for the DVD soon.  Impolex on Facebook.

Tabloid (2010): Errol Morris is one of the few documentary filmmakers who’s work is sometimes characterized as “weird” due to his choice of subject matter.  This film, based on a 1977 British tabloid-fodder incident known as the “Mormon sex in chains case” involving a kidnapping beauty queen, has earned him that designation from more than one reviewer.  Tabloid official site.

The Tree (2011): An eight-year old girl becomes convinced that her dead father’s spirit inhabits a giant tree growing near the house. Life-affirming Australian magical realism starring the always-odd Charlotte Gainsbourg.  It’s opening in NYC this week and LA next week; it’s already out on DVD in Australia.   The Tree official site.


The Fantasia Festival is a fast-rising event focusing on genre and fantastic films; over fifteen years it’s evolved from the “Fant-Asia” festival, which focused on Japanese and Hong Kong fantastic cinema, to become the North American premiere destination for films like Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds.  It’s a bonanza of strangeness (even without mentioning our favorite title of the year, Horny House of Horror); here is a small selection of the weirdest of the weird screenings:

  • Beyond the Black Rainbow (2011): Surrealist sci-fi supposedly in the 2001 vein about a mute woman trying to escape from a mysterious enclave.  We suspect this to be one of the weirdest of the year.  Catch it July 29 or Aug. 3.
  • The Catechism Cataclysm (2011):  This irreverent tale of a slacker priest’s canoe trip is already a List Candidate (read our review).  July 25 & 30.
  • Deadball (2011): From Yûdai Yamaguchi (Meatball Machine) comes this tasteless, wild and gory comic tale of a killer baseball game played against a team of killer dominatrices; it’s sort of a reboot of his own Battlefield Baseball.  July 15 & 16.
  • Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame: A mystery/action epic set in a fantastical steampunk China; some say this is a return to form for once-great director Tsui Hark (Once Upon a Time in China, Zu Warriors).  July 14 or July 24.
  • Detention (2011):  A postmodern, self-aware slasher sci-fi comedy that also parodies teen movies; depending on how the idea is handled, this could totally rule, or end up totally gay.  July 22.
  • Dharma Guns (2010): A man awakes from a coma to find a world where a drug epidemic is turning people into zombies and a secret society called the Dharma Guns are seeking his screenplay, believing it holds the secret to time travel.  In French, in black and white, and intriguing.  July 30 and Aug 1.
  • El Sol (2010): Crude (in every sense of the word) animation about a post-apocalyptic Buenos Aires where mutant potatoes roam the streets, among other absurdities. July 16 & 27.
  • Exit (2011): Australian fantasy/sci-fi about the search for a door that leads to a parallel universe, which is hidden somewhere inside a city whose geography is always shifting; it sounds a bit like a cross between Stalker and Dark City.  It was originally conceived as a web series and turned into a feature, making its world premiere Aug. 4 with a second showing Aug. 6.
  • Hellacious Acres: The Case of John Glass (2011): Pat Tremblay debuts his second feature, a minimalist post-apocalyptic comedy about a man who wakes from a cryogenic slumber to discover the world has been devastated by nuclear war followed by an alien invasion.  July 24 & Aug 2.
  • Helldriver (2010): The team behind Tokyo Gore Police and Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl is back with another wild one featuring ninjas, zombies, cannibalism, a sexy samurai babe with a chainsaw blade, and of course, splatter.  July 22 & 23.
  • Karaoke Dreams (2011): Set in (maybe?) a brothel that exists to absorb men’s subconscious dreams, this film by rock guitarist Jean Leclerc may be intended as a promotion and feature length music video for an accompanying album by his new band, the Last Assassins.  See and hear it Aug. 5.
  • “La Nuit Eccentrique”:  A night dedicated to badfilm, with several strange mangled shorts and the headline feature I Am Here… Now, which may just be the strangest ecologically-themed movie about a pudgy Jesus who returns to Las Vegas to fight crime lords ever made.  Festivities are scheduled for July 29.
  • Milocrorze: A Love Story (2011): A trifecta of surreal tales about a boy who falls in love with a grown woman, a disco relationship coach, and a cyberpunk samurai; the press release compares it to Funky Forest.  July 15 only.
  • Pop Skull (2007): Along with new releases the festival is screening many older hits (including the killer kids classic Battle Royale on July 23rd and 24th).  This one may be the most interesting because it’s the most obscure re-release; it’s not on DVD, so there’s no other way to see it.  It’s the story of an Alabama pill-head who’s hallucinations may mask the fact that he may really be haunted by ghosts of people who were killed in his current residence.  July 24 is your only chance to catch it.
  • Surviving Life (Theory and Practice) [Prezít svuj zivot (teorie a praxe)] (2010)– The latest Jan Svankmajer film uses a technique of cut-out collages alongside the usual stop animation, and the scenario involves a man who impregnates his own anima (!) while undergoing psychoanalysis.  Good for the fine people of Montreal that they get to see this on the big screen, but it’s been on the festival circuit for a year now, and the rest of us are ready to see it on DVD finally. Screening July 28, 30 & 31.
  • The Theatre Bizarre (2011): A six-film horror anthology from directors Douglas Buck, Buddy Giovinazzo, David Gregory, Karim Hussain, , Tom Savini, and .  Apparently Hussain’s segment is surreal.  July 16-17.
  • Underwater Love [Onna no kappa] (2011):  A “pink musical” (!) about a woman who falls in love with a water spirit; lensed by big-time cinematographer Christopher Doyle, with “outrageous” sex scenes.  July 20 & 23.
  • The Wicker Tree (2011):  This “spiritual sequel” to the Certified Weird The Wicker Man from director Robin Hardy has been in the works for decades; no word yet on whether it was worth the wait.  You can find out at the world premiere on July 19.
  • You Are Here (2010):  A series of absurdist narrative snippets make up Daniel Cockburn’s feature debut; promoters are bandying about Charlie Kaufman‘s name as a stylistic touchstone.  Another weird film that’s been playing festivals for a year now.  See it July 20-21.

That’s an impressive lineup—and we left out a lot of movies that were of marginal interest at first glance, but could turn out to be real gems. Fantasia International Film Festival official site.


“Buster Keaton – Short Films Collection: 1920 – 1923”: We mention this Kino 3-disc release because it includes the 1921 short “Play House,” which includes the most successfully surrealistic dream sequence in early cinema: Buster Keaton dreams that everyone in a theater has the face of Buster Keaton (decades before John Malkovich came down with a similar affliction).  The other 18 shorts are probably pretty good, too. Buy “Buster Keaton – Short Films Collection: 1920 – 1923”.

Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010):  Read Kevyn Knox’s guest review.  It seems like we’ve been waiting forever for this strange, -winning reincarnation tale to get its official DVD release. We’re happy now. Buy Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.


Brazil (1985):  Read the Certified Weird entry.  Terry Gilliam’s weird dystopian masterpiece makes it’s long overdue debut on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal; the only downside is there are no extras worth speaking of. Buy Brazil [Blu-ray].

“Buster Keaton – Short Films Collection: 1920 – 1923”: See description in DVD above. Buy “Buster Keaton – Short Films Collection: 1920 – 1923” [Blu-ray].

Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010): See description in DVD above. Buy Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives [Blu-ray].

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that I have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.


The Great Dictator (1940), released to DVD and Blu-ray on May 24th, 2011 is the second of Charlie Chaplin‘s features to receive the Criterion treatment, following 2010’s release of Modern Times (1936).  Times was Chaplin’s last silent feature, produced nine years after the advent of sound.  Chaplin stated that when, and if, his famous character the Tramp ever spoke, it would be as a farewell.  He found a reason for the Tramp to break his silence in the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich; this was the birth of The Great Dictator.

Few people wanted Chaplin to make this anti-Hitler satire, and the speech at the end of Dictator was even seen by some as communist propaganda.  It securely put Chaplin on the subversive list.  Within a few years, Chaplin was thrown out of the United States, only to be invited back by the Academy Awards for a honorary Oscar (he never actually won one) in 1971.  Chaplin accepted the honor as a sign of mending.

Chaplin later said that if he had known the actual extent of the horrors perpetrated in Nazi Germany, he could never have made The Great Dictator.  His detractors went so far as to accuse him of merely being angry at Hitler for stealing his mustache.  Of course, Chaplin had been making films against government oppression and the struggle of the little man almost from day one.  Additionally, Chaplin’s half-brother’s father was Jewish, giving him further motive to lampoon the dictator.  Chaplin’s mistake was that he spoke out against Hitler and the Third Reich before the United States entered the war.

Still from The Great Dictator (1940)Whether or not the Jewish Barber is the Tramp has been debated for years.  He is not referred to as the Tramp, but he is certainly a Tramp-like character, and that is really enough.  But, for the first time, Chaplin is uneasy with his iconic character.  After seeing the Tramp in all of his silent eloquence for years, hearing him speak in the opening WWI sequence is  greatly disconcerting.  This opening is awkward, and Chaplin reveals that verbal humor is not his strength.  Jokes about gas and, later, plays off the words “Aryan” and “vegetarian” fall Continue reading THE GREAT DICTATOR (1940) CRITERION COLLECTION


The poll is completed and closed!  The winners, which will be added to the List of the 366 Best Weird Movies ever made, were:

Thanks to all who participated!

Here we go again!  We’ve certified 91 of the eventual 366 films for the List, or about 25% of the total.  We’ve passed over a good number of perfectly weird movies in that time, secure in the knowledge that we could always pass the buck to the readers to make the hard choices on the borderline cases.  Now, once again, it’s your turn to bail us out and help us pick two of the candidates below to officially add to the List.

There are a couple of List Candidates that we haven’t included in this poll because they aren’t out on DVD yet… don’t worry, they’ll get their chance.

We also included the runner-ups in vote total in each category from the last poll, along with the “rescued” picture (which turned out to be Roman Polanski’s surrealist softcore sex comedy What?).

You may vote for two movies: one from “Group A” (movies from 1999 and on) and one from “Group B” (movies made before 1999). The movie receiving the highest number of votes in each group will be Certified for the List. You may vote once per 24 hours, and the poll will remain open for two weeks, until July 27.

Please feel free to explain your vote in the “Comments” section. Maybe you can mobilize others to elevate your choice onto the List.

There’s one more thing…


It’s a simple deal: write the best review, win a DVD!  Specifically, you can win Trailers from Hell, Vol. 2 (review here), a disc that includes a copy of The Little Shop of Horrors (review here).  True, it’s a used copy, but it’s only been watched a couple of times for review purposes.

Review Writing Contest Prize: Trailers from Hell, Vol 2 The rules of the contest are simple:

  1. Write a review of a movie that you think should be on the List of the 366 Best Weird Movies, but that hasn’t been covered here yet.  Including the following sections: DIRECTOR, FEATURING (listing the most important actors), PLOT (a one sentence synopsis), WHY IT DESERVES TO MAKE THE LIST (a one sentence to one paragraph description of why you think the movie is weird), COMMENTS (one to two paragraphs describing the movie in more detail). If you have a suggestion for a still to represent the movie and/or a quote from a critic on the film, you can include those, but they are not required.
  2. In rare cases, a well-thought out “second opinion” on a movie that we have already considered, but that you think we got wrong (either by putting it on the List when it shouldn’t have made it, or rejecting a film that should have made it), will be an acceptable subject for a review.  We would still prefer reviews of movies we haven’t yet covered.
  3. Submit your work on our contact form. By submitting your entry on this form, you agree to allow to publish your work, either whole or in edited form, on this website. Your work may be selected for publication even if you are not chosen as the winner.
  4. The contest is open to anyone whose work has not previously been published on
  5. You may not write a review promoting a film which you were involved in the production of, or in which you have a financial interest.
  6. This site strives to remain “PG” rated; do not use profanity in your review.
  7. The contest will remain open for one month, until August 13, 2010, at which time the editor will select the best entry. The winner will be chosen on the basis of writing style, insight, and appropriateness of the movie chosen.  The deadline may be extended, depending on the number of entries received.
  8. In order to be eligible to receive the prize, you must supply a valid email address and a valid mailing address. International addresses are acceptable. If the winning entrant does not supply a valid mailing address, or declines the prize, the DVD will be given to a randomly selected entry with a mailing address in the United States. If no entries are from the United States, then the deadline to complete the contest will be extended.

TIPS: Avoid merely summarizing the plot in your comments. Avoid giving away “spoilers” in your descriptions that might ruin the enjoyment of the film. Obscure titles are fine—in fact, they may be worth bonus points—but try to pick a film that is available on DVD, or is at least likely to be released. If you write on a film no one will be able to view or locate, the movie may be judged as inappropriate.

One final tip: don’t be scared away by thinking you have to write something profoundly insightful. Simply consider it as a chance to describe and recommend a film to that narrow audience of people who are interested in the same kind of weird movies as you are.

Chances of winning depend on the number of entries received.

Have fun! The winner, and even the runners-up, may be invited to become regular contributors to the site!  (Just ask past contest participants Alex Kittle, Andreas Stoehr, Eric Gabbard , Kat Doherty,or Pamela De Graff!)


DIRECTED BY: Hiroyuki Imaishi

FEATURING: Amanda Winn Lee (voice), Jason Lee (voice)

PLOT:  A man with a television for a head and a woman with mismatched eyes wake up with amnesia, are imprisoned on what’s left of the moon, lead a revolt, have a baby, and kill lots and lots of people.

Still from Dead Leaves (2004)

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LISTDead Leaves moves so fast and makes so little sense that it’s almost the equivalent of putting an ultraviolent manga in a high-speed blender and trying to read it while the pieces swirl around.  The plot is nearly incomprehensible, but somehow involves mutant clones and a psychedelic caterpillar.  Weird?  Hell yes.  Recommended?  Well, definitely not to epileptics.  Even for older folks with a healthy neurobiology, the breakneck pacing is as likely to induce a headache as an adrenaline rush.  It’s definitely one-of-a-kind, though, and as an experiment in compressing as much berserk and illogical anime flavor as possible into as short a running time as possible, it’s worth a look, and maybe even an eventual spot on the List.

COMMENTS: Dead Leaves really is something to behold.  It seems to have been conceived, and composed, under the influence of an entirely new drug: amphetashrooms.  The film is essentially one fifty-minute long chase fight/scene, with a very few timeouts to catch your breath.  The female pink-eyed Pandy and TV-headed male Retro wake up, rob a bank, are imprisoned, break out, fire thousands of rounds of ammunition from weapons that conveniently appear when needed, and fight an ever-mutating horde of bad guys; Retro loses his head both literally and figuratively during the journey.  The violence and gore are extreme, but so ridiculous—with characters spontaneously transforming into human arsenals and showers of spent yellow bullet casings flying so thick that they sometimes obscure the carnage—that it becomes almost non-representational.  Animation styles change every few seconds (and sometimes even several times within a second), as the artists involved employ a variety of abstractions, split screens, shaky pans, replicate comic book panels complete Continue reading LIST CANDIDATE: DEAD LEAVES (2004)



DIRECTED BY: Jan Svankmajer

FEATURING: Pavel Liska, Jan Tríska, Anna Geislerová

PLOT: A mentally unbalanced man meets a modern day Marquis de Sade who convinces him to check himself into a bizarre asylum where the patients roam free.

Still from Lunacy [Sileni] (2005)
WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST:  Readers may think I’m a lunatic myself for not inducting this tale involving the Marquis de Sade, an asylum run by chicken-farming lunatics, and animated steaks onto the List of the 366 Best Weird Movies on the first ballot.  To tell the truth, Lunacy comes about as close as a movie can to being a first-ballot inductee without making it.  In defense of my decision to leave it off the List for the time being, I point out that Lunacy may actually be Jan Svankajer’s most conventional movie.  If you mentally remove the startling but inessential stop-animation transitions between scenes, then squint hard, it looks like just a regular horror movie; the director insists as much in his prologue to the film.  Given that this is Svankmajer’s most “normal” and accessible movie, if Lunacy makes the List, then all the Czech director’s work should automatically make it.

COMMENTS:  The trailer explains that ” + the Marquis de Sade + Jan Svankmajer = Lunacy.”  It’s self-evident that combining these three uniquely perverse talents should produce something singularly strange; the fun in watching the movie is in seeing how they actually mix.  Poe adds the least to the recipe, providing mere plot.  Adaptations of two different stories by the doom-laden 19th century Romantic make appearances here; one is a digression from the main plotline that’s fun but unnecessary, while the other supplies the basic conceit for the entire second half of the movie.  Because the first half of the film is devoted to a long introduction to the characters, with that excursion into an interesting but unrelated Poe tale, Lunacy‘s story doesn’t flow as well as it might; the plot doesn’t really get started in earnest until the movie hits the halfway mark on its run time.  Other than basic story ideas, there is not much of a “Poe” feel to the rest of the film, except whatever lingering flavor comes from the passive, psychologically tormented protagonist Jean (stringy-haired, Continue reading LIST CANDIDATE: LUNACY [SILENI] (2005)


Next week, we’ll be hitting that reader-suggested review queue with reviews of Jan Svankmajer‘s horrific Lunacy (2005) and the bizarre ultraviolent anime Dead Leaves (2004).  We’ll also have coverage of ‘s The Great Dictator (1940) (recently re-released by the Criterion Collection).

Now, we could put in more reviews this week, but instead we’re going to feature a couple of interactive posts on Wednesday, so be sure to check us out then!

It was an extremely weak—almost pathetic—week in terms of weird search terms used to locate the site.   Where are all the weirdos, sunning themselves at the beach?  They’re certainly not in front of their computers, typing deranged search terms into Google.  We’re reduced to nominating such relatively normal strings as “cat people begging” and “why arizona ream is called to movie” as honorable mentions.  Yet, even in a poor field, there is one bizarre search query that stands out from the rest: “ninety black swan boobs.”  We can totally understand searching for “black swan boobs,” but why precisely ninety of them?  That’s the sort of incomprehensible eccentricity that makes for a great Weirdest Search Term of the Week.

Here’s that ever-growing reader-suggested review queue (more titles after the break, as always):  Lunacy [Sílení] (next week!); Dead Leaves (next week!); Perfume: The Story of a Murderer; Inmortel (2004); Dead Ringers; Kairo [AKA Pulse]; The Guatemalan Handshake Continue reading WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

Celebrating the cinematically surreal, bizarre, cult, oddball, fantastique, strange, psychedelic, and the just plain WEIRD!