Unstreamable is a weekly column that finds films and TV shows you can't watch on major streaming services in the United States. This week: Gabrielle Union makes a confusing appearance in Neo Ned, there are ghosts and zombies/vampires in Mr. Vampire, a man has a midlife crisis in Son of the Bride, and a visual epic 40 years in the making in Hanagatami.
USA, 2005, 97 minutes, Dir. Van Fischer
I know it's not just me, either. A few weeks ago, the internet re-discovered this film exists (which seemingly happens a couple of times a year). One beauty blogger, Kennie J.D., actually went out and bought the DVD, breaking down the film's racism for her "BAD MOVIES & A BEAT" series. A few years ago, Union herself even threw some shade at her performance in Neo Ned over Twitter, offering it as a counterpoint to a fan who suggested that the actress was perfect in every movie.
The disgust over Neo Ned is rightfully deserved. The movie carelessly throws around the n-word and other acts of violence for humor. Renner even claimed that Neo Ned "isn't about racism" rather about "people with problems and how they choose to deal with them." But it is about racism—the racism of the director, writers, producers, and every motherfucker who greenlit this project. Cringe-viewing indeed! JASMYNE KEIMIG
Hong Kong, 1985, 96 minutes, Dir. Ricky Lau
Aaaahhhh, another entry into the "hopping vampire/zombie" genre, also known as jiangshi, a very fun Hong Kong export that originated with Encounters of the Spooky Kind.
If you're confused by "vampire/zombie," join the club. Jiangshi is a kind of hybrid vampire and zombie, but the film is generally fast and loose with its monsters. Consistency is not a strength of this era of Hong Kong horror, nor does anyone want it to be.
Writing blurbs for these films can be tricky since their plots don't really matter. Here, a town reburies one of its elders, only to accidentally resurrect the elder as a hopping vampire (zombie). The resurrected elder/vampire/zombie attacks everyone who dug up his grave, and so a Taoist priest and his pupils have to fuck some shit up to stop him. There's also a ghost, who is very sexy. And a werewolf? Or maybe it's just a hairy vampire/zombie.
A little thing: There's a scene where one of the characters puts a fistful of incense on the front of his bike and rides off, causing a twirly cloud of incense to trail behind him. The move attracts a ghost, and now I can't stop thinking about riding around Seattle with a twirly incense cloud just attracting cute ghosts. CHASE BURNS
Argentina, 2001, 123 minutes, Dir. Juan José Campanella
I felt weirded out by the elderly Nino's (Héctor Alterio) insistence that he re-marry his wife, Norma (Norma Aleandro), with advanced Alzheimer's because it's "what she would have wanted." It's more about validating himself rather than getting her consentimento (consent) for the marriage, I remember writing—with a lot of vindication—while slightly hungover in class.
Rewatching as (more of) an adult, I mostly stand behind that statement. But I can see many other things that I like about the film that I missed on the first viewing. Mostly Ricardo Darín's excellent, grounding performance as Rafael, a 40-something restauranteur going through a mid-life crisis, reckoning with losing his mother to the aggressive disease. Son of the Bride also takes dramatic developments in stride, peppering humor over the proceedings. Though still full of a lot of patriarchal condescension, I ended up liking the movie. I think you will too. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Japan, 2017, 169 minutes, Dir. Nobuhiko Ôbayashi
Hanagatami went a little over my head. That isn't to say I didn't like it! It's just the nearly three-hour kaleidoscopic war epic from director Nobuhiko Obayashi, known for directing the cult horror film House (Hausu), is the kind of thing that best washes over you on a third or fourth rinse. It's visually dense—which, if you've seen House, you know is Obayashi's thing.
The epic follows a group of young people in a Japanese seaside town in the early '40s, right as Japan is falling into WWII. Everything is scenic—the first act features a bombardment of cherry blossom petals—and still, the war drum beats. There's plenty of symbolism, blood, and ominous islands haunting the film's background. There's one scene where two dudes ride a horse together, naked, down a beach in the moonlight. Unfortunately, no peen. This isn't HBO.
To its credit, Hanagatami's scenes are incredibly paced, despite its runtime. Obayashi waited to make the movie for over 40 years, something that's clear in its quick execution. My main gripe is that I don't like the lead actor, Shunsuke Kubozuka, but, regardless, it's a chewy piece, and we'll dissect it for a long time. CHASE BURNS
Unstreamable means we couldn't find it on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, or any of the other 300+ streaming services available in the United States. We also couldn't find it available for rent or purchase through platforms like Prime Video or iTunes. We don't consider user-generated videos, like unauthorized YouTube uploads, to be streamable.