Sunday, March 26, 2017

Shivers (1975)

Director: David Cronenberg
Notable Cast: Paul Hampton, Joe Silver, Lynn Lowry, Alan Migicovsky, Susan Petrie, Barbara Steele, Ronald Mlodzik
Also Known As: The Parasite Murders, They Came from Within, Frissons

The early films of David Cronenberg’s career are a fascinating look into a style and approach to the off center filmmaking that he would later make an art form. Most of them are more raw than expected, taking his oddly deep commentaries and character development approaches and slathering them in borderline exploitative material. Shivers, the first of a series of films with much of the same tone and approach from this era, might be the first time where the balance started to show itself in an aggressive manner. On the surface, it’s a kind of zombie film that uses its limited budget and setting to establish a great approach to creating tension, but really deep down it has a lot of commentary about the human desire to push forward so far that it ends up resetting us to our primitive instincts (a theme that will run through a lot of Cronenberg’s career.) The results can be a bit mixed as the execution of the film can be a tad scattered, but considering its limitations Shivers is one of those great gems to be found in the cult undercurrent for those looking for it.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Bluebeard (2017)

Director: Lee Soo-yeon
Notable Cast : Cho Jin-woong, Kim Dae-myeong, Sin Goo, Song Young-chan. Lee Cheong-ah, Yoon Se-ah

Director Lee Soo-yeon returns with her first feature film since 2003's The Uninvited, with the mind-bending psychological thriller, Bluebeard. The film centers around Seung-hoon (Cho Jin-woong in a much deserved leading role), a colonoscopy doctor who ran his own facility in Gangnam, but closed down due to financial struggles, that finds himself in a small town area in Seoul that runs along the Han river where unsolved serial killing remains to this very day.

Unlike most horror flicks this day and age, Bluebeard is a slow burn, dripping with atmosphere and a very overwhelming sense of dread. It is shot brightly primarily and most of the outdoor scenes are filmed in the day, but Seung's world is inhabited by very odd people who give off unnerving vibes of utter creepiness. While doing his rounds on the patients one hot afternoon, an old man begins to confess the location of mutilated body parts scattered about the river and the city and, before you know it - going further than the advertised set up, Seung quickly finds himself wrapped up in sudden serial killing cases and things get really weird and spiral out of control in a mostly solid outing.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The King (2017)

Director: Han Jae-rim
Notable Cast: Jeong Woo-sung, Jo In-seong, Bae Seong-woo, Kim Ah-joong, Ryu Jeon-yeol, Kim Ee-seong

A masculine driven tale of rising to power and the corruption of law and justice, The King is a very entertaining and beautifully shot film that features a star studded ensemble that fires on all cylinders with powerhouse performances from its main players.

Jo In-seong is Park Tae-soo, a young man hungry for power and money, which he quickly achieves over a hustling study to pass the bar exam to become a prosecutor, after seeing his father slapped about and trembling in fear at the hands of a man with that very title one day.

Silver Fox, The (1968)

Director: Hsu Tseng-Hung
Notable Cast: Lily Ho Li-Li, Chang Yu, Huang Chung-Hsin, Yue Wai, Helen Ma Hoi-Lun, Tien Feng, Chiu Sam-Yin, Chiu Hung, Ma Ying, Lee Ho, Fan Mei-Sheng, Hung Lau

My expectations for The Silver Fox were mixed. The mid 60s for Shaw Brothers is a time where the studio was still finding their voice and approach to what they wanted to do as a film company, but by 1968, when The Silver Fox was released, the studio was starting to crank out some solid films in the wake of The One-Armed Swordsman and Golden Swallow so I wasn’t quite sure what kind of film that this one was going to be. In what seems to be a fitting manner, The Silver Fox is ultimately a little of both. There are moments where this film reaches some of the fun heights that this era of Shaw Brothers can hit, but it’s also dragging in some of its romantic melodrama and a bit inefficient in weaving its tale of revenge. Still, as a wuxia, The Silver Fox is a fun film with a lot of great treats for fans and worth the time.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Prison (2017)

Director: Na Hyeon
Notable Cast: Kim Rae-won, Han Suk-kyu, Lee Kyoung-young, Jung Woong-in, Jo Jae-yun, Shin Sung-rok,Kim Sung-kyun

My first Korean film experience of 2017 is one of my favorites of the year so far, by way of the hard-hitting crime thriller, The Prison. Yoo-geon (Kim Rae-won), a once was detective, finds himself entering one of the roughest prisons on his side of the world to approach its king, Ik-ho (Han Suk-kyu), the untouchable man with more power than I've ever seen anyone have behind bars. Yoo-geon's agenda is unclear at first, but as the film carries on and unfolds over the following 2 hours, the pieces come together and reveal one of my favorite finales in recent memory.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Creeping Garden, The (2014)

Directors: Tim Grabham, Jasper Sharp

Now that Arrow Academy has expanded their reach to the US borders, it has certainly opened up what we are planning to cover on Blood Brothers. For their latest release, The Creeping Garden, we are further digging into new territory by covering a documentary. If memory serves, we have only covered one other documentary on the site (although that might be a lie) and going into The Creeping Garden was not necessarily an event that I was “excited” for per se. The Creeping Garden, however, had me engrossed almost immediately. Perhaps one of the issues I have always had when I watch documentaries is that they are on a subject matter I am normally interested in or already have a background for reference, but the focus on slime mold for this one most certainly had me perplexed, engaged, and questioning so much that I couldn’t pull my eyes away from the film. And it's executed in a way to make sure that the audience is left hanging on the edge of something to keep them interested in a topic that normally would make an audience snooze off. Talk about a surprise for the year.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Contract to Kill (2016) / End of a Gun (2016)

I am ashamed. Part of my shame comes from enjoying B-action movies so much. Most of that shame arrives in the form of how much time I devote to downright awful modern Steven Seagal films. The problem that arises in my reviews of these films is that I essentially say the same thing time and time again. So for this latest entry, I’m just going to review the last two films released that star Seagal in one review. Saves me time, it saves you time, and I don’t have to repeat myself until the next round of films comes out.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Master of the Shadowless Kick: Wong Kei-Ying (2017)

Director: Jian Yong Guo
Notable Cast: Mou Li, Zhi Hui Chen, Hao Ran Sun

The second of the two HBO Asia original films, Master of the Shadowless Kick: Wong Kei-Ying is of the same ilk as its predecessor Master of the Drunken Fist: Beggar So, but with a slightly different approach. Like the other film of this duel set, Wong Kei-Ying is based on a classic Chinese folk hero in a modern retelling of a classic tale. It features a low budget with some generally melodramatic made-for-TV executions that may rub viewers the wrong way. If you have reservations with that or have no interest in traditional martial arts cinema, then this one might be a skip. For me, Wong Kei-Ying actually shows improvement over Beggar So by trimming a lot of the fat and focusing down a bit more on a more dynamic narrative – even if that narrative remains decently predictable by kung fu flick standards. It’s one of those films that will mostly interest kung fu fans, but for that niche it remains entertaining enough for the watch even if it is hardly the best version of this character that has been put to film.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Moontrap: Target Earth (2017)


Aka "Moontrap 2: Target Earth"

One of my favorite genre mash-ups is when horror and science fiction collide and it seems some of my guilty pleasures from the late 80s and 90s have been getting long delayed sequels. Long delayed crummy direct-to-video sequels but sequels none-the-less. The first that comes to mind is the 2009 sequel “Screamers: The Hunting” to the 1996 underappreciated sci fi/horror gorefest “Screamers”. However that hunk of junk doesn’t hold a candle to this quietly released follow-up to the 1989 killer cyborgs on the moon/Bruce Campbell supporting cast vehicle “Moontrap”.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Notable Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Jing Tian, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Tomas Mann, Eugene Gordero, John C. Reilly

There are essentially two kind of King Kong movies. You have the more serious adventure ones that mean to paint Kong as a kind of tragic figure who is betrayed by humanity which is represented by the original 30s version and Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake. Then you have the silly Kong films, best represented by the Toho versions (King Kong vs Godzilla and King Kong Escapes) and to a lesser extent King Kong Lives. While the initial trailers made out the latest Kong film, the second in Legendary’s new expanded Monsterverse that includes 2014’s Godzilla, to be something more serious and drawing on plenty of Vietnam war imagery, this film is far more akin to the latter films than the previous. This is not a remake. This is not some kind of morality tale outside of the subtext. This is a giant monster film. This is pure kaiju cinema worship and it never takes a breather from its intent as being an entertaining popcorn flick. Don’t expect to be blown away by thoughtful characters, dynamic plotting, or even logical progression because that is not what Kong: Skull Island is about. This film is about big monster fights and giving the audience their money’s worth in outrageous entertainment.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Girl with All the Gifts, The (2017)

Director: Colm McCarthy
Notable Cast: Sennia Nanua, Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine, Glenn Close, Fisayo Akinade, Anamaria Marinca, Dominique Tipper, Anthony Welsh

For a while there, thanks to shows like The Walking Dead, zombies came back as all the rage. Sure, that trend perhaps started with Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake, but it finally started to die out a few years ago as the casual horror viewer moved onto other trends like vampires, werewolves, or the current demonic ghost/witch that is haunted up the cineplexes. Thank God. It was getting to the point that I just didn’t give a shit about zombies anymore and being raised on the genre, it felt a bit like betrayal. Still, there are a handful of zombie films that pop up now and again, but they are usually of a higher quality and a bit more effective. Last year we got the South Korean melting pot Train to Busan which was excellent and effective at its use of modern zombies. This year, we already have a runner to be the zombie flick to beat, The Girl with All the Gifts. Unlike Train to Busan, The Girl with All the Gifts attempts to use its zombie tropes and superb execution to take the genre into some familiar, but fresh feeling territory. At its heart, it might still be a Day of the Dead kind of zombie film, but its attempts at crafting a social commentary and very impressive characters makes it a heartfelt and emotional film worthy of the praise it has already been receiving.

Master of the Drunken Fist: Beggar So (2017)

Director: Jian Yong Guo

Notable Cast: Zhi Hui Chen, Jun Cao, Mei Ying Wang

When HBO Asia announced that they would be getting into the exclusive content trend with a couple of films based on Chinese folk heroes, I must admit that I was pretty excited. Not that I was expecting these films to be award winning or even all that great in quality, but the idea that martial arts films were going to be a growing commodity and even get a US release was one I can get behind. The first of the two films for this double header was Master of the Drunken Fist: Beggar So, based on the folk hero that serves as an origin story of sorts. The film itself is a mixed effort, suffering from its low budget and some cheesy stylistic choices, but all in all it remains an entertaining film that has enough charm and fun moments to not be a total bust.