Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Guillotines, The (2013)

Director: Andrew Lau
Notable Cast: Xiaoming Huang, Ethan Juan, Zhang Wen, Shawn Yue, Yuchun Li, Boran Jing, Jimmy Wang Yu

While Shaw Brothers films have yet to get full remake treatments (those are coming from what I've heard recently), there have been quite a few that have their concepts taken for modern films. One of those films happens to be "The Guillotines." Taking a few cues conceptually from "The Flying Guillotines" and "The Flying Guillotines II," this modern telling of the elite group of assassins comes off as quite the surprise. Particularly since I fully expected the film to be action oriented and focus on itself around that. It's not. In fact, it's far more of a morally embossed historical drama then anything else and despite some enjoyable moments, tends to be a missed opportunity overall.

When an uprising of common folk lead by the charismatic Wolf (Xiaoming Huang) threatens the Qing dynasty and their focus to unite China, the Emperor brings out his dynamic assassination team The Guillotines to handle the situation. With the help of his personal guard and the leader of the Guillotines Leng (Ethan Juan), their job is to capture Wolf at any cost necessary. But with a a master like Wolf and a government who wants to rewrite history, Leng and his Guillotines have to tread carefully or they might end up at the wrong end of the execution list...

"Where we're going we don't need...swords."
How do you not go into "The Guillotines" without high expectations? With the director of "Infernal Affairs," a story about one of the coolest kung fu "legends" out there, and a relatively impressive up and coming cast...this should have been a shoe-in for one of the best films of the year. Unfortunately, despite all of the talent mentioned above there is one kink in the armor of this battle beast...the script. Far too often the structure of the film with its random flash blacks and leaps of time tend to leave the viewer in a tizzy trying to keep up - because the film flies at a wicked pace. Occasionally the film slips into pure cheesiness that feels awkward in comparison to some of its higher level concepts and dramatic beats. For example, I'm not even sure how their guillotine swords even work as if its some sort of magic magnet rod with a string (that's only seen once for the sake of the plot) that is done with some CGI that is hit or miss at best. It's this weird unbalanced blend that makes "The Guillotines" an underwhelming experience.


To be honest, there are great moments in this film though. Andrew Lau has a great eye for the dramatic and with the film's surprising focus on those moments, "The Guillotines" does pull off some great scenes. With some impressive acting to boot, the drama in the film can be potent. The scenes with Leng and Wolf together are palpable and Xiaoming Huang steals every moment in the film. In a odd twist, there is really only one full one action sequence in the film too and it's the opening sequence. From there the film focuses down on the dramatic and it does help the film a bit as it does carry a bit of heart with it. It can drag since there really isn't any other action in the film outside of a few tense thriller moments, but those strong moments help.

The dynamic wolf!
I know that my expectations of "The Guillotines" certainly hurt my overall experience with the film. I was expecting full on heads-a-rollin' action and what I got was moral based dramatic storytelling. Normally this isn't such a bad thing, but the film ultimately struggles with some poor structuring and awkward moments where Andrew Lau doesn't seem to feel completely comfortable with the material and getting it to flow. When the film hits its heights, it soars, but unfortunately those moments can't make up for the overall issues that it stumbles into.

Written By Matt Reifschneider


Dead Mine (2013)


Director: Steven Sheil
Notable Cast: Mike Lewis, Miki Mizuno, Les Loveday, Joe Taslim

Being straight up, I totally bought “Dead Mine” on a whim. Perhaps it was the fact that Joe Taslim was on the cover in an obvious attempt to attract those who loved “The Raid” or perhaps it was the fact that it was a super cheap Blu Ray that featured a military squad fighting undead samurai. Doesn’t matter, because I was sold on both accounts and purchased “Dead Mine” knowing little to nothing about the film. Continuing with me being straight up, I actually enjoyed the film for the most part. It was just enough cheese, action, and “Resident Evil” inspired horror to keep my attention even if the third act falls apart.

A group of mercenaries are leading a small group of historians and archeologists into the remote island jungle of the Phillipines. Their task: to find an abandoned WWII Japanese bunker that might hold information never privy to the world previously. When a group of pirates caves in the bunker around them though, the team is forced to face an evil that the Japanese were not ready to release…

Stare down...GO!
I’ve already made an acknowledgement to the “Resident Evil” series in the first paragraph (not the films, but the games to clarify) and this film has that same distinct survival horror meets action feeling that those games utilized. A group of military men and nerds trapped in an underground bunker filled with monstrous zombie like creatures with a secret waiting to be unleashed on the world? It might not be original in concept, but dammit if it doesn’t work for a good chunk of “Dead Mine.”

Tap out! Tap out!
Although Joe Taslim was in a predictable small role, I was generally impressed with some of the acting here. It’s not Oscar worthy, but for a low budget film I had never heard about I was hooked. While its hit or miss overall between people (the scientist couple are terrible), the character work is enough to get me to care whether or not they make it through the hordes of “The Descent” like monsters (including a section where they have to crawl through dark tunnels being chased by them) and eventually the golem-esque undead samurai that show up at the mid way point.

This man...needs bigger roles.
The film does a decent job building up some decent excitement and scares as our heroes are forced to find their way through a dark labyrinth and uncover a few secrets to what they have truly stumbled into. It has decent enough special effects and the samurai at the end make for a foreboding force of terror at times. Again, it might not be original in concept, but the execution is effective enough that I was able to enjoy the ride. The monsters may not have been top notch, but that’s what you get with a straight to home video monster flick.

 By the time we reach the final act, which does take a rather odd turn of questionable character choices and ends on a rather artistic note, I was solid on the idea and enjoyed the ride that “Dead Mine” provided. Is the film an instant classic? No, but for a film I simply ‘discovered’ I had a rather fun time with it.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Big Ass Spider! (2013)


Director: Mike Mendez
Notable Cast: Greg Grunberg, Lombardo Boyar, Clare Kramer, Ray Wise, Lin Shaye, Lloyd Kaufman

Mike Mendez is a man to look out for in this day and age of terrible horror sequels, remakes, and rip-offs as the director is a man whose enthusiasm for the genre is bursting out the seams. Taking his hand at the large killer arachnid picture, “Big Ass Spider!” is a film that mixes sub-par CGI and humor perfectly. To create the fun popcorn flick, Mendez embraces the re-hashed material and common characters found in the government experiment gone wrong scenario and blends it with a humorous buddy cop movie vibe. This leaves us with a film that delivers the laughs which come off more intentionally than a late night Sy Fy flick.

We are introduced to Alex, a pest exterminator with a specialty in spiders who seems unable to find his luck with women. When going to the hospital to treat a spider bite, something is uncovered in the morgue of the hospital to which he offers to investigate and get rid of. The military gives our unlikely hero a visit as they get them off the case to eradicate the spider themselves. Soon Alex and his new found sidekick Jose, a Mexican-American hospital security guard, go on the chase to hunt down the vastly growing creature against the military’s wishes and find that they’ve got more than what they bargained for.
What makes a movie like “Big Ass Spider!” so enjoyable is actually the cast, in particular Ray Wise as Major Braxton Tanner and Clare Kramer as Lieutenant Karly Brant, Alex’s love interest as well as our two leads. But nobody shines more than Lombardo Boyar who plays Jose, the security guard. With his super heavy accent and his go get him attitude, the dialog that comes out of this character is truly hilarious. As a matter of fact, practically half the humor seems to come out of our hero’s new found sidekick with his stereotype played out very well. Greg Grunberg also plays Alex flawlessly and the chemistry between him and Boyar is definitely there. A cast can only work with what they’re given, making writer Gregory Gieras another star for this film. With Mendez’ embracing the genre and Gieras’ great script, “Big Ass Spider!” comes out as a film that is very aware of its hokey title and just runs with it. The characters are supposed to be cheesy. They’re supposed to be more one dimensional, and it’s alright because this is obviously a film that doesn’t take itself seriously and is more satire than anything else.
What distinguishes “Big Ass Spider!” from the hordes of nature run amok Sy Fy and The Asylum films is its quality. The budget is higher and the quality of the performances from the more seasoned actors along a script actually had some thought put into it with its well written satire. Mendez and Gieras are no strangers to B movie sensibility and in this case it has worked to their advantage. Our feature is obviously not out to win any awards, but to simply entertain. So knock off those shoes, get a beer and some popcorn with your friends, and prepare to simply have a good time with “Big Ass Spider!”

Written By Elise Holmes
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Monday, July 29, 2013

Pinup Dolls On Ice (2013)


Director: Geoff Klein, Melissa Mira
Notable Cast: Karine Kerr, Suzi Lorraine, William Jarand, Kyla Shinkewski, Melissa Mira

What can be said about a film that is a sequel to a complete travesty? Apparently not much since unfortunately Geoff Klein’s “Pinup Dolls On Ice” follows similar footsteps of its predecessor with only a few minor improvements. A basic slasher with very little to no plot, the film doesn’t seem to know if it wants to be taken seriously or be a complete joke. Though it seems like in this case, it already is a complete joke with how derived and bland it is with less than mediocre acting, a terrible script, and cookie cutter characters that make Jason Voorhees’ victims look like complete geniuses. A film of this type has potential to fall into the same category with self-awareness such as that of the “Hatchet” franchise. Instead it only comes off as something that could have been made by anybody and nothing stands out about it. 

The middle film in a planned trilogy leaves us a few days after the events of the last film. Well at least that is what they want you to believe. Very little is referred to the events of the first film and our surviving heroine barely seems to care about what has happened at all only a few days later. We soon meet our “Pinup Dolls”, a bunch of bimbos with attitude who of course only serve to take their clothes off and get killed in this film. There’s nothing that distinguishes the girls from one another other than their outfits and even then, they slip into scantily clad matching ones which basically makes them clones of one another. 

Moe is back and locates the campground where the girls are to put on a show and goes about his routine killer rampage. Be prepared to hear grunting every 2 seconds, a liking to destroying every barricade in his path, and a huge mistake that is unfortunately repeated in this film, off screen kills. This is not a matter of budget as there have been even lower budget films that have accomplished some entertaining kill scenes. Pretty much every death is accomplished with splashing fake blood to the wall or covering the victims with it. We are given more back story to our killer in the form of the sheriff who tells something similar to an urban legend in the most monotone and dreadful voice. It’s pretty laughable and forgettable. Though we also learn of why our killer likes his ladies on ice. Which I will admit, is pretty morbid.

There is however one addition to the film that is welcome. The only other prominent male character other than the sheriff and Moe, Clay serves as actual comic relief to the film which it is in dire need of. In his 1970s douchebag mustache and haircut, the character is just as oblivious as the women but you can’t help but laugh at this creep and his purposely cheesy character. In this case the acting adds on to the humor. Unfortunately one additional character can’t save a film. 

The way the film carries out is pretty random. As the Pinup Dolls are stalked and killed one by one, nothing really indicates why the few women left are even there. It’s just the simple process of elimination taking course. The climax isn’t anything that is much more different than the rest of the film and at the end; I was left thinking why did I sit through this abysmal movie.
 
Unless you like to put yourself through the unpleasant experience of watching this film, this is highly recommended to avoid. 

Written By Elise
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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Nowhere To Run (1993)

A "Collateral Dammage" Running Feature Entry

Director: Robert Harmon
Notable Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Rosanna Arquette, Kieran Culkin, Joss Ackland, Ted Levine

After the success of "Universal Soldier" in 1992, Jean-Claude Van Damme was on a roll. Just in the next few years he would be an A-list celebrity with hits like "Hard Target," "Timecop," and "Sudden Death." So what about the lesser known "Nowhere To Run" that was released in 93? Could it be the Muscles From Brussels had released an overlooked gem in the midst of all of his awesome action films of the 90s? The short answer is simply no. While "Nowhere To Run" has some occasional moments, the majority of the film is a forgettable affair of predictable plot progressions and lackluster characters. It's easy to see why this film gets looked over.

Sam (Van Damme) has just made a daring prison escape with the help of his friend. Even though his friend died in the process, Sam is desperate to make amends for his previous life and he finds an opportunity when he stumbles into Clydie (Arquette). Clydie has a problem. Her land and house are going to be forced from her hands by a corrupt businessman (Ackland) and his "security" man (Levine), so its up to Sam to make sure this doesn't happen.

Sunglasses make the hero...they really do.
Despite its glorious character actor cast and its rather simple, we've-seen-it-a-thousand-times premise, "Nowhere To Run" is about as forgettable of early action films as they come. Director Robert Harmon (known mostly for his stunning "The Hitcher" film previously) seems to have an eye to keep the action paced well, but most of the issues come from the film's focus on the drama. As much as I love seeing a film about a man seeking redemption and finding it by serving justice to the stepped on, this film gets to be a little...awkward. Some of this has to do with Van Damme's inability to carry the film as the lead. His character is the quiet strong type and while he has the look and presence for it, his ability to act without dialogue can leave a bit to be desired. Not to mention, what dialogue they did have was kind of awkward too. It's great entertainment to see a little 5 year old girl talk about the size of Van Damme's penis. It really is. Really the only person that made a full attempt to act here was Arquette and she sort of gets pushed to the side for the predictable plot. Nothing all that original happens and if you can't guess how it all turns out in the end by the first 15 minutes, you don't watch enough made for TV movies.

Luckily, the film does keep itself at a brisk pace and Harmon keeps the action moving even if most of it comes off as predictable too via the basic script. He has a wicked killer opening with the prison bus break out, but the film sort of meanders from there in its focus on familial drama. We get a relatively fun introduction to Van Damme's character when he first meets the family by kicking ass and there is an over the top motorcycle chase that features a B-grade action worthy Van Damme leap onto his motorcycle to start it. Unfortunately, most of it is not quite memorable enough to carry the film through its ABC formula and it ends up falling flat despite Harmon's best efforts to make it awesome.

Aftermath of an epic gun firing leap.
For Van Damme fans "Nowhere To Run" might tickle the fancy to see him in his perpetually gelled hair and high waisted jeans, but the film lacks flair and stronger action set pieces to set itself aside from the other films he was doing at the time. Hell, the film even lacks the patented 'Van Damme Spin Kick.' While Harmon tries to keep it interesting with thoughtful camera work and some nice visual things, he simply can't save the film form its own poor scripting and some wooden acting performances. This is not the gem I was hoping it would be and its quite obvious why it's overlooked. "Nowhere To Run" is mostly for fans.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Yes, Madam (1985)

YES, MADAM

Aka "In the Line of Duty", "In the Line of Duty II", "Police Assassins 2", "The Super Cops: Ultra Force II"

Long before Michelle Yeoh became an international star culminating with her role as a Bond girl in “Tomorrow Never Dies”, she had her first major role a decade earlier with the action hit “Yes, Madam” in her home town of “Hong Kong”. The film was a for-runner in the peculiar genre knick-named by fans as “girls with guns”, creating a franchise impressively consisting of six sequels and a tidal wave of imitators. I will admit up front that I saw many of the sequels before laying my hands on the first entry and was a huge fan of the “In the Line of Duty” franchise before finally watching  the film that started it all. Seeing many of its impressive sequels first may have been my downfall as I came out of the film just a tad disappointed though at the same time being impressed by its violent and dangerous fight sequences.
Yoeh is a sexy Hong Kong cop who wows with her martial arts abilities and incredibly dated 80s fashion sense. While visiting a friend she discovers that he has been assassinated and the killing is somehow tied to a trio of identity thieves that steal peoples passports. With the help of a hard-handed British agent (Cynthia Rothrock) that likes to beat suspects during interrogation, can they solve the case that is somehow tied to a big shot crime syndicate?
I did wince a little during the opening credits when I saw that Sammo Hung was a producer on the film. Sammo, along with his partner in crime Jackie Chan, has a tendency to make his films a tad too slap sticky and comedic for my taste especially when it comes to hard-hitting crime films. As I suspected his aura is felt throughout and the film tends to be a little overly silly, especially with its comedy trio of identity thieves (one portrayed by famous film director Tsui Hark) who eat up much of the screen time. This heavy dose of comedy does not mix well with the extremely violent and bloody action sequences. Many of the sequels had humor but it was more sparse and subdued but not here as it is laid on just a little too thick for a violent crime film hindering many of the more powerful actions sequences.
The subtitle for this scene cracks me up
Along with being Michelle Yeoh’s major role debut, “Yes, Madam” was also the debut for Cynthia Rothrock, another name that will be more than familiar for Martial Arts connoisseurs. Rockrock owns her role and it’s almost heavenly to see her and Michele Yoeh kick ass in their dangerous stunt ridden martial arts fights. If it weren’t for the extreme pilfering of John Carpenter’s score from “Halloween” infecting the soundtrack these could have been some of the best ever to hit the screen. Nothing like horror suspense music to ruin an action sequence…
If I would have seen “Yes, Madam” before watching many of its sequels I might have liked it better. Most of the sequels just balanced out the extreme violent action and humor to near perfection and the heavy comedic tone of “Yes, Madam” just didn’t meet my expectations and ruined many of its more powerful scenes for me. Even with this major downfall the action sequences are still awe-inspiring, on par with many of its sequels and it’s also great to see a violent action film with the fairer sex in the lead performances. Audiences in Hong Kong also dug the new subgenre and “Yes, Madam” became a huge success but fans of the film may be a little confused when trying to figure out the franchise it created. “Yes, Madam” got released under many different titles around the world, most notably as “In the Line of Duty” in many surrounding areas. The film would eventually become better known by this moniker and many of the later sequels would use this title scheme. The sequels go as follows: “Royal Warriors”, “In the Line of Duty III”, “In the Line of Duty 4”, “In the Line of Duty V: Middle Man”, “Forbidden Arsenal” and “Sea Wolves”. I highly recommend hunting down the sequels as the series only gets stronger from here.
Written By Eric Reifschneider

Red Mist (2008)


Director: Paddy Breathnach
Notable Cast: Arielle Kebbel, Sarah Carter, Andrew Lee Potts, Alex Wyndham, Katie McGrath, Martin Compston, Michael Jibson
AKA: Freakdog

Occasionally I find it fun to randomly choose a movie to watch on a lazy day. No preconceptions. No thought in the choice. A random new movie to spend some time with. This is how I came about to watch “Red Mist.” I remember seeing it for rent years ago, but never gave much second thought to it until I stumbled across it today on Netflix Streaming. In that fit of ‘what the hell,’ I decided to watch the supernatural slasher. While it definitely has its moments, the odd combination of elements leaves quite a bit to be desired for it to have the impact it wanted to leave and it fades from memory quickly.

Catherine (Kebbel) and her friends are desperately pushing to be the best doctors they can be, but their youth and arrogance occasionally gets in the way. Particularly when a poor decision leaves a young and jaded man in a permanent coma. To try and bring him out of it, Catherine injects a new experimental drug into him. With no results at first, she gives up trying. Now her friends are all dying around her at the hands of innocent people and there is only one person that would know their secret…and he’s in a coma.

The flip phone...a deadly weapon.
Come to find out, “Red Mist” is from the director of “Shrooms.” I quite enjoyed the psychedelic twist on the slasher his killer in the woods film and in many ways “Red Mist” shares many traits. Despite their silly premises, director Paddy Breathnach crafts each one with a deadly serious approach and focus on atmospheric tension. With “Red Mist” its enough that the first half of the film feels more like a thriller version of a hospital themed prime time TV show with the interactions between the friends and really building up the circumstances for what the last half of the film will include. It gets a little long winded her and it’s a bit too cliché for me to care too much about any of the characters. Oh look the Goth chick, the rich bitch, the dick head arrogant guy, the nice pretty guy, and the goody too shoes lead heroine – they’re all here! We can start the movie! So it doesn’t necessarily start off on the right foot even if Breathnach tries to build up mystery around our future coma patient with some awkward flashbacks to his childhood.

Bath time can be rough for some people.
From there, the film straight up dive-bombs into the supernatural slasher. In an odd combination of “I Know What You Did Last Summer” and “Patrick,” “Red Mist” collides with some effective moments. The kills can be vicious and unique, I’m not going to give too much away with hows or whys, but the film definitely gets better from this point. The special effects are impressive for a relatively low budget film and Breathnach keeps the tension up enough to keep the viewer’s attention and make the kills effective.

Unfortunately, the ending ends up a lackluster one that sort of ends. The climax of the film doesn’t nearly build up enough to be worthy of the rest of the slaughter even if it has a few surprises. It sort of just…ends. A rather lackluster way to end the film as it finally started to build some momentum.

Slasher motif anyone?
To be honest, “Red Mist” is the kind of film that’s easy to watch and forget overall. It has some stronger moments and Breathnach definitely does his best to keep it tense and serious despite its “X-Files” like premise. Overall though, this is mostly a rental for one of those lazy days and I had no qualms watching it on Netflix Streaming.

Written By Matt Reifschneider


Friday, July 26, 2013

Wolverine, The (2013)

Director: James Mangold
Notable Cast: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Famke Janssen

With the release of Wolverine's second solo effort, this time the confusingly titled "The Wolverine" which is easy to mix up with the general title of his first effort "Wolverine" which in turn was a shortened version of the shitty title for that film "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," we get a film based on the fan acclaimed graphic novel where our titular hero finds himself going to Japan to hang with some ninja and samurai. Luckily, despite the premise seeming like one of those last ditch efforts to make something interesting (let's see Wolvie claw his way around Japan!), "The Wolverine" feels nothing like that. It's dark in tone, simplified for effect, and really focuses Wolverine's character growth. It's everything I wanted from this film.

Wolverine (Jackman) has had a tough time after the events of "X-Men: The Last Stand." The death of Jean Grey (Janssen) weighs heavy on his mind and visions of her haunt him even as he secludes himself in the Canadian wilderness. When a young Japanese woman Yukio (Fukushima) tracks him down to bring him to visit a dying man he helped save in World War II, he reluctantly agrees and soon finds himself in a war between corrupt business men and Yakuza.

"The Wolverine" is, at its core, a completely different movie than any "X-Men" film before it. Also at its core, "The Wolverine" is an entire antithesis to the atrocity that was his first solo film. This film is dark, simple, and character driven. While "X-Men Origins" focused on trying to make an X-Men movie out of his solo effort, this film scales itself way back for the majority of its run time and instead focuses on the psyche and growth of our anti-hero - a move that certainly pays off and creates a more serious tone that really engulfs the first two-thirds of the film.

Serene...and obscene.
Director James Mangold with writers Bomback and Frank seem to understand why Logan is an icon and great for adaption to the big screen. Like the references and themes that "The Wolverine" pulls from Japanese cinema and lore to add to its tone, Mangold and company decide to really focus on the anti-hero of Wolverine. Characters reference him as a nightmare, ronin, and monster and its this battle of his own redemption that is far more impressive than any of the plot. In fact, the plot serves the character than the character serves the plot and its this distinction that allows this film to flourish. Match this with another strong performance from Hugh Jackman and this film knows just what it needs to focus on.

To retain this focus, "The Wolverine" does itself a service by toning down the secondary characters and instead of just throwing random mutants around like its fucking confetti, they build a few strong supporting cast and use them to support the plot and lead. That's a weird concept. A supporting cast that doesn't try to steal every scene? We haven't seen that in a while from an "X-Men" film. I have to also give film credit for not only building impressively strong secondary characters like Wolverine's new 'bodyguard' Yukio and Mariko with actual character arcs, they use fitting cast members of up and comers. I appreciate the fact that they keep most of the secondary characters Japanese to fit the plot and then actually write them as real characters and not flash-in-the-pan broad stroke caricatures. Even smaller roles like that of Mariko's father and her protector Shingen feel far more fitting.

Believe it or not, she's a character with DEPTH! In a "Wolverine" side film?!
Enough about plot and characters though, I'm sure the PG-13 audience was bored that the film focused on dialogue and character development instead of action. So let's talk about Wolvie kicking ass and *snikt* cutting people. Well, Mangold is quite versed as a director in action and his style takes the action into a more personal and darker level to match the darker tonality of the story. While its obvious that producers and Fox wanted some spectacle to the film with a massive adamantium Silver Samurai that Wolverine has to box against and a CGI heavy fight on top of a bullet train as a bit of filler, Mangold ably handles both without losing too much of the purpose of the film. In fact, most of the rest of the film is more martial arts oriented with plenty of hand to hand combat. A chase through the streets of Tokyo runs with a Western vibe to it and a brutal sword fight in an almost colorless hallway of blues and blacks uses the Japanese motifs to vicious perfection. Even though final battle gets a little too cartoonish, the action is well placed and superb here - keeping the film's personal tone and negating the now over popular "destruction is awesome" action that has consumed most of the other summer block busters.

Giant robot samurai...was Zack Snyder attached this this at some point?
While "The Wolverine" might not be perfect by any means as its obvious how much darker and better the film could have gotten with that illustrious 'R' rating (they did manage to throw in a pretty awesome 'f' bomb), it was just what this franchise needed: a vicious, dark edged, character driven spin off tale. With the upcoming "X-Men: Days Of Future Past" seeming to indicate the most epic of all of the films, I'm glad they got this film to do things right with the iconic Wolverine. If you are looking for that "X-Men" spectacle that "First Class" and "X2" refined then look elsewhere...this is a dirty and personal film that just happens to feature mutants. It's everything I wanted from the first "Wolverine" film - and didn't get until now.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

In the Line of Duty V: Middle Man (1990)

IN THE LINE OF DUTY V: MIDDLE MAN

Aka "The Middle Man

Following the huge success (in Hong Kong at least) of the franchise pinnacle “In the Line of Duty 4” it would only be natural to CHANGE THE FUCKING FORMULA! Maybe I’m being a little brash but damn it if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Here the filmmakers decide to tinker with the franchise equation for success by adding in more drama and negating some of the well-spaced out humor. The result, though not bad, is small step down from the praise worthy fourth film.
Cynthia returns as the tough-as-nails police woman for the third time in the series only to run into trouble when her visiting cousin gets blamed for espionage and selling Chinese secrets or some bull crap like that. Dodging bullets along the way, the two make their way up to Korea (don’t ask) to take down an aging gangster.
The incomprehensible plot is an excuse for plenty of scenes of Cynthia, shooting, fighting and leaping… what we come to expect from an “In the Line of Duty” film. The problem is the added dramatic moments. Some might view this as a positive element, a key ingredient films in the franchise were lacking up until this point. This would be fine and dandy if the plot weren’t so plodding and unappealing allowing the viewer to lose interest until the next action scene, something the previous installments were never guilty of. This added drama takes away from the likeable sparse humor, an element that “Part 4” had perfected. Still I would take the more dramatic approach of this film than the overly silly humor that infected the first entry "Yes Madam" far too often.
Despite the throw-away plot, the action is still grand and the audience only has to wait a measly 6 minutes before the first jaw-dropping stunt sequence. Nothing gets me going more than a dangerous action sequence with a hot Asian police woman running around in her dated 1990 wardrobe. The highlight has to be the climatic fight sequences between Cynthia and Shaw Brothers legend Lo Lieh (“King-Boxer”) and blonde real-life female Kumite champion. Great stuff for Hong Kong martial arts aficionados.
There’s enough violent action and stunts to keep fans of the franchise and Hong Kong action flicks happy but this is definitely the weakest sequel so far. Considering it’s the fifth entry in the series it is still pretty impressive as most franchises that reach the number 5 mark usually start to become pretty terrible. Perhaps with less drama, less crummy ‘blue’ night lighting and a better plot this could have been just as good as the rest of the sequels. Oh, and Donnie Yen also returning would have helped immeasurably. This wouldn’t be the last “In the Line of Duty” film as Cynthia Khan would return for two more installments (“Forbidden Arsenal” and “Sea Wolves”) but those are next to impossible to find on the home video format so I will put my heart and soul to hunt these bad boys down.
Written By Eric Reifschneider