Saturday, January 30, 2016

Curve (2016)



Director: Iain Softley
Notable Cast: Julianne Hough, Teddy Sears, Madalyn Horcher, Drew Rausch

Whether you love them or hate them, the Blumhouse production company is something of the face of mainstream horror currently. They produce low budget films that garner big budget returns like Sinister, Oculus, Insidious, and other films of the like. However, their track record is much more hit or miss when it comes to quality and even they know it. This is why the company dumped a handful of films straight to Netflix Streaming this month. While these movies are smartly pulled due to lacking mainstream appeal, that doesn’t mean they are terrible films. Just take Curve as a prime example. Sure, this little survivalist slasher flick ended up on the Netflix train due to some of its cliché elements and odd moments, but it’s still a decently entertaining film that horror fans will want to check out as a potential overlooked gem of 2016.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

31 (2016)



Director: Rob Zombie
Notable Cast: Sheri Moon Zombie, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Kevin Jackson, Malcolm McDowell, Meg Foster, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Richard Brake, Jane Carr, Judy Geeson, Daniel Roebuck, Elizabeth Daily, Tracey Walter

Love him or hate him, Rob Zombie knows how to keep people talking. To say the least, his films are divisive and his style even more so within that same discussion. While I appreciate the love and style that Zombie brings to the table, it’s hard for me to say that I have ever loved anything he has done. His best, the often overlooked The Lords of Salem, was a huge step forward for him as it toned down his manic style, delivered tension, and showed an improvement in his writing – my main issue with his work. Needless to say, I was rather stoked for 31, his latest love letter to grindhouse 70s cinema, because if he could somehow combine the restrained thoughtfulness of The Lords of Salem with the energetic visual and brutal onslaught of his earlier work, it would be a grand success. That does not happen in 31. 31 is a step back. 31 is a film that knows no restraint. 31 will have its fans for its gratuitous gore, violence, sex, and vulgarity, but 31 is also something of a shit show when it comes to being a good film beyond its excessiveness. Take about disappointment.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Over Your Dead Body (2016)



Director: Takashi Miike
Notable Cast: Ko Shibasaki, Ichikawa Ebizo

One of the problems of being an international cinephile is that it will sometime take years for a movie to get a legitimate release in the US. If at all. For a director as prolific as Takashi Miike, who has recently been dropping two films a year, it can be somewhat grating to wait. Two years is how long it took for his horror flick Over Your Dead Body to reach the US, thanks to Scream Factory, but it’s here and it’s going to be a cult classic for sure. Atmospheric, haunting, and nightmarish are all very effective words to describe what you’re likely to latch onto in this film and while it may not find a widespread audience here in the US, fans of the director and his work are going to want to jump right in.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Extraction (2015)

Director: Steven C. Miller
Notable Cast: Kellan Lutz, Gina Carano, Bruce Willis


At one point in his career, having a movie with Bruce Willis in a smaller role would have been something to really get excited about. However, in the last decade Mr. Die Hard has done nothing much more than phone in performances and take bit roles in mediocre straight to home video action flicks. Even his bigger films like A Good Day to Die Hard are dragged down by his obvious I-Couldn’t-Care-Less attitude. In the case of a film like Extraction, we have two mediocre young action stars in a middle of the road movie that desperately needed a charismatic anchor to support them – and Bruce Willis is NOT that guy despite the fact that his name still seemingly sells films. In the end, the film is a lacking charismatic hook and that drags Extraction down – even when it has some fun moments for action fans.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Dragon Inn (1967)

Director: King Hu
Notable Cast: Lingfeng Shangguan, Chun Shih, Ying Bai, Chien Tsao

Since my interest in more art house films started to increase greatly over the last couple of years, I sort of let my 1st love of cinema sit on the back burner, which is the martial arts genre. I love any type of martial arts movie: old, and new; more grounded realism, or wu xia style, wire-work heavy films. That being said, I have also become a stickler for quality when watching said movies, so the ones I enjoy become fewer and fewer. At some point, last year, Eureka Entertainment said they would be releasing two of King Hu's Taiwanese wu xia films: Dragon Inn, and A Touch of Zen (which just came out as I write this). Having a recent interest in Taiwanese cinema, and the fact that Taiwan has been working on a ton of restoration of their classic films, I jumped at the chance to see them, and with Dragon Inn, I am very, very glad I did.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Ip Man 3 (2016)

Director: Wilson Yip Wai-shun

Notable Cast: Donnie Yen, Lynn Hung, Max Zhang (Zhang Jin), Mike Tyson, Patrick Tam, Danny Chan, Kent Cheng, Bryan (Beardy) Leung

Intro:
As I sat in the theater, I began to think to myself... I've liked the Ip Man films since before anyone I had met knew what they were. Now, I don't mean that I'm cool or anything, but I spent a lot of my last year of high school showing everyone that I physically could, the very 1st installment of the trilogy. It blew peoples' minds. Donnie Yen kicking ass and taking names. His fists flying into peoples' faces at light speed. The chain punch. It was like finding a piece of rare 'something valuable inserted here', that I wanted to show to everyone. Well, you're not here for my backstory, so to the jump the gun and get this review started, Yen and Yip's Ip Man Trilogy has become the biggest thing in martial arts cinema history since Bruce Lee breaking out onto the scene all those years ago. To end this particular thought, I wondered, "Can they botch this up? Is it possible not to like a Donnie Yen Ip Man film? Should I be skeptical?". The subtle thought of negativity began to seep through me, but as the lights dimmed, the speakers increased in volume, and that familiar tune began to play, the worry washed away, and I knew I was in for something special, and the same genuine grin the 1st two films left on my face, found itself on full display for almost the entirety of this picture. Ip Man 3 just happens to be my favorite of the trilogy, and here's why...

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (2011)



Director: Takashi Miike
Notable Cast: Ichikawa Ebizo, Eita, Hikari Mitsushima, Naoto Takenaka, Munetaka Aoki

The career that Takashi Miike has built for himself started in the trenches of straight to home video exploitation entertainment, but it has not remained contained to that kind of ideology. Often enough he returns to it to accomplish a variety of different films, but it doesn’t define his career in whole. In fact, he wholly brought the classic samurai genre back with a vengeance recently with a double dose of samurai film remakes. His first, 13 Assassins, was a stunning epic built on phenomenal character drama and a blood soaked finale. His second film, Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai and the focus of this review, is even more subtle than the first. Gone are most of the violent and over the top grotesque elements that Miike built his career on and in their place is impeccable atmosphere and a heartbreaking narrative that is as potent as anything he has delivered on film. This leaves Hara-Kiri one of the best films in Miike’s long and diverse catalog.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Rambling Guitarist, The (1959)

PART OF THE NIKKATSU DIAMOND GUYS VOL. 1 RELEASE

Director: Buichi Saito
Notable Cast: Akira Kobayashi, Jo Shishido, Ruriko Asaoka, Nobuo Kaneko, Sanae Nakahara


Sometimes there is a beauty in going into a film blind. You truly get to experience how the film unfolds, the surprises of its plotting, and the charm of its gimmicks with little in the way of expectation. As a film fanatic, it doesn’t get to happen very often and ‘being in the know’ for readers, friends, and family tends to negate a lot of the surprises that films have in store. For the three film set Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Vol. 1, I tried to go in as blind as possible. Outside of a little previous knowledge of the films, I was able to keep myself in the dark quite a bit and it led to a lot of surprises in the films of this set. Some of the surprises were awesome (the quality of Red Pier), some were shocking (the toned down feel of Voice Without a Shadow), and in the case of the last film The Rambling Guitarist, a bit disappointing. Granted, The Rambling Guitarist is full of some fun story pieces, charming performances, and a few entertaining moments, but the film is also scattered in its narrative and feels like its missing a few layers. It’s a fun little flick, but hardly to the quality that featured in the previous two films.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Black Sunday (1960)



Director: Mario Bava

Notable Cast: Barbara Steele, John Richardson, Andrea Checchi, Ivo Garrani, Arturo Dominici, Enrico Olivieri

As my Mario Bava-thon continues, it seemed fitting to go back a little in his catalog and look at his “debut” film Black Sunday – or as it’s called in some markets, The Mask of Satan. I say “debut” because he was known for finishing a plethora of various films prior to this one (including I, Vampiri which is included on the Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack from Arrow Video), but really it’s Black Sunday that showcases a film that is fully Bava throughout. Even then, Black Sunday is the fairly flawed film despite the strength of director Bava and it’s not one that may immediately grab some of the more discerning cinephiles. Don’t write it off though as the Universal/Hammer Italian knock off that it would seem to be at times because Black Sunday still carries some great elements to make it a slick cult film.

Monday, January 18, 2016

What Have You Done to Solange? (1972)



Director: Massimo Dallamano
Notable Cast: Fabio Testi, Cristina Galbo, Karin Baal, Joachim Fuchsberger, Gunther Stoll, Claudia Butenuth, Camille Keaton

While I am still far from a giallo expert at this point, it has always seemed that a flaw of the genre is a sort of ‘style over substance’ approach. Perhaps a better way to explain that is that giallo is often a ‘style = substance’ kind of thinking. Many of the stories are formulaic murder mysteries and it is the striking directors and shocking gimmicks that carry them. However, that is most certainly not the case for the 1972 giallo gem What Have You Done to Solange?. In the case of this film, recently re-released in a new high definition blu ray edition from Arrow Video, the plot is wholly the focus of the film and everything tends to come second to the narrative. Essentially, the opposite kind of thinking for a lot of giallo films. In a way, it’s refreshing as the film really slathers on a complex and twisty plot instead of using visuals as the key to carrying the film like many others do. While it wasn’t quite what I was expecting, I was most certainly hooked by the film and eagerly went along for the ride.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Chronicles of Evil (2015)

 Director: Baek Woon-hok
Notable Cast: Son Hyeon-joo, Ma Dong-seok, Choi Daniel, Park Seo-joon, Jeong Won-joon

Let's kick off my Korean movie experience of 2016 with one of the biggest letdowns in recent memory, with Chronicles of Evil, which tells the story of a detective squad chief, who is soon to be promoted in his field of work, when suddenly, and I mean suddenly, things come crashing down around him, when he finds himself involved in a murder case. What follows is tons of close-ups, and a bunch of characters you won't care about.

Red Pier (1958)



PART OF THE NIKKATSU DIAMOND GUYS VOL. 1 RELEASE

Director: Toshio Masuda
Notable Cast: Jujiro Ishihara, Mie Kitahara, Yukiko Todoroki, Shiro Osaka

Working through the Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Vol. 1 set from Arrow Video has already been a treat. After the surprisingly toned down Seijun Suzuki film Voice Without a Shadow shocked me, I was shocked once again by the quality of Red Pier. Again, this is a director with whom I am not all that familiar with and a crew that is essentially new to me too, but Red Pier takes a rather by the numbers young gangster story and adds a ton of depth and heart to the matter. It’s not a film that’s super stylistic or even all that aggressive with some of its themes, but it’s a well-rounded and thoughtful take on what could have been a formulaic film. It's one that has enough surprises in its sleeves that fans ought to be excited for it.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Voice Without a Shadow (1958)



PART OF THE NIKKATSU DIAMOND GUYS VOL. 1 RELEASE

Director: Seijun Suzuki
Notable Cast: Yoko Minamida, Hideaki Nitani, Nobuo Kaneko, Toshio Takahara, Shinsuke Ashida, Jo Shishido

One of my cinema resolutions for the year is to explore classic cult directors that I may have given a shot to, but didn’t really dive into their filmography for various reasons. One of these directors is Seijun Suzuki. I had seen Branded to Kill a few years ago and was somewhat off put by its outrageous style and off beat elements so I skirted my way around Suzuki’s other films. With my new resolution however, it’s time to revisit some of his other films and explore why he has garnered such a cult audience. Much to my excitement, the first volume of Nikkatsu Diamond Guys from Arrow Video features an early film by Suzuki and I was eager to jump in. Voice Without a Shadow is nowhere near as eclectic as what I’ve read about the wild director and the style is very much in tone with the more traditional thrillers that Nikkatsu was working on in the 50s. While seeing a Suzuki film that’s toned down is certainly a welcome relief, it’s also a film that wholly plays it too safe at times.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

One Missed Call (2003)

Director: Takashi Miike
Notable Cast: Kou Shibasaki, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Kazue Fukiishi, Shimizu Seinami, Anna Nagata, Renji Ishibashi


The J-horror explosion of the 2000s was a big key to my exploration of foreign film markets. Films like Ju-On and Ringu paved the way for me to start exploring a lot of different styles of film in my teenage years and so I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the genre as a whole. Yet, one of the strangest and most challenging films from this boom is Takashi Miike’s One Missed Call. The American remake couldn’t possibly try and translate its often odd story for American audiences and even to this day I find this film’s social commentary and strange twists to be off setting at times. Leave it to Miike to take a fairly formulaic and popular horror style and throw his own spin on it to develop a rather silly concept to make an impactful film. A film that shockingly holds its own to this day.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015)



Director: Gregory Plotkin
Notable Cast: Chris J. Murray, Brit Shaw, Dan Gill, Ivy George, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Michael Krawic

The Paranormal Activity franchise was definitely one of those “hit it while it’s still hot” franchises that exploded onto the scene and would, like most of these kinds of series, go out with a whimper. The quality of each entry varies to a very great degree (hitting a series low with the fourth entry and somewhat redeemed by the oddity of its spin off The Marked Ones) and the weird theatrical release hiccup for this latest entry The Ghost Dimension kept me hesitant going into the film. This hesitation was deemed mostly justified though as The Ghost Dimension tries to keep things fresh for this quickly decaying franchise with some new elements, but it still feels stale as it goes about pounding the formula home for its audience. It simply can’t override the issues that have plagued all of the entries since the beginning and it can’t jump them with quality execution.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Proxy War (1973)

Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Notable Cast: Bunta Sugawara, Akira Kobayashi, Tsunehiko Watase, Shingo Yamashiro, Kunie Tanaka, Tetsuro Tanba, Tatsuo Umemiya, Nobuo Kaneko, Takeshi Kato


The continued evolution of the Battles Without Honor and Humanity franchise is something impressive to behold. Director Kinji Fukasaku and writer Kazuo Kasahara have continued to not only mine their gold mine of yakuza stories, but they have really told an overarching tale that interweaves into a spider’s web of deceit, loyalty, and death. This move is taken to the next level in the third film of the series, Proxy War, and while the style is familiar, this film is a fairly effective departure from some of the key elements that made the first two films so impressive. The results are not a lessening of the franchise, but a new direction that follows the growth of the characters and plotting.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Blood and Black Lace (1964)



Director: Mario Bava
Notable Cast: Cameron Mitchell, Eva Bartok, Thomas Reiner, Ariana Gorini, Dante DiPaolo, Mary Arden, Franco Ressel, Lea Krugher, Claude Dantes

The influence of Mario Bava can be felt in a lot of ways. His style, his approach to visuals, and even his writing has been one of those forces that modern cinema rarely acknowledges, but owes a massive debt to. In an effort to expand my own horizons this year within the realms of cinema, I wanted to leap into the catalog of this Italian cult film director. For starters, I decided to go with the recent Blu Ray release of his early horror mystery flick Blood and Black Lace. It was one hell of a place to start. Littered with all kinds of layers (both visually and in the performances), Blood and Black Lace takes a rather hum drum plot and makes it a riveting. It’s a film that takes a mainstream cinema approach and injects a healthy dose of art into it, fleshing out what might have otherwise been a sparse ‘whodunit’ thriller.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Yakuza Apocalypse (2015)



Director: Takashi Miike
Notable Cast:Hayato Ichihara, Yayan Ruhian, Riko Narumi, Lily Franky, Reiko Takashima

Takashi Miike remains one of the most ambitious, if not insane, directors working today. The man puts out two movies a year (I think that might be his minimum) and the sheer eclectic nature of his films, whether it’s style, genre, or approach, makes each one a rather riveting experience no matter if the quality is great or not. Going into Yakuza Apocalypse, I expected a rather serious mix of horror and dramatic action with perhaps a bit of the exploitative elements that Miike used on the yakuza films of his early career. However, Yakuza Apocalypse is not held back by genre as it goes for broke on insane set pieces and awkward bits. It’s a very in-cohesive film that suffers from its leaping genre bends and hanging plot threads, but I have to admit – this still might be one of the most entertaining and vicious film experiences that I’ve had with his material.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Top 20 Action Films of 2015


We love action films here at Blood Brothers. All kinds of them. While we certainly use the term 'cult' in loose definitions to what we cover when it comes to genre films, just looking at what eventually made my top 20 action films of the year certainly seems a bit scattered and all over the place. Not only are their films that debuted as straight to home video releases (or VOD/streaming), but there are massive tent pole blockbusters too. Action knows no bounds when it comes to being entertaining or well executed no matter what the style or approach. So here is the Top 20 Action Films of 2015:

Friday, January 1, 2016

Hateful Eight, The (2015)



Director: Quentin Tarantino
Notable Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Walton Goggins, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Demian Bichir, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, James Parks, Channing Tatum, Zoe Bell

As a cult fan, I love the idea of what Tarantino brings to his films. The guy has created his own niche of borrowed ideas, style, and cinema love for a new generation of film fans from an era of overlooked gems. I love that idea. However, the last handful of films has seen Tarantino generally lose himself in his own influences. While Inglorious Basterds made it work in some brilliant ways, Django Unchained started to crumble a bit as he catered to his own cinema arrogance. His films were getting too long, too wordy, and felt unfocused as he jams in too many concepts, plots, and characters. This is where The Hateful Eight comes along. A more stripped down premise, this cold western would seem like an antidote to Tarantino’s long winded and jumpy film aspects that were becoming cumbersome in his films. A weird blend of spaghetti western and Agatha Christie mystery, The Hateful Eight has massive potential and in its bare bones idea is perhaps the most wounded by Tarantino’s own elements. This film is too long, too wordy, and too jumpy for its own good despite its glorious moments.