Monday, May 3, 2021

The Stylist (2021)


Director: Jill Gevargizian

Notable Cast: Najarra Townsend, Brea Grant

 

Originality is overrated. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million times on repeat until I bleed from my ears and eyes. It’s in the execution where a film finds its freshness. A willingness by its creative elements to own its history and define its future is key. The Stylist is absolutely a representation of that ideology. To boil down its concept to its bare bones for an audience to decide if it's worth its weight in plastic and paper, one could easily call this film Single White Female through the lens of Maniac. It’s not wrong to describe it that way, but it’s the execution of that viewpoint that crafts a stunning horror picture. The Stylist takes a little off the top and adds a bit of color and highlights to the mixture described, but the results are a stunningly nuanced, heartfelt, and often terrifying concoction ready for the horror runway. 

 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Mortal Kombat (2021)


Director: Simon McQuoid

Notable Cast: Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Mehcad Brooks, Joe Taslim, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Matilda Kimber, Laura Brent, Chin Han, Ludi Lin, Max Huang, Sisi Stringer, Mel Jarnson, Nathan Jones

 

Mortal Kombat has a rich history, whether people like to admit it or not. Not only from the ever-expanding series of games that ballooned to include all kinds of crazy shit from fighting tournaments to action-adventure platformers, but to the overall pop cultural impact that was left in the wake of its controversial birth. There have already been two live-action films, a handful of TV shows, and a few animated stories. This is IP with a lot of fans, a lot of skeptics, and a lot of expectations when it comes to a new live-action film being crafted with “the fans'' in mind. 

 

For 2021’s Mortal Kombat, produced by genre auteur turned populist icon James Wan and directed by Simon McQuoid of - let me check my notes - nothing, the key was finding a balance between everyone’s expectations. A relatively daft task, if we are all being honest with ourselves. Partner that with the insane combination of being one of the first major films to drop into theaters as they start to reopen in the wake of a still ongoing pandemic, and this film was already riding a very tight line even before its release. 

 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

In the Earth (2021)


Director: Ben Wheatley

Notable Cast: Joel Fry, Ellora Torchia, Reece Shearsmith, Hayley Squires

 

One of the fascinating things about bold and auteur-focused voices in cinema are that audiences will ebb and flow with their projects. Ben Wheatley, despite bursting from the gates with a handful of positively regarded slabs of artistic genre fair, including the altogether incredible Kill List, has seen his clout come and go with how his audience is able to digest his films in the ways he challenges them. With his latest effort, In the Earth, Wheatley aims to jam in a solid indie and artsy horror flick in between much larger profile projects (Rebecca and The Meg 2, respectively), and the results are as strange and off-kilter as one might expect. Slathered in a naturalism meets acid trip sensibility, where the former eventually succumbs to the latter, In the Earth is a film where the experience directly feeds into its messaging and the execution between the two is experimentation in challenging its viewers to hold their own on the ride. People wanted artsy genre work after everyone bitched about Free Fire? You fuckin’ got it.

 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Godzilla Vs. Kong (2021)


Director: Adam Wingard

Notable Cast: Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Kaylee Hottle, Demian Bichir, Shun Oguri, Eiza Gonzalez, Julian Dennison, Lance Reddick, Kyle Chandler

 

Well, it’s here. Finally. After three previous films, each one receiving rather mixed reviews and a continually declining box office, the Legendary and Warner Bros. ‘Monsterverse’ culminates in Godzilla Vs. Kong. Yes, that’s correct, the titanic duo come together once again in the monster showdown that was well on its way into production when Godzilla: King of the Monsters struggled at the box office. To its benefit, the long delays to release postponed originally to “allegedly” distance itself from the relative disappointment of the previous film and then a few more times due to the pandemic, have allowed the film to breathe a bit and find its footing. Its surprise success at the theaters, despite premiering day and date on HBOMax, is an indicator of two things: a) that audiences were ready to see a film truly made for the theatrical experience and b) enjoy a film more fine-tuned to deliver on its promises.

 

Monday, April 19, 2021

Honeydew (2021)


Director: Devereux Milburn

Notable Cast: Malin Barr, Sawyer Spielberg, Barbara Kingsley, Stephen D’Ambrose, Jamie Bradley, Lena Dunham

 

The love letters to past horror styles recently have been, to some degree, all-consuming. All art influences art further down the spectrum, but the intentional replication of past decades by young filmmakers is certainly an overarching theme in horror as of late. Fortunately, most films that attempt that approach are not just recreating the choices of previous cinema, but are often remixing it. Honeydew, the debut feature from director and writer Devereux Milburn, is one more film to reach for that blend. Combining elements of 1970s rural terror with a sly, modern angle on the material is the name of the game for this flick. The mixture proves to be impeccably intriguing, particularly as the film is laying the groundwork, but it’s also one that promises far more than it can fulfill by its finale.

 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The Unholy (2021)


Director: Evan Spiliotopoulos

Notable Cast: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Cricket Brown, William Sadler, Cary Elwes

 

Dropping a Christianity-based religious horror film is a relatively regular occurrence, but having the audacity to release it to theaters on Easter weekend is priceless. That’s just what happened with The Unholy, the latest venture into horror for Sam Raimi’s Ghost House, and the directorial debut of Evan Spiliotopoulos. Although that release date angle is certainly a tasty morsel on its own merits, The Unholy as a modern horror venture is an act of mistitling. Technically, yes, the film is about an unholy witch, but it’s a film that should have the more apt title, The Unmemorable. It’s a shame. There are quite a few intriguing elements to the film, but it’s overly reliant on hitting the formula beats and shoehorning in jump scares to make up for a lack of cohesive narrative, plot, and atmosphere. 

 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

No Franchise Fatigue Movie Podcast: Klaatu Barata Necktie (Evil Dead Franchise Part II)


Today there is a discussion of the long-time fan favorite Army of Darkness, AND Sean and Matt discuss the finer points of the remake.

Spoiler alert, the finer points are violence.

Also, Sean and Matt discuss the brilliance of Fede Alvarez, why Evil Dead fans are terrible at showing up to things when they need to, ask the hard questions about Ash's skillsets, and drop their rankings for the Evil Dead franchise - which features not one, but TWO controversial decisions. 

So strap on your chainsaw, pick up your Chemistry 101 textbook, cut off the barbed wire on your book, and listen to the NFF's finale on the Evil Dead franchise. 




Monday, March 29, 2021

No Franchise Fatigue Movie Podcast: Work Shed (Evil Dead Franchise Part I)


Sam Raimi forever changed horror with his Evil Dead series, and today Sean and Matt discuss that very series in their analysis of The Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn. Also, they discuss hot topics like Sam Raimi's love of putting gross things in character's mouths, what is the difference in remake and reboot, and, of course, Frank Grillo's ability to flex abs AND laughs. JOIN US. 

... and give me back my hand…





Thursday, March 25, 2021

The Bloodhound (2021)


Director: Patrick Picard

Notable Cast: Liam Aiken, Joe Adler, Annalise Basso

 

The works of Edgar Allen Poe have certainly inspired, well, essentially anything having to remotely deal with macabre material to this day. Some of it is more directly involved such as direct adaptations and others are more inspired in tone or concept. The Bloodhound, “inspired” to a great degree by Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, is a modern retelling that takes the basic premise and injects a slow burning and often incredibly uneasy awkwardness to everything. It’s Poe for the A24 age, a tale of collapsing health and sanity, wrapped in a particular style and approach one might describe as quirky. If anyone wanted a Wes Anderson style Poe adaption, embedded with a suffocating sense of oddity and modern impending existential dread, then look no further than this strange and delightfully uneasy film. 


Sunday, March 21, 2021

Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021)


Director: Zack Snyder

Notable Cast: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Jason Mamoa, Ezra Miller, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons

 

On a normal day, I would start my review for a film with context, perhaps my expectations, a bit of history, or an angle to address the “world” that this film was watched in. When it comes to Zack Snyder’s Justice League, most of our readers already have a strong opinion of the events that have led to the resulting decision by Warner Bros. in allowing this new version of the film to exist. There are certainly arguments to be made on both sides of its existence, the right for an auteur director to have their vision is one stance that I usually subscribe to, but Zack Snyder’s Justice League is one that comes with a price attached to it - more than the reported $70 million that WB forked up to allow Snyder to “finish” his intended version. However, this is a review of the film and not an analysis of the problematic lingering effects of it- although I will drop this link to an article that aptly describes my feelings on the matter: LINK.

 

Instead, let’s focus on the film itself, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, a four-hour epic opus of the now mostly defunct DCEU meant to culminate the scattered and often insanely problematic universe that Zack Snyder was spearheading. Released on HBO Max, as a way to drive viewership to the service, the newly minted Zack Snyder’s Justice League is certainly an improvement over the theatrical version that Joss Whedon had worked on. It’s also a marked improvement over the other two Snyder DC films, Man of Steel and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Not that it means much as both of those as tragically flawed. 

 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

No Franchise Fatigue Movie Podcast: Burn, Baby, Burn Kyoto Inferno (Rurouni Kenshin Franchise)


For the latest episode of No Franchise Fatigue, Matt and Sean discuss the anime-based chanbara samurai series Rurouni Kenshin! As always we discuss important questions. Wouldn't being beaten with a blunt edge sword still hurt? What exactly causes a fire mummy's sword to shoot flame? Who is Sir Hops-A-Lot? Plus, you can hear Sean spew a series of words that constitutes the concept behind a video game and Matt gets to struggle to say Japanese names (like always). 

Check out our latest episode below or wherever you listen to podcasts. 








Thursday, March 18, 2021

Vanguard (2021)


Director: Stanley Tong

Notable Cast: Jackie Chan, Yang Yang, Ai Lun, Miya Muqi, Yang Jian Ping, Zhu Zhengting, Jackson Lou, Xu Ruohan, Rahim Achabbakhe, Eyad Hourani

 

When Kung Fu Yoga came out in 2017, it quickly dispelled the notion that perhaps, just perhaps, the combination of director Stanley Tong and star Jackie Chan could recapture the lunacy of Supercop and First Strike. It was a mess of a film, but it made some impressive box office dollars, so why not have them team up again for another massive international action-adventure flick? This is why we have Vanguard, the latest hollow attempt at mass appeal riding on the coattails of past success. With over 10 minutes of credits at the end, the film is 90 more minutes of sheer outlandish action, punctuated by bright colors and patchy CGI, that aims to move so quickly from set piece to set piece that its audience might forget that there should be a movie underneath all of the glitz and glam. What’s left is a film that is about as effective as a long commercial in terms of storytelling quality. That presents a problem if its viewer wants more than just misguided style. 

 

Friday, March 12, 2021

No Franchise Fatigue Movie Podcast: I Bet Mathayas Is a Pisces (The Scorpion King Franchise Part 2)


The Scorpion King reminds me of the fable of the scorpion and the frog in a way…

-“Hey Mathayus, why did you lose the kingdom?”
-“You knew what I was when you kinged me…”


Regardless, today we finish the Scorpion King franchise! It brings to mind such questions as, if you had one codpiece joke, would it involve a knife? How serious is too serious for this franchise? How do you want to introduce ninjas? Flying kicks? Flying kicks to the crotch? Listen up as we finish off the series and announce our next franchise!

Featuring guest host Derrick Veurink of backlot605.com!



Tuesday, March 9, 2021

The Invisible Man Appears (1949) and The Invisible Man Vs the Human Fly (1957)


As someone who grew up on a heavy staple of Universal Monster Movies from all eras, following the various monsters as they leaped across studios in a perfect storm of remakes, reboots, and reinterpretations. While The Invisible Man was certainly the least ‘frightening’ of the monsters to me as a kid, the character and the story that started with H.G. Wells’ incredible novel is one that has oddly aged as some of the best in theme and concept. For further proof of that, feel free to read our very positive review of Leigh Whannell’s latest version of the character from last year’s The Invisible Man. Thus, it’s a character that can have almost an infinite number of new interpretations that allows it a lot of flexibility to reflect the time period and the culture crafting the interpretation. 

 

Color me very excited to check out the two wild (and mostly forgotten) Japanese versions of the character and concept in Arrow Video’s latest dual feature release of The Invisible Man Appears and The Invisible Man Vs the Human Fly.

 

Newly restored to the best possible shape, these two Daiei productions represent an entirely new perspective on the story from a cultural standpoint and from a time period standpoint. While the restorations are, in fact, a little rough around the edges - a point very well addressed at the beginning of the first film for the film collector’s ready to complain as if the context of these films even existing still wasn’t a Herculean feat, there is a lot to digest here from the vantage points of history and as a piece of entertainment. 

 

Sunday, March 7, 2021

No Franchise Fatigue Movie Podcast: Sting Me to Life (The Scorpion King Franchise Part 1)


Now in our second reboot this year, we start NFF 3.0 with magical powder bang with the first part of the wildly uneven, but always entertaining Scorpion King franchise. Can our heroic hosts decipher the comedic tones? Will Universal try to franchise our podcast? Will Randy Couture hear this and hunt down Matt like the cowardly dog that he is? Remember, when you start this episode, you’re honor-bound to finish it…

Featuring guest host Derrick Veurink of backlot605.com!



Saturday, March 6, 2021

Wrong Turn (2021)


Director: Mike P. Nelson

Notable Cast: Charlotte Vega, Matthew Modine, Adain Bradley, Bill Sage, Emma Dumont, Dylan McTee, Daisy Head

 

The Wrong Turn franchise has been something of a pleasure of mine. While the first two films in the long-running slasher series feature some creative and well-executed concepts, in two very different tones, the rest of the four sequels have de-evolved into low-brow slasher silliness. The ‘turn off your brain’ kind of entertainment one would expect from a direct-to-home-video slasher franchise. The latest installment of the series, a reboot with the clever title Wrong Turn (I hope you all can feel my eye roll as I type that), aims to not only bring a new life into a franchise treading water, but one that also aims for loftier goals of embedding a message into the material. That’s right, no longer is this just a series of films about inbred cannibals in West Virginia slaughtering people in questionable states of clothing, but it’s going to say something about it. 

 

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Crazy Samurai 400 Vs 1 (2021)


Director: Yugi Shimomura

Notable Cast: Tak Sakaguchi

 

When Crazy Samurai 400 Vs 1 was originally announced, under the simplified title of Crazy Samurai Musashi, it was hard not to be excited. Mainly because cult favorite action icon, Tak, would be stepping into the shoes of the titular folk hero, Musashi, for the film. Of course, it would only get more exciting from there as the film was touting that it would feature a 77-minute, one-take action sequence that would have our badass ‘hero’ fending off 400 foes. 

 

Granted, once a person starts thinking of the logistics of such a feat, the excitement lends itself to wariness at the audacity of any film to attempt it. Could any film truly pull off this kind of incredulous notion? Could they defy the odds and make it work?

 

Thanks to our friends at Well Go USA, Crazy Samurai 400 Vs 1 is now available on both their streaming platform Hi-Yah! and via physical media. The results, while ultimately mixed, are worthy of a viewing just for the curious. At a strangely brisk 92 minutes in total, the 77-minute action set-piece constitutes over 83% of the film’s entire run time and the insanity of that statistic is felt on screen. 

 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Strike Back (2021)


Director: Vincent Zhao

Notable Cast: Vincent Zhao, Jiang Yiyi, Diego Dati, Lu Peng

Also known as: Counter Attack

 

After the success of Wolf Warrior II as a home-grown mega-blockbuster that didn’t need the help of the foreign box office to make it onto the list of highest-grossing films of all time, it’s a bit of a shock that more films weren’t immediately jumping on board to replicate the success. It was a film that took a popular actor, in this case, Wu Jing, and made him one of the biggest box office draws in the nation. Not to mention, the star directed the film and suddenly he was a hot commodity in that area too. That kind of ego boost for Wu Jing is impressive. Yet, there wasn't the boom of knock-offs that one might expect. However, speaking of an ego boost, please allow Vincent Zhao to enter this review. 

 

Monday, February 22, 2021

Shogun's Joy of Torture (1968)


Director: Teruo Ishii

Notable Cast: Teruo Yoshida, Masumi Tachibana, Fumio Watanabe, Reiko Mikasa, Miki Obana, Yukie Kagawa, Shinichiro Hayashi, Asao Koike, Kichijiro Ueda, Tamaki Sawa

 

One of the best things about many of the recent Arrow Video acquisitions is their intentions to dig up some of the missing cult classics from the King of Cult, Teruo Ishii. They’ve already released a handful of his filmography, an insane amount of films for those who want to attempt counting them, and their latest, Shogun’s Joy of Torture, brings back one of his most sought-after and acclaimed titles from his pinky violence era. Like many of the other films released by Arrow, this 1968 exploitation flick is an omnibus of three stories centered around the titular theme - old-school torture elements from Japan’s history. It’s not one of his best, but for those looking for a slab of interestingly made provocative cinema, it’s hard to go wrong with this one. 

 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

A Writer's Odyssey (2021)


Director: Lu Yang

Notable Cast: Lei Jiayin, Yang Mi, Dong Zijian, Yu Hewei, Guo Jingfei

 

After a double-fisted punch of modern wuxia excellence with Brotherhood of Blades and its prequel, Lu Yang was a directorial name to watch. All eyes were on his third film as questions arose whether or not his style and balance between classic and modern influences would translate beyond the world he helped craft in the previously mentioned martial arts actioners. When the initial trailer dropped for his latest, A Writer’s Odyssey, a plethora of questions were left in its wake. With a dual narrative where ambitiously over-the-top fantasy action set pieces collided with a classic kidnapping thriller plot, the film looked almost too disjointed - even in the marketing. We all know that trailers are specifically meant to make a film look good and A Writer’s Odyssey, partnered with its odd title, felt a bit too egregious even for the vulgar auteur in me.