Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Irezumi (1966)


Director: Yasuzo Masumura

Notable Cast: Ayako Wakao, Akio Hasegawa, Gaku Yamamoto, Kei Sato, Fujio Suga, Asao Uchida, Reiko Fujiwara, Kikue Mori, Jun Fujikawa, Tadashi Iwata

 

“We go to hell together!”

 

Arrow Video’s continuation to release incredible pieces of Japanese cinema remains one of the best things that the label is currently pursuing. Whether or not the sales reflect the brilliance of their choices is something that remains to be seen, but if there’s a title announced on the line up - mark my words, it’s one to add to your collection. With their release of Irezumi, one of those fantastic pieces of cinema too often overlooked by more mainstream cinephiles, Arrow does it again. Not only is the restoration and presentation of the film incredible, Irezumi is one of those slices of subversive arthouse exploitation that serves to continually remind everyone - myself included - that the amount of top-notch cinema that exists in the world is far more than one could expect. 

 

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Undercover Punch & Gun (2021)


Directors: Lui Koon Nam, Frankie Tam

Notable Cast: Philip Ng, Andy On, Van Ness Wu, Chi Shuai, Joyce Feng, Aaron Mustapha Aziz

 

One of the things that growing up with Hong Kong cinema has allowed me to be comfortable with is tonal whiplash. Nobody does imperfect tonal shifts to perfection like Chinese, Taiwanese, and Hong Kong. As time has gone on, the industry has certainly tried to make their material a bit more consumable for larger audiences and that means many films have pulled back a bit from the sheer insanity of the fast tone slides. I should have been prepared when Undercover Punch & Gun decided to take a potentially gritty undercover cop action flick and inject some wild quirks and humor into it. Does it work all the time? Absolutely not, but there is this kind of postmodern angle to its 80s approach that does have its charms. This allows Undercover Punch & Gun to be oddly charming as it delivers on its action through the dual efforts of its big-name cast. Even if the film feels a bit uneven and hollow as a whole. 

 

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

A Quiet Place Part II (2021)


Director: John Krasinski

Notable Cast: Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Cillian Murphy, Jahn Krasinski, Noah Jupe, Djimon Hounsou

 

One could easily consider A Quiet Place the horror movie heard ‘round the world when it dropped in 2018. For a film about silence and missing communication in a world made quiet by sound-hunting monsters, it sure made a lot of noise upon its release. With most of the cast returning, John Krasinski retaining the director’s chair, and the cliffhanger finale of the original, there was a lot to look forward to in A Quiet Place Part II. However, where Krasinski aimed for an admirable “less IS more” goal with the original, he shifts his focus towards a “less OF more” mentality here. It’s a subtle shift, but one that certainly carries impact. For fans, it’s a welcome return to the post-apocalyptic world of the original that delivers on many of the aspects that made it an instant modern classic, but it’s also a film that suffers slightly from sequel-itis.

 

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021)


Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

Notable Cast: Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson, Max Minghella, Marisol Nichols

 

Every long-lasting franchise has to have its ups and downs. It’s just like life. Always a bit of a roller coaster, ya know? For the Saw franchise, diminishing returns for the sixth and seventh entries spelled a bit of doom for the initial run, but you can’t keep a good horror series down. While the eighth film, Jigsaw, did well box office wise relatively negative feedback from critics and fans ended that attempted kickstarter quickly. Enough that it sent the franchise into hibernation for a little while at least. That is until Chris Rock. 

 

Did anyone have Chris Rock on their Saw bingo card as the man who would try to reboot the long-lasting and iconic franchise?

 

Nonetheless, this leads to the ninth film in the series, Spiral: From the Book of Saw. The marketing featured strong vibing close to a Saw meets Se7en tone, while fantastic trailers and posters made the hype for this almost undeniable. Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson, director Darren Lynn Bousman, and other factors simply worked in building expectations up to a fever pitch in horror circles. Yet, the strange thing about Spiral is that, for better or worse, it’s simply another Saw film and not the new and improved chapter that so much of its marketing leaned on.

 

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Ip Man: Crisis Time (2020)


Director: Li Li-Ming

Notable Cast: Zhao Wen Hao, Mou Feng Bin, Hao-xuan Li, Shao Xia

 

As an individual that grew up in the boom of direct to home video market, I definitely do not have qualms with low-budget cinema that aims to exploit specific trends or topics. This is why I wrote an article on the Ipsploitation genre over at 36 Styles in defense of Ip Man: Kung Fu Master. A defense that has certainly earned me some criticism. You’re welcome to weigh in yourselves by following this LINK. Still, for the most part, I’m all for a ‘cash in' in the cinematic sense and I think it allows for some intriguing watches for the more curious folks exploring genre films. 

 

The director of the previously mentioned Ipsploitation film, Li Li-Ming, had a previous run at the genre with the film Ip Man: Crisis Time. For those who have seen Kung Fu Master and thought it was a total ‘in-name-only’ cash grab at snagging some bucks from fans of the Wai Son Yip and Donnie Yen franchise, boy, are you in for a ride with this effort. Ip Man: Crisis Time is barely a film in any relation to the cinematic character representation of Bruce Lee’s teacher, but it’s surely a film converted into an Ip Man film at some point after its initial creation.

 

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Wrath of Man (2021)


Director: Guy Ritchie

Notable Cast: Jason Statham, Holt McCallany, Rocci Williams, Josh Hartnett, Jeffrey Donovan, Scott Eastwood, Andy Garcia, Deobia Oparei, Laz Alonso, Raul Castillo, Chris Reilly, Eddie Marsan, Niamh Algar

 

When I hear that there is a new film from Jason Statham and/or Guy Ritchie, I just assume I’m going to the movie theater for a good time. Both are oddly adept at comedy, despite their work in the action and thriller genres, and having them reteam up for the first time since Revolver seemed like it was going to be an enjoyable time at the theaters. While I will say that their latest, Wrath of Man, is quite an impressive film, it’s not one that I would call a “fun” time at the theaters. The goal of the film is not quips and quirks. Instead, Wrath of Man is a rather dire and dour experience that intends to explore the heavy material in answering the question, ‘what if a bad man becomes a devastating force of nature in trying to hunt down a specific group of bad men?’ The results may not be fun, but it might be one of the best from both Ritchie and Statham. 

 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Oxygen (2021)


Director: Alexandre Aja

Notable Cast: Melanie Laurent, Malik Zidi, Mathieu Amalric

 

Although I am quite a fan of Alexandre Aja as a director, the general concept of his latest film, the Netflix released Oxygen, where a woman wakes up trapped in a high-tech cryotube, is still pretty basic. The buried alive motif is a relatively common one in genre storytelling and there are quite a few films that already do it with impressive results. Hell, even Ryan Reynolds was in a decent one, Buried, just a decade ago.

 

Imagine my surprise that Oxygen, originally titled O2, comes out looking to set the archetype for the modern ‘buried alive’ angle. It's a tight and impressively balanced techno-thriller, tense in its use of both the suffocating setting and the reveal of increasingly devastating information, that maximizes its mystery and its science fiction angle to deliver thrills and occasional chills. 

 

Friday, May 14, 2021

Jakob's Wife (2021)


Director: Travis Stevens

Notable Cast: Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden, Bonnie Aarons, Nyisha Bell, Sarah Lind, Mark Kelly, CM Punk

 

In my humble and often questionable opinion, most vampire films can be placed into two categories: hoity-toity castle artsy vampire cinema and buried in a dirty grave fun vampire flicks. Not that films can’t be both to some degree, as is the spectrum of film, but those are the two ends for me. Judging by the strong casting, the poster artwork, and the title, the expectations that came with Jakob’s Wife seemed to lean heavily toward hoity-toity. It would fit with the current state of horror trends and, quite frankly, I was sold on that idea. However, this film easily leans towards the latter category, albeit in a smart way. It’s a cinematic mixture of classic elements and modern twists. Not only are fans loving it, but critics seem to share the appreciation of the quirks and strengths of the film’s oddities in its choices. Jakob’s Wife is a stellar example of a team of creatives taking a tone and embracing both the silliness and the intelligence of its messages and delivery. 

 

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Deliver Us from Evil (2021)


Director: Hong Won-chan

Notable Cast: Hwang Jung-min, Lee Jung-jae, Park Jung-min, Choi Hee-seo, Park So-yi, Song Young-chang

 

One time I had a friend of mine refer to action films that revolve around kidnapping as ‘search and destroy films,’ and it has been a phrase I tend to use for some time now. To be honest, I’m quite a fan of these search and destroy flicks, whether it’s a Taken knock-off or one of the SPL sequels. For the film Deliver Us from Evil, a title that sounds far more fitting for a religious horror film than an intense and brutal South Korean actioner, it’s the latter films that have the most influence on its intentions. At the baseline, it’s a fairly standard action thriller that even more casual fans of the genre or South Korean cinema can consume. With two key performances, some brutal action, and just enough heart, it’s hard not to love what Deliver Us from Evil is pushing despite its relatively generic approach to storytelling. 

 

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.