Thursday, July 29, 2021

Gunpowder Milkshake (2021)


Director: Navot Papushado

Notable Cast: Karen Gillan, Lena Heady, Chloe Coleman, Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh, Angela Bassett, Paul Giamatti, Ralph Ineson

 

It was only after the film ended that it clicked for me who directed/wrote Gunpowder Milkshake. The name Navot Papushado rang a bell, but I never connected what his previous two films were.

 

Gunpowder Milkshake is very different from his previous efforts, that's why.

 

Yes, the man who gave us the horrifying double feature Rabies and Big Bad Wolves is also the director behind the two-hour exercise in S T Y L E that constitutes Gunpowder Milkshake. To say it's a deviation from the grounded grittiness of his previous films is an understatement. This comedic action fantasy film is purely unshackled oddities, layered into a traditional crime film plot and then allowed to gestate in a room full of those neon color, black light posters one could find in Spencer’s during the 2000s.

 

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins (2021)


Director: Robert Schwentke

Notable Cast: Henry Golding, Andrew Koji, Haruka Abe, Takehiro Hira, Ursula Corbero, Samara Weaving, Iko Uwais, Peter Mensah

 

The G.I. Joe franchise has always walked (and punched) down a fine line. If it’s too serious, it loses the summer blockbuster casual fans looking for escapism. If it’s too goofy? Fans of the intellectual property will cry parody and abandon ship. It’s the same debate that happened with Rise of Cobra and Retaliation and it’s already a debate raging online about the latest, a pseudo-reboot of the Hasbro toy line as action cinema, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins. For a film that’s meant to be a silly modern interpretation of an 80s iconic character born of the ninja boom of that era, that’s a lot of pressure. 

 

With an $88 million budget in tow, not including marketing for the film, and an increasingly apathetic audience to the IP, Snake Eyes has an increasing amount of grapple-hook-wall scaling to accomplish. Yet, it’s a pleasant surprise to know that this reboot, directed by Robert Schwentke, is weirdly effective at finding a balance in the basics. It lays its stakes firmly in the world of silly, bombastic summer blockbusters, but in doing so it also manages to lean into the lunacy of the G.I. Joe world. It delivers something slightly different than the usual expectations of world policing in Go America Joe or the Marvel Cinematic Universe appeasement which benefits the experience. 

 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (2021)


Director: Adam Robitel

Notable Cast: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Indya Moore, Holland Roden, Thomas Cocquerel, Carlito Olivero, Jay Erving, Deborah Ann Woll

 

It feels like yesterday that Escape Room was released in theaters; a new series that was very intentionally meant to be the heir apparent now that the Saw franchise sealed the final nails in the coffin after Jigsaw. My, how things have changed? Not only did the Saw franchise not die with a whimper after the 8th installment (it promptly went into hibernation to emerge from its cocoon to just whimper and die this year anyway) but delays and a pandemic kicked its sequel back almost 3 years. Nonetheless, if you happen to remember Escape Room, then its long-awaited sequel, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions, is going to be exactly in your wheelhouse. Not only is it a direct sequel that references a ton of material from the original, for the franchise whores out there, but it’s a film that knows exactly why people will want to see it: ridiculous trap rooms slathered in gimmicks surrounded by questionable and illogical conspiracies.

 

Hydra (2021)


Director: Kensuke Sonomura

Notable Cast: Masanori Mimoto, Miu, Ikumi Goto, Tasuku Nagase

 

Just a few months ago, word about a fantastic low budget martial arts thriller started to pop up in the social media circles that I frequent. Hydra had the potential to be the next big thing in terms of its star and director was what the dredges of the internet churned out. When Well Go USA picked up the film for distribution, to be available via their streaming service Hi Yah first before receiving a Blu Ray and DVD release, it seemed to verify the rumors. However, for fans of martial arts films - even low budget DIY ones like the previously reviewed Silat Warriors, temper the expectations. Hydra is a fascinatingly artistic take on the usual tropes of the action and martial arts genre and it’s one that intentionally defies some tropes while actively grasping onto others with a death grip. The combination proves to be infinitely intriguing, but not one that may appeal to all fans of the genre. 

 

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Son (2021)


Director: Ivan Kavanagh

Notable Cast: Andi Matichak, Luke David Blumm, Emile Hirsch

 

It was repeated throughout my childhood, a phrase that never left me. Never judge a book by its cover. Yet, it’s often an approach that any adult regularly uses on a day-to-day basis. In the bombardment of information received from the marketing teams in film, it is hard not to judge a film by its cover. In this case, judge a film by its title. Son is not necessarily the most riveting title and certainly doesn’t invoke the horror element at the core of the film. Still, don’t be me. Don’t skip out on the film thinking it is some Redbox exclusive indie low budget flick. Son is a haunting and atmospheric trip through the stark fears of motherhood that reels into some jackknife turns to deliver its horrors. 

 

Coming from director Ivan Kavanagh, director of the scrumptiously unnerving ghost film The Canal from a handful of years ago and the often overlooked western Never Grow Old, Son is taking heavy handed inspiration from classic horror like Rosemary’s Baby and asks the question - what happens after the fact?

 

Silat Warriors: Deed of Death (2021)


Director: Areel Abu Bakar

Notable Cast: Namron, Khoharullah Majid, Feiyna Tajudin, Fad Anuar, Taiyuddin Bakar

Also known as: Deed of Death; Geran

 

In recent years, there has been an intriguing boom of DIY martial arts films that have shown the strength and talents of their filmmakers. Not just The Raid either. Films like The Paper Tigers, Die Fighting, or Unlucky Stars have gloriously allowed artists inspired by classic kung fu cinema to strut their stuff. The films are often flawed, perhaps burdened by lacking budget, but the heart and soul - usually partnered with a creativity in the fight choreography - easily make them worth watching. Part of this wave includes the low budget ass kickery of Silat Warriors: Deed of Death (originally titled Geran). This Malaysian modern martial arts flick absolutely understands its limitations and often uses them to its benefit, focusing on the grounded realism of its fights and character interactions to fuel its intensity rather than spectacle or effects. It’s a throwback to the gritty action films of martial arts past in all of the best ways and delivers on intimate character work and two fists worth of tight action sequences. 

 

Thursday, July 15, 2021

The Daimajin Trilogy (2021) [Daimajin, The Return of Daimajin, The Wrath of Daimajin]


The recent number of Daiei films that Arrow Video has unleashed onto Blu Ray and digitally in the last couple of years, it should not be a shock that the Daimajin Trilogy was one of the next collectors sets. Although the three films were widely available on Blu Ray through a cheap release via Mill Creek already, after the previously released Gamera series was released, an upgrade was most welcome. Featuring the only three films of this fascinating tokusatsu series, The Daimajin Trilogy not only contains the HD versions of the films, but tons of new commentaries, discussions, and writings about the films in a deluxe collectors set. This review will cover all three films of the series, but if you are interested enough in Daimajin to be reading this article - you might as well order the set right now. It’s a worthy endeavor to see the unusual and all too enticing films included. 

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Sunday, July 11, 2021

The Forever Purge (2021)


Director: Everardo Gout

Notable Cast: Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta, Josh Lucas, Will Patton, Cassidy Freeman, Veronica Falcon, Leven Rambin, Gregory Zaragoza

 

When the Saw franchise ran with the marketing gimmick of “if it’s Halloween, it’s Saw” because they essentially staked their claim to the holiday season before being dethroned by Paranormal Activity, they knew their drawing power. In the same vein, it is another Independence Day and that means it’s time for a bit of Purge. For this fifth installment, The Forever Purge, the series moves locales, adds a new voice in director Everardo Gout, and continues to embed heavy-handed social commentary within the confines of a genre exploitation heavy dose of street level chaos. As most reviewers seem to note, yes, The Forever Purge is quite a bit more of the same, but it injects just the right amount of fresh blood into the mix - making for another provocatively entertaining slab of genre cinema.

 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

F9 (2021)


Director: Justin Lin

Notable Cast: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, John Cena, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Sung Kang, Nathalie Emmanuel, Thue Ested Rasmussen, Charlize Theron, Helen Mirren, Anna Sawai, Kurt Russell, Lucas Black, Shad Moss

Also known as: F9: The Fast Saga

 

While one could argue the diminishing returns in quality of the Fast & Furious & Franchise continues to plague newer entries, there is something special in how much F9 tries to rectify so much of the misfiring that happened in Fate of the Furious. Even the soap opera-inspired long-lost brother plot or the return of Han (Justice is served, nerds) are addressed in a way that says "we know, we botched a lot of the family stuff in the last one, but we're trying harder now." The intent is amicable, if not flawed in its own right. 


Sunday, June 27, 2021

Threshold (2021)


Directors: Powell Robinson, Patrick Robert Young

Notable Cast: Joey Millin, Madison West, Daniel Abraham Stevens

 

When I found out that the directors of Bastard, a film that I genuinely enjoyed, were directing a DIY road trip thriller on two iPhones, I was already in. Say what you will, but a good gimmick is a good fuckin’ gimmick. Even though the ‘shot on an iPhone’ angle was used in the marketing for Unsane to an insane degree, the idea of an indie film shot on the fly had me hook, line, and sinker. Threshold, which premiered to relatively strong word of mouth on the festival circuit, even drew the attention of Arrow Video, prompting them to give the film a rather impressive Blu Ray release. Not too shabby for an indie thriller. 

 

In the spirit of a shot on iPhones in 12 days on a road trip indie thriller, Threshold is not necessarily the most riveting of films. Limited budgets, time, and tech are always going to force a film toward dramatic heft, performances, and creative outside of the box thinking and that’s exactly what happens with this one. It’s a double-edged sword in its approach, but for viewers with the right mindset, an artistic one that understands the brilliance of what they aim to accomplish, Threshold does deliver a dynamic tale about rekindled familial friendship, belief, and a ‘fuck it, we’re doing it live’ attitude. True to its indie spirit. 

 

Friday, June 25, 2021

Rurouni Kenshin: The Final (2021)


Director: Keishi Otomo

Notable Cast: Takeru Sataoh, Emi Takei, Mackenyu Arata, Yosuke Eguchi, Munetaka Aoki, Yu Aoi, Yusuke Iseya, Riku Onishi, Tao Tsuchiya, Ryosuke Miura, Takuma Oto’o


The opening sequence of Rurouni Kenshin: The Final features the film’s villain, Enishi, absolutely annihilating an entire regiment of police officers during an arrest attempt on a steam engine ready to depart for China. It’s a robust and breathtaking sequence that sees the brightly colored new character, a true live-action interpretation of an anime and manga figure, whip through the train, shattering windows, leaping from inside to outside, and bouncing between bone-cracking martial arts combat and wuxia style gravity-defying wirework. It’s no holds barred action with flourish and crushing hits. Yep, the live action Rurouni Kenshin series is back and it’s wholly welcome. 

 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021)


Director: Michael Chaves

Notable Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ruairi O’Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook, Julian Hilliard, John Noble, Eugenie Bondurant, Shannon Kook, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Keith Arthur Bolden

 

With almost $2 billion dollars in the box office now, The Conjuring Universe has solidified itself as one of the premiere horror franchises in history. What started as Wan’s love letter to 70s supernatural horror has become a lucrative money-making machine that has spawned far more spin-offs than entries into the original series. The quality of these entries varies, often to a shocking extent, but one thing about the series is that it always finds a way to entertain - even if the whole product is flawed.

 

The latest entry into the series, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, is now the third of the original series and finally catching up to its spin-off series, Annabelle, in quantity. This entry represents a deviation from its two predecessors in a few ways, most notably in that James Wan has stepped away from the director’s chair, but it’s not one that completely abandons the core values for a slightly more convenient approach. Certainly, The Devil Made Me Do It is not the efficient and tightly crafted modern classic one might hope, but it’s also not the wild misfire it might have been. 

 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Years of Lead: Five Classic Italian Crime Thrillers (2021) [Savage Three / Like Rabid Dogs]


While the Poliziotteschi genre is one that has been generally covered by other writers here at Blood Brothers, it’s incredibly hard not to want to immediately dig into Arrow Video’s latest Blu Ray box set, Years of Lead. This set contains five films and enough special features to make most cinephiles ill with joy. It’s an impressive set, on the whole, and the following series of reviews will dive into the various films contained within. If anything, just as a taster, Italian cinema fans or those who enjoy cult cinema will want to add this to their collection even if they already own some of the titles. Nonetheless, if any questions remain, the next few articles will go through the films included.

 

This article contains a review for the first two films in the set, Savage Three and Like Rabid Dogs

 

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.