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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Notable Cast:Jang Hyuk, Kim Hyeon-soo, Joe Taslim, Jeong Man-sik
Far be it for me not to admit that, dammit, I love a blind swordsman flick. Whether it’s the couple of dozen Zatoichi films, the oft-overlooked Crimson Bat series, or standalone films like The Sword of Swords, if a film has a swordsman who happens to lose (or mostly lose) their eyesight, you can count me in. For the latest addition to this long-standing trope of martial arts cinema, the blandly titled The Swordsman, South Korea takes a swing at the trope with a fairly unique balance of modern revenge, historical placement, and classic chanbara foundations. The results, even within the formula, are highly enjoyable and the film’s attempts to ride a fine line between serious and camp are commendable throughout. It’s a slash-tastic time if one is willing to loosen up and run with the tried-and-true tropes that The Swordsman is drawing.
Notable Cast: Alix Wilton Regan, Giullian Gioiello, Claire Glassford, Philippe Bowgen, Lee Garrett
While film and television adaptions of Frankenstein continually find their way to release every year, there is also a quite common trend in trying to adapt the life of Mary Shelley into the film landscape. At this point I must have seen half a dozen films that are inspired or directly attempt this approach and the latest, coming straight through your internet via Shudder, is A Nightmare Wakes. The life of Shelley and the writing of her iconic novel makes for a fascinating story in their own right, but there are only so many times one can see a ‘new angle’ on the material before it grows stale – just as the various versions of Frankenstein can cover enough ground. With A Nightmare Wakes, director Nora Unkel attempts to craft a psychological thriller around Shelley’s life during the writing of her novel.
Notable Cast: Lucie Debay, Arieh Worthalter, Claran O’Brien
The cycle of recycling continues. It’s a general rule of thumb that trends and style will eventually come back into the rotation, through a modern lens mostly, but it’s only a matter of time before something buried resurfaces. Color me surprised though when Hunted, the latest Shudder Exclusive to drop on the now illustrious horror streaming service, was proudly replicating the style and tone of the French New Extreme of the early 00s. A loose retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale, Hunted strips all of the fairy and fantasy of the story and replaces it with grit, grime, and just a touch of influence from Last House on the Left. It’s an often uncomfortable watch, intentionally so, but fans of that dark and violent style will definitely howl with delight at what Hunted is offering.
Notable cast Nita-Josee Hanna, Owen Myre, Matthew Ninaber, Adam Brooks
The Japanese tokusatsu genre has existed in some form or another for the better part of 75 years. Birthed out of films like Godzilla, they refer mostly to a style of special effects and codified in characters with international (if a bit niche) appeal like Jet Jaguar and Ultraman. The genre exploded with worldwide (emphasis on wide) popularity when producer Hiram Saban took the superhero series Super Sentai and inserted new western-shot footage in the non-costumed scenes and rebranded it Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. It’s nearly impossible to overstate the effect of this series on a specific generation of children born in the 80s and 90s with its ludicrous, over the top acting, silly but elaborate monster costumes, and bombastic, pyrotechnic filled fights. This is the energy that Steven Kostanski wants to capture with Psycho Goreman. A thoroughly hard “R” sci-fi/horror comedy, this movie hits on every cylinder it’s trying to with style, humor and panache to spare.
Notable Cast: Anthony Mackie, Jamie Dornan, Katie Aselton, Ally Ioannides, Ramiz Monsef
Benson and Moorhead have certainly made their mark on genre cinema in the last ten years. Multiple films that bridged fantasy, horror, and science fiction with thoughtful drama, humor, and artfulness have all been met with critical and audience praise. Their approach to high brow angles on classic B-grade concepts makes for provocative and impressive filmmaking and their latest, Synchronic, only solidifies the pattern of their abilities as directors and writers. Dark, heartfelt, and character-driven, the science fiction thrills of the film inspires thought as much as it entertains. It’s an especially effective balance and the combination of skills provides a film that is lifted above what might have been a lost plot in less talented hands. Synchronic is anything but lost in time. It’s timely and timeless.
Notable Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Seann William Scott, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Justin Timberlake, Mandy Moore, Miranda Richardson, Wallace Shawn, Nora Dunn, John Larroquette, Jon Lovitz, Janeane Garofalo, Will Sasso, Zelda Rubinstein
When Donnie Darko miraculously found its audience on home video after an abysmal initial release, it put director and writer Richard Kelly on the map. His street cred skyrocketed as a bold voice in early 00s cinema and producers seemed incredibly willing to give him a blank check for his next film, Southland Tales. Even with its relatively low budget of $17 million budget, the film found disaster in the box office and in the reviews from critics and audiences. It was quickly relegated to the cinematic consciousness as a bold and utter failure and has been relatively buried despite its small but dedicated cult fanbase.