Thursday, December 31, 2015

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015)

Director: JJ Abrams
Notable Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Harrison Ford, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Andy Serkis, Max Von Sydow

For the record, I’m not a huge Star Wars fan. Outside of growing up with the original trilogy and suffering through the prequel trilogy for the sake of nostalgia, I can’t say I was wholly sold on the entire thing. They are a fun film experience, sure, but not necessarily the great film making that others seem intent on telling me they are. (For further reading, feel free to jump over to my reviews of the other films on this site). So the hype for Episode VII: The Force Awakens didn’t quite resonate with me like it did for so many of those around me and thus, I took my sweet time seeing it in theaters. I have to admit though, despite my hesitations, The Force Awakens is easily my favorite film in the franchise. It’s not perfect, we’ll get to that in a second, but the amount of fun in the spectacle is matched with some shockingly heartfelt moments to make it one of the better blockbusters this year.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Hiroshima Death Match (1973)

Director: Kinji Kukasaku
Notable Cast: Kinya Kitaoji, Sonny Chiba, Meiko Kaji, Bunta Sugawara 
Also known as: Battles Without Honor and Humanity: Hiroshima Death Match, Deadly Fight in Hiroshima

Director Kinji Fukasaku and writer Kazuo Kasahara really knocked it out of the park with their gritty and complex yakuza story in the first Battles Without Honor and Humanity, so when that one ended up being a commercial success it was only obvious that a second film would quickly follow. Hiroshima Death Match, also known as Battles Without Honor and Humanity: Hiroshima Death Match and Deadly Fight in Hiroshima, continues fairly faithfully in the style and tone that made the original film such a success. Any fans of the first one are definitely going to latch onto what this film has to offer. However, the writing this time around is a bit more focused and centered which is both a blessing and curse to differentiate the film from the previous one. And depending on your stance about the style, the film is either better or worse.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Top 20 Horror Films of 2015

Perhaps the greatest (and most concerning) thing about the horror genre is just how ravenous their fan base can be. Horror is an oddly divisive genre and one that encompasses a shocking amount of ground and style. Mainstream, underground, found footage, slasher, etc. And every person has their opinion about the genre and it's usually fairly strong. This year, I tried to keep an open mind to the newer films, setting aside a lot of my own expectations and pre-determined tastes to go into films with a blank slate. With over 60 films watched in the genre, not nearly all of them that were released, here is my top 20 horror films of 2015:

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Love in a Puff + Love in the Buff (2010, 2012)

Director: Pang Ho-cheung
Notable Cast: Shawn Yue, Miriam Yeung, Cheung Tat Ming, Sharon Luk, Charmaine Fong, Xu Zheng, Yang Mi, Vincent Kok, Ekin Cheng, Huang Xioaming
Original Cantonese title(s): 志明與春嬌 / 春嬌與志明

The Love in a Trilogy (that's not what it's officially called, but we'll go with it; the third has yet to start shooting) is one of my favorite series of films, not because of the ambition and scale (like a lot of Hollywood franchises thrive on), but because these are great hang out films. The lead characters of Jimmy and Cherie (played to perfection by Shawn Yue and Miriam Yeung) are two of my favorite characters in all of cinema. Again, they aren't overly written or that unique, but they are very much real, so much so, that I often forget when watching them, that I am watching people act. They (aside from how nice they look visually) both [films] have this almost documentary quality to them, especially the 1st one. Love in a Puff has an interesting element of interviews with each of the characters for a documentary that is being made in the film. Fantastic!

Cherie and Jimmy

To keep things organized, and to not bounce back and forth between films constantly, I am going to primarily be reviewing Love in a Puff, with a little add-on paragraph below on Love in the Buff, which feels like more of an expansion to the film, rather than a sequel that takes us into a very, very different place, despite the actual setting be different (Beijing instead of Hong Kong). With that out of the way, let's get to it and talk about one of my favorite Hong Kong films of the decade, the quick-witted, always vulgar and yet charming, Love in a Puff.

2010 marked an awesome year for me. I discovered a new (to me) director working in my favorite area of cinematic gold (Hong Kong was my place at the time), Pang Ho-cheung. I saw two of his films that year, both very different films: Dream Home (維多利亞壹號), and the subject of this review. I was completely blown away by both films as they were both so different from each other (one a slasher film and the other a love story), and yet similar in how they handled real characters and very realistic dialogues. Now, I will say, I am no speaker nor even an understand-er (new word) of the Cantonese language, but what I will say is my ears can differentiate that over-the-top theatrical dialogue that films have (no matter the language spoken) versus a more naturalistic approach. This film has so much swearing in it, that it sort of reminded me of a Kevin Smith film, without going in to that so far-fetched that it feels fake territory that Smith films often do. Pang and his dialogue felt to me like the closest thing I'd get to hanging out with local Hong Kong people than actually being right there in the country. It was something fresh that I hadn't really gotten with other films from the area, and it excited me.

Love in a Puff, as said before, is quite the simple tale, in which two people meet up and begin to fall in love, with the backdrop to the romance being the smoking situation in Hong Kong that had began around that time (smoking at designated posts in public). The two lovebirds to be, Jimmy and Cherie, have some of the best chemistry as a couple of any romance film I've seen. They are completely real and believable. I think to this day, this is still the best character Shawn Yue has played. He's so loose and comfortable and never once does his star image ever seep through. He is Jimmy. The exact same praise goes for Miriam and her character.

Singing in the red room!

Some of the best scenes in the film are the interactions between their group of friends, whether it's just a more mundane story, or something more exotic like the pubic hair caught on the wristband of Jimmy's ex-girlfriend, whilst the gang was eating at a very fancy restaurant one night. It always kept me intrigued and constantly sporting a goofy grin on my face for most of the entirety of the film. To add to that, and to transition a little, the film also goes into more serious areas later on, nothing crazy or dark, but true to life nonetheless. The film greatly shows that human relationships are equal parts simple and complex. A 'romance', no matter which way you approach it, is a very layered thing to even attempt. Two humans having to put trust in to one another and try to slowly begin to understand, appreciate, and bond together, despite differences in personalities and viewpoints on life, is something that it is very difficult to convey realistically in cinema, and I think Pang has done an excellent job in doing so whilst also juggling that this movie has mainstream appeal. I'm not saying the film is much deeper than it leads us to believe, but I am saying it has a certain depth in its naturalism that it showcases within people's everyday lives, and I think that is a beautiful thing.

I won't blab on too long, for fear of a 50 paragraph review, but if I had to pick one romance film that could appeal to anybody, it'd be Love in a Puff. It's genius!

Love in the Buff, the 2012 sequel to one of my favorite films, now sees Jimmy in Beijing with his job, working mega hours and being stressed out. He has also developed a relationship (which we see unfolding throughout) with a local woman, Youyou Shang (Yang Mi), a person whom he seems to enjoy time with. By chance, and sort of the thing about the film that annoyed me [though I understand it needed to happen for the film's sake], Cherie magically shows up in Beijing due to her work as well. The two bump into each other and that old flame reignites. They can't seem to get out of each others' lives, both mentally, and now physically. Things seem to start picking up for the two, but Jimmy's current relationship with Youyou seems to make things complicated, and all the while Cherie seems to have something going with a man named Sam (Xu Zheng). Will the two lovebirds of yesteryear reunite and finally fall truly in love with one another? Have they been in love this entire time? Well, you'll have to see and find out.

Cherie and Jimmy: Strikes Back

I really don't want to go too much into the sequel, other than to sort of give a small two cents on it. I think the film is fine. I don't think it is a strong as the 1st, but a nice continuation it certainly is. Ekin Cheng (of, well... he's Ekin Cheng, fame) has a small, but awesome role as a crush of Cherie's, and he is fantastic in the film. I'm usually not a big fan of the guy, but he totally works here. Everyone's acting is fine, the cinematography is fantastic as usual in a Pang film. The writing is fresh, but sometimes feels too familiar. It's nice seeing familiar faces pop up, whilst also developing and having new characters to enjoy and get to know.

New Area, New Lover?

I have only seen Buff once, but it is an effective movie. The relationship and previous feelings between Cherie and Jimmy from the 1st film, is what keeps this film's momentum going. You just want the two to get together, but you know it is subtly more complicated than that. Knowing that there is a 3rd film now in the works, I really hope we get to see where their relationships will ultimately lead them. Love in the Buff is a fantastic follow-up, but not one I am sure if was absolutely necessary to come out when it did. I don't feel enough time had past for me to really, really invest back into what was going on between the two, but it still got me in the end, and it's a solid watch.

Written by Josh Parmer

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Blood Rage (1987)

Director: John Grissmer
Notable Cast: Louise Lasser, Mark Soper, Julie Gordon, Jayne Bentzen, Marianne Kanter, James Farrell, Chad Montgomery, Lisa Randall, William Fuller, Doug Weiser, Gerry Lou, Ed French, Ted Raimi
Also known as: Slasher, Nightmare at Shadow Woods

Often enough, we talk about the fine line between the ‘so bad it’s good’ and ‘so bad it’s bad’ here on Blood Brothers. It’s certainly an issue of taste overall and one that tends to only be debated in the realm of cult cinema. When it comes to slashers though, it’s easily one of the biggest elements that can be debated without end. In the case of Blood Rage, or any of the other hundred titles it’s known as like Slasher and Nightmare at Shadow Woods, it’s in our opinion that the film falls in the former rather than the latter. Don’t worry, I’m going to talk about the film in both regards, looking at it from a traditional filmmaking aspect and from the cult appreciation aspect too, but know that this is the kind of film that truly entertains more than anything – and will sacrifice most any element to do so.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Top 12 Home Video Releases of 2015

As the home video release side of the film industry quickly becomes a niche market for collectors, various new releases of classic and modern films are getting more and more luxurious. Yet, there is always some releases that seem to spoil collectors out there. Josh is here to give you his top 12 home video releases of 2015 to really see who makes the cut. So check out his video complete with outrageous holiday sweater.

What are your favorite home video releases of the year?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Close Range (2015)

Director: Isaac Florentine
Notable Cast: Scott Adkins, Nick Chinlund, Jake La Botz, Tony Perez, Caitlin Keats, Madison Lawlor, Scott Evans, Randy Hall

This year has seen its fair share of ups and downs in the direct to home video action market (perhaps bottoming out with Chain of Command), but it’s always a pleasure to partake in the latest Isaac Florentine/Scott Adkins action flick. This director and actor duo has produced some of the greatest low budget action films of the last decade – I would even argue that Ninja II: Shadow of the Tear deserves to be on any best action list, let alone one about low budget films – and their latest offering is no exception. Close Range is a no holds barred adrenaline rush of an action film that is sure to please most any fan looking for an entertaining and rather mindless film experience. It’s hardly one that will resonate with the test of time, but it’s effective at a lot of things and it makes for a great action flick for those looking for it.

Aberdeen (2014)

Director: Pang Ho-cheung

Notable Cast: Louis Koo, Miriam Yeung, Eric Tsang, Gigi Leung, Ng Man-tat, Carrie Ng, Chapman To, Shawn Yue, Dada Chan, Jacky Choi, Lee Man-kwai

Original Cantonese Title: 香港仔

This is one ambitious film. Aberdeen tells the stories, and there are a lot of them, of a ton of people in a pretty broken family. Louis Koo plays a well off, handsome man, with a daughter who he loves, but help can't but think that she won't succeed in life, due to her size and her physical appearance. He's sort of a dick, even if he doesn't mean to be. Gigi Leung plays as the mother of said ugly kid, who is a model and an actress who is down on her luck as age is starting to work against, well, her work and particularly how much of it she is getting. Eric Tsang plays a doctor who has a fling with a young nurse (Jacky Choi), and is a good man at heart, just full of sexual angst. Miriam Yeung plays as Tsang's wife, a woman with the past of her Mother's death constantly haunting her and causing her to have major writer's block. Lastly, Ng Man-tat and Carrie Ng play another couple, set with their own personal problems as well. Essentially, in a nutshell, this movie is about the hardships that people face and the ways they can stay hidden even from the people your are very close too, and sometimes those hardships, as difficult as they can be, can truly bring people together. That's a lot of set up, I know, but this is a difficult movie to describe.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Mojin: The Lost Legend (2015)

Director: Wuershan
Notable Cast: Chen Kun, Shu Qi, Huang Bo, Angelababy, Xia Yu
Also Known As: The Ghouls

The continued momentum that the Chinese market has propelled itself with to Hollywood heights is getting more impressive by the day. With each passing blockbuster, the results are a bit more spectacular and a bit more cohesive in their approach. This is why I was pretty excited to dive into the latest attempt at franchise expansion from the East with the film Mojin: The Lost Legend. Interestingly enough, unlike the new approach to Hollywood, Mojin doesn’t seem intent on appealing largely to an international audience with its strong cultural elements. Outside of that though, the film runs on some strong tropes for the action adventure film and even goes into a bit of 80s charm to get things down. It’s not nearly as fun and effective as I expected, but it’s still a blast with plenty of outrageousness to be had.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Isabella (2006)

Director: Pang Ho-cheung

Notable Cast: Chapman To, Isabella Leong, Anthony Wong, Josie Ho

Original Title: 伊莎貝拉

The 5th film in Pang Ho-cheung's filmography, Isabella, is hands down absolutely one of his best. It's a slow, subtle, and moving character study on two broken people who bring themselves together in a most unusual scenario. I don't want to go to into the plot or specifics of the movie, as I think this one is best to go into with little to no knowledge of the film. All the slower and artier than most of Pang's other films, this shows a mature side to the filmmaker that I honestly didn't knew existed. That's not to say his films aren't good, I clearly wouldn't enjoy doing a film series on a director I disliked, but the films of his I had seen prior to this, all sort of have this rock 'n roll swagger to them, and this film has none. It reminded me that even the loudest of people have their quiet moments. I don't want to start comparing this and contrasting that, as I am not here to lecture, but instead I will focus on the film at hand.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Krampus (2015)

Director: Michael Dougherty
Notable Cast: Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell, Emjay Anthony, Stefania LaVie Owen, Krista Stadler

Writer and director Michael Dougherty made a massive splash with his debut film Trick R Treat that both crafted a terrifically dark and humorous horror film and celebrated the Halloween season with remarkable ease. So when it was announced that he would be taking a turn at delivering a Christmas horror flick, it was hard not to get excited. Krampus, while not quite as good as Trick R Treat, is still a whimsical film that works both as a classic fantastical horror romp and a Christmas film, continuing the streak of strength in delivering holiday themed horror. It’s not quite perfect, but the entertaining value of the humor, horror, and holiday themes makes it one that will remain a Christmas time film for any self-respecting horror fan for a long, long time.

Battles Without Honor and Humanity (1973)

Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Notable Cast: Bunta Sugawara, Hiroki Matsukata, Nobuo Kaneko, Kunie Tanaka, Tamio Kawachi, Tatsuo Umemiya, Tsunehiko Watase, Goro Ibuki, Toshie Kimura, Eiko Nakamura

Also known as: The Yakuza Papers Vol. 1: Battles Without Honor and Humanity

Battles Without Honor and Humanity has to be one of the most requested movies for Blood Brothers to review. Not only was it repeatedly requested, but it was also a film highly suggested by fans and friends as one of the best cult films that Japan had to offer in their expansive catalog. With the release of the massive box set of all five Yakuza Papers films in one convenient place from Arrow Video, it was finally destined that we would not only be able to experience these captivating yakuza films, but they would be reviewed for our readers. The first of the series, the previously mentioned Battles Without Honor and Humanity, is just as unbelievably memorable and effective as it was hyped up to be. It’s a film that shies away from more traditional structures, but the magnetic performances, gritty visuals, and oddly satiric streaks make it one of the most visceral yakuza films I have ever seen. Worthy of the blessed treatment it has received in this latest Blu Ray edition.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Wake Up and Kill (1966)

Director: Carlo Lizzani

Notable Cast: Robert Hoffmann, Lisa Gastoni, Gian Maria Volonte, Claudio Camaso, Renato Niccolai, Ottavio Fanfani

Also Known As: Wake Up and Die, Too Soon to Die

I’d be lying if I said I was a Euro Crime film expert by any means. For the most part I’m not even the most qualified write for the genre that contributes for this site, but as a cinephile that tries his hand at most genres once or twice I decided to dig into Wake Up and Kill as one of my first reviews for the genre. While Wake Up and Kill certainly has its merits with a very modern and artful approach to its narrative, it also tends to be a bit long and often unfocused as it goes about telling the tale of real life jewel thief Luciano Lutring. It’s a mixed bag overall and one that wasn’t nearly as campy or violent as I was expecting, but one that will definitely find its cult audience with this new Blu Ray/DVD release from Arrow Video.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

You Shoot, I Shoot (2001)

Director: Pang Ho-cheung
Notable Cast: Eric Kot, Tat-ming Cheung, Wai Man-chan, Lam Suet, Sui-man Chim, Siu Yam-yam

Original Title: 買兇拍人

You Shoot, I Shoot (YSIS) is a sharp, crazy, sometimes cheesy, but nonetheless fun debut from Hong Kong auteur Pang Ho-cheung. YSIS tells the story of a killer named Bart (Erik Kot), a hitman who is as open about his job as a door greeter at a store. Everyone knows it, and he gives no cares. He takes money from a rich woman to kill people selected by her, but that isn't good enough anymore, now she wants people dead and recorded proof of this heinous deed to for her awful viewing pleasure. That's where Bart meets Cheun (Tat-ming Cheung) a down on his luck assistant director who isn't finding any work, instead finds himself desperately looking for people to buy weed off of him during his first day as a petty drug dealer. Let's just say without spoiling too much, the two quickly come to terms with one another, and thus begins a 90-some-odd minute ride of blood and laughter.

The ultimate lens protector!

The dialogue and gags go at 100mph in this film and it never stops, which is its greatest strength, and to a degree, its weakness. I found myself laughing more often than not, but some of the jokes just did nothing for me. Sometimes the over-the-top music and acting works, and other times it falls flat on its face. That said, this is one of the best concepts I've seen for a comedy, and I love just how dark the humor gets at times. There are also great moments and little glimpses of a serious beat or two, although they usually only last a fraction of a second. This movie isn't meant at all to be taken serious and it is very self aware of that. The performers facial expressions are so loud and theatrical, I found myself constantly grinning.

The constant banter between Bart and Cheun is one of the highlights of the film. I don't want to go too much into the jokes, because that ruins the experience, but a scene that cracked me up is one where Bart and Cheun are eating a meal with Bart's wife and his in-laws. They all openly keep talking about Bart and his murderous job and sometimes they would be secretive about it at the same time, between one another, but moments later, Bart and Cheun are in the kitchen when in enters the father in-law. I won't spoil, but it is one of the funniest bits in the film. The entire scene is great, and Siu Yam-yam steals it.

The sexiest killers around...

The cinematography, one of the great staples of a PHC film, is fine throughout, mixing wide angle close-ups on certain characters, particularly used to great effect in a small but memorable role by the always solid Lam Suet, and an MTV music video editing style that occurs throughout, surely a product of the time (early 2000s). It works with this film and adds to the zaniness of the overall story. The sounds are obnoxious and in your face, at times even in sync with some of the quick editing. I really like the way the film would cut to the poor video quality of the camcorders Cheun gracefully wielded throughout. The very first time they present their 'movie' to the rich woman is one of the greatest moments in the entire movie. It hit home as a person who has made movies since an early age. The film seems to be reflective of Pang and his passion for movies in general, as we have a director for a lead character and many, many posters thrown up throughout his lair. The references to Scorsese throughout are genius.

Does this gun match my outfit?

As much as I enjoy this film, I do think it stumbles at times, as I had previously mentioned, with some of the jokes or ideals just flat out not working. I thought most of the stuff with the Michiko character didn't really add anything to the film, but there is one great scene (which I won't spoil) that makes her presence worth while. Again, it's meant to be laughed at and that's what I spent the majority of the running time doing. The entire third act of the film is by far the strong point of it all. The set up, the jokes, the timing, the editing, the pay-off and punchlines are all very strong. In fact, I like the last 20 minutes or so much, I think it raises the rewatch value greatly. 

I do fancy a good black comedy from time to time, and You Shoot, I Shoot delivers almost constantly. While not a perfect film, and sometimes it shows its age, I think it is one of the better films from Hong Kong of that period. It certainly is an excellent debut film, and it shows a strong sense of style and wit from Pang that would continue to help mold him into one of the finest directors from the region working today. A healthy start to a strong string of films.

Written By Josh Parmer

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Chain of Command (2015)

Director: Kevin Carraway

Notable Cast: Michael Jai White, Steven Austin, Max Ryan, Allen Yates

There is a fine line between being so bad it’s awesome and so bad it’s awful. When it comes to straight to home video action films, that line can easily sway one way or the other depending on a slew of factors. For Chain of Command, I was hoping that it would be the kind of film to lean towards being awesome. The combination of Michael Jai White and Stone Cold Steve Austin as opposite sides of a drug conspiracy in the military simply sounds awesome. Unfortunately this is anything BUT awesome. In fact, Chain of Command is something of a super awkward film filled with amateurish executions and failed concepts. It is, quite frankly, one of the worst action films I’ve seen this year.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

12 Rounds 3: Lockdown (2015)

Director: Stephen Reynolds
Notable Cast: Dean Ambrose, Roger Cross, Daniel Cudmore, Lochlyn Munro, Ty Olsson, Sarah Smyth, Rebecca Marshall, Matthew Harrison

While WWE Studios is noted for releasing some terrible films as vehicles for some of the stars in their Pro Wrestling ring, over the last couple of years the studio has almost refined the B-action flick to an art. Sure, most of them are far from good in a traditional sense, but the studio has figured out how to balance that out by making the films entertaining and fun despite some of their lesser qualities. 12 Rounds 3: Lockdown is one of those films that really works in this manner. While I had my share of fun with 12 Rounds 2 thanks to director Roel Reine, this film actually works in a lot of ways – coming out as the best of the series thus far. It’s hardly original and it’s rarely complicated, but it’s straightforward and simplistic approach to low budget action makes it a fun film watch for action fans.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Gallows, The (2015)

Directors: Travis Cluff, Chris Lofing
Notable Cast: Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos, Cassidy Gifford, Price T. Morgan

At some point a trend has to seemingly slow down, right? I mean, you can only rehash the same technique, style, and approach so many times before expansion or evolution should naturally occur. However, the found footage style of horror films seems to be a resilient trend that refuses to evolve. You can argue until you’re blue in the face about whether or not it was all that effective to begin with, but it doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. Perhaps it’s just an easy and cheap way to make a buck with horror, but something needs to happen. The Gallows, the latest effort from horror producer super hero Jason Blum, is a big sign post about why. Instead of running with its fairly interesting concept, the film instead regurgitates the same formula, style, and ineffective execution that has plagued the found footage genre for years now. It’s dumb, irritating, and worst of all – it’s boring.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Zatoichi's Conspiracy (1973)

Director: Kimiyoshi Yasuda
Notable Cast: Shintaro Katsu, Yukiyo Toake, Takashi Shimura, Eiji Okada, Kei Sato, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Rie Yokoyama, Tatsuo Endo

It’s with some sense of regret that I finish off the original Zatoichi series for review here on the site. It’s somewhat fitting, in a roundabout way, that there is a sense of finality to the series as Zatoichi’s Conspiracy, the twenty-fifth film in this run but hardly the last time Shintaro Katsu would play the blind swordsman, also features a rather somber tone. The film is hardly anything new for the episodic series and often succumbs to the formulaic approach, but it’s still a decent film and one that earns some credits in execution. Perhaps it’s just that I’ve spent so much time with the character that I’m sad about finishing off this box set from Criterion, but there is also a sadness to the way that this film plays out that also makes it feel a bit unique.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Exeter (2015)

Director: Marcus Nispel
Notable Cast: Kelly Blatz, Brittany Curran, Brett Dier, Gage Golightly, Nick Nicotera, Nick Nordella, Michael Ormsby, Kevin Chapman, Stephen Lang

The meteoric rise of director Marcus Nispel is something that probably angers horror fans to no end. A music video director initially, his first big film was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake – a film that itself earns quite a bit of love and hate. From there he has mostly worked on various big budget remakes to varied degrees of success (I have a soft spot for the dumb fun of his Conan the Barbarian remake myself), but his latest feature seemingly dropped out of the social conscious. An original film that Nispel actually was a writer on, Exeter also known as Backmask, is perhaps his weakest piece of film to date. The film is a whirlwind of clichés hinged on terrible writing and too often it tries to replace any legitimate horror elements with style. In essence, it’s everything that fans bitch about with Nispel just ten times over.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Zatoichi in Desperation (1972)

“Blind man…do you want to see the color of your blood?”

Director: Shintaro Katsu
Notable Cast: Shintaro Katsu, Kiwako Taichi, Katsuo Nakamura, Asao Koike, Kyoko Yoshizawa, Yasuhiro Koume, Joji Takagi, Masumi Harukawa

For the 25th film in the long running blind swordsman franchise, Zatoichi in Desperation is one that really strips the series to its core – emotionally and in style. Shintaro Katsu directs the film and his innate knowledge of the character is matched stroke for stroke by the films often dark, violent, and heart ripping beats of narrative structure. It’s not a film with an extensive plot, nor does it need it, but it’s one that returns to the anti-hero aspects of the first films and then layers in a significant amount of artful grindhouse elements – making it one of the biggest surprises this franchise has to offer.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Christmas Horror Story, A (2015)

Directors: Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban, Brett Sullivan
Notable Cast: William Shatner, George Buza, Percy Hynes White, Olunike Adeliyi, Rob Archer, Jeff Clarke, Jessica Clement, Zoe de Grand Maison, Amy Forsyth, Adrian Holmes, Shannon Kook, Debra McCabe, Michelle Nolden, Alex Ozerov, Alan C. Peterson, Corinne Conley

The horror anthology film is not something that is all that new and the style has gone through spurts of popularity throughout the years. Since the (long awaited) release of Trick R Treat in 2009 though the style has seen an upswing of popularity. The ABCs of Death franchise, the V/H/S franchise, and just this year we had Tales of Halloween for the season of spooks to keep it moving. However, the latest horror anthology to feature a holiday theme, entitled A Christmas Horror Story, might be one of the better ones I’ve seen lately. Similar to Trick R Treat in its attempts at using the tone of a holiday as a launching pad for its four interweaving tales of Christmas terror, A Christmas Horror Story ably navigates a solid variety of different horror genres in its quick hour and a half run time and it effectively comes off as a fun and entertaining film that works on almost all levels.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Zatoichi at Large (1972)

Director: Kazuo Mori
Notable Cast: Shintaro Katsu, Rentaro Mikuni, Hisaya Morishige, Etushi Takahashi, Naoko Otani, Osamu Sakai, Renji Ishibashi

After a roller coaster series of entries in the last handful of films, the Zatoichi franchise needed a film to go back to its roots. A film that returned to the formula that established what fans loved about them to begin with. This is what Zatoichi at Large represents. A cleansing of the franchise from its oddities and a return to form. This is both a blessing and a curse for the film. The previous few entries shied away from this approach as it was becoming redundant and that redundancy shows its cracks in the foundational writing for this 23rd film in the blind swordsman series. However, Zatoichi at Large is largely saved by a director that knows dynamics in the visuals and a ferocious third act.So it's a mixed watch for fans.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tenderness of the Wolves (1973)

Director: Ulli Lommel

Notable Cast: Kurt Raab, Jeff Roden, Margit Carstensen, Ingrid Caven, Wolfgang Schenck, Brigitte Mira, Rainer Hauer, Barbara Bertram, Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Occasionally and if you’re lucky, there will be a handful of films that stick with you long after the film is done. In the case of Tenderness of the Wolves, a dramatic character film that’s earned its cult following since its release in 1973, the film is one of those kinds. For me, Tenderness was rather boring during the actual watch, but hours and even days after it was done the film stuck to me mentally, seeping in with its subtle atmospheric touches and artful nuance of characters. Enough so that I ended up watching the film a second time before writing this review. It’s that second viewing that really hooked me with why this film is deserving of the praise it receives from its fan base and why it deserves such a wonderful new release from Arrow Video.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Spectre (2015)

Director: Sam Mendes

Notable Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Bellucci, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen

The James Bond franchise will always see its ups and downs throughout each incarnation and each decade. Outside of the unmemorable and often un-Bond like film Quantum of Solace, the Craig era of Bond has been rather vibrant and pushes the series into new territory. In particular, the blend of classic Bond moments and a shockingly fresh and effective third act in Skyfall made it one of the best entries to date and it assured a new audience for the long time British spy with Oscar nominations (and win) and an artfulness that the series hadn’t seen in a long, long time. So it might come as a huge disappointment that Spectre, the second film to feature Sam Mendes as director, takes a remarkably throwback approach to its narrative and tone. No silhouette fights. No subdued finales. This is Bond 101 back on the screen warts and all. Like the rest of my James Bond reviews for the site, I’m going to break it down by “Bond Elements” for fans and newbies alike. Just know going into Spectre that it is handedly the most tongue-in-cheek and often silly Bond film of the Craig era…for better or worse.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Assassin, The (2015)

Director: Hou Hsaio-Hsien
Notable Cast: Shu Qi, Chang Chen, Zhou Yun, Fang-Yi Sheu, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Ethan Juan, Hsieh Hsin-Ying, Ni Dahong, Yong Mei

The hype machine was in full force for The Assassin. It’s Tawain’s choice for consideration in the upcoming Academy Awards, it's directed by the renowned Hou Hsaio-Hsien, and it has already taken the award for best director at a little festival called Cannes. However, by the time the credits rolled on the film, I was a torn audience member. On one side, The Assassin accomplishes what it set out to do with gorgeous visuals and an atmospheric spin on a classic martial arts film foundation. On the other hand, it’s boring as hell and just as vague when it comes to actually telling a story. The arthouse cinema fan in me appreciated what the film accomplishes, but the kung fu fan in me was sorely disappointed.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Encounters of the Spooky Kind (1980)

Director: Sammo Hung
Notable Cast: Sammo Hung, Chung Fat, Lam Ching-ying, Chan Lung, Huang Ha, Dick Wei, Yuen Biao, Wu Ma

As a director, Sammo Hung has touched on a lot of material. He’s done comedy, traditional martial arts, drama, and even an action war flick. Yet, one of his strangest (and still most fascinating) films comes in the form of the kung fu horror comedy Encounters of the Spooky Kind. Since October is always dedicated to reviewing and watching horror films at Blood Brothers, it only seemed relevant that I throw in at least one kung fu horror flick for the season even if it's November by the time it gets posted. Encounters of the Spooky Kind, also known as Spooky Encounters or Close Encounters of the Spooky Kind, is a blast to watch. It’s not always the most sensible of films as it tends to throw a lot at the audience, but the resulting mix of comedy, kick assery, and supernatural elements is massively entertaining to watch.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Bone Tomahawk (2015)

Director: S. Craig Zahler
Notable Cast: Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins, Lili Simmons, Sid Haig

Sometimes (more often than not) the best way to experience a film, especially when you have a good, gut feeling about it, is to go in with little to no knowledge of the film whatsoever. If you see or read about something that makes you say "I think I really wanna see this", then look no further, and seek it out, unless you are the type who can't really do that or don't want to, then buy all means, spoil the ride. That said, this is exactly the way I've experienced the biggest cinematic surprise of 2015 for me, Bone Tomahawk.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

Director: Joe Chapelle
Notable Cast: Donald Pleasence, Paul Rudd, Marianne Hagan, Devin Gardner, J.C. Brandy, Mitchell Ryan 
AKA: Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers, Halloween 6, and Halloween 666: The Origin of Michael Myers (teaser trailer)

As my Halloween marathon continues this year, it’s come to my attention that my reviews of the various sequels to this franchise do not always align with the viewpoints of its dedicated fan base. The various dozens of messages, emails, and comments about my reviews of the Halloween films have certainly solidified the fact that this franchise has some die-hard fans that are willing to fight and die for the various entries. Unfortunately, when it comes to the sixth entry of the series, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, I don’t know if there is any kind of dedicated fan base that can justify just how odd this film is. The resulting film has been edited into two very different cuts of the film, both of which will be talked about here and neither of which are very good thanks to a horrible production.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Golden Cane Warrior, The (2015)

Director: Ifa Isfansya 
Notable Cast: Christine Hakim, Eva Celia Latjuba, Nicholas Saputra, Reza Rahadian, Tara Basro

With the international success of Gareth Evans’ The Raid and its subsequent sequel, it would only seem fitting that there would be a bit of a boom in the Indonesian film market – if not just in the Indonesian martial arts film market. A film like The Golden Cane Warrior would normally go overlooked in the grand spectrum of international film releasing (particularly here in the US), but with this new global eye on the area it’s not all that surprising that The Golden Cane Warrior would get a slightly larger than normal release. Fortunately, the wuxia inspired film is fairly deserving of this kind of attention as a very ambitious martial arts drama. Blending the likes of classic Shaw Brothers wuxia with a melodramatic and artistic touch akin to Zhang Yimou films, The Golden Cane Warrior is a fun and modern slice of traditional martial arts film history rolled into one... and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972)

Director: Sergio Martino
Notable Cast: Edwige Fenech, Anita Strindberg, Luigi Pistilli, Ivan Rassimov, Franco Nebbia, Riccardo Salvino, Angela La Vorgna, Enrica Conaccorti, Daniela Giordano, Ermelinda De Felice

*Part of a duel pack called Black Cats available from Arrow Video*

Giallo is far from my favorite genre overall and it’s usually one that I rarely review here at Blood Brothers, but when Arrow Video’s latest release of Sergio Martino’s Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (which will be known as Your Vice from this point on for the sake of hand fatigue) landed on my doorstep it was hard not to get a bit excited. Your Vice contains some of the work of many of the iconic names of giallo cinema to it and yet, I had only heard of mixed things about the loose adaption of Edgar Allan Poe’s Black Cat story. In the end, Your Vice is the mixed bag that many fans claimed it to be, but it’s hardly the film that some called disappointing. Particularly when the third act comes out so strongly that it delivers a purpose to the rather plodding first two-thirds that viewers may not see coming.

Black Cat, The (1981)

Director: Lucio Fulci

Notable Cast: Patrick Magee, Mimsy Farmer, David Warbeck, Al Cliver, Dagmar Lassander, Bruno Corazzari, Geoffrey Copleston, Daniela Doria

*Part of a duel pack called Black Cats available from Arrow Video*

By 1981, Lucio Fulci was riding high on a streak of hits like Zombi and City of the Living Dead– Italian films full of gore, horrors, and his iconic stylish visuals. In the middle of what many might call his golden era of filmmaking, Fulci did end up making The Black Cat, a film inspired by the story of Edgar Allen Poe and one that would go on to be something of an overlooked gem of atmosphere and odd narrative for many fans. Truthfully The Black Cat is hardly as good as Zombi or The Beyond that would come right afterwards, but that doesn’t mean the film isn’t without some awesome material that is finally getting the proper release that Fulci fans have been asking for from Arrow Video.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Bloody Knuckles (2015)

Director: Matt O.
Notable Cast: Adam Boys, Gabrielle Giraud, Kasey Ryne Mazak, Ken Tsui, Dwayne Bryshun

While it might seem unusual to the average person, I was pretty excited to watch Bloody Knuckles. The concept of a severed hand taking revenge for its lost body, mixed with offensive elements and plenty of gore, sparked an interest in me. Perhaps it’s my odd love for the massively overlooked horror comedy Idle Hands or the odd blend of horror, comedy, offensiveness, and revenge flick that Bloody Knuckles promised, but I was pretty stoked to be throwing in the Blu Ray when it arrived on my doorstep. It just might be these expectations of cult horror comedy gold that left me a bit underwhelmed overall by the film. It certainly has its moments and for the casual horror fan it might find some of it as offensive, but Bloody Knuckles didn’t quite execute the outrageous promises that it seemed to have potential for. Fun, sure, but not nearly as effective with the mix as one would hope.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)

Director: Dominique Othenin-Girard
Notable Cast: Danielle Harris, Donald Pleasence, Ellie Cornell, Beau Starr, Wendy Kaplan, Tamara Glynn, Jeffrey Landman, Jonathan Chapin, Matthew Walker

After the producers successfully resurrected Michael Myers for his return in Halloween 4, a film that still has an odd cult following today, it didn’t take them long to scramble up another sequel to capitalize on the re-surging success of the series…and the speedy turnaround shows with Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers. There still seems to be somewhat of a cult audience that follows this entry, which seems to be beyond my understanding, because outside of a few moments it’s hard to recommend this entry to anyone but the slasher addicted horror fan. Especially when the film takes some random turns that really don’t benefit the whole and baffles the audience.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Northern Limit Line (2015)

Director: Kim Hak-soon

Notable Cast: Kim Mu-yeol, Jin Goo, Lee Hyun-woo, Lee Wan, Kim Ji-hoon, Jang Joon-hak, JooHee-joong, Lee Min-ho

Many of the early reviews for Northern Limit Line spouted off rhetoric about the film being too propaganda-ish with its patriotic South Korean themes. Truthfully though, the film is not even nearly as bad as 80% of the war films that get made in the United States. In fact, Northern Limit Line is quite the serviceable military drama…to a fault. Often enough, it actually plays things relatively safe as it caters to its mainstream audience instead of really digging into its material. Still, this Korean piece of dramatic action has enough heart and enough action to keep the audience hooked throughout its two hour run time even if the film quickly dissolves from memory after the credits roll.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

Director: Dwight B. Little
Notable Cast: Danielle Harris, Ellie Cornell, Donald Pleasance, Tom Tucker, Beau Starr

After Halloween III pissed everyone off with its lack of Michael Myers, it seemed like an easy fix to bring Michael Myers back for the fourth one and call it Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers just so all of the fans would know that he was coming back. So the producers and director slapped together a story about Michael Myers escaping while being transported to another psychiatric hospital and heading back to Haddonfield to kill his niece…since Jamie Lee Curtis didn’t sign back on. The results are a rather uninspired slasher flick that hits a lot of the tropes, despite the best efforts from a visual standpoint and an intriguing spin on the concept. While Halloween 4 remains a fun movie in its silliness, it’s truthfully not very good and not very memorable.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
Notable Cast: Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O'Herlihy, Michael Currie

Of all of the Halloween sequels in all of the land, Halloween III: Season of the Witch has the strangest and most devout cult following of them all. The film itself was fairly controversial, if not for just the fact that it is a Michael Myers-less entry, and it has created a massive divide of people that fall into the ‘love’ or the ‘hate’ columns. The people who love it will defend it with all of their logistical might and those who hate it will simply refuse to acknowledge its existence as a film... let alone part of an iconic slasher franchise. For this reviewer, Halloween III remains a fun 80s flick, working in some nice silly concepts and some oddly serious performances, but it’s not nearly the classic that some say it is. In the end, it falls right in the middle of the two extreme opinions of the film.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Raid, The (1991)

Directors: Tsui Hark, Ching Siu-Tung
Notable Cast: Dean Shek, Jacky Cheung, Tony Leung Kai Fai, Corey Yuen, Goyce Godenzi, Paul Chun, Lau Chi Ming, Fennie Yuen

Tsui Hark’s career as a director has been a scattered one. His focus on style over substance can leave a lot of memorable moments, but when it comes to films that last the test of time…he’s not the most effective of directors. However, his latest film The Taking of Tiger Mountain was something of a throwback to the days when he had an understanding between the balance of spectacle and narrative. I bring up this film because its distributor Well Go USA is releasing one of his “classic” films from 1991 called The Raid…and the comparisons between the two films are striking. The Raid is a historically set action adventure flick with enough humor, heart, and outrageous elements to entertain most any Hong Kong cinema fan. It’s hardly a perfect film in trying to balance all of these elements, but The Raid is a strong reminder of a time when Tsui Hark could still entertain without irritating.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Bound to Vengeance (2015)

Director: José Manuel Cravioto
Notable Cast: Tina Ivlev, Richard Tyson, Bianca Malinowski
Sometimes all it takes is a great poster to get the audience you want hooked. This was the case for Bound to Vengeance with me. While having a release through IFC Midnight AND Scream Factory certainly helps, it wasn’t until I saw the cover/poster next to this opening paragraph that I decided to partake in the film. It’s fortunate that I did because Bound to Vengeance is a brutal and impressively executed modern grindhouse feature worthy of the time for most cult film fans. It’s a slick, sick, and simplistic ride into the social underbelly of sex trafficking powered by a handful of powerhouse performances and guided by the impeccable visuals of director José Manuel Cravioto. Bound to Vengeance is bound to pack a whollup on most viewers and it’s vicious at doing so.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

House (1977)

Director: Nobuhiko Ôbayashi
Notable Cast: Kimiko Ikegami, Ai Matsubara, Eriko Tanaka, Miki Jinbo, Mieko Sato, Masayo Miyako, Kumiko Oba, Yoko Minamida, Haruko Wanibuchi

When it comes to films that inspire insanity, one has to look no further than Japan. At times it’s mostly outrageous entertainment vomit on screen, as in the case of most of the splatter films, but occasionally there is an inspired artistry to their genre bending and odd approaches like the anti-musical musical The Happiness of the Katakuris that I reviewed earlier this year. This sort of motivated and thoughtful lunacy is where the 1977 film House lies. An often awkward intermingling of comedy, horror, and fantasy, House – also known as Hausu, is a film that deserves a massive “WTF” from its audience, but it’s also very obvious that this was the intent of the film. Thus, it accomplishes what it sets out to do in spades. Gloriously, might I add.