Thursday, June 30, 2016

Chonicles of the Ghostly Tribe (2016)

Director: Lu Chuan
Notable Cast: Mark Chao, Yao Chen, Rhydian Vaughn, Li Chen, Tiffany Tang, Daniel Feng, Wang Qingxiang, Wu Jun, Wang Deshung, Li Guangjie

It’s no secret at this point that the Chinese film industry is something of a juggernaut in the international box office. As their box office exponentially grows though, so does the size of the films that they begin to produce. I’ve touched on this subject in some previous reviews of newer Chinese films, but it’s probably most apparent in Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe. Like the odd focus of Hollywood to develop the next big fantasy driven franchise that’s build on spectacle for sheer box office revenue, Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe desperately wants to lay the foundations for an expansive universe of fantasy/science fiction elements. This focus, however, makes for a film that ultimately feels a bit hollow and oddly structured to stand well on its own two feet. It’s fun and it has moments that sparkle, but this is pretty standard popcorn flick material and rarely more than that.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Return of the Killer Tomatoes! (1988)

Director: John De Bello
Notable Cast: Anthony Starke, George Clooney, Karen Mistal, Steve Lundquist, John Astin, J. Stephen Peace, Michael Villani, Frank Davis, Harvey Weber, Charlie Jones, John De Bello, Ian Hutton, Rick Rockwell

Comedy is already a very difficult genre to get “right.” It’s highly susceptible to the taste preference of its audience, it’s usually a very timely genre that’s dependent on its context, and even then it requires a kind of vision from its creative elements to execute it. This, of course, is just for a basic comedy. To make matters even more difficult is to aim for one of the fringe subgenres of comedy for your film. For example, absurdist comedies. The original Attack of the Killer Tomatoes was the kind of film that found its cult audience for being able to align all of these elements in an impressive manner for such a low budget and off beat film. However, it’s the first sequel Return of the Killer Tomatoes that really flies with the absurdity to capitalize on its bat shit insane concept. Attack laid the ground work, but it’s Return that really smashes out a home run absurdist comedy worthy of the massive cult audience that backs this silly franchise.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

River (2016)

Director: Jamie M. Dagg

Notable Cast: Rossif Sutherland, Douangmany Soliphanh, Sara Botsford, Ted Atherton, Vithaya Pansringarm

Thrillers, in this day and age, are rarely as pure as they used to be. They usually fringe on elements of action, horror, fantasy, or whatever genre they need to give the film a fresh feeling to stand out from the rest. This is because thrillers are one of the older and most utilized styles in cinema. It’s not that blending the thriller elements into another genre degrades a film, but that’s just how the genre has evolved over the last handful of decades. This is also what makes River feel so different from its thriller cohorts. It’s a film that certainly uses modern techniques in its approach to tap into the tension and energy of its concept, but it’s a film that remains largely pure in its focus. It’s not some big conspiracy film. It doesn’t throw in explosions and gun fights. It’s not based on supernatural lore. It’s a man on the run from a bad situation. Simple. It’s this simplicity that can both its highlight and its problems as a film.

Conjuring 2, The (2016)

Director: James Wan
Notable Cast: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Frances O’Connor, Madison Wolfe, Simon McBurney, Franka Potente, Laruen Esposito, Patrick McAuley, Benjamin Haigh, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Simon Delaney, Shannon Kook, Sterling Jerins, Bob Adrian, Abhi Sinha, Bonnie Aarons, Javier Botet

James Wan remains the king of modern mainstream horror. We should all just admit it now. He takes low budget horror and makes it financially viable with Saw and Insidious. He takes cliché elements and throw back style and gives it the strength to compete against summer blockbusters with his last horror film, The Conjuring. So it’s no wonder that The Conjuring 2 put a dent into the June box office. He accomplishes these kinds of things as a director by going back to basics and not into the realm of popcorn film making that horror so readily focuses on. He focuses on story and on atmosphere. That’s why The Conjuring 2 works so well. Sure, the critics might call it a disappointment because it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the first one, but The Conjuring 2 is better than I expected. In fact, I feel it’s only a smidgen weaker than the original one and matches it in a lot of ways. No, this film is not “original” as I have seen so many reviews claim, but it’s a film that crafts a balance with execution and heart worth seeing.

Friday, June 24, 2016

EXCLUSIVE MOVIE CLIP: River (2016) - "On the Run"

Well Go USA has always been on the cutting edge of bringing the best of new Asian films to the US, but lately they have been digging into some great underground and artistic genre films. Their latest release, the atmospheric thriller River, has already done the rounds at some film festivals (including the Toronto International Film Festival, which is always a great sign) and it will be making a splash for some limited theatrical showings along with the usual VOD release.

Today, Blood Brothers has the EXCLUSIVE premiere of a new clip from the film called “On the Run” and it looks to capitalize on some great suspense and tension from the Laos set thriller from director Jamie M. Dagg. Check out the clip embedded below and look for our review for River tomorrow!

River is available on VOD through a variety of outlets and it premieres in a handful of theaters today around the United States! Check out the list of theatrical showings and get some information about the film at the following link: RIVER WELL GO USA SITE

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Inside Men: The Original (2015)

Director: Woo Min-ho

Notable Cast: Lee Byung-hun, Jo Seung-woo, Baek Yoon-sik, Lee Kyeong-yeong, Kim Hong-pa, Bae Seong-woo, Lee El, Jeong Man-sik, Kim Byeong-ok, Kim Dae-myeong

I will say after seeing this film, my 1st thought was that it was one of the best Korean films I've seen in quite some time, and I stand by that. Inside Men: The Original a.k.a The Director's Cut, is a 3 hour long gangster film with a political bite to it and it's brilliant.

There is so much that happens over the course of this 180 minute film, that there is no way to remember every single detail, and I am glad, because already (minutes after just finishing it), I am quite excited to give it another visit. I feel it is a film that one can appreciate more after repeat viewings.

Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan (2011/2016)

Director: Gilles Penso

If it wasn’t for Ray Harryhausen, a site like Blood Brothers wouldn’t exist. For us, his work as a special effects artist and animator was something of a childhood favorite and his impressive catalog of creatures fueled imaginations for an entire generation of film makers and fans. While documentaries are rarely covered here on the site, it was only my pleasure to be able to cover the one based on his robust catalog to be released on Blu Ray through Arrow Films called Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan. While the film itself is a fairly straightforward documentary, for cinephiles and those interested in the historical elements of film, it’s one that comes with a big recommendation for its insightful look into Harryhausen’s career.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Into the Well: Is the Ringu Franchise Still Relevant?

When The Ring came out back in 2002, I was hooked. I was in high school, I was a horror movie fanatic, and I couldn’t get enough of atmosphere and concept. It was scary, smart, and most of all – timely. It combined familiar ghost story elements with the unfamiliar tones of a blooming J Horror trend and I loved it. I quickly sought out the original Ringu at the video stores (requiescat in pace) and I have been a fan since. Granted, it’s been years since I revisited the franchise and its various spin offs, reboots, and forgotten sequels, but with the recent announcement of a third American film Rings, a new Japanese film in Sadako Vs Kayoko, and some requests from our readers for more J Horror material, I decided it was time to go back and look at one of the strangest and overly complicated franchises that horror has ever seen and examine why this series is still relevant today despite some odd turns in quality.

Midnight After, The (2016)

Director: Fruit Chan
Notable Cast: Wong You-nam, Janice Man, Simon Yam, Kara Hui, Lam Suet, Chui Tien-you, Cheuk Wan-chi, Lee Sheung-ching, Sam Lee

Since the day that I saw the short film “Dumplings” as part of the anthology film 3 Extremes, I have been waiting for Fruit Chan to release another film that would hit as hard as that one. It’s not like he does a lot of films as a director, but each time I wait for him to knock one out of the ballpark and sigh in disbelief when he doesn’t. His latest film The Midnight After, a film adaption of a cult online story, arrived last week and I held my breath again. The concept sounded intriguing, but could this be his time? Could this be the film where Fruit Chan finally matches Dumplings? The short answer? No. The Midnight After is not even close to matching the heights that Fruit Chan previously touched with his offbeat horror flick. The more complicated answer is that I’m not even sure that The Midnight After can constitute a full film. Not only is this film scattered, unfocused, and muddled in its narrative approach, but it never feels like there was a purpose or intent for it by the time it ended and the credits began to roll.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Perils of the Sentimental Swordsman (1982)

Director: Chor Yuen

Notable Cast: Ti Lung, Lo Lieh, Teng Wei-hao, Ku Kuan-chung, Linda Chu, Tai Liang-chun, Ku Feng, Yuen Wah

For the first twenty minutes or so, I was fairly confused by Perils of the Sentimental Swordsman. I had enjoyed the previous two entries of the series, but right away the tone of this film felt different – less dramatic, more off the cuff – and Ti Lung’s character was completely different in his actions and demeanor. After a quick pause and five minutes of research I found out that Perils is actually not a sequel to the Sentimental Swordsman franchise, but it’s a sequel to another wuxia series from Chor Yuen that stars Ti Lung. It’s the same series that features films like Clans of Intrigue and Legend of the Bat. With proper expectations, Perils became a fun film filled with some outrageous fantastical set pieces and plenty of memorable battles that I was able to enjoy once my expectations had been adjusted for the proper franchise, but keep this in mind when going into the film. It is probably not the film you will be expecting to see from its title.

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

Director: Bryan Singer
Notable Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Olivia Munn, Lucas Till, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Alexandra Shipp, Josh Helman, Ben Hardy, Lana Condor, Hugh Jackman

Expectations can be a bitch. When a series gets as much critical and fan acclaim as the new “rebooted” X-Men franchise has received, in particular with regard to the previous entry Days of Future Past, it’s only time until one of the entries disappoints and receives the flaming. Enter in X-Men: Apocalypse, the third entry into the latest series featuring a younger X-Men cast, and while it is a disappointment when compared to the previous two it’s hardly worthy of the horrendous (and dare I say, vicious) response from critics that is has received. As it is, Apocalypse is a fine X-Men film filled with plenty of entertaining sequences and fun pieces for audiences even if the film itself is a much more hollow experience compared to the previous two films. It suffers from some of the same issues that have plagued previous X-Men films in the past, but ultimately it moves at such a smooth pace that it never bottoms out the film like it could have.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

She Shoots Straight (1990)

Director: Corey Yuen
Notable Cast: Joyce Godenzi, Carina Lau Ka-Ling, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Yuen Wah, Sammo Hung

For me, there is something magical about late 80s/early 90s Hong Kong action films. Just like any other era and/or genre there is still a 3 to 1 ratio of mediocre crap to genuine awesomeness, but the look, the energy, and the feel of this era has always held a special place for me as one of the first non-mainstream film styles that I latched onto. One of the kings of this style and era is Corey Yuen, who, to this day, continues to offer his services as an action director and choreographer to inferior directors for a plethora of various films. One of the films I had not had a chance to dive into is the gimmicky – and oddly titled – She Shoots Straight. While the film has some issues with melodramatic plot set ups and narrative hiccups in the second act, I found myself very impressed with the ballsy twists and often shocking violence that She Shoots Straight uses to deliver its story. This may not be Corey Yuen’s best, but it’s one of his more chancy films that earns a lot of respect even if the execution is a bit patchy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Three (2016)

Director: Johnnie To
Notable Cast: Louis Koo, Wallace Chung, Vicki Zhao, Lam Suet

Johnnie To has always remained a chameleon as a director. He’s always changing and shifting through various genres, fitting his style to each one like a versatile coat of arms, pushing and challenging boundaries as he goes. As the genre fan that I am, it’s his gangster and cop films that really stick out as his best including the likes of Election, Exiled, and Drug War to name a few. His latest film to reach the US, courtesy of our friends at Well Go USA, is the cops and robbers flick Three. Just like some of his other films, this isn’t your cut and dry action thriller. Once again To is all about pushing boundaries and he does it again with this one. Most of it works, some of it doesn’t, but it’s hard not to love what To does here stylistically as he crafts a minimalist, teeth gritting thriller that is demanding of an artful respect. It’s not a perfect film and it certainly falls short of his last US release Drug War, but if you’re a To fan or love a solid and pulse pounding film it’s hard to go wrong with most of what Three has to offer.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Murder Unincorporated (1965)

Director: Haryasu Noguchi
Notable Cast: Jo Shishido, Kon Omura, Hiroshi Hijikata, Tooru Yuri, Shunji Sayama, Yoko Yamamoto, Juro Sasa, E.H. Eric

After a fun first film with Tokyo Mighty Guy and a phenomenal action comedy in Danger Pays, I was starting to see why Arrow Video wanted to do a compilation of Nikkatsu comedies for their second Nikkatsu Diamond Guys volume. The third film in the set, a comedy called Murder Unincorporated, easily represents the weakest of the three films though. For an action comedy, the balance is off and the humor is almost exclusively slapstick silliness which negates some of the heart that was represented with Tokyo Mighty Guy and the strong sense of poise present in Danger Pays. For those looking for some dumb jokes and a very easy to consume sense of style, Murder Unincorporated may certainly fit the bill. For those looking for something a bit more, then it’s perhaps best to look to the other two films in the set because this is a pretty basic comedy.

Onibaba (1964)

Director: Kaneto Shindo

Notable Cast: Nobuko Otowa, Jitsuko Yoshimura, Kei Satō

J-horror is something I've always been pretty fond of since I was a teenager; Ju-On, Ringu, the works of Kiyoshi Kurosawa, and so on have always gotten under my skin and really stuck with me in a lot of ways that horror films elsewhere haven't managed to do. I guess I can also add to that, I am not truly a horror genre fan although there is quite a bit I do like in the whole never-ending pool of cinema out there. I've been interested in checking out some of the earlier stuff, and this is very, very early ('64), and is essentially a pre-cursor to what was to come out of Japan. So does it live up to its reputation? I would say yes, although I do have a few problems, but first, the good!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Danger Pays (1962)


Director: Ko Nakahira
Notable Cast: Jo Shishido, Hiroyuki Nagato, Ruriko Asaoka, Arihiro Fujimura, Eiji Go, Bokuzen Hidari, Kojiro Kusanagi, Torahiko Hamada

I love Jo Shishido. Since I started earnestly digging into the Japanese films of the 60s and 70s (with a major tip of the hat to Arrow Video for being so aggressive with their Nikkatsu releases in the last year), he’s come to be one of my favorite aspects of the era. However, I had yet to see him in a more comedic role and it was one of the many reasons I was so excited to really sink my teeth into Danger Pays, the second of three films included in the newest Arrow Video release Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Vol. 2. Here, Jo Shishido leads an ensemble cast in a comedic action film that knows how to balance the two genres and runs with such a manic energy that it’s hard not to be swept up in the offbeat laughs and unrelenting pace of the film. The film is often very silly and features a few truly WTF moments, but when it’s this full speed assault that makes the film work so well.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Kill Your Friends (2016)

Director: Owen Harris
Notable Cast: Nicholas Hoult, James Corden, Georgia King, Craig Roberts, Jim Paddock, Joseph Mawle, Ed Skrein, Tom Riley

Sometimes, particularly when you dredge through the undercurrents of modern cinema, one gets the scent of what will become a cult classic in the near future. Dark comedies are always ripe for this path as they alienate the mainstream audience with their subject matter or style and usually only secure funding if they are tight and effective at being a dark comedy. Kill Your Friends is exactly this kind of film. It’s an effectively written and executed dark comedy that lathers on a sort of horror tinged charm to its proceedings while maintaining a quirky vulgar edge that perfectly fits into the ‘cult classic’ category. While it’s not up to par with the likes of American Psycho in setting standards for the style, it ably nestles itself to being a film that can easily be mentioned in the same conversation without skipping a beat – which is a huge compliment unto itself.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Good, The Bad, The Weird: J-Horror Remakes

The Good, the Bad, the Weird is a new series that explores individuals, genres, and themes within cult cinema with a focus on choosing the best, the worst, and the odd ball within that context. It’s a great place for discussion or analysis on how films fit within a series or filmography along with a way us to further discover our own tastes and preferences. 

For our first The Good, The Bad, The Weird piece, we invited Derrick Carter over from For the Love of Celluloid to celebrate in our J-Horror June month. Together, we came up with our choices for the article based on the slew of J-Horror remakes that graced the cinemas in the 00s. If you get a chance, check out some of Derrick's other work at For the Love of Celluloid (LINK HERE) and let us know what you think are the best, the worst, and the weirdest J-Horror remakes that exist.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Wailing, The (2016)

Director: Na Hong-jin
Notable Cast: Kwak Do-won, Hwang Jung-min, Jun Kunimura, Chun Woo-hee, Jo Han-chul, Jang So-yeon

At this point, I feel like Na Hong-jin is just fuckin’ with us. There is no way that a director takes his first three feature length films and drops three instant classics. Not just cult classics, but true cinematic classics that rise above their assigned genres and edgy non-mainstream elements. His latest film, the horror thriller The Wailing, is just one more film to add to his already impressive cinematic streak of glory. While The Chaser and The Yellow Sea both redefined the thriller into modern effective tales of woe and shock, The Wailing defines what a modern horror film should look like while retaining the same effective style and writing that made his previous two outings so bold and real. This film will knock the wind out of you. It’s a film that defines the best of what horror has to offer by building a real world with characters you care for…and then utterly destroying it all in front of you. The Wailing is the kind of outsider cinema that every film maker should want to make - thoughtful, shocking, thrilling, and ultimately devastating.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Tokyo Mighty Guy (1960)


Director: Buichi Saito

Notable Cast: Akira Kobayashi, Ruriko Asaoka, Sanae Nakahara, Arihiro Fujimura, Hiroshi Kondo, Shoichi Ozawa, Toranosuke Ogawa, Shin Morikawa, Hisao Toake

In the first Nikkatsu Diamond Guys box set that Arrow Video released in January, there was a fun little action film called The Rambling Guitarist starring Akira Kobayashi which was directed by Buichi Saito. You can read my review for it HERE. It was the weakest film of the set, but it was still a charming piece of cinema powered by fun performances and a twisty narrative. In the latest Nikkatsu Diamond Guys set from Arrow, they follow this up with another film that pairs Kobayashi and Saito together called Tokyo Mighty Guy. The reason I bring up Guitarist as a lead in for Tokyo Mighty Guy is that both films kicked off franchises and in many ways are inherently similar in tone and style. Tokyo Mighty Guy is fun, first and foremost, but it’s also a film that really gears itself towards being more heartwarming than anything else. It’s hardly a great film as it rarely delves below the surface value of the characters and story on hand, but it’s a film that earns its entertainment value through charming performances and fun comedic set pieces.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Journey to the Shore (2015)

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Notable Cast: Tadanobu Asano, Eri Fukatsu, Kaoru Okunuki, Akira Emoto, Yu Aoi, Masao Komatsu

I walked away from this film as irritated as I was pleased and thankful that I had the chance to see this newest outing (save Creepy, which I think hasn't even opened in Japan yet) by longtime favorite of mine, Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Cure, Retribution, Tokyo Sonata). It's a film that is slow, beautiful, heartbreaking, and at the same time it's uninteresting and dull in parts. Oddly, I think it works in the end, though I couldn't help but find myself not caring at moments, but I'll get to that later.

Sadako 3D 2 (2013)

Director: Tsutomu Hanabusa

Notable Cast: Miori Takimoto, Kokoro Hirasawa, Koji Seto, Itsumi Osawa, Takeshi Onishi, Yusuke Yamamoto, Ryosei Tayama, Satomi Ishihara

One of the problems with being a foreign cinema enthusiast is that there are many films that never get a North American release. Truthfully, I feel somewhat blessed that we have gotten as many of the Ringu films as we have, but it’s still a bit irritating when I have to hunt down and import the latest entry into a successful franchise. After waiting a few years for the release of Sadako 3D 2 (or as I will refer to it from this point on, Sadako 2 because the 3D bullshit in the title is dumb), I finally caved in to see what the reboot sequel had to offer. While the original Sadako wasn’t nearly as strong as I would have hoped, this second film – a direct sequel that even brings back a few of the characters from its predecessor – does improve on a few aspects that hindered the first film, but still fails to provide a smooth and un-awkward experience for its viewers. Considering some of the bat-shit insane concepts that previous entries into the Ringu franchise has provided fans, it’s not completely out there but it still has trouble finding a definitive foundation to build its themes on.