Sunday, May 27, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Director: Ron Howard
Notable Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau

When the latest Star Wars entry was announced to be a prequel featuring a young Han Solo doing his space smuggler thing, I will admit I was less than thrilled. Disney and the LucasFilms machine has an entire universe to explore and they decided to go the safe route with a character that we already know and have already spent four films with in some regard. Yawn. The following behind the scenes drama for the film, featuring Lord and Miller being booted from the film after shooting a significant amount of it and rumors of a shoot that was PLAGUED with issues, certainly didn’t inspire a lot of hope in the product. Even the hiring of megastar director Ron Howard to fix the film seemed hollow, particularly since most of his recent output never connected with me. To say that I was going in with some pretty low expectations is an understatement. Perhaps this is why, even though the film is, indeed, very, very flawed, I was pleasantly surprised with Solo: A Star Wars Story (ugh, that title still sticks in my craw.) Ultimately, Solo is a fun film with enough entertaining elements to pass off as a decent early blockbuster for the year. It’s hardly one of the best from Star Wars, easily the worst of the Disney era for a variety of reasons that I will go into here in a second, but it’s fun and it’s an inoffensive piece of cinema that works as the popcorn flick it is. Did I want more? Sure, but I was not expecting to get it.

How Long Will I Love You (2018)

Director: Lun Xu
Notable Cast: Jia Ying Lei, Li Ya Tong

It’s not often that a cult cinema site like Blood Brothers is offered the chanced to run coverage on a romantic comedy and, normally, it’s one that we wouldn’t pursue because, well, how many rom-coms have genre elements that would even fit into the realms of cinema we cover? However, How Long Will I Love You had a twist. It’s a film that uses a time-travel/multi-dimensional gimmick as the hinge in bringing the two leads together for their rom-com tropes. It was enough to perk our interest in the film and here we are…writing a positive review for a rom-com. In many ways, the film suffers by adhering so vehemently to the tropes of the genre. Enough so that large swaths of the film are easily predictable. On the other hand, the film subverts them with its own messages about fate and serendipity through its strange fantasy elements. It’s a teeter-totter kind of back and forth that makes it feel a bit more sporadic then needed, but ultimately the saving grace of How Long Will I Love You is that no matter which way the film is leaning, it’s irresistibly charming and powered by the hilarious and heartwarming chemistry between its two leads.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Sleepy Eyes of Death 7: The Mask of the Princess (1966)

Director: Akira Inoue
Notable Cast: Raizo Ichikawa, Yaeko Mizutani, Ichiro Nakatani, Keiko Kayama, Michiko Ai, Tamotsu Fujiharu, Ryutaro Gomi, Kiyoshi Ito, Kanae Kobayashi

“For a villain like me, this is a very nice grave.”

In terms of this franchise, Sleepy Eyes of Death 7: The Mask of the Princess represents one key aspect of why it has been so successful: impressive execution. At this point, the formula of what constitutes a film in this series is pretty solidified and almost exclusively etched in stone, so there are plenty of elements to be expected in those regards. However, The Mask of the Princess uses those aspects to continually spin the film in some intriguing directions and plays on the audience’s expectations in some fun ways. On top of that, the film might be one of the more fascinating films of the series on a visual level with director Akira Inoue bringing a great sense of style and purpose to it that layers well with the narrative and script. Even when the film is predictable, it is able to be one of the best in the franchise on sheer execution.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Bruce's Deadly Fingers (1976)

Director: Joseph Kong Hung
Notable Cast: Bruce Le, Michael Chan, Lo Lieh, Nora Miao, Nick Cheung, Yuan Man-Tzu, Chiang Tao, Tong Tin-Hei, Fung Ging-Man, Chiu Chi-Ling, Bolo Yeung
Also Known As: Bruce’s Fingers

The one thing about Bruceploitation films is that either a) you completely buy into the cheesy concept and appreciate them for what they are or b) you don’t. Even as a massive martial arts cinema fan, sometimes the obvious low budget cash ins on Bruce Lee’s fame (and death) feel a tad out of place and occasionally disrespectful. At their worst, this is most definitely the case. At their best though, which is where Bruce’s Deadly Fingers tends to lean towards, it’s fun and exploitative entertainment that knows exactly what it is. In the case of Bruce’s Deadly Fingers, an all-star cast, some outlandish silly sequences, and a lot of tongue in cheek humor is what carries the film to being one of the better ones I have seen in the Bruceploitation movement. It’s still a rather hit or miss product, but for fans of the kung fu sub-genre this latest Blu Ray from VCI for the film is going to be a necessary addition to the martial arts fan’s collection.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

A Quiet Place (2018)

Director: John Krasinski
Notable Cast: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cade Woodward

Being a parent is hard. It’s filled with drama and horror in equal measure with love and wonder. It is unlike anything else I’ve ever tried, and I’ve tried a lot of stuff. One unavoidable fact of family life is that while it is many things, it is always loud. Whether a baby is crying, a toddler is whining/screaming, or an older child is having a shouting match with a sibling, a parent, or themselves, there is rarely an escape from the flood of sound that accompanies domesticity. The constant assault of this sound is already a point of anxiety for parents, if not because of the current situation (cough-we don’t need to inform the checker why I’m a boy but thanks anyway toddler) than from the unrelenting stimuli that are as exhausting as they are raucous.

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Blood Splatter: 2018 Horror Vol 2 [Winchester, Downrange, Ghost Stories]


Director: The Spierig Brothers
Notable Cast: Jason Clarke, Helen Mirren, Sarah Snook, Finn Scicluna-O’Prey, Angus Sampson, Laura Brent, Tyler Coppin, Eamon Farren, Bruce Spence

By all means, Winchester should be one of the best horror films of the year. The Spierig Brothers have a fantastic visual style, the film features two phenomenal leads in Jason Clarke and Helen Mirren, and the time period setting is ripe for a classic Gothic/ghost tale tone. So what exactly goes wrong with Winchester that it stumbles so badly? The answer is nothing really. There is nothing distinctly wrong with any of these things. Visually, the film uses its sets and period setting to give it enough of a decent look, the performances are certainly fine, and the film goes for that old school appeal of dramatic haunting with just enough modern tricks and jump scares to curb the appetites of the modern audience.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Revenge (2018)

Director: Coralie Fargeat
Notable Cast: Matilda Lutz, Kevin Janssens, Vincent Columbe, Guillaume Bouchede

There is a current movement in horror, among some of the younger directors particularly, that sees the exploitation films of the past as a leaping point to create a new sense of artistry. The directing combo of Cattet and Forzani are breathing new life into giallo, for example, and now there is a new name on the scene making her mark: Coralie Fargeat. With her debut feature length film, Revenge, Fargeat is out to modernize – in an artful manner – the rape n’ revenge flick. Seeing as the genre has seen its fair share of terrible films to balance out the more impressive ones like Ms. 45 or the original I Spit on Your Grave, this is a welcome movement. Rest assured, Revenge is a BEAST of a film. Salaciously stylish, horrifyingly uncomfortable, and unafraid to embrace its exploitation roots with an artistic flair for the modern. It will make you squirm, gasp, cover your eyes, gag, cheer, and white knuckle the arm rest on your chair. Not only is it an effective film to bring the sub-genre back, it most certainly brings it back with a wicked vengeance that allows it to overcome its own flaws.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Champion (2018)

Director: Kim Yong-wan
Notable Cast: Ma Dong-seok, Kwon Yul, Han Ye-ri

There is a moment in the second half of Champion, a film that follows the sports mold formula almost exclusively to a ‘T,’ where there is a little television program that is going through the history of our hero Mark, played with fantastic depth by Ma Dong-seok. This is, inherently, not an unusual piece for the dramatic sports film. It is meant to dig into the hero’s past, even so briefly, before the final showdown so that all of the characters in the film along with the audience are given as much emotional weight as they can carry before leaping into the dramatic and tense finale where hopefully it all pays off. Champion does its best to subvert the drama with enough humor throughout to give it a bit of its own spin, in a cheesy way, and it’s here that it reaches its own strange height. During this segment, the announcer talks about how Mark faced adversity as he grew up and that he was something of an outcast, but it was one movie that changed his life and lead him to start arm wrestling for the glory that would this final tournament in the last act. That film was Over the Top.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Directors: The Russo Brothers
Notable Cast: Um...everyone?

Ten years. The established Marvel Cinematic Universe has been running for ten years and while the quality of the material has seen its fair share of ups and downs over that period, one cannot deny the impact that these films have made on the industry as they have only continually garnered momentum. Eighteen films in this series and after the last handful reached heavy critical and box offices successes, it has all culminated in Avengers: Infinity War, the first of a two-part mega film that gathers all of our heroes into one massive epic against a villain they have been hinting at for the majority of the series. After Avengers: Age of Ultron was a massive misfire and Civil War doesn’t hold up nearly as well with repeated viewings, I found myself skeptical that a film with roughly 2 million characters (estimated) was going to be able to pull anything off worthy of the hype that was surrounding Infinity War. However, this film is not to be trifled with. Not only is it an efficient crossing of the entire series of films, powered by the development of the characters in other films, but it takes a lot of chances that betray the general formulas of the MCU thus far that will leave fans both perplexed and intrigued. It’s both consumable in its nature and occasionally bold for a blockbuster.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Children of the Corn: Runaway (2018)

Director: John Gulager
Notable Cast: Marci Miller, Jake Ryan Scott, Sara Moore, Mary Kathryn Bryant, Lynn Andrews III, Kevin Harvey, Diane Ayala Goldner, Eric Starkey

After Children of the Corn: Genesis and the truly abysmal made-for-TV remake of the original, I was ready for the Children of the Corn series to be laid to rest and buried behind the rows of sweet corn. It was obvious that this series had grown, was harvested and left the soil unfit for further cultivation. When it announced that the ninth entry into the series (yeah, nine entries) would finally get a release after being stuck in developmental hell for a handful of years, my excitement could be measured in a long and drawn out sigh. Even worse, Children of the Corn: Runaway was directed by John Gulager who managed to kill his own Feast franchise and make Piranha 3DD too stupid to survive. Imagine my surprise that this ninth entry to a series (that didn’t really deserve four entries) came out as not only decent, but one of the best that the franchise had to offer - not that it means much. It simultaneously reboots the series in a clever way while at the same time delivering a modernized spin on the intellectual property that matches the current trends in horror. Yeah, Runaway is not just another hackneyed slasher, it’s actually a horror film that expands on the mythology and pushes it into some new territory. It’s a mixed effort ultimately, but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t pleasantly surprised.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

I'm Flash! (2012)

Director: Toshiaki Toyoda

Notable Cast: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Ryuhei Matsuda, Kiko Mizuhara, Shigeru Nakano, Kento Nagayama, Itsuji Itao, Yukiya Kitamura

Toshiaki Toyoda is a filmmaker whose body of work I have only explored the early stages of. Having seen his first four features and being a fan of each: Pornostar ('98), Unchain ('00), Blue Spring ('02), and 9 Souls ('03), I think I have a good grip on what I like about the man and what makes his works click for me. He has a plethora of interesting characters in every narrative and his anarchic sensibilities lead to this brisk and punk in your face mentality that lends itself to some very memorable cinema. I'm Flash!, a later work in the auter's oeuvre, is no different than his early outings in this regard and is filled with the same chaotic energy that attracted me to his works in the first place. Age hasn't extinguished that fiery spirit whatsoever. I'm Flash! easily stands alongside the director's early gems.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Cambodian Textiles (2017)

Director: Tatsuhito Utagawa

Featuring: Kikuo Morimoto

Kikuo Morimoto, a Japanese native from Kyoto, travelled to Cambodia after its civil war, where the art of traditional textile weaving was practically extinct. He renovated a large piece of land and created a village that strived in this near forgotten art, crafting a successful economy and a village that has a lot if heart. During the time this documentary was made, Morimoto had revealed he was diagnosed with skin cancer and opted to not receive treatment, but to rather let life go its own pace on him. We see roughly two years of he and the locals lives as he inches closer to his departure and reflects on the state of Cambodian textiles and the community he helped build all these years ago.

Re:Born (2017)

Director: Yuji Shimomura

Notable Cast: Tak Sakaguchi, Orson Mochizuki, Yura Kondo, Akio Ōtsuka, Takumi Saito

RE:BORN リボーン (2017)

This movie is absolutely insane!!! Tak Sakaguchi comes back from a brief retirement for one more action fueled joyride that comes with an overwhelming barrage of action scenes that never disappointed. Zero-range combat tactics, created for the film by action choreographer Yoshitaka Inagawa, called to mind the intense hand-to-hand from the video game franchise, Metal Gear Solid. That is no complaint and in fact pulled me into the action even closer, no pun intended whatsoever.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Afriti (2017) - Short Film

Director: Avishek Das

Notable Cast: Adrija Baul, Arijit Chatterji, Suman, Ankita Debnath, Sinjan Sarkar

The first ever Bengali language slasher from India is a big deal and taking on that first foray into a subgenre of horror, or anything really unexplored in a particular country's cinema, regardless of what type of infrastructure group it belongs to, is something that must meet a certain standard of high expectations from an unready and unprepared world of... well, world cinema lovers to flock to. Does taking claim, whether the literal first of its kind or not, live up to the hype? To a degree, but it is an effort that has a lot of heart which sadly lacks a very strong craft across the bored making Afriti an ultimately mixed effort.