Thursday, April 30, 2020

Sea Fever (2020)

Director: Neasa Hardiman
Notable Cast: Hermione Corfield, Dougray Scott, Connie Nielsen, Jack Hickey, Dag Malmberg, Ardalan Esmaili, Olwen Fourere, Elie Bouakaze

In a time where most of the world is quarantined due to a massive pandemic, releasing a film about infections, quarantines, death, and the mental anguish of all the above is one hell of a flex. Watching Sea Fever is a harrowing experience that hits very close to home and certainly plays on the anxieties of the current state of affairs. Isn’t that the appeal of horror cinema though? Working through social and personal fears in a “safe” medium from the comfort of your home or communal theater in a slightly heightened narrative format? It’s definitely the main appeal for me. This is why, while Sea Fever seems almost too perfectly timed, it’s release is only fitting.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Hunt (2020)

Directed by: Craig Zobel
Notable cast: Betty Gilpin, Hilary Swank, Ike Barinholtz, Ethan Suplee, Emma Roberts

The Most Dangerous Game, as a genre archetype has always been used as a metaphor for class divide as long as the story has existed. The bored rich hunting a downtrodden, but clever, human being makes for extremely compelling bones to any story. This has found great success in films as diverse as Surviving The Game, featuring an unforgettable Ice T performance and hairdo, to the generic but fun 90s Van Damme actioner Hard Target, to the insane and cartoonish John Leguizamo vehicle The Pest. There is something inherently compelling about the idea of hunting a thinking person, which I believe relates to motivation. Michael Meyers is scary because you never understand the motivation, the rich hunting the poor out of boredom? That’s scary because it’s so mundane. We’ve all been bored, and we’ve all imagined what we’d do with infinite resources, so there is something inherently dark about coming to the “hunting human beings” conclusion.

Bloodshot (2020)

Director: David S.F. Wilson
Notable Cast: Vin Diesel, Eiza Gonzalez, Guy Pearce, Lamorne Morris, Toby Kebbell, Sam Heughan, Johannes Haukur Johannesson, Alex Hernandez, Talulah Riley, Siddharth Dhananjay

The fact that Vin Diesel is the main draw for me is not something I regularly admit. However, I have had to come to terms with it over the last few years as he continually unleashes A-budget B-films in between Fast & Furious sequels. The results of these weird genre films is wildly hit or miss. Not just hit or miss in terms of good and bad, but some hit every level between. Babylon AD is trash, but Riddick is badass. XXX: The Return of Xander Cage is batshit insane wink-wink, but The Last Witch Hunter is…well, also batshit insane just not wink-wink. Regardless, I’m a sucker for whatever wild shit he’s throwing down and his latest, Bloodshot – based on the Valiant comic book, is just one more for the books. The problem with this latest one is that, despite some valiant efforts to give Vin Diesel fans all of the Vin Diesel-isms they want, it’s a film that parallels the character arc of its hero. It lacks a real identity and it’s desperately trying to find one.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Hitch Hike to Hell (1977/1983)

Director: Irvin Berwick
Notable Cast: Robert Gribbin, Russell Johnson, John Harmon, Randy Echols, Dorothy Bennett, Mary Ellen Christie

Going into a film named Hitch Hike to Hell is certainly a gamble. Knowing it’s an incredibly low budget 70s schlock exploitation film only makes those feelings of a gamble more intense. However, if there is one thing that we have found is that if Arrow Video is releasing the film, then there is probably some key reason for it. While the quality of Hitch Hike to Hell is, well, it’s shifty at best, there is something of an intriguing element to its approach that makes one understand why Arrow Video would want to give this the pristine Blu Ray treatment. On the surface, this film is fairly awkward. The low budget and the obvious amateurish elements of the writing and performances make for a film that’s a relative chore to sit through, but there are things to discuss in the film – even if the execution leaves most of those thin too.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Red Peony Gambler 6: Oryu's Return (1970)

Director: Tai Kato
Notable Cast: Junko Fuji, Bunta Sugawara, Tomisaburo Wakayama, Kanjuro Arashi, Toru Abe, Bin Amatsu, Mikiko Asamatsu, Shogo Egami

One of the more effective tactics that have become part of the formula of the Red Peony Gambler franchise is how the writing is structured. Each entry slowly builds its story, adding in seemingly random characters or plots, and then ties them in for the third act. While the second film in the franchise, Gambler’s Obligation, did it with the most impact, it has become a tactic that I enjoy seeing unfold time and time again. The sixth entry of the series, under the subtitle Oryu’s Return, sees the franchise once again double down on this structure and writing. Unlike some of its predecessors, the results are a bit more mixed than expected, but Red Peony Gambler 6 is still a film that pays off wildly in its third act.