Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning (2021)


Director: Keishi Otomo

Notable Cast: Takeru Satoh, Kasumi Arimura, Issey Takahashi, Nijiro Murakami, Masanobu Ando, Kazuki Kitamura, Yosuke Eguchi, Towa Araki, Shima Onishi, Takahiro Fujimoto

 

With the fifth and (possibly) final installment of the Japanese box office juggernaut series, Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning might be one of the boldest ways to cap off a franchise. After the successful trilogy run previously, the series came back with what constitutes a two-part finale. The first portion of that, Rurouni Kenshin: The Final, was only released a handful of months prior to this one and acts as a final stamp on the series. It gives the red-haired wandering swordsman his peace to cap off a rather remarkable character arc that covered four films and featured some of the best action set pieces of the series, a bombastic set of spectacle-driven moments, and all of the characters that fans loved. It was the feather in the cap of one of action cinema’s most balanced and effective franchises. 

 

In the fourth film though, there are flashbacks to an origin for the titular character, Kenshin, that are the core for this prequel. Hence the title, Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning. Just in case there may be those who are new to the series or simply want to know just how upfront the filmmakers wanted to be with this entry. Yes, this fifth entry is a prequel to the entire series and, no, it does not suffer at all from the narrative setbacks and leaps of logic that plague so many prequels. 

 

To be frank, The Beginning might be the most daring in its tone, atmosphere, and artistic merits of the series. It’s an almost fully different experience than the others, cinematically speaking, and yet is the perfect lead-in for the story, character, and narrative build for all of the rest. It’s incredibly well-executed and ranks up there as one of the best. 

 

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Halloween Kills (2021)


Director: David Gordon Green

Notable Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, James Jude Courtney, Nick Castle, Will Patton, Thomas Mann, Dylan Arnold, Robert Longstreet, Anthony Michael Hall, Charles Cyphers, Kyle Richards

 

The revitalization of the Halloween franchise with 2018’s self-titled sequel, one that ignores every other film post the 1978 originator, is one for the history books. It reset the already over-complicated franchise to go back to the roots but it still managed to progress the lore forward in its own ways and inject a bit of social commentary that hit a lot of the right buttons. Its massive success in the box office and a strong love from the overall horror community made it ripe for reigniting one of the archetypal slasher franchises. It wasn’t a shock that Blumhouse was quick to capitalize on its success by announcing a sequel. 

 

However, it was tempting fate that they would announce two sequels to cap off the trilogy...a trilogy of four films, for the record, if you count the 1978 original. Still, it was hard not to get expectations up considering the strength of Halloween (2018), and a title like Halloween Kills does sound pretty legit and stroked the excitement of my inner teenager. 

 

With a half-melted ghostly mask in tow, Michael Myers once again stalks the silver screen with Halloween Kills and returning director David Gordon Green (along with some returning writers a slew of other filmmakers) aim to jack up the body count and set up a finale with the upcoming Halloween Ends that will bring his portion of the franchise to an end. The results are, in a fitting twist, incredibly problematic in their ambitions. 

 

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Yokai Monsters Collection: 100 Monsters (1968)


After unleashing the Daimajin on collectors with their three-film box set only a handful of months ago, Arrow Video continue their Daiei run with the Yokai Monsters Collection. Complete with the original three film run of the Yokai Monster trilogy and auteur director Takashi Miike’s love letter to those films, this collection brings together four films that were not regularly available (if at all) to Western audiences. Whether you’re a fan of supernatural monster flicks, strange genre-bending slices of cinema, or Japanese film history, it’s hard to go wrong with this boxset as a collector.

 

The mileage that one gets from the films included in Yokai Monsters depends on their ability to roll with the shifting genres and a sense of artifice within their stories. This review covers the first film in the series, 100 Monsters, but stay tuned for more reviews for the rest of the series. 

Sunday, October 10, 2021

V/H/S/94 (2021)


Directors: Jennifer Reeder, Chloe Okuno, Simon Barrett, Timo Tjahjanto, Ryan Prows

 

Another Halloween and another horror anthology film. One might read that sentence as a bad thing, but - hey - I’m all in on this trend. Particularly when it’s a revival of the impressive V/H/S series that were rocking the rails on two different horror cinema trends. The fourth film in the series, V/H/S/94, is a hell of a return to form after the forgettable misfire of the third film, V/H/S Viral. It’s a fun horror mixture of stories and approaches, it features some fun new reasons for people to be recording their stories, and there is a ton of new talent in executing those stories. For fans of either anthologies or found-footage horror, V/H/S/94 represents some of the best of both and kicks off the October spooky season nicely. 

 

Monday, October 4, 2021

No Franchise Fatigue Movie Podcast - Extended Cuts on Patreon!


If you love what we do here at Blood Brothers and if you have already checked out our podcast cousin, The No Franchise Fatigue Movie Podcast, then can we recommend checking out our latest adventure over on Patreon!

The No Franchise Fatigue Movie Podcast goes further with Extended Cuts, where Blood Brothers writers Matt Reifschneider and Sean Caylor tackle film commentaries and add bonus episodes for the podcast for our Franchisee fans.


Click the link below to join now! We'll see you at at the next sequel!

https://www.patreon.com/nffpodcast 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

No Franchise Fatigue Movie Podcast: The Ones That Mother Gives You Don't Do Anything At All [The Matrix Franchise Part II]


No Franchise Fatigue co-hosts Sean and Matt get RELOADED for the REVOLUTIONS of our discussion on The Matrix franchise. That's right, they are talking about the "end" of one of the biggest trilogies in modern cinema. Do the guys of NFF disagree on the films? Do they suggest you take the Red Pill or the Blue Pill? 


So join them as they chat about damn near everything under the sun including incredible car chases, machines who overthink drilling, how Colin Chou loads a gun, and whether or not floaty fights are real fights. 


Also, Sean declares war on Neill Blomkamp. Kind of.




Credits:
Hosted by Matt Reifschneider and Sean Caylor

Produced by Matt Reifschneider and Sean Caylor
Edited by Sean Caylor

bloodbrothersfilms.com

Reach us at:

nffpod.sean@gmail.com

facebook.com/nofranchisefatigue

twitter.com/nffpod

Thank you for listening.

Friday, September 24, 2021

The Boy Behind the Door (2021)


Directors: David Charbonier, Justin Powell

Notable Cast: Lonnie Chavis, Ezra Dewey, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Micah Hauptman

 

As a father, nothing is more terrifying than all of the horror that can happen to my children. As vigilant as I may be in security, safety, and instilling common sense into my children, there is always the possibility that something truly terrible could happen regardless of my effort or my children's diligence. The Boy Behind the Door is a realization of these greatest fears, as two twelve-year-old boys, Bobby (Lonnie Chavis, This is Us, Magic Camp) and Kevin (Ezra Dewey, Criminal Minds, Teachers) are abducted for nefarious purposes somewhere in rural (redundant) South Dakota. The ensuing game of cat and mouse is a terrifying testament to the dangers that children face in today's world, as well as their resilience in the face of seemingly comprehensive danger.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

No Franchise Fatigue Movie Podcast: Through the Looking Glass [The Matrix Franchise Part I]


Get jacked in, franchisees! NFF Agents Mr. Caylor and Mr. Reifschneider hack their back after hiatus to talk about one of the most influential franchises of all time, The Matrix! 

Part I of the two-part episode covers 1999's The Matrix and 2003's spin-off The Animatrix and we take a digital deep dive into why The Matrix works as a remix, who the real hero of the Matrix is, and how there needs to be anime anthologies for a lot more franchises. 

So get logged in, follow the white rabbit, and bend physics with the NFF team.






Credits:
Hosted by Matt Reifschneider and Sean Caylor

Produced by Matt Reifschneider and Sean Caylor
Edited by Sean Caylor

bloodbrothersfilms.com

Reach us at:

nffpod.sean@gmail.com 

facebook.com/nofranchisefatigue

twitter.com/nffpod

Thank you for listening.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Malignant (2021)


Director: James Wan

Notable Cast: Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, George Young, Michole Briana White, Jake Abel, Ray Chase

 

There’s intriguing divisiveness that exists around James Wan and the popularity he has achieved with his films. The divisiveness that, in all honesty, I am not sure I fully understand. Perhaps it's one of those situations where individuals feel attacked because a non-mainstream genre has suddenly had some crossover into mainstream territory and that’s offensive to them. My love for the director, writer, and producer has certainly earned me some ill will from very boisterous negative commentators, but quite frankly, I find his style of modernizing classic genres and giving them his own auteur twist is fun and refreshing. 

 

After dropping one of the biggest box office hits ever (edit: I just looked it up - yes, it currently resides in the top 25 globally) in Aquaman, Wan - in all of his audacity - took his massive blank check and used it on Malignant. Granted, Wan has always been one to go back to his mid-budget horror films in between larger projects as a director. Not to mention, he always keeps one foot in the door as a producer to shepherd in new talent under his guidance, but Malignant is next level. Not only does this film deliver on the usual Wan elements - atmosphere, supernatural aspects, and sharp visuals, but its absurd blending of genres, mixed with a hyperkinetic build in its pacing, and a blisteringly outlandish third act make it one of the most potent “instant cult classic” films I’ve ever had the chance to see. Malignant is brash in its love letter to the past but also brings such strange energy to the fold that it slices n’ dices its way to being one of the best of the year. 

 

Copshop (2021)


Director: Joe Carnahan

Notable Cast: Alexis Louder, Gerard Butler, Frank Grillo, Toby Huss, Ryan O’Nan

 

Joe Carnahan has had a prolific career in stylish action flicks. Whether it was his debut film Smokin’ Aces or his other film in 2021 Boss Level, Carnahan is a fairly safe bet when it comes to entertaining action films loaded with interesting choices. His latest, Copshop, follows very closely in those steps and maybe, just maybe, perfects it. Built on the foundations of using 1970s cop thrillers as its basis, but also as some stylistic choices, Copshop is a romp and a half. It’s littered with broad stroke characters painted with bullets and quick banter, a slow-burn build to set the chessboard, and some fantastic performances. It’s a smartly written mid-tier action thriller with some scene devouring casting that ought to curb the craving for most genre fans. Copshop, like so many of Carnahan’s films, is already a cult classic. 

 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Vengeance Trails (2021) Part I: [Massacre Time (1966) / My Name Is Pecos (1966)]


Although most of the films included have been released previously, it’s hard not to be extremely excited for Arrow Video’s recent release of Vengeance Trails. This four-film box set includes a fantastic set of films for any western aficionado from some of the biggest directors and stars of the time period. The new high-definition restorations are gorgeous, the extras are solid as expected, and the packaging is a delight to have on a collector’s shelf. This review is meant to cover the films included in the set - although any previous coverage we have run at Blood Brothers will be linked below, but if you’re a fan of those classic Italian gritty westerns, it’s hard not to recommend Vengeance Trails upfront. 

 

For more information about the set, please see the details following the film reviews below. 

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Kate (2021)


Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

Notable Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Miku Martineau, Woody Harrelson, Tadanobu Asano, Michiel Huisman, Jun Kunimura, Miyavi, Amelia Crouch, Ava Caryofyllis, Kayuza Tanabe

 

“Death is the time for beginnings.” 

 

Maybe I’ve said this before in one of my previous reviews, but it’s worth noting again. At this point, it’s hard not to look at action cinema as Pre-John Wick and Post-John Wick. While the film in reference is in itself a love letter to the action cinema of the 80s, a vicious combination of the untouchable heroes of Hollywood and the brutal action excellence of Hong Kong heroic bloodshed, the combination and stylistic choices have proven to be wildly influential since its release. 

 

Mid-tier action films, where this style lives, has been mostly relegated to streaming services and Netflix, in all of its domineering power, has delivered one of the best post-John Wick flicks. Kate rampages about in rapid-fire pacing, gorging on the Black Rain influenced style of a neon-soaked Tokyo night and immersing a classic yakuza war story with brash modern characters and enough action sequences to make John Woo jealous. Kate is a film built on the shoulders of giants, but it’s incredibly well-executed style, action, and pacing make it one of the best bullet-riddled pieces of genre cinema of 2021. 

 

Friday, September 10, 2021

Don't Breathe 2 (2021)


Director: Rodo Sayagues 

Notable Cast: Stephen Lang, Madelyn Grace, Brendan Sexton III, Stephanie Arcila, Rocci Williams, Bobby Schofield, Adam Young, Fiona O’Shaughnessy, Steffan Rhodri

 

Ten times out of ten, I’m the kind of person that will defend a franchise. There’s a reason that Blood Brothers is the mothership of the No Franchise Fatigue Movie Podcast and I’m one of the co-hosts of it. I am not the one to ever say that a sequel (or any other additional entry to a franchise) ruins the original. No one says Halloween (1978) is a worse film for the fact that Halloween 6 exists. With that being said, boy howdy, do I find Don’t Breathe 2 to be a wholly perplexing sequel that takes bold (and confusing) swings with its premise and rarely connects despite some solid execution on a visual and atmospheric standpoint. Don’t Breathe 2 is tonally more exploitative than its predecessor and yet the film feels the need to over-explain itself. 

 

Monday, September 6, 2021

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)


Director: Destin Daniel Cretton

Notable Cast: Simu Liu, Tony Leung, Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Michelle Yeoh, Yuen Wah, Florian Munteanu, Andy Le

 

As a fan of martial arts cinema since I was, oh I don’t know, born, the recent obsession with the genre has been a roller coaster ride for me. A large part of me never expected that Hollywood or the American TV market would embrace the genre as it has in the last half of a decade. Whether it is shows like Warrior and the reimagined Kung Fu or Hollywood blockbusters like Snake Eyes and Raya and the Last Dragon, this latest boom is a welcome change of pace and to see mainstream audiences cheer for and consume one of my favorite and oft-maligned styles of filmmaking couldn’t make me happier. 

 

It’s not that cinematic martial arts on the screen doesn’t go in waves, it does. Anyone old enough to remember will note that it usually pops up every 20 years or so, with the last pop coming in the late 90s and early 00s with the arrival of Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and The Matrix (fight choreographer Yuen Woo Ping) in Hollywood. What makes this latest boom so fascinating is the arrival of the latest Marvel film, their 25th of the MCU if I’m counting properly, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

 

Not only is Shang-Chi a film that attempts to bring the newest kung fu craze to the world’s biggest franchise, but it’s one that sincerely wants to adapt - and sell, this is Disney after all - Chinese martial arts, culture, and their cinematic history to a wider western audience. It’s a film that often tries to rectify so many of the mistakes made by the original Shang-Chi comic, a cringe-worthy series at best, and thrust its audience into a mystical world of Chinese lore (made up or adapting popular elements) while retaining that now formulaic Marvel brand. The combination is thrilling, fun, dynamic, and most importantly heartfelt. I might be biased thanks to my love of kung fu cinema, but this is easily the best Marvel film to date. 

 

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Death Screams (1982)


Director: David Nelson

Notable Cast: Susan Kiger, Martin Tucker, William T. Hicks, Jennifer Chase, Jody Kay, Andrea Savio, Helene Tryon, Hanns Manship, Larry Sprinkle

 

As the boutique label wars continue to happen within the realms of genre cinema, more and more fans clamor for the next “long lost classic” from the slasher genre. Whether it’s Vinegar Syndrome, Severin, 88 Films, or Arrow Video, the labels are all happy to dig into the deep, dark caverns of horror to unearth what could possibly be the next classic. These forgotten films occasionally do reach that echelon, but more often than not, it’s a stretch. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m happy these labels are rescuing films from oblivion, but after watching Death Screams last night - just know that it can be a chore to get through some of them. 

 

Arrow Video’s track record has usually been fantastic in finding those lost classics. They’ve unleashed The Mutilator and Blood Rage. As of late, the label has been scraping some questionable pieces of cinema though and a handful of their latest stuff (sans The Slayer which is a film that I weirdly liked when no one else did) and Death Screams can be added to that list. Although this 1982 slasher has its moments, it’s a relatively meandering slog to work through and the overall story and characters are undercooked in a way that’s not nearly as fun as it might have been with more gimmicks or charisma. 

 

Thursday, September 2, 2021

The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch (1968)



Director: Noriaki Yuasa

Notable Cast: Yachie Matsui, Mayumi Takahashi, Sei Hiraizumi, Yuko Hamada, Yoshiro Kitahara

 

With most of his career dedicated to shepherding the Gamera franchise throughout its original run in the 1960s, 70s, and (unfortunately) 80s, it was a pleasant surprise that Arrow Video grabbed one of the few ‘other’ films that Noriaki Yuasa directed. Released the same year as Gamera Vs Viras (see my review for that film HERE), The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch is one of his best efforts. 

 

For a film that regularly feeds off of the same child-focused themes that he embedded throughout the Gamera franchise, he utilizes a fantastical horror story to sell thematic morals and he does so with an admirably odd and offbeat manner. There’s a child-like whimsy to much of its approach, but the balance of its silliness, creepiness, and heartfelt moments make it a refreshing watch that feels far more impassioned than his later Gamera entries. 

 

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Candyman (2021)


Director: Nia DaCosta

Notable Cast: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Colman Domingo, Kyle Kaminsky, Vanessa Williams, Brian King, Miriam Moss, Rebecca Spence 

 

The original Candyman was a seminal part of my childhood and my growth as a horror fan. It was a staple of our weekly video store rentals as a family and watching it as an 8-year-old certainly elevated my love of horror. It’s a film that makes it into my rotation on a yearly basis and one that I still uphold as one of the iconic horror films to push the genre forward, particularly in 1992. The first set of sequels, however, sincerely fail to recapture so much of the original’s brilliance, although each one certainly tries to embed their stories with their own take on social commentary. They just lose a substantial amount of the themes and storytelling as they move further into generic slasher territory. 

 

The latest sequel, Candyman, following the titling scheme of the 2018 Halloween sequel, ignores Candyman 2 and 3 (Farewell to the Flesh and Day of the Dead respectively) to go back to what made the original one such an iconic horror film. The film is intentionally engrossed with taking the Candyman lore, expanding it, and deepening its engagement with the racial and social commentaries from the original and pushing them into a new century. It’s also a film that doubles down on the horror elements, moving further from the inherent sadness and gothic romance of its predecessor, and kicking the supernatural slasher elements to the forefront. The combination proves impressively buzzworthy, carrying quite the sting, and providing an instant classic that brings the mythological ghostly legend to the modern age. 

 

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The Green Knight (2021)


Director: David Lowery

Notable Cast: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sarita Choudhury, Sean Harris, Kate Dickie, Barry Keoghan, Erin Kellyman, Ralph Ineson

 

It ain’t easy being green. Although that phrase comes from a far different period of time and from a much different world of entertainment, the phrase seems fitting when looking down at the CinemaScore and Rotten Tomatoes audience reactions to The Green Knight. It’s a film that was relatively well-received by critics (and if you’re tempted to look down - you’ll see my own very favorable score for this one) and yet reads divisive among audiences. The appreciation for its bold visuals rings true across the board, but the rest… well, the rest of The Green Knight is up for debate. 

 

This is not an unusual place to be for film studio A24 or director David Lowery. Both have had their fair share of critical acclaim and audience push back through their careers. Having Lowery jump on board the A24 train is a natural progression, but it’s the choice of subject matter with The Green Knight that is most surprising. An artistic fresh and bold take on the classic Arthurian legend and poem, The Green Knight is both a heightened and abrasively artsy assault on its viewer, but it’s also a slow burn and grounded version of it that focuses on realistic character emotions. It’s not easy being green and balancing those two often very different approaches in one film, but The Green Knight smoothly accomplishes the task with striking effectiveness. 

 

Sunday, August 29, 2021

The Fatal Raid (2019/2021)


Director: Jacky Lee

Notable Cast: Jade Leung, Patrick Tam, Kristy Yang, Andrew Yuen, Jeana Ho, Lin Min-Chen, Michael Tong, Elaine Tang, Rosanne Lui, Sharon Luk

 

Nostalgia in cinema is not new. The 30-year window, where films will often look back 30 years into the past for period settings or cultural touchstones for current art, is real and relevant to most any time frame. Anyone that has been partaking in the sheer amount of late 80s and now 90s focused genre cinema in the last five years can attest to its power. The latest trailer for the upcoming Ghostbusters film uses it in all of the worst ways possible, but I digress. I’m already off track and I’m only four sentences into this piece.

 

This phenomenon is not just an American trend either. The Fatal Raid, a love letter to the 1980s ‘girls with guns’ subgenre of Hong Kong action cinema, reeks of a desperation to recapture the fun and flippancy of the genre with a modern sense of style and look. It’s a film with tongue often planted firmly in cheek, particularly with some of the secondary plot lines, that wavers in tone and effectiveness. However, for those looking for a fun and silly way to burn 90 minutes, The Fatal Raid is hardly a fatal choice. It’s just not the best one, even for the genre, but with the right mindset it suffices.

 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Reminiscence (2021)

 

Director: Lisa Joy

Notable Cast: Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Thandiwe Newton, Daniel Wu, Cliff Curtis, Angela Sarafyan, Natalie Martinez

 

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm a sucker for strange and off-beat projects that attempt to do a lot of things. If they have an A-budget and attempt to slam multiple genres together, then even better. A-budget B-movies are my favorite and I refuse to just write them off even if they miss the mark.

 

Reminiscence is exactly that kind of movie. Big cash on the screen, strange combinations of genre work, and a film that regularly punts logic to the curb for the sake of embracing an oddity or two. Even with its many, many flaws, I found myself quite enjoying the weird of it all. 

 

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Rising Shaolin: The Protector (2021)


Director: Stanley Tong

Notable Cast: Wang Baoqiang, Ni Da Hong, Du Gui-Yu, Solange Maggie, Ng Man-Tat, Yu Hai

 

When the initial teaser dropped for Rising Shaolin: The Protector, a film that definitely doesn’t need such an unnecessary subtitle, the hype became overwhelming in my soul. As a massive fan of the Jet Li Shaolin Temple series, seeing a modern action icon like Wang Baoqiang pull off the series of Shaolin kung fu forms in various seasonal weather was all that I needed to justify seeing this film. 

 

Granted, that hype was tempered by the phrase “directed by Stanley Tong.” Just the thought that a Stanley Tong film would be a red flag appalled the 15-year-old version of me in my heart. His early work on Super Cop 3 and Rumble in the Bronx helped guide me into Hong Kong cinema, but his recent work - the inept lunacy of Vanguard and Kung Fu Yoga - is incredibly disappointing. Even with a passion project like Rising Shaolin, it was hard not to have traumatic flashbacks to his recent films. 

 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Hand Rolled Cigarette (2020)

 

Director: Kin Long Chan

Notable Cast: Gordon Lam, Bipin Karma, Tai Bo, Ben Yuen, Michael Ning, Chin Siu-Ho Aaron Chow Chi-Kwan, Tony Ho, To Yin-Gor, Bitto Singh Hartihan

 

“To those who keep working hard for Hong Kong cinema, passing the flame to future generations.” 

 

These are some of the final words that scrawl across the end credits of Hand Rolled Cigarette, the 2020 Hong Kong crime thriller which has quietly earned a fistful of accolades prior to its most recent screening at the New York Asian Film Festival. For a film so indebted to recapturing some of the gritty artistic merit of late 80s and early 90s Hong Kong capers, it’s a resounding punctuation to the film’s punchy third act. However, it’s a fitting one that exists as a magnetic pole to guide the themes, style, and choices being made throughout the film.

 

Considering the director, Kin Long Chan, is crafting his debut with Hand Rolled Cigarette - it’s also a statement of intent, shepherded by an obvious love for the heavyweights of the previously mentioned ‘golden era.’ The choices laid out on the table by Chan should not surprise, really, particularly with his past cinematic history.

 

Thursday, August 12, 2021

The Brotherhood of Satan (1971)


Director: Bernard McEveety

Notable Cast: Strother Martin, LQ Jones, Charles Bateman, Ahna Capri, Charles Robinson, Geri Reischl

 

As a cinephile dedicated to the strange corners, odd trends, and genre aspects of the cinematic world, Satanic cult films are a subgenre that I often visit and revisit from time to time. It’s not unusual to partake in a few new ones a year, whether they are recently made or re-released relics of a mostly forgotten era. Although The Brotherhood of Satan popped up occasionally in my exploration of the genre, it was a film that never piqued my interest enough to seek out. Especially after noticing the lukewarm reception even from the diehard fans. The announcement that the film would be part of the Arrow Video slate in 2021 was a bit of a shock considering its lack of stature in the genre. It’s not that the iconic distribution label, one that has made it a goal to uncover long lost “classics,” is above misfires. Hardly. This company did release Blu Rays for Satan’s Blade and Microwave Massacre after all. Yet, my expectations were relatively middling going into this oft overlooked early 70s flick.

 

Consider the expectations met.

 

However, The Brotherhood of Satan is both a surprise in quality and perplexingly off the mark. It falls in a strange place between exploitation fun and artistic merit, never hitting the wild roller coaster thrills of a film like Devil Rides Out or the artistry and smarts of a film like The Wicker Man. It’s better than expected in its attempts at uplifting its meandering script, but it’s also utterly bogged down by odd structure, leaps of logic, and glacial pacing. 

 

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Raging Fire (2021)


In a final swan song only director Benny Chan could deliver, Raging Fire is a quintessential modern Hong Kong cinematic action experience, powered by an incredible dual lead performance and propelled by dynamic and explosive action set pieces. 

 

Director: Benny Chan

Notable Cast: Donnie Yen, Nicholas Tse, Jeana Ho, Ray Lui, Patrick Tam, Ben Lam, Chris Collins, Ken Lo, Simon Yam

 

During the final action sequence, an epiphany came to me. The culminating chess game between the two leads of the film, Donnie Yen and Nicholas Tse, erupts into a full Michael Mann street war. On one side, cops in Kevlar vests and tactical gear. They storm the streets of Hong Kong, determined to disrupt the burglary in progress. On the other side, sharply suited villains armed to the teeth with automatic rifles and grenades aiming to make off with a significant heist, and nothing - not even an army of well-armed police officers, will stand in their way. It’s an explosive set-piece, erupting in rollicking explosions, showers of glass, and concussive blasts of gunfire where no character is safe and the tension has built to snarling intensity. 

 

That’s not the epiphany. That’s just the setup. 

 

Friday, July 30, 2021

Black Widow (2021)


Black Widow promises a highly demanded espionage solo film, but delivers a bland half-servicing Avengers formula six years too late

 

Director: Cate Shortland

Notable Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz, David Harbour, Ray Winstone

 

Over ten years and dozens of films later, the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) has finally unleashed its Black Widow film, un-enticingly titled Black Widow, for the masses. Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff, the titular Black Widow, was introduced back in Iron Man 2 (only the second film in the MCU for those counting) and fans have been clamoring for her solo film since. Yet, time and time again Marvel/Disney has negated the fans and stumbled over their excuses of why they couldn’t crack the film. Most of which sounded like tripe. However, the scientists and algorithms have finally done it and the film is now out in theaters, it’s thrilling fans, and it’s raking in the cash in the box office and over on Disney+. 

 

It’s too bad that Disney and Marvel seem intent on continually following the same patterns with the character because, once again, Black Widow is a mishandled “could have been great” experience. One where the character takes a back seat to her own story and Feige and company are terrified to deviate too far from the established formula to have anything unique to say about anything related to the character.  

 

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Gunpowder Milkshake (2021)


Director: Navot Papushado

Notable Cast: Karen Gillan, Lena Heady, Chloe Coleman, Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh, Angela Bassett, Paul Giamatti, Ralph Ineson

 

It was only after the film ended that it clicked for me who directed/wrote Gunpowder Milkshake. The name Navot Papushado rang a bell, but I never connected what his previous two films were.

 

Gunpowder Milkshake is very different from his previous efforts, that's why.

 

Yes, the man who gave us the horrifying double feature Rabies and Big Bad Wolves is also the director behind the two-hour exercise in S T Y L E that constitutes Gunpowder Milkshake. To say it's a deviation from the grounded grittiness of his previous films is an understatement. This comedic action fantasy film is purely unshackled oddities, layered into a traditional crime film plot and then allowed to gestate in a room full of those neon color, black light posters one could find in Spencer’s during the 2000s.

 

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins (2021)


Director: Robert Schwentke

Notable Cast: Henry Golding, Andrew Koji, Haruka Abe, Takehiro Hira, Ursula Corbero, Samara Weaving, Iko Uwais, Peter Mensah

 

The G.I. Joe franchise has always walked (and punched) down a fine line. If it’s too serious, it loses the summer blockbuster casual fans looking for escapism. If it’s too goofy? Fans of the intellectual property will cry parody and abandon ship. It’s the same debate that happened with Rise of Cobra and Retaliation and it’s already a debate raging online about the latest, a pseudo-reboot of the Hasbro toy line as action cinema, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins. For a film that’s meant to be a silly modern interpretation of an 80s iconic character born of the ninja boom of that era, that’s a lot of pressure. 

 

With an $88 million budget in tow, not including marketing for the film, and an increasingly apathetic audience to the IP, Snake Eyes has an increasing amount of grapple-hook-wall scaling to accomplish. Yet, it’s a pleasant surprise to know that this reboot, directed by Robert Schwentke, is weirdly effective at finding a balance in the basics. It lays its stakes firmly in the world of silly, bombastic summer blockbusters, but in doing so it also manages to lean into the lunacy of the G.I. Joe world. It delivers something slightly different than the usual expectations of world policing in Go America Joe or the Marvel Cinematic Universe appeasement which benefits the experience. 

 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (2021)


Director: Adam Robitel

Notable Cast: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Indya Moore, Holland Roden, Thomas Cocquerel, Carlito Olivero, Jay Erving, Deborah Ann Woll

 

It feels like yesterday that Escape Room was released in theaters; a new series that was very intentionally meant to be the heir apparent now that the Saw franchise sealed the final nails in the coffin after Jigsaw. My, how things have changed? Not only did the Saw franchise not die with a whimper after the 8th installment (it promptly went into hibernation to emerge from its cocoon to just whimper and die this year anyway) but delays and a pandemic kicked its sequel back almost 3 years. Nonetheless, if you happen to remember Escape Room, then its long-awaited sequel, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions, is going to be exactly in your wheelhouse. Not only is it a direct sequel that references a ton of material from the original, for the franchise whores out there, but it’s a film that knows exactly why people will want to see it: ridiculous trap rooms slathered in gimmicks surrounded by questionable and illogical conspiracies.

 

Hydra (2021)


Director: Kensuke Sonomura

Notable Cast: Masanori Mimoto, Miu, Ikumi Goto, Tasuku Nagase

 

Just a few months ago, word about a fantastic low budget martial arts thriller started to pop up in the social media circles that I frequent. Hydra had the potential to be the next big thing in terms of its star and director was what the dredges of the internet churned out. When Well Go USA picked up the film for distribution, to be available via their streaming service Hi Yah first before receiving a Blu Ray and DVD release, it seemed to verify the rumors. However, for fans of martial arts films - even low budget DIY ones like the previously reviewed Silat Warriors, temper the expectations. Hydra is a fascinatingly artistic take on the usual tropes of the action and martial arts genre and it’s one that intentionally defies some tropes while actively grasping onto others with a death grip. The combination proves to be infinitely intriguing, but not one that may appeal to all fans of the genre. 

 

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Son (2021)


Director: Ivan Kavanagh

Notable Cast: Andi Matichak, Luke David Blumm, Emile Hirsch

 

It was repeated throughout my childhood, a phrase that never left me. Never judge a book by its cover. Yet, it’s often an approach that any adult regularly uses on a day-to-day basis. In the bombardment of information received from the marketing teams in film, it is hard not to judge a film by its cover. In this case, judge a film by its title. Son is not necessarily the most riveting title and certainly doesn’t invoke the horror element at the core of the film. Still, don’t be me. Don’t skip out on the film thinking it is some Redbox exclusive indie low budget flick. Son is a haunting and atmospheric trip through the stark fears of motherhood that reels into some jackknife turns to deliver its horrors. 

 

Coming from director Ivan Kavanagh, director of the scrumptiously unnerving ghost film The Canal from a handful of years ago and the often overlooked western Never Grow Old, Son is taking heavy handed inspiration from classic horror like Rosemary’s Baby and asks the question - what happens after the fact?

 

Silat Warriors: Deed of Death (2021)


Director: Areel Abu Bakar

Notable Cast: Namron, Khoharullah Majid, Feiyna Tajudin, Fad Anuar, Taiyuddin Bakar

Also known as: Deed of Death; Geran

 

In recent years, there has been an intriguing boom of DIY martial arts films that have shown the strength and talents of their filmmakers. Not just The Raid either. Films like The Paper Tigers, Die Fighting, or Unlucky Stars have gloriously allowed artists inspired by classic kung fu cinema to strut their stuff. The films are often flawed, perhaps burdened by lacking budget, but the heart and soul - usually partnered with a creativity in the fight choreography - easily make them worth watching. Part of this wave includes the low budget ass kickery of Silat Warriors: Deed of Death (originally titled Geran). This Malaysian modern martial arts flick absolutely understands its limitations and often uses them to its benefit, focusing on the grounded realism of its fights and character interactions to fuel its intensity rather than spectacle or effects. It’s a throwback to the gritty action films of martial arts past in all of the best ways and delivers on intimate character work and two fists worth of tight action sequences. 

 

Thursday, July 15, 2021

The Daimajin Trilogy (2021) [Daimajin, The Return of Daimajin, The Wrath of Daimajin]


The recent number of Daiei films that Arrow Video has unleashed onto Blu Ray and digitally in the last couple of years, it should not be a shock that the Daimajin Trilogy was one of the next collectors sets. Although the three films were widely available on Blu Ray through a cheap release via Mill Creek already, after the previously released Gamera series was released, an upgrade was most welcome. Featuring the only three films of this fascinating tokusatsu series, The Daimajin Trilogy not only contains the HD versions of the films, but tons of new commentaries, discussions, and writings about the films in a deluxe collectors set. This review will cover all three films of the series, but if you are interested enough in Daimajin to be reading this article - you might as well order the set right now. It’s a worthy endeavor to see the unusual and all too enticing films included. 

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Sunday, July 11, 2021

The Forever Purge (2021)


Director: Everardo Gout

Notable Cast: Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta, Josh Lucas, Will Patton, Cassidy Freeman, Veronica Falcon, Leven Rambin, Gregory Zaragoza

 

When the Saw franchise ran with the marketing gimmick of “if it’s Halloween, it’s Saw” because they essentially staked their claim to the holiday season before being dethroned by Paranormal Activity, they knew their drawing power. In the same vein, it is another Independence Day and that means it’s time for a bit of Purge. For this fifth installment, The Forever Purge, the series moves locales, adds a new voice in director Everardo Gout, and continues to embed heavy-handed social commentary within the confines of a genre exploitation heavy dose of street level chaos. As most reviewers seem to note, yes, The Forever Purge is quite a bit more of the same, but it injects just the right amount of fresh blood into the mix - making for another provocatively entertaining slab of genre cinema.

 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

F9 (2021)


Director: Justin Lin

Notable Cast: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, John Cena, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Sung Kang, Nathalie Emmanuel, Thue Ested Rasmussen, Charlize Theron, Helen Mirren, Anna Sawai, Kurt Russell, Lucas Black, Shad Moss

Also known as: F9: The Fast Saga

 

While one could argue the diminishing returns in quality of the Fast & Furious & Franchise continues to plague newer entries, there is something special in how much F9 tries to rectify so much of the misfiring that happened in Fate of the Furious. Even the soap opera-inspired long-lost brother plot or the return of Han (Justice is served, nerds) are addressed in a way that says "we know, we botched a lot of the family stuff in the last one, but we're trying harder now." The intent is amicable, if not flawed in its own right. 


Sunday, June 27, 2021

Threshold (2021)


Directors: Powell Robinson, Patrick Robert Young

Notable Cast: Joey Millin, Madison West, Daniel Abraham Stevens

 

When I found out that the directors of Bastard, a film that I genuinely enjoyed, were directing a DIY road trip thriller on two iPhones, I was already in. Say what you will, but a good gimmick is a good fuckin’ gimmick. Even though the ‘shot on an iPhone’ angle was used in the marketing for Unsane to an insane degree, the idea of an indie film shot on the fly had me hook, line, and sinker. Threshold, which premiered to relatively strong word of mouth on the festival circuit, even drew the attention of Arrow Video, prompting them to give the film a rather impressive Blu Ray release. Not too shabby for an indie thriller. 

 

In the spirit of a shot on iPhones in 12 days on a road trip indie thriller, Threshold is not necessarily the most riveting of films. Limited budgets, time, and tech are always going to force a film toward dramatic heft, performances, and creative outside of the box thinking and that’s exactly what happens with this one. It’s a double-edged sword in its approach, but for viewers with the right mindset, an artistic one that understands the brilliance of what they aim to accomplish, Threshold does deliver a dynamic tale about rekindled familial friendship, belief, and a ‘fuck it, we’re doing it live’ attitude. True to its indie spirit. 

 

Friday, June 25, 2021

Rurouni Kenshin: The Final (2021)


Director: Keishi Otomo

Notable Cast: Takeru Sataoh, Emi Takei, Mackenyu Arata, Yosuke Eguchi, Munetaka Aoki, Yu Aoi, Yusuke Iseya, Riku Onishi, Tao Tsuchiya, Ryosuke Miura, Takuma Oto’o


The opening sequence of Rurouni Kenshin: The Final features the film’s villain, Enishi, absolutely annihilating an entire regiment of police officers during an arrest attempt on a steam engine ready to depart for China. It’s a robust and breathtaking sequence that sees the brightly colored new character, a true live-action interpretation of an anime and manga figure, whip through the train, shattering windows, leaping from inside to outside, and bouncing between bone-cracking martial arts combat and wuxia style gravity-defying wirework. It’s no holds barred action with flourish and crushing hits. Yep, the live action Rurouni Kenshin series is back and it’s wholly welcome. 

 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021)


Director: Michael Chaves

Notable Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ruairi O’Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook, Julian Hilliard, John Noble, Eugenie Bondurant, Shannon Kook, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Keith Arthur Bolden

 

With almost $2 billion dollars in the box office now, The Conjuring Universe has solidified itself as one of the premiere horror franchises in history. What started as Wan’s love letter to 70s supernatural horror has become a lucrative money-making machine that has spawned far more spin-offs than entries into the original series. The quality of these entries varies, often to a shocking extent, but one thing about the series is that it always finds a way to entertain - even if the whole product is flawed.

 

The latest entry into the series, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, is now the third of the original series and finally catching up to its spin-off series, Annabelle, in quantity. This entry represents a deviation from its two predecessors in a few ways, most notably in that James Wan has stepped away from the director’s chair, but it’s not one that completely abandons the core values for a slightly more convenient approach. Certainly, The Devil Made Me Do It is not the efficient and tightly crafted modern classic one might hope, but it’s also not the wild misfire it might have been. 

 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Years of Lead: Five Classic Italian Crime Thrillers (2021) [Savage Three / Like Rabid Dogs]


While the Poliziotteschi genre is one that has been generally covered by other writers here at Blood Brothers, it’s incredibly hard not to want to immediately dig into Arrow Video’s latest Blu Ray box set, Years of Lead. This set contains five films and enough special features to make most cinephiles ill with joy. It’s an impressive set, on the whole, and the following series of reviews will dive into the various films contained within. If anything, just as a taster, Italian cinema fans or those who enjoy cult cinema will want to add this to their collection even if they already own some of the titles. Nonetheless, if any questions remain, the next few articles will go through the films included.

 

This article contains a review for the first two films in the set, Savage Three and Like Rabid Dogs

 

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Irezumi (1966)


Director: Yasuzo Masumura

Notable Cast: Ayako Wakao, Akio Hasegawa, Gaku Yamamoto, Kei Sato, Fujio Suga, Asao Uchida, Reiko Fujiwara, Kikue Mori, Jun Fujikawa, Tadashi Iwata

 

“We go to hell together!”

 

Arrow Video’s continuation to release incredible pieces of Japanese cinema remains one of the best things that the label is currently pursuing. Whether or not the sales reflect the brilliance of their choices is something that remains to be seen, but if there’s a title announced on the line up - mark my words, it’s one to add to your collection. With their release of Irezumi, one of those fantastic pieces of cinema too often overlooked by more mainstream cinephiles, Arrow does it again. Not only is the restoration and presentation of the film incredible, Irezumi is one of those slices of subversive arthouse exploitation that serves to continually remind everyone - myself included - that the amount of top-notch cinema that exists in the world is far more than one could expect. 

 

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Undercover Punch & Gun (2021)


Directors: Lui Koon Nam, Frankie Tam

Notable Cast: Philip Ng, Andy On, Van Ness Wu, Chi Shuai, Joyce Feng, Aaron Mustapha Aziz

 

One of the things that growing up with Hong Kong cinema has allowed me to be comfortable with is tonal whiplash. Nobody does imperfect tonal shifts to perfection like Chinese, Taiwanese, and Hong Kong. As time has gone on, the industry has certainly tried to make their material a bit more consumable for larger audiences and that means many films have pulled back a bit from the sheer insanity of the fast tone slides. I should have been prepared when Undercover Punch & Gun decided to take a potentially gritty undercover cop action flick and inject some wild quirks and humor into it. Does it work all the time? Absolutely not, but there is this kind of postmodern angle to its 80s approach that does have its charms. This allows Undercover Punch & Gun to be oddly charming as it delivers on its action through the dual efforts of its big-name cast. Even if the film feels a bit uneven and hollow as a whole. 

 

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

A Quiet Place Part II (2021)


Director: John Krasinski

Notable Cast: Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Cillian Murphy, Jahn Krasinski, Noah Jupe, Djimon Hounsou

 

One could easily consider A Quiet Place the horror movie heard ‘round the world when it dropped in 2018. For a film about silence and missing communication in a world made quiet by sound-hunting monsters, it sure made a lot of noise upon its release. With most of the cast returning, John Krasinski retaining the director’s chair, and the cliffhanger finale of the original, there was a lot to look forward to in A Quiet Place Part II. However, where Krasinski aimed for an admirable “less IS more” goal with the original, he shifts his focus towards a “less OF more” mentality here. It’s a subtle shift, but one that certainly carries impact. For fans, it’s a welcome return to the post-apocalyptic world of the original that delivers on many of the aspects that made it an instant modern classic, but it’s also a film that suffers slightly from sequel-itis.

 

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021)


Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

Notable Cast: Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson, Max Minghella, Marisol Nichols

 

Every long-lasting franchise has to have its ups and downs. It’s just like life. Always a bit of a roller coaster, ya know? For the Saw franchise, diminishing returns for the sixth and seventh entries spelled a bit of doom for the initial run, but you can’t keep a good horror series down. While the eighth film, Jigsaw, did well box office wise relatively negative feedback from critics and fans ended that attempted kickstarter quickly. Enough that it sent the franchise into hibernation for a little while at least. That is until Chris Rock. 

 

Did anyone have Chris Rock on their Saw bingo card as the man who would try to reboot the long-lasting and iconic franchise?

 

Nonetheless, this leads to the ninth film in the series, Spiral: From the Book of Saw. The marketing featured strong vibing close to a Saw meets Se7en tone, while fantastic trailers and posters made the hype for this almost undeniable. Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson, director Darren Lynn Bousman, and other factors simply worked in building expectations up to a fever pitch in horror circles. Yet, the strange thing about Spiral is that, for better or worse, it’s simply another Saw film and not the new and improved chapter that so much of its marketing leaned on.

 

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Ip Man: Crisis Time (2020)


Director: Li Li-Ming

Notable Cast: Zhao Wen Hao, Mou Feng Bin, Hao-xuan Li, Shao Xia

 

As an individual that grew up in the boom of direct to home video market, I definitely do not have qualms with low-budget cinema that aims to exploit specific trends or topics. This is why I wrote an article on the Ipsploitation genre over at 36 Styles in defense of Ip Man: Kung Fu Master. A defense that has certainly earned me some criticism. You’re welcome to weigh in yourselves by following this LINK. Still, for the most part, I’m all for a ‘cash in' in the cinematic sense and I think it allows for some intriguing watches for the more curious folks exploring genre films. 

 

The director of the previously mentioned Ipsploitation film, Li Li-Ming, had a previous run at the genre with the film Ip Man: Crisis Time. For those who have seen Kung Fu Master and thought it was a total ‘in-name-only’ cash grab at snagging some bucks from fans of the Wai Son Yip and Donnie Yen franchise, boy, are you in for a ride with this effort. Ip Man: Crisis Time is barely a film in any relation to the cinematic character representation of Bruce Lee’s teacher, but it’s surely a film converted into an Ip Man film at some point after its initial creation.

 

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Wrath of Man (2021)


Director: Guy Ritchie

Notable Cast: Jason Statham, Holt McCallany, Rocci Williams, Josh Hartnett, Jeffrey Donovan, Scott Eastwood, Andy Garcia, Deobia Oparei, Laz Alonso, Raul Castillo, Chris Reilly, Eddie Marsan, Niamh Algar

 

When I hear that there is a new film from Jason Statham and/or Guy Ritchie, I just assume I’m going to the movie theater for a good time. Both are oddly adept at comedy, despite their work in the action and thriller genres, and having them reteam up for the first time since Revolver seemed like it was going to be an enjoyable time at the theaters. While I will say that their latest, Wrath of Man, is quite an impressive film, it’s not one that I would call a “fun” time at the theaters. The goal of the film is not quips and quirks. Instead, Wrath of Man is a rather dire and dour experience that intends to explore the heavy material in answering the question, ‘what if a bad man becomes a devastating force of nature in trying to hunt down a specific group of bad men?’ The results may not be fun, but it might be one of the best from both Ritchie and Statham. 

 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Oxygen (2021)


Director: Alexandre Aja

Notable Cast: Melanie Laurent, Malik Zidi, Mathieu Amalric

 

Although I am quite a fan of Alexandre Aja as a director, the general concept of his latest film, the Netflix released Oxygen, where a woman wakes up trapped in a high-tech cryotube, is still pretty basic. The buried alive motif is a relatively common one in genre storytelling and there are quite a few films that already do it with impressive results. Hell, even Ryan Reynolds was in a decent one, Buried, just a decade ago.

 

Imagine my surprise that Oxygen, originally titled O2, comes out looking to set the archetype for the modern ‘buried alive’ angle. It's a tight and impressively balanced techno-thriller, tense in its use of both the suffocating setting and the reveal of increasingly devastating information, that maximizes its mystery and its science fiction angle to deliver thrills and occasional chills. 

 

Friday, May 14, 2021

Jakob's Wife (2021)


Director: Travis Stevens

Notable Cast: Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden, Bonnie Aarons, Nyisha Bell, Sarah Lind, Mark Kelly, CM Punk

 

In my humble and often questionable opinion, most vampire films can be placed into two categories: hoity-toity castle artsy vampire cinema and buried in a dirty grave fun vampire flicks. Not that films can’t be both to some degree, as is the spectrum of film, but those are the two ends for me. Judging by the strong casting, the poster artwork, and the title, the expectations that came with Jakob’s Wife seemed to lean heavily toward hoity-toity. It would fit with the current state of horror trends and, quite frankly, I was sold on that idea. However, this film easily leans towards the latter category, albeit in a smart way. It’s a cinematic mixture of classic elements and modern twists. Not only are fans loving it, but critics seem to share the appreciation of the quirks and strengths of the film’s oddities in its choices. Jakob’s Wife is a stellar example of a team of creatives taking a tone and embracing both the silliness and the intelligence of its messages and delivery. 

 

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Deliver Us from Evil (2021)


Director: Hong Won-chan

Notable Cast: Hwang Jung-min, Lee Jung-jae, Park Jung-min, Choi Hee-seo, Park So-yi, Song Young-chang

 

One time I had a friend of mine refer to action films that revolve around kidnapping as ‘search and destroy films,’ and it has been a phrase I tend to use for some time now. To be honest, I’m quite a fan of these search and destroy flicks, whether it’s a Taken knock-off or one of the SPL sequels. For the film Deliver Us from Evil, a title that sounds far more fitting for a religious horror film than an intense and brutal South Korean actioner, it’s the latter films that have the most influence on its intentions. At the baseline, it’s a fairly standard action thriller that even more casual fans of the genre or South Korean cinema can consume. With two key performances, some brutal action, and just enough heart, it’s hard not to love what Deliver Us from Evil is pushing despite its relatively generic approach to storytelling. 

 

Monday, May 3, 2021

The Stylist (2021)


Director: Jill Gevargizian

Notable Cast: Najarra Townsend, Brea Grant

 

Originality is overrated. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million times on repeat until I bleed from my ears and eyes. It’s in the execution where a film finds its freshness. A willingness by its creative elements to own its history and define its future is key. The Stylist is absolutely a representation of that ideology. To boil down its concept to its bare bones for an audience to decide if it's worth its weight in plastic and paper, one could easily call this film Single White Female through the lens of Maniac. It’s not wrong to describe it that way, but it’s the execution of that viewpoint that crafts a stunning horror picture. The Stylist takes a little off the top and adds a bit of color and highlights to the mixture described, but the results are a stunningly nuanced, heartfelt, and often terrifying concoction ready for the horror runway.