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. 

 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Mortal Kombat (2021)


Director: Simon McQuoid

Notable Cast: Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Mehcad Brooks, Joe Taslim, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Matilda Kimber, Laura Brent, Chin Han, Ludi Lin, Max Huang, Sisi Stringer, Mel Jarnson, Nathan Jones

 

Mortal Kombat has a rich history, whether people like to admit it or not. Not only from the ever-expanding series of games that ballooned to include all kinds of crazy shit from fighting tournaments to action-adventure platformers, but to the overall pop cultural impact that was left in the wake of its controversial birth. There have already been two live-action films, a handful of TV shows, and a few animated stories. This is IP with a lot of fans, a lot of skeptics, and a lot of expectations when it comes to a new live-action film being crafted with “the fans'' in mind. 

 

For 2021’s Mortal Kombat, produced by genre auteur turned populist icon James Wan and directed by Simon McQuoid of - let me check my notes - nothing, the key was finding a balance between everyone’s expectations. A relatively daft task, if we are all being honest with ourselves. Partner that with the insane combination of being one of the first major films to drop into theaters as they start to reopen in the wake of a still ongoing pandemic, and this film was already riding a very tight line even before its release. 

 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

In the Earth (2021)


Director: Ben Wheatley

Notable Cast: Joel Fry, Ellora Torchia, Reece Shearsmith, Hayley Squires

 

One of the fascinating things about bold and auteur-focused voices in cinema are that audiences will ebb and flow with their projects. Ben Wheatley, despite bursting from the gates with a handful of positively regarded slabs of artistic genre fair, including the altogether incredible Kill List, has seen his clout come and go with how his audience is able to digest his films in the ways he challenges them. With his latest effort, In the Earth, Wheatley aims to jam in a solid indie and artsy horror flick in between much larger profile projects (Rebecca and The Meg 2, respectively), and the results are as strange and off-kilter as one might expect. Slathered in a naturalism meets acid trip sensibility, where the former eventually succumbs to the latter, In the Earth is a film where the experience directly feeds into its messaging and the execution between the two is experimentation in challenging its viewers to hold their own on the ride. People wanted artsy genre work after everyone bitched about Free Fire? You fuckin’ got it.

 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Godzilla Vs. Kong (2021)


Director: Adam Wingard

Notable Cast: Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Kaylee Hottle, Demian Bichir, Shun Oguri, Eiza Gonzalez, Julian Dennison, Lance Reddick, Kyle Chandler

 

Well, it’s here. Finally. After three previous films, each one receiving rather mixed reviews and a continually declining box office, the Legendary and Warner Bros. ‘Monsterverse’ culminates in Godzilla Vs. Kong. Yes, that’s correct, the titanic duo come together once again in the monster showdown that was well on its way into production when Godzilla: King of the Monsters struggled at the box office. To its benefit, the long delays to release postponed originally to “allegedly” distance itself from the relative disappointment of the previous film and then a few more times due to the pandemic, have allowed the film to breathe a bit and find its footing. Its surprise success at the theaters, despite premiering day and date on HBOMax, is an indicator of two things: a) that audiences were ready to see a film truly made for the theatrical experience and b) enjoy a film more fine-tuned to deliver on its promises.

 

Monday, April 19, 2021

Honeydew (2021)


Director: Devereux Milburn

Notable Cast: Malin Barr, Sawyer Spielberg, Barbara Kingsley, Stephen D’Ambrose, Jamie Bradley, Lena Dunham

 

The love letters to past horror styles recently have been, to some degree, all-consuming. All art influences art further down the spectrum, but the intentional replication of past decades by young filmmakers is certainly an overarching theme in horror as of late. Fortunately, most films that attempt that approach are not just recreating the choices of previous cinema, but are often remixing it. Honeydew, the debut feature from director and writer Devereux Milburn, is one more film to reach for that blend. Combining elements of 1970s rural terror with a sly, modern angle on the material is the name of the game for this flick. The mixture proves to be impeccably intriguing, particularly as the film is laying the groundwork, but it’s also one that promises far more than it can fulfill by its finale.

 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The Unholy (2021)


Director: Evan Spiliotopoulos

Notable Cast: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Cricket Brown, William Sadler, Cary Elwes

 

Dropping a Christianity-based religious horror film is a relatively regular occurrence, but having the audacity to release it to theaters on Easter weekend is priceless. That’s just what happened with The Unholy, the latest venture into horror for Sam Raimi’s Ghost House, and the directorial debut of Evan Spiliotopoulos. Although that release date angle is certainly a tasty morsel on its own merits, The Unholy as a modern horror venture is an act of mistitling. Technically, yes, the film is about an unholy witch, but it’s a film that should have the more apt title, The Unmemorable. It’s a shame. There are quite a few intriguing elements to the film, but it’s overly reliant on hitting the formula beats and shoehorning in jump scares to make up for a lack of cohesive narrative, plot, and atmosphere. 

 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

No Franchise Fatigue Movie Podcast: Klaatu Barata Necktie (Evil Dead Franchise Part II)


Today there is a discussion of the long-time fan favorite Army of Darkness, AND Sean and Matt discuss the finer points of the remake.

Spoiler alert, the finer points are violence.

Also, Sean and Matt discuss the brilliance of Fede Alvarez, why Evil Dead fans are terrible at showing up to things when they need to, ask the hard questions about Ash's skillsets, and drop their rankings for the Evil Dead franchise - which features not one, but TWO controversial decisions. 

So strap on your chainsaw, pick up your Chemistry 101 textbook, cut off the barbed wire on your book, and listen to the NFF's finale on the Evil Dead franchise. 




Monday, March 29, 2021

No Franchise Fatigue Movie Podcast: Work Shed (Evil Dead Franchise Part I)


Sam Raimi forever changed horror with his Evil Dead series, and today Sean and Matt discuss that very series in their analysis of The Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn. Also, they discuss hot topics like Sam Raimi's love of putting gross things in character's mouths, what is the difference in remake and reboot, and, of course, Frank Grillo's ability to flex abs AND laughs. JOIN US. 

... and give me back my hand…





Thursday, March 25, 2021

The Bloodhound (2021)


Director: Patrick Picard

Notable Cast: Liam Aiken, Joe Adler, Annalise Basso

 

The works of Edgar Allen Poe have certainly inspired, well, essentially anything having to remotely deal with macabre material to this day. Some of it is more directly involved such as direct adaptations and others are more inspired in tone or concept. The Bloodhound, “inspired” to a great degree by Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, is a modern retelling that takes the basic premise and injects a slow burning and often incredibly uneasy awkwardness to everything. It’s Poe for the A24 age, a tale of collapsing health and sanity, wrapped in a particular style and approach one might describe as quirky. If anyone wanted a Wes Anderson style Poe adaption, embedded with a suffocating sense of oddity and modern impending existential dread, then look no further than this strange and delightfully uneasy film. 


Sunday, March 21, 2021

Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021)


Director: Zack Snyder

Notable Cast: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Jason Mamoa, Ezra Miller, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons

 

On a normal day, I would start my review for a film with context, perhaps my expectations, a bit of history, or an angle to address the “world” that this film was watched in. When it comes to Zack Snyder’s Justice League, most of our readers already have a strong opinion of the events that have led to the resulting decision by Warner Bros. in allowing this new version of the film to exist. There are certainly arguments to be made on both sides of its existence, the right for an auteur director to have their vision is one stance that I usually subscribe to, but Zack Snyder’s Justice League is one that comes with a price attached to it - more than the reported $70 million that WB forked up to allow Snyder to “finish” his intended version. However, this is a review of the film and not an analysis of the problematic lingering effects of it- although I will drop this link to an article that aptly describes my feelings on the matter: LINK.

 

Instead, let’s focus on the film itself, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, a four-hour epic opus of the now mostly defunct DCEU meant to culminate the scattered and often insanely problematic universe that Zack Snyder was spearheading. Released on HBO Max, as a way to drive viewership to the service, the newly minted Zack Snyder’s Justice League is certainly an improvement over the theatrical version that Joss Whedon had worked on. It’s also a marked improvement over the other two Snyder DC films, Man of Steel and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Not that it means much as both of those as tragically flawed. 

 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

No Franchise Fatigue Movie Podcast: Burn, Baby, Burn Kyoto Inferno (Rurouni Kenshin Franchise)


For the latest episode of No Franchise Fatigue, Matt and Sean discuss the anime-based chanbara samurai series Rurouni Kenshin! As always we discuss important questions. Wouldn't being beaten with a blunt edge sword still hurt? What exactly causes a fire mummy's sword to shoot flame? Who is Sir Hops-A-Lot? Plus, you can hear Sean spew a series of words that constitutes the concept behind a video game and Matt gets to struggle to say Japanese names (like always). 

Check out our latest episode below or wherever you listen to podcasts. 








Thursday, March 18, 2021

Vanguard (2021)


Director: Stanley Tong

Notable Cast: Jackie Chan, Yang Yang, Ai Lun, Miya Muqi, Yang Jian Ping, Zhu Zhengting, Jackson Lou, Xu Ruohan, Rahim Achabbakhe, Eyad Hourani

 

When Kung Fu Yoga came out in 2017, it quickly dispelled the notion that perhaps, just perhaps, the combination of director Stanley Tong and star Jackie Chan could recapture the lunacy of Supercop and First Strike. It was a mess of a film, but it made some impressive box office dollars, so why not have them team up again for another massive international action-adventure flick? This is why we have Vanguard, the latest hollow attempt at mass appeal riding on the coattails of past success. With over 10 minutes of credits at the end, the film is 90 more minutes of sheer outlandish action, punctuated by bright colors and patchy CGI, that aims to move so quickly from set piece to set piece that its audience might forget that there should be a movie underneath all of the glitz and glam. What’s left is a film that is about as effective as a long commercial in terms of storytelling quality. That presents a problem if its viewer wants more than just misguided style. 

 

Friday, March 12, 2021

No Franchise Fatigue Movie Podcast: I Bet Mathayas Is a Pisces (The Scorpion King Franchise Part 2)


The Scorpion King reminds me of the fable of the scorpion and the frog in a way…

-“Hey Mathayus, why did you lose the kingdom?”
-“You knew what I was when you kinged me…”


Regardless, today we finish the Scorpion King franchise! It brings to mind such questions as, if you had one codpiece joke, would it involve a knife? How serious is too serious for this franchise? How do you want to introduce ninjas? Flying kicks? Flying kicks to the crotch? Listen up as we finish off the series and announce our next franchise!

Featuring guest host Derrick Veurink of backlot605.com!



Tuesday, March 9, 2021

The Invisible Man Appears (1949) and The Invisible Man Vs the Human Fly (1957)


As someone who grew up on a heavy staple of Universal Monster Movies from all eras, following the various monsters as they leaped across studios in a perfect storm of remakes, reboots, and reinterpretations. While The Invisible Man was certainly the least ‘frightening’ of the monsters to me as a kid, the character and the story that started with H.G. Wells’ incredible novel is one that has oddly aged as some of the best in theme and concept. For further proof of that, feel free to read our very positive review of Leigh Whannell’s latest version of the character from last year’s The Invisible Man. Thus, it’s a character that can have almost an infinite number of new interpretations that allows it a lot of flexibility to reflect the time period and the culture crafting the interpretation. 

 

Color me very excited to check out the two wild (and mostly forgotten) Japanese versions of the character and concept in Arrow Video’s latest dual feature release of The Invisible Man Appears and The Invisible Man Vs the Human Fly.

 

Newly restored to the best possible shape, these two Daiei productions represent an entirely new perspective on the story from a cultural standpoint and from a time period standpoint. While the restorations are, in fact, a little rough around the edges - a point very well addressed at the beginning of the first film for the film collector’s ready to complain as if the context of these films even existing still wasn’t a Herculean feat, there is a lot to digest here from the vantage points of history and as a piece of entertainment. 

 

Sunday, March 7, 2021

No Franchise Fatigue Movie Podcast: Sting Me to Life (The Scorpion King Franchise Part 1)


Now in our second reboot this year, we start NFF 3.0 with magical powder bang with the first part of the wildly uneven, but always entertaining Scorpion King franchise. Can our heroic hosts decipher the comedic tones? Will Universal try to franchise our podcast? Will Randy Couture hear this and hunt down Matt like the cowardly dog that he is? Remember, when you start this episode, you’re honor-bound to finish it…

Featuring guest host Derrick Veurink of backlot605.com!



Saturday, March 6, 2021

Wrong Turn (2021)


Director: Mike P. Nelson

Notable Cast: Charlotte Vega, Matthew Modine, Adain Bradley, Bill Sage, Emma Dumont, Dylan McTee, Daisy Head

 

The Wrong Turn franchise has been something of a pleasure of mine. While the first two films in the long-running slasher series feature some creative and well-executed concepts, in two very different tones, the rest of the four sequels have de-evolved into low-brow slasher silliness. The ‘turn off your brain’ kind of entertainment one would expect from a direct-to-home-video slasher franchise. The latest installment of the series, a reboot with the clever title Wrong Turn (I hope you all can feel my eye roll as I type that), aims to not only bring a new life into a franchise treading water, but one that also aims for loftier goals of embedding a message into the material. That’s right, no longer is this just a series of films about inbred cannibals in West Virginia slaughtering people in questionable states of clothing, but it’s going to say something about it. 

 

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Crazy Samurai 400 Vs 1 (2021)


Director: Yugi Shimomura

Notable Cast: Tak Sakaguchi

 

When Crazy Samurai 400 Vs 1 was originally announced, under the simplified title of Crazy Samurai Musashi, it was hard not to be excited. Mainly because cult favorite action icon, Tak, would be stepping into the shoes of the titular folk hero, Musashi, for the film. Of course, it would only get more exciting from there as the film was touting that it would feature a 77-minute, one-take action sequence that would have our badass ‘hero’ fending off 400 foes. 

 

Granted, once a person starts thinking of the logistics of such a feat, the excitement lends itself to wariness at the audacity of any film to attempt it. Could any film truly pull off this kind of incredulous notion? Could they defy the odds and make it work?

 

Thanks to our friends at Well Go USA, Crazy Samurai 400 Vs 1 is now available on both their streaming platform Hi-Yah! and via physical media. The results, while ultimately mixed, are worthy of a viewing just for the curious. At a strangely brisk 92 minutes in total, the 77-minute action set-piece constitutes over 83% of the film’s entire run time and the insanity of that statistic is felt on screen. 

 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Strike Back (2021)


Director: Vincent Zhao

Notable Cast: Vincent Zhao, Jiang Yiyi, Diego Dati, Lu Peng

Also known as: Counter Attack

 

After the success of Wolf Warrior II as a home-grown mega-blockbuster that didn’t need the help of the foreign box office to make it onto the list of highest-grossing films of all time, it’s a bit of a shock that more films weren’t immediately jumping on board to replicate the success. It was a film that took a popular actor, in this case, Wu Jing, and made him one of the biggest box office draws in the nation. Not to mention, the star directed the film and suddenly he was a hot commodity in that area too. That kind of ego boost for Wu Jing is impressive. Yet, there wasn't the boom of knock-offs that one might expect. However, speaking of an ego boost, please allow Vincent Zhao to enter this review. 

 

Monday, February 22, 2021

Shogun's Joy of Torture (1968)


Director: Teruo Ishii

Notable Cast: Teruo Yoshida, Masumi Tachibana, Fumio Watanabe, Reiko Mikasa, Miki Obana, Yukie Kagawa, Shinichiro Hayashi, Asao Koike, Kichijiro Ueda, Tamaki Sawa

 

One of the best things about many of the recent Arrow Video acquisitions is their intentions to dig up some of the missing cult classics from the King of Cult, Teruo Ishii. They’ve already released a handful of his filmography, an insane amount of films for those who want to attempt counting them, and their latest, Shogun’s Joy of Torture, brings back one of his most sought-after and acclaimed titles from his pinky violence era. Like many of the other films released by Arrow, this 1968 exploitation flick is an omnibus of three stories centered around the titular theme - old-school torture elements from Japan’s history. It’s not one of his best, but for those looking for a slab of interestingly made provocative cinema, it’s hard to go wrong with this one. 

 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

A Writer's Odyssey (2021)


Director: Lu Yang

Notable Cast: Lei Jiayin, Yang Mi, Dong Zijian, Yu Hewei, Guo Jingfei

 

After a double-fisted punch of modern wuxia excellence with Brotherhood of Blades and its prequel, Lu Yang was a directorial name to watch. All eyes were on his third film as questions arose whether or not his style and balance between classic and modern influences would translate beyond the world he helped craft in the previously mentioned martial arts actioners. When the initial trailer dropped for his latest, A Writer’s Odyssey, a plethora of questions were left in its wake. With a dual narrative where ambitiously over-the-top fantasy action set pieces collided with a classic kidnapping thriller plot, the film looked almost too disjointed - even in the marketing. We all know that trailers are specifically meant to make a film look good and A Writer’s Odyssey, partnered with its odd title, felt a bit too egregious even for the vulgar auteur in me. 

 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

The Swordsman (2021)


Director: Choi Jae-hoon

Notable Cast:Jang Hyuk, Kim Hyeon-soo, Joe Taslim, Jeong Man-sik

 

Far be it for me not to admit that, dammit, I love a blind swordsman flick. Whether it’s the couple of dozen Zatoichi films, the oft-overlooked Crimson Bat series, or standalone films like The Sword of Swords, if a film has a swordsman who happens to lose (or mostly lose) their eyesight, you can count me in. For the latest addition to this long-standing trope of martial arts cinema, the blandly titled The Swordsman, South Korea takes a swing at the trope with a fairly unique balance of modern revenge, historical placement, and classic chanbara foundations. The results, even within the formula, are highly enjoyable and the film’s attempts to ride a fine line between serious and camp are commendable throughout. It’s a slash-tastic time if one is willing to loosen up and run with the tried-and-true tropes that The Swordsman is drawing. 

 

Monday, February 8, 2021

A Nightmare Wakes (2021)


Director: Nora Unkel

Notable Cast: Alix Wilton Regan, Giullian Gioiello, Claire Glassford, Philippe Bowgen, Lee Garrett

 

While film and television adaptions of Frankenstein continually find their way to release every year, there is also a quite common trend in trying to adapt the life of Mary Shelley into the film landscape. At this point I must have seen half a dozen films that are inspired or directly attempt this approach and the latest, coming straight through your internet via Shudder, is A Nightmare Wakes. The life of Shelley and the writing of her iconic novel makes for a fascinating story in their own right, but there are only so many times one can see a ‘new angle’ on the material before it grows stale – just as the various versions of Frankenstein can cover enough ground. With A Nightmare Wakes, director Nora Unkel attempts to craft a psychological thriller around Shelley’s life during the writing of her novel.

 

Friday, February 5, 2021

Hunted (2021)


Director: Vincent Paronnaud

Notable Cast: Lucie Debay, Arieh Worthalter, Claran O’Brien

 

The cycle of recycling continues. It’s a general rule of thumb that trends and style will eventually come back into the rotation, through a modern lens mostly, but it’s only a matter of time before something buried resurfaces. Color me surprised though when Hunted, the latest Shudder Exclusive to drop on the now illustrious horror streaming service, was proudly replicating the style and tone of the French New Extreme of the early 00s. A loose retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale, Hunted strips all of the fairy and fantasy of the story and replaces it with grit, grime, and just a touch of influence from Last House on the Left. It’s an often uncomfortable watch, intentionally so, but fans of that dark and violent style will definitely howl with delight at what Hunted is offering. 

 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Psycho Goreman (2020)


Directed by Steven Kostanski

Notable cast Nita-Josee Hanna, Owen Myre, Matthew Ninaber, Adam Brooks

 

The Japanese tokusatsu genre has existed in some form or another for the better part of 75 years. Birthed out of films like Godzilla, they refer mostly to a style of special effects and codified in characters with international (if a bit niche) appeal like Jet Jaguar and Ultraman. The genre exploded with worldwide (emphasis on wide) popularity when producer Hiram Saban took the superhero series Super Sentai and inserted new western-shot footage in the non-costumed scenes and rebranded it Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. It’s nearly impossible to overstate the effect of this series on a specific generation of children born in the 80s and 90s with its ludicrous, over the top acting, silly but elaborate monster costumes, and bombastic, pyrotechnic filled fights. This is the energy that Steven Kostanski wants to capture with Psycho Goreman. A thoroughly hard “R” sci-fi/horror comedy, this movie hits on every cylinder it’s trying to with style, humor and panache to spare.

 

Monday, January 25, 2021

Synchronic (2020)


Directors: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead

Notable Cast: Anthony Mackie, Jamie Dornan, Katie Aselton, Ally Ioannides, Ramiz Monsef

 

Benson and Moorhead have certainly made their mark on genre cinema in the last ten years. Multiple films that bridged fantasy, horror, and science fiction with thoughtful drama, humor, and artfulness have all been met with critical and audience praise. Their approach to high brow angles on classic B-grade concepts makes for provocative and impressive filmmaking and their latest, Synchronic, only solidifies the pattern of their abilities as directors and writers. Dark, heartfelt, and character-driven, the science fiction thrills of the film inspires thought as much as it entertains. It’s an especially effective balance and the combination of skills provides a film that is lifted above what might have been a lost plot in less talented hands. Synchronic is anything but lost in time. It’s timely and timeless.

 

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Southland Tales (2006)


Director: Richard Kelly

Notable Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Seann William Scott, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Justin Timberlake, Mandy Moore, Miranda Richardson, Wallace Shawn, Nora Dunn, John Larroquette, Jon Lovitz, Janeane Garofalo, Will Sasso, Zelda Rubinstein

 

When Donnie Darko miraculously found its audience on home video after an abysmal initial release, it put director and writer Richard Kelly on the map. His street cred skyrocketed as a bold voice in early 00s cinema and producers seemed incredibly willing to give him a blank check for his next film, Southland Tales. Even with its relatively low budget of $17 million budget, the film found disaster in the box office and in the reviews from critics and audiences. It was quickly relegated to the cinematic consciousness as a bold and utter failure and has been relatively buried despite its small but dedicated cult fanbase. 

 

Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Marksman (2021)


Director: Robert Lorenz

Notable Cast: Liam Neeson, Jacob Perez, Juan Pablo Raba, Katheryn Winnick

 

Let’s be honest here, Blood Brothers has certainly enjoyed the Liam Neeson action thriller boom post Taken. Whether it’s the stylish run with director Collet-Serra or his strange penchant for awesome snowbound films, The Grey and Cold Pursuit in particular, his choices as a leading actor lately have been fun even if predictable and formulaic. This is perhaps the reason that The Marksman seems a little off the mark. After finding huge box office success with 2020’s Honest Thief, a film that is quite charming in how it leans into Neeson’s strengths, The Marksman is a substantial regression. It’s an antiquated style of film that feels more concerned with satiating its audience demographic than telling a well-rounded story. The Marksman is a Cannon film without the fun and entertainment and it’s incredibly problematic.

 

Friday, January 15, 2021

Joint Security Area (2000)


Director: Park Chan-wook

Notable Cast: Lee Yeong-ae, Lee Byung-hun, Song Kang-ho, Kim Tae-woo, Shin Ha-kyun, Herbert Ulrich, Christoph Hofrichter

 

Park Chan-wook has become synonymous with the bright streak of artistic talent coming out of South Korea since the mid-90s. Even though Bong Joon-ho is the one that might be a more household name since he swept his Oscars last year, it was Park Chan-wook that was previously the name to know when it came bold cinema from the market. What makes the director’s career so interesting is that he has increasingly moved further from the mainstream with his films, despite attempts to break out in the international market with English language films like Stoker. And while his third film, Joint Security Area, might be one of his most mainstream ones, it’s a flick that doesn’t shy away from the style and themes that made Park Chan-wook such an iconic artist. With its most recent Blu Ray release, it was only the perfect time to revisit the dark military thriller to see if the film holds up.

 

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Castle Freak (2020)


Directed by: Tate Steinsiek

Notable cast: Clair Catherine, Kika Magalhães, Jake Horowitz. Genti Kame

 

*Editor's Note: Blood Brothers and its writers do not condone nor support the atocities that Cinestate allowed and promoted under their banner in the treatment of their staff. Their predatory actions are disturbing. We asked the author of this article to review the film on its own merits to fulfill requests we had from readers to cover this film. However, this film is produced by Cinestate and all of our readers should be aware of their actions. Here is a link to the original article from The Daily Beast concerning this issue: THE DAILY BEAST CINESTATE ARTICLE.  Thank you. 


There are few names in horror that stand as tall as Stuart Gordon. Even if you don’t know his name, his unimpeachable legacy, including most famously Re-Animator, left a mark on the genre I hold so dearly as one of the few who successfully managed to film any adaptation of HP Lovecraft’s work, much less to any acclaim critically or by the masses. One of his most oddball films, which he infamously took on after seeing a concept poster in the Full Moon offices and was loosely inspired by the Lovecraft story The Outsider - deep emphasis on “loosely,” and the infamous edict by producer Charles Band that it contains “a castle, a freak, and a low budget.” Released to little fanfare, and being a controversial at best cult classic, Castle Freak in many ways is exactly the kind of film that is ripe for a remake. And remade it has been.