Sunday, November 27, 2022

Drop On By the Clown Café: Terrifier 2 (2022) Review

Director: Damien Leone

Notable Cast: Lauren LaVera, David Howard Thorton, Elliot Fullam, Sarah Voigt, Kailey Hyman, Casey Hartnett, Catherine Corcoran, Amelie McLain, Charlie McElveen


Although I was inherently struck with the original Terrifier with its stylish and utterly nihilistic take on the slasher genre, it’s a film I had not revisited since reviewing it for Blood Brothers in 2018. Not that it didn’t do an admirable job in modernizing the genre while simultaneously delivering a throwback 80s over-the-top slasher, but the genre just isn’t my personal favorite. However, the now infamously cult favorite villain Art the Clown did deserve a sequel in true slasher fashion, and the fact that it took 5 years for Terrifier 2 seemed like it was unjustifiably long. 


It’s a damn slasher, how hard is it to write and direct a sequel? The first film was devilishly simple, so the sequel could do very little and still be successful. 


Now that Art is back, returning with writer/director Damien Leone who gets his name above the title, it became very apparent why it was taking so long for Leone and company to deliver the sequel. Terrifier 2 is so much more than its predecessor. Not only does this brutal beast run a whopping 138 minutes (an unheard-of length for a slasher film) but it’s taking the franchise in some bold new directions. It’s still hitting the elements of success from its predecessor, but it’s smartly pushing the franchise forward into some gloriously delirious and vicious new places - and nailing it. 


Thursday, November 24, 2022

Putting the War in Water: Hansan: Rising Dragon (2022) Review

Director: Kim Han-min

Notable Cast: Park Hae-il, Byun Yo-han, Ahn Sung-ki, Son Hyun-joo, Kim Sung-kyu, Kim Sung-kyun, Kim Hyang-gi, Ok Taec-yeon


War of the Arrows with its blend of historical setting and marital arts action easily had me smitten. When he returned to that style with The Admiral: Roaring Currents, I was also relatively smitten. The style was epic, in both visuals and tone, and naval warfare at its center was as dynamic as Choi Min-sik was in in the titular role. Thus, when Kim Han-min decided to make another film in the same ilk as The Admiral with Hansan: Rising Dragon, it was hard not to get excited. The man has a knack for the genre and style.


Yet, throughout the experience of Hansan, I was never swept away in its wake. It fulfills all the necessary components laid out by his previous two films, but it is one that felt more formulaic and drab this time around.


Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Say No More, Namor: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) Review

Director: Ryan Coogler

Notable Cast: Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, Dominique Thorne, Tenoch Huerta Mejia, Angela Bassett, Florence Kasumba, Michaela Coel, Mabel Cadena


With a smoldering look in his eye and a defiant and yet somehow caring lilt to his voice, Tenoch Huerta Mejia’s Namor, the antagonist of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, practically purrs when he’s speaking to Shuri, played by Letitia Wright. His presence is a massive burning sun in the film even as he sits having a heart-to-heart with the big hero. Yet, when he makes his big request to the Princess of Wakanda, he states it as a matter of fact. He asks her to burn the world with him. 


You know what? Say no more, Namor. I’m with you. Burn this piece of shit planet to the ground. 


Granted, his request in the film is far more loaded with contextual matter than his simple line of dialogue. This isn’t a young man passing a folded-up note to his crush in study hall. Or sending a text message. Or whatever kids do these days. Maybe TikTok. This is a man burdened with the knowledge and memories of a people driven to the sea by Spanish conquerors as they plundered his land for resources. And plundered his people as resources. Once again, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever proves that director and co-writer Ryan Coogler is far more interested in the gray areas of emotional and social commentary provided by the villains than the heroes in his Marvel movies. 


Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Go Huo Go: The Grandmaster of Kung Fu (2019) Review

Director: Chen Siyu

Notable Cast: Dennis To, Zhuang Han, Li Ruoxi, Naomen Eerdeni, Li Mengmeng, Liu Aiguo, Gao Xuepeng, Yang Yongfeng, Chu Pangching


For martial arts actors, there are a few roles that one can snatch which immediately put them on the map. Most of them are folk heroes of the past, but when Dennis To snagged a role as a “young” Ip Man, he went to A-tier for the fans - even if that film was one of the first Ipsploitation films. Not only did he succeed in that role for the film Ip Man: The Legend Is Born, but he has also returned to the role multiple times and continually found and grew his fan base. 


Thus, a few years ago when Dennis To leaped into another key folk hero role as Huo Yuanjia for the film The Grandmaster of Kung Fu, it was easy to feel pretty excited about the prospect. Unfortunately, the film - which was initially released as a streaming exclusive in China - did not receive a US release until 2022 via the Hi-Yah streaming service and through our friends at Well Go USA. 


Yet, here we are, The Grandmaster of Kung Fu has finally dropped. While the film suffers from some of the usual issues of modern streaming films, it’s also surprisingly solid and entertaining in how it goes about telling a story that any self-respecting kung fu fan has seen 2000 times. It’s action-packed, tight in its storytelling, and features a handful of great screen performances. 


Tuesday, November 8, 2022

The Door That Wouldn't Shut: Something in the Dirt (2022) Review

Directors: Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson

Notable Cast: Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson


Trying to inherently review a film like Something in the Dirt is as complicated as the film is. On the surface, this should be easy. In actuality, it is a film so defined by its experiential aspects, nuanced moments, and viewer discernment. Trying to properly put it to words is… well, it’s problematic. Something in the Dirt is, like most everything touched by the directorial and writing duo Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson, an existential trip of fascinating effect. 


Powered by its ability to take a simple idea and shake it so vigorously in its own un-comfortability, it seeps into the little folds of its viewers’ brains. It’s the kind of indie cinema that blends genre elements with low-budget creativity to make one of the most absorbing film experiences of the year. 


I also have no idea what the fuck happens in this film. 


Saturday, November 5, 2022

A Second Brew: The Witch 2: The Other One (2022) Review

Director: Park Hoon-jung

Notable Cast: Shin Sia, Park Eun-bin, Seo Eun-soo, Jin Goo, Seong Yu-bin, Justin John Harvey, Cho Min-soo, Cha Soon-bae, Lee Jong-suk, Kim Da-mi, Byeon Seo-yoon, Um Tae-goo


As superhero movies continue to seemingly grow and grow - with no limit in sight for the time being, the story formula has been spreading beyond the Hollywood system into so many other markets. 2020’s The Witch: Subversion (also known as The Witch Part 1: Subversion) ably played on that idea by taking its family drama story and whipping it towards the superhero origin story in its final act. 


The Witch 2: The Other One, which features a subtitle that might have been attached to Airplane 3, picks up where the first film left off in genre and expands the world tenfold while trying to adhere to the elements that made the first one such a rousing success. The balance ends up not being as punchy in its blend as its predecessor, but it is entertaining as hell and it leans into its Hollywood-esque superhero elements. It’s a brew that packs a lot of flavors but isn’t nearly as filling.