Saturday, December 23, 2023

The Old Man and the Sea: Noryang: Deadly Sea (2023) Review

Director: Kim Han-min

Notable Cast: Kim Yoon-seok, Baek Yoon-sik, Jung Jae-young, Heo Joon-ho, Kim Sung-kyu, Lee Kyoo-hyung, Lee Moo-saeng


I will go out on a limb and say it right away: Noryang: Deadly Sea is perhaps the best of the Admiral Yi Trilogy. It's got the emotion and melodrama that helped push the first film along, and it takes the more war-driven elements of Hansan and pushes the envelope even further. This is one brutal and sprawling conclusion to Yi's epic naval battle journey, as told by director Kim Han-min.


It's been nine years since the initial theatrical release of Roaring Currents, and the finale here is worth the wait. We see a filmmaker entirely in touch with his material, and the passion on display is felt in every frame. The sense of scale, the thundering score, the visuals, everything fires on all cannons (pun intended). Noryang takes a nearly decade-old franchise and pushes it into the stratosphere of great trilogies.


Saturday, December 16, 2023

Curses and Epitaphs: The Ghost Station (2023) Review

Director: Jeong Yong-ki

Notable Cast: Kim Bo-ra, Kim Jae-hyun, Shin So-yul, Oh Jin-seok


As the old adage goes, what’s old will always be new again. The same is very relevant for film cycles and, if I’m being honest, the resurrection of the various trends in horror from the early 00s has been a delight. 


When The Ghost Station first crossed my path, the fact that it was co-written by Hiroshi Takahashi (Ring, Ring 2, Ju On Origins) and Koji Shiraishi (Noroi, Carved, Sadako Vs. Kayako) is what caught my eye. The sheer amount of awesome J-horror films that those two have crafted in the last 30 years is essentially jaw-dropping - so the two coming together to work on this one immediately caught my attention.


Fortunately, Well Go USA picked up The Ghost Station for distribution in the US, and it’s a welcome addition at the end of the year. The Ghost Station is pure 00s J-Horror through and through, wrapping up classic inspirations into a love letter of spooks, spins, and spiritual horror hijinks. Its mileage will vary drastically depending on your love of the throwback J-Horror. Mainly since this is a Korean film and some expectations come with that, but it also suffers from some of the same drawbacks that hindered the genre back then. Still, it was a pleasant trip down nostalgia lane that hit many of the right buttons. 


Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Repossessed: The Exorcist: Believer (2023) Review

Director: David Gordon Green

Notable Cast: Leslie Odom Jr, Lidya Jewett, Olivia Marcum, Ann Dowd, Jennifer Nettles, Norbert Leo Butz, Okwui Okpokwasili, Raphael Sbarge, EJ Bonilla, Ellen Burstyn


Although David Gordon Green's Halloween trilogy certainly had its issues, those films were at least interesting to some degree. Big swings were being taken by the end, and whether you liked it or not, it deserves some respect. To that degree, while I didn't love the latter two entries, those films are worthy of the occasional rewatch, if only for those swings and choices being made. 


Which is why, to some degree, The Exorcist: Believer is such a wild misfire on so many levels. At its core, it deals with some interesting ideas about world religious practices, the pairing of girls who become possessed, and two families from different backgrounds forced to come together to face a mutual evil. 


Yet, no matter what, The Exorcist: Believer never capitalizes on any of it. Instead of dwelling on those topics, the film is far more concerned with playing things safe within the world of The Exorcist. The callbacks to the original feel trite, the scares are mundane in a world of more interesting Exorcist knockoffs, and the overall narrative feels bland. Compared to some of the other Exorcist films, particularly the wild swings of The Heretic and Exorcist III, Believer feels more like a drab love letter to the series rather than a new and exciting continuation. It's baffling. 


Sunday, December 3, 2023

Magic Is Real: Dr. Cheon and the Lost Talisman (2023) Reivew

Director: Kim Seong-sik

Notable Cast: Gang Dong-won, Heo Joon-ho, Esom, Lee Dong-hwi, Kim Jong-soo, Park So-yi, Yoon Byung-hee, Joo Bo-bi, Park Kyung-hye


Kim Seong-sik's directorial debut Dr. Cheon and the Lost Talisman is sure to be one of the sleeper hits of 2023. It’s a gorgeously directed horror-tinged swashbuckling adventure film filled to the brim with fun characters and great action.


Dr. Cheon and the Lost Talisman don't waste any time building the world around the characters or explaining too much. There is an exorcist who goes around dispelling fake curses and scheming folks out of their money. It's something we've seen before, but once things become reality, the film begins to happen. It kicks the story into overdrive, and we get to see the titular Dr. Cheon (Gang Dong-won) showcase his real wizardry powers, which are imbued within a nifty-looking broken sword that he wields. Esom plays a woman with eyes that can see into the other realms of existence, and thus, the two pair up to stop a villain that is threatening their very existence.


Friday, December 1, 2023

A Place at the Table: Thanksgiving (2023) Review

Director: Eli Roth

Notable Cast: Nell Verlaque, Patrick Dempsey, Addison Rae, Milo Manheim, Jalen Thomas Brooks, Gabriel Davenport, Tomaso Sanelli, Jenna Warren, Rick Hoffman, Karen Cliché, Gina Gershon, Ty Olsson


Sixteen years is an incredibly long time. To think where I was in my life sixteen years ago, is to feel like I’ve looked back upon a half dozen lifetimes. For director Eli Roth, it’s damn near half a dozen films. Yet, his 2007 fake trailer for Thanksgiving has remained one of those fan-favorite ideas that kept coming up repeatedly. Attached to the Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez double feature Grindhouse, this throwback trailer to some long-lost sleazy slasher had fans in a tizzy for nearly two decades. Watching a fake trailer became a staple of the turkey-powered holiday, and everyone just kept asking, “When, Eli, when?”


Eli Roth always remembered, and now, sixteen years later, he has fulfilled that promise of delivering his own holiday treat, Thanksgiving. Trying to compare this film to its fake trailer is something of a fascinating way to view it, but really what Roth has done with this film is he’s delivered a raucous and gory classic slasher with a modern lens that fits right in with his style of filmmaking - updating genre pickings with a dark comedic bent as a love letter to cinema. Thanksgiving gives thanks to all the slashers that come before but manages to hold its own identity with piss n’ vinegar.