Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Deadly Knives (1972)

Director: Chang Il-ho
Notable Cast: Ling Yun, Ching Li, Lily Li Li-Li, Cheng Miu, Chen Yan-Yan, Chan Shen, Dean Shek, Lau Gong, Ku Wen-Chung, Chen Feng-Chen, Tang Ti, Lee Ho, Lee Wan-Chung, Lee Sau-Kei, Kim Ki-Ju, Hung Sing-Chung, Yeung Chak-Lam, Lee Man-Tai, Hung Ling-Ling
Also known as: Fists of Vengeance

Perhaps one of the best and worst things about the Shaw Brothers catalog is that it is so impressively large. There are always films that go under the radar, for better or worse. I’ve seen well over 100 films now in my journey through the catalog and there are always surprises along the way. The latest surprise is The Deadly Knives. Going into the film, I had expectations that it would be a film along the lines of The Chinese Boxer or perhaps more geared towards the traditional early Bruce Lee picture, focusing on the anti-Japanese sentiments of its time period and promoting its heroic protagonist. Yet, the film takes some increasingly interesting moments within its more formulaic foundations and goes to some very dark places that were unexpected. It’s not the most memorable of the Shaw Brothers films from the era, but it’s one that has some impressive moments that add a lot of layering and depth to what might have been a throw away film.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Showdown in Manila (2018)

Director: Mark Dacascos
Notable Cast: Alexander Nevsky, Casper Van Dien, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Tia Carrere, Mark Dacascos, Matthias Hues, Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson, Cynthia Rothrock, Olivier Gruner, Dmitri Dyuzhev, Robert Madrid

It’s not very often that one gets the opportunity to watch a Philippines/Russian co-production film that is an obvious love letter to the action films of Golan-Globus from the 1980s, but that’s one of the strange benefits of being a niche cinephile. For many people, that previous sentence sounds like torture as they would have to wallow through cheesy dialogue, broad caricatures that represent people, and the forced creativity of low budget film making, but for others – like me – a film like Showdown in Manila satiates the B-movie cravings that arise from exactly those things. Showdown in Manila is not what a traditional critic would call a ‘good’ film, but it’s a film that flexes its muscles when it comes to its A-list B-action cast and the throwback mixed formula that it utilizes. As a film on its own, it does crumble under any kind of legitimate critiques. However, with the right mindset and just a bit of nostalgia, Showdown in Manila works as a fun, cheesy, and entertaining 1980s throwback.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Paradox (2017)

Director: Wilson Yip
Notable Cast: Louis Koo, Wu Yue, Tony Jaa, Chris Collins, Gordon Lam, Ken Lo, Jacky Choi Kit, Stephy Tang Lai-Yan, Chan Hon-Na, Vittaya Pansingram
Also Known As: SPL: Paradox

Wilson Yip has become one of the more interesting creative forces to arrive in the modern era from the Chinese film industry. Both as a director and producer, he has had a hand in creating some of the most iconic franchises in the last 20 years from China and his work with the iconic Donnie Yen truly skyrocketed the talented actor and martial artist into stardom. Yet, he doesn’t necessarily play things safe with his films. His latest, released under the title Paradox in English, is a ‘spin off’ of one of these franchises, the popular SPL films. While Paradox has yet to receive an official US release - for the record, the SPL films were retitled as Kill Zone for the US release so it may or may not acquire that title too, it’s a film that certainly should. It’s perhaps the weakest of the three SPL films thus far, but it’s still a film that dabbles in a lot of interesting dark territory with some stellar performances and blisters its audience with impressive action courtesy of the legendary Sammo Hung.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Long Road to Gallantry (1984)

Director: Tang Tak-Cheung
Notable Cast: Kenny Ho, Kara Hui, Rosamund Kwan, Lung Tien-Hsiang, Lily Li Li-Li, Jason Pai Piao, Kwan Fung, Teng Wei-Hao, Chen Kuan-Tai


Truthfully, I went into Long Road to Gallantry with relatively open expectations. Various fellow Shaw Brothers fans online seemed mixed on the movie, either loving it immensely or writing it off as a fun, but expendable 80s Shaw wuxia. Outside of some of the strong casting, including a double dose of fantastic female martial artists in Kara Hui and Rosamund Kwan, the film had not crossed my viewing queue until recently. However, I’m always a sucker for some cheesy and outlandish wuxia and so when it popped up in my Amazon Prime recommendations it didn’t take much convincing to click the play button. Unlike much of the 80s wuxia that I had seen from Shaw thus far, Long Road to Gallantry is more in tune with the style of the genre from the 70s for the studio than that of the 80s. Tang Tak-Cheung, as a director and fight choreographer, is a bit of a throwback artist and doesn’t nearly embrace the special effects focused and outrageous fantasy that was getting popular by this time. Granted, the film does have plenty of silly wuxia elements and a pacing that’s borderline breakneck, so it’s quite entertaining in how it approaches its wuxia core.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds (2017)

Director: Kim Yong-hwa
Notable Cast: Cha Tae-hyun, Ha Jung-woo, Ju Ji-hoon, Kim Hyang-gi, Lee Jung-jae, Kim Dong-wook, Do Kyung-soo, Jang Gwang, Jung Hae-kyun, Oh Dal-su, Im Won-hee, Lee Joon-hyuk, Kim Su-an, Ye Soo-jung

The initial trailers certainly intrigued me, but Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds was a film that existed as a huge question mark for me. On one hand, it appealed to the big scale fantasy adventure fan in me – the person that continually watches all of the CGI driven popcorn flicks that continually burst out of the Chinese film industry, and on the other hand, it appealed to me that it would contain the strong production values and execution that the South Korean market is known for. Could the two sides match up though? As the credits rolled on this epic film, after an almost two-and-a-half-hour runtime, I looked around at the audience in the theatrical showing we were attending. There was a wide variety of emotions. Patrons wiping tears from their eyes after the heart wrenching finale, giggles and excited talking about the action set pieces, and parents speaking with their kids about philosophical edge that the film used to drive its narrative. Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds is a film that resonates on a variety of levels. Not only does it manage to be a fun action adventure film, but it also works as an examination of the complexities of religious and philosophical viewpoints on a character living in a nuanced world.  It’s a film that occasionally has to warp through some of the more fascinating and subtle aspects of its script for the sake of bigger moments, but Along with the Gods represents a truly invigorating navigation of genre exploration and blockbuster style entertainment.

Friend Request (2017)

Director: Simon Verhoeven
Notable Cast: Alycia Debnam-Carey, William Moseley, Connor Paolo, Brit Morgan, Brooke Markham, Sean Marquette, Liesl Ahlers, Shashawnee Hall

There was a span in the late 90s and early 00s that the J-Horror movement tapped into something unique, partnering a fear of technology with the social commentary and the traditional ghost stories that have been a staple of Japanese lore. To this day, films like Pulse, Ringu, and One Missed Call remain fascinating and impressive feats of combining social fears, artistic storytelling, and genre tropes. Recently, there has been a resurgence in attempting this same balance with modern horror films in the US. Movies like The Den, Unfriended, or Open Windows all take stabs at this balance with varying results. Friend Request, the latest film about the horrors of technology – in this case, social media – is just one more. Scratch that, it’s less than just one more. It is probably one the worst one I’ve seen yet. Instead of producing some kind of inspired commentary or even a stylistic choice to give itself an angle to rise above its peers, Friend Request just meanders through the motions and attempts to use the ‘Facebook’ platform concept as a gimmick to retelling the usual teen angst supernatural horror story. A story that doesn’t have a lot of depth or the teeth to sell it beyond the usual.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Top 30 Action Films of 2017


Although it might be a bit later than normal for us to post this list, 2017 was a robust year for action film making and we wanted to make sure we covered most of our bases before finalizing this list. Whether it was some of the unique foreign films that popped up with US releases, franchises that are continually going strong, or a few misunderstood gems, there were so many action films that deserves a bit of love and attention this year. As we have done since last year, we expanded our year end list to include 30 entries to cover more ground and give more light to some films that may have gone under the radar for action fans. Stream sites like Netflix are rearing their head in the game more and more, including one Netflix Original that made our top ten (!), and it makes the industry push for more unique and stronger entries.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Director: Rian Johnson
Notable Cast: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Kelly Marie Tran, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Benicio del Toro, Laura Dern, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Frank Oz

Star Wars: The Last Jedi maybe one of the most unique entries into the series simply for one reason: it’s the first film since the original that feels like it truly has its own unique voice within the Star Wars realm. For what it’s worth since Disney purchased LucasFilms, they have righted the course for the franchise overall, but the House of Mouse machine is not necessarily a place for experimentation. The Force Awakens works because it’s a fine-tuned film powered by nostalgia (or weaponized intertextuality, if one follows the video essays by Nerdwriter on Youtube) and displays that love for it as a foundation to set up the new trilogy, but Rogue One was a film that definitely wanted to go further into darker territory that was certainly undercut by Disney’s need for a more consumable film. Which is why the more divisive approach of style used by director Rian Johnson for Episode VIII is so fascinating and respectful. Not only does he put a unique stamp on his entry into the latest Star Wars trilogy, but he’s able to balance some very diverse genre influences into the film without necessarily derailing the film as a whole that still innately feels like Star Wars. There are moments that don’t necessarily work as well as one would hope, but the final result is a Star Wars film that feels fresh. If anything, that’s massively respectable.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Insidious: The Last Key (2018)

Director: Adam Robitel
Notable Cast: Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Josh Stewart, Ava Kolker, Hana Hayes, Caitlin Gerard, Spencer Locke, Kirk Acevedo, Bruce Davison, Javier Botet

Even with its ups and downs of quality, set by a very high bar with the first Insidious, this modern horror franchise is perhaps still some of the most fun a horror fan can have with a mainstream series. Even when the second film added in a lot of strange layers or the third film stripped it back and shifted Lin Shaye into being the main protagonist, the creative energy and slick universe that was created with this franchise makes each entry entertaining. For this fourth one, which drops the Chapter portion of the title in the previous two sequels and goes with a standard subtitle in The Last Key, Insidious continues to embrace its blend of classic horror tension building with its modern blend of visual strength and genre bending. Like its two predecessors, The Last Key does struggle in trying to bite off more than it can chew when it comes to its script, but it’s still a fun time with plenty of audience pleasing jump scares and lots of intriguing themes to explore. While many other critics have already chosen to write off the franchise at this point and can’t look past the entertainment focused intensions of the film, Insidious: The Last Key is still a decent horror film and a great way to kick off the year in horror.

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Apartment (1960)

Director: Billy Wilder
Notable Cast: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston, Jack Kreschen, David Lewis, Hope Holiday, Joan Shawlee, Naomi Stevens, Johnny Seven

In an effort to be upfront and honest with the readers of this site and to give some context to this review, Billy Wilder films have never quite been my cup o’ tea. Massively respectable, sure, and I would even go as far as to say that I agree he made some of the defining films for multiple decades. Yet, many of the films I’ve seen of his never quite resonated with me. That is, until The Apartment. A multiple Oscar winning film from 1960, The Apartment is a dramatic comedy that pushed a lot of buttons for a film made in this time period. Its comedic moments are often dark at times and the basic plot and narrative adds a lot of layering to what could have been a fairly cut-n-dry dramedy. It’s a film that is impeccably crafted in terms of how it unveils its romantic comedy narrative and uses its stronger elements to deliver a thoughtful, layered, and humane story. For cinephiles around the world, it’s a film that deserves to be seen and this latest Arrow Academy release is the way to see it.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

For God's Sake, Get Out!: The Amityville Horror Franchise Ranked


It’s often considered one of the classics of the era. The 1970s was defined by plenty of satanic powered horror films, but one film that rose to the top of the social conscious of the film consuming community was The Amityville Horror. The story of the Amityville house and the families that lived in it have inspired a lot different films, both as part of the official series and the multitude of knock offs, and whether you believe the events that spawned these films are true, it’s created a cultural phenomenon that really can’t be ignored when it comes to genre films. It’s a film series that is often instantly recognizable to people that don’t even watch horror films and there’s something to be said about that.

With the release of the latest “official” Amityville sequel, I realized I had not visited much of the series in many, many years. The overwhelming amount of knock offs in recent years has made it feel like a chore to even figure out which ones counted anymore and it’s not like I’ve ever felt a strong connection to the franchise to begin with. Yet, over the last handful of weeks the continued survival of the series has perked my curiosity and I became irrationally inclined to punish myself by watching them all. To justify this asinine craving, I decided that these films needed to be ranked in order from worst to best and then to justify that effort it was going to become an article for Blood Brothers Film Reviews. That’s where we are at right now.

This is the result; a list ranking all of the official Amityville Horror films. Now, there are a TON of various unofficial entries, knock offs, and unrelated horror films that simply slap the Amityville name on them to sell a few copies in big box stores, so I apologize ahead of time if I don’t rank some of the terrible films that people want to see covered. If you really want to see those covered, feel free to comment below with the ones that deserve some attention, but for the time being this list will stick to whatever I suppose defines an official entry for this scattered and wildly uneven franchise.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Master and Asura: The City of Madness (2016/2017)

MASTER (2017)
Director: Cho Ui-seok
Notable Cast: Lee Byung-hun, Kang Dong-won, Kim Woo-bin, Uhm Ji-won, Oh Dal-su, Jin Kyung

At this point, the South Korean market is so good at making thrillers that it’s setting the bar too high for them to even keep up. Master is the victim of that bar standard. If this film was made in Hollywood, it was easily be one of the best that Hollywood has made this year if not in the last handful of years and yet, compared to the two kinds of thrillers that South Korea is producing, it feels occasionally disjointed and safe.

Master tries to be a complex socio-political-economic thriller as it takes two heroes and pits them against a financial criminal mastermind, played with impressive swagger by Lee Byung-hun, who is running a massive pyramid scheme. This is problematic, outside of being ambitious, because it’s very dense material. A plethora of various characters, two leads, and enough plot to make two movies. Two movies that are jammed into one. The first hour is purely set up, but it’s built like its own film and reaches a natural climax and everything. The second half then jumps ahead six months (or more, as memory seems to escape me at this moment) and proceeds to build an entirely new plot where our leads must re-team up to find the baddie AGAIN and hunt him down. It’s a ballsy maneuver for the film, but it’s a lot to consume for a two and half hour piece of cinema. Respect, for sure, but also not perhaps the most efficient maneuver when both pieces could have been fantastic films on their own. On top of that, the film is neither the dark and ambitious thriller nor the overly entertaining and hammy ones that South Korea is known for producing. It tries to be both and in that effort, does go far enough in either direction. For many fans, this riding the line will be wonderful for consumption, but ultimately for this reviewer it felt like they didn’t want to make a choice one way or the other and it’s a tad disappointing.

Josh Parmer's Top 15 Japanese Films of 2017

TOP 15 JAPANESE FILMS OF 2017



15.) BAMY - dir. Jun Tanaka

Admittedly BAMY is a film that frustrates me as much as it does entertain and haunt me. That said, the good outweighs the bad and here Jun Tanaka crafts one of the creepiest and effective ghost stories seen in a very long time, from anywhere in the world. With its long plethora of festival runs, I wouldn't be surprised if this snags some international releases, and rightfully so. If you are looking for a solid J-horror experience in 2017, look no further.


14.) Party 'Round the Globe - dir. Hirobumi Watanabe

Watanabe's 4th and most recent feature premiered at this year's Tokyo International Film Festival, where Hirobumi and his brother Yuji have become sort of rock stars at. His newest effort may technically be my least favorite of his output thus far but it is by no means a bad film whatsoever. In fact it is a lot of fun and Hirobumi and Gaku Imamura both give wonderful performances coupled with the same hilarious chemistry they displayed in their previous Poolsideman. Party 'Round the Globe is a beautiful and funny celebration of life in all of its simple glory!




13.) Going the Distance - dir. Yujiro Matsumoto

Though it premiered in 2016 technically, Camera Japan 2017 picked Mr. Matsumoto's debut film as part of its official selection, giving me the opportunity to put it on this year's list. Going the Distance is a heartbreaking tale of brotherhood and a failing relantionship, with a broken boxer at the center of a choosing between these two on which to save. While the film stumbles at times, Shinichiro Matsuura really carries the film on his shoulders with gravitas and his chemistry with Masahiro Umeda really elevates it where the story does not occasionally. Yujiro Matsumoto will be a director to keep a close eye on!


12.) Yamato (California) - dir. Daisuke Miyazaki

At this year's Japan Cuts film festival in New York, a little indie film beatboxed and rapped its way into the heart of this unexpected fan. Miyazaki blends elements of hip-hop and rap with the gritty isolation of youth theme found in plenty of indie features this day in Japanese cinema. In doing so he has crafted a unique and unforgettable world, focusing with a sharp social commentary on life by the U.S military bases in Japan. Kan Hanae delivers one of the finest perfomances of the years as the budding young rapper looking for her own way and voice in this hectic world.


11.) At the Terrace - dir. Kenji Yamauchi

One of the most unique cinematic experiences of the year goes to Yamauchi's very stage theatric celebratory nod, the one location centric At the Terrace. Some of the finest written dialogue in quite sometime with some of the funniest banter I've ever witnessed. I don't want to spoil anything but nice little twists and turns coupled with some very interesting and eye-catching cinematography make for one of the year's most entertaining films. Also, the end credits still linger with me after many months and bring a smile to my face.


10.) Alley Cat - dir. Hideo Sakaki

Keeping up with most releases coming out of Japan, it shocked me that I knew nothing of this one going into it for Japan Cuts this year, but I'm very glad to have experienced this one blind. A wonderful and at times dark but highly entertaining and fruitful journey. A sort of throwback to the buddy cop (albeit they aren't cops at all) movies of yesteryear, Alley Cat is one of the most charming films on this list. Really a shame this movie won't see much play outside of its home country. I could see this one doing quite well stateside. It's a little niche naturally, but fairly accessible in its narrative structure and delivery. Plus it has some pretty awesome boxing moments scattered throughout and an adorable cat that ties everything together quite nicely.


9.) Hengyoro (Queer Fish Lane) - dir. Go Takamine

To say I don't entirely comprehend this experimental work is a vast understatement, but to say it is one of the most strangely profound cinematic experiences of the year seems to be representative of the truth. When someone embarks on this unique journey, it is quite clear from the get go whether you are on board or not. I loved every second of it, and frankly can't wait to revisit. Does that sell anyone? No. Do I highly recommend you see for yourself? Absolutely.


8.) Antiporno - dir. Sion Sono

Sono, the meistro of chaotic cinema, gives his biggest middle finger to the system yet with the powerful and highly enraged examination of the objectification of women in cinema with the very loud and equally beautiful Antiporno. Fans, like myself in this case, that were worried that Mr. Sono was travelling off the beaten path should have no worries with this wonderful and welcoming return to form. Must be noted that I have yet to his 2015 arthouse endeavor, The Whispering Star, which everyone hails as a masterpiece. Regardless, this marks a high point in Sono's recent and more entertainment than thought provoking oriented output and I applaud it for its brave and blunt approach to the topic at hand!


7.) Love and Other Cults - dir. Eiji Uchida

Not since the aforementioned Sion Sono, have I been as thrilled by a modern Japanese director with constant intriguing output. 2013's indie gem Greatful Dead and 2016's even more rewarding Lowlife Love helped to force Eiji Uchida into my heart and this year's outing by the genius cemented my affinity towards his works and moved him into the upper echelon of my favorite working directors today, from anywhere. Uchida seemed to take the best elements of his previous two works and meshed them into a near masterpiece. Love and Other Cults is one of the most original pieces of work in years. Everything about it is near perfect and since I'm only doing little blurbs here, to save you time, go seek it out... now!


6.) The Sower - dir. Takeuchi Yosuke

One of the most heartwrenching films this year as stands as one of the finest directorial debuts in recent memory. Takeuchi Yosuke takes inspiration from the famous paintings of Jean-Francois Millet and Vincent Van Gogh sharing the same title as the film, The Sower focuses on the downfall of a close knit family when a tragedy strikes after the children's estranged uncle Mitsuo shows up one day. Without spoiling, what ensues is one the most beautiful and pure cases of raw acting I've seen displayed. The acting comes so natural, it felt like a documentary at times. Not a single misfire nor mistep throughout the entire film. A near masterpiece.


5.) Journey of the Tortoise - dir. Tadashi Nagayama

A last minute pick that I only watched the day of crafting this list, Journey of the Tortoise is a hilarious and moving road movie about a man, his son and their tortoise. Living a seemingly "normal" life, the three are bombarded in their daily routine as the boy's uncle and his fiancee suddenly burst into their house. They force them to go on a road trip to their suddenly slapdash wedding ceremony and once they embark towards the destination at hand, things quickly begin to spiral out of control. The entire plot of the film itself is goofy and the tone is fun overall but shifts throughout. It's very much a you're in or you're out kind of film, and for those willing to take the ride, you are in for a special treat. It's a unique comedy with an endearing and fearless performance by its leading man, Tomoki Kimura, making for one of my absolute favortie performances of the year, if not my very favorite. Fingers crossed a boutique label picks this one up for release outside of Japan.


4.) Noise - dir. Matsumoto Yusaku

Another directorial debut that absolutely blew me away this year was Matsumoto's masterfully woven labyrinth of broken souls, the highly thought provoking Noise. The film focuses around the aftermath of the Akihabara massacre that occured in 2008, where a man ran over and then proceeded to stab over a dozen people in a random attack in the world renown shopping plaza in Tokyo. We follow several victims, related said tragedy, and see their daily lives. I could go on but the plot itself requires more space than I should use up. Simply put, Noise says a lot about broken society circles in Japan and how one event can change the course of your entire life forever. Echoes of Lee Sang-il are felt throughout and for a first time director to compete on the same level as a master of the medium, I cannot wait to see where this young filmmaker goes next.

Note: Easily 2017's best cinematography.


3.) Love and Goodbye and Hawaii - dir. Shingo Matsumura

A simple yet delightful and poignant story of a man and woman going through a break up. Going into this one initially I wasn't really sure what I was going to get out of it, but ended up pleasantly surprised. It feels very warm and endearing with the two leads having perfect chemistry. It's very funny at times and sad at others. Shingo Matsumura crafts the perfect type of romance movie that feels so true to life. Filled with plenty of memorable moments and one of my favorite endings of the year, Love and Goodbye and Hawaii is familiar yet fresh. Just the right amount of every ingredient you could want for this type of work. In a world filled with so much negativity and darkness, this little movie shines brightly and needs sought out by many more movie goers.


2.) Tokyo Idols - dir. Kyoko Miyake

The sole documentary on my list this year shook me to my core and left me feeling disgusted. Tokyo Idols focuses on a few up and coming pop idols as these ladies essentially sell themselves out to typically old perverted men, feeling as if that is their only choice at meaning something and being known in their society. There is so much more to it than that and it shows at heartbreaking side of Japanese culture that I had only heard about. It opened my eyes to something I frankly wish I hadn't had to have experienced but I'm very glad I have. The industry that puts these young girls  on a pedestal as these "superior men" gravel at their feet, worshipping their every breath, has left a bad taste in my mouth and broken my heart. This is the kind of documentary that will have people talking and the type of filmmaking to truly make waves in a society and hopefully change the course of its people. Tokyo Idols one of the most important films of modern times.


1.) Poolsideman - dir. Hirobumi Watanabe

Back at the beginning of the year, in January if memory serves correct, I had the great pleasure of seeing this indie gem, which premiered at 2016's Tokyo International Film Festival, which I thought would prevent it from making this list. Thankfully someone came along and gave Poolsideman its proper theatrical run in Japan and justified my putting it here. Hirobumi Watanabe took the best elements from both of his previous works and crafted the funniest and chilling experience of 2017. The mundane and repetitious life of an inside pool worker who engages in only the most vile of real life world news headlines in his spare time, slowly and meticulously builds to the single most haunting ending I can think of in a very long time. The cinematography is simply beautiful and the rhythm of the editing and scenes accompanied by equally effective music by Yuji Watanabe and a silent but powerful perfomance by first timer Gaku Imamura, puts Poolsideman at a very deserved number one spot. This is the unique type of cinematic experience that only happens once in a while, and its relevance in the current state of the world demands it to be seen by more. Let's just hope it finds the crowd it deserves!


Written by Josh Parmer 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Secret of the Shaolin Poles (1977) / Shaolin Drunken Monk (1981)

SECRET OF THE SHAOLIN POLES (1977)
Director: Ulysses Au-Yeung Jun
Notable Cast: Mang Fei, Kurata Yasuaki, Dorian Tan Tao-Liang, Chang Yu, Lau Kar-Wing, Tso Yen-Yung, Doris Lung Chun-Erh, Yeh Hsiao-Yee
Also Known As: Bruce and Shaolin Poles, The Prodigal Son 3: Secret of the Shaolin Poles

Truthfully, I waited much too long to watch Secret of the Shaolin Poles. The film has a lot of great things to hook a fan of martial arts films including a rather impressive cast that includes Mang Fei, Lau Kar-Wing, and Kurata Yasuaki and action direction from the iconic Liu Chia-Liang (Lau Kar Leung). Just those two things should have made the film one to seek out, but a lacking legitimate release hindered my enthusiasm for the film. Still, despite the poor quality of physical material – including the usual and often unintentionally humorous dubbing and horrifically cropped frame work that rears its ugly head in the final fight sequence at its worst, Secret of the Shaolin Poles is still an impressive kung fu flick.

Pulp (1972)

Director: Mike Hodges
Notable Cast: Michael Caine, Mickey Rooney, Lionel Stander, Lizabeth Scott, Nadia Cassini, Dennis Price, Al Lettieri, Leopoldo Trieste, Amerigo Tot, Robert Sacci

Pulp was a wild card film for me. Although I had previously enjoyed the combination of Michael Caine and director Mike Hodges in the original Get Carter, the idea of them working together on a comedy noir didn’t necessarily seem to be a sure-fire winner out of the gate and the lack of longevity for the film in cinephile circles didn’t bode well either. When Arrow Video announced the film for its end of 2017 line up though, it perked my interest. Arrow is known for finding cult gems and giving them the love they deserve and if Pulp was on the docket then it deserved a watch. Pulp is a tough film to crack though and it can be easy to see why it didn’t resonate as well as a film like Get Carter did through the years. Not only is it rooted in a lot of cultural references to the period, but its slow building noir foundation mixed with desert dry humor doesn’t just appeal to the more casual cinephile. Even then, the film has an impeccable sense of what it is in a kind of self-referential manner and once the style settles in it becomes a comedic romp that will certainly find a new cult audience.

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Blood Splatter: 2017 Action Films Vol 1 [Beyond Skyline, Armed Response, 24 Hours to Live]

BEYOND SKYLINE (2017)
Director: Liam O’Donnell
Notable Cast: Frank Grillo, Bojana Novakovic, Iko Uwais, Callan Mulvey, Jonny Weston, Yayan Ruhian, Pamelyn Chee, Betty Gabriel, Antonio Fargas, Jacob Vargas

Most critics and fans found the first Skyline to be a mixed effort, if not straight out disappointing. When the sequel was announced, it was then somewhat surprising. Skyline wasn’t even a box office hit overall either, so why make a sequel? Outside of the cliffhanger ending of the first one, it was hard for me to justify this film’s existence even when I saw the robust action cast in it. That is, until I saw it. Specifically, Beyond Skyline improves on the one thing that the first one had trouble embracing – it’s B-movie foundation. Instead of trying so hard to be a tense and intimate science fiction horror film, Beyond Skyline shoots for the stars and just leaps into being a full on entertaining vehicle for broad stroke characters and outlandish plotting.

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Thousand Faces of Dunjia (2017)

Director: Yuen Woo Ping
Notable Cast: Da Peng, Ni Ni, Aarif Lee Chi-Ting, Zhou Dong0Yu, Wu Bai, Ada Liu Yan, Xu Ming-Hu, Yang Yi-Wei, Xie Miao, Sun Ming-Ming

In preparation for the release of The Thousand Faces of Dunjia, I went back to rewatch the comedic fantasy martial arts film that it was supposedly a loose remake of, The Miracle Fighters. If anything, it was meant to get my mind into the general tone of the outrageous schemes of the nonsense comedy meets martial arts style and also as a refresher on the plot. Perhaps this wasn’t the best idea because The Thousand Faces of Dunjia, outside of being directed by the iconic Yuen Woo Ping and being sold as a loose remake of The Miracle Fighters, is far more in line with modern Tsui Hark films than Yuen Woo Ping films. This should be obvious since Tsui Hark wrote and co-produced this film, but even then, it came as a bit of a surprise as the film focuses almost fully on the fantasy spectacle of its story rather than the martial arts elements like other fantastical Yuen Woo Ping films like True Legend. The Thousand Faces of Dunjia is a spectacle driven fantasy opera, brimming with charm and powered by sparkling chemistry between its characters. It’s also a film that uses these elements as a crutch for its sporadic script and uneven narrative. Also, as far as I can decipher, it has nothing to do with The Miracle Fighters. So take those initial comparisons out of your mind.  

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Top 30 Horror Films of 2017


Welcome once again to the Blood Brothers’ annual tradition of dropping our list for best horror films of 2017! Last year we expanded the list to include 30 films and the response from our readers was very positive to include that many, so this year we will continue to cover 30 films. 2017 was a year with quite a bit of remarkably effective and impressive horror films, both from the mainstream development routes and the independent sectors, so making this list was a lot harder than expected. There were films that ably reimagined classics and powered a nostalgic box office explosion, there were films that punched out sociopolitical messages, and there were plenty of surprises to be had – including some of the wealth of underground films that were being released as direct to streaming services via Netflix and Shudder. There was a landscape of daring fringe horror and love letters to the tropes of classics too. It was a diverse year and that will make our readers’ comments and messages even more interesting as the list makes its rounds online.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Shape of Water (2017)

Director: Guillermo del Toro
Notable Cast: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Lauren Lee Smith, Nick Searcy, David Hewlett

If you’re a reader of this site, then you already know that Guillermo del Toro is one of our favorite directors in modern cinema. His continued intentions of crafting modern love letters to genres and styles of bygone eras while maintaining his own style and a refreshing fantastical spin on those tropes. For these reasons (and a few more), The Shape of Water was very intriguing. Initial trailers made it look like a pleasantly different spin on the classic Universal monster flick The Creature from the Black Lagoon (one of my personal favorite films of all time) and that alone made it a must-see flick for the year. However, The Shape of Water is far more than that. Like many of del Toro’s other films, this one is a unique blend of various genres threaded together with an immensely effective use of thematic material and written for maximum audience resonance. It doesn’t always play things by the book, thankfully so, and it might be abrasive for more mainstream audiences, but it’s hard for me not to say that this is another masterpiece of cinematic craftmanship from one of the industry’s finest voices. The Shape of Water is stunning from its visuals to its content and it’s not to be missed.

Extraordinary Mission (2018)

Director: Alan Mak, Fletcher Poon
Notable Cast: Huang Xuan, Duan Yi-Hong, Zu Feng, Lang Yue-Ting, David Wang Yao-Qing, Xing Jia-Dong, Wang Yan-Hui


With a title like Extraordinary Mission, it was easy for me to assume that this film would be much more along the lines of a cheesy action film in the veins of Switch, The Adventurers, or even Kung Fu Yoga. However, that’s just based on the title. Cause, you know, it’s kind of a tongue-in-cheek title. While there are certainly elements of the cheesy film that Extraordinary Mission could have been through its plotting and occasionally 80s Hong Kong action inspired action, the film is much more serious and artistic than expected. It’s still entertaining and often dramatically effective, but it does occasionally struggle in balancing it all and comes off as uneven. For Chinese action fans, it’s still a film that hits a lot of the right buttons, but it’s also one that’s torn between two worlds.