Sunday, May 21, 2017

Cops Vs Thugs (1975)

Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Notable Cast: Bunta Sugawara, Hiroki Matsukata, Tatsuo Umemiya, Shingo Yamashiro, Asao Sano, Akira Shioji, Hideo Murota, Mikio Narita, Takuzo Kawatani, Harumi Sone, Tatsuo Endo, Nobuo Kaneko

“It’s war. Go and get them.”

The 70s were about as prime as it gets for Kinji Fukasaku films. The man essentially could do no wrong. Whether it was his two stints of the Battles Without Honor and Humanity series (the second series called New Battles Without Honor and Humanity is getting a Blu Ray release here in the US in July and everyone and their dog should be very excited) or his various other stand-alone features, pretty much anything he did from this era is gold. This includes Cops Vs Thugs, a film he did in-between entries on the previously noted New Battles series. It was hard not to get my hopes up for this film going into it knowing that not only was it a Fukasaku film from this period, but it starred some of his regulars and was written by Kazuo Kasahara who penned the first four Battles films, and even with those hopes Cops Vs Thugs strikes out as another massively impressive film that dives into the complex humanity of law and crime. It’s a film that is both highly entertaining in an action oriented cops and robbers manner, but it also strikes a very effective chord about the gray areas of morality that being human straddles in a world that’s not nearly as black and white as it is made out to be. The results are another classic from an iconic director that needs a lot more love and a lot more attention.

Friday, May 19, 2017

God of War (2017)

Director: Gordon Chan
Notable Cast: Vincent Zhao, Sammo Hung, Wan Qian, Koide Keisuke, Kurata Yasuaki

When one looked at the sheer amount of talent that was being utilized for God of War, it could almost be scary. Between director Gordon Chan, Sammo Hung, and an impeccably crafted cast anchored by Vincent Zhao, this film should be the epic war film of decade from the Chinese market. While the film occasionally slips into some cheesy territory, God of War does not disappoint as an epic war film and goes a step further by including some impressive moments that I did not expect going into it. God of War is truly massive from its dramatic heartfelt characters to its engaging blend of entertaining popcorn moments to its larger than life battle sequences. This is a film that does not hold back and it’s two hours of pure dynamic and dramatic action entertainment and perhaps the best film Gordon Chan has developed in a decade.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Climber, The (1975)

Director: Pasquale Squitieri
Notable Cast: Joe Dallesandro, Stefania Casini, Benito Artesi, Ferdinando Murolo, Raymond Pellegrin

For a bit of context to this review, I’m hardly an expert when it comes to Italian crime cinema, but I was super excited to jump into The Climber as it came with solid recommendations from fans of the genre. Of course, it also helps when it gets a slick new release from Arrow Video (which includes a new 4K restoration) to get my hopes up. With these expectations, it’s hard not to feel slightly disappointed with the film itself as I sat with the credits rolling. The Climber is hardly a bad film, that is not my opinion at all, and for those looking for exciting action, questionable anti-heroes, and a story that runs the sequence on ‘young criminal with big ambitions’ then this film will certainly hit all the right buttons. However, The Climber is also a film that plays things fairly close to the chest and straight forward, only digging deeper than its plot to deliver a few commentaries. It’s entertaining, sure, but hardly the overlooked classic that so many seem to claim it to be.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Trivisa (2016)

Directors: Frank Hui, Jevons Au, Vicky Wong
Notable Cast: Gordon Lam, Richie Jen, Jordan Chan, Tommy Wong, Elliot Ngok, Stephen Au, Lam Suet, Wan Yeung-ming, Philip Keung, Frankie Ng, Lau Ka-yung, Hung Yan-yan, To Yin-gor, Zhang Kai, Le Zi-long, Thimjapo Chattida, Aoi Ma, Kam Loi-kwan, Huang Kai-sen

Trivisa stirred some pots when it first came out, thanks to its throwback style to older Hong Kong dramatic thrillers, but when it won the Hong Kong Film Award for best picture last year it solidified itself as a near instant classic that is being hailed as a forerunner for a second golden age of Hong Kong cinema. While the domineering force of Mainland Chinese cinema and its powerful focus on spectacle and entertainment makes me hesitant to say that Hong Kong is going to mark itself as a force to be reckoned with yet, it’s easy to see why people would think that when watching Trivisa. This film is good enough to almost convince me that the HK industry is on the brink of something grand too. Particularly because of the young directors involved with the film. While it’s not the action film that most people tend to think about when they think classic Hong Kong film, it’s a throw back film to the era of dramatic gangster thrillers that solidified the careers of John Woo, Ringo Lam, and Johnnie To in the late 80s and early 90s. Quite frankly, it’s a film that deserves to be mentioned with the likes of those iconic names and for those looking for redemption in the modern landscape of Hong Kong cinema then yes, Trivisa just might be the beacon for a movement to do just that.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Brain Damage (1988)

Director: Frank Henenlotter
Notable Cast: Rick Herbst, Gordon MacDonald, Jennifer Lowry, Theo Barnes, Lucille Saint-Peter, John Zacherle (uncredited)

Memory is a tricky thing, particularly when it comes to nostalgia. Often enough, I refer to distorted memories of love or hate for anything artistic from someone’s youth as ‘nostalgia goggles’ and that for one to see a film (or whatever) properly, you need to see through your nostalgia goggles as it really is. This was my intent going into the latest Blu Ray release for the cult horror comedy Brain Damage. I haven’t seen the film since my mid-teens and I had very fond, if not foggy, memories of loving this film, but I didn’t want my nostalgia goggles distorting my review for the site of the film. On one hand, this intent made watching Brain Damage feel refreshing. On the other hand, it was also somewhat disappointing because the film, under a bit more scrutiny, doesn’t quite live up to those feelings I had of it from my youth. Brain Damage is a fun and often entertaining film, spun on its strange concept with some shocking visuals and offbeat humor, but it’s always one that plays things remarkably straight forward. A move that makes it easy to consume as a horror film, for those willing to look past some of its more grotesque gore and occasional shocks, but one that doesn’t resonate nearly as much as it had the potential to.

7 Days (2015)

Director: Hirobumi Watanabe

Cast: Hirobumi Watanabe, Misao Hirayama

After having the unexpected pleasure of discovering Watanabe's debut work, And the Mud Ship Sails Away..., brought to my attention through a box set called New Directors from Japan (Third Window Films), I was wondering what he'd be doing next most out of the others that were featured. Some time passed and thanks to social media, I was able to find some of Watanabe's outlets to discover he had shot and was starring in yet another black and white feature, the serene looking 7 Days. Thanks to the man himself a couple of years later, I have had the honor of seeing this followup.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Eros + Massacre (1969)

Director: Kiju Yoshida
Notable Cast: Mariko Okada, Toshiyuki Hosokawa, Yuko Kusunoki, Toshiko Ii, Dajiro Harada

Almost immediately starting my journey with the director's cut of Eros + Massacre (still have yet to see the theatrical), I was taken aback by the language being projected. It's highly intelligent and offers a plethora of words spoken, and this being the first thing I highlight can tell you a bit about my experience overall. It's sort of highbrow in its thinking, without ever turning its nose up on its philosophies and continuing dialogue as it treads on.

The plot is about a woman and a man solving a murder, in a whodunit sort of procedural, though it sort of made me think of Rashomon towards the end by way of its seemingly endless approaches and interpretations, that juxtaposes two different periods of time. The time of the past, which is set in the 1920s, and now to the man and woman of the 60s, who are trying to piece all of this together.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Blood Splatter: 2017 Horror Vol. 1 [The Windmill, The Devil's Candy, We Go On]

Director: Nick Jongerius
Notable Cast:Charlotte Beaumont, Bart Klever, Patrick Baladi, Ben Batt, Fiona Hampton, Tanroh Ishida, Noah Taylor, Adam Thomas Wright, Kenan Raven
Also Known As: The Windmill Massacre

Ambition can be a great thing. However, in the case of The Windmill, it can also lead to disappointment. The concept behind The Windmill is fun and interesting. While I was lead to believe that it would be, more or less, a modern slasher, this film goes for a slightly more mysterious and supernatural slant for its slasher tropes. It takes its time to build the characters that end up on the broken down Holland tour that are stalked by a disfigured man from the nearby windmill and the use of visions, backstories, and tension is all great in idea. The film uses some nice practical effects as a basis for its kills and there are plenty of things to like about the film…on paper.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Rings (2017)

Director: F. Javier Gutierrez
Notable Cast: Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki, Vincent D’Onofrio, Aimee Teegarden, Bonnie Morgan

It’s no secret that here at Blood Brothers we love The Ring franchises. I even went so far as to write an article about why this series is still relevant late last year before the release of Rings and the Japanese crossover Sadako Vs. Kayoko. Now that Rings has finally gotten a US release, no thanks to the numerous delays and postponements it received, it was an easy decision to say that it was going to get a full review here on the site. Unfortunately, I’m not sure Rings deserves a full review. This third entry into the American Ring series suffers from the ultimate sin: having no potential. In particular, the film feels like it is meant to be a sequel that is not only meant to reboot the franchise, but one that is perfectly content with just rehashing EVERYTHING we’ve seen before. It thinks it’s clever with some of its modern spins and new mysteries to solve, but it’s all been done before in this franchise in one way or another and for fans that have seen all of them, it’s even less inspired.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Director: James Gunn
Notable Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, Kurt Russell, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Sylvester Stallone

After the disappointing leap into the mystic and psychedelic realms of Marvel with last year’s uninspired (but still fun) run at Doctor Strange, it is a much needed boost for my moral for this shared cinematic universe to be returning to James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy for Vol. 2. Initial reviews and reports seemed generally favorable, but with my sheer delight in the Ice Pirates-esque humor, heart, and spectacle of the film first film I was ready for whatever this film was going to throw at me. Truthfully, it throws A LOT at the audience too. Not only does this film attempt to rekindle the kind of action, drama, and silliness that made the first one a sleeper hit for Marvel, but it also goes by it in the classic blockbuster sequel approach: more is more. More jokes, more drama, more plots, and more characters. It even adds in more than that. It runs with the psychedelic nature that Doctor Strange used and gives it grounding, being bombastic in its designs and color schemes all the while delivering the fun movie that people want to see. The execution is not quite as efficient as the original Guardians was, but for a sequel that was attempting to find the same balance and figure out why the original one worked so well, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is still a major Marvel success and one that pushes the franchise within the franchise into new territory while still retaining its core.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Marine 5: Battleground, The (2017)

Director: James Nunn
Notable Cast: Mike ‘The Miz’ Mizanin, Anna Van Hooft, Nathan Mitchell, Taylor Rotunda, Heath Miller, Trinity Fatu, Sandy Robson, Tony Skinner, Joe Hennig

It’s been stated numerous times on this site how I feel about WWE Studios. I love what they are doing and where they are going with their set of films. They’re expanding their catalog, while at the same time delivering fun and highly entertaining straight to home video action flicks. Granted, the quality of these flicks does fluctuate drastically between franchises and lone wolf entries, but for those who enjoy low budget action flicks then they at least satiate a kind of B-movie craving. The spine of this development just so happens to be The Marine franchise. Starting as a theatrical film, it quickly moved to the home video release department and it hasn’t looked back since. This series has seen its ups and downs as it goes, scraping bottom with the third entry and The Miz’s first one as the new series lead, but the fifth entry just might be the best one yet. The Marine 5: Battleground is trimmed, fun, and sports a silly blend of action and thriller elements to be the highlight of the franchise. Yes, you read that correctly, the fifth film in a straight to home video action franchise from WWE is the best one yet. Weird, huh?

Monday, May 1, 2017

Donnie Darko (2001)

Director: Richard Kelly
Notable Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne, Katharine Ross, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Daveigh Chase, James Duval, Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze, Noah Wyle

When Donnie Darko first came out in 2001, I was entranced. I was a fifteen year old, genre movie obsessed young man and this film spoke to me like Frank the Bunny did to Donnie. It’s a film that’s artistic, fun, insightful, and was perfectly timed for my generation of blooming cinephiles. It’s dark, but still off beat enough in its presence and well executed that it stuck with me through the last decade and a half. As an adult now, the film might be even better as the layers of its distinctively odd Twilight Zone inspired coming of age tale start to open up with repeated viewings and one can see just how weirdly detailed it is at embracing its premise. Fortunately, I’m not the only one that sees the appeal of its artistic and cult cinema blending as Arrow Video have dropped the quintessential release of the film. Those who were fans of the early Richard Kelly work, those new to the film, or those perhaps willing to overlook the strange Hot Topic powered hype that kick started well after the initial release of the film should definitely take another look at Donnie Darko in this latest release. Not only does it properly showcase the film as the piece of cinematic art it is, but it’s a release to impress those who may not even like it .