Sunday, 29 March 2009

Final Girl Film Club - The Beyond

Okay so it's that time once again, for us to all watch a film on mass and share our collective thoughts, an experience better known as "The Final Girl Film Club" which is just a small part of "Final Girl" Stacie Ponder's blog devoted to the slasher flicks of the 70's & 80's which of course is definatly worth a look if you havn't already.
For this latest edition of the film club, it's the turn of the 1981 Lucio Fulci flick "The Beyond"...please enjoy.





Title: The Beyond
Director: Lucio Fulci
Released: 1981
Staring: Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale, Antoine Saint-John, Veronica Lazar, Anthony Flees
Rating: 4 / 5

Plot: Liza ( MacColl ) inherits a dilapidated hotel from her uncle and decides to restore it unaware of the secrets it hides including the fact that it happens to also be built on one of the seven doorways to hell.

Review: Fulci is a director who I’ve honestly not seen a great deal of his back catalogue of films, though like fellow Italian director Dario Argento, he commands a rabid fan base, who will no doubt be overjoyed by the recent ( if long delayed ) release of “A Cat In the Brain” (1990) and who also tend to get rather upset with anyone wanting to bash their Idol, still until I watched “The Beyond” my only experience with his work had been via “Zombie Flesh Eaters” (1979) which is better known to many fans as “Zombi 2” and remembered not only for its notorious “splinter in the eye” scene but also for being one of the first Zombie movies, to answer that infernal question as to who would win in a fight between a zombie and a shark! With these fond memories in mind I was keen to see what else he had to offer.

Originally released as “Seven Doors of Death” it has since been reborn as “The Beyond” now it’s been restored to its uncut form, after seeing a variety of cuts over the years as censorship restrictions have changed over the years since it’s original release.
Opening in Louisiana back in 1927, were we are forced to bare witness to a lynch mob not only flailing a man accused of witchcraft with a chain, which cause large bloody wounds to appear as the chain tears at his flesh, as they then proceed to crucify him, before covering him with what looks like boiling hot mud and this is all within the first ten minutes of the film! This opening is shot in a monochrome tinge, which did kinda make me think I was watching “Cold Case” if a slightly ultra violent one at that. This shocking opening gives you a good indication of what is to follow, as the film now jumps forward to present day ( or 1981 as the handy title card points out ) and to were the main story is set, as we now follow the new owner of the hotel Liza, as a series of increasingly strange events start to happen around the hotel, including her chance meeting with the blind girl Emily ( Monreale ), who really could have come straight out of “Silent Hill” especially seeing how every line of dialogue seems to have a real spooky tinge to it, often cranking up the tension in the scenes she appears and it’s this attention that Fulci plays with throughout, often finding a reason to boost it slightly in the few occasional moments he lets up on the pressure, often aided by Fabio Frizzi’s score, which switches from Jeff Wayne electro style to nails dragging down glass moments of scratchiness, none more effective than during the spider sequence, in which we are forced to watch the tide of spiders slowly making their way towards an unconscious Larry.





The plot is confusing at the best of times, with the audience left the majority of the time to figure out what is going on, stringing together the few pieces of information that we get, from the mythology that Emily frequently spouts, making this hardly a film that you can watch half heartily, as it commands your full attention, just so you might have some clue of what is happening, which at times did have me wondering if anyone knew where this film was going, especially when you are suddenly thrown into the zombie rampage finale, which was supposedly added at the insistence of the German distributors, who at the time were in the midst of a Zombie craze, though honestly any excuse for a Zombie rampage will always be welcome viewing. In it’s most stripped down form, the plot could also be viewed purely as a way of linking one gory set piece to the next, which fair enough is one of the main selling points of Fulci’s work, especially seeing how he portrays each gory set piece with an almost voyeuristic delight, happily showing flesh being torn and bodily fluids flowing readily. He also manages to keep the death scenes inventive to say the least, even if he does seem to take great delight in having his death sequences involve the victims eyes in some way, often exaggerating an overused means of death by the simple act of including a damaged eyeball, whether being chewed on by spiders or poked out on a spike rammed through the back of one victims skull, Fulci seems to find a way to include it. Despite being heavily in the gore department, Fulci does manage a few decent shocks without the gore with the Bathtub sequence being particularly memorable, even if these brief moments usually lead to something alittle gorier. Another point worth noting while on the subject of gore though, is how true to its poster which really is, something of a rarity for films which feature a painted poster (often the tell tale sign of a bad movie), but “The Beyond” pays off on each of the posters promises, no doubt much to the delight of the gore hounds, no doubt disappointed in the past by similar promises given by the posters for similar horror flicks.


“The Beyond” is a real throwback to the glory days of horror films, before they became their current watered down state, especially with the insistence of using CGI over old school effects. It’s also worth noting how frequently looked down upon this film is by certain established critic which I discovered while doing the background research fro this review with Leonard Maltin giving it a two star rating, while Roger Ebert giving it even less with a half a star rating critising it for many of it Schlocky moments, when he has openly praised the work of Russ Meyer, whose work could easily be categorised in the same grindhouse genre that Fulci’s films belong, but while these critics might have once carried weight with their words, in these days were E-Critics are in such abundance, these opinions come across as nothing more than silver spooned opinions to those who still care enough to listen and we shouldn’t expect critics of this kind to appreciate a film like “The Beyond” without nitpicking it to death, when it should be appreciated for the dreamlike journey that it is. True you might not fully understand were your going, but the ride more than makes up for it.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Chocolate




Title: Chocolate

Director: Prachya Pinkaew

Released: 2008

Staring: JeeJa Yanin, Ammara Siripong, Hiroshi Abe, Pongpat Wachirabunjong

Rating: 5 / 5


Plot: Zen who is born autistic is compensated with an uncanny ability to acquire martial art moves by merely watching other people in actual practice or just on the TV screen. When her mother Zin develops cancer, she sets out to collect her mother's old debts, from her previous life as a gangster, but soon draws the attention of her mothers old boss and lover Number 8 who is keen to claim the money for himself.

Review: You really have to hand it to director Pinkaew, who after his main staring attraction “Tony Jaa” who had previously wowed audiences in Ong Bak, suddenly went insane during production of Ong Bak 2, turning up several months later having spent most of the time living in a cave and having lost the production money. Still with JeeJa Yanin he seems to have once again found himself a new star in the making, while once again using the same formula of "No stuntman, No CGI" style that proved so successful with Tony Jaa and what also helped make Ong Bak such an exciting film to watch, which thankfully also be said for Chocolate.
The character of Zen much like Ting, ( who Tony Jaa played in Ong Bak ) are both similar in the way that they are not openly out looking for trouble, instead they are characters looking to achieve goals in the most straight forward way possible, only for trouble to constantly find them at every turn and much to the audiences delight, cause for them to kick a whole lot of ass, especially with Chocolate like Ong Bak having more than a few memorable fight sequences with each one not only being bone crunching brutal, but also giving the feeling that each one is constantly trying to out do the last, even if some scenes seem similar to Ong Bak, which clearly appears to have been the blueprint for Chocolate, but it still manages to find it’s own original take on each of these sequences, with JeeJa Yanin’s fight style being more environmentally based ( I.E use of everyday objects to aid combat ) and comparable to that of Jackie Chan, while incorporating elements of Thai fighting, meaning that there is more frequent use of elbow and knee attacks, even on occasion throwing in a few moves copied from Tony Jaa, whose moves Zen learns after watching scenes from Ong Bak, a cheeky reference which compares what many people thought when Chocolate first appeared and that JeeJa Yanin was the new Tony Jaa, which she might not be just yet, but certainly shows the signs of being a name to watch, even if she hasn’t quite got the speed, of some of the other big names in the martial arts genre, she certainly has the technique, easily combining her stunt work and fight sequences.



Speaking of stunt work, which after all is once again one of the selling points of Chocolate, with Yanin like Jaa before her doing all of her own stunt work, with some of the scenes, especially the final showdown with it’s rooftop battle being one particularly gripping moment of a sequence which is around twenty mins in length.
Chocolate manages to avoid a lot of the usual problems that plague the Kung Fu genre, such as weak characters and plotting which the majority of the time, is treated more like filler to the next fight sequence, which is thankfully is not the case here, with all of the characters coming across interesting enough to not only keep the attention of the audience, but even to the extent that you care enough about their plight rather than just wanting to fast forward to the next fight sequence, which are regular enough once Zen sets out on her debt collecting mission, to the point that I thought I was watching the Kung Fu version of Robert Rodriguez’s “Desperado”. However I couldn’t figure out why Number 8, who being a Thai gangster with a clear hatred of the Japanese Yakuza decides to dress his hideout, like “Kill Bill’s” House of Blue Leaves, let alone the fact he even has samurai sword welding henchmen!?! Still I guess he does have a psycho lady-boy henchman ( or shud that be henchwoman? ).

Chocolate makes up for the disappointing “Warrior King” while also giving a fresh new face, to the martial arts scene, which leaves you eager to see were JeeJa Yanin goes from here, which at the time of writing is still unknown, but I’d happily sit through Chocolate 2.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Is "Bitch Slap" cashing in on a trend


I shud this entry by pointing out that I'm a big fan of Quentin Tarantino, who for many is a director who peaked with "Pulp Fiction" while for many like myself he is a director has continued to pay tribute (or plagurise depending on your view point ) to some of the lesser known and often more grimier genres of cinema with his films and I guess it was only a matter of time after the release of "Grindhouse" a film, which I'm still kinda bitter over if only for the reason that it never saw a UK release, with the Weinsteins losing thier bottle and splitting Robert Rodriguez's "Planet Terror" and Tarantino's "Death Proof" into two seperate movies, rather than let the UK fans enjoy the double feature we were promised and kind of defeating the idea behind Grindhouse.
Still being the pop culture icons that Tarantino's films are and the invevitable copycats which tend to follow each of his films, often with hit and miss results with the occastional standout such as Doug Liman's "Go".

So what would follow in the wake of Grindhouse?? Well one film that's keen to tap into the same genre, which Tarantino and Rodriguez drew thier inspiration is "Bitch Slap" which in perticular seems to be heavily based on films like Russ Meyers cult classic "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and "Dragstrip Girl"



Judging by this trailer, it's no doubt destined for a guilty pleasure pile in the DVD pile, even though the obvious use of green screen is slightly worrying, let alone how it's been shot with about six diffrent styles, just going off the trailer alone. Still it's was set for a January release this year, which so far seems to have failed to materalised.
Still in the meantime while I ponder wether seeing more films, going for the grindhouse feel, being a good thing or not, I picked up "King Boxer" which stateside had the slightly better title of "Five Fingers of Death" and even inspired a record of the same name. What's better is that the recent Region 2 release of this Shaw Brothers classic, comes with a commentry track from Tarantino which knowing what a fanboy for asian cinema he is, should hopfully be worth a listen.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Random Film Moments #2 - Gamera Vs.Guiron

The Giant monster genre or Kaiju ( the Japanese word for "Strange Beast" ) as its more affectionately known to its fans, has over the years has given us numerous random moments, ever since Godzilla first went on a rampage through Tokyo back in 1954. However these classic films have often had some extremely random moments, so much so that they often truely defy belief with this weeks random moment being a prime example.

Taken from the 1969 Gamera movie "Gamera Vs. Guiron" which is part of the Shōwa Gamera series , I have to admit when I first saw this random moment, I had to actually rewind the tape, as I wasn't sure I'd seen what I thought I did, as you can see for yourself the reasons why will soon be clear.

video

Yes you did just watch a giant space turtle working the parallel bars, but strangely enough this kind of insanity is pretty common in alot of the early Kaiju movies, though most not as random as this particular scene it has to be said.

Personally I liked the landing the best, as he goes all out to finish with proper gymnastic style, which leaves you half expecting to see, a group of giant judges holding up scorecards. Gamera might be seen as many as a cash in on the popularity of Godzilla, but as I will go into no doubt in future reviews, the Gamera series has enough originality to hold it's own against the King of Monsters, but surely it's better to have twice the amount of Kaiju action than, just having one dominant series, still for the moment both series are currently in Mothballs, with Godzilla bowing out in 2004's "Godzilla - Final Wars" and Gamera's last appearance being the 2006 "Gamera the Brave", but with current popularity for both characters still high, there is nothing to say that either monster won't be stomping through Tokyo in the near future.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

The Scorpion





Title: The Scorpion
Director: Julien Seri
Released: 2007
Staring: Clovis Cornillac, Francis Renaud, Karole Rocher, Caroline Proust, Jérôme Le Banner, Olivier Marchal, Philippe Bas

Rating: 4 / 5

Plot: Angelo ( Cornillac ) is a kickboxer with a short fuse which costs him his chance at a title shot. After accidently killing his rival in a street fight, he is sent to prison for six years, where upon leaving he is a washed up shell of his former self. When he is approached by a shady club owner Marcus ( Renaud ), who wants Angelo to fight for him in highly illegal underground fights, which Angelo agrees to finally seeing a chance at redemption.







Review: The Scorpion was released in the UK with a minimal amount of fanfare, receiving a few lines in an assortment of publications at best, including a mention as part of Kim Newman’s “DVD Dungeon” and it’s kind of a shame as it really is quite an underrated film. True it might not be anything particularly new in either it’s style or substance, but it certainly makes for an enjoyable viewing.
In the simplest of terms it would be easy to write “The Scorpion” off as the French Rocky especially seeing how similar both storylines are, really only changing the sport which the film centres around, with both featuring a down and out fighter, finding salvation and purpose in the one thing which they know how to do and that is fight.
When we first meet Angelo he is a arrogant, loud mouth bully, who knows that he has the talent to be the best, yet unwilling to admit that his anger issues hold him back, while at the same time we are bearing witness to just how dedicated he is to his fighting, which is his sole devotion in life and something that is made all the more clear when we see, after six years in prison he now nothing but a shadow of his former self, dishevelled and nothing more than a stumbling drunk around his home town, as he tries to find a reason to keep going, having had the one thing he truly loved torn from him, which is somthing Cornillac manages to show extremely well, as he takes the character of Angelo from one extreme to the other, before bringing the focused Angelo back once more, as he starts his career as an underground fighter, which is cue for some Rocky style training montages, as we see Angelo turning himself into the fighting machine known as “The Scorpion”, as Angelo is basically doing the one thing that he knows how to do and that is fight.

Director Julien Seri manages to keep a steady pace throughout the film, inserting moments of actual emotion, as Angelo becomes involved with Virgine ( Karole Rocher ) a club bartender / Prostitute trying to support herself and her young son. These scenes could be used merely as filler between fight scenes, but instead Seri manages to make the audience care about, the interactions between these two characters, as Angelo continues in his attempts to woo her, which often verge on stalking, as he sits outside her house for hours on end, despite her frequently expressing her disgust for what he is, seeing him as nothing more than another paid thug. We also have the subplot involving an investigative reporter, who is writing a story on Angelo’s boss Marcus, which does ask the question, as to why he is having a reporter follow him around, especially when he’s involved in these highly illegal fights.





The fight sequences are all shot in a blood and snot style, which not might make them look like ballet, but instead aims for impactful viewing and is kind of a welcome relief to the typical fight sequences which are currently being churned out by Hollywood, which are more likely to be consisting of quick MTV Style cuts and wire work, it’s kind of refreshing to watch the brutal style in which Director Seri has chosen instead to shoot them, as each fight feels realistic in it’s execution and with the locations of each fight changing, including an imaginative brawl taking place on a club dance floor, it helps to keep each fight interesting and unique. It is also worth noting how when Angelo first enters the world of underground fighting that, he doesn’t instantly knock his opponent out, instead we see him spending most of the fight struggling to adapt to his opponents fighting style and it’s this idea that Angelo isn’t some super fighter, that’s carried through the other fight scenes, that continues to add realise to each fight, which in turn only helps to make them more gripping much like the bouts in Rocky, while also mixing things up slightly with each one, so you never know what to expect, especially with Angelo suffering from the obvious exclusion of a trademark move, which again only further helps ground the film in brutal reality.

The Scorpion might not be bringing anything new, in regards to foreign cinema or even to the genre it belongs, but it still provides enough to make it an enjoyable viewing, even if it will be over looked by many who are either afraid of having to sit through a film with subtitles or purely because they require something alittle more subtle when it comes to their foreign films, but for fans of fight movies there is plenty to enjoy, as the fights are brutal and plot fast paced enough to keep things interesting, as well as having a decent sting in it’s tail

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Random Film Moments #1 - Aluda Mazaaka

Sometimes when your watching a movie, more often than not when it's one the kind of films that I write about here, that your suddenly see something that, make you do a double take, as you can't actually believe what you just watched, often leaving you with the feeling that the director of said film

A) Didn't really care about the film he was making
B) Under the influence of certain substances
C) Thought that no one would notice and just jammed it in anyway.

So this is the first of what will hopefully become a regular feature here on the blog, were we look at the most random of random film moments.
The first random film moment I found thanks to the latest "Epic Fail" video over at "thatguywiththeglasses.com". As part of the latest edition of Epic fail, today's video was featured which really made me have to do a double take, aswell as causing a sudden urge to share it with you all, so for those of you who are yet to bare witness, please enjoy this chase scene from the bollywood movie "Aluda Mazaaka".



Seriously I can't believe that the director thought that the audience would buy, not only the fact that he slide a horse under a truck! But that the said horse looks.... well kinda stuffed. I think I'll let you make up your own opinions on this and leave the more in depth critic on this scene to the team at Epic Fail.
Hope you enjoyed this first random film moment and if you know of any others that you want to share, please let me know.
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