Thursday, 29 March 2012

Mortal Kombat: Annihilation

Mortal Kombat: Annihilation
Director: John R. Leonetti
Released: 1997
Staring: Robin Shou, Talisa Soto, James Remar, Sandra Hess, Lynn “Red” Williams, Brian Thompson, Musetta Vander, Irina Pantaeva, Deron McBee, Marjean Holden, Litefoot, Chris Conrad

Plot: Picking up were the first movie left off, the Outworld leader Shao Kahn (Thompson) unhappy with the outcome of the previous tournament launches an invasion of earth, breaking the rules of the “Mortal Kombat” tournament. Now Liu Kang (Shou), Raiden (Remar), Jax (Williams), Sonya (Hess) and Kitana (Soto) must join forces once again to defeat Shao Kahn, before Earth realm merges permanently with the Outworld.

Review: Over the years I’ve been writing this blog I have covered on several occasions my love for the “Mortal Kombat” series, a series which at times has certainly tested the love of it’s fan base mainly with questionable sequels to the original video game trilogy, which honestly only now has come back to the same standard as the original games, while the live action adaptations have largely been more successful, though this film will forever be the painful exception by being a film that even the fan base struggle to like.

The original “Mortal Kombat” movie I openly admitted in my review is one of my favorite guilty pleasures, so you can no doubt imagine by excitement when I discovered that a sequel was originally being made. Sadly this film was not the worthy successor (an honour later bestowed to the Classic TV series Mortal Kombat Konquest) to the first film I hoped it would be even back then and upon revisiting it now, several years after that original viewing with a really open mind I still found myself really disliking this movie.

While the first film was based on the original game, this film is based on Mortal Kombat 2 & 3, with the focus here being largely on the storyline from the third game, not that you can really tell as the melding of the two worlds is essentially the only real plot link that the film shares, especially with it exchanging the cityscapes of the game for a generic desert setting which was surprising seeing how this film had a larger budget than the original film, though where this budget went is even more confusing as none of it seems to have been put onto the screen, with the effects frequently appearing amateurish and the sets having none of the atmospheric designs of the original film, with there being really only one real set in the form of Kahn’s castle while only other sets are just generally generic ruins such as the one used for the final showdown.

The plotline is almost non existent outside of the heroes traveling to the Shao Kahn’s castle on their own yet essentially identical paths, while Raiden whines to the elder gods about what Shao Kahn is doing and how it violates the rules of “Mortal Kombat”. Needless to say all the characters handily all converge in time for the big showdown, while along the way we get distractions such as Liu Kang learning to harness the power of “animality” something which appeared in MK3 as a new way of finishing off your opponent and following on from the groundbreaking “Fatalities”, which had been joined by the more random “Friendship” finishers and completely bonkers “Babality” two things which are yet to make it into one of these spin off’s, yet for some reason director Leonetti felt he could make work, though for something which has such importance put upon it, it ultimately comes to around two minutes of footage of a couple of bargain bin CGI dragons fighting each other during the showdown between Liu Kang and Shao Kahn, which is an awkward looking fight to begin with, so to have them mutate into dragons, only takes the audience further away from the fight rather than salvaging it, as could have been done with a more capable director.

Despite the popularity and success of the first film nearly all of the roles with the exception Liu Kang and Kitana were recast for this film, thanks largely due to scheduling issues with the original cast as both Bridgette Wilson (Sonya) and Christopher Lambert (Raiden) were attached to other films, much like Chris Cassamassa (Scorpion) who was doing stunt work for “Batman & Robin”. The only exception being Linden Ashby, who turned down the opportunity to reprise his memorable performance as Johnny Cage, after he read the script, which is hard to blame him for especially if was the same as the film seen here. Still what is more surprising is that all the actors being brought in were more Z list than the majority of the original actors.

The main problem the film suffers from is the same as “Street Fighter” by misguidedly trying to please the fan base, by cramming in as many of their favorite characters as possible, but then suddenly finding that it has nothing for them to do, while no doubt further ticking off the Johnny Cage fan’s by killing him off in the first ten minutes. The original film based itself on the original game which arguably had a small roster of characters to feature which made it easier, but by drawing inspiration from MK2 & 3 it really tries to bite off more than it can chew by trying to feature so many characters, so not only do we have a lot of characters not doing much apart from standing around and generally bragging about their abilities, which rarely get showcased something especially true with the character of Sheeva, who was originally supposed to fight Raiden and Liu Kang at the same time, but due to complexities of bringing her character to the screen with the extensive use of prosthetic's and CGI, the scene was replaced with her almost comical death scene. Even worse we also get characters such as Melina suddenly appearing with no introduction and killed off with even less notice. As a result the film could have certainly benefited from just taking the more popular characters and concentrated on doing them well, after all who really cares about seeing characters like Nightwolf and Sindel?? Even more randomly Sub Zero and Scorpion both return, even though they both died in the first film and while their appearance is certainly still welcome (unlike those stupid robots) and they have a decent fight scene, their reapperence rests largely on your acceptance that Sub Zero is actually the brother of the original Sub Zero, a idea only made the less laughable by his sudden ability to fly, while Scorpion’s reappearance is left for the audience to figure out as no explanation is certainly given here.

The sole saving grace of this whole non-event is with the fight scenes, which although they don’t come close to those seen in the original film, we do get a few half decent fight scenes, including a titillating mud pit showdown between Sonya and Melina, which despite Sonya being completely covered in mud by the end of the fight, it has mysteriously disappeared by the next scene as we see what would seem to be a freshly showered Sonya. Still Hess does well in portraying the character while even cheekily getting to pull off Sonya’s “Kiss of Death” fatality. The fight scenes however are heavily affected by the martial arts abilities of the actors who happen to be playing those characters, so ironically as a result of this characters such as Sub-zero and Scorpion who are played mainly by fight trained stuntmen have great fight scenes, while Robin Shou doesn’t get the same showcase for his abilities as he did before largely thanks to Brian Thompson having seemingly zero martial arts ability, despite his resume listing that he has a black belt in Hapkido, though his characters insistence on constantly doing forward flips is almost comical.

“Mortal Kombat : Annihilation” is not just a flawed film, it’s a film lacking any kind of direction and one which makes no attempt to take advantage of the world already established in the first film, while questionable use of budget makes it hard to see what they spent the money on, especially when the acting and script are so awful, while the sole thing which stops this from being sent straight to Video Game Movie hell, along with the likes of “Double Dragon” and “King of the Fighters” are the few good fight scenes we get, which while they ultimately might not cover for the mountain of issues this film has, at least proving enough of a distraction to keep your attention to the end credits. Sadly the planned follow up to this film, which allegedly would not only bring back the original cast, but also make up for cover for the damage caused to the franchise by this film would be closed down, when sets were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

While other attempts to reboot the franchise would follow in this films wake, we still await another movie, with the fate of the series would now seemingly rest in the hands of Kevin Tancharoen, who has so far proven to the unlikely saviour since releasing his test film “Mortal Kombat: Rebirth” which gave the series a real life edge, which lead to the web series “Mortal Kombat: Legacy” whose huge success has now lead to him being given the gig of reviving the film franchise in what is expected to be a much needed reboot, much like the recent one which the games themselves were given, though details are still minimal we can only hope that it takes this film as an example of what not to do with the franchise.

Friday, 23 March 2012

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec
Director: Luc Besson
Released: 2010
Staring: Louise Bourgoin, Mathiew Amalric, Gilles Lellouche, Jean-Paul Rouve, Jacky Nercessian, Philippe Nahon, Nicolas Giraud

Plot: Desperate to cure her near catatonic sister, intrepid authoress & adventurer Adèle Blanc-Sec (Bourgoin) returns from her latest expedition to locate a mummified doctor, for whom she is hoping that oddball Professor Espérandieu (Nercessian) will be able to use his unusual powers to bring the doctor back to life so he, in turn, can use his centuries-old skills on the unfortunate sister. However in Paris Espérandieu is already causing mayhem with his powers, having brought to life what was a safe museum egg but is now a very active pterodactyl. Paris 1911 may not be the healthiest place to be.

Review: Luc Besson is probably the first director whom I can say was my first director obsession, an obsession which began really when I was still in school with films like Leon, Atlantis, Nikita and The Big Blue all which fuelled this interest in his work, which only continued to grow with each of his films which I hunted down, while in many ways being largely responsible for my ongoing love of French cinema.

Still the problem with being a fan of Besson is that he’s a director who seemingly doesn’t like directing, especially when his total body of work totals 17 films as a director over the 31 years in which he has been active, which I know might not make him as work shy as some directors such as Terrence Malick, but is still frustrating as hell to his fans waiting on him to direct his next film, especially when he has such undeniable talent as a director which seemingly also stretches to writing and producing, seeing how he has busied himself between films by writing and producing the likes of “Taxi” and “District 13”, aswell as also keeping a healthy presence in Hollywood with the likes of “The Transporter” and “Kiss of The Dragon”.

Still it is always exciting to have a new Besson movie to watch and needless to say I was excited to see this newest offering, which is based on the popular French comic book series by Jacques Tardi but has seemingly yet to find the same popularity elsewhere, something which will hopfully change with the release of this film, which is based on the stories “Adèle and the Beast” and “Mummies on Parade”. Besson has openly admitted to be being a big fan of the series and as such is the perfect director, much like Guillermo Del Toro was to make “Hellboy”. Despite not being the most well known comic book characters, Adèle is an instantly likable creation and while she may seem like a mash up of “Amelie” and “Indiana Jones”, Adèle is actually a lot more to her character for not only is she a female adventurer, but also feisty and self assured, to the point were she refuses to resign herself to any of the traditional expectations of a lady in 1911 Paris, yet at the same time refuses to dress in any form of tom boy fashion as is traditionally expected from this kind of character, but rather looks every part the immaculately dressed well lady of class and dignity at all times, whether raiding tombs in Egypt or hunting down a rouge pterodactyl in Paris making here every bit the kind of heroine which Besson favours, especially with his films having a legacy of producing memorable and strong female characters and Adèle is no exception to this.

The driving force for Adèle though is the true heart of the story, for it is drawn from the guilt she feel for her sisters condition, who has been in a catatonic state, since a fiercely competitively game of tennis ended tragically thanks to a stray hat pin and ended up leaving her sister in her current condition, leading her on a series of adventures to try and find the cure, with her latest hope lying with the mummified doctor of Ramesses II and his mythical healing abilities. However it is also a guilt which she keeps a closely guarded secret and in many ways explains for her cold front which she put across in the public eye, especially when it comes to potential male suitors, unsurprisingly attracted to her ravishing good looks, which is an attribute that Bourgoin easily captures, much like her complete embodiment of the role as she is completely believable in the role and easily switches between the various forms Adèle takes over the film, from adventurer to socialite with Bourgoin effortlessly making each change, let alone the scenes which see her repeatedly trying to break Professor Espérandieu, via the use of a number of questionable disguises.

The rest of the cast are equally game with former Bond villain Amalric, unrecognisable under a mountain of heavy make up and prosthetic’s to play the films main villain Dieuleveult, while Lellouche is equally fun as the dim witted Inspector Caponi, whose attempts to have dinner are frequently interrupted by one of the films supernatural events, with the tone of the film generally being a fun one, with Besson much preferring to have fun with these characters than put any of them into any form of serious context, while a noticeable absence of tacked on romance is a refreshing choice, even though we still have hanger-on Andrej, who harbours a healthy affection for Adèle even if his feeling are unreciprocated.

Undeniably this is a very pretty film to look at much like the rest of Besson’s films, with the effort being put into the details with an especially heavy use of practical effects and sets, rather than a reliance on CGI, which is refreshing only used sporadically throughout and mainly for the more fantastical effects, which ultimately pays off, allowing the viewer to loose themselves in the fantasy, rather than being sharply knocked back into reality by the random appearances of cheap looking CGI effects.

Shot with blistering speed it’s a fun and action packed 107 minutes, with the lack of seriousness in the plot only making it all the more of an enjoyable ride, especially when Besson keeps managing to surprising the audience by some new fun avenue to explore or just from the simplest of moments such as Adèle’s cries of “In my Arms” every time she leaps into someone or celebrity big game hunter Justin de Saint-Hubert (Rouve) dressing up as a sheep to lure the rouge pterodactyl into his trap and it’s the kind of film which helps showcase to the doubters, many who have frowned on his more recent efforts, will find it very much a return to form for Besson. Unquestionably though this is one series I would love to see continued, as Adèle is far too much of a fun character to be restrained to just one movie, so hopefully Besson will continue the series and take us on another equally fun adventure.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Honey Lets Screw Up The Kids: Six Surprisingly Shocking Family Movies

As an adult there are certain movies which you watched as a kid, which for reason or another stick with you, be it the memorable characters, catchy songs or sometime just because they managed to scar your fragile little mind with scenes, which really question if these films were ever intentionally made for kids in the first place.

Many of these early shocks still stick with me now and are largely the reason that I still haven’t rewatched them since then. So in a bid to put to rest some of these childhood horrors, here are my top six films which it’s safe to say left a lasting impression on me for perhaps all the wrong reasons!

Needless to say there are spoilers ahead, as well as footage (were I could find it) of the scenes in question, so you can either dredge up those childhood memories all over again, or just enjoy freaking yourself out for the first time and maybe question how they could ever have been classed as movies suitable for kids.

The NeverEnding Story

Possibly the first of these films which I was exposed to, in which a bulled boy called Bastian escapes from his dreary life of being frequently tormented by school bullies, by reading a strange old story book, which allows him to escape to the fantastical world of Fantasia, which is under attack from a faceless enemy called “The Nothing” which threatens to consume the land, unless it can be stopped by the boy hero Atreyu.

Set in a land of colorful characters and imaginative storytelling, it’s unsurprising that this film would go on to spawn a sequel, which was equally as good as this original film, while the third film was sadly a lot more forgettable. Still it proves that just because it's a kids movie that it doesn't mean you can't be scary.

Most Shocking Moment: There is only the one here, even though it could be argued that the demonic wolf Gmork, might be a bit full on for some kids. The real shocker comes with the death of Atreyu’s horse Artax, who drowns in the “Swamps of Sadness” whose muddy waters pull down those unable to fight the feelings of sadness it evokes in those attempting to pass through, so technically it means that Artax died from depression which I’m sure is something that most kids movies can’t claim to have.

Les Maîtres du temps / The Masters of Time

This is more of an obscure title, especially as I’ve not seen it since I was traumatized by this films most shocking moment. A Franco-Hungarian animated sci-fi movie, it follows a young boy named Piel, who is stranded on the desert planet of Perdide were he now awaits rescue.

I’m not actually sure if this was originally intended for kids, but here in the UK it was dubbed by the BBC and certainly shown at a time which would give the impression is was meant for a younger audience.

Most Shocking Moment: Easily the scene in which Piel’s Alien friend Wah-Wah is eaten by strange predatory tentacles which hang from the ceiling of a cave they are passing through. Unsurprisingly this scene was cut from later broadcasts of this film, but it would be typical that the uncut version would be the one which I was exposed to and even now it’s non the less chilling to watch.

The Dark Crystal

Set in a world ruled by the grotesque Skeksis, a young Gelfling named Jen, sets out on a quest to find the missing shard of the Dark Crystal, the source of the Skesis’s power, which when fully assembled will once again restore the balance of the universe.

Perhaps it was the innocent fun of “Labyrinth” which suckered me into this film, let alone the fact it was a Jim Henson movie, I mean how dark a movie could it be when it features his familiar style of puppetry? After all this is the guy who created “The Muppets”!

Well it would seem that Henson also had a pretty dark side, as clearly on display here and something he would carry across to his underrated TV series “The Storyteller”, yet here he was with a film which had death, violence and even soul stealing as when Henderson goes dark he really doesn’t hold back.

Most Shocking Moment: Pretty much the whole thing, though if we are going to narrow it down to one key moment, it would probably be the death of the Landstriders during their battle with the Garthim, which is not overly helped by the fact that the Landstriders look like white bunnys! It’s also a scene which my media teacher would years later admit to getting choked up over and having to have a glass of wine to get over it, so darn my parents for frowning on child alcoholism if that’s all it took to get over such a traumatic scene.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

In perhaps a slightly misguided attempt, to bring back to family period dramas, this film is a classic Dickensian mock-Gothic tale of resourceful children, an evil governesses, forged wills, cruel orphanages and goodness triumphant set against an isolated country house and the dark Satanic mills of the industrial revolution, while feral wolves over run the grounds of the titular house. Set in an alternative 19th century during the reign of James III and were wolves have made their way through the Channel Tunnel, completed in this reality 160 years ahead of schedule.

Although based on a popular children’s book this film clearly marks the change in censorship attitudes as death is commonplace in this film, with several characters being killed by the wolves and a haunting drowning sequence all making it past the censors sheers, while these days even the slightest drop of blood has to usually be edited out, as seen by the recent cuts given to “The Hunger Games”, which I’ve a feeling is going to be a lot less violent than the book.

Most Shocking Moment: Without a doubt the death of Percy, who gets crushed between two rollers, a scene which is none the less disturbing now, thanks to some well placed orchestral score.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

The first of the Indiana Jones films and the one which launched a true screen icon, while also capturing the spirit of Saturday morning serials, which had inspired George Lucas to craft his character in the first place. There is a lot to appeal to kids about Indiana Jones, especially as he has a bad ass look, he uses a bullwhip, explores booby trapped tombs in search of lost treasures and beats up Nazi’s, while more bizarrely has also been responsible for more than a few Archaeologists getting into the field in the first place.

The series on the whole has also been responsible for several shocking moments of screen violence, with this original film being the one possibly responsible for causing the most childhood distress, as not only to we have a man trying to stop an airplane propeller with his face but also some freaky looking spirits morphing from beautiful maidens to horrific skull faced creations.

Most Shocking Moment: Obviously it has to be the face melting sequence, as the real power of the Ark of Covenant is unleashed upon the Nazi’s, which really puts the term “Wrath of God” in perspective, while giving the audience a meltdown sequence to rival finale of “The Evil Dead” and this is a film that most parents happily let their kids watch and regularly marketed as a family film!

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

A noir crime movie but you know for kids as it’s set in a world in which humans and cartoon co-habit. When the manic cartoon rabbit Roger, hires the cartoon hating private detective Eddie Valiant to snoop on his wife Jessica, sure that she is playing pattycake with someone else (Seemingly it’s the toon version of sex). However when studio boss Marvin Acme is found dead Roger is named the prime suspect and his only hope of redemption is now with Eddie.

What kid could not be drawn in by the prospect of seeing their favorite Disney and Warner Bros characters finally together in the same movie, especially with every Disney special at the time of it's release seemingly promoting the hell out of it. Guess they forgot to mention that it is a film with some wickedly dark moments, which would make it one of the most ballesy movies ever made by Disney, especially as it features a cigar smoking baby called Herman, who is the sort of character I’d really like to see them try and get past modern censors seemingly intent on saving the youth of today from being exposed to such things.

The dark moments in this film are largely at the hands of Judge Doom, embodied here with a real creepy relish by Christopher Lloyd. Having long realised that Toons can’t be injured by any form of physical attack, he has created a chemical called “Dip”, a demonstration of it’s effects on an childlike cartoon shoe, proving the first warning sign here of some of the darkness to come, especially during it’s finale were Doom’s weasel henchmen are dispatched by making them laugh themselves to death.

Most Shocking Moment: Without the doubt the warehouse showdown against Judge Doom, who not only gets run over by a steam roller, but inflates himself causing his eyeballs to pop out as he revels himself to be a maniacal toon! I did mention that this was a Disney movie right!?!

So there you have it, the films which are no doubt responsible for screwing me up from an early age and what will no doubt do the same for my son, once he starts raiding my DVD collection, but compared to some of the rubbish which is churned out for kids today I would say that these films are whole alot less harmful in comparison.

So why not post in the comments section below, the films which traumatized you as a child?

Saturday, 10 March 2012

An Introduction to Korean Cinema

In recent years Korea has become a cinema powerhouse, churning out a huge selection of quality films which has been something of a bonus for the established fans of Asian cinema, but can prove slightly bewildering to newcomers as to where to start.

So with today being the last day of “The Korean Cinema Blogathon”, a week long celebration of "Korean Cinema" currently being hosted by both “New Korean Cinema” and “cineAWSOME”, so here is my own introduction to Korean cinema aswell as possibly some of the most exciting cinema currently being produced today.


Set in 1950 on the eve of the Korean war were two brothers are drafted to the frontlines, leading Jin-tae (Dong-gun Jang) on a desperate bid to win a medal of honor so that his younger brother Jin-seok (Bin Won) can be released from service, as the two brothers learn the true horrors of the war which has enveloped their country.

Frequently referred to as the Korean “Saving Private Ryan”, I actually preferred this over Spielberg’s war epic, especially as this tale of two brothers in the Korean war is none the less powerful, especially with it’s blood and snot finale which truly captures just how bloody a war it really was, while certainly not being afraid to run the audience through an emotional wringer. Needless to say director Je-kyu Kang is certainly one of the key directors of New Korean cinema, especially when he continue to craft Hollywood standard blockbusters like this and this film proves just why he is a director to watch.

I'm A Cyborg, But I'm Okay

Young-Goon (Su-Jeong Lim) believes she is cyborg, but after plugging herself into the mains, in a failed attempt to recharge her batteries, she finds herself committed to an Asylum, were she soon attracts the attentions of her fellow inmate Il-Sun (Rain) who believes that he can steal other people’s souls / attributes and with whom she soon forms an unusual bond.

Director Park Chan-wook supposedly made this for his eleven year old daughter and marked for the director a radical change in direction for this is the same director who brought us his dark and gripping “Vengeance Trilogy”, while proving here that he was capable of working in more than one genre as he would also prove with his follow up “Thirst” which also brought an interesting take to the overworked vampire genre. Still the idea of a watching a romantic and frequently surreal film set in a mental institution, let alone one without the prospect of anyone being beaten with a hammer, or eating live squid might prove to some not the most appealing of prospects, especially to the established fans and true while this offering from no doubt one of the most exciting and interesting directors currently working in modern Korean cinema, might not contain any of the shocking imagery of his earlier films which made them so memorable, there is still a lot to enjoy here even if this film is lighter in tone, he still allows for his darker side to seep into this film, I mean after all what other romantic comedy can you think of, which opens with the leading lady, wiring herself up to the mains?

Save the Green Planet!

Lee Byeong-gu (Shin Ha-Kyun), a man who believes that aliens are about to attack Earth and that more importantly that he is the only one who can prevent them, teams up with his childlike circus-performer girlfriend (Jeong-min Hwang) to kidnaps a powerful executive (Yun-shik Baek) whom he believes to be a top ranking extraterrestrial who can contact the prince of these aliens during the upcoming eclipse.

A masterpiece of genre bending antics from director Jang Jun-hwan as Comedy, Sci-fi, Thriller and Horror meet in a head on collision of styles, to create a truly unique viewing experience which constantly keeps the viewer guessing as to what is going to happen next, as the frequent switches between the genres makes it anything but predictable, while also featuring a punk rock version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on the soundtrack, which is never a bad thing.

The Good, The Bad, The Weird

Set in the desert wilderness of 1930s Manchuria were The Bad (Lee Byung-hun) - a bandit and hitman - is hired to acquire a treasure map from a Japanese official traveling by train. Before he can get it however, The Weird (Song Kang-ho) - a thief - steals the map while invertibly being caught up in The Bad's derailment of the train. Meanwhile the Good (Jung Woo-sung) an eagle-eyed bounty hunter appears to claim the bounty on The Bad, while The Weird escapes hoping to uncover the map's secrets and recover what he believes is gold and riches buried by the Qing Dynasty.

Personally I’ve never been a fan of Westerns, but for some strange reason I can’t get enough of Asian Westerns and having adored Takashi Miike’s “Sukiyaki Western Django” this film captures the same fun energy, as it takes traditional western themes and ideas and gives them an Eastern twist, with thrilling shoot out’s and several spectacular set pieces including the finale which see’s the Japanese army, Manchurian bandits, The Good, The Bad and his gang all chasing The Weird while heavily artillery shells decimate the surrounding area. This is one western which constantly seems to be playing a game of one-upmanship with itself, creating one hell of a fun ride in the process, which is anything but boring.

Park Chan-Wook's Vengeance Trilogy

Park Chan-wook’s highly memorable trilogy of films comprised of “Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance”, the insanely popular “Oldboy” and the severely underrated “Lady Vengeance”. Three films linked by shared themes and ideas, rather than characters and plots, much like Miike Takashi’s “Triad Society Trilogy” whose trilogy also followed these same rules. As a result all three films can be watched on their own and in any order, but together form a devastating and beautifully shocking trilogy of movies, which not only helped mark out Chan-wook as a director to watch, but with "Oldboy" also helped launched the Korean movie invasion into the public conscious, while showing to established fans of Asian cinema that Korea was producing films just as exciting as those being produced by Japan and China who had dominated the Asian market at that point.

While all containing moments of shocking violence, it’s also safe to say that vengeance has never looked as good as Chan-Wook how chooses to portray it with surprising moments of tenderness scattered throughout the three films, to balance out the more shocking ones.

Death Bell

A group of top students are chosen to study over their vacation in order to take a test and impress a sister school. With the best students in the school chosen, it is soon to be an unfortunate fate, as a sadistic killer traps them in the school and starts kidnapping them one by one. Each kidnapped student is then threatened with a torturous death unless the rest of the students can solve the questions being given to them by the killer.

A recent discovery for myself this simple horror plays out in a similar style to “Saw”, a concept now firmly run into the ground, but with the refreshing lack of extreme gore and more of a focus on the mystery, makes it still a fun watch while also containing more than a few surreal shocks along the way to help it stand out from the numerous “Saw” clones which have flooded the market recently, especially as it has enough originality on show here to help it stand on it’s own.



Shin Hyun (Jo Seung-woo) a serial killer who preyed on pregnant women has been behind bars for 10 months when a copycat killer becomes active. Detectives Kim (Yeom Jeong-ah) and Kang (Ji Jin-hee) meet with the imprisoned killer and search for clues in an effort to head off the copy cat killer before he finishes.

Largely over looked since it’s release due to mixed opinion, it is still dark “Se7en” esq style thriller, which is still a good mystery with plenty of style while perhaps making several large leaps in plausibility, but certainly none as preposterous as M. Night Shyamalan has made with any of his recent films, though best not watched expecting high art to avoid any disappointment.


An evil king (Yong-Hok Pak) aware of the peasant rebellion being planned, steals all the iron in the country, to make weapons for his own personal army. After discovering bandits in the local village he imprisons them along with their leaders grandfather (Gwon Ri), who staves himself to death, while creating a tiny figurine of the mythical creature Pulgasari, which comes to life when combined with the blood of his daughter. Growing bigger with the more Iron it consumes the creature helps the peasants to fight back against their corrupt king.

Pulgasari is a film most commonly known for the tales behind it’s making, rather than the film itself, seeing how its creation was the result of the former North Korean dictator and film fanatic Kim Jong-il Kim, who being a fan of South Korean director Sang-ok Shin and apparently not being content with perhaps an autograph, instead had Shin kidnapped, forcing him to direct seven films for him, which Kim Jong-il also acted as executive producer for. Shin eventually managed to escape back to the South, but out of those film, this is one is the most well known, no doubt a result of its ties to the Kaiju genre, which is no doubt the reason it hasn't been forgotten entirely.

While these films might just be scratching the surface, they will hopefully provide some of you with a starting fan, while maybe helping the more established fans amongst you find something new to watch and why not post your own recommendations in the comments section below.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel

Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel
Director: Alex Stapleton
Released: 2011
Staring: Roger Corman, Martin Scorsese, Jack Nicholson, Ron Howard, William Shatner, David Carradine, Joe Dante, Pam Grier

Plot: Documentary about the legendary producer / director Roger Corman

Review: Wow I can hardly believe that I have written 200 posts here on the blog, which considering the majority of those have been reviews, it’s a huge amount of movies / books I have reviewed and frequently endured as part of this ongoing quest to plum the depths of DVD hell, but if I had made each of these posts solely focused on films either produced or directed by Roger Corman, it would only cover half of his legacy, for at the time of writing the man has churned out over 400 movies and he is still going strong!

Needless to say Roger Corman is one the most influential men in B-Movie history, not only being responsible for the majority of films which us trash cinema critics obsess over, many who first became obsessed with the field after watching his movies, but he is also responsible for launching the careers of some of the biggest actors and directors in Hollywood, many of which pay tribute here, for it goes without saying that without Corman, we would not have the likes of Martin Scorsese, Jack Nicholson, Ron Howard, William Shatner, David Carradine, Joe Dante and most memorably James Cameron, who got his start with “Piranha 2: The Spawning” to name but a mere few, as Corman frequently has proven throughout his career like the head of Troma Entertainment Lloyd Kaufman and Larry Clarke, to certainly have an eye for talent, even if he wasn’t frequently giving that talent the biggest of budgets to work with.

Still it’s great that finally someone has taken the time to look at the great man himself, aswell as some of the key films of his career, as the documentary makes a brave attempt to give an overview to what has unquestionably been an astonishing career, starting in the 50’s were he started his career working at 20th Century Fox as a story analyst, slowly working his way into writing scripts to fund his own productions he would make for “American Independent Pictures”, starting with his debut “Monster From The Ocean Floor” and launching his now legendary production output. From here the documentary also looks at the key moments of what would be his golden period from the early 60’s and the founding of “New World Pictures” right through to the late 70’s were the craze for blood drenched slashers and slow death of the drive in would lead him to step away from mainstream movie making and move into DTV territory, before making his return to form with the likes of the self explanatory “Dinoshark” and “Sharktopus”, the later's production featured here and showing Corman with the same passion he started with, while also still making questionable shooting choices, as seen by an attack scene being shot in a lake which bares signs warning about alligators living there, which for some reason hadn't been noticed until shooting had commenced.

Many of the directors / actors who appear here all seem to have happy rose tinted memories of making films for Corman, with most openly stating that their careers would not be were they were if it wasn’t for Corman giving them a start in the industry, with Jack Nicholson openly being reduced to tears at one point towards the end of his interview. Meanwhile Corman doesn’t seem to begrudge any of their success, even though he remained a B-movie producer, while his former protégé’s went onto major success. I suppose in this respect it would have been interesting to see James Cameron’s take on Corman, especially with Corman giving him his break on “Piranha 2: The Spawning” only to have directing duties taken over by Ovidio G. Assonitis after the first week of shooting, yet Cameron’s still received the directors credit for the film, though Cameron has frequently dismissed it as his directorial debut and it’s such controversy like this, which perhaps would have helped break up the documentary slightly from the constant steam of positivity which at times it seems to be, much like the man in question himself who always seems to be both upbeat and positive and whose enthusiasm for the films he seems to be unbounded, if only to continue to prove to the Hollywood studio system, that you don’t need to spend millions of dollars to make a movie.

Director Stapleton doesn’t make any great attempts to get into the mind of Corman, as he instead chooses to focus on his work, rather than his personal life which is really only covered in the parts in which Corman himself chooses to personally provide these insights, while the construction of the film is only made more frustrating through the lack of voice over outside of the semi narration that Corman provides, relying more on how the interviews are edited together to tell the story of Corman and his films, yet for Corman fans or those like myself who watches these kinds of documentaries with notepad in hand, eagerly expecting to come away with the same to watch list that “Not Quite Hollywood” provided, it is slightly frustrating that many of the films are reduced down to brief clips with only a handful given any kind of insight into their construction, making it feel like that there is another documentary waiting to be made focusing purely on the films themselves and with 400 titles to choose from, there is certainly the source material there in which to make this kind of documentary.

Still the handful of films which do get a closer look, provide some fascinating insights with particular attention given to “The Intruder”, which Corman openly admits to being the favorite of his films, even though it was branded a flop, no doubt thanks to drive in audiences not expecting to get a film about racial integration in the south and the decision to highlight it, shows that Corman was not always about schlock and that he was capable to producing a truly thought provoking movie aswell.

Although it might be a little disappointing for those of us, looking for a more complete overview of his work, it still provides a fun insight into the working process and history of Corman, from those who lived it, while also providing a fitting tribute to the man, but perhaps not the pictures which made him such a legend.
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