Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Wild Geese

The Wild Geese (1978)

Runtime: 129 minutes

Directed by: Andrew V. McLaglen

Starring: Richard Burton, Roger Moore, Richard Harris, Hardy Kruger, Winston Ntshona

From: Several British and Swiss companies

By the time this is posted, people will barely have any time to see this before it's gone from Netflix Instant. Eh, at least it can be found elsewhere, both legally and otherwise. I do think it's pretty good, for the record. I explain why below, via my Letterboxd review:

This is another case where I watch something because it's about ready to vanish from Netflix Instant; this movie will be gone a few hours after this review is posted. It always sounded like something I'd dig yet for whatever reason it was just now that I pulled the trigger. Well, it was something I dug.

The plot isn't the most original yet it's fun. A London merchant banker (Stewart Granger) asks mercenary Richard Burton to rescue a kidnapped president in a ficticious African country, but only because it would make him more money; as what sadly happened in real life, “superior” countries manipulated things in “lesser” countries so they could exploit their resources and/or allow for companies to make more money. Anyhow, Burton recruits 50 people (including fellow older men like Roger Moore and Richard Harris) to perform this mission, but of course not everything goes right.

While the story has moments you pretty much predict a lot time before they happen, this is still quite entertaining. Time is spent at the beginning getting to know all these colorful characters; one of them is a homosexual male nurse and thankfully, it was not as cringeworthy in these modern times as it could have been. There's also a racial aspect... one of the mercenaries is from South Africa so of course he is a supporter of Apartheid, yet in dealing with the black President will his attitude change? It's amazing when you find out that a good chunk of this movie was made in a still Apartheid South Africa. Along with this discussion, there's also talk of how these countries being exploited is wrong and the people of Africa need to stick together or else be ruined forever. A nice attempt in an otherwise dopey action flick.

No matter what you think of the politics discussed in this picture, it is entertaining as hell. Once you get to the action, a lot of SOB's die and there's plenty of carnage to enjoy. This isn't like the movies we typically get today; what I mean is, not all of the heroes make it to the end. As I think people should expect this from an older film, it's not that much of a spoiler. I did laugh at how the opening credits looked exactly like those of a Bond movie. I then noticed they were done by Maurice Binder, and no wonder why they were a carbon copy. There's even a Bond-like theme song, this one from Joan Armatrading. It wasn't what I was expecting. At least this movie was what I was expecting, which was an amusing flick with plenty of people playing war and a panoply of combat action.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Wailing

The Wailing (Goksung) (2016)

Runtime: 156 minutes

Directed by: Na Hong-Jin

Starring: Kwak Do-Won, Hwang Jung-Min, Jun Kunimura, Chun Woo-Hee, Kim Hwan-Hee

From: Partially 20th Century Fox, believe it or not... at least their Korean division

This is the 1000th movie I have logged on Letterboxd as having seen. Impressive considering I have been a member there since February of 2013. I was hoping to see a home run film and while this wasn't that for me, I still rate it highly and I think it'll be in my Top 10 of 2016... and sometime in October I'll finally post a Top 10 of 2015. Anyhow, below is where I talk about The Wailing: 

So... this is my 1000th movie I have logged and reviewed here on Letterboxd. That is amazing to me, along with being a member of this site since February of 2013; a podcast I listen to brought it up a few times and when I could finally register (remember those days when registration wasn't automatic?) I was happy to do so. I'll try to be brief: I never thought I'd have more than 300 followers but I appreciate the fact that so many care about my opinions, some of them polarizing and different from the norm. I enjoy following more than 300 people and the incredible variety of films they review and the wide spectrum of opinions they possess. I thank you all, and here's to the next 1000.
I did select a movie I hoped I would rate quite highly for such an occasion. I've heard great things here and elsewhere and I was happy when this finally hit the rental streaming sites. I do not love this like many do but I can still rate this horror film highly. The plot is about weird things happening when a mysterious Japanese man moves to a small South Korean village. I don't want to reveal much more-of course-due to how new this is but in the beginning of this long 156 minute movie (thankfully it did not feel as long, at least to me) you get to know the characters and there are some moments which were humorous. This was something deliberately done by the movie, by the way. As things get going and things become more serious as you find out what the focus is placed on... I stopped laughing. For some characters things become real serious and I went “wow” due to those predicaments.
I do not love this because there were some moments where I went “wait a minute”; I am not talking about the plot strands where things aren't spoonfed to you and you have to figure it out on your own... I had no problem with that and I think I understood a lot of it. In fact, various aspects of the plot are left on the ambiguous side. What I mean is that there are some nonsensical moments and things I can't quite explain, especially a character beat which puzzled me considering what it came after. Thankfully the movie is so strong otherwise that I can only say it was a minor misstep for me.
Otherwise, this was a very compelling movie where you try to figure out what's going on and once things are revealed, you know some characters will have to go through hell. The cast does a nice job, especially the little girl who plays the daughter of an important figure. The movie also was well-made behind the camera. As I enjoyed The Chaser too, I need to see director Na Hong-Jin's only other movie, The Yellow Sea. There is plenty of pretty scenery in the small village they filmed in and at times it is showed off pretty well.
This is not graphically gory or overly gross, which was definitely fine by me. Yet, I was still exhausted by the end due to all that went on and all those big scenes; there definitely are at least a few moments you'll find unforgettable. If you enjoy Korean movies this is something you must see as you'll enjoy all the twists & turns this takes and all the genres and subgenres that are thrown together. You'll probably feel differently about some things than I did and thus you'll probably give this 4 1/5 and 5 star reviews.
Oh, and The Wailing is the hardest part...

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Howling II...

is still amazingly bad, yet amazingly entertaining. I will be back tomorrow where I'll post what is the 1,000th movie I have reviewed on Letterboxd.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Magnificent Seven (Yes, The New One)

The Magnificent Seven (2016)

63% on Rotten Tomatoes, out of 190 reviews

Runtime: 132 minutes

Directed by: Antoine Fuqua

Starring: The titular Seven, plus people like Haley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard, and Luke Grimes

From: MGM/Columbia

I saw this movie this past afternoon. It was for a few reasons, including the positive reviews and seeing this in a brand new fancy pants film auditorium; it was worth the time and money, the auditorium was. I wish everyone there would have exhibited good manners while watching the film but alas... the details about this are below, via my Letterboxd review:

Until a few days ago I wasn't even playing too close attention to this film. I wondered why the 1960 film needed to be remade, even if it itself was a remake and I typically enjoy movies where a disparate group of people are forced to come together for a single cause and the whole squad is able to show off their special skills. Then I heard better than expected reviews and my interest was piqued. What sealed the deal was the brand new auditorium I saw this in, which I'll talk about at the end of the review.

People should know the plot by now considering it's modified from two famous films of the past. As it's Hollywood, no surprise that they'd have the town surrogate be an attractive girl in Haley Bennett. At least Bennett did a nice job in the role, as did the cast as a whole, for that matter. This movie is certainly simpler than the 1960 movie and the characters are cliched stereotypes. The villain isn't exactly a huge role or drawn to be a Machiavellian genius, either. I say that 1960 is better overall.

Yet, I still got plenty of enjoyment out of this. While not original characters, at least they are a lot of fun to watch and interact with each other. Denzel is pretty neat as pretty much a fictionalized version of real life badass U.S. Marshall Bass Reeves, who was a black man that operated in the Wild West and was great at his job. I rolled with this wacky multi-ethnic crew rolling together even if I wondered how a Korean man ended up cowboy in the Wild West. The action is a blast-especially the final act-and the PG-13 rating isn't too much of a hindrance.

Someone on a messageboard I frequent lamented how most movies these days cut and edit way too much, to the point that you can't simply enjoy the widescreen views and any pretty scenery that may be in the background. Thus, he started rewatching the old classics which did do this, like Ben-Hur or Lawrence of Arabia. Well, I think he would enjoy this movie, shot in an old school way. Aside from there being clear action scenes where you can make out what's going on and the camera doesn't shake about pointlessly, you are able to examine the very pretty Arizona background at times. Production wise the movie is pretty well made, which does help here... between the direction, the cinematography and the score. This is not great but it's still greatly entertaining and a solid popcorn film filled with famous actors and solid character actors alike, in a genre rarely seen on the big screen anymore.

I saw this in an AMC Theatres; to be specific, it's a new gimmick which was elsewhere but literally made its debut in the area of Orlando today: Dolby Cinema by AMC. This is a giant screen with a great projector, a tremendous sound system, and very comfy leather seats which can recline and you can feel movement in them like they are a D-BOX seat. All the giant screens I've been to in the past w/ fancy pants sound systems, they have been nice and I enjoy watching cinema in them. However, Dolby Cinema is the most impressive to me between the amazing picture, the Dolby Atmos sound and the chairs. If you have one by you then I highly recommend checking one out. I do say it is worth the few extra bucks you'll have to pay.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Blood Beat

Blood Beat (1983)

Runtime: 86 minutes

Directed by: Fabrice A. Zaphirtos

Starring: Helen Benton, Terry Brown, Dana Day, James Fitzgibbons, Claudia Peyton

From: Huskypup Film Productions

Wow, this movie... I heard about it on Letterboxd because it's real obscure and also incredibly gonzo. It's a Japanese samurai in the middle of the Wisconsin woods! To be honest, I watched it on YouTube. Wait until you hear the full description of it below via my Letterboxd review: 

Speaking of “movies I do not quite know how to rate”, let's talk about this motion picture. I know I would not have heard of it if it wasn't for a few others either reviewing it or liking reviews that others did... oh, and the documentary Rewind This did briefly reference it. Once you read that this is a Christmas slasher set and filmed in rural Wisconsin and it's about a family that loves hunting deer and the enemy is the undead spirit of a samurai warrior... that is impossible to forget. Finally, I saw this last night and wow, is this some strange low-budget filmmaking magic. As a means of comparison: I haven't seen this in full so I don't know how apt it is, but as I've seen several people compare this to Ulli Lommel's The Boogey Man, I'll mention that to give people somewhat of an idea how this is.

Like I said, this is actually a Christmas slasher set and filmed in rural Wisconsin and it's about a family that loves hunting deer and the enemy is the undead spirit of a samurai warrior. To be more specific, two college age siblings and the girlfriend of the guy visit their mom and her live-in boyfriend in the middle of woods. Mom and girlfriend have some sort of strange psychic bond. Suddenly, Samurai shows up and girlfriend Sarah also had some sort of psychic bond with it and there are even kills where Samurai is on the warpath when Sarah... ahem... orgasms.

Note that none of this silliness is ever explained by the movie. You just have to roll with the punches. Actually, at the end there's some dialogue that I guess tries to at least partially explain some of the movie. I am not 100% for reasons I'll explain in a second.

Anyway, a lot of weird things happen and characters are introduced only for the sake of being cannon fodder. The movie tries to do visual effects and they're animated gold... they look cheap but because of that they're also awesome in their low-fi way. The low budget does hamper things, the story meanders a lot at times and the sound isn't great overall... maybe it's just the VHS copy but then again, sound effects/music is pretty loud while the dialogue isn't always audible or coherent. That includes drowning out what is said at the end; maybe then I'd know why World War II stock footage was shown and how that connects with Samurai or all the psychic-ness going on.

All that said, I can still give some compliments to the movie, and not just for delivering a weird fever dream of an experience, which it is successful at. They went all-in on this idea, no matter how absurd it was. There are actually some effective sequences that work. Some people have The Glow as if they're in The Last Dragon, and this movie did it before The Last Dragon. When there isn't stock classical music (including O Fortuna!) there is a catchy synth score; as those are still “the hotness” now as “the kids” still think it's “bae” and “on fleek”, I imagine they would dig this synth madness as I did.

I'd love to hear more about this film's production; it'd be nice if one day one of those boutique labels can put it out on Blu and also interview some of the participants. I need to hear how this film came about and what happened to director/writer/co-composer/editor/camera operator Fabrice A. Zaphiratos... he did nothing after this. There has to be a fascinating story behind this. As is, you can easily find this curio online and watch it for yourself if you so desire. Even my description won't do justice to just how out of left field this is. I am glad this was made, even if it doesn't entirely work.

Cannibal Holocaust

Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

Runtime: 96 minutes

Directed by: Ruggero Deodato

Starring: Robert Kerman, Francesca Ciardi, Perry Pirkanen, Luca Barbareschi, Salvatore Basile

From: F.D. Cinematografica

Yes, I have seen this before; finally I watched it again so I can give it a public review. It's still shocking 36 years later. I explain what I thought of this shocker below:

Oh, how do I rate this movie... the thing is, I have seen it once before, albeit years ago, and back then I wasn't quite sure about it either. I guess I'll never be able to fully make up my mind. I will try to explain why I am giving this a 3 star rating. I don't need to do much explaining on how this is still one of the most notorious motion pictures ever made or how it can be considered the grandfather of the found footage genre, so let me get to the nitty gritty.
A lot of complaints can be made about the movie. The story is pretty silly, with several moments that made me go, “Hey, wait a minute now...”, as this is exploitation the portrayal of “the natives” is less than enlightened and even without the whole “hey, they're cannibals!” thing, I am pretty sure that's not how the isolated tribes of Brazil really act. Then there's the animal cruelty... I am definitely not a vegan and not ridiculously militant about “animal rights” like some people are. Yet, I don't need to see animals get killed on the screen... from the snake and spider to the pig, the monkey, the coati and... oh, the poor tortoise; that is the worst because they linger on it for a few minutes and it's just gross. I say it wasn't needed as the themes of the movie (especially how awful that documentary crew was) were expressed without all that shock footage. Furthermore, the first half is not as good as the second half, where we finally see the found footage and there's the debate over if the footage should be broadcast or not... even though Chaco was a wacky amusing character.
Yet, I can still say that this is fine. Deodato sought to criticize the media for how they act and how they stage certain things, and that certainly presented well in the film. That documentary crew, they are quite repugnant so you don't feel bad when they get a just punishment. I had forgotten that this movie had the most awkward sex scene ever following a decidedly non-sexy moment. Then again, I had forgotten such things as:
* The giant '79 Dracula billboard in New York City you see in the beginning.
* Professor Monroe being played by a porn actor who was one of the stars of Debbie Does Dallas.
* Lamberto Bava being one of the assistant directors.
However, I did remember The Green Inferno stuff, so I knew where Eli Roth got the title for his incredibly divisive cannibal movie... which I suppose I should watch one of these days.
Anyhow: the second half of the movie is horrifying in a variety of ways. The deaths are still disturbingly effective and feel authentic. The obscenity charges that the filmmakers faced was a bunch of crap but the acted charges of murder due to people thinking the deaths were legit... that is something else entirely. After watching the movie, those effects look so real it is not so preposterous to think it actually happened. It is quite the feat for a movie to fool people to that much a degree.
More so than usual, I can perfectly understand any rating that people give this. I can see how some would despise this and others would think of it as a masterpiece. It certainly is incredibly influential even now and its denunciation against the media is sadly more relevant now than ever. While the animal killing is greatly regrettable (something even Deodato recognizes now), otherwise I can appreciate this for what it is and note how it does successfully present its message and mention such things as the nice score from the typically reliable Riz Ortolani.
It is a benefit to film fans like us that for only a few bucks this can be rented from Amazon Instant in its unedited form. It was the version Grindhouse Releasing put out, where at the beginning they put up a disclaimer noting this was unedited, but said they did not agree with everything in the movie and they were glad the “bygone era of extreme irresponsibility” is a thing of the past. It's hard to disagree as dangerous filmmaking-while raw and full of genuineness-is ultimately not worth the hassle when you do irresponsible things and you have such a blowback like this movie received.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Forbidden Kingdom

The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)

Runtime: 104 minutes

Directed by: Rob Minkoff

Starring: Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Michael Angarano, Collin Chou, Li Bingbing

From: Lionsgate

This is a film I have seen before; I did not like it then and my opinion now is little different. I explain why below: 

I will be honest here: as sometimes happen, I see a movie because it's about to disappear from a streaming service in a matter of days; typically I do this with Netflix Instant. This film will be gone soon, so watch it last night I did. I actually have seen this once before (back in '08) and I was not a fan. I know some who are so I decided to give it another shot. Well, don't expect me to ever see this a third time.

The story is some nonsense about some dorky white kid (Michael Angarano, who I've always thought of as “Not Shia LaBeouf”) who acquires a magical staff and somehow gets transported to feudal China, where he meets up with both Jackie Chan and Jet Li. I'd ask why it had to be a dorky white kid who of course is lover of old Wuxia movies instead of a Chinese-American kid or even (as someone else brought up in a review here) a mixed-race kid... but it's Hollywood so we know the answer why, and it is disappointing.

Then again, I say the movie has bigger issues than that. The story is goofy and for an “epic journey” isn't too exciting, even with on-location shooting and plenty of pretty scenery. And what a Hero's Journey for the lead. He's stupid and sucks at the martial arts so he always gets his ass kicked. To me it would have been preferable if his idiot somehow became a Kung Fu expert instead of what we got, where-even with what happened at the very end-he comes off as a real buffoon. Now, I should have enjoyed Jackie and Jet berating him for being such a dumbass but I couldn't, as pretty much everyone in the movie is very annoying; nothing tops The Monkey King for being irritating but I did not like any of the characters.

At least the martial arts were cool (even if they were of the CG and wire-fu variety) and considering they were old even then, what we got in the epic battle between Chan and Li was probably about as good as we were going to get. Oh, what it would have been like if those two legends had made a movie together in the mid 90's... it probably would have been pretty great. I am sure that it would not have had Jet giving Jackie A GOLDEN SHOWER. Instead, we get some silly fantasy with a character which should not have been Not Shia and something that should have been more entertaining, more fun, and even more whimsical.