Friday, August 26, 2016

Captivity

Captivity (2007)

Runtime: 85 minutes

Directed (somehow) by: Roland Joffe

Starring: Elisha Cuthbert, Daniel Gillies, Pruitt Taylor Vince

From: Some companies that should have known better

Yes, this is a movie I have seen before; it was right before I started this blog way back in 2009. I saw it at a pal's place. He helped me out by allowing me there to stay the night while I was on vacation. He decided we should watch this and even knew I already heard about its badness, I had little choice in the manner. He enjoyed it more than I did. It was worse than I remembered. BTW, somehow before the movie started I told the pal that this starred Brittany Murphy, which got him excited as he expected a certain kind of movie; I can't even blame him for thinking that way. He was OK with it starring Ms. Cuthbert once I corrected my mistake. My review of this horrible movie is below, via a review I posted on Letterboxd:

Would you believe I've actually seen this piece of crap before? Back in August of '09 I was on vacation and someone I know helped me out and allowed me to stay at his place for the night in a last minute deal. He decided that we should watch this and Role Models. The latter was fine, this one not so much. I knew all the toxic reviews this got when it came out in '07 and all the controversy directed its way when there was miscommunication and billboards in LA appeared plugging the film but they showed an obviously kidnapped woman about to be tortured then killed. I remembered that my friend enjoyed this more than I did but I remembered little of what took place in the film. Turns out, this is really bad. I felt ripped off... and I saw this for free via Amazon Prime.

The plot: Elisha Cuthbert is a vapid celebrity who is kidnapped then held in captivity as a bunch of gross things happen to her. Both Pruitt Taylor Vince and Daniel Gillies (a.k.a. Mr. Rachael Leigh Cook... what a lucky man he is) show up. That's about it. I am not a fan of torture porn; I know some people don't like the term but for simplicity's sake that's what I'll use. I haven't even seen the first Saw, let alone any of the sequels, that's how much it doesn't appeal to me. Anyhow, a lot of gross things happen and you're better off not hearing what those gross things were.

Besides the disgusting nature of the picture, it just looks like a piece of crap and the plot seems to be haphazardly patchworked together; a bunch of random things happen, pretty much. The plot is complete nonsense and aside from some laughing I did at the movie, this was no fun to watch. I have no idea what happened to Roland Joffe's career; he started off with The Killing Fields and The Mission and somehow ended up here; can I blame it on The Scarlet Letter? Even more baffling: one of the people who wrote this was LARRY COHEN. Yes, the legendary cult filmmaker. I have no idea how much he contributed to the story or if it was mainly his, how much of it was changed. I could not imagine such a product coming from him.

Personally, I am glad that this specific subset of the horror genre has died off and is all but extinct now. As previously mentioned, it's just not tailored for my tastes. Even if I did dig such movies, this is bad in other ways besides the plot so this doesn't have much to offer for any filmgoer.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Train To Busan

Train to Busan (Busanhaeng) (2016)

Runtime: 118 minutes

Directed by: Yeon Sang-Ho

Starring: Gong Yoo, Ma Dong-Seok, Jung Yoo-Mi, Choi Woo-Shik, Ahn So-Hee

From: Several different South Koran companies

Tuesday night I rewatched the 4th and 5th Friday the 13th movies. I talked about them before here so I won't say more about those; yesterday I went to Tampa to see this on the big screen at Studio Movie Grill, a joint I had never been to before. Things did not turn out well... and yet this was still a great film. I talk all about it below: 

In a rare moment for me, I actually got to see this movie on the big screen last night. Nevermind being able to see two South Korean flicks on the big screen in a two week span of time, I was excited to check this out as I heard rave reviews. I am glad I got to see it that way but boy was it a bad night at the movies.

I'll try to be brief: I saw this at Studio Movie Grill, a place I had never visited before and as it was the only joint in the area showing it, I made the drive to Tampa to check it out. After visiting a few places I ended up at the run-down mall where it was. The fact that it was not clear where you should park so you could be by the main entrance and it was difficult to get out of there in a dark parking lot... that did not make me happy, nor did the bartender in the fancy lounge/bar area ignoring me make me feel like I made the right choice in going there. My seat being beat up all to hell, various things not being adequately explained and what ended up happening during the film means that it would take a lot for me to ever go there again.

But hey, their pizza was great so if you do decide to go to one of their 20 or so locations...

The movie drew a decent-sized crowd and most of them were fine; they reacted to all the big moments so it was all good... thankfully I usually don't have to deal with awful Troglodytes when at a theatre seeing a movie. Well, on this night there were some real cretins around. I'll just say that I am not a confrontational person yet I almost had a confrontation with a couple. They bolted as soon as the end credits began and I thought about running after them; then I realized that the guy looked like a Neanderthal who solves all his problems with his fists so I decided that it'd probably be best if I restrained myself.

The big tragedy of it is, I had this fiasco of a night while watching a great movie, one I recommend to everyone. I hope that when my mutuals see this in the future, it is under better circumstances than what I had to deal with. This is all about a zombie apocalypse happening in South Korea, and the focus is on a disparate group of people on a train who are traveling from Seoul to the city of Busan; the former is in the north part of the country and Busan is down at the very bottom. As they go through the country things escalate rather quickly when the zombie infection spreads onto the train. Now, they are the fast-moving zombie types and infection happens very quickly so it can certainly be argued that maybe they aren't zombies at all and instead they're just infected, like the creatures we saw in Nightmare City and Planet Terror.

In any case, the key aspect of the film is not all the exciting action sequences or seeing giant hordes of zombies wrecking s***. Rather, it's all the characters you follow. We get to follow them. They include a businessman father who is finally spending time with his young daughter... an old pair of sisters, a cocky young man and his pregnant wife, and a baseball team. We get to see how they react to something unprecedented and while some decide to work together to try and survive, others are real A-holes. It's all so compelling and interesting; while some of the characters are stereotypical all of them I enjoyed watching and judging by reactions, so did the crowd. I doubt it's too much of a spoiler to say that in a South Korean picture, things aren't cliché like we get in Hollywood movies and thus you should not necessarily presume that all of the main characters will make it to the end.

Personally, I was not a fan of Snowpiercer at all and I thought this was much better. One day I'll watch this at home, where the experience will be much better; I'll also see Seoul Station, an animated movie from the same director that is apparently a prequel to this. I will hope it is as great as this movie turned out to be.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Mr. And Mrs. Smith (The One From 1941)

Mr and Mrs. Smith (1941)

Runtime: 94 minutes

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

Starring: Carole Lombard, Robert Montgomery, Gene Raymond, Jack Carson, Philip Merivale

From: RKO

This was a random watch last night; it's not great and pales in comparison to both Hitch's best films and the must-see screwball comedies. Yet, it's not bad like some say it is. I talk all about it below: 

This film was on Turner Classic Movies late last night and I figured I'd give this a viewing, even if it's not the most popular movie that Hitchcock ever did... in fact, I understand that many strongly dislike it. I do not hate it but I can only say that it's fine. The charms of Carole Lombard, Robert Montgomery and Gene Raymond are a big help here. Basically, a married couple has obvious issues, despite saying that they love each other. Well, a technicality suddenly makes their marriage annulled and one of the two wishes not to officially get married.

The movie isn't terrible as some people like to think; while it definitely is not the typical Hitchcock picture, I am OK with that, as a director shouldn't do the same or similar things all the damn time. To me, I can only rate this as “fine” as the story is not great and it's not hilarious throughout like screwball comedy classics It Happened One Night or Bringing Up Baby, which I've seen before years ago and one day I'll watch anew and review them here. It has its laughs but it's only funny enough to where I can give it such a rating. Plus, to be honest I am not sure if I would want to be friends with either Mr. or Mrs. Smith with the way they act towards each other or how they are one of those annoying couples that constantly argue!

At least the movie is well done when it comes to the filmmaking craft. It's just not as filled with laughs as the classic screwball comedies of yore. I don't fault Hitch for working with Lombard, though... he and his family became friends with her and her husband at the time, Clark Gable. If only she would not have died so young, you know that she would have been the leading lady in one of his suspense classics. It'd be perfect, and probably pretty awesome as well. Regretfully, this was the only time those two got to work together. At least it's presumably better than the film of the same name starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie...

Monday, August 22, 2016

Hell Or High Water

Hell or High Water (2016)

98% on Rotten Tomatoes (out of 130 reviews)

Runtime: 102 minutes

Directed by: David McKenzie

Starring: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, Gil Birmingham, Katy Mixon

From: CBS Films/Lionsgate

In short, if you love Southern Gothic/Texas Noir/Neo-Noir/Whatever You Want To Call It films, then this is a must-see. I explain why below in a review I-as always-copied and pasted from Letterboxd: 

Until relatively recently, this movie was not even on my radar; then, I saw the (misleading; the movie is not as action packed as you're lead to believe) trailer and noticed people excitedly buzzed for it, then the high praise came in from those that saw it. I had lofty expectations and thankfully this met them.

I won't reveal much of the plot aside from what's already popular knowledge: Ben Foster and Chris Pine are brothers Tanner and Toby Howard; they love each other but they are quite different from each other. Still, they rob banks in their native West Texas while Texas Rangers Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham are on the hunt trying to stop their reign of terror.

A big theme of the movie is how that area of Texas is like what probably too many areas are: fallen on hard times, filled with closed businesses and people down on their luck, having trouble even affording the basic necessities of life. It reminds me of how each December for the past few years now my parents and I drive from Florida all the way to the Midwest, as one of my sisters lives out there; we haul presents for Christmas and plus it's cheaper than flying out there. Well, going through Southeastern Arkansas is incredibly depressing... aside from it being dreary December weather, small town after small town is filled with a lot of empty buildings, businesses that look to have been closed for years by now. I wonder how those people even survive day to day life there when there's nothing to do and there appears to be precious little when it comes to a job. That reminded me of the run-down sights you saw in this motion picture.

Anyway, this is such an captivating movie watching the characters interact with each other and deal with the various obstacles that come up in their path. There is a definite reason the brothers rob those banks and “greed” isn't the entire story. Bridges and his old age is part of the story for his role of Marcus Hamilton. Everyone in the cast does a swell job with their roles and you get wrapped up in the plot, which tackles many relevant themes, some of them unfortunately affecting many Americans. This is definitely more than just a cliché “Cops vs. Robbers” tale you commonly find in crappy direct to video productions; you do get some pretty violent scenes but this is about a lot more than that.

I won't say why but in several ways this felt quite retro, and I imagine one aspect or two of it will rankle a small segment of people out there; I know how things are in 2016 but to me it was nothing to get out of shape about; it is just a trait of a crusty old man who is from a different time. Overall, I feel this is a movie worthy of its lofty praise as it covers serious topics alongside being an exciting movie where you see two forces come together and the result of that is pretty explosive. This being filmed in Eastern New Mexico instead of West Texas is not really a detriment as it certainly looks like West Texas (I've driven through there while on vacations as a kid) and it's a pretty landscape nonetheless. Needless to say, I highly recommend this for most people.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Oily Maniac

The Oily Maniac (You Gui Zi) (1976)

Runtime: 84 minutes

Directed by: Meng Hua Ho

Starring: Danny Lee, Ping Chen, Lily Li, Lun Hua, Hsieh Wang

From: Shaw Brothers

Yes, this is actually a Shaw Brothers film, a horror flick known as The Oily Maniac. The title makes me laugh and laugh. As for the actual movie... it's not great. To clarify what I said below, currently on Letterboxd there's a shocking amount of controversy over the Richard Linklater movie Everybody Wants Some!! While I haven't seen it, I understand the general tone is sexist, or at least that's what a segment believe is the case, and there's a lot of debate over the topic. I've managed to avoid most of the controversy but I know people are getting real heated on both sides over the movie and it's alleged sexism, not to mention there's plenty of debate over even if it's any good or not; I know some absolutely despise it.

Anyhow... I talk about The Oily Maniac below in what should not be a controversial review: 

Yes, the Shaw Brothers actually made a movie known as The Oily Maniac, and it is about a bipedal creature who is made out of oil... in actuality it's a guy in a black suit that is “wet”. It sounded so absurd I had to see it; awhile ago I “tracked it down” (nevermind how; it's not something you can legally stream) and last night was the night I finally watched it. Well... I can only say it's about average.

The setting is 1970's Malaysia, which is where most of this was filmed. Basically, a guy who needs crutches to walk around (and yeah, he is bitter about his handicap) learns from a soon to die uncle the spell to become the titular oily maniac; he can only go after jerks and lowlifes who deserve it. As the movie portrays 1970's Malaysia as a lawless and corrupt land, a-holes aren't hard to find. What a thanks to the country for allowing them to film there.

I realize all of this sounds greatly entertaining, and indeed is rather wacky & when you see Oily change from human into an animated oil puddle that moves quickly around and back again it's an (oil) barrel of laughs, I can only rate this as about average. The story is too preposterous and Oily wrecking dudes manages to not be as exciting as it should be; “strangling people for a few seconds until they are apparently dead” is often done, although stomping people to death is always neat. While this is sleazy and it is amusing how they managed to squeeze in even more breasts by having a subplot of a woman w/ a botched boob job, it becomes gross when there are two scenes of rape. That mutes the chuckles I got from seeing one of my favorite things, which is “wacky 70's clothing”, as there's plenty of that in the movie. Watching this, I wonder if the filmmakers had conflicted opinions concerning women. Maybe I shouldn't even bring that up considering the gigantic sh*tstorm brewing here on Letterboxd over “that one Linklater movie” but when this movie even has a scene where a woman has-ahem-her hymen repaired by unlicensed surgeons... you wonder.

This wasn't what it could have been but at least it's still watchable and you do feel bad for Oily as he's conflicted over all the D-bags he's killed... at least this wasn't terrible.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ

Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925)

Runtime: 143 minutes

Directed by: Fred Niblo... and Charles Brabin, and Christy Cabanne, and J.J. Cohn, and Rex Ingram

Starring: Ramon Novarro, Francis X. Bushman, May McAvoy, Betty Bronson, Claire McDowell

From: MGM

Yes, this is the silent feature length version of the story best known for the classic 1959 film. While not a classic like that flick is, this is still something worth seeing. I say why that's the case below:

It's been around 3 months since I saw my last silent so I figured it was time to do so; plus, even if the new version is more based on the 1880 book by General Lew Wallace-a fascinating character in his own right... he did everything from fight in the Civil War to being a governor of a territory-than the famous movies, the upcoming 2016 remake will be on everyone's mind soon, likely as a costly flop which probably shouldn't have been made in the first place as it was destined for such a fate.

Now, a long time ago I did see the Charlton Heston version, but this is my first time watching this silent classic, and from what I recall, this and the 1959 movie are pretty similar, at least in terms of story. Judah Ben-Hur is an average Jew living in Jerusalem who was friends with a Roman Tribune known as Messala but Messala became corrupted and turned into a real A-hole, so after an accident the entire Hur family was punished, including Ben being put into slavery, where after being a hero out on sea, he races chariots, and has a showdown w/ that heel Messala. Oh, and the birth of Christ happens, & Jesus Christ is occasionally talked about and while his face is never shown, his presence is definitely felt.

While this is not as great as the 1959 film, that is no slight as that Heston movie is an all-time classic. This movie is still worth seeing. Even without audible dialogue it's still so interesting and captivating; the cast does a nice job, especially Ramon Navorro as the titular Ben-Hur; I can understand why he was quite popular around this time. It is a lavish film, with nice sets, a large scope, and scenes which look like they have hundreds of extras. More than one scene has impressive action sequences involving many different people.

There's even a chariot race which is awesome in its own ways. While you can't see these people, the crowd in the race is said to include such famous stars from the era as John Gilbert, Reginald & John & Lionel Barrymore, Marion Davies, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and Dorothy & Lillian Gish. Star to be Joan Crawford was also in the crowd, and another future star in Myrna Loy was one of the “slave girls”. Point is, this movie was “a big deal” for MGM at the time and it proved to be a box office hit.

I am glad I finally saw this film, what with its random Technicolor moments, extravagant bits, and moving segments.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Suddenly In Dark Night

Suddenly in Dark Night (Gipeun Bam Gabjabi) (1981)

Runtime: 100 minutes

Directed by: Young Nam Ko

Starring: Il-Bong Yun, Yeong-Ae Kim, Ki-Seom Lee, Hye-Ri Han

From: Nam-A Pictures

Even among film fans this is pretty obscure; it is unfortunate as this South Korean horror flick is actually quite entertaining, if a little silly. At least one of those boutique DVD/Blu labels is going to release it; that may inspire more to see this, although it can be viewed on Amazon, which is what I did. I explain it all below: 

This is a movie (I really know nothing of K Horror before the mid 90's; I haven't even seen the most famous Korean horror flicks, although one day I'll get around to them) I only found out about on Monday, when an account I follow on Twitter mentioned that the Mondo Macabro label would be putting this out soon. Mondo Macabro isn't the most prolific boutique label of obscure/cult films out there, but despite having an output that isn't as much as the popular labels like Shout/Scream Factory, Twilight Time, Kino Lorber, Scorpion Releasing, etc., they do typically release rather unique foreign titles that are little known among even the most diehard fans of such stuff. Anyhow, while looking for more info on a movie that will be out on Blu later in the year, I was shocked to see this was available for free on Amazon, as long as you are a Prime member. Then again, if Amazon has f'ing Mystics in Bali for streaming... no matter if you call this Suddenly in Dark Night, Suddenly in the Dark, Suddenly at Midnight, or even its Korean title of Gipuen Bam Gabjabi, I figured it was worth a shot.

Turns out, this was worth the watch. The plot: there's a family which consists of a husband that collects butterflies (!), the mom stays at home and they have a young daughter. They still need a housemaid, because... well, back then the plot device of housemaids were popular in South Korean cinema. The husband literally found her on the street and thought that this random 19 year old girl-who happens to be attractive and as the movie blatantly made note of, “had a great body”; housemaid also carries around a creepy wooden doll and is the daughter of a late shaman lady. Now what could go wrong there?

This has little in the way of violence or blood; sleaze, though... this has a lot of it. There are bare breasts, a sex scene, and plenty of ogling shots of the young housemaid. The main focus is on the psychological aspect. What is the actual truth... is the housemaid having an affair with her husband, is she trying to drive her crazy and is that doll haunted, or is extreme paranoia and jealousy making her crazy? This is done in basically one setting and that's a house which practically screams “1970's”; there's dark green patterned wallpaper, a room which has a bright green floor, you get to see bright red furniture... what a house it is.

It is filmed in an interesting way, in terms of shot composition, camera movement and all that. Plus, some shots are either through a kaleidoscope or what appears to be the bottom of a glass Coke bottle; they are done during certain moments and while it may sound too flashy, at least I appreciated the attempt. There is even an early 80's synth score and as I typically dig such things, it was something that I enjoyed. While this is more based on hearsay than what I have witnessed so far, South Korean movies did not suddenly become good or worthwhile in the past 20 years; they have made quality flicks for longer than that. Who knows how many hidden gems are out there that people just don't know about.

I am delighted Mondo Macabro is putting out the film on Blu; if you want to try it out first the copy on Amazon looks decent enough and it's actually subtitled.