Sunday, September 30, 2012

Looper (2012)

Director: Rian Johnson
Notable Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels

For my first review back from a brief "work vacation," my wife and I traipsed down to the cinema to partake in the recently released "Looper." My expectations were mixed on it as many theatrically released films marketed as 'science fiction/action' tend to focus on the latter by watering down the former. That and despite owning "Brick" I have yet to see the acclaimed director Rian Johnson at work. The film does feature the dynamic duo of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, so could it be all that bad? Luckily for all of us cult film fans, its fucking awesome. Perhaps not quite to the caliber that "Moon" or "Prometheus" sit as modern great science fiction, but damn close. It rocks with solid action and it surprises with its depth of thought, but more importantly - its able to blend the two into some easily digestible yet quite filling celluloid.

Joe (Gordon-Levitt) is, at his core, a hitman. A hitman hired by crime syndicates from the future, reigned in by man of the future Abe (Daniels), and trained to kill victims sent back in time for easy disposal. He has enjoyed his life thus far partaking in drugs, wealth, and violence, but that's brought to a screeching halt when his latest mark happens to be his future self (Willis). For a man with a plan, things have hit the fan as he has to chase down himself to discover just why he would want to change the future...and discover just who is the mysterious and monstrous future overlord The Rainmaker is...

JGL has quite come into his own as one of the best actors currently. Sans Cobra Commander in "GI Joe". Let's forget about that movie.
I was quite surprised by the quality of "Looper." It does have moments where it simplifies its rather complicated time travel story for the audience, but really the film is far more clever and violent then I expected. Clever and violent. Two things I certainly love in my science fiction and "Looper" ably handles both. It navigates its time travel inconsistencies with enough self awareness to make them seem plausible and justified to the viewer and adds in some very cool twists with moral dilemmas (about selfishness and how are actions may create the catastrophes that we are fighting) that really make the film a hard core thinking one. At times, I did almost want the film to push even further with some of its subject matter (perhaps adding in some social commentary and further detail about the futures), but for a mainstream released science fiction film I was more than impressed.

Director/writer Rian Johnson definitely plays off the audiences expectations though. The trailers made the film seem like a more standard actioner featuring shootouts with both JGL and Willis (which the film does), but they rarely touched on the whole second half of it. Not giving too many secrets away, it really embraces its science fiction roots at this point and with some great thoughtful writing from Johnson (who does not shy away from the genre) and an eye for details visually, "Looper" goes to some unexpected places and does so with as much glory and grit as is required to work. This is built on some stellar performances from both Willis and JGL, where the latter does an amazing Willis impression without ever seeming out of place while doing it, and some extraordinarily violent and effective action set pieces to give us what we all initially are coming to see the film for. This is not a film for the weak of stomach or thought as its pretty hard "R" with what it presents both conceptionally and visually - but that's just how we like it here at Blood Brothers.

It takes two to tango. And hold a hostage.
"Looper" might not quite reach the science fiction quality heights of Duncan Jones' material lately, but its still a massively well executed film that really embraces its elements. It's driven, smart, and ultimately a film that will leave you thinking of consequences for a long time. A trick that many films lack in the genre. It has a stunningly talented cast (including a rather underrated performance from Emily Blunt) and for fans looking for Willis to kick some ass it has that too. It might have a few flaws here and there, but that doesn't stop it from gunning for the gold in full gear and its that final piece that will set it aside from its peers. Highly recommended.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Monday, September 24, 2012

Demolition Man (1993)

Director: Marco Brambilla
Notable Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Sandra Bullock, Benjamin Bratt, Denis Leary

When I was on vacation, I decided it was high time I revisited Sylvester Stallone's 90s action film catalog. This means I had to start with one of my favorite Sly films of all time. The science fiction, action, comedy film "Demolition Man." Although there is still plenty of debate to the worth of this film, it holds up to this day with how finally tuned (and ridiculously silly) the film rides that line between the genres. It definitely knows what it is and it simply runs with the concept as fast and hard as it can. Something to be admired for a film that essentially mocks itself and other action films the entire time.

In 1996, the world of the near future (snicker) has become somewhat of a hell hole. A rogue cop John Spartan (Stallone) is bound determined to finally take down domestic terrorist Simon Phoenix (Snipes) in a final showdown in L.A. The bastard tricks him though and both are thrown in a new type of prison, one where the inmates are cryogenically frozen until their parole time. That brings us to the current year of 2032 (snicker) and now the world is completely at peace...until Phoenix escapes. Now the law enforcement have only one choice...thaw out The Demolition Man and use his talents of violence and ass kicking to bring down the vicious villain once and for all.

"Why?! Why was "Blade Trinity" such crap?!"
I'm sure there are skeptics to the quality of "Demolition Man". If you read that synopsis above and see that its a mixture of science fiction, action, and comedy then I actually would agree with you. On paper, this early 90s romp into the future looks like it shouldn't work at all. The trick to the film is that it never takes itself overly serious and it simply has fun with its concept. Remember that? Fun at the movies? Well "Demolition Man" redefines fun in how it blends the genres and runs with it making it easily one of the most entertaining movies of the period and of Sly's career.

It has to initially stated that one of the reasons that "Demolition Man" is such a blast (pun intended) is its ridiculously over the top set up. It's your cliche action hero and goofy 90s villain, but its the weird, an oddly satirical, vision of the future that works. A place where violence simply doesn't exist, anything bad for you is outlawed including sex, red meat, and swearing, and you wipe your ass with sea shells. It's taking this humorous world of silly dialogue and subdued emotions and throwing two of the most outrageously violent and abrasive men into it. It's comedy/action gold if you could ever think of it! Not only that, but the cast is more than up to out act one another in cheesy one liners and strong chemistry. Sly is ably his 90s self, ready to spout horrible one liners and generally kick everyone's ass at the drop of a hat all in heroic fashion and his supporting cast really sets him up for great moments - whether its the air head Sandra Bullock or the homeless Denis Leary. It just works.

The Dream Team...with Bullock and Bratt in addition.
Perhaps though the best part of "Demolition Man" outside of its fun writing and strong pacing, is Wesley Snipes. Besides his role as Blade, this is by far the greatest role and performance he has pulled off on celluloid. Not because he's a great actor. Not because his character has a strong arc of growth. Because Simon Phoenix is Wesley Snipes done in exponential folds. He spouts off puns and one liners non stop, kills and injures endless amounts of people, and generally does really odd things. The sequence where Snipes is at the computer phone booth is cinematic genius for the genre.

Snipes doing what Snipes does best: crazy.
Although "Demolition Man" is certainly a silly film whose political/society subtext is sometimes a missed opportunity, its hard not to love the shit out of this film for what it is. The comedy works in spades with great chemistry between its actors, the action is intense with great set ups and locations, and the pacing is perfectly set to use its cliche elements to perfection. On a depth level this 90s Sly vehicle might come up a bit shallow, but its a brilliant film in the entertainment sector and one that handedly works as one of the best of the genre not just of the era.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Spice And Wolf Season 1 1-13 (2008)

The journey. The trip. The travel. It's all a part of getting somewhere. No matter if its for work, for family, fun or pleasure, we all must travel. Watching "Spice and Wolf" Season 1 was in fact a journey for myself as well. You see as an avid anime viewer I tend to stay in a comfort zone of sorts. I watch mainly what I think interests me. However after seeing countless articles about this series, I decided it was time to take a little trip of my own outside of my comfort zone. So off I go to a far away land and I hope you come along with me.

The story - This adventure centers around a merchant named  Kraft Lawerence who travels from town to town selling his various items to the locals. During one of his town visits he is startled to discover a young woman hidden in his cart of furs. This of course is no ordinary woman. The young lady is actually Holo, a pagan god. She appears in human form with a set of wolf ears and a tail, completely nude, and explains to Kraft that she is the goddess of harvest and has blessed the area with bountiful crop for years. Having heard this tale during his travels Kraft was interested to learn more about her claims. This series is very interesting to me for many different reasons. One being it is set during an era that is similar to medieval Europe. Two, it takes on Pagan gods and beliefs. Third, this anime series some how manages to tell a story about economics and kept me drawn in and completely interested. Last, but not least, there is a romance story to add without really focusing on it. It is the bond between the two that really sets it apart from other romance stories, well at least in my opinion.

The business duo of Kraft and Holo really have a great chemistry about them. Holo helps Kraft during several of his transactions with great monetary success. She is crafty after all. She is there for him when everything crashes as well.

With the Church running a lot of the towns economic systems it is important that no one discovers her true identity as it would lead to her demise. So with the understanding that the church is looking to do away with all Pagan gods, Holo hides her ears and tail in her cloak. However as with any adventurer she has more than one occassion of close calls.

Kraft is the guy every girl's parents would want her to bring home to dinner. He is a man of his word, handsome, and charming. His characteristics really were a large part of the story. They also cause him trouble with the towns folk on occasion. Overall I think this story has it all. Action, adventure, romance, and good writing.

The artwork- The art of this series is so pretty. The pastal coloring just sets the mood so well.

The series looks like the era it is set in. Nothing flashy or hemorrhage inducing. It's so calm and I think that is part of what kept me so into it. The landscapes are beautiful and full of life. I loved the overall look of this series.

The music- The intro song is a solid piece of work. It sounds like a love song and it wasn't overbearing or distracting. The end song was kind of unique, but it was fun and a bit silly. I know most of the words to that song though. The rest of the music was really unnoticable to me. It was subtle and didn't command and attention from my viewing. Which is pretty much how I think it should be. Overall, I give the music a thumbs up!

The voice acting- The actor that voiced Kraft was J. Michael Tatum, and he was excellent. It's hard sometimes with voice acting for me to enjoy a voice over an entire series, but I am totally okay with this one.  Brina Palencia voiced Holo and she too was great for the part. Being that these two characters take up most of the screen time I won't dive into any other voices. So overall I think the talent shows up in this series. Thumbs up again.

Overall- "Spice and Wolf" delivers were others have failed. I started out blind to this series and finished it with hearts in my eyes. The pacing of the story is great, the art is so beautiful, and the characters are brilliant. I honestly don't know why anyone wouldn't fall in love with it. I say to all you folks out there that only watch comedy or fighting animes do yourself a giant favor and watch "Spice and Wolf," you will not be disappointed. My highest recommendation!!!! To end on another positive note, I can not wait to see the second season. Til next time gang, watch more anime!

Written By John Price

If "Spice And Wolf" sounds like an anime you just have to see from John's recommendation, then feel free to purchase it from Amazon at the links below. There is also another recommendation from Blood Brothers' resident anime expert!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Loved Ones, The (2009/2012)

Director: Sean Byrne
Notable Cast: Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, Victoria Thaine, John Brumpton

As you will have noticed, the date beside the title has two numbers. The first number is when the film was originally released and the second is when we finally saw it released in mass for the United States. That means, if my math is correct, we had to wait THREE YEARS to see this highly acclaimed horror film in my part of the world. Call it punishment. Call it a test of patience, but it's about fucking time either way. The wait was worth it too as "The Loved Ones" bats a strong independent horror right out of the ballpark. It's brutal with its terror, quirky with hits dark humor, and ultimately the best of both.

Brent (Samuel) has had his life torn up. His father died recently in a car wreck where he was driving and his mom as all be checked out of their life. The only thing that has kept him going is his girlfriend Holly (Thaine) and their potential together. School is about to end and the final dance is coming up, so when Brent tells the odd girl in school Lola that he can't go with her he doesn't realize the situation he just put himself in. Now Lola and her father have a plan for Brent. A plan to hold a dance of their own to see if he truly is the prince charming she thinks he is...

I've had those mornings too, bud. Wrong side of the bed rarely describes those kind of mornings.
What genuinely makes "The Loved Ones" so damn impressive is that, on paper, the film looked like a pretty run of the mill torture horror flick. The film and its top notch young director then take those assumptions inject them with enough heart, black souled comedy, and an eye for artistic that the end result is something far more than the sum of its parts. A terrifying and emotionally disturbing roller coaster ride of adolescent whims dictated by violence and skewed realities put to a modern sense of quirky writing and visual prowess. I was completely glued to the film with its horror and its oddly funny sense of timing and it was a damn fine film experience.

A lot of this is driven by some very talented actors/actresses that push this film to the limits. Xavier Samuel (which many of you may only know from his villainous role in "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse") simply hones in with his performance as the lost and emotional Brent while the driven and scary Robin McLeavy perfectly counterbalances that with her slot as the crazy bitch who could. Hell, even some of the throw away roles such as Lola's father and Brent's girlfriend Holly are packed with their own depth and the actors seem to run with it.

I'm not sure what's scarier: the hammer or the eyes. But I do know that combined...bad things ahead.
This is partnered with a rather brilliant debut for director/writer Sean Byrne. His ability to create tension in some of the most mundane moments (like having Brent lick the finger of Lola) and then add in just enough comedic timing to get us to giggle before horrifying us is staggering in the film. Visually its a stunner with beautiful shots, creepy timing, and solid use of setting while his use of music is completely enamoring with its strongly written characters and plot progressions. Byrne is most certainly a name to keep your eye on as "The Loved Ones" is one of the strongest debuts for a horror director/writer that will catapult him into the ranks with modern legends like Eli Roth, Ti West, and Adam Green.

It's a lonely road when you're bat shit insane.
At many times "The Loved Ones" could have crossed into the lines of too campy, too cliche, or too torture focused. It never does. This Australian ditty perfectly balances all of its elements with razor sharp exactness taking the horror, comedy, and thoughtful human senses to levels that only a few horror films ever can accomplish. And its a debut film. Easily one of the best modern horror films I have ever seen and one that is a must own in any one's collection.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

I said "The Loved Ones" was a must own, so what are you waiting for? Use the links below, purchase yourself a damn copy, and see one of the best modern horror films ever made!

Assassins (1995)

Director: Richard Donner
Notable Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Antonio Banderas, Julianne Moore

Don't you just hate it when you compile a massive amount of talent and positive pieces to watch it all fall apart in some sort of weird missed opportunity. This is how "Assassins" goes about things. A script originally drafted by the Wachowski siblings, directed by the legendary action man Richard Donner, and starring both Sly Stallone and Antonio Banderas. How could this go so completely and utterly wrong? Yet it does and "Assassins" might be one of the biggest disappointments I've had in my action film watching career.

Robert Rath (Stallone) has been looking to get out of his hit man life style for quite some time, but a record like his can be quite tough to shake. His mysterious contractor seems to keep pushing some new jobs on him and when another assassin (Banderas) shows up to steal his contract, Rath begins to suspect there is more to this game then he knows about. With one last job on the line, he decides to turn the wheels and get himself out.

Hopefully they are bringing that to a knife fight.
Underneath it all, "Assassins" is a decent film. It has a solid relatable character in its hero Rath and the script itself has some great solid moments. The chemistry between Banderas and Sly is fun and energetic and it has a couple of stellar action sequences - including a car chase with the two clashing assassins in the same car. There are a lot of great pieces to take from "Assassins" and the film does come off as rather un-offensive as an action film.

Which just happens to be the damn problem. Nothing really flows in the film and many of Donner's choices are uninspired. The film is choppy in its execution, sluggish in pacing, and has far too many underdeveloped tones to its script and on screen execution. The romantic subplot between Moore and Stallone is handedly forced while Moore herself has little depth or connectivity for the audience. Even Banderas seems like a bit of caricature. The action can be hit or miss and the finale is a massive let down as it throws in a few twists that seemed more forced than shocking. "Assassins" just fails to use its elements properly.

I guess proper typing is something that most assassins take for granted.
Since its release, Donner has publicly "apologized" for its misgivings saying he should have punched up the violence, switched Banderas and Stallone in their roles, and generally make a more competent film. I agree with him on all accounts. "Assassins" is simply an uninspired action film that rarely utilizes its premise or talent to what would have been needed for it to succeed. With Sly and company doing much better films in the 90s, I highly suggest taking a look at those instead.

Written By Matt Reifschneider
Feel like "Assassins" might surprise you more than it did me? I won't stop you from clicking the links below and purchasing a copy. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Web Of Death, The (1976)

Director: Chor Yuen
Notable Cast: Yueh Hua, Ching Li, Lo Lieh

Director Chor Yuen has always had a knack for the epic. Not necessarily for 'good' films, but he can definitely work the epic like it was a fairly easy thing to do. That's just how "The Web Of Death" works. It's often a silly film with its fantasy like elements and ridiculous concept, but Chor Yuen works its characters in some strong ways to really build its complex script up.

Fei (Yueh Hua), a senior student of Mount Wudang, has been sent to unravel a rumor. The rumor has it that the Five Venoms clan is going to unleash their ultimate weapon, the Five Venoms Spider, at the upcoming fighting festival. What he does stumble into is a plot by one of the Five Venoms leaders to overthrow his comrades, steal the spider, and take over the world! Now he must rely on newly forged romantic interest (Ching Li) to make sure that the world doesn't come under tyrannical rule.

An example of the ridiculousness (and awesomeness) of the sets.
You read that correctly. An evil clan ruler is going to steal a magical spider and conquer the world! If you think that sounds ridiculous, then you are more than certainly going to shit yourself when you see how this Shaw Brothers film plays out. Chor Yuen tends to lend himself towards a more fantasy focused style of culturally influenced films and "The Web Of Death" embraces that. The costumes are over the top, the sets are even more over the top (including an acid lake in the middle of the venom's compound), and the way that the spider is used can result in some hilarious moments. I mean, its a tarantula that's carried in a lantern, glows, roars like Godzilla, and spews venomous multi-colored shimmering webbing. If you can't handle the fantasy elements, which there are plenty of them and they are ridiculous, then skip this film.

Yes, that would be a spider in that lantern spewing that much smoke.
Beyond that its often too-silly-for-it's-own-good fantasy elements, "The Web Of Death" is actually a fairly strong martial arts film with its frame. The acting can be hit or miss as is the comedy, but the script is pretty damn strong. It's fun at its core particularly as our two leads (Hua and Li) become more entwined in horrible circumstances with betrayals and half truths. The rather complex way it unfolds really does keep you on the edge of your seat though and it does have a great story to build it all on.

The biggest issue with "The Web Of Death" though is it's inability to navigate the two styles of film. The fantasy elements hinder the actual action and fighting of the film and the seriousness of its complex story doesn't do its fun ridiculousness any favors. Even though I had a blast watching it, the film itself is one of the weaker ones from Chor Yuen. It is fun flick, but one that doesn't necessarily work like it could have.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Feel like you need to see "The Web Of Death" to believe it? Purchase it at the links below. I highly suggest the Blu Ray to really make the most out of the visuals of the film! 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Safe (2012)

Director: Boaz Yakin 
Notable Cast: Jason Statham, Catherine Chan, Robert John Burke, Reggie Lee, and James Hong

It's no secret that we love us some Jason Statham around here at Blood Brothers and the sheer amount of awesome movies that this action star has been in for the last decade is stunning. You would think that eventually he would have a misstep...but no. He just keeps pumping out awesome movie after awesome movie like its nothing. That includes "Safe." Despite a rather brief theatrical run, I never had doubts. Not at all and its nice to know that in the end you can always count on Mr. Statham to deliver energetic massive amounts of ass kicking on a whim when you need. Which he does spades even if the film can be hit or miss with its execution.

Luke Wright (Statham) was in wrong with the Russian mob after blowing a fight. They murdered his wife and only spared him if he were to become a drifter never to get close to anyone without them being slaughtered. And that's when he meets Mei (Chan), a young girl with amazing skills with numbers, who has a slew of Triads and Russian mobsters after her. Now is Luke's chance to redeem himself by saving the girl and figuring out why these gangs want the number she has in her head.

Jason Statham, disgruntled as ever.
A friend of mine once commented on how Statham is the new Charles Bronson. After seeing "Safe", I'm damned near inclined to agree with that statement (even without "The Mechanic" connection). This film isn't one to focus on massive action set pieces with ridiculous stunts and outrageous one liners. It has some of those things, but its details instead of foundations. This is a film that takes a "normal" man, throws him into some dire situations, and let's the character be a hero even if he doesn't want to be. Which is damn near the same concept of most Bronson films from the 70s and 80s. And for the most part, it works with "Safe". Although the film tends to over-complicate itself with corrupt police officer sub plots that aren't quite as deep as they would seem, the 70s crime/action vibe matched with the rather surprisingly artistic eye of director Yakin and the screen presence of Statham is one that beats its way into your heart.

The plot of the film gets a bit muddled with too many characters and an unrelenting need to twist the story too much, but "Safe" has a killer pacing and strong sense of badass action to go with it. The chemistry of the film just works. Whether its the fun and awkward relationship between Luke and Mei, the brutally fierce action, or Yakin's ability to bring a little heart and soul to rather by the book characters (particular nod goes to the scene where Luke finds his wife with the mobsters dictating the rules of his exile and how Yakin really brings out a burdensome amount of tension by slowing zooming in on Statham's face) - "Safe" rocks the chemistry. The action is particularly intense with just how many people get capped in the film (the body count has to be huge here) and Yakin does his best to make it relevant. A nice touch for those who watch a lot of these kind of films, like myself.

A fist fight with Statham is a bad day for you.
"Safe" does tend to run muddled like I said. Too many villains hinders all of them from reaching true evil heights, including a "hit man" who shows up at the end for the finale which could have been epic but wasn't, and the film wants to often over explain itself. Sometimes, its okay not to want to give a reason for EVERYTHING, but "Safe" often thinks it has to. A lot of the issues in this film arise from its need to over complicate matters when, in the end, all it needed was its chemistry to really work.

With this review coming to a close, I will say that I enjoyed the shit out of "Safe" despite its obvious foundational flaws. Statham fans rejoice because he's done it again. This time with a little help from a surprisingly effective director and a film that allows him to do what he does best. I give this high recommendation for action fans, even if those outside of the genre may see less in it.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Think you would enjoy "Safe"? Then you can purchase the film at the following links to help support Blood Brothers in their endeavors! Take a moment and click!

Strippers Vs Werewolves (2012)

Director: Jonathan Glendening
Notable Cast: Adele Silva, Billy Murray with Alan Ford and Robert Englund as a cameo.

To be honest, its hard to say my expectations were all that high for a film called "Strippers Vs Werewolves." I'm not sure what horror comedies have with strippers as a focal point as of lately, but its a theme that's running rampant. So here we have "Strippers Vs Werewolves" in all of its goofy 80s inspired oddness straight across from the big pond. The film itself was surprisingly effective in its humorous tones, but ultimately succumbs to its low budget and often awkward characters.

When Justice accidentally stabs a werewolf in the eye with her silver pen, she barely realizes the consequences of her actions. As it turns out, said paying customer at the strip club she works at, happened to be part of a werewolf pack and they are pissed off about their missing friend. Will Justice be able to rally her fellow dancers to fend off the rabid wolves or will they all die fangs first?

Don't be's a comedy!
The concept of "Strippers Vs Werewolves" is about as simple as its title would indicate. We have a problem: our heroine kills herself a werewolf. And we have a consequence: werewolves get pissed and decide to raid the club after following a few clues. It's a rather simple concept that the film makers make a little more complicated than it needs to be by throwing in lots of sub plots that essentially add little to the premise. We get all kinds of rather mundane by the book character development for the secondary characters and most of its comes off as rather ineffective including a rather wasted cameo by Robert Englund and a romantic subplot between one of the strippers and a werewolf that culminates in...well, nothing by the third act.

Despite his small role, its hard not to love how Englund "eats" up the scenery.
The film does succeed on a few points. Firstly, its basically what you would expect from a film with this title and that kind of cover. It's silly, low budget, and ultimately the kind of exploitation film you would come to expect in this day in age. It really doesn't pull any punches to sway itself away from what it is and I appreciate that kind of honesty. Secondly, the film actually has some pretty funny moments. It plays on more of a dry slapstick kind of humor (very British) and it works at times. Perhaps I'm an odd duck, but seeing a werewolf get blasted in the crotch with a shotgun to slowly back out of a hole in the door hit my funny bone. Had the film had a little more of a budget to really embrace its special effects, the humor could have been pushed to the next level. As is, I have to admit there were a few moments that had me laughing out loud.

And he's hungry like the wolf...oh, yes. I just made a Duran Duran joke.
In the end the film makers tried desperately to make "Strippers Vs Werewolves" a fun film. It's got some cleverness to its 80s vibes (lots of screen wipes, comic book imagery, and a great silly soundtrack) and its humor works in moments, but it does run rather awkward in its story telling narrative and with its character development. It's a film that works on a gimmick, but don't expect much more than that as it fails to inspire beyond its gimmick. Then again, if you love strippers and you love horror movies - then this film is going to sit right at home with you!

Written By Matt Reifschneider

That being said, if this gimmick is right up your ally - you need to order "Strippers Vs Werewolves" at the following links! On DVD and Blu-Ray September 25th, 2012!!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Record of Lodoss War 1-13 (1991)

Hello all ! Its time for another trip to the past. The years were late 1990 early 1991 Nirvana had released "Nevermind" kickstarting the grunge movement, "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" was blowing up the U.S. box offices. Michael Jackson was still not "Black or White" and a pound of bacon was only $1.95. Those were the days. Around this time in Japan another sensation was hitting the shelves on VHS. "Record of Lodoss War!", based on a series of  fantasy novels written by Ryo Mizuno. Set in an RPG kind of world, "Record of Lodoss War" was building up steam within the anime world. Over here in the states wee little Johnny was never exposed to such things. My only exposure was "Voltron" and "Transformers." Fast forward to 2002 were I found myself working at Suncoast video and alas, I was finally introduced to the anime world. A coworker had asked me to watch anime with him and the title was.... you guessed it... "Record of Lodoss War." I gracefully declined his offer. Now here we are in 2012, a solid 10 yrs later, and I have finally sat down to watch this series. Buckle up grab some nachos and read this review.

The story: This is an epic adventure story. Much like "Dungeons & Dragons", "Lord of the Rings" and pretty much any recent RPG adventure game. You have your elves, dwarves, wizards, witches, and warlocks along with loads and loads of magic . It also has Dragonsssss! The series centers around the main hero Parn, since this is his adventure afterall. Parn sets out to find out why his father (a knight) was dishonored. Accompanying Parn on his adventure are: Etoh- the priest/healer and childhood friend of Parn, Deedlit- a high elf and love interest of Parn, Ghim - a dwarf warrior whom has his own personal reasons for coming along, Slayn - a wizard in training, and finally a thief named Woodchuck. They all set out to try and take down the Gray Witch. Along the way they meet allies and foes aplenty, ranging from humans to dark elves to demon beasts oh and DRAGONSSSSSSS.

I couldn't help but notice right away how similar this series felt to "Lord of the Rings."
From the fellowship to the quest and the dwarf's, it is oh so similar. With that said, after seeing the series it really is not like those films or books at all. If you like LOTR or D&D, this is a fun adventure. I thought the writers did a good job with character development and giving everyone their time while remaining with the story line. There were no wasted episodes, which, after reviewing several older series, I am starting to think it is more newer anime that uses filler episodes. We shall see.

The art- The animation used in this series certainly dates itself, but it's still enjoyable to watch. The dragons do not flap their wings, they kind of scoot across the sky or just hover. Several times I noticed there were no mouth movements when characters talked. Other than that it was still a very colorful series with lots of visual effects such as bright seizure inducing colors during magic battles. I feel the characters were well drawn and animated, especially druing the battle scenes. The backgrounds and landscapes were vibrant and as much a part of the series and the characters. Overall it looks like an animated series from it's era, however it still stands the test of time.

Music- The series is filled with subtle back ground music, nothing over the top or in your face. The opening song was performed by Sherry and was very enjoyable. I feel like the music went with the series, there was nothing distracting in my opinion.

Voice acting- I thought all the voices were great. I am not sure how many of these actors are still around but I really thought they worked well, one and all. I really liked the voice of Pirotess, the female dark elf played by Meg Frances. Even though she was on the wrong side of the war she was my favorite character.

Overall- I loved the story, liked the art work, enjoyed the music and the voice acting was spot on. If you are into fantasy anime this is a must see. It has taken me 10 yrs to finally see this series and what a shame for me because I really missed out.Now if someone says to me Hey Johnny if you could only take one anime title on a deserted island which would it be. I will have to say "Record of Lodoss War". It  really takes one back to better days, when times were more simple. Also I can only recall one boob shot and it was a necessary scene. Other than that, I can't recall any fan service type stuff, only good story and good times. I will make one suggestion, do not be like me and put this off, it is a great watch. I know that you the readers have probably been waiting for this so here it is... DRAGONSSSSSS!! Enjoy!

 Til next time. Keep watching anime!!

Written By John Price

Like what you see in the review? Pick up "Record Of Lodoss War" and some other choice cuts by John at the links below!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Daredevil (2003)

Director: Mark Steven Johnson
Notable Cast: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Michael Clarke Duncan, Colin Farrell, Joe Pantoliano

After the mostly surprising success of "Spider-Man", Fox decided to not fuck around with the rights for other Marvel characters and pumped some serious money into "Daredevil" hoping to kick start another franchise. Garnering a slew of popular actors at the time and giving it to a seasoned director (and by seasoned, I mean a guy who gave us comedies like the "Grumpy Old Men" films and the horrendous "Jack Frost"), Fox piled on talent and money into "Daredevil." And that being said there are certainly some things to enjoy about The Man Without Fear and his plight in Hell's Kitchen, but many script issues and some goofy choices in execution make this one of Marvel's worst film versions.

After a horrible accident leaves him blind as a child and the mob kills his father, Matt Murdock (Affleck) vows to uphold justice by any means necessary. He becomes a lawyer by day and uses his increased senses to become a masked crusader by night known as Daredevil. As his plight continues, he crosses paths with a mysterious Kingpin of crime (Duncan) and their battle will cascade down as he tries to save Elektra (Garner) from hitmen like Bullseye (Farrell) and bring an end to the organized crime that has plagued his city for too long.

I guess she would hit a guy with glasses.
Just for the record, never, ever, ever, ever, ever watch the theatrical cut of this film. When I saw it, years ago - I had nothing good to say about it. Not a single thing. As is though, this is a review for the director's cut which is a far superior version as it actually makes sense. It has a cohesive narrative and some darker tones that are completely missing from the theatrical version. Thusly, just stick with this director's cut.

Even though this version is far superior, it's still a rather muddled affair that fails to balance its darker tones and comic book visuals. It's a film that generally misses on most of the things it could have used to kick it to the next level - and Johnson really has trouble getting the action to work either. So despite being "better", "Daredevil" is still a mess.

I figured I would post one of their fight without costumes, and one with. Ironically, this is the less cheesy of the two.
A lot of it starts with its script as it has to pack in so much to get in the origin story, characters, and main plot to fit into its two hours. There are some great artistic choices made in the film and things hinted at with its character work, including a great subtext of Murdock's struggle with his religious beliefs, but even those are required to take a back seat as it pummels the run time with far too much plot and character development. The plot structure is a fairly classic one for a comic book film, it just throws too much in there to really complete the narrative like it needed to.

But that should be okay, right? Just because "Daredevil" has trouble with really unwrapping a cohesive story doesn't mean it isn't a fun and entertaining film. Well, in this particular case, it does. With its shaky foundations in writing and plot work, Johnson struggles to handle what is happening on screen. The visuals of the film are honestly quite goofy and they really embrace this cartoonish feel to it. This ideology may have worked for "Spider-Man" but it doesn't work here. Affleck desperately clings onto his character, but he isn't give much more than ridiculous hairstyles to chew into, and the secondary cast overacts everything they do - this is one particularly punched at Farrell who's fun, but really tongue in cheek.

"I never miss...except for every time I try to hit ever..."
Then to match it's over the top performances Johnson (and the script) really push the action to outrageous levels that simply don't work. Initially, our first view of Affleck as Daredevil is fucking awesome. The darkly brutal fist fight and stunt work in the bar is high octane and really embraces what Daredevil was as a justice giver. Then after that, Johnson focuses on making the action a visual feast rather than something more than that. It's jacked with too much CGI and often loses a lot of its flow. The fight between Daredevil, Elektra, and Bullseye has horrible pacing and ends with a John Woo inspired church battle that occurs partially on massive CGI organ pipes?!? And the film just can't survive its own comic bookish style at this point.

There are a few highlights in the film, the before mentioned first action sequence and Michael Clarke Duncan who was a very inspired casting choice for Kingpin, but "Daredevil" just comes off as a rather muddied attempt at blending serious ideas, dark tones of psyche, and comic book fun action. Although Johnson would actually outdo himself in shitty comic book films with the atrocity that is "Ghost Rider", "Daredevil" gives it a run for its money as one of the weakest Marvel films.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Cry_Wolf (2005)

Director: Jeff Wadlow
Notable Cast: Julian Morris, Lindy Booth, Jared Padalecki, Jon Bon Jovi
Also Known As: Cry Wolf

As if the revival slasher genre hadn't already grown insanely stale by this time, companies kept trying to reignite the failing trend by creating gimmicks and "twists" to the tried and true formula. Unfortunately it rarely works with the watered down versions that kept pumping out well into the 00s and "Cry Wolf" falls prey to its own schemes. That being said there is some cleverness to its by the basics "whodunnit" tale of murder on a private high school campus with how it goes about creating its villain, but it still ends up lumped with its peers in being too melodramatic and weak in the elements that make slashers great.

Owen (Morris) has had his fair share of trouble at previous high schools and with some string pulling his father gets him admitted to Westlake Preparatory Academy. This look up here when he meets Dodger (Booth) and brilliant and somewhat sneaky girl with the same ambitions as him and her friends who quickly form a tight bond. When a woman is killed outside of the school in the woods though, the group of friends decides to play a "urban legend" prank on the school. They create this slasher killer who repeatedly kills in the same manner at different schools to get people freaked. A problem then arises when mysterious IMs appear and threats become a reality as his friends disappear. Is the "Wolf" real or are one of the sheep cleverly disguised?

"Come on Scooby gang! Let's catch us a masked monster!"
I actually really enjoy the idea behind this film. A fictionalized killer becomes real, but our Scooby-Doo gang isn't sure if its one of them? A great murder-mystery concept there and one that could have properly followed in the self-realization footsteps as "Scream" for modern slashers. Unfortunately, it all gets so watered down by its push for a teen audience and some of its silly acting that its concept loses some of its oomph and it drowns in its own pool of cliche scares and plot progressions.

That's not to say its initially a bad film as it has its place for a "safe" young teen horror flick - but for a slasher its too childish and watered down. The acting is extraordinarily hit or miss with a decent job by Booth as Dodger, but it all sliding down hill from there to some horrible secondary cast members and the scares and plot progressions can be seen from a mile down the road. It desperately tries to throw in red herrings and various detail elements to get you questioning 'who is the wolf' but by the end is pretty damn obvious I thought - so that the twist itself wasn't the right hook it could have been.

You can cut the sexual tension with a knife. Too bad you don't see anything slasher worthy of sexual or knife.
So thusly, even with a cool concept, its a rather mundane horror film anyway...but does it work on the check list of being a slasher too? Let's hit the check list:

Awesome killer? I'd give this a check! The idea of a fictionalized killer with a hunter's outfit with a bright orange ski mask isn't necessarily all that cool looking, but director Wadlow handles how he is presented well enough and its costume of "regularly found items in the area" breeds well into the 'whodunnit' story.

Clever and unique kills? No check here. All we get here is by the book deaths in by the book places (attack in the shower room anyone?) and we don't get any deaths until the first act after a woman in shot in the opening. Shot? Pfft. I know this isn't your regular slasher (and the twist verifies that) but they could have come up with some better and more clever death sequences to make it more fun.

Masked killer in a bathroom...I've never seen THAT before! (Rolls eyes)
Abundance of gore/nudity? Nope. Wouldn't even think about giving this a check. Even on the 'unrated' DVD I watched, there is only a few scenes of blood splatter and no truly grotesque deaths for the film to really hold onto as a slasher. And if you are looking for you usual nudity, none found here as its geared for young adults who have less tolerance for that as they did in the 80s.

Relatable group of heros? I'd give "Cry_Wolf" a check in this column. Despite some horrendous acting performances as one goes into lesser roles, the group of teens we are following is fairly relatable in their wide variety of cliche styles. Punk kid. Cheerleader type. Smart ass. Jock. They are all here and do play off their stereotypes fairly well.

So in the end, "Cry_Wolf" is a half solid slasher, but it falls on insanely weak legs of acting and plot progression to get its concept moving. I admire the attempts as breathing new life into the revival slasher with its concept as a true follow up to the ideas of "Scream", but "Cry_Wolf" just fails to revive the revival. Its more often too watered down and silly to work and that will leave many horror fans hungry for more. Hungry like the wolf. To quote Duran Duran. Perhaps "Cry_Wolf" is a good gateway film to get young people into horror though?

Written By Matt Reifschneider