Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A Monster Calls (2016)

A Spanish American fantasy drama directed by J. A. Bayona, starring Sigourney Weaver, Toby Kebbell and Liam Neeson.
A boy's mother is dying from cancer, he is being bullied at school and doesn't want to go live with his grandmother. A giant tree monster that may be real, a dream, imagination or hallucination visits him to tell stories.
Besides the monster, this was sappy, lame and boring. The hour 40 duration seemed much longer because the scenes without the monster moved very slowly. The plots of the monster's short stories were much better than the "real world" plot of the whole film. The characters were actually not that bad. All of the dialogue was well written and the actors played their roles appropriately. My favorite set was the cemetery with the sinkhole from the boy's nightmare. Everything else was pretty mundane. The camera-work was professionally done and the editing was seamless. I can't say that I noticed any really good shots that stood out though. The special effects for the tree monster were what kept me from turning this off. It may be CG, but it was good CG. The animations for the monster's stories were also done quite well. Although CG as well, they had a bold style that I appreciated. The audio was all mixed well, but I think that the monster sounded too much like an Ent from Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings. I liked that the style was a little on the dark and gloomy side for the whole film. This won 23/50 awards that it was nominated for, made a gain of about 4 million dollars, has a 7.5/10 on IMDB and 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. I think that it got too much credit. I rate it tolerable because the monster and gloominess were the only positive aspects that I could see.

Child of Rage: A Story of Abuse (1990)

An American documentary produced by Gaby Monet, starring Beth Thomas.
A violent 6 year old girl is interviewed by her therapist. She tells of how her biological father abused her and how she now abuses her family. It then goes on to show her new living conditions and how she has changed.
This started off amazing, but went downhill quickly at the end. The interview footage was very raw and filmed from the therapist's perspective. Beth, her adopted mother and the reform home owner were interviewed. I think that this was all about content in the beginning and switched gears at around 20 minutes of the 27 minute duration. Up until that point, we saw a girl devoid of mercy, remorse, sympathy, etc. Subject covered in this time frame include sticking pins in people and animals, killing baby birds and stealing knives in the hopes of using them as murder weapons. After that 20 minute mark, she goes to church, takes care of animals and cries. I think they broke her. Production was a little low-budget, but I could hear and see everything fine. There were still photos mixed in with the video interviews. This has a 7.4/10 on IMDB, but I think it deserves better. I rate this awesome because you haven't lived until you've heard a 6 year old girl talk about wanting to murder her family.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film (2006)

An American documentary.
The conventions and standards of American slasher horror films are discussed with examples.
This was not as good as Eaten Alive! TRAFOICF. It focused more on the obvious, mainstream hits of the genre without digging much deeper. This time, the hour and a half seemed to drag. The information density was much lower and it seemed more like an infotainment Discovery channel production. The interviewees were just as good, being filmmakers and stars along with writers. The subject matter was much more mainstream and "pop culture" than Eaten Alive!, which I did not appreciate. Most of the interviews had the same static camera angle, but a couple of them mixed it up a little bit. The audio was mixed well, but the Halloween theme just kept coming back in the soundtrack over and over. The style of this film was much less academic than Eaten Alive! as well. This got a 7.3/10 on IMDB and I agree with a C- grade because it just wasn't that great. I rate this o.k. for mediocrity.

Eaten Alive! The Rise and Fall of the Italian Cannibal Film (2015)

An American documentary directed by Calum Waddell.
Filmmakers, authors and scholars discuss 1970s and '80s Italian cannibal films and play clips from them.
A comprehensive study of the genre. The hour and a half duration went by very quickly. This had a very high information density, citing many films from the genre and discussing each in comparison to others. The interviewees were chosen very well. Who would be better for this than the original filmmakers and actors? There were also modern authors and scholars who specialize in this subject matter. Speaking of subject matter, this was a good choice to make a film about. Not only do I like Italian films, but I like horror and cannibal films as well. The camera-work could have used some work. Each interviewee was only shown from one angle. The films and interviews alternated between widescreen 16:9 and fullscreen 4:3 formats, but that was because of the clip sources. The audio was all mixed well, I could hear everyone and there were subtitles provided when the Italian filmmakers were speaking. As a whole, it seemed very academic for a documentary on B horror films. This has a 7/10 rating on IMDB, but user reviews rate it around 8-9/10. I would agree with the user reviews giving this a B+ grade. I rate it good because of the subject matter, wealth of information and opportunity to add to my list of movies to watch.

Arrowhead (2016)

An Australian science fiction written and directed by Jesse O'Brien.
A soldier is part of a prison break and joins his fellow ex-inmates in a long lasting rebellion. On a mission to transfer computer data and save his father, he is stranded on a desert moon.
Terrible. The hour and a half duration seemed to take forever because of lack of plot and characters. The plot was almost interesting at the beginning and end, but there was this giant gap in the middle when nothing happened. There were really only 2 characters: the soldier and the ship's computer. I didn't like either one of them. The dialogue and acting would have seemed about right in a Syfy channel movie, but I would expect better from an independent Australian flick. There were 2 sets/locations: inside the ship and a desert. The costumes seemed a little janky too. It looks like they ironed patches on tight shirts, but had some professional looking space helmets made. Camera-work suffered from a lack of variety and corner cutting to aid special effects. Why shoot something that looks good when you can make the CG department's job a thousand times easier by shooting crap? The special effects were obviously all CG. I saw 1 fire that I thought might have been real. At least they showed off the monster in a daylight scene. Audio seemed fine, was mixed well and included no annoying noises or poorly chosen music. This whole film really seemed like a Syfy channel production. Other critics give this an F grade at less than 50% and I agree. I rate this bad for being poorly written, poorly produced and uncreative.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Hanzo the Razor series: Sword of Justice, The Snare & Who's Got the Gold? (1972, 73 & 74)

A Japanese samurai series directed by Kenji Misumi, Yasuzo Masumura and Yoshio Inoue, starring Shintaro Katsu.
Hanzo is a loose cannon petty officer with a big dick and a penchant for blackmail who has had enough of government corruption.
Sex and violence! Four and a half hours of Hanzo in one day is a little bit much. It started off great, but I was wishing it would end like 3/4 through the third film. The pacing was really moderate all the way through. There were a few sections where editing cuts picked up speed in fights and sex scenes though. The plot was basically the same through all of the films. There were different people involved in side-plots, but the main idea remained constant. The main characters were developed quite well. Hanzo himself identifies himself by his penis maintenance regimen in the beginning of each film and then goes on to have his lackeys lower a girl in a net onto him, who he spins while she hangs from a rope. The lackeys were criminals that Hanzo freed and act as comic relief. The constant villain is Magobei "snake" Onishi, Hanzo's superior officer, but Hanzo dispatches other bad guys in each film. The dialogue was all written well and crossed the language barrier decently. The actors all knew their roles and played their characters fine. Obviously, Hanzo was the best. The sets and costumes were evidently planned very well and fit the samurai genre to a T. The camera-work included lots of creative angles and shot composition. The first film even had an "inside the vagina" shot. Special effects included lots of blood, as would be expected and was definitely appreciated. The audio was mixed dynamically, with good dialogue levels and a funky psychedelic rock soundtrack. The overall style reminded me of Lone Wolf and Cub. On IMDB, Sword of Justice has 6.8/10, The Snare has 7.1/10 and Who's Got the Gold? has 6.7/10. I think these ratings are very low for such a good series. I rate this awesome for Hanzo's wang and excessive blood.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Encounters of the Spooky Kind A.K.A. guĭdáguĭ (1980)

A Chinese kung fu horror comedy directed by Sammo Hung, starring Lam Ching-ying and Wu Ma.
A poor worker's wife is cheating on him with his boss. The boss hires a magician to kill the worker, who is challenged to spend the night in a temple (A.K.A. morgue). The evil magician's former fellow student helps the worker to avoid the tricks and traps set for him.
Hilarious! The hour 38 duration went by too quickly because of fast pacing. The plot was easy to follow and held my interest all the way through. The characters were all identifiable and relatable, but 1 of the villains looked too much like the good magician. Most of the dialogue was jokes that managed to cross the language barrier pretty well. The rest was basic plot elements being told. I thought the actors did a great job of placing comedy where it belonged. The sets and locations were chosen well and the costumes were pretty decent. Standard kung fu style. The makeup on the corpse was disgusting and nearly terrifying, they did such a good job on it. I really didn't notice too much camera-work that caught my eye. I think that the thing they did best was framing and shot composition. The special effects were all physical with wires and such. One worth mentioning is the mirror ghost's extended arm reaching across the room. As with most kung fu, the audio was a little on the shoddy side and the swooshes and hits were foleyed too loud. The whole thing reeked of classic kung fu. This has a 7.1/10 on IMDB, but all of the user reviews rate it higher than that and have nothing bad to say about it. It was also referenced in 2 documentaries about kung fu movies. Apparently, this introduced the "hopping undead" concept in kung fu horror films. I tend to agree with the user reviews more than the C grade it got. I rate this good because it was funny, scary and held my interest.