Archive for the ‘Scorching the Retinas – Film Review’ Category

Scorching the Retinas; Avalanche of Indy

collar dvd cover

Collar (2014 – Canada)
Writer/Director – Ryan Nicholson
Plotdigger Films
Unearthed Films
Runtime – 72 minutes

(Warning; this is more a stream of consciousness review I had fun scribbling in a groggy early morning hours state rather than the usual intricately planned, thought provoking, well-articulated article – ha! As if)

If you know anything about Ryan Nicholson, you know “Gutterballs”. And if you know that twisted chunk of celluloid you have some understanding of what to expect from this. However, if you don’t know Mr. Nicholson’s style, I’ll supply a few descriptive words.

Gratuitous Sex, depravity and Gore.

(Red Band teaser/trailer courtesy of Stephen Biro of Unearthed Films)

A definite “Deadbeat at Dawn” (A Jim van der Bebber classic cult slice of cinema) vibe gets this film out of the starting blocks, an introduction to a City (the seedier parts) and the films main character (but more on him a little later). For now, let’s just say he’s a homeless fellow who’s causing slightly more than a little disturbance behind the drugstore in the alleyway.  Two deviants who just so happen to be in the area have a penchant for filming ‘Bumfights’ (yes. Unfortunately, it was a “thing”) and have gotten excited as they believe they’ve stumbled upon a goldmine of sorts. Our homeless “friend” is an aggressive sort who likes to show off. Suffice it to say violence sells. Extreme violence brings in more money and sex. Well, you guessed it! These guys have zero morals even fewer prepared lines and it just so happens two full cell phone batteries. (God help us!) Add to the calamitous plot a pair of cops, a street walker a pimp and his sidekick and the story pretty much writes itself. Or, at least it seems like it has.

collar massive

uhhh- I need direction!

Let’s sprinkle in a little D’Amato influence ala the lumbering George Eastman (as The Grim Reaper or Anthropophagous [the Beast], depending upon which version you’ve seen) just think of the poor lobotomized fellow (played by Nick Principle who has a remarkable filmography to his name and appears as if he could play a decent Anthropophagous in a future remake) in a city setting rather than upon a Greek isle and add a delicate sparkle of a backstory. It appears ‘Massive’ (these fellows get inventive with their names) has a past filled with abusive at the hands of a clergyman and a rage fueled by his youth drenched in horrific experiences. Suffice it to say this gargantuan doesn’t speak much, has a dislike for pretty much everyone and treats his female company much like Walmart treats their employees (did I just say that? Whoops).

collar hungry

Do you happen to know my lines?

Naturally seems as this is a Nicholson helmed film the storyline is minimal, really just a thinly veiled excuse to depict carnage, atrocity and horrific abuse on film. And it needs be said homage to his influences. The D’Amato lumbering mindless killer vibe is strong even down to the near fetus eating scene (one of the main reasons the film was banned in so many countries for such a long time. It was a rabbit!) which appreciatively this film stops just short of. The acting is threadbare and the directing…well, surprisingly it’s passable, albeit raw, this is probably based on the fact Ryan has a few films to his credit (perhaps his style is getting more polished as it matures? Is it possible?) Now that’s not to say this is well written, it really isn’t. I’ll be Frank (…but only if I can be Sally later. Huh? What?) Collar is not in any way a great film. It’s horrific (but its far from the worst I’ve laid eyes upon). It has zero socially redeeming values, its dialogue is despicable (probably improvised throughout, with minimal script I don’t doubt) and the most expensive set piece is a haphazardly thrown together shed. It should come as no great shock therefore that I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone. It’s doubtful that the casual B movie fan will find this amusing, it really has very little humor in it unless one counts the acting (some performers stand out more than others) the production values and the dialogue (did I mention the final scene is extremely quotable?) However, the sickest, most jaded among us will love this. Collar thrives on nudity and crimson. Actually, more than a little of the “red stuff”. When someone says “Gore” this is exactly that, far removed from merely blood spraying everywhere, this film gloats on scenes showcasing shattered skulls, dismemberment, people torn in twain and eyes popping from their sockets.

gutterballs dvd cover

An early poster for “Gutterballs”

In short, this is sure to please the most depraved among us. I’ll only watch it once, it’s left a mark on me. For all others, avoid this like the plague. It’s hard to watch, raunchy and “wrong” doesn’t even come close. More importantly it’ll make one want to scrub themselves clean following a view, this is the kind of film which makes most feel dirty… beneath the skin (yuck!) For all others, a rare few to be blunt, this is likely to rank and place among “Gutterballs”, “100 Tears”, “Flesh Mannequins” and “Necromantik” (although to be fair, this was more an art film about doing the nasty with a corpse) in the finest collections of the “connoisseurs” of the genre (that’s the nicest way to say it). Hopefully in a location perched far above the inquisitive grasping hands of the more impressionable (aka as kids), I was once one and this is unfortunately the way I was indoctrinated; wide eyed and fascinated.

Wear a seat-belt, don a mask (fingers crossed this Covid shit goes away sooner rather than later) and keep this away from the kiddos (these are my words of wisdom for today) But most of all steer clear of this if you’re easily offended.

That’s it, I’m out!

Watch at your own risk!

Cult

Collar is available to watch on Tubitv and can (probably) be found online to purchase at a wide range of prices, it’s best to shop around before you start to supply those credit card deets.

Ryan-nicholson

Parting words; In October of 2019 Ryan passed after a lengthy battle with cancer. His career includes numerous directorial duties (namely Gutterballs, Hanger, Live Feed and Collar for Plotdigger Films) and prolific often award winning FX work for such films as Scary Movie, (the most recent) The Predator, The 13th Warrior, Reindeer Games, Mission to Mars, Final Destination, Dreamcatcher, Elf, The Chronicles of Riddick, Blade: Trinity, Ghost Rider and Blair Witch. His films, which are always shocking and often controversial, have left an indelible mark upon the genre joining the fight to eradicate censorship within cinematic realms and the art world.

He shall be missed. RIP.

 

Dollar Store Movies – Kill Command (2016)

Dollar Movies Header

Yet another foray into the realm of celluloid which cost me the stunning price of merely a single dollar. Can a movie have any semblance of quality at such a price? Or am I in for merely in for a ninety-minute (the average length of a movie) foray into boredom’s ville? I aim to find out, wish me luck.

 

Kill Command (2016)

kill Command dvd case

Writer/Director – Steve Gomez
Runtime – 100 minutes
Vertical Entertainment
Vertigo Films
Protagonist

 

Having a strange kind of day, I found myself not really knowing what to do. I started to wander around the house not really finding a purpose which fit my mood. Perhaps a movie could pull me out of my funk? After only a brief search (I have movies everywhere, the wife hates it!) I happened upon a towering stack of DVD’s I had recently purchased from the Dollar Store (much like any frugal sort I love those places). And finally chose Kill Command. The film’s running time was about average, as opposed to another I was mulling over (which was closer to two hours) this was the final deciding factor, rather than the story, genre or any other element, if I’m to be brutally honest. I finally got my arse in gear and settled down for a view, still unsure If it was what I really wanted. It didn’t take long for me to decide that a viewing experience was exactly what was in order. Obviously, this film, in particular, helped me come to this conclusion. Within the opening scenes alone one starts to comprehend that this isn’t a run of the mill low budget Sci-Fi affair. Kill Command is polished, sports a significant amount of flair, a certain class and, even early on, doesn’t skimp on displaying dazzling effects and set pieces. I was left intrigued and eager for what’s to follow.

(Trailer courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)

Kill Command bears a familiar vibe, lets be clear, a strong Dog Soldiers aura. And much like in that film a small infantry unit is dropped into the wilderness in a training exercise scenario which transpires into much more (however, in this case there’s no curse and no hybrid, hairy, hungry, beasts on the rampage) and the camaraderie isn’t nearly as playful, the humor element is present but not nearly as pronounced as seen in D.S. The attitude here seems more all “business”. These guys have something to prove and are frustrated at the fact that their action results from mainly training exercises.

kill command eyes

Look deep into my eyes.

Mills (played by Vanessa Kirby who also stars in The Fast and Furious; Hobbs and Shaw and the three newest Mission Impossible films) is a robot programmer, a vendor for the company who produced the Harbinger prototypes (whom the squad are facing in their training exercise, which they don’t realize till later on). She’s also, technically, a cyborg. Mills has an implant/chip which gives her the ability to communicate with computers, the net and interact with robotic intelligence. her eyes are the tell tale sign something is most definitely up. They shine a wicked blue with a circular insignia which flickers depending on the amount of data she’s processing. Mills teams up with the unit though only in the capacity to access/evaluate her creations in action. The team are dubious of her (initially ‘stand-offish’ in fact) and her role though soon warm to her as she proves useful in their unfolding circumstances.

Kill Command nope I cant see a toilet anywhere

Nope. I can’t see a toilet anywhere!

As the exercise unfolds the team soon realize this is anything but merely a practice-type situation. This is all too real. The ammo is live and those they are shooting at (an array of robotic creations) are shooting back with the intent to kill.  They look to Mills for guidance but her words can only tell them so much, she is able to communicate with the ‘artificial enemy’ but there seems to be something blocking her from accessing files which would explain things further. She informs the group that they are locked in combat with her creations (there’s the mistrust issue again understandably and a gallery of questions).

kill-command harbinger robot

AN S.A.R prototype

S.A.R bots (which stands for Study Analyze Reprogram) are intricately designed soldiers set to eventually be the team’s/the infantry’s replacement. Designed and created to save lives (ironic given the circumstances) they learn and adapt as their surroundings and the situation dictates.

Strong performances (notably Thure Lindhardt as Bukes, who also had starring role in the brilliant “Flame and Citreon”, Bentley Kalu as Robinson, Vanessa Kirby as Mills and Mike Noble as Goodwin drive the narrative and help pull the viewer in as the film unfolds and the teams puzzlement turns to fear and a fight for survival. Grit, determination, a sense of brotherhood and personalities far removed from cardboard cut-outs-ville which many other films of the same nature provide, accompanied by spot-on human interaction one can relate to and the characters dire circumstances aid in the enjoyment of the film. It has undeniable flow and starts out of the gates at a satisfactory pace in introducing the characters and futuristic setting.

Stunning atmosphere is provided by a score worthy of high praise. Palpable tension of an adrenaline spiking nature derives from its placement and chilling composition caliber. An exquisite element which only makes this film that much harder to tear yourself away from.

Kill Command gif

There is a myriad of other factors which make this a feature worthy of note; excellent FX and ultra-realistic, meticulously crafted, robotic antagonists models and impressive CGI nod towards a genius creative team and a huge budget without any silliness which might pull the viewer away from the story line. The gore is minimal. However, Kill Command still manages to convey effective dread and appropriate emotions based on what it actually displays rather than depictions of gratuitous unflinching brutality.

Other elements include stunning cinematography; shots of the wilderness in various lighting in which the team are stranded. A clever juxtaposition of beauty and carnage. Camera techniques aren’t experimental but rather precise which leads me to the highly polished directing. Kill Command is a film made by a collective of individuals who know how to effectively convey a story, its “movements”, its characters, and many facets without causing confusion or an aura of predictability in the audience.

kill command go on kiss me i dare ya

Kill Command even has romantic moments

Kill Command offers a bleak and dismal view of the future, much like The Terminator, in which A. I. becomes self-aware and smarter than its creators, resulting in an environment where the manufactured doesn’t require guidance anymore, but it does seek something to keep it entertained. A bleak future indeed.

rise of the machines

I need a Phillips screwdriver. Anyone?

Honestly, this film is probably the best value for a single dollar I believe I’ve ever received (the pleasure from eating a value burger or taco can only last so long). And for a film I had initial doubts about (it’s admittedly rare that Sci-fi themed films do anything for me) this hit the spot and delivered with a flawless execution, it started out quick, was easy to follow and sported a pace which rarely lets up keeping me enthralled the entire time. It’s a great pity that Kill Command never received the praise it should have (perhaps based on its title?) Its quality warrants a large audience’s attention and bodes extremely well for the future of the creative team behind it.

Kill Command another dvd case

Kill Command Blu-ray well worth a peek

In short, if you’re looking for something to watch which is a little different than the usual, with Terminator and Chopping Mall tendencies though provides the thrills and chills you crave, give Kill Command a watch. It has more than earned my stamp of approval. In all honesty I’d probably even pay five dollars for it!

Funfact; Kill Command is aka “Commando Kill” and “Identify”.

9

Cult

Scorching the Retinas – Avalanche of Indy

Creepy Tales of Pizza and Gore (2014)
Creepy Tales of Pizza and Gore (2014)
Italy
Director – Lorenzo Fascina, Marco Giangiareli
Runtime – 59 minutes
Bayview Entertainment
Widowmaker Films

 

How Pizza delivery and Slasher cinema collide I have no idea. Perhaps I should confer with Axe Slasher (a band from California with much the same interests whose work can be found here https://axeslasher.bandcamp.com/) or Werewolves in Siberia (who provided the soundtrack for “Slice” https://werewolvesinsiberia.bandcamp.com/album/slice-original-comic-book-soundtrack an online comic book with much the same premise) before I continue. Regardless, this vignette collection opens with a Pizza delivery person (whoops, I nearly said “boy”) navigating hasty drawn directions. The chosen mode of transport is a skateboard and this is the first indication that this might be a different than normal excursion into cinematic depths.

(trailer courtesy of DirtyTapeProduction)

With the “package” securely fastened cheesy deliciousness is on its way. However, it isn’t as easy as all that. The directions aren’t as easy to follow as believed and an obstacle hampers the deliveries progress; It’s a VHS tape. But more on that later.

Creepy Tales of Pizza and Gore - Ghost

Whoa – You have cold fingers!

 

Scuffed up and bloody the courier believes he’s found his destination. Indeed, he has. Bludgeoning replaces the traditional tip and the movie has an introduction. Cut to the first segment; “Whispering Ghosts”. A shared file proves to boast more than merely something for the eyes to discover, in fact its influence is undeniable. This is “The Ring”, hardly as polished, but in shared file form rather than VHS format. Be wary what you download, check its origin first folks.

The second segment; “Devils in the Night” amps up the skateboard element and adds a Punk rock/metal aura. By this point I’ve realized the movie hasn’t any SUBS.  Surprisingly, there’s hardly any dialogue other than an ominous figure narrating in Italian, a presence much like the Crypt keeper (though more sinister, add a Satanic aura) from the infamous Romero/King helmed “Creepshow” franchise. His narration would I can only imagine would add weight to this particular segment as it merely plays out as a Capture/kill in gruesome ways for little reason short with an arrival at the end which could well tie the reasonings together.

 

creepshow soundtrack

Most probably the first of many Creepshow images this article will boast. (This is a limited edition soundtrack on vinyl)

“Alone in the House” is the following segment. As you can imagine it is exactly that. A solitary female discovers a mysterious intruder, hides, then confronts said intruder (with a knife). Words aren’t needed here; the story is rather self-explanatory. The addition of symbol laden flashes is a nice touch as well the protagonist’s reflection in the knife she wields in a shaking grasp. The ending is a little odd but provides a gruesome climax for those wanting such. If only the lighting were better the FX could have truly shined.

“Wood” is next up. And is blatantly another segment plucked from the aforementioned “Creepshow” ala “Hitchiker” but with a difference, the moniker nods at not only its location (if you catch my drift) but also at this segment’s erotic nature, in part anyway. However, the mood soon transforms when the pairs vehicle collides with…something. One of the most inventive segments on offer “Wood” changes direction veering from predictable realms and yanks its viewers into WTF territories. Suffice to say this is one of my favorites here showcasing one of my favorite actors within this feature; the quite delicious Bunny Roberts, who sadly only has one acting credit to her name (even fewer pictures online), such a tragic waste of talent. Again, the lighting is abysmal leaving many of the FX, action and character in murky shadows and much of the details up to one’s own imagination.

Creepy Tales of Pizza and Gore VHS

Now imagine this has a life of its own and makes humorous noises as it moves around quite comically

Lastly, “Killer Tape”. Serving as the dark humor book end of the piece it gives live to a VHS tape when its owner decides to about face, change personalities from a comic book loving nerd into more a Collegiate Jock and bin bag all of his previous bits and bobs into the nearest trash receptacle to be replaced by various, cliched, sports paraphernalia.

Zero dialogue again in this piece other than grunts, groans (issuing from assorted bedroom activities) squeals, screams and a myriad of cutesy noises one might associate with Gremlins or creatures within features of similar ilk.

Several elements make this my favorite segment here. The tapes movements coupled with the noises it makes and the overall absurd nature propels it into fantastical realms and the fact that it pines over its ripped-up cover is the icing on the cake. Add to this a scene in which it comes face to face with an arch enemy and you have all the makings of a classic segment. I only wish I could say the same for the entire collection.

Bad taste one sheet

Any excuse to add a Bad Taste image and I jump on the opportunity.

“Creepy Tales of Pizza and Gore” has its moments and lovingly embraces a camera style which fans of “The Evil Dead” and “Bad Taste” will be quick to appreciate but only leave them wanting more. The tie ins from several of the segments are clever, especially the Introduction and last segment, though not all seem to fit the puzzle leaving several questions which demand answers. The acting surprisingly isn’t horrid and fits the overall mood of the collection. Even sans conversation the collection makes sense, largely, although subtitles would be useful in working out what the enigmatic narrator is saying, a factor perhaps which might also explain somewhat his place in the proceedings and undoubtedly heighten the flow of the overall feature. Apart from the undeniable channeling of vignette collections before it (namely “Creepshow”) this overall shows promise for the filmmakers involved, although using the word “Gore” dominantly in the title might leave many wanting more. Yes, it has a few scenes of grisliness, though not nearly as many as one might imagine.

hjeavy metal soundtrack

Obviously, this is the  most famous film with a “metal” soundtrack

The ideas are there, the direction is there (the easy to embrace up close somewhat quirky style – the homage in part) and the lighting, well, I believe I’ve mentioned that a few times. The use of Thrash/Speed metal as part of the soundtrack is a nice touch (a love it or hate it element really) which many Independent pioneers are embracing. Sure, the writing requires tightening up, experimental avenues need exploring, but that’s all part of the ongoing filmmaking journey and honestly, I’ve witnessed a great deal worse than this in my past viewing of Independent (low budget) films. All in all, this leaves me curious as to what comes next from the creative team involved. I’ll keep my eyes and ears to the ground.

5

Cult

best horror quotes

Exactly!

Creepy Tales of Pizza and Gore is available on DVD (Region 1: US and Canada) courtesy of Bayview Entertainment from most online retailers including Target, Walmart and Amazon (and I would imagine complete with English subtitles which this screener was absent of).

It can also be purchased here; https://www.familyvideo.com/creepy-tales-of-pizza-and-gore-539471

 

For all those interested “Slice” the online comic can be found here https://stela.com/

 

 

Scorching the Retinas – Driven

Driven (2019)
Driven (2019)
Writer – Casey Dillard
Director – Glenn Payne
Runtime – 90 minutes
Uncork’d Entertainment
Dead Leaf Productions

 

Many somehow manage to balance their day to day lives with many things in mind. Obviously, the means to support the roof over one’s head is first and foremost. Oftentimes a niggling passion which can’t be ignored comes into play. In this case Casey Dillard (incidentally also the films writer) is a “Ferry” driver/operator a service is which is much the same as the other ‘rideshare’ companies most of us currently use. However, Emerson (Casey) dreams of one day becoming a comedienne. She even goes so far as to practice her act in between “pickups”. Naturally, in her line of work, as with many customer-oriented vocations the job is mentally taxing (being pleasant all day is rather difficult) with inspiration for her (brand of comedy) material materializing at an often-overwhelming rate. This serves as the film’s opening stanza as an introduction to the main character. The dialogue even this far in is fast flowing, snappy even, inventive and witty sure to elicit a smirk (at the very least) and alight interest.

Driven - Roger gets in

Here’s Roger!

Emerson’s shift progresses much like any other, when Roger (played by Richard Speight Jnr) slides into the backseat he’s regarded as merely another customer. Albeit one bearing a grumpy disposition with little patience.  Following a string of demands (devoid of good manner) and strange behaviors exhibited by her customer Emerson feels her kill-them-with-kindness facade start to dissipate. Her curiosity overridden by anger She turns to berate her companion only to learn that she’s been unceremoniously pulled into an age-old struggle, a prophecy of sorts, whereupon she must make a decision. Obviously, she struggles with the decision and pushes the scenario aside as merely hijinks, a prank and something she really doesn’t want to be embroiled within. However, as Roger and her start to build a rapport she warms to the idea finding herself excited to be a part of something “bigger”.

(trailer courtesy of HorrorBuzz)

Rather than spoil the film by adding more spoilers than the trailer and box art provide I’ll, instead, scribble upon what makes it work.

Driven conversation

There’s action and then… there’s dialogue.

Driven is not an action-based film. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t have any, it does. But it’s minimal, and far from what many might expect given the films description. Driven is a film which relies on its dialogue and character interaction. Both elements are top notch. Humor is front and foremost with awkwardness coming in a close second. The dialogue, testament to the writing skills, is snappy, thought-provoking, relateable and fluid. And the main characters interactions depict the differences between them in a fantastic way. Emerson is a hard-working individual with an everyday life striving to pay bills whilst dreaming about stepping on stage and Roger the polar opposite; an elitist type fortunate enough to have a rich family and no stress in regards to how many shifts he has to work in order to pay an overdue bill on time. However, they soon bond for a common cause. This ‘bond’ isn’t without degrees of tension. As the couple open up about Rogers curse, “Demons” (“…for wont of a better term”), what an actual ‘turd spoon’s is and eventually details within their own lives, certain ingrained attitudes come to surface.

Driven - Im done

I’m just…done!

Driven effectively faces cultural differences whilst adding human elements, real life situations (the awkwardness of facing a loved one after a recent break-up) and a showcase of very real emotions. It also confronts morality and humanity head on effectively adding depth to characters which many films depict as merely lifeless, cardboard, protagonists. Little touches add to the film’s enjoyment in this regard; like Emerson’s adoration of aromatherapy and Roger’s disdain for the smell. Naturally dedication and determination are a part of the story line and Driven captures the evolving character development in this regard with an intricate execution.

An applaudable soundtrack adds to the films tension resulting in a film which is fun and humorous, relatable and often thought-provoking.

Jeffrey Combs gets advice from a Doctor about acting

Jeffrey Combs gets acting advice from a Doctor

Another brilliant touch is a nod to Lovecraftian realms, which this movie touches upon with ordinary people being thrust into extraordinary situations more specifically quirky music which brings to mind “Re-animator” and “From Beyond” Charles Band/Brian Yuzna creations in the end credits.

Will Roger ever be able to see Emerson as his equal? Will he ever be able to relate to a ‘turd spoon? Will Roger’s curse ever be lifted?

Will Emerson ever pluck up enough courage to perform her act on stage?

Is there a better term for “Demons”?

Many questions remain to be answered but I’m not going to spoil it. Better give this delightful addition to Independent genre a peek for yourself to find out.

Driven Buckle Up

Obviously Driven has been utilized before as a title and this film is not to be confused with “Driven” (2001) the Pardue/Stallone Formula One racing movie, the movie “Drive” (2011) in which Ryan Gosling proves himself to be quite the unassuming though formidable badass. Or the 2018 “Driven” movie which documents John Delorean’s quest to design the ultimate car of the future and his friendship with an FBI informant.

8

Cult

 

For more details on Driven you can visit the official Twitter page @drivenmovie or converse with the director @Citizen_Case You can order film related products here https://drivenmovie.bigcartel.com/products

Driven was released on June/15th and can be streamed on iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/driven/id1514132139?ls=1

or ordered here https://www.amazon.com/Driven-Glenn-Payne/dp/B088T26YVH/ref=zg_bs_2959106011_28?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=SGZZ3WC3NYFEDVQMNPCG

 

 

 

Scorching the Retinas – First Love

First Love (2019)
Japan

first love poster art

Writer – Masa Nakamura
Director – Takashi Miike
Runtime – 108 minutes
Well Go USA Entertainment
Hanway Films
Recorded Picture Company

Takaschi Miike has made over one-hundred films. The “Centennial” was recently marked by his Samurai epic Immortal Blade. His work blankets many a genre, ranging from the bizarre (Visitor Q) to Crime epics (the Dead Alive trilogy, Ichi the Killer), Samurai features (overflowing with homage to the classics 13 Assassins is a must watch) to Yakuza films with many others scattered in between, one cannot seriously forget the cult hit Audition. In instances Miike’s films even veer toward the family friendly arena. First Love, the film in question here, is must definitely not of that variety (obviously parenting styles vary dramatically, let’s just say this isn’t a film I’d let my youngest lay eyes upon anytime soon).

(Trailer courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment)

In typical Miike fashion First Love commences on the “slow burn” train introducing quite brilliantly the myriad of the film’s most important characters, the antagonists the protagonists (who change places on a constant rotation) in turn, their relationships to each (in many cases there isn’t, until much later in the film) and the films realistic, every day, locations.

first-love locations

Here we see a spot of greenery in Tokyo as well a troubled girl and a boxer

Among the characters; the Yakuza, the Chinese Triad, a “troubled” girl who is forced to pay off her father’s debt, a promising boxer who has suddenly become unable to fight and a dirty cop. Somehow and in riotous fashion their paths collide. As one might assume, as this is a crime/gangster film of sorts drugs are involved and the majority of the film revolves around those involved trying to get their hands on the case within which the powder resides. With wrongful accusations and fingers being pointed, on assumptions not facts, paths cross at an alarming rate climaxing in the film’s final showdown which takes place in a hardware superstore (of sorts).

Without throwing spoilers around wily-nily, much like t-shirts from a cannon (designed for such purpose) at a ballgame, I’ll remark upon what makes First Love such an enjoyable watch.

First Love suited Yakuza

May I introduce the clean suited rank and file of the Tokyo Yakuza

Somehow, Miike has managed to blend brutal underworld Yakuza shenanigans with that of a darkly humorous nature which lends the film an air of relatable reality. After all, not all carefully laid plans go accordingly and such is the case here. Criminals (usually the same one each time time) blunder into situations predicting the outcome only to have all manner of calamity slip into the mix. Of several standout scenes (the whole film blazes with a quality which is mesmerizing) one includes a kidnapper with deviant penchants finding his come-uppance when his face meets a high heeled foot rather the aroma, he wished his nose to bath in (this will make sense upon watching). Another includes the abrupt dispatching of an elderly roommate who just happened to walk in upon a scene involving sedation and duct tape.

First love yuris dad

Strike a pose. Vogue.

The “troubled girl’ mentioned above, Yuri, adds to many of the films “funnier” moments. She suffers from hallucinations and believes her abusive father is following here. Obviously, that isn’t the humorous part. Moments of levity exist as her companions realize she’s disappeared and choose to chase after her throughout the film, in fact many of the reasons why the film takes such turns is the cause of her visions and her reactions to such. One scene finds her listening to music and snickering as she sees her Father dance along to the tunes in her head.

First Love kick to the balls

How dare you want to sniff my panties

Although the film shines with standout moments, of which there are plenty, the dialogue is top notch serving up quotes aplenty in situations ranging from the absurd to the harrowing and horrific. Character portrayal and the acting showcased here is superbly executed, a staple I’m glad to report which exists in all of the Miike features I’ve previously enjoyed. The film flows at a beautiful pace and stays from confusing/hard to comprehend realms even taking into account the vast coverage (and exploration) of characters and their paths in order to pull the story line to its conclusion.

The soundtrack is in need of mentioning and in typical Miike fashion fits wonderfully adding depth where it’s needed and tension where appropriate. Even the sudden inclusion and interruption by maniacal jazz elements (which might first appear odd and out of place) heightens the sense of the chaotic experience.

*** Local Caption *** Hatsukoi, TAKASHI Miike, Japan/GB 2019, V'19, Features

May I have your attention shoppers. Shit is about to go down in aisle B1.

Much like any gangster feature this one is also expectedly bloody, though it doesn’t glorify violence by depicting in unflinching detail the brutality taking place. Rather it handles it in a classy manner, many nodding towards the director’s adoration of remarkable historic and fiction-based samurai epics from years past. The action/fight scenes are tight, choreographed as not to be too fantastically outside the realm of possibility and are directed perfectly straying from lengths which might make the more jaded upon us salivate in excitement. The film even features ‘set pieces’ to expand upon the boxers back story to reiterate that he isn’t a superhero but rather an innocent bystander pulled into a situation which is wildly unfolding around him.

first love poster (japanese silk art print)

In conclusion, because I believe I could waffle on about what makes this film do damn watchable at great lengths, First Love is a film which demands respect, is more than worthy of the acclaim it’s garnering and is a must watch. A blurb on the films cover (courtesy of Indiewire) states “violent, hilarious and violently hilarious” A statement I wholeheartedly agree with though only wish were my words.

tichashi miike

 

In closing, do not be like me. Don’t let this be a film you place on a shelf and forget about.  It warrants eyes upon it and pronto. Bathe in the mastery of Miike. He’s, simply put, a genius of his craft.

Cult

Dollar Store Movies – Immortal Demon Slayer

Dollar Movies Header

Immortal Demon Slayer (aka The Tales of Wukong)
2017
Writer – Hai Huang, Hezai Jin, Chi-Kin Kwok, Fan Wen Wen, Henri Wong
Director – Derek Kwok
Runtime – 123 minutes

immortal-demon-slayer

Welcome to yet another movie piece. A slab of scribbles in which I waffle on about my viewing experiences with a movie I’ve plucked from my collection featuring various films picked up at the insane price of a single dollar. Obviously, there’s not much you can do with a dollar these days. Perhaps a candy bar, a bargain priced burger (you’ll need a few cents for tax depending on where you live), a taco, small fries or a thimble full of the fizzy stuff. Hardly enough to sate any appetite. So, what of celluloid purchased for the same price?

(Trailer Courtesy of YouTube Movies)

In this instance I couldn’t resist. I’m a sucker for fantastical martial arts mayhem and subtitles and that’s exactly what the cover to this film promises. The accompanying text alludes to what many might know as the mystery surrounding The Monkey King. I vividly remember a series on British television in the early eighties with much the same premise which, though rather silly, was thoroughly entertaining. In recent years, actually the last twenty years or so, there have been a slew of entries in much the same arena. But what of this? Honestly, I’m not one to compare this film with the myth/folklore it’s based upon. Instead, I’ll merely talk of the film itself.

immortal demon slayer art

From the very beginning IDS offers luxurious, extravagant set pieces and costumes ranging from suits of armor to spectacularly decorated ensembles one might expect to see in The Hunger Games. There’s no doubt, even this far in, that this is a lofty budgeted affair. But it gets better. The main characters, a mischievous “Princess” (played by Ni Ni) and Sun Woking (who some might think of as The Monkey King), played by both Eddie Peng and Eddie Pang, are introduced within no time within a scene which opens the eyes and sets the bar high for the remainder of the film.

Immortal Demon Slayer setup 4 fight

Dust swirls and bodies bounce from one side of the screen to the other amidst a myriad of high wired stunts and video game styled fighting antics. Although fast and furious there’s little crimson on display keeping this at a somewhat playful level for most to enjoy. The film progresses blossoming wonderfully on the backstory of the main characters and the reasoning as to why they are the way they are. In this case there’s trouble in the Heavens, a power struggle, control issues and a debt to be settled but there’s a whole ton more than that which I will refrain from elaborating upon.  Rather than spoil any potential viewers enjoyment, I will comment on why I believe this film works.

immortal dragon slayer why dos it work

So, tell me O Wise One what makes this… watchable?

IDS (an abbreviation to save digit fatigue) boasts a fluid story line, in fact a myth which many might wish to explore further. The film sports characters one can relate to, probably not at first but as they develop and the film rolls out they begin to take on more human characteristics as opposed to the enigmatic Immortals they are portrayed as. Humor is used expertly as well as lightening the mood it works to bring many of the main characters ‘down to earth’. Obviously, one of the films major draws is its action, of which there is plenty, and brilliant choreography. Fluid, fast paced and often surprisingly inventive it will please those newcomers fascinated by the genre and those who frequently dwell in what it has to offer. Larger than life the on-screen antics frequently run into the fantastical boasting wizard-like gymnastic moves and weapons of a dazzling amorphous nature wielding continent shattering might.

immortal demon slayer weapon

Cor blimey! That’s big!

However, IDS isn’t all about conflict, unearthly weaponry, fate/destiny and revenge. It also touches upon heart break, human emotions, the perils of being Immortal, overcoming obstacles and the power of determination and dedication. Add to that scenic views which are breathtaking, backdrops which are stellar and special effects of the highest quality you have a film which delivers in every aspect. The soundtrack is grandiose, fits and adds just the right amount of emotion where it’s needed. Although there might be one or two scenes which some might find a little ‘sappy’.

immortal demon slayer a sappy moment

What. I needed something to punch and he was there!

All in all, if you’re wishing to experience a dazzling display of the surreal and the fantastical slathered in mythical themes blanketed in force of nature back flipping, spinning, high -kicking action it doesn’t get much better than this. Naturally, you have to have the patience and willingness to read SUBS while watching in order to be able to enjoy this (although I’m sure there’s a dubbed version available).  I enjoyed IDS from start to finish and honestly didn’t look at my cell phone once, either for the time or to check anything, that’s a sign of a good film, right? And this is! Make time for this especially if you’re in the market for a spot of ‘light-hearted’ escapism.

8.5

Cult