Mario Bava’s DANGER: DIABOLIK stars John Phillip Law, who to me will always be Pygar, the blind angel of love from BARBARELLA. This one came out earlier the same year, 1968, and kinda seems like BARBARELLA’s evil crime movie cousin. It is in fact another Dino De Laurentiis international co-production based on a comic book, and reportedly uses some of the same sets (though I’m not sure which ones). It feels very much like a super hero movie at the beginning: we hear police talking about Law’s character Diabolik as some kind of legendary figure, he first appears in a long black car (Jaguar, not Batmobile), he shows up in a mask, does his thing, makes an escape to a secret entrance to an amazing hidden base inside a cave. But this guy is no super hero, he’s just a thief with a whole lot of flair.
Police Inspector Ginko (Michel Piccoli, THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE) is determined to not let Diabolik steal the $10 million that needs to be transported, going out of his way to deliver decoy money and send the real shipment in a Rolls-Royce with cops disguised as diplomats. But that car finds itself engulfed in plumes of multi-colored smoke and then lifted up by a crane operated by by Diabolik. The camera zooms in on him for a diabolical laugh when the title comes up. (read the rest of this shit…)
I’m still catching up with these RUROUNI KENSHIN movies. I really recommend RUROUNI KENSHIN PART I: ORIGINS (2012), and I watched RUROUNI KENSHIN II: KYOTO INFERNO (2014) a while back and then this one. I got caught up and didn’t finish that review until now but I wanted to finish before I watch this year’s final two installments.
RUROUNI KENSHIN PART III: THE LEGEND ENDS (2014) continues from the cliffhanger of part II, in which our no-longer-believing-in-killing samurai hero Kenshin (Takeru Satoh, SAMURAI MARATHON) had leapt from the pirate ship of aspiring-Japan-conqueror Shishio (Tatsuya Fujiwara, BATTLE ROYALE), failed to save his pacifist sword master friend Miss Kaoru (Emi Takei, TERRA FORMARS), and washed ashore on some beach, to be discovered by a mysterious dude. But the story slows down for a while, correctly judging that part II has earned the filmatists our trust and the right to take a breath and dig into the characters and the melodrama for a while. (read the rest of this shit…)
GUARDIAN ANGEL is a 1994 Cynthia Rothrock joint from PM Entertainment, directed by Richard W. Munchkin (RING OF FIRE) and written by Joe Hart (REPO JAKE, STEEL FRONTIER). It’s not one of the better crafted Rothrock pictures, but it’s a worthwhile grade of ridiculousness.
Rothrock stars as Christine McKay, who’s working as a cop when we first meet her. And she’s at a great place in her life. Staking out a public park undercover as “lady standing next to ice cream truck,” she shows off her engagement ring to her partner and confesses that she never thought she’d marry a cop. Then the shit goes down: two groups totaling around 25 people show up at the park to discuss a counterfeiting transaction.
McKay makes the very questionable choice to run by herself toward these gangs firing her gun in the air. The sound causes them to start fighting and shooting at each other. She personally beats the shit out of several of them before backup arrives. (read the rest of this shit…)
I don’t know what DEMENTIA 13 means, but that’s the name of Francis Ford Coppola’s official on the record first feature directorial work, and it’s the rare Coppola horror outing, almost 30 years before BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA. It’s a tight little black-and-white Roger Corman production that seems to split the difference between gothic horror like the Poe movies (THE RAVEN, THE HAUNTED PALACE and THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH were released the same year, 1963) and the modern slasher like PSYCHO and PEEPING TOM (released three years earlier). It’s got a castle, a rich family and some possible ghostiness, but also a money scheme running afoul of an ax murderer. And there’s a mystery. And some brutality I wasn’t expecting in a movie of this era.
It’s got a great opening – John Haloran (Peter Read, THE BRAIN, TALONS OF THE EAGLE) is upset one night, wants to row out onto the lake to be by himself, but his wife Louise (Luana Anders, THE YOUNG RACERS, NOWHERE TO RUN) comes with him and bickers with him about money. His mother is sick and plans to will her fortune to charity – Louise wants him to talk to her about putting him in the will. All the rowing gets his heart worked up and he collapses. She goes for his heart pills (apparently this happens alot) but the container is empty, and he dies. (read the rest of this shit…)
HYDRA (2019) is a modest Japanese crime movie that I enjoyed for its simplicity. It begins harshly, with a very efficient killing and disposal of a guy in a public restroom. The very human detail that the victim can’t stop peeing as he’s stabbed and dragged from the urinal to a stall ups the disturbing factor by about 150%. And that’s before we see a man wearing tight swimming trunks (Takashi Nishina, GAMERA 3: REVENGE OF IRIS) so he can chop up the body and then hose himself off before giving a few chunks as treats to his piranhas. Seems like he’s got the process down pat.
They have a whole system, because this is some kind of organization that murders crooked cops. Reading other people’s reviews maybe this is a vigilante anti-corruption kind of thing, but I got the impression from the dialogue that it was more like a coverup, getting rid of the guys who go so far they become liabilities. (read the rest of this shit…)
You know how it is – sometimes the mood hits you for a little martial arts/horror combo, specifically the type found in Hong Kong vampire movies from the early 2000s, so you check out two of them. At least that’s how I dealt with the problem. The first one in my double feature, VAMPIRE EFFECT (2003) credits Dante Lam (BEAST COPS, THE STOOL PIGEON) as director and none other than Donnie Yen (HIGHLANDER: ENDGAME) as “co-director” and “action director.” Unsurprisingly, the action is the best part.
The original title is TWINS EFFECT, because it stars a pop duo called Twins, made up of Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung. But nobody knows what that is here and there are no twins in the movie, so I guess this is our equivalent to when Germany changed ROVER DANGERFIELD to ROVER & DAISY. And this is another one of those pop star vehicle movies that doesn’t really have an equivalent here exactly. I mean, you don’t see Tegan and Sara doing a vampire movie. So far.
Choi stars as Helen, a heartbroken young woman who, while grieving a breakup, hits it off with a vampire prince named Kazaf (Edison Chen, GEN-X COPS 2: METAL MAYHEM) who’s enjoying a glass of blood in a fancy restaurant. She doesn’t realize what he is, even though she has some knowledge of such matters because her brother Reeve (Ekin Cheng, YOUNG & DANGEROUS) is a vampire hunter. (read the rest of this shit…)
BANSHEE is a pretty cheesy 2000s crime/action type movie I added to my Letterboxd watchlist long enough ago that I don’t remember where I found out about it. I think I was scouring for movies directed by women that were more in the b-action type zone I prefer instead of the respectable stuff you usually see on lists. So I came across this obscure car thief movie I’d never heard of from Canadian director Kari Skogland and screenwriter Kirsten Elms (TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D).
Skogland’s filmography at the time included CHILDREN OF THE CORN 666: ISAAC’S RETURN and LIBERTY STANDS STILL starring Wesley Snipes. And, unsurprisingly, she’d done a bunch of episodic TV work including Dead at 21, La Femme Nikita and The Crow: Stairway to Heaven. In the intervening years she’s become a little more high class, doing episodes of Boardwalk Empire, The Americans and The Handmaid’s Tale, and most recently she directed and executive produced the entire six-episode run of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. (read the rest of this shit…)
THE SWORDSMAN is a 2020 Korean film about a swordsman. Color me intrigued. (Seriously. I like swordsmen.) I wonder what’s up with this swordsman that makes him THE swordsman?
Actually there’s a bunch of swordsmen in THE SWORDSMAN with one that I assume is the titular swordsman but another one you could make an interesting if not totally convincing argument for. The main one is Tae-yul (Lee Min-hyuk), “the best swordsman in Joseon,” who in the prologue (while being played by Lee Min-hyuk) refuses to stand down from protecting the king (Jang Hyun-sung, SHIRI) when the other top officials have decided to topple him in a rebellion. The secondary swordsman is Min Seung-ho (Jung Man-sik, THE YELLOW SEA), an older military official who, to get to the king, challenges Tae-yul to a duel in which Tae-yul’s sword shatters, sending shards into his hand and eyes. At that point the king stops the fight and agrees to step down.
Unspecified years later, Tae-yul (now Jang Hyuk, VOLCANO HIGH) is a recluse living in the mountains with his teenage daughter Tae-ok (Kim Hyun-soo, THE FIVE). He periodically has problems with his vision, and a monk tells them to go get a special herb from a trader he knows named Hwa Seon (Lee Na-Kyung, BATTLE FOR INCHEON: OPERATION CHROMITE) or he’s gonna go blind. (read the rest of this shit…)
PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND is the latest entry in the Nicolas-Cage-weirdo-arthouse-version-of-an-exploitation-movie subgenre (see also: BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS, MANDY, PIG). This one is unusual because it’s the first English-language movie from respected Japanese director Sion Sono (SUICIDE CLUB, LOVE EXPOSURE, WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL). It’s the first movie I’ve seen from him, but I promise I’ll watch TOKYO TRIBE, which has been recommended to me a few times.
It takes place in what seems like a post-apocalyptic settlement, though apparently it’s just a section of Japan that has been quarantined after a nuclear waste accident. The place is called Samurai Town, and it’s mostly populated by Japanese people in traditional robes, but “The Governor” (Bill Moseley, PINK CADILLAC) is an American redneck. I like how it looks like a very colorful period samurai movie but then there’s a car and Moseley in a white suit and cowboy hat. (read the rest of this shit…)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I want them to keep making these franchise western martial arts movies until the cows come home. And how ya gonna get a cow back on the farm after they’ve seen KICKBOXER: RETALIATION? So I’m glad they’re keeping the prestigious NEVER BACK DOWN brand name alive with NEVER BACK DOWN: REVOLT, which came out on Blu-Ray, DVD and digital file download licensing transaction this week. It isn’t connected to the characters or events of the other three, and it’s a very different tone, but Never Backing Down doesn’t belong to any one team of filmmakers or DTV sequelizers. It belongs to the whole world of people who aspire to never backing down (in a good way). And that world apparently includes director Kellie Madison (THE TANK) and screenwriter Audrey Arkins (ELYSE), who bring us a different take on underground fighting movies, this time with all women fighters.
Anya (Olivia Popica, “Receptionist,” FANTASTIC BEASTS 2: FAREWELL TO THE FLESH) is a Chechen immigrant in London. She lives with and supports her brother Aslan (Tommy Bastow, The Crossing), a small time MMA fighter, while studying (and working as a janitor) at a nursing school. But one day her stupid brother and his stupid trainer get her into some shit – Aslan is supposed to throw a fight, but doesn’t (we got a regular Butch Coolidge on our hands here, guys) and when he’s assaulted by the thugs of kingpin Julian (James Faulkner, ATOMIC BLONDE) Anya jumps in to defend him, catching the eye of lusty fight recruiter Mariah (Brooke Johnston, ACCIDENT MAN, ). (read the rest of this shit…)