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7 out of 32 people found the following review useful:
Smart, Savvy & Outrageous, 6 December 2015

SAMURAI COP was among the wave of martial arts movies during the early-nineties and despite being one the worst of them all it had no pretensions. It reveled in its own awfulness and rightfully earned itself a loyal cult following over the twenty-four years that followed. It was a film that certainly didn't deserve a sequel and yet here we are...

SAMURAI COP 2: DEADLY VENGEANCE is the long-awaited follow-up that sees Matt Hannon & Mark Frazer reprising their roles and kicking ass as though their last exploits were only yesterday. The film is the result of a dedicated crow-funding campaign and the devotion of director Gregory Hatanaka. Fans owe him a lot of gratitude because the film is an outstanding combination of nostalgia, action, satire and self-awareness.

Frazer's detective character is still punching the clock and finds himself investigating a string of Yukuza assassinations. He tracks down his old partner, Harron, who has been off the grid for two decades and the two of them team up to take down a ruthless organization of clichéd samurai killers.

Honestly? The storyline is irrelevant. SAMURAI COP 2 is an intentionally contrived throwback film that recreates the aesthetic of the original with a full comprehension of what made that film so bad, as well as an understanding of precisely what fans loved about it. Having Hannon and Frazer reprise their roles solidifies the intended sarcasm and lends the movie a constant hilarity.

Harron and Frazer are fantastic. In a case of life imitating art Harron had fallen off the grid prior to the production. He had changed his name and left the industry and it was only when he was tracked down and discovered at the last minute that the script was re- written for his return. He steps back into the game as though he never left. He commands the screen and delivers a hysterical performance that makes it hard to imagine the original script without him. Frazer is great too. He had also stepped away from the camera many years ago and seeing the two of them kick ass again is so damn good.

The script is smart and the production values are fantastic. It is a much more controlled and artistic film than the original with strong textures and well handled cinematography. In fact it couldn't have come at a better time with creative outfits such as Astron-6 already laying the way for this particular brand of self-referential nostalgia. Gregory Hatanaka has proved to be a savvy filmmaker with a clear vision and comprehension of the genre. His handling of the action and use of night serves as a clever contrast to the first film, which was shot entirely in daylight with underwhelming action sequences.

Enjoying SAMURAI COP 2 doesn't require your knowledge of the original, but I would stress that it cannot be truly appreciated without seeing it. This is a movie packed with throw-back references, as well as countless nuances that serve as a wink to the audience, and newcomers wont recognize the elements at the very heart of the film. Track down the original. Watch it and then enjoy this wonderful sequel that deserves an even bigger cult status!


A symphony of obsession and insanity., 15 September 2015

THE SECOND COMING VOLUME 1 is a subversive film that does away with the straightforward narrative and offers the audience a genuinely surreal and eclectic marriage of ideas. It is a story about characters and their entanglements with the occult, and the film follows their exploits with a fragmented and episodic structure.

Director Richard Wolstencroft shot some of the film simultaneously with his previous feature-length documentary THE LAST DAYS OF JOE BLOW and used that project as a sort of stepping-stone to this new experimentation. JOE BLOW's subject and star, Michael Tierney, re-teams with Wolstencroft as a man on a personal quest to evoke the second coming. We follow him and a handful of other characters as they flirt with mysticism and powers that they cannot entirely comprehend. We begin in a North American desert before being whisked away to Thailand, followed by Europe and Australia as the story hop-scotches its way around the globe.

Describing THE SECOND COMING VOL 1 is not easily done. It's not a film that you simply watch, but rather, one that you experience. Blending a documentary style aesthetic with a deliberately disjointed narrative Wolstencroft presents a collage of concepts inspired by the work of W.B Yeats and leaves much of the story open to interpretation. Of course being the first volume of two, there is much more to come, and no doubt the individual stories will align and form a comprehensive vision.

The film plays almost like a marriage of ideas from the likes of David Lynch and Richard Stanley, and in fact, Stanley's film THE SECRET GLORY was in the back of my mind the whole time. My own personal response to THE SECOND COMING VOL 1 was very similar to how I react to Stanley's work. There's a deep and dark beauty to what's on the screen and the incendiary nature of the material is provocative. I walked away from it knowing that I was affected by it but I also needed time to process it. THE SECOND COMING VOL 1 is Richard Wolstencrofts best work to date as far as I'm concerned. With the montaged structure and philosophical expression he allows the audience to take from it what they will. It is a film open to interpretation and audiences will walk away from it in a whole manner of ways. Some will feel as I do while others may respond disagreeably. Nevertheless each and every viewer will have been assaulted by a confronting documentation of black magic, spiritual enlightenment, drug use and other extremities.


7 Minutes (2014/II)
8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
An impressive début from Jay Martin., 4 August 2015

"In and out within seven minutes". That's the plan for three guys staging a brazen armed robbery at a local bank. Of course if the job had gone smoothly there wouldn't be any reason to make a movie and so naturally the job goes pear shaped. Bullets fly and unexpected circumstances arise. Suddenly, what they thought was a close-knit plan, becomes an all in-affair with other persons stepping into the equation.

7 MINUTES crept up on me and took me by surprise. In fact I had never heard of it up until the point of it landing in my hands. The cover art and poster treatments were confronting and my attention was perked immediately. It is an accomplished piece of independent film-making from a first time director Jay Martin. He has constructed a multi-layered crime film with an intentionally disjointed narrative that uses the robbery itself as the backbone. The course of the film switches its focus from one character to the next and details each of their movements leading up to the crime itself. They each their own reason for being involved and when faced with the botched job it's every man for himself.

The performances here are all good. Former Aussie HOME & AWAY star Luke Mitchell has made the transition to the American scene with ease and he makes a strong impression here in his first leading role. The support around him includes players such as Jason Ritter, Kevin Gage, Kris Kristofferson and Joel Murray. All give solid turns with the stand-out being Kevin Gage. He conjures up a terrifying and psychopathic performance that lifts the film to another level.

Technically 7 MINUTES is also savvy and skilfully structured. The cinematography is awesome with wide sweeping shots and creative angles that are never so pretentious as to be distracting. The use of slow motion with an effective score by tomandandy compliment the design and offer the movie an extra coat of polish.

Of course there are also a lot of clichés and obvious tropes exploited in the film, as well as some convenient plot holes and irrelevant explorations of character traits. Ordinarily such things would irk me but with an ensemble of solid performances paired with a concise production design and a kinetic score the film moves at a breakneck pace and never oversteps its mark. With a structure not too far removed from RESERVOIR DOGS and an atmosphere of THE TOWN meets HEAT, 7 MINUTES is a surprise crime film that ought to impress most fans of the genre.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
The road to redemption is paved with blood., 3 August 2015

ROAD TO HELL is Albert Pyun's spiritual sequel to Walter Hill's cult hit STREETS OF FIRE, however, 'sequel' is not a term that suits it well. While Pyun brings back characters from the original film he has made every effort to create a whole new universe for them and presents us with a vibrant and textured piece of surrealism. Tom Cody (Michael Pare) returns after two decades away at war, in search of forgiveness and redemption. He is a different man to the one we met all those years ago and he travels with a heavy burden. The weight of death is his companion and he finds himself in a strange, desolate landscape. Along a seemingly endless stretch of highway with vivid multicoloured skies he is under the ever watchful eye of Gabriel, the archangel, who guides him home. During his travels he crosses paths with two serial killer femme-fatales who attempt to seduce him as a violent power- play unfolds with dark secrets being revealed.

The opening title cards declare "A different time. A different place. Still a rock 'n roll fable!" and they serve as an important reminder that the film stands alone. Viewers expecting a faithful recreation of STREETS OF FIRE will be sorely disappointed, however, people looking for something audacious and original are in for a treat. The fundamental elements that made Walter Hill's film so wonderful are still ever-present as Pyun recaptures the otherworldly colours and fantasy-driven violence while shrouding the narrative in a strong eclectic rock & roll ambiance. The final act, just as the original film, is comprised of live concert footage which solidifies the film as a continuation. Where Pyun has been smart is in exploiting all of these conventions and presenting them in a new, twisted and confronting way. Where STREETS OF FIRE was a fantasy driven action film, ROAD TO HELL is its surreal hellish-horror bastard child.

It's awesome to see Michael Pare and Deborah Van Vulkenburgh reprising their roles and both seem totally invested in the story. They are supported by Clare Kramer (BIG ASS SPIDER), Courtney Peldon (FROZEN), Roxy Gunn (THE ROXY GUNN PROJECT) and Joei Fulco (HEIDI). It's also great to hear Pyun regular Norbert Weisser (SCHINDLER'S LIST) offering his voice to an on-camera interview portion of the film.

ROAD TO HELL's production has been a long and arduous process, which has seen multitudes of cuts produced. It made its first appearance on the festival circuit in 2008 and has since gone through various edits, few of which made it to public exhibition. It has taken 6 years for the final cut to arrive and anyone familiar with Pyun's rapid production turn-arounds will understand that there is more to this film than most of his others. It has been a true labor of love. Over the years his reputation has been in a perpetual state of fluctuation and while average movie- goers dismiss his work, the more astute b-movie fans appreciate and value the incredible contribution he has made during his 30+ year career (52 films). ROAD TO HELL is his opus. It is not a perfect film by any means, but it is his most personal. There are things that could have been done differently to enhance its cohesion, but it's the imperfections that make it so fearless. I have been fortunate enough to have seen a few of the previous cuts and I can assure you that this final one is the strongest.

Watching the film once is not enough and it benefits from multiple viewings. The poetic nature of the narrative needs to be absorbed, as opposed to simply being viewed. It is a nightmarish existential form of expression, built upon a strong foundation and lovers of the weird, wonderful and bizarre ought to lap it up.

3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Aussie genre resurgence, 30 July 2015

If you follow my website FakeShemp.Net then you will know how important Australian genre films are to us. The industry bangs on about being on its last legs and dying a slow death and yet they seem to persistently ignore the very films that will bring moviegoers back. Yeah sure there's a place for art films and obscure dramas but not in saturation (that's the killer). The sad thing is that when good new horror films come along, they're ignored or condemned by critics (Pomeranz & Stratton on Wolf Creek 2) and are never given the attention they deserve. The fans know better and will flock to such things and it's a shame that they're forced to look harder for them. CHARLIE'S FARM is the newest Aussie flick made FOR the fans and it makes NO exceptions. Directed by Chris Sun (Daddy's Little Girl) the film adopts the typical slasher formula and follows most of the usual conventions (as the best slashers do). It tells the story of four city dwellers who venture out into the bush in search of Charlie's Farm, an urban legend and rumoured to be the abandoned home of a cannibalistic family. Of course soon after their arrival the true nature of the place reveals itself and the four friends find themselves up against a gargantuan and monstrous figure.... Charlie. Australian cinema has longed for this type of movie monster. A boogeyman to rival the greats... ie Jason Voorhees, Leatherface, Michael Myers etc. And that he does! CHARLIE'S FARM is a fantastic slasher that delivers on its promise of brutality. The kills are deliciously gnarly and the camera never flinches for a moment. To reveal these moments is to ruin everything. We might know the formula back to front but the nature of the kills is truly decadent and genre fans will lap it up. The cast is impressive too with Bill Moseley bringing a weighty amount of credibility to the film. He's so good and he once again offers cinema another uniquely quirky character as only he can. Tara Reid, surprisingly, gives one of her best performances and she's nowhere near as irritating as some might come to expect. She fits in with the Aussie aesthetic nicely. The rest of the cast are good too with the local actors giving as good as the genre could allow and horror veteran Kane Hodder drops in for kick some ass (he also co-ordinated all of the stunts). Without a doubt the star of the film is Nathan Jones... the enormous monster who rapes our brains on screen. What a presence!! Director Chris Sun is forging his place in the horror world and is climbing his way up amongst the ranks of filmmakers to keep an eye on. CHARLIE'S FARM is the movie fans have been craving and the audience I saw it with at Monster Fest erupted in a unanimous roar of cheers and applause. Full of win!

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Impressive directorial debut!, 12 April 2015

UNDER A KALEIDOSCOPE marks the directorial debut from writer Addison Heath, who previously wrote CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY VANILLA. My love of that film is no secret and I've been banging on about it all year. With that film doing the festival circuit, picking up awards and being praised wherever it goes its success can be equally attributed to Addison's incredible script alongside Stuart Simpson's immaculate direction. No sooner had CSV wrapped, Addison had announced that he was working on a brand new feature film and that he was going to direct it. That's no small task and with a team of dedicated friends and fellow filmmakers behind him he set about making UNDER A KALEIDOSCOPE. What an achievement. To my knowledge Addison had only previously flirted with one short, which makes this debut feature length film all the more impressive. It tells the story of Caleb, an agoraphobic filmmaker who spends his days tripping on acid, who befriends an abused neighbour, Beatrice. Communicating through the wall dividing their apartments they form a friendship and Caleb finds himself confronted with a violent and repulsive underworld. Beatrice's husband is a notorious criminal figure known for butchering his victims with a hatchet and Caleb is caught trying to protect his new friend from the barbaric hands of her brutal husband. Addison Heath has delivered an accomplished psychedelic thriller that is beautiful and reprehensible in equal measure. His story is a no holds barred trip into exploitation. With a hallucinogenic set design, the story unfolds in a surreal and eclectic narrative and teeters recklessly between the realistic and the fantastic. The players are all great with Kristen Condon pledging her most sincere and heartfelt performance to date. She really dug deep and tapped into something honest. Aston Elliot is also a show- stealer with his hideously reprehensible character of Roger "The Hatchet Man" Smith. If you've seen CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY VANILLA then you will recall Elliot playing the equally repulsive character, Rocko. Surely Addison gets a perverse kick out of writing these roles for Elliot and the poor bloke dug in and relished every morbid moment. I love the guy. UNDER A KALEIDOSCOPE announces Addison Heath as a dangerous and exciting new filmmaker on the scene. His two feature film scripts are worlds apart, sharing few similarities. He is clearly a filmmaker with an ability to shift between genres effortlessly and isn't allowing himself to be pigeon holed into any one formula. God only knows what he will come up with next and I sure as hell cannot wait to find out!

From FakeShemp.Net

5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Folklore and exploitation collide, 10 December 2014

So many filmmakers have me eating my words lately. I've been vocal about my distaste for the found-footage genre and yet over the last couple of years there have been some wonderful little films that have impressed the heck out of me... THERE'S SOMETHING IN THE PILLIGA is one of them. We follow two guys (Dylan & Jay) as they drive through a remote area in the northern regions of New South Wales. Dylan is a cameraman filming his mate Jay, who is a colorful, bumpkin trucker and they meet two drunk girls who agree to a late night new years eve adventure in the bush. Their escapade finds them venturing into the Pilliga National Park where things take a sinister turn and a local legend comes out to play. Director Dane Millerd has crafted his film with blood, sweat, tears and a hell of a lot of precision. While it presents itself as "found footage" the film actually evolves throughout its course and you become so enamored with the characters, particularly Jay, that you forget about the format. Each of the players deliver convincing and sincere performances and none more mesmeric than Brendan Byrne who plays Jay. This guy terrified me. At first I thought him to be more of a caricature of the Aussie "bloke" but as the film played out I kept having flashbacks to folks I've met in rural Australia over the years... and it's fair to say that this is no caricature. He might not be a villain in this story but his outback Aussie-redneck-tendencies make him one scary mother who could've easily been the love child of Mick Taylor and Chopper Read. The film's style, pacing and payoffs are all strong and Millerd effectively strings the first half of the story along at a meandering pace, allowing us to get comfortable with these characters so that when they are thrown into their hellish night of horror we are right there beside them. He also provides a believable reason for these people to venture out into the bush and avoids all of the contrived and clichéd tropes of the genre. THERE'S SOMETHING IN THE PILLIGA is a strong, formidable and welcome genre-film that toys with exploitation and unearths a folklore that has been screaming to be told. Wherever you watch this fantastic new film, do it right... IE a dark space with maximum volume and total engagement!!

Throwback (2014/II)
5 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Vernon Wells.. that IS a throwback... Yowie!, 2 December 2014

"Throwback" is one of my favourite references when discussing films and therefore you can imagine my anticipation when I first heard about a new film called THROWBACK! On top of that the film is about the mythical creature The Yowie (Australia's answer to Sasquatch) and has been promoted with one of the best damn movie posters I've seen in years... yep, I was sold before I even saw it. The film tells the story of two fortune seekers who hike into the depths of a far north Queensland rainforest in search of a lost treasure. The legend has it that a notorious outlaw went in with a fortune but never came out again... and so our two antagonists walk, paddle and climb their way into the dense wilderness and unbeknownst to them the area has also been at the centre of multiple disappearances. Before long they find themselves pitted against each other before being separated, hunted and terrorized by the terrifying yowie. Throw a female park ranger and an undercover homicide detective (Vernon Wells) in to the mix and you've got a winner on your hands. THROWBACK impressed the hell out of me. Right from the get go it's clear that we're in the hands of a filmmaker who knows what he's doing. With an eye for bold, cinematic wide shots and beautiful panning it becomes obvious that the makers of this small low budget film had big things on their mind. Director Travis Bain has used the picturesque landscape to his every advantage to help ground his schlocky story with a foundation of credibility. He makes no secret of the fact that THROWBACK is a tongue-in-cheek affair and yet amongst the farcical nature of the story is a deeply seeded horror and an effective use of suspense. Where most films of this nature would keep their creature hidden in the shadows, Bain has brought him out into the light. It's a ballsy move on his part with the risk of the film's credibility at stake... but he pulls it off and manages to present a convincing monster and a suspenseful story with the assistance of solid performances and a fantastic score. The music was composed by Amotz Plessner and the legendary Richard Band (Re-Animator, From Beyond) and it will be a real deal breaker for a lot of viewers. Their score is truly wonderful. It adds bucket loads of suspense and elevates the film to a whole other level. As the film's title would suggest Travis Bain has crafted his film with a deep seeded love for genre films and he pays homage to a whole lot of them. From a nice reference to THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK to an overall cue taken from CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE... his film is one of nostalgia and it's a whole lot of fun. It has played all around to the world at various film festivals and I was lucky enough to catch it at the 2014 Monster Fest. I can say, without any reservation, that THROWBACK was my favourite film of the festival. What it has accomplished on a small budget is nothing less than extraordinary.

33 out of 43 people found the following review useful:
Exceptional independent film., 29 September 2014

With a provocative name like THE SUICIDE THEORY and little knowledge of its story, I had no idea what to expect from this new independent Australian feature film. Suspecting something gratuitous and/or deeply disturbing I was surprised and relieved to be confronted with a unique and original film, which was dramatic and comical in equal measure. It tells the story of two men who are both dealing with unimaginable grief. One of them (Steven) has harnessed his darkness by becoming a gun-for-hire while the other man (Percival) is desperately suicidal. Percival believes himself to be cursed when no method of suicide actually works and so he employs Steven to kill him. The two men form an unlikely bond when Steven's attempts to kill Percival all fail. The story is complex and to reveal any more would be to ruin it for you. So good is this film that I uncomfortably held in one of the biggest pisses I've ever had to take. I kept waiting for a moment to quickly duck out but the film was so gripping that I couldn't leave. Every beat seemed important and to have left the cinema, even for a moment, would have ruined the film. I am struggling to find any criticisms with THE SUICIDE THEORY aside from the fact that the title may be off putting to many people... however it is a very appropriate title. Director Dru Brown has crafted an amazing looking film with rock-solid performances from every single player. Leo Cain and Steve Mouzakis are fantastic as the two leads and their on screen chemistry is undeniable. Both deliver sincere and outstanding performances. The script is good too and moves from beat to beat without drooping and it keeps the story moving at full steam ahead. The film is shot well, lit well and edited well. It's an accomplished film, which will stick with me for some time. I am already wanting to watch it again and cannot wait to see what good things Dru Brown moves onto from here. This is an exceptional film.

From my website FakeShemp.Net

Provocative, Unique & Raw, 22 September 2014

I write most of my reviews within an hour of watching the films. Writing is often my way to process what I have just seen and you can read my thoughts as they unfold. Doing this is not so easy with a film like MADE IN Australia. I need time to let this film sink in. I need to comprehend what I have just seen. It was made by a Melbourne filmmaker named Matthew Victor Pastor and he also stars as himself. It tells a semi-autobiographical story in a strange and curious way. In fact the story is more of a thought process of its own. Using an unconventional narrative Pastor recounts various relationships in his life, which have all imprinted on his psyche. His examination of these affairs is existential and his method explores different facets of surrealism. There are moments when he talks directly into the camera and then there are strange and beautiful fantasies. Not only has Pastor thought outside of the box to produce this beautiful piece of work but he has attempted to look back inside through every nook and cranny. The result is an impressive debut feature film that is challenging, confronting and passionate. Sincerity flows out of Pastor's character as he reaches into a deep place to evoke a raw and emotional performance. The rest of his cast are exceptional too, with several of the actresses pushing themselves to incredibly vulnerable places. Technically the film seems immaculate. The cinematography is strong and controlled, with varying styles being exploited depending on the locations. Shot in both Melbourne and Hong Kong the film also has an international appeal and feels bigger than what it is. Pastor is clearly a director with filmmaking in his blood. MADE IN Australia is a film made by a man who has a lot to say and has a resolute ambition to say it on screen. I hope you will all have a chance to see this film and perhaps, like myself, you will need to see it more than once. I am still reflecting on it. Still working it all out. This film sticks.

From my website

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