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Zift (2008)
8/10
Finally, we're rolling.
2 January 2009
I remember when I first heard about "Zift" some months before it was released and I couldn't believe what I had just heard and then I watched the trailer and I couldn't believe what I saw and when I finally saw the film back in early October I remember leaving the theatre with a big grin on my face, thinking how I just saw something I thought would never happen. Wonderful so very wonderful, I don't know if it can revive Bulgarian cinema, I think it's too far gone already, but I'll be definitely following Javor Gardev's career from this point on. The man shows promise as a director who thinks outside the box. Compared to that meatwagon of stale films that get made here from time to time, Zift is revolutionary in it's visual style, narrative and plot.

Opening with a reference to Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, "Zift" is the story of a man nicknamed Moth, no real name is ever mentioned. Right now Moth is a prisoner and it's the 1960s which in Bulgaria meant hardcore Communist regime, Moth was in prison before that regime came to power, but that's beside the point for now. What matters is that he's getting released today and he's all to keen in getting as far away as possible, but not before paying last respect to some prison guard he didn't really like. Result, Moth gets punched, knocked down, guards throw him out of the prison, then a car with some military officer comes along and they take Moth to some crummy place and they start torturing him. Apparently they are looking for some diamond... and it's going to be one hell of a long day for Moth and that's all I'm going to say about the story.

From the start "Zift" tells you how this is going to play out, I don't mean that it's predictable or anything, what I'm talking about is style. The dialogue, the characters, the film has a quirky pitch black sense of humor, like the zift Moth likes chewing, it's not something that can appeal to everyone, and it might seem vulgar or profane or whatever, but it has it's lyrical value, it just adds up. Every story told by a character, however humorous or shallow it might seem, has it's own kind of wisdom to it, though not necessarily connected to the storyline. The film feels both distinctly western and distinctly Bulgarian, or Balkan to be more general, because it uses a storyline similar to that of the American Pulp novels (Zift itself is an adaptation of a pulp novel), film noirs and then the character stereotypes (femme fatales, anti hero protagonist) and all these elements get mixed together with Bulgarian culture and stereotypes, resulting in what I dare say, a quite original and refreshing piece of cinematic wonder.

Visually speaking "Zift" is all high contrast black and white goodness, a tasty treat for anyone who values the classic two color scheme. Essential for it's narrative structure is a series of flashbacks explaining, character relationships and background stories and depending on the flashback (a 1930s something maybe, 1940s, or modern time in the film's time frame 1960s) we get a scene shot on different film. So for example the 1960s part of the film is shot on 35mm while the earliest on 8mm, thus giving "Zift" a substantially different look for each time segment. I have to mention something about the acting and while I liked Zahary Bahalov as Moth, he played him with a lot of bravado, my hat goes down to the supporting cast, including the great Djoko Rosic as a priest who consoles Moth, and a whole lot of other actors who gave the film a strong energy boost.

And while it does have its own share of flaws(the ending felt rushed) and it might seems as if it's going nowhere, and some scenes might seem pointless to the overall plot, Zift is, nevertheless, high quality entertainment, an example in genre film-making, stylish and sharp-edged. The least to say about Javor Gardev's debut is that it's an opening to a promising career.
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6/10
You can't really hate it
2 January 2009
This is a curious little film by Korean director Gee-woong Nam, basically an underground low budget feature, that combines surreal and cyberpunk imagery with the classic revenge plot. There are some interesting decisions in the visual aspect of the film which could be described as either good or bad depending on your taste, however it suffers from poor pacing and an unsynchronized soundtrack and you get this feeling that maybe the film makers should have spend a bit more time in the editing room.

The story is about, well, the story is about exactly what the title implies. A young schoolgirl turns hooker in the night, playing around with customers in some rather perverse scenarios, date rape, she calls it. Basically the customer pays to, chase, confront and have sexual intercourse with the girl, unfortunately when that moment occurs in the film they begin to... do their thing nearby the house of a lady who later turns out to be the mother of our unlucky heroine's schoolteacher. The teacher confronts the girl, the girl strikes a bargain, followed by a weird dance scene, followed by the date rape thing again, followed by a scene where the girl says to the teacher that she loves him and then it gets interesting. I won't spoil that much, put from that point on the film picks the pace, gets pleasantly weirder, more interesting and outright violent. The ending was a bit random though.

Visually the film is impressive considering its budgetary limitations Gee-woong pulls quite a few rabbits out of the hat and succeeds in making the film feel, if not by much, at least a little artistic. The shootout scenes are handled well enough showing of some impressive camera work, during the last few scenes. Some use of light, and wonderful design concepts further strengthen the film's appeal. The score on the other hand, like that ending felt random, tracks from different genres and time periods interwine and while that is hardly a minus, what bothered me was that these tracks, most of the times, hardly felt right. Just didn't fit the mood in the specific scene.

It's a short little film with a long title and you can't really hate it, knowing how hard it must have been for these people to write, shoot and edit the footage into an enjoyable if a bit forgettable 60 minute surreal/cyberpunk/revenge film.
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9/10
More Japanese splatter, more goodness
2 January 2009
Blood is a very important thing, I mean very important. Without it people, mammals in general, birds, fish, lizards, hell even insects tend to die. I'm afraid that is indeed true, luckily for us "Tokyo Gore Police" teaches us that an ordinary human body contains enough blood to put the entire European continent under water... under blood really. But blood can be very helpful, amazing I know, but "Tokyo Gore Police" shows us how we can use this completely ordinary not-so-interesting combination of some cells and some plasma as a stylish fashion accessory for our daily clothes. Even more, blood can help a human being fulfill one of his most ancient, ever since that video on youtube with that guy running around flapping his arms, and holy desires, namely to fly. To do so you must simply cut off or saw of your legs from the knee down and the endless gush of arterial blood will do the rest. Blood can also be used for offensive purposes, to accomplish this we must simply combine ordinary blood tissue with some brain and voila, bloody brain bullets with some nice visual and physical effect, also that way you can save some iron, some petrol, some gun powder thus ending the Financial crisis.

But "Tokyo Gore Police" teaches us so much more. Here are some short descriptions of the wisdom and brilliance director Yoshihiro Nishimura and writers Kengo Kaji and Sayako Nakoshi demonstrate in this film, in no particular order: - don't ever get on the wrong side with a woman who has jaws for legs. - on that same note, sex really hurts. - I mean really really hurts. - The worst thing that can happen to you if you're a policeman wearing a modern samurai armor is your friend, comrade and colleague trying to kill you with his penis. - having four katanas instead of four limbs looks kind of awesome. - having four machineguns instead of four limbs looks kind of awesome. - if you're planning on doing a chainsaw duel with a friend, don't do it in a crowded area, people might get hurt, oh, what am I saying. - don't ever buy one of those fist firing miniguns, pretty useless stuff.

And if that's not all, "Tokyo Gore Police" continually mocks itself, in a way, satirizing the whole violence-obsessed media by means of mock commercials, much in the same ways as Paul Verhoven did in his classic "Starship Troopers".

And if you seriously think "Tokyo Gore Police" is more cynical than some random action blockbuster just because it shows actual violence on screen, you need to rethink your moral values.

Seriously now, it's a wonderful splice of pure Japanese splatter, that doesn't takes itself seriously, but is actually pretty smart and inventive monster of a film. And running at 2 hours long it never bores with its head-on, full throttle pace, the only thing you could wish for is a sequel. Yoshihiro Nishimura, Kengo Kaji, Sayako Nakoshi a tip my hat off to you sirs, because this is a film worthy of the title: bloody brilliant.
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7/10
Watch it for what it is.
14 August 2008
Directed by Tomoo Haraguchi "Kibakichi" is an entertaining piece of samurai goodness. Using a traditional Kurosawaesque plot, throwing some fantasy/horror elements, some decent amount of gore and you get 90 minutes of exploitation cinema with a moral. Fun stuff.

Samurai werewolf Kibakichi wonders into an old town populated by Yokai (Japanese demons) and aids them against the treacherous humans trying to destroy them. And there you have it, the plot in one sentence. Of course there's more to it, as first Kibakichi questions the morality of the Yokai(they eat humans). Must deal with some personal issues in a subplot that is left unresolved. Must be moved by the Yokai's peaceful ways (sort of) and the bond they share. Must decide to leave town. Must hear the evil human traitors arrive in town with their samurai and machine guns. Must go slaughter humans in full kill mode.

It's a fun film, a remainder of the 70s and 80s chambara flicks, where gore and fantasy elements mingled together creating some ludicrously fun action scenes. Choreography and sword play are decent enough and Haraguchi shot those scenes well enough. The gore is cheesy, blood fountains are cool, but it's the creature design that really shines. Reminiscent of the old monster movies, they are what sets Kibakichi apart and are really enjoyable in a B-movie kinda way. And did I mention machine guns? Yes I think I did, but for those of you not listening, there are machine guns here, more like mini-guns to be precise and that is so cool.

We can talk about acting, but that's not really a point in these kind of films. Yes you get this kind of in your face melodrama, but it's not all too unbearable plus the film isn't really marketed as an emotional experience. Otherwise the acting was fairly decent meaning it doesn't get all too annoying.

Although in it's core "Kibakichi" is a cheesy samurai/monster film, it does tackle the issue of racism well enough. Specifically racism in Japanese society which, let's face it, even today is obviously present with foreigners and Japanese of mixed blood living in Japan don't get always get equal treatment.

If you're in the mood for a high powered, kick ass, samurai exploitation flick, then Kibakichi is a good recommendation. Tomoo Haraguchi did well with this film, here's hoping the sequel is as good as this one
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Bullet Ballet (1998)
10/10
Another example of tour de force film-making from Shinya Tsukamoto
12 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
A visually stunning experiment in motion picture storytelling Shynia Tsukamoto's "Bullet Ballet" is a semi-revenge tale, semi-philosophical examination of the human condition. It explores themes and ideas concerning both the moral and social collapse of the modern man. As his earlier works such as "Tetsuo" and "Tokyo Fist" Tsukamoto uses the visual representation, the composition of individual scenes, minimalist colour palette, in this case a wonderfully sharp contrast between black and white, to express his ideas rather than just bombarding us with excessive amounts of expository dialogue.

From the opening Goda (Shinya Tsukamoto) seems content with his life. He has a nice job working as a commercial director, has a long term girlfriend, and at the moment he is sitting at a table apparently drinking. The phone rings, its his girlfriend. They have a nice little chat, and Goda seems pleased, and why shouldn't he be, everything is alright. The conversation ends, Goda returns home and finds his girlfriend dead. She killed herself. She killed herself with a gun. Goda doesn't understand why, everything was alright, just a minute ago they were talking on the phone and now she killed herself. She killed herself with a gun. Goda is lost. He is standing in front of an old mirror in a old room, drops of water violently hitting a half-dead cockroach on the floor, Goda raises his hand, as if a gun, he aims at his reflection, tense, and pulls the imaginary trigger three times. Titles roll "Bullet Ballet", a dance of death.

A dance of death, is the easiest way to describe the movie itself, but not in the usual way mind you. Bullet Ballet is more concerned with its characters and their lack of… connection, to put it bluntly, with the world, as Goda becomes obsessed with his girlfriend's death he tries to acquire the same gun with which she shot herself. Meanwhile he meets up with this girl he once helped, and gets in trouble with some guys from the gang she's in. The girl,Chisato(Kirina Mano), is on first impression simply suicidal, but that is just first impression. Goda's obsession grows, hardened by a burning desire for revenge against the gang, he sets out to make his own gun. And then it hits us, the reality of the situation, just hints at first, but even so it is becoming clear what is happening to this man. The gun, you see, is simply a metaphor, and of course it is a metaphor for death. He wants to understand his girlfriend's death, but he is losing himself in the process. He is losing his connection to life. Reason for being? He has none. And as the story slowly rolls forward, there is this impression that the dance of death is really the idea of facing death, witnessing death, surviving death, and then being reborn again. This idea comes the observation of the relationship between Goda and Chisato, the two characters obviously seem connected by their disconnection from the outside world. They understand each other. In a way they are one character split in two, with each segment providing hints to the overall motivation of the two. Chisato provides proof that Goda is dancing with death like she is, while Goda's past hints to a traumatic experience that lead Chisato to her current disposition.

The final scene is the catharsis of the story, when the two characters finally experience all the chaos, finally witnessing all the death, seeing its effect on others, are free from their emotional blockage.

Shinya Tsukamoto wrote, directed and produced "Bullet Ballet". He was also in charge of lightning, set design … and played a leading role. The man, much like his Tetsuo is a machine, a one man film crew. Chu Ishikawa, as usual, does the soundtrack and what a soundtrack it is, as percussive industrial music hits you like a jackhammer in some of the more dark scenes. While a gentler, more depressing, yet nevertheless more optimistic tune is composed for the film's ending scene.

Beyond all the horror of death, beyond all the disturbing scenes of violence, beyond the sociopathic behavior, "Bullet Ballet" shines with its search for humanity at the darkest places, at the darkest moments, at the darkest times.
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10/10
The reason they invented cinema was to create "Tetsuo The Iron Man"
9 July 2008
"Tetsuo The Iron Man" was shot with practically no budget, with a lot of dedication, with a lot of hard work and with a lot of talent. "Tetsuo The Iron Man" is the brainchild of Japanese film director Shinya Tsukamoto and it is a brilliant piece of industrial cinema. 60 or so minutes of mind blowing, psychedelic images, moving at 200 miles an hour, it is violent and it is disturbing and it is like nothing you've ever seen before.

There is a man obsessed with metal to the point that he insert various metallic parts on his body. There is another man, an average guy, a salaryman, he has a girlfriend and a small apartment. He's a nobody who's about to become a somebody or rather a something, when he hits the metal fetishist while driving along with his girlfriend. The two dump the body in a nearby forest, then they have sex just a few meters away from the man they thought they killed. The fetishist survives of course, and plots his revenge. Soon after the salaryman begins to notice strange changes to his body. Metal starts to grow all over his body slowly consuming his flesh while at the same time fending of the metal fetishist, who uses mechanical parasites to take control of people to attack our slowly-turning-into-a-man-of-iron protagonist. This, of course, all leads to a one-on-one confrontation between the two and a bizarre but extremely satisfying ending.

Tetsuo is really the essence of Tsukamoto's cinema. It's a demonstration of his trademark style, that he uses, in various degrees, in his latter films. Shot entirely in black and white with most of the time using hand-held camera Tsukamoto keeps you up close and personal with all the carnage going on screen. It's hyper kinetic punch-you-in-the-teeth narrative, doesn't rely on dialogue but on action to tell the story. Visual metaphors play an extremely strong part in understanding the underlying message of the film. The themes of - man becoming machine, man becoming more and more dependent to machines, is beautifully explained through the disturbing special effects, stop motion animation (really, really awesome), make up, through characters or simply through the Japanese industrial landscape. The presence of the sexual element in the film is crucial as it sets the tone for the final confrontation where it becomes obvious that this really isn't about revenge or anything of the sort, it's about this strange relationship between two men/machines. Call it a love story if you would.

The soundtrack composed by Chu Ishikawa is a perfect match for Tetsuo. Raw, violent and destructive industrial music comes together with a raw, violent and destructive industrial movie, to the point you can't really separate the two. You can't listen to the OST without Tetsuo and you can't watch Tetsuo without OST.

Final verdict. This isn't something you watch while drinking beer or eating popcorn or whatever. It's not exactly what you call a comfortable movie and definitely not for the squeamish. Nevertheless as clichéd as it sounds, it is like nothing you've ever seen and in my opinion it is a cinematic masterpiece.
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10/10
Gunslinger poetry
18 February 2008
If Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time is considered an ode to the American Western with all it's fundamental elements all packed neatly in an 3 and a half hour package of visual splendor than Takashi Miike's Sukiyaki Western Django is an ode to the Italian Western through and through with all the style, violence and sound that Leone brought to the art of cinema and Sergio Corbucci used to create his most famous work "Django". A visual feast, Miike's tribute to Corbucci's work is the poetic equivalent of Tarantino's own tribute to the Italian Western (and some other cult genres) Kill Bill.

Set around, in a strikingly offbeat way to, the 12th century Heike/Genji clan wars Sukiyaki Western Django is the tale of a mysterious gunman (played by Hideoki Ito) who comes into a nearly deserted once prospering town now controlled by the two rival groups. In a sense this is the Italian West going back to its roots, it's no secret Leone was greatly inspired by the works of Akira Kurosawa with Yojimbo serving as the blueprints for the maestro's own breakthrough with A Fistful of Dollars. Corbucci's own Django used the same basic premise and now Miike follows. After some flashy display of skill, and some attempts from the two clans to persuade him to join one of them the Gunman is persuaded by Ruriko one of the few residents who remain to help the townspeople. A series of flashbacks reveal much of the background and motives behind the two clans arrival. They also open the pathway to a subplot revolving around a tragically destroyed Genji/Heike family which plays a major part in the main plot. For those of you who deem themselves Tarantino fans will have much to be happy about as Tarantino plays a bad-ass, poncho-wearing gunslinger named Ringo who introduces us to the Heike/Genji conflict and plays an important part later on.

Style is of the essence and style is what Sukiyaki has. Though a tribute to Django this is nevertheless pure Miike cinema, expect that same weird humor, surreal kinetic action, with some sexual cues (although much restrained compared to some of his previous endeavors) he's become renowned for. It's a non stop joy ride beautifully shot, the impressive set design and backgrounds, the great costumes and yes a machine gun in coffin scene, pure poetry. This is not about realism, it is not about creating a believable world but about a world that responds to the mood that adapts according to it. The final showdown represents a collision of two worlds, two genres it is the ultimate fusion of samurai and western films, the duel between the gun and the sword. There are some lovely little references only noticeable to the more vigorous Django fans, and a truly awesome ending.

What might be my only gripe with Sukiayki is the choice of language. Having the Japanese cast speak in broken-down English does sort of lessen the experience not by much comparing to some of the horrendous English dubs in some Italian Westerns but still it would have been preferable using a Japanese language track with an optional English one. That's to say the dialogue itself is a pastiche of noticeable one-liner clichés, over the top silly yet listening to entire dialogues stitched together from over used lines has a remarkably refreshing effect on those lines.

Koji Endo composes the soundtrack, it is not his first time working with Miike and hopefully won't be the last. For the film he combined, the typical Morricone-sque western music with that of the Japanese samurai flick in a modern just lightly rock adaptation.

Sukiyaki Western Django pays homage to what is now a dead genre. Dead but not forgotten. Not by Takashi Miike who uses the tools of the Italian Western to bring forth his own vision, his own take on a story well known and loved and it is a true gem.
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The Machinist (2004)
10/10
The modern reincarnation of a Greek tragedy
27 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
After his chilling horror "Session 9" Brad Anderson continues his journey exploring the darkest depths of the human mind with "The Machinist". This review is not meant to just show the aesthetic and structural qualities Anderson's movie has, but also to distance it from the impression of being a "Fight Club rip-off". The review CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS on both The Machinist and Fight Club and should only be read by people who have already seen these two movies.

Those who are familiar with Aristotle's view on art and specifically the mimesis and catharsis theories will find similarities here, or should I say an exact match to his idea for a "tragedy". "The Machinist" mimics the real world. It is not a supernatural or fantasy story, but something possible in the context of reality keeping to the "mimesis" theory (art should be something that imitates life, stays close to the rules on what is possible). The protagonist, a machinist, is plagued by insomnia and weight loss, the reason for this suffering isn't explained from the start, but later on. We sympathize with him, with the problems this man, Trevor Reznik, has. Why should an innocent, suffer like that, we ask. Why should he be punished if he hadn't committed a crime? The tragic catharsis, writes Aristotle, is the moment when the protagonist's sin is revealed, when we, the audience learn that the punishment he has received isn't unjust, when we know that innocence isn't subjectable to punishment, sin is. Scott Kosar wrote a Greek tragedy, Brad Anderson brought it to life.

The atmosphere? A bleak, nearly colorless look, sadness and dread combined. The gloomy melancholy, jitters the mind. Christian Bale's dedication to his craft is outstanding he takes it to a whole new level. What he underwent for this role, the performance, a range of emotions ranging from fear, shock, paranoia, regret,sorrow. It was more than Oscar-worthy, it was unreal. Director Brad Anderson creates tension and unease at places you wouldn't think it was possible, he delivers surprise after surprise in what may seem more like a hellish roller-coaster ride, then a traditional thriller. A low key musical score, perfect choice, for the tone. Quite a catching opening tune.

"The Machinist", it seems, ends with questions unanswered. The main plot line has been completed but some mechanisms that lead towards the conclusion are a bit fogged out of perception. Nonetheless they are there. The movie is, of course, open for interpretation and the following is simply my take on some of the sub-plots and characters.

On the opening scene. The opening scene is as we've learned, not a chronological first, but a sequence taken from the latter stage. Why? It exists as: –a stylistic approach to create tension, to grab the audience's attention from the start. –an early tip for the mystery the movie has (note Reznik's reaction, the shock in his eyes when dumping the body and when "someone" flashes him with a flashlight).

On the insomnia, weight loss and Ivan. The insomnia and Ivan are the reasons for "The Machinist" being a "Fight Club" ripoff argument. There were movies that used such ideas before Fight Club, Lynch's Lost Highway for example, it's nothing all too original. What these elements represent that is what's important. In "The Machinist" they are the punishment Trevor's guilt inflicts on him. We've all experienced guilt at one point or the other, and we know it can have an effect. Here that effect is taken to the extreme. Fight Club on the other hand had the Narrator's insomnia and split personality, Tyler Dyrden, created from frustration, his inability in adapting to the status quo, he can't sleep because he cannot see a reason for his existence, he makes Tyler who gives him a reason. Ivan is not a split personality, he doesn't take control over the protagonist's body like Tyler, no one except Reznik has seen or heard of him, he is a manifestation like Nicholas or Marie, he is the projection of sin and Trevor in the past. The Trevor who caused the accident, he will repeat it again in order to guide Bale's character to the truth.

On how Trevor Reznik lost his memory about the accident. During the sequence at the theme park where Trevor and Nicholas are walking through the dark tunnel, Trevor notes the similarities between his childhood and Nicholas's current life. Both lacked or lack a father-like figure in their life both are in a good relationship with their mothers. This is not an accident, since Nicholas is merely one of the manifestations in Reznik's subconscious mind there is little doubt that he is also a mirror image of Trevor as a young boy living with his mother. His subconscious guilt fills the gaps and fleshes out the two fictional characters using bits and pieces of his past life. This is done in order to make the two manifestations become believable to Trevor's now doubtlessly distorted perception. If Nicholas is in fact Trevor then what happened to Nicholas during the ride through "Route 666" is what actually happened to Trevor shortly after the accident. Epileptic shock as explained by Marie causes loss of memory "he will forget it ever happened". And indeed Trevor forgot, partially, in his subconscious the memory still existed.

Complex but structurally sound "The Machinist" is the dark, modern reincarnation of a Greek tragedy. Twisted and disturbing, sad but liberating, Scott Kosar, Brad Anderson and Christian Bale create a work of high caliber. Not something that can be enjoyed the way a Hollywood Blockbuster can be enjoyed, it is exhausting, yet pleasing in its own way.
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Dust Devil (1992)
10/10
The "High Plains Drifter" of horror
11 January 2008
A mesmerizing look into African lore and ghost stories, Richard Stanley's Dust Devil is an ingeniously crafted piece of cinematic marvel. A Sergio Leone western imbued with supernatural horror and surrealism it is a self-destructive journey filled with sorrow and regret.

Loosely based around the stories of a Namibian serial killer "Dust Devil" is the supernatural tale of a creature, ancient as the earth itself. He takes many forms, wandering throughout the deserts, searching not for salvation but for Death. He is attracted to those (if only subconsciously) wishing, praying for their own demise. Hungry for souls he can only offer his prey a less painful death. The true gruesomeness comes afterwards, the flesh is torn, the body severed, some parts eaten, the blood is drained and used for what it seems a ritual, the whole act after the death is a ritual. That thing caring the disguise of a man (John Robert Byrke), that Dust Devil as the people of the Namib had named him, takes a finger from his victim as a souvenir and leaves, searching for the next one. On his trail is a broken-down police detective tortured by his own inner demons. He chases the Dust Devil refusing to believe that maybe he is dealing with something supernatural. A woman, runs away from her husband, she travels past the SAR border and into Namibia. The dying town of Bethany is where she first crosses paths with the creature. There will be some romance, beliefs will be put to the test, there will be regret and there will be blood.

"Dust Devil" has this gloomy mystical atmosphere like a "High Plains Drifter" or a "Once Upon A Time in The West", whichever you prefer. The way the story is told, through small hints rather than a complete explanation about everything, it leaves room for interpretation. The way the tension builds up from the opening introduction to the Dust Devil legend and with every bit of information we learn about him after wards until the culmination. There isn't an explosion, and the tension doesn't leave after the credits start rolling, it stays with you for sometime.

Surreal imagery combined with what looks like an Italian western. Marvelously shot. The scenery combined with the Leone-sque camera-work, the least to say is that it's beautiful. The lifeless desert becomes a character of its own, brought to life thanks to Richard Stanley's stylistic choices. Simon Boswell's grim score is a perfect match to the movie's feel, endless torment for those involved in the plot.

Stanley's choice for a small cast is a good one, not just for financial concerns. The trio leading characters are fleshed out, whether likable or not, when the final confrontation comes you know you've learned everything you need to learn about them. The acting is sort of a mish mash, there some things that could've been done better I suppose but still overall pretty good stuff.

"Dust Devil" is what "High Plains Drifter" would have been had Eastwood pumped up the supernatural factor. It's a horror movie with superb atmosphere and griping plot, shot brilliantly. A forgotten masterpiece, Richard Stanley crafts artistic terror equal to some of the greatest classics in the horror genre.
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1/10
Exploitation for the nerves…
3 January 2008
I like exploitation cinema. I like the cheesy violence and sex, the low quality scripts and no budget direction that comes with the genre. It's fun brainless carnage packed with oddities and quirks used by directors whom while trying to score a buck or two also test the censorship boundaries to their limit and sometimes succeed in making something that really stands out. With that cleared, H.G. Lewis's The Wizard of Gore is a forgettable piece of trash with a sort of interesting concept behind it. It's not about it being bellow the standard grindhouse experience, the splattery violence is indeed present here, no it's about the presentation, specifically about the lack of such.

A magician performs tricks. Tricks never before seen, tricks of a gruesome violent nature. In the opening titles he cuts his head with a guillotine, shortly after reemerges fully intact. After a short introduction and a few minor tricks he chooses a volunteer from the audience, a woman, it's always a woman. Straps her on a bed and then proceeds to cut her in half with a chainsaw. All is done in clear view, and we see everything. He plays with her guts and innards and suddenly, just like that, she is whole again. Returns to her seat and shortly after the show is over dies the same way she was torn in two by the chainsaw.

Lovely little idea for a horror and I must admit it was the reason why I chose to watch "The Wizard of Gore". The quality of the movie didn't matter much back then as I mentioned already, I like the low-grade cheesy stuff. But the surprise of just how bad that quality is came as complete shock to my senses. It was low, lower than that which I had found entertaining and even lower than that which I found dull. The only possible comparison I can think of is Michael Bay doing a no budget film. There is no dread for horror. There is no cheese for brainless carnage. There is only some of the worst gore effects, camera work, editing and audio captured on celluloid. It's an endless repetition of the same scene with just slight differences. The horrible gore gets even worse, looks laughable with each passing sequence. So absurd as to how Lewis wants you to believe a mannequin stuffed with red paint is a human body. With every minute it becomes more and more unbearable indeed this truly is a torture show. I'll restrain myself from commenting on the horribly annoying acting since that was never an issue worth noting in such type of film.

The Wizard of Gore is an amateurish film showcasing horror as bad film-making and in a sense it truly is terrifying. Such a shame because a plot like this deserved something better.
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Killer7 (2005 Video Game)
10/10
Bloody brilliant from start to finish
3 January 2008
A surreal, psychedelic, dark comedy about political manipulation Goichi Suda's"Killer7" stands out as one of the most unique, complicated and mature videogames made. Like a Takashi Miike movie spliced with a bit of Seijun Suzuki it plays with some very disturbing themes in a bizarre darkly humorous manner and expressionistic visual style. It's gameplay a cross-genre between a first person and 3d person shooter with adventure elements and a prefixed rail-movement scheme. The weirdest of the weird, hate it or love it you haven't seen a video game like this one before.

Explaining the plot is a complicated deed and useless in the sense that it spoils too much, so I'll just give the barebones. Killer7 is about a struggle. That struggle could be between good and evil, it could be between two countries it could be between two entirely different cultures it could be all that combined and probably is depending on how you wish to interpretate. But above all else Killer7 is a struggle between two men, friends and enemies at the same time. Harman Smith is the Killer7 a man who has seven split personalities each a psychopathic assassin and Kun Lan mastermind behind the Heaven Smiles, invisible laughing zombie-like creatures who explode on contact this game is about their battle. A confrontation loaded with guns, guts, ghosts, smiles, wrestling, talking heads, flying brains, organ dealers, psychopaths at every corner and more.

Graphically it is not much different to its plot in terms of weirdness that is. The cell-shaded animation provides a striking minimalistic approach in terms of scenery and detail, lots of contrast between colours. An expressionist fan's wet dream. Camera work and cut-scene direction are top notch with some interesting stylistic choices such as for example the introductionary shots, some of the more violent scenes or the change in cut scene animation.

The gameplay as mentioned before is a combination of 3rd and 1st person shooters along with some puzzles to boot. During the course of the game we take control of the Killer7 detecting (hear laughing and you've got yourself a Smile nearby) and destroying large array of Heaven Smiles. Now, just shooting at them will suffice but aiming at the critical point on a Smile's body is a recommended course of action during battles because a direct hit means a direct death for the Smile and the direct death results to an explosion of blood that will be consumed by the Killer7 and can be used for healing and upgrading their skills, also it's awesomely cool. One of the more interesting and ambiguous parts of the gameplay is the on-rail movement scheme. Which means that moving is limited to just two directions: forward and backward, there are junctions where it's possible to change the rail a character is moving on and follow a different path. The idea of such a limit to exploration is to establish one simple fact: the characters, the Killer7 know more about the outlying world than the player. They know where to go and what to do at times when the player might not have a clear idea. This is done to provide the sense of mystery vital to the game's bizarre plot, playing part in the creation of the surreal atmosphere.

Bloody brilliant from start to finish. Beautiful in its visual appearance and direction and mind blowing in the plot compartment though flawed due to the supposedly missing levels. Director/writer Goichi Suda uses the video game format to present a unique story and vision that doesn't follow the clichés most games fall into, doesn't try to so desperately to emulate cinema. It is believe it or not a sign, a sign that videogames are evolving, becoming more mature and open for adapting complicated stories, with much more character and plot than a simple arcade shooter.
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Baby Geniuses (1999)
1/10
... Why ?
28 December 2007
I'm trying to write this down as clearly as possible. Even though my hands are still shaking and my mind still blurry. A result from the utmost vile and horrific experience in my life. I swear it was only five minutes that I saw. Oh such horror is as unimaginable as the worlds beyond our dimension. Like a nightmare born from the mind of Howard Lovecraft "Baby Geniuses" consumes our very souls. Pollutes our brains with images of most disturbing nature, never before seen on screen. It's like "A Mouth Off Madness" only this thing is real, somebody actually made it in reality, and it's no wonder everything is falling apart. Only five minutes I saw, yet that image will haunt me for years to come. Bob Clark created a entirely new kind of horror. A kind of horror where there are no monsters, no gloomy ghost infested houses, no psychopathic killers no nothing of the horrory kind...

It was babies...it was talking babies...it was talking babies who fought evil... it was the vomit inducing image of talking babies who fought evil.

The horror... the horror...
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Furîjia (2007)
7/10
The gunplay is the central beauty in this moody tale of revenge and regret
28 December 2007
"Freesia" has one of these nifty "Battle Royale"-ish ideas where something otherwise believed to be taboo is turned into a part of your everyday common Japanese folk's life. The goal of the matter is to present themes which effect human emotions or in the case of "Freesia" lack of emotions. Directed by Kazuyoshi Kumakiri the movie is a mixed bag of impressions. Kinda of weird actually because some of the stuff was extremely good while other parts were sort of disappointing. Such contrast between good and bad in a movie isn't exactly common, and it makes me wonder. Why wasn't it all good ? Surely some will like it more than I did but that's them, not me.

"Freesia" opens with it's two major plot points on-screen in text.

One is about a government law allowing people to exact their revenge on those who have wronged them. This happens through a so-called retaliation agency, they deliver a court order to the target and assign the hit men who are supposed to kill him. The target himself has the right to hire a bodyguard to defend him. The two sides receive the same weaponry, usually a handgun with a limited amount of ammo. The battle usually takes place around the defendant's home with the whole area sealed off by the military until the end of the execution. Nice concept but it's a shame the mechanism pulling it is mortally flawed thanks to the lack of information we receive about it from the movie's narrative. For example what happens to a defendant who succeeds in defeating his assassins? Or what does a success rate of 80-90% percent for a bodyguard mean, seeing as how the whole execution act is played to the death by both sides? Questions that are never answered. A shame really, a working concept becomes believable in a sense. Just look at "Battle Royale", flawless.

Two is about a military experimental missile that on impact unleashes a cold wave that freezes the surrounding area. As the story moves on we discover that a class of orphans were used as guinea pigs to test the missile's destructive power. The trio central characters played a part in that experiment. One is left after revenge, another left numb and feeling no pain is on a conscious self-destructive course, and the last full of regret just wants to be left alone. The movie ends with a bloody confrontation, comparable only to a Sergio Leone stand-off.

Now I have to hand it to director Kumakiri what he did with "Freeasia" was a cold, merciless and morally ambiguous film that at times, for thematic reasons, goes over the top gory (a woman hand is blown off). It's characters scarred by their experience with violence, show a complete lack of any emotion. Bloody and raw, the gunplay is impressive in it's simplicity. Just short outbursts of violence. Devoid of modern stylization techniques such as slow motion or the balletic acrobatics. Characters do not display Neo-like abilities. The way a gun is handled, that professional touch, those wonderful far camera long-shots and the minimalistic sound approach (no techno-metal-rock soundtrack here) that was what made the shootouts impressive. Sadly enough camera work beyond the action sequences was not so memorable. At some scenes it was either too shaky or it moved in strange angles or both. Perhaps to give the movie a more raw-documentary style, perhaps something else. What matters is that made it look amateurish when it shouldn't have.

"Freesia" is as cool, dark and brutal as it's sub-title suggests. But it's flawed plot nevertheless takes something away from the otherwise decent presentation. Kazuyoshi Kumakiri's movie was an enjoyable experience close to being something more than that.
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Dead or Alive (1999)
9/10
This motion picture is like nothing you've ever seen
22 September 2007
In what has already become his trademark, Takashi Miike disregards all cinematic laws, censorship, tight budgets as he turns what should have been a straightforward yakuza movie into a mind-blowing experience. From the opening scene Miike's "Dead Or Alive: Hanzaisha" grabs the attention of the audience. Synchronized to the beat of instrumental rock music Miike floods our senses with images of sex, violence and drugs. Moving at such high speed that overwhelm our ability to comprehend just what the hell is going on. The highly kinetic pace soon let's go and leaves for a more standardized narrative to take it's place. And as the story progresses everything starts making perfect sense.

"Dead Or Alive: Hanzaisha" is about the conflict between two men. A vengeful yakuza named Ryuuichi played by Riki and a determined cop Jojima played by Sho Aikawa.

Ryuuichi along with his small gang start a brutal war against the local crime syndicates leaving countless dead behind. Jojima is the men in charge of the investigation against Ryuuichi and his cohorts. While at the same time he too fights his own war against the same yakuza. Two men on different side of the laws, polar opposites. At least that's the way it looks from early on. But as the story develops and more facts about them are revealed we find that this is not quite true. Both Jojima and Ryuuichi care for their families and their well being. Both lose friends and loved ones either in their wars against the yakuza or during their own conflict. The final confrontation between the two who are the different sides of the same coin, breaks all cinematic conventions. What should have been a rather standard shootout Miike turns into an absurdish battle with devastating consequences. You cannot get both heads and tails when throwing a coin. That defies basic logic. When logic breaks, chaos emerges, destroying all. In this context such an ending is to be expected, but not by cinematic law. That is what makes the final scene so unbelievable, that's what makes Miike one of the few who think outside the box.

Visually "Dead or Alive" retains the characteristics of a yakuza movie. The cinematography keeps to the established look and feel of the genre. While Miike as usual throws in his usual amounts of bizarre humor along with some stomach churring violence with the touch of perversion. It becomes immensely entertaining to watch because you never know what to expect next. Testing the limits of censorship with it's content.

At first "Dead Or Alive" might seem like an ordinary movie. It is everything but never ordinary. Whether he did just to anger the production company or censors, Takashi Miike forged a cult classic movie that stands as an example of daring, creative and original film-making.
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8/10
The visceral pleasure of watching cyborgs tear each other apart
22 September 2007
Directed by the duo Yudai Yamaguchi (Battlefield Baseball) and Jun'ichi Yamamoto "Meatball Machine" is apparently a remake of Yamamoto's 1999 movie with the same name. I doubt I'll ever get a chance to see the original so I'll just stick commenting on this one. First of what is "Meatball Machine" ? A simple in noway pretentious low budget industrial splatter flick packed with great make up effects and gore. It's not something you'll end up writing books about but it's nevertheless entertaining if you dig this type of cinema.

"Meatball Machine" follows the well known plot. Boy loves girl but is too afraid to ask her on a date. Boy finally meets girl. Girl gets infected by a parasitic alien creature that turns her into a homicidal cyborg. Boy, in turn does also transform into said thing, and goes on a quest to save his love. Will he succeed? Who gives a damn, as long as there is carnage and death I'm satisfied.

The plot is simple, relatively clichéd but it does it's job well enough setting the movie's course straight forward into a bloody confrontation between the two leading characters. There is a subplot focusing on how the parasite that infected the girl came into to their lives. And yes it too luckily shows more violence. I'm happy. Acting is what you would expect from a no budget splatter film. It's not exactly painful for the ears but it's not exactly good either.

The movie's main attraction besides the violence and gore (like I haven't mentioned that enough already) are the cyborg designs. Done by Keita Amemiya who's work in creating outlandish creatures and costumes for both movies and video-games is well known. The necroborgs as they are called in "Meatball Machine" look stunningly detailed. Without the usage of CGI Amemiya's designs are a breathtaking fusion of flesh and metal, painfully awesome in their appearance. Able to transforms various parts of the body into cool weaponry such as saws, rocket launchers, blood-firing shotguns and so on and so on. Though you can easily recognize the cheapness of the film, necroborgs are A-movie class.

"Meatball Machine" is "Tetsuo The Iron Man" mixed up with "Alien" all done in low budget and extra ketchup mode. It's an immensely entertaining film that disregards modern special effects and proves that the splatter genre is still alive and kicking.
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Elektra (2005)
3/10
High expectations that don't materialize.
21 September 2007
I really wanted to like "Elektra", I really did. I've read some of the Frank Miller graphic novels and was amazed. His writings spawned a dark unsettling world on which to unfold Elektra's tragic, brutal and remorseless story. The movie adaptation directed by Rob Bowman was nothing even remotely close to what Miller had created, even though it claimed to be inspired by the same stories he had written. This was a childish, shallow film made for the mass audience, and proudly carrying that big PG-13 sticker.

"Elektra" plays out much like a Japanese ninja movie in the tradition of "Ninja Scroll" or "Shinobi" with the title character battling a group of supernatural warrior-ninjas. The problem comes from the small fact that neither the action scenes are any good nor is the plot.

Bowman's film follows Elektra on her path to redemption. After she refused to assassinate a girl and her father, she crosses swords (or sais if you would) with a group of assassins known as The Hand who aim to finish the job she didn't complete and kill her as well. Naturally Elektra helps the family with the usual ongoings commencing afterwards. Though it does have it's share of plot twists and turns, the film's storyline is not anything mind-blowingly original. It's been done before and I must say, it's been done much much better. Characters as if trying to perfectly imitate a comic book's illustrations are two dimensional. There is no sense of detail in them. The villains specifically are just cannon fodder for our heroine to defeat in rather unimpressive ways. The Elektra in Miller's books was described as a very cold, cunning and determined individual, here this is the exact opposite. Neither is she cold (helps the family), nor cunning (is out-tricked by the evil ninjas several times) nor even determined (tries to leave the family as soon as she can). Even in the opening scene Garner's performance stands unconvincing compared to the true nature of her character.

That PG-13 must have really hurt, not only is the plot bright and cheerful but so is the whole look of the film. Whereas 2002's "Daredevil" retained some visual similarities with the comic it's based upon, "Elektra" which acts like something of a sequel simply cries out - made for kids only. There is nothing that deserves to be mentioned about the cinematography. It's mediocrity is just disappointing. The fight choreography is as unimaginative as every other Hollywood action movie.

I won't, I refuse wasting anymore time on this hopelessly shallow piece of work. I close my review mentioning the only similarity between what Miller made and what Bowman made. Both made tragedies. While Miller told his story like a Greek tragedy, Bowman made a tragically weak movie that does not deserve to be called "Elektra".
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Begotten (1990)
4/10
An interesting idea shot-down by the exploitation of a gimmick
21 September 2007
Directed by E. Elias Merhige "Begotten" is an experiment with a few interesting ideas that don't quite succeed in what they were trying to do. The film is a 76 minute ultra slow, questionably effective, irritating experience that tries to present an intriguing philosophy about the creation of the Earth and human nature.

It opens with god presented as a chair-bound psychopathic man who tears open his stomach using a knife. From the guts, blood and human waste Mother Nature emerges. She proceeds to impregnate herself with the dead god's semen. Later she gives birth to the Son of the Earth. A retard who is constantly abused a group of cannibalistic people whom I believe to be the representation of mankind.

"Begotten" takes a twisted and disturbing look on the origin of life. Demonstrating the self-destructive nature, violence, lust and greed that have become a trademark for mankind. The problem in the movie come from two points. One is that the film is just too slow in it's exhibition. What we get is a good thirty minutes spent on showing how the Son of the Earth is constantly shaking naked on the ground while at the same time being molested and tortured by mankind. Such tasteless prolonging gets boring pretty fast and lacks the punch in delivering a blow to the viewer's senses.

Another point is "Beggoten's" visual appearance and sound. The grainy, inverted, black and white low frame cinematography enchants the disturbing factor of the plot, but such novelties often work in only short periods of time. Then gradually begin to lose their effect as the audience becomes accustomed to the look. The audio suffers from the same problems. It's constant repetitive and similar sounds become annoying so fast I had an urge to turn off the volume. "Begotten" loses it's charm shortly after it begins. It tries to be original and creative but it fails to expand on the ideas hinted by the vague plot instead it repeats the same scene again and again.

The conclusion is that "Begotten" is stuck in one moment. Even though plot-wise it tries to move forward, the visuals and audio remain the same throughout. Showing the same action in a slightly different way with just slightly a different sound. A gimmick cannot alone make a movie. It also needs pace and variety, something Merhige seems to have forgotten.
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Hellraiser: Inferno (2000 Video)
9/10
An unstoppable, terrifying assault on the senses
21 September 2007
The first "Hellraiser" movie I ever saw. "Inferno" left me scarred and disturbed. The whole experience of watching the film was that of sheer terror that grows with each passing minute. Now after having seen all of the movies, read the novel and becoming accustomed the Hellraiser mythos I recently got a chance to watch it again. To see if my opinion on this fifth sequel changes. It didn't.

Yes "Inferno" does not follow the ideas established by Clive Barker in his novel "Hellbound Heart" which is the basis for the Hellraiser series. And yes it basically uses the status of Pinhead as a horror icon to draw an audience. But I'll be damned if I say that it is a bad film for just those reasons. "Inferno" is in fact a well constructed, technically superb sequel with an interesting plot and characters.

The film centers on Joseph Thorne played by Craig Sheffer. A brilliant but corrupt detective who during a homicide investigation comes into the possession Lemarchand Configuration. He opens the box and then it begins. Reality for Thorne soon turns into a nightmare that grows more and more powerful as his investigation leads him towards a mysterious figure known only as The Engineer.

"Inferno" explores the possibilities of redemption. Sheffer's character is certainly a very flawed individual and he knows it. But his determination to solve the case and hopefully save a human life is in his mind the path to redeeming himself, in front of his own eyes, his family, and those around him. Sheffer delivers a convincing performance which greatly helps in solidifying the idea. Other members of the cast include Nicholas Turturro playing Thorne's naive and honest partner Tony Nenonen, James Remar as a doctor Paul Gregory a psychiatrist and good old Doug Bradley once again playing his iconic role as the rational sadistic demon, Pinhead.

Visually speaking "Inferno" is as impressive as the first two "Hellraiser" movies. Gone are the b-movie quality effects and Cenobite designs which played part in the failure of the third and fourth films. Pinhead's image is not overused and he only appears during the final portion of the film when the nightmarish atmosphere is at it's highest. Delivering the final crucial blow to Thorne's broken psyche. The new cenobites are freakishly well done, and cleverly fit in to the movie's psychological character driven plot.

Severely underrated Scott Derrickson directed a great horror film that leaves strong a impression. Like a never-ending nightmare it keeps you constantly on the edge, expecting the unexpected.
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Junk (2000)
7/10
Entertaining tribute to the masters of Italian horror
20 September 2007
"Junk" is as it's own name suggests, well junk really. A low budget Japanese zombie film that can neither impress with great visual effects nor strong acting or plot. But what does do and does well in my opinion, is to recreate the feeling and entertainment value of eighties Italian zombie flicks. In other words "Junk" is trashy fun.

After successfully pulling of a jewelry heist the group of four robbers head of towards an abandoned warehouse where the supposed buyer would be. Unknowingly to both parties, that same place was the dumping ground for a failed American military experiment on bringing the dead back to life. Needless to say what happens when our heroes arrive. It's a simple well known plot that doesn't demand any form of thinking. You just sit-down with a beer-pack and some popcorn in hand and enjoy the on screen carnage. The unpretentious design is what holds "Junk's" charm and of course the violence does also help in that matter.

The acting again in the spirit of Italian horror leaves something to be desired. The Japanese actors did relatively well for this sort of film. Which basically means they didn't get on my nerves with absurd performances or just monotonic line reading. American actors on the other hand were awful, unbearable. Director Atsushi Muroga should have written their characters off plot and sticked with only Japanese actors. The reason for the bad performance does not fully fall on the actors's hands. In this case it's easy to see that the language barrier and Muroga's inability to properly direct the English speaking cast due to his own apparent lack of knowledge in that language are the true problems.

The action is fairly good. Practically most of the movie's running time is filled with shootouts, zombie attacks or both combined. Muroga keeps a fast pace and with a short running time "Junk" doesn't get boring. As any other zombie movie so is this one packed with gore. Necks bitten, legs and arms cut off, people being eaten, heads smashed it's got the needed ingredients to deliver a fun experience.

Atsushi Muroga' "Junk" makes for a delightful yet forgettable zombie film. Mainstream audience should definitely pass the chance on seeing it. But highly recommendable to fans of the trashy low-budget horror genre.
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10/10
Absolutely brilliant from start to finish
19 September 2007
Coated with style, violence and wit "Reservoir Dogs" is Quentin Tarantino's entry into the cinematic world. A brilliant, well written and entertaining character driven film about a group of burglars that know each other only by the nicknames given to them by their employer. Hired by him to pull of a jewelery heist. But it all goes terribly wrong.

Told in an nonlinear fashion the movie focuses on the aftermath rather than the heist itself. Exploring the different characters using a narrative that goes back and forth in time. So when a scene ends what follows does not continue the storyline from the one that ended. Rather, it moves back into such a moment of the film's time-line providing answers to questions created in the former scene. In order for such storytelling to actually work, the scenes themselves must be structurally independent form one another. Each must carry enough plot points, tension and also have a certain sense of completion by the time it ends. Tarantino succeeded with staggering results. His "Reservoir Dogs" is a fast paced movie with tension building up into every scene and then exploding at just the right moments.

The acting in a movie like "Reservoir Dogs" plays a vital part in it's success, dare I say the most important part. If the actors couldn't play their roles well. If they couldn't pull of a strong performance all that careful planning, the setting, plot and dynamics would have gone to waste. But as it turned out once again everything is perfect, couldn't have been made better. Every character is acted with such professionalism, it's like the actors knew these people they were playing all their lives. From the cool but psychopathic Mr. Blond played by Michael Madsen, the calm, rational Mr Pink played by Steve Buscemi to the noble but sometimes unreasonable Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) who becomes something of a father-like figure to the morally confused Mr. Orange (Tim Roth). It's hard to imagine some other actors being to so perfectly deliver every line of Tarantino's witty, colorful dialogue the way the did it.

Looking at the style and directing techniques it's not hard to notice from where Tarantino draws his inspiration. The choice of fashion, the use of Mexican stand-off, the eyeglasses and long takes. It was from the works of people such as Sam Peckinpah, Martin Scorsese, John Woo. The movie pays tribute to them and to the look, feel and sounds of the seventies. But that does not leave Tarantino without any originality. His huge knowledge on cinema, unique writing skills and grounded approach help him to create this combination of different styles for which he has received both praise and criticism.

So what is "Reservoir Dogs" all about? I'll tell you what. It's about this ambitious guy named Quentin Tarantino who, armed with a great deal of determination, a low budget and a great cast made an unforgettable movie
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9/10
Low budget trash... and it's awesome.
17 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
More entertaining than all the gay orgies in "300" combined. More heartbreaking than a Shakespearian tragedy. More poetic than even the most melodramatic poems about lost love and blah blah blah. And on top of all that, the greatest trash ever made.

A black comedy testing the limits of the human senses, John Waters's cult movie "Pink Flamingos" is a story about the conflict between two families that ends in humiliation, death and of course the eating of dog feces (yeah by the way that is not actually the humiliating part). No no, this is not about the impossible love, there are no Romeos or Juliets on these 90 or so minutes. This movie is about the battle for prestige if you could call it that. The battle for the title - Filthiest person alive.

On one side we have Divine (played by the cross-dressing Waters regular... umm... Divine) a caring daughter, good mother, cannibal, murderer, pervert and current owner of said title. She loves her son Crackers a bit way too much. Crackers himself sports a sexual attraction to both chickens and young ladies sometimes mixing them up in threesomes. Family friend and loyal accomplice Cotton gets her satisfaction from watching Crackers during some of his... acts involving the mentioned earlier objects of attraction. Last but not least Divine's mother and grandmother to Crackers, Edie. A 400 hundred pound woman, sleeping, eating and basically living in a baby cradle. She is addicted to eggs and loves the egg-man (the man who brings the eggs...lol).

The four of them live peacefully in a caravan outside the city until the moment when they become a target for the Marbles. Exhibitionists, manipulators, cheaters, very evil people actually. Their main source of income comes from the kidnapping and impregnating of young women. For the impregnating part they use their trusted and loyal cross-dressing butler to provide the semen. After that they sale the birthed child to the highest bidder.

It was the Marbles's envy towards Divine and her title that will lead to an inevitable confrontation between the two families. An Epic battle of filth, perversion and violence.

"Pink Flamingos" is an unsurpassed masterpiece in the trash-movie genre. Loaded with oddities and strange acts, John Waters's movie is loathed and hated by traditionalists, critics and the average movie-going audience. But for the few that remain unscratched by these generalizations the Flamingos is an unforgettable experience. Funny and sick, violent and poetic. It truly is an exercise in poor taste
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8/10
Violent, gritty cinema. You gotta love it.
17 September 2007
"The Way of the Gun" is Christopher McQuarrie's modern version of two late 60s western classics, George Roy Hill's "Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid" and Sam Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch". A complex morally ambiguous movie about two drifters and their suicidal desire for easy money.

Ryan Philippe and Benicio Del Toro play the characters nicknamed by Philippe's opening narration as Mr. Parker and Mr. Longbaugh (reference noted). Homeless and unemployed both live on the edge, traveling from town to town and surviving by means of petty jobs. Until a chance, an overheard conversation and they have now set their course on doing something far more serious. Kidnap for ransom. But as they begin to execute their plan, what looked like a simple job soon becomes far more difficult and complex as they have first thought of. The storyline is a web of motives all of which intersect at one position, the kidnap victim (played by Juliette Lewis). As the movie progress both Parker and Longbaugh change. They cannot be defined as good people no one in "The Way of the Gun" can be except maybe the kidnap victim herself. Yet that which happens to the two leads them to one first and final act of redemption.

Keeping with the true spirit of "The Wild Bunch" McQuarrie explores various themes. Honor, loyalty, redemption, the gruesome realistic portrayal of violence. And as a final cue to Peckinpah's classic, the last shootout in the hotel on the middle of the Mexican desert. McQuarrie throws in his own familiar brand of witty yet vulgar dialogue and plot twists, creating an elaborate film, that gets a bit too confusing for it's own good. Specifically the motivations for the leading characters. As I mentioned earlier they change as the movie traveled towards it's conclusion. In the final act they do the right thing from a moral point of view, what bugs me is the lack of reason for such transition. Yes there were scenes in which Parker showed signs of kindness, but Longbaugh remained pretty much the same until that moment and it looked strange how he suddenly had a change of heart.

From a technical point of view "The Way of the Gun" looks good. McQuarrie directs the film in an utmost realistic fashion, he doesn't use slow-motion for shootouts, nor excessive violence. Shootout scenes themselves were choreographed by a former Navy Seal and look stunningly believable. The acting is tolerable, doesn't ruin the mood.

As it stands "The Way of the Gun" is a very good movie with a somewhat overly complex flawed storyline. It leaves a certain feeling. Like maybe, something vital was cut during post production. Something that could have turned this movie from "very good" to "great".
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10/10
Disturbingly beautiful, thoughtful, free from the cinematic boundaries
26 July 2007
Much like Alejandro Jodorowsky's previous work "El Topo", "The Holy Mountain" is a deeply spiritual movie. Although here Jodorowsky takes that to the extreme, spinning a surrealistic tale about a man whose journey leads him on a quest for immortality. The film is a visual bombardment of the senses in which series of bizarre and often symbolic scenes are what is used to drive the plot forwards and Jodorowsky knits them together in a perfectly twisted logical way. Turning the film into a truly unforgettable experience.

"The Holy Mountain" is a confusing movie at first, but clearer and clearer as it moves to it's conclusion. And though chances are it won't make perfect sense after the first viewing, that is quite enough to spawn a general idea of what it is about.

Jodorowsky has much to say about human nature. As seen from the early beginning of the film, a half hour compilation of violently humorous yet disturbing sequences that present several, uncomfortable facts about the world we live in. After those are through the movie's plot begins to move forward. As mentioned earlier it involves a man's quest for immortality. That man, The Alchemist played by Jodorowsky himself leads in his journey a group of nine other individuals searching for the same thing. Eight of them are leaders of a separate planet, each with a background explained. With them, Jodorowsky proceeds to further his criticism aimed at humanity. While different these backgrounds share one common and vital characteristic, those eight people are all vile repulsive human beings, drawing their gains from the suffering induced upon others. Though their motives are shallow and transparent their journey to the Holy Mountain where immortality lies will have a profound effect on each and every one of them. Thus leading into a conclusion that is equally satisfying yet unsuspected.

Visually speaking Jodorowsky has made an work of art. Cinematography is perfect, set design is unbelievable, the music fits with the atmosphere and it's just oh so magnificent. Watching every scene, every shot, every movement of the camera, every weird act performed. Disturbing yet funny, perverse yet beautiful, violent yet touching the film carries so many distinct emotions that it become hard to categorize it in any of the known genres.

Beneath all it's visual content - violence, disturbing and sometimes perverse imagery, "The Holy Mountain" is and forever will be one of the most morally conscience and humane movies made. A bizarre surrealistic satire that not only laughs at the diseased human nature but also offers a potential cure for it. Alejandro Jodorowsky's masterpiece achieves immortality.
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9/10
Even in his declining health Lucio Fulci still proves that he can make a great splatter.
13 June 2007
"Cat In The Brain" is a series of extremely violent sequences knitted together by a plot that feels more like an overview, describing director Lucio Fulci's most notorious years of film-making. The movie could also be seen as a dark comedy of sorts, effectively spoofing the various claims that violent cinema causes violence in real life. Fulci goes further than that, he casts himself as the star, the central figure of the film thus showing the audience who is the man behind all the cinematic gore. "Cat in The Brain" is not about presenting a clear story and following it. Instead it pokes fun at some of the clichés that have been surrounding the horror genre for years.

Lucio Fulci plays himself as a horror director struggling to keep his humanity intact. Years of violent film making have finally began to reach him. It starts slowly, steaks and meat in general begin to disgust him, his colleagues assure Fulci that all he needs is some rest. But that doesn't help and soon the grotesque ideas for his movies begin to overwhelm his daily thoughts. In an attempt to find a cure for his dangerously maddening mental state Lucio starts going to the local psychiatrist. Unfortunately that does more wrong than good and Fulci is thrown into an even bigger mess, as the psychiatrist turns out to be a psychopath, who mimics the murders from Fulci's films in real life.

The film retains all the trademarks of Italian splatter cinema, good or bad they are all here. So any comments about the acting or the technical aspects and budget constrains are quite irrelevant as to the quality of the film. It is a visual experience, no doubts about it. Fulci throws in an incredible amount of violence easily surpassing pretty much everything he's made. Amputated by chainsaw limbs, cannibalism, child murder, decapitation, these are just some of the many grotesque acts witnessed in "Cat In The Brain". Some of them are obviously recycled from a few the director's less profile movies but they don't stand out of the context, and actually feel quite at home here. As I noted before the movie exists much better as a satire of the genre rather than a serious piece. The way some of the violence is presented does help establish that idea. Such sequences shortly after climax are rejected by the reality in the film, as they are revealed to be actually scenes inside a movie that Fulci's character is directing. This sort of "film in film" presentation lessens somewhat the impact of the gore. But in no way does it make it an easy to watch film. Oh no this is far beyond and above the levels of gore found in mainstream horror, and gorehounds will in no doubt be satisfied with that fact.

Lucio Fulci was a very polarized figure. People either hate his work or love it. "Cat in the Brain" won't convince any of Fulci's detractors in the opposite but it is nevertheless an interesting part of his filmography. One that fans should really check out.
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Bad Boys (1995)
3/10
This is just "Bad"
13 May 2007
After catching glimpses of "Bad Boys" for several times on TV I finally decided to watch the whole thing intact. But after doing that I found myself puzzled. For what reason is "Bad Boys" so highly regarded as a great action movie? In my desperate attempts at trying to grasp any form of entertainment from this feature I finally came to the realization that it's impossible for me to like it. Much to some people's surprise I found the film's "style" to be a shallow, incompetent imitation of John Woo's ultra kinetic Hong Kong films. Everything that "Bad Boys" does has been already made, only much much better.

So what is "Bad Boys" all about ? Well, uh, it's about Will Smith running around in slow-motion while talking a lot, and yeah there's this other guy Martin Lawrence who also talks a lot. They're cops, they are the Bad Boys who talk their mouths off, run their legs off, shoot their guns off. Naturally Michael Bay does all that in slow-motion, because that's what action movies are all about you know, slow motion. Oh and did I forget to mention that there is a generic bad guy, not bad as the two titular anti-heroes mind you. This character, he's your basic action movie villain who is obviously evil for the sake of being evil. And of course is the person who our two brave "Bad Boys" must defeat in an epic slow-motion battle to the death filled with over-the-top explosions, one-liners and car chases all directly taken from the "generic action movie clichés" handbook.

"Bad Boys"'s overly simple plot exists for the sole purpose of providing us with enough reasons to watch the series of action sequences the movie's made of. That wouldn't have hurt all too much had these scenes been directed capably, yet Bay demonstrates an inept ability to create an entertaining action piece. All such sequences are bleak and devoid of originality, stuffed with slow-motion, randomly used, making less sense as to why it was added. The usual reason would be to enhance certain dramatic moments in a movie, or for stylistic approach during complex action scenes. Seeing as the first one is impossible to integrate here and the second is just not directed with any understanding of detail what we are left is an approximately 40 minutes of slow-motion that does it's job in extending "Bad Boys" into a near two hours length. Making this already boring film into an test of will. More than once I was tempted to turn off my TV and stop wasting time with the predictability on screen, fighting of the urge to laugh it all off in denial.

I'm not actually sure there's anything more to say about "Bad Boys". It's such a sub-par movie that it's action becomes forgettable soon after viewing, leaving only the flaws to remind me why I should never watch anything stamped with the sign "Hollywood Action Movie". Then again it's not such a big surprise why so many people liked it. It's crude visuals could prove to be impressive enough for people not as familiar with the genre as the more hardcore fans. Then again I don't count myself amongst genre fans so it's anybody's guess why it appeals so much to audiences
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