And films I’ve already seen in the theaters and quite enjoyed:
Movies that initially grabbed me because of the poster or reviews, but turned out to be disappointments:
- DEEP IN THE DARKNESS- Loved the poster, but unfortunately from an initial good build up, just came to an underwhelming end.[NETFLIX]
- AS ABOVE SO BELOW – Another film that started with an interesting premise, but simply squandered it, in a derivative and uninteresting film.
- DARK FLOORS – It fails the stupid test, ie ‘Would a rational person do this, given this’. More often than not, most Horror movies, fail the Stupid test. And once you fail that Stupid test a few times, I lose any interest in caring about the protagonist or wanting to finish the movie. 40+ minutes in, leaving your kid, with someone who has already made a threat against your kid, in a survival situation. Who the eff would do that? No one! I’m out![AMAZON/HBO]
- THE FOREST – This tale of a missing twin… YAWN. Bored to death in 15 minutes. [AMAZON/HBO]
These films rocked!
- LIGHTS OUT aka DANS LE NOIR/IN THE DARK – Loved the short film, and the director managed to knock it out of the park for the feature length version. I’m waiting for a DVD/Blu-Ray with Director’s or cast commentary. That’s how much I liked this film. A solid GREAT.
- NO ONE LIVES- This puts a nice little spin on the standard slasher flick, by having the victims be ruthless criminals. I’m not a slasher fan for the simple fact I have no interest in watching bad guys terrorizing young women. But bad guys taking out bad guys, seems a bit more fair to me. And this one has a quality director and is much better made than the typical genre fare.A solid VERY GOOD.
- KEANU- This Key and Peele film is surprisingly good. Lots of fun. A solid VERY GOOD.
- THE REVENANT – Dicaprio earned all accolades for this role, as does the director, Alejandro G. Inarritu who has proved himself with a handful of films to be one of the best Directors in the world (up there with directors such as Alfonso Cuaron of CHILDREN OF MEN fame). This film is the definition of harrowing, I had to fast forward the middle of the bear scene, I couldn’t watch that, it was that intense and grueling a scene. And the film is one long crawl, that unexpectedly opens up to moments of stark beauty amidst the horror. I do think the film veered a little into self important territory, especially with that ending, but overall it does what it sets out to do. It stuns. Fantastic camera work, makes this a must see. That said it still isn’t in the same league as JERIMIAH JOHNSON from the 1970s. But the REVENANT, minor issues mentioned, is a solid GREAT and MUST SEE.
- BATMAN THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS PT 1 – A fantastic and very faithful adaption of the Frank Miller classic. A solid GREAT.
- DEADPOOL- I had my doubts about the hype, but the hype was warranted. A solid GREAT.
- BATMAN V SUPERMAN DAWN OF JUSTICE – I read quite a few less than stellar reviews of Zack Snyder’s Theatrical version of this film. But finally seen, some wonky bits aside, I thought it was fantastic. Ben Affleck’s BRUCE WAYNE/BATMAN I thought was great, as were all the other actors. I loved Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Luthor. He joins a host of talented actors to portray the character and all of them bring something unique to their take. A solid GREAT! I liked it so much I’m buying the ULTIMATE EDITION which has 30 more minutes and is generally written up as an improvement on the theatrical.
- THE CELL- Speaking of great directors, TARSEM SINGH is one of the foremost visualist Directors working today. His films are sumptuous visual feasts. The problem is the stories tend to be lackluster at best. THE CELL marries a basic police procedural, very much Michael Mann’s MANHUNTER in places, to a wacky excuse… to bring in screen filling visuals by Singh. The marriage works, as sporting solid actors, I think it is Singh’s best film to date. If you like THE CELL another visually sumptuous film with surrealist and dream laden imagery to try is RITUAL III. All in all THE CELL is a solid VERY GOOD!
- 28 DAYS LATER- This pseudo Zombie/Crazies film is just plain good. Some definite parallels to WALKING DEAD in its beginning, complete with the protagonist waking up in a deserted hospital. I quite like it, especially the ending, that flies in the face of the general trend of these movies.
- INSIDIOUS III – I was a huge fan of the first INSIDIOUS film, and quite disliked the 2nd film. It was just a misstep, most notably in the useless killing of the character of Elise Rainier played awesomely by Lin Shaye.
- Well this film, a prequel corrects this, by putting Lin Shaye’s character very much on the front lines. When she steps up in the third act I loved it. Initially I had my doubts about this film, the stupid kid doing what she has been told not to do, wears thin on me, real quick. Thankfully the film quickly jumps over that and moves at a quick pace to the heart of the story.
- And this movie unlike the majority of horror films has actors who can act, and is wonderfully directed/edited. For in a horror movie, like with comedy, timing is everything; and the timing and pacing in this film works wonderfully to deliver the scares. Wonderful end credits. Great music by Joseph Bishara. A solid Very Good.
Amazon has all four of Amando de Ossorio’s little seen but well regarded quartet of Blind Dead films, courtesy of Amazon Prime, so you can try before you buy.
La Noche Del Terror Ciego (1971) – THE NIGHT OF THE BLIND TERROR renamed for North America to the surprisingly brilliant title, (and the title that has defined the series) THE TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD, was an international success and put its director Amando de Ossorio and Spanish Horror on the map.
The titular protagonists were so haunting, the character design so inventive, that it spawned three equally well regarded sequels.
Finally watched I can see why this film series, closing in on its 5th decade, is well regarded. Given the time period and obvious limitations of budget, the director, Amando de Ossorio manages to create a wonderful atmosphere, iconic villains, and intriguing characters and story, imbuing a new intriguing twist, onto the well trod myth of the living dead.
The three sequels are:
THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 1973 ( The original Spanish title, ATTACK OF THE BLIND DEAD being superior to the American title)
THE GHOST GALLEON 1974 ( Known in its original title, EL BUQUE MALDITO, as THE DAMNED SHIP)
and finally NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS 1975 (The only movie in the series, translated literally from the Spanish).
Now you can see all 4 films on Amazon Prime. Now be careful, there are multiple copies of these films on Amazon, most of them have a cost to them, however do a search and find the movies without a poster image and those will be the free ones.
Then watch all four and enjoy and if as impressed as I am, and ready to own the DVDs with special features, then go here:
The Roman born Director Lucio Fulci when remembered today is primarily remembered for his his schlock and gore filled horror films of the 80s such as THE BEYOND, HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, ZOMBI 3, which is a crying shame, because these were the lowest common denominator films of a filmmaker reduced to making dreck to make a paycheck, rather than his films of the late 60s and throughout the 70s that can be considered his artistic passion projects.
His film-making and use of the camera in this period was ground breaking and incredibly influential, and his best films remain among the best of their respective genre.
From 1966’s MASSACRE TIME (an early inspiration and precursor to the dove filled blood ballets of John Woo) to 1978s rarely seen SILVER SADDLE, was a twelve year period of unbridled creativity and staggering experimentation, and contain not only Fulci’s best films, but some of the best films by anyone during the period, and films that stand the test of time.
Here without further ado our Fulci’s best films and essential films for any true lover of cinema:
PERVERSION STORY AKA ONE ON TOP OF THE OTHER – Don’t let the salacious poster fool you this is a MAGNIFICENT film. It’s a reworking of a more well known film, a classic film by one of the world’s most respected directors, however I have to say… I prefer this Fulci film. It is an unjustly little seen masterpiece, beautifully shot, and deserves a great and feature rich Blu-ray disk. Fulci’s best film.
In second place I put PSYCHIC, just adore this film.
I follow that up with his LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN and DONT TORTURE A DUCKLING solidly in 3rd and 4th place.
SILVER SADDLE in 5th place, is the best of Fulci’s three westerns which says a lot. As it beats out the praised MASSACRE TIME in 6th place. (FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE does not make this best of list. It’s overlong, and I can do without its denigrated and stereotyped Black character. But its distasteful parts aside, it remains, like all of his wide-screen films… beautifully shot.)
BEATRICE CENCI, in 7th place, is the director’s own favorite film, his attempt to make a serious Fellini level film, and its poor critical and commercial response was a blow the Director never truly recovered from. The film is solidly good if not great. But definitely deserving of a watch. It’s a solid B/B-.
And those are Fulci’s seven best films, and are must watch films for anyone desirous of the best of Euro-cinema of the period.
1966’s Massacre Time – This film was the one to put Fulci on the genre/world map. One of the earliest of the Spaghetti Western craze, and one of the best. This is an ultra violent flick, that shows off Fulci’s adeptness and creativity in staging action scenes. You can definitely see in this film with its gravity defying blood laced shootouts and its prevalence with doves, a clear inspiration and precursor to the later ‘blood ballet’ films of John Woo. Made during the glory days of the spaghetti western genre (roughly 1966 to 1968) MASSACRE TIME stands out as being one of the most extreme of these extremist westerns.
More detailed reviews to come next installment!
CLOSE RANGE (2015)
There are a few solid newer names in the action genre that despite any other failings of the film, are always a joy to watch.
Names like Michael Jai White (Where is my sequel to BLOOD AND BONE??!!!), Tony Jaa, Markor Zaror (of REDEEMER fame, a great, if flawed, action flick, with a middle fight that stands out as one of the best of the decade), IKO UWAIS (RAID 2 fame) Lateef Crowder Dos Santos, Gary Daniels.
And of course… Scott Adkins.
He has been acting since 1998, but arguably it is 2005’s UNLEASHED opposite Jet Li, and 2006’s UNDISPUTED 2 opposite Michael Jai White that really made him a sought after action actor. He followed those movies up with increasingly higher profile films to include UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF REDEMPTION (directed by the impressive 2nd generation director, John Hyams) and EXPENDABLES 2. And he has become a solid and prolific actor in the action genre/VOD market, doing 4 films in 2015 and working on 7 movies in 2016. Now his choices of film are not always the best, but he is always a solid positive in any film he is in.
It is an upward trajectory to take note of, and along with his aforementioned contemporaries, White, Jaa, and Zaror; these men are the natural heirs to the late 20th century generation of Steven Seagal, Jean Claude Van Dam, Jacky Chan, Jet Li, Chuck Norris. They just do it largely in the fragmented world of VOD.
This review is on one of those VOD works, 2015’s CLOSE RANGE, in which Adkins teams again with director and fellow martial artist Isaac Florentine.
UNDISPUTED 2 was also the movie to put Isaac Florentine on most peoples radar, and was his first collaboration with Scott Adkins. And like other directors who found their muse in front of the camera, such as John Ford and John Wayne, John Woo and Chow Youn Fat, Martin Scorsese and Robert Dinero, Spike Lee and Denzell Washington, Tony Scott and Denzell Washington, Florentine definitely found Adkins to be that pairing for him, as the two have worked on (as of this writing) five movies together. And while their movies have been of varying quality, I would Say UNDISPUTED 2 being by a great margin, their best film (in no small part due to Michael Jai White) followed by this film CLOSE RANGE.
Isaac Florentine continues to improve as a director and storyteller, and for the most part CLOSE RANGE shows this off. From the exciting pre-credit onwards, it is a solidly entertaining film.
Among the entertaining items in this film is another unexpected mini-credit sequence for the bad guys, as they drive toward their reckoning. It’s quite charming.
Speaking of bad guys, Jeremy Marinas who stars as Cruz, is the Fight Choreographer of the film, and in both roles he does an exceptional job. His brawl with Scott Adkins being the highlight of the film. Which does make the remainder of the film a bit anti-climatic. He is definitely someone to watch as both actor and Choreographer.
And Director Isaac Florentine shows flashes of inspiration in this film, showing innovative ways to keep fresh an old genre.
CLOSE RANGE is very much an action/western hybrid. Channeling Leone in its use of closeup and stare-off, of making landscapes of faces, while it never rises to Leone heights, it is a darn entertaining action film. It does become a bit repetitive toward the end. Florentine draws out some scenes too long, particularly the final standoff, to the point of self-parody (the problem I had with all of UNDISPUTED 3 , it played more as a parody than a serious film). But these missteps aside overall a very entertaining flick. Grade: B-/B.