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Showing posts from November, 2016

The Eagle Shooting Heroes (1993)

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Rarely is the solution to raising money for the movie you are making, once it goes over budget, is to make another movie.  Such is the tale behind The Eagle Shooting Heroes.  Famed Hong Kong director Kar-Wai Wong was trying to finish his movie Ashes of Time, and rushed production of this one, using the same cast members, in time for the Chinese New Year celebrations.

I have not seen the other film, but both films take inspiration from Louis Cha's novel The Legend of the Condor Heroes.  In this instance, it goes for parody.  Again, I find myself at a bit of a disadvantage not knowing the source material, but this is light-hearted and strange enough to overcome that problem.

The evil Ou-yang Feng (Tony Chiu Wai Leung) and his cousin (Veronica Yip) attempt to usurp the throne of a kingdom, but the king refuses to give up the royal seal.  After being tortured, the king admits that his daughter (Brigitte Lin) has it.  Ambushed by Feng, she manages to escape on her magic horse in searc…

Knives of the Avenger (1966)

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Mario Bava is largely known for his horror films, and rightly so.  It was largely he that set the foundation for Italian horror, as well as for giallo suspense films.  That didn't mean that, like most Italian directors, he didn't take on jobs for hire from time to time.

Knives of the Avenger was toward the end of production, but it was running over budget and causing a headache for the studio.  After firing the original director, Bava was brought it to complete the film.  Instead of just completing it, he rewrote it and refilmed it in the course of three days. 

The result?  A halfway decent blending of sword and sandal adventures with the sensibility of a spaghetti western.

Viking princess Karin (Elissa Pichelli) is warned by her tribe's soothsayer to flee with her son Moki (Luciano Pollentin).  Karin's husband Arald (Giacomo Rossi Stuart) has been gone for three years, and is feared dead when his ship was sunk off the coast of Britain.  Seeing his chance, Hagen (Faust…

The Visit (2015)

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I really don't think I have to go into how much M. Night Shyamalan has become a bad punchline in movie making.  He has fallen quite a bit since The Sixth Sense, most recently before this directing the Will and Jaden Smith vehicle After Earth, which bombed spectacularly.

That movie, to Shyamalan's credit, was more the fault of the Smiths, since he was only a hired hand this time around.  He took that money and decided to see if he could start all over again with The Visit.  Instead of blowing a ton of money (and potentially having the film taken away from him again), he decided to make his own visit into the realm of found footage.  It's usually a good move, since even if the movie turns out to be horrible, the profit margin is still going to be huge.

Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenboud) are sent to spend time with their grandparents, whom they have never met, while their mother (Kathryn Hahn) goes on a cruise with her new boyfriend.  Becca sees this as an opport…

Donnie Darko (2001)

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I have seen Donnie Darko in both of its iterations.  I originally saw the director's cut, and I truly liked the way the CGI was largely used to try and piece together much of what was happening in Darko's life.  Upon seeing the original theatrical version (as wellRichard Kelly's other major movie, Southland Tales), I have to say that the original, though more confusing for some, is the better one.

The reason I mention Southland Tales is that it makes Donnie Darko appear to be even more the brilliant fluke that it is.  In the director's cut of Darko, more of Kelly's self-indulgent nature begins to surface, and although it wraps things up in a neater package, it is obvious that through most of the process he is throwing ideas against a wall to see if they stick.  He then expects everyone to "get" the hodgepodge, and the so-called director's cut seems at this point an effort to tie those pieces together after the fact as well as mock those who couldn…

Krampus (2015)

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Christmas horror films can be summed up two ways: Silent Night, Deadly Night and Black Christmas.  Both slashers, the former largely cashing in the genre while the latter one of the earliest examples (and directed by Bob Clark, who would also do Christmas Story).  They are genre classics, but at least Silent Night's killer in a Santa outfit became highly controversial.

It seems like the only movie to get mainstream appeal combining Christmas and horror was The Nightmare Before Christmas, and there is still a lot of argument about whether or not it is a Halloween or a Christmas film (I say both). 

It is in this atmosphere that Michael Dougherty gives us Krampus.  Not surprisingly, his only other major movie he has directed so far was Trick 'r Treat, which is one of the best Halloween movies ever made.  It has some flaws, but its pseudo-anthology style did a better job of reminding us of Tales from the Dark Side than the actual movie from that series did.  That means there were…

The Church (1989)

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Since his name is so proudly displayed on here, I first thought this film was directed by Dario Argento.  It confused me because I didn't remember him doing a movie called The Church at this point in his career.  This would have still been during the waning years of his most creative period leading up to Trauma, and I've pretty much seen what he has to offer at that point.

Instead, this movie is directed by Michele Soavi, who five years later would direct Cemetery Man, which was one of my first introductions to Italian horror.  Cemetery Man was sort of a weird experience for me at the time, largely because it was advertised in the U.S. as a straight zombie film, with no mention of it being from an Italian director.  The atmosphere, and particularly the ending, were a bit of an obstacle for me until I got a bit older and started appreciating that style of cinema a bit more.

Since The Church was only presented by Argento, it was interesting to see Soavi at an early point.  And,…

The House by the Cemetery (1981)

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Lucio Fulci's string of famous horror films began with Zombi, which was a pseudo-sequel to George Romero's Dawn of the Dead.  From there, his movies became known for their high gore content and dreamlike atmosphere, but not so much for coherent plotting.

Viewers who appreciate that in Fulci's other horror films will find that The House by the Cemetery is quite a bit more staid, but still with some twists. 

Lucy (Catriona MacColl) and Normal Boyle (Paolo Malco) move from New York to a small town in Massachusetts.  Prior to the move their son Bob (Giovanni Frezza) sees a girl (Silvia Collatina) gesturing at him from a picture of a large house and telling him not to come.  His mother dismisses his fears, but is surprised when she sees the house they are moving to is the same one as in the old picture.

The reason for the move is that Norman is taking up where a colleague left off, doing some research in the town.  It turns out his predecessor ended up getting sidetracked by t…

Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970)

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For me, Mario Bava is a name that should be mentioned next to Federico Fellini and Sergio Leone when we are talking about great Italian directors.  Sure, he may have been largely a genre director.  His narratives are relatively straightforward, we don't get sweeping vistas and epic storytelling.  We do, however, get imagination and, despite being a genre director, a stubborn defiance of being stuck in any one.

That brings us to Hatchet for the Honeymoon, which itself refuses to stay within one genre.

Fashion designer John Harrington (Stephen Forsyth) is rich and successful.  He is also happy to tell us that he is a madman.  If we need further proof of that, we are introduced to him dispatching a happy couple on a train following their wedding.

Not only that, but he has multiple women buried in his hothouse - that would be the ones he didn't just decide to incinerate.  A number of them are models, and the police are starting to get suspicious about why his models are missing, …

Castle of the Living Dead (1964)

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When you hear that a lead actor like Christopher Lee had to improvise most of his lines while dubbing the film afterward because the woman in charge of continuity lost his script you wonder what kind of movie you might be in for.  Truth is, Lee starred in so many of these movies as a villain of some sort that his lines were probably interchangeable from movie to movie.  What amazes me is that he even remembered doing many of these quickie films.

This one is an Italian production which is also known for being Donald Sutherland's movie debut.  The director, Warren Kiefer, is best known for being his son's namesake.

Bruno (Jacques Stany) leads a troop of actors shortly after the Napoleonic wars, the main act which features him as an executioner and the harlequin Dart (Luciano Pigozzi) as a criminal to be hanged.  After a dispute over money, Dart quits, making threats toward Bruno and stealing the horse of Eric (Philippe Leroy), a former army captain.  Eric agrees to join in Dart…