Police Story 2013 (2013)

Police Story 2013 [警察故事2013] (2013)
AKA Police Story: Lockdown, Police Story – Back for Law, Police Story Legend, Police Story 2014

Starring Jackie Chan, Liu Ye, Jing Tian, Yu Rong-Guang, Yin Tao, Na Wei, Liu Yi-Wei, Liu Hai-Long, Liu Pei-Qi, Coulee Nazha, Zhou Xiao-Ou, Zha Ka, Zhang Lei

Directed by Ding Sheng

Expectations: I don’t expect much, honestly.


The convention of making a spiritual successor to a film series and attaching the year of production to the title is a common occurrence in the Hong Kong industry. Usually nothing carries over except the general idea of the series, and in the case of Police Story that’s a policeman overcoming insurmountable odds. I guess you could call it a reboot, but from the examples I’ve seen, the new films aren’t necessarily trying to recapture the same energy or style of the originals. Take the difference between Police Story 2013 and New Police Story as an example. New Police Story is a more serious version of the original films — it’s a new Police Story — and still includes many death-defying stunts and fights. Police Story 2013 is an entirely different style for a different time, losing much of the action and going for the tense tone of a thriller.

My point with this long-winded ramble is that while the film’s title makes sense within the context of the Hong Kong industry, I feel like the English-speaking audience would have watched it more open-minded without a connection to Jackie’s well-loved, action-packed series. Nearly every review I glanced at was negative, and many of them referenced how much better previous Police Story movies were, so my logical conclusion is that the title connection clouded the viewing experience somewhat. I find myself trying to decipher the largely negative reaction to Police Story 2013 because I loved the film, specifically because it was a different take on the idea.

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Stephen reviews: Ghost in the Shell: Arise (2013)

Ghost in the Shell: Arise [攻殻機動隊 ARISE, Kōkaku Kidōtai Arise] (2013)

Starring Maaya Sakamoto, Kenichirou Matsuda, Tarasuke Shingaki, Ikkyuu Juku, Miyuki Sawashiro, Kazuya Nakai, Shunsuke Sakuya, Takurou Nakakuni, Yōji Ueda, Tomoyuki Dan, Mayumi Asano

Directed by Kazuchika Kise & Masahiko Murata (ep. 1), Atsushi Takeuchi (ep. 2), Kazuchika Kise (ep. 3), Susumu Kudo (ep. 4)


My journey through the Ghost in the Shell franchise took a snag with Arise, since I should have watched it before watching The New Movie, which is the proper conclusion of the Arise series. But, alas, I confused this series with Ghost in the Shell: Arise: Alternative Architecture, the re-edited for TV version of Arise, and I got the release dates messed up. If I had watched Arise first, it would have spared me a good deal of confusion with that film. But I still think both the series and the film would have been a bit confusing anyway. Of course this is Ghost in the Shell we’re talking about, so confusion is part of the package, but I think watching the film before the series even made the series more confusing.

Arise is a four-episode series, and each episode is a full hour long. Each one has a different crisis going on, but they all build up to finding the origins of a new computer virus called Fire-Starter (or maybe that’s the name of the programmer who designed it) that can rewrite a cyborg’s memories. At this point in the timeline, rewriting memories has never been done before, so the authorities are at a loss for how to combat the threat, and aren’t even convinced it’s actually possible.

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Stephen reviews: Patema Inverted (2013)

Patema Inverted [サカサマのパテマ, Sakasama no Patema] (2013)

Starring Yukiyo Fujii, Nobuhiko Okamoto, Shintaro Ohata, Shinya Fukumatsu, Masayuki Kato, Hiroki Yasumoto, Maaya Uchida

Directed by Yasuhiro Yoshiura


This is the first of Yasuhiro Yoshiura’s films that I have seen, and if this film is any indication then he will certainly be a major part of the new era of anime we’re in. Patema Inverted fits neatly in the list of recent family friendly anime films by Makoto Shinkai, Mamoru Hosoda, and others. In tone and style, Patema Inverted leans more towards Makoto Shinkai. While it certainly cannot match Shinkai’s visuals, it has a fair amount of beautiful images to dazzle the eyes. Yoshiura seems to have picked up the science fiction torch that Shinkai set down after The Place Promised In Our Early Days, and I’m happy to see that it hasn’t been abandoned.

The premise of Patema Inverted is that some science experiment went horribly wrong and reversed gravity for a bunch of people who then fell up into the sky, never to be seen again. However, some of these people managed to survive underground, where they live separated from the rest of humanity. Now a young girl named Patema explores a bit too far astray and winds up in a land where she falls upward towards the sky. There she meets a young boy named Age (not the way I would have chosen to spell his name, but I’m not the translator here), and we run into the age-old concept of two people from opposite worlds falling in love with each other.

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Stephen reviews: Bayonetta: Bloody Fate (2013)

bayonetta_1Bayonetta: Bloody Fate [ベヨネッタ ブラッディフェイト] (2013)

Starring Atsuko Tanaka, Daisuke Namikawa, Mie Sonozaki, Miyuki Sawashiro, Norio Wakamoto, Tessho Genda, Wataru Takagi

Directed by Fuminori Kizaki


Usually, I am rather dismissive of films based on video games (and vice versa), but Bayonetta somehow felt like a potentially good idea. I don’t think I had any actual reason for this uncharacteristic optimism other than the vague notion that the game was so absurd it would at least be interesting to see what they did with it in film. This seems to have been a mistake as the film mostly uses the least ridiculous aspects of the game.

As far as video game films go, Bayonetta: Bloody Fate isn’t bad, though. It retells the story functionally while maintaining the game’s style and tone. Bayonetta is a sexy witch with amnesia searching for clues about her past. All she knows is that she woke up in a coffin at the bottom of a lake and angels are out to kill her. She finds out about a church leader named Balder who might be involved somehow, and she tracks him down to find out more. Along the way, mass death and destruction ensue, along with a gallon of fan service.

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Stephen reviews: Short Peace (2013)

shortpeace_1Short Peace [ショート・ピース] (2013)

Starring Fuka Haruna, Koichi Yamadera, Saori Hayami, Masakazu Morita, Mutsumi Tamura, Daisuke Namikawa, Keikou Sakai, Takehiro Murozono, Issei Futamata, Tomoyuki Dan, Shigeru Ushiyama, Akio Otuka, Ryutaro Okiayu

Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, Koji Morimoto, Shuhei Morita, Hiroaki Ando, Hajime Katoki


Last time I reviewed one of the oldest anime anthology films, so this time I’m reviewing one of the newest. As with Robot Carnival, Short Peace was orchestrated by Katsuhiro Otomo. Unlike Robot Carnival, though, there really aren’t any connecting themes to Short Peace. The title suggests something regarding war and how easily it can begin, but that isn’t delved into at all. I feel like they wasted a good title here, as well as an interesting premise that might have made for a better film.

The anthology is also made completely in CG (the main character of the opening segment appears to be the only exception), which annoyed me, but I do have to admit that it is some of the best CG I have seen in an anime. But it isn’t the CG that bugged me as much as the stories themselves. They’re not bad really, but they lack the spark of joy that I got from Robot Carnival. I couldn’t connect to them in the same way, and the film felt a bit stale because of that.

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Mini-Review: A Fuller Life (2013)

fullerlife_1Starring James Franco, Jennifer Beals, Bill Duke, James Toback, Kelly Ward, Perry Lang, Robert Carradine, Mark Hamill, Joe Dante, Tim Roth, Wim Wenders, Monte Hellman, Buck Henry, Constance Towers, William Friedkin

Directed by Samantha Fuller

Expectations: High. I love Sam Fuller!

threehalfstar


A Fuller Life is a wonderful tribute from a daughter to her father. Samantha Fuller hasn’t put together a documentary, but more a concise, visual version of Sam Fuller’s memoir, A Third Face. This approach seems like an odd choice at first, but much like the films of Sam Fuller himself, A Fuller Life carves its own path and succeeds in creating something unique and worthwhile.

The script is composed of selections from A Third Face, read by his friends, colleagues and admirers. Each person puts their own energy and interpretation into the reading, and coupled with the undeniable truth and spirit of Fuller’s words, it plays almost like a final collaboration with the iconoclast. Through their performances, Fuller’s words come alive and transcend the printed page, even for someone like me that has already read the book.

fullerlife_2Not only does this non-traditional style work for this film, it’s perhaps the only way to properly paint a picture of Sam Fuller as vibrant and affecting as the man himself. A traditional documentary might catch glimpses of the fire and the passion of his words, but in A Fuller Life it’s almost like having Fuller himself telling you a quick version of his story and struggles. The material is riveting, and each reader is exceptional well-suited to the passages they read. The film reminded me of everything I love about Sam Fuller, both the man and the director, and this overview of his life allowed me to appreciate even more just how incredible his story was.

If you’re a Fuller fan, it’s definitely worth your time, and if you’re Fuller-curious I’d say that outside of Fuller’s own films, it’s probably the best introduction you could ask for.

A Fuller Life has been recently released to DVD, currently available exclusively on the Chrisam Films website. The DVD has a few bonus interviews, as well.

 

Quick Takes: The Stand, The Wind Rises, Gold Told Me To

the-stand-movie-poster-1994-1020189668The Stand (1994)
twohalfstar

Starring Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Jamey Sheridan, Corin Nemec, Adam Storke, Laura San Giacomo, Ruby Dee, Ray Walston, Rob Lowe, Bill Fagerbakke, Peter Van Norden, Ossie Davis, Miguel Ferrer, Matt Frewer, Bridgit Ryan, Kellie Overbey
Directed by Mick Garris

Having recently re-read the book, I had to also revisit this. It’s a fair adaptation, about as good as you could hope for from a network TV mini-series of the ’90s. Of course, everything is truncated quite a bit (even at 6 hours long), but its the characters that suffer the most. So much depth is lost in this version, especially with Fran, but it’s still worthwhile for fans of the book looking for a “quick” refresher. I was also disappointed that they ended without including the final scene of the book. Yes, it probably would’ve been more comical than anything else in this version, but that basic idea that “Ka is a wheel,” that this is a struggle that has been and will always continue to go on for all time, is one that feels so integral to King’s work. Oh well… I can hope for this ending in the new version. The CG is also quite dated, but the makeup FX work by Steve Johnson still shines brightly.

TheWindRisesPosterThe Wind Rises [風立ちぬ] (2013)
fourstar

Starring Hideaki Anno, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Miori Takimoto, Masahiko Nishimura, Mansai Nomura, Jun Kunimura, Mirai Shida, Shinobu Otake, Morio Kazama, Keiko Takeshita
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

The Wind Rises is beautiful in every way. It sits apart from the rest of Miyazaki’s work as his most grounded film, which is funny as it’s entirely about flight. What really impressed me was how Miyazaki weaves together the professional and personal lives of real-life aircraft designer Jiro Horikoshi. I later found out the personal part of the story was pure fiction, adapted in part from Tatsuo Hori’s 1937 short story The Wind Has Risen, but knowing this doesn’t diminish the film’s power in any way. I was moved to tears by the relationship between Jiro and Nahoko, as I found it oddly similar to my situation as I care for my spouse as she is debilitated further and further by multiple sclerosis. It may not hit you the same way, but The Wind Rises made me appreciate each day just a little more. An absolutely wonderful film for Miyazaki to go out on.

god-told-me-to-movie-1088207586Gold Told Me To (1976)
AKA Demon

threehalfstar

Starring Tony Lo Bianco, Deborah Raffin, Sandy Dennis, Sylvia Sidney, Sam Levene, Robert Drivas, Mike Kellin, Richard Lynch, Sammy Williams
Directed by Larry Cohen

With a title like God Told Me To, I expected the film to be about a religious nutcase going crazy in some kind of slasher-esque film. God Told Me To is vaguely like that in the first few minutes, but very quickly you realize that there’s a lot more going on here than some simple slasher horror film. In hopes that someone reading this will watch the film, I’m going to remain vague, but know that God Told Me To is a highly ambitious B-Movie that tackles huge issues and largely succeeds. It’s the kind of movie that will require some suspension of disbelief, due to the subject matter and the limited FX work, but those willing to appreciate its power will find much to like. Personally, I think the FX work is perfect and everything the film needed, but I can easily see people nowadays laughing at it “because it’s old.” Their loss. The cinematography is also excellent and vibrant throughout, thanks in part to the brand new Blu-ray from Blue Underground. In any case, if you dig B-Movies, Larry Cohen is one to explore, and God Told Me To is one of the best films I’ve seen from him.

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