Uncle Jasper reviews: Gallants (2010)

Gallants [打擂台] (2010)
AKA Tiger & Dragon Reloaded

Starring Chen Kwan-Tai, Bruce Leung, Teddy Robin Kwan, Wong Yau-Nam, JJ Jia, M.C. Jin, Susan Shaw Yin-Yin, Lo Meng

Directed By Derek Kwok, Clement Cheng


My interest in Gallants was initially piqued after hearing that it marked the big-screen return of Shaw Brothers veterans Chen Kwan-Tai and Lo Meng. Then after learning that ex-Bruce Lee clone Bruce Leung starred alongside as well, nothing short of a ShamWow™ could mop up my steady stream of drooling anticipation. It was an instant sell. After finally getting a chance to see it, the novelty of seeing all of my favorite old-school kung fu heroes together again pales in comparison to the fantastic inspiration and brilliant testament to the fighting spirit that this film delivers. I am in love with Hong Kong cinema again and all I want to do is run outside and jump-kick garbage cans for the next three hours.

Equal parts Rocky, The Karate Kid, and Cocoon, Gallants is as inspirational as these films yet manages to remain a loving product of its homeland. Anybody with even a vague interest in the martial arts will be glued to the screen here, and old school Shaw Brothers fans are especially in for a treat. But what Gallants has to say is transcendent of simple setting and surface visuals. Yes this is a film about the martial arts and the perseverance of the fighting spirit. But even more so, this film deals with everything from courage, redemption, dignity in old age, to the convenient and flashy repackaging of honored philosophies in order to make a quick buck. The rewards that can be reaped from this film are virtually endless. You can cram a theater full of viewers into a screening of Gallants and nearly every person could take away something a little different.

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The Indian Runner (1991)

Starring Viggo Mortensen, David Morse, Patricia Arquette, Valeria Golino, Charles Bronson, Dennis Hopper

Directed by Sean Penn

Expectations: High. I’ve really liked the other films of Penn’s that I’ve seen. How can you not be excited by that cast list too?


I don’t know the exact story of how Sean Penn came to be a director as well as a fantastic actor, but what it boils down to is this: the guy can make a movie. The Indian Runner is his first excursion into work behind the camera, and despite some minor flaws, it is a powerful and emotional film. Sean Penn heard the Bruce Springsteen song, Highway Patrolman (off the excellent acoustic album Nebraska), and was so moved by its story, that he wanted to write an entire film based upon it. The Indian Runner inexplicably does what it sets out to do and successfully translates the song into a film, expanding the narrative yet still remaining true to Springsteen’s two central characters, a pair of very different brothers.

Continue reading The Indian Runner (1991) →

Trancers III: Deth Lives (1992)

Trancers III: Deth Lives (1992)
AKA Future Cop III, Trancers 2010

Starring Tim Thomerson, Melanie Smith, Andrew Robinson, Telma Hopkins, Megan Ward, Stephen Macht, R.A. Mihailoff, Helen Hunt

Directed by C. Courtney Joyner

Expectations: Moderate. The 2nd was OK.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:
twohalfstar


Jack Deth has stooped to new lows. As the film starts, Deth advertises his private investigation business focused on cheating husbands with a low-budget television commercial featuring a bevy of cute girls in Santa’s Helpers costumes and a VHS video camera in hand. The end of the ad is punctuated with a shotgun blast to the TV from a disgruntled liquor store robber. He runs back to the counter trying to get the money from the prerequisite Asian store owner, when suddenly a high-pitched squeal hurts their ears. They are bathed in orange light and a time capsule that kinda looks like a phone booth materializes. A crazy looking alien thing pops out and asks, “Where’s Jack Deth?” The alien promptly tracks Jack down and takes him back to the future with him. Oh no!

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Slither (2006)

Starring Elizabeth Banks, Nathan Fillion, Michael Rooker, Gregg Henry, Tania Saulnier, Jenna Fischer, Brenda James

Directed By James Gunn


Slither isn’t going to win any awards for originality. It wears its inspirations pretty clearly on its sleeve. Fans of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers and Basket Case will no doubt find themselves on familiar ground here. It’s what writer/director James Gunn does in this familiar territory that makes this movie so damn special. Slither turns back the clock and  manages to conjure up some of that old ’80s video store magic when almost any low-budget pick from the horror aisles was guaranteed to be a surefire hit. But wait, this is a Hollywood film… made in the 2000’s… it has no right to be this fucking good.

A veteran of Troma Entertainment, Gunn stays true to his roots and somehow manages to circumvent the bland thrills and commercial impotence of modern Hollywood horror by giving us something we haven’t seen since we filed away our last issue of Fangoria magazine years ago. Gunn is able to deliver the goods because he is an obvious longtime fan himself. Equal parts raucous comedy and schlocky horror, Slither manages to blend these genres smoothly without falling into the common trap of one suffering at the cost of the other. Not many films are able to successfully pull this off. I’m instantly reminded of Evil Dead II here and maybe only a handful of others. A true product of one fan’s love for the genre, Slither shows no shame for what it is, and in fact, revels in it. It’s crass, gross, sleazy, and loud and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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The Crossing (2000)

Starring Jeff Daniels, Roger Rees, Sebastian Roché, Steven McCarthy

Directed by Robert Harmon

Expectations: Low. I’m hoping this will educate me a bit on what led to Washington’s Crossing.


I’m currently taking a History class and a couple of the assignments are to write film reviews. I decided that I wouldn’t let these reviews just fade into the ether, instead posting them here as well as turning them in as homework. Because of this, the reviews will be slightly different than the normal type of stuff I put out, as the professor has laid out a few questions that need to be answered that I don’t generally ask myself. I’ve also edited this a bit to be a little more in line with this website. Anyway, enjoy… or not. Whatever.

The film opens with a short narration, setting the scene for those not intensely familiar with the material. As suspected, The Crossing seeks to dramatize the events surrounding George Washington’s decision to cross the Delaware River during the American Revolution. It looks to convey the risk-taking nature of Washington and his creative way of problem solving. Crossing the river was an unexpected tactic and one that could have gone completely wrong. The opening narration is followed by a scene of a cannon getting stuck in a ditch on the side of the road. Washington commands the men to leave it and continue on without, illustrating to the viewer just how desperate the American forces were. They’re on the run from the British, slowly breaking down and losing numbers. The film effectively shows how Washington chose to attack the Hessian camp in Trenton by crossing the river at night, despite all good odds. It proves the point how someone backed up against a wall, with no good options, will do their best to survive and continue fighting. The British, being the super-powered confident force, just didn’t have that kind of resolve backing them up.

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Mini-Review: To Die For (1995)

Starring Nicole Kidman, Joaquin Phoenix, Alison Folland, Matt Dillon, Casey Affleck, Illeana Douglas, Dan Hedaya

Directed by Gus Van Sant

Expectations: None.


This is a mildly entertaining movie about a pretty girl who has high aspirations to be on television. She’ll do anything. Simple enough. Usually with this type of film, there’s some level of intrigue, but this is not the case with To Die For. The film is told through a pseudo-documentary style and you know pretty much what happens in the first couple of minutes. I’m okay with that, as long as the characters are interesting, but I’m sorry to say that they aren’t. Nicole Kidman’s character is the only one even remotely absorbing and she does well in her role, with some exceptional moments. Most of the other players are overacted caricatures of American stereotypes with Matt Dillon and Joaquin Phoenix battling for the main offender trophy. Illeana Douglas is the best of the supporting cast, but then I always enjoy her in anything, so I could be biased.

This is all coupled with Gus Van Sant’s ugly, boring camera work and editing, making it readily apparent that this one just wasn’t made for me. I can say one thing about Van Sant’s work, he’s consistent. His shot selection never ceases to frustrate and annoy me. I had seen this before when it came out and I didn’t like it then. I like it less now. Avoid it, unless you generally like Van Sant’s work or you want to see Joaquin Phoenix or Casey Affleck in early roles.

Uncle Jasper reviews: Violent Shit (1987)

Violent Shit (1987)
AKA Maniac 2001: Violent Shit

Starring Andreas Schnaas, Gabi Bäzner, Wolfgang Hinz, Volker Mechter, Christian Biallas, Uwe Boldt

Directed by Andreas Schnaas


We at Silver Emulsion occasionally circle the globe in order to bring you only the best in classy, foreign entertainment. We find that sometimes it takes a different cultural approach to the human condition in order to broaden perspectives and break down social barriers. Sometimes we also feel that breast dismemberment and rape by kitchen knife are criminally underrepresented in contemporary cinema. Which is why we have braved the frosty woods of Germany to bring you today’s exercise in cinematic subtlety, Andreas Schnaas’ 1987 direct to video classic, Violent Shit.

Violent Shit is definitely a film that lives up to its namesake. It’s not so much a movie as it is a string of outrageously brutal scenes featuring… well, violent shit. The amusing opening credits contain such nuanced gems as “Starring K. The Butcher Shitter” and “Produced By the Violent Shitters.” Yes sir, from the moment it begins Schnaas isn’t afraid to let you know that his movie is indeed full of shit.

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