Stephen reviews: Strait Jacket (2007)

Strait Jacket [ ストレイト・ジャケット] (2007)
AKA Strait Jacket – Legend of the Demon Hunter

Starring Ai Maeda, Kei Shindou, Shinichiro Miki, Akira Sasanuma, Asami Imai

Directed by Shinji Ushiro


Do you like Full Metal Alchemist, but wish it had a bit more angst? Then Strait Jacket is the movie for you. I don’t mean this as an insult, but there is a good deal of similarity between the two. Both feature a scientific use of magic that’s heavy on mystic symbols and big suits of armor in a world with somewhat modern technology and an ample supply of mutated human monsters rampaging about.

Where the two stories differ is that Strait Jacket‘s main character, Reiot, doesn’t get involved with changing the course of nations. It instead focuses on a more personal scale, exploring his sense of overwhelming guilt for the mistakes of his past. He is a hunter of demons, who are former humans mutated into deranged monsters by unprotected exposure to magic. It is Reiot’s recognition that these demons are, or at least were, humans that makes him see himself as a mass murderer.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Strait Jacket (2007) →

Stephen reviews: Attack Girls’ Swim Team Vs. the Undead (2007)

Attack Girls’ Swim Team Vs. the Undead [女子競泳反乱軍 Joshikyôei hanrangun] (2007)
AKA Undead Pool, Inglorious Zombie Hunters, The Girls Rebel Force of Competitive Swimmers

Starring Sasa Handa, Yuria Hidaka, Ayumu Tokito, Hiromitsu Kiba, Kiyo Yoshizawa, Hidetomo Nishidia, Sakae Yamazaki

Directed by Koji Kawano


I approached this film with a bit of trepidation. Anything with a title like Attack Girls’ Swim Team Vs. the Undead has to be either really awful or really fantastic. And things were looking pretty worrisome there at the start. But a few minutes in, a wonderfully awkward stabbing left me giggling and hopeful for the future of the film.

Attack Girls’ Swim Team Vs. the Undead is pretty much what you would expect from the name. There are lots of zombies, gore, and naked ladies to go around. If you were expecting something thoughtful and enlightening, I think you need a better grasp of the English language. Or the Japanese language as the case may be. But even though the title is revealing as to the nature of the film, it’s not all that accurate to the content. The swim team doesn’t do much of anything in this film, and most of what they do do is a little underwhelming. Details are sparse, but maybe the translation of the title is a bit off as there are a variety of different titles for the film.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Attack Girls’ Swim Team Vs. the Undead (2007) →

Rush Hour 3 (2007)

Starring Chris Tucker, Jackie Chan, Max von Sydow, Hiroyuki Sanada, Yvan Attal, Yuki Kudo, Noémie Lenoir, Zhang Jing-Chu, Tzi Ma, Dana Ivey, Sun Ming-Ming, Roman Polanski

Directed by Brett Ratner

Expectations: Fairly low. I feel confident I’ll enjoy it, though.


The Rush Hour films are made to entertain. None of them are great, but they carry a certain charm. Jackie is always a joy in any form, and I like what Chris Tucker brings to the table. The two have an effervescent chemistry perfect for the age-old buddy cop premise. It’s just that by the time we get to Rush Hour 3, that’s about all we have to hang our enjoyment on. For me, this was enough to make the movie fly by in a haze of dumb jokes, action and entertainment, but I imagine others would be less forgiving.

The story they have the boys propping up this time will be relatively familiar if you’ve seen Rush Hour. Since this is Rush Hour 3, we know a basic formula has been established, but this is more than that. It’s certainly an odd choice to make from a screenwriting standpoint. I appreciate the idea to bring back characters from the original film, such as Ambassador Han (Tzi Ma) and his now-grown daughter Soo Yung (Zhang Jing-Chu). But it also mirrors the original film’s story in a lot of painfully obvious ways, to the point that I had figured out one of the late-film “Oh, shit!” twists by the time the opening scene was over. I understand wanting to bring the series back to where it started (and was successful), but this is a bit too close, no? It makes the film feel like the product it is, and this seriously hampers its ability to resonate with its audience.

Continue reading Rush Hour 3 (2007) →

Stephen reviews: Mononoke (2007)

mononoke_1Mononoke [モノノ怪] (2007)

Starring Takahiro Sakurai, Aiko Hibi, Daisuke Namikawa, Daisuke Sakaguchi, Eiji Takemoto, Fumiko Orikasa, Hikaru Midorikawa, Hiroshi Iwasaki, Houko Kuwashima, Kōzō Shioya, Masashi Hirose, Minoru Inaba, Rie Tanaka, Ryusei Nakao, Seiji Sasaki, Takeshi Aono, Tomokazu Seki, Toshiko Fujita, Wakana Yamazaki, Yasuhiro Takato, Yoko Soumi, Yukana

Directed by Kenji Nakamura


I know you’re not supposed to judge a book (or in this case a TV series) by its cover, but sometimes that’s all you really need. As soon as I laid eyes on the cover art for Mononoke, I knew it was going to be great. My gut refused to believe otherwise. And it’s decisions like this that have made me very trusting of my gut over the years, at least when it comes to anime. My one and only concern was that the cover was not what the actual animation would look like. Thankfully that bizarre, otherworldly art design is exactly what you get on the inside.

Those light shades and faded pastels are a very unusual choice of colors for a horror story. Usually you want some all-obscuring darkness to ratchet up the mystery, but for me that bright color palette was more mysterious than any darkness could ever be. It’s clear right from the start that you are in a completely different world when you watch Mononoke, and you don’t know what you’re going to find. All that was apparent just from the box; all that remained was seeing if the show could actually live up to my foolishly high expectations. And boy did it ever!

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Mononoke (2007) →

Quick Takes: Eastern Promises, A Dangerous Method, Cosmopolis

1Sheet_Master.qxdEastern Promises (2007)
threehalfstar

Starring Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Sinéad Cusack, Mina E. Mina, Jerzy Skolimowski, Donald Sumpter
Directed by David Cronenberg

Eastern Promises is one of the few Cronenberg films I had seen before starting this current run through his filmography. I liked well enough back then, but I remember also wondering why everyone loved it so much. Seeing it within Cronenberg’s catalog of films definitely gives it a new context, and understanding his style and proclivities also added considerably to the experience. Like A History of Violence before it, Eastern Promises is a near-perfect, darkly engaging film. Its story beats are somewhat familiar if you’ve seen a few gangster movies, but the way they are approached is different. Cronenberg’s signature graphic violence is also incorporated, here becoming something like “body violence” instead of body horror. It creates the same squirms and winces that his horror films do, but to a greater degree than any of his previous non-horror films. Eastern Promises really goes for it, and to great effect, with the stand-out moment being the intense, raw bathhouse fight between two knife-wielding assassins and a naked Viggo Mortensen. Once again, Cronenberg elicits incredible performances from the entire cast, crafting yet another phenomenal film. If you haven’t seen it, and you have the stomach for it, definitely check it out.

dangerous_methodA Dangerous Method (2011)
threestar

Starring Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen, Vincent Cassel, Sarah Gadon, André Hennicke, Arndt Schwering-Sohnrey
Directed by David Cronenberg

It was bound to happen. After so many Cronenberg films surprising me and winning me over, I knew they couldn’t all be like that. A Dangerous Method is this film for me. In general, I prefer a character’s action or forward movement to propel a story, instead of the more dialogue-based approach here. I wouldn’t say that I disliked the film, but more that it didn’t seem quite as solid and confident as Cronenberg’s other works. The timeline seemed to shift at random, oftentimes for reasons I was unable to comprehend. Repeat viewings might clear up some of these issues, but I don’t know that I really care to see this one again. I trust Cronenberg as an artist, though, especially by this point in his career, and his ability to craft exactly the movie he wishes to. In this case, A Dangerous Method is a film that I’ll have to reckon with in order to understand. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I guess I’m just used to having a more viscerally positive reaction to his films on a first viewing.

cosmopolisCosmopolis (2012)
onehalfstar

Starring Robert Pattinson, Sarah Gadon, Paul Giamatti, Kevin Durand, Abdul Ayoola, Juliette Binoche, Emily Hampshire, Bob Bainborough, Samantha Morton, Zeljko Kecojevic, Jay Baruchel, Philip Nozuka, Mathieu Amalric, Patricia McKenzie
Directed by David Cronenberg

Well, if A Dangerous Method was the inevitable Cronenberg film that didn’t win me over, then Cosmopolis is the natural progression as the first Cronenberg film I outright didn’t like at all. It’s nearly impenetrable and hard to follow. Like Cronenberg’s previous film, this one is propelled almost entirely by dialogue, but this time it also primarily takes place in a singular location: a limousine. Cronenberg’s camerawork is impeccable and impressive — it never seems like the confines of this space limited his camera placements in any way — but when all it captures is talking heads with monotone voices, it’s just not all that engaging. There are elements and themes that intrigue me, and the third act does imply that a re-watch might be in order, but I think it’s too boring for me to ever truly enjoy. I’m sure Cronenberg made the film he wanted to, without compromise, but unfortunately Cosmopolis didn’t move me in the slightest. A true disappointment.

Decadent Evil II (2007)

decadentevil2_2Decadent Evil II (2007)
AKA Decadent Evil Dead II

Starring Jill Michelle, Daniel Lennox, Jessica Morris, Ricardo Gil, Jon-Paul Gates, James C. Burns, Mike Muscat, Rory Williamson

Directed by Charles Band

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:
onehalfstar

On the B-movie scale:
twostar


Decadent Evil II has a bigger budget, more FX, and more decadence than the original film. I guess in that way it’s everything you could want a sequel to be. Somewhere in the writing process, though, they forgot to add in enough of the comedic elements that helped the original film be the dumb fun it was. Decadent Evil II isn’t anywhere close to straight horror, but it’s much too straight for a story as inherently dumb and recycled as this one is.

Our story picks up shortly after the events of Decadent Evil, with the vampire Sugar (Jill Michelle) and her human boyfriend Dex (Daniel Lennox) on the run with the caged homunculus Marvin in tow. Also along for the ride is the corpse of Phil Fondacaro’s character Ivan (played here by Ricardo Gil), stuffed into a suitcase. I guess being the corpse of a three-foot-tall vampire hunter has its benefits. Sugar and Dex are tracking down the elder vampire that will take the place of Morella (see DE1) as leader of the vampire bloodline, and their search has brought them to good ol’ Littlerock, AR. And where might this bloodthirsty fiend of the night be hiding his dusty bones? In a strip club, naturally.

Continue reading Decadent Evil II (2007) →

Stephen reviews: Appleseed: Ex Machina (2007)

tk73wZ7JF3GlIDYnhkbT9lxDJFKAppleseed: Ex Machina [エクスマキナ] (2007)
AKA Appleseed Saga: Ex Machina

Starring Ai Kobayashi, Kouichi Yamadera, Gara Takashima, Miyuki Sawashiro, Naoko Kouda, Rei Igarashi, Takaya Hashi, Yuuji Kishi

Directed by Shinji Aramaki


I suppose Appleseed: Ex Machina is a sequel to the 2004 film, but there isn’t any carryover between the two films. They’re basically two completely unrelated stories about the same people in the same place doing the same stuff. Athena is clearly younger than before, though, so make of that what you will. Maybe plastic surgery in Olympus is really awesome. I would say that it’s a good idea to watch one of the prior films just to have an idea about the characters, but honestly things here are so unrelated and formulaic that there’s no real point. The background and setting are pretty much irrelevant in this film. It’s a future police action movie; that’s all you need to know.

They also nabbed John Woo as producer, and they’re quite proud of that fact, even blasting loose with a flock of pigeons when his name pops up in the opening credits. I’m not sure how much he was involved with things, but I can definitely see the difference his influence made. The action scenes are a lot more over-the-top and intricate than the 2004 film, despite having the same director.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Appleseed: Ex Machina (2007) →

Page 1 of 3123

Subscribe via Email!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 73 other subscribers

Ongoing Series

Top Posts & Pages