Wednesday, July 29, 2020

I, Robot

All things considered, this has aged well for me.

I watched I, Robot a long time ago, around the better part of a decade since I last watched it and for a movie that entertained and intrigued 10 year old me as well as 25 year old me, I'm impressed. Based off of Isaac Asimov's short stories, this film takes place in the far off future of 2035 where robots have been manufactured and populated to help human beings in any way possible, with the first model of robots being released in 2020 and to be honest I wouldn't be surprised if it came to pass, where we meet Detective Spoony I mean Spooner played by Will Smith who is called in to investigate the death of the mind behind the company who crafts the robots in every facet. Spooner suspects foul play with the electronic beings but as a safeguard all robots are built around three laws, 1. A robot cannot harm a human being under any circumstances, 2. A robot must obey all orders given, 3. A robot must protect itself without conflicting on the first and second laws. Which is what makes this such a fascinating mystery, it creates a logic puzzle for the audience to decipher as we follow our main character who is trying to figure out who killed this man and more importantly why. Now I'll confess I have not read Asimov's stories, though they are on my list with other classic sci-fi stories like Frank Herbert's Dune, and Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. And the movie has really good pacing and plot threads that keep your interest and keep you entertained. You'd expect this to be a sort of Blade Runner-esque world but truthfully it doesn't look super futuristic, hell the only major technological advances are the cars and robots so I'd almost say this is a great introduction to sci-fi movies for people who aren't big fans of the genre. The production is quite good, the cast takes it seriously and puts out good material, there's great shots now and then, the effects are executed well and because the robots aren't supposed to look realistic but more synthetic the CG hasn't aged poorly. I know some people gave a lot of good grief over the action scenes and how they wouldn't belong in a techno mystery, but this was essentially a summer movie and in recent years people have given the film more credit. From the brief research I did apparently the script had a huge rewrite, originally the film was going to be way more cerebral focusing on the detective's paranoia and more intricate complexities of the robot revolution, it honestly sounds so much like Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep the basis for Blade Runner, which is an excellent book by the way you should check that out, but not like in a derogative way but how the stroy progresses and more importantly what it focuses on. And it kinda breaks my heart because it sounds like an underrated sci-fi classic and could have been so much more than what we got, but again I do not hate this movie at all, it's just that the original script sounds so friggin' good. I think this is a totally fine movie, it gives us the mystery solving with a few action beats here and there, Will Smith and Alan Tudyk are the best performances in an already really good cast, the pacing is good, the effects are done well, and the story stays true to Asimov while still doing it's own thing. I give it 3 stars, 7.5/10, and easily my favorite scene is James Cromwell's brief monologue about the ghost in the machine which is a fascinating concept in and of itself and who knows how long that idea has been floating around for, but man do I love this man to the moon and back!

Always On The Move.

I hate moving. I have never liked it, whether it be a 3 day weekend at my nan's or moving everything to a new city, I can't stand it. Except this time it's worse because it can go anywhere, fixed points in time are at least easy to deal with and you don't need to worry much. The bottom line is I'm either moving to a cheaper apartment or moving back to my hometown, but I seriously have no clue which until next week. And the situation sucks at my apartment. Hard. Imagine if you will, it's 1995, the internet as we know it is a pot dream, your antenna has been blown down during a storm so you can't watch television, you're not even a teenager, and yet inexplicably we're still supposed to be in lockdown at our homes. That is what I am living with. No cable, dialup modem speed of computers, and the only thing to pass the time is movies, books, radio, and video games. And even with my well endowned collection of entertainment, I'm running out of things to watch and have precisely f*** all to review. I'm working on improving the situation and you'll know if it worked or not if I can get more than one review out this week. To be honest, I've been sitting on this particular review for months and have never quite found the place to post it because I kept coming up with ideas for week after week of reviews to the point where it's the only review I can post, besides the super ultra big events I have planned but that doesn't happen for a few months still. And next month might be a complete omnishambles because of this very sudden turn of events, but honestly if I can just get some good internet and some scratch we'll be golden! So I'll post the review in a bit and we'll see what happens. Stay tuned for more, same bat-time, same bat-channel!

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Vice Principals: Season 2

I'd love for just once in my life to watch a show and once seeing it's ending scene, to not be bummed out and having an existential fit cause I don't know what to watch next.

Every damn time. Even with a comedy series! Bastards. Anyway, onto the review. Vice Principals wraps up simultaneously in a very nice and happy way but also with an undercurrent of just depression. And I don't think that's just me. After a pretty spectacular finale with the last season, Gamby has finally recovered from being shot and is returning to North Jackson now playing second fiddle to Russell. Now me personally, if Walton Goggins was my boss I wouldn't give a shit but Gamby wants to stick to the original plan they created. So the season actually follows more on the personal family side of these guys than their actual school shenanigans, which I quite honestly loved more than I thought I would. Once again giving equal time to both characters, Russell has marriage problems leading to a pretty crushing ending to one episode while Gamby is trying to spend more time with his daughter while simultaneously conducting his own investigation into his shooting. It's still very compelling but in a different way. Yes Gamby is a dick but you still nevertheless want him to find out who did it, and yes Russell is a very egotistical fella but you don't want to see his marriage go to hell in a handbasket. If they genuinely tried these story elements in the first season, I don't think it would have worked even half as good as it does here because you've spent so much time with them on one front where you do fully see who they really and truly are. Without that, it would kinda seem to be an average and run of the mill show. But both seasons are great and it does come down to personal preference as to which is superior, I loved the first season more but the love is undoubtedly here for season two. I was testing my own detective skills in this season and while the show sort of strings along a few suspects if you think logically on just pure observations of characters you can easily decipher who did it. It certainly doesn't take a damn thing away from the finale though, it's a wild and just shocking end to it all before you get the resolution. I couldn't believe a few instances and this show always had my full attention but I was hanging on every word at the last episode. Again the entire supporting cast returns, and any dang excuse to see my total cutie pie Ashley Spillers is fffffricking good enough for me! Now the big question is if this season is objectively better than the first but with a mini-series, whether split in half or not, is incredibly hard to rate as a whole. The second season gets a 9/10. But the whole show as one single entity gets 4 stars, 9/10, a high recommendation and tons of love and appreciation from me. And I think it's highway robbery that you can buy the whole series for like, I don't even think $15 in stores, everytime I saw it the price was about 13 or 14 bucks. That's a steal for the story and fun in this show! So by all means check it out, I'm sorry it was only two reviews this week but circumstances have arisen and it will be tricky to get back to a full schedule. It's nothing bad, just...bear with me for a bit. Until next time!

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Vice Principals: Season 1

Is this our first mini-series on this show? I don't know, it's a miracle I remember my own anniversary on this show.

Vice Principals is a show that I did actually watch while it was new...kinda. More specifically, I occasionally missed some episodes while watching it on HBO a few years back cause I had more of a life. Insert joke here. And I got a free trial just to see what HBO Max had to offer and I decided to check this series out again, and here we are. It's pretty good! I will flat out tell you the reason I watched this series was because of Walton Goggins as one of the main leads, I caught him on Justified now and then and easily could tell he was a trip so I was ready and willing to see what he brought to a primarily comedic show. The story revolves around two vice principals, Neal and Lee, of a high school who after seeing principal Bill Murray retire (yes he has a name but stop lying to yourself, you will call him Bill Murray) start to vie for power but quickly get brushed over when the new principal is elected and what follows is nothing short of an education in dark side 101. I'm serious, my geeky ass brain was just screaming this is how the Sith operate, not through feats of power but manipulation, underhanded moves, subterfuge, and carefully calculated destruction. It's both hilariously outrageous and yet undoubtedly disturbing to see how far two people will go for a position that really don't mean that much in the grand scheme of things. Neal Gamby is a complete raging cock and honestly a bit of a tool, and there isn't a shadow of a doubt in my mind that Danny McBride wasn't the one in mind when they wrote the part. I've seen bits of him in Eastbound And Down and he seems to play the exact same character, a very full of himself, socially inept, and complete braying jackass but hey the man can play the part and props must be given. While Walton Goggins plays Lee Russell, simultaneously a sycophant in public but a dastardly and cunniving almost mastermind in private, but holy great balls of fire is this guy hysterical. I just look at him with his bow tie, wild hair, and questionable attire, and I am just rolling on the floor. He delivers every ounce of the performance I wanted from him and more, it's nothing less than astounding. But even the supporting cast is great, able to pull of the show's humor but to add just a dash of the real world elements. It's such an interesting take on a show, because you essentially are following and may be possibly rooting for the bad guys! They're not completely horrible, again they have elements where they fit in the real world, they are just people who have families and lives outside of their shared plan. It's not afraid to have a serious moment when the time calls for it, and again I appreciate that. I think this is a terrific show, and you can knock out the first season in about 4 and a half hours, it's not that long and the second season is the same length so if you're dedicated enough you can watch the whole thing in a day and still have time to do other stuff and I do believe it's worth the time. It really only has one aspect which I just think does not work, which is the romance. Neal gets a crush on one of the teachers and while I have seen more awkward conversations, the romance angle the show is trying to work falls flat on it's face. Hard. I never bought it for a second. But it's very much a side story and while it has time dedicated to it never once did it ruin my enjoyment of the show. So I still award 4 stars, I give it a 8.5/10, this is a great show and really some shows deserve more fans. Season 2 coming next time.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Samurai III: Duel At Ganryu Island

Was it a satisfying end?

In some respects, absolutely. I've made my peace very quickly with this series, it was never meant to be an action trilogy but a persoanl story. It's actually really interesting to go from movie to movie and to see the genre change each time, the first movie had quite a bit of action mixed with a touch of drama, the second movie focused more on Musashi's journey with equal amounts action and drama, but this movie fits squarely in the drama and romance department despite there being slight instances of swordplay. I'm not going to bash the movie for not being totally accurate, the parts that did happen were a joy to see in action, but there were slight issues with this. Now I have no problem that the movie picks up a year since the last, and Musashi has almost fully centered himself into his swordsman demeanor being much more calm and collected than brash and wild. But the part that just made me go, whaaaat was the young boy that traveled with Musashi in the last film for a bit looks like a teenager while in the last movie he seemed to be maybe 10 years old, so I was slightly confused with the timeline for a bit. But hey if Rocky's kid can jump from 7 or 8 to 12 or 13, between Rocky 4 and 5 then I can't hold it against the movie too much. I will fully admit the romance did not grow on me much, it has it's moments, good moments at that, but it kind of drags the movie down for me because we're still dealing with this love triangle and it's undoubtedly very soap opera and old fashioned. I have nothing against Otsu but lady, you kinda need to just let him go cause it was harboring on desperate and just plain overreacting in the second movie but now, it's just old. Am I saying I could have made this trilogy better? No, but I could have streamlined a lot and thusly make more room for the important story bits. It's not sloppy and poorly executed by any stretch, but I do wish the main plot would have been to see a very bull headed, very anger and energy filled young man slowly form his own identity and to learn the way of the sword and to cement his own style. Which spoiler alert was the real story of this man, he was brash and arrogant, he did go too far in duels, but as he got older he better understood himself and his lifelong commitment to be a respected swordsman, he had a great appreciation and affinity for the arts (which I'm very happy to see in this movie a bit), and taught his own unique fighting style before putting it down in words so close to his death. But again, it's based on a body of work that was very loosely based on his life so that's kind of the reason the films are the way they are. Am I still happy to have seen it? Hell yes. Toshiro Mifune gets to show a bit of his acting chops in certain scenes throughout, the action bits while brief are done so well, the cinematography and sets are gorgeous, it's a good introduction to this genre if you want something more deep than the usual hack and slash, but even then every movie we have seen this week has an amazing and wonderful spin on it, whether it be story elements or purely stylistic choices. It's a good trilogy to be sure, and should be viewed on it's own merits than the genre that it's situated in. To be honest, I feel the whole movie is worth it just for the final scene where Musashi goes to duel with Kojiro, not only is it the common story that Musashi fashioned a sword out of a boat oar on the way to the island where they agreed to meet, but the visuals are breathtaking. Almost the entire fight is shot in silhouette against a sunrise, and it is so dang pretty. And really you can knock this trilogy out in a day, in about 5 hours to be a bit more precise, and I can think of worse ways to spend 5 hours of my life than to watch these movies. 4 stars, 8/10, another week gone. So what comes next? Difficult to see, always in motion is the future. But I have high hopes.

Samurai II: Duel At Ichijoji Temple

A fair improvement over the last.

The realization just hit that this was very much a Lord Of The Rings situation with this trilogy, each entry was released the next year from 1954 to 1956, all were directed by the same person, and so far the cast has all returned with new additions. I think that's what boosted my enjoyment of this movie was the fact that all the characters from the last movie get to be expanded a bit, I honestly was not expecting to really see them again after Musashi set out on his own. The film doesn't fit the action genre quite as much as the rest of the movies I reviewed this week, it focuses much more on Musashi trying to better his swordsmanship than duels. In fact the movie kinda goes out of it's way not to show a lot of action till near the end, every fight scene either cuts away or is stopped which might disappoint people a lot but I genuinely didn't mind. I found the story to be much better than the first as we see our main character come to terms with his own emotions and seeks to learn how to improve not only his sword skills but his character, with a bit of a love triangle interwoven with it. Now I personally don't care too much for the romance, because I know for a fact Musashi Miyamoto was never married and never had kids, he had adopted sons but not children of his own so I sort of already know where it ends. But the rest of the movie is mighty good! The majority of the film is shot on sets, but it never distracted me from the movie because they are wonderful sets that convey a lot of beauty and atmosphere in them so I just really appreciated the craftsmanship of it all. The choreography of the fight scenes are also good, once again knowing how to charge the scene with tension. I was picking up on a lot of the fighting stances and strategy that were brought up in The Five Rings, from the various holding positions of the sword, to remembering strategic points about how to fight against certain weapons for instance a longsword, and seeing the dual wielding trademark of Miyamoto's fighting style was great. I just hope that this series doesn't pull a Godfather and drop drastically in quality come the third movie, cause I do consider this to be a better film than the first which I already thought was pretty dang good. No doubt we'll see our original cast back once again, it had a lot of good dynamics in this movie that I truthfully felt was better than the first and rightfully so because it's a sequel that builds upon the foundations, so the thought of Musashi and Matahachi meeting again after so long got me excited, the thought of Otsu and Akemi fighting possibly to the death for Musashi's love kinda got me worried because I didn't want to see anyone die. That's good character development, and I honestly can't wait to dive right into the final installment just to see where it all goes and where it decides to end. This was a damn good movie, full 4 stars, 8.5/10, let's finish this.

Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto

Humble beginnings indeed.

Full disclosure, I knew quite a bit about the real world figure of Musashi Miyamoto before jumping into this. I have read The Five Rings twice and find him to be a truly interesting figure. Now the movie trilogy was based off an author's work rather than very muddled historical accounts that have made it impossible to discern fact from legend, and with individuals going into this movie blind you'll have nothing to worry about. But for me I had to keep reminding myself this is an adaptation, but the film was still very good. The only thing that sort of surprised me and yet made me enjoy this movie more is it believe it or not has a Hollywood epic feel to it, think Ben Hur or The Ten Commandments. The scope of the shots, the musical cues, the path of the story that plays out, you honest to God could have swapped the original actors with americans and I would bet every cent in my bank that the lead would be played by Charlton Heston. So in a way the plot was very familair in execution, but the concept follows a young Miyamoto as he runs away from home to join the samurai ranks only for their side to lose, and eventually a manhunt is issued against him. Nothing major happens in this movie, it is a very straightforward beginning that will no doubt pick up in pace with the other two movies, but it nevertheless is still interesting to watch. And who better to play one of the most famous swordsman in history but Toshiro Mifune, top form as always with a very strong performance, wild energy, and just enough enigmatic intrigue to make you want to see how the story truly ends. Supporting cast is mighty good with my particular favorite of the whole show being Kuroemon Onoe as a wily and fun priest, he was an absolute joy to watch. The action bits are well spread out, and fit more with the traditional quick slash style of fighting with small groups facing off with our protagonist. Very well shot and choreographed, but the real wow factor comes in the environment. This was literally the second film produced in color by Toho, and it looks great! Yet another element that reminds me a lot of Ten Commandments, but that movie focused more on the sheer size of the egyptian city and the massive number of extras in a scene, where this focuses on the grand scope of nature with still admirable amounts of extras here and there. But the color is so rich and a wee bit saturated that really makes it pop, it's nothing fancy but still wonderful in it's own way. It probably doesn't seem like I have a lot to say about this movie, but I really did enjoy it and we'll have the other two out before the day is done. 4 stars, 8/10!

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Lady Snowblood: Love Song Of Vengeance

Pretty good? Yes. Better than the first? Not quite.

Now you understand why I wish the last movie was called Sword Of Vengeance. But anyway, this was still a very good movie with that same visual flair of the first film and rightfully so since Toshiya Fujita directed both. I was genuinely curious to see where on earth this story could go after a pretty definitive ending to the first one, but it was alluded to even in that movie that though her life's quest is completed she cannot change her nature. This was a woman who almost from birth was trained to be a weapon, a highly skilled and fearless sword wielder with retribution coarsing through her veins. So it's interesting to see Yuki on the run, constantly being hounded by police officers before she is tasked with eliminating an anarchist in exchange for immunity. But things grow more complicated as the story unfolds and she takes a firm stand against an institution that would much rather see her dead. Yet again Meiko Kagi is on top form, personified so frick fraking perfect in a single scene, where her target announces he knows exactly who she is and the facade just drops quicker than a snap of my fingers. Holy hot damn, this woman can act. Shin Kishida is a really good villain, just as visually striking and cold blooded as Yuki is and if he looks familiar to any kaiju fans out there he was in Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla, he just has that instantly recognizable facial physique. The rest of the cast is also very good, and do give the story the proper weight it needs. And it's not a bad story, I had no issue with Lady Snowblood being in this plot and it actually makes me quite curious to see how the manga develops through it's entire run, but it's not as engaging and excellent as the first film. But the style and execution of the story is pretty much the only reason you want to see it which is totally fine by me, I still had a really good time with this movie and think of it still as a very good movie. It's not often either on this show or in the world of movies to have a duology, so it's if anything fascinating just to see what the filmmaker is trying to accomplish. Now if Lady Snowblood was a one and done, I wouldn't have much to complain about but I also won't lie and say it's not a story that deserves continuation. I just feel that it's a story really any other character from other samurai films could fit into. But what do I know, see the film and judge for yourself! 3 stars, 7.5/10, and we got a trilogy to get through tomorrow so stay tuned.

Lady Snowblood

Revenge...the most worthless of causes yet the basis for some of the greatest stories.

I'm stunned guys. I really didn't know what to expect at all but this's in my top 5 maybe even top 3 of this genre. I just, wow. Like almost every point of praise I gave to all the past movies of this week, all those elements have been upped to 11. But first, story time! The film once again has a structure like Lone Wolf And Cub where it jumps back in time, as we see a young woman give birth to a baby girl in prison, who soon grows up to seek vengeance on the people who tortured and raped her mother and butchered her family. It's a pretty intense plot, and every choice made by the entire production team I just could not stop loving. The set design and artistic choices are outstanding, the cinematography is varied and somehow makes your viewing engagement even more intense, the actors are great, the fight scenes are the most bloody I've seen in any sword fighting movie, it's just incredible. I feel that this movie should have been called Sword Of Vengeance for a reason you'll know when we get to the second film but that's just my own little thought bubble. Meiko Kaji is our star and not only does she have a fantastic design with a ghostly palor and the subtle but distinguishable eyes that look on the verge of weeping bloody tears, not only is she so stunning and beautiful that if looks could kill you'd be carved in half, but her performance man. Even though she doesn't say an awful lot, you feel her dedication to this cause, her passion and intensity, through almost strictly facial expressions. She's just brilliant in every way. I knew going in this was a duology, so I really had no clue how this movie was going to end and it really kept me guessing to the end title card. In fact this movie had plot moments that shocked me quite a few times, with one antagonist they give you 3 loops that I wouldn't dream of spoiling. This movie had me hook, line, and sinker from shot one but it kept ramping up my enjoyment and interest. For half the movie I thought she wouldn't even obtain her goal of eliminating these four individuals and would go on into the second movie. The plot does indeed remind me of Kill Bill, and I think this was one of the biggest influences for that movie. It's certainly not a wimp about showing the brutality, even I was wincing, and exclaiming, and letting my jaw drop. But a thought struck me that honestly was staring me straight in the face since Lone Wolf And Cub, the blood is straight up Hammer blood, it's that rich almost neon blood effect and I feel like a fool for not noticing it earlier. And the style it exudes in every shot is beyond amazing, again elements of Lone Wolf but enhanced and elevated exponentially, with the sharp cuts, zooms, handheld camera footage, and all expertly executed in every way. It does have a certain grindhouse feel if even just a itty bitty bit. I loved it man, I seriously consider this one of the best I've seen in the samurai cinema world. Like right up there with Sanjuro and Tale Of Zatoichi as one of my favorites ever. I'd give it 5 stars if I could, 9/10! Damn, this was something else. But wait, there's more! We're doing the sequel today!

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The Sword Of Doom


I kept hearing this was the most violent of samurai films and uh, yeah they were not lying. Most bloody? No, but if you want hack and slash to the 100th power look no further. The odd thing about this movie aside from the ending itself is that our main character that we follow from the first to last shot is not a hero, or even an anti-hero, but a full on villain. Now on one hand I greatly appreciate this, film no matter where it originates from hardly ever has the balls to make a villain the main character. And not even a fall from grace, was once a hero but is now a villain, no no no you get a complete sociopathic blood thirsty samurai. Tatsuya Nakadai has well proven his place as one of the best japanese actors I've seen and if that wasn't a cemented fact before, this movie just further proved it. It's like Anton Chigurh but a ronin, like that level of scary crazy. And to be perfectly honest this film fully understands the term 'cinematic', the shots are spectacular in every sense, and know how to build tension when called for, it just looks un-f***ing-believable. So the stroy as I said follows this ronin character as he leaves bodies and vendettas in his wake, and one particular warrior seeks vengeance for his brother and undergoes training to defeat a seemingly impossibly strong foe. So basically it's every western movie ever but instead of the revenge seeking gunslinger, you follow the murderous bandit for the film's duration. That's brilliant. The action might just be the best I've seen, with long takes and tracking shots through waves of enemies that incorporates a bit more blood with the classic quick slash deaths. By the end there was not a doubt in my mind that this psychotic sword wielding bastard racked up more kills in one movie than Jason Voorhee's movies combined, and the movie actually ends in the middle a fight scene. Not a cliffhanger, not a conclusion, but while knee deep in death. The story behind that was this was supposed to be the beginning of a trilogy but the sequel never got off the ground and even the original story was so long that the author couldn't even finish it before he died, so it's inconclusive on all fronts but did it affect my overall enjoyment? No, not at all. It was a trip to see this horrible man just live it up in his twisted reality and to not really get a comeuppance. Again, very much like Anton in No Country For Old Men. I heard this was the most bloody samurai film ever made but after seeing this and the little fact that the next movie I'm reviewing is called Lady Snowblood, I'm gonna hold that reservation. Easily 4 stars across the board, 8.5/10, it's a 2 hour movie that does not stop and does not disappoint.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Tale Of Zatoichi

Add this to the list of my favorites!

No doubt through history tales of a blind swordsman have been told in some form or another, but I think most would envision a samurai in such a role, and this film really brought it front and center. Believe it or not the first time I ever heard the name Zatoichi was on an episode of The Boondocks, great show go watch it, but I had no idea who it was and after doing some research the quite shocking revelation was he was the star of a 25 part movie saga. Yeah. 25 movies. Starting in 1962, and ending in 1973, with only one year where not a single film of this series came out. Marvel can suck it. Long...and hard. Talk about uncommon back in the day! And the story is also something unseen, with Zatoichi staying over in a small town controlled by two rival gangs which sounds like Yojimbo territory all over again but as the movie goes on it changes it up a lot. Zatoichi is hired by one gang and is poised to fight in their small war, and eventually he meets up with another samurai named Hirate who is hired by the rival gang but a strong friendship quickly grows between them. And this was the main element that grabbed my interest, because it's handled so friggin' well! You can tell they have immense respect for one another's skills, genuinely and greatly enjoy each other's company, and harbors precisely zero ill will toward the other. They fish, share a drink, converse, and you really grow to hate the idea of them facing off at the end. On top of that Hirate has tuberculosis and is already getting closer and closer to his deathbed, and the thought of him asking Zatoichi to essentially participate in his assisted suicide just makes it that much more depressing. I absolutely adored Shigeru Amachi as Hirate and Shintaro Katsu as Zatoichi, they are amazing together and seperately. There's not as much swordplay as you would think but I honestly could not have cared less because the story is what had my attention, not that the choreography isn't some of the quickest and that the action points are boring, it's just not what I was sticking around for. The overall cinematography though is wonderful, with quite a good handful of instances where the action and cast are performing in the background and there's scenery and sets in the foreground. Which makes the composition of the shot look so damn nice, so I got nothing but praise for the production team. Really the only bad thing I could say about the movie at all is that a romance element is very quickly introduced and built up but hasn't really earned it. It is rushed, but maybe I'm just too biased towards the bromance. This is a major favorite of mine in this genre, and no doubt I'll find another big favorite before the week is out. So I give this movie a full 4 stars, 8.5/10! It's a classic for a reason and maybe one day we'll do the other 24 entries, if the gods are willing and kind. And tomorrow we have The Sword Of Doom so see you then.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Lone Wolf And Cub: Sword Of Vengeance

One of the most stylistic films I've seen from Japan.

Certainly not as visually exuberant as House, but Lone Wolf And Cub has it's own style which is set pretty much from the first shot. The story follows a samurai executioner who is framed for attempting to murder a high ranking official leading him to travel abroad with his young son seeking to clear his name and put his talents to use. Lesson of the day kiddos, if you're good at something never do it for free. I actually got so invested into this movie that when the movie ended I was taken off guard, it's not even 90 minutes and it went by in a flash. Needless to say I've seen this story element before. Hmmm, where have I seen a deadly and skilled warrior travel with a child, pram and all, in tow? Ah well, I'm sure I'll see it online somewhere. I got to say though, of all the movies I've seen from the land of the rising sun this is actually the most graphic. You see arterial spray like it's nobody's business, I've gotten so use to just black and white, quick slashes, nary a drop of blood that this shocked me a tiny bit. And it warrants that R rating with a bit of nudity, sexual and non-sexual so that was another first for me. Lord knows I wouldn't mind reviewing all 6 of these movies but we got a lot more to talk about for the week. The visuals and even the audio choices is what really stuck with me after the movie ended, there's handheld action scenes, quick cuts and zooms, beautiful wide shots, but then there's interesting audio choices where in certain action moments there is zero sound except for the slashing of the sword, and there's multiple instances where an element of water whether it be rain or a stream is muted. It kind of gives a silent film treatment from time to time, and it makes me incredibly curious to see if these elements are mainstays of the series or evolve to be even more engaging. It's a very interesting watch and no doubt people take away very different aspects when they first see it. Hell you could probably get a menagerie of different thoughts and reactions to the flashback scenes and the significance of where they are placed in the film. It's mighty good, and actually proves a point that even in niche genres like samurai cinema there's still avenues for each individual. You want epic storytelling and visuals, watch Ran. You want bloody action and a bit more hardcore edge to it, watch Lone Wolf And Cub. You want classic examples that influenced an entire genre, watch Yojimbo. It has something for everyone and believe me when I say, not every genre accomplishes that. It's a worthy corner of film to watch and enjoy. I give this movie 4 stars, a solid 8/10, and I'll be back tomorrow with a film that created one of the earliest examples of a large film franchise.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

The Last Samurai

Alright America, you did good.

It was about high time after many reviews of films set in a very specific time in history to see if american filmmakers could succesfuly pay tribute to the elite class of warriors known the world over. And while it does take a grab bag of different historical elements, and not being a straight up historical recounting, the story it crafts is excellent. An american soldier is hired to train japanese soldiers in an attempt to quell a samurai rebellion, however after the first encounter he is taken by the samurai and spends months with them. He learns a bit of the language, their lifestyle, forms friendships, and eventually fights with them against the Imperial Army. It's a lot better than I'm making it out to be, this is not your cookie cutter Pocahontas/Dances With Wolves/Avatar horseshit, it has a lot more meat to it whether you're familiar with the time frame and culture or not. Surprisingly the film did much better in Japan than America, receiving a lot of praise and a very good box office intake while domestically it didn't even make it's budget back. It's a bit of a shame to see people in my own country still refuse to view films in different languages, it's not as bad as it was when this film released but it could always be better. And it is worth your time, it does go at a slow pace but never to the point of being boring or dragging at places, every scene has a reason to be, the shots are ridiculously gorgeous at times, the music is nice, the acting is the reason you stay invested even though the story is a strong one. I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Tom Cruise's character, but to see a very broken down, emotionally damaged, full on PTSD afflicted army officer who finds a bit of solace in a small village while gaining appreciation for the warriors who live there and continually learns more about them is a good narrative. It helps center even the most uncultured of individuals to understand what they are seeing. Ken Watanabe is amazing as always, so good he got his first and only Academy Award nomination which I find to be just inexcusable by the way, his character is against the rapid modernization and dissolving of his creed yet he doesn't take an antagonistic edge. The movie is more about the clashing of ideologies than swords, during the latter half of the 1800s Japan was taking it's first steps into the modern world after about 200 years of self isolation, a country frozen in time and suffered countless civil wars. And the government essentially outlaws samurai, which was a very real thing that happened and affected a lot of people. So you can understand why he stands against the governement and more importantly the Emperor who he taught as a young boy, it's just a difference of opinions with no ill will towards the other. It's such a good dynamic because in war films, there is no good or evil but just a conflict that consumes all in it's wake whether you see the scars it leaves on others or not. Samurai have a code of ethics that is showcased in this movie, and the director obviously did his homework because the film implements so much of the time period and the culture in the movie, it really is very commendable. I was not disappointed with any facet of the finished product, and while there are inevitable discrepancies with history it never detracted from the overall experience. It really is a great film that has stuff to say and commits to it's vision from beginning to end. There's no tropes, there's no emotional manipulation, it just tells the story. That's an impressive feat for any film let alone a period piece. It really affirms why I appreciate and enjoy movies of that time period and culture, and I was flipping through other examples of samurai cinema outside of the Kurosawa library and there is so much more to enjoy so I'll pick a handful of other movies to discuss and share with next week from other classic names of the chanbara genre. I strongly recommend this movie even if it is a one time viewing, and I give it a full 4 stars, 8.5/10!

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Django Unchained

Yeah boy.

Full disclosure, I've seen parts of this movie on television before, mostly towards the tail end of it so this has been my first full watch through, and I thought the last 25 minutes was wild! Boy howdy lemme tell you something now, this is a great movie! I've come to know what to expect from seeing several of Quentin Tarantino's films, and yet he does something similar but still unique to each of his films. The man was born to make grindhouse-esque movies, you can tell real quick from just the opening credits but then you get the absurd zooms that never failed to make me laugh because it's that over the top, and the ridiculous amounts of blood. I've seen gory films in my time, I've seen bloody shootouts in my day, but not quite like this. And the story hardly took any time before I was fully invested, it being centered around a slave named Django who is quickly teamed up with a Dr. Schultz and collects bounties with him before the true meat of the story comes about when Django sets out to save his wife from a plantation. It's a movie where they ain't afraid to use the ugliest word in the human language, it makes almost 3 hours go by like 90 minutes, and every racist person gets a bullet in them. I am on board with that last part. They don't pull any punches, they keep it real to the times, they tell it how it is and do something with it. I heard that Jamie Foxx wasn't the first initial choice for Django, but honest to God I can't imagine the movie without him. His prescence, his wit, his physicality, it's pretty damn perfect in my eyes. But you really can't talk about one main character without talking about the other, and Christoph Waltz is giving his best performance to my knowledge (still haven't seen Inglorious Basterds just yet), and what a powerful duo these two are on screen. It is a joy to see them converse, blast fools, and have a really good friendship dynamic. And the supporting cast is just as strong, with Kerry Washington who is just a lovely lady and I'd pump people full of lead too to make sure she's safe and well, Leo is f***ing out there as usual and always fun to watch, Sam Jackson made me feel bad making me laugh so much at such blatant racism I mean sweet Jesus when the man starts calling people motherfrakkers you got to laugh. I just, I ain't mad at Tarantino for even a second for the dialogue, it's how they talked back then, but damn I still felt bad. But in reality, if you feel bad about seeing people be talked to that way and treated that way then you're not the problem, you got the better sense to know it's wrong. Even he said he despised Leo's character because he was such a hateful sack of shit (my words not his), so I ain't gonna give the man good grief for that. There isn't much action beyond the climax, they treat the gunplay seriously and with restraint mostly, but every damn time someone gets shot it's like if they had a overfilled blood bag under their clothes, it's ridiculous how much blood goes gushing after a gunshot. I guess high blood pressure will do that. It's a pretty spectacular movie, I was having a party during it and got big reactions out of me, I loved the cast, I loved the story, I wouldn't honestly complain if we got a sequel, it's just a great time at the movies. 4 stars, 8/10! I'm gonna buy it, watch it time and time again, and never get tired of seeing asshats get dead, D-E-D, dead! We'll shift gears a bit tomorrow which will lead into next week's reviews, and I'll give you a dollar if you can guess what it is.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Public Enemies

Yeah I don't think there's such a thing as a bad Michael Mann film centered around bank robberies.

It's been a minute since I've seen this movie. I did see it in theaters when I was 14 and even owned it on video but it's been awhile since I sat down and watched it again. It's as good as I remember it, a very non-romanticized account of notorious bank robber John Dillinger being pursued by the still forming FBI and it's G-men. I can't remember exactly what drew me to see the movie back then, both me and my mom were big Johnny Depp fans and the advertising media looked pretty good, and I don't hear anybody talk about it nowadays. It's pretty good though, if you're familiar with Michael Mann's work then no doubt you'll want to see it, and it does have some fine star power. Basically if you loved Heat then you should check this movie out, it kind of has some similar concepts here and there and the action scenes are shot really well. I do have to give big credit to the production team, it really does look and feel like 1930s America with the fashion, cars, and events, it just looks absolutely great. There's a lot of handheld footage in this movie even outside of shootouts, but it's not at all shaky cam and the director obviously knew how to get his shots, so the gunplay is damn good. The movie also does a fine job of getting you to sympathize with the criminal, Johnny Depp really brings his charm and affability to the role and while he robs banks and does shoot down cops, you do want to see him reach his goal of retirement with his girlfriend. I bought the chemistry between Johnny and Marion Cotillard, and it services the story's enjoyment but it's nothing too grand to write home about. It is pretty interesting to also see her and Christian Bale in scenes together about 3 years before The Dark Knight Rises and he does great work, with the film splitting almost entirely in half between these two guy's performances. The soundtrack is mostly music of the era which is nice but the main theme for Dillinger is more recent, and while I will fully admit it's a great song and one I immediately got after seeing the film, if you really listen to the lyrics it don't got much to do with bank robbing. Though it's still a strong song with an unfortunate but all too real subject matter. All in all it was great seeing this movie again and to see it holds up quite well, it's by no means Mann's best work but it shouldn't be disregarded. There's plenty to like and actually would make a great introduction to his body of work, so I do recommend this movie. I give it 3 stars, 7.5/10, and no doubt we'll have a real banger tomorrow so I'll see you down the road.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Evolutionary Viewing Of The Internet Critic Part IV

I couldn't get a film to review this week so let's just have a chat. If you've read my other EVOTIC ramblings it mostly focuses on how I was introduced to the concept of writing and making videos on various bits of media, specifically film and video games easily my two biggest passions. But this is more or less going to be a microcosm of how well, my tastes and viewing of cinema changed over the course of the past 20 years or so. I just turned 25 a while back, and yet my love for movies has been there just about as long as Japan has been on my radar. I was a movie kid back in the day. You want to shut me up for a bit? Put on a movie. You want to hear me quote every line of dialogue in a movie because I was 5 years old and didn't have anything better to do with my time? Buckle up. Longer movies never were an issue for me, but to everyone else it was. So what if a movie is 3 hours? The majority of movies I watched when I was little little were like 2+ hours, so what's another 30 odd minutes. I was watching The Ten Commandments when I was like 5 or 6, and that movie is about 4 hours long. And I loved it! I was given freedom with the movies I could see, as long as it wasn't R rated, and I honest to God could not take the majority of my movies to bring to kindergarten because it needed to be PG or G, and it never dawned on me that I was watching more mature stuff because it was just entertainment. Granted there were instances where I couldn't handle small segments of a movie but I held my ground with a lot of stuff. Even though I was a scaredy cat until I was maybe 9 or 10, then I started watching the Universal Monster movies which was my introduction to horror, and gradually I upgraded to slasher movie in my early teen years, and now I'm kind of a sucker for the genre. I used to only have one criteria between a good movie and a bad movie: If it was boring, it was a bad movie. So even a movie as universally panned as Batman & Robin was cinema gold to my young eyes because that movie is anything but boring. Now....different story. I refuse to be called a cinema snob, I'm well versed in cinema, I know what I like, but I keep quite an open mind which is something I kept from my younger years. But bad movies are bad movies dear ones, and I can tell pretty quick if I'm in for a bad trip. Another thing that has obviously stuck around is my movie collection, even when I was young I had tons of movies to watch whenever I wanted whether they be mine or my grandparents, I had an entertainment system filled to the brim with movies of all kinds, a closet full of VHS tapes, and honestly not much has changed. True I still went out and played a lot as a kid but it's undeniable that certain movies got me fired up to go out and run rampant. Can you guess what movie made me swing around a red baseball bat as a sword? Speaking of which, I blame Star Wars for this but I have not changed my mind on the subject, I always wanted the villain to win. Whether it be The Empire, any pick of the litter in the Disney villain department, I always felt that heroes were nothing but boring goody two-shoes and were absolutely no fun. And I had this revelation at the age of 3 by the by, and yeah I still feel that way. Dress me in black, imbue me with the powers of eeeeevillll, I'm here for it. But obviously some things have changed during the course of my lifetime and it has affected the way I look at films, I follow a good cabal of internet critics, I don't take their word as gospel but I respect their views enough to listen, but I'm more of a cynical grumpy old man now so if a movie fails in my eyes it needs to be wiped off the face of the planet. Whereas if I was younger I wouldn't care too much and just not watch it again. I always wanted to do something in the movie business, whether act, or write, or scout locations, and while I've taken on the outsider looking in perspective it still has something to do with movies. Movies have made me appreciate culture, improved my vocabulary at a young age, absolutely arrested my imagination, and has taken up more time of my life than anything else. And I wouldn't have it any other way, good experiences and bad. It's awful nice to put your thoughts to writing, and no doubt many people have a lot of experiences and memories to share so I hope you tell them. It should be a fun experience to discuss things you love, and I'm happy you could join me on this odyssey through movies and television shows galore. So until next time, happy watching and I'll see you soon.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

What We Do In The Shadows: Season 2

I have made my decision on my favorite character.

Is season two better? I genuinely would have to say yes. The writing is still as great as the first season, the actors get to spread their wings more, it actually has a bit of a plot arc even if it's a tiny one, I just had even more fun with this than the last. We pick up a few months after the run in with the vampiric counsel as Nandor, Nadja, Laszlo, Colin Robinson, and Guillermo continue running into problems with ghosts in their home, an old foe of Laszlo returns, Guillermo starts becoming more independent, amongst other things, and a finale that simply can't be ignored by any character come season three. I do really think that this season is funnier and more entertaining than the last one, and you already know the rating I gave for that. I wasn't disappointed at all and got to spend more time with these characters, almost every one of them has an episode dedicated nearly entirely to just one of them. A lot more screen time is given to Guillermo and while Nadja is beyond brilliant in every way, Guillermo is my favorite character by a bit, it's just really something to see when this totally devoted and subservient character grows more of a spine and becomes his own agent. He still very much cares for his master and roommates, but quickly wants more and stands up for himself in many ways. Harvey Guillen is perfect in this series, wonderful comedic timing, great acting, is basically the only character to get an arc, they show the love for Guillermo in this season. And I for one, adore it. I'd truthfully be very proud to be Guillermo de la Cruz for Halloween. But enough of my gushing, what else is good? Well we get even more celebrity cameos, even one from Mark Hamill so it automatically is a win. The story situations are more varied thus leading to more character moments and great comedy. It does get wild in a few instances, which is what a show should do in it's second season, give the audience some crazy scenarios to show that not only that the show isn't a one trick pony but to kind of up the stakes (no pun intended of course) and show that there is a reason you keep watching and coming back. I was a fan before the end of season 1, but now consider me a die hard fan, this is my show. It took a good long while to move on from Gotham, and while Doctor Who was great I've been a fan for about a decade now so it's always just been there as a great show, and yes I have checked out other stuff but nothing has really struck my interest to such a degree. This show really has grabbed me and made me love it to the moon and back. I'm here for it, I'm ready and waiting, will we get the next season in the fall of 2020? No of course not, f*** you Brandon. You thought you could get your television programme back in the fall when the world seems to deliberately want us extinct and every film is being pushed back to a year from now? Piss in my cornflakes will you 2020, you robbing ****sucker. But I won't dwell on that. 4 stars, 9/10!