Sunday, 27 May 2012

The Superhero Sunday


Don't miss the chance to see the final Movie Bar marathon as we celebrate the lesser known heroes behind the unpopular masks.  It's a fatal four way of fighting, flying and funk as we bow out with the best of the rest.  Click [here] to book tickets now or phone the telephone number above and if that's not enough them Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th sees two days to marvel at.

The Champions of Justice
3 Supermen Against Godfather
The Super Inframan
The Human Tornado

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Bong of the Dead

Certificate: 18
Running time: 91 mins
Director: Thomas Newman
Starring: Mark Wynn, Jy Harris, Simone Bailly
Genre: Horror
Country: Canada

The world has tipped beyond breaking point, when farmer Victor Hoagan (Vince Laxton) becomes patient zero to a living entity inside a meteor at the bottom of his garden which turns him into a zombie.  Six months later and the world is now over populated by groaning flesh eaters.  Professional stoner and horticulturalist Edwin (Wynn) has stumbled upon the realisation that zombie meat makes for potent fertiliser for his green buds.  Teaming up with fellow stoner and friend Tommy (Harris) the pair head out from the safety of the militarily cleansed “Freedom Town” in order to find zombies to help grow some truly excellent weed.

In recent years there’s been a seemingly conscious and continuous effort to reinvent the zombie horror.  We’ve had the Western (Cowboys & Zombies), the Adult (Big Tit Zombies) and the current affairs (Ozombie ­– the Osama Bin Laden zombie film) and in Bong of the Dead we have the Cheech and Chong meets Fulci aspiring offering from Thomas Newman (who was most famously the model maker for Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer).  Can the film live up to the downtrodden groan fests which inspire it?  No is the short answer.

The initial phase of giddy endearment during Wynn and Harris’ first scene together gives the film a degree of promise which surpasses the constructional shortcomings.  The narrative is rather silly, the effects wanting but the enthusiasm of the duo, in particularly Wynn who seems to wear the stoner long hair and handle bar moustache like he was born with it carry you along a wave of excitement that eventually dips, dives and drops when they leave for the Danger Zone (which is when it should be ramping up).  The films aesthetic is plain and extremely uncomplicated, the use of colour, lighting and sound all straddle the superficial which is disappointing as one of the ways a good Independent film can make itself feel bigger than what the budget allows is with a rich visual palette.

Narrative silliness is part and parcel of the horror genre, it demands a suspension of disbelief that fans are all too willing to provide but Bong of the Dead’s initially silliness becomes frustratingly unfocused, random and incoherent.  Barry Nerling’s (True Justice, Alcatraz) presence in the film is, unfortunately, the messenger of the doom for the films storyline.  His character (Alex – leader of the zombies) somehow still has the motor functions to be able to speak, is (for some unknown reason) a Nazi – this is in no way relevant to the narrative, and is little more than a central antagonist who’s screen time is so mismanaged that he’s ineffective.

Director Newman, thanks to detailed lessons from Andrew Kramer, learnt how to create his own effects.  It’s an incredible dedication and something that will, no doubt, hold him in good stead in later projects but it might have been beneficial to the film if they had hired someone with experience in the skilled art as the effects are wanting and ultimately show too much.

Wynn (as mentioned before) is strong casting, he has a screen presence and a performance style that relaxes you into his character and is wonderfully believable.  Wynn’s career to date sports small roles on shows like Supernatural and Fringe and is surely only a matter of time before he makes the leap to that of a sizable lead.  Harris is a good piece of casting and a solid performer but sharing the majority of his scenes with Wynn leaves him fighting just to keep up.  The radiating star of the show is Simone Bailly.  I have never encountered her before but based on what she was able to accomplish with what she was given she is a bona fide star…without question.  Her look, screen presence and delivery are all perfect.  The monologue she gives about the day the meteors hit was of a quality that far surpasses anything I’ve seen in the indie zombie scene recently and reminiscent of a young Linda Hamilton.  Not only does she have the acting chops but the action physicality and comedic timing are also there which is evident for all to see, especially in her scenes with Harris.

Bailly’s talents are, unfortunately, not enough to save the film let alone the world as the film descends into a lost daze of set pieces that without direction leave you uninvolved in the action.  By the time the final scene arrives you’re simply waiting for the credits only for it to come back with one last scene that promises a sequel that few will want and the film hasn’t earned.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Embodiment of Evil / Encarnação do Demônio

Certificate: 18
Running time: 94 mins
Director: José Mojica Marins
Starring: José Mojica Marins, Jece Valadão, Adriano Stuart, Cristina Aché
Genre: Horror
Country: Brazil

Forty years of incarceration have not mellowed Josefel Zanatas.  For the past four decades the streets of Brazil have been safe as Zé do Caixão (or Coffin Joe) has been metal and concrete  on the psychiatric wing of a Brazilian prison but now, thanks to the help of his lawyer, he is out and able to recommence his search for the woman to carry his child.

When last we saw Joe, in This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse, he has witnessed Laura (the woman chosen to carry his child) and child die in a failed operation to save his heir before appearing to drown in the swamp but now free he sets about his search that was so close to completion.  Once outside his followers flock and Police officer brothers Oswaldo and Claudiomiro take it upon themselves to end Joe's reign of terror forever.

Marins’ final chapter in the Coffin Joe trilogy, though 40 years later, manages to capture some of the atmospheric and darkly traditional aspects of the previous films.  The use of flashback footage, from At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul, This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse and newly shot footage with Raymond Castile cleverly cast as young Joe, is something that allows a generation who have grown up out of the dark menacing shadow of Coffin Joe to graduate from the school of frights which he delivered upon the religious Brazilians some four decades previous without losing any of the desired effect from having not seem the previous two chapters.  Similarly it provides the avid fan with not only a clever and seamless weave that manages to book end the years passed but also rewards them with cleverly constructed new aged footage that will sculpt their knowledge of the legend of Coffin Joe.

Marins (as Joe) has not been touched by the advanced years, he is every inch the dominant screen villain, the menacing presence of the atheistic advancement of the modern age.  The haunting nihilism and gratuitously viciousness of a monster determined to live on beyond their years.  If anything the years have only hardened him, gone is the sexual menacing attraction that comes with youth.  What remains in it’s place is a hardened grey and chiselled block of evil that’s infinitely more frightening than he was in the 1960’s and a lot more frightening than Freddy Krueger will be when he’s qualified for a bus pass.  Adriano Stuart (Captain Oswaldo Pontes) is an equally hardened and brooding screen presence, somewhere along the lines of a Charles Bronson spiked with John Saxon.  The loss of his love and the citizens he has sworn to protect all those years ago has led to him building a wall around his emotional core.  When Joe is released he (Oswaldo) swears a vigilante crusade against the dark one in order to finish the business he started forty years earlier in the swamp.

The cinematography of the film is actually incredibly strong and rich, there’s a lot of debate about the torture porn aspects of the violence of the film (which is something we’ll come to), but the use of lighting and shadow in Embodiment of Evil is highly evocative of classic Weimar cinema offerings like Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.  These are films that have struck such a deep emotional cord with it’s audiences that eighty years later they are still as powerful and profound.  Marins’ understanding of this and his use of chiaroscuro lighting and Joe’s grotesque finger nails allow him to stretch across the screen manipulate the darkness and touch a corner of your psyche that triggers a deep emotional response to a film filled with atmosphere and suspense.  It is these moments that will truly stay with you long after the film has finished.

There’s a level of inconsequential hero worship that comes with a Coffin Joe film.  All too often the films are marked out by moments of extremely and unjustifiably vivid violence.  In the early days these were heavily trimmed by the cinematic censors and in turn contained the vast majority of the criticisms that would be levied towards Embodiment of Evil.  Now in the modern age with a freer medium Marins is able to bring to the screen all the imaginations that have been restrained for so long.  Several scenes, including the rat sequence and meat locker scene take the film beyond the point of likability and into a whole new realm.  Regardless of his atrocities and if you’ve been exposed to the world of Coffin Joe before you will be aware of his atrocities he has always been likable.  The legend would always paint Joe as a lovable rebel even in the most horrifying moments.  In Embodiment of Evil so many of the larger horror set pieces take you beyond the playful, likable, side of Coffin Joe and into a world of grotesque hyper violence for hyper violence’s sake all the while playing the “lovable Joe” card.  The two can not exist comfortably.  It’s not as though violence for violence’s sake or torture porn doesn’t have its place.  Reviews for The Human Centipede [First Sequence], The Human Centipede 2 [Full Sequence], A Serbian Film and Grotesque will demonstrate that when you can justify heavy visual use of violence there can be a case for it but this is not the place.  It works contradictory to the ethos of the film’s legacy and it even undermines the wonderful visual stylistic that Marins has sculpted through the use of light and shadow.

Embodiment of Evil is a welcomed return for the bogey man of South American cinema, a final chapter forty years in the making which, though is not perfect, is an incredibly strong, atmospheric and haunting rendering of how cinema can transcend geography, generations and language to embody the worst characteristics than man can have.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The Impossible Kid

Certificate: 15
Running time: 81 mins
Director: Eddie Nicart
Starring: Weng Weng, Romy Diaz, Nina Sara
Genre: Action, Exploitation
Country: Philippines

They are to the Filipino Exploitation movement what Scorsese and De Niro are to contemporary Hollywood, Nicart and Weng Weng reteam for a third instalment in the tale of Agent 00, the first being For Y’ur Height Only followed by Agent 00.  Made the year after Weng Weng exploded on to the World (with For Y’ur Height Only) The Impossible Kid sees our hero now working for Interpol and involved in a mystery that threats to destroy the entire financial structure of the Philippines. 

The PCI are being blackmailed by an evil and deadly organisation called Cobra which is led by a masked maniac.  Their objective is simple, one million peso or they will kill a member of the PCI for each day the demand is not met.  When the PCI reach out to Interpol they send their best man, a man who’s been marked for death by just about every criminal and gang in Asia…Agent Weng, Codename 00.  Foiling the plot Weng is targeted by Cobra only for him to suspect that there’s a greater, darker menace at work here.

For Y’ur Height Only was the surprise hit of the Manila Film Festival in 1981, it is a straight forward embrace of the fundamental conventions of Ian Fleming’s superspy.  The Impossible Kid takes the ‘Agent 00 franchise’ back to the Bond realm but also makes reference to such secret agent institutions as Mission: Impossible, GI Joe and a score that’s indicative of Henry Mancini’s icon musical renderings for Blake Edwards’ The Pink Panther.  It’s worth pointing out that like the score for FYHO it is beautifully catchy in it’s mimicry.  The tone of TIK is one of the most interesting changes in the evolution of the 00 films.  Gone are the slightly out of place but wonderfully comical snippets of dialogue from Weng Weng in which he uses his height to play on audience expectations and villains sympathies.  They were hugely entertaining and allowed you to enjoy watching Weng Weng play on scenarios throughout the film and most importantly laugh with him.  These are replaced with a more serious tone, even the voice actor providing the dubbing for Agent 00 is a good half dozen octaves lower than previously, an alteration that leads the audience to laugh at him.  In an effort to afford him the stereotypical hero sophistication that is perceived from a deep smooth voice they have somehow managed to dub over the films most intoxicating aspect, it’s joyful exuberance, the playfulness that no doubt won the imaginations of many of the audience at that festival screening of For Y’ur Height Only.

The story is a solid tale of extortion, deception and danger.  Like before they have constructed several physical set pieces to showcase the skill, agility and daring of the two foot nine inch Sean Connery of Baclaran and like all good action sequels they are bigger and better than before.  Of the many, and I do mean many, occurring in The Impossible Kid a handful spring to mind with the two most impressive being Weng Weng’s parachuting from a hotel room using only a bed sheet and his tightrope walking across a telephone cable using a television antenna for balance.  There are several martial arts sequences designed to showcase the skills that Weng Weng has built up over his lifetime.  The six on one fight in the workout room is probably the most impressive as he demonstrates a level of precision that’s unexpected from an actor.

Weng Weng gives an extremely well rounded performance as he steps up to the challenges that face an action hero.  He has a confidence from his previous two outings in the role that gives the character an on screen assurance that’s hugely beneficial to this type of character.  The only criticism is that the seriousness of the dubbing and the heavy amount of combatitive scenes means that the character, who’s always had a mischievous side to him. pushes out this trait, which is a real shame.  Weng Weng was always convincing in the physical roles but he shone through when being “up to no good”.  Romy Diaz (as Senor Manolo) provides a wonderfully theatrical performance as the Chairman of the PCI.  Romy’s screen presence is such that he draws the gaze of the audience; he calls for it to find him.  As an ally he seemed to wilt but it’s when he takes issue with Agent 00’s methods and becomes a “same side antagonist” that he really comes into his own not to mention the fact he’s got a laugh that could clear a chimney.  Long time fans of Filipino cinema will, no doubt, be playing 'Spot Joe Cunanan', and it’s a pleasure to always see him regardless of the amount of time he actually features on screen for.  Ben Johnson (as the Chief) is the films biggest problem.  I liked the rapport that Agent 00 had with his previous Chief, in For Y’ur Height Only, he was somewhere between father and fan leading to some incredibly endearing, if odd interactions.  Johnson on the other hand is awkward, his delivery unsure, as though he was learning the script as he goes, and lacks any chemistry with Weng Weng.  

Nicart's direction deserves to be highlighted.  His films, like those of Bobby Suarez (They Called Her Cleopatra Wong, The One Armed Executioner) are small in budget but Nicart's use of lighting, camera positioning and the intuitive understanding of how far you can push what you show when you don't have the pesos to back it up are all remarkable.  His use of editing is another credit to an extremely talented and creative director.

The Impossible Kid is an another shining example of how the Filipino film makers have been paying attention to their American guests over the previous two decades.  As an examination of the action genre the film passes with flying colours as it does and says all the right things but in ramping up the amount of elaborate set pieces they’ve detracted from some of the charm of it’s predecessor and though still wonderful in it’s enthusiasm and aspirations flirts dangerously with being less than the sum of it’s parts.

For those of you who want it the DVD is available [here] and available to stream free of charge directly below.  Don't forget to check out the Movie Bar On Demand to see this months free Exploitation double bill.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Way Down in Chinatown - Casting Announcement

Over the past year we've been fortunate enough to break a few casting announcements for one of our favourite and new Independent film companies, MOnsterworks66.  The latest is the first for Eric Michael Kochmer's apocalyptic sci-fi noir Way Down in Chinatown.

The Way Down in Chinatown production team – writer/director Eric Michael Kochmer, Producer Jonathan Haloossim and Associate Producers Angel Corbin and Maria Olsen (and it's Corbin & Olsen who make up MOnsterworks66) – are thrilled to welcome Stephanie Sanditz into their feature project.  Sanditz will be playing the leading role of Jessica Mitchum in this dark noir thriller, which combines science-fiction, horror and apocalyptic themes, and shooting is set to start this summer in Los Angeles.

Sanditz is most definitely no stranger to the world of independent film, and has landed leading roles in, among others, the college comedy DisOrientation, which will premier at the prestigious Los Angeles film festival, Dances with Films, next month, the darkly satirical The Writer and the short film Sweet Illusions, which premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.  Sanditz has also racked up numerous studio feature and television series’ credits, including the Meg Ryan / Hugh Jackman vehicle Kate & Leopold, Law & Order and Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

Sanditz is also an accomplished screenwriter and has recently completed writing The Mediator, the first of a possible series of six feature screenplays for Greenestreet Films, as well as a feature length film noir script called Moving Picture.  She is also presently developing her own television series, Show Me States, which delves into the darkly comedic world of riverboat gambling.  She has also recently been tapped by UFA Cinema of Germany to adapt the international best seller, Cathy’s Book, into a feature length thriller.

Way Down in Chinatown examines the disintegration of an entire civilization through the fish-eye lens of the disintegration of one relationship – that of Jessica and her husband Victor – and, given Sanditz’s background in and understanding of indie film angst, she’s a natural to create this uniquely conflicted character.  Sanditz has also worked with most of the production team before: with Kochmer on The Writer and with Corbin and Olsen (Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Paranormal Activity 3 and The Haunting of Whaley House) on DisOrientation, and this highly creative team is looking forward to re-uniting on the set of Way Down in Chinatown.  

Those interested in finding out more about the utterly unique Way Down in Chinatown, which is to be shot entirely in black and white in the style of German Expressionists Lang and Wiene (Metropolis and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) – and in seeing how they can become a part of this production – should visit the film’s Indiegogo page by clicking [here].

Saturday, 12 May 2012

The Avengers

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 143 mins
Director: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Comic Book
Country: USA

We’ve come a long way since Ang Lee’s Hulk dogs, Nick Nolte looking like he’s just come off the business end of a week long bender and Matt Salinger as Captain America.  Jon Favreau’s 2008 Iron Man was the first legitimate step towards the comic book adaptation promised land that is The Avengers.  Since Stark traded in the rust bucket for his trademark colours we’ve had a second helping of Iron, Ed Norton diva-ing himself out of a job, Chris Hemsworth breathing life into a demigod and comic book old hand Chris Evans trading in the Fantastic franchise for the stars and stripes of Steve Rogers’ alterego.  The Avengers is the result of a carefully planned strategy to bring to life the biggest collection of dress ups since Bernie Ecclestone’s last birthday party.

Since we last saw Loki (Tom Hiddleston) he has been busy planning an invasion of Earth in order to retrieve the Tesseract (last seen in Captain America – The First Avenger) and becoming ruler.  Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) having been bested by Loki and a brainwashed Clint Barton (aka Hawkeye played by Jeremy Renner) has little choice but to reactivate the now defunct Avengers Initiative.  Calling upon the man out of time Steve Rogers and Nastasha Romanoff (aka Black Widow or Scarlett Johansson to her friends) SHIELD bring together the last great chance the planet has to keep the wolves from the door.

I recently wrote a blog called Another Marvellous Mess in which I laid down my reasons why The Avengers would fail to work as a film, how character-wise the story would be too top heavy and several of our heroes would fade into the background.  For the most part I’m very pleased to be able to say that I was wrong.  There are problems, and we’ll start with them as they’re outnumbered by points of praise.  Firstly the inevitable did occur, at least to an extent, narratively it was very much the Tony Stark show as Downey Jr showcased some of the finest one-liners you’ll see in the Marvel world.  A lot of the story is Starkcentric to the detriment of new boy Hawkeye who, without his own film, is extremely reliant on the screen time afforded to him by Whedon.  Fortunately Whedon’s craftsmanship is second to none; he understands the limitations of a new character at this stage of the game and establishes Hawkeye as a temporary antagonist to showcase his ultimate worth to SHIELD.  The physical limitations of Black Widow, Hawkeye and Captain America (in that they can’t fly or leap half a mile into the air) makes them almost redundant in several scenes and there are moments of humour to be found in how human they actually are.  Whedon does, however, turn this into a positive as it creates a level of tension that’s vacant without characters like these.

The story of The Avengers is an incredibly large one, one of an alien invasion which initially thanks to the modern trend of realistic comic book heroes you initially reject but the truth is it takes something this large to warrant the coming together of this many superheroes, a Post Graduate with a couple of extension hooks on his back isn’t going to cut it.  The narrative is one that typically jars with the narrative expectations of Iron Man or The Hulk.  Narratively these are men of science, stretched to the enth degree but science nonetheless and it’s a real credit to those involved in the making of The Avengers that we are able to accept them into this alien realm without too much disbelief.

Downey Jr (as Tony Stark) is dependable, having stepped into the role two times before (with an Iron Man 3 on the horizon) he knows the role inside out.  He knows when to be charming, childish, mouthy, smug and most of all knows how to play off the other characters.  He gives a lot also, some of the best scenes of other characters involve them bouncing off what he feeds them.  Hemsworth (Thor) continues the solid work he laid down in Branagh’s 2011 Shakespearian fable.  The old world richness of his tones are fantastic and sell the character.  Renner (as discussed) sinks into the background somewhat but what he delivers is a pitch for Hawkeye’s own stand alone film, whether that’s a prequel to The Avengers or a continuation of his story is yet to be seen.  Johansson is everything you want from a Romanoff, she’s highly sexualised but in a contained believable way that Whedon demonstrated well in Dollhouse with Eliza Dushku.  Her physicality is unlike any performance by a female lead in a Hollywood film, her fight sequences are heavy hitting and extremely athletic.  Her characters history is eluded to but never fully explored, whether that’s related to any potential projects or simply due to time restraints is entirely up to how you want to see it.  Chris Evans is the biggest casualty of the film as Captain America’s involvement felt like it flatlined halfway through and he was left to mop up the exposition.  The rest of the mammoth cast all give strong offerings including the steady hand of Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson) and Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother) who has pretty much guaranteed that life post sitcom for her will be pretty sweet.  As performances go the custom of leaving the best to last is one I’m happy to continue, Mark Ruffalo (in his first outing) as Dr. Bruce Banner and The Hulk is absolutely brilliant.  Ruffalo has for many years been one of my favourite underappreciated performers and here, though finally given the billing he deserves, delivers a performance that will most likely be overlooked for it’s subtly and intelligence.  His Banner is a complicated shattered man, one who can only refer to his condition as “the other guy”.  He’s a man who’s perpetually at odds with himself and with his place in the world, not even relocation can aid him so he eases his pain by helping others.  His two man science party scenes with Stark showcase the professional man, they say that he was lucky to survive the Gamma ray accident but the truth is the Doctor died that day, what Ruffalo shows is his sadness of understanding this fact.  He truly is remarkable.  Likewise as the Hulk he’s great pleasure to watch and his moments in the battle of New York are the most enjoyable.

The cinematography of the film is actually kind of remarkable, directors who have faltered with complex action sequences include Paul Greengrass, Christopher Nolan and Bryan Singer but The Avengers have more action set pieces, and complex set pieces at that, than most trilogies yet it’s Whedon vision and cinematographer Seamus McGarvey’s expertise that weaves the most elaborate pattern to create the most straight forward and easy to read scenes.  It’s not beautiful cinematography; we’re not looking at a Terrence Malick opus and to art it up would be failing on two fields, as Ang Lee demonstrated, but it is extremely well constructed and a masterclass in continuity editing.

Regardless of where you stand on the love-loathe scale in relation to comic book films you have to admire what it took to bring The Avengers to the big screen.  Post Batman and Robin Wolfgang Petersen looked to be the man to bring the long anticipated Batman vs. Superman film only for it to fail coming up to the first hurdle.  With Zack Snyder in charge of The Man of Steel and reportedly one of the favourites to take over behind the wheel of the Batmobile it’s a step closer but still a world away from actualisation.  Is The Avengers the best comic book film ever made?  Not for my money, it’s certainly the most ambitious and manages to live up to most of the hype that the Paramount/Marvel machine has been ramping up for the past four years.  This is not the kind of film that's going to change your life but based on what it tries to achieve it's a remarkable film.  It’s highly enjoyable, passes the two and a half hours easily and with two hundred million dollars in it’s opening weekend it won’t be the last time a one eyed Fury will be calling “Assemble!”

Don't miss the chance to see your favourite Avenger in the largest cinema in all of Ireland.  Click on their names to book now!

Iron Man  -  Hulk  -  Thor  -  Captain America  -  Movie Bar presents HEROES!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The One Armed Executioner

Certificate: 15
Running time: 95 mins
Director: Bobby A. Suarez
Starring: Franco Guerrero, Nigel Hogge, Pete Cooper, Jody Kay
Genre: Action, Drama, Exploitation
Country: Philippines

Director Bobby Suarez (Dynamite Johnson & They Called Her Cleopatra Wong) teams up with Franco ‘Chito’ Guerrero for a tale of revenge from the Exploitation Mecca of Marcos’ Manila.  Guerrero plays Ramon, an Interpol operative who’s recently opened his own restaurant with his Western wife Ann (Jody Kay).  Having learnt that one of their undercover operatives has been killed Interpol go after mob boss Edwards’ right hand man and diary in order to bring his organisation to its knees.  When the op goes wrong Ramon urges his boss to put out a story that the diary survived only for Edwards’ men to come calling to his home, kill his wife and severe his left arm.

Battling back from depression, a semi professional alcohol dependency and the crippling grief of his loss Ramon enters a martial arts academy with one goal, to kill them all.  What’s interesting about Suarez’s film is the time it takes to explore Ramon’s fall into alcohol abuse before turning it around.  Few action genre films take the time out of the busy narrative driven realm they inhabit in order to deal with the minutia of human emotion and the overwhelming nature of grief.  Suarez’s interest in the humanity of his character is an interesting and incredibly original narrative arch in what must be considered to be one of the most narratively generic film genres.  The emotional kudos gained from this time to develop Ramon’s character is enough to power the audiences’ connection to the central character.

Narratively this is the most original moment of the film as the rest is content with charting a course safely along a well trodden path.  The revenge film’s archs are rarely changing, the originality in the genre comes from how the director gets us to these archs and Suarez’s direction being the cinematic wheel is a curious one.  The mash-up with the martial arts film is an interesting one, and one that’s culturally appropriate though why a Filipino action film would opt for Kung Fu over their native Kali schools of martial arts is an odd one, though most likely the answer is that (at the time) Kung Fu was the cinematic martial arts language of choice.  Another interesting aspect about Suarez’s film is the representation of Edwards (played by Nigel Hogge).  This is not the American funded and filmed Exploitation films of the late 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, a lot of which carried revolutionary messages.  This is Marcos’ Philippines and as such, like For Y’ur Height Only, carries a retort to the American cine-political world which the likes of Jack Hill, Joe Viola and Eddie Romero exported from his land.  Edwards is white, American accent and defined by a litter of conflicting ideologies with one common trait, they all make him evil.  His gang is made up of multiple ethnicities, his primary export is death – whether it be from firearms or drugs yet his speedboat is marked with a swastika.  He has been an untouchable and detrimental influence in the Philippines for years and it has come to the point when he must be removed.  The white man is, all too often, the corrupting force in Filipino action films which is a timely rebalance for all the years in which directors have portrayed ethnic minorities as their films antagonists.

Guerrero (as Ramon) is a striking piece of casting; he has a remarkable screen presence.  He just looks like a Filipino Adonis, even as an older gentleman.  His physicality on screen is remarkable, the sequences in which he is training in the martial arts academy is breath taking.  Hand to hand, with one unconvincingly hidden inside his oversized shirt (if you’ve seen The Thing with Two Heads you’ll know what I mean), he bests five men with a level of confidence that comes from someone who’s been practising martial arts for as long as he’s been acting.  Similarly his back flip from the tree and his gunmanship is exquisite.  Nigel Hogge (as Edwards) is rather one tone of baddie, whether it’s from the underdeveloped character on paper or the fact that it’s his first acting role is up for debate and most likely something to come back to once American Commandos and Mission Manila are watched.  Joe Cunanan is under used as the Chief of Interpol, fans of Filipino Exploitation will recognise him from outings alongside Weng Weng (The Impossible Kid, D’Wild Wild Weng and Da Best in da West) and will no doubt cherish each moment he’s given on screen like it’s the last moments with a dearly beloved and dying relative.  For my money, aside from Guerrero of course, the best performance belongs to Joseph Zucchero (as Milo).  As Edwards’ press officer he’s given some of the funniest lines and is another veiled dig at the United States as you’re only as bad as you’re mad out to be in the margins of the daily papers.

The film suffers from a lack of funding, all the helicopter sequences throughout the film were shot in a two hour period as that’s all they could afford.  This doesn’t often come across on screen but when it does it’s seriously noticeable but when it comes to the films finale The One Armed Executioner has more of a whimper than a bang and it’s unsatisfying for the audience.

Bobby Suarez’s filmic oeuvre all come with a certain sensibility that gives the film a humanity that’s original and enjoyable.  The One Armed Executioner is not Suarez’s finest piece of work but it is a bona fide thrill ride that has most of it’s pleasure in the set pieces rather than the overall outcome.

Monday, 7 May 2012

The Taint: Free for a Week!

Cinematic swordsman Dan Nelson and Drew Bolduc are offering up a week of free streaming for their excellent horror comedy The Taint.  With the water supplied tainted the men of the city are becoming zombified and their inner misogynist is feasting on violence.

A genuine and masterful indie classic.  Free [here] to watch for this week.  Don't miss out.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

The Testament of Judith Barton

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 thriller Vertigo saw Scottie Ferguson overcome conspiracy and personal demons in order to get to the truth of a shocking mystery…but what if he got it wrong.  If the work of Hitchcock teaches us anything it’s that the camera always lies and people are fallible.  We intrinsically trust a films protagonist as we see the world and understand the story through their eyes but what if the eyes of James Stewart (Scottie) are only telling us half the story?  It is after all entirely possible; Roger Cornhill’s tale in North By Northwest is testament to how so many can get it so wrong.

This is the idea behind a new novel called The Testament of Judith Barton, named after one of the characters portrayed by Kim Novak in Hitchcock’s suspenseful story by the Bay.  As a lifelong fan of the work of Alfred Hitchcock I can not begin to explain the excitement in which I approached the opportunity to revisit one of his masterful tales with a fresh perspective.

Authors Wendy Powers and Robin McLeod take us to the heart of one of the most influential cinematic tales told by Hollywood.  Weaving it’s way through the narrative of Vertigo Powers and McLeod shine a light on a perceptual angle that the world has failed to see in over 50 years of looking.  They culpt a masterful tale that is both contradictory and complimentary to the source.  The fact of the matter is the Vertigo is Judy Barton's story and she's finally given the chance to tell her tale and it's been well worth the wait.

Hitchcockians must read this, the rest of the world are invited to discover an instant classic.  Click [here] to buy the book from Smash Words or alternatively check out the Amazon link below.

Electronic version     Paperback

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Movie Bar - On Demand

Movie Bar O.D goes all wiki-wiki-wah-wah West with a Wild West double header of two fast drawing, bar brawling, hooker lovin' heroes.  Topping the bill is Lee Van Cleef in the revenge shooter Death Rides a Horse...

Death Rides a Horse
(1967) Dir. Giulio Petroni
As a small child Bill (John Phillip Law) witnesses his family killed by a gang of outlaws.  Fifteen years later and all grown up he sets his sights on revenge and his cross-hairs on those who have robbed him of his parents.

The second film in the deadly double stars James Caan and is none other than...

Gone with the West
(1975) Dir. Bernard Girard
Caan stars as Jud McGraw as he goes toe to toe with Aldo Ray's menacing Mimmo, co-starring Sammy Davis Jr and Stefanie Powers.

To take advantage of this back to back demonstrate of true grit click [here] at any point during the month of May and follow the instructions at the bottom of the page but the best presentational results.

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