Saturday, May 23, 2015

All Kinds Of Weird

I got behind again, as I wasn't feeling too good the last few days again. Last Saturday I got a review in for my other blog. I watched and reviewed the movie The Canal if you are interested in hearing my thoughts on that film. I went to bed super early Sunday night, but that isn't the reason I didn't get a movie in. The movie Strange Circus (2005) is about to be taken out of instant watch from Netflix, but I bulked at watching it because of what the movie is about. I was going to add it to my DVD queue, which I thought I had done but didn't apparently, and then changed my mind yesterday and decided to watch it after all.

Mitsuko (Rie Kuwana) has a story to tell us. At 12 years old she gets caught peeking at her parents as they have sex. This apparently gets her father's imagination going since he soon talks Mitsuko to hide is a cello case with a peep hole in it so she can watch. After a few times of this, he shows his wife (Masumi Miyazaki) what he has been doing. He then tells her to get into the cello case so she can watch him rape Mitsuko. Life gets stranger for Mitsuko as her mother turns against her. We learn through Mitsuko that this life eventually becomes somewhat normal as she feels she has become her mother, especially after her death. But then we learn that Taeko (also played by Miyazaki) is writing a book about all this. Yuji (Issei Ishida) works for the publishing company and has always wanted to work with Taeko. After talking to his boss, he decides to try to find out the truth about Taeko. Is it all a work of fiction or is Taeko really Mitsuko or maybe even Mitsuko's mother?

Strange Circus is a film from Japan that was directed and written by Shion Sono. I have watched a couple of his films before, Suicide Club and Noriko's Dinner Table. Strange Circus has been my favorite of the three films I have watched now. It was also the hardest to watch. I kept having to pause it and step away for a couple of minutes before returning. It was just hitting a bit close to home at times. I'm assuming that Sono has been through abuse, or at least studied up on it before making this film. The way things are described by Mitsuko are pretty accurate with how the abuse was dealt with. While Sono does show the sex between father and daughter, which isn't graphic at all, it isn't Rie that we see in these scenes but Masumi instead as Mitsuko feels she is becoming her mother. The quick turn out of this story, and into the real story taking place years later, was a surprise. I was wondering how the story would manage to last the whole running time, so was glad for the redirection. Not to say that things don't stay weird through the rest of the story though. It is never clear who Taeko really is. Sono doesn't appear too interested in solving this for us, but the film does seem to be about losing an identity. The story has a slow pace to it most of the time, and manages to get even slower in places, but the strangeness of it all keeps the movie interesting. The only thing I can really complain about is that it perhaps gets a bit too weird towards the end.

I was a bit surprised at how gory Strange Circus got in places. From a surgery to a limbless body, things do get a bit gory. I guess I was surprised by this because, up until the surgery scene, effects weren't being used at all. The effects used are pretty gory, but they are spaced out enough so that they are more of a surprise instead of the norm. The effects are well done as is the acting. While I didn't really care for Miyazaki filling in for Kuwana as much as she did, I understood why she did in some of the scenes at least. Miyazaki actually covers a lot ground with her acting in this movie. She does a really good job with it all. Also liked Ishida in his role, but liked him a lot better when he was being all crazy.

Another thing that really impressed me about Strange Circus was some of the set designs. I didn't always get why some of the sets looked the way they did, like the school's walls are often blood soaked, but they still seemed to fit in with the rest of this weird movie. Even though I really enjoyed Strange Circus for being so different, it is a tough call to suggest it to others. It won't be for everyone due to the things that happen in the film, but it is still a very interesting film. I can't see a movie like Strange Circus being made here in the States, as I'm sure people would protest it way too much. If you are looking for a really out there film in an odd ball way, Strange Circus should fit that bill just right.
4 out of 5 Surprised there wasn't a ghost in there somewhere

Friday, May 15, 2015

Ghosts Love Red

I was hoping to do better this week than I did with reviews. I wasn't feeling the best the past few days, so wasn't really in the mood to watch movies and write about them. I'm feeling better now though, so ready to get back to doing reviews. I went with the last DVD from Netflix that I've had at home for a while. After this one, all the movies I will have from them will have arrived this month. This is one from Japan and is called Sakebi (2006), or as it is called here, Retribution. The original title actually translates into Scream, but I'm sure we all know why that title wasn't used in the States.

Yoshioka (Kôji Yakusho) is a detective who is called out to investigate a murder. A woman wearing a red dress has been found dead with her head in a puddle of water. As he investigates the murder, some clues start to make him think that he is the murderer. A coat he owns is missing a button, which was found at the scene. His finger print ended up on the victim even though he don't think he touched her without gloves. She was tied up using a yellowish cord, which he finds some at his apartment. He doesn't remember killing her though. Soon though, other murders start to happen with the same modus operandi, drowned in sea water. Yoshioka also finds that he is being haunted by a female ghost that wears a red dress. Could this be the ghost of the murder victim, or someone else?

Sakebi was written/directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. The only other movie of his that I have watched would be Pulse. I didn't care for that one too much, but I did like this one more. Not a lot more, but at least I enjoyed it. Sakebi, which is the title you can find it under IMDb, is a bit of a slow burner. It starts as a murder mystery and just when that seems to be wrapping up, things take a turn towards the weird. I don't want to get into too much detail about the last half of the film, but lets just say we learn the connection between Yoshioka, the ghosts, and the deaths that are happening. The first half of the film is the easiest to follow along with. Even though the story was a bit on the slow side, I never felt bored with it. The mystery to what was going on was interesting, and there were small things always going on as well. Yoshioka's girlfriend, the ghost, and his partner starting to think Yoshioka is the killer as well. The last half was also interesting, but I started to fall out with it with some of the weird things that started to happen. Like the ghost jumping from a building and flying away, or someone disappearing into water that would have been very impossible to do. Even with the supernatural element that litters the film, this stuff just didn't seem to fit with the rest of the film. According to some on IMDb, there is a lot of symbolism going on about Japan in Sakebi. This was all lost on me since I don't live there, so don't know much about the decay of Japan that fans say is there. There is a bit of a twist towards the end of the film that was rather easy to see coming. I'm not sure I liked the reason for the main ghost to do what she was doing, but I get the message behind it.

There wasn't a whole lot of effects to be found. Some things to do with the ghost, but that was about it. There are some deaths on screen, but nothing gory at all, or even bloody. The acting was pretty good. Yakusho was really good in the lead role. Something that has always bugged me some about films from Japan is how quiet the acting can be. Maybe I am just used to actors here in the States, but the conversations in these films a;ways seem to be short and to the point. No real wasted words going on. Not that quiet scenes are a bad thing, just not used to there being so many in a film.

I was having some trouble with the sub titles this time around. It wasn't that they weren't making sense to me, although some feel the translation was a bit off in places. For me it was just trying to figure out who was doing the talking at times. It made following the conversation a little hard since I wasn't sure which character was talking. Even so, as I said above, I did enjoy watching Sakebi. There is a good story here, even if I didn't get it all the time. I do like weird movies, but this one got a bit too out there at times, even for me. Still, if you are looking for a good Japanese horror film, you might consider giving this one a try someday.
3 out of 5 I don't look all that great in all red

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Vampires Going To School

I got a little behind over the weekend. I had meant to do two reviews, but ended up barely getting one review in. I had been playing a game most of the weekend, but thought I could still get a couple of reviews in. Things don't always pan out the way we see it though. The review I did get done was for the film Exists, which you can click the link and read about at my other blog. I was going to watch the next movie from my movie pack, but when I noticed that Vampire Academy (2014) was on Showtime Saturday night, I decided to DVR it and watch it next.

Rose (Zoey Deutch) is half human and half vampire. She has been training to be the guardian for Lissa (Lucy Fry), who is part of the ruling class of vampires, and Rose's best friend. The ruling class is part of the good vampires, who use blood to live, but only from humans who are willing to give them blood. Then there are the evil vampires who just take their blood. Not all is well at the academy though. There is the usual teenage drama going on, but someone is also making sure that Lissa knows she isn't wanted there. They soon discover that something much more sinister is going on.

I was a little curious about Vampire Academy when I first started hearing about the movie. I haven't looked for them, but I know this movie is based of a series of books, which I believe fall into the young adult genre. Depending on the fans of the books, some feel that the movie stayed close and true to the source material, while others feel too much was left out. I'm sure we hear this from any movie based off a book though. I thought that screenwriter Daniel Waters did a good job at explaining the story in a way that was easy to follow. If you aren't really paying attention to the movie as it starts though, you will be in trouble. I was actually pretty surprised at how rich the history is in the story. It gets pretty in depth with the royal family of vampires at times, and we learn a bit about Rose as well. I found the story pretty interesting, despite the teenage drama going on, which kept me into the movie. On the flip side, Rose wasn't that much different from me or you. Her eyes do change sometimes, and she can see and hear everything Lissa does. This was kind of cool at first, but got annoying the more it happened, which was often at times. It wasn't even like Rose was using the information, at least it seldom felt like she did. There was a whole lot of talking going on, with little action to go with it most of the time. It also would have been real nice if we had got to meet more like Rose. We see a lot of them training at times, but only get to meet a handful of them.

There wasn't a lot of effects to be found. A few kills to be found, but nothing gory at all. There are some CGI dogs that don't look too bad. It was decided to go with CGI with the dogs in order for them to look a certain way apparently. There is also some effects that have to do with fire and other elements, as the vampires have some control over them. The acting was pretty good. I really liked Zoey Deutch in the lead role. She is a cute one, and fun to watch. Here character made me laugh at times, which is never a bad thing. I didn't really care for Lucy Fry, but I think it was more her character I didn't really care for. I also really liked Sarah Hyland, whose character has a nice twist in the end.

I could have done without the teen drama, but since this is a young adult movie, I guess it was to be expected. It was mostly the romantic angle that I didn't always care for. The usual high school "You like the same person I do, so I hate you" type stuff. It was a bit overdone for me, which was part of why I found Vampire Academy to be an average film. Even though vampires are all over the place, Vampire Academy doesn't come close to being a scary film. There are some tense moments here and there, but even those weren't edge of the seat type either.Vampire Academy impressed me some and can be a fun film in places. Not really my type of film, but I still enjoyed watching it all the same. For getting it free, I can't complain all that much at all and will likely watch it again if I catch it on. A good horror film for young teens who like the genre but don't really like being scared much.
3 out of 5 I can guard anyone, just not very well

Friday, May 08, 2015

Carving Is Fun

So far this month I'm doing pretty good getting reviews out. This will make my fifth review for the month, and I'm not even into double digit days yet. Hopefully I can keep it up. I'm almost through the DVDs I've had from Netflix for a while now. Just one more to go after this one and I will get to watch some of the newer stuff they have sent me this week. Last night I sat down with the movie The Pumpkin Karver (2006). There seems to be a lot of hate for this movie, so I wasn't expecting too much from it, which could be why I didn't hate it.

It is Halloween and Jonathan (Michael Zara) is busy carving pumpkins in the kitchen while his sister Lynn (Amy Weber) is answering the door for trick-or-treaters. Lynn's boyfriend Alec (David J. Wright) stops by to see if she is ready for a party yet, which she isn't, so he decides to come back in a little while. Not long after that, Lynn hears a noise and eventually finds someone in the garage who she thinks is Alec, but after this person goes on the attack, she quickly changes her mind. Screaming for help, Jonathan grabs his knife and kills the guy who is attacking his sister, but she realizes too late that it really is Alec with a fake knife. Fast forward to a year later and it is Halloween again. This time, Jonathan and Lynn are on the move. They have decided to move to a new town where they hope to put the past behind them and start over. They meet up with Tammy (Minka Kelly), a friend of Lynn from college, who also is taking a liking to Jonathan. Jonathan swears that the ghost of Alec has followed them, but of course no one believes him, but someone is killing people in their new found hometown.

I'm pretty sure I have watched The Pumpkin Karver before, at least parts of it somewhere. I didn't remember any of the plot points, but some of the scenes made me feel like I had watched it before. I know I never reviewed it before, so it wasn't a big deal really. I was a little surprised at how poorly people see this film. I'm not saying this is a good movie, but I'm not going to rain down hate on it either. For me, it was just an average film. Director and co-writer Robert Mann gives us a story that wasn't too hard to figure out. I'm not completely sure if there really was a ghost, although I'm almost positive of it. The Pumpkin Karver is somewhat low budget, with an estimated million dollars behind it. It didn't really have a low budget feel to it though. There is a good transfer to the DVD and there were no problems with the sound. I don't really know if the money was well spent, but for the most part I wasn't all that disappointed with this one. The kills were a bit to be desired, as we only get to see one as it happens, besides those being stabbed to death anyway. The story itself was just okay, but I do feel there was more going on there than people give it credit for. What made it an average film for me wasn't so much the film itself or the story though.

The effects weren't half bad really. This isn't a real gory film, but there is still some things to be found. The goriest was a drill through the midsection with guts finding their way out with the drill, it was pretty cool actually. There is also some nice makeup effects going on as well. There was also some effects that didn't turn out so well, but nothing real bad. The acting was mixed. I don't think I have heard of Amy Weber or Minka Kelly before this film, but they do have a good following apparently. Both did pretty good. While I thought Weber's character was a bit too kind, that had nothing to do with her acting. The two guys wearing togas were the stand outs though. Some of what their characters do or say could be kind of dumb at times, but I really enjoyed the acting those two put into their characters. The biggest disappoint though was Michael Zara. His character was hard to get a read on him, which I think had a lot to do with the acting at times. As long as Zara didn't act scared or upset, his acting wasn't too bad.

I enjoyed my time with The Pumpkin Karver. As I said, I didn't find it to be a good film, but I would watch again if I should come across it. I know it sounds like I am putting this film down by not calling it a good film, but I didn't find it to be a bad film either. The main problem with it was the lead actor wasn't all that great. It is easy to not like a film when you can't get behind the lead actor. Some also complained their favorite character died, which I think is a good thing in a movie. Just shows no one is safe. If you decide to give this one a try, just remember that I am one of the few to give it an average score.
3 out of 5 Believe or not, I have never tried to carve a pumpkin

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Scream Woman Scream Part Two

I had a fun time last night. Since I knew I would be getting home late, though I got home earlier than I expected to, I took today off from work as well. Always nice to get a couple of days off in in the middle of the week. I still have two days left to work, but that is fine. I got my review done after I got home last night. I was wanting to get it done before I left, but it just didn't happen. For today, I watched the next movie in my movie pack, Revenge Of La Llorona (2006), which turned out to be the second film in a three part series. I have never watched the first one, and it isn't on this movie pack, but I gave it a shot anyway.

Royce (Jim Andrews) is the host of a paranormal news TV program. He has decided to take his crew into the house that the La Llorona (the weeping lady) was said to have once lived in. Since her death, it is also said that every owner since has been killed in the house. Not believing anything will happen apparently, Royce hires a guy to show up and kill some of his crew. Ratings and all that, you know? As it turns out though, the murderess ghost (Mary Sanchez) is actually there.

Even though I have never watched the first movie in this series, I don't think I really needed to. From what I have read, the first film has the same cast in it, but the plot behind Revenge Of La Llorona was pretty straight forward. With it being the same cast and all, I'm not going out of my way to try to find the other two films though. Directed by Terrence Williams, whom I assume was also the writer since it isn't listed, and I didn't pay attention to the credits. The story isn't all that bad. There was some things I didn't care about it though, which in part had to so with the acting. A killer ghost has been done lots of times, and in a way this one reminded me of a vampire a bit. Cutting a person and then sucking on the blood sometimes. In fact, the opening sequence boarders on soft porn. A couple is having sex when the woman gets taken out by the ghost, who then gives the guy oral sex. I don't think she was doing it to the real thing, but I was still taken aback by it some. Every actress in this movie has at least one nude scene, even the ghost for some reason. There is a couple of rape scenes as well, doesn't really show much though. I guess what bugged me the most about the story was the stupid things the characters do. If you think characters in horror movies make bad choices, this one has them all beat. One of the crew gets his throat cut and goes to the others for help. He ends up bleeding all over one of the other guys. You would think this guy would help the guy who is bleeding, but he decks the bleeding guy instead. One of the women wakes up to a guy feeling her up in her sleep, pushes him away and makes a run for it. Then she stops to answer the ringing phone. I can handle dumb things characters do in order to keep a movie going sometimes, but these were taking it to a whole new level.

There wasn't much for effects. The ghost is played by a real person, and she looks very solid most of the time. There are times when we can see through her though. There is also some cuts which don't look too bad, just not really deep enough to actually kill anyone though. We also see one person get shot, which wasn't half bad, but no bullet hole later on...even though they talk about there being one. The acting was pretty bad. Jim Andrews was funny in that he had nothing nice to say to anyone. He would try to insult everyone as much as he could for whatever reason.

I was a little confused by the lay out of the house they are in. They never take us through the house really, so I was never sure where anyone was in relation to everyone else. I was also confused by the filming going on. Like Royce sets up to do his introduction, and then we see the opening sequence for his show. I didn't really get why since the show wasn't being filmed live, even though they sort of suggest that is is at times. Revenge Of La Llorona could have been a better film than it turned out to be. I could see what might have been at times, but it didn't make the film any better than it was. If I should run across the other two films on any of the movie packs, I will go ahead and watch them, but I'm not going to seek them out. Worth the skip unless you just want to watch it for the soft porn/nudity, which you could do a lot better with other films.
1 out of 5 You better not bleed on me either!

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Three Shorts....Asian Style Part Two

I have a couple of days off, I have plans tonight and will likely get home late. Because of that, I hope to get a couple of reviews in. This will get me off to a good start this month, which I hope to keep it going. Last night I sat down with the movie Three...Extremes II (2002). I'm not sure when I added this movie to my DVD queue, but I know I watched the first one way back in 2008. Weird part of it is, it is close to being seven years exactly, as I reviewed the first film on May 28th. Anyway, like the first film, there are three shorts to be found by different directors. I'm not sure if the last one was from three different countries as well, but this one does feature that.

The first short was called Memories and was directed by Kim Je-Woon. This is a film from South Korea. A guy discovers that his wife is missing, but he can't seem to remember what she was wearing when she left, or even why she left. As he struggles to remember, he ends up having to deal with the police and family. Meanwhile, we also meet a woman who wakes up on the street not remembering anything other than a phone number. Though she tries a lot to call the number, it never goes through. Are the two stories related somehow?

Memories had some good moments, but in the end it was ruined by how easily this story was to figure out. It is obvious that the woman is this guy's wife, even though Kim is careful not to give it away for a while. It is also obvious where the story is going when she starts getting flashes of what happened to her. Again, Kim does try to throw us off, but it just doesn't work. The only thing that Memories has going for it was the fact it ended up being the goriest of the three shorts. You will find severed fingers falling from nowhere, and a few scenes with a bit of blood. It isn't much, but again, it was the goriest of the shorts. The acting wasn't too bad. Not a lot of talking though, so if your not into subtitled films, you won't have to read much.

Next up was The Wheel, directed by Nonzee Nimibutr. This one is from Thailand. An entertainer has made a set of puppets that only can bring to life. It is said that the puppets are cursed, but his rival doesn't believe that at all. He is about to find out that they are in fact cursed.

The Wheel is an interesting story. I assumed it is taking some of the culture and turning it into a short horror film. Of course this could have been a completely made up story, but usually there is some truth behind films like this one. After all, we have horror movies about ventriloquist dummies after all. Even though the film is creepy, I got the feeling I was still missing something all the same. I didn't really get some of the plot points, which I think is where the culture came in at. I didn't really get why the original owner felt that the puppets are cursed, why he wanted them drowned and so on. Even with my lack of understanding, it was a pretty cool movie. Not much for effects and the acting was just okay, but it was different, which is what sets it apart.

They saved the best for last though with Going Home, directed by Peter Chan. This one is from Hong Kong. A cop and his young son move into an apparent complex that is looking rather run down. They are told that everyone is moving out because they place will be completely shut down in a few months. There are a few people left, like a married couple across the way with a young daughter. We eventually learn though that not everything is normal with this couple, as his wife is dead and has been for some time. He thinks that she will soon return though, and will protect this secret.

Going Home was also an interesting film. It is perhaps the slowest paced film of the three, but I never felt bored by it at any time. I liked this one, and it became my favorite, because you are never sure if the guy is crazy or not. We never know how much he is saying is true. Like he says his wife has been dead going on three years, but she doesn't look dead at all, except for not breathing or moving of course. We find out the truth at the end of the short, but I wasn't completely happy with how it ended. That mostly had to do with someone being hit, and I wasn't really sure what happened with the little boy. Even so, it was the best of the three. No real effects to it, except the person being hit, and the acting was real good this time around. This was also the only short that had any nudity in it.

Over all I thought that Three...Extremes II was worth the watch. It is a long movie to get through, just over the two hour mark. I ended up pausing it a few times, but I got through it without a problem really. If you are into Asian horror, or if any of the stories sound interesting you, give this one a try. Since I try to give a rating on the entire movie, just not each short, I'm going to average this one out, but each short did get better than the one before it, so there is that.
3 out of 5 I don't know that I would love someone that much!

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Lilith Returns

I'm hoping to get more than ten reviews in this month. If I don't, I won't complain too much about it, but would still like to do so. I may not get a review in every other day, even so, I don't want to take any long breaks between reviews. Anyway, yesterday I got through my review for A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night over at my other blog. If you are interested in that film, just follow the link. For here I went with the next film in the movie pack that I've been working through, not too much lately though. The next film up was The Night Owl (2005).

Jordan (Toni M. Williams) has decided to head to her parents summer home to get away from college life for a bit. Going with her are her friends Beth (Jessica Mathews) and sisters Lily (Skye Noel) and Evie (Kimberly Shea). Jordan's dad has studied the Bible, and has a few things he thinks are related to Lilith in the house. Lily starts to take a great interest in these items, along with the story of Lilith in the Bible. She also starts to read all about the Book of Revelation. Lily slowly starts coming out of her shell, as she is usually the quiet one, and her friends start to wonder what is going on with her.

The Night Owl was written and directed by Steven Shea. The title is explained in the movie, but if you aren't really paying much attention at that moment, you will miss it, as it is only explained once. Not sure it was the best explanation though. Personally, I think I would have found a different title. Generally I like movies that bring in something real, or even something from legend. It doesn't have to be completely faithful to the source, though I do prefer when it is. When I discovered that The Night Owl was going to use aspects of the Bible, I was pleased. However, the movie is a bit of a slow burn. There are things about the Bible and Lilith as well found through the first half of the film, but it isn't until the second half that we are able to figure out where the story is going with it all. Even when we do know what is going on, the story still takes its time to unfold. Not that there is anything wrong with that really, but it can make for some boring moments. The low budget doesn't help this film much either. I had a lot of trouble with the sound at times. The actors could just barely be heard in some scenes, in fact I wasn't sure if anything was even said for one of them. Of course there are other scenes that seem a little loud as well.

There wasn't too much for effects. Some blood here and there but nothing major. There are some CGI effects that are supposed to represent invisible demons that look like stingrays. I know, it sounds kind of weird, and it is, but it wasn't really as bad as some other reviews made it out to me. It didn't look great at all mind you, just not as bad as I thought they would be. The acting was mixed. I did really like Jessica Mathews, but didn't always care for her acting. It was that way for all the main actors really. Each had scenes I thought they were good in and not so good in. There is also Andrew Day, who plays the handy man around the place.

I'm still not sure how Lilith came back in this film, not that it matters a whole lot. While I did like the Bible stuff, I wasn't sure I liked how Shea ended up using it for his story. It was kind of an interesting approach, but it didn't work as well as it sounded like it might. The death scenes were very much something to be desired. One girl apparently drowns after being pushed into an area they were all swimming around in earlier. Maybe something was holding her down, which wasn't shown. That would have been nice if Shea could have come up with something to show why the girl couldn't swim when she had been just the day before. Anyway, The Night Owl was never a great film, but I have watched way worse. It is an interesting story, but I can't really see this being anything more than an average film at beast for horror fans.
2 out of 5 I wonder how much of a bad girl I can be