Monday, November 21, 2011

FLICKS OF THE WEEK: November 6-12, November 13-19


Alphaville is a harsh and stark depiction of a future society void of artistry, love, and self-expression. Set in the future on an unknown planet, secret agent Lemmy Caution must infiltrate this oppressive city of the future as a journalist in order to confront the evil scientist Von Braun, the overlord of this disheartened culture-less wasteland. Awashed in a Noir lit cityscape that seems lost in darkness, Alphaville tells Lemmy's strange story filled with intriguing possibilities and mind boggling revelations. Let's get down to it.

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard, this sci-fi spy mash-up is strangely hypnotic. The fish out of water tale that places Lemmy into an unfamiliar world, is interesting enough, but combine that with the film noir-like atmosphere and you've got yourself one hell of an original movie with enough mystery and mystique to compel the viewer onward for quite some time. Setting the film in 1960's Paris, as Alphaville's futuristic dystopian city, is a simplistic notion but one that pays off by use of some fascinating locales within the French metropolis. I had an interesting journey with this one and highly recommend you check it out if you haven't seen it yet. It's a rather unique flick with an abundance of subtexts that lie just underneath the main narrative, just begging to be explored by the determined cinephile, plus you can't go wrong with Godard. The man makes magic.

The H-Man is a Toho produced science fiction film that depicts the horrors of atomic weapons and the overall effects that the use of such devices have had on the Japanese culture, both inside and outside the cinema world . The film starts out rather mysteriously, with a drug deal gone bad resulting in one of the dealers to suspiciously vanish, leaving behind his clothes and all of his possessions. Soon, more bodies begin to come up missing, all with the same unexplainable conclusion, a pile of clothes with no body. Stumped, the police follow a few leads, but everything seems to add up to it being a simple result of warring gangs. That is until scientist Dr. Masada shows up, claiming that atomic bomb testing off the coast of the Pacific is to blame for the strange disappearances. Could radiation be the cause of these odd events, or is there another piece to the puzzle that has yet to reveal itself?

The film is a blast, relying on the mystery of the disappearances to move the narrative along. There's also a great deal of horror infused elements, like a ghost ship filled with green glowing ghouls that horrendously devour anyone they touch. The decision to focus this story in the more seedier side of the Japanese culture was a nice touch for this science fiction tale, taking more of a cue from the films of the time and their centralization on the gangster culture. It's an interesting mixture of genres that never ceases to entertain, while providing a highly original concept that warns future societies of the dangers of waging war with atomic weapons. Another great Toho film!

Mothra! What a hoot! This is my first time watching Mothra and what a funny and interesting film it is. The movie starts out with a shipwrecked crew being rescued from a highly radiated island, only to be free and clear of any signs of radiation. After deliberating the reasons behind this marvelous discovery, the crew theorizes that they must have been immune from radiation after drinking a special kind of juice that the natives had given them. Being surprised to realize that there are people actually living on the old atomic bomb test site, the Japanese and Rosilican (I assume American) government form a joint expedition to the island to investigate this strange tale. The movie follows the misadventures of a journalist and explorer, who along with the team of Japanese and Rosilican scientists, come into contact with a pair of miniature twin women who worship a creature called Mothra. Unknown to the majority of the group, one Rosilican representative plans to snatch the two miniature wonders and escape the island in order to peddle them to the masses as the next big thing in entertainment. One problem is that those are Mothra's girls.... and you won't like Mothra when he's angry.

Another great addition to the Toho catalog and my recent string of Toho viewings, Mothra is a well put together little film that follows in the footsteps of the great Godzilla's destructive path, yet sets itself as its own unique beast. There is a lot of fun to be had with this film for there are a plethora of comedic moments, mostly provided by the character of the journalist, who at first annoyed the hell out of me but then gradually I began to warm to. It's also interesting to see the comparisons to the country of Rosilican to the United States and we even get a nice set of destructive scenes as Mothra brings the pain to a very familiar location. Good stuff.

The Golden Buddha is a fun Asiaspy flick that takes the classy and cool moments of the James Bond genre and spruces it up for an Asian audience. The film tells of a simple man named Paul who does extraordinary things, like kicking ass and taking names. I kid, but not really. Well, I'll start at the beginning. After having his luggage mixed up with his long time friend aboard a plane, Paul's life goes from boring to action packed. You see the contents of Paul's friend's bag is somewhat of a hot commodity and it seems that every cutthroat son of a bitch is coming out of the woodwork to have himself a piece of the pie. This pie is in the form of a small Buddha figurine, that houses directions to a families long standing lost fortune. With the sudden assassination of his friend, Paul is forced to run for his life while at the same time track down the clues of the Buddha statue, slowly making his way closer to the famed treasure. It sounds corny, but it's tons of fun.

Infused with a great sense of Eurospy cool, the film has all the trappings of a 60's spy romp, including sexy femme fatales, diabolical evil masterminds, and armies of dangerous henchmen that fall by the hands of the unstoppable Paul. It's an extremely fun movie that never takes itself too serious, but is competently executed and filmed with a vivid style. I'm glad I hunted it down, cause it was entertaining as hell. Hopefully I'll be able to run across some more Asiaspy flicks during my cinematic journeys. Check it out if you're a fan of the Bond films or just love anything spy oriented in the 60's.


3 Seconds Before Explosion is another Asiaspy outing that has that cool and stylistic quality to it. An agent is sent undercover to monitor a group of scrupulous characters who are warring against each other for the obtainment of a cache of jewels. Setting them against each other, the slick agent defies death at every turn, almost seeming too cool for his own good. In other genres this fact would be a hindrance, but we're talking Eurospy flavor here so bring it on. Spying his way to the top of the gang, the super spy comes face to face with a fellow agent who is mixed up in this dangerous game for his own personal reasons. The clash of skill and wits is tremendously done, giving the film a little more to stand on other then its respectable visual style and 60's spy setting.

It seems that this film is another one of those Japanese lost gems, where only a handful of people are out there promoting it and giving their insight on the movie, but this is one of those flicks you really should hunt for. It has an extremely beautiful style to it, almost lavish in a sense, and respectfully succinct in providing an entertaining thrill ride of action and intrigue. 3 Seconds Before Explosion is another wonderful step for myself, into the wild world of Asiaspy flicks. Here's hoping for more gems like this.

Battle in Outer Space is my third Toho science fiction film of the past two weeks and it's another wonderful entry for the genre. This surprisingly epic movie, depicts what would happen if an alien race attacked Earth. After a space station's destruction and a mass number of strange phenomenon occur on the planet Earth, the powers that be come to realize that we have come into contact with an alien race that, unlike E.T., doesn't want to be our friends. The nations of Earth band together to combatant the extraterrestrial menace, enlisting an elite group of multinational astronauts to take the fight to the alien bastards. After reconstructing a pair of technologically advances rockets, two teams embark on a mission to destroy the alien's base on the far side of the moon. Will this hopeful victory end the advancing legion of munchkin sized invaders or will this only insight a more destructive battle upon the Earth's surface? Today is our Independence Day!

I was kind of shocked by how epic this film really is. There's a lot going for it in its rather modest run time and you definitely get more bang for your buck compared to the other films of the era. I especially enjoyed the way that they made the threat of the alien invasion so wide spread and ominous, forcing everyone on planet Earth to unify as one in order to collectively combatant this shared enemy. It was kind of inspiring and hopeful that if such a thing did happen in real life that us Earthlings would stop fighting amongst ourselves for one second and come together for the common good in its most dire of moments. In general the film is just grade A class all the way and an instant classic of the genre. I had a fun time with this one and I think you will too.

THX 1138 is George Lucas' most respectable film, in the dramatic and thought provoking sense, giving us a story of rebellion in the 25th century. This science fiction dystopian tale tells of an oppressed society, grinding on order and standards, and void of compassion and human feeling. Drained to the core, a man and woman attempt to rebel against the system, only to find that it is easier said then done. The main thematic impulse of the film is the pursuit of freedom. Freedom in every sense of the word, and the insurmountable odds one has to push through in order to obtain it. With its strikingly established world, filled with the visual burdens that come with living in an imprisoned state of loveless existence, THX 1138 is a tremendous statement on what it means to be human and it's a great example on how far we can go if pushed to the limit, in both life and filmmaking.

Lucas depicts an extremely humanistic story, built on the emotional and inherent needs found in all of us, making it all the more puzzling that his breakout film is Star Wars and not this more thought provoking piece of cinematic art. Now don't get me wrong, I love me some Star Wars, but the level of filmmaking on display in THX 1138 is on a whole other level then what he would eventually be known for around the world. Still, it is a hard film to wrap your head around and a lot of the content found within the story could be unsettling for some viewers. It still is a masterful piece of filmmaking that establishes itself quickly and gives an extreme amount of ideas for the audience to mull over long after the credits have finished rolling and we wander back into our own intimately entrapped lives. Way to go Lucas. I just wish you would have focused more on this kind of caliber work, then in revisiting your equally wonderful series of Star Wars films. What's a science fiction fan to do?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

MY FILM: Among the Fallen Featured

It's time for another update on Among the Fallen's crazy adventures through the internet. The film has just been featured over at Mutantville in their Scary Movie Saturday segment. Big thanks to Streebo for making it happen! CHECK IT OUT!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

REVIEW: The Dead

The Dead
Director: Howard J. Ford & Jonathan Ford
Year 2010

The Dead is a highly ambitious entry in the ever expanding genre of the flesh eating zombie film. Directed by sibling filmmakers, Howard J. Ford and Jonathan Ford, the movie tells the tale of a lone Air Force Engineer named Brian Murphy, who must survive a zombie apocalypse after crash landing off the coast of Africa. Surrounded by the walking dead and stranded in the middle of nowhere, Lieutenant Murphy must traverse the harsh landscape in order to find a way to return to his wife and young child. With the cards stacked against him, will he be able to escape the dead's unfaltering pursuit for his flesh or will he be just another dinner for the walking corpses?

Watch as Brian Murphy stands in his b-boy stance.

You're not looking so good buddy.

The hardships of this production have been documented by the Ford Brothers in quite a few interviews that I've come across, stating the harsh conditions and unexpected set backs that came with filming in such an inhospitable territory and unforgiving climate. From clashing with local military to having their main actor contracting malaria, the brothers have encountered a lot of hardships in order to finish their epic zombie story and in hind sight, the film has come out the better for it. The fatigue and grit of the location shooting has translated extremely well, making the entire movie feel vividly real and genuine in its savage struggle for survival. You can see it on the actors' faces as they trudge across the sun baked landscape and the resulting experience is unlike anything you've seen in a zombie film to date.

The fact that they went full out on shooting on location is a spectacular decision, reflecting their dedication in bringing something real and tangible to the zombie genre. The effect is highly inspirational in making the viewer experience what it would be like to have to roam the open plains, with nothing but your wits and cunning to keep you from being devoured. The open vistas that the Ford brothers constantly barrage the viewer with, highlights this horrific fact. The main character, Brian Murphy, has an impossible feat ahead of him and by showing the ever expansive terrain of the African landscape, we are reminded on how epic of a quest he really is on.

Damn this tide! Now I have to build another sand castle all over again!

Get outta my dreams Prince David Oseia, get into my car.

Another additional benefit that comes from filming on location, specifically the diverse landscapes of Africa, is the beautiful and picturesque scenery that it provides. From rolling sand dunes, to breathtaking shorelines, to spacious open terrains, The Dead has a visually stunning palette of sun burned orange landscapes that really establish the film as a rich experience for the eyes. This is probably the most beautiful looking zombie film that I've ever scene, adding another layer of vibrance that you don't usually see in this genre. The mixture of the beautiful panoramic moments with the decayed and disemboweled walking corpses is something of a stunner, showcasing the great contrast between life and death. Poetically executed, the Ford brothers lament an unusual combination of sentiment and fear that was greatly appreciated by this viewer.

The direction and camera movements of the film should also be noted. Not only does the film have some breathtakingly beautiful establishing shots of the surrounding landscape, but they energize this heavenly perspective with some techniques that up the tension and inject a dose of horror and thrills into the mix. There's an extreme sense of paranoia in the filming techniques that the Ford brothers use, making the main characters of the piece constantly look over their shoulders for any unwanted and unannounced walking dead. This approach is then replicated in the many perspective views of the characters as they constantly stay vigilant of the zombie horde. There is never really a moment in which we feel the cast is safe within the story and the sibling directors nail this idea home by including these fervent and obsessive camera angles to peak our curious minds on what lies behind that abandoned truck or past those bushes. It's almost exhaustive, but highly effective in ratcheting up the tension for the audience and creating a kinetic atmosphere that exudes a morbid and foreboding sense of doom.

He buddy.... got a light?

Can't get me up here dickhead!

Awe inspiring locales and super charged atmosphere aside, the film at its core is a buddy/road trip style movie, showcasing the camaraderie between two men of discerning backgrounds. In the film, Brian Murphy has a run in with another fellow survivor named Daniel Dembele, and the two forge a friendship that first ignites out of necessity but eventually morphs into a respectful bond between the two characters. The connection between the two is genuinely acted out and the slow bonding of their friendship is nice to see come forth. Both actors, Rob Freeman, who takes on the role of Murphy, and Prince David Oseia, who plays the role of Dembele, do a courageous job of portraying the two contrasting characters that come together amid turmoil.

Stepping outside of the zombie mold, the film focuses on the good qualities of human kind instead of depicting us as hate filled and fearful animals when the shit hits the fan. There is no underlying lesson on how humanity is the real monster, like in Romero's zombie efforts, instead we get a rather encouraging lesson on the integrity of the human race and the unseen bond that we all have within us. It's uplifting and surprising to see this kind of story play out in a zombie film, and I appreciated the change of tone.

A zombie apocalypse can get pretty lonely, but man are they beautiful.

People are dying to get into this town.... yuk...yuk.

Now let's end with the zombies. These guys are the good old fashion slow moving corpses of yesteryear and they are sprinkled throughout this movie, threatening to suffocate the frame in every shot. The directors make good use of their appearance and presentation, always making sure to add them in the background to ram home the overwhelming experience of being surrounded by a never ending swarm of flesh hungry ghouls. These guys are everywhere and while not in great numbers, their presence can be felt in every second of the films run time. Their existence lies heavy on the film, creating a surprisingly claustrophobic atmosphere amid such an expansive open wide terrain.

The Ford brothers' overall look for the flesh eaters are simple, yet convincing, harkening back to some of the work on Fulci's Zombie. They are not as grotesque as Fulci's masterpieces, but their overall grungy look and stilled movements are reminiscent of the iconic imagery for his walking dead. The gore and violent nature of the zombies in this film, also seem to echo the feel of those Italian zombie romps, exhibiting their cannibalistic tendencies in bloody fashion. Flesh is torn and devoured, all in its focused glory, giving off the primal essence that makes these zombie films so unsettling. The Ford brothers' attention to detail and unabashed respect for the genre is quite evident in their execution during these horrific moments. You can't help but admire the love they have for this type of movie and it shows in the tremendous output of their intimate little masterpiece.

He's got that hungry look in his eye.

Don't take candy, or odd necklaces, from strangers.

The Dead is a zombie film that uses its location to the fullest, while providing a movie that is simply beautiful. Having a rather unorthodox approach to the material, the film still manages to hold true to the rules of the modern zombie film. With care and consideration, they have infused an overwhelming sense of tension and paranoia that perfectly resembles the chaos that one would experience when fighting for their life while fending off an army of the living dead. The relationship between the two main characters was heartfelt and natural, never threatening to dabble into cliche or familiar territory. The zombies of the film were excellently realized and wholly threatening, taking cues from some of the most iconic deadheads of the biz.

If there's one thing I can say about the film to summarize it up, it would be that it is the most authentic portrayal of a zombie uprising that I have seen in a long time. Everything is genuine, paced, and realistic, never going overboard just for the sake of cheap thrills and nonsensical plot devices. The Dead is a true classic of the genre and I hope in time that it will be recognized as such. Check this out for the zombie lover in you.

5 out of 5 stars               A Future Zombie Cult Classic!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

MY FILM: Among the Fallen Review #4

Well hot dog! It looks like the reviews just keep coming in for my first feature film, Among the Fallen. J Luis Rivera at W-Cinema has just posted a rather complimentary review on my movie, so come scope it out HERE.

If you still haven't gotten off your lazy ass and checked out the movie for yourself, the entire thing is online and you can check it out HERE.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

MY FILM: Among the Fallen Review #3

NEW REVIEW! NEW REVIEW! Kevin over at For It Is Man's Number has just posted a review for my film, Among the Fallen. It's a fairly positive review, but also gives some good criticisms of the flick. You can check it out HERE.

For those of you who still haven't seen the film, you can see the movie in its entirety HERE.

ALL THE COLORS: Baron Prasil