Kill Chain (2019)

Kill Chain (2019)

The cover to the Australian release of Kill Chain on Bluray

Film: There is a quite hilarious website called phrasegenerator.com, and I just love it. Basically, it randomly generates various things like political rhetoric (it generated: I want an America where greedy doctors and filthy hobos can’t sabotage our iPhone apps.), sports quotes (Talk about Ronovich – all speed no agility and 5 foot 6 – he’s gotta fork to the quarterback sneak and work the rushing opportunity.), academic quotes (The hypocrisy of codependency is really quite dogmatic in its agnosticism) and my favourite, action movie titles (here’s a few: Soldier of Trouble, Extreme Extremism, Instant Punishment).

Why point out this website? Well it seems to me that modern direct-to-video (DVD, Bluray, whatever) simply MUST use this website to come up with titles for their new releases. It’s close to the end of 2021, and Bruce Willis’ latest release is called ‘Out of Death’, Karen Gillian’s (from Doctor Who and the Marvel movies) in ‘Gunpowder Milkshake’ and speak-of-the-devil Nicolas Cage newbie is titled ‘Prisoners of the Ghostland’. Surely… SURELY, these titles weren’t to be taken seriously. The only title of anything I remember being as silly is the zombie-hating cheerleader video game Lollypop Chainsaw, and that being a title from Super and Slither’s James Gunn, you just know it must be very tongue in cheek.

Arâna (Nicolas Cage) welcomes some uninvited guests to his hotel

Why does this preamble exist? That would be because I have just gotten my hands on the film ‘Kill Chain’, a film that essentially takes its title from a military manoeuvre, but is probably BETTER known as the video game trope of getting bonuses for kill bad guys without getting killed.

Still, though, it sounds like a randomly generated title.

Above that, It does have a some pedigree. It’s written as directed by Ken Sanzel, who has written or directed or produced lots of action movies and TV including episodes of Numb3rs, and 1998’s The Replacement Killers. Is it a fine pedigree? Let’s find out!

Kill Chain tells of Arãna (Cage), an ex-hitman/ mercenary who has been ‘left’ a hotel called Hotel Del Franco in Colombia by someone who he refers to as ‘his only friend’. One night, he is visited by a pair of mercenaries who are there to ‘finalise his account’, but they don’t realise what they have walked into is a black hole of violence and surprises, and a night that has been a long one for Arâna, and his patience has worn very thin.

Renata (Annabelle Acosta) gets a little bloody

This is a bizarre thing, this film. It’s slow and deliberate, with smacks of violence that pop up here and there that in a post-John Wick world are possibly a little cumbersome and not choreographed as one would like but occasionally are quietly brutal. The tension does build nicely at times but doesn’t always pay off.

The bizarre thing is… I like it. The odd walk around to get to the point, the fact that most of the characters have no names, the origami-styled folding story… it’s all somehow good. It has an extremely small cast, and has such a small amount of locations, it could have been a stage play!

I have to say how much I liked the soundtrack, composed by Mario Grigorov. Sometimes it’s a pumping modern-day interpretation of a John Carpenter synthwave soundtrack, and at others, a flowing end-credits giallo track from the 70s. I loved every second of it.

Score: ***1/2

The menu screen to the Australian Bluray release of Kill Chain

Extras: Sorry, but it looks like even the extras have been executed!

Score: 0

WISIA: I’ll definitely watch it again as it has a weird DTV, low-budget appeal to it. It’s cumbersome, but strangely engaging.

Enrico Colantoni has regrets about being a hit man.

NIC-TOBERFEST 2021

Charge your steins with your favourite ale, lager or stout and grab your tightest lederhosen because it’s time for NIC-TOBERFEST 2021!

Nic-Toberfest is the To Watch Pile’s celebration of everything Nicolas Cage, the hero’s hero! This month you won’t get your usual Wednesday reviews, you’ll also get a couple of extras too… that’s SIX… SIX reviews of Cage films, in which each one sees him in a nuttier role than the previous, and that’s not to mention a double feature (not Cage films unfortunately)for Halloween, one on Halloween and one on All Saint’s Day.

I hope you find it as exciting to read as I did to write!

Boss Level (2021)

Boss Level (2021)

The cover to the Australian Bluray release

Film: The whole ‘a day gets repeated over and over again’ is a trope that horror, sci-fi and comedy love. Personally, I think it’s for the opportunity of cheap laughs, showing the protagonist get injured/ die/ kill people over and over again without repercussions. Thankfully it would seem that most filmmakers KNOW it’s a trope that is quite derivative, and that gives them an opportunity to mix up the story a little, like with slasher film Happy Death Day and it’s sequel.

Boss Level is a surprising beast. Directed by Joe Carnahan, who co-wrote the screenplay with Eddie and Chris Borey, Boss Level should be a low budget piece of trash that pushes a ‘new’ action movie stars with a bunch of nobodies… but this stars Frank Grillo from the Marvel movies, and includes Mel Gibson, Maggie Q and Naomi Watts, and is as entertaining as dumb violent action gets.

Grillo and Watts

Boss Level tells of ex-special forces muscle-bound himbo Roy Pulver (Grillo) who wakes up every single day to find a bunch of assassins trying to kill him. Pam (Meadow Williams) tries to shoot him, the German Twins (Rashad Evans and Rampage Jackson) try to blow him up, Kaboom (Aaron Beelner ) also tries to blow him up (but with explosives, whereas the German Twins use bazookas), Smiley (Michael Tourek) tries to spear him, Guan Yin (Selina Lo) tries to cut him up… you get the idea: there’s a lot of people out to get him!

‘I am Guan Yin, and Guan Yin has done this!‘

Roy’s problem is, every single one of them have succeeded in killing him, but the second he dies, he wakes up back at the beginning of the day, with all the knowledge that he had been killed over and over again, and no matter how many times he tries to survive.

He does continue to try though (but only after a few depression episodes where he just allows himself to be murdered), and eventually starts to work out that he is very deliberately stuck in this time loop, but what does it have to do with his ex-wife Jemma (Watts) and her boss, Colonel Clive Ventor (Gibson)…

This film, like all these types of films, as I stated earlier, exist to show the funny side to how ridiculous the concept is, and the torture of the lead character is completely for our own amusement, especially when you think he’s achieved something that gets him away from one baddie, only to fall to some other fatal mishap. Let me tell you as well, these are some bloody and violent mishaps too! Roy even talks in a voiceover about how he’d prefer to be shot rather than stabbed because stabbing hurts more!

The mix of actors in this film is great too. Grillo’ s performance is hilarious, action-packed and even tender at times. Watts (who I have a crush on for years) is still a solid support and Gibson’s magical villain is spectacular. The wonderful array of assassins is fun and funny, and they even cop some of the deaths just as bad as Grillo does. Selina Lo’s Guan Yin is a particular highlight and her beauty combined with violent swordsmanship is a grand juxtaposition, and her exclamation whenever she kills is fantastic too.

Honestly there’s not much to NOT like about this film, but it’s essentially like a Fast and the Furious film: you see it for the spectacle rather than an intelligent story. I will say though that it’s sudden sci-fi U-turn is both expected and surprising.

Score: ***

The menu from the Australian Bluray

Extras: None.

Score: 0

WISIA: It was dumb fun, so it’s definitely getting watched again!

This review was done with the Australian 2021 Bluray release.

Guns, guns, guns.

The Lost Empire (1984)

One from the rewatch pile…

The Lost Empire (1984)

Film: As a teen, I was constantly borrowing the B movies from my local video shop, and of those movies, I had a special place in my heart for Chopping Mall, and because of that, I saw the name Jim Wynorski  as a sign of ‘quality’, and still today, if I see his name pop up I am willing to cast my eyes over whatever the product is.

Sometimes, I am rewarded with B movie goodness, and sometimes, my brain is poisoned, but nostalgia is a cruel mistress and I am willing to forgive this man whenever the film is less than good.

This film, The Lost Empire, is the first film that Wynorski wrote and directed, and co-produced with Russ Meyer girl Raven De La Croix, and is truly a film firmly dropped in the eighties. The fashions, the special effects, the acting and the sets are perfect examples of that.

Our movie starts with evil, shuriken-yoyo wielding ninjas attempting to steal a mystical ruby eye from a pig idol, that is on display in a jewellers. Several police arrive and foil the robbery, but not without there being several injuries and a few fatalities.

We are told in a text scrawl that this jewel is one of the two Eyes of Avatar and have the super science from the ancient Lemurians secreted inside them. They were separated many years ago and if the two eyes are ever brought together the weirder will gain the power of superior ancient science.

Next we are introduced to busty, big-haired, gun-happy sexpot police officer Angela Wolfe (Melanie Vincz), imagine Dirty Harry with a squarer jaw and bigger tits and her FBI boyfriend Rick (Paul Coufos) who are told, after a post hostage bust sex-session, that her brother Rob (Bill Thornbury)was shot in the jeweller robbery but survived and so she visits him in the hospital. Through his delusion bought on by pain, he hands her one of the shuriken from the robbery.

Rick sees the shuriken and tells Wolfe that it belongs to Lee Chuck, a man who sold his soul to the devil and needs to send him a soul a day to live forever. They investigate the robbery and the Eye of Avatar finds its way into Wolfe’s purse, unbeknownst to her.

Rick and Wolfe meet with Inspector Charles Chan, yep… Charlie Chan… who tells them that a religious nut named Dr Sin Do (Angus Scrimm) is linked to Lee Chuck and has an island, Golgatha, where he can practise his religion in peace.

Wolfe’s brother goes to the big precinct in the sky, and very soon, Wolfe wants revenge so she presses Rick for more information. He tells her that Sin Do has competitions where women fight for his entertainment. Soon she finds herself teamed up with Native American White Star (Raven De La Croix) who spouts generic Indian-isms (Kemo Sabe is slung around like pies at a footy game) and ex-con Heather McClure (Angela Aames) and the three enter the Sin Do tournament to find out what’s going on. Rick accidentally ends up with Wolfe’s handbag and realises that he has the Eye of Avatar and makes his way to the island as well…

Is Golgatha just a religious retreat, or a hideout for gang of terrorists run by a man who has lived for two hundred years after a promise to Satan himself…

Well, what do you think?

This film is most definitely a template for future Wynorski films, and honestly, for the market, there is nothing wrong with that. Essentially most if his films are adult male fantasy cartoons made real, with beautiful big-boobed babes, and testosterone fuelled dunderheads fighting against whatever evil may have reared its ugly head, with a peppering of toplessness, violence and terrible, almost Dad, jokes. It’s what B cinema is all about, and I’d watch one of these over a big cinema release any day!

This film also has a cameo by The Thing from Another World’s Kenneth Tobey.

I grew up loving Jim Wynorski films like Chopping Mall and it sure is nice to see his first attempt at ‘big’ budget filmmaking. I had a lot of nostalgic fun watching this film, and it has reinvigorated my love for Wynorski. I must track more of his films down. If you like the Corman films of the 80s, you’ll get a kick out if this too. Shame on my copy, the two interesting extras didn’t work.

Score: ****

Format: Immediately I have to criticise the the actual physical DVD itself. The cover is a horribly painted pic that disrespects the female leads of the film as it is horribly distorted and really, not very good. The menus of the disc itself needs also to received some criticism as it is difficult ascertain when a menu item is selected.

The disc image is presented in, quite an odd aspect ratio, of about 2.20:1 and the image is ok, but does have several scratches and other artefacts on it. The soundtrack in presented in stereo and is satisfactory, well until Raven De La Croix throws one of her terrible jokes out.

Score: *

Extras: There are three extras on this disc:

Director’s Commentary by Jim Wynorski… Well that’s what the menu option said, but what I received was… Nothing! I tried selecting it several times and not once did I receive the commentary. Disappointed.

The Stills gallery, which I shall point out is an extra on any disc I hate, is a 90 second slide show of stills from the film. Not behind the scenes photos or different shots, it is just freeze frames from the film. If I want to look a static images, I’ll read a comic, not put on a DVD.

The last extra is the Soundtrack which I was pretty excited for as I like the 80s synth track… Except of the ten tracks available to listen, it repeated 30 seconds of the first track over and over. Maybe I just received a faulty disc, but definitely not happy.

Score: *

WISIA: It’s an irresistible, quaint throwback, so I’ll definitely watch it again.

Punisher War Zone (2008)

One from the re- watch pile…

Punisher War Zone (2008)

Film: I love films based on comics. No matter how bad they are, I love to watch them. I see them as an opportunity for a different creative team to take characters from a medium I love and adapting them to a format that is NOT a continuing story, but instead a one off look at the character. This of course can be difficult, and judging by the amount of bad comic based films, the results can be disastrous: Judge Dredd, Thor: Ragnarok and Tank Girl come to mind. The reason for this is simple: comics are mainly character based and not story based. The comics usually have an infinite life span, so even though a storyline may finish, the character continues on and on and on….sometimes too long.

This of course is not always true: V for Vendetta and Watchmen being two good examples of story rather than character based comics, and both were executed well, but a character based story can sometimes be filled with too much, especially a first film of a character, as you have to have not just the characters origin, but also an engaging storyline to boot, a villain to vanquish and a damsel in distress to rescue. This is why the second film based on a character can occasionally flow better. Sure, the origin may to be refreshed, but in general, the antagonist can get about his work pretty quickly.

So here we are with the second Punisher movie, and I call it the second as I choose to ignore the Dolph Lundgren effort, for no reason other than the time between it, of the Thomas Jane one of 2004. Besides, the Dolph Lundgren Punisher was really just an action film that had elements of the comic Punisher in it, whereas the more recent effort directly had elements in common with the comic version, and at least attempted to be a Punisher movie.

I will say though, thankfully all versions have chosen to ignore the comic-based Punisher’s original choice of shoe, which was a Nancy Sinatra, These-Boots-Were-Made-For-Walkin’, don’t wear after Labour Day, lily-white pair of boots.

The Punisher: War Zone, based on the comic of the same name, does not have Thomas Jane playing the title character, but instead has replaced him with the, in my humble opinion, far more appropriate Ray Stevenson , who also has played Volstaggin the Marvel Studios films, whose presence during this movie screams The Punisher. Taking place about 5 years after his alter ego Frank Castle’s genesis as the Punisher, this movie sees him initially up against a fairly generic mafia, whom he absolutely annihilates in a bloody orgy of violence, except for Billy Russoti (Dominic West) and his immediate henchmen, one of whom is undercover FBI. Keen to finish the job on the whole family, the Punisher follows the gang to a glass recycling plant, where after a gunfight, he accidentally kills the FBI agent, and not so accidentally throws Billy into the glass crushing machine.

Billy, of course, survives, but with a severe facial deformation, and a new name to reflect his Frankenstein-ian looks: Jigsaw! The first act Jigsaw does is get his mental case brother, Looney Bin Jim (Doug Hutchison… you should remember him, he played ‘Tooms’ in The X-Files) out of the mental facility in which he is being held, and then: vengeance. As far as Jigsaw is concerned, The Punisher needs to be taken out of the picture, and also, on a personal note, the wife, Angela (Julie Benz) and daughter Grace (Stephanie Janusauskas) of the FBI agent need to go the same way.

Frank’s guilt in killing the FBI agent causes him to want to quit ‘the business’ but when his weapons and technology supplier Micro (Wayne Knight) and Angela and Grace are kidnapped, under the noses of FBI agent Paul Budiansky (Resident Evil’s Colin Salmon) and police officer Martin Soap (Dash Mihok), The Punisher goes absolutely ballistic…. Literally! Jigsaw, of course, gathers the might of as many gangs from across the city as he can, and the only way to describe what is about to happen is to use a quote from another Lionsgate film, which also contains a character named ‘Jigsaw’…

‘Oh yes, there will be blood’.

This film is directed by German karate champion Lexi Alexander, but don’t let her being a female director trick you into thinking that this film has its feminine side in place: this film is an arse kicking, head popping, guns blazing punch in the guts all the way. It is perfectly cast, and special mentions have to go to Stevenson’s totally dry and humorless portrayal of Frank Castle, Doug Hutchison’s totally bonkers Loony Bin Jim and Julie Benz as a brunette….wow!!

The direction of this film deserves a special mention as well: the total aesthetic of the comic has been captured perfectly, it is framed and colored like a comic is, so much so I almost expected there to be an ‘inker’ credit in the films titles. This film was also filled with little touches for the comic fans, like the Bradstreet Hotel named after Timothy Bradstreet (Punisher cover artist extraordinaire), and secondary characters such as Maginty and Pittsey that have featured in the comics, albeit maybe after a small cinematic facelift.

This truly is an excellent rendition of The Punisher. It is certainly the first time it has been done right (except for the dulling down of the Punisher’s chest logo), and Ray Stevenson is the absolute perfect man for the role. John Bernthal in the Netflix Tv series came close, but Ray’s 100% my guy for the role.

Even those who have no familiarity with the comic, or the character, should have no problem catching up, and should enjoy the film for the bloody action experience that it is.

This is the Punisher film fans of the comic character have been waiting for. Vicious retaliation mixed with senseless bloodshed is like a dream come true for fans of this character.

Score: *****

Format: Supersexy transfer presented in anamorphic widescreen 2.40:1, with a crystal image that shows off Lexi Alexander and cinematographer Steve Gainer’s efforts perfectly. A fabulous Dolby Digital 5.1 that used the subwoofer so often I thought I may have to get it replaced. Explosions, gunfire, furious retribution….yeah!

Score: *****

Extras: A pretty cool set of extras on this disc, though no ‘Comic to Film’ one tragically, which are the ones I really love! This Punisher release could really do with a thorough ‘Comic character’ documentary like the ones seen on the releases of Ghost Rider and Iron Man, but they seem to have gone by the wayside now that things like the MCU have completely different identities from the comics.

The audio commentary with Director Lexi Alexander and Cinematographer Steve Gainer is a thorough one, with both of them commenting on many aspects of the film, from casting to design to special effects. There both seem to love their craft and the commentary only rarely, if at all, dips into mutual masturbation.

The Making of The Punisher Featurette is a traditional kind of feature, with a lot of the focus being on the casting, and voice bits from most of the major cast.

Training for the Punisher shows Ray Stephenson going through his paces with the marines, learning the ropes for both weapons training and hand to hand combat. Stephenson is an impressive model as an action hero, and the marines he is training with seem to appreciate his presence as well. There is also a small discussion with action sequence supervisor Pat Johnson, who talks about how important physical fitness is for an action hero, and we get to see footage of Ray Stevenson beating up on him… which when you see how short Johnson is, almost seems unfair (though I am sure that Johnson can handle himself quite well!!).

Weapons of the Punisher is a great featurette for fans of ordinance!! The weapons master of the film Paul Barrette discusses how the guns are applied to character archetypes to complete the look of a gang…. Something one may not generally take into account. John Barton, the military supervisor also speaks about the use of weapons in the film.

Meet Jigsaw introduces us to Dominic West, and he discusses the role, and the make-up application that go along with it. Most surprising in this featurette was the fact that West is actually English, as I was completely convinced by his over-da-top New York accent (which may be insulting to our American friends, so my apologies: my only exposure to this type of accent has been via gangster films).

Creating the Look of the Punisher is a fascinating look at the mise en scene of the film, and how efforts were made for a particular look, which included the use of only three colors in each scene. Alexander even talks about how she would freak out if one of the non-shot colors was present on the set.

We also get trailers for Right At Your Door, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, Vinyan, Lakeview Terrace, and The Burrowers.

Score: ****

WISIA: This comic movie is easily one of my favourites and gets a regular look.

Kill Bill Volume 1

One from the rewatch pile…

Kill Bill Volume 1 (2003)

Film: Quentin Tarantino is one of those writer/ directors whose films are either loved or loathed. QT is regularly accused of plagiarism and being unoriginal on one hand, and on the other hand, he almost single handed lay brought back the popularity of some exploitation and international films into the limelight. It is unfair to call QT a plagiarist, as he freely acknowledges his influences, and ha always worn them on his sleeve. This film, Kill Bill Volume 1, was conceived during the filming of Pulp Fiction, where GT could see a potential in Uma Thurman to be a great female action lead, and decided to write an entire film around her.

As the title suggests, Kill Bill Volume 1 tells the first part of a revenge tale. ‘The Bride’ (Uma Thurman) was thought to have been murdered by a squad of killers she was once a part of, The Deadly Viper Assassin Squad, a group led by the mysterious Bill (David Carradine). She cuts a swath of violence in this film to get to her intended victims: O-ren Iishi (Lucy Lui) , Elle Driver (Darryl Hannah), Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox), Budd (Michael Madsen), but will she get to them all? Will she survive countless battles so that she can finally Kill Bill? Mmmm…I guess you shall have to watch Volume 2.

So, what is your pleasure? Wuxia? Got it! Exploitation? Yeah, got that too. What about gangster flicks? Yep, there’s a little of that as well. We even have a little bit of anime!! Some of the dialogue in this film suffers from ‘Lucas’ Romantic Scene Disorder’, where the lines seem to have trouble coming out of the actors mouths, and feel as awkward as a contestant on Young Talent Time. Tarantino’s plotting talents however should keep you interested enough that it is only a minor bother.

As usual, QT’s supporting characters are just as interesting as the main cast, and the plot, disjointed though it may be (like Pulp Fiction), moves along at a great pace. A fan of the type of cinema QT has interests in could really spend hours with a group of like-minded friends spotting the massive amounts of nods to other films.

With influences ranging from Tobe Hooper to the Shaw Brothers, and even sometimes borrowing from his own films, Kill Bill Volume 1 could have easily been takeaway crap, but instead it is a fresh dine-in meal with all the trimming… though the dessert has been saved for a Kill Bill Volume 2.

Score: ****

Format: Kill Bill Volume 1 was reviewed with the Australian release Bluray, which is presented in a 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen which is clean and perfect. The reds are SO red, the yellows are SO yellow and the black and white is… well, contrasting! This film is in Dolby 5.1 and is a kick ass track. The sounds of blood spraying and swords clanging together will ring in your lounge room long after the film has finished. There is some great use of musical cues that really make full use of the 5.1 sound stage as well.

Score: ****

Extras: The Making of Kill Bill should have been a three hour extravaganza where QT goes through everything that influenced this film and his career, but instead we get a 22 minute fluff piece that admittedly has a lot of interviews but ultimately leaves you unsatisfied.

There are two music clips from the 5,6,7,8’s, ‘Walk like Jayne Mansfield’ and “I’m Blue’. Is it surf music, is it pink? Who cares, it’s awesome!

There is also two trailers for Kill Bill Volume 1: a teaser trailer and a‘ bootleg’ trailer, which weirdly contains some footage from Volume 2!

Score: **1/2

WISIA: Oh HELL yeah I’ll watch this again!

Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1973)

One from the re watch pile…

Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1973)

Film: You have to love the way some people think. When director Bo Arne Vibenius’ 1969 family film flopped, he did what any good director would do: he got straight back on the horse and made what was to become one of the most un-family oriented mainstream releases ever made (albeit under the pseudonym Alex Fridolinski). This film, Thriller – En Grym Film, in its original Swedish title, has gone by many names: Hookers Revenge and They Call Her One Eye to name a few, and has been released in more running times, due to censorship laws in various countries, than you would find at the Olympics. Notorious to its core, this version, Thriller: A Cruel Picture, is unrated and with the unnecessary hardcore sex and (apparent) actual corpse mutilation in lieu of special effects. Synapse released both the hardcore and no-core versions on DVD, the Red cover, with the subtitle ‘A Cruel Picture’ is the XXX one where as the yellow cover, with the subtitle ‘They Call Her One-Eye’ is the non-awkward porn version.

Thriller: A Cruel Picture tells the tale of young Frigga (Christina Lindberg), who lost the ability to speak after being raped at a very young age. Her mother and father regularly send her to various doctors in the hopes that she will regain her voice. One day, after missing the bus to one of her appointments, she accepts a lift from Tony (Heinz Hopf) who dopes her and within ten days has her hooked on heroin and working for him as a prostitute. After she attacks a client, Tony cuts one of her eyes out. Eventually the pressure of all her woes gets to her, and she decides to fight back…with a vengeance! (Cue zoom in and stabbing strings)

The first thing to say about this movie is hubba hubba: even with one eye covered, Christina Lindberg oozes a sweet sexuality that would be slipped on if you stepped in it. It is unsurprising however that Vibenius had little success with his previous film, as he is an extraordinarily BORING filmmaker. His action scenes are suitable enough, although the use of slo-mo is somewhat excessive. The dialogue or ’emotive’ scenes are done with such extreme close ups of the actors faces that instead of looking sad or friendly, they just all looked ominous. Also of particular note are how badly the cars must be made in Sweden: even the slightest bump during the car chase scene causes these pieces of rubbish to explode. Having said all that though, it was kind of like watching a train wreck; you just couldn’t take your eyes off its grizzly allure.

The hardcore scenes in this film also deserve a mention, as the ‘stunt actors’ in them are quite obviously not Lindberg and her fellow cast mates.

This film never quite fits a certain genre. It’s sometimes arthouse, grindhouse and porno-house all mixed in one. Even though the hardcore parts were obviously tacked-on and felt completely out of place, they didn’t really effect my overall enjoyment of the film (although there was one bit of going-in-dry footage that made me cringe). This is one of those must see oddities. You have heard a lot about it, especially in the wake of the Kill Bill films, but few will probably enjoy it. I was one who thoroughly did, and it will become a regular rotation… although I might fast forward through some of the hairy nut parts, or watch the alternate release, Thriller: They Call Her One Eye.

Score: ****

Format: The picture quality is all over the shop. Grain, cigarette burns… you name an artefact, and this film has it. I will say though, the image is still clear enough to be watchable, and judging by the amount of bootlegs there are around of this film, it is probably the best it has looked in years. To be brutally honest, the slightly off image just adds to the sleaziness of the entire proceedings, and is probably reminiscent of those old grind house cinemas that exploitation stuff like this used to get shown in. The film is presented in an anamorphic 1.66:1 aspect ratio, even though the package states it’s 1.78:1. Presented in spectacular 1.0! This is a fairly clear mono track, but to fully appreciate this film you need to watch it both in English, and then with the subtitles…they are almost a different story! Even the main character’s name goes from Frigga (English dub) to Madeline (English subtitle). Keep your ear out for sound effects straight out of Scooby Doo cartoons, especially during the car chase scenes

Score: **

Extras: There are 4 theatrical trailers on this disc: the TV spot (for They Call Her One Eye), the theatrical trailer (for They Call Her One Eye), the Double Feature trailer (a grind house double feature trailer where the film is called the Hooker’s Revenge and is accompanied by The Photographer’s Model) and the Thriller trailer.

Outtake Reel is a few short outtakes, all in complete silence.

Alternate Harbor Fight is a reconstructed version of the harbor fight sequence using pieces of thought to be lost footage, which is then put together with some actual film footage to make a ‘new’ version of the fight.

Movie in Pictures (38 seconds) is the entire movie shown with a single shot from each scene…why? It’s like a crappy View Master version of the film.

There are 5 stills galleries: In Bed with Christina, a series of nude shots of Lindberg. Behind the Scenes, which is a collection of BTS footage, mainly of Lindberg, but dressed this time. Advertising and Promotion shows the posters and other advertising paraphernalia for the film. Deleted Fight Scene shows the still pics from a scene omitted from the final film, and Production photos are on set photos taken during the production of this feature.

There are also text filmographies for Lindberg and Vibenius.

Score: ***

WISIA: This film is such a weirdo watch, I actually can’t resist it, and have watched it several times.

The Commuter (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

The Commuter (2018)

Film: Now and again, I am more than happy to watch a generic, by-the-numbers thriller. Something that doesn’t tax the brain but can provide a generic amount of thrills to keep me interested.

You know the score already, it’s that post-Speed plot that is used, and used, and used in every quick buck, single location, Liam Neeson starring film. There’s a secret something that our hero has to has to uncover before insert-the-vehicle-here stops finally at its destination. I’m not criticising the plot, but it’s nothing original.

The film was directed by The Orphan’s Jaume Collet-Serra, who has a really interesting eye for some sequences, with a story by Ryan Engle (writer of Non-Stop and kind of proving my point), Brian Willinger and Phillip de Blasi.

Our film opens the daily life of ex-cop Michael MacCauley (surprise! Liam Neeson), now an insurance sales person who on this particular day is going to have a vastly different day to all those other ones.

Today, Michael has been sacked from his job and has been manipulated to be on a particular train at a particular time, and he finds himself sitting opposite Joanna (Vera Farmiga) who claims to be interested in the human condition and discusses some psychology with him that involves hypothetical proposition that actually ends up being a real proposition: find someone on a train, drop a GPS tracker in their bag and receive $100,000. The problem is that no-one knows what the person looks like, only that they are carrying a bag, and are getting off at a particular stop.

Being desperate, Michael accepts the ‘job’ and the investigation begins, but as you expect, he can’t ask for outside help and definitely can’t report it to the police, which he does, to his ex-partner, Alex Murphy (Patrick Wilson), he realised that he is being constantly watched, and all of the sudden, Michael realises he’s in total jeopardy, and can barely trust anyone, except maybe the other regular commuters he sees every day.

Sure enough, the stakes get higher as Michael threatens to refuse to play…

The film cleverly shows the boredom and regimen of the daily commute, and how boring and repetitive those of us who have a ‘joe’ job exist from day to day, and the almost Michel Gendry way of showing the slightly differing repetition was disturbingly familiar. This, of course, juxtaposes itself brilliantly with just how screwed up Michael’s day becomes.

The only real problem I had with the story, other than it being a very familiar basic plot, is the solution to Neeson’s conundrum is actually fairly clearly shown in the early parts of the film and is quite clearly telegraphed, to the point his inability to work it out… and then miraculously figure it out make it quite frustrating, especially considering he used to be a police officer!

There’s some pretty cool big parts played by big names too, and Sam Neill as a New York police captain came as a big surprise. Also, keep an eye out for Black Panther’s Shuri, aka Letitia Wright, in a tiny bit part.

All in all a well made film with some action movie favourites in cast and stunts which all make for an easy 100 odd minute distraction. Nothing new, and you’ll forget about it in a week like that other action film… you know the one: what’s it called again?

Score: **

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian region B Bluray which was presented in a perfect 2.39:1 image with a matching 7.1 Dolby Atmos surround audio.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s a only couple of extras on this disc. One is an interview with Liam Neeson and the other a tiny barely two minute piece about the making of the film.

Score: **

WISIA: As these film are so cookie cutter and generic, it is easy to watch, and probably easy to rewatch. The cast are likeable as well so that heads me towards a rewatch too.

Deadpool (2016) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Deadpool (2016)


Film:  

I never wanted to see Deadpool. 

I detested pretty much well everything that Rob Liefeld, comic ‘creator’ and ‘artist’ did to my favourite comic, which I had been collecting since issue 1, Marvel Comics’ brilliant The New Mutants, and every time I saw one of his new characters, I rolled my eyes at the crudely drawn, horrible characters. The New Mutants was a companion comic to The Uncanny X-Men that started in the early eighties and told of Professor X’s attempt to relaunch his school for super powered kids.

Deadpool was amongst those characters that helped execute it and I pretty much well ignored him until around 2004 when I was attracted to the art in a comic called Cable & Deadpool. I enjoyed that comic’s irreverent humour, but when it folded I didn’t actively pursue either character, so Deadpool and I drifted apart again.

I do however enjoy the X-Men movies, and if I’m completely honest, I loved Ryan Reynold’s portrayal of the character in the dreadful X-men Origins: Wolverine film, but mainly because they completely screwed him up, and I hoped that he would be retro-fitted out of the Marvel comic universe…


However, I must eat a large slice of humble pie as I just watched the film Deadpool… and loved it. The film is the first feature film from visual effects designer, now director Tim Miller from a script by Rhett Reece and Paul Wernick (both from Zombieland, which explains a lot about the comedy in this), from comic ideas from Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld.

Deadpool tells of ex-special ops guy Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) who now earns money as a mercenary, with the occasional good will job. He meets and falls in love with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and things seem to all be great until one night he passes out, and they discover he’s suffering from multiple cancers.

After some research he decides to take up an offer he’s received to have his cancer cured by having an artificial mutant gene introduced to his body by a man named Ajax (Ed Skrein), but what he doesn’t realise is, Ajax sells the mutated people as weapons.

Wilson is a giant smartarse, and takes great delight in teasing Ajax, who in turn tortures him as a petty revenge. The operation is successful and his body now has a healing factor akin to Wolverine’s, but it does have some cosmetic side effects… And perhaps fractured his mind.

So with his help from the X-men Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kepipic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), Wilson becomes Deadpool, and seeks Ajax and his men out so he can reap bloody revenge…


This film is one of the most entertaining comic films I have ever seen, with perfect comedy timing and an element of violence not before seen in a mainstream Marvel character’s film. The cast is bang on with their performance and the choreography of the violence is catastrophic and awesome.

I must say that being a comic fan is of great benefit to watchers of this film, as is knowing that there have been other comic films around helps as there are references to everything from Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, the previous cinematic appearance of Deadpool and Ryan Reynolds not-entirely successful turn as Green Lantern. It’s not essential though, but your experience is certainly enhanced by it. This is possibly one of the endearing things about this film: it is self-referential, it regularly breaks the fourth wall and enjoys the fact that it KNOWS it can’t be taken 100% seriously… Because you know, basically the concept of superheroes is one that is hard to take seriously.

The film also doesn’t stop at any point for a breather. From the beginning of this built-like-Pulp-Fiction movie, if you aren’t cringing at the hyper violence, you are laughing at the constant barrage of filth coming from the main characters, or perhaps are admiring the hot naked girls in the strip club, or wondering how they got away with the sex scene. The best idea anyone ever had about this film was to make it for adults: innuendo does NOT exist in Deadpool’s world.

Also, Stan Lee’s appearance, and I won’t spoil it here, was certainly different from any he’s done so far!

If I have to really dig deep into my hyper-critical reviewer pockets to pick on this film, but I did and I have. Very occasional there are some dodgy CGI physics, and the character Colossus is SO obviously an effect… I mean, he’s a giant walking metal mutant, by the just never felt like he was not completely present physically in the film, like when Jerry the mouse (from Tom and Jerry) danced with Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh: most special effects take an element of deliberate ignorance by our brains to be effective, but I just never found him visually effective. Luckily his Boy Scout persona made that easier to overlook as he is Deadpool’s perfect straight man.

I am however being extraordinarily picky in this case as I liked the film so much and am just attempting to find some thing to take this film to task on.

The film is just so damn violent, so damn funny and so damn fun it’s like a traditional superhero film, but made by the guys who did The Story of Ricky with the script writer from Superbad. It’s hilariously violent, and violently hilarious. I think this 20th Century Fox production will open the eyes of other companies, including Marvel themselves, making superhero movies, and if the trailers to Warner Bros/ DC’s Suicide Squad are anything to go by, maybe they have…

Score: ****1/2

Format: This review was done with the Australian, region B, bluray (steelbook) edition, which runs for approximately 108 minutes, with a 2.40:1 image and a DTS-HD 7.1 audio, both of which are perfect. The package also comes with a digital download of the film.

Score: *****

Extras


Deleted Scenes with or without commentary by the director: The Raft, Cancer World Tour, , Extended Workshop Fight, Morgue, 5 Year Montage, No. 5 Bathroom, Extended Angel/ NTW Fight, Extended Rubble/ Gratuitous Worth It and Alt Coda. Some of these deleted and extended bits have unfinished CGI elements, but the lover of the making of films finds this interesting. Watching with Ritter’s commentary is quite informative as well.

I love me a good Gag Reel and this is excellent, a hoot and a holler, with heaps of dialogue freestyling from some of the cast.

From Comics to Screen… to Screen is a series of making-of mini docs including Origin…ier, Peoples and Muties, Stylin’, ‘Splosions and Magic! Watched from start to finish, these docos cover everything to do with the production of this film, and it’s entertaining as well.

We have Two Audio Commentaries on this disc too, one by Reynolds, Reese and Wernick and the other by Miller and Liefeld. Both commentaries tell of different processes and have different tales to tell of the production of the film, but both are heaps of fun and very informative.

There is a series of galleries for Concept Art, Costumes, Storyboards, Pre-vis and Stunt-Vis – Shipyard. Normally I hate stills galleries but this is a money saver as I won’t have to buy the expensive no-doubt-impending ‘Art of Deadpool’ hardcover book because all the images are here.

Deadpool’s Fun Sack is all the worldwide advertising for the film. It contains all the trailers and interstitials and a whole of bunch of posters.

Score: *****


WISIA: I’m already seeing it again. Nuff said!