Film Reviews

Gintama (2017)

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The hit manga by Hideaki Sorachi has a live action adaptation and it caters to both fans of the source material as well as newcomers to the title, thanks in part to some over the top antics that work quite well.

Twenty years ago, Edo was invaded by aliens and the government, calling them Amanto, ended up in war with the aliens. However, when the war was over, the Sword Prohibition Act was passed, forbidden all samurai to unleash their swords. As a result, the aliens and humans are now living in peace. One known as the White Demon, former samurai Gintoki Sakata has resorted to being more a lazy bum who does odd jobs with Shinpachi, a one-time budding samurai and heir to a martial arts dojo; and Kagura, an alien girl who has both a strong will and appetite.

Gintoki’s now peaceful life is soon shattered with childhood friend Katsura is killed by a mysterious stranger Nizou Okada, who has possession of a mysterious sword known as the Benizakura. To make matters worse, he learns that Okada is working with Shinsuke Takasugi, who had fought alongside Gintoki and Katsura in the Joui War that led to the Sword Prohibition Act. Now deemed a traitor, Takasugi intends to make his intentions known by unleashing his sword and destroying Edo. With help from the siblings whose dad created the deadly blade, Gintoki, Shinpachi, and Kagura must stop Takasugi, Okada, and their allies to save Edo and make it peaceful again.

Having only recently begun watching the anime based on the hit Shonen Jump manga, this reviewer kind of knows what to expect. Yuichi Fukuda wrote and directed this live-action adaptation that may or may not make fans of the original source material, depending on their taste, but will surely be a delight for newcomers who are curious about Sorachi’s story of a lazy samurai and his friends in an alternate Edo where aliens and humans are apparently living in peace despite the normalcy of crime and everyday life.

The cast of the film are great to watch. Shun Oguri brings the character of Gintoki Sakata to life and does so with some hilarious antics. This especially is prevalent in a hilarious “opening credit” sequence where only his name appears and it appears he is singing from a karaoke song only to be interrupted by a cartoon version of Shinpachi and Kagura. While Oguri handles the action quite well, he proves with his role here that he has a flair for comedy and brings it full speed ahead in the role.

When it comes to live-action manga and anime, no one has recently done it like Masaki Suda. The former one-half of Kamen Rider W had been known for his role as Karma Akabane in the Assassination Classroom series but goes a full 180 with his role of the very timid yet determined Shinpachi. Suda has that comical flair necessary to make a role such as Shinpachi work. From his surprised expressions to getting knocked in the face in super slow motion by ally Kagura and with an emotional range, Suda is truly stands out in the film while his Assassination Classroom cohort Kanna Hashimoto, who played the automated Ritsu in the two films, here plays the alien Kagura and from what was seen so far in the anime, pretty well and faithful.

While the trio of Gintoki, Shinpachi, and Kagura make up the driving force of the film, the supporting cast is quite fun to watch. Notably the introduction of the bumbling police Chief Isao Kondo, played hilariously by Kankuro Nakamura, who appears in just his underwear covered in honey. Kondo has a major crush on Shinpachi’s sister and gets his comeuppances on a few occasions when she shows no interest in him. This includes hitting him with a baseball bat and it becomes a home run. The duo of Ryo Yoshizawa and Yuya Yagira play Okita and Hijikata, members of the Shinseigumi, a police force, who seem to dislike Gintoki but when they are faced with the common enemy, find themselves teaming up with him. And yet, these two are not exactly the smartest duo either. They are almost but not quote on Kondo’s level. Ken Yasuda also brings some comic relief with his overpowering performance (and that’s voice-wise) as Tetsuya Murata, whose father created the Benizakura blade with Akari Hayami complementing Tetsuya’s shouting as the more reserved Tetsuko Murata.

Hirofumi Arai brings the character of Nizo Okada as a deadly warrior who is fused with the very deadly blade that Gintoki must track down. Arai emulates a sort of Zatoichi-like performance with assistance from Jiro Sato’s self-proclaimed “feminist” Henpeita Takeuchi and Nanao’s gun-slinging Matako Kijima. However, the real villain is that of Takasuki Shinsuke, played by Tsuyoshi Domoto, which brings the sometimes clichéd “best friend turned enemy” portion of the action genre but Domoto gives such a harrowing performance that it stands out quite well here.

There are plenty of comic gags, from slow motion hits to the “kabuto beetle chase” scene and even references to other popular anime and manga that stand out in the film and for some reason, it works. The swordfighting action is quite fun to watch as well as Oguri’s opening scene where he resorts to using unarmed martial arts against two annoying cat-human hybrid aliens who purposely harass Shinpachi in a “prologue” sequence. For the most part, the CGI is quite good, that is until when we see Okada in true fusion form as this is where the CGI looks a bit sub-par. It does reach borderline ridiculous, but the fact that this is an action-comedy of this element, it can be somewhat forgiven.

With room left for a sequel, apparently due this coming summer, whether or not you’ve seen the anime or read the manga, if you want a good fun Japanese action-comedy, then Gintama is recommended. The cast is great, taking elements from two arcs, and some mostly good CGI and some good action in the mix of the comic elements.

WFG RATING: A-

Warner Bros. Japan presents a Plus D production. Director: Yuichi Fukuda. Producers: Shinzo Matsuhashi and Susumu Hida. Writer: Yuichi Fukuda; based on the Weekly Shonen Jump manga by Hideaki Sorachi. Cinematography: Tetsuya Kudo and Yasuyuki Suzuki. Editing: Jun Kuriyagawa.

Cast: Shun Oguri, Masaki Suda, Kanna Hashimoto, Masaki Okada, Yuya Yagira, Ryo Yoshizawa, Ken Yasuda, Akari Hayami, Masami Nagasawa, Hirofumi Arai, Jiro Sato, Nanao, Tsuyoshi Muro, Kankuro Nakamura, Tsuyoshi Domoto, Seika Furuhata, Seiji Rokkaku.

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Borg McEnroe (2017)

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Tennis’ biggest rivalry is brought to the big screen with excellent performances by lead actors Sverrir Gudnason and Shia LeBeouf in the titular roles.

It is 1980 and the Wimbledon championship tournament has begun. The heavy favorite to win is Swedish player Bjorn Borg, who has already won four titles in the tournament and is looking for his fifth title. However, he has some heavy competition in American player John McEnroe, whose hot-tempered antics on the courts have made him the “bad boy” of tennis. However, McEnroe is determined to win the tournament in London.

As Borg and McEnroe begin to win their matches, the pressure begins to mount on both players. For Borg, it has always been about perfection and not letting his coach and family down. For McEnroe, being second best isn’t enough. Both raised into having to be perfect with winning being everything, the pressure on both are at an all-time high. When the duo makes it to the finals of the tournament, only one can be champion. However, both soon learn that to win will be just the tip of the iceberg.

This Swedish-Danish-Finnish co-production is quite interesting in its depiction of the famous tennis rivalry between Sweden’s Bjorn Borg and the “bad boy” that was John McEnroe. In sports films based in other countries, one figure would be more glorified and when it came to a rivalry of sorts, it is usually one figure or team that would be the focus of the film. However, Ronnie Sandahl’s screenplay offers a look from both perspectives of the titular players as while they were known rivals on the court, it is their upbringings that made them more similar that what we are to have believed.

Swedish actor Sverrir Gudnason has an uncanny resemblance to the tennis legend Borg and complements that resemblance with an emotional performance as someone who feels the pressure of being the best. While as a kid, Borg seemed to enjoy the game, it is when he becomes the student of Lennart Bergelin that it becomes about being a winner and facing the wrath of his coach when he doesn’t live up to Bergelin’s expectations. Stellan Skarsgård churns out a brilliant performance as Borg’s mentor with Tuva Novotny giving a sense of grounded nature for Borg as Mariana Simionescu.

Shia LeBeouf could not be a better fit to play John McEnroe. McEnroe, forever known for his tantrums and outbursts on the courts during his heyday, is similar to Borg with his upbringing of being perfected. This is notable in a flashback scene where as a child, he tells his mother he scored a 96 on a test and his mother doesn’t find it acceptable asking what happened to the other 4 percent. In addition, LeBeouf’s recent real-life issues would aid in his nabbing the role and this could just be the comeback the former child star is dying for as he is perfect in the role.

The tennis sequences are exciting to watch as we see both Borg and McEnroe face their opponents, with McEnroe going postal on Jimmy Connors during the semi-finals and berating the officials. That is until the brilliant finale pitting the tennis juggernauts as we see McEnroe more collected, taking his frustrations out on himself rather than anyone in his path. Borg seems collected for the most part but also faces that pressure of getting his fifth title but shows that not all is bad when he even gives words of encouragement for his rival in between sets. This would eventually lead to the real-life rivalry turned friendship between the two.

One would think Borg McEnroe would focus more on one considering the nature of the production. However, the film wisely looks at the viewpoints of feeling perfection and pressure both Borg and McEnroe that would make history in the sport of tennis. Sverrir Gudnason and Shia LeBeouf truly personify the titular duo in an emotional story that would result in one of the greatest matches in tennis history.

WFG RATING: A

SF Pictures presents a SF Studios production. Director: Janus Metz Pedersen. Producers: Jon Nohrstedt and Fredrik Wikström Nicastro. Writer: Ronnie Sandahl. Cinematography: Niels Thastum. Editing: Per K. Kirkegaard and Per Sandholt.

Cast: Sverrir Gudnason, Shia LeBeouf, Stellan Skarsgård, Tuva Novotny, Leo Borg, Marcus Mossberg, Jackson Gann, Scott Arthur, Ian Blackman, Robert Emms, David Bamber, Mats Blomgren, Julia Marko-Nord, Jane Perry.

Mom and Dad (2017)

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Have you grown tired of getting disrespected by your kids and want to do something about it? The insane version of that answer lies in the solo directorial debut of Crank director Brian Taylor.

Carly Ryan is about to have the worst day of her life…literally. She learns that her parents are not letting her see her boyfriend Damon and instead stay home to see their grandparents. When Carly heads to school, things are about to get worse. Meanwhile, a series of attacks have been unleashed on children. When parents arrive at the school, the students wonder why the parents would all of a sudden show up. That is, until the parents begin to launch an attack on their own kids, killing or maiming them.

Carly soon finds herself running home and worried about her little brother Josh. Meanwhile, Carly’s father Brent and mother Kendall slowly begin to go through life’s stresses in a way that soon becomes unimaginable. When they return home, they too fall for the epidemic that has plagued children and begin to go after Carly and Josh. Having no other choice but to defend themselves, Carly and Josh must find a way to make sure they survive the night before their parents turn them into victims.

Brian Taylor, one half of the Neveldine/Taylor team behind Crank and its high-powered sequel, appropriately titled Crank 2: High Voltage, has crafted one of the craziest dark comedies with this Purge-like tale where for 24 hours, parents go postal and violent against their own kids. Perhaps the intention is to live out parents’ dark fantasies about what they would want to do about their kids when they show blatant disrespect and things go crazy from there. Even the opening titular sequence has a sense of the madness Taylor brings as it purveys a 70’s grindhouse effect.

The titular Mom and Dad couldn’t have been played better than by Selma Blair and Nicolas Cage. If you thought Cage has done some insane performances before, then Taylor lets Cage goes completely bats**t crazy in his role. Even in flashback sequences, Cage is truly as his craziest. There are times when you may question why Taylor would certain scenes include out of nowhere, but if you know Taylor’s repertoire, then that’s what expected. As for Blair, the usually level headed character actress gets a chance to break against type and is wonderful when she goes into savage mode.

Anne Winters holds herself well as a potential scream queen as Carly, Cage and Blair’s characters’ daughter who is seen as the typical teen female when it comes to having a sense of wanting to do as she pleases and gets all frustrated when she doesn’t get her way but then fears and fights for her life against her parents. In a way, some may feel the actions of the parents is a result of her blatant disrespectful ways but she does care about protecting her little brother, played by Zackary Arthur. Sure, little brothers can be annoying and he starts that way with Chloe, but ultimately he needs Chloe. Another shocking twist is the mindblowing cameo appearance from legendary actor Lance Henriksen, who right from the beginning of his scene, makes a heck of an impact.

Mom and Dad is basically a maddening family version of The Purge that truly is fun to watch as we get see Nicolas Cage at his craziest and Selma Blair against type in the insane titular roles and a potential scream queen in Anne Winters.

WFG RATING: A-

Momentum Pictures present an Armory Films production in association with Zeal Media. Director: Brian Taylor. Producers: Christopher Lemole and Tim Zajaros. Writer: Brian Taylor. Cinematography: Daniel Pearl. Editing: Rose Corr and Fernando Villena.

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur, Robert D. Cunningham, Lance Henriksen, Samantha Lemole, Olivia Crocicchia, Rachel Melvin.

Momentum Pictures will release this film in select theaters, VOD, and Digital HD on January 19, 2018.

Showdown in Manila (2017)

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An action ensemble cast joins Russian powerhouse Alexander Nevsky for this throwback action film which marked the directorial debut of Mark Dacascos, known to most today as the Chairman of Food Network’s Iron Chef America.

Nick Peyton has attempted numerous times to find the mysterious crime figure known as “The Wraith”. During their latest attempt, Nick is wounded by the Wraith’s top men but ultimately survives, hoping to one day seek retribution. The chance arrives when Matthew Wells is murdered at the hands of the Wraith’s organization and his widow seeks justice by hiring Nick and new partner Charlie Benz to find the Wraith.

On the streets of Manila, Nick and Charlie encounter various clues that may lead them to the location of the Wraith. When Nick finally finds Dorn, one of the Wraith’s cohorts and one of the guys who gunned Nick down, Dorn finally reveals where the Wraith is located. However, learning exactly where he is, Nick knows that he and Charlie will be not be able to capture him alone. Nick puts in a call to some old allies to help him on this dangerous mission. Will Nick get the Wraith and finally seek retribution for both himself and Mrs. Wells?

Alexander Nevsky is truly making his mark known for his low-budgeted action films which, depending on your taste, are either “love them” or “hate them”. After making his directorial debut with Black Rose, he has joined forces with Andrzej Bartkowiak, the director of Romeo Must Die and Cradle 2 the Grave, and 90’s action hero and current Iron Chef America chairman Mark Dacascos on this film, which takes its inspiration from The Expendables.

This time around Mark Dacascos makes his directorial debut on the film and has a cameo appearance as the ill-fated Matthew Wells, whose death triggers Nevsky’s Nick to not only capture his arch-nemesis and seek retribution for his near-fatal shooting. However, what stands out is that while Dacascos makes the most of the locations and budget, Nevsky, who also served as a producer, helped bring in a slew of 90’s B-movie action stars to the forefront and have them align with himself for its third and final act.

Much of the film focuses on the ongoing investigation of the location with the Wraith, played by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, a veteran known for epic villain roles such as Yoshida in Showdown in Little Tokyo, Sangha in Kickboxer 2: The Road Back, and Shang Tsung in the first Mortal Kombat movie. Here, he is the mastermind known simply as “The Wraith” and he spends most of the film hidden. After the film’s opening action sequence, he is sporadically seen until the third act, instead leaving the work to 90’s powerhouse villain actor Matthias Hues to do the dirty work. Tia Carrere, who gained fame for the late 90’s action series Relic Hunter as well as appearing in films like the aforementioned Showdown in Little Tokyo, doesn’t get much action but stands more as the woman who hires our heroes to find out who killed her husband.

As for Nevsky, he has a new partner in Straship Troopers’ Casper Van Dien and the two have chemistry meant for a buddy action comedy. Nevsky’s by-the-book hardcore cop complements Van Dien’s laid back womanizing detective. However, the third act, set in the jungle is where the action really picks up as fans of this throwback era will have the likes of Cynthia Rothrock, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, and Olivier Gruner along with Dmitriy Dyuzhev as fellow Russian Victor, all of whom play characters who have worked with Nevsky’s Nick at one point.

In charge of the film’s action sequences are Al Dacascos and Emmanuel Bettancourt with Sonny Sison serving as second unit director. Al Dacascos, the father of our film’s director, is a martial arts legend, finding the style of wun hop kuen do, itself based off Kajukenbo. While many would expect with a cast of 90’s action stars a style similar to what was seen back in the day, with the resources they had to work with, Master Dacascos utilized more realism by providing short and quick fights that sporadically come throughout the film with the finale in the jungle combining both martial arts action and gunfire galore.

If you are a hardcore action film that expects plenty of fisticuffs and love that low-budget feel to it, add to the mix a 90’s B-movie dream cast, then Showdown in Manila is worth taking a look. If you’re expecting something along the lines of a martial arts epic considering the cast, then you will want to avoid this one. This is one instance where as mentioned, you will either “love it”, “like it”, or “hate it”. Nevertheless, this is one team I’d be happy to align myself with.

WFG RATING: C+

ITN Distribution presents a Hollywood Storm/Czar Pictures production. Director: Mark Dacascos. Producer: Alexander Nevsky. Writer: Craig Hamman; story by Hamman, Alexander Nevsky, and Mark Dacascos. Cinematography: Rudy Harbon. Editing: Stephen Adrianson.

Cast: Alexander Nevsky, Casper Van Dien, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Tia Carrere, Matthias Hues, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Cynthia Rothrock, Olivier Gruner, Dmitriy Dyuzhev, Mark Dacascos, Iza Calzado, Robert Madrid, Polina Butorina.

ITN Distribution will be releasing this film to select theaters on January 19, 2018 followed by a VOD and Digital HD release on January 23, 2018.

Extraction (2013)

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Crackle, the online movie and TV site, unleashes an original film that combines shades of Die Hard and surprisingly, The Raid: Redemption with an ensemble cast.

The U.S. military are working closely with the CIA and FBI for a major assignment. A special unit of covert ops are sent to Chechnya, Russia to “extract” an ally to a fundamentalist Islamic terrorist group. To extract means they must bust him out of the prison and bring him back alive. The man in question is Rudolf Martin.

When the group goes to the prison to begin the extraction process, they are caught by British-Russian warden Rudnovsky, who sends his guards to kill the entire unit. The entire unit is wiped out with one exception. Mercy Callo, a member of the squad whose parents years ago were killed by the same terrorist group Martin had funded, survives and goes forward to extracting Martin himself.

While Mercy goes for the extraction, FBI agent Natalie Meyers becomes Mercy’s only line of communication while Colonel Harding and CIA agent Kyle Black oversee the operation. Will Mercy successfully extract Martin or does Rudnovsky have something up his sleeve to prevent this from happening?

Written and directed by Tony Giglio, this is quite an interesting action thriller that capitalizes on films such as Die Hard and The Raid: Redemption. Giglio truly knows his action films and came up with a story that as it goes on, keeps bringing the viewer intrigued with the device of the plot twist. The plot twists here make the viewer want to see what happens next in a good way.

An ensemble cast takes over the film, led by wushu champion turned actor Jon Foo. Foo, who should have had his name known in the live action adaptation of Tekken, plays Mercy, the young maverick hero who decides to continue his assignment despite the rest of the team being killed off. Foo resorts to not only using firepower, but gets to unleash some brutal martial arts skills, combining some nice kicking skills with close quarter attacks.

While he proves to be the fighter on screen, one cannot hide the fact that pulling some interesting performances are the likes of veterans Danny Glover (as the colonel heading the mission) and Sean Astin (as the CIA agent who acts as a liaison for the extraction unit). Vinnie Jones mainly mugs for the camera, but gets some shots in as corrupt warden Rudnovsky.

In charge of the action are veteran James Lew and stuntman/stunt co-ordinator Lin Oeding. They pulled off some impressive action sequences that don’t go on the technical as much as the close quarters techniques. In fact, it is a welcome merging of the two with Foo leading the way. In a nicely shot fight scene, Foo finds himself taking on a bevy of guards and relies on using himself as a weapon, pulling off some impressive maneuvers in the process. While there is no real final fight scene, a fight between Foo and a prisoner combines some kickboxing style action but turned up on the brutality.

Extraction is definitely a fun action thriller. It is truly a welcome combination of military action, firepower, and martial arts film. This could be the role lead Jon Foo has been waiting for. Definitely worth seeing, and it is available on Crackle.

WFG RATING: B

Crackle Films present a Sony Pictures Television production of a Ranger 7 Films film. Director: Tony Giglio. Producers: Reuben Liber, Mike Callaghan, and Justin Bursch. Writer: Tony Giglio. Cinematography: Jesse Brunt. Editing: Peter Mengus.

Cast: Jon Foo, Falk Hentschel, Vinnie Jones, Joanne Kelly, Sean Astin, Danny Glover, Adam Croasdell, Branden Morgan, Adam Tsekhman, Maximillian Osinski, Ben Jenkin, Spencer Garrett, Paul Duke.

The Divine Move (2014)

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The Asian chess-like game of Go, or in this case, Baduk, gets deadly in this action thriller from director Jo Bum-Gu.

Tae-Seok is a young man whose skills in the game of baduk has led him to help his elder brother Woo-Seok, who’s in a jam. Woo-Seok has been challenged to take on “Player”, a gangster working for one of the most vicious crime lords in the area, Sal-Soo, also known as the Killer. When the ruse is discovered, Tae-Seok is brutally beaten and Woo-Seok is mercilessly killed by the Killer, who frames Tae-Seok for the murder.

Imprisoned for seven years, Tae-Seok learns to fight with the help of an elder prisoner and his men. Perfecting his skills, he is offered to join the elder prisoner after he is released. Tae-Seok would love to take the offer, but at the moment, he has one thing on his mind: avenging his brother. To do so, he changes his look and goes after each of Killer’s men by challenging them to baduk and then getting his revenge, until he can get to the man himself in a game that will decide who lives and who dies.

A truly brutal film, director Jo Bum-Gu takes You Sung-Hyup’s script about a baduk player who uses his game and fight skills to seek revenge, is quite interesting. For those unfamiliar with baduk, or the game go, it is similar to chess that it involves strategy but involves the use of “territories”. The game plays a crucial factor in the film overall as the game ultimately leads to violence throughout the film.

Jung Woo-Sung truly makes an impact in the film as the revenge-seeking Tae-Seok, who goes from a bushy, bearded scared man to a clean cut revenge seeker in the film. It is apparent he only has one thing on his mind after getting brutalized, seeing his brother dead and then getting framed for that death. Seeing Tae-Seok train to fight is quite an interesting training montage seen that leads to the quest for revenge.

Some of the thugs in the film are incredibly vicious. Notably Choi Jin-Hyuk’s “Player” and the big boss himself, Lee Beom-Soo’s “Killer”. They are inexplicably mean-spirited and when things don’t go their way, they resort to violence and this leads to Tae-Seok using an “eye for an eye”. The character of “Tricks”, played by Kim In-Kwon provides some hysterical comic relief in the vein of Joe Pesci’s Leo Getz in the Lethal Weapon films as he is a talkative slapstick goofball. Ahn Sung-Ki does quite well as another sidekick, “The Lord”, an elder expert who joins Tae-Seok as well.

In charge of the action scenes is Seoul Action School’s Choi Bong-Rok. Choi has the cast use close quarter combat as well as some technical style fighting. However, the close quarter style brings a more brutal, realistic style of fighting that looks at times very heart-pounding and exciting. In an exciting scene, Tae-Seok actually competes in a game of baduk against an opponent inside of a room in near sub-zero temperatures that leads to an all out knife fight between the duo. The climactic finale is also quite exciting and shows Jung at the top of his game.

The Divine Move is a pretty good movie that shows Jung Woo-Sung in his one of his best performances. The concept of turning baduk into a potential “game of death” is quite interesting and the combat scenes are nicely done. A definite rental with strong optional purchase.

WFG RATING: B+

CJ Entertainment presents a Showbox/Mediaplex production. Director: Jo Bum-Gu. Producers: Park Man-Hee, Yu Jeong-Heon, and Hwang Geun-Ha. Writer: Yu Seong-Hyeop. Cinematography: Kim Dong-Young. Editing: Shin Min-Kyung.

Cast: Jung Woo-Sung, Lee Beom-Soo, Choi Jin-Hyuk, Kim Myung-Soo, Ahn Sung-Ki, Kim in-Kwon, Lee Si-Young, Ahn Gil-Kang, Lee Do-Kyung, Jung Hae-Kyun, Ahn Seo-Hyun.

 

Day of the Dead: Bloodline (2018)

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The final installment of George A. Romero’s original zombie trilogy is given a re-imagining that holds its own in this film from director Hèctor Hérnandez Vicens.

Zoe Parker is a medical school student who has been working at an internship at a center where she is constantly approached by patient Max. Max has an obsession with Zoe, even going as far as tattooing her name on his arm. To celebrate the success of the last day of the internship, Zoe goes to a party where tragedy ensues. When Max attempts to assault Zoe, a cadaver comes to life and bites Max. This leads into the first of what would become a major zombie outbreak with Zoe becoming the only survivor.

Five years have passed and since witnessing the outbreak, Zoe decides to track down a cure for the disease. Zoe’s objective is to head to an abandoned bunker to do her research with the likes of her boyfriend Baca, Baca’s brother Miguel, and others. En route to the bunker, their transportation breaks down. This leads to the group doing what it takes to get to the bunker. When they finally arrive, Zoe learns of a shocking revelation, one that could be the key to finding the cure to stop and finally end the zombie outbreak.

1985’s Day of the Dead would be the final of the original zombie trilogy from the late great George A. Romero. The film has a zombie outbreak with survivalists in a military bunker. While that film would end in a more shocking manner, this reimagining takes that story and adds some major twists and turns that prove to be vital and in fact, from a scientific point of view, brings up a possible realistic manner in terms of finding a cure for the outbreaks.

The script by Mark Tonderai and Lars Jacobsen wisely took the core elements of the original film and under the direction of Hèctor Hérnandez Vinces, successfully makes it its own entity. In the original, there are zombies who are made to be docile, notably the character of “Bub”, played by Sherman Howard. In this film, “Bub” is replaced by Max, played by Jonathan Schaech. Max is first seen a creepy fellow who has an obsession with the potential heroine Zoe, played by Sophie Skelton. However, in the scene where he is ready to assault her, he is attacked by a zombie but just when you thought Schaech was making a cameo, he proves to be the pivotal supporting character that proves to be the catalyst for Zoe to do what is necessary to accomplish her mission.

This time around, the insane military officer that thinks all zombies should be dead no matter what is the character of Miguel Salazar, played by Jeff Gum. In an interesting move, the name of the character was also used in the original film as played by Anthony DiLeo Jr. In the original, Miguel was the boyfriend of the lead character, but here the boyfriend role goes to Baca, Miguel’s younger brother, played by Marcus Vanco. Baca is a really sympathetic character and stands by Zoe, even when a small rift is imminent.

In an age where CGI is primarily used, Vinces opts to take the practical effects approach and it becomes a very smart move. This is the piece de resistance as the film does bring a true homage to the Romero classic in terms of the zombie kills. Disembowlments, bites, and just sheer gore is displayed quite well in the film. However, unlike most horror films today, there is a sense of emotion that helps complement the terror that plagues the film.

While a loose 2008 remake didn’t fare well with fans, this 2017 reimagining of Day of the Dead, does bring a sense of emotion and a somewhat realistic scientific twist to the film. If you are curious or want to see a zombie film with an actual story, this may be just for you.

WFG RATING: B+

Saban Films and Millennium Media presents a Campbell/Grobman Films in association with Nu Boyana. Director: Hèctor Hérnandez Vicens. Producers: Christa Campbell, Lati Grobman, Boaz Davidson, James Glenn Dudelson, Robert Franklin Dudelson, and Jeff Rice. Writers: Mark Tonderai and Lars Jacobson; based on the 1985 film “Day of the Dead” by George A. Romero. Cinematography: Anton Ognianov. Editing: Damien Drago and Ivan Ivanov.

Cast: Sophie Skelton, Jonathan Schaech, Marcus Vanco, Jeff Gum, Mark Rhino Smith, Lillian Blakenship, Shari Watson, Lorina Kamburova, Rachel O’Meara, Cristina Serafini, Luke Cousins, Nathan Cooper, Nick Loeb, Bashar Rahal.

Crazy Famous (2017)

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Just how far would you go to get famous? For this guy, he does something extreme in this dark comedy from Paul Jarrett.

For all his life, Bob Marcus only looked for one thing: fame. However, his latest attempt, in which he jumped the fence at Camp David, lands him in a mental institution. Despite the lead doctor telling him that he should give up his dream, Bob finds himself determined. He meets Larry, an impulsive man who has a tendency to explode at random times. Larry introduces him to “Dr. Phil”, a patient who thinks he is the TV doctor.

Finally, there’s the very strange Smith, who spends his time scribbling on the walls and floors. He tells Bob that he knows where Al-Qaeda head Osama bin Laden is hiding. While everyone is convinced that bin Laden is dead, Smith knows otherwise and offers to prove it. Seeking this as an opportunity, Bob decides to go along with Smith’s plan and takes Larry and “Dr. Phil” with him. As these four successfully make their escape, they are about to go on a trip that they will never forget.

A meshing of the 1989 comedy The Dream Team with the conspiracy theory angle along with one man doing what it takes to become famous, this is a funny road trip comedy. Bob Farkas’ script has the core element of the 1989 film about four mental patients who get their free time. The only difference is that instead of a field trip, these four escape and go on a hunt by way of a conspiracy theory.

Gregory Lay’s Bob is the titular “crazy famous”, someone who will go to crazy extremes to get his fifteen minutes of fame. There is a reasoning behind Bob’s need to become famous and this is revealed in his first meeting with Ajay Naidu’s lead doctor at the mental institution. In a way, one can only feel bad for Bob, but if anyone ultimately will have to change his ways of thinking, it’s Bob himself.

The main supporting cast give Lay some great support. Victor Cruz, who has a resemblance to Jon Favreau, is hilarious as Larry, the patient with impulsive explosive disorder. Larry always tends to have it out with “Dr. Phil”, parodied quite well by David Neal Levin. Richard Short’s Smith tends to talk like a James Bond-style voice with his conspiracy theory approach, which drives the film and leads to the insane road trip. To give the film more of an intentional flair for comedy, Farkas actually brings the idea of a conspiracy in the film, with agents in the form of Alexander Cendese’s Agent Bilch and “big boss” Agent Mustang, played by Bob Jaffe.

Crazy Famous is a pretty funny meshing of The Dream Team, conspiracy theory, and a film about going to extremes to achieve your dreams. The cast, led by Gregory Lay, Richard Short, Victor Cruz, and David Neal Levin, drive the film with their roles of mental patients who attempt to prove the truth behind a conspiracy theory. The film’s 77-minute running time makes it smooth and easy to watch.

WFG RATING: B

Gravitas Ventures presents a Farkas Films production. Director: Paul Jarrett. Producers: Robert Farkas and Vince P. Maggio. Writer: Robert Farkas. Cinematography: Scott Miller. Editing: Phyllis Housen.

Cast: Gregory Lay, Richard Short, Victor Cruz, David Neal Levin, Alexander Cendese, Bob Jaffe, Ajay Naidu, Jessica Renee Russell, Catherine Curtin, Tom Kemp.

The film will be released on VOD, Digital HD and DVD on January 9, 2018.

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (2017)

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The legend of Camelot is given a modern twist from the makers of the Sharknado franchise.

When King Arthur banishes the evil witch Morgana and her son Mordred to the ends of the universe, Morgana vows revenge against anyone in King Arthur’s bloodline as well as those of the Knights. Flash forward 1500 years later in Thailand. Ex-military officer Penn is a descendant who does not believe in the legacy he is supposedly known for. He has a girlfriend in Jenna, a fellow student at the dojo they train in. However, Lucas, an apparent descendant of Merlin, believes in the legacy and swears by it.

When Morgana and Mordred re-emerge, Morgana makes her intentions clear. To gain the ultimate power, she must gain Excalibur. Regaining some of her powers, Morgana begins her wrath of destruction, even possessing local police to serve as her loyal warriors. When Penn, Jenna, Lucas, Georgina, and the returning Gunner all find themselves affected and hunted down, they soon find a mysterious ally who will have to do only one thing: make them believe their legacy and fulfill their destiny.

Having adapted Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers as a modern day adaptation, The Asylum returns with another modern day take of a legendary story, in this case, King Arthur and his knights. Sharknado 5 writer Scotty Mullen crafted a pretty decent tale set in modern day Bangkok featuring many stunt performers and actors who have a career in Thailand today.

Kickboxer: Vengeance’s Sara Malakul Lane really hams it up to quite an effect as the evil Morgana, who seeks the power of Excalibur and uses her powers to attempt to get her way. In the pivotal role of Penn is stunt performer Eoin O’Brien, who can be seen in films like Tekken 2: Kazuya’s Revenge and Never Back Down: No Surrender. For his first lead role as a non-believer turned the descendant of the King himself, O’Brien handles himself pretty well as he not only deals with having to learn of his legacy, but a conflict within his own ranks when the return of Gunner possibly brings back an old rivalry not only within their military ranks but a love triangle between Penn, Gunner, and Jenna.

The supporting cast makes the most of what they have to work with. As Lucas, Alex Winters is the hardcore military man who teaches Penn a thing or two about him needing to come to terms with his past and his legacy. Tanja Keller’s Georgina is a hardcore warrior who takes no remorse but finds herself bonding with an unexpected supporting character. Elidh MacQueen’s Krista becomes the key to the heroes living up to their legacy. Jon Nutt’s Gunner is a bit of annoying character with his over the top way of convincing the group of their destiny while Russell Geoffrey Banks’ Mordred seems to have a bit of undecidedness in terms of what he wants to achieve and his character is perhaps more conflicted than even our heroes.

The final act starts of promising until it takes a much unexpected turn that is flat out ridiculous. While the film’s apparent final action set does live up to its promise and all looks to be safe and sound in Bangkok, Mullen’s script decides to bring something that is not a dragon, but something far worse and that is said in not a good way. While it shouldn’t be a surprise considering that the Asylum made this, but they have done better with their endings to their other films. The actual finale is quite a disappointment in this case. It is as if the ultimate villain mode looks like it could have came out of the 1995 Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers big screen film and those who have seen it know exactly where this is headed.

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table starts out very promising for an Asylum film with a good concept. However, that concept takes a very atrocious turn in the film’s final act that just nearly destroys the overall effort.

WFG RATING: C-

The Asylum presents a Benetone Films production. Director: Jared Cohn. Producer: David Michael Latt. Writer: Scotty Mullen. Cinematography: Josh Maas. Editing: Rob Pallatina.

Cast: Sara Malakul Lane, Eoin O’Brien, Alex Winters, Kelly B. Jones, Russell Geoffrey Banks, Jon Nutt, Asia Marie, Tanja Keller, Elidh MacQueen, Byron Gibson, Ron Smoorenburg.

Madtown (2017)

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A young man comes face to face with his past while learning to accept his new life in this indie drama from Charles Moore.

Denny Briggs arrives late for what he promises will be a one-time gig as a stand-up comedian. He decides to make the audience his jury as he is on trial. He first begins with talking about how he lied on his job application for a job at Miller’s Family Restaurant. Having gotten the job, he becomes close to the owners Lloyd and Linda, fellow waiter Shaun, cook Marcel, and prep cook Sarah. However, Denny’s new life will soon find its obstacle as the past comes back in the form of his sister Madison.

Having served a twenty-year sentence for the murder of their parents, Madison has made parole. As Madison adapts to life outside of prison, Denny adapts to his new surroundings as he grows closer to Sarah, who is a young single mom to Isabella. However, when Madison decides to go back to controlling Denny and forces a move to Chicago upon him, Denny finally learns that in order to move on with his life, he must face the past and confront it before he is ever to be happy.

This is quite an interesting indie drama that is told all in flashbacks from what we are led to believe to be a seven-minute comedy gig from the main character Denny, played by an excellent Milo Ventimiglia. Denny is truly conflicted with facing his past and coming to terms with the present. The 112-minute running time allows Ventimiglia to bring a variety of emotion to the role of Denny as he grows closer to the cast of characters who he works with and yet at the same time, feels a sense of obligation to his overprotective sister Madison, played by Amanda Aday, who is the daughter of music legend Meat Loaf.

Rachel Melvin’s Sarah brings to sense a possible romance that may be worth having for the troubled Denny while John Billingsley and Bonita Fredericy’s Lloyd and Linda serve as the parental figures Denny has yearned for all his life, especially when the events that lead up to Madison’s prison stint is revealed. While Denny himself is an aspiring comic with Lenny Bruce as inspiration, Matt Lockwood’s Shaun provides the comic relief of the film in terms of the developing story while Joshua Elijah Reese’s Mandel is the big brother-type who also helps Denny feel grounded and indirectly helps him with the issues he face.

The film does offer some twists to the story where you may expect one thing to happen, but end up getting something else. This may either get fans who expect something straightforward to go up in arms, but most will likely be intrigued with the twists, especially towards the third act of the film, where it goes an totally unexpected route by the film’s end.

Madtown has a really good story about one man’s old and new lives coming together and his determination to break from his past and move on to the present, all driven by a great performance by Milo Ventimiglia.

WFG RATING: A-

SP Distribution presents a Two Car Garage production in association with Burning River Productions. Director: Charles Moore. Producers: Stephen R. Campanella, Liz DuChez, J. Scott Scheel, and Charles Moore. Writer: Charles Moore. Cinematography: John Turk. Editing: Charles Moore.

Cast: Milo Ventimiglia, Rachel Melvin, Amanda Aday, John Billingsley, Bonita Fredericy, Matt Lockwood, Joshua Elijah Reese, Brett Castro, Kinsley Funari, Kristina Kopf, Christopher Mele.

The film will be released on January 5, 2018 from SP Distribution.