flashbacks

The Scent of Rain and Lightning (2017)

THE SCENT OF RAIN LIGHTNING_Poster usa-icon

A young woman searches for answers but finds herself under constant threats in this adaptation of a Nancy Pickard novel.

Jody Linder has suffered for many years since the death of her parents. However, she has learned that the man who was imprisoned for the murders, Billy Croyle, has been paroled. Upset at the revelation, Jody confronts Billy’s son Collin, who was responsible for the parole when he revealed the truth that he was with his father the night of the apparent murders. Jody decides to find out what really happened to her parents the night of the murders.

As Jody begins her investigation, she finds herself going to places and meeting people who were involved in her family. She slowly begins to discover that Billy, who has gone crazy since being imprisoned and has a motive of revenge against the Linder family. When Jody finally finds herself convinced that Billy wasn’t responsible for the murders, she searches to find the truth and may find that the real murders may be closer than she ever expected.

Director Blake Robbins, along with screenwriters Casey Twenter and Jeff Robison, took Nancy Pickard’s novel and crafted an interesting tale that meshes a modern day investigation and flashbacks that slowly unveil what happened the night our lead character Jody’s parents were murdered. The film opens alone with the release of the accused murderer, Billy Croyle, played in a ultimately maniacal performance by Brad Carter.

Maika Monroe does well as the embittered Jody, who seems to have suffered quite a lot since the death of her parents. She finds herself a very angry woman, still holding onto that grudge when she confronts Collin, the son of Billy, played by Logan Miller. However, upon slowly learning that Billy may not be responsible, she decides to take up with her “rival” to find out the truth about what happened. One would expect a romance between Jody and Collin, but this is truly not the case. Instead, it is a simple case of two people learning to find out what happened.

In the flashback sequences, Justin Chatwin and Maggie Grace (who also served as a producer) play Jody’s parents, who seem to go from having a loving marriage to a tumultuous one plagued by Chatwin’s character always working on the family farm or traveling to help make money and Grace’s possible rumors of infidelity with people close to the couple. The biggest twist and shock of the film comes in the ultimately revelation of what really happened that night, which ends the film after a shocking confrontation.

The Scent of Rain and Lightning will keep viewers engaged once the story comes in full swing. A juxtaposition of flashbacks and present day, driven by the cast, really moves the story along. Add the shocking finale and you have a movie worth checking out.

WFG RATING: B+

SP Releasing present a No Coast Production present in association with Gerber Pictures and KP’s Remain. Director: Blake Robbins. Producers: Michael Davis, Blake Robbins, Jeff Robison, Casey Twenter, Kevin Waller, Jeff Johnson, Dan Koetting, and Maggie Grace. Writers: Casey Twenter and Jeff Robison; based on the novel by Nancy Pickard. Cinematography: Lyn Moncrief. Editing: Lauren Clark Carroll.

Cast: Maika Monroe, Logan Miller, Brad Carter, Will Patton, Bonnie Bedelia, Mark Webber, Aaron Poole, Maggie Grace, Justin Chatwin, Meg Crosbie, Jackson A. Dunn.

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By a Man’s Face Shall You Know Him (1966)

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Real-life former Yakuza head Noboru Ando stars in this very interesting film which depicts the effects of World War II in Japan and one man who just wants to do the right thing.

Dr. Amamiya is a kind-hearted man who is contemplating a transfer when all of a sudden, a patient comes in. Amamiya thinks about having the patient transferred to another hospital but learning the victim will not survive the transport, he looks and recognizes him. Suddenly, Amimaya begins to reminisce about his one-time friend Choi, who is the man who he must attempt to save.

In 1948, three years after the end of World War II, the Nine Heavens League, a Korean gangster unit, is moving in on a local town in Japan. Led by Yoo Seung-Won, the intend to take over the land run by Amimaya. When Yoo and the gang begin to harass local store owners and townsfolk, one man suggests that they go to Amimaya. However, at first, Amimaya refuses to help. Things soon go too far and with the police scared into doing anything, the usually pacifist Amimaya soon must make a choice that could change his fate forever when his younger brother gets involved.

This film, from writer-director Tai Kato, is quite interesting in its disclaimer that the film is an attempt to bring a sense of peace during post-World War II. The film melds the present day with the past all in part to the central character of Dr. Amimaya learning that the man he must now take care of is a face from the past. This leads to a series of flashbacks where the two know each other as far back as the war itself, which is the only scene in the film shown in black and white rather than the vibrant colors the rest of the film conveys. The film also goes by the title A Man’s Face Shows His Personal History.

In what is only his second film, former Yakuza gang boss Noboru Ando brings his former tough guy image to a pacifist character in Dr. Amamiya. Amamiya is the type of guy who can be tough only when he needs to be, not because he wants to. He tends to mind his own business even when he wants to be forced to selling his land to the gangsters. And yes folks, the scar on his face is actually a real scar he sustained during his days as a high ranking gangster and mob boss, which would ultimately lead to his imprisonment and dissolution of his gang before he began his film career.

The film has an on-off relationship between Koreans and Japanese. The off-part comes in the form of the film’s villains, who are a Korean gangster unit who because of the fact they know Japan lost the war, have the notion they can wreak all sorts of havoc on the Japanese village where Amimaya lives. Even though the villains are Korean, they speak only Japanese in the film, which at the time can be said to be acceptable. The leader of the gangsters is played by future film director Juzo Itami while a future action star in his own right, Bunta Sugawara, plays a very high strung member of the gang who thrives on getting drunk and living on violence.

The on-part of the Korean-Japanese relations comes in the form of Korean gangster Choi Mun-Gye, who is actually a Korean-born Japanese who is our catalyst for Amimaya reminiscing his past. When the duo were on the battlefields, Choi was known at the time as Shibata. However, when the war ended, Shibata accepted his Korean heritage and found himself a part of the gang. Yet, he still has some respect for Amimaya and helps him in his greatest time of need, which leads to one of the most dangerous choices the pacifist must make. Another factor comes in the form of Amimaya’s brother Shunji, who despite making efforts to get rid of the gang, finds himself smitten with another Japanese-born Korean, Gye Hye-Chun. It is their relationship that may not play a major factor in the film, but proves to be pivotal.

By a Man’s Face Shall You Know Him is a pretty good film that showcases the acting talent of Noboru Ando, who was once a tough guy and plays more of a pacifist who only goes the tough guy route when needed. A really good film on post-War relations from director Tai Kato.

WFG RATING: A-

A Shochiku Eiga production. Director: Tai Kato. Producer: Yoshitoshi Masumoto. Writers: Seiji Hoshikawa and Tai Kato. Cinematography: Tetsuo Takaha. Editing: Iwao Ishii.

Cast: Noboru Ando, Kanjuro Arashi, Torahiko Hamada, Yoshiko Kayama, Akemi Mari, Juzo Itami, Bunta Sugiwara.

REVIEW: The Vigilante Diaries (2016)

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2016, Oscar Gold Productions/Seskri Produktionz/Ton of Hats/Vallelonga Productions

Director:
Christian Sesma
Producers:
Mike Hatton
Christian Sesma
Nick Vallelonga
Writers:
Christian Sesma
Paul Sloan
Cinematography:
Anthony J. Rickert-Epstein
Editing:
Eric Potter

Cast:
Paul Sloan (The Vigilante)
Jason Mewes (Michael Hanover)
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (Wolfman)
Kevin L. Walker (The Kid)
Michael Jai White (Barrington)
Michael Madsen (Moreau)
Mike Hatton (Barry)
Sal Guerrero (Tex-Mex)
Arman Nshanian (Andreas)
Chasty Ballesteros (Raven)
Jessica Uberuaga (Red)
Jacqueline Lord (Jade)
Mark Sherman (The Geek)

Based on a 2013-14 web series, this action-comedy is a fun ride featuring a very interesting hero and someone crazy enough to follow the hero on his wild adventure of revenge.

Ten years ago, a black ops soldier on an assignment has learned his commanding officer, Barrington, had set him up to take the fall. Making his escape, the man has become a government assassin and is known simply as the Vigilante. After taking out the Armenian mob, he has gone missing. Due to his disappearance, crime has risen to an all-time high. The Vigilante has been taken in by Andreas, the new head of the Armenian mob and finds himself tortured each day by the mob thugs. The mob also has another target they are searching for in Michael Hanover, a video blogger who once followed the Vigilante on his missions and has been trusted by Jade, the Vigilante’s girlfriend.

The Kid, the right hand man of the Vigilante, hatches a plan to bust the Vigilante out. However, he cannot do it alone. He gets help from Barry, Michael’s trusted contact, as well as a group of mercenaries who include arms expert Tex-Mex and Wolfman, who helped the Vigilante out ten years ago in the mission that almost destroyed him. With Michael closely watching, the team successfully busts out the Vigilante and Andreas goes on the run. However, things are about to come to a head when the Vigilante has learned that he is about to face the past in an even more dangerous conspiracy.

From the minds of co-writer/director Christian Sesma and co-writer/lead actor Paul Sloan comes this feature film based on a two-episode web series that began on Chill.com back in 2013. The feature film’s tone is that of a two-parter web series with half the film focusing on one mission and the second half focusing on another mission but somehow interconnects the major players of the story. The film is one of those cases where one must not miss a minute of the film because so much as missing one little piece will confuse the viewer due to its juxtaposition of flashbacks and present day scenes.

Sloan is quite fun to watch as the Vigilante, who starts out as a military officer who becomes a government assassin then becomes well, as his name indicates, a vigilante. Take away the whole family getting killed story and one can think of the Vigilante as someone similar to The Punisher. The first half of the film sees our hero getting tortured and going through a series of flashbacks within ten years from the screwjob that sets him up to meeting his handler, played by Michael Madsen, when he becomes a government assassin. He can hold himself quite well when using bare-handed combat under stunt coordinator Arnold Chon.

It is refreshing to see Jason Mewes play someone who is not a complete foul-mouthed stoner, but as a foul-mouthed fanboy of the Vigilante, who becomes a trusted ally who vlogs (video blogs) the Vigilante despite desperate pleas from his father, played by James Russo. Kevin L. Walker is also pretty good as the Kid, who orchestrates the mission to bust out the Vigilante in the first half with the help of former pro wrestler Sal Guerrero (Chavo Guerrero Jr.) and MMA fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson as the mercenaries who despite wanting to help the Vigilante, only care about money. In the film’s opening sequence, which depicts the screwjob, we get a brief fight between Jackson and Michael Jai White, who plays the commander who orchestrates said screwjob. Look out for a memorable cameo by Danny Trejo as Crazy Joe, a bar owner who finds himself involved in a shootout towards the end of the film.

The Vigilante Diaries may take a few viewings or even one if you cannot miss even a portion of it, because the story has the tone of a two-episode series. However, writers Christian Sesma and Paul Sloan ultimately bring a wild action ride that is quite fun as well.

WFG RATING: B

The film comes to a limited theatrical release along with iTunes on June 24th followed by a DVD and Blu-Ray release on July 5th from Anchor Bay Entertainment.