Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Film Review: Lala Pipo: A Lot of People (2009)

Lala Pipo: A Lot of People (Review)
Japan/2009 
Format Watched For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...a confused film..."

The sexual misadventures of six people living in Tokyo, Japan.

Lala Pipo: A Lot of People is the story of a lot of people. The film follows a charismatic scout, who picks up women and persuades them into joining the adult video industry; an up-and-coming AV star who is recruited by said scout; a mature nymphomaniac who works in the AV industry; a karaoke box staff who believes he is an special agent from space; a lonesome writer whose only friend is his buddy down below; and, finally, an aspiring voice actress who secretly films her sexual misadventures. Although each story interconnects, I didn't think it was done very well. The ending is okay, too.

The problem with Lala Pipo is that it's a confused film – or maybe I'm part of a confused audience. The film begins as a raunchy and irreverent comedy, but quite often leans towards a sad and depressing drama. And, it tends to jump back and forth between both genres, without any subtly, which creates an inconsistent mood. Should I be laughing at this man's talking private parts? Or should I be sad at his loneliness? Honestly, it almost feels like I'm watching two different movies. One wants to be as sexually irreverent and blunt as possible, and the other wants to deliver a social message about life; unfortunately, the former is decent, and the latter never really lands.

I mean, the characters are interesting. They fall into some very humorous situations, but it doesn’t offer nearly enough character to relate. It has a message – maybe about people and reaching for new heights, and loving oneself, and so on – but it's simply lost in translation. As for the humor, I laughed a handful of times. I love black comedies, and this one has some great irreverent humor – emphasis on some, because not all of the humor is great. In fact, some of the humor doesn't work out due to the inconsistent serious tones I previously mentioned. Furthermore, the film tends to drag its feet; there are plenty of characters, but not enough story, so the film feels much longer than the short hour and a half runtime.

The acting is good from the cast. Nothing special or terrible, simply good. The film is also shot well, and it has some decent music. Again: nothing special and nothing terrible. The English subtitles on the Netflix Instant stream are great – I can't blame the subtitles for any mistranslations. The writing from Tetsuya Nakashima, who helms the brilliant film Confessions, is partly to blame for the inconsistent mood; the other part of the blame belongs to director Masayuki Miyano, who can conjure a handful of great laughs, but fails to deliver a consistent and satisfying story.

Overall, Lala Pipo: A Lot of People is a mediocre film. It could have been a very raunchy and funny comedy, but its attempts at drama – or at least what I believe are attempts at drama – ruin the mood; worst of all, the drama never resonates – it has a message, I'm sure, but it has no subtly and it doesn’t fit well with the rest of the film. If you're a fan of raunchy, there is some great humor; those looking for some hilarious insight on Japanese culture, look elsewhere.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: The film is all about sex. Aside from the sex and nudity, there are references to Japanese adult video.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Film Review: Rage (aka Tokarev) (2014)

Rage (aka Tokarev) (Review)
United States/2014
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...works as a generic kidnap thriller, though, at least enough to moderately entertain."

When his daughter is kidnapped, reformed criminal Paul Maguire (Nicolas Cage) reverts to his life of crime and seeks vengeance...

Rage is a very familiar kidnap thriller. Paul, a reformed criminal with a legitimate business, teams up with his old crew to track his daughter's kidnappers -- usually through violent methods. After evidence links the crime to a Tokarev, a Russian mafia favored gun, Paul believes the past has returned to haunt him. He believes his past actions against a Russian mobster may have come back on him and his daughter. It's a very familiar story, which is also lacking in meat. The climax is a little different and even interesting. The ending is decent, too.

Ultimately, Rage is a been-there-done-that kidnap thriller, though. As you can see, the story offers little originality; the climax and ending have some uniqueness to them, but not nearly enough to redeem the rest of the film. The characters are very thin -- they're cardboard cutouts of other films, they're practically nonexistent. In fact, aside from Paul, I can't remember any of their names of the top of my head -- and I just finished the film not 30 minutes ago! The story doesn't have much going for it.

However, I wouldn't say Rage is a terrible film. I wouldn't even say it's a bad film. Generic? Yes, definitely. Rage works as a generic kidnap thriller, though, at least enough to moderately entertain. I may have seen a dozen films with the same premise and I may not have had an emotional connection with any of the characters, but I was entertained. As generic as it may be, the story is interesting and the simplicity is attractive -- especially for those looking to kill an hour and a half. The action sequences are generous, as well, with a few decent shootouts, a few chase scenes, and some knife combat -- all in a very stylish coat.

The acting ranges from mediocre to good. Nicolas Cage is occasionally good, but mostly mediocre -- he simply couldn't hit the demanding notes of this performances. Some of the supporting cast also suffers, but it's more than passable. The film looks great, I enjoyed the cinematography and the lighting. The use of slow-motion is a little too excessive at times, though; it makes for some great looking shots, but cuts the pacing and drags the film a bit, especially during the ending. The music is hit-or-miss -- sometimes it's great, sometimes it doesn't fit. Director Paco Cabezas has a strong grip on the style, creating some slick and memorable moments -- the film looks great; however, the film has some shoddy acting, some bad pacing, and a stupendously generic story -- I still can't believe films can be this generic.

Overall, Rage, also known as Tokarev, is a barely decent kidnap thriller. It is a very generic story with some mediocre acting, but it also has some decent entertainment value -- especially for those simply looking to kill some time. If you're tired of this plot, don't bother watching -- it's the same, nothing new. But if it still hasn't grown old for you, and you're a fan of some cheesy Nicolas Cage movies, this is at least worth a rental or stream. Not a bad film, but nothing special, either -- stuck somewhere in the middle.

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Film Review: Blade of the Phantom Master (2004)

Blade of the Phantom Master: Shin Angyo Onshi (2004)
Japan/2004
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...issues mostly attributed to the criminally short runtime, but it is fun and exciting."

Munsu, the last of the remaining amheng osa – police-like government agents who travel the world in disguise and right wrongs – travels the crumbled land of Jushin.

Blade of the Phantom Master drops you right into the middle of Munsu's current task. He eventually takes up a task to free a woman named Chun Hyang from a tyrannical King, as well as the people who are constantly tormented by said King. Munsu then reluctantly teams up with Sando and ends up on a new adventure as he travels to an island with a terrible secret. This plot is the bulk of the film. And, fortunately, it's interesting and engaging. The climax has an excellent action sequence, and the ending is great; I would love to watch a sequel of this promising film.

The biggest issue for Blade of the Phantom Master is the short runtime. The film is practically 1 hour and 20 minutes long, without credits, and it squeezes in two distinct-yet-related plots. Munsu's character, who is really more like an antihero than a hero, is interesting; sure, he's arrogant, rude, and self-preserving, but he has a certain charm that makes him an interesting antihero. Unfortunately, we don't really get to spend much time with the character – we really only see the surface. Sando is more of the same – a distinct and even awesome idea of a character, but not much more than an idea. There's a cute little bat in the film that I thought would end up being a character, but serves no purpose, a missed opportunity.

Aside from the character issues, though, I liked most of Blade of the Phantom Master. Both plots, despite not being fully developed or explored, are interesting and entertaining. The action sequences also great; shootouts, explosions, sword fights... it's really versatile and exciting when it comes to action – it's also very gory. The different challenges Munsu faces, which I suppose we can simply call enemies, are also very interesting and even cool. This echos the same problem as the main characters, though: they simply aren't developed enough, we don't get to see enough of them. There are fights with desert man-eaters, giants, zombies, and other skilled swordsmen, all of which I would love to see more of.

As usual, the Japanese voice acting is great; although somewhat cliché, we get some very genuine and impressive voice work from the Japanese cast. The music is also good; I expected something a little more unique, though, considering the distinct setting. The art is also good; not my favorite art style, but far from terrible. The Netflix Instant stream features both Japanese and English voice overs, and English subtitles; for some odd reason, this version does not translate the introduction monologue, which gives vital information – I had to rewind the film and watch the title sequence again in English to get that information, then switch back to Japanese, which made the experience somewhat frustrating at first. Director Joji Shimura does well in creating a consistent and well-paced anime film, but the runtime is too short; the story and the characters feel overwhelmingly compressed.

Overall, I enjoyed Blade of the Phantom Master: Shin Angyo Onshi. It has some story and character issues mostly attributed to the criminally short runtime, but it is fun and exciting. It's not something
you'll lose sleep over if you miss it, but it is something worth watching, especially if you're a fan of anime and have a United States Netflix account to stream it on.

Score:6/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Film Review: Crowsnest (2012)

Crowsnest (Review)
United States/2012
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...the first time I've ever told a film to shut up..."

A group of friends on a trip to a cottage are attacked by an RV...

Can I really say anything else? That's all the film is about. The first 30 minutes of Crowsnest follows this group of friends, who are all incredible douchebags if I may add, as they drive and buy beer. The next 30 minutes follows this group as they are chased by the RV; they get hit by the RV, drive away and cry about it, then get hit again, and repeat. The final 20 minutes or so have the survivors running through the woods looking for cell phone signal. The ending drags forever and is as abrupt as every other found-footage horror film.

Crowsnest offers nothing new to the genre. Worst of all, it offers very little entertainment. I can stand a generic film if it's at least entertaining, but this is simply boring. You go from watching the vacation tapes of 5 unbearable people (like the first hour of Absence) to several boring chases (like Jeepers Creepers, but Jeepers Creepers is actually good) to a boring imitation of The Blair Witch Project. I thought the first encounter with RV was decent, it built up some solid suspense, but then it becomes repetitive and contrived. Other than that decent scene, the rest of the film is boring. There is no suspense, no tension, no realism... there aren't even any jump-scares. There is some gore, but it's not enough to fully wake you up.

I think the worst part of Crowsnest is the intolerable characters. Yes, they are ripped out of every found-footage film ever made, but these somehow manage to be even more annoying than usual. I think this is the first time I've ever told a film to shut up -- I mean, literally, I said, "Shut up already!" to my television. From the first five minutes, you'll know whether you'll like these characters, especially the cameraman Justin. These issues with the characters are amplified because you spend 30 MINUTES watching their vacation tapes.

The acting is all-around mediocre. There mostly passable for the genre. However, whenever the roles become demanding, this cast ridiculously overacts -- hence the "Shut up already!" This is also the same ol' same ol' found-footage film. A lot of wonky camerawork, bad photography, and so on; the camera even malfunctions often, which is odd considering it's a brand new camera. Director Brenton Spencer fails to deliver any horror; the first act is a complete waste of time, the second act starts off promising but fails miserably, and the film ends exactly like anyone would expect.

Overall, Crowsnest is a terrible film. The story has the potential to be unique, but the film opts for dull and bland genre clichés instead. The characters are too annoying, there is a severe lack of horror and suspense, and the film is just downright boring. It's not worth your time, especially if you've seen as many found-footage horror films as I have. (a lot)

Score: 2/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and gore, partial nudity.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Film Review: Adrift in Tokyo (2007)

Adrift in Tokyo (Review)
Japan/2007
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...made me wish I were adrift in Tokyo."

As of his 8th year of college, Fumiya Takemura (Joe Odagiri) has accumulated 800,000 yen of debt. Debt collector Aiichiro Fukuhara (Tomokazu Miura) offers Fumiya a million yen to walk with him in Tokyo.

Adrift in Tokyo is very simple and very straightforward. In fact, as far as plot goes, that's pretty much it. Fumiya and Fukuhara walk through Tokyo and reminisce, discussing their lives and their choices. The final destination: a police station, so Fukuhara can turn himself in for an unforgivable crime. Fortunately, there's plenty of character to fill up the simple plot. They'll remember hilarious stories, and run into some bizarre people -- really, they'll run into people. This story of people and life leads to an abrupt yet satisfying ending; it doesn't bother to close lose ends, but it definitely works.

As a comedy, Adrift in Tokyo is very black and often irreverent. Fortunately, this is my type of humor. I laughed out loud more than a handful of times, and I was chuckling throughout most of the film; I felt a little guilty laughing at times, but it wouldn't be an effective black comedy if I didn't, right? The characters were just so vivid and lively, they felt like real people and I felt like that amplified the humor. This feeling of life also creates a more engrossing film; that is also amplified by the engaging look into the culture. Those who love culture, like myself, won't mind the thin story since the character and culture are as thick as they are -- it made me wish I were adrift in Tokyo.

Joe Odagiri, who also stars in My Way and Dream, delivers a great performance; he really embodies the "slacker" personality, but with genuine emotion. Tomokazu Miura compliments his performance with equally impressive acting. The pair are charismatic and witty together. Otherwise, the film looks great; the camerawork is very natural and the cinematography captures the setting perfectly, it really helps immerse you into the culture. Director Satoshi Miki does well in crafting this black comedy, with a balanced approach and a steady pace; he also pulls great performances from the entire cast.

Overall, Adrift in Tokyo is a superb film. Its simplicity may not be great to some "film buffs," but I found it to be very attractive. It gives the film room to flesh out its human characters, and plenty of room to immerse the audience into Japanese culture. It's also downright hilarious! Fans of Japanese culture and black comedies should definitely go adrift in Tokyo.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Some partial nudity.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Film Review: Killing Season (2013)

Killing Season (Review)
United States/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...starts off promising, but that promise is quickly broken."

Military veteran Ford (Robert De Niro) crosses paths with former Serbian soldier Emil (John Travolta), who has hidden intentions...

Killing Season begins with a very slow but effective buildup. Emil tracks Ford and befriends him, Ford being oblivious to Emil's true identity. They share regular stories, war stories, and drinks. Eventually, Emil reveals his intentions, and a violent game of cat and mouse ensues. At this point, the film becomes repetitive and often boring. Emil captures and tortures Ford, then Ford captures and tortures Emil, and repeat... and repeat. There are some exiting moments, but not much. It continues this stale formula until its underwhelming climax and mediocre ending; the ending goes on and on, too.

Killing Season simply doesn't offer much by any perspective. The first act, albeit somewhat interesting and engaging, overstays its welcome and sets the slow mood. The cat-and-mouse game is violent and bloody, but it's not engaging or even entertaining -- I'd even say it's too simple and easy to be considered a true cat-and-mouse game. It doesn't get much help from the uneventful story and dreadfully slow pace, either. That's really all it is: Ford hunts Emil, Emil hunts Ford. The story is thin, as are the characters. It sure is a beautiful film, but if offers nothing "art house" -- nothing contemplative or symbolic -- I think the art house is better left to the pros, like Kim Ki-duk.

Robert De Niro is good, I like him in this. John Travolta, on the other hand, is mediocre; the accent simply didn't feel authentic, at all; it sounds like the accent I'd make when I impersonate a Russian. The film looks beautiful, though; the cinematography does well in capturing the lush and vivid environment. The music was great, too. Director Mark Steven Johnson fails to conjure any satisfying action, and the uneventful story is severely hurt by the dreadful pacing; Johnson isn't only to blame, though, as writer Evan Daugherty pens an uneventful screenplay dominated by boring, albeit beautiful, scenes of the scenery.

Overall, Killing Season is a boring film. It starts off promising, but that promise is quickly broken. The film spirals into a repetitive formula of boredom and false sense of artistry. It's a beautiful film to look at, but the story and characters are ridiculously hollow -- the story may as well be nonexistent. By the way, the short 1 hour 30 minute runtime may seem attractive, but the film really feels longer than two hours.

Score: 3/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Film Review: Ip Man 2 (2010)

Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster (Review)
China/2010
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...almost as masterful as the original..."

During the 1950s, Wing Chun master Ip Man (Donnie Yen) moves his family to Hong Kong to open a martial arts school, but finds trouble in the local martial arts club and a vicious Western boxer.
 
Ip Man 2 picks up where the last film left off. Don't fret, though, this film begins with a short montage of the last film's major events, and offers a small bridge to this installment. Anyway, the first half of the film focuses on Ip Man's struggles to support his family and start a legitimate martial arts school. The latter half of the film introduces a vicious Western boxer, who goes by the nick name “Twister”. Twister challenges the Chinese martial artists and eventually finds himself challenged by the very best: Ip Man. The climax is fantastic, as is much of the fighting, and I loved the ending; I hope we see a Bruce Lee and Ip Man film next.

The film works very well as an informative biopic without sacrificing a shred of entertainment. And, I absolutely love that about this film, as well as the original Ip Man. The film gives us plenty of information about Ip Man's life, and an incredible barrage of fight sequences. The fight sequences are extraordinary. Donnie Yen delivers the fast and ferocious action of Wing Chun, and the film also blends and clashes several other styles of fighting; I was especially impressed by the Wing Chun vs. Western boxing. The story is occasionally melodramatic and contrived, though. However, I honestly didn't mind as much as I usually do, particularly because it wasn't overwhelming and also because it added to martial arts charm film.

I think the biggest issue for the film is its antagonist. In the original film, Japanese general Miura is vicious yet noble -- he's not completely demonized, it's somewhat subtle -- the same can't be said for his villainous sidekick, but that's a minor role. Comparably, Ip Man 2 portrays the Westerners as evil and as devils. Twister's personality and dialogue, as well as other Westerners in the film, is cartoonish -- it's just so blatant, it treats Twister as a super-villain. I wasn't particularly offended, but it was so blatant, that it kind of threw me off.

Donnie Yen reprises his role as Grandmaster Ip Man, and he's excellent in the role; he has the perfect charisma to play a wise grandmaster. The supporting cast is great. In fact, I was surprised at the impressive performances from most of the English-speaking cast -- usually, English-speaking actors in Asian films are the weaker link. The cinematography is great; the setting is very lively and immersive, it really brought me into this world. The camerawork is great, too, it keeps up with the ferocious action without becoming too shaky or nauseating. On that point, the fight choreography is excellent. Director Wilson Yip delivers a fast paced, informative, and exciting martial arts film; it does lose a point for its cartoonish portrayal of the antagonist, but it's almost as masterful as the original, otherwise.

Overall, Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster is a fantastic martial arts action movie. Fans of Ip Man will be glad to learn a little more about Ip Man's life, and even gladder to find several breathtaking action sequences. Some of the story issues didn't bother me, like the plot contrivances, but the cartoonish villain did; the fact that I call him a villain instead of antagonist is proof enough -- it's cartoonish, but forgivable. If you're a fan of fast martial arts action films like Ip Man or The Raid, don't miss this film.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Violence and blood.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Film Review: Ip Man (2008)

Ip Man (Review)
China/2008
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...a modern martial arts classic."

The story of legendary Grandmaster of Wing Chun, Ip Man (Donnie Yen), from his humble and wealthy life in Foshan to the Japanese invasion.

Ip Man basically follows the titular character through these two major events. The story begins in the 1930s in Foshan, a hub for skilled martial artists. His extraordinary skills shine as he duels with a fellow master and an outsider looking to bully himself into the market. The film then skips into the Japanese invasion where Ip Man and his family lose their wealth and struggle to survive. Ip Man soon finds himself fighting for his country as he faces off against several Japanese fighters, and faces a grand challenge with General Miura (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi). A very simple yet insightful and engaging plot that leads to an epic climax and satisfying ending.

Although the plot is overall very engaging and interesting, Ip Man has a stronger focus on character and action. We find out quite a bit about Ip Man, such as his personality and philosophy, through some great dialogue. The action is the main course for the film, though, it's a feast for martial arts fans. The action sequences are ferocious thanks to the lighting fast and vicious fight choreography. Honestly, the fights are simply awe-inspiring, which will either leave you breathless or with goosebumps. And, it's so consistent and balanced, too. We learn a little about Ip Man and his lifestyle, then a fantastic fight, and repeat. But, it doesn't feel repetitive, because it is balanced and versatile -- both in character and action.

It does occasionally have the anti-Japanese stench many Chinese films are known for. It didn't really bother me, though, because it's not overwhelming -- at least most of the time. A character like General Miura is treated like an antagonist, which is fine because he is. This issue is most noticeable with General Miura's sidekick, who is treated more as a villain -- and, I mean like a super-villain type of character. Fortunately, the character isn't overused. And, again, it wasn't a significant issue for me, but it's worth noting.

Donnie Yen is superb as the lead -- he has the right charisma for the character, a very humble and genuine performance. Simon Yam and Lynn Hung are great as the supporting cast, too. The film features superb camerawork and cinematography, as well, it keeps a natural flow so it never becomes nauseating. The set and costume design helped create a more immersive world. The English subtitles on the Netflix Instant stream are great -- there are some errors, but nothing that hurts the story. The action choreography/direction is magnificent. Director Wilson Yip does well in developing an iconic character without ever sacrificing action.

Overall, Ip Man is a modern martial arts classic. I've seen the film multiple times now, and I have never been bored by it. It's as refreshing as my first viewing thanks to the superb, unforgettable action sequences, the great story, and Donnie Yen's performance. The setting is also masterfully crafted to
create an even more immersive and engaging film. If you're a fan of martial arts films and you haven't seen Ip Man... what are you waiting for?

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Violence and blood.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Film Review: A Haunting in Salem (2011)

A Haunting in Salem (Review)
United States/2011
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"It's a boring and uninspired film that drags its feet."

The new town sheriff, Wayne (Bill Oberst Jr.), moves his family into an old, creepy house with a haunting past...

A Haunting in Salem basically follows Wayne and his family as they settle into their new home. Things go bump in the night, some weird messages are received, and Wayne has some nightmarish visions. It's pretty much every ghost movie ever made, sharing many similarities with The Amityville Horror. Nothing unique or differentiating occurs in the film -- at all. The ending is predictable, and drags on and on -- it's almost like the film didn't want to end.

The story is often unintentionally humorous, too. There are stupid plot points, hilarious plot holes, and bad acting. All of it blends together to create a hilarious experience. It's not the enjoyable-type of hilarious, though, like The Incredible Melting Man, it's more like the "laughing and turning the movie off"-type of hilarious. The hilarious plot holes, which aren't textbook plot holes per se, also negatively affect the horror.

For example, the daughter of the household receives "creepy" disturbing instant message on her computer. One message calls her by name, and the film treats it like it's supposed to be scary -- "like, omg, so creepy, how do you know my name?" But, her name is in her username! Of course it knows your name! Then, there's another character who burns her face in boiling water. All is well... until you realize she was able to boil the water in a mere 5 seconds.

Otherwise, you can expect... Well, more like you shouldn't expect any horror. There are a lot of jump-scares but no suspense, which makes the jump-scares ineffective. There isn't any atmosphere, either, and the house really isn't as creepy as the film wants it to be. I enjoyed two of the jump-scares, but only two -- and that's all of the "horror" I enjoyed in this feature-length film.

The acting ranges from bad to mediocre. Bill Oberst Jr. is mediocre -- I couldn't care what he looks like, but he just doesn't have any conviction or charisma for a leading role. Courtney Abbiati plays a housewife, and she delivers a decent performance -- probably the most redeeming part of the film. It looks and sounds like a straight-to-DVD horror film. Nothing really stood out on the technical side. Director Shane Van Dyke delivers an uninspired and bland film -- his direction fails to develop any horror whatsoever and he fails to pull great performances from the cast -- he also doesn't seem to care for continuity. Like many films from notorious film studio The Asylum, it doesn't feel like there is much direction or writing going on.

Overall, A Haunting in Salem is a very bad film. As a horror film, it fails to deliver any suspense or scares -- it doesn't even use its setting to create a haunted house atmosphere. It's a boring and uninspired film that drags its feet. It's often unintentionally humorous, but it's missing the charm from films like The Incredible Melting Man that would make it tolerable and even enjoyable. Aside from two good jump-scares, there isn't a single reason to watch this film -- fan of the genre or not.

Score: 1/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Film Review: The Guillotines (2012)

The Guillotines (Review)
China/2012
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...a tiring and often unnecessarily convoluted and repetitive experience."

The Guillotines is a secret squad of assassins established by the Emperor to crush any opposition. However, the group, led by Leng (Ethan Juan), don't realize they are expendable and their next mission may be their last...

The Guillotines follows this group of highly-skilled assassins as they hunt down the prophet of the persecuted Han Chinese people named Wolf (Huang Xiaoming). There is some backroom drama between Leng and Haidu, a trusted agent and secret sworn brother of Leng, but not much happens during the first two acts. The characters just wander around looking for Wolf, with an occasional flashback. The story picks up the pace during the final act for some interesting plot points and an explosive climax, but it feels too little, too late. The ending was also long-winded and underwhelming.

Aside from an uneventful and often repetitive plot, The Guillotines also suffers from a lack of character. To be honest, aside from Leng and Wolf, I can barely remember any of the characters -- names, personalities, and all -- completely forgettable. And, it's disappointing considering the film's titled the Guillotines. More disappointing is the lack of the titular weapon; there are only a handful of scenes that use the interesting and unique flying guillotine.

The film starts off well with an interesting introduction and a great action sequence, but quickly winds down -- especially when it comes to action. In other words, the action scenes are good, but limited. They're very stylish using vivid colors, decent special effects, and a lot of slow motion. Aside from the style, though, they're not particularly unique -- remember, the flying guillotine is rarely used. If you're a fan of slow-motion explosions, maybe you'll like the climax, at least.

The acting was decent from most of the cast. I liked both Ethan Juan and Huang Xiaoming. However, the entire cast overacted whenever the roles became demanding -- like when they're crying and such. The film looks okay. Despite the setting and costume design, it doesn't really standout. Also, aside from one scene with a great song, the music is forgettable. The English subtitles on the Netflix Instant stream are great, though. The direction from Andrew Lau is disappointing, especially after great films like Infernal Affairs and Daisy; the film is really inefficient and ineffective, making for a tiring and often unnecessarily convoluted and repetitive experience.

Overall, The Guillotines is a mediocre film. It has a great introduction and an interesting action concept, but not much else. The story is uneventful and unnecessarily long, which makes for a boring experience, and the action fails to utilize the flying guillotine like anyone would expect. Its few decent action sequences, its almost redeeming climax and its decent acting is all the film really has to offer. If you're a fan of the genre or cast, it might be worth your time; but being a fan of the concept and director, I'm leaving disappointed.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore. (A lot of decapitations and dismemberments.)