Arctic (2018)

Arctic  2018

Director: Joe Penna

Starring:  Mads Mikkelsen

Great Transfer

Amazon Prime

Arctic

Yup, I’m reviewing another current film.  This one was a no brainer for me because Mads Mikkelsen is one of my favorite living and working actors at the moment (second only to the almighty Clint Eastwood).  This film didn’t really have much appeal to me at all, besides it staring Mads Mikkelsen.  That is before I viewed it.  The story is that of your basic survival /rescue flick.  A lone man survives a plane crash in the middle of the Arctic, then sets up a make shift camp in what remains of the airplane’s wreckage.  He has to fight the elements of the extreme cold and figure out a way to survive.  There is barely any dialog at all for most of the film… that is until another crash happens near the camp, and he has a newly injured guest who is unconscious and almost dead.  Mads needs to make decisions if he wants to survive and save the newly found companion.  This was a really cool film that supposedly was shot in Iceland.  

I didn’t know anything about the director until viewing the movie and wondering who he was and if there was anything else he had directed that I could watch.  Penna is from Brazil and apparently started his career in film by having a Youtube channel that had 3 million subscribers.  (NW)

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Nate Wilson: NW  Devon Cahill: DC  Matt Average: MA

BLACK FLY (2014)

BLACK FLY (2014)

Written and directed by Jason Bourque

Starring: Matthew MacCaull, Dakota Daulby, and Christie Burke

Streamed on Amazon Prime

Great transfer

Black Fly

This was an awesome little independent film that had me interested from the moment I started watching it.  The first scene takes place in a trailer park, and the main character is a teenage boy wearing a DOA shirt.  It’s obvious he’s been molested by his uncle who has been confronted and has now beat the kid silly.  This kid takes off to live with his older redneck brother, who still lives in the house that they grew up in on a remote island somewhere in Canada.  The parents of the brothers are no longer alive due to an accident, and suicide.   

At any rate things start off okay with the brothers living together along with the older brothers girlfriend.  The older brother soon becomes paranoid, unhinged, filled with jealousy and drunken rage in which much violence occurs. 

This thriller is dark and very atmospheric.  There is a cool build up with tons of growing tension that work toward the climax of the film.  After watching this movie I started to look into other films the director made over the years. This one seems to be his best work, I loved everything about it.  The battle at the end is glorious.  (NW)

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Nate Wilson: NW  Devon Cahill: DC  Matt Average: MA

ROBO VAMPIRE (1988)

ROBO VAMPIRE

1988, Hong Kong
Starring: Ernst Mausser as Bill Young and a bunch of other people
Directors: Godfrey Ho & (probably) Tomas Tang
Viewed: Streaming
Transfer: Decent
Robo Vampire
Boss Young: Listen, I must find a way to handle Tom, that goddamn anti-drug agent.
Lackey: Boss, what are your plans then?
Boss Young: I’ve employed a Daoist. He’ll train vampires to deal with him.
Apparently Robo Vampire is actually two movies sewn together, so that means it’s gotta be twice as good, right? Yes, most definitely!

It certainly has everything…kung fu, drug smuggling mercenaries, Hong Kong slapstick, hopping vampires, dummy stunt men, sexy ghosts, a silver lamé version of Robocop, and even some nooky from beyond the grave. Every moment in this film is either awesome or just about to get awesome, nicely counteracting the need for a cohesive plot. Don’t worry if you doze off for a bit or forget to pause it when you head for the kitchen to get a snack…just hop right back in. I only wish Nate and Matt were here to experience it with me as this should definitely be watched with friends for maximum entertainment value.

So a quick sketch of the story here…drug kingpin Boss Young—or is it Cole? I’m still confused—has a hard on for DEA agent Tom Wilde and plans to thwart him by enlisting a Daoist monk who can summon an army of vampires that are, of course, (super-) naturally impervious to machine gun fire. The smuggling method that Tom disrupted to initiate this revenge is never made clear, but it seems like the new plan is to transport the drugs in corpses…but then there’s also a gratuitous scene of a ox-like animal being opened up and having drugs sewn up inside its body. None of this is ever explained, but it’s not really important. Anyway, going on a tip from agent in the field, Sophie, Tom & Co. confront Young’s crew all guns blazing and manage to out maneuver the smugglers despite some early casualties. As the momentum shifts toward the “good guys,” however, the monk springs into action calling up his undead henchman to make short work of the agents, Tom included. For some reason, even though all the agents are killed, only Tom is deemed worthy of being reanimated as a cyborg super-cop.

Cyborg super-cop certainly sounds familiar, but by the end of this you’ll be asking yourself “Robocop who?” Much like wrestling’s Honkytonk Man, the Mylar Murphy rip-off in this will leave you more than half-convinced that the copy is WAY better than the original. I also like the parallel of the two different imaginings of the undead: the traditional Chinese vampires born again via the supernatural, and Tom resuscitated via science: both stripped of their self-determination and slaves to the bidding of others. Get it? Robo-Vampire…I mean this shit’s deep.

It’s hard to pin down a favorite scene in this…there’s Sophie’s Chinese water torture absurdity, Cyborg Tom’s existential crisis/romantic flashback as he witnesses vampire and ghost consummate their marriage, any one of the incredible vampire vs. cyborg battle scenes…just so many ludicrous and memorable moments. Cyborg Tom’s assembly montage that segues into his test run is one of my favorites, though. I love how they just take some random dumpster dived e-waste objects with knobs and stuff and jam them unconvincingly into what looks like a hollow metal leg. However, cut to some beeping and flashing equipment, a 4th of July sparkler posing as a welding tool, and some shots of all involved nodding knowingly, and somehow it totally works. Plus we get to see him put together all over again after he’s blown to bits at the end of his first battle.

I would love to see a wide screen version, as this was modified for TV at some point, but don’t touch those overdubs! Also, if someone has a theory on how the opening scene fits into the chronology of the film, I’m all ears. (DC)

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NW: Nate Wilson  DC: Devon Cahill  HR: Heath Row  MA: Matt Average

JOHNNY ORO (1966)

JOHNNY ORO (aka Ringo and His Golden Pistol) (1966)

Directed: Sergio Corbucci

Starring: Mark Damon, Valeria Fabrizi, Franco De Rosa, Giulia Rubini

Viewed on Amazon Prime

Transfer quality: Bad

oro

I was excited to watch this movie because its directed by Sergio Corbucci and I just really loved watching Navajo Joe, and The Great Silence.  This though… not good in my opinion, don’t waste your time. The action sucked, the story was boring, the heroes were shitty, and the villain was not scary.  Oh, and the theme song was just not catchy at all.  We all know that a good Western always needs a great theme song.  Sergio blew it on this one.  I watched it on Prime… another bad transfer with terrible dubs.   (NW)

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Nate Wilson: NW  DC: Devon Cahill  HR: Heath Row   MA: Matt Average

AND GOD SAID TO CAIN… (1970)

And God Said to Cain…
1970 Italian E Dio disse a Caino…
Starring: Klaus Kinski (Gary Hamilton), Peter Carsten (Acobar), Marcella Michelangeli (Maria),
Antonio Cantafora (Dick Acobar) 
Director: Anthony Dawson (aka Antonio Margheriti)
Music: ​ Carlo Savina 
Theme Song Performed by Don Powell
Viewed: Streaming Amazon Prime
Transfer Quality: Good
A ghost returning
And he’ll have only one desire in his heart
Only one thirst. Revenge. –Maria

dioscain

The quality of the anachronistic theme song in an Italian Western is always a good indicator of the caliber of the film to follow (i.e. Django, Keoma, any Morricone related Western, etc.), and this one is right up there. I would put this on any must see Italian Western list.

Gary Hamilton (Kinski) gets a pardon from the chain gang 10 years after being framed by power hungry Acobar (Carsten) who has stolen Hamilton’s house, mining operation, and woman, Maria. Naturally, vengeance must be administered. After Hamilton gains his freedom, an impending tornado serves as an apt means of foreboding his bloody return. It also creates a signature setting for the film where most of the action takes place at night in the midst of the ever threatening and violent windstorm. Every aspect of the tornado intensifies the anxiety surrounding Hamilton’s return; every utterance of his name evokes fear among his enemies.

The tornado also gives Hamilton’s vengeance an air of divine retribution. This is compounded by the Bava-esque eeriness of the night scenes and disorienting winds that add an other-worldliness to his nighttime attack. Using the cover of the storm and his familiarity with his old homestead, Hamilton is like a ninja, evading capture and keeping adversaries off guard while accumulating an insane number of kills single-handedly. Various trapdoors and hidden entrances allow him to move like a ghost through the mining tunnels under the town, constantly outmaneuvering Acobar’s small army. His name is repeatedly invoked in vain as he moves in the shadows, a seemingly supernatural force. The haunting effect is intensified by the tolling church bell and organ music that signal each wave of vengeful slaughter.  Some other reviewers have derided the film’s mirror room shoot-out scene climax a la Orson Welles’ Lady of Shanghai (1949) as too predictable, but I think it’s great as it adds even more nuance to Hamilton’s ghostlike elusiveness. Even in the light he isn’t really there…until you’re dead! Plus, Bruce Lee’s mirror room climax in Enter the Dragon won’t come for another three years, and no one ever complains about that scene.

Beyond the excellent visual composition and well-paced action, it’s the complexity of the characters and their relationships that ensures repeated viewings. Above all, Kinski’s performance rules in this film. Unlike his askew characters in Westerns like The Beast and The Great Silence, Gary Hamilton is cool, collected, focused, and human. Also, beneath the narrative of revenge is a complex tale of family and loyalty. While Acobar’s son, Dick, sympathizes with Hamilton throughout the film, when he learns of his father’s treachery he ultimately chooses family over what he knows in his heart to be right. Ironically, after this turn, it’s Acobar who takes his own son’s life when he mistakes him for Hamilton.

Getting old, so having to watch midnight movies in two or three installments sometimes. Anyway, during my first watch, I must have slept through the exposition that explains why Gary Hamilton is seeking vengeance against Acobar. So, I had initially credited this with a meta-vengeance film genius it didn’t quite deserve. Still, this is a real standout in the genre with a great balance of genre predictability and innovation.

I’d be curious if someone has counted the number of times “Gary Hamilton!!” is uttered throughout the film…one of my favorite details in the film. I’m also wondering about the total number of kills he tallies.  

Anyway, I’ll keep track next time and get back to you with some figures.

P.S. Apparently this is a remake of A Stranger in Paso Bravo (1968), the only film Salvatore Rosso ever directed. I’ll have to track that down for a comparison.  (DC)

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NW: Nate Wilson   DC: Devon Cahill   MA: Matt Average