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Zhong yi qun ying

Deserves to be better known
There are plenty of SEVEN SAMURAI remakes out there, but SEVEN WARRIORS is one of the rarest. That's a bit of a shame as at its best this resembles much higher profile fare like MILLIONAIRE'S EXPRESS. It's another high action ensemble cast Hong Kong action comedy, which begins with a Sammo cameo before slowing down for an hour or so. It then picks up for a wonderfully bloody and exciting heroic climax. The middle section is a bit slow, admittedly, with some unwanted romance and the like dragging things out, but when the cast includes such luminaries as Teresa Mo, Max Mok, Shing Fui-on, Tony Leung, Jacky Cheung and Lo Lieh, it's hard to dislike or criticise it too much.

The Mysterious Monsters

'70s paranormal documentary
BIGFOOT: THE MYSTERIOUS MONSTER is one of those true-life paranormal documentaries that were all the rage back in the 1970s. I wasn't around then, but I remember a similar boom in the X-FILES obsessed 1990s so these are cute and kitsch for me. Peter Graves shows up as an oh-so-serious narrator, looking at various cryptozoological mysteries around the globe. Bigfoot aka the Sasquatch gets the lion's share of the attention here, and we get plenty of cheesy restagings of supposed sightings and attacks, which are always a hoot. Elsewhere we look at the Yeti, the Loch Ness monster and some other unexplained phenomena like hypnotism. It slows down a bit at the end, but remains novel throughout.

Yarasa adam - Bedmen

Weird mix
YARASA ADAM - BEDMEN is a typically inane and cheesy Turkish superhero movie, not quite as insane as 3 DEV ADAM, although it has a few points of interest. In this one, a long-haired Batman and his sidekick Robin go up against a Joker-style bad guy whose henchmen spend the movie going around beating up and murdering strippers, as well as committing robbery. The plot is ridiculous but the action is plentiful, so if you like trashy Turkish beat-em-ups then you might just enjoy this one. The biggest surprise is the amount of nudity in this, far more so than in any mainstream superhero movie that Hollywood's put out. Weird mix!

Manyeo 2: Lo go

What a letdown!
THE WITCH: PART 2 - THE OTHER ONE is a huge letdown considering just how good the original movie was. This one feels like a weak rehash and the insanely complex plotting of the first half an hour is enough to put off even the most hardened viewers of Korean cinema. The story retreads the first film's in the tale of a new test subject who takes refuge at a remote farmhouse before the bad guys show up. At nearly two and a half hours in length, most of this feels like cheesy padding, with about three different sets of villains for no good reason. The CGI FX are embarrassing and although the ending is good it takes a long time to get there. I couldn't work out why the grating and annoying South African henchman gets more screen time and character development than the lead...

Alice in Borderland: Episode #2.2
Episode 2, Season 2

An improvement...
Episode two marks an improvement over the first one, although it's still not great. It takes ten minutes for anything to happen here, and some sequences just smack of padding. You never had this in season one which was straight in there with the exciting gameplay whereas at an hour in length these episodes feel like they drag somewhat. The good news is that when this game does get going, it proves thoroughly engaging, recalling the best of season one. I particularly liked the tactics and the back-and-forth nature of the gameplay as each team strives to outwit and thwart the other. As before, it's all about mental rather than physical agility.

Devil Djinn

It'll send you to sleep
Britain has seen a resurgence of indie horror in recent years, and CONJURING THE GENIE is one such movie. It has pretty good production values compared to many similarly-themed indies, but that doesn't make it much cop. Indeed, this is less a CONJURING rip-off than a WISHMASTER cash-in, with an ancient amulet unleashing a genie who looks like a guy in a full-body Halloween costume. The story that follows is limited and laboured, with a heck of a lot of gabble and very little in the way of on-screen action or plot development. The actors aren't the worst, but the execution is enough to send you to sleep.


Nothing you haven't seen before
Well, this was a disappointment. The last Norwegian troll movie, TROLL HUNTER, was a masterpiece as far as I'm concerned, but TROLL is merely a by-the-numbers monster-on-the-rampage story that could have been made in any country. The one thing it has going for it are some great CGI effects, but I always ask for more and this film doesn't really have that. The female protagonist is boring - she might have worked as a supporting character, but not as the least - the humour doesn't come across very well, and the whole thing has a derivative Hollywood feel that means it lacks spark and quirkiness. Nothing you haven't seen before.


Takes action to the next level!
IDAMLIK marks another classic collaboration between director Cetan Inanc and star Cuneyt Arkin, this time around a tough contemporary thriller in the mould of the DIRTY HARRY films. Arkin plays his typical bad-ass character, a cop on the trail of drug pushers who are causing multiple deaths throughout the city. When his own loved ones are affected by addiction and overdose, Arkin takes the fight to the bad guys himself. The plot's typical stuff here, but the vibrant and near-constant action sequences are what you'll be watching for. Even in middle age, Arkin is an incredible action star, doing all his own stunts and martial arts fights, and the result is a whirl of breathless energy and mayhem. Great!

Naked Evil

Some effective staging
NAKED EVIL is one of the most obscure British horror films out there, and due to the Jamaican angle it seems to be much better known in America than it is here. It's a pity, as it has much in interest and common with other black magic-themed horrors of the era, particlarly NIGHT OF THE EAGLE. The story is about rival Jamaicans battling on the streets of London. Some are studious academics, while others are low lives, and the voodoo angle comes in with the introduction of creepy 'obis', graveyard bottles that contain evil spirits. Before long, poltergeist-style activity is decimating the cast. This is filmed in a lean, documentary style and the scare scenes are effectively staged, although the pacing is glacial at times.

Gendai yakuza: Hito-kiri yota

Don't go looking for redemption here
Although it's not part of his BATTLES WITHOUT HONOR AND HUMANITY series, STREET MOBSTER has much in common with Kinji Fukasaku's better-known Yakuza movies of the 1970s. It's shot in exactly the same fashion, with a fast-paced narrative, hand-held camerawork in the action sequences, and a nihilistic social milieu depicting warring bands of gangsters constantly chopping each other up. It even shares a lead character in the form of screen hard-ass Bunta Sugawara. However, STREET MOBSTER is very much a self-contained story, with Sugawara playing a self-reliant thug with a penchant for ruthless self-destruction. Rape, murder and mayhem are the order of the day in this chaotic movie that features not one redeeming character.

Mar Negro

Brazilian gory horror
A weird little splatter movie from Brazil, filmed on the cheap so the dodgy camerawork is among the many problems here. The story begins off promisingly enough, with a couple of night fishermen being attacked by a mysterious creature which bites one of them on the arm. Both survive, but only after a very long time (with a lot of stalling and padding, it seems to me) does something happen, with an infection causing murderous bloodshed. Yes, this does have some gore in it, but when you don't care for any of the characters the whole thing is quite tedious to sit through. You want more store, less FX in this one.


Interesting spin on the revenge genre
RED is the kind of thriller that they used to make back in the '70s and '80s, I remember similar titles with actors like Robert Culp playing the protagonists. This time around it's the turn of a pleasantly grouchy Brian Cox who plays a canine-loving fisherman whose world is turned upside down by the arrival of a trio of young, disaffected thugs. Before you can say JOHN WICK, Cox is on the path of revenge, although given this film's budget it's not really an action film but more of a character-driven drama/thriller. Interesting performers like Sizemore and Fernandez fill up the cast, Cox gives a typically committed turn, and the film plays out in an interesting way.

Cheng chong chui lui chai

Lightweight fun
While Chow Yun Fat was basking in the success of the BETTER TOMORROW films, he shot this quickie romantic comedy for director Wong Jing. The film is a typical Hong Kong comedy of the era, starring a number of familiar faces during their usual shtick; how much you enjoy this will depend on how much you enjoy Chinese comedy with its occasional infantile, surrealist edge. Certainly a lot of the jokes and gags here are very local and may be missed by foreign viewers. Still, there's no denying the combined wattage of Chan, Fung and Tsang, and even Maggie Cheung isn't too annoying (for a change), so it's all lightweight fun.

The Seven Minutes

You want more
THE SEVEN MINUTES is an atypical film in the career of director Russ Meyer, forever known for his exploitation thrillers featuring voluptuous actresses. This is a lot more serious and long-winded, a sluggish courtroom drama which begins with a bookseller being arrested for selling an undercover cop an obsence publication. What follows feels incredibly long-winded as we work our way through the trial and the reasons the book came into being in the first place. There's no real faulting the actors who work with what they get, but the script falters and this lacks drive and passion. You want more, but get less.

Alice in Borderland: Episode 1
Episode 1, Season 2

All spectacle in this season opener
Personally I found this opening episode a slight letdown. It follows on directly from the events of the season one climax, with four characters now roaming the streets of Tokyo and looking for the next game. It springs upon them out of nowhere, and a battle for survival ensues. You get the feeling in the first half that this is all about spectacle and little else; there are gory shootings and a big car chase, but no depth. It feels like they're throwing yen at the screen but little of it sticks. Then there's some mildly interminable dialogue, and it's only at the very ending that we get the promise of a proper game. Here's hoping!

Anatomy of a Murder

Stewart's film
ANATOMY OF A MURDER is one of the great courtroom dramas of the 20th century, to be ranked alongside other classics such as TWELVE ANGRY MEN, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION. This one is based on another true story involving a rape and murder case, and its main merit is Jimmy Stewart playing the defence lawyer. Stewart is in his element here, full of his natural humour, going through a whole gamut of emotions in a lengthy film that never outstays its welcome despite coming in at nearly three hours. Remick is excellent too in a role ahead of its time, and given the film's clinically explicit content, it's no surprise that this is a controversial one on release.

'L' fung bou

A steadily improving series
L STORM is the third in the long-running series of detective films starring Louis Koo and the first I've actually enjoyed. I found the first one a talky bore, the second one occasionally fun but average, whereas this one hits the mark more often than not. Koo is on a new case where he's investigating money laundering and finds himself up against a new gangster on the block who uses violence to ruthlessly dispatch anyone who goes against him. It's a fast-paced and complex little film with multiple narrative strands including internal affairs investigations and police corruption, and it has a fair bit of physical action to enjoy too.

O Lucky Man!

A one of a kind picaresque journey
O LUCKY MAN! Is, if possible, even more obtuse and surreal than the first film in the trilogy. This time around Mick Travis is a coffee salesman embarking on an improbable series of events as he tours the UK as part of his new job. What follows is quite indescribable, variously satirising consumerism and capitalism in a wide-ranging, wide-reaching plotline that drags in the plight of homelessness, mental health, imperialism and greed. At times it feels like CONFESSIONS OF A WINDOW CLEANER on acid, with endless sleaze, weird encounters, McDowell at the peak of his prowess, and bizarrity that could only have come from the 1970s. A true one of a kind movie.

Kuro tokage

Lively detective adaptation
I hadn't seen any of Kinji Fukasaku's work from the 1960s so I thought BLACK LIZARD would be a good place to check it out. It's a lively adaptation of an old detective novel by Edogawa Rampa, although being made in the late '60s it has more than a touch of Bond to it with a super villain, an island lair, and some hotel hijinks. The detective doesn't feature too much here, the brunt of the narrative being given over to the Black Lizard character, a female nightclub owner played by a guy in drag. It's a highly stylised and frankly bizarre little film that labours some of the plotting, but it has some interesting surrealist touches to make it worth a look.

La moglie vergine

Typical Italian sex comedy
I thought I'd take a look at the kinds of film Edwige Fenech was making outside of the giallo genre, and this one's a good example. It's a character-based sex comedy in which four separate people struggle to cope with various sex-related issues in their lives. On the one hand, Ray Lovelock and Fenech play a married couple who can't consummate due to his delicate problems, while Carroll Baker implausibly plays Fenech's mother. Meanwhile, a lengthy sub-plot involves this hairy uncle guy who finds himself pursued by a string of beautiful women. Lots of nudity, inevitably, but the humour is in short supply here.


Does the job
You know that the Koreans have by now perfected the art of the action thriller, so it comes as no surprise that SPECIAL DELIVERY is an above-average film. It stars the girl from PARASITE as an expert driver whose job is to take on high paying but illegal driving jobs. As happens so often in Korean cinema, she soon has to take care of a kid who the bad guys are after, and things go from there. This has a good mix of car chases, plotting and action, including a bravura fight set-piece that really works. The burping kid is annoying at times but the villain is charismatic and I always like the way that Korean cinema takes the time to show what the bad guys are up to as well as the heroes.

A Ghost of a Chance

Slapstick comedy with added ghosts
GHOST OF A CHANCE is a gentle Children's Film Foundation comedy worth watching for the cast alone, as they've coerced various British comedy actors to appear in this one. The story, in which three kids are trying to save a derelict mansion from being bulldozed so they can turn it into a youth club - and are aided in their quest by Patricia Hayes - is very slight and easily forgotten as the focus of the film and majority of the scenes are about workmen being thwarted by mischievous spirits. Jimmy Edwards and Graham Stark are the 17th century ghosts, Ronnie Barker is the boss, and Terry Scott and Bernard Cribbins play the hapless employees. Not bad!

Liu mang gong pu

Not bad
Another low budget directorial offering from Wang Chung, the former Shaw star who had a second life making a series of cheap but interesting films in various genres. This one's yet another cop movie starring Danny Lee, but at least he plays something slightly different here. Complete with a perm and '80s tracksuit fashions, he's an unserious womanising cop who gets caught up in the case of a woman being stalked by her abusive ex. This one has less action and takes more time to develop the narrative than some, but there are solid stunts and a car chase along the way. Chung himself co-stars as another cop, while there's gender humour arising from encounters with their female boss. Not bad, as it happens.

I Am Hooligan

Inept hooligan indie
Well, this was pretty awful, a cheaper-than-ever hooligan drama obviously put on the video shelves to rip-off the success of the GREEN STREET films among others. It's a tough watch and the only good thing I can say about it is that it takes place in a wide variety of different real-world locations which at least gives it more realism than some of these no-budgeters. The story is about an annoying kid who is manipulated into becoming a violent hooligan by some of his dodgy friends, and the violence that ensues. THE BILL star Mark Wingett plays the lad's dad in many drawn-out domestic violence scenes that do nothing aside from pad out the running time.

Sa Tam Chai yue Chow Si Lai

Weak comedy
I wasn't really a fan of this typical Hong Kong comedy, which stars Tony Leung in a role which seems tailor made for Stephen Chow, although even with his presence I don't think it would have been much cop. Leung plays a flamboyant, womanising cop who seems to have to look after a million or so kids until a beautiful woman appears in his life. The comedy is routine, the laughs are thin on the ground and it's very hard to really know what this is all about because there's very little going on. Leung does have a natural charisma, but the script doesn't give him a chance to shine as he did in the likes of HARD-BOILED.

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