blu ray reviews

Blu-ray Review: The Love Witch

While a plethora of nostalgic filmmakers were busy making tired 1980s horror throwbacks, Anna Biller (Viva) crafted a spellbinding tribute to ‘60s cinema we never knew we needed. The Love Witch evokes the spirit of classic Hammer horror films, particularly in its vibrant visuals but also tonally, while telling an original story that addresses contemporary themes.

Biller is essentially a one-person crew. In addition to writing the script and directing the film, she served as producer, editor, composer, production designer, art director, set decorator, and costume designer. Those latter departments rarely get recognition, as they’re typically successful if they go unnoticed, but Biller’s colorful and creative style defines the picture. She worked on the costumes and decor for over a year, and every painstaking second of perfection translates to the screen.

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I like Wu Xia films. I like floaty fight sequences complete with fantastical swordplay. I like over the top heroes and unreachable romance. That’s why, when I heard Shaw Brothers veteran Derek Yee was remaking the Wu Xia classic, “Death Duel”, I was pretty excited. Even though I don’t like “Death Duel”. I thought a modern take on it would be interesting. Then i heard it was being produced by Tsui Hark. My boner for this film only got harder.
Then the trailers were released and my boner wilted somewhat. It looked like a CGI-fest of slow mo fighting and bloated romance. Granted, my boner didn’t wilt fully. Like, it still had some blood pumping in it. It just wasn’t as grandiose as it could have been. You catch my drift?
Then the reviews came out and this film started getting compliments left, right and center. Critics were lauding it a Wu Xia classic with echoes of old school Shaw Brothers productions. As you might imagine, I was all excited again.

And so, I bought the Blu-Ray.

Man, this film is jizz. Not good jizz. Bad jizz. Very bad jizz. It’s exactly what the trailers made it out to be.
I won’t go into plot too much but let’s just say there are two sword master destined to fight each other to the death. One of them has his death faked and so lives life as a pauper, forgetting about the martial arts world. Then he gets embroiled in a kind of clan war and his betrothed lover comes back around and everything goes to shit.
The plot is a convoluted nightmare. I mean, it’s not hard to understand. It’s just messy and…well…boring.
Every character is a foppish exaggeration of a hero or tortured villain. The sword fights are so few and far between that the film tends to drag almost interminably.
What swordplay there is is mildly entertaining. It’s hampered by slow motion and questionable CGI but there are a few decent fight scenes here and there. Just not enough.
i must admin that I HATE today’s usage of CGI blood. It hasn’t looked good in a single film yet and still it’s used. Here, it’s as bad as it’s ever been. Jets of computer generated claret spurting out from wounds. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so frustrating.

The boring characters all come together at the end and an unlikely twist is revealed. Which isn’t a bad thing in such a stagnant film.
Then the final fight scenes are played out and blah, blah, blah…heroic death, the death of romance… Such is Wu Xia.
It just never picks up. “Sword Master” is painfully paint by numbers and what could have been a truly epic tale of…well…sword masters, turns into a dull tale of characters randomly bumping into each other and the domino effect that follows. It’s lazy and completely non-engaging.

I’m sad to say that I really disliked this film. It just felt like a dud. It feels closer to the “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” sequel than the original and we all know how that turned out.
Some of the costumes and sets are very pretty, though. I’ll give it that. It’s just the plot and even the acting that’s a sack of smelly old labia.
At one hour and forty minutes, it’s just not worth the watch. It’s definitely not worth the buy, that’s for sure. It feels like a real b-movie when all is said and done.

Grade: D+

Blu-ray Review: Train to Busan

Train to Busan (also known as Busanhaeng) smashed records in its home country of South Korea with over 11 million theatergoers. It also became the highest-grossing Korean film in several other countries, grossing nearly $100 million worldwide. But a movie’s overseas success doesn’t always translate to western viewers. Train to Busan, however, is easily accessible to a worldwide audience, and it does so with great gusto.

Workaholic divorcee Seok-Woo (Gong Yoo) intends to spend his young daughter Su-an’s (Kim Soo-Ahn) birthday with her, but the oft-neglected youth begs to spend it with her mother in Busan instead. Seok-Woo reluctantly agrees to make the hour-long train ride, unaware that a zombie outbreak is on the rise. One of the infected is on board with them, and it’s not long before the majority of the passengers become flesh-hungry maniacs. Because the scheduled stops are infested with the undead, the conductor opts to continue moving.

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Blu-ray Review: Psycho Cop Returns

The late ‘80s and early '90s were a magical time for the horror genre, thanks to the lucrative home video market. Not only could a B-movie like Maniac Cop be successful enough to warrant a low(er) budget rip-off, but said rip-off could get a sequel. That’s the origin of Psycho Cop Returns (also known as Psycho Cop 2), the 1993 follow-up to 1989’s Psycho Cop.

While the original Psycho Cop was a straight slasher in the vein of Friday the 13th, the sequel adds much-needed levity to the bland proceedings. A handful of white collar co-workers use a bachelor party as an excuse to bring booze and strippers into the office after hours, an exciting departure from their monotonous cubicle lives. They debauchery gets out of hand upon the arrival of demoniac police officer Joe Vickers (Robert R. Shafer, The Office).

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Ex Machina (2015) - dir. Alex Garland

A highly-intelligent sci-fi thriller and an overall breathtaking debut from Alex Garland. Garland is no stranger to the genre, having penned Sunshine and 28 Days Later, but Ex Machina shows a maturity and sophisticated level of filmmaking not found in his previous films. The script is tight, the effects are dynamic, and the performances from the three leads are outstanding. I don’t have a negative thing to say about this film, it’s a beautiful morality play, and if you could rig the costume correctly this would also make a brilliant stageplay.

Perhaps I’m a little biased since I love Domnhall Gleeson (but here he’s a blonde!) and Oscar Isaac (who perfectly acts as both the smartest and toughest person in the room), but I’m really floored by this film. I’ll need to see it again to know exactly where to place it, but know that it’s among the finest science fiction films I’ve ever seen.