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Friday Film Club: Upside Down (2012) & Night Watch (2004)

Hi folks and welcome to the The Friday Film Club where both myself and Kim will be highlighting a film which we feel is worth checking out. At the same time we would love to hear your own selections whether your choosing to just name them in the comments section or join us in arguing the case for your film on your blog, let us know and we will share it below.

Kim’s Pick –  Upside Down (2012)

As we start out Season 3 with Sofia Coppola’s filmography, it only seems suitable to talk about a movie with Kirsten Dunst. Upside Down is a 2012 fantasy romance film set in a fictional world where the gravity pulls in opposite directions. The rich live in the Up Top and the poor live in the Down Below. The population from Down Below is illegal to go to Up Top however the people from Up Top can pay big money to enjoy ceiling entertainment in the Down Below as an experience. In comes Adam and Eden who met when they were teens and some misunderstanding pulls them apart. A decade later when Adam soon sees Eden again on a show, he is determined to go to her through finding a position in the offices to easily access the passage to the Up Top. 

In the lead roles is Kirsten Dunst as Eden and Jim Sturgess as Adam who play teen lovers who have been separated and trying to reunite. The charm of any romance is the chemistry between its characters. While the story here is set in a fantasy world, their romance is fairly normal except for the hurdles that blend into the world that this is set in. There’s a lot to love between them because what they have is cute and sweet. In the supporting role is Timothy Spall who plays Bob, who is Adam’s coworker and he is a charming and inspiring character and one of the highlight roles of Upside Down. 

The CGI elements are visually appealing. Sure, there’s some issues with the whole concept and the physics but for a romance story and not one all about science fiction and how it all works, it’s easy to see past the flaws and focus on the point of the film and that is the romance between Adam and Eden and their determination to be together and taking a leap of faith in the name of love. Upside Down hinges a lot on how much you like romance films as well as how willing you are to buy the premise. 

Elwood’s Pick – Night Watch (2004)

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Based on the Night Watch series by Sergei Lukyanenko, Timur Bekmambetov’s film adaptation has the distinction of being Russia’s first horror movie. The film set in modern day Moscow see’s the forces of light and dark upholding a fragile truce which has held since Medieval times when it became clear to both sides that neither held a clear advantage over the other. To uphold the truce the forces of light formed the Night Watch while the forces of Darkness formed the Day Watch to ensure that the truce was upheld by both sides. However when a powerful neutral “Other” threatens to upset the balance depending on which side they choose, both sides find themselves in a race to discover who they are.

Shot for a mere $4.2 milion which clearly in Russia goes a lot further as here we are presented with a film which not only looks incredible as epic medievil battles rage on the roofs of tower blocks while building crumble you would think that Bekammbetov is working with the same kind of budget as the Hollywood mainstream. At the same time here he brings to life a world were amidst the urban sprawl of the city vampire lurk in the shadows, witches perform rituals to help jilted lovers get back at their former partners and a nurse’s depression might just responsible for the catastrophic storm raging over her tower block.

Following Night Watch agent Anton (Konstantin Khabensky) a low level mage who spends his nights looking like a city worker much like his fellow agents as they cruise the streets in big yellow trucks and interest contract to the flashy clothes and sports cars of the Day Watch one of which getting to live the live of a famous pop star when she’s not on duty. Certainly it’s a very grounded approach to these fantastical characters and part of what makes the film work so well, more so when it’s combined with a vicious edge which see’s clashes between the two sides not involving sparkly vampires flashing through the air but rather bloody and brutal clashes as we see when Anton is forced to tackle a pair of rogue vampires. That being said anyone who saw Wanted will know that Behammbetov is no slouch when it comes to producing exciting and inventing action scenes and this certainly the case here as well.

On an initial watch the plotting and world can seem alittle complex but certainly this is a film which rewards a second viewing with the mythology expanded further with the problematic sequel Day Watch which thanks to Behammbetov taking on Wanted and seeing the offer to direct the proposed third film Twilight Watch putting him in an artistic rut. As such Day Watch is left feeling like two films edited together as it brings a rushed end to what could have been a fantastic trilogy. Still viewed as a stand alone or as part of a larger saga there is still a lot to enjoy with the film providing the perfect entry point into this world

So you’ve seen our picks for this week’s double feature but what are your movie watching plans this weekend?

Let us know in the comments section below.

 

Round Up

Quentin Tarantino’s Feature Presentation – A three part mini-series in which Tarantino sits down with film critic Amy Nicholson to discuss five films which impacted him from a diverse selection which includes Point Blank, Valley Girl and Boogie Nights

Visitations – Elijah Wood and Daniel Noah of indie production company SpectreVision visit the homes and workshops of some of their favorite creators in the genre community and beyond, including Taika Waititi

 

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Friday Film Club: Death Proof (2007) & A Smile Is Very Alluring (2016)

Hi folks and welcome to the The Friday Film Club where both myself and Kim will be highlighting a film which we feel is worth checking out. At the same time we would love to hear your own selections whether your choosing to just name them in the comments section or join us in arguing the case for your film on your blog, let us know and we will share it below.

Kim’s Pick –  One Smile is Very Alluring (2016)

One Smile is Very Alluring, also called Love O2O is a movie based on a novel by Chinese author Gu Man. An interesting element is that it was also made into a TV series in the same year. While its easy to do a comparison of the two with both of them having their own positives, the movie version was released first and because of its confined length, is packaged with more focus on the romance side rather than the inspirational youth entrepreneur sort of story. At the same time, what stands out for One Smile is Very Alluring is that its romance is focused on a more positive type of relationship rather than more typical Chinese romantic dramas that tend to be all about bringing in emotional breakups and cry fests. 

One Smile Is Very Alluring tells the story of a random meeting between two people. The first is Xiao Nai (Boran Jing), the popular boy in school who doesn’t really care for anyone else but his own circle of friends but as both good grades and handsome looks, making him the crush of all the girls in the university. The second is the department belle, Wei Wei (Angelababy) who has a lot of book smarts but also is the top female online game player on the same server as Xiao Nai. Xiao Nai’s love at first sight moment was not Wei Wei’s beauty or her smarts but from his meeting her randomly as he saw her join into the online game battle and the dexterity of her motions and controls. He approaches her in the game, also being the top player on the server and start their relationship there. The conflicts that occur throughout their cute beginning involves a lot of the outside elements involving online bullying as well as rumors and career issues. 

There’s no doubt that the story itself is slightly generic but it’s also because it breaks away from the typical sad drama element and keeps things fairly positive that makes this movie very feel-good. At the same time, it has some strong cast behind it, especially since it marks the beginning for a few actors and actresses that have now gotten some fame in Chinese dramas other than its two main leads. Boran Jing has been in the business with a lot of his work mostly involved in movies, like The Bullet Vanishes. Opposite him is Angelababy who has been in some Hollywood films like Independence Day: Resurgence and Hitman: Agent 47 and really delivers on the role of Wei Wei being both smart, beauty and the online gaming elements. The setting is both in reality and in the gaming world with a lot of other gaming references as well. Sure, it has some generic flaws but its a rarely seen positive romance with a decent amount of chemistry between the two that its worth a visit, especially a nice starting point to get into this story before deciding to check out the TV series, which fleshes out the story more. 

You can check out Kim’s TV binge of Love O2O as a companion piece to the movie HERE.

Elwood’s Pick – Death Proof (2007)

With Tarantino currently courting as much praise as he is controversy for his latest film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood this time surprisingly not for the violence nor controversial language but rather from Bruce Lee’s daughter Shannon taking offence of how her father is potrayed in the film especially when he loses a fight to Brad Pitt’s ageing stuntman in a scene designed to show the battle between new and old Hollywood. Of course it should be noted how little qualms she has about selling out her father’s legacy and likeness to sell everything from booze to cleaning products.

Still considering how Tarantino is hardly a director to be rushed and who also currently plans to retire with his next film which will only be his 10th but as is always the case when he does finally release a new film we look at his back catalogue which this time has seen Jackie Brown receiving a renewed interest and appreciation like Halloween 3: Season of the Witch both films initially being relegated to the bottom of the pile only to raised to the upper ranks upon fresh viewing but for myself the title most worth revisiting would always be this film.

Suffering a problematic release as it was torn away from its original double feature presentation Grindhouse after the Weinstein’s got cold feet and distributed both Death Proof and Planet Terror as solo films much to the dismay of us folks in the UK who were left feeling kinda cheated only years later finally getting a blu-ray release of the double feature experience. Still now the dust has settled on that whole fiasco Death Proof can finally be appreciated for the unique charms as Tarantino gives us a slasher movie with a twist with the psychotic former Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) using his custom stunt car to orchestrate vehicular carnage on his victims.

Initially introducing Radio DJ Jungle Julia (Sydney Tamiia Poitier) and her pals as they make a stop off at a bar on their way to the Lakehouse only to soon fall foul of Stuntman Mike and pulls a real surprise in how Tarantino essentially introduces and kills his group of girls so that he can introduce a second group featuring Stunt woman Zoe Ball playing herself along with a group of fictional friends with plans to go for a test drive a replica of the Vanishing Point car (a white 1970 Dodge Challenger) only for them also to catch the attention of Stuntman Mike who is once again on the prowl.

Much like Kill Bill Vol. 1 here we have a movie were Tarantino is setting out to just have fun than create the kind of deep world building that we get in the likes of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, instead he is creating the kind of movie that the characters in those films might go and see. At the same time he approached the film with the aim of create his own car chase movie worthy of holding its own alongside the movies he clearly holds so dear like the aforementioned Vanishing Point as well the likes of Dirty Mary Crazy Larry and White Line Fever which are unsurprised paid homage to.

As such like Mad Max: Fury Road the film is essentially an excuse to film an extensive and not to mention totally kick ass car chase movie, which takes full advantage of Zoe Bell’s Stuntwoman background by having her riding the bonnet of the car for the first half of the chase like a human hood ornament in a possible nod to Fair Game (1985)

Were the film really falls apart is when Tarantino attempts to include characters outside of the main girl groups whose banter is fun and almost a return to the quotable patter which made his early films so memorable, while Eli Roth’s inclusion like all his attempts at acting makes you wonder why he was included. Equally on fantastic form though is Kurt Russell despite not initially being on his shortlist having rumoured to have gotten the role when Mickey Rourke dropped out. Despite this Russell owns the role with a performance which as eccentric as it is high energy as he clearly is getting a thrill out of the girls not being the easy kill he was expecting as the two cars tear up the asphalt.

Sure it might not be his strongest film but for pure popcorn thrills and excitement it’s well worth giving it another look either as part of Grindhouse or in it’s extended standalone form.

So you’ve seen our picks for this week’s double feature but what are your movie watching plans this weekend?

Let us know in the comments section below.

Round Up

Quentin Tarantino’s Feature Presentation – A three part mini-series in which Tarantino sits down with film critic Amy Nicholson to discuss five films which impacted him from a diverse selection which includes Point Blank, Valley Girl and Boogie Nights

Zobo With A Shotgun Podcast – Zoe continues her history of extreme cinema with a look at the cinema of 1984 – 1989. Continuing her world domination you can also check out her new webshow The Unrated Cut as along with her co-host Chris Nials they discuss thier favourite extreme horror cinema.

Visitations – Elijah Wood and Daniel Noah of indie production company SpectreVision visit the homes and workshops of some of their favorite creators in the genre community and beyond, including Taika Waititi, Ana Lily Amirpour John Landis and Dan Harman

 

Friday Film Club: Running Scared & Grand Piano

DOUBLEFEATURE (17)

Hi folks and welcome to the The Friday Film Club where both myself and Kim will be highlighting a film which we feel is worth checking out. At the same time we would love to hear your own selections whether your choosing to just name them in the comments section or join us in arguing the case for your film on your blog, let us know and we will share it below.

Kim’s Pick – Running Scared (2006)

running scared

Written and directed by Wayne Kramer, 2006’s action crime drama Running Scared casted Paul Walker as the male lead during the six years in between his Fast and the Furious franchise break (between the second film in 2003 and the fourth film in 2009) where he did other movies like Into the Blue, Flags of Our Fathers and The Lazarus Project just to name a few. Running Scared crafts a tense and violent fast-paced 122 minute thriller following a low-ranking thug, Joey Gazelle (Paul Walker) who is tasked by the crime boss to get rid of a gun that killed some corrupt cops but when he decides to use it as an insurance policy and hides it away, his son Nicky (Alex Neuberger) and his best friend Oleg (Cameron Bright) finds it and in turn, things take a turn for the worse when his son’s best friend ends up using it against his abusive father. As Joey tries to trace both Oleg and the gun, it starts changing hands and getting further out of control.

Other than having Paul Walker doing a solid effort in playing Joey Gazelle and being the main focus of the action, Vera Farmiga plays Joey’s wife who plays a tough and protective lady. While the kids here, especially Cameron Bright also does a great job and pulled his own weight. Aside from acting though, Running Scared gets a lot of points for some other elements particularly in the violence and action element. It gives it a lot of style in the effects for the gunshots and firing sequences. There are some intense moments especially the most memorable being one on the ice hockey arena and what happens there. The movie also benefits in its pacing which reflects the story itself and keeps itself moving continuously, making sure to amp up the tension continuously as well, making it a thrill ride from moment things turn into a search.

 

 

Running Scared might have some issues and does hang on the being over-violent perhaps. But for those who don’t mind the language vulgarity or the violence and like a great crime thriller, its a solid choice to check out.

Elwood’s Pick – Grand Piano (2013)

Grand Piano

Since he finished his epic trek through Mordor in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy Elijah Wood arguably has gone on to produce some of the most interesting films of his career, no doubt thanks largely to the financial freedom that being in a blockbuster trilogy of films provides. What has been most surprising of this indie period of his career and no I’m not talking about when he tried to play a football hooligan in Green Street but rather the focus on making some fascinating horror movies which included a career best in Franck Khalfoun’s Maniac remake playing the serial killer whose eyes we see the film play out through in. However for myself one of his most underrated film is this thriller from Eugenio Mira

Here Wood stars as Tom a once promising concert pianist until he got stage fright while attempting to play “La Cinquette” which composed by his mentor Patrick Godureaux. Now five years later Tom is tempted to attempt a comeback as a tribute to the passing of Godureaux whose fortune has mysteriously disappeared. However upon finding the note on his sheet music “Play one wrong note and you DIE” what he initially dismisses as prank soon turns out to be a very real threat as he finds himself in the sights of a mysterious sniper in the concert hall. What follows is a gripping game of cat and mouse as John Cusack’s mysterious sniper continually taunts Tom through the earpiece he’s given him, only appearing for the final showdown while also utilising his henchman (Alex Winter) to remove any potential distractions which might stop Tom from completing the piece which the real mystery hinges on.

 

Reminiscent of Joel Schumacher’s Phone Booth here Mia holds the audience on tenderhooks as Tom deals with the mind games being played as Cusack manages to prove himself a truly intimidating presence especially played against the fragile spirit of Tom. Mia only adds to the drama as he draps the proceeding in the grandeur of the performance and sumptuous surrounding. At the same time Mia manages to find ever more creative ways to keep the action flowing despite the seemingly limited scope such a story would provide.

So you’ve seen our picks for this week’s double feature but what are your movie watching plans this weekend?

Let us know in the comments section below.

Movies and Tea #16 – Pacific Rim

Having both critical acclaim and mainstream recognition with Pan’s Labyrinth Del Toro would suprisingly enter into a period of development hell as he struggled to find both funding and studio backing for his next project before finally returning with his love letter to monsters and Kaiju movies Pacific Rim

On this episode we are also joined in this episode by Stephen Palmer (Gweilo Ramblings / Asian Cinema Film Club) to see if there is more to the film than giant robots battling monsters aswell as the inspiration for Del Toro’s vision.

Further Viewing

Kong skull island
The Meg
Starship Troopers
Gamera Guardian of the Universe
Patlabor
Gundam Wing
Mothra vs godzilla
Destroy all Monsters
Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla
Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah

Music on this episode

Keith Mansfield – Funky Fanfare
Ramin Djawadi – 2500 Tons of Awesome
Ramin Djawadi – Pacific Rim Main Theme

Listen to the Show

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Movies and Tea #14 – Hellboy + Hellboy: The Golden Army

*Also submitted as part of Ultimate 2000s Blogathon*

Having already dabbled with a comic book movie with Blade 2, Del Toro’s return to the genre was much more of a passion project as he choose to adapt Mike Mignola’s cult indie comic Hellboy while at the same time bringing his own spin to the character and world he inhabits.

Joining us for this episode is Comic Book Movie expert Bubbawheat (Flights, Tights and Movie Nights) as we look at both films while asking what could have been if Del Toro had been able to finish his trilogy.

We also discuss Black Panther getting an Oscar nomination, question if the market for comic book movies is over saturated and ask who is the best Del Toro villain plus much more!

Further Viewing

Hellboy: Sword of Storms
Blood and Iron
Frankenstein’s Army
Don’t Be Be Afraid of the Dark
Watchmen

Music on this episode

Keith Mansfield – Funky Fanfare
Marco Beltrami – Hellboy Main Theme
Barry Manilow – Can’t Smile Without You

Listen to the Show

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Itunes
Spotify
Podomatic

The Devil’s Backbone (2001) – Kim’s Take

Check out our podcast review HERE.

The Devil’s Backbone (2001)

devil's backbone

Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Cast: Marisa Paredes, Eduardo Noriega, Federico Luppi, Fernando Tielve, Inigo Garces, Irene Visedo, Junio Valverde

After Carlos – a 12-year-old whose father has died in the Spanish Civil War – arrives at an ominous boys’ orphanage, he discovers the school is haunted and has many dark secrets that he must uncover. – IMDB

Guillermo Del Toro returns to Spanish films as he creates this horror drama that takes a twist on the traditional ghost story. The Devil’s Backbone has always been regarded as a strong film in the Del Toro filmography and its one that brings around a lot of originality while still having the factors of multiple parallel plot points and character relationships as a result, creating depth in its myriad of characters.

The Devil’s Backbone is a fantastic film. The main reasoning behind it being that despite its slower pacing, this film finds it footing of the multi-genre approach and the rare gem that creates a horror with both depth and properly executed twists and build-up. He starts the film as a ghost story, introducing us to a ghost boy Santi haunting the orphanage as well as the bullying theme which brings together the boys and their respective troubles that eventually bring them together by the end. At the same time, its makes us question the unresolved issue that keeps Santi there. The orphanage itself and the general setting is not only plagued with impending political issues as well as an unexploded bomb in the grounds that has its own set of questions and assumptions from the characters.

What deserves real mention here are the core characters other than Carlos but the adult characters who each have their own imperfections, be it the headmistress with her artificial leg who finds emotional companionship in his friend, Dr. Casares, played by Federico Luppi while also enjoying the physical desire she gets from a twisted young character, Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega) who has ulterior motives. While the characters weaker in nature like Dr. Casares and Jacinto’s fiancee, Conchita, played by Irene Visedo, end up finding a strength when things take a turn for the worst in the final act. At the same time, the human villain here, Jacinto which Eduardo Noriego does a great job at interpreting because the character is also written with so much depth, with proper motives and twisted psychological and never admitting defeat sort of deal, making him a character with no limits to when he stops and that makes him even harder to forgive.

Del Toro creates misdirection in one way and also boasts his ability to create human monsters rather than the typical route of making the paranormal spirits the big evil. With that said, the horror drama here leans more towards the drama aspects than the horror. It isn’t to say that when the horror moments happen that it doesn’t deliver some chilling goosebumps moments with its sound design and atmosphere.

Have you seen The Devil’s Backbone?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Friday Film Club

DOUBLEFEATURE (28)

Hi folks and welcome to the The Friday Film Club where both myself and Kim will be highlighting a film which we feel is worth checking out. At the same time we would love to hear your own selections whether your choosing to just name them in the comments section or join us in arguing the case for your film on your blog, let us know and we will share it below.

Elwood’s Pick – The Tripper (2006)

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While David Arquette might be best known as a goofball actor and occasional wrestler even winning the WCW Heavyweight title in 2000 while promoting Ready To Rumble. However one of his lesser known achievements is his work as a director for which this fun slasher currently sits as his sole credit as a director with all of Arquette’s other work as a director being limited to directing episodes of CSI: Miami and Medium

Introducing one of Horror cinema’s more unique slashers as here a bunch of hippies attending the American Free Love Festival find themselves being stalked by a deranged Ronald Reagan obsessed killer as Arquette pays homage to the likes of Tobe Hooper and Wes Craven with this fun slasher which never takes itself too seriously but then how serious can you be when your killer is a guy dressed up in a Nixon mask grumbling about the Darn Hippies!

Sadly the film didn’t get enough of an audience to see Arquette’s plans for a sequel which would have seen his killer chasing more hippies around the Burning Man Festival in a film he tentatively had titled The Tripper 2: Burning Bush only making this more of a fun curiosity.

Kim’s Pick – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)

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Based on 2008’s historical novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows of the same name, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is directed by Mike Newell  who directed the likes of the 4th Harry Potter movie and Prince of Persia and something more along the lines of this film, Love in the Time of Cholera.

Period dramas are a beautiful subgenre of films. It usually boasts a great soundtrack and some beautiful costumes as well as an elegant story. Guernsey Literary has this in spades especially adding a picturesque setting like Guernsey which tells a current story of a letter reaching out for a book to an author and this spontanteous event that pulls her to discover the mystery during World War II: an left behind child, livelihoods taken away, fortified island and a missing friend. There is a depth to this story that the war brought this society together but also took things away from them and everyone is trying to live without thinking about it. In many ways, loss is not foreign to our main lead here and pairing with their fondness of literature, there is a real connection that immediately sparks and it is such an endearing feeling, which sadly is hindered by a misaligned expectation on her motive of being there.

That is the beauty of a wonderful period drama and especially the story adapted here. It brings along this wonderful sense of depth in its characters as we uncover their secrets and their pains and their hesitation but at the same time also seeing the connection between true soulmates and this romance that builds from being friends and understanding. The elegance of a period drama and the depth of the story is what makes this story stands out. Its both dramatic and romantic but so passionate and beautiful in so many of its scenes.

What You’ve Been Watching

Simplistic Reviews – Autopsy of Jane Doe

Stephen (Gweilo Ramblings / Asian Cinema Film Club) – Prevenge

Vern (Cinema Recall / Vern’s Video Vortex) – Species + Under the Skin

Zoe (Zobo With A Shotgun) – Big Mouth Valentine’s Day Special