Ultimate Decades Blogathon: The Maltese Falcon (1931) by MovieRob

The next entry in the Ultimate Decades Blogathon comes from MovieRob, a blogger with an amazing repertoire of reviewed movies to check out and also the host of his monthly segment Genre Grandeur plus a regular on this blogathon with always fantastic picks. This year, he dug deep and went way back to 1931 to look at the original film, The Maltese Falcon. Check out his review of The Maltese Falcon and remember to check out his blog.


“Good day, sir. I deeply regret that you are left without a fall guy. ” – Casper Gutman

Number of Times Seen – 1 (14 Feb 2021)

Brief Synopsis – A private detective is hired to find a valuable statue of a bird that is worth millions, but he gets in over his head when he finds out how many others are seeking the same prize.

My Take on it –When Drew and Kim announced this blogathon, I liked the challenge that they presented us to try and find films from the early years of film to watch and review.

This is a film that I came across in my research and was intrigued to watch since it is based on the same Dashiell Hammett story featuring Sam Spade that would eventually become a household name just a decade later.

I have always been an advocate that remakes are usually unnecessary, but this is among the few occasions where that is not true.

The 1941 version of this film which famously features Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor is so much better and more engaging than this film is despite following the same story.

This is further proof at how much the director and actors add to a particular film since John Huston’s version is so much grittier to look at, yet still works even better than the story does in this film.

The film stars Ricardo Cortez in the Bogart role and Bebe Daniels in the Astor role, yet neither helps find a way to make us care even more about their characters as the story unfolds.

Roy Del Ruth directs this film, but he is no Huston.

Yes, this film was made prior to the code and has some very intriguing references that were banned a decade later, but they don’t add enough to help make tings more intriguing to watch unfold.

The story itself is still told quite well, despite the fact that the cast and directing drag things down a bit along the way.

The noir atmosphere seems missing here and that might have helped make things more thrilling than the way it is all presented here.

MovieRob’s Favorite Trivia – When originally sold to television in the 1950s, the title was changed to “Dangerous Female” in order to avoid confusion with its illustrious remake, The Maltese Falcon (1941). Fifty years later, Turner Classic Movies restored its original title card. However, as recently as April 27, 2017, the service used by cable companies to provide data for their viewing guides used the “Dangerous Female” title for TCM’s showing of the movie on that date. (From IMDB)

Rating – BAFTA Worthy (6/10)

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Check out my *updated* movie stats here

To see my reviews of Oscar Winning Performances check out this link

To see my reviews of all Oscar Best Picture Winners click here (now complete)

Here is a link to my movie index A-Z


Thanks to MovieRob for his fantastic post on The Maltese Falcon! You can check out the full list of entries updated daily HERE.

Double Feature: Shanghai Fortress (2019) & S Storm (2016)

Time for the next double feature! Its a pairing of a Netflix Chinese Sci-fi film Shanghai Fortress with the sequel of Hong Kong crime thriller Z Storm called S Storm. Let’s check it out!

Shanghai Fortress (2019)

Director: Hua-Tao Teng

Cast: Han Lu, Qi Shu, Godfrey Gao, Liang Shi, Sen Wang, Vincent Matile, Jialing Sun, Yu Cheng

In 2035, aliens have wiped out mega cities around the globe to get their main source of energy, Xianteng. Will Shanghai be able to defend itself and maybe even launch a counterattack? – IMDB

Looking solely at the premise, Shanghai Fortress has a great setting. Think a little like the Chinese version of Independence Day with elements of Ender’s Game and hints of Pacific Rim. The whole setting in the future and the world being destroyed where Shanghai wants to counterattack and the world coming together to try to eliminate the alien invasion is a good premise to say the very least. Where Shanghai Fortress has more issues is in its execution and some of the CGI effects especially when it comes to the aliens which looks like toy action figures in some scenes (a lot of it when its attacking from the sky).

Where the movie does its best story bits is with its sci-fi elements as it talks about the war and the reality that the world now dwells in. The source of energy that is being fought for and the reality that the world now dwells in while still a bit lacking in detail still works for the most part and even with the technology that the world now has and the team that they put together to try to fight them as well as their secret weapon. With that said, where the story falls apart is putting in the romantic arc of the main lead trying to win the heart of a superior. It almost felt unnecessary as it was put there to give them a dramatic element but then, they already had the whole team and friendship that was done in a more natural way.

Despite the story, the cast is fairly alright. With the material they had, the main cast does deliver well enough. Qi Shu brings in the role of the captain and is the crush of the main male lead played by Han Lu, who is the leader of the little “task force” (not sure if that’s how you call it) that got brought up after they come together to help an attack. Godfrey Gao also takes part in this film as one of the last few movies in his career before his unfortunate death in 2019. There are some more familiar faces that work out including the rest of the “task force” and friends that I’ve seen appear and are relatively well in their roles.

Overall, its quite disappointing that Shanghai Fortress had such a good premise but just couldn’t deliver a better script and execution, which made a little harder to get into it completely whether it was the war or the human relationships.

S Storm (2016)

Director: David Lam

Cast: Louis Koo, Julian Cheung, Ada Choi, Vic Chou, Bowie Lam, Dada Chan, Janelle Sing, Sau Sek, Hoi Pang Lo, Jacky Cai

No sooner is a team at ICAC set up to investigate irregularities in soccer official betting in Hong Kong before a suspect is assassinated. – IMDB

The sequel to 2014’s Z Storm (review) takes on another corruption story and this time its within the Jockey Club with the soccer betting system. The ICAC end up following the clues from one lead to the next to realize that each of the suspects are being killed before they get there. S Storm is a fairly decent thriller. The only issue is that it adds too much to the equation that it almost feels like there’s too many characters to go through. It does keep it fairly engaging since there’s always a next step and in the beginning, its a race between the ICAC and a disrespected homicide detective’s team for the trail.

S Storm excels because of its talented cast. The ICAC being lead by Louis Koo’s character who is a staple in many Hong Kong thrillers in the past decade (if not 2). The homicide team lead by Julian Cheung, a singer and actor that I personally like quite a bit as well. The assassin is played by Vic Chou and the former F4 member and had his debut in the original Taiwanese version of Meteor Garden as Hua Ze Lei, the 2nd male lead. Its been a while since I’ve seen him in anything so this role does feel small and very quiet but his character is missing some depth perhaps. Other roles like Ada Choi, Bowie Lam, Sau Sek are all familiar faces in TV mostly but have dabbled in film before and all give fairly decent supporting roles.

While there are some issues with S Storm, its a series that I do enjoy for the corruption case angle. Its more about the clever dealings and inner network of people and such. This one does have a decent amount of action as well considering its about gambling so the triad and such gets involved. The audience gets the story step by step in bits and sees the danger before the ICAC and homicide gets there even if it doesn’t always reveal the culprit, leaving that in the dark for a while. Some good elements and some not so good ones but its an alright thriller overall.

As a side note, it would be interesting to check out what other stories will come in the other movies in the series and how it links to the letters they use really does make me wonder sometimes.

By Night’s End (2020)

By Night’s End (2020)

By n

Director (and co-writer): Walker Whited

Cast: Michelle Rose, Kurt Yue, Michael Aaron Milligan, Carlos Aviles, Matt LaBorde, Jeff Ridgway, Troy Faruk, Lucius Baston

A couple wake up in the night to a man searching for something in their home. After they are forced to kill him in self defense, they decide to take one hour before calling the police to search for what they hope is a hidden fortune. – IMDB

Home invasion films can be quite a thrill to watch. The most unexpected things come out of the independent films scene sometimes and By Night’s End does have a decent premise even if there are a few issues with it overall. However, if you are a fan of alternate Christmas movies, this might be one to take into consideration since its set on Christmas even if all it has is a Christmas tree, ornaments and some funky holiday hat before things really take a turn.

By Night's End

By Night’s End is a small film both in cast and its single setting and passing through a single night, except for the opening scene that sets a little earlier to set up the plot and mystery. The story focuses on a couple who is trying to move on after the loss of their daughter while struggling to make ends meet as they both have employment issues. While those issues do come into play as the couple is trapped from one bad decision to another struggle to avoid the home invasion from happening in their conversation to give their relationship a basis, the story’s strength is really in the interaction with their home invader and the action bits which is enforced as the female lead Heather is a stunt woman turned actress who makes those action scenes more engaging. The execution of the movie from one suspense moment to the next action and the power balance between especially Heather and the home invader is done rather well even if the dialogue between the characters do fall flat. While the dynamic between the home invader and the couple are decent, the home invader’s character does fall into very familiar territory for this sort of character.

With that said, for a fairly barebones home invasion story, the story does give a few twists. One that happens fairly early in the movie that changes it direction to something else which adds a little more complexity to the story, even if that the first scene shows an obvious clue that drove me a little crazy when the characters didn’t connect the dots until a lot later in the story. However, there is a good amount of depth and little surprises especially in the little escapes and action scenes as the couple fights for their survival and escape while trying to find out why their home has been targeted. There’s a good building of atmosphere and tension as it plays with lighting and darkness. By Night’s End may have a little issue with script and dialogue however, for the most part, it does hit a lot of the home invasion tension that makes it a rather fun watch overall.

DarkCoast will release By Night’s End on October 6th on various digital platforms (Amazon, iTunes, DirecTV, FlixFling, Google Play, Vudu and AT&T)

*Screener provided by DarkCoast*

Fantasia Festival 2020: A Witness Out of the Blue (犯罪现场, 2019)

A Witness Out of the Blue (犯罪现场, 2019)

A Witness Out of the Blue

Director (and writer): Chi-Keung Fung

Cast: Louis Koo, Jessica Hsuan, Louis Cheung, Patrick Tam, Philip Keung, Sam Lee, Andy On, Fiona Sit, Cherry Ngan

A Witness Out of the Blue is 2019 crime thriller about a murder of a member of a bank robber group that may have gone array as they hunt down their leader with only one witness to the crime: a parrot. One of the best things about Fantasia Festival is hearing director’s talk about their film. A nice touch to A Witness Out of the Blue was the director having a little message about how the movie came to be and how it all started with a parrot. Director and writer Chi-Keung Fung definitely is more renowned for his writing credits with involvement in Stephen Chow movies like Shaolin Soccer and The Mermaid. A Witness Out of the Blue has the hook of using a parrot as a witness and how the cop will use it to his advantage to learn about how a parrot communicates or learns the language and can have the intellect of a 5 year old child and its a fun element for sure. The story itself does create a lot of twists and turns that manages to lead down a rather interesting chase. There’s a bit of tension and a bit of humor and the mystery definitely takes everyone for a chase with the characters. The ending isn’t exactly never been done before (but I say what its similar to, that would be a huge spoiler so I’m going to avoid that). Whether pacing or execution, A Witness Out of the Blue is an intriguing thriller.

A Witness Out of the Blue has a stellar cast. Its consisted primarily with the once righteous but now easygoing cop Detective Lam that everyone sees as useless who sees through the case in another angle played by Louis Cheung who is more known for his music career than his acting career even if he has a lot of Cantonese voice acting credits to his name however delivers quite the performance. Lam starts suspecting his upper level boss played by Philip Keung (a familiar face at this year’s Fantasia for sure with his appearance in Sheep Without a Shepherd HERE) who holds a grudge towards the bank robbers for killing another cop. At the same time, Lam needs to still try to catch the bank robber mastermind Wong by the character played by Louis Koo but always seems to be one step behind as the robber crew starts being hunted down as well making him look more and more suspicious. There is no doubt that Louis Koo’s career is full of crime thrillers at this point and he is the perfect candidate for this role especially since he becomes something of an antihero. At this point, Wong hides out at this senior care home managed by a visually disabled woman played by Jessica Hsuan where we see the more human side of Wong in their interaction.

There is no doubt that Chi-Keung Fung is a great writer since every character in this thriller has its purpose. The characters all play off each other as detective Lam goes looking back at the grudges linked to robbery as he questions supporting characters played by Fiona Sit, Andy On and Patrick Tam. Each of these characters have their own stories whether its a flawed detective or a mastermind who wants to find the truth of the death of his team but every step takes on a different turn. Put in the equation of the parrot being another character and its all quite the whirlwind ride.

A Witness Out of the Blue has a lot to offer. It tries to be a little different and how it starts with a parrot and uses its characters all fit well together. Its a crime thriller that has some action and comedy blended together to become a little more mix genre. With both a stellar cast and a fun little plot and some great comedy points, it all actually fits together in a well-paced, engaging and entertaining sort of crime thriller even if the ending isn’t as clever as the director might think it is but somehow this still felt a little like a breath of fresh air in the sea of crime thrillers that come out every year.

Double Feature: Joker (2019) & Ready or Not (2019)

Taking a little break from the alphabet double feature as we take a look at some rental viewings in the past while. Its always good to have a chance to catch up with some 2019 titles that I had missed and this time, its looking at Joker followed by a title that I had missed during its film festival run, Ready or Not. Let’s check it out!

Joker (2019)

joker

Director (and co-writer): Todd Phillips

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Shea Whigham, Bill Camp

In Gotham City, mentally troubled comedian Arthur Fleck is disregarded and mistreated by society. He then embarks on a downward spiral of revolution and bloody crime. This path brings him face-to-face with his alter-ego: the Joker. – IMDB

At this point, we’ve seen Joker in so many different DC Universe movies (and video games). There’s always some form of familiarity to the character and its villainous nature. 2019’s Joker takes the origin story and character study path as it looks at Arthur Fleck and the events that lead him to become the villain Joker that we know. The struggles and the not being accepted by society as well as other underlying issues in his life that all culminate to propel this character into this mentally unstable comedian that lives in his own world and starts finding a way to be seen in a world that ignores him. Its definitely a unique angle to take the character as well as a much more dramatic one.

Joker’s most outstanding element undoubtedly has to go to Joaquin Phoenix who truly takes Arthur Fleck into a fresh direction. He captures a lot of the little things of the character that makes it increasingly unsettling to watch unravel as each event and knowledge all come together. Its really nice to see how he interacts with each of the other supporting characters as well as how his morals and ethics are balanced. In reality, it also gives his character a deeper element than just being crazy like other movies and a basis of what he has gone through to lead him to this stage and the more and more violent and extreme actions.

Of course, in the world of Gotham, some things are still familiar especially signs of the Wayne family being a family in control and finding a way to connect the young Bruce Wayne to Arthur Fleck and bringing up questions of lead to them having a connection to the Batman that we know which is a nice touch. There’s a very entertaining role as Murray Franklin by Robert De Niro that adds to the film. The cinematography also builds up the environment and each scene.

Ready or Not (2019)

ready or not

Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett

Cast: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell, Melanie Scrofano, Kristian Bruun, Elyse Levesque, Nicky Guadagni

A bride’s wedding night takes a sinister turn when her eccentric new in-laws force her to take part in a terrifying game. – IMDB

*originally posted on Movies and Tea for Friday Film Club*

Every wealthy family has their secrets and very much so for the Le Domas who run the Le Domas Family Games company who has their own wedding night ritual. When the youngest brother Alex (Mark O’Brien) gets married to a “normal girl” Grace (Samara Weaving), she ends up meeting his very odd family and introduced to their wedding ritual to honor their family business and that is to draw a card from their prized possession, Le Bail’s puzzle box which names a game they must play as initiation. Grace draws “Hide-and-Seek” which turns out to be the deadliest choice in the pile when she finds out that she is now being hunted by the entire family in their locked down mansion.

Ready Or Not might seem like an escape room sort of deal and some twisted family. While the Le Domas family is a bit odd, they definitely fit into the dark comedy element presented for the movie as it’s obvious that this draw is not frequent. Through the movie, it’s much more than that as Grace outsmarts each of the members of the family, it becomes clear that the Le Domas have no choice to do this and their own reasons as we learn who Le Bail is and what the puzzle box is all about. The story itself being deeper than what its presented at the beginning along with a fast-paced chase around the house with each of the characters having their own agenda and quirky personality all adds to this being both violent but comedic and striking a nice balance between the two.

ready or not

Each of the members of Le Domas family as well as Grace is so colorful. The standout would of course go to Samara Weaving who has been landing these crazy roles in the indie film realm and yet again, pulls off a great role with Grace. The unknown factor is where each person feels about this Hide and Seek game on hand. The female characters actually play mostly the stronger roles just like the intense Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni) and Grace’s mother in law (Andie MacDowell) who has more of a calm and manipulative personality. However, Alex’s character also has its inner conflict much like his brother Daniel (Adam Brody) who ends up  having quite a surprising turn of events in their choices.

Ready or Not is a fast-paced fun dark comedy thriller. It’s violent and intense at times yet at the same time, there are moments of dark comedy elements that relieve the tension a little. With some well-written characters and a unique twist to the story, it’s an absolute blast to watch.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two films? Thoughts?

Blog Tour: No Signal (iMe Series #2) by Jem Tugwell

NO SIGNAL BLOG TOUR v2

No Signal (iMe series #2)
By: Jem Tugwell

No Signal

Publisher: Serpentine Books
Publication Date: June 4th, 2020
Pages: 336
Available in Paperback, eBook & Audio

In a breathtaking follow-up novel to ‘PROXIMITY’, Serge says it’s the ultimate Augmented Reality game. He’s chosen his Ten carefully – the reckless, driven and strong. He tests them. Ten become Four.
DI Clive Lussac wants to fight the system that controls everything, but he’s ill and losing the people closest to him. In the middle of eco-protests, he’s lost four tourists.
As Clive’s world unravels, he and his partners DC Ava Miller and DS Zoe Jordan race to find the tourists and the true reason behind the game. It may already be too late. – Goodreads

No Signal is the sequel of Proximity, the second book in the iMe series. While the first book was set on creating a technothriller set in a futuristic dystopia where technology has now become the tool that governs every single person’s life to every single detail to create a crime free and healthy society through their technology iMe and set a very solid foundation for this world building. No Signal had a kick-off point in this established world that took a different path. This time, its not about a crime set in one city using the technology and the different ways its governed from police to citizens to all the red tape involved but it takes the angle of a further technology called iTourist that sees a person who creates this augmented reality game that leads the four remaining challengers from around the world to enter into this controlled world to race for a big prize at the finish line. Other than the technology and crime-solving elements, this story also has dives into a little bit of this dystopian future’s politics.

No Signal is divided chapter to chapter from a few different point of view.  Its a lot of characters to maneuver at first as it bounces between last book’s main character police detective Clive Lussac, “game master” Serge and the four challengers. This is a great structure to approach this story as it gives a good overlap from one location to the next while also being able to keep the book paced incredibly well and really action-packed and also to connect better with each of these characters. The connection from the first book actually is only through Clive Lussac and his character still maintains a lot of the traits from the first one that makes him notice the things and plays along the more experienced cop role as he leads another younger partner after his partner in the last one has moved to another department. If there was anything, it felt a little unnecessary to put in his personal life drama. It connects to the first one and maybe makes him more human but the story stood well enough on its own focusing on the thriller on hand.

One of the most outstanding parts of this series is definitely the use of its technology. The technology itself has so much detail from how it evolves and what it is capable of doing. iMe still plays a lot as it controls the citizens in this space whereas the rest of the world seems to not be controlled like this future UK. As it brings people from outside of this country inside, the technology behind iTourist is really only an introduction but it adds another element when the scenario changes as they find a way to complete their challenge without this country’s monitoring. Every point of No Signal is done with a lot of thought in its execution and how each plot point should land and give it further intrigue and thrills. For a sequel, it keeps the same intensity as its first book and dives deeper into this world. Honestly, I can’t wait to see where else this world can go to hopefully a next novel.

Score: 4.5 out of 5 

You can also check out the review of the the first book, Proximity HERE.

Amazon Australia : https://amzn.to/2WcgE2z
Goodreads link  : https://bit.ly/2WbnhSN
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jem Tugwell is a crime fiction author with a Crime Writing MA from City University.
NO SIGNAL is the second book in the iMe series and follows his thrilling debut novel PROXIMITY.
Jem is inspired by the fascinating possibilities of technology, AI and the law of unintended consequences. In a past life, Jem had a successful career in technology and investment management, and he lives in Surrey with his wife and dog. He has two great children. Outside of his family and writing, Jem’s loves are snowboarding, old cars and bikes.
GIVEAWAY
As part of the blog tour, Serpentine Books is running a Rafflecopter competition to give a way 2 signed copies of Proximity (it is open to UK addresses only).

Double Feature: The Night Comes For Us (2018) & Come and Find Me (2016)

Next double feature is here! This time is a bit of a fast pace film duo with Netflix distributed Indonesian action crime film The Night Comes For Us and drama thriller Come and Find Me. The first I originally watched as a contender for opening the Ultimate 2010s blogathon and the second was just a random pick and I hadn’t watched an Aaron Paul movie in a while. Let’s check it out!

The Night Comes For Us (2018)

The Night Comes For Us

Director (and writer): Timo Tjahjanto

Cast: Joe Taslim, Iko Uwais, Julie Estelle, Zack Lee, Salvita Decorte, Sunny Pang, Hannah Al Rashid, Dian Sastrowardoyo, Abimana Aryasatya

Ito (Joe Taslim), a gangland enforcer, caught amidst a treacherous and violent insurrection within his Triad crime family upon his return home from a stint abroad. – IMDB

Indonesian cinema has been gradually finding its spot in the last decade or so especially when The Raid: Redemption arrived in 2013. With the two main leads from that film being the leads in The Night Comes For Us, the least we do know is that there will be some fantastic action. There’s a lot to love about The Night Comes For Us even if its very much a lot of the same bloody, fast-paced and action-packed sort of deal that Indonesian action films have been showing (at least in my very little experience from the 3 films I’ve seen..so I could be wrong, and if I am, please let me know other Indonesian movies to check out).

Running the movie and being caught up in this action thriller is Ito played Joe Taslim who is amazing because he is this good-looking rugged action star who truly has some fantastic moves, not surprising since he was on the Indonesia Judo national team for a while. Between him and Iko Iwais as well as the femme fatale characters and Ito’s buddies, the action has a lot of variety and keeps it pretty fresh throughout with different weapons and stylishly violent.

A lot of people want to bring in the Chinese into their action crime thrillers these days. Being Chinese myself, I naturally tend to judge the believability of the people speaking this language and for myself, the actors speaking Chinese definitely could be better. However, the story itself was in some ways rather straight forward and it was somewhat of big plan or just reasoning as to why Ito wanted to make that first decision to save the girl and slowly gives an idea of his spot with the Six Seas and then into the relationship with his friends.

Come and Find Me (2016)

come and find me

Director (and writer): Zack Whedon

Cast: Aaron Paul, Annabelle Wallis, Garret Dillahunt, Enver Gjokaj, Terry Chen, Zachary Knighton, Chris Chalk

When his girlfriend goes missing, David must track down her whereabouts after he realizes she’s not who she was pretending to be. – IMDB

Its not surprising that Come and Find Me was an unknown title to myself. It did only have a limited release and VOD. Its quite a pity because while Come and Find Me follows the motions of a general thriller of this type in a relatively predictable way, its actually executed pretty well. I might also be a little skewed because this type of setup where past and present intertwine when done well is a pretty neat structure. I do admit thay there is a beginning sequence that feels like the setup took a little longer than needed.

Aaron Paul is definitely the central character here as David who finds his girlfriend missing one day and then realizes something isn’t quite right when her friend comes to trash their place in search for something. Its this that starts his search for her in another direction and leads him to find him her different secrets and essentially who is really is. Aaron Paul does deliver a great role here. Plus, I love movies that throw their characters on wild and unexpected rides turning them from clueless innocents into tougher characters.

Come and Find Me was a pleasant surprise. It had some slower moments but overall it was executed fairly good. There was a bit of intrigue and mystery and thrills. Its a decent random pick.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two films? Thoughts!

First Love (2019)

First Love (2019)

First Love

Director: Takashi Miike

Cast: Masataka Kubota, Sakurako Konishi, Shota Sometani, Takahiro Miura, Becky, Jun Murakami, Nao Ohmori, Cheng-Kuo Yen, Chun-hao Tuan, Mami Fujioka

A young boxer and a call girl get caught up in a drug-smuggling scheme over the course of one night in Tokyo. – IMDB

With over 100 directorial credits under his name, Takashi Miike movies are always ones to look forward to. Some obviously deliver more than others as he churns them at such fast speeds. There are a huge variety of what he does whether its adaptations or original stories. However, there is no doubt that he always manages to bring some nice cinematography and most of the time, some quirky characters to life as well. With that said, his latest full feature First Love is one that embodies a very well-made movie as it brings everything you’d expect in a Japanese action crime film: action, blood, crime and quirky characters, humor; all into the mix in this rather fast-paced 2 hour movie that doesn’t even feel that long with everything that goes on. 

First Love

The action presented in First Love is fantastic. Each of the characters have their own form of weapons as the two sides, Yakuza and Chinese triad, collide together as they both start chasing down the two innocents thrown into this to find some drugs that obviously don’t have. Each side hunting down for a different objective and hidden motives and each character surfacing with their intents throughout. At the same time, each have their different personality, quirks, humor that all pulls together with their different weapon of choice: katana, shotguns, crowbars, etc. You name it and its all there to create this very violent romp but also deliberately clumsy in some ways that it breaks through some of the intense action scenes. Its perfectly balanced to make it a very satisfying watch. Especially when its paired with a great soundtrack to match the chase and action scenes. 

First Love

There is an incredible amount of cast here. A lot of people that gets involved in the whole ordeal. The main female lead Monica (Sakurako Konishi) and male lead Leo (Masataka Kubota) are actually the quieter characters here as they get propelled through the story and have a rather toned-down attraction to each other as they move through this. Monica is a bit odd as she has some weird hallucinations which actually are rather absurd at times but eventually becomes rather comedic. As for Leo, Kubota takes on this role as a boxer who doesn’t seem to be very passionate about his profession until the doctor tells him that he is about to die which makes him lash out and causes him to be caught up in this mess. There are a lot of subtle changes within his character development. Its definitely another great role after seeing his appearance as Skin in Diner (review).

However, if we were to talk about the supporting characters that show up, they definitely have a much bigger contrast that creates some really fun moments. Julie (Becky) is a woman whose boyfriend gets killed and she’s out to revenge with a crowbar who is completely bonkers. She definitely stands out here in both her appearance and dialogue. Aside from her, there is the yakuza underling (Shota Sometani) who tries to work the yakuza and Chinese against each other but becomes this hilariously clumsy character that creates a lot of problems in the path of reaching his goal and its a standout character here even if he plays the bad guy role. And thats not even getting to the one handed shotgun wielding Chinese man (Cheng-kuo Yen) or the female assassin (Mami Fujioka). All very colorful characters to discover! 

Overall, First Love is an awesome movie. It has both great execution and pacing. There are a palette of colorful characters to discover and a fantastic balance between dark humor, action set through one night in Tokyo between the organized crime rivalry. Highly recommend!

You can find out where to get this film HERE

FNC 2019: Diner (2019)

Diner (2019)

Diner

Director: Mika Ninagawa

Cast: Tina Tamashiro, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Kubota Masataka, Hongo Kanata, Okuda Eiji, Maya Miki, Anna Tsuchiya

Kanako Oba uses a mysterious site to apply for part-time work. As a result, her life is soon in jeopardy. She is forced to work at the restaurant Diner as a waitress or she will be killed. The restaurant is membership only and their customers are all contract killers. – MyDramaList

If John Wick’s elite assassin world was moved to a diner exclusively crafted to serve their culinary needs with experiences specific for their business and and pleasure with the Japanese over the top flair, this is what Mika Ninagawa’s Diner would best relate to. Engulfing its scenes by flamboyantly dangerous characters, techno, punk and classical background music to pair with its scenes and constrasting sharp color palettes in a dark underground setting, its a feast for for the senses on many levels.

Mika Ninagawa’s vision for Diner is visually stunning. From its pink lettered neon lettering to its stylistic introduction for each characters and its choice of how each of them interact with the female lead, Kanako Oba (Tina Tamashiro). There’s a lot of style and substance in Diner from how the culinary experience is shown to the different over the top meals are done to the reactions as well as how the action scenes are done. It has a lot of the fun and over the top elements of Japanese films that add a certain level of weird but fun especially when matched with the different killer and the rooms they eat in, each matching the killers personality.

Talking about character designs now, the main story revolves around Kanako Oba where Tina Tamashiro does a lovely job at playing this quiet and shy girl whose life is mostly summarized in the opening scene rather uniquely blending with its background music, which honestly sets the tone for what to expect, and tackles the main issue of her shyness and unknown desire of what to do in life because she feels unwanted until she sees a colorful picture of Guanajuato that makes her try to find a way to get money to go. In terms of character design and possibly development, her character is the focal point and also the most developed throughout this story. However, opposite her is male lead playing the Diner owner and head chef also an ex-elite assassin, Bombero (Tatsuya Fujiwara) who is very tough on her because those preceding her have died due to the dangerous clientele. Bombero is a fun character mostly because he has this subtlety to his character that relies a lot on his observation and what he does but then also has this loneliness that he closes himself off to because of the company he keeps.

Flamboyant characters are a center of Japanese films when it comes to over the top elements and here, the assassins themselves, as shallow as their characters are with not a lot of back story to work with, are perfectly suited to simply push the story forward and give those little hurdles or connections with Kanako Oba to surprise and frighten her in this new setting. It all works up to the point that every killer has a weakness and tipping point and it all leads to the final dinner where it discusses the decision of change of crime lord that runs the Yakuza entirely which of course, doesn’t run smoothly and has some crazy action sequence. Of course, there are a few selected assassins that get a little more screen time than others and one of them called Skin (Masataka Kubota) really takes his role and runs with it in such an impressive way.

Diner is a really entertaining sort of film. While the culinary element might be done a little more to fit a culinary experience title, there is still a lot of impressive balance between the crime thriller and the whole setting in a diner. Its a straightforward story and not hard to imagine where all this leads but keeps it on the fun level. Most of its characters are fairly shallow in development and yet, due the film’s length and staying on path, they achieve what the film needs to set up these main characters to deal with this final group. The action scenes are well choreographed and there’s some ridiculous moments, not to mention the ending result is a bit of a headscratcher logically, however, somehow because of the over the top elements in Japanese films, anything is possible so its easy to let it pass.

Diner has a second screening during Festival du Nouveau Cinema on October 15th at 8:35pm at Cinema du Parc. You can find more info HERE.

Double Feature: Tracers (2015) & Ultraviolet (2006)

DOUBLEFEATURE (58)

Its time for the next double feature! The alphabet Netflix is going a bit awkward and weird and it won’t look like the whole alphabet at this point with doubles and triples here and there for various letters. Anyways, this is the penultimate one before we finish up the 26 movies in this rundown. This time, for the T selection I decided to go with Tracers which looks like some parkour fun. I liked Brick Mansions even if the plot was a bit thin and I’m expecting a similar experience here. For the U selection, I went on to look at the Ultraviolet.

Suffice to say, the ending two movies for this rundown is going to be not the rest of the alphabet but cut very short, either way, it needs to wrap up so some other random pairings can happen. 🙂 Anyways, let’s check out these two movies!

Tracers (2015)

tracers

Director: Daniel Benmayor

Cast: Taylor Lautner, Marie Avgeropoulos, Adam Rayner, Rafi Gavron, Luciano Acuna Jr., Josh Yadon, Johnny M. Wu, Sam Medina, Amirah Vann

Wanted by the Chinese mafia, a New York City bike messenger escapes into the world of parkour after meeting a beautiful stranger. – IMDB

Just as I’d expected, Tracers is an alright movie. Its not great because its pretty predictable in how things are going to go down but its also better than I expected because of the parkour and the setting. The characters are alright but they have quite a few so it also lacks some depth. In the choice between making it more action-packed and crime or giving it more of a character oriented drama, this one leaned more onto the former, which is a pretty good choice seeing as it took the twist of these groups of parkour youths pulling off some crime jobs like stealing stuff and whatnot.

Taylor Lautner is usually dismissed mostly because of Twilight, it feels but I thought he did alright in the few Twilight films that I saw. To be fair, the whole acting job here was a little meh but the parkour was fun to watch and everyone seemed to have the reason to be there even if the romance here felt a little forced and became like the pushing force for Taylor Lautner’s character to do this because, it always felt like while it was a perk to get to know the character of Marie Avgeropoulos, he did it for the fast money. So everyone has their agenda and it tried to do this twist with the leader of the parkour group which I guess makes sense to a certain extent. Talking about Marie Avgeropoulos, I grew to like her character in The 100 even if she is super stubborn and this character here is very reminiscent of that one where she’s a pretty tough girl.

Overall, Tracers was pretty middle of the line. Its not a very memorable movie because it played a lot of it by the books but it did exceed my expectations. Aside from all the nonsensical romantic angles that really just tried to flaunt some young bodies and romantic tension to give it more conflict, the parkour bits were pretty fun to watch. There’s some decent action in the escape scene near the end. The twist was alright as well even if it was a tad predictable. I didn’t expect much from it to begin with so it exceeded my expectations.

Ultraviolet (2006)

ultraviolet

Director (and writer): Kurt Wimmer

Cast: Milla Jovovich, Cameron Bright, Nick Chinlund, Sebastien Andrieu, Ida Martin, William Fichtner, David E. Collier

A beautiful hæmophage infected with a virus that gives her superhuman powers has to protect a boy in a futuristic world, who is thought to be carrying antigens that would destroy all hæmophages. – IMDB

Honestly, there’s not much to say about Ultraviolet. Its a pretty bad movie. If it didn’t have Milla Jovovich as the main character and then some competent supporting roles like William Fichtner, I probably would have shut off the film. The premise of the film isn’t too bad set in the futuristic work and the whole blood angle and hemophages and such. All that stuff works well enough as the background premise of the story. The main issue is that the movie itself is pretty bad. The computer graphics are absolutely outdated at this point which makes it very unconvincing to watch.

At the same time, there’s a whole lot of bad acting from everyone else. Milla Jovovich might not have great acting skills but she fills up the space because its her unique attitude that always makes her stand out (even in the Resident Evil), making her the best part of Ultraviolet. Ultraviolet is a pretty bad-ass character with some fun one-liners, very reminiscent of Alice in Resident Evil, and I guess that really makes it work for her. Playing alongside her is Cameron Bright as the boy who can destroy all of the hemophages. I’ve only seen Cameron Bright in one other movie (that I remember) in Running Scared which I really liked him and think that he’s a pretty decent young actor and he does pretty well here even if his dialogue is quite scarce.

Overall, Ultraviolet is pretty meh. Nothing really does good and unless you are a fan of Milla Jovovich like me, you might even dismiss her role as Ultraviolet as well. But seeing as I am a fan of hers, this movie worked because she held it up and kept me watching. I can almost guarantee that I probably won’t be watching this again though.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two? Thoughts?