Thursday, June 30, 2016

Movie Review: Bullitt

Warner Brothers/Seven Arts, Solar Productions, USA, 1968.
Bullitt title
Based on the novel "Mute Witness" by Robert L. Fish.

Let's finish the unofficial car movie marathon with a cop movie classic containing one of the iconic car chases filmed.

Lt. Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen) is a tough San Francisco cop. Ambitious and crooked politician Walter Chalmers (Robert Vaughn) assigns him to protect witness Johnny Ross (Pat Renella) before a trial against mobsters. Using the  testimony from a vicious gangster would advance Chalmers' career. While Bullitt is off duty spending time with his designer girlfriend Cathy (Jacqueline Bisset) two hitmen wound Ross and Inspector Stanton (Carl Reindel).
Steve McQueen
Frank Bullitt
Jacqueline Bisset
Robert Vaughn
Walter Chalmers
The assassin (John Aprea) tries to finish the job and Bullitt tries in vain to prevent it. However Bullitt finds out that the case is more complicated than it seems. Despite pressure coming from Chalmers, Chief Bennett (Simon Oakland) allows Bulllitt to continue his investigations. Luckily Bullitt has a fast Ford Mustang that is useful for catching the crooks. However Cathy witnesses a crime scene and is horrified by the ugly things Bullitt sees and violence that he commits in his work. But for Bullitt serving justice without moral integrity is the driving force. As George Orwell put it: "Those who abjure violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf."
Simon Oakland
Chief Bennett
Don Gordon as Sgt. Delgetti
The famous chase
The film has a cool later 1960s look and also realistic looking hospital scenes. The film has quite little action and it feels more like a modern hard-boiled detective story Chandler style but with less dialogue. It is better to avoid watching it waiting for fast-paced action, this is more a crime mystery film. As for the action scenes, the car chase is the highlight, featuring Russian Hill in San Francisco that is used in later films by everyone and his dog. The laconic style seems to have influenced 1970s cop movies, "French Connection," films of Charles Bronson and Eastwood's "Dirty Harry." There is also a jazzy soundtrack by Lalo Schifrin. Robert Duvall appears as cab driver.

The special edition DVD includes some interesting documentaries "Steve McQueen: The Essence of Cool" and "The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing."

Rating: Very good

Starring: Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn, Jacqueline Bisset, Don Gordon, Simon Oakland, Norman Fell, Robert Duvall, Georg Stanford Brown, Justin Tarr, Carl Reindel, Felice Orlandi, Vic Tayback, Robert Lipton, Ed Peck, Pat Renella, Paul Genge, John Aprea, Al Checco, Bill Hickman
Director: Peter Yates

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Shameless Pile Keeps on Growing: Shinobi

Today's quick find deserves its own post. When I visited a charity shop I found some regular DVD:s and then this box of awesomeness:
The box had only words Shinobi Heart Under Blade written in Latin alphabets. After checking what was inside I decided to take a risk although there was no mention about English subtitles. After all the price was only 3.50€ and Shinobi means ninja so it was an instabuy.

The movie was "Shinobi: Heart Under Blade" (2005) and it got quite good reviews. It seems that the movie is more in the vein of Hong Kong wuxia dramas, and less Sho Kosugi or Michael Dudikoff. Somewhere it was described as Romeo & Juliet with ninjas.

There are four DVDs:
1. The movie and trailers for other films (the movie has English subtitles. However the menus are in Japanese so navigating the menus takes a bit of trial and error.)
2. Iga Clan Bonus Disc containing making of featurette, premiere featurette (without subtitles), cast interviews and deleted scene.
3. Kouga Clan Bonus Disc containing featurette about effects, another premiere featurette, storyboard comparison, featurette about ninja weapons, another featurette about special effects, location featurette, TV spots and trailers.
4. Heaven music video by Ayumi Hamasaki.
The DVD holder was also pretty:
There was a lot of stuff in the box, a book, flyers and a smaller box full of cool stuff:
The book had pictures of the characters, locations and background information (in Japanese of course):
The box contained cards with pictures of cool ninjas, pretty ninja-girls and some mysterious characters:
Then there was a ninja-pouch with some mysterious ninja-powder and rubber-shuriken with suction cups:
There was also Iga Ninja Clan lapel pin
T-shirt and Kouga Ninja lapel pin are missing but I can't really complain considering that the full Shinobi Limited Premium Edition costs over 100€ in teh internets. All in all a nice and surprising find.

After digging up some information about the film I found out that it is based on Futaro Yamada's novel "The Kouga Ninja Scrolls." It has nothing to do with Ninja Scroll anime or series but it is closely related to anime-series "Basilisk" as both of them are based on the same book. I have "Basilisk" on DVD also but I haven't watched it:

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Movie Review: Race with the Devil

Race with the Devil
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Saber-Maslansky Productions, USA, 1975.
Race With the Devil title
Motorcycle salesman Frank (Warren Oates) goes to campervan/biking vacation with motorist Roger (Peter Fonda) and their wives Alice (Loretta Swit) and Kelly (Lara Parker). Apparently they haven't seen "Texas Chainsaw massacre", they should know to avoid American back countries. There are always inbred cannibals, monsters and stuff! Soon the nice vacation takes a nasty turn when a group of Satan worshippers begins to sacrifice humans on the nearby hill.
Peter Fonda and Warren Oates
Roger and Frank
Lara Parker and Loretta Swit
Kelly and Alice
Satanic ritual
The Sheriff (R.G. Armstrong) seems amused. It must be those damn hippies again having a drunken orgy again! Meanwhile the ladies loan some reference books for deciphering the ominous message that was left in the campervan. The freakish local residents begin to get on their nerves. Then the cultists start playing psychological warfare on them. Finally they have to drive like crazy to save their lives.
R.G. Armstrong
The Sheriff
Ominous message
Race With the Devil!
This is an weird mixture of car chase action movie, horror thriller and motorhome invasion- movie. Kind of fusion of "Wicker Man" and "Mad Max." It offers some good thrills and scares. Of course the story is quite silly with whole towns supporting the evil cult. Possibly it felt more believable in the seventies after the Manson murders and Jonestown cult mass suicide three years later in 1978. Also the side plots are left hanging as this is clearly horror flick meant to be watched drive-in theatres. Still watched in the right mood it has good cast, good tension and solid nightmarish plot development.
Knock knock! Who's there? Crazy cultist!
As a trivia Tom Hanks is watching this movie in "The 'Burbs."

Rating: Good

Starring: Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Loretta Swit, Lara Parker, R.G. Armstrong, Clay Tanner, Carol Blodgett, Phil Hoover, Ricci Ware, Paul A. Partain, James N. Harrell, Karen Miller, Arkey Blue, Jack Starrett, Wes Bishop, Joyce King, Paul Maslansky, Dan Hewitt Owens, Tommy Splittgerber
Director: Jack Starrett

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Movie Review: Fast & Furious 7

Fast & Furious 7 a.k.a Furious 7 a.k.a Furious Seven a.k.a  Fast Seven 
Universal Pictures, MRC, China Film Co., Original Film, One Race Films, Dentsu, Fuji Television Network, Québec Production Services Tax Credit, Colorado Office of Film, Television & Media Abu Dhabi Film Commission, USA, Japan, 2015. 
Fast & Furious 7 title
The movie starts where the previous part ended. Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is still amnesiac and  Dominic (Vin Diesel) is trying to help her remember. Brian (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) are trying to adjust to peaceful family life. Hobbs (Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson) and Elena (Elsa Pataky) are busting criminals. Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris) are probably just enjoying their vacation.
Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel
Letty & Dominic
Peaceful life comes to an abrupt end when Han (Sung Kang) is murdered by rogue agent Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). This connects the plotline to the events in "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift." Deckard is brother of the villain in the previous film. He also destroys a hospital, injures Hobbs and blows up Dominic's house. Busy guy.
Jason Statham
Deckard Shaw
Dominic's family and friends are in danger. Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) offers to help Dominic and his friends if they save hacker named Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanue) and find the ultimate hacking tool God's Eye. She was captured by evil warlord Jakande (Djimon Hounsou). Also the God's Eye is hidden in a secure place so Dominic and his team travel around the world fighting bad guys and performing incredible stunts.
Kurt Russell
Mr. Nobody
Nathalie Emmanue
Djimon Hounsou
Although Paul Walker died before the film was completed, it was completed using digital technology and using Paul's brothers as stunt doubles. The film looks seamless as it is impossible to say which scenes have the real Paul Walker. What was missing from the previous part was the possibility to make the ending feel more emotional, after all Dominic's team suffered there some devastating losses.  "FF7" is not afraid to have an emotional ending making it a proper goodbye to Paul Walker.
Dominic's team is back
Fast & Furious badassery reaches a new level. Parachuting cars. Bus full of miniguns and a crazy stunt involving the same bus. The Rock stays most of the time in the background before saving the day in the end. Jason Statham steals the scenes he's in by performing an indestructible evil version of the tough guys he usually performs. Kurt Russell seems to have fun. Martial artist Tony Jaa (known for "Ong Bak"- trilogy) appears as minor antagonist Kiet. Also WWE star Ronda Rousey has a match against Michelle Rodriguez.

Director James Wan is known for his horror movies and for producing "Saw" sequels so for him this was an unusual production. Although I'm not the biggest fan of his style, his visual tricks seem to work here better than in his horror productions. He manages to direct damn entertaining testosterone-fueled Hollywood action that raises the par for the (inevitable) sequels.
Dude where is my flying car?
Tony Jaa
Dwayne Johnson with minigun
The Rock cosplays Heavy from "Team Fortress"
Singer Iggy Azalea has a cameo as a racer girl.
Iggy Azalea
Rating: Very good

Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Dwayne Johnson, Lucas Black, Kurt Russell, Nathalie Emmanuel, Elsa Pataky, Gal Gadot, John Brotherton, Luke Evans, Tony Jaa, Djimon Hounsou, Noel Gugliemi, Ali Fazal, Sung Kang, Ronda Rousey, Miller Kimsey, Charlie Kimsey, Eden Estrella, Gentry White, Iggy Azalea, Jon Lee Brody, Levy Tran, Anna Colwell, Viktor Hernandez, Steve Coulter, Robert Pralgo, Antwan Mills, J.J. Phillips, Jorge Ferragut, Sara Sohn, Benjamin Blankenship, D.J. Hapa, Faheem Najm, Brian Mahoney, Brittney Alger, Romeo Santos, Jocelin Donahue, Stephanie Langston, Jorge-Luis Pallo
Director: James Wan

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Movie Review: Fast & Furious 6

Fast & Furious 6 a.k.a Furious 6 a.k.a Fast Six 
Universal Pictures, Relativity Media, Original Film, One Race Productions, Dentsu, Fuji Television Network, Universal Studios, F & F VI Productions A.I.E., Etalon Film, USA, 2013.
Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) raise a family so Brian's and Dominic Toretto's (Vin Diesel) days as outlaw drivers seem to be over. Meanwhile Agents Hobbs (Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson) and Riley Hicks (Gina Carano) are tracking stolen superweapon parts. To catch crime boss Shaw (Luke Evans) Hobbs asks help from Dominic. Surpise! Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) who was presumed dead in "Fast & Furious" is alive but has lost his memory and she works for Shaw. Dominic gathers his old crew (Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Sung Kang and Gal Gadot) and Hobbs offers them pardon from their past crimes if they catch Shaw.
Dominic and Elena (Elsa Pataky)
Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster
Brian and Mia have a family now
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson and Gina Carano
Hobbs & Riley
Meanwhile Shaw escapes cops with a car that works similarly as Slicer in H.B. Halicki's unfinished "Gone in 60 Seconds II." Now that was an unexpected and nice salute to Halicki!
Flip Car is basically a bareboned version of Slicer
Clara Paget
Bad girl Vegh (Clara Paget) shows how to drive it
Toretti and his friends must do some detective work to stay on the heels of Shaw. Also Toretti must find a way to make Letty remember who she really is. But Shaw can not be stopped without sacrifices...
Sung Kang, Ludacris and Gal Gadot
Han, Tej and Gisele
Michelle Rodriguez and Luke Evans
Letty and Shaw
Fast and Furious gang battles their evil twins (this is actually lampshaded in the movie). Toretto's gang leans toward family values while Shaw considers his crew members replaceable. All of Dominic's crew members have grown to have an integral part in the team. Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris) and Han (Sung Kang) are a bit more comedic characters while Brian, Gisele (Gal Gadot who went on to perform Wonder Woman in Marvel movies) and Riley do some agent action and the drama and heavy action come from Dominic and Hobbs. Also Brazilian cop Elena (Elsa Pataky) from "Fast Five" has a role in the story. However the team dynamics for the future sequels is at risk as many of the characters are killed and also because of actor Paul Walker's death. However it feels that the ending lacks the emotional punch it should have.
Wild tank on the loose
Superman Vin Diesel
The FF franchise seems to be getting better with each sequel. The series has always been uneven but at least in has avoided sinking into the direct-to-video hell. There is now less street racing and more Bond-style action and absurdly over the top stunts. Yeah, tank causes havoc in the highway, Vin Diesel can fly and in the end hulking dudes punch the stuffing out of each other. As a cartoon style action blockbuster it is entertaining flick and there is little to complain about (forget about the longest runway in the world!)
Dwayne Johnson and Kim Kold
Hobbs has a wrestling match with Klaus (Kim Kold)
Singer Rita Ora has a cameo role as a grid girl.
Rita Ora
Rating: Good

Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Ludacris, Luke Evans, Elsa Pataky, Gina Carano, Clara Paget, Kim Kold, Joe Taslim, Samuel M. Stewart, Benjamin Davies, Matthew Stirling, David Ajala, Thure Lindhardt, Shea Whigham, Andrei Zayats, John Ortiz, Jason Thorpe, Huggy Leaver, Alexander Vegh, Stephen Marcus, Magda Rodriguez, Andy Pointon, Victor Gardener, Sol de la Barreda, Françoise Philippart de Foy, Elvira Tricás, Carolina Pozo, Estrella Lorenzo, Jhony Meñdez, Revil Beat, Sarah Yan Li, Lizandro León, Sonia Hernández Fumero, Pilar Mayo 
Director: Justin Lin

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