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Nisekoi: False Love Season 1 Part 1 (Blu-ray) 13/09/2015

Nisekoi - visually interesting but decidedly average... and slow

Nisekoi: False Love Season 1 Part 1 (Blu-ray) Once more, thrill us – or not. But at least try… start at the beginning, or somewhere… OK, so how about: Nisekoi translates it seems as “false love”, and was originally a manga. This Blu-ray is the first 10 episodes of the first series of the anime adaptation, directed by Akiyuki Shinbou. with animation produced by Shaft. It was these latter two things that made me take a punt on the first 10 episodes of the series, because I’m not sure that the premise was really something that would normally make me choose to watch it. Shaft had animated the Monogatari series which I made people suffer numerous reviews of, and the director was responsible for Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the series that originally I wouldn’t have touched with a ten foot bargepole, for exactly the same reason as Nisekoi except more so, ostensibly there was nothing in that story that would cause me to do anything but flee in terror. But Madoka so had a remarkably dark heart, which was what made it such a good series even if short. So I added this to my lovefilm list and the kind people promptly sent it to me and so with little else to do apart from perhaps having a snooze on the sofa I decided to start work on the series. I’m not sure whether or not to give the series 3 stars or four, I suspect I’ll work it out by the time I actually end this review. In some ways it was a frustrating series though I like the way that it revealed a lot of its information early, because this allowed it to avoid certain ...

Film Reboots - love them or loathe them? 09/09/2015

Remake, Remodel, Reconstruct, Recycle.... And Repeat

Film Reboots - love them or loathe them? Just what is a remake, reboot, whatever? Glad you asked. All the current versions of Superman, Batman, [insert whatever]man, are these reboots? Remakes? They have source materials, they are not original cinematic creations and so do they actually exist as remakes? Nope, reboots, I guess, as they are attempting to recreate something pre-existing. But how does that work? Is the next cinematic version of a Jane Austin novel going to be a reboot: yes, Sense and Sensibility rebooted… no, it’s just a new version of the same book. So it’s all just a red herring isn’t it For once alter-ego we agree. There’s nothing inherently wrong or new in remakes. The first sound version of The Hound of The Baskervilles was actually the seventh screen version (don’t even count plays). It’s not a reboot or a remake, whether or not it’s an attempted cash in… maybe that’s it, remakes are mainly a problem if: * they are cash-ins * symptomatic of a lack of creativity Well, not always only ever a problem. After all, even Hitchcock himself remade his perfectly serviceable The Man Who Knew Too Much with a terrible Hollywood version; Howard Hawks remade Rio Bravo (arguably one of the great westerns) about ten years later as El Dorado and he did so because he felt Rio Bravo had not been a creative success. To follow the Hawks theme, look at Assault on Precinct 13, which is John Carpenter’s 70s remake of Rio Bravo moved into a police station. Assault on Precinct 13 is a great gem of a film and a ...

Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water (Blu-ray) 06/09/2015

Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water-Thrilling Old Fashioned Adventure

Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water (Blu-ray) Sing with me (though don’t sing the “of”) “The Secret of Blue Water”. Damn, you have a terrible singing voice Yes, I know that I do thank you very much but that’s not the point of this review is it? That is true, I shall thusly try and avoid making you digress, as… …the important thing is this no doubt thrilling and exciting, even – ahem - potentially awe-inspiring review. It’s a review where it is difficult to know exactly where to start, though actually maybe it is best to start with: “It was the year 1889…” Because most of the episodes of this series begin with those exact words, as it gives us a quick overview of what has happened in the story to date, the words spoken by one assumes a rather elderly gentleman. But more to the point you might be asking yourself what on earth is Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, well needless to say I’m not going to tell you what the titular “secret” is, that would be a very silly thing for me to do, but it’s the 39 part anime TV series that began in 1990 and finished in 1991. It wasn’t something I’d ever heard of before and was introduced to by one of those random Amazon recommendations, if memory serves. I suppose two things appealed to me, the first of which was that it had overtones of The Mysterious Cities of Gold, which people of my age may well remember with affection as that rather long and though aimed at children strangely intelligent animated Japanese-French coproduction (it seems historically the British have more ...

Cast a Dark Shadow (DVD) 30/08/2015

Cast a Dark Shadow - Young Man Seeks Woman To Murder

Cast a Dark Shadow (DVD) A plot not necessarily to your tastes This is another one of those films that I’d never heard of but came across some random review and thought, “I may as well take a punt”. So I did, would you believe. Cast a Dark Shadow is a British film from 1955 and frankly if the review I read hadn’t casted in a positive light I would probably have avoided it like the plague; the broad overview of the story was one that didn’t really appeal but that’s because it’s the kind that doesn’t really appeal to me and tends to grate a bit upon my nerves. Thankfully the reality was rather different to what I was expecting. It’s true that the film carries many of the twists and turns that you would expect but often it also subverts them, and I rather like that. It’s also quite interesting film from a historical perspective because though we may now tend to think of Dirk Bogarde as being a more serious actor (or at least I do), throughout the 50s he tended to turn up in a lot of lightweight comedies and here he plays a character that is probably best described as psychotic. But anyway, we will get into the good stuff later, for now… Yes, for now let’s just do the usual cast and story - blah blah blah Dirk Bogarde as Edward "Teddy" Bare; not a good man for older women to marry Margaret Lockwood as Freda Jeffries; an ex-barmaid made good Kay Walsh as Charlotte Young; a newcomer looking to buy a house in the district Kathleen Harrison as Emmie; the Bares' servant; easily fooled Robert Flemyng ...

Sherlock Holmes And The Secret Weapon (DVD) 26/08/2015

Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon - Good Solid Sleuthing

Sherlock Holmes And The Secret Weapon (DVD) I have the image in my head of Holmes and Watson shrouded by fog from the introductory credits And what a nostalgic image that is! Which I suppose explains why you’re reading a further review of one of the Universal Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson films from the 1940s. This is the second film in the series hailing from 1943 and clocking in at short running time of 65 minutes. Of course it is a short film because this was a series of B-movies, to be shown before the main feature, made on low budgets and shot to a tight schedule. Because Universal decided to set these films in the modern day – so in World War II – like many of the other early films in the series it very much functions as a patriotic flag waver and these early films often were not quite as successful as some of the later ones where after audience reaction showing that they were less keen of Sherlock Holmes in a modern environment, the films would become rather more timeless and be set in locations that could often have come from Conan Doyle’s original stories. This film is credited as being based on the Conan Doyle story: The Adventure of the Dancing Men, though really it only picks up the device of a secret code using dancing men rather than letters of the alphabet. Whilst the original story included an older man whose younger American wife is disturbed by finding pictures of dancing men this film has none of this plot, so to say it’s based on it really is a little bit disingenuous but it had to reference ...

Greatful Dead (Blu-ray) 23/08/2015

Greatful Dead: or, Where I Review Another Bloody Black Comedy

Greatful Dead (Blu-ray) This is a rather oddly titled film, or I should say a rather oddly spelt film And even having watched the film I’m really not sure entirely why the title of this film is Greatful and not Grateful Dead, maybe they didn’t want search engines coming up with the band I really don’t know, though they do anyway, even Amazon assumes that you cannot spell, bypasses the film and shows you a slew of DVDs about and by the band. This film was released by Third Window Films, a distribution company – though now I believe they are also actually financing some small films – that tend to release Japanese and Korean films. They clearly have a passion for them, though to be honest some of their output is erratic. A lot of the original films they released were a bit so-so, at least the ones I watched and then they seem to have a golden age releasing films like Love Exposure, Confessions, Kamikaze Girls, Turtles are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers (a favourite and a wonderful low-key comedy) amongst others, as well as reissues of films by Shinya Tsakamoto, mainly on Blu-ray for the first time. But apart from that to be honest in the last few years they seem to have gone down the route of releasing a lot of comedies, most of them of the rather gentle variety, and it’s always seemed to me that a great many Japanese comedies either go down the route of being riotous or quite gentle; a film such as Turtles are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers is very much of the gentle variety, but it’s a very oddball ...

Terror By Night (DVD) 19/08/2015

Sherlock Holmes - (Moderate) Terror By Night

Terror By Night (DVD) Terror! But not just any old terror but Terror by Night! Not by day but by night! Excitement! Thrills! All set on a train. Interesting then that the producer and director Roy William Neill was originally meant to direct the film that Hitchcock would make eight years earlier, The Lady Vanishes. Terror by Night is the penultimate film in the series of Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes films produced by Universal in the 1940s. Hailing from 1946, this film barely lasts an hour, in fact it doesn’t even quite reach an hour but like any good train it rattles on at a pretty good pace. So yes once again we are in B-movie territory, yet thankfully despite the fact that this is the penultimate film the series hadn’t quite run out of steam yet, though the preceding film, Pursuit to Algiers is pretty terrible. Terror by Night is in no way a perfect film but as with all the other films in the series it’s a little bit like comfort food for me, the equivalent of eating fruit crumble on a cold winter’s day. I’m not going to tell you it’s a masterpiece, just a nicely formed piece of entertainment if you can get your head in the right place and accept some of the films obvious flaws, which we will see as we go along. Yet there’s also just as much to love. And I would love it if you got on with things, so please give us the usual synopsis and introduce the cast Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes Nigel Bruce as Dr. John H. Watson Alan Mowbray as Major Duncan-Bleek; ...

Retaliation (Blu-ray) 16/08/2015

Retaliation - A Competent Yazuza Potboiler But No Classic

Retaliation (Blu-ray) Sometimes confused and confusing and I don’t just mean your reviews The distributor of the film, Arrow, are currently putting out a lot of Jo Shishido movies, well at least three that I am aware of, and this film, Retaliation, is the final one that I am aware of. Like a previous release, Massacre Gun, that I watched and enjoyed immensely, to the point that I bought the Blu-ray, I’d never come across Retaliation before. It has the same director as Massacre Gun, Yasuharu Hasebe – who also directed some of the Stray Cat Rock films with Meiko Kaji– so I had some reasonably high hopes for Retaliation. Sadly some of my hopes were dashed and though this is not a bad film Retaliation has two main issues with it: *the plot can tend to be somewhat by the numbers and at times is a little bit confusing (OK, so are many other films of the period) *the star of the film is Akira Kobayashi and not Jo Shishido (this is a criminal waste) The latter point is one that is rather intriguing and rather telling that many years later – Retaliation was released in 1968 –this film is described in all the different sources that I found really as a Jo Shishido movie. Our contemporary perspective considers him the star, one of if not the main reason to watch the film but the lead in Retaliation is very much Akira Kobayashi, and if anything Jo Shishido is quite side-lined. I wonder if this is because the studio that put the film out, Nikkatsu, felt Jo Shishido wasn’t really able to carry a film. I noted ...

Repo Chick (DVD) 11/08/2015

Repo Chick - Ban Golf, Go Vegan, Wear Pink, Repossess 'Units'

Repo Chick (DVD) I feel a reminiscence coming on. Please no, no, no, no, just no… Just a small one, honest. When I think about some of the dubious origins of my cinematic tastes several things come to mind: watching old films on a Saturday and Sunday afternoon (whatever happened to those?), using an old teacher of mine as a cinematic lending library, and finally, even though I was probably too young, watching the Moviedrome on a Sunday night when I should have been sleeping and generally using matchsticks to keep my eyes open. Of course when I talk about the Moviedrome I don’t mean the abhorrence that was the revived version with Mark Cousins but the original, the Sunday night double bill as presented and curated by Alex Cox. If anything I’m more interested in Alex Cox as the presenter of the Moviedrome than Alex Cox as the film director, best known for Repo Man and Sid and Nancy. In the last decade or two he seems to have disappeared into the wilderness slightly or rather disappeared into the realms of making films for himself on small budgets and screw Hollywood. Repo Chick was made for under $200,000 and shot in only 10 days. You used to be able to fund Alex Cox’s films, taking a cut of the profits which may be explains why there are quite a few producers who were listed (pay enough and you got a producer credit). It’s worth saying now that I enjoyed Repo Chick a great deal but I think most people would probably hate it. I suspect most people would turn it off within about five ...

Han Gong-ju (Blu-ray) 09/08/2015

Han Gong-ju - Mangificent South Korean Drama With No Easy Answers

Han Gong-ju (Blu-ray) And so first, a suggestion: Come into this film as cold as possible. I’m not looking to tell you that this is a film full of twists and turns and reveals because it’s not, but it’s a film that I think benefits from not really knowing what it’s about, and to be honest I didn’t know anything about it either apart from the fact it was meant to be a good film and so that was enough for me. Admittedly if you know the premise I don’t think it’s going to cause you to be any less impressed by the film but at the very same time allowing it to unfold as it does is the best possible way to approach it. Han Gong-ju is an interesting film because so much of it is about mood, but ultimately it’s all about our eponymous character and society, how society views us and this is not necessarily a happy film. This doesn’t mean that it’s miserable and bleak but it’s not a film that gives you any easy answers, and it’s a bit of a shame that I will have to try my absolute hardest throughout to be spoiler free because as a comparison I want to make with a certain film which though reasonably mainstream Hollywood for the most part is actually very good but it ends on a pure cop-out, a cop-out that says all will be well in the end, that justice will be done, and this is not an easy way out that Han Gong-ju takes. Thus it retains its power. Anyway, you’ll have to accept reading this that I’m probably going to put some things in some very general and loose terms, some descriptions are going to be: ...

Sherlock Holmes - Faces Death (DVD) 07/08/2015

Sherlock Holmes Faces Death - More Superior Sleuthing

Sherlock Holmes - Faces Death (DVD) Oh God it’s not another Sherlock Holmes film review, whatever did the world do to suffer such a fate? Something very generous and virtuous indeed to have such good fortune? I really could not say, instead I will introduce this film, the rather melodramatically titled: Sherlock Holmes Faces Death. (Imagine some rather melodramatic musical crescendo here.) Sherlock Holmes Faces Death for me is again one of the better Sherlock Holmes films in the 1940s Universal series featuring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. As with all of the Universal films Sherlock Holmes Faces Death is set in the 1940s, though by the time this film was made in 1943 they were toning down many of the contemporary aspects, realising that the audience preferred Sherlock Holmes in his more Victorian guise. As we’ll see though this film does cover some aspects of World War II, it is never intrusive to the story. It’s noticeable how the films proceeding this one would become more and more timeless and their settings so that they could be set within the late Victorian era. In many ways the same is true of this film, if the World War II aspect had been absent. The film is based on one of Conan Doyle’s better stories, The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual. Though the screenwriter, Bertram Millhauser take some liberties with the plot in many ways it’s unusually faithful, because it takes in a great many of the originals plot devices, merely updating the story and adding in some additional elements. It does make ...

Birdman (Blu-ray) 04/08/2015

Birdman - The Quality Shines Through But For Me, Underwhelming

Birdman (Blu-ray) Fly me to the… well, moon would be wrong and so how about: fly me to the theatre? That makes a certain amount of sense because almost the whole film takes place in a theatre, a Broadway theatre no less. Also, the lead character does at times fly – or at least does so in his own imagination. I may as well be upfront in this review that though I have given it four stars and it’s hard to deny the fact that this is a very well made, very well acted, very well produced and staged and written drama, if after about 40 minutes if I had been interrupted and the pixies had then gone and stolen the Blu-ray disc part of me would not have been too worried. The film is just shy of two hours long, a running time I am generally a little bit suspicious of, and it’s true I think “Birdman, Or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance” (to give its full title), could well have done with shaving a few minutes off. I liked the film, it’s true, but I was never able to get excited about it. It won Oscars for best film, best director, best screenplay and best cinematography and though you can understand why it did, somehow it doesn’t ever feel quite worthy of them compared to other films out there (but will never be nominated for an Oscar) and that the film was developed to be Oscar worth in the sense of exciting-pretending-to-be-a leftfield-Indie film. The film really falls under that banner of magical realism, where you can accept things that are slightly out of the ordinary, where you have those ...

A Snake Of June (DVD) 02/08/2015

A Snake of June - Exploitation or Erotic Emancipation? You decide

A Snake Of June (DVD) Not an easy film to review In fact I’ve been thinking about reviewing A Snake of June for probably since I returned to the site, going by when I saved the film to my drafts as a reminder to write one but I knew I needed to do two things: 1, re-watch it; 2, try to work out how the hell to do so without it sounding so utterly filthy, unpleasant and wrong. Then I wrote my review of Immoral Tales and that suggested to me that maybe it is possible, even if that film was art porn tosh. To be honest most films by Shinya Tsukamoto pretty difficult to describe, though I had a bash before at two of my favourites, his Tetsuo movies and that was a struggle. As filmmaking goes he is pretty unusual, frequently rather original and almost impossible to pigeonhole – he’s also fiercely independent, only occasionally drifting into the mainstream and that was early in his career and clearly his experience caused him to pull back. As I saw written about him recently, to make films on small budgets to his unique perspective seems almost wired into his DNA though working in an industry that currently seems to be moving more and more away from producing unique films. Also difficult is the fact that A Snake of June handles subject matter that could be so very deeply unpleasant and misogynistic, if not just downright repellent but somehow it never is. What might help elucidate my problem is a very short story, I promise. A friend of mine tends to come round every few months and we lunch on ...

Sherlock Holmes-House Of Fear (DVD) 30/07/2015

Sherlock Holmes & The House Of Fear - More Quality Sluething

Sherlock Holmes-House Of Fear (DVD) Oh lucky people, more of your Sherlock Holmes-ing I’m glad you appreciate the good fortune of everyone to read yet another one of my reviews, unusual for you that, and yes I am choosing to ignore the sarcasm. It’s true though it’s time to review yet another of one of the better Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes films from Universal’s 1940s series. This melodramatically titled The House of Fear was made in 1945 and clocks in at about 65 minutes, so it’s a swift telling of the story but of course this was part of a B-movie series, a film to be shown before the main feature rather than any great big budget film. The series itself is a bit of a mixed bag, there are some pretty terrible films though even at their worst they tend to have something of a charm about them and can be enjoyed. I’ve always loved the Rathbone and Bruce Sherlock Holmes films and they are a little bit like comfort food, something to be consumed when you need some entertainment but entertainment that isn’t brainless or lacking in intelligence. Admittedly, as will see, The House of Fear has perhaps one of the more hackneyed plots when it comes to the film series and some inconsistencies with real life; the latter cannot be blamed on the fact that this is an American film because the director and producer, Roy William Neill, was English. Nevertheless this is a very entertaining addition to the series but allow me to go no further rather start getting into the hopefully more interesting ...

Sherlock Holmes And The Scarlet Claw (DVD) 28/07/2015

Sherlock Holmes and The Scarlet Claw - Atmospheric and Sinister

Sherlock Holmes And The Scarlet Claw (DVD) So just what exactly is Sherlock Holmes doing in Canada? Perhaps more to the point is: what is Sherlock Holmes doing in a Canada that feels like it could be Dartmoor, where we could be in The Hound of the Baskervilles? You don’t need to answer that but I probably will refer back to it at some point. Actually, I’ll refer back to right now because the Dartmoor reference is important. Now, the usual context, slightly repeated from my review of The Woman in Green: this is one of a number of Sherlock Holmes films made by Universal in the 1940s, this particular film The Scarlet Claw being made in 1944, starring Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Doctor Watson. In this series Universal decided that they would update Holmes and Watson, bringing them into the present day, something that the studio eventually tried to hide and made less and less obvious as the series progressed. As such it’s interesting that this small town – La Mort Rouge, indeed the red death – feels like it could be late Victorian and even its references to certain actors who appear as characters in the film feel like they could be referring to Henry Irving and Ellen Terry as opposed to the more contemporary Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. Maybe this is the reason why The Scarlet Claw is considered by many to be the best film of the series, an opinion that I share. The Scarlet Claw despite its small budget, short pre-production and shooting deadlines is for the most part a beautifully ...
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