Par kluseba le 25 Septembre 2020 à 17:32
Takashi Miike's greatest movies
Par kluseba le 22 Septembre 2020 à 23:22
Ladies and gentlemen!
Over the past few weeks, I have watched five quite outstanding Japanese movies released between 1955 and 1975. They have all been released by Arrow Films with plenty of excellent bonus material. In a time when traveling has become difficult due to the coronavirus pandemic, the cinematic world helps us discovering new cultures, landscapes and languages. I have always been interested in Japanese cinema since my early childhood but copies have always been hard to find in the Western world. I'm grateful that this has gradually been changing in a globalized environment and it's particularly interesting to discover some cinematic masterpieces of the past that have never been shown or released in Canada. These movies might be old but they are certainly everything but boring. Please read my reviews about the different sword fight, gangster and arthouse movies below.
Par kluseba le 15 Septembre 2020 à 03:17
Ladies and gentlemen!
One of my best friends and I have a tradition that started nine years ago with the movies Dead Meat, Steel Trap and Black Sheep. From time to time, we rent or purchase movies that seem to have terrible plots and have been unfavourably received by critics and fans alike. We watch those movies to make fun of them but the ironic thing is that many of the expected disasters often turn out being decent and sometimes even excellent. The five movies we have chosen this time around were also rather positive surprises with one average flick, three good to very good films and even one movie that we would call excellent in its genre. Without further ado, here are my reviews of the five movies we have recently been watching. Enjoy and continue to give movies, series and cinema a chance!
Rites of Passage / Creepers (2012) - Don't do drugs - 9/10
Rites of Passage, also known as Creepers in Canada, is a highly entertaining thriller that is best enjoyed with a couple of friends and some drinks. The movie follows a group of students who are mainly interested in sex, partying and drugs. One of the outsiders in the group decides to organize a spiritual ceremony for one of their classes. Things get a sinister turn when some of the students and the unethical teacher get drugged during the ceremony. In addition to this, the hallucinating brother of one of the students plans on abducting one of the ladies to force her into marriage. As if that weren't enough, a crystal meth cook living nearby plans on murdering that very same lady because she accidentally killed his wife and child in an car crash. Soon enough, what started as an experimental class turns into a fight for survival.
Many people have criticized this movie for its shallow plot, superficial characters and weak special effects. All these things might be true but the movie is incredibly dynamic, entertaining throughout and memorably grisly. After an introduction to the different quirky characters in the first thirty minutes of the film, the final seventy-five minutes become intense, creepy and breathtaking. The film kept me on the edge of my seat and surprised me until the very end. The movie is very violent but doesn't only focus on simple slasher elements but also on accidental deaths and suicide attempts. The different characters and their back and side stories are also developed fluidly throughout the film. Once the intense ride was over, I immediately felt like watching this movie again.
In the end, Rites of Passage might not be a profound movie with a surprising plot or charismatic characters but it's an unpretentious, entertaining and dynamic thriller with extremely fast pace. The movie doesn't deserve its negative ratings because it excels in its slasher b-movie genre. The breathtaking, compact and intense Rites of Passage is certainly a better thriller or horror movie than overlong, plodding and pretentious flicks like Midsommar that are heavily overrated. Rites of Passage isn't for you if you only watch dramas nominated for the Academy Awards. This film is for you if you are willing to switch your brain off and have some fun.
Feardotcom (2002) - Stylish, grisly and entertaining b-movie - 7/10
Feardotcom might not be a masterpiece by any means with its weird supernatural plot, at times cheap special effects and wooden actors and actresses but it certainly doesn't deserve the loath and ridicule it has received upon release. The story revolves around a dynamic police officer and a clever researcher who investigate a series of strange deaths that have occurred after the victims visited a website depicting voyeuristic torture murder. It turns out that the website is haunted by one of its victims who is seeking for vengeance. The police officer and the researcher attempt to find out more about the victim's case to stop the haunting and arrest the serial killer behind the website to put an end to the violence.
The movie's main flaw is that its generous budget of forty million dollars hasn't been used very efficiently. The special effects are average at best, the actors and actresses are at times misplaced and the director failed to make a dynamic, fluid and emotional movie out of the script. It isn't hard to understand why this film became a box office bomb.
However, the movie isn't without its merits. The atmosphere is gloomy from start to finish. The dirty locations blend in perfectly. The lighting techniques and sound effects are employed with care. The idea to show the dark side of the internet back in the early years of the millennium wasn't completely new as it had been portrayed in Pulse, Ringu and Videodrome before but said intention was nevertheless already ahead of its time.
In the end, you will enjoy Feardotcom if you are looking for a very atmospheric supernatural thriller with some grisly violence. The movie is stylish, gruesome and entertaining. If you are however looking for high-quality special effects, a clever plot and gifted acting performances, then this movie and genre simply aren't your cup of tea.
Sugar Mountain (2016) - Twisted drama and thriller set in Alaska's winterish wilderness - 7/10
Sugar Mountain is a complex drama set in and around Alaska's winterish wilderness. It tells the story of two extremely indepted brothers who decide that one of them has to disappear on Sugar Mountain to miraculously come back ten days later in order to sell the fake survival story to a newspaper. The shallow plan however quickly spirals out of control. The brother on the mountain gets injured and fails to come home. The other one gets suspected of foul play and faces an obsessive police officer and a violent creditor. The girlfriend of the brother on the mountain starts to have feelings for the brother who has stayed in town. These numerous problems lead to an intense finale with numerous twists and turns.
This drama and thriller is very underrated and convinces on multiple levels. First of all, the landscapes are absolutely breathtaking. Secondly, the plot is clever, surprising and twisted from start to finish. The evolution of the different characters is also quite intriguing.
On the negative side, the story has a slow start and the opening thirty minutes are slightly plodding. The lead actors and actresses are solid but the superficial police officer portrayed by Cary Elwes and the violent creditor played by Jason Momoa are underwhelming. It's surprising that the latter two actors are probably the most famous ones involved in this film. It just shows that popularity doesn't always mean talent.
If you are looking for a balanced mixture of drama and thriller with some superb landscapes, then you should certainly give the underrated Sugar Mountain a fair try. The DVD comes along with an additional very good short movie entitled Cold War that tells the story of a Soviet soldier who is trying to escape to Alaska but meets a grisly fate. Ignore the negative ratings and give this creative and emotional movie a chance.
House on Willow Street (2016) - For genre fans and Halloween parties - 6/10
From a House on Willow Street is a supernatural horror movie that oozes with atmosphere but comes around with a very exchangeable plot that has been used over and over again in similar ways in the horror movie genre. The film revolves around four young friends who decide to kidnap the heiress of a diamond distributor to demand a hefty ransom. The quartet takes six weeks to plan everything and manages to kidnap the young woman without any problems. However, things start to get a sinister turn when the criminals realize that their victim is in terrible shape and looks as if she had been rescued from her family mansion rather than kidnapped. After a while, strange incidents start to occur in the abandoned factory where the group is hiding as static hinders communications, electricty malfunctions and the kidnappers start to see dead people who were once dear to them. Things definitely spiral out of control when the kidnappers are unable to reach the daughter's parents and realize that neither media nor cops seem to be informed about the case. The four friends must find out the grisly secret that the kidnapped daughter is hiding in order to survive a night when the hunters have become the hunted.
This movie convinces on several levels. It has a gloomy, grisly and mysterious atmosphere from start to finish. The locations such as a sinister mansion and an abandoned factory have been perfectly chosen. There are a few scary scenes that work quite efficiently thanks to decent light techniques and a moody soundtrack.
On the negative side, the plot is predictable from start to finish which takes away much of the potential tension. The acting performances are only average at best. It doesn't help that the different characters are lacking depth and development.
Despite its flaws, From a House on Willow Street should appeal to fans of atmospheric horror movies. It's not a particularly creative film but still entertaining from start to finish. Since it's providing a few scary scenes without being overtly complicated, this movie might be a good choice for a Halloween party with some friends.
Deliver Us from Evil (2014) - Atmospheric horror movie with investigative elements and family drama components - 8/10
Deliver Us from Evil is a conventional supernatural horror film that still manages to convince with very good acting performances, moody atmosphere and sinister locations. The plot revolves around former soldiers and their entourage who are behaving erratically after coming home from Iraq. A dedicated special investigator who neglects his family and an unconventional priest with a sinister past join their forces to fight the evil that the soldiers have brought home from abroad.
This movie oozes with atmosphere from start to finish. The diversified locations have been chosen with care. The light techniques blend in very well. The two lead characters might not be particularly sympathetic but they are certainly intriguing and have depth as well as development. The opening thirty minutes show the gloomy downsides of the difficult job of a special investigator and almost remind of a documentary. The different plot lines are brought together during the movie's gradually intensifying rising action that can be seen as the film's highlight. The climax happening at the special investigator's own home quickly develops into an intense falling action as the priest and the special investigator have to make enormous sacrifices to fight an unpredictable enemy with supernatural powers. Only the film's conclusion is shallow and predictable like many similar horror movies. The fact that the movie keeps on insisting that it's based upon facts is also ridiculous regarding the supernatural horror topic.
In the end, Deliver Us from Evil might not be particularly creative or credible but it's an atmospheric supernatural horror movie with intense scenes, interesting plot lines and profound characters. Genre fans should definitely know this film and even those who usually dislike horror movies might like this one due to its investigative elements and family drama components. Deliver Us from Evil is unjustifiably underrated and one of the better atmospheric horror movies in recent memory.
Par kluseba le 8 Septembre 2020 à 22:08
Ladies and gentlemen,
I have been fascinated by the fateful Franklin Expedition that attempted to find the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic in the mid-nineteenth century for more than a decade now. I have visited numerous exhibitions in different museums, have read several books about it and also discovered Dan Simmons' fascinating historical fiction novel ''The Terror'' and the excellent television series inspired by it. Here are some interesting videos by Parks Canada that show the recently discovered wrecks and some of their secrets. Enjoy!
Discovering the wreck of HMS Erebus:
Discovering the wreck of HMS Terror:
Par kluseba le 8 Septembre 2020 à 17:08
Ladies and gentlemen!
One of the most intriguing kawaii metal bands has suspended its activities this year. That's why I wanted to take the time to review the idol group's diversified career of six and a half years. Enjoy my reviews of Ladybaby's three highly entertaining compilations!
Quirky combination of electronic pop music and death metal from Japan - A review of Ladybaby's One Year Best 2015-2016
Artistic emancipation of two idol singers - A review of The Idol Formerly Known as Ladybaby's Beside U
After Ladybeard's sudden departure from Ladybaby, remaining singers Rie Kanako and Rei Kuromiya decided to continue as a duo. Instead of continuing under the Ladybaby banner, the idol group re-branded itself as The Idol Formerly Known as Ladybaby which is clearly inspired by a similar move by American pop singer Prince in the nineties. The duo had perhaps lost its most unique member and decided not to replace him by a similar artist. Instead, the band rather adapted a sound comparable to other Japanese rock and pop idol groups with only very few metal influences in form of occasional guest musicians or background singers. The image of the duo also changed quite a bit, moving away from quirky, lighthearted and creative elements to a more serious, profound and emotional tone. The two band members were portrayed as very close friends in the music videos of that era and there were even a few hints at a possible romantic relationship. This direction was certainly inspired by Russian duo t.A.T.u. that had received a lot of controversial attention in the beginning of the millennium.
The same can't be said about The Idol Formerly Known as Ladybaby. Even though the three singles released under that moniker performed surprisingly well on the Japanese charts, the duo had certainly lost its unique identity. The duo was never really able to find a new consistent artistic direction. Rei Kuromiya left the duo after a little bit more than a year. A few months later, the greatest hits compilation Beside U, featuring nine songs from three singles as well as one brand new track, was released and also managed to enter the Japanese charts. Sadly, no video album of that era has been released to date.
The compilation shows that the duo was trying to find a new niche as the different songs are stylistically diverse. ''Pelo'' for instance is a vibrant rock song with a dynamic rapper on guest vocals and a surprising vintage piano break in the middle section. ''Me! Me! Me!'' on the other side is an uplifting pop punk song with a childish but energetic chorus. ''Easter Bunny'' goes back to the group's origins as it mixes cute pop vocals with growls by an unknown backing singer while the music varies from metal over rock to pop influences with even a few slightly jazzy elements. ''Lady Baby Blue'' on the other side is an elegiac, emotional and inspiring alternative rock ballad that enables the two singers to show their skills in five haunting minutes. New song ''Shibuya Crossing'' however is much colder and could be described as trendy danceable electronic pop track with a few dynamic metalcore interjections.
Beside U might not have a clear guiding line but it's incredibly entertaining and offers multiple soundscapes varying from death metal over metalcore to alternative rock as well as electronic pop music and even even jazz and rap elements can be found. The only guideline are the two vocalists who are obviously much more in the spotlight than before when most people only focused on cross-dressing growler Ladybeard. This record can be seen as the artistic emancipation of Rei Kuromiya and Rie Kaneko and shows how talented they really are. In my opinion, this release represents the group's most interesting and most underrated era and it would have been interesting to see what this duo could have become if it had ended up finding its very own niche.
This compilation might therefore even be more interesting than the previous output because it includes ten diversified songs with a running time around forty-one minutes and features a generous booklet with forty-eight pages as well as a poster. The release also comes in book format and looks much better than the previous One Year Best 2015-2016.
In conclusion, if you like Japanese idol music meandering between metal, rock, electronic and pop music, you should certainly get this great compilation. If Ladybeard was the reason why you initially fell in love with the band, you should listen to some songs and watch some music videos first to verify whether the new material pleases you enough to purchase Beside U. In my humble opinion, both greatest hits records are highly entertaining but I slightly prefer Beside U because it has been crafted with much more attention, care and love.
Final rating: 85%
The idol group Ladybaby as well as The Idol Formerly Known as Ladybaby seemed to be dead and gone after Rei Kuromiya's exit in November 2017. She went on to focus on her work with BRATS that has released two solid full length albums to date. Rie Kaneko however was on her own and many experts expected her to start a solo career at that point. However, the management had other plans and cast three new singers around her to initiate Ladybaby's third and final phase. Rie Kaneko took on more responsibilities in the line-up as she was in charge of choreography and overall direction of the group. After directing a first music video during the idol group's second phase, she also directed two more music videos in the third phase. Fuka Karasawa joined the group as additional vocalist. Nana Ikeda came in as another singer but also performed as rapper and crafted the group's costume design. Emily Arima completed the quartet as singer, lyricist and harsh vocalist. Especially the latter member became as outstanding as Ladybeard had been with her truly energetic vocals, grunts and growls and her unique style with pink hair. The band's debut single was already released in May 2018 and the quartet would go on to be quite active over the next twenty months. The group released two singles, nine music videos, two concert videos and appeared in radio and television shows. Despite its success, energy and activity, the idol group announced that it would suspend all activities in October 2019. The group released a final music video, played its final concert that would later on be released as concert video and released this compilation of the third phase in January 2020.
Reburn offers ten out of eleven songs recorded by the dynamic quartet. Sadly, the only song that was left out was the quartet's surprising collaboration with former member Ladybeard in the quirky, energetic and amusing ''Biri Biri Money'' that came along with a particularly memorable music video in which the cross-dressing wrestler trained the four group members to achieve their goals.
Despite that notable exclusion, Reburn is certainly a very good release featuring ten songs and offering more than forty minutes of diversified entertainment. First single ''Starless Sky'' is the first highlight as it mixes pop music, electronic music, industrial metal and death metal in a highly addictive manner as all four singers manage to stand out and shine. The chaotic ''Haten Ni Raimei'' features a sinister industrial rock song with unchained screams and energetic rap passages. ''Bite Me'' is nearly six minutes long and convinces with numerous surprising genre changes and unpredictable breaks, making it tough to digest at first contact but quite outstanding due to its experimental songwriting in the long run. Final single ''Misogi Island'' goes in the opposite direction with a length below the three-minute mark that still offers all four singers their time to shine while the instrumentation varies from death metal outbursts with sharp riffs and blast beats to epic pop elements with melodic guitar play and smooth keyboard layers. Despite its title, ''Riot Zone'' is the compilation's quietest song with melodic vocals, futuristic keyboard sounds and an overall epic atmosphere.
Reburn offers even more soundscapes to discover than the previous two compilations. It's a record that might sound somewhat overwhelming at first contact but that is worth to be rediscovered every now and then as it ends up growing with every spin. This release shows how diversified this idol group, how energetic its four unique members and how skilled the songwriters in the background have been. Ladybaby has officially stopped all activities and it's unlikely at this point that the idol group will ever return. The three compilations and especially this last strike however are excellent products of their time and will certainly endure. If you have never taken this group seriously, you still have the chance to change your mind and find out what you have missed out on.
Final rating: 90%
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