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Review Score (1995): Reservoir Dogs a la John Woo!

genre: action, crime, heroic bloodshed

Writer / director Atsushi Muroga clearly is a huge fan of action cinema. And unlike most of us, he actually embraced this passion to make his own films. I know that there is a tendency to put filmmakers like him on equal footing as Tommy Wiseau (The Room) or Amir Shervan (Samurai Cop) but that would not be fair one bit. Technically, Score is light years above to The Room and Samurai Cop. Apart from a few flaws, Score demonstrates that he is very competent. But it is very likely, you never heard of this man. And that is a big shame if you ask me!

So what is Score? It's a blend of Reservoir Dogs, City on Fire, Hard Target and Natural Born Killers. That latter part in the form of a Japanese couple who are incredibly annoying to everyone in the film and us, the audience. It's clear to me, they serve as filler and easily could have been removed without this having a lot of impact on the film. If you are familiar with the films I mentioned, then you will recognize quite a lot. Action wise, I was completely on board. Plot wise, it's purse nonsense and illogical. The little plot elements that are present just serve to put events in motion. Normally I am fine with that. In this case, though, I would have preferred more nonsense and more action. Too many times, the film stands still at the cost of the action. Now, I am very aware that this is because of the ultra low budget for this film. Most of the film seems to be shot on one location, and I guess they tried to make it look like it wasn't.

The action in Score is stellar. Atushi clearly knows how to choreograph and shoot action. Some sequences actually resembled some of John Woo's finest works. The only problem I had is that, like many who try to copy John Woo, for some reason haven't figured out yet to make the action last. Too many interruptions in between. Woo himself also intertwines action with non action, however he does it for dramatic purposes. The non action scenes usually intensify the action. Plus, he makes sure all the scenes flow well, like it's one huge ballet performance. You can hardly fault Atushi for not being able to accomplish this, since John Woo is a GOD after all. Who can compete with that? But seriously, it's astonishing and quite amazing how John Woo still hasn't been topped yet!

I do have to mention that for a low budget film, the actors are quite good. They all give it their best and do act like they are in a huge blockbuster film. Except, for the knock off Natural Born Killers. They outed themselves as wannabe's. While I enjoyed the action, it's not a film I can recommend to everyone. For that, it's just too lacking. But for a fan of heroic bloodshed, this one is hard to pass up, no matter how flawed. 

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Review Drag Me to Hell (2009): A Sam Raimi classic!

genre: horror, comedy

Drag Me to Hell is a film I have watched a couple of times now. With long periods between viewing sessions. The first time I watched this was in the cinema. The last time, on my 100-inch screen with a 4K projector. One would think my viewing experience would be less enjoyable. But I was real surprised to see how much this film got to me again. 

I was watching some interviews of Bruce Campbell where he was discussing Evil Dead 1 and 2. And how they were unrelenting. Despite the comedy elements, the films still managed to creep you out. Drag Me to Hell is no different. Once the horror starts, it never stops. The film is filled with genuine scary scenes intertwined with many gross out moments. There is not that much of a story, but Raimi demonstrates he understands horror. In each scene, he builds up tension and dread to such an extent you are looking forward to some comic relief. I read some comments and reviews of people who said this is Sam Raimi's worst. I am sorry, those people have no clue what they are talking about. They definitely aren't horror fans. Almost no blood is spilled, and most of the terror is acted out by an unseen presence. Yet, the film manages to make you jump at the right moments. Actually, this is a showcase of how to do jump scares properly. There aren't that many, even with all the violence and action displayed. But when they do, they matter, they linger. 

Alison Lohman is excellent as the haunted lead. I am so happy that Ellen Page wasn't cast in the role because she would not have been able to inject the subtle and graceful performance that was needed. Lorna Raver as Mrs. Ganush earns a spot in the hall of fame of most evil villains portrayed in film. Because she definitely is a force to be reckoned with. Although I was wondering, if this woman was so powerful, how come she wasn't able to earn or collect enough money to pay her mortgage. She also seemed to have a lot of friends and family members. Couldn't they have helped her? I mean I know she stated she was a proud woman. But she wasn't beyond begging. So why not ask her loved ones? And I do think that her rage was very unwarranted. Christine Brown wasn't the one to be blamed!

Overall, the film does a real good job of scaring the hell out of you, even after multiple viewings. Now, if that isn't a classic, I don't know what is. BTW, this doesn't mean it's a perfect film. Far from it. If you are going to look for it, you will find many flaws. Especially, story wise. It's a simple revenge story about someone getting cursed and doing their best to get rid of it. The uncompromising nature of this curse also is a very important element that sells the horror. Christine Brown does feel guilty. But like I said before, she is not to be blamed. Because of that, Drag Me to Hell is incredibly effective.

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Review Evil Dead II (1987): Crazier than the original, I love it!

genre: comedy, horror

In general, this sequel is regarded to be better and bigger than the original. For me personally, it's on the same level but somewhat different experience. 

The Evil Dead might have contained some humour, it never detracted from the horror. Actually, it was there to relief the tension. Evil Dead II ups the comedy and sacrifices some of the horror in favour of comedy. However, I do need to emphasize this, the horror elements are still huge in this. But for whatever reason, this sequel at the same time also is a remake. You can easily watch this without having seen the original, and it wouldn't matter. But if, like me, you have seen it, you will be a little confused. Since you do have to be aware of the gruesome adventure, Ash has been drawn in, still you need to overlook or disregard the original events somewhat. They play out a little differently. The big reason for this is the fact that Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell didn't own the rights to their own film, so they had to reshoot everything. However, Bruce reassures us that Evil Dead definitely is a sequel, or requel that makes perfect sense.

Watch the video where Bruce explains it:

With that out of the way, let us focus on the new adventure Ash finds himself in. The deadites are still on his case but where in the original he was still learning, Ash has become the hero we come to love. He kicks ass 24/7 and does what needs to be done. Even when he has to face his own hand, which is possessed. One of the most memorable and hilarious scenes in film history. He gets some help from others for a bit. But let's be real here. You know they aren't going to be that helpful. 

But for the most part, Evil Dead II is one horrifying event after another. It never lets up. Even in the slower moments, there is still tension or dread present where anything can happen. And if you know Sam Raimi, anything does happen. Very important to note is that it's never boring. After all this time, it still holds up. There is a very good reason why Ash versus Evil Dead exists. Overall, Evil Dead II is a must watch for sure.

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Review Shotgun Wedding (2022): Die Hard screwball comedy!

genre: die hard clone, action, comedy, romance


A poor attempt of blending screwball comedy with Die Hard action. It could have worked. Sadly, everyone involved are on automatic pilot. 

Shotgun Wedding starts out real awful, gradually it gets better but nonetheless fails to accomplish what it set out to do, which is to entertain. The story, the characters, the setting, you name it, almost everything is a cliché. But that is not my biggest beef with this film. The fact that none of the jokes or romance elements work is a big problem. Sure, I laughed one or two times. But when you have people like Cheech Marin and Jennifer Coolidge present, the comedy should have been better. But both of them are underused. Instead, they tried to give both Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Lopez centre stage. Duhamel is a decent actor. But he doesn't have the acting chops to improve a film with his performance. Jennifer Lopez can be fine, but so far she has only been adequate. She usually fares better in romcoms, but only when she is partnered up with a better actor like Matthew McConaughey or Ralph Fiennes. It's almost painful to witness her supposed comedic talents. They are non-existent. Duhamel and Lopez do look believable as a couple. Unfortunately, they have zero chemistry. Josh tried real hard to connect with Lopez. But because of her incompetence and perhaps arrogance, she can't even act be sweet and adorable for over twenty seconds. I read that Ryan Reynolds was the original actor to star before Arnie Hammer was called in. I can see how Reynolds would have made sense. But Hammer? I don't think that would have worked either.

Shotgun Wedding also makes the mistake to be jokey in the action scenes, when the contrast between tough as nails action and light-hearted comedy would have provider better fireworks. Why not have people killed instead of slightly wounded? It would point out that the goons mean business, and they aren't to be messed with. It would make seem their defeat by the inexperienced couple so much more humiliating. Or why not have the Filipino couple do all the badass stuff trying to escape the island but failing to because for example the husband didn't do the tasks his wife asked him to do. Or replace this couple with Cheech and Braga and have them take out bad guys left and right while they discuss their failed marriage. It would provide the laughs this film desperately needs. 

Overall, fails to make you laugh or feel good. So do skip it!

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Review Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022): You will find enjoyment if you look for it

genre: action, adventure, super hero, science fiction, fantasy

The first time I watched Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness I was a little underwhelmed. I don't know. Maybe my expectations were high because of the awesome original and Sam Raimi getting involved. If you are familiar with his work, you know things can get crazy. My second viewing was far more enjoyable. 

I do think that compared to the original, there is less madness. To be fair, that film was ultra bizarre already. It would be hard to top that. But Sam Raimi definitely is one of the few directors on this planet who can pull that off. It's clear to me that Disney held him back. He wasn't allowed to let loose. Such a shame, but understandable. Raimi himself said he had full control, but also said that there were some plot lines that had to be included. That in itself completely contradicts the full control argument. Furthermore, the little craziness that's in Multiverse of Madness already wasn't really suited for children. And I know, we should get beyond that, but like it or not, Disney is always going to push for their films to be PG. It could very well be that Sam Raimi realized this and decided to play along. Still, there are many scenes in Multiverse of Madness that easily could have gone full horror and would have made things brilliant. We can only hope for the longer cut to be released to us. Make that happen, Disney, please!

I didn't like that Stephen Strange was sort of a secondary character in his own film. I got that Wanda was important to the story and that we are dealing with the bigger picture. Still, there is a lot we don't know about Stephen and they easily could have explored events we don't know about. For example, the blip and what consequences it had on him. As much as I like Wong, him being sorcerer supreme by default because of Strange disappearing downplays the title and what it entails. Had Wong earned the title by overpowering Strange, then perhaps I could accept it. Stephen didn't seem bothered by being dethroned. At least on the surface. Still, he had earned his title, it must hurt a little to lose it because of a technicality. At one point, they discuss other versions of Strange. Instead of talking about him, why not show us? Or why not give us more insight into the darker Stephen Strange? Is he truly that dangerous? I think the film could have greatly benefitted from this. It would have definitely made events more compelling. 

So what exactly did I enjoy more than the first time? I felt a stronger connection to the story. Some events had a larger emotional impact on me. That being said, the story is a little weak. It felt like an episode of Wandavision. You just know that things will be resolved in a way with very little consequence in the grander scheme of things. You will find enjoyment if you look for it, but it could have easily been so much better and rewarding.

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Filmography Sam Raimi

Listed here are the titles Sam Raimi was involved in as a director, writer. producer and executive producer.

1977 It's Murder!
1985 Crimewave
1989 Easy Wheels
1989 The Dead Next Door
1990 Darkman
1991 Lunatics: A Love Story
1992 The Nutt House
1992 Army of Darkness
1994 The Hudsucker Proxy
1995 The Quick and the Dead
1995 Darkman II: The Return of Durant
1996 Darkman III: Die Darkman Die
1998 A Simple Plan
1998 Hercules and Xena – The Animated Movie: The Battle for Mount Olympus
1998: Young Hercules
1999 For Love of the Game
2000 The Gift
2002 Xena: Warrior Princess – A Friend in Need
2004 The Grudge
2005 Man with the Screaming Brain
2005 Boogeyman
2006 The Grudge 2
2007 Spider-Man 3
2007 The Messengers
2007 30 Days of Night
2014 Murder of a Cat
2020 The Grudge
2021 The Unholy
2021 Don't Breathe 2
2021 Nightbooks
2022 Umma
2023 65
2023 Boy Kills World
2023 Evil Dead Rise

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Review Deadly Friend (1986): Light Wes Craven film that still surprises!

genre: horror, science fiction

Apparently, Wes Craven never intended Deadly Friend to be a horror film. He actually wanted to focus on the bizarre love story between Paul (Matthew Labyorteaux) and Samantha (Kristy Swanson). And wanted to explore how the surrounding adults were the true monsters inside. Craven got to test his original vision and the audience wasn't having it, to which the studios intervened and added the blood and gore the audience demanded. Craven and Bruce Joel Rubin were outraged by the end results and therefore disowned the film.

I am very curious about this original vision, since it does seem like it would jell more with audiences today. But as a horror fan, I can't deny that I loved the blood and gore scenes in the film. It certainly livened up events for me. Now, there is a slight chance Craven and Rubin overreacted a little. Some of their vision is still very much intact. Samantha's father truly is a horrific person and easily is the most evil character in the film. Then there is Elvira. At first, one might think she is just a nice little old lady who is lonely and misunderstood.  But then, you get exposed to her actions, and you will be thinking differently. Samantha's violent outbursts are mostly out of love and self-defence. If I remember correctly, the revived Samantha is made of parts of BB, the friendly but dangerous robot we get introduced to in the beginning. Paul isn't really aware of BB's tendencies towards revenge and violence. Or he is and is in denial about it. Somehow, those tendencies got transferred to Samantha. Even then, both Samantha and BB are pure and innocent. They are childlike beings who still have to learn the ways of the world. I think most viewers would agree with me. Of course, it would have been nice had the relationship between Paul and Samantha been explored further. 

The first time I watched this, I was quite young and was quite impressed with the horror aspects of the film. Even today, the violence is effective. But yes, I do see how it doesn't mix well with the overall, child-friendly tone of the film otherwise. Especially with Matthew playing his role very similar to the one he played in a show called, Whiz Kids. But at the same time, the contrast is what makes the film compelling. So Craven might not have been proud of it. I do consider this one of his better works. 

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Film Marathon: Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022), The Menu (2022) and The Pale Blue Eye (2022)

genre: animation, action, adventure, comedy

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022)

Puss in Boots is a favourite character of mine. Largely because of Antonio Bandera. It's like he revived Zorro again and actually gives life to this immensely colourful character. Naturally, I was very happy to revisit his world and the adventures he is experiencing.

But honestly, I was very surprised about the title, since I don't recall any press or news concerning this film. It felt like it came out of nowhere. Perhaps this was never intended as a big release. Although it does look like one. On top of that, the animated film has adopted a new style, like it's one big painting and everything displayed is like a brush stroke. Very artistic and effective. Story wise, though, it's very predictable. If you weren't convinced of the cuteness factor in previous films where Puss in Boots has appeared, you certainly will now as a new character, Perrito, is introduced who might even be cutter than Puss. Kitty Softpaws also returns but to be honest, even when I usually adore Salma Hayek, it becomes clear that her acting abilities aren't that good. She can be good, but only in certain roles. Here, it's just very obvious she lacks the abilities to do more with her dialogue. Antonio, for example, knows exactly when to exaggerate certain expressions and when to tone down. He plays around with the words because he understands he needs to be theatrical. For some reason, Salma can't pull this off. I don't quite understand why the director hasn't made this clear to her. Unless they have tried and tried and given up on her.

Overall, the film starts out fun and ends in a fun way. You do have to contend with a weak and slow middle, but compared to the other films I am discussing, this could be considered a masterpiece.

Also check:
Review Puss in Boots (2011)

The Menu (2022)

A lot of hype and praise for this film, and usually I can see where that is coming from. In this case, though, it's a bunch of baloney. Pun intended!

This film marketed as black comedy and horror barely scratches the surface. Sure, if you dig deep enough there are elements present who would fall into those categories, but the outcome is a weird and bizarre film where a lot is asked for from you.  Only it never rewards you for it. I got that this film is about obsession by making fun of elitism in the restaurant business, but you easily can take it broader. However, it never really gives you the meat (yes, another pun) to sink your teeth into it. Most of the characters are flat and are pretty unlikeable from the start. You are supposed to root for the lead, Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) but there is very little there to make you care for her. 

I guess this would appeal to the people who very desperately want to be included. Understandable, of course, it's a very basic desire. But it's one that makes you overlook what really matters. Often when you are within reach of the unattainable, it will come at a prize. It will never be worth it, since there will always be something else you want after. Ambition is only good when it enriches you with knowledge and wisdom. 

Overall, had the viewing experience be rewarding then maybe I would have it enjoyed it more, but for the most part it's boring. You really have to give me something to chew on (final pun)!

The Pale Blue Eye (2022)

The Pale Blue Eye should have saved the night. Unfortunately, it failed to meet my expectations. And to be honest, at this point, they were very low.

This murder mystery featuring Edgar Allen Poe should have been full of tension and dread. Instead, it focuses on atmosphere and good performances. Poe, played by Harry Melling (most famous for his role Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter films) is a revelation. If it weren't for him and Christian Bale, I would have been bored out of my mind. What is a murder mystery without the mystery? I mean, it's like the film skips the part that matters the most in favour of the hunt, without actually giving you the hunt. And yes, often the hunt or investigation is what could be the most compelling. Here, you don't really care. 

The twist does come out of nowhere, but is one I felt very little connection to. Because, like with The Menu, there is very little depth to the characters. 

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