Archives for November 2009 | Varied Celluloid

Archive for November, 2009

Peacock King Review

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 21 - 2009
After a nice wholesome update of French arthouse cinema, what better to follow that up with than some cheesy Hong Kong/Japanese fantasy trash? Well… probably a lot of stuff would be more suitable, but I just happened to finish this review instead so you’re all stuck. Anyway, beware of the Peacock King for this movie will eat away your sanity and spit it out in your face. Without hesitation.

The Plot: After our decadence here on earth has gotten the best of us, the gates to the underworld open up in Asia unleashing the Hell Virgin and the inevitable return of the Hell King on the ill prepared subjects of our realm. Leaving only two defenders who have the magic to do anything about it, Lucky Fruit and Peacock, two Buddhist monks who will do what it takes to stop these demons. Lucky Fruit is a very serious Japanese young man who has been sent by his master to put an end to this scourge on humanity, with similar orders Peacock (who is Chinese but doesn’t take things as serious) looks to do the exact same thing. When this odd couple get together they make the perfect combination to put an end to this! But will they be able to stop the Hell King, or will they let their own differences get in the way of forming the perfect combination to help put an end to all of this? You’ll have to watch to find out!



CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

Peacock King

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 21 - 2009
The Plot: After our decadence here on earth has gotten the best of us, the gates to the underworld open up in Asia unleashing the Hell Virgin and the inevitable return of the Hell King on the ill prepared subjects of our realm. Leaving only two defenders who have the magic to do anything about it, Lucky Fruit and Peacock, two Buddhist monks who will do what it takes to stop these demons. Lucky Fruit is a very serious Japanese young man who has been sent by his master to put an end to this scourge on humanity, with similar orders Peacock (who is Chinese but doesn’t take things as serious) looks to do the exact same thing. When this odd couple get together they make the perfect combination to put an end to this! But will they be able to stop the Hell King, or will they let their own differences get in the way of forming the perfect combination to help put an end to all of this? You’ll have to watch to find out!




The Review: Do you ever go out on a whim and buy a DVD or netflix something, then by the time you’re actually ready to sit down and watch it – you completely forget what it is supposed to be about or why you even grabbed it in the first place? Such was the case with Peacock King. When it arrived on my doorstep, the only thing I could even remember was that it had Yuen Biao in it. For those of you unfamiliar with the man he starred alongside Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung in a few different films together and is generally considered one of the most underrated martial art talents in film. He’s a highly flexible and entertaining performer who just never seemed to get those leading roles that should have propelled him into massive international fame. Being a Yuen Biao fan and all, I still wondered exactly why I had this coming in. Then I saw the director’s name and it all made sense. Ngai Kai Lam. Director of both Ricky Oh and The Seventh Curse. A pairing of these two together, good or bad, a film geek has to check it out no matter what, right? Well, I almost wish I wouldn’t have at this point. Not that it was such a bad film, but it just did so very little for me.

Peacock King, as it turns out, was a co-production between film agencies in Hong Kong and Japan. A similar situation as to Ngai Kai Lam’s future success with Ricky Oh. Based off of a Japanese manga, like Ricky, Peacock King however focuses not on extreme violence or anything of that sort. Instead it takes on the mythological, like in films such as Sonny Chiba’s Legend of the Eight Samurai. So, it has that sort of feel to it and I won’t lie to you right now, I’m not a big fan of Chiba’s film and so far I’m not a big fan of the genre. What probably bugs me most, and what is also very much to the forefront in Peacock King, is the fact that these magical powers that these characters have: we never really have any clue as to what their full extent is. If someone knows magic in these movies, they essentially can do everything until they are apposed by someone with more magic power than they do. When your characters have neverending power with few glaring weaknesses, it keeps the audience at a distance. Even with Superman we know that Kryptonite will leave him completely human. We also know he can fly, has x-ray vision and can move faster than a speeding bullet. What’s the beginning and end for Peacock’s powers? You got me. Dude has amazing agility, can summon stop motion creatures and can see spirits. I’d also bet he can do just about everything else in comic history as well, just as long as he bows his head and says a prayer first.

Although this review would probably be pretty easy to just sit here and tear apart over the course of one thousand words, I’ll try to do my best and be fair. I mean, Lucky Fruit and Peacock? These are our heroes names? I digress, even though Peacock King sure isn’t going to be making it onto my list of favorite Hong Kong films any time soon – it’s not like I was ever close to shutting this one off. Despite the excellent cast and the multinational appeal from the intense Japanese influence on the film, this is still a total piece of Trash cinema. Which isn’t neccesarily a bad thing and can be seen as one of the more fun qualities of the film! There are total exploitation elements here and the overall silliness of it can make for a fairly entertaining little watch if you’re in the right frame of mind. Which I assume for most people would be some point of inebriation. You just have to kind of sit back, take the brain from your head and place it on a counter before even pressing play. After that, as long as you’re laughing AT the movie and not WITH it, you’re all good. This should be easy, as the special FX work is so campy that you’re either going to cringe or go into bursts of laughter. The claymation on display isn’t exactly the greatest in the world, but that’s not what kills me. I think the scene that will best be remembered by myself is the Dinosaur exhibit, where Yuen Biao actually rides atop the most obviously latex dinosaur ever seen. Aside from that, I think if you started a drinking game where you take a shot every time you see a laser light show, you and your friends would die from alcohol poisoning. Remember kids, watch Peacock King responsibly.

I don’t want to keep ragging on the movie, but overall it is about as subtle as an episode of The Mighty Morphing Power Rangers, which as has been stated by Yuen Biao himself, pretty much shares the same target audience. Yeah, apparently Biao isn’t really much of a Peacock King fan himself and didn’t really seem to enjoy the Japanese interference. His words were something along the lines that the only people who could possibly enjoy the film would be children because they don’t have the understanding to realize that the movie sucks. Although I won’t go that far, as I’ll bet that this movie does have some intelligent fans out there, but I can certainly see his point. However, this flick is WAY too violent for the majority of kids out there. We have cannibalism, characters strung up by intestines and a transformation sequence where a woman’s face splits open into a very vaginal looking Venus flytrap beast. I know I wouldn’t want my little nephew checking this one out for sure. Aside from all of that, some of the hokey Hong Kong comedy could certainly draw in the attention of the kids. Along with the tons of lasers and magical powers thrown about.

I would regret it if I didn’t mention the fact that yes indeed, we do get a Yuen Biao vs. Gordon Liu showdown here in Peacock King. Liu doesn’t actually show up until roughly thirty minutes into the film and his part feels like a glorified cameo at times, but the man has certainly never seemed cooler! He looks great here and Biao’s martial arts are as always in top form, so the two do have a good sequence together even if it is more of a giant brawl with Liu’s forces taking on Biao. So what, I’ll take what I can get and it definitely left me appeased. With all of this said, I don’t think you’ll find me checking out Saga of the Phoenix for at least a couple of months at this point. It’s a semi-sequel featuring Yuen Biao playing the same character, but I just don’t think my psyche could handle it at this point. I’m giving the movie a two out of five, which is probably better than you might have even expected from me. It does have that pretty decent fight scene, Yuen Biao carries his own and some of the locations are interesting enough to kee you watching. Besides, there’s a vagina faced woman who eats people. That has to rake in SOME points, right? If you’re into the whole magic and sorcery type of stuff, then perhaps this will be up your alley. Myself, I just don’t really think they’re all that hot and Peacock King just didn’t do anything for me.



Two Men in Manhattan Review

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 19 - 2009
Whoa! Josh! An arthouse flick when you were on such a serious exploitation kick? Yeah, I know. I just thought we could use something a little different around here while I prepare my mind and body for A Very Kung Fu Christmas next month. We’ve got this early piece by Jean-Pierre Melville on tap today and I hope you guys enjoy it. It’s a very strong piece of film and a really sincere story. Be prepared however for my review for Yuen Biao’s Peacock King in the next couple of days, which I did not like as much.

The Plot: When a French UN deligate, Fevre-Berthier, goes missing the French Press Agency at the local embassy sends out a reporter to track down the missing deligate. True, there are better men on the police force looking for him no doubt but Moreau (played by director Jean-Pierre Melville himself!) knows the dirty underbelly of New York City like few others. With his photographer in toe (Delmas, played by Pierre Grasset, a decent sleuth in his own right but has some problems with his drinking) this reporter wanders out into the night searching for any clues to the whereabouts of this diplomat. He is told that the common belief is that Berthier is hold-up with one of his female acquaintances but there are at least three to go through. With this knowledge the men pay visit to any woman in Manhattan that may hold the key to finding this very important politician. Things aren’t so simple though, as the two are being followed by some mysterious person who hides away in their vehicle. Could there be foul play at foot and will this team of journalists hold to their integrity, to their greed or their decency when they find out the truth of this case?



CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

Two Men in Manhattan

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 19 - 2009
The Plot: When a French UN deligate, Fevre-Berthier, goes missing the French Press Agency at the local embassy sends out a reporter to track down the missing deligate. True, there are better men on the police force looking for him no doubt but Moreau (played by director Jean-Pierre Melville himself!) knows the dirty underbelly of New York City like few others. With his photographer in toe (Delmas, played by Pierre Grasset, a decent sleuth in his own right but has some problems with his drinking) this reporter wanders out into the night searching for any clues to the whereabouts of this diplomat. He is told that the common belief is that Berthier is hold-up with one of his female acquaintances but there are at least three to go through. With this knowledge the men pay visit to any woman in Manhattan that may hold the key to finding this very important politician. Things aren’t so simple though, as the two are being followed by some mysterious person who hides away in their vehicle. Could there be foul play at foot and will this team of journalists hold to their integrity, to their greed or their decency when they find out the truth of this case?


The Review: My goal for Varied Celluloid has always been pretty simple, it’s right there in the title: VARIED. Although the site has evolved into a “genre cinema” direction, I don’t want people to see the website as simply a literary tome of B-Movie and exploitation information. There’s more to the cinematic spectrum than Indonesian wackiness or Italian cult cinema, to be sure. Those are great genres in their own right, but I do want our audience to know about the French new wave and the great auteur’s of the past. I do believe that most die hard cult film fans are usually pretty interested in art house cinema as well, since we’re usually pretty versatile, so chances are I’m already speaking to the choir. I still would like to take some time here with Varied Celluloid every once in a while, to shed light on some truly great films, just to get the class of this joint up a few notches. I wouldn’t call myself an expert on the works of Jean-Pierre Melville, I do enjoy his work and when I found Two Men in Manhattan just sitting on the back-burner – I knew it was something I was really interested in checking out relatively soon. So, knowing that I’ll be preoccupied very soon with some serious exploitation movie-watching, I decided now was the time to give it a spin. Let me just say, I’m delighted that I did.

The very first thing I noticed about Two Men… was something that I’ve found pretty commonplace in a lot of Euro arthouse fare, it’s that super jazzy noir musical accompaniment. As soon as the credits start rolling it’s in your face and demanding your attention, setting the mood. There’s no denying the influences of Jean-Pierre Melville, the man’s love for Film Noir is so prevalent in every frame. With characters who wear sunglasses at night time in office buildings while wearing heavy trench coats and incredibly sleek hats. If I were alive during this time, I think my ideal of just about the coolest thing on the planet to do would revolve around wearing these same wardrobes and running around New York playing a detective while jazz music plays over in the background. Even to this day though, the concept is still fairly cool and ignites a form of youthful daydreaming. New York is such an enigmatic backdrop where, for those of us who have spent no time in the city, everything seems so happening and mysterious. You have to imagine in 1959, it had to seem just as equally spectacular and alluring to Parisians. Melville does his best here to capture the city as a character, which isn’t hard to do with New York city but he manages to do so while still keeping it such a firmly French film.

The cinematography and visual aesthetic of the film, much like Le Samourai, isn’t really what I would consider a shocking approach to the subject. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! The film is shot incredibly well to be sure, but it lacks any kind of flashiness that some filmmakers of the time would become well known for. Melville keeps things toned down and delivers most of his flash through excellent use of shadows and lighting throughout. The camera is treated as a tool simply to deliver a story and Melville’s writing is really center stage here. Very similar to the Film Noir that Melville looks to emulate. Now, that word emulate comes off sounding like a cheap workaround for saying “rip off”, but that isn’t the case believe me. If you watch this alongside any number of American suspense stories from the forties and fifties, you’ll find all the differences in the world that you could be looking for. It’s that European sensibility, where not everything is focused on the plot or the continuation of it. That free form of storytelling where although there is obvious direction to a scene, some times there are moments just meant to build atmosphere or see where things might lead. The dead ends that our characters run into are just a part of that and it gives a feel of cinematic-sailing, where we’re not sure just where things are heading but we’re comfortable and enjoy the ride. The differences between the complexities of something like Double Indemnity and this film couldn’t be more apparent.

What separates Two Men in Manhattan (as well as a lot of older European fare) is the focus it has on such a small story, but is delivered in such an epic scope that it takes on something so much more than being just a tale of two journalist. It brings up a lot of questions about journalistic integrity, during its final half hour in particular, while also examining the human factor of greed and self servitude. Although it’s certainly a very linear story and at times it’s difficult to get into the mindset of our leading men. Since it’s such a procedural story, with our characters going from one possible witness to the next, it is through hints dropped to the viewer about the integrity and merits of each man that we begin to understand them more and more. When the inevitable conclusion comes our way (I’m keeping this spoiler free mind you!) and each man goes a certain way, it creates a really interesting moral dilemma for the audience. However, there is growth here from our characters and it becomes something really powerful in the final moments. I won’t go into it too much, but if you’ve ever turned a film off with a smile on your face and feeling truly happy about what you’ve just watched; then believe me you’ll have a similar feeling with the conclusion of this film.

Although I do think Melville has done better, this may be a bit of an underrated entry into his catalog. Sure, some sets are obviously sets along the way, likely shot back at home in France rather than here in the states – but it’s all part of the charm of an older film. It’s everything you could hope for from such a brilliant filmmaker and from a noirish suspense story. There are biting dames on display, long coats and meditations on life as we know it. If you love films that take place over a very specific time frame, love Melville/arthouse in general or you’re looking for something to break up the monotony of your year long Umberto Lenzi viewership – definitely give this one a gander some time.

Il Boss Review

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 13 - 2009
What’s up everybody! Back again and not quite a week later! Ain’t I proud of myself!? Been sitting with Il Boss forever and glad that I could finally find time to screen it and get this write up done. Hope you all dig this fine bit of Henry Silva radicalness. How could you not? He’s got a rocket launcher for pete’s sake!

The Plot: Italy, 1973, the mob has been fractured by heavy police involvement in all of their forms of business. All of the old leaders have left for hiding, leaving behind their Lieutenants which has caused an immense amount of destabilization. There’s no order to the crime world anymore and all of the younger captain’s are taking aim at their new bosses in order to form a more stable union. After the massacre of several rival mob bosses in a theater, Don Giuseppe (Claudio Nicastro), a captain under Don Corrasco (Richard Conte) who gave the order, has recently had his daughter kidnapped by the villainous Cocchi (Pier Paolo Capponi) who plans on getting his hands upon Giuseppe in order to torture information out of him while eventually going after Corrasco’s empire. The one thing they didn’t count on though is Nick Lanzetta (Henry Silva), a cold blooded and calculating hit man who will stop at nothing to protect the family. Nick hits the streets and before long he’ll find these men… and make them pay!



CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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