Archives for July 2010 | Varied Celluloid

Archive for July, 2010

Massacre in Dinosaur Valley Review

Posted by Josh Samford On July - 16 - 2010
Well, I told you I would get it done and sure enough here we are! Michael Sopkiw is back in action with this piece of pure Italian exploitation! Is it great or is it just about what you would expect from an Italian cannibal film? Read on to find out!

The Plot: Kevin Hall (Michael Sopkiw) is a archeologist on the hunt for the great land known as Dinosaur Valley. A nearly prehistoric land within the Amazon where it is rumored that many great archeological wonders are just waiting to be uncovered. Hall manages to hitch a ride into Dinosaur Valley with a well known professor who just so happens to be going there for the same reasons. Along for the ride is a Vietnam veteran with power issues, two models who can hardly keep their clothes on and the professor’s beautiful daughter. As they approach Dinosaur Valley their plane has issues and they crash land into the jungle. Some are killed, many are wounded and now this rag-tag group are forced to band together in order to take on the local head hunters who have made it apparent that they do not appreciate these Westerners. How can this group possibly survive?





CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

Massacre in Dinosaur Valley

Posted by Josh Samford On July - 16 - 2010
[imdb]0089562[/imdb]


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The Plot: Kevin Hall (Michael Sopkiw) is a archeologist on the hunt for the great land known as Dinosaur Valley. A nearly prehistoric land within the Amazon where it is rumored that many great archeological wonders are just waiting to be uncovered. Hall manages to hitch a ride into Dinosaur Valley with a well known professor who just so happens to be going there for the same reasons. Along for the ride is a Vietnam veteran with power issues, two models who can hardly keep their clothes on and the professor’s beautiful daughter. As they approach Dinosaur Valley their plane has issues and they crash land into the jungle. Some are killed, many are wounded and now this rag-tag group are forced to band together in order to take on the local head hunters who have made it apparent that they do not appreciate these Westerners. How can this group possibly survive?


The Review
It is no secret to those who know my cinematic tastes, or generally keep an eye on Varied Celluloid, I am a die hard fan of the Italian cannibal genre. It is a fan club meant only for a select few and the only requirement is an extreme leniency towards really bad movies. From all of the various sub genres that made it big within the world of Italian genre film, the Cannibal film movement may be one of the most absolutely base, dumb, poorly executed and poorly conceived cultural passions to ever be seen within the world of cinema. So, why exactly do I love them so much?

To be perfectly honest, and this might solely be my own opinion, there is a certain quaintness to these pictures that could have only been established during the prime years of the Italian film industry. When you pop in Massacre in Dinosaur Valley, Cannibal Terror or Cannibal Ferox for that matter, you know precisely what you are going to get. This is a movie made entirely for the exploitation of one facet of a cultural obsession. Starting with the craze of Mondo Movies created by Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi (Mondo Cane, Goodbye Uncle Tom, Africa Addio), the obsession that Italy had with native inhabitants and their bizarre rituals seemed to last throughout the 1960s all the way up until the early half of the 1980’s. Within these two genres, the Mondo documentary and the Cannibal exploitation world, this fascination lasted for roughly twenty years. So, with so much attention to this genre, you begin to know what to expect. That familiarity is part of what keeps me coming back as a viewer. Despite the nature of these movies to be threatening to the audience, in delivering shocks that they normally wouldn’t see outside of these particular movies, there comes a certain sense of expectation within them that a select few audience members come to find solace in. Sound crazy? Well, we probably are.

With any given piece of Italian cannibal sleaze, we know to expect a select number of reoccurring items. We have natives, we have nudity, we have a very poor English dub, we have gore and we have very simple plots with no need for any actual interesting narrative devices. However, when we see one of these films actually delve outside of their safety net, interesting things can happen. While Massacre in Dinosaur Valley has universally been panned (and rightfully so) as one of the weaker entries in the Cannibal subgenre, I have to congratulate it for a few very different exceptions to the genre stereotypes. The very first thing that stands out as being different and/or interesting about the movie is the sense of humor that it carries. Not that Massacre in Dinosaur Valley could ever be construed to be a comedy, nor even a darker version of one, it does have a healthy sense of comedic timing that borders between chuckle-worthy and blatant cheese. The mix of comedy and legitimate human horror however is mangled throughout and the first half of the movies comes far lighter than the second half which takes on the premise of a generic jungle survival movie.

Michael Sopkiw surprisingly did not have a massive career in the number of projects he was associated with. However, he was very lucky to have been a part of several movies that would later turn up as Cult Classics within the realm of Eurocult cinema. He last graced the pages of Varied Celluloid in my review for Lamberto Bava’s less than classic Rambo knockoff Blastfighter and he returns here in an equally obscure title only this time he plays the role of a Indiana Jones knockoff. A archeologist tough guy, who wears a brown jacket and gets into an adventure while searching out priceless treasures and uses comedy in order to fend off danger? This seems familiar! However, much like the humorous element that dissipates slightly in the second half of the movie, the allusions to the Harrison Ford character become invisible the longer the movie goes along and Sopkiw manages to deliver an interesting performance if nothing else. Also, he traded in Indiana’s whip for a shotgun, so who is to say who would win if the two characters did battle!

Sopkiw and his charisma, which I didn’t see much of in Blastfighter, actually carry the movie for the most part. His antics are the main reason that this movie is actually getting the score that it is. Whether it be his overwhelming sense of self worth or his tendencies to play the part of the playboy, I was sucked in by his ridiculous charm. The rest of the cast are generally serviceable and serve as fodder for random death scenes that pop up throughout. The body count is relatively high, but the actual level of violence that the movie provides is relatively tame. I dare say it may be the least blood Italian cannibal movie I have seen up until this point – and I believe I am only a few titles away from having seen them all. If you’re looking for exploitation however, there is still plenty of nudity to be had. Including a Cinemax-worth sequence where Sopkiw is “thanked” by one of the models mentioned in the plot synopsis. Apparently one night stands are a customary form of gratitude in Italy. That works for me!


The Conclusion
Overall, if you have seen the best and you’re looking to delve into the rest, there are hardly worse places to look than with Massacre in Dinosaur Valley. It has an interesting premise, some standout moments but it is generally a forgettable but fun time waster. I give it a three out of five as it stands just at the border of mediocrity and a film of interest. Check it out if you’re wanting a piece of Italian cannibal sleaze that isn’t Cannibal Terror.



Blood and Bones Review

Posted by Josh Samford On July - 15 - 2010
Hey all! Sorry I didn’t get anything posted up last week, but I’ll make up for that with a couple of reviews between today and hopefully tomorrow! First up, a confrontational piece of human drama in the case of Yoichi Sai’s Blood and Bones! Give it a read! It’s a difficult film, but very interesting.

The Plot: Blood and Bones is the story of Shunpei Kim (Takeshi Kitano), a Korean immigrant in Japan who makes his way into the country before the second world war and quickly adapts to the life necessary for him to survive. A man of brutal violence and intimidation, he controls his family with an iron fist and quickly becomes a success as he turns his rented home into a fish paste roll factory. While he climbs up the ladder in terms of financial success, we watch as he beats and tortures his family and everyone around him over six decades. Narrated by his youngest son, Blood and Bones is a massive story that is shown strictly from the vantage point of this small community of Korean immigrants. We see their plight and their struggle as they are forced to deal with Shunpei and his madness.





CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

Blood and Bones

Posted by Josh Samford On July - 15 - 2010


The Plot: Blood and Bones is the story of Shunpei Kim (Takeshi Kitano), a Korean immigrant in Japan who makes his way into the country before the second world war and quickly adapts to the life necessary for him to survive. A man of brutal violence and intimidation, he controls his family with an iron fist and quickly becomes a success as he turns his rented home into a fish paste roll factory. While he climbs up the ladder in terms of financial success, we watch as he beats and tortures his family and everyone around him over six decades. Narrated by his youngest son, Blood and Bones is a massive story that is shown strictly from the vantage point of this small community of Korean immigrants. We see their plight and their struggle as they are forced to deal with Shunpei and his madness.



The Review
Yoichi Sai is a filmmaker who has been gathering up some acclaim in recent years. Mind you, his most recent popularity by no means makes the sixty year old director a fresh faced talent, he has been a fixture within the Japanese film community for numerous years and has worked as a diplomat for the industry in a sense. With ties to both Takeshi Kitano and Nagisa Oshima, he is without question an influential man and possibly the most celebrated Koren-Japanese within the film world. Blood and Bones, this 2004 effort dealing with a Korean family emigrating to Japan and their struggles as a unit is obviously a piece that has strong cultural ties for the filmmaker. Although the treatment of Koreans by the Japanese is dealt with mildly throughout the film, it emerges as a film dedicated more to the struggling of a family under the draconian stranglehold that the patriarch of the family impresses upon them. Yoichi Sai manages to create an abusive relationship with the audience during the course of this epic examination of the ties that bind and ultimately he splits his audience in multiple factions while doing that. Still, the project remains interesting.

What gathers audience members such as myself, who have grown to be fans of Asian cinema due to the genre efforts that have come to popularity in the past, is undoubtedly Takeshi Kitano. The cover art for the film is haunting and reflective, showing Kitano’s brooding and dark persona. Something that we have grown to know and cherish from Kitano’s own film library. Simply looking at the artwork, one would have no idea what to expect from the film proper. Just knowing that Kitano is attached is enough to make it interesting for many of us. After all, the actor/filmmaker has a pretty decent record when it comes to picking projects not directed by himself. Gonin (directed by Takashi Ishii) and Battle Royale (directed by Kinji Fukasaku) are two of my favorite titles of all time. Gohatto is another well known title that Kitano starred in but did not direct, and it also featured Yoichi Sai starring alongside the famed actor. If you were to walk into Blood and Bones expecting Kitano to be the most memorable part of the movie, you would actually prove to be right. Not because of a lack of decent narrative, not because of a lack of style or interesting characters but within the confines of this movie: he is a demon.

Shunpei Kim (played by Takeshi Kitano) is the definition of self serving, constant bullying and venomous evil. During the course of this movie, you will not for a moment feel any form of sympathy for this character. He takes advantage of his position in life and consistently beats, harangues and torments everyone around him for the two and a half hours that this movie runs. He is a foul beast, not suitable to even be referred to as a man. Yet, in this new society that came with the post-war generation he is able to actually financially succeed and empower himself further. I believe that the film makes many statements on the nature of family, the lack of development in the Korean ghettos and lack of kindness that man can have toward one another, but I think the statements that it makes on the commercialization and materialist nature of this new Japan are its most interesting. Within this new Japan, figures who put money ahead of all forms of virtue are able so succeed and aggrandize themselves to a become a person of respect. Based on a true story, the movie seems to fit as an indictment of the opportunistic nature of Japanese society and ultimately puts the capitalist system on trial.

The film opens incredibly strong. We start off on a steam ship staring off at a beautiful view of Japan just starting to blossom into fruition as a real economic force in the years prior to the war, but this beauty is soon forgotten as we watch Shunpei Kim brutalize and rape the mother of our central figure. He does so while his children watch on in horror. The sexuality throughout remains graphic and unflinching. In moments of legitimate sexuality and forced rape alike, sex is treated as an activity devoid of true intimacy. For Shunpei women are simply napkins to be used and thrown away. They give him children that he does not want and they take portions of his money and ultimately take up space within his home. Throughout the film the character takes on mistresses but never makes any form of actual emotional commitment to anyone other than himself. Even during the moments where intercourse is consented to by the woman, due to Shunpei’s sheer brutality one can’t help but see these moments as being a form of rape. His power hungry ego demands that he not share anything with these women, but that he simply conquer them.

Kitano is spectacular in this role, to say the least. While the role may be one dimensional, he is utterly ferocious throughout. Despite his body obviously being pudgy and giving the appearance of an aging man (which he is), he remains a frightening figure throughout. There is never a moment where we as the audience question why anyone would fear this man. A culmination of his most maniacal performances, Shunpei is rage personified. The rest of the cast all put in decidedly good performances next to Kitano, but their characters tend to be so emotionally detached that the only thing that we remain cognizant of is Shunpei himself. The character who gives the voice over narrative, the youngest son of the family played by Hirofumi Arai (best known Aoki in Toshiaki Toyoda’s Blue Spring), does not even gain the screen time to even become a recognizable central figure. His character remains a distant background figure through the majority of the film. This is where I believe that the film’s critics do have a point. At the end of this film… after all of the struggles, beatings and torture: the only thing we really know is that Shunpei Kim is an evil man.

The film often receives the complaint that it is simply far too depressing and although there are many horrible things that happen throughout, my biggest complaint is that it doesn’t actually reach the emotional core to actually inspire truly sad feelings. While converging the audience with negativity and no signs of a better life, the film becomes a cyclical motion of pessimism. The film doesn’t manage to speak to its audience and instead tries far too hard to crack their emotional center simply by hoping that they will feel for these characters as fellow human beings. We do not grow to know each individual character affected by this man. Instead, we know them as archetypes and we see them through scenes where they are rarely the focus. At the end of the picture, we know so little about these characters and we care about them even less. Although it does carry the power to make you weary and perhaps even depress audiences, I think by missing out on genuine emotion and supplying the audience with a true protagonist to showcase the situation for us the film severely limits itself and becomes much more ordinary than it could have been.

The Conclusion
Although hardly a bad movie, Blood and Bones remains a rather cold look at an exceptionally violent man. I am giving the movie a four out of five, based mostly on Sai’s look at the Korean community within Japan and the amazing performance from Kitano himself. Although not a film I think many can ”enjoy”, it is a personal and artistically successful piece of work.



Prime Evil – by Prof. Aglaophotis

Posted by Josh Samford On July - 7 - 2010
Hey everybody! We’re back once again with more from our good friend Prof. Aglaophotis! It’s great to see him writing again and it is always nice to have content to throw around! His take on Prime Evil is quite entertaining and it certainly seems like something I will try to avoid… but knowing me, I may actually search it out if opportunity knocks!

The Plot: The story starts during the mid 1300’s when the Black Death struck Europe and monks across the continent felt their faith was being tested by God during the plague. However, Lucifer decided to use this time to offer a charismatic, faithful former servant of God an offer of eternal youth by rounding up his own faith-hood who wanted to avoid the Black Death; all the recipients had to do was sacrifice one of their immediate relatives. Thus enters brother Thomas Seaton (Beckwith) who is chosen to fill this role with an iron fist and he starts by subjecting his convent to join his side and live eternally or die right there on the spot.

We now take the story to present day New York where Seaton runs a church and his believers, old and new, are living long by individually sacrificing a relative of theirs every thirteen years. We quickly get acquainted with the soon-to be victims of the thriving cult, the main one being Alexandra (Moore), a social worker for the female criminal frame. Alexandra’s grandfather George and his own Satanic relatives are getting ready for Alexandra’s sacrifice, all the while George has every intention of filling Seaton’s shoes seeing how he’s the oldest living member next to Seaton. In the midst of this, Sister Angela of Seaton’s church is coming on to the cult’s activities as she is familiar with their home wrecking sacrifices and, with the Minister’s help, plans to thwart the up-coming sacrifice before another life is lost. Who will win in the bloody battle of good and evil?

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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