Archives for September 2011 | Varied Celluloid - Page 2

Archive for September, 2011

Twilight Dinner coming from Pink Eiga

Posted by Josh Samford On September - 23 - 2011
Pink Eiga, the famous pinku film distributor, have just announced their latest title. Twilight Dinner looks to be another solid addition to their catalog, and the internal hype within the company is something that has me excited.

The DVD release looks to be loaded with special features and should prove to be the number one way to see this modern piece of pinku cinema. The plot synopsis is described as this:


KAZUHIKO leads a normal life until two beautiful sisters move into the apartment next door. He falls for the younger sister, MAYAKO, but not before being seduced by the older sister, TSUKIKO… Soon Kazu has an insatiable hunger that he thinks is sexual, but might be something deeper, darker and more feral… From the king of Japanese PINK EIGA, Yutaka ‘Mr. Pink’ Ikejima (JAPANESE WIFE NEXT DOOR films), comes this brilliant mix of sex and horror that will leave you panting and hungering for more

That sounds pretty intense! You can expect to get your hands on this release as early as October 4th, and you will only find it via the Pink Eiga DVD for the time being. It will undoubtedly make it to JapanFlix at some point later down the road, but for now grab up the DVD. These special features certainly make it well worth grabbing up the official DVD release.

DVD Special features
• Japanese Language with English, French & Spanish Subtitles*
• Video Commentary by Director Yutaka Ikejima & Actress Yumi Yoshiyuki
• FEATURETTE: Mr. Pink Talks about TWILIGHT DINNER
• FEATURETTE: Confessions of a Sexy Vampire with Yumi Yoshiyuki
• FEATURETTE: Mr. Pink Goes to Hollywood
• FEATURETTE: BOOBS & BLOOD International Film Festival Q&A
• FEATURETTE: Mr. Pink Presents TWILIGHT DINNER PART 2 – BASKET CASE
• TWILIGHT DINNER International Trailers
• Deleted Scenes
• Still Image Slideshow
• Cast and Crew Biographies and Filmographies
• Sneak Peeks: More PINK EIGA Trailers

Recycled Review: Jason and the Argonauts

Posted by Josh Samford On September - 23 - 2011


Okay, so I claimed the recycled reviews wouldn’t be a quickly returning segment, but here we are. With Halloween Horrors just around the corner, we need some time to get ready so these recycled reviews should come in handy. Keep checking back, because things are getting exciting around here on Varied Celluloid!

This review today was actually written as part of the Rogue Reviewers, which was a group of websites that banded together for a monthly roundtable review. This group then changed into Rogue Cinema, but we had a lot of good times together as the Rogue Reviewers. This particular review for Jason and the Argonauts was written as part of a Ray Harryhausen tribute. As with the previous recycled review, this article was completely re-edited. In fact, it is more new than old in terms of content.

The Plot: During our opening credits, a man named Pelias leads an army to take the throne of Thessaly. Once there however, he goes a bit overboard and murders nearly every living person. There are few who escape, but the king’s son is amongst these and his name is Jason. Pelias is told by the gods that it is prophesied that Jason will some day return for the throne which is rightfully his, and that if Pelias should interfere (ie; kill Jason), his life will end. So, as time goes by Jason grows and becomes a very strong and determined young man. As Pelias ages, he one day falls from his horse into the river and is surprisingly assisted by a young stranger. This stranger reveals himself to be none other than Jason who has set out to fulfill the prophecy. Pelias hides his identity and tells Jason of “The Golden Fleece” which will make the soil of the land fertile, cure the sick and surely win the hearts of people of Thessaly. Jason takes Pelias’ advice and begins his quest to find a ship and men to sail with. He finds the most talented and strongest men in Greece, builds the greatest boat the world has ever seen and is protected by the queen of the gods, Hera, who has promised to help him on three occasions if needed. The crew sets out to travel to the opposite side of the world, in a quest full of danger, action and amazing special effects! Along the way Jason confronts monsters of all sorts, fights with statues and falls for the lovely lady Medea.

Jason and the Argonauts

Posted by Josh Samford On September - 23 - 2011


Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
Director: Don Chaffey
Writers: Jan Read and Beverly Cross
Starring: Todd Armstrong, Nancy Kovack and Niall MacGinnis



The Plot: During our opening credits, a man named Pelias leads an army to take the throne of Thessaly. Once there however, he goes a bit overboard and murders nearly every living person. There are few who escape, but the king’s son is amongst these and his name is Jason. Pelias is told by the gods that it is prophesied that Jason will some day return for the throne which is rightfully his, and that if Pelias should interfere (ie; kill Jason), his life will end. So, as time goes by Jason grows and becomes a very strong and determined young man. As Pelias ages, he one day falls from his horse into the river and is surprisingly assisted by a young stranger. This stranger reveals himself to be none other than Jason who has set out to fulfill the prophecy. Pelias hides his identity and tells Jason of “The Golden Fleece” which will make the soil of the land fertile, cure the sick and surely win the hearts of people of Thessaly. Jason takes Pelias’ advice and begins his quest to find a ship and men to sail with. He finds the most talented and strongest men in Greece, builds the greatest boat the world has ever seen and is protected by the queen of the gods, Hera, who has promised to help him on three occasions if needed. The crew sets out to travel to the opposite side of the world, in a quest full of danger, action and amazing special effects! Along the way Jason confronts monsters of all sorts, fights with statues and falls for the lovely lady Medea.


  


The Review
To be honest, I wasn’t all that excited about the last Rogue Roundtable (cavemen being our last topic, and the review being Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks). I didn’t have many films to choose from and when I found one that was weird enough, I didn’t quite care for it. So, I was fairly anxious to get the “caveman” review out of the way because I couldn’t wait to get to this month’s topic. This month we pay tribute to the work of Ray Harryhausen, cinematic special effects magician. Although I have only seen but a handful of his work, I knew the exact film I wanted to tackle for this special occasion. A film that has held a very special place in my heart for a long time: Jason and the Argonauts. I can’t quite recall how I first saw the film, but I think I might have come across it on a late-night program called “100% Weird” many years ago. The show would broadcast movies that were as bizarre as the title hinted at for the most part, but they would also feature classic horror films or generally forgotten pieces of cinema. They also had a knack for playing many mythological films, including many films featuring the work of Ray Harryhausen. This was my introduction to both Harryhausen as well as the sword-and-sandal genre, and it is still the pinnacle by which all others are judged within my mind.

Although I am speaking with nostalgic blinders on, without a doubt, but for me Jason and the Argonauts has a definite magical quality to it. Everything about the movie seems to emit a “film-classic” shine. It’s the sort of production where it doesn’t seem so cliche to throw out lines like “They don’t make ’em like this anymore”, because that is absolutely true. Few films would have the guts to dare be this imaginative in this millenium. From the get-go, the movie looks to deliver on only one promise and that is: entertainment. The legitimate myths that comprise this story are definitely on the outlandish side, which in essence gave Harryhausen a blank check of sorts. Seen through the eyes of a modern viewer, some might watch Jason and the Argonauts and laugh at how hokey the clay animation seems by today’s standards, but if an audience member feels that way they might be missing the point. Yes, by today’s standards the effects are most certainly without realism, but there’s a greater art at work here than just attempting to duplicate reality. The animation in itself is the real beauty, and what I would recommend viewers keep their eye upon. A tedious and highly detailed work, despite it not looking “real” the claymation is certainly beautiful to look at. The close attention to the minute details that Harryhausen put into his work when creating these monsters and the incredibly in-screen special FX work helped inspire an army of future filmmakers.

With a story as obviously as huge as Jason and the Argonauts is, you would probably expect it to have a relatively relaxed pace and go the usual route of a true epic, but the film doesn’t hold to such standards. Instead it seems to move along at a running speed. At just over 104 minutes it never once proves to be boring, which suits the film and its audience very well. Rather than trying to give heed to every little aspect of the original story, the director instead chooses to give us the juiciest details and always skips to the good stuff. This fast-food approach may not deliver the most emotional resonance, but it is exactly what an action/adventure yarn like this should do. It may not go for the jugular in presenting an authentic Greek tale, but it more than delivers in the entertainment department. After Jason initially sets out on his quest for the Golden Fleece, the film seems to swim from adventure to adventure. It loses only an ounce of steam when Jason is introduced to his love-interest, but it quickly picks back up as Harryhausen delivers some of the most mind blowing claymation work ever seen in cinema.

I will admit to it, the special FX are generally what make the movie. When you recount all of the greatest moments of the film, chances are you’re going to talk about the monsters. Jason fighting with the hydra was a definite standout, but the biggest bit of animation is obviously when the “argonauts” take on a team of skeletons who are awaken from the grave to do battle. The scene is quite famous by now, and for good reason. The skeletons may not be the largest or most mind blowing creatures the “argonauts” fight during the film, but from a technical scale it’s probably the movie’s largest achievement. The claymation and the live action are well placed together and it proves to be the most realistic battle of the film. The skeletons have shadows that dance around them as they fight, and it actually looks as if the swords really do clash. It’s a beautifully orchestrated dance that proves to be one of Harryhausen’s crowning achievements and is a cinematic sequence that will never be forgotten. Jason and the Argonauts will probably be remembered more for this one scene than the actual “film” itself, but the FX are just one part of the whole package.

The film may have been shot on sets and nowhere near the locations that are represented in the film, but Jason and the Argonauts definitely creates an atmosphere that manages to deliver upon some manner of realism. The beauty of the backgrounds around these characters, as well as the classy costumes and stunning cinematography. These things really set the mood for the film and they help to solidify a dose of realism. Sure, it may not follow the original story to pitch perfection, but Jason and the Argonauts proves to be a magnificent display of storytelling. It’s an ever-flowing story and the actors more than pick up their end of the slack. Todd Armstrong, who plays the lead Jason, was perfectly cast in the role. He exhumes a confident charisma, but isn’t just an average superhero. His character is, at the least, a vulnerable man, unlike the gods he often tempts. Armstrong manages to give the character a somewhat naive, but well rounded emotional range. Nancy Kovack, who plays Medea, may not have been chosen for her acting abilities alone, but can you really blame the casting agencies? She’s one of the most beautiful women I think I have ever seen in a classic film. Her character doesn’t really make an appearance until the latter half of the film, but once she is on board it’s hard to forget her face. I said earlier that the introduction of the love interest slows the film down some, and that is completely true. Thankfully the plot continues to move along as well as it does, but the few moments of character development between Jason and Medea felt rather bland for my tastes. Not that I usually have anything against a good romance, but for what seems like such a masculine movie for so long the dependency on a female lead felt as if it sucked some of the the air out of the film. Perhaps that’s just my misogyny talking though. The rest of the cast are for the most part made up of supporting actors, from the Argonauts to the gods. The only character who really matters most is Jason. The one supporting actor I truly notice when I watch the movie though is Nigel Green who plays Hercules, only because I’m not used to seeing Hercules portrayed as such a normal man. I suppose it’s all those years of watching Hercules: The Legendary Journeys coming back to haunt me. When I think of the character Hercules, I rarely picture a middle aged man with a relatively average muscle tone and a full beard. However, I guess that’s a personal problem, now isn’t it?


The Conclusion
What else can I say, if you’re an average film fan I’m sure you have at least heard of the film. If you haven’t, then by George get out your door and head to the videostore. It’s a classic of both mythological epics and clay animation. Ray Harryhausen is a name that will be well remembered well into the future, and it is because of the work done on titles such as this one. He was a pioneer in his field and deserves all the reverence he has gained over the years. I can’t stress how much I, and I would like to think the majority of movie geeks, admire and respect his work. Now, everybody go out and pick up one of his films to celebrate along with us Rogues!




Recycled Review: Incredible Kung Fu Mission

Posted by Josh Samford On September - 22 - 2011


Hiya folks! Although this isn’t going to be a steady feature for this site, you will see these popping up now and again! For those of you who don’t know, Varied Celluloid Dot Net was once Varied Celluloid Dot Com, but when we made the transition things became a bit hectic. With roughly two hundred reviews written at the time, it was a headache to move from a general HTML based website to the PHP driven database system that you see now. So, there were many reviews lost in the shuffle. Some were never placed on the new website due to a lack of quality, some were lost simply because it seemed to take longer to edit these files than it was to simply write a new review.

So, today we have one that was a mix of both. This review has been heavily edited from its original version, but the opinions still remain the same. Incredible Kung Fu Mission is still a solid piece of martial arts mayhem and is well worth checking out. So give a look at this excessively long review for the film and give your thoughts!

The Plot: John Liu is a mercenary for hire in this Hong Kong action yarn. After a member of the revolutionary committee is imprisoned in China, a good friend of the captured man hires John Liu to take a team he has collected into dangerous territory and rescue the man. The team consists of a juggler, a gigolo, a carpenter, a fighter and a undertaker. All of the men have no true previous experience with Kung Fu, not even the fighter! John Liu must train the men vigorously before their mission, and before long these men are ready to go! Twists and turns are sure to follow along, as well as a good deal of Kung Fu and comedy.

Incredible Kung Fu Mission

Posted by Josh Samford On September - 22 - 2011

Incredible Kung Fu Mission (1979)
Director: Hsin Yi Chang
Writers: Hsin Yi Chang
Starring: John Liu, Robert Tai and Paul Wei



The Plot: John Liu is a mercenary for hire in this Hong Kong action yarn. After a member of the revolutionary committee is imprisoned in China, a good friend of the captured man hires John Liu to take a team he has collected into dangerous territory and rescue the man. The team consists of a juggler, a gigolo, a carpenter, a fighter and a undertaker. All of the men have no true previous experience with Kung Fu, not even the fighter! John Liu must train the men vigorously before their mission, and before long these men are ready to go! Twists and turns are sure to follow along, as well as a good deal of Kung Fu and comedy.


  


The Review
Who doesn’t love those giant assorted DVD collections? You know the ones. They usually feature a reasonably well known star or movie poster on their cover to lure you in, but then when you start researching the actual movies inside of the box you find a very mixed bag. When I first discovered these amazing 6 and 12 pack collections, I went on a buying spree. The quality of prints used were always terrible, and for the most part a lot of the movies were horrible or bland (Ninja Turf, 1000 Mile Escort), but sandwiched in between the crappy films with the crappy picture quality there were at least a few classics. Out of these initial collections, one that quickly became a favorite of mine was Fighting Ace. It was a late 70s action/comedy featuring a star I had never seen before, but who quickly knocked me off my feet. That man was John Liu.

John Liu’s style isn’t totally unlike what many others were doing at the time, but his high kicks, speed and natural charisma really drew me in as a viewer. Sometimes seen as a poor man’s version of Hwang Jang Lee, John Liu is one of the more underrated Kung Fu film stars from this time period. Spending much of his time working in independent productions, he rarely receives much credit for the solid films that featured his likeness. So, I had picked up Incredible Kung Fu Mission a while back and it has been sitting on my shelf for quite a while. Today (as of the time most of this was originally written), I just felt like watching something mindless and so I hit the play button. Well, this may only be my second film featuring John Liu, but I am feeling very excited about this guy! As a matter of fact, I think that I enjoyed Incredible Kung Fu Mission more than Fighting Ace, which says a lot because I friggin’ loved Fighting Ace! Incredible Kung Fu Mission isn’t exactly the most original film on the planet, but even if it steals from other films for it’s plot(The Dirty Dozen, The Great Escape) , it more than makes up for it with everything it brings to the table. The martial arts, the cheeseball comedy, the sets, the to-the-point story and everything else you expect from a great Kung Fu film.

One of the first things I knew I liked about the movie was how direct it is. Honestly, during the first four minutes of actual run-time the entire plot of the film is explained to the audience. The whole thing! And this makes it much easier on me, the reviewer, because I have to write out those annoying little plot outlines up above. I really enjoyed the ‘in your face’, this is what we’re going to do, style of getting the plot out of the way. With everything laid out for all to see, we then move directly into the training and fighting sequences. It is so very direct, and it’s refreshing to sit down to a film that knows how to maintain its genre momentum and doesn’t relent from it.

Although it was another low budget action title for Liu, no doubt shot in Taiwan, you would never guess it when looking at the quality of the fight choreography or general action. Although the fight seems to be a bit on the sporadic side, the quality of the action is of a very high caliber. The climax for the film is one of the more exhilarating Kung Fu battles that I have seen in quite a while. It is truly epic in scale, as we get to see John Liu finally throw down with Hong Kong legend Robert Tai. There are also plenty of other amazing action sequences dispersed over the course of the movie. A personal favorite would be the scene where our rag-tag group returns to a brothel that they were originally kicked out of, but this time they are the ones who do the kicking. The scene escalates and features some awesome performances by all involved, but the work between two of our heroes who use each other to flip one another is quite impressive. You can pick apart the film choosing deliberate scenes of Kung Fu genius, but there’s really no need to since every fight within the film is worth watching.

The fighting isn’t the only thing worth watching in the film though, if it were it certainly wouldn’t get such high blessings from me. The plot to the film is a bit familiar for sure, but even so, it manages to find that perfect blend of genre-film expectations as well as inventive new ideas. I’ve always been a fan of the “men on a mission” action subgenre, and Incredible Kung Fu Mission is just one more film in a long list of favorites of mine. This one just so happens to take place in China and features excellent Kung Fu, and that’s not a negative my friends that is a positive. It might also sound familiar to those of you familiar with the Jackie Chan/Sammo Hung/Yuen Biao vehicle Fantasy Mission Force, but surprisingly this low budget action title hit the market a few years before the popular three-dragons vehicle.

Along for the ride in this film is an ensemble of some of the strangest villains outside of a Jimmy Wang film. Robert Tai steps up to the plate as a blonde haired freak who wears a red cape to clash with his blue pajama-like clothing. If you remember what Franco Nero looked like in Companeros, then just imagine him as Asian, skinnier and dressed like a wizard. Robert Tai may be familiar to some of us due to his work with the Shaw Bros. Studio during the early part of the 70s. He did the action choreography for several of Chang Cheh’s films, and helped solidify the Venom clan during this period. What makes his bad guy character so fun isn’t just the funky fashion sense, it’s his unnamed Kung Fu style in which he punches through your heart using his fingers. The gimmick is established and used very well throughout and works as a constant threat for our heroes. There are also a great number of unknown fighters throughout the movie who randomly challenge our wandering mercenaries. Most are not as interesting, but there are a few who stand out. From this group, my personal favorite would be the assassin who dresses in blue and fights using an umbrella that appears to have a blade on the end. The fight involving this guy is quite impressive. As is the battle with the assassin who carries two swords. There are plenty of other mini-boss type battles throughout the film, and it all adds to the charm.


The Conclusion
If you know old school Kung Fu you should know what to expect. If it’s something you like, then perhaps you’ll agree with me. If you’ve never liked Kung Fu in your life, then perhaps you should start someplace else. Incredible Kung Fu Mission isn’t groundbreaking and that’s the only real fault I can find in it. Some films are meant to break down doors and some films are meant to keep us entertained, and this is one that does just that. The comedy in the film isn’t going to fit everyone’s cup of tea, it’s more along the lines of regular Kung Fu gags (ie: A man in drag fooling a nosy official), but if you want something to watch and have fun with this might just be the movie for you. Highly recommended.




NAVIGATION

VIDEO

TAGS

Sponsors

About Me

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.

Twitter

    Photos