Monday, June 27, 2011

One A Week Reviews #25: I Saw The Devil

This weekend's review is running a little late but I Saw The Devil  is more than worth the wait. Originally reviewed for Dvdsnapshot, this was a real treat - one amazingly violent movie, but an incredible watch.
Official Synopsis:

I Saw the Devil is a shockingly violent and stunningly accomplished tale of murder and revenge. The embodiment of pure evil, Kyung-chul is a dangerous psychopath who kills for pleasure. On a freezing, snowy night, his latest victim is the beautiful Juyeon, daughter of a retired plice chief and pregnant fiancee of elite special agent Soo-hyun. Obsessed with revenge, Soo-hyun is determined to track down the murderer, even if doing so means becoming a monster himself. And when he finds Kyung-chul, turning him in to the authorities is the last thing on his mind, as the lines between good and evil fall away in this diabolically twisted game of cat and mouse.

Our Take:
Your response to I Saw the Devil may hinge on your visceral response to the idea of “an eye for an eye.” Not your logical response but what your gut says. The driven and resourceful Kim Soo-hyun avenges the slaughter of his finacee by stalking the four likliest suspects for the crime. When he finds the culprit, he decides to toy with him. However, hunting the hunter goes awry with complications he could have never imagined. When in your hubris you let a killer free, what happens next rests on your shoulders.
Between an Achillies tendon moment, a home invasion, and a technically dazzling sequence in a taxi cab, I Saw the Devil takes ultra-violence up to a whole new level. The brutaltity of this movie is perhaps best emboided by the sheer number of head wounds people suffer. There's a great over-the-top plot complication that comes along with an hour to go you won't see coming, but its just one more in a constant series of shifting, satisfying twists. Director Jee-woon Kim adds humanity and allows the audience an empathy that makes the violence all the more effective. His two leads deliver performances so solid not even dubbing can lessen them, though, as always, the bad guy is the more dynamic of the two.
Impeccably made, with a measured pace that occasionally explodes in violence, I Saw the Devil is mesmerizing even when it makes you look away... and you WILL look away at least once. It also stirs you to squirm in your seat, wanting to throw punches along with the protagonist. This is a major crime thriller; a brilliant, savage must-watch.

Friday, June 17, 2011

One A Week Reviews #24: The Voyeur

I like to write about movies filled with buckets o' guts, cheesy acting, and high-camp plotlines. I wouldn't normally scribble down my opinions on a film from European soft-core king Tinto Brass unless Dan at Exploitation Retrospect asked me to. Previously, I wrote about the beautiful Art of Love for site, and a refreshing bit of sexploitation is always welcome. The Voyeur is a movie for  "grown ups" and it's topic matter is  "bouncy-bouncy." If my logo shows all the different cuts of meat, you have to expect, on occasion, different muscles.

Tinto Brass seems to have two basic obsessions, buttocks and labia.

The Voyeur is a film all about “The Male Gaze” in film, by a master of it. Every nook and camel-toe get explored by the camera in this set-bound, softly-lit, weirdly perfume-ad-like film. It's of 1994 vintage but, has an Eighties haze and the aesthetic of a Seventies centerfold spread, lacking only a long string of pearls and a wicker chair. The compositions, though, are sometimes as painterly and composed as those of Peter Greenaway, and in the service of a nearly hard-core fantasia.

(Thar be (naughty, naughty) Spoilers Here:)

Friday, June 10, 2011

One A Week Reviews #23: Sculpture

My history with Sculpture goes back a while. It was a pleasure to meet members of the cast and crew back at Horrorhound weekend in 2009, so when Dan at Exploitation Retrospect asked if I wanted to review the movie, it was a given I would.  

Sculpture is an unusual curiosity of a movie: A study of a woman going mad as the sexual abuses of her past catch up with her, dressed up with gory murders, then stuffed into a pair of posing trunks. Your normal, pulchritudinous Scream Queens are here replaced by a series of muscular hunks who's every curve and swell are explored by the camera before they're chopped to little bits by a crazed killer. It's nice to see how the other half lives.

Opening with a framing sequence at the art gallery of Alan Rowe Kelly (you really must see The Blood Shed), who's proud to present the newest show of Ashley Steele (Raine Brown). We then flash back to see how Ashley builds her show-stopping sculpture, "The Perfect Man." After the death of her abusive father, she returns home to brother Adam, his gang of muscle-bound friends, and old "frienemy" Emily. Things quickly take a toxic turn as she finds inspiration for her art in the bodies of Adam's friends

Erin Brown returns under the "Misty Mundae" moniker as Emily. It's a fascinating, fresh twist (though perhaps a one-note one) to see her and Brown's soft, "natural" bodies and breasts countered with the over-defined, pumped up chests of the men in the film. They're packing more cleavage than the actresses and the camera lingers over them longer, both when they pose and as Ashley methodically goes about harvesting their parts. Blake has beautiful legs and Greg has a nice rump, and she's not about to let any piece get away from her and her art. The sawing away she does to get such parts, though, is almost comical, but the dip into gore satisfies.

Aimed at an audience of women and gay men (more closeted than not, I'd guess), and produced by Screamkings, a company with a roster of films where pretty boys wind up in the grave, Sculpture actually has a subtle, surprisingly well-handled story of childhood abuse at it's heart. For low budget horror -with all the constraints that implies – this is a well-written and directed film. The DVD extras include a deleted scene of fantasized incest that's a textbook example of knowing what to cut to strengthen a film. There's also an excised gay subplot and fleshed-out version of a double murder scene.

Raine Brown is one of those B-movie actresses who shows up in fare that emphasizes her figure then surprises you with nuanced acting. She plays a modulated, methodical decent into crazy and in the end sells wide-eyed madness without going (too) over the top. We understand why she sees The Perfect Man as marble when the world just sees fly-blown meat. Both Browns and Kelly have the chops. None of the other actors embarrass themselves, though all are obviously featured primarily here for their bodies. Best are Dustin Kerns as Adam and co-producer Marv Blauvelt who appears as the father in flashbacks. Blauvelt is still producing horror films where the bread and butter is hot guys getting killed by scream queens, and more power to him and this odd sub-genre.

There's (and this is such a groaner I almost hate to type it) "meat" to the story in Sculpture behind the beefcake.

Friday, June 3, 2011

One A Week Reviews #22: American Experience: Stonewall Uprising

Perfect for June, let's kick off "Pride Month" with this documentary on the Stonewall Riots I wrote for dvdsnapshot. Check it out!

American Experience: Stonewall Uprising

Official Synopsis:

Veteran filmmakers Kate Davis and David Heilbroner (Adolescent Addict, Jockey) explore the dramatic event that launched a world-wide rights movement. Told by those who took part, from drag queens and street hustlers to police detectives, journalists, and a former mayor of New York, and featuring a rich trove of archival footage, this American Experience film revisits a time when homosexual acts were illegal throughout America, and homosexuality itself was seen as a form of mental illness. Hunted and often entrapped by undercover police in their hometowns, gays from around the U.S. began fleeing to New York in search of a sanctuary in a Mafia-run gay bar in Greenwich Village, the Stonewall Inn. When police raided Stonewall on June 28, 1969, gay men and women did something they had not done before: they fought back. As the streets of New York erupted into violent protests and street demonstrations, the collective anger announced that the gay 
rights movement had arrived.

Our Take:

Stonewall Uprising chronicles the moment a group of long bullied, oppressed, and put-upon gay bar patrons decided to stand up to institutionalized abuse and sparked the explosion of the gay rights movement.

Up until the early sixties, homosexuality was treated as a mental illness and violently suppressed by society through social pressures and punishment. There were only small groups (the "homophile movement") working for acceptance through conformity and the main options available to homosexuals up through the sixties was a secretive, "twilight" life. Slowly, small enclaves were carved out, the "Gay ghettos," and this documentary does a great job of establishing the tenor of the times before introducing you to the Stonewall Inn, the very heart of gay life in New York.

You can only marginalize someone for so long before they fight back, and through a variety of interviews with participants (police, reporters, the drag queens whose thrown pennies became a "shot heard 'round the world."), the films shows how events simmered up to become the Stonewall riots. Having finally had enough, the gay community fought back. Years of oppressive arrests lead to one night when the usual police round-up wound up with them barricading themselves in the bar for fear of the crowd. (An anecdote about the deputy addressing each officer to keep it from becoming a shoot out illustrates just what a powder keg this situation was. )

Glorious sixties footage of Times Square gives a "you are there" immediacy to the interviews. (The most awkward, complicated inclusion, for many reasons, might be Ed Koch, but his story and involvement with the AIDS crisis of the 80s is a whole other story...) What happened during the Stonewall riots wound up changing American culture. To this day, Gay Pride parades traditionally happen in June to commemorate these events. Stonewall Uprising is one of the most engaging films the American Experience series has produced to date. A concise, absorbing telling of how it all got started.

Special Features:

This bare-bones disc features English Subtitles and an option for 5.1 Surround Sound Audio. The visual are a full-frame widescreen.


The American Experience series does it again with Stonewall Uprising, their documentary of the Stonewall Inn Riots that sparked the gay rights movement.  A balanced, beautiful reminder of how far the world has come in accepting the realities of our fellow human beings. This is also required viewing for anyone coming out in the forty-plus years since Stonewall who may not know what they owe their elders.

Overall Picture:
Movie: A 
Extras: C