Movie Review: Adam Chaplin (2011)

Action, Crime, Horror, Movie Reviews

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They say we fall in love when we least expect it – and after watching ”Adam Chaplin”, I can wholeheartedly relate to this sentiment.  Every once in awhile, you stumble upon a movie that caters so well to your tastes. you think it was made just for you.  That’s the feeling that overwhelmed me when watching ”Adam Chaplin”, the manic action-horror hybrid revenge story from Necrostorm – an Italian film production company who specialize in gore and insanity.  Inspired by Japanese manga and violent B movies of the 1980’s and 90’s, this self-proclaimed ”Italian gore extravaganza” is an amazing triumph of micro-budget cinema.

Set in the fictional country of Heaven Valley, the film tells the story of Adam Chaplin – a demonically possessed vigilante with superhuman strength hellbent on avenging the death of his wife, who was burnt alive at the hands of Denny, a sadistic mob boss who is impossible to touch.  With a corrupt police force and a hired killer on his case, Adam and his demon sidekick must slaughter their way through their foes before vengeance can be claimed.

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To compare ”Adam Chaplin” with other movies, I’d say it’s a combination of ”The Crow (1994)”, ”Faust: Love of the Damned (2000)”, ”Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991)” and ”Fist of the North Star (1986)” to name a few.  Essentially, it’s a comic book come to life: the story is a Faustian tale of revenge, with cartoonish characters in a city ruled by crime and corruption.  The villains are grotesque, maniacal and savage, whereas Adam is a trench coat clad killing machine who can punch through faces. Visually, it’s dark and grimy, with an ever present blue flair which further enhances its comic book aesthetic; this provides a stunning contrast to all of the crimson splatter, which sprays, splurts and slithers in gallons.

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Gore is the obvious appeal of a film like ”Adam Chaplin”, and it makes sure to bring it to the forefront whenever possible – which is often as the story was tailor-made to include as much visceral carnage as possible.  Blood sprays, limbs are torn and heads are bashed; eyeballs and brains are squished and allowed to pour out from skulls and lay with rotten carcasses.  However, the plot – as thin and simple as it may be – makes for an engaging story to be told.

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The film is a showcase of practical effects, which look absolutely outstanding considering the budget they were working with – which was less than the daily catering of a Michael Bay movie.  I imagine this will be very inspiring to any up and coming horror filmmakers.  At times it is a little rough around the edges, but the sheer ambition of the project – as well as the heart and effort put in – is so incredible it blurs out its minor flaws.

”Adam Chaplin” is the type of film many horror fans yearn for: a violent, frenzy of bizarre madness that’s so off the rails you wonder if it was even on track to begin with.  It’s a balls-to-the-wall splatter fest full of non-stop action at its most hyper and deranged.  It’s style over substance at its most entertaining and a sure fire cult classic of popcorn entertainment. Necrostorm are bringing Italian splatter back to prominence in the 21st century.  And they’re doing so with style.  8/10

Written & Directed By:

Emanuele De Santi

Starring:

Emanuele De Santi, Valeria Sannino, Chiara Marfella

Genre:

Action, Horror, Crime

Running Time:

84 min

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Movie Review: $kumbagz (2015)

Crime, Movie Reviews

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John Miller’s $kumbagz is my first time seeing a movie from The Sleaze Box, whose reputation I was aware of through Amerikan Holokaust (2013), a movie that’s received plaudits from some of my friends in the indie horror community.  Anyway, going into $kumbagz I was all set for a grimy exploitation movie which pulled me into a seedy underbelly, raped my soul and left me quivering like a broken shell with an inappropriate boner. Instead what I got was an entertainingly raunchy hip hop fever dream that’s unafraid to sprinkle its seedy debauchery with good old fashioned fun.

Kristal ”Pixie” Adams plays Stephanie, a 25 year old slacker still living at home and flipping burgers as a day job – until she gets fired for not inserting a cucumber in her bosses chamber of poop.  Down on her luck, she accepts a ride from a friendly stranger, who then drugs her and forces her into prostitution, until she’s discovered by 6’9 (John Miller); he offers her job doing the same for more money and better working conditions, which she accepts.  However, their new found success doesn’t sit well with a rival gang, who attack them and force Stephanie and 6’9 to take matters into their own hands.  Who will win and take control of the game?

$kumbagz embodies all of the sleaze, nastiness and degradation you’d expect from a feature where the main character spends most of the running time being used as a sex toy, often against her will and whose only hope for a brighter future is a better quality of prostitution.  There’s a sweet naivety about Stephanie that makes her plight uncomfortable to watch at times.  Not to mention she’s incredibly hot and deserves much better than the pieces of shit she has to hook up with.  However, $kumbagz presents the material in such a way that there’s comedy in it, albeit very dark and not for the faint of heart, easily offended or conservative in beliefs.

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Furthermore, $kumbagz has no problem flaunting the sex appeal of its attractive female cast to the full extent, gliding cameras over every inch of their naked bodies, and even throwing in an uncut lesbian sex scene for good measure.  I wasn’t complaining.  Your mom might.

What can I say about $kumbagz then to sum it up?  It’s ultra low-budget raunchy sleaze with colourful characters and a dreamlike quality in places it’s occasionally mesmerizing.  I was entertained throughout and with a 71 minute running time it doesn’t outstay its welcome.  The story moves along at a brisk pace, stopping from time-to-time to indulge in entertaining smut. It might disappoint those looking for gore, but it didn’t need it.  It’ll please the fans it was made for and that’s all that’s important.  This is pure debauchery drenched fun. 7/10.

Written & Directed By:

John Miller

Starring:

Kristal Pixie Adams, John Miller, Joe Makowski, David. A. Adams

Genre:

Crime

Running Time:

71 min

Movie Review: Stoic (2009)

Crime, drama, Movie Reviews

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Any time a reviewer goes to post their thoughts on a good Uwe Boll movie, they feel the need to address his previous critically panned movies that gave him the reputation as one of the worst directors ever.  Unfortunately, this will always be a stigma attached to his name, due to the thousands upon thousands of film fans who dislike him on a personal level and are quick to bash his work before they’ve even given it a chance to prove them wrong.  However, Uwe Boll is not a bad filmmaker; although he’ll never get the credit he deserves for his intelligence and talent, he’s a director who has made mostly good features throughout career, with only a few duds that have overshadowed them to earn him his the undeserved reputation of that of a hack.  But those duds tend to still be entertaining.

That being said, if Uwe’s movies were judged on the merit of each film alone, most of them would still divide opinion due to uncompromising execution of controversial subject matter.  Take a movie like Auschwitz (2011), which was both praised and reviled for its unrelenting portrayal of Nazi atrocities during the Holocaust; or Attack on Darfur (2009) and 1968 Tunnel Rats (2008) for their cruel realistic depictions of war.  Back in 2002, Heart of America bravely explored the subject of high school shootings with delicacy, honesty and grace to create a thought provoking, harrowing piece of brilliant filmmaking.  Critics have been kinder to Rampage (2009) and its sequel Capital Punishment (2014) with its radical socio-political themes and mean spirited, darkly humorous, violent content, but it does have its detractors.  Assault On Wall Street (2013) is another controversial feature which further proves Boll is a capable director; albeit one who isn’t out to please everybody, instead choosing to make statements about the state of the world.  My point is: Boll is a talented filmmaker, but some of his movies are so bleak, nihilistic, honest, and at times – vicious, that they would never appeal to a mass audience.  That’s a logical reason to dislike his movies; not the false assumption that they’re incompetent trash.  This is the only time I’ll address Uwe’s negative reputation, because I feel he’s more than paid his dues.

Stoic falls into the category of impressive, but polarizing; based on the true story of an event which happened in a German prison in 2006, where 3 inmates tortured their cellmate and forced him to hang himself, this a movie which addresses prison brutality in such an honest way it’s unsettling to sit through and disturbing to watch.  The film begins with 4 young prisoners – Harry (Edward Furlong), Mitch (Shaun Sipos), Peter (Sam Levinson) and Jack (Steffen Mennekes) – as they play poker and share fun stories.  Mitch then makes a bet where he’ll eat toothpaste if he loses the next hand; unfortunately for him that’s just what happens.  Afterwards, he tries to back out of the bet, which angers his 3 cellmates.  First they force him to eat the toothpaste, then things gradually grow worse until they spiral out of control.

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If you’re going in to Stoic expecting entertainment then you’ll find it sorely lacking; there is no safety blanket to protect us from the horrible acts as they transpire.  If you choose to stick around, Stoic will punish you without mercy.  It’s a cruel picture with believable performances from the actors, all of whom play characters whose only characteristics are loathsome or tragic.  Furthermore, it’s not a pleasant film to look at, with its dimly lit rooms and dungeon-esque cinematography, it gives off a sense of claustrophobia and hopelessness.  Here we are, watching the events leading up to a forced suicide we know is coming, endurance our only ally.

Stoic is not an enjoyable movie, but it’s a powerful one that will reward you if you can see it through.  It’s cinematic cruelty where each atrocity will make you want to turn away from the screen.  Horror films have become so disposable that violence is just as throwaway and forgettable – at times even ”fun.”  Stoic’s violence isn’t explicit, but it’s so psychologically hard hitting that you’ll feel sorry for the victim and despise his tormentors. Coming from a guy who didn’t react to August Underground and found A Serbian Film funny at times, take that for what it’s worth.  9/10

Written & Directed By: 

Uwe Boll

Starring:

Edward Furlong, Shaun Sipos, Sam Levinson, Steffen Mennekes

Genre:

Drama, Crime

Running Time:

91 mins

Movie Review: Only God Forgives (2013)

Arthouse, Crime, Movie Review

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Only God Forgives is the follow-up to Danish director Nicolas Winding’s 2011 critically acclaimed, Drive – a cultural phenomenon that made you want to buy a leather jacket and drive around at night listening to synthwave music.  A stylish retro thriller with minor arthouse furnishings, Drive was a commercial success and mainstream breakthrough for Refn; now a director with the world at his feet, his next movie was highly anticipated by cinephiles and causal moviegoers alike; when it was announced he’d be teaming up with Ryan Gosling again excitement was in the air, with many hoping for Drive’s unofficial sequel.  Instead, Refn opted to release a bloody arthouse picture as a tribute to Chilean surrealist master, Alejandro Jodorowsky.  It was an artistic statement which divided audiences like black and white; at its Cannes premier it received both a standing ovation and booed hysteria from the polarized audience.  Needless to say it’s a very ”love or hate”, if Drive was the cocaine, Only God Forgives is the acid – it might not be a good trip for some, but for others it might just take them on a journey of the conscience.

Julian (Ryan Gosling) is a drug smuggler who runs a Thai boxing club as a front for his criminal activities on behalf of his criminal family; after his brother murders a prostitute, which results in ruthless cop Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm).  Given that his brother was murdered for raping and killing an innocent woman, Julian has no desire to take it any further.  However, his domineering mother Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) demands retribution and her actions send Chan, also known as the Angel of Death, on a bloody mission of justice.

Only God Forbids is a strange movie; labelled pretentious and self-indulgent by its critics, they do have a point as it favours style over substance, but that doesn’t mean it contains none of the latter.  It’s a film that’s waiting to be dissected and interpreted in different ways.  The line between reality and symbolism is a blur; characters are merely caricatures in a hallucinogenic exploration of existentialism.  Just like Jodorowsky’s El Topo (1970), it’s a Western that abandons a traditional narrative to explore themes that are difficult to decipher right away; at this moment in time I’m still not sure what to make of it all quite yet: all I know is I want to study it more.  There’s nothing wrong with not being able to understand what the hell is going on, I sure didn’t.  But it’s a thought provoking piece of art that makes me want to decipher its meanings.

The score by Cliff Martinez is the films dark beating heart; ominous synth drones draw us into Bangkok’s hellish underbelly and eerie Eastern instruments give us a feeling that there’s much spirituality at work; perhaps even the supernatural.  In a film where dialogue is sparse, the score is relied on heavily for mood and emotion; it’s a triumphant soundtrack to any journey into the abyss – and it makes for great background listening on a dark, rainy day.

Only God Forgives is a flawed movie, but anything that’s so personal to its creator is always going to boast some self-indulgence; that being said, it’s a flawed masterpiece.  Any movie that divides people so passionately is worth seeing if you ask me.  10/10

Written & Directed By:

Nicolas Winding Refn

Starring:

Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm

Genre:

Crime, Arthouse

Running Time:

90 mins

Movie Review: Spring Breakers (2012)

Comedy, Crime, Movie Reviews

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Harmony Korine is a very polarizing filmmaker and Spring Breakers is a divisive movie, despite being his most commercially successful and mainstream appealing movie to date; it’s also his best movie.  While not shying away from ogling the female leads bikini clad bodies with the camera like a peeping perv and exploiting their curves for the millions of dollars that they’re worth, Korine has empowered his characters to create the ultimate 21st century female anti-hero movie while also satirizing a quasi-religious American event; Spring Break has become such a cultural phenomenal that it’s exceeded its geographical borders to become known among all continents and cultures.  Spring Breakers is an exaggerated looking glass of America’s youths favourite annual past time; presented like a surreal fever dream, Korine both mocks and celebrates it in a manner only he could envision.

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Disney starlets have to grow up some time, but very few could have imagined this; marketed as a ”party” movie, it turns out to very misleading. Trailers and posters would lead you to believe that it was all beaches, bosoms, booty and Skrillex bass, and while it is a lot of the time, it’s only the surface.  The story revolves around 4 girls who rob a store to fund their cocaine and alcohol fueled getaway when during a raucous party they get arrested and bailed out by the gangsta rapper Alien (James Franco); what ensues afterwards is a crime spree as they plot the murder of Alien’s ex-home/now nemesis Archie (Gucci Mane).

Spring Breakers is viewed by some as a work of art, and by others as a trashy piece of pulp exploitation.  It’s a little of both: while not promoting rap culture like many of its critics have said about it, Korine has no qualms about flaunting the assets of his young starlets while making them act like teases?  Is it a declaration of female empowerment?  I believe so, as the four leads are very much dictated by their own motivations and remain firmly in control throughout the movie; male characters eat out of their hands and fall under the spells prepared to be crushed like ants.  There’s a scene where James Franco’s character deep throats a handgun at the behest of 2 of the girls; if that isn’t a symbol for matriarchal power I don’t know what is.

The ritual of Spring Break itself is completely mocked; the girls talk about it like it’s some sort of spiritual awakening that’s made them new women while Alien preaches how its the very definition of a sole reason to exist; the exaggerated presentation of the claims is a big joke, and no doubt intended to poke fun at the people the movie was falsely marketed to target.

Visually, the best way to describe it is hypnotic; at times it feels like you’re in a state of trance just watching it.  Vibrant colours, repeated dialogue, slow motion frames and surreal imagery give it a dreamlike quality.  Watching 2 young actresses wearing bikinis and pink balaclavas as they dance with guns to the tune of, ”Everytime” by Britney Spears is quite mesmeric; it also makes for one of the greatest segments in the history of cinema.

Spring Breakers is a movie a lot of people will continue to either love or hate for the rest of time; for that reason alone I rank it as a masterpiece that has to be viewed at least once.  10/10

Written & Directed By:

Harmony Korine

Starring:

Selena Gomez, James Franco, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson

Genre:

Crime, Comedy

Running Time:

94 mins

Movie Review: Original Gangsters (1996)

Action, Blaxploitation, Crime, Movie Reviews

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70’s Blaxploitation meets 90’s ghetto warfare in this urban shoot ’em up co-directed by exploitation legends Larry Cohen and Fred Williamson.  The streets are mean and running amok with criminal filth; after a young basketball starlet is shot down for being hustling gang bangers, a local store owner reports the crime, but he too is gunned down by the hoodlums, which doesn’t sit too well with the neighbourhood old guard comprising of Blaxploitation icons Pam Grier, Fred Williamson and Jim Brown; expect vigilante justice.

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Social commentary about the state of America’s ghetto’s is a prevalent theme in Original Gangsters, but don’t go in expecting to leave with a deeply profound sociological awakening; this is essentially a reunion for the legends of yesteryear to get together and have a nostalgic hurrah cleaning up the streets of the trash who litter it with their crime.  Kudos is given for reapplying the classic 70’s urban vigilante tale we’ve seen from these guys countless times before to fit the Zeitgeist of 90’s African American street life stereotypes; but when you strip it to the bare bones it’s the same old song and dance.  They might be older and wiser, but it’s like nothing has changed at all.

The cast includes the aforementioned legends of Blaxploitation cinema, along with Richard Roundtree (Shaft), Ron O’Neal (Super Fly) and Robert Forster (Medium Cool), as the unwelcome and not required police detective.  It’s like getting the old gang back together on and off screen to give fans what they want and expect.  However, with age comes maturity, and every performance is that of a seasoned veteran; but that doesn’t mean they can’t still throw down.  Fred Williamson’s bruiser martial arts lands many a hood rat on their ass.

Original Gangsters is a straight up throwback to the heyday of African American action machismo; only the gangsta rap has replaced the funky soul and the villains are inner city G’s as opposed to pimps and the honkeys.  However, it ticks all of the right boxes in terms of action, performances and popcorn social commentary, so all in all; fun movie.  7/10

Directors:

Larry Cohen, Fred Williamson

Writer:

Aubrey K. Ratten

Starring:

Fred Williamson, Pam Grier, Jim Brown, Richard Roundree

Genre:

Action, Crime, Drama, Blaxploitation

Running Time:

99 min

Movie Review: Trucker Turner (1974)

Action, Blaxploitation, Crime, Movie Review

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Isaac Hayes forever left his stamp on Blaxploitation – and film as a whole – with the theme song for Shaft (1971) and the 2000 remake, starring Samuel L. Jackson.  Even if you haven’t seen either of the movies, it’s inevitable that you’ve heard the song before; unless you’ve been living under a rock your entire life, that is.  However, when Sir Isaac wasn’t writing theme songs for iconic bad asses of cinema, he was playing bad asses of his own.  The Truck might not be as well known as John Shaft, but that doesn’t make him any less of a bad mother shut yo mouth.  Trucker Turner is, without question, a stonewall classic of the Blaxploitation boom period that deserves a seat at the table alongside Coffy (1973), Black Caesar (1973) and Shaft (1971).

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Isaac Hayes plays Mac ‘Truck’ Turner, a bounty hunter who is hired to track down Gator.  When they find him, a chase ensues and Gator ends up dead; this doesn’t sit too well with his woman, Dorinda, owner of a prosperous street escort set-up, so she puts a hit out on Mac and his partner, by offering 50% of her whore profits to whoever succeeds. With the criminals unable to take down Mac, the big bad Blue brings in his own guys to do the job; and Mac and his partner must fight to survive.

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 Isaac Hayes was never trained to be an actor, nor did he possess an innate knack for the craft; but what he lacked in range and ability he made up for in charisma and cool factor.  When he enters a room, grown women turn into horny school girls and men want to be him; much of the film is spent with Hayes running around shirtless, and there’s a comical scene where he chases a would-be assailant to a roof for interrupting his post-coitus nap with his lady friend, moobs jiggling and all.  His belly might not be equipped to roll a coin down, but there’s no questioning his appeal as a bonafide stud.

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Dorinda (played by Star Trek’s very own Uhara) commands her role as a psychopathic pimp out for vengeance.  Her rage levels are through the roof as she barks obscenities at her whores and everybody who crosses her path.  It’s a marvellously unhinged performance by her and even the cities high profile criminal kingpins are wary.

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The beauty of Truck Turner lies in the execution of its simplicity.  It has everything you expect from a Blaxploitation action flick: the body is high, the scenes are action packed, the soundtrack is funky and soulful, the talk is slicker than Rick.  There’s an excessive amount of violence, car chases and gun fights.  What’s not to love?

Truck Turner is a procedural actioner that doesn’t try to be anything else.  The protagonist is a bad ass and he’s always on the go; fighting, fucking and killing.  He’s a manly men of all men and deserves to be crowned as genre royalty.

Director Jonathan Kaplan would later go on to direct some of the most popular TV shows on network television, but the exploitation gems he made during the 70’s and 80’s remain his greatest contributions to his legacy.  Trucker Turner is a raucous, rowdy romp through the mean streets of the ghetto and it’s barrels of fun.  8/10

Director:

Jonathan Kaplan

Writer:

Oscar Williams & Michael Allin

Starring:

Isaac Hayes, Nichelle Nichols, Yaphet Kotto

Genre:

Action, Crime, Blaxploitation

Running Time:

91 min

Movie Review: Cotton Comes To Harlem (1970)

Action, Blaxploitation, Comedy, Crime, Movie Review

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Variety magazine credited 1971’s Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song as the first ever Blaxploitation film; but the first of its kind can arguably be traced back to 1970’s Cotton Comes To Harlem, directed by the legendary Ossie Davis, who some of you will know as the African American who played JFK in Doscarelli’s cult classic, Bubba Hotep (2003).  The fact is: Cotton Comes To Harlem has all the stylistic hallmarks of a Blaxploitation movie – music, lingo, action, etc – but many would argue that it’s a simple action comedy; but that’s irrelevant when the only thing that’s important is the movie itself, and Cotton Comes To Harlem is one sweet talkin’ soul brotha of a movie.

Based on the novel by Chester Himes, Cotton Comes To Harlem follows the head busting detectives “Gravedigger” Jones (Godfrey Cambridge) and “Coffin Ed” Johnson (Raymond St. Jacques) as they pursue the scamming conman, Reverend O’Malley.  Along the way they encounter gangsters, militants and a host of other characters who stand between them and their target.

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The biggest compliment I can give Cotton Comes To Harlem is that it’s never boring and that it’s aged extremely well; if there isn’t a car chase there’s a shoot out; if there isn’t a shoot out there’s a brawl; and if there isn’t a brawl there’s some smooth talking exchanges between the characters, making for many moments that shift between melodrama and comedy.  The novel is regarded as an important piece of American literature, as the author was a pioneer of African American crime fiction; social commentary about race and inequality are evident in the film too, but it never gets preachy at the expense of entertainment.

I think one of the reasons that Cotton Comes To Harlem still hits home to this day is because of its social themes; with race and class issues still a problem in America, this movie still connects with people.  However, it’s not like the action and comedy haven’t stood the test of time either; these types of movies continue to find audiences because of how much fun they are, and with the popularity of Black Dynamite and even Austin Powers: Goldmember, it’s plain to see that there’s new generations continuing to be inspired by them.  Cotton Comes To Harlem was a fitting start to one of the most influential subgenres of exploitation cinema, and it’s well worth tracking down.  7/10

Director:

Ossie Davis

Writer:

Chester Himes (novel) & Arnold Perl (screenplay)

Genre:

Action, Crime, Comedy, Blaxploitation

Running Time:

97 min