If it's crap ... We'll tell you
All things considered, Nick Cage has had a good run of it the last two years or so. I mean, not in Oscar terms, mind you, but he seems to finally be developing a penchant for picking the right retarded-crazy films to bring his particular brand of XTREME to.. However, "Season of the Witch" is NOT in that 'right' list. Here, he and Ron Perlman play returning Crusading knights who get home only to find the black plague is running rampant. Two churchy types have a young girl (Claire Foy) accused of being a witch, and they give the directive to the knights to take her to a special monastery where the monks there can fight her magic which allegedly caused the plague. Yeah, okay, so a film with this premise that ended up being a more serious film about belief, superstition, and the innocent who are swept up into the paranoia of the extreme end of the faithful would have been pretty cool, and indeed, "Season of the Witch" toys with making its audience think that might be where it's going. But no, this is a bad CG-driven horror-action film with nary a remarkable scene representing either genre side of the hyphen. Not to mention that it still seems in pretty bad taste to blame witches for stuff. Are we really going back to that? (glancing at the internet) Yeah, I guess some of us kind of are. *sigh*. What was that aphorism about those who don't learn from history? Don't get me wrong, if they had made this ooky and fun, I wouldn't have cared about not seeing the film that I personally thought would have been more interesting to make...but no. Hey, there's an alternate ending that...actually ends up at pretty much the same place. Oh well. Come on, Cage, you can do better/worse than this, right? I'm picturing you as the bad guy in "Crank 3". Get to it.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Season of the Witch [Blu-ray]
TETSUO: THE BULLET MAN (DVD)
There's a lot of films that I've reviewed over the years here at Spill.com that I've attached varying degrees of the 'seriously weird' warning label to. But hey, I LIKE seriously weird. As long as it's not boring (the death curse of the seriously weird) than generally my attention is rapt. Which is why it's kind of important to understand the strong affectionate feelings I have for Japanese director Shinya Tsukamoto's "Tetsuo" trilogy, which may very well be at the nadir of the 'seriously weird' label. Begun in 1989 with a low-budget sci-fi horror called "Tetsuo: The Iron Man", audiences were astonished by his industrial, cyberpunk vision that used stop-motion animation to create its effects. It was followed up in 1992 by "Tetsuo II: Body Hammer", which added color and a bigger budget, and then finally in 2010 with "Tetsuo: The Bullet Man". The films aren't really sequels, so much as remakes, and each tells the story of an 'everyman' who ends up, through the actions of a character referred to as 'the man', 'the guy', or 'the metal fetishist' (played by the director himself) being infected by a metal virus, which takes over their bodies, hideously deforming them while also giving them special powers. As a big fan of the first two films, which are just nut-job crazy/brilliant (depending on your tolerance for barely-linear insane-o-thons, and probably on how much you like bands like Ministry or Einstürzende Neubauten), I was absolutely thrilled to get a third installment after all this time, but years of making considerably more conventional films has made Tsukamoto lose a lot of his edge. What is new to the series this time, isn't really new or great. Being filmed in English now is only the first warning sign that perhaps things will never be the same. All I can think is, Tsukamoto wanted to tell his story (again) to an audience less comfortable with the extremes of the first two films, and this is a big mistake. Even the stop-motion effects are largely gone this time around with a story that plays out more like an "Incredible Hulk" analogue about rage. Who knew being more cohesive and straight-forward would be a bad thing? It's still entertaining enough for the fans of the series to be worth watching (like they'd miss it), but it's not interesting or unique enough to garner any new ones. Only a new ending theme written by Nine Inch Nails specifically for the film gives it any special elements of note apart from the previous two. Oh well. Apparently you CAN kill the metal.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Tetsuo: The Bullet Man
THE WARRIOR'S WAY (Blu-Ray and DVD)
I realize that I have loudly bitched about many of the action movie elements exemplified in this 2010 South Korean/American fantasy martial arts film. Lots of silly looking CG (including the oh-so-dreaded CG-fake super-shiny blood), nonsensical plot elements, slow-mo....I could be talking about "Sucker Punch", right? And yet, "The Warrior's Way" had a unique mish-mash of style, even using something similar to the aesthetics of someone like Jean-Pierre Jeunet at points, that really appealed to me. Oh yeah, and it's got about 95 percent less rape, and has likable characters in it who aren't all whores (or even women who apparently fantasize about being whores, which is actually kind of worse). That goes a long way for me. The story follows a cult of assassins who has been warring with a rival cult, but it's all over now, as their ultimate bad-ass, Yang (Jang Dong-gun) has killed all but the last one...an infant female child. Incapable of murdering her, he takes the child under his protection and flees to American, earning him the enmity of the rest of his clan. Hiding out in a ramshackle wild west town, overshadowed by a dilapidated spooky old carnival, he ends up welcomed by the town's western stereotypes, including a dwarf (Tony Cox), a town drunk (Geoffrey Rush) and Lynn (Kate Bosworth), who is an orphan girl who shows promise as a student for the former assassin. Of course, this being the old west, it's got its own group of scruffy villains, and here they're led by the ever-scowling Danny Huston as The Colonel. As if he and his gang of ruffians aren't interrupting Yang's attempt to find peace and quiet enough, it's not long until his former cult is showing up looking for revenge as well. While it's all very campy and even kind of cheap looking, I felt like the dream-like sensibilities were more of an aesthetic choice than failed realism (as I argue with Co-Host at length about in the audio review) and it worked for me. I enjoyed what "The Warrior's Way" was trying to do, even if it was ultimately less than perfectly successful on a number of technical fronts. It moves quickly, has tons of martial arts, and an odd and interesting look that is very much all its own. Hell, it's cowboys versus ninjas. That works for me.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY The Warrior's Way [Blu-ray]