ReviewsFeaturesRadioArcadeDrive-InMerchForumsContestsContact Us

USA/Canada | 2011
Directed by: Chad Archibald & Gabriel Carrer
Written by: Gabriel Carrer & Chard Archibald
Starring: Pete Soltesz, Ryan Barrett, Jennifer De Lucia, Casey Dutfield
| 87 Minutes | Not Rated

- By KamuiX

A group of people wake up in a house, dressed in white, with no memory of how they got there. Following the initial panic (and encountering a bloodied man emerging from the basement who’s too injured to talk), they explore the house and discover that all of the doors and windows are bricked over. Panic and distrust of one another begins to boil over, which is only heightened when they find a note that tells them they’re all part of a game and if they ever want to return to their normal lives they need to be the last person alive. In other words, every one else needs to be killed. Oh, and there are weird guys running around the house with Tiki masks on. Don’t ask me.

Troma obviously arranged Kill to be released around the same time as Battle Royale’s first official release in the U.S., its rip-off counterpart The Hunger Games, and even The Cabin in the Woods, but everyone would be better off just watching those (probably even The Hunger Games; although I won’t be watching it to see if I’m right) or even the first couple of Saw flicks again. Kill is an absolutely dire film that has an interesting premise, but shoots itself in the foot with so many of the trappings that indie films do. It’s horribly acted, terribly filmed (when are people going to learn to avoid lots of reds when shooting on cheap digital?), and commits the two biggest sins any low-budget, do-it-yourself horror flick can: it’s too damn long and it takes itself way too seriously. I probably wouldn’t need more than my own ten fingers to count how many of these homegrown types of indie horror/thriller films that pull off a serious tone that actually works; on the flipside, I can count a ton that are fun to watch because they choose to revel in their cheapness and know full well what they are. I have to struggle to think of any films I’ve enjoyed lately that fall into the former, but just in the last year I’ve experienced films that fall into the latter that I’ve gotten a kick out of like The Taint, Blood Junkie (which is among the only Troma-licensed films of the past five years or more than I can honestly say doesn’t suck), and a little gem called Swamphead that Troma should have already licensed and released by now instead of wasting my time with tripe like Kill. Kill restrains itself by trying to create tension and a tone of unease, but it has none of the tools to pull it off, so you’re left either rolling your eyes or bored to tears. It doesn’t help matters that directors Philip Carrer and Chad Archibald (whose last name is spelled “Archivald” on the DVD cover; Troma doesn’t even give a shit!) picked a premise that’s been done much better, by much more competent filmmakers, and didn’t go in any unique directions with it.

I will say the final 5 minutes or so are sort of entertaining in a carnivalesque sense, but even that doesn’t have an identity of its own, as it’s quite obviously ransacked from the mind of Rob Zombie. Apparently this film was shot in 2004 and subsequently lost when a HDD fried, but was uncovered recently. I don’t even know if that’s a line of shtick or what, but even if it isn’t, the only things I wouldn’t be bringing up back then that I’m saying now are the comparisons to films like Saw that have been released since. If this was put out in 2004, I’d still come to the same conclusion: Kill sucks. Troma’s release sees the film presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and it looks about as good as a film like this is going to. Tons of aliasing when it comes to shades of red and some inherent murkiness in the picture is present, but it’s certainly watchable (entertainment-wise, that’s up for debate). The 2.0 stereo track is decent, although you’ll be reaching for the remote to adjust the volume as there are balancing issues between the dialogue and music. Extras include a full-length commentary track (which I didn’t listen to for obvious reasons…you DID read the review, right?), a trailer for the film, and the usual stock “Tromatic” extras.

Please feel free to discuss "Kill" here, in our forums!

Take Aim at the Police Van  
Japan | 1960
Directed by: Seijun Suzuki
Written by: Shinichi Sekizawa & Kazuo Shimada
Starring: Michitaro Mizushima, Mari Shiraki, Misako Watanabe, Shinsuke Ashida
Black & White
| 79 Minutes | Not Rated

- By Old Dirty Pink Sock

“Play with matches, and you will get burned.”

It is time to take yet another trip down the road of Nikkatsu Noir, thanks in large part to Criterion making it available. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know if I would have a chance to take part in watching these films that seem to have an ever tightening grip on my interests. Take Aim at the Police Van is a tale of a prison guard named Daijiro Tamon (Michitaro Mizushima) who is suspended for six months after a transport van he was supervising was attacked and left two prisoners dead. He then decides to head up his own investigation, tracking down one of his old prisoners for any info on the attack. His investigation leads him to the Hamaju Agency, ran by a woman named Yuko Hamashima. Yuma (Misako Watanabe) seems to be hiding something, but her interest in Tamon keeps her helping him.

Take Aim is another film that is brilliantly framed and shot by one Shigeyoshi Min. Min uses some classic camera shots, such as the front bumper camera that makes up much of the films opening credit rolls. The locals used for filming keep the movie fresh, and really help to capture the post war bustling Japanese cities. There is everything from an overcrowded graveyard, to train yards to strip clubs and busy metropolis streets full of life. The only real hiccup that one might catch is the use of some film trickery near the end of the film. It doesn’t go unappreciated though, as it feels more like a time stamp for that era of filmmaking than an outdated technique that would outdate a film and adds to the charm of it all.

Koichi Kawabe was tasked with scoring the film, and he does a wonderful job of adding suspense when needed. A lot of it has a very distinct familiarity of a 1950’s American Noir film. Kawabe is able to push the pace during the action scenes helping to create a frenzied level of excitement while at the same time creating a foreboding presence during times of heavy dialog or when bits of the story start to come together. There are times when the music helps keep the film from feeling too stagnant.

A lot of the acting leaves something to be desired. It ranges from the slightly over dramatic, to high school play levels of terrible. Not all is lost, as Mizushima portrays his role well. He is frantic when he needs to be, but otherwise plays the part with a level of cool one would expect from Noir protagonist. Watanabe however, runs the entire emotional gambit, sometimes in such quick succession that it becomes difficult to keep up with what she is attempting to portray on screen.

Take Aim is a classic whodunit tale penned by Shinichi Sekizawa and Kazuo Shimada. They try to keep you guessing until the very end of the film and have just enough seedy character types and a level of mystery around the main cast to keep you doing just that. Without giving too much away, the main villain is quite the bastard, so the ending feels more satisfying than one would expect. There are a couple of plot points that are left dangling in front of the viewer, such as why the prisoner transport van was attacked in the first place. There is also the bit about the main containing a certain set of skills that probably shouldn’t belong to a simple prison guard, but the film never really touches on Tamon’s past.

Take Aim at the Police Van is worth a watch, and while it doesn’t carry the same sense of style that later Nikkatsu Noir films seem to have, the whodunit is enough to keep one entertained.

Please feel free to discuss "Take Aim at the Police Van" here, in our forums!

Astonishing X-Men: Dangerous  
USA | 2012
Directed by: Jesse Cote
Written by: Joss Whedon & John Cassaday
Starring: Mark Hildreth, Laura Harris, Brian Drummond, Ron Halder
| 69 Minutes | Not Rated

- By KamuiX

Picking up where Astonishing X-Men: Gifted left off, Astonishing X-Men: Dangerous tells the next story arc of Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s run on the Astonishing X-Men comic series. Wing, the mutant student at the Xavier Academy that was stripped of his mutant powers by Ord, is having trouble coping at being a normal human. So much so that he’s willing to die just to feel what it’s like to fly again. High on a cliff he’s chastised by one of his classmates about being de-powered, and it sends him over the edge as he leaps to his death. But his classmate and the cliff he toppled from wasn’t actually real; it was an environment created by the now sentient Danger Room, which for all these years was powered by an alien A.I. and imprisoned by Professor Xavier, who knew full-well what he was doing, although he re-programmed it to never be lethal. But by nudging Wing to commit suicide, the A.I., now known solely as Danger and taking on the form of a robotic female, was able to override its programming and can now be as deadly as it wants to be. And considering it has battled the X-Men countless times over the years and knows every single fighting technique they employ, it’s quest for revenge is about to turn into a one-sided mutant massacre.

First off I should get two things out of the way. Firstly, if you haven’t seen (or read) Astonishing X-Men: Gifted yet, you really should before checking out Dangerous as some things will go right over your head otherwise. While Whedon and Cassaday’s run was broke up into four story arcs, they all played off of one another and told an evolving story. Secondly, if you have seen the animated version of Gifted and didn’t like it due to the motion comic format, then you should skip Dangerous altogether. It’s more of the same; in fact, I’d argue the animation is a bit more stilted than it was in Gifted. I’m not really sure why, maybe because John Cassaday didn’t assist in the directorial department, but Dangerous almost feels a bit like a step-back from Gifted. And considering how many people complained about the quality of the animation utilized in Gifted, as well as how far the technique has come when looking at something like Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers, it’s sort of odd the most recent motion comic in Marvel's arsenal is produced the worst. But if it doesn’t bother you (I still get a kick out of the 60's Marvel cartoons that consist of 50% or more of still pictures), then there’s a lot to enjoy here.

It should come as no surprise that the writing is super solid thanks to the pen of Joss Whedon, and unlike some other high-profile geeks that think they can write comics (*cough*KevinSmith*cough*), Whedon respects all of these characters and the personalities they’ve developed over the years, so you won’t see him breaking from the status quo so he can insert some of his own personality into the story. While I wouldn’t say this arc is quite as strong as Gifted, it does have some cool stuff going for it, such as the introduction of Danger, who’s become a notable member of the X-Men roster over the past couple of years, and it shines a pretty harsh light on Professor Xavier, one that we don’t see very often. When Cyclops starts to doubt whether he should trust everything the Prof says, you know he must have done something pretty terrible. The storyline threads from the previous volume move forward nicely as well, especially the mystery of Emma Frost and whether she’s an actual team-player or simply a mole working for someone else, and thankfully Marvel has announced they will animated Whedon’s full run on the series, so we’ll see all of it come to a conclusion over the next couple of years. Astonishing X-Men: Dangerous is really designed for those that have never read the comic, huge fans that want to see it come to life, or the oddball that won’t read a comic book and would rather hear it acted out instead while viewing the art. If you fall into any of those categories, and aren’t averse to a limited style of animation, this is a compelling story for X-fans.

Shout! Factory’s release sees all 6 episodes presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and the quality is what you’d expect for a web-series collected on DVD. The colors are nice and it’s mostly a pleasant viewing experience, although some aliasing is present throughout, which is due more to the animation itself than any bad disc authoring. The 2.0 stereo track is crystal clear. Sadly, unlike the Gifted release, Dangerous is a bare-bones affair, so once you’re finish watching the feature, you’re all out of viewing options. Although of course if you can’t wait to see how things turn out, you can always buy the graphic novels.

Please feel free to discuss "Astonishing X-Men: Dangerous" here, in our forums!

A Colt is My Passport  
Japan | 1967
Directed by: Takashi Nomura
Written by: Shuichi Nagahara & Nobuo Yamada
Starring: Jo Shishido, Chitose Kobayashi, Jerry Fujio, Eimei Esumi
Black & White
| 84 Minutes | Not Rated

- By Old Dirty Pink Sock

“Morals or money, what will it be?”

I want to start this off by saying I know very little about this genre of film, so my knowledge will be amateurish at best. Though, from what I have seen, it is definitely a genre worthy of mine, and every one else’s attention. A Colt Is My Passport is no exception. The film is about a hit man and his right hand man trying to escape Japan after a successful assignment on a Yakuza boss. Senzaki (Eimei Esumi), son of the deceased, seeks vengeance while talking a rival boss into helping him. All the while, Shuji (Jo Shishido) and Jun (Jerry Fujio) receive help from Mina (Chitose Kobayashi), a local bar maid who is also trying to leave.

A Colt Is My Passport takes its cues from a couple of other genres and blends it into its own style that just works. Everything from the black and white film of America’s Film Noir, to Harumi Ibe’s score, which sounds like it belongs in a Spaghetti Western, set this up to be an enjoyable experience for those that are fans of said genres.

The cinematography is wonderful, and the black and white gives off this layer of grittiness that really helps to capture the feel of the underworld. Shigoeyoshi Mine, under direction of Takashi Nomura, is a master with the camera, and his bag of tricks are on full display with his choice of close-ups, the way he films the chase scene, and his choice of camera movements, including a tracking shot, during the climatic shoot out. Together, they created a beautifully detailed world that must be appreciated.

Shuichi Nagahara and Nobuo Yamada, the two responsible for writing this film, don’t do anything particularly special but it works. The themes present in this film are themes that have been seen many times before, and after in films that deal with the criminal underworld. Things like the loyalty of the antihero protagonist, or the way the gangs go about their business of removing him from existence, such as keeping the main characters in limbo as their fate hangs in the balance. Even the girl is used in commonly found plot points. That’s not to say it removes anything from the film, as A Colt Is My Passport is more about the style than the substance, but it is something to keep in mind. There is a bit too much dialog as well. Where silence might have fit the mood a little better, characters just continue to ramble on. It is a little grating giving some of the actor’s talents, or lack thereof.

A lot of this is made up of course by Shishido. The man just oozes cool. He has a very distinct style that seems to be present in all of the yakuza films he had a role in during this period. The way he carries himself, with his hunched over, leaning posture, the way he handles a pistol, his suits, to his odd, morbid sense of humor. Everything clicks with this man that makes him instantly recognizable. Not unlike the way Eastwood has his slightly angled cowboy hat, cigars and poncho or Toshiro Mifune had his sword, kimono and un-scratchable itch. Seriously, this man is fun to watch and more than makes up for any shortcomings that a present.

A Colt Is My Passport is a fun film for those like myself who are just getting into yakuza films, or those that are experienced with the Nikkatsu Corporation and other production companies from this time period. This film is highly recommended.

Please feel free to discuss "A Colt is My Passport" here, in our forums!

   Home | Reviews | Features | Radio | Arcade | Drive-In | News | Forum | Contests | Contact Us