Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Review: Bucovina Card Game (2009) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: Zachary Ryan Block & Sean Trimpe
Written by: Zachary Ryan Block (written by) & Sean Trimpe (written by)
Genre: Short / Action
MPAA: Not Rated
Released: 2009
Starring: Zachary Ryan Block, Azmyth Kaminski, Devon Ogden, David Serpa, Sean Trimpe.

Plot: Four Guys, one sexy woman, one hug pot of cash and a poker game that goes a little too far, and only one is walking out the victor.

Review: 7/10

The Story is about: Four characters play a theatrical game of poker in a dingy back room. They are assisted by the beautiful Baroness who handles the money and other aspects of the game. Things turn deadly as the pot gets bigger and the players more out of control.

My Thoughts: So a Hood, a Pirate, a Pusher and an Italian sit down to play a game of poker, while a sexy Baroness oversees the game plays out! No, this isn’t one of those obscenely offensive jokes; this is a five minute short called Bucovina Card Game, a short film made by newcomer’s writer and director Zachary Ryan Block and Sean Trimpe.

Bucovina is not a film that made to be moving nor does it require any development, but rather an understanding of the message it leaves you at the end, made in the traditional theme of silent shorts (But in color [Laughs]). The film presents the characters in their most stereotypical form, with a descent background music setting with our characters in their respective positions. The stage is set, and only one will come out the victor in this little short. But one question still remains, who’ll be the winner of this tale and who’ll ultimately bite the dust in the end? It would just be too easy if I was to spill beans like that and give away the film’s punch line finally don’t you think. No instead I’ll leave you with this, though the film is short and runs by rather fast (try over in five minutes fast!) it’s because of this that the film serves more as an artsy symbolic message the filmmakers are trying to get across, while at the same time throwing in some nicely done humor I might add. Overall it does leave you with a very valuable lesson to be learned “Beware The Woman Who Keeps A Company Of Liars And Thieves”, and to understand what it truly means you must see the short firsthand! Look out for this little film as it may be arriving near you very soon.

As for the acting: Well there isn’t must to say about the acting, like I said it’s a silent film which means ZERO dialogue! Does this make the quality of the short diminish? No not by a long shot, in fact it helps it out a great deal because it gives the same stylish sense of the early 1900’s silent films with only music playing in the background and the story being told through the individual characters body language. So to that degree the actors all do fairly well even though this is the first time for some of the cast. Zachary Ryan Block, Azmyth Kaminski, Devon Ogden, David Serpa, and Sean Trimpe give adequate performances in this.

Final Say: Bucovina Card Game was a pretty decent short, and though I’m not usually a fan of shorts and would have liked to have seen something longer than five minutes I still enjoyed it quite a bit. It reminded me a lot of the movie shorts that Pixar puts out (but in live action of course) with their feature length films, short and sweet but with a kick of a punch-line I recommend checking out this little short some time!

You can also see the trailer to Bucovina Card Game Here
Copyright 2009 TCWreviews.com
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Review: Diary of a Bad Lad (2009) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: Michael Booth
Written by: Jonathan Williams (screenplay)
Genre: Crime
MPAA: Not Rated
Released: 2009
Starring: Jonathan Williams, Joe O'Byrne, Paul Birtwistle, Donna Henry, Roxanne Gregory, Michael Booth, Tom Miller.

Plot: Frustrated filmmaker, Barry Lick, sets out to attempt to make a documentary about a local businessman who he believes is involved in property rackets, prostitution, pornography and the importation of large quantities of recreational drugs.

Review: 7/10

The Story is about: A film about frustrated filmmaker Barry Licks attempts to make a documentary about a businessman, who he believes is involved in property rackets, prostitution, pornography, and the importation of recreational drugs. For security reasons Barry never uses his real name, and calls him Ray Topham. Barry recruits a team of young wannabees. Their quest leads them to two of Ray’s associates; a local cocaine supplier and ex-S&M porn actress called Joanne Miller, and the charmingly psychopathic Tommy Morghen who acts as Ray’s personal security consultant. They soon realize that Barry is out of his depth, and so they exploit him for their own purposes with both hilarious and tragic results. Diary of a Bad Lad explores themes of sex, drugs, violence, exploitation, and the desperate limits that people will go to in order to make a film.

My Thoughts: Are some people born… bad? These are the type of things I think about when the night strays off into the early morning hours, when my mind often wonders into the unknown, and while I will normally come up with a simple answer (Or simply make one up, whichever I prefer better) for most of the crazy things running in my noggin, I’ve always wondered, are there people who are just simply bad? The best answer I could possible come up with is yes, and no, of course. While I may believe that some people are simply bad by default, some are good people, quite good in fact who, put into the right circumstances in the right moment in time, can be corrupted into doing just about anything, including bad things; does this make them a bad person? No… does it make them cynical and easily corruptible? You betcha!

As many already know, it’s no lie that I’m a hug supporter of the indie arts, aside from being a pretty big fan of international films of course (because mainstream doesn’t seem to cut it anymore in the originality department now days.) So when I received in the mail a screener of the indie film Diary of a Bad Lad, which was sent to me by the good boys at Pleased Sheep Films over in the United Kingdom, I was thrilled to hear I’d be reviewing a film that is categorized in two of my favorite genres, because most of the film that hit’s the states that is from Europe can hardly be categorized as “Indie”, when a low budget film here in the US is easily considered big budget in some countries, so when I heard that an actual low budget indie film was hitting my neck of the woods my first reaction was purely shock and joy because this was a rare case indeed. Well, after finally watching it what can I say, other than the fact it was an incredible film that proved to be very satisfactory: Well for starters the film was a real eye opener for me, because the film projects a surreal sense of the real world in the form of a mock-doc, which symbolizes the dark and gritty world that is all around us without us knowing half the time, things that are actually going on in the world this very minute. The dark and the gritty things people take for granted now days lurking all around us that is the criminal underworld, thinking to themselves that this type of stuff couldn’t possibly happen to me, I’m out of the clear because I live in a good neighborhood, but you’re wrong, you’re never really out of the clear. Because just as the film shows, corruption and greed is everywhere especially in the least place you’d ever expect it. With a face to the gutter sense of dark humor that can only be compared as wickedly sinister with a lovely dash of black comedy. What makes Diary of a Bad Lad such an interesting piece is the fact that this film was made with the idea of being as realistically as possible so that it would blur the lines between fiction and non-fiction. And to that extent, I found myself so deeply engaged into the film’s plot that I at more than one occasion completely forgot I was watching a movie that plays out as a documentary and not an actual documentary.

Now though the film’s style (filmed like an amateur documentary) has already been overly done in the wake of the post-Blear witch project, Diary of a Bad Lad still manages to take an idea that’s been passed around more times than a groupie at a Rolling Stones concert and made it feel fresh and new again. Now that doesn’t without saying the film is perfect and flawless, because the film does in fact have its fair share of problems that did knock it down a notch or two for me. One of the problems was that, the film fallows Barry Lick (Played by Jonathan Williams) and his team of amateur filmmakers on their journey to expose the truth behind a criminal master mind that they refuse to mention by his real name and only call by a nickname which is “Ray Topham” (Played by Tom Miller). The problem is in the film they mainly go through Ray’s personal security consultant Tommy Morghen (Played by Joe O'Byrne) and an ex-S&M porn star named Joanne Miller (Played by Donna Henry) for the material they need for their documentary, the problem I had was that my understanding while watching the film was that Tommy Morghen is the main focus of the plot since he seems to be the one with the most answers, and yet I felt there simply wasn’t enough time devoted to him and instead focused on other things that wasn’t all that necessary. One scene particular that did this was the scene where Joanne invites Barry and his team over for a brief interview over her place, there wasn’t anything wrong with showing the scene as it did help develop the characters into a more three dimensional stat, but I felt that the scene ran over stayed it’s welcome after awhile and felt like it should have been cut a bit shorter. The other problem was, well it’s certainly not a problem for me, but certainly a problem for those who aren’t educated in British “slang”. Like all countries, each nation and culture has its own set of slangs that many won’t have a clue the meaning is. for example: if you where to take offense because someone walked up to you and asked if you had a fag they could bum off you, than obviously you don’t know what the question they had ask you, which means you’re even more likely not to understand half of what’s said in this film.

As for the acting: the acting was very decent and very believable, aside from one cast member which didn’t bold well for me I found the acting in general to be the center piece of the film because it hold a very strong sense of realism that looks and feels authentic at times. Jonathan Williams did a fine job in his role, and narrating of “Barry Lick”. His portrayal of the character was humorous and yet entertainingly informative, one could easily argue that his portrayal was almost like watching a British version of Michael Moore but in an entertaining way and certainly not annoying. Joe O'Byrne and Tom Miller did fantastic jobs in the roles of “Tommy Morghen” and “Ray Topham”, they give the right amount of arrogance and “street-smart” attitude to the characters that it comes off feeling very authentic. Donna Henry and Roxanne Gregory were great as “Joanne Miller” and “Roxy”, Roxanne did a fine job in making her character come off looking and feeling young and innocently na├»ve, which works perfectly well for the film. Of all the actresses in this film, Donna Henry is the one that really stood out for me, because her performance was strong and demanded attention whenever shown on screen. The one performance I didn’t care for in this film was none other than Paul Birtwistle, who plays the part of “Birty”. I didn’t care for his acting and found him to be generally annoying. Nothing against the actor in particular because I’m pretty sure he’s nice down to earth fellow in real life, but onscreen I honestly did not care of his character in the slightest bit. Like I’ve said, the cast in general is fairly decent, and each and every person, no matter how small has something to contribute to the film.

Final Say: Diary of a Bad Lad was a very interesting film to watch, mainly because it’s dark and witty sense of humor grows on you with time, and though the film does have its problems, it doesn’t hurt the film significantly enough, but instead end up being a thought provoking film instead. Like a find wine, the film will begin to show its self worth with time, and though its bitter flavor is not for everyone, it’s an acquired taste that will gain a cult fallowing in no time. Over all the film is something to look into, if only the reason is to see what all the fuss is about.

Copyright 2009 TCWreviews.com
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Review: Clive Barker's Book of Blood (2009) [Reviewed By Kelsey Zukowski ]

Starring: Jonas Armstrong, Sophie Ward, Paul Blair
Directed By: John Harrison
Written By: John Harrison, Darin Silverman, Clive Barker (novel)
Grade: B+

Book of Blood is the latest Clive Barker adaptation, coming from the book compiled of short horror stories that he wrote of the same title. Specifically, the film focuses on two of the stories, “Book of Blood” and “On Jerusalem Street.” I haven’t read the Clive Barker short stories myself, but from my understanding the adaptation follows the original material very closely. Fans of the original Book of Blood should be very happy with what the film has to offer. Book of Blood also does a very good job of communicating the story to a fresh audience. It focuses on development, intriguing the viewer and increasing the suspense. By the time it’s over, we are escalated from the interesting and effective, but overall fairly typical ghost story, to something much more terrifying and brutal.

Mary Florescu (Ward) is a paranormal researcher and college professor. She is a famous published author, but fears that most of her fans are more fascinated from a fiction standpoint than truly believing in what they are reading. Mary has been studying and searching for proof that ghosts are indeed among the living. She hasn’t found anything solid in the past 10 years though, just circumstantial evidence based on a hunch. She experienced hauntings as a child, which made her so determined to make the best of this experience despite how it disturbed her. Eager to finally find something substancial, Mary gets to work with her friend, Reg Fuller (Blair), even though he is a bit of a skeptic.

In one of her classes, Mary spots Simon McNeal (Armstrong), who she immediately has a connection with. She knows that he’s the one that can help her. Simon is suffering from the traumatic experience of losing his brother. He thinks he can help Mary though since he used to have paranormal experiences as a kid. Once they enter the old gothic house and spend their time together investigating the spirits it might hold, Simon’s eye for the dead suddenly comes back. Mary is so thrilled with every horrific occurrence that happens that she puts these discoveries before her own life. In time, she does a bit more investigating that leads her to believe that some of the occurrences might have been falsified. This only puts the crew off their guard for when the dead come through the highway to the world of the living, demanding to be heard through a human “book of blood.”

I really enjoyed Jonas Armstrong as Simon. He brought forth an intelligent, sly, and intriguing man, but one that also was no stranger to darkness. He went through an incredible transition and becomes a very tragic and tormented individual. Sophie Ward also did pretty well as the author and professor, Mary Florescu. She goes from being a lost woman looking for hard proof and a profound spiritual experience to someone who gets that very thing, but might be changed for the worse because of it. The two had pretty good chemistry with one another both through their supernatural plight and their forbidden intimate bond.

The film really ends with a bang, completely turning the story and one very important character upside down. It’s twisted, sadistic, and cold. There’s an interesting point about how the dead need their stories to be told. This is a common theme in ghost stories; the ghost haunts the innocent because they had a tragic or unjust death and need someone to know what happened; to set things right to an extent. Usually they scare and threaten the person a bit, but here a much more brutal and literal method of forcing their stories on a human is taken. It’s physically vicious, taking a constant toll on the body; a form of everlasting torture. Even worse, they’re permanent mental scars; stories of death and destruction forever overpowering his mind.

I also really liked the theme of those haunted by ghost in a young age being the ones who chase this paranormal insight. They want firsthand encounters even though this is the very thing that once terrified them so. Simon states that he hasn’t had this feeling since he saw the ghost when he was 13 years old and now that he has it back again he refuses to let go of that. The absence of it made him crave it more than ever. Mary made this her entire career and life rather than moving on from the past. Perhaps this is their way of dealing, running right towards their past fears. They serve as two different possible outcomes; one receives all of the understanding and personal gain she could imagine and the other is victimized with eternal torment.

There isn’t a ton of blood, ironically enough since blood is right in the title. The most brutal moments are at the end when we witness the actual book of blood. The image is grotesque, but more than anything else it’s what our perceptions of the all around torture that really makes it seem like such a horrid fate. The scares are creepy enough and come suddenly, giving us clues as to the characters past as well as their near future. Most of them won’t faze majority of horror fans though. Book of Blood is really more about the building of suspense along with the sudden malicious ending we are left with. Book of Blood is one of the better recent ghost story films well worth checking out.