Films from Abroad Vol. 1
By Anthony Crabtree, Guest Blogger
For those of you who don’t know my brother, Anthony, his taste in film can sometimes be a bit obscure. More often than not, that’s putting it lightly. With that said, here’s his latest guest blog, featuring reviews of titles by Dario Argento and Jackie Chan, as well as an off-beat Japanese movie about baseball.
Dracula (2012) (Italian Blu-ray review)
Director: Dario Argento
Writers: Dario Argento, Enrique Cerezo, Stefano Piani, and Antonio Tentori
Italian horror maestro Dario Argento’s latest film, “Dracula,” is an oddity that will have
many detractors. The film is loosely based on the classic story by Bram Stoker, with
Argento taking more than a few liberties to make it his own. For exmaple, in Argento’s version, Dracula (Thomas Kretschmann) can shape shift into any number of animals and bugs, most notably an owl and giant praying mantis in scenes that have become infamous within the horror community.
Along with these bizarre and poorly rendered moments, we are also treated to terrible dialogue and worse delivery from traditionally good actors, including Argento’s daughter, Asia. Granted, most of the actors are foreign and working in a second language, the dialogue is truly wooden, creating moments that are inexcusable.
Despite these negative aspects, there are still some parts that salvage the film from being a complete abomination. The setting and scenery are reminiscent of classic Hammer films with lonely wooded areas, dark castles, and of course, Dracula’s beautiful, large library. In addition, Claudio Simonetti’s score is overactive and entertaining, keeping you on your toes.
I love Dario Argento and remember being one of the sole supporters of his last film “Giallo.” Unfortunately, his version of “Dracula” falls short and will probably only be enjoyed as a campy, cult classic by those unfamiliar with this master of horror.
CZ12 (2012) (Hong Kong DVD review)
Director: Jackie Chan
Writers: Frankie Chan, Jackie Chan, Edward Tang, Stanley Tong
Jackie Chan is a machine and “CZ12” proves that. Acting as writer, star, director, producer, art director, unit production manager, props master (?), and a list of probably about six or more credits on “CZ12,” Chan attempts to outdo his past films.
Focusing on creating a work that is similar in nature to his “Armour of God” films, Chan plays a character simply referred to as JC (get it?) who is tasked with retrieving and stealing the twelve bronze heads from the Chinese zodiac.
I generally focus on Jackie Chan films in two parts: The action set pieces and humor.
The action sequences in this film are not Chan’s best, but they are more entertaining than I had expected. The fight sequences bring harder hits than most 58-year-olds can deliver (save, maybe, “The Expendables”) and are well choreographed. The stunts are innovative and fresh.
In terms of humor, “CZ12” doesn’t quite bring the laughs like Chan’s older films. The comedy feels too obvious, lacking the quick, slapstick style of “Legend of Drunken Master” or “Meals on Wheels.” While I would have liked a funnier film, the delivery of some fine action sequences along with an attempt to put a message into his film, makes this the first Jackie Chan film worth seeing in quite a while.
Deadball (2011) (Japanese film, US DVD) (WellGo USA)
Director: Yudai Yamaguchi
Writers: Keita Tokaji and Yudai Yamaguchi
With baseball season now underway, many will be looking for that perfect film that captures America’s favorite pastime like none other. “Deadball” is not that film. Director Yudai Yamaguchi (“Battlefield Baseball,” “The ABCs of Death”) aims to create an ultra-violent, offensive, and funny film and it works for a little while.
“Deadball” focuses on Jubeh Yakyu (Tak Sakaguchi) who accidentally kills his father while playing catch with him. After this moment in his life, Jubeh Yakyu goes on a murdering spree, apparently killing “bad” people, and gets sent to Pterodactyl Juvenile Reformatory, where he joins the correction center’s baseball team. Nazis enter the picture, as does an all-girl baseball team that has a tendency to kill people. Then, just when you think the film has gone entirely off the wall, a giant robot appears.
It’s crazy and chaotic, but after a while it feels like “Deadball” just serves up more of the
same. The film starts out so bizarre and off-beat that there’s no way it can keep up the pace the film sets for itself, and at 99 minutes, “Deadball” becomes a bore.