Up first this is week is the super enjoyable The Paper Tigers. Three childhood friends who somewhat grew apart find out their former master has died and they believe there was some wrongdoing involved. They met as kids and learned martial arts from their master, but are no longer in their prime form. They run into someone they knew as a kid who now runs his own martial arts studio and he convinces them they need to step up and find the truth. It’s funny, has some funny fights in it and all three leads are great together and separately. You have the guy who’s gained some weight over the years. The one guy who does MMA and forgot all his original training and the one guy who’s walked away from all of it. I really liked the film and it’s quite a departure from the serious martial arts movies we’ve gotten of late. It’s not as over-the-top as Enter the Fat Dragon, but it does combine laughs with some action. If you want something light, fun with some good fighting, I recommend it.
Second we have The War Tapes, a documentary shot by three soldiers during Operation Iraqi Freedom. All three live in the New England area like I do and as someone who supports many veteran run companies and who has friends and family members who are veterans I wanted to love this. Part of me did, part of me didn’t. You get a very intimate look at the daily lives of these men, doing security runs, on the battlefield and more. You get a sense of the danger these men were in 24 hours a day while stationed overseas. It’s terrorizing and you see people getting genuinely hurt. But the part I didn’t like is the agenda portion of the documentary. War is political. People have different opinions and yes soldiers themselves have different opinions about it as well, but by the end of the film all three men were pretty much against all of it. Yes there are soldiers who came back hating what they did and only thinking they were there for oil, but there are just as many if not many more who still felt patriotic about what they were doing. All three men pretty much hate Bush, Cheney and those in charge and yes I know people feel that way I just wish the documentary showed more than one side of the story. By the end I felt the documentary was biased and just an agenda piece for the filmmaker’s beliefs. I know many people who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and they all have different perspectives, I just wish this film had different perspectives as well.
Third we have Irezumi. Available for the first time outside of Japan in a new 4K restoration, this 1966 Japanese film is about the daughter of a rich man who is taken away from her beloved, given a tattoo and becomes a man eater! Not literally, but more sexually. As her beloved tries to get her back, she tries to trick all the men who have done her wrong, but becomes more wicked. They blame the spider tattoo for her behavior change. I wasn’t familiar with it, but I’m sure it has a pretty strong following overseas. The restoration looks great and this new release comes with commentary, introduction and more. It’s beautifully shot and the lead actress is very good. I also liked the production value and costuming.
Next is Years Of Lead: Five Classic Italian Crime Thrillers 1973-1977. Watching these films today they are campy and not so great, but I’m sure they were shocking back in the day. The first film is about 3 guys who go around stealing cars, causing damage and ultimately killing people. It’s called Savage Three. Like Rabid Dogs is about a good student who actually kills prostitutes on the side. Colt 38 Special Squad is about a police squad put together to stop a terrorist with bombs while they ride motorcycles. Highway Racer is the classic young hothead cop and the older grizzled veteran. One scene looks like a stuntman might have really gotten hurt. No, the Case is Happily Resolved is a double cross film with the witness to a murder not testifying so the murderer claims the witness did it. If you like 70s Italian films with lots of pretty men and women, Italian clothing, super light cars going really fast then you will love this collection.
The Nigerian film Last Request is a total headscratcher. It’s about a family who is thrown for a loop when the father/husband is diagnosed with a tumor and is told he won’t survive it. He convinces his wife she must start dating and find a man who will take care of her after he dies. They will get a divorce as he’s dying, but he’ll die happy knowing she will be taken care of. She gets into a car accident and meets a man who she finally agrees to date. They fall for each other and get engaged like her dying husband asked. Then there’s a twist and an absolutely bananas ending. I don’t know if this is common practice over there, but we certainly don’t do it in the States. She’s hesitant at first, but then jumps in pretty quickly after getting with the new man. The twist I won’t spoil, but you might see it coming. The ending you won’t. When it fades to black you sit baffled at what you just watched.
The next releases come from Mill Creek Entertainment and according to their website came out earlier in the month, but I didn’t get my copies until after their release. First is Problem Child Double Feature which is Problem Child 1 & 2. The first film was a favorite as a kid and stars John Ritter who along with his wife adopts a child who is problematic. So problematic he’s taken hostage by a killer along with the new adoptive mom. Ritter has to get his new son and wife back in classic Ritter style. Problem Child 2 adds a young girl into the mix and isn’t the classic the first one is. Do they hold up 30 years later? Not so much, but Ritter was always a gem and I’ll always have a soft spot for films where kids are allowed to be kids.
Also out is a double feature consisting of Toy Soldiers and December. Toy Soldiers might not have been as big as Red Dawn, but the plot is similar and it has a pretty big cast as well including Wil Wheaton, Sean Astin, Andrew Divoff, R. Lee Ermey and Louis Gossett Jr. December stars Wil Wheaton, Balthazar Getty, Brian Krause, Jason London and Chris Young and I had never actually seen it. It’s about boys in a New England boarding school and the decisions they make the day after Pearl Harbor is attacked. I’m not sure how I missed this 1991 film before especially with this cast.