Not a lot for us this week so I’ll start with the clear cut best of the bunch, Raging Fire. We here are big Donnie Yen fans and this is one of his better films of the past few years. Yen plays a respected cop whose life is flipped upside down when a case he is working sees a sting operation go horribly wrong with many cops killed by a well trained team. The team turns out to be former cops lead by Nicholas Tse. Their downfall is explained through flashbacks and the film sets up a fantastic final action scene between Yen and Tse which fans will eat up. I dug the film a lot and there’s a robbery scene in the vein of Michael Mann’s Heat. Even at his age Yen handles the fight sequences with ease although there is some questionable wire work. I can see myself watching this again and it’s great seeing Yen doing films that are reminiscent of his movies from 15-20 years ago. If you like Asian crime dramas you’ll enjoy this quite a bit.
Second we have Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge. I had never even heard of this late 1980s mall-horror Phantom of the Opera homage. Rob Estes, Pauly Shore and Morgan Fairchild are the biggest names in the cast. Two girls get jobs at a new mall. The lead girl lost her boyfriend in a fire in his home that was suspicious. The mall now stands on that house. Her boyfriend is secretly alive living in the mall out for revenge. Estes plays a reporter she falls for with The Weasel playing a yogurt stand employee and Fairchild the mayor. Is it actually good? Oh god no, but it’s fun in that campy & cheesy 80s way. There is nudity and some gore and terrible acting, all staples of 1980s horror flicks. I’m shocked I had never seen it before because it has cult classic written all over it. This new 2-disc Limited Edition Blu-ray comes with multiple cuts of the film and a lot more. If you are a fan, it’s well worth it. If you like campy 80s horror and aren’t familiar with it either, definitely check it out.
Third we have the digitally restored edition of Robert Mugge’s Deep Blues. This 1990 documentary shines a light on the music of ihe North Mississippi Hill Country and Mississippi Delta, the heart of the blues. Mugge is a well known musical filmmaker and he traveled to find the best of the best. These are musicians and songs passed over by mainstream music, but helped create all music. I’ve seen a bunch of Mugge’s work and he has a way humanizing people and their stories. You may not be familiar with any of the musicians in the film, but he holds your attention throughout. There are live performances and interviews and this new restored edition comes with commentary from Mugge.himself.
Last we have Two Films by Sergei Eisenstein: October & Alexander Nevsky.. October is a silent film produced to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the Russian Revolution. The film isn’t your normal narrative, more using montage to make a movie. There is no main character just images and sequences throughout to paint a picture of revolution. There is Lenin, union workers, the Bolsheviks and everyone in between. Alexander Nevsky is more of a straight forward film. It’s a sound film with an actual narrative. The synopsis explains it best: In 1242, Russia in being invaded by two sides: from the orient by the Mongols and from Europe by the German Teutonic Knights of the Holy Roman Empire. The last free city in Russia, Novgorod, calls the Prince Aleksandr Nevsky, who had defeated the Swedish in a previous battle, to defend the city. For a film from 1938 there is a pretty impressive battle sequence. Sure there’s lot of shots with the camera facing a man while he swings a sword and you don’t see any blood or gore, but there is a ton of people involved with this battle so I found that impressive. Film historians will very much enjoy this collection.