Archive for the Foreign Category

Portland Horror Film Festival 2017: Short-Length Horror Shorts

Posted in comedy, drama, Foreign, horror, Movies, Romance, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 19, 2017 by aliciamovie


Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Horror lives on in our hearts all year ‘round, and all across the world too. The fears we share cross all manner of cultural and gender lines, creating a fandom unique to any other. Because if we unite and share our fears, through glorious films and shorts, perhaps some of those fears will be lessened in shared fandom.

‘Last Resort’

Country: USA

Director: David Schneiderman

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

What couple thinks it’s a good idea to take a Horror vacation, when one half of the couple isn’t into Horror? Apparently these people do, and in the role reversal of the common, the female in this relationship is the Horrorphile and her boyfriend the reluctant tagalong. Mel the girlfriend wants the immersive Horror weekend promised in the Horror Haven brochure, which includes bloodstains in the shower, a purportedly dead body in the closet, and a cannibal wine host who likes to dance while ranting and isn’t too smart about where he leaves his tools. Oh, and don’t forget the singularly unhelpful delivery guy who keeps getting lost.

A campy little romp that pokes fun at “experience” camps and Horror in general, Last Resort reminds us that no matter how clever you think you’re being, the universe is still laughing at you. And inside the Horror universe, it’s a damned cackle.

‘Black Ring’

Country: Turkey

Director: Hasan Can Dagli

Review Rating: 9 out of 10

What looks like a professional photography setup in a rundown Turkish castle turns out to hide something far more sinister. Considering the men doing the initial setup look like European gangsters, one would think the chosen who participate in the lottery from hell would be more leery about being handed a black disc. But alas, these bright young beautiful things are here for their shot at fame, and for many of them, it is their very last shot. The shock value the artist and his audience are hunting seems almost gorgeous in the grotesquerie, and reminds a great many of us just how jaded we really are. You really can make art out of someone’s death, but how could you possibly top that?

This short was incredible, and I’ve seen a freaking ton of Horror shorts. To be able to do an entire art-house Horror piece, as a short film no less, where not a single character speaks, is even more mind-blowing. The images and ideas brought across come both starkly dark and breathtakingly bloody, mixing styles like an astounding master painter on the movie screen. Seriously, Director Dagli needs to get on making feature-length Horror movies, and right now.

‘A Fathers Day’

Country: UK

Director: Mat Johns

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

What Daddy doesn’t want to protect his little girl from the Horrors of the world? Well, what happens when both you and your daughter are already zombies, does the protecting stop once you’ve died? Of course it doesn’t! You still want to protect your drooling, growling baby, and provide fresh-ish entrails for her, and push her on the merry-go-round while she twitches. And when the human survivors take aim at your zombie daughter, when she goes to protect you, is the proudest moment any Daddy, dead or alive or anything in between, can experience!

A wonderful little short done in the sympathetic style of the movie Warm Bodies, A Father’s Day reminds us that the love of a parent for their child transcends all preconceived boundaries, and that includes even death.

‘The Gift of the Woods’

Country: USA

Director: Kris Theorin

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

Everyone knows the woods are lovely, dark and deep, but also, that they’re full of ancient creatures, some of whom are monsters. The little girl in the short is an innocent, wanting nothing more than to skip along in the woods and enjoy the bug and plant life, when she happens upon a stump with a dolly on it. The dolly itself is unusual, more like a voodoo doll than anything else, with a bloody paw-print adorning its stomach. And of course when the girl takes the dolly off the stump, it wakes the creature who made the dolly, wanting it back!

Some say even monsters have nightmares. Some monsters even need a teddy, or a dolly, to sleep with to keep their own dream-monsters away. That thought basically sums up the end of this wonderful and sadly far too short Horror cartoon short. Don’t steal another nightmares’ teddy, and if you do, give it back before the sun sets!


Country: Norway

Director: Adam A. Losurdo

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

So the zombie apocalypse has come and gone, and the world remains pretty much the same, with one or two tiny exceptions – the shuffling zombies still around. They don’t eat brains, they just kind of die and shuffle along, to be abused and ridiculed by the still-living. Here we have Carl, our zombie forever dressed like a soda jerk, completely without hope as he, you guessed it, shuffles along. Carl gets harassed by young girls on bikes, has his shoes stolen, gets his dumb self buried by the meanie living (not buried alive, reburied dead I guess), only to be rescued by a female zombie inevitably named Hope, and instant attraction. After a whirlwind romance, Hope is inevitably killed and that’s when poor Carl finally becomes the killer zombie he was meant to be.

The short is a fun little turnaround on who the real monsters are – the zombie who doesn’t even eat brains and never did no-one any harm, or the still-alive folk who keep bedeviling him. Everyone has a breaking point, even zombies apparently. After all, how would you react if the love of your unlife was slain (again!) in front of you?

San Diego Asian Film Festival presents ‘Train to Busan’: Grab your baseball bat!

Posted in Action, drama, Foreign, horror, Movies, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2017 by aliciamovie



Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Sang-ho Yeon

Studio: Next Entertainment World

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

A South Korean train ride takes a deadly turn when a zombie apocalypse breaks out!

Yes, it’s Korean and therefore subtitled and, yes, it’s another zombie movie. Those things being said, Train to Busan is a terrific throwback to the original Romero-style zombie movies, where it’s half about the scary zombies and half about the potentially worse stuff we humans do to each-other during the zombie apocalypse. I can never remember the actual character names in many of these Korean flicks, so they get designations and you’ll just have to live with it – onward we go!

So Big Daddy (Gong Yoo) is a businessman, your typical Korean male who has little time and patience for his ex-wife’s shenanigans or his Daughter’s need to be with him, while he negotiates business deals on his cellphone all day long. It’s finally Big Daddy’s chore to take his sad little Daughter on the early-morning train to go see her mother, especially after missing what was meant to be her live singing performance at school and all. And this ill-fated train ride is where it all begins.

On the train itself, Big Daddy is still on his phone and mostly ignoring Daughter (Kim Su-An), while she attempts to familiarize herself with the other passengers. Here we meet Boxer (Ma Dong-Seok), the strapping muscle-bound train-goer with his very-pregnant wife, whom I’ve aptly dubbed MomtoBe (Jung Yu-Mi), and other everyday passengers as we go along – the Elderly Sisters (Ye Soo-Jung and Park Myung-Sin), two aged women taking a train ride together; the Baseball Team and their Cheerleader squad; the older gentleman who is anything but, that I designated NastyMan (Kim Eui-Sung); and of course, the Homeless Guy (Choi Gwi-hwa), who knew about everything going on before anyone else did.

Technically this first train Big Daddy and Daughter are on isn’t going to Busan, they just kind of end up getting thrust in that direction. The first train is where the outbreak begins, at least as far as train rides go, and these are virus-class zombies – get bit, you turn in just a few minutes; black veins on the face and white-blue death eyes are the main indicators; running and shrieking and attacking anything that moves, as the survivors eventually figure out, is the SOP here. Homeless Guy hopped onto this first train and as he sits muttering to himself about how they’re all dead, one thing leads to another and suddenly, everywhere, zombies!

Big Daddy thinks he can just call in favors to get himself and Daughter rescued, even as they try to switch trains in a station after several near-misses, and it just doesn’t work out in the end, so they have to board yet another train, this one being the one officially (eventually) heading for Busan. Here we meet NastyMan, the asshole who will not be denied, who incites everyone panicking into barricading themselves against the rescue attempt Big Daddy and Boxer have to go and make. Daughter and MomtoBe mistakenly end up stuffed in a bathroom and to get to them, Boxer and Big Daddy and the one remaining Baseball Boy (Choi Woo-shik) who wasn’t turned have to guard their arms and arm themselves with baseball bats and go through like 4 cars full of zombies, twice. (As in, go through 4 cars to get there, rescue everyone, and come all the way back.) Even after watching one of the Elderly Sisters sacrifice herself, NastyMan is doing everything he can to insist people not let the rescuers back in this one uninfected car, and that means he doesn’t see the other Elderly Sister go to open the other door to the zombies until its almost too late!

We’re whittling down the survivors on the way to Busan, and even the Conductor is starting to have his doubts about safety once there. A blocked train at a pull-in station forces our survivors to try and switch trains, but the trains are still running and crashing into each-other without Conductors and hordes of mad zombies are exploding out of broken windows to come get you! Will any of our survivors make it to Busan?

I don’t want to give away the ending, but believe me, it is heart-wrenching. Enough story snippets have been tossed in among the zombie carnage to make Train To Busan much more than just a brain-eating fest of a movie, and I thought it was excellent. Right down to NastyMan finally getting a well-deserved comeuppance, damn it.

Grab your baseball bat to watch Train To Busan right now on Netflix!

‘Cosplay Melee’ Premiere: Swing for the Fences!

Posted in Action, Anime, Cartoon, comedy, Comics, drama, Fantasy, Foreign, Historical, horror, Movies, Musical, Romance, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2017 by aliciamovie


Reviewed by Alicia Glass

So the SyFy channel is taking another stab at the fandom with the mostest, the cosplayers! You know, those insane peoples who like to make their own, often movable, skit-able, even stage and screen-ready costumes, to bring their favorite fandoms to life! One can’t even say it’s a kids or younglings game anymore, in the premiere episode one of the contestants was over 40. This is a fandom that people of all ages, genders, colors and backgrounds love, and is generally acknowledged by true cosplayers as all-inclusive, meaning no-one should ever be excluded or discouraged from cosplaying, for really any reason. (The so-called Ambassadress of Cosplay, Yaya Han, got herself some disapproval after she claimed on the short-lived SyFy show Heroes of Cosplay that cosplaying isn’t necessarily for people with larger body types. And that was the nice way of re-wording what she said.)

Cosplay is officially a full-fledged fandom these days, rather than any kind of hobby. And it would have to be, considering cosplay can now cost you would not believe how much money, often to make a single costume replication absolutely spot-on perfect, and yet still be able to wander around conventions wearing it the entire time, of course posing for multiple pictures too. Cosplayers rarely get paid (I wanted to say never but times are changing and cosplayers are being hired to advertise video games and such now), and the making of these fan-atical costumes require a ton of work, time, and energy. I think everyone should try it, but honestly not everyone can do a good Cosplay. If we’re gonna have a game show based around the ability to Cosplay, it had better be good, better, best, a passion, an obsession, a love that is almost scary. And that’s actually what this new show seems to be presenting, thank goodness.

We have a host who is also a judge, Yvette Nicole Brown, of Community fame and apparently a huge fangirl of all things geeky; LeeAnna Vamp, named as one of the “Best Comic-Con Cosplayers of All Time” and nerdy fashion model, fan-atic, and all-around jane of all things geekery; and Christian Beckman, builder, costume designer, creator, President of Quantum Creation FX, Inc., his creations have adorned movies like Tron: Legacy, Men In Black 3, and Ender’s Game, just to name a few. Basically, we have the “everyman, I love everything” Judge (Brown), the “make it pretty” Judge (Vamp), and the “make it work” Judge (Beckman); that totally works for me.

Four contestant cosplayers come in to the lab, very similar to the one they have for Face Off, they get given the theme for this contest, and then they go by rounds to get to this weeks winner. The pilot episode theme is Space Opera, and the opening challenge is to begin from the head down, with a helmet or headgear for your original character from whatever fandom you’ve chosen. On to our contestants!

Fred, the eldest at some 40+, loves him some SciFi, and of course the gateway drug to that world was inevitably Star Trek, so guess which space opera he picked for his character. Xavier is the tall and very quiet black guy, the huge Star Wars fan who’s already made a fan-film from the ‘verse and making that armor was what got him into cosplaying in the first place, so his characters theme is chosen too. Grace is a cop in real life, somehow even with that incomprehensibly long red hair, so she chooses a bounty hunter character in the Guardians of the Galaxy universe, where badass women abound, as it should be. And finally, Alicia of the mermaid hair is mildly uncomfortable in this genre, so she chooses the world of Chronicles of Riddick for her character, with their Necromonger armor as inspiration.

The first round concludes and while I didn’t agree with the judges’ elimination choice (as often happens on these kinds of SyFy shows), I stuck around to see what the remaining contestants would come up with and who would win the $10,000 prize. Round two consisted of mechanical parts being presented to the players, that they had to make some sort of flying jet-pack doohickey with as part of their characters’ costume. Hot glue, flying craft foam and mayhem ensue.

In the end, the quiet Star Wars fan who was bullied as a child took home the win, as his costume was the most cohesive and easily read as being from the Star Wars universe. The judges were all kind and helpful and reluctant to choose one over another and thereby eliminate anyone, but I felt that’s simply because they wanted to encourage the players to continue doing what they love, cosplay, and not play up any lack on their part that caused the loss of the contest.

So far it’s a fairly standard SyFy contest show, in the vein of Face Off and the like, that you could actually learn cosplay techniques from if you pay attention. Not everyone has access to giant portable heaters and hot glue guns and craft foam with designations like they came from an aircraft carrier, but the show is making sure to name at least some of the things they’re using, and sometimes suggesting cheaper alternatives. It’s a fun little show and worth giving a try at least once.

Celebrate all the fandoms and fan-atics with Cosplay Melee on the SyFy channel, Tuesdays @ 10/9c!

Spotlight on Latino Horror presents Ataud Blanco El Juego Diabolico (White Coffin)

Posted in Action, drama, Foreign, horror, Movies, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2017 by aliciamovie


Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Daniel de la Vega

Studio: Del Toro Films

Review Rating: 6.5 out of 10

In the simplest of terms, it is another “save my child at any cost” movie, with a mysterious ritual of sacrifice and some ghostly vengeance tossed in for good measure. The premise, of a mother desperate to save her daughter from some kind of ritual sacrifice, is a good start, but is itself sacrificed for action and driving scenes. The explanatory paragraph for the movie gives very little away, so sadly I’m going to have to spoil a good deal of the plot as we plow ahead.

Spoilers come from all kinds of coffins!

So Virginia (Julieta Cardinali) appears to have up and absconded with her daughter Rebecca, without the consent of her apparently-ex-husband, and the two of them are driving along out in the middle of nowheresville when they inevitably experience a flat tire. This is where we meet the creepy stranger who was never named in the film (but whose name according to IMDB is Mason) for the first time, he comes striding out of the desert landscape like a mirage to help with the flat tire, I dubbed him the Goad for how he has a tendency to further the plot. After the tire is fixed, Virginia and her daughter take lunch at some roadside diner and there, inevitably, Rebecca (Fiorela Duranda) goes missing.

Another woman in the same roadside diner, who appears to be a schoolteacher with a bunch of elementary school kids on a field trip, she has a student go missing and so she’s running around near Virginia, calling for her wayward child too. Here things begin to get weird and ill-defined, a tilted journey through darkness that seems to indicate a confusing death and rebirth of sorts for poor Virginia. And indeed, when she comes back to the light Mr. Goad (Rafael Ferro) has shown back up and is breathlessly explaining that yes, Virginia is now dead but, being given a temporary reprieve back to the land of the living, she has one chance to go save her daughter: find the white coffin.

But nothing is ever that simple, and Virginia has to go through several hoops in order to find that damnable coffin and stop the ritual sacrifice of her daughter. First is the barn where the actual white coffin is located, but of course the place is guarded by a hammerhead wannabe, and yet another desperate woman, Angela (Elenora Wexler), wanting to claim the coffin to rescue her own child. After the tussle with the weaponized carpenter and the subsequent fight with Angela herself, Angela lets slip that she was apparently the one who killed Virginia, so she might get the white coffin first. And at least in this first round, Angela is in the lead, with Virginia attempting to keep up with her for the net task.

Next to be retrieved according to Mr. Goad is the map, very much on the mind of the priest in the Trinity church. And since Mr. Goad has rather forcibly reminded Virginia that she’s already dead and her time is running out and to be absolutely ruthless to get what she wants, well, nothing so small as a priests refusal is going to stop her now.

Some fighting and confrontation and driving later, the last task is to discover the place where the ritual itself is going to be held, and to get the white coffin there by means fair or foul, whatever it takes. The teachers been dealt with, the rival mom is down and now its up to Virginia to do this last, unthinkable, act, to save her child.

Except Virginia doesn’t actually manage to save her child, nor is she really able to save herself, when all is said and done. The background characters that we’ve been noticing around Virginia as she makes her way from place to place, they’ve come to participate in the ritual of child sacrifice and the ascension of the new Chosen, that poor apparently brainwashed and tattooed little girl, Rebecca. As the occupied white coffin burns the backgrounders chant these odd ritual phrases, and the magic that animated Virginia slips away, leaving us to wonder, did the cycle begin anew?

The trouble is simply that there isn’t enough of anything. Had there been more of a supernatural feel to the ritual plot, or more explanation of what the ritual was meant to accomplish, where the necromancy that animated Virginia came from, or how Mr. Goad or any of the backgrounders made their choices in the first place, or what the hell was up with that white coffin, the film could have been more enjoyable. The washed-out look of the film is fine, intending to impart a kind of Texas Chainsaw Massacre feel I’m guessing. For unknown reasons the film is only an hour and a half long; I’d really like to see an extended version or a full background story script to read at least.

Dig up Ataud Blanco (White Coffin) on Netflix!

‘Sadako vs. Kayako’: Now there’s a twist we didn’t see coming

Posted in Action, Foreign, horror, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 17, 2017 by aliciamovie


Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Spoilers haunt your everything!

Most of us of the Horror fan world are aware of the huge J-Horror craze that went out years back, the triple threat of the films Ringu, Ju-On, and The Eye had everyone talking. And if there’s one thing the U.S. does well, or at least a lot of, is remakes. The Americanized The Ring, The Grudge and the controversial The Eye, spawned a new generation of Horror remakes, often touted as nothing other than huge epic American loving tributes, riiight, to some wildly popular Asian film. This actually turned out to be unfortunate for the American Horror market, as the remake has literally been done to death now, and many of us are heartily sick of it. Horror is the one place in the movie-making world with literally no boundaries – fear is, after all, one of the most basic human instincts. So imagine my surprise when Sadako vs. Kayako turns out to be the exact same thing, but from the opposite direction – an Asian version of the highly notable hugely popular American mashup film Freddy vs. Jason.

Generally from mashup films, at least from American ones, you can expect a certain zany feel and some comedy somewhere, and SvK struggles with that concept, because there’s never been a thing funny about either of their origin stories or subsequent films. There are a few wacky moments, mostly from the flippant priest Keizo, but of comedy there can be easily said none. But that’s not what made Ringu and Ju-On great, right?

So what do we know? The Professor in the movie, Morishige (Masahiro Komoto), teaching an urban legends class (how many of them did you know?) reminds us briefly of the origins of Kayako (Runa Endo), the rage house, a cursed house with the cat child and the contortionist ghost his mother, with her ever-creepy iconic door-closing moan, yes them. But he prefers to focus rather on the story of Sadako (Elly Nanami) and the cursed video tape, hell, he even wrote an entire book on the subject and blatantly entices students to purchase and read it during his lecture. Sadako and the cursed video, she comes from the well and shadow walks out of your television to execute those who don’t do her bidding in two days’ time, often in the most horrific way unimaginable.

Okay, so we’ve introduced the wise character who knows all about one of our opponents, now what? This seemingly-random mess begins with college student Natsumi (Aimi Satsukawa) asking her friend Yuri (Mizuki Yamamoto) for help with transferring her parents old wedding VCR tape to a DVD. No-one uses VCR players anymore, so they have to go to a used shop to find a deck, and sure enough, an unlabeled tattered older video sits in it already.

Meanwhile elsewhere, Suzuka (Tina Tamashiro) is silent because her family had to move recently and the house across the way, well damnit, it’s all condemned and boarded up and calls to Suzuka in the creepiest way. These moron children, wanting to rag on the runt of the group who somehow insulted their leader, send him in to the condemned house with a backpack full of rocks, and I bet you can guess how that turned out. Actually, wait. I guess we could say we found one, rather unintentional it seems, moment of humor in Sadako vs. Kayako – the small boy, insulted and put upon, trembling with borrowed rage from the cursed house, as he unerringly lobs a rock into the center of the forehead of the leader – POW.

This is kind of fast but we need to pick up the pace if we want to have origin story, current bloodshed and Sadako and Kayako duking it out in here somewhere too. Only Natsumi ended up watching the cursed video, Yuri was watching her phone, okay, sure. This becomes important later, because her voluntary sacrifice is supposed to give her more power or purity of purpose or something, I’m guessing. So Natsumis on the clock, now we’ve infected the Professor, he wants to send the girls to a Japanese onmyouji, or exorcist priest, to see if she can get the ghost now haunting Natsumi out. This is something I failed to understand, since I never thought Sadako ever tried to eat another person, Kayako did that – cursed video woman would literally frighten you to death and that was all. (However, the latest Americanized version of the Ring legacy, Rings, does address this very issue, so maybe that’s another tribute.) Doesn’t matter, onward we go!

The exorcism scene is one of the better ones of the movie, and it does get darkly wacky when Sadako rises in Natsumis body and proceeds to just wreak bloody fucking havoc with her own two bare hands. After the execution of the poor exorcist too, we’re introduced to mischievous priest Keizo (Masanobu Ando) and his little blind red assistant Tamao (Mai Kikuchi), who, for all his saucy attitude, rather reminded me of Constantine from the TV show. This is another bastardized American tribute kind of thing, because for all his bluster, just like Constantine, Keizo is still a completely competent priest and quite capable of performing exorcisms and planning to trap ghosts, all the while ready with a quick quip that makes you feel about five for asking such a question. And with the help of little red blinding hood there, Keizo hatches a daring plan – pit Sadako and Kayako against each-other in the ultimate ghost-off that will hopefully cancel out all the curses being lobbed everywhere.

This plan, too, is a very American thing to do; I can’t help thinking that Asian spirit folklore honestly wouldn’t have room for this sort of out-of-the-box thinking. And hey, it turns out that out behind the Grudge house is a disused well, what a coincidence, which Keizo and pals prepare for use as a last resort trap, just in case. Here I get to remind us the audience that Freddy vs. Jason did the same exact thing, learn the baddies origin stories and attempt to use the environment against them, and that didn’t turn out particularly stellar for them, either.

So we’ve come down to the wire and the attempt to trap a pair of ghosts that have long-spanning legacies and a string of movies to attest to this. Suzuka and Yuri will enter the Grudge house and play the cursed tape inside, thereby squaring and sharing the curses between both of them, in the hopes that when the two baddest wraith mommas come for their collective prizes, they’ll be too preoccupied fighting each-other to care much about their prey escaping. But it’s not working and Keizo proceeds to announce very calmly that one of them needs to sacrifice herself so Sadako and Kayako can merge together in her inhabited body. Think about that for a moment – these killing spirits, these onryo yurei, are going to slam together, mix their incredible power, and then eat and inhabit her living body. ‘Oh shit,’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.

This brand new entity, the utter twist of Sadako and Kayako merging, is now apparently called Sadakaya and for the most part (to me anyway) Kayako looks the most dominant in the equation. That iconic noise and the contortions, plus the prehensile hair Sadako is noted for, proceed to flat dominate Keizo and his magic, and even the blessed and sealed well can’t stop Sadakaya (also Mizuki Yamamoto) now. Everyone’s dead, or about to be disappeared-dead like they do in Ju-On, the cursed women have merged and have a brand new young body to inhabit and wreak havoc with, and a new generation of fear can be born. There’s even an easter egg way at the end of the credits, much in the style of the severed Freddy-head wink, so make of that what you will.

For something that began life as an April Fool’s joke, the fan response to Sadako vs. Kayako has been as encouraging as possible. It’s hard to do the enduring legacy of both movies justice in one mashup film, but I think director Koji Shiraishi made a fine attempt. Did he succeed? Only you can tell me if Sadakaya is the ultimate curse.

You can twist in the mashup of Sadako vs. Kayako on right now!

Netflix presents ‘Frontier’: The fur trade really is murder

Posted in Action, drama, Foreign, Historical, Romance, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2017 by aliciamovie


Reviewed by Alicia Glass

A quick recap of time and location: when we are seems to be approximately the late 1700’s, and where seems to jump around, but focus mostly on Fort James in Canada. The Fort is the main route for the massive fur trade going on ‘round these parts, and that trade is the focus of our story. In this time period especially, the fur trade is the biggest moneymaker of the Hudson’s Bay Company, an English conglomerate that basically holds a monopoly on the fur trade, at least at the moment. This is where our story begins, with anyone and everyone trying to break the HBC’s hold on the fur trade here in Canada.

Known outlaw Declan Harp, the half-Irish half-Indian rogue that is so growlingly played by Jason Momoa, is right in the middle of all this mummery. When he was orphaned young, the current ruler of Fort James, Lord Benton (Alun Armstrong), took him in and trained him to be a soldier. Apparently at some point Declan decided to go feeling his oats and got himself a little native wife and child, which didn’t sit well with Lord Benton. That’s hook one for Declan Harp. Hook two involves his knowledge and interaction with several of the other fur traders vying for business about and around the Fort, such as the Brown brothers, the Carruthers widow, and the HBC to contend with. Periphery friendship with Grace Emberly (Zoe Boyle), who runs the tavern in the Fort, keeps him abreast of gossip, and reminds of old romance time spent with her. And then finally the one major thing Declan has going, that no-one else can match and thus makes him a very desirable target, is Harp’s good relationship with the Cree Indians, who are the literal bones of the entire fur trade operation.

Captain Chesterfield (Evan Jonigkeit) is the main knee-breaker under Lord Benton at the Fort, and while he seems to like the idea Grace Emberly comes up with, to oust Benton and make Chesterfield governor, he occasionally erupts into unexpected violence that carries often disastrous consequences. But that’s nothing compared to Lord Benton himself, who dresses like a gentleman but has the heart and tongue of a viper. He calmly orders, and occasionally carries out himself, beatings and good old fashioned executions, too. Lord Benton, more than just about anything, wants Declan Harp found and brought back to him, alive. Basically so Benton can do the torturing honors himself, which, yes, he does, when Harp is finally brought in.

Elsewhere, the fur traders are all clashing with each-other, jockeying for position and hunting Declan Harp. The Brown brothers especially seem inclined towards utter stupidity, and nearly every move they make, from kidnapping to alliances, is just another screwup that ends in yet more death. The Carruthers widow, Elizabeth (Katie McGrath), shows up and tries to do some wheeling and dealing of her own after the death of her husband, but sadly her character seems rather unlikely for the time and atmosphere the show is trying to emulate. Grace Emberly as the plotting tavern-owner is a much more believable role. Irish thief Michael Smyth (Landon Liboiron), through a series of misadventures in London, gets himself and his little girlfriend Clenna Dolan (Lyla Porter-Follows) arrested and deported, all the way to Lord Benton at the Fort. Benton decides to try and send Smyth out as a hunting dog to flush the pheasant Harp, banking on their supposed Irish blood connection. Harp himself is out with the Lake Walker Nation, the Cree Indians who actually keep the fur trade going, trying to keep the peace between the supposed savages and their far-more-savage European counterparts, this giant snarling half-breed irony surrounded by enemies, allies, and far too many unsafe loved ones.

So how does the show stack up? Frontier Season One is pretty darned short, coming in at only six episodes. However, the show was renewed for a Season Two before the actual premiere on Netflix, so that’s something. Filmed actually in Canada to lend as much realism as possible, the show boasts a very fine cast, lovingly sewn absolutely gorgeous fur coats and costumes, and a story that very rarely slows down from its rather breathless pace. Not overly complicated but certainly not condescending either, the story is easy to comprehend and quick to become sheer fun (with the possible exception of the end of the torture scene). It’s always great to see Jason Momoa run around and throw sharp weapons and growl at people, which he seems to do no matter role he’s in, so that’s cool.

Make your own foray into the fur trade with Frontier, on Netflix now!

‘Taboo’ Premiere: There’s grit in my eyes

Posted in Action, drama, Foreign, Historical, horror with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 16, 2017 by aliciamovie


Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Not a ton about this show was advertised before thrusting it upon us, other than the occasional teaser trailer and reporter yattering about a gritty new Tom Hardy performance. It turns out there is plenty going on behind the scenes, as the show is being made by Steven Knight, Tom Hardy himself, and Hardy’s father Edward, commonly called Chips. All three of these men worked in one form or another on Peaky Blinders too, so don’t be surprised if you see quite a bit of similarity, as I did.

So what do we know, after that interesting premiere? We’re here in Britain 1814, and Hardy’s character James Delaney has returned from a twelve-year stint in Africa, following the news of his fathers grave illness. James got here too late and can only attend his fathers funeral, after which a whole bunch of trickery and subterfuge go on due to a plot of land Father Delaney owned in America.

That’s a highly simplified version of the overarching plot, but the show doesn’t really get to the plot of land or why it’s so important until more than halfway through the premiere, instead spending time establishing atmosphere mood and of course peripheral characters.

Atmosphere is fairly easy – we’re talking Victorian London Jack the Ripper type era, very Sweeney Todd-esque. Everything is dirty and soot-covered, most everyone seems to wear the dowdiest colors they can possibly afford, and dirt and grit and horseshit are pretty much everywhere, even where there are other vehicles available, which also means motor oil and yet more grime. The general feeling is one of utter desolation, and the few bright spots of color stand out that much more oddly amongst the darkness, like the canary being taken into the mines.

The mood is enhanced, that is to say, further greyed, by the surrounding area, but then again, we are attending a funeral. Father Horace Delaney was acknowledged by many as a right bastard, though what misadventures led to that stigma will likely be addressed in further episodes. James didn’t arrive in enough time to even bid his father good-bye, and with his use of what looked like African mourning customs at the funeral itself, he didn’t make any friends. Of course, James’ time in Africa changed him so completely, I strongly suspect he could give less than a damn about making or keeping friends here at home, and indeed, as the show goes on and James is confronted about his inheritance by one foe and another, we discover James is now completely unpredictable and you just never know how he’ll react next. Which, I think, is one way the show could keep going – we wait breathlessly to see how James will jump when confronted by the vultures circling his inheritance.

Amongst those circling are Zilpha Geary, James’ half-sister, and her social-climber husband Thorne, who both expected to inherit the whole of Horaces will after his death and were livid when it turns out they don’t. For some small comfort of the trustworthy and actual usable information, James turns to his fathers former servant Brace, who smartly tells James to trust no-one and give no quarter anywhere. And rounding out the carrion-eaters coming to feast is Sir Stuart Strange, Chairman of the East India Company.

It turns out, as far as Horace Delaney’s will is concerned, James’ inheritance is effectively useless aside from one small plot of land on the American West coast called Nootka Sound. And why on earth could that be important? The war between America and Great Britain is still going on in this time, and that teensy plot of land Nootka Sound, it turns out, is a gateway for trade and commerce hotly contested by the Americans and the British, most especially the East India Company. They are, for those of you who may not know, the equivalent of the CIA and NSA, governed by old British men with divine mandate justification and royalty on their side, the Pinkertons of this world. The guys who branded and were always after Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Carribean films, if that helps. And oh do these guys want that little plot of land Nootka Sound that now belongs to James, oh they want it so bad, but they have no idea who they’re dealing with when it comes to attempting to coerce James by whatever means necessary – royal order, patriotic duty, even religious commandment – and his reactions are the brilliant Hardy performances we all love.

Catch all the Taboo drama on FX, Tuesdays @ 10/9c!