Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Review: The Shadowless Sword (2005)

The Legend of the Shadowless SwordThe Shadowless Sword is a bit of a conundrum.  It has ever appearance of being a classic wuxia film.  A historical epic taken from Chinese history.  Lots of action and swordplay.  Heroes and villians with skills bordering on magic, and at the heart of it all a tragic love story.  So imagine my surprise to find out that despite all this (and being filmed in China to boot), this is actually a Korean movie.  Perhaps this is more common than I thought, but I must say the Koreans did a damned fine job  on this one.

Based on the struggle between the Balhae and Khitan kingdoms in the 10th century, the story concerns the efforts of  Yeon Soha  to bring Prince Jeonghyun back from exile to re-establish the kingdom of Balhae.  Now a petty criminal, Prince Jeonghyun  is the last remaining member of the Royal Family to escape assassination by the notorious Killer Blade Army.  While the Killer Blade Army is working for the Khitan, it's leader has a much more personal grudge against the Royal Family, which sets him at odds with his employers, who wish to use Jeonghyun as a puppet king.

Intrigue and history aside, the movie is a classic quest tale, with  Jeonghjyun and Yeon Soha's journey from exile to the headquarters of the Balhae forces mirroring an internal journey from vagabond to king, and from antogonistic strangers to lovers, all the while fighting, evading and/or fleeing from the Killer Blade Army.

This movie rocks for to major reasons.  Number one is that it looks amazing!  The scenery, the sets, the costumes and the actors are all a treat to watch.  I'm guessing that this morning probably cost a fraction of  a comparable American epic would cost, and yet you could put this side by side with any one of them without shame.  Seriously, it looks that good.  The second reason is that the action is brilliant.  Sure, there's the obligatory wire-work, and sure, there's times when it all becomes a little implausible, but even those moments are done with such conviction and style that they actually work.  The centrepiece fight scenes take place between Yeon Soha and Mae Yung-ok (the second in command of the Killer Blade Army), and they are almost hypnotic to watch--a combination of kung-fu, swordplay, and ballet.

The climax manages to evoke both tragedy and pathos, without straying into maudlin.  More Hero than House Of Flying Daggers, and very satisfying within the story.  If you think that the wuxia genre in the west peaked with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, then you need to see this movie.  Seriously.  See it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tapping The Ether- 20th Anniversary Hooded Sweatshirt from

There's also a new "morphing" coffee mug available. The mug is all black until hot liquid is added, at which point the background fades to white to reveal the Tapping The Ether anniversary design:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lacuna Coil: I Won't Tell You

Lacuna Coil - I Wont Tell You

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Part of our history


The guys over at metal sucks have posted a story about the "suicide' trials that plagued both Ozzy and Judas Priest.  This was an important event in metal history, although not many seem to remember it these days.

Head over there and check it out.

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Review: Dead Snow

Dead SnowI have a confession to make--I'm not a big fan of zombie flicks.  There are exceptions, of course--Versus and Junk are two of my favourites, and of course Shaun Of The Dead is a classic, but overall I think post Romero zombie flickds tend to be formuliac to the point of tedium.  So even before I hit play, Norwegian zombie opus "Dead Snow" (Dod Sno) was at a disadvantage.  A couple of hours later the movie ends and I'm kind of ambivalent about the results.  On the plus side, it had pretty likable characters, good pacing, passably stomach-turning special effects and a decent soundtrack.  On the down side, there were huge plot holes, and unoriginal (if competent) plot, and for a movie billed as a horror-comedy*, virtually no laughs.

Heres the plot in a nutshell:  A group of students head to an isolated cabin in the mountains for a weekend of skiiing, drinking and general carrying on. A crusty old man shows up unannounced to convey the story of WW2 horrors and an evil "presence" before heading back to his tent to get slaughtered by undead nazi soldiers. While one of the students heads off to search for his girlfriend (who was making her own way to the cabin but was sidetracked by becoming lunch for the zombies).  While he's gone, the others find a box of WW2 loot hidden under the floorboard.  Unlike the audience (who likely figured it out after about 30 seconds), the students are oblivious that their find will summon legions of dead to the cabin.  After the first attack they decide to split up (of course) and try and find help.  Meanwhile the boyfriend finds the old codger's corpse, the secret lair of the zombies and his girlfriend's head in quick succession before heading back to join the fight.

That's enough to give you an idea--you can probably guess the rest by piecing together every zombie movie cliche ever committed to film.  Like I said, it's not a bad film, nor is it a great film.  If you're a zombie fan, you'll likely find it a worthy addition to the canon.  If you aren't, it's not going to change your mind.  Might make a decent double feature with the underappreciated "The Bunker" if you want to invite a bunch of friends over for pizza and beer

Bottom line:  Better than I thought it would be, not quite as good as I'd hoped it would be.