Asian Cinema : Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Highly Recommended

Dead or Alive 2: Birds (2000) (Japanese Drama/Action) (repeat viewing) Two hitmen (who are also friends from childhood) decide to kill and donate stolen money to children in need of medical aid in this film by Takashi Miike. This is not a direct sequel, but more of a re-telling that uses the same actors. Its primarily a drama and a very good one at that with very little action on display until the final third, which presents a series of killing engagements (a few of which get bloody) and a showdown with some Chinese hitmen. There are some creative moments in this movie that add a lot of charm, and the interaction is nuanced and interesting. Sho Aikawa and Riki Takeuchi are again very good in the lead roles. Edison Chen shows up in a cameo, and Shinya Tsukamoto is hilarious in a small supporting role. In contrast to its predecessor, which showcased a lot of urban environments, this film showcases a lot of island environments (which include shots of the ocean). This is the best of the trilogy.

On the Waterfront (1954) (American Crime Drama) A has-been boxer (Marlon Brando) experiences a crisis of conscience while working for mobbed-up union boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb). He turns a blind eye when Friendlys thugs kill a fellow dockworker to keep him from testifying in a corruption case, but he has second thoughts when the victims sister urges him to take a stand. This is a good, solid movie all-around. A bit simplistic, but the conflicts are convincing and properly developed.

New Police Story (2004) (Chinese Action) (repeat viewing) Solid movie with Jackie Chan playing a cop whose colleagues are targeted for slaughter by a gang of adrenaline junkie bank robbers (led by Daniel Wu). This does rely more on character development than most actioners and is darker than most of Chans filmography. Nicholas Tse is fun to watch as the side-kick. The action is a mix of kinetic shootouts and martial arts, with the highlights being: (a) the warehouse scene where a host of cops attempt to elude numerous booby traps; and (b) the fight between Chan and Andy On that takes place in a childrens playland. Chan gives one of the best performances of his career in this film that has some balls. Directed by Benny Chan.

The Empire of Corpses (2015) (Japanese Anime Horror/Action/Drama) In an alternate version of 19th Century England, corpse reanimation has become industrialized and regulated for the purposes of providing an unending supply of workers for society. After breaking a law pertaining to this practice, young Watson has to either work for the government or face punishment. He has to go on a secret mission, to find the notes of Viktor Frankenstein, who reanimated the first human corpse. There are many historical names and well-known fictional characters who are dropped into the mix, which is rather interesting. This has a lot of creative ideas at work and a very good overall quality. Animation itself is solid and there are plenty of horror/action moments to enjoy. One of three films in the Project Itoh trilogy.

Flying Colors (2015) (Japanese Drama/Comedy) After putting no effort into studying for years, a highschool girl is motivated by a tutor to catch up and go to college. Outshined by her brothers accomplishments, she gets little support from her teachers or father. I really like this lead actress (Kasumi Arimura), and Atsushi Ito makes for a good tutor. Everyone has good chemistry in this film, which adequately showcases the pressure that Japanese students face regarding studying. Reminded me of the times I spent studying for the CPA exam. This is more dramatically effective than one might expect.


Dabbe 5: Zehr-i Cin (2014) (Turkish Horror) (repeat viewing) After suffering from nightmarish visions, a woman seeks help from a spiritualist. This is nicely shot, with a lot of creepy imagery (e.g., occult-themed rituals, hypnosis, standing corpses, etc.). This is loaded to the brim with horror, which helps the pacing. Flash editing is occasionally used, and this is fortunately one of the few examples where it works, mostly because the horror relies heavily on nightmarish visuals. Performances are good. Some small sections of this film suffer from western horror cliches (like the husband who refuses to believe that anything supernatural is going on, or jump scares), but it does not rely on those things. This is a good flick by Hasan Karacadag. (Viewed without subtitles.)

Dead or Alive (1999) (Japanese Crime Action/Drama) (repeat viewing) A man and his small group decide to make their own place by trying to take over the Shinjuku underworld and drug trade, but a cop stands in their way. The 10-minute opening sequence in this crime flick is classic! The middle section is rather meandering, but it does establish a convincing conflict between the cops and criminals. The final 30 minutes are superb though. It kicks into high gear with an impressive shootout in a club, and then eventually ends with a totally crazy finale that is full of surprises. This movie is gritty, sleazy, and perverted at certain moments (theres a very disgusting, humiliating murder near the mid-point thats hard to sit thru). But there are also parts of this movie that are genuinely crowd-pleasing and fun. Riki Takeuchi and Sho Aikawa are good in the lead roles. Director Takashi Miike definitely contributed something different here.

The Age of Shadows (2016) (Korean Thriller/Drama) Kang-ho Song stars as a Korean-born Japanese police officer in 1920s Seoul, whose loyalty to the occupying forces is tested when he comes into contact with a gang of resistance fighters, led by Gong Yoo. As expected from director Ji-woon Kim, the production values are solid, the performances are good, and the direction is stylish. This is also paced nicely, with grounded and realistic action. The opening scene and the lengthy suspense sequence on a moving train are the highlights (viewer beware of a few short torture scenes). My biggest gripe is that the plot and characters are commonplace and lacking in complexity. This is a good movie, but South Korea yet again picked the wrong film to submit for Oscar consideration. Whoever makes these decisions over there is a complete moron.

Terror In Resonance (2014) (Japanese Anime Thriller/Drama Television Series) In an alternate iteration of the present, Tokyo has been hit by a terrorist attack. The only evidence of the culprits is a cryptic video uploaded to the Internet, which sparks paranoia across Japan. Unbeknownst to the authorities is that the terrorist masterminds who call themselves "Sphinx are two teenaged boys who have recently befriended a lonely girl. This anime (11 episodes, 23 minutes each) has lots of riddles for the police to solve while they attempt to find each new bomb location before it detonates. Fortunately, both the cops and terrorists are intelligent. One thing I had a problem with is the character development, which is a bit lacking. Also, the terrorists very quickly become our lead protagonists when a new threat arises, which eliminates much of the moral ambiguity that could have been explored. Nevertheless, this film by Shinichiro Watanabe has a good overall quality.

Dragon Squad (2005) (Chinese Action) A special unit attempts to take down a team of killers who are searching for a crime syndicates fortune. The best action sequences are backloaded into the second half. The highlight is a spectacular alleyway gun battle that features a massive quantity of intense gunfire. That scene in and of itself is worth a watch. The finale is basically a series of one-on-ones, most of which are quite good (e.g., the sniper duel in the cemetary, the sword fight with Sammo Hung, etc.). It was also nice to see Michael Biehn as a formidable villain. All of the actors are likeable in their roles, and its quite bloody and violent too. With that said, this movie has some significant flaws. First and foremost, it uses a poor script as its foundation, which results in some awkward, cheesy moments. The camerawork and editing are also a bit too frenetic at times, and freeze framing is over-used.

Tokyo Decadence (1992) (Japanese Drama) A sexy student services wealthy clients with a taste for S&M and other illicit sexual acts while pining for a married artist who recently broke off their relationship. This focuses a lot on dialogue with clients, which include some perverted requests but less sex than you might expect. There is definitely a seedy feel to this, with some uncomfortable moments peppered throughout (some really messed up people out there). Slow paced and on the long side, it does drag at times (especially near the end), but this is an interesting drama that has more content than youd probably expect.

The Nice Guys (2016) (American Comedy/Action) Set in 1970s Los Angeles, this mystery tracks a private eye who teams up with a hired bruiser to investigate a missing persons case and a porn stars suspicious suicide. This is a very hit and miss movie, on all levels. Some of the humor works, but some of it is thoughtless, crude nonsense youd see in a fratboy comedy. (This style of comedy worked better in this directors prior film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.) There are a few bright moments, but the script is generally low-grade. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are both good, but Ive seen some reviewers praise the young actress and Im not sure why shes totally average, at best. The second half of this movie is better than the first, in my opinion. I was expecting more from this one.

Not Recommended

Missing (aka Missing Woman) (2016) (Korean Thriller) A struggling divorcee discovers her infant daughter and Chinese nanny have gone missing. This is a simplistic movie with minimal character development. Performances are good but the actresses are not given much to do with their one-note, shallow characters forcing them to act out one emotion throughout the entire film. Consequently, things become monotonous and are lacking in nuance. The thriller aspects are perfunctory and completely forgettable.

YouTube Asian Movie Review Channel

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

I'm just going to review La La Land because why not.

I have bailed on so many Asian films that I found boring in recent weeks, it must be that the novelty has worn off. Summer Time Machine Blues, Kotoko, While the Women Were Sleeping, blah blah blah.

Anyway, I saw award-magnet La La Land in the theater recently. It got me thinking that cinema [still] has a really important place that has always been occupied by social ritual in human life. I'm not a film scholar but I'm sure this has been written about a lot that you go in the movies and it's an occasion to reflect on human experience in a way that only that particular kind of context can facilitate. The kind of context where your attention is demanded for two hours straight. You just can't do this on the internet, on your smartphone. It's like doing peyote around the campfire was for our ancestors, only with less puking. Or more puking, if it's a Clint Eastwood movie. In the case of La La Land it leads you to reflect on some things about seizing your destiny. A lot of movies lead me to that state of mind where you walk out of the theater jarred, shattered almost, not by something spectacular but by something small and fragile. Thinking, God, yeah, it is important. There is a meaning. You can't just get up for work every morning and march another day closer to death.

La La Land has to do with seizing control of your own fate in relationships and in work. There is a lot to criticize about this film. A lot. Like, a lot a lot. But skipping over that for a minute, in fairness, it really is a "perfect" film experience too, if you let it be one. When the film ended, I wanted to just go right back in and watch it again, and I rarely feel that way. I should have. Instead, I went back a week later, and the spell was broken, and I didn't like it the second time.

Emma Stone really is a great actor. I don't want to know anything about her, or even seek out more of her films (she was only okay in Aloha, Birdman, Crazy Stupid Love) but she was born for this role. She does a good job of acting normal and genuine without being afraid that the way she acts won't look like how someone "would" act. Her only problem is that her enormous personality tends to chew the living **** out of the scenery in a smaller-minded movie than this one. She just does things that everyone else is unwilling to do, and don't realize or admit that they are unwilling to do. Everybody wants to be renowned. Nobody wants to cry out of real experience of abysmal despair. Emma is willing and able.

Ryan Gosling, not so much. But he had a fabulous wristwatch.* The fact that neither of them can sing didn't add a lot to the movie. The filmmakers "make up for it" by having supporting cast that also can't sing, so as to not upstage the principals. (Can I get an eye-rolling emoji, please?) In fact, much of the music was terrible it's strange that they brought this guy John Legend (what a name) to add legitimacy on the music side, but he does the opposite. His contribution is enough to make someone who loves this movie run out of the theater screaming. Some of the tunes are catchy but superficial and don't stand up to repeated listening. In your mind. While you are trying to go to sleep.

The Director is a few fries short of a happy meal, being unable to rise above his own tastes and biography, and personal acquaintances, etc etc. Not great director material yet the best Hollywood has got these days (?) *My enjoyment of the film the second time was partly deflated just by reading that the director wore some $14,000 watch that I bought him to an awards show. That's just me. I don't want to know these things.

I've drifted into the criticism of the movie. The main concern is that it feeds into that "success" concept that is so incredibly misguided in our society, and it's not aware of the problem. Still, for me, that was part of the experience of the film. Witnessing other people's very misguided beliefs about the need to be "successful" and the total unacceptability of being mediocre this is the social ecosystem I operate in. Sanity is out there somewhere, but not in this movie. I once saw a bumper sticker in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina that said "The Outer Banks we're loser-friendly."

In its pixaresque manufactured poignancy, this movie tries to ape 1940s musicals (thus the 1940s Omega wristwatch). But unfortunately, a lot has changed since then. I don't know if you ever noticed this, but in classic movies, people don't wear vintage clothes or fancy Omega watches. When you saw crowds of people singing and dancing in the background of those old movie, you knew nothing about them, and you never would know. Now, you look at these millennial LA hipsters with mustaches, and. you know who they are. It's impossible to build the magic spell of belief. The dream is over, or rather, the ability to dream is over.

Unless you're in China

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Funny and moving review notwithstanding, I'm not going to watch this. Not because I hate musicals (I hate any attempt to express or convey meaning by singing it, even in a song format, most of the time). And not because of Ryan (who's a way better onscreen personality than most of the over-moisturized Koreans who get a pass around here). (I love Emma, btw). I'm not going to watch this because you didn't name the director. I had to go look it up. Look at the name, look at the picture. I got about 15 seconds into Whiplash before hurling a T-bomb, so I'm right. This is easy. I have some regret because I was genuinely moved by your writing, but I gotta go with my gut.

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Haha, I wrote this thinking, this is one that our friend sitenoise won't be able to bring himself to watch, so just hoping to amuse with the review in your case.

I hate musicals as much as you in fact I can't remember ever watching one. But I just decided to let myself enjoy this one. Partly because my niece is the age where she's into Hamilton and stuff like that, and I enjoyed recommending this one for her.

Ryan is not a terrible actor, but he was way outclassed by Emma in this one, to the point where I wish they had bagged their first choice for the male lead, whoever that may have been. He's pretty okay in the straight-faced funny flirty scenes, but overall he's not the James Dean he thinks he is. More of a wristwatch mannequin.

I had mixed feelings about Whiplash. It was partly bad and vain, partly very effective and well-acted by what's-his-name. Don't think the guy could have improved in his second feature film? He's only a 30 year old dude I think.

I don't like the director guy or his $14k watch, but this is one of those cases where I had to pass the peace pipe and get past it in order to connect with the ritual communion with this concept. You would surely hate all the badness of this film, but you're missing out on a Cinematic Experience that you could let yourself enjoy. Ebo and soggy will probably like it.

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Have you seen Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench? I saw it a while ago but never finished it. I didn't realize La La Land is directed by the same person. I just looked it up because I was curious who the director is. I don't like Ryan Gosling, so I won't be watching this.

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

No I haven't seen that one. I guess this guy is going to have to branch out from the "20 something jazz musician" theme at some point!

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

"And not because of Ryan (who's a way better onscreen personality than most of the over-moisturized Koreans who get a pass around here)"

Age of Loneliness-

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

All this La La Land talk has got my other foot running towards the cinema but my other foot holds it back. What to do.

For one, I'm not really into musicals. I like singing people in movies, only if its animated. But seeing live people cut the scene and turn it into a production number, someone press the fast forward button for me. Second, I still can't with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Emma StoneI can't remember her in the movies honestly (although I know I've seen her in a couple of them). Ryan Gosling, I haven't seen him in a movie yet. I give you guys the license to laugh but I honestly don't have any motivation to watch him. He looks exactly like a mannequin, I can't see any life to him. Add to that that I usually don't go for romance type (he's into that, right?) of movies. him and I haven't met yet. I don't know when we'll meet but as of this time, I don't know. Maybe La La Land will do the trick? I'll check if its playing in our theaters this weekend.

Reading your review, its not like The Tree of Life, right? "La La Land has to do with seizing control of your own fate in relationships and in work." > I swear I heard this from someone who reviewed A Tree of Life too. And I couldn't get past the 10 minute mark.

Age of Loneliness-

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Reading your review, its not like The Tree of Life, right? "La La Land has to do with seizing control of your own fate in relationships and in work." > I swear I heard this from someone who reviewed A Tree of Life too.

LOL! No no, it's not at all. You made me lol though because I realize that my review sounds like I'm talking about Tree of Life, so you nailed it. I guess I always sound like I'm talking about Tree of Life even when I'm reviewing a dumb Chinese chomedy.

LaLa is closer to Titanic crossed with a romcom. I guess we are unanimous about hating musicals, but that's not really the point here. I think in this case, the music just helps you to feel sympathy for the characters, because they are so bad at mediocre as singers. It's definitely one to see in the theater instead of on video.

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

lol yeah, I haven't even watched The Tree of Life but for some reason, reading your review reminded me of how everyone reviewed about it and I couldn't understand one thing when I watched the first 10 minutes!

"LaLa is closer to Titanic crossed with a romcom."

Now that's what I like.

Alrighty, I'll take your word for it. Here's to hoping it still shows in our theaters this weekend.

Age of Loneliness-

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

I guess I always sound like I'm talking about Tree of Life even when I'm reviewing a dumb Chinese chomedy.

I think through self-selecting what films you decide to watch, this is probably true. In a very positive way, for me at least. Life is an organic struggle, a continual (Nietzschean) self-overcoming (or whatever), as you pointed out in your LaLa review about what the film experience allows us (perhaps more, or only, theatrically as opposed to home viewingwhich I'm contemplating very much right now after watching and loving The Girl on the Train even after reading all its bad reviews). Some folks watch films to live out vicariously some fisticuffs, a gun fight, a car chase, a little J-navel gazing, perhaps. Some folks watch Olympic level Women's indoor volleyball oops.

We all have projects and concerns that shape our experience. The beautiful thing is that the prism of analysis is subjective. I hope you don't waste any time boning up on different forms of martial arts in the hopes of offering us an objective review of the next Raid film.

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Yeah, so interesting: I'm not sure if this is what you were getting at, but it's one of the beautiful things in life that sometimes people see things that are just not there. Sometimes they hear things that other people are just not really saying. And the agreement and the "yeah, right on, man!" that comes with it is based on a kind of misunderstanding. This can be kind of hilarious and touching, when people like and approve of things and genuinely like or respect each other based on subjective interpretations that are wrong.

This happens a lot in the movies, and god willing, it always will. It's part of that mysterious sauce of the Human Connection. As you say, the vicarious experience of other people's experiences. The experience of imaginatively seeing through their eyes. This pretty much mirrors "theory of mind" which is literally, scientifically, the thing that distinguishes people from other animals. Far out.

For many of us, Asian film is the shizzle, Japanese particularly, because it can't get any more foreign (from the American/Western perspective) than that, so you get that vicarious experience of something very novel, and purely human, because the cultural subtleties that we can't understand are scrubbed off, leaving pure human experience. Like we're children.

In LaLa, it's a lot to do with experience of that happy, childlike pursuit of some dream. It forces you to confront yourself with whether or not you're really doing it. The film thinks it's taking off and soaring on that point about chasing career dreams and "succeeding" and so on. It partly trips on that point, because it's misguided and hollow. But that doesn't take away from the power of that confrontation. Am I doing it? Did I just give up on it? Most people have completely given up on life, and they're living in way very similar to prison inmates who are intensely focused on their Bridge game, and not seeing the fact that they're in jail.

La La Land

Hi zelena. So unfortunately, the movie was already pulled out the time I decided to finally watch this. And now I regret it. I wish I saw this in the big screens. Tsk. I managed to contact my resource person to use his almighty piracy powers and look for a copy of this on the internet. And he did. You know those times you wish you did something when you still had the chance, this is one of those times. I passed by the theaters with La La Land playing countless of times and I just stared at the title doing nothing. *pulls own hair*

Anyway, to the movie now. I agree with everything you said. And I also agree with you about your remark when you tried to watch it the second time and you didn't like it as much.

What's kinda new (at least for me) is that the movie captivated me in the latter parts. Usual experience would be, I get so high on the first parts, starts to feel drowsy in the middle, and then just say wake me up when the movie ends. With La La Land,the first parts were the bummers. It starts sparkly in the middle, and the ending was one of the best endings ever.

Funny thing on the first scene. That scene alone where there's switching of sounds (to show what type of music each car on the throng of vehicles listens to) is award-worthy already but cuts to a girl who slowly sings and then boom! A production number! I was about to say "Zelena, I didn't sign up for this!" but since it was just the first act, I can't bail out, right? Especially if everyone's raving for it, I have to check if the movie redeems itself somewhere down the road. And it did. I think what made the movie appealing is the fact that in this day, its refreshing to see a film that makes you feel like you're watching a broadway musical. The song and dance numbers are not Grease-type levels of catchy but they're passable.

And yeah, Emma Stone was born for this role. She was very natural (except on the sing and dance parts). And what do I know, lifeless-looking Ryan Gosling can actually act to save his life.

The director knows how to play with his camera. He shoots these angles that captivate life aside from the one he's shooting. I haven't heard of him before but if he works like this, he has just reserved himself a star in the hall of fame.

And now to the best part which is a masterpiece of its own: That scene showing the alternate ending. Its very refreshing to see this type of approach that the director utilised. He made it look like an animated movie with real people on it. And the ending was the ending I was looking for!

I got teary eyed two times here. I think everyone who watched this cried too. The first time I cried was when they had that major fight and Mia was acting in her own-produced, own-starred play which no one watched. I cried when Sebastian came to her despite their fight and with him saying "I'll make it up to you!" (with Ryan looking confused/constipated/whatever) because he just doesn't know how to console her, what with them having a big fight just a night beforeI was so real. The second time I cried, it was on the ending.

Overall, I think I can agree with the majority who loved this. I can't say I would watch this later again and I wouldn't call it a masterpiece either (although its 80% there) but this one is definitely one-of-a-kind. Something that is so above the usual hollywood movies that gets spewed every now and then. The director has potential, he is someone to look out for.

Age of Loneliness-

Re: La La Land

Lovely write-up, and I agree with every word of it. You're absolutely right, it was one of the best cinematic endings I've ever seen, and it was not one of the best beginnings. Luckily I was warned before I saw it that everyone agrees, the beginning was terrible. That must hurt for the girl that sings in that scene and doesn't appear again in the movie! But it wasn't her, actually, it was everyone else, and the song, etc.

But yeah it was a powerful ending. Pixar couldn't have engineered a more movie-magical ending. I say that even though I didn't like the "decision" in the ending, but that's normal: a lot of the most satisfying movies have an ending that the audience can't like. Yes, that "alternate" ending was a great device to put us in the mind of the both of them. I never thought about it before, but it's rare that a scene can transport you into the subjective mental state of two characters at once and it's obvious why they're thinking the same thing. Pretty powerful, actually.

I honestly liked this movie in spite of the musical scenes; I never liked musicals and this certainly didn't change my mind. I think the fact that he made it a musical was decided maybe just in order to give him freedom to be really Romantic and Fantastic without it coming off as superficial. They fly through the air because of course they fly through the air it's musical theater.

I'm not really convinced about Ryan Gosling he has a kind of expressionless face but he's not one of those Michael Cain types that can express a rainbow with an expressionless face. Still I did definitely get some dust in my eye at the end of this movie. It uses the Zelena Formula for a great film: make a character the audience can sympathize with, and make terrible things happen to that character, and then give that character some little friends.

Re: La La Land

"That must hurt for the girl that sings in that scene and doesn't appear again in the movie!"

Haha yeah lol! Well at least she could get to say "Hey I made the opening act for that Oscar-worthy movie!" Hehehehe. I forgot to write in my post to tell you you should've warned me of the disaster I will be facing on the opening act. Anyway

Yeah, powerful would be the perfect word to describe that alternate ending scene. And yes, I think expressionless would also best describe Ryan Gosling (I think I was too harsh with lifeless lol).

I think everyone who watch this did get some dust in their eyes. Even I cried and I'M STRONGGGGG!!!!! (That's why I need to watch movies alone so no one sees me when I get softy and emotional lol jk).

Lastly, thank you very much. Were it not for you, I could've missed watching on this one-of-a-kind movie. :)

Age of Loneliness-

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

I started posting videos of my DVD collection recently. Heres the playlist:

Here are the films I saw the last few weeks.

Highly Recommended

Early Summer (1951) (Japanese Drama) (repeat viewing) Director Yasujiro Ozu contributes this great story about a young woman who is being pressured to marry by her family members. The most entertaining moments come by way of the various discussions and debates over marriage, which are frequently humorous. Setsuko Hara carries this movie with her fresh, playful, and wise demeanor. Her interactions with the various family members are very good.

Operation Mekong (2016) (Chinese Action) The Chinese government sends a band of elite narcotics officers (led by Hanyu Zhang and Eddie Peng) to the Golden Triangle to uncover the truth behind the murders associated with a huge methamphetamine recovery. The action design is mostly gritty and diverse, with an emphasis on urban apprehensions and special ops strikes that involve gunplay and hand-to-hand combat. This creates a sense of thrill and suspense even though it does get unrealistic (especially in terms of how much damage a few characters can take). This is neat stuff, incorporating some creative equipment and technology, as well as one of the coolest dogs in recent memory. Theres plenty of bloody violence too, with a few intense scenes involving children and oppressed villagers. There are some gorgeous natural environments, as well as some great overhead shots of various country locales. Plot and character development are thin (they basically move from place to place for infiltrations or strikes), but this is frenetically paced and well-acted. International conflict and cast are nicely crafted together. No nonsense crowd-pleasing action from Dante Lam.

All About Eve (1950) (American Drama/Romance) (repeat viewing) A fan insinuates herself into the company of an established but aging stage actress and her circle of theater friends. The interesting element here is that for much of the film one is unsure if Eve is a well-meaning fan or a manipulative wench. Also, despite the constant complaining of the aging actress, one can understand her frustrations and paranoia. Performances are very good by everyone and the script is well-written. There are a few genuinely funny scenes peppered in as well. The restaurant sequence near the end is awesome. Heck, the entire final 40 minutes are awesome.

XXX: The Return of Xander Cage (2017) (American Action) Extreme athlete turned government operative Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) comes out of self-imposed exile, thought to be long dead, and is set on a collision course with an international team of renegades in a race to recover a sinister and seemingly unstoppable weapon known as Pandora's Box. This is easily the best paced and purely entertaining big budget Hollywood action film in a while, and its certainly more entertaining than every single superhero movie from 2016. Don't get me wrong, because it is an incredibly stupid film, but it's also damn entertaining from start to finish. For example, Donnie Yen is finally allowed to do what he does best in a Hollywood movie. It's not rocket science let the guy kick some rear-end. The action is completely ridiculous, but it's certainly plentiful enough and has good enough quality to be satisfying. The cast really seemed to have fun while making this. The big negative that popped out to me was the awkward sexual innuendos near the beginning, which felt very out of place and cringeworthy. Other than that, this is fantastic action trash that everyone should support.


XXX (2002) (American Action) (repeat viewing) A notorious underground rush-seeker (Vin Diesel) deemed untouchable by the law is coerced by the NSA to cooperate with the government and infiltrate a Russian crime ring. People who dump on this movie must have conveniently forgotten some of the awesome, practical stuntwork that was performed using wide camera shots. And even some of the CGI stuff is fun (e.g., the avalanche). There is some conventional spy stuff mixed in (e.g., gadgets and a final disarmament sequence), but its still sufficiently entertaining. Sure, the story is generic and contrived, but I liked the actors and the plot keeps moving along nicely. Asia Argento is hot in this too.

Harmony (2015) (Japanese Anime Sci Fi Drama/Horror) In a future period called the Maelstrom, nuclear war and disease have plagued and destroyed the world, including the United States. To prevent new horrors, the world was divided into several smaller states. Each state is defined as an ethical, solidarity and futuristic society which is controlled by facilities where nanotechnology is used for medical purposes, to allow better living. A young officer begins an investigation to discover the truths and threats behind the perfect world. The protagonists complete distain for this society drives the film. The script focuses heavily on narration and dialogue, which will demand the viewers patience but an interesting plotline is introduced near the midpoint. There are a few bloody death scenes and the theme of suicide is touched upon. This does have some pacing issues and the ending is not particularly satisfying. One of three films in the Project Itoh trilogy.

Not Recommended

Dead or Alive Final (2002) (Japanese Action/Drama) (repeat viewing) Takashi Miike directs this third and final installment. This movie takes place in the year 2346, which solidifies the fact that each of the films in this trilogy are completely distinguishable from one another. Action is decent enough for its low budget and the performances are good enough. The problem though is that this film lacks what the other two DOAs have interesting characters, engaging conflicts, and a big payoff finale. This movie feels lethargic and lacking in anything truly interesting outside of its basic premise. The first two installments were better.

Muska (aka Amulet) (2014) (Turkish Horror) When a newspaper columnist is forced to find new lodgings after the ugly end of his relationship, he ends up at a rundown old house with a room for rent. Hesitant to take lodging in the dilapidated home, he changes his mind when he meets the beautiful woman living next door. This has a very creepy opening and the performances are good, but it is lacking in other aspects. The scare tactics themselves are generic and repetitive (e.g., the it was all just a dream ploy is used multiple times.), with no truly memorable or lengthy uses of the witchcraft angle. The story is generic and the ending is stupid. (Viewed without subtitles.)

Hell or High Water (2016) (American Crime Drama/Thriller) A divorced father and his ex-con older brother resort to a desperate scheme in order to save their family's ranch in West Texas. This is a dull-as-dirt movie with shallow, one-dimensional characters, a severely cliched script, and sleep-inducing dialogue. Performances are competent, but unambitious and one-note. There are one or two decent thriller sequences that are also oddly lethargic (a cop gets shot in the head near the end of the movie . . . and I laughed), but most of the runtime is spent watching people standing around, doing nothing. This wouldnt be a problem if there was an inkling of interesting character interaction, but there isnt any. Wake me when its over.

YouTube Asian Movie Review Channel

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Highly Recommended

XXX: The Return of Xander Cage (2017)

I am highly sceptical . Does Donnie Yen get to fight Tony Jaa? That might be worth the admission price alone..

Last Film Seen;
Split (M Night Shyamalan, 2016) 7/10

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

They do not fight each other, unfortunately.

YouTube Asian Movie Review Channel

Justice, My Foot! (1992)


* This review may contain spoilers ***

Despite reading about him for years I've for some reason have never crossed swords with Stephen Chow. Taking a look at Netflix UK,I found an obscure title of his about to be taken off the site,which led to me Chow-ing down for the first time:

The plot:

Suffering the loss of his 13th child,infamous lawyer Sung Sai Kit decides that his get out of jail card ways must have put a curse on him,which leads to Sung retiring from law. Whilst her husband sits around bored,Sung's wife learns of a murder trial taking place. Wanting to end on a high,Sung comes out of retirement, and brings justice to foot.

View on the film:

Keeping the Kung-Fu wires spinning,director Johnnie To & cinematographer Peter Pau aim arrows at extremely broad Comedy that breaths in fart gags and spicy sass. Flying into a period piece,To cheekily sends up the dry historical epics with silk primary colours lined up the screen that are scanned in rapid-fire zoom-ins making the viewer a jury member of the absurd trial.

Knocking down the walls of the courtroom Drama,the screenplay by Sandy Shaw rips the respectability of instructions apart in a wickedly crass farce,sipping Sung stepping in corrupt double dealings in the courts with an unlucky taste for breast milk. Swinging to the defence of his wife,Stephen Chow gives a splendid motor mouth performance as Sung,thanks to Chow hitting the comedic action scenes with a relish,and delivering the dialogue at a lightning fast speed,as Sung puts his foot down on justice.

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Kizumonogatari Part 1: Tekketsu
Director: Tatsuya Oishi, Akiyuki Shinbo
I don't get anime. This has some beautiful mixed shots of cartoons on top of landscape photography, and lots and lots of drawings of one of the characters' eyeball. Like there is emotion there.

White Bird in a Blizzard
Director: Gregg Araki
I watched this for the Harold Budd/Cocteau Twins soundtrack. The things we do.

The Girl on the Train
Director: Tate Taylor
Haters gonna hate. Likers gonna like. Emily Blunt is fabulous, and that means a lot coming from a guy who thinks acting drunk is one of the hardest things an actor can attempt. You Go Girl. So much better than Gone Girl.

The Workhorse & the Bigmouth
Director: Keisuke Yoshida

Requisite ***SPOILER ALERT*** because I may end up over describing this thing, but it won't matter because nobody reading this will, or should, ever see it.

Another home run for Keisuke Yoshida of Himeanole and Cafe Isobe fame. This is another small, tiny, little, dinky flick. Yoshida knows how to cut film. Bad cuts are when you're all like, "wtf?" Good cuts are when you can't help but joyfully ponder where the next few minutes of a scene might have gone if it wasn't cut. Thank you. I'm here all week. Don't forget to tip your waiters.

This is my anti-LaLaLand. The gut punch here, the Anagnorisis (even though the fantastic fansubs totally boinked the money shot) is when Kumiko Aso, as a 34 year old wannabe screenwriter says (something to the effect of): "Getting rejected every time, never even making it into the first round, year after year after year that's nothing compared to giving up a dream you've had since childhood because you recognize you don't have the talent for it."

Kumiko Aso
is fabulous. If you don't like her you won't like the film. She's about as plain jane as a person can be, has an insincere smile, and yet while never wearing tight jeans she's totally hot. And she doesn't really act. As the "Workhorse", since she can't really act (thank god), she simply owns every scripted line. The ironic beauty of having her play a scriptwriter who attends classes and does every act I, act II, act III thing by the book was not lost on me.

The film is almost a standard jrom-jom. Aso is independent. The "Bigmouth" isn't loud, thank goodness, more of a slightly cocky Jeff Spicoli without the drugs, who attends the script writing classes, wants Aso, and criticizes everyone else's writing for playing by the rules, while being unable to write anything of his own. I pondered punting when I feared the two of them would end up together. If Spicoli would have bad eating-acted I would have punted for sure. In the hands of a lesser director he would have bad eating-acted all throughout. And gotten Aso. Not here. He does, however, put pencils up his nose.

There's also Aso's ex who is goodness personified. He's an ex-actor who now works as a caregiver wiping butts and cleaning up puke. Aso calls him and asks if she can volunteer at his nursing home as research for her next screenplay. Will they end up together? Not here.

You have to be fairly smart and creative to write a screenplay about screenplay writers who dream, and discuss talent. What is talent? Who's got it? Can it be measured? Can it be improved?

There is also a handful of incidentals who all rise to the level of characters. The Workhorse & the Bigmouth is a slow burn, smart and talky little anti-romcom. But it is emphatically NOT arthouse pomposity. It's a goofy little film filled with dorks who chew up and spit out (politely, into a napkin) conventional stereotypes. I loved this thing from top to bottom well, not quite. A few years ago when this came out I immediately dismissed it because the film poster is bad. You can almost always infer the quality of a movie from its poster. Yoshida needs help in the poster making department. My guess is he doesn't involve himself with it. Mistake #1. Mistake #2 would be the title of the film.

\_-|/`— my opinions are incomplete. always wil

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

"I don't get anime. This has some beautiful mixed shots of cartoons on top of landscape photography, and lots and lots of drawings of one of the characters' eyeball. Like there is emotion there."

Bwahahahaha! I admit, as an anime lover myself, there are some animes I also can't get into. Its a hit or miss when it comes to anime.

I've been waiting and looking everywhere for ages for Your Name (Kimi No Na Wa) but please please let the gods hear this, can they post it in the sites I visit now??? Complete with subs and all???? I really really wish I could see this already.

I was about to look for the Workhorse & the Bigmouth because Himeanole but your review of it kinda sounds like that movie I can't remember where I watched it because its your favorite but it only took me around 10 minutes to put it off because I can't stand the leads staring at each other and (I think) they were eating in a restaurant whispering some sweet nothings or what was that. I can't remember the title now. And the trailer for this Workhorse doesn't help too so I think I'll give this one a pass.

Age of Loneliness-

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Workhorse & the Bigmouth is nothing at all like Cafe Noir or One Fine Spring Day. The bigmouth is seriously a Jeff Spicoli spinoff so that gives you an idea of its goofy factor. Aso's ex is a lovely man but everyone else is a loser (well he's a loser too, but a lovely one). The overall humor is more heady, though, than slappy. The director wants you inside the people rather than pointing and laughing at them. There are many many touching moments but I think it would be too slow for you. If the trailer had subs it might be a better sell as a few of the jokes are there, but as Trailers are always stupid and non-representative of a movie, I don't know what to say. It had Spicoli with the pencils in all his top level orifices, tho. Isn't that a selling point? lol

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Ah, its Cafe Noir! That movie I was talking about in my previous post.

Hmmmm..not sold yet. I'll check this out if I can't find anything to watch later.

Age of Loneliness-

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

When I saw your comments about his cutting skillz, I decided to give Himeanole a try I had downloaded it and was on the fence. I thought it was really good for the first 50 minutes. Then it turned into a senseless gore flick. I was really disappointed. Once that kind of violence starts in a movie, it doesn't stop. I bailed at 1:16 and I think that was at least the sixth graphic murder in 20 minutes. Sorry if I'm a broken record, but I'm not "for" or "against" violence in movies, it's just a question of whether it serves a cinematic purpose. If a death scene doesn't elicit empathy, that becomes an occasion for you to know that you have no empathy for other people. It's just porn, and there's way too much bad porn in Japan. The whole film still could have been great if the violence was cut out in the way Hitchcock would have, but the pacing, which was exceptionally well done up till then, would have been blown out. If I was teaching college kids film, I would have them edit out the violence and make it still work.

Anyway, does this other one have a lot of gore? I'm still open to the director. Himeanole had great humor, and as you pointed out, phenomenal photography and editing, and superb sound design, that added a lot to the storytelling. I was really digging the jrom-jom elements all guys are losers unworthy of women, but get them anyway, and all women are not as angelic as they're cracked up to be when you fall for them. I'll trust your take on whether Workhorse is zelenable.


Himeanole is his outlier. It was strange to see where he went with it. Gore is not present elsewhere in his oeuvre.

I guess his first flick, Raw Summer, is a soft porno with Sora Aoi, but that's pretty common in Japan, I guess. Beyond that, everything is zelenable. It's not that much tho, just Cafe Isobe and Workhorse. Can't remember if you've seen Cafe or not. It has more energy than Workhorse. I like them both in the 8 area.

Oh yeah, there's My Little Sweet Pea which I found Hallmark channel awful. And I see he has another flick with a pig on the poster. I'm ignoring that one.

I think you'll like Workhorse. Too slow for weepyeyes, tho.

If you're really scrounging, I would love your opinion on that Cat movie we went on about recently.

Re: Himeanole

Well, seeing that Himeanole was a merciful 1:46 long, I went back and finished it, trying to FF through the gore scenes. However, there is hardly a three minute stretch in the rest of the film without a graphic murder. I was really puzzled and disappointed with where this film went. I guess this is why there are Executive Producers. They serve to nudge directors in the right direction (aka "interfere in the creative process") when they get too up themselves and get lost.

This director definitely has flashes of creative brilliance. I see what you mean by the cuts. He has some of them. "Your pasta " What do you want to bet this guy was the valedictorian of his film school class, and was one of those guys who everyone has always said is a "genius" (but isn't)? He sat down and learned some things from Scorcese etc, which is more than most people do. I wish he could have just made an odd jrom-jom out of Himeanole, instead of an adolescent slasher flick, where women are just there to be raped. I gave it a five point something because it had some merits but I barely watched the whole thing.

Workhorse was different, again some flashes of good stuff. What's her name was a pretty naturalistic actor too. She grimaces disapprovingly in a very natural way. But the plot though. You praised the director for not making it into the cliche where the guy gets the "girl" (who is 35). But I read it the other way; he makes it into something where he doesn't care if they get together, doesn't care if they don't. But then he still plays j-drama scoring. I thought it was too long and I wasn't satisfied at the end, put it that way. I gave it seven point barely

So what, now I'm down to cat movies and noplace to vent about them!?!

Re: Himeanole

Not that it matters much, but I think it's unfortunate you watched Himeanole first. And wondered if there was more gore about him. (interesting, I haven't committed this director's name to memory yet).

For me, he's a comedy guy. I hope you'll give Cafe Isobe a shot if you haven't. It's mic drop city. That's why Himeanole was so weird, and surprising. I had no idea it was going to go there. I'm sympathetic to your views re: gore and violence, just have my line drawn at a different place.

You are right about the "j-drama scoring" in Workhorse. I remember wincing a few times. My Little Sweet Pea = OMG and he has a movie with a pig on a poster. It probably has an awful score. He's all over. I don't want to reduce him to a hired gun, but he's inching close. And in the end, anyone who doesn't get music will eventually lose me.

I'm just going to go on a little bit more here, lol. He made Sweet Pea and Workhorse the same year. Two films about women who figure out they don't need someone else to walk ahead in the world. Nobody raped them. I don't know if he's pandering or genuine.

In re: music(ality). That's what grabbed me about Cafe. Not it's score, but its rhythm. That's his cutting prowess.

Until such time as I believe otherwise, I maintain the guy is skilled enough, interestingly intelligent enough, and gosh darn-it, I like him. You should watch Cafe.

The Age of Shadows

Here's the thing: Kang-ho Song. He has this magical ability to appear as if he's wandered on to the wrong film set, and then through sheer force of will he takes over the proceedings. He's got to be one of the finest actors on the planet. What he does in The Age of Shadows is amazing. I could never decide if he was a weak flip-flopper of a character or ultimately conniving because he does both. I don't think many people can do that.

Um Tae-Goo plays one of the greasiest bad ass villains in recent memory. I was mesmerized by his face, especially his cheekbones. Kudos all over that dude. He really makes the film.

The "Train Scene" *is* masterfully done suspense.


This big a$$ Warner Bros flick also stars Kermit the over moisturized Frog face. A guy who co-starred in a film with Do-yeon Jeon, which was written and directed by Yoon-ki Lee, and the film sucked. Do the math.

Re: A Man and a Woman (and a Cat)

I kind of shudder at the thought of what your answer might be if I were to ask what you didn't like about A Man and a Woman I thought it was really, really good (but I preferred After the Storm quite a bit more to Our Little Sister, so we probably aren't on the same wavelength).

BTW, your appraisal of the music in If Cats Disappeared from the World was spot on - I'm not usually as attuned to these things as others, but that film is surely a contender for Most Appallingly Annoying Soundtrack Of All Time award. The concept was interesting and the shifting timeframes were handled well, but the other thing that bugged me was the cinematography. You commented that it looked good, and, yeah, it did look good, in a Hallmark/David Hamilton kinda way I thought it was as, umm, tasteful as the soundtrack. It reminded me very much of the look of Very Ordinary Couple, but that worked in that film because it was so gloriously ironic.

Re: A Man and a Woman (and a Cat)

I initially felt Yoon-ki wasn't careful enough with the script so it came out creepy and gross. But I really like Yoon-ki, and Do-yeon, so I changed my feeling to: Kermit the over moisturized Frog generated zero chemistry and was unable to execute Yoon-ki's daring script.

I should recind my invite to comrade zelena to watch the Cat movie, because you're right about the cinematography. My threshold is different from normal people concerning this area. (I think a lot of folks registered this complaint on The Girl on the Train, too. Which I liked.) I get that it's crassly manipulative, but in the Cat Movie I really liked the framing and the textures, and gave the photography homage points.

Out of the Dark (1995)

Thanks to everyone for the awesome posts.


Having fond memories of seeing Stephen Chow in Justice,My Foot for the first time recently,I decided to recently take a closer look at his credits,and was thrilled to spot a rare Chow Horror about to go from Netflix UK,which led to me looking into the dark

The plot:

Starting their new job as security guards to a luxury apartment building with a shopping centre on the lower floor,the guards soon begin to fear that it is they who needs security,due to the peculiar inhibitions of the building being joined by headless ghosts out for revenge. Wanting to help rid the building of the ghosts, ghostbuster Leon decides to train the security guides and some residence of the building in the best way to fight out of the darkness.

View on the film:

Flying into the dark on a pillow of warm shot on Video fuzz,writer/director Jeffrey Lau & cinematographer Chi Wai Wong turn the light on to an atmosphere of pure kitsch,which bounces along with playful, rubbery gore being drenched in stylish filters Lau slices into to crack open the absurd state of Leon's ghostbusting. Pitching the Comedy chops broadly,Lau makes the kitsch mood run deep,with gleefully extended comedy sequences exposing Leon's lack of real "skills",and also allowing Leon to push the Horror Comedy into over the top Fantasy.

Drawing the most basic outline for the characters,Lau makes this basic sketch one that is easy to forgive,thanks to Lau never pausing for breath,as the film leaps from hilarious overripe Soap Opera Comedy to kitsch,chainsaw-welding ghosts making sure that for Leon and the guards,bustin makes 'em feel good. Chasing after ghosts with sexy Karen Mok,Stephen Chow gives a fantastic performance as Leon,brimming with an arrogant wit that allows Leon to casually hold dynamite,as the ghosts come out of the dark.