Thursday, March 15, 2018

Underground (1995)

Director: Emir Kusturica

Notable Cast: Predrag "Miki" Manojlović, Lazar "Laza" Ristovski, Mirjana Joković

Winner of the Palme d'Or in 1995 at the Cannes Film Festival in France, Emir Kusturica's 3 hour historical satire dark comedy blew up to epic proportions in its popularity among the festival circuits at the time.  From what I understand though, there wasn't much English language coverage of the film for quite some time. Regardless, since the boom of intense film restoration for fancy quality discs for home media came about, Underground has went before the eyes of many and worked its way into the hearts of most. While I appreciate the large caliber of gags and insane camera work, I unfortunately didn't find much to latch onto whilst spending my time underground.

The sprawling story focuses on two friends and their relationship with one another that spans from the beginning World War II and last until the beginnings of the Yugoslav Wars. One is a Communist Party member who is working his way up the ranks named Marko. The other, nicknamed Blacky, who enrolls in the Party before WWII had even begun. The two hit it off and a serious of laughs, betrayals, battles, and visual gags come to us audience members at breakneck speed, not caring to leave us in the wind if necessary.

I liked Underground, but I know I wasn't in love. Perhaps I fell for the worst thing of all a movie goer can do: build expectation. I have had this one hyped up to me for so many years that I went in expecting, well who knows what and got nothing I really could be amazed by. Now, that isn't to say the film has no depth or won't land into anyone's favorite film lists as it clearly has many times. I do want to revisit sometime with the 6 hour television cut, which the lengthier version was the director's original intent, and maybe I'll discover a better appreciation. For now though, it just didn't really mesh with me.

In terms of the technical aspect of the filmmaking, everything is top notch. I was so impressed camerawork and the techniques used that even with that I was at times pulled out but more so just amazed by the level of craftsmanship displayed here. Whoever the cinematographer is most definitely deserves high praise. I wasn't quite sure how they pulled off some of the visuals they did honestly.

In the end I feel extremely mixed on my feelings towards Underground. No doubt it is an important film and a controversial one at that, and while I liked certain elements and some of the weirder ideas it explored, such as Blacky's weird fetish with his partner's highheel being smacked off of his forehead, I feel as if I missed what it was doing. To say it's the film's fault may not be true in this case, and as I write this, I can't help but want to visit that longer cut. Again, I enjoyed the journey overall and was very entertained but I didn't walk away with much more than that. I say definitely see it and judge for yourself. Most consider it a masterpiece.

Written by Josh Parmer

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Bad Poetry Tokyo (2017)

 Director: Anshul Chauhan

Notable Cast: Shuna Iijima, Takashi Kawaguchi, Orson Mochizuki


A somewhat obscure project that only came through to my attention when a Facebook page suggestion popped up in my feed, saying that a friend has liked 'Bad Poetry Tokyo'. With virtually no interest I clicked out of boredom and found myself suddenly very curious about the film due to the constant updates and intriguing behind the scenes stills leading up to its premiere at another festival. When I realized I would be covering the film, I found my excitement peaking. What followed was a 2 hour masterfully shot and executed mental beatdown at the hands of first time director, Anshul Chauhan, with only a handful of short works under his belt, I was completely taken aback by the sheer craft and thought put on display here.

Jun is a bar hostess in Tokyo who lets men do as they ever so disgustingly please to her, so she can fill her purse with enoug cash to depart Japan and head to the States, in dreams of pursuing an acting career. Naturally the subject matter is disturbing to watch and what happens through out the course of the film is an unnerving and brutally honest examination of a broken woman with no escape from her dark world. It gets into bad seed and fate of those born into such horrible conditions. It's very bleak and more often than not hopeless, but Bad Poetry Tokyo holds nothing back from the viewer and places them right in the midst of the chaos. That said, it does manage to develop its characters that come and go and there are a few rays of sunshine to be found here.

The whole aesthetic and visual language of Bad Poetry Tokyo is perfect from first frame to last. Ever shot composition, the framing, lighting, the 4:3 aspect ratio chosen to emphasize the upclose and personal dismay of its subjects, and even the perfectly chosen moments of handheld work all culminate into perhaps the finest thought-provoking display of character and their psychology since Koji Fukada's equally masterful Harmonium. I am completely in awe by its depth and beauty even against such a dark backdrop.

Perfomances are strong all across the board, but Shuna Iijima knocks out of the park as Jun, a woman broken and torn down by her surroundings since birth, and the neverending desire to escape the hell she was born into shows in her every gesture and eye movement. She does a lot by showing very little. Her outbursts, which do happen here and there are heartwrenching and once more, hard to watch. Jun is a character of redemption, but her road is not paved in same manner as most.

Takashi Kawaguchi as the childhood friend whom rekindles an old flame in Jun is the other performance highlight. His sweet nature and caring toward Jun ease some of the harsh tension the movie has built on from the start. A sort of carefree man, his breeziness and passion toward life is a great beacon of hope, something otherwise lost in the eyes of many here. I won't spoil but some of my more favorite moments happen during the scenes with him. Things don't go into spoiler territory, so no worries, but it was refreshing.

I think it is fairly obvious I enjoyed Bad Poetry Tokyo. I would go as far as to say I love it. Additional viewings will help cement my thoughts a little more firmly towards an ultimate conclusion in the long run, this initial experience is easily my favorite cinematic discovery of 2018, and I believe it is a modern masterpiece just waiting to find its audience.

Written by Josh Parmer

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Neomanila (2017)

Director: Mikhail Red

Notable Cast: Eula Valdez, Timothy Castillo, Rocky Salumbides, Jess Mendoza


Being only his third feature, and with a ripe 25 years of life under his belt, Mikhail Red is quickly making his names as one of the hottest Asian filmmakers to look out for, with his previous work, Birdshot, being selected as The Philippines entry to last year's Oscar's Foreign Language competition. Young, yes, but there is no doubt that Red is a cinemaic force to be reckoned with, and there is no question in my mind that if Neomanila is presented to the right set of eyeballs, it is bound to become an international hit. Going toe-to-toe with the giant industry known for cranking out the best modern thrillers, South Korea, Red and his crew crafts one of the finest thrillers to emerge out of Asia in many years.

A teenage boy named Toto is brought under the wing of a woman called Irma, the leader of a notorous death squad. These two unlikely partners form a familial bond together but things begin to go awry when one of the planned targets strikes a deep chord within a particular someone. No spoiles but what plays out here is a neon drenched Manila with its key players not being drowned out by the waves of locals. I enjoy Pinoy cinema, but more often than not the people in the background become a character themselves, which works usually, but here, in the same surroundings, they seem as if they are faded by the few select characters who we get a sharp focus on throughout the entirety of the journey.

Toto, the Son

Neomanila truly fires on all cylinder: pacing, visually, the eerie and memorable score that all emphasises the wondrous perfomances and chemistry between Toto and Irma. Their mother and son relationship that forms between her making of a killer in the young boy, while hard to watch at times, truly brings a unique dynamic to a relationship not typically explored in this type of movie. I was more than on one occasion blown away by both performers and the Toto character reminded me of teenage version of Julian from Norte, End of History in terms of a powerhouse delivery, and the look and feel of locationz character, minus can be spewing of philosophy, but I digress.

As aforementioned, if given the right opportunity, I could see this one playing to a larger crowd in the West in addition to Asia, where it is seeming to do quite well on well festival circuit. Fingers crossed someone gives this one a proper release and wider circulation as many movie goers will one to take a ride with this one. As Filipino cinema isn't widely recognized nowadays, I think an appropriate point of comparison would be Erik Matti's On the Job, in terms of the level of craftsmanship and entertainment factor.

Irma, the Mother

If you are attending the Osaka Asian Film Festival and have only one film you can attend then Neomanila is a safe bet on walking away from the screen completely satisfied. Covering a different genre with large success each time, Mikhail Red may be akin to being the next Kim Jee-woon, known for a similar varity and strong trac record. I can spew praise for this dark and thrilling work for more than people care to listen, but enough is enough, see it if given the opportunity.

Written by Josh Parmer 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Ichi the Killer (2001)

Director: Takashi Miike
Notable Cast: Tadanobu Asano, Nao Omori, Shinya Tsukamoto, Alien Sun, Susumu Terajima, Shun Sugata, Toru Tezuka, Yoshiki Arizono, Kiyohiko Shibukawa

Takashi Miike is the kind of creative force in cinema that pushes his audience into new levels. Whether it’s through his abrasive action thrillers, his intense angle on horror, or even his odd work in other genres like children’s films, musicals, and adaptations of other intellectual properties, he never shies away from something that may not sit well with audiences. Sometimes, this renegade approach to style can be problematic for some viewers. In regards to the focus of this review, it’s this ‘take no prisoners’ approach that makes a film like Ichi the Killer an immediate cult classic. Finally getting its 4K restored release on Blu Ray in the US, Ichi the Killer is one of those films that I will always love and appreciate for its insanity, even if the film is - generally speaking - very hard to say that I enjoy. It’s not a film meant to be enjoyed in the classical sense of the word, but it’s a film that takes its relentlessly bat-shit approach to artistic levels and delivers on many of the promises it makes with its dark and outlandish style. Ichi the Killer, for all intents and purposes, is the perfect cult classic.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

種をまく人 (2016)

Director: Takeuchi Yosuke

Notable Cast: Kentaro Kishi, Sozuno Takenaka, Tomumitso Adachi


私がここ10年見た中で一番胸がえぐられるような映画であり、同時に監督としてのデビュー作品の中で最高レベルの映画の一つだった。比較できるような他の監督や自然についての映画は別として、これは私にとっては一番の褒め言葉だが、この世にはイ・チャンドン監督のような人物がもう一人いて、彼の名前は竹内洋介だ。 これは彼らが同じであるという意味では全くないが、彼は真のヒューマンドラマの新たな達人として姿を現し、大衆から注目を浴びるべき人物だ。



どこかのインディーズレーベルがこの作品を見つけて正当なリリースをすることを本当に願っている。素晴らしいヒューマンドラマの中の上位にふさわしい作品。人間の影も光も全て、ありのままに描いた作品である。(翻訳 山口彩花)

Originally Written by
Josh Parmer

Translation by
Yamaguchi Ayaka

The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018)

Director: Johannes Roberts
Notable Cast: Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson, Bailee Madison, Lewis Pullman, Emma Bellomy, Damian Maffei, Lea Enslin

The first The Strangers film has become something of a modern horror icon film. Its heavy, nihilistic, stripped down, gritty, and realistic approach to the home invasion flick has lasted the test of time, solidifying the film as a cult classic. Ten years later, the sequel seems to be a bit too little too late in concept because, while The Strangers remains a cult film, it’s not one that remains in the mainstream consciousness. Still, being that the film is directed by Johannes Roberts (the gentleman that gave us the suffocating direction for 47 Meters Down) and seemed to sport a very different look, I was intrigued. Even with tempered expectations, it’s easy to see why many critics gave it poor reviews. However, I am going to stand on the other side of this see-saw with my opinion. I had a damn blast with The Strangers: Prey at Night. Sure, the film has a mediocre to terrible script, but Johannes and entire cast/crew seem to be having the time of their life making an old school slasher. For that, I will handedly admit that I sincerely enjoyed the hell out of Prey at Night.

Have a Nice Day (2017)

Director: Liu Jian
Featuring the Voices of: Yang Siming, Cao Kou, Ma Xiaofeng, Zhu Changlong, Cao Kai, Zheng Yi

In 2010 director / writer / animator Liu Jian become the first filmmaker to create and unleash an animated feature from China upon the world, according to the internet. What resulted was a very dark debut feature film with a sharp social commentary and a bleak and unique animation style, Piercing I. While turning some heads during its initial festival run, both the film and its helmer, Liu Jian fell into an obscurity of sorts.

Seven (eight for U.S citizens) years later Liu returns with the highly anticipated follow-up animated feature, Have a Nice Day, a less dialogue heavy, more visually driven visceral experience that paints a similiar picture to its predecessor, this time his world inhabited by more vivid characters and a bit more budget and technical prowess resulting in a film that while a ride from start to finish, feels a little too familiar for its own good.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Gintama (2018)

Director: Yuichi Fukuda
Notable Cast: Shun Oguri, Masaki Suda, Kanna Hashimoto, Yuya Yagira, Hirofumi Arai, Ryo Yoshizawa, Akari Hayami, Tsuyoshi Muro, Masami Nagasawa, Masaki Okada

With Gintama, by the time the end credits rolled, I sincerely felt out of my element. There are a variety of reasons for this, but even within the first ten minutes of this cartoonish and comedic genre bending adaption of the popular manga/anime, Gintama makes it very clear that this is a film for fans of the style and the original releases and everyone else is just shit out of luck. Unfortunately, I’m part of the group that includes everyone else. I’m only educated on the rough elements surrounding anime and don’t actively dig into the genre. Gintama is a film dedicated to the style, tones, and general feeling for fans of the anime/manga. It’s two hours of outlandish slapstick style and randomized humor, impressive amounts of yelling, and a layered and often cartoonish sense of style that smashes together chanbara, science fiction, comedy, and action all into one genre. While I spent the entirety of the film in a state of perplexing confusion, it would seem that Gintama is made solely for the fans and rest are left on their own.

Tourism (2018)

Director: Daisuke Miyazaki

Notable Cast: Nina Endo, Sumire, Takayuki Yanagi

Last year Mr. Miyazaki, Daisuke that is, suprised me with his Japan Cuts selected film, Yamato (California), a film I went into completely blind and walked out of with his name on my radar of fresh talent to keep an eye on. In less than a year after seeing that lovely work, I'm honored to receive a chance to see his follow-up joint, Tourism, a carefree and chill travelogue video that breezes by in a quick 70 minutes as our two leading ladies keep us entertained on our brief but very memorable journey.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Puppet Master: Axis Termination (2018)

Director: Charles Band
Notable Cast: Paul Logan, Jean Louise O’Sullivan, Tania Fox, Lilou Vos, Kyle Devero, Tonya Kay, Kevin Scott Allen, Rob Vardaro, Nick Vernon, Alynxia America

It is hard to believe that Charles Band’s Puppet Master Franchise has made it to Part 11 (not including the spin-off tie-in flick Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys). This means it is officially the longest running horror franchise of all time… that is if you don’t count the Friday the 13th spin-off film Freddy vs. Jason and the Friday the 13th remake as well as the dreaded Witchcraft series which is more softcore porn than horror. Is the Puppet Master franchise worthy of such a coveted record? That would be a big HELL NO from me. Sure, the franchise was fun the beginning, but it has been mostly downhill since Part 5 with it hitting rock bottom with the clip-show insult eighth entry hiding under the title Puppet Master: The Legacy. It has been an ever slow uphill battle from that tar pit since. Hell, even my last review for Puppet Master X was positively negative, if that makes any sense. It was still bad, but it was a step in the right direction of trying desperately to grasp any of the old nostalgic fun of the Full Moon brand of yesteryear. Sadly, the same cannot be said about Puppet Master: Axis Termination, the supposed end to the “axis” story arc that began but the ninth film, as this is easily the worst since the… shutter… clip show entry.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Piercing I (2010)

Director: Liu Jian

Featuring the Voices of: Liu Jian, He Liebo, Yang Siming, Zhang Yu, Shao Min

Being dubbed as China's first foray into animation for a feature film, naturally director Liu Jian should have immediately drawn in quite the curious crowd with his directorial debut, but I never recall hearing anything of this film, though that could solely have been me living in the shadows, but I digress. Regardless, the debut at hand is the 2010 drama, Piercing I, a bleak and harrowing tale of a corrupt youth being drawn into the cesspool of a shady businessman, though I use that professional term lightly, and an equally corrupt cop as they all do whatever slimy deed they must for the almighty root of all evil, money.

The Ritual (2018)

Director: David Bruckner
Notable Cast: Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, Sam Troughton, Kerri McLean, Maria Erwolter, Paul Reid, Francesca Mula, Jacob James Beswick

One of the intriguing aspects of the Netflix model for distribution is how sneaky they are with it. They can use it to be a huge gimmick, as they did earlier this year with The Cloverfield Paradox, but more often than not they will drop something spectacular with little fanfare until after the fact. This is exactly how The Ritual came about. Even for horror fans, this film seemingly came out of left field and the resulting word of mouth seemed to power the film well above and beyond what it might have garnered with a theatrical release. Even with that hype, The Ritual lives up to it. It’s a film that’s stripped down to its bones, focusing on the human experience within the context of its world, and takes a slow and meticulous narrative to dig deep into an unnerving experience. It’s wonderfully crafted and very effective. Not to mention, it also features one of the coolest monster designs I’ve seen in years. That’s just icing on the cake though.  

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Operation Red Sea (2018)

Director: Dante Lam
Notable Cast: Zhang Yi, Du Jiang, Hai Qing, Wang Yutian, Jiang Luxia, Huang Jingyu, Yin Fang, Henry Prince Mak, Guo Jiahao, Michelle Bai, Zhang Hanyu, Wang Qiang, Simon Yam

Dante Lam has risen to be one of the most recognizable forces in Chinese cinema. What makes this so impressive is that he has done it by making strong films in a variety of different genres. Cheesy Michael Bay influenced action, dramatic focused sports films, or the classic Hong Kong action thrillers. You name it. For his latest, Lam continues on where he left off with his worldwide hit, Operation Mekong, and fully embraces the moment to produce a full on military action thriller. Operation Red Sea, based on a true event, is a chaotic and action-packed ride into the events surrounding a vicious mission for a small team of Chinese Navy operatives as they try to evacuate some Chinese civilians out of an erupting war zone. The film is a unique blend of the Hollywood style military action drama with hints of Dante Lam’s own love of the Hong Kong style that is almost problematically focused on its plot and narrative sprint. Still, Lam delivers on his promises with action, tension, and a remarkably diverse set of sequences that will have action fans happy with the results.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Hellraiser: Judgment (2018)

Director: Gary J. Tunnicliffe
Notable Cast: Damon Carney, Randy Wayne, Alexandra Harris, Heather Langenkamp, Paul T. Taylor, Gary J. Tunnicliffe, John Gulager, Mike Jay Regan, Helena Grace Donald

The Hellraiser franchise has seen its ups and downs and, depending to who you talk to, has been on a downward spiral for decades. Personally, the franchise has always held a special spot for me as a genre fan, but even then, it’s easy to see its faults and some of them are unforgivable. When the franchise hit a new low with the last entry, Hellraiser: Revelations, which existed solely for the purpose of rights renewal for Dimension Films, it seemed as though the Hellraiser franchise’s days were numbered. When Hellraiser: Judgment was announced, the sour taste of Revelations remained, and then when the film met substantial delays - to the point where it seemed questionable that the film would ever get a release - it didn’t help out matters or initial opinions for fans. However, here we are in 2018 and Hellraiser: Judgment finally gets a release and, comparatively speaking to the last handful of entries, it’s not too bad. The film uses the Hellraiser formula, but gives it a slightly more updated tone and it tries to maximize its lower budget to give fans what they want to varying degrees of success. Judgment is not one of the best of the franchise, but it’s hardly one of the worst either.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Day of the Dead: Bloodline (2018)

Director: Hector Hernandez Vicens
Notable Cast: Sophie Skelton, Johnathon Schaech, Jeff Gum, Marcus Vanco, Mark Rhino Smith, Cristina Serafini, Lillian Blankenship

Another day, another remake of a classic and beloved horror film. Yes, despite the title having a colon and a pointless subtitle, Day of the Dead: Bloodline is not a sequel but a second remake attempt of George A. Romero’s flawed masterpiece. Second remake you ask? Perhaps everyone has put it out of their mind, but the horrid first remake attempt was released in 2008, sans a colon and subtitle. Being a fan of the original, I felt personally assaulted by the 2008 remake and was not keen on revisiting another attempt to cash in on past glories. However, when Lionsgate unleashed the trailer, I became more interested as, like trailers are supposed to do, it made the film look at least decent. Also, what grabbed me is that this version also attempted to follow the basic plot of the original film (military and scientists in a bunker) unlike the 2008 remake which basically takes the Day of the Dead title and makes an unrelated zombie film. However, like I should have expected, my hopes are dashed as even though it follows the plot of the original better, it somehow eclipses even the abyss of disappointment left by the 2008 version.

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Sower (2016)

Director: Takeuchi Yosuke

Notable Cast: Kentaro Kishi, Sozuno Takenaka, Tomumitso Adachi

At the tail end of 2017, a man on social media sent me a copy of his film to watch and as I was still looking for potential candidates for my best Japanese films of the year, I gladly accepted and gave this mysterious movie, The Sower, a blind watch and what a rewarding experience it turned out to be.

One of the most heartwrenching films of the last decade also proves to be one of the finest directorial debuts I've ever witnessed. Without drawing too into comparative directors or films of the nature, I can say in perhaps one of the greatest compliments I could give, there is another Lee Chang-dong out there and his name is Takeuchi Yosuke. That is not to say they are the sames as they by no means are but another master of raw human drama had surfaced and all eyes should be set on him.

Takeuchi Yosuke takes inspiration from the famous paintings of Jean-Francois Millet and Vincent Van Gogh sharing the same title as the film, The Sower focuses on the downfall of a close knit family when a tragedy strikes after the children's estranged uncle Mitsuo shows up one day. Without spoiling, what ensues is one the most beautiful and pure cases of naturalistic acting I've seen displayed. The acting comes to appear so real, it felt like a documentary at times. Not a single misfire nor mistep throughout the entire film.

The film is small and quiet but it paints masterfully a portrait of family and what it means to be one and the ups and downs that one can bring. An unfortunate event occurs that propels everything into motion, but its examination of trust and the effects said singular event can cause is something to behold. It is deeply sad but equally riveting and beautiful. I haven't felt this equally upset and happy at a film in equal measure as such in quite some time.

I think it goes without doubt that I find The Sower to be a truly rare cinematic experience and one that all film fans should seek out. I really am hoping that some boutique label out there gets ahold of this one and gives it a proper release. Belongs in the upper echelon of great human dramas. A genune portait of humanity, the dark and light side of it all.

Written by Josh Parmer

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Detective K: Secret of the Living Dead (2018)

Director: Kim Sok-yun
Notable Cast: Kim Myung-min, Oh Dal-su, Kim Ji-won, Kim Bum, Park Geun-hyung, Woo Hyun, Yoon Sang-hoon, Jang Yul, Kim Jung-hwa, Lee Min-ki, Ahn Nae-sang, Nam Seong-jin

There was a large part of me that didn’t even want to see Detective K: Secret of the Living Dead yet. I’ve been curious about the franchise for quite some time, thanks to my love of eclectic and historically set detective series like Sherlock Holmes or Detective Dee, but the first two films in the series have yet to get a US release and my budgets have not yet allowed me to import the first two films. That didn’t seem to stop Asian film distributor Well Go USA from throwing down some cash to get the third film a US release - and a theatrical one at that. In the end though, curiosity always kills the Matt, and I leapt into this film without seeing the first two...and I had a lot of fun. Granted, the film is obviously a film meant to appeal to a more mainstream audience with its bouncing humor and entertaining characters so don’t expect hard hitting thematic material, but for what it is the film is quite humorous and highly entertaining. Detective K: Secret of the Living Dead contains boundless energy and charm to spare. What more could someone want from a film like this?

Monday, February 19, 2018

Scalpel (1977)

Director: John Grissmer
Notable Cast: Robert Lansing, Judith Chapman, Arlen Dean Snyder, David Scarroll, Sandy Martin

Going into the latest Blu Ray release of Scalpel, there was only one expectation that I had in mind: that it was directed by the same man, John Grissmer, that gave us the highly entertaining slasher film Blood Rage (which also received a slick Blu Ray from Arrow Video.) With a name like Scalpel and knowing his work on Blood Rage, my expectations for the film were to have a highly entertaining and tongue in cheek film. That is not at all what style is used with Scalpel. Instead, the film is a subtle, atmosphere soaked Southern Gothic film meant to be more unnerving and morally vague than anything else. Still, the film is a cult cinema find for those not familiar with it or love their 70s style atmospheric fringe horror. Not to mention, the release itself is packed with plenty of features that cinephiles will love to dissect.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Black Panther (2018)

Director: Ryan Coogler
Notable Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis

As the Marvel machine continues to march on, there were plenty of questions to whether a) it could survive a saturation of the market as superhero films became blockbuster tentpoles in damn near every quarter and dominate the summer release schedule and b) whether the continuation of these entries could maintain the high quality of mainstream appeal. As the hype around Black Panther continued to skyrocket in the weeks leading to its release, it would seem that the answers to both of these questions would be answered. Not only is Black Panther one of the biggest releases of Marvel’s slate according to box office figures (with a February release and not a blockbuster summer release date nonetheless), but it’s one of their highest rated films from both fans and critics. The film is bold by Marvel standards, adapting the formula of another massive franchise to help differentiate itself from the normal Marvel machine, and its balance between action/comic book mainstream appeal and its social/political commentary is damn near perfect. Not only is Black Panther a film to dismiss the initial questions posed, but it’s handedly one of Marvel’s best.

Zigeunerweisen (1980)

Director: Seijun Suzuki
Notable Cast: Harada Yoshio, Fujita Toshiya, Otani Naoko, Okusu Michiyo, Maro Akaji

Zigeunerweisen is quite the enigmatic film. It's simple, yet incredibly complex, defying any concise description you try to pin on it. It is surreal, but also mundane; it is slow, but endlessly fascinating. These ambiguous feelings are the best way to describe the film, as odd as that may sound; Zigeunerweisen is the epitome of the film you have to see to understand what it is. Even then it refuses to completely reveal itself, but like any piece of art, this is a large part of its charm. Zigeunerweisen is both a departure from previous Seijun Suzuki films and the culmination of what had come before. After his firing from Nikkatsu in 1967, Suzuki spent many years blacklisted and floundering, and it was Zigeunerweisen that ended this period. It was nominated for nine Japanese Academy Awards and won four, and it began the critical re-assessment of the iconoclast director.