Thursday, September 21, 2017

mother! (2017)

Director: Darren Aronofsky
Notable Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson, Brian Gleeson, Kristen Wiig, Stephen McHattie

The artistic and atmospheric slant of horror films has seen a burst of activity in the last handful of years and it has garnered quite a bit of attention from critics AND the more casual film goer. This has seen a handful of films that normally would be pushed down to straight to home video status or limited release get a full theatrical drop. Some of these even have full backing support from studios. It’s this success, even on a small scale, that allowed mother! to get a much larger release than expected. It helps immensely when one considers the stacked casting and the appeal of artistic director Darren Aronofsky, but mother! is the kind of film that was definitely going to rub mainstream audiences the wrong way and it’s now well publicized ‘F’ Cinemascore from viewers solidifies that notion. Yet, mother! is not nearly as terrible as some critics and most audiences would have one believe. In fact, it’s an ambitious, provocative, and fully realized piece of cinematic art that pushes the boundaries. In a way, whether one agrees with the choices made in narrative or style of the film, it should be respected as a film that opens up an entire audience to an artistic version of horror film making that they may not have seen before. For that, mother! deserves some serious credit.

Ken and Kazu (2015)

Director: Shoji Hiroshi

Notable Cast: Shinsuke Kato, Katsuya Maiguma, Shuna Iijima, Kisetsu Fujiwara, Haruki Takano, Daisuke Ehara, Takuya Sugiwama

Every once in a great while, a film with real potential to become a great classic comes along, but it fails to be seen by enough people, thus rendering it into the obscurities of a sleeper hit. Ken and Kazu is that film in a nutshell. It's micro budget approach never hinders its big picture vision or execution. This is essentially a Best Picture nominee, without all of the fluff. In an ideal world, Japan would've chosen this film as its submission for the Academy Awards, and it would've been shortlisted, but it's always the gems like this that only get so far, but I digress. Ken and Kazu is a gripping tale of brotherhood, drugs, and redemption. Director Shoji Hiroshi crafts one of the strongest debuts in years, and sets him in a position to become one of contemporary Japan's cinema giants.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Shaolin Iron Finger (1977) / The Legendary Strike (1978)


Director: Wang Hung-Chang
Notable Cast: Carter Wong, Kam Kong, James Tin Chuen, Ricky Cheng, Woo Gam, Wai Wang, Yam Ho, Wan Chung-Shan, Yen Chung, Chin Lung

Outside of being a fan of Carter Wong, it was fairly easy to go into Shaolin Iron Finger with relatively no expectations. Yet, even with nothing to get my hopes up for expectations, the film tends to be underwhelming overall and finds itself the victim of a plethora of missed opportunities. It’s a shame too because the core story about a revolution imploding on itself is interesting and the fight work is decently done to be entertaining and fun, but the combination proves to be a mismatch. It’s awkward for most of its run time and not even some clever use of settings and a strong third act of martial arts action can save it.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Big Heat (1988)

Directors: Andrew Kam, Johnnie To
Notable Cast: Waise Lee, Matthew Wong, Phillip Kwok, Lionel Lo, Paul Chu, Betty Mak, Peter Lai, Stuart Ong, Robin Shou

There’s always a sense of shock and accomplishment when one discovers an overlooked diamond of a film out there in the black holes of the cinematic void. This is the feeling that overcame me when I sat down to watch the Hong Kong action flick The Big Heat with my brother the other day. As a fan of the cops n’ criminals genre of Hong Kong action flicks from the 80s and early 90s, I was also a tad shocked that this one has flown under the radar. Not only is this film good, but it’s packed with a phenomenal cast and co-directed by one of Hong Kong’s greatest directors, Johnnie To. The film itself is ripe with wonderful artistic direction, massively entertaining and vicious action sequences, and a darkness to its police team narrative that gives it an impressive depth. The Big Heat, despite its generic title, deserves to be listed among some of the best of the style and belongs up there in the ranks of classics from John Woo, Ringo Lam, and Tsui Hark.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Iron Protector (2017)

Director: Yue Song
Notable Cast: Yue Song, Michael Chan, Collin Chou, Xing Yu, Li YuFei
Also known as: The Bodyguard, Super Bodyguard

It took a while and a couple of full watches, but Iron Protector finally clicks for me. The reason it takes a little bit is that, due to the hype machine when it was initially released in China and the various trailers released for the film that had me hooked, expectations for the film are in line with it being an old school Hong Kong action flick with stunts galore and an overly serious approach to its plotting and narrative. This is not entirely the case with Iron Protector. For all of the hoopla made over Yue Song being ‘the next Bruce Lee,’ Iron Protector makes a better case for Yue Song at being the next Stephen Chow – just with more stunts and action. As it turns out, this film is a full-blown action comedy at times and our star, who also serves as the director, is admirably good at pulling off the slapstick and often overzealous comedic routines with the seriousness of an 80s Hong Kong action star. The result is much better (and much different) than expected.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Fires on the Plain (2014)

Director: Shinya Tsukamoto

Notable Cast: Shinya Tsukamoto, Lily Franky, Tatsuya Nakamura, Yusaku Mori, Yuko Nakamura

Being completely upfront before we move on with this review: 1) I have not seen the original film, which this film only loosely takes notes from I hear, and 2) I have not read the original novel. That out of the way, I have seen every single Shinya Tsukamoto film to date (save Hiruko the Goblin, which is changing very soon). Going into this film as a huge Tsukamoto admirer, to the point that he is in a three-way tie for my favorite director, I had quite the expectations. Needless to say, I wasn't let down by his newest outing whatsoever, and it was great to see Tsukamoto finally make that film on the horrors of war that he has wanted to for years. Fires on the Plain is a very gory, and harrowing look at men who aren't on the front lines, but rather haunted by their unfamiliar surroundings that quickly consume them and morph these soldiers into very different beings, capable of the unspeakable.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Slayer (1982)

Director: J.S. Cardone
Notable Cast: Sarah Kendall, Frederick J. Flynn, Carol Kottenbrook, Alan McRae, Michael Holmes, Carl Kraines

It’s hard to have expectations when heading into a film when the film has been notoriously missing from general conscious for years. This is the case of The Slayer. While there was certainly some hype for the film, enough so that it was easily one of the most requested titles I saw in comments and threads for Arrow Video to release, it’s hard to know if the hype is simply there for it to get a release let alone if it deserves a pristine release. Yet, as the credits rolled on The Slayer, it was easy to see why it had accumulated such an aura as a ‘missing classic’ from the 80s horror brand. Not only is it a slasher at its core, but it’s an odd one that down plays the tropes in an effort to create a much more suffocating atmosphere that’s more akin to a giallo or Lovecraftian exercise of existential dread than it is about kills and thrills. It’s an approach that, even with its flaws, is highly respectable and deserves to be seen by a larger audience.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Annabelle: Creation (2017)

Director: David F. Sandberg
Notable Cast: Talitha Bateman, Stephanie Sigman, Lulu Wilson, Anthony LaPaglia, Miranda Otto, Grace Fulton, Philippa Coulthard, Samara Lee, Tayler Buck, Lou Lou Safran

After the original Annabelle did substantial box office numbers a couple of years ago, it didn’t require some other worldly demonic signs to see that it was going to get a continuation. Not to mention it was a spinoff of the already super popular Conjuring franchise. So, like it or not, the spin off was getting a franchise. The result was Annabelle: Creation. While the first entry was something of a forgettable and mediocre effort at trying to recreate the Conjuring elements without being a knock off instead of a spin off, there is an ace in the sleeve for this prequel (to a prequel, might I add.) An ace named David F. Sandberg. Granted, this prequel certainly has its flaws in the script, but Annabelle: Creation is remarkably fun and is lifted above the mediocre aspects by a very talented young director. It’s not necessarily the runaway critical and fan friendly hit that the main Conjuring films are, but it’s easily better than its predecessor and retains faith in the strength of this Conjuring-verse.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Legend of the Naga Pearls (2017)

Director: Yang Lei
Notable Cast: Darren Wang, Zhang Tianai, Sheng Guansen, Simon Yam, Wang Xun, Zhao Jian, Xing Yu, Hu Bing, Sui He

From the outside, it seems that Chinese film audiences love big, special effects packed spectacle films. Even when a film is more personal and less fantasy driven, like the record breaking Wolf Warrior II, it follows the pattern that audiences love to be entertained by the outrageous more than anything. Which is why Legend of the Naga Pearls seems so fitting. Even for those more in tune with the robust style of Hollywood, this film can seem a bit overwhelming as it takes the popular fantasy adventure film and slathers it with stylish elements of the popular tomb raiding design and classic wuxia aspects. As a film, obviously meant to be more of a family friendly affair, Legend of the Naga Pearls is not groundbreaking and it follows a lot of tropes that make it predictable and easy to consume as a narrative. Yet, it also carries with it a rambunctious energy and spirit that makes the more ridiculous nature of its style and the bland plotting something much better than it should be. Legend of the Naga Pearls is big, spectacular fantasy action with enough charm to quench the blockbuster popcorn tone that it’s aiming for even if the foundation its built on is thin.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Villainess (2017)

Director: Jung Byung-gil
Notable Cast: Kim Ok-bin, Shin Ha-kyun, Song Joon, Kim Seo-hyung, Jo Eun-ji, Lee Seung-joo, Son Min-ji, Min Ye-ji, Kim Yeon-woo, Jung Hae-kyun, Kim Hye-na

The hype machine can be a film’s dream come true for the box office numbers and sales, but it can certainly wreak havoc on someone’s expectations going into the film too. This was one of the reasons that I attempted to keep my hopes down for The Villainess. The trailers sure did look slick and fun, but the tidal wave of positive and gushing reviews almost seemed too good to be true for a film that looked like John Wick collided with Hardcore Henry with Korean cinematic flair of The Suspect. Yet, as the credits rolled on The Villainess there was an aura that the film wholly accomplished what it intended and did it admirably well considering some of the potential pitfalls of its story and stylistic choices.  It’s not a film for everyone. It’s not a film that intends to be an arthouse experience with action like so many Korean films attempt (and/or accomplish) at being. It’s a film that intends to be an action film of high caliber and one that writes a love letter to the genre with all kinds of variety and style.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Birth of the Dragon (2017)

Director: George Nolfi
Notable Cast: Phillip Ng, Xia Yu, Billy Magnussen, Jin Xing, Jingjing Qu, Simon Yin

When the word started spreading around online that the latest Bruce Lee focused film, one surrounding the events of his fight with Wong Jack Man and entitled Birth of the Dragon, it was not good. Fans were upset that the film seemed to treat the entire thing like an excuse to exploit Bruce’s fame and fortune and worst yet, neither Bruce Lee nor Wong Jack Man were the protagonists. It was actually a young white guy that was driving the story forward. Fast forward to a month prior to its release in theaters and producers stated that the film shown at festivals was just an early cut of the film and that this one, which was getting a wide release thanks to WWE and Blumhouse, would take fans’ concerns into account for a better movie. If that was the case, then I have no need to see the first cut of the film because Birth of the Dragon suffers from the exact same problems that fans were concerned with originally. The entire concept is flawed and no amount of Phillip Ng charisma, Xia Yu deadpan seriousness, or Corey Yuen fight work can save the film from simply being awkward. There are certainly moments when one can see some appeal to Birth of the Dragon, but it’s hard to get around the glaring flaws of the film on its foundational levels.

Monday, August 28, 2017

New Battles Without Honor and Humanity: Last Days of the Boss (1976)

Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Notable Cast: Bunta Sugawara, Jun Tatara, Sanae Nakahara, Sakae Umezu, Isao Bito, Takuya Fujioka, Koji Wada, Chieko Matsubara, Masayuki Sone, Eitaro Ozawa, Mikio Narita, Rinichi Yamamoto, Masataka Iwao, Michiro Minami, Kenichi Sakuragi, Takuzo Kawatani
Also Known As: New Battles Without Honor and Humanity 3: Last Days of the Boss, New Battles Without Honor and Humanity: The Boss's Last Days

With Last Days of the Boss, Kinji Fukasaku seals off the second series of Battles Without Honor and Humanity films on a very entertaining sprint. Like its director predecessor, The Boss’s Head, this entry is less about recreating the density and complexity of the original series and it tries to be more in tune with the action packed exploitative efforts of 70s Japanese action films instead. This leaves New Battles Without Honor and Humanity: Last Days of the Boss as a rip-roaring ride of morally gray characters, blissfully chaotic action set pieces, and a wake of bodies that starts stacking up immediately. It’s perhaps the furthest that the series has moved away from its roots as dramatic gangster realism, but it’s hard not to still see the gleaming entertainment and depth of character work that Fukasaku brings to the table with all of his films from this era. Perhaps one of the weaker films when it comes to tight writing and expertly crafted tension, but it’s also a film that replaces those things with a wild and chaotic ambition that doesn’t betray the tone of the series either.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Columbus (2017)

Director: Kogonada

Notable Cast: John Cho, Haley Lu Richardson, Rory Culkin, Michelle Forbes, Parker Posey

Columbus, Indiana. . . the place I have lived most of my life. I want to say this before making headway into the review, as I hope that there is some sort of perspective that I can bring while speaking of Columbus, based in the place in which I have spent the majority of my life. Did I ever think that something would be shot here locally? No. Seeing this work, I must say, I am glad that it has happened, and while it most certainly gets the architecture and beauty of Columbus very much correct, I do think it sort of lacks exploration of the people of the town, and the darker side of things, but I digress. I want to base this on its own merits, and with that in mind, I have ended up being pleasantly surprised with Kogonada's directorial debut.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Wandering Ginza Butterfly 2: She Cat Gambler (1972)

Director: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
Cast: Meiko Kaji, Junzaburo Ban, Sonny Chiba, Tamayo Misukawa, Shingo Yamashiro, Yukie Kagawa

If you look back to when the review for Wandering Ginza Butterfly was posted here at Blood Brothers, you’ll see that it happened well over a year prior to the posting of this review. If you read that review, you’ll also see that the film was a disappointment for me in its scattered approach and uneven genre bending that it attempted to do which, while putting two and two together, are inherently connected. This gap waiting to watch the second film of the series, Wandering Ginza Butterfly 2: She Cat Gambler, is essentially intentional as there needed to be time to cleanse the palate before digging in. However, this may have been a mistake. She Cat Gambler not only partners the iconic Meiko Kaji with Japanese superstar Sonny Chiba for the film, but it’s a more cohesive and impressive film overall. It has impressive star power, a more effective script, and an execution that gets everything to meld into one much more striking cinematic experience.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Once Upon a Time (2017)

Directors: Zhao Xiaoding, Anthony LaMolinara
Notable Cast: Liu Yifei, Yang Yang

I will admit, I had no clue whatsoever what this film was going in, which is the purest mindset you can go into a cinematic voyage with. I was told "You will be reviewing a big budget Chinese fantasy romance film", and I said "Cool!". As I sat down, and prepared myself for a visual treat, I was immediately sucked into the world, and then spat right back out as I began to realize that the visuals, and everything else for that matter, weren't quite what one would initially think. Confusing? One moment...

Lady Bloodfight (2017)

Director: Chris Nahon
Notable Cast: Amy Johnston, Muriel Hofmann, Jenny Wu, Kathy Wu, Jet Tranter, Ng Mayling

Having tempered expectations when going into straight to home video action flicks is usually the smart approach to appreciating the genre. Not that the style doesn’t have its merits, as I mentioned not to long ago in my review for Boyka: Undisputed 4, but the smart approach usually means you’ll have more fun in appreciating them for what they are. This is the case with Lady Bloodfight. On paper, the idea of a Bloodsport/Kickboxer knock off seems predictable and unnecessary, yet the attached stuntwomen and talent behind the film would indicate it would be something much more effective than the trailers and hum-drum concept would indicate. While this is true, there is much more to Lady Bloodfight than its ‘been there, done that’ plot and narrative would have one believe, it’s still a mixed bag of efforts that is benefited from one’s skepticism of the entire thing when going into it. For fans of the martial arts tournament films that ruled the lower budget realms of the late 80s and early 90s in western action cinema, Lady Bloodfight has something to offer in its modernized throwback style but it certainly trips on some of its own ambitions as it goes leaving the entire thing feeling a bit mixed. Yet, it’s hard not to be pleasantly surprised with it in the end. It’s fun, it has some great moments, and it showcases that Amy Johnston can hold her own as the lead in a film.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Ronin (1998)

Director: John Frankenheimer
Notable Cast: Robert DeNiro, Jean Reno, Natascha McElhone, Stellan Skarsgard, Sean Bean, Skipp Sudduth, Michael Lonsdale, Jan Triska, Jonathan Pryce

Director John Frankenheimer had a long and quite fascinating career. While he was mostly known for his work the 60s and 70s (with credits like The Manchurian Candidate and Birdman of Alcatraz under his belt) he would have a variety of hits and flops throughout his lengthy filmography that makes it one of the more interesting careers to follow. One of the gems of his career though is the 1998 throwback espionage action thriller Ronin, featuring a substantial cast anchored by Robert DeNiro. While it’s somewhat of a surprise that Arrow Video chose this film for release in their catalog because of its ‘newer’ release date, it shouldn’t be a surprise when one sees the film and the quality of its execution to understand why it’s become a well-loved cult classic. Not only is Ronin a phenomenal flick, but it’s one that truly does harken back to a 70s style of action film making where the tone and the subtle feel of the film highlights its strengths. Sure, it might have looked even better when it comes after the strange misfire that was The Island of Dr. Moreau in 1996, but the film has remarkably held up after nearly 20 years and it deserves the following it has garnered.

Friday, August 18, 2017

New Battles Without Honor and Humanity: The Boss's Head (1975)

Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Notable Cast: Bunta Sugawara, Ninji Kobayashi, Kan Mikami, Ko Nishimura, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Tsunehiko Watase, Sanae Nakahara, Mikio Narita, Meiko Kaji, Junkichi Orimoto, Hideo Murota

The biggest flaw in the rebooted New Battles Without Honor and Humanity film is the fact that the first film of the trilogy is too much like its predecessors. It tried too hard to be like the original five and it came off as redundant and rushed, even with its strong direction and performances. The second of this trilogy, New Battles Without Honor and Humanity: The Boss’s Head, attempts to rectify that major issue by bringing in an entirely new story with some of the stylistic choices of the series, but some new additions and approaches. The results are definitely a step up above the first as the new ground in the film makes for a much more interesting film that pulls a bit more away from the documentary-esque structures and dense character interactions for a more straight forward yakuza action affair. Fans may be a bit more mixed on it for its deviations from the core style, but it’s a refreshing spin that has its own effective merits.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Adventurers (2017)

Director: Stephen Fung
Notable Cast: Andy Lau, Shu Qi, Jean Reno, Zhang Jing-Chu, Tony Yang, Sha Yi, Eric Tsang

With the popularity of heist films still a thing, it’s not all that shocking that the Chinese film market would want to get in on it too as the Hollywood market seems to be doing quite well over there with the style. Marvel is doing it with their Ant-Man films, the Mission: Impossible series continues to draw in crowds, and the world-wide phenomenon that The Fast and the Furious franchise has become with its globetrotting action heist adventures only seems to generate more revenue as it goes. Thusly, we get a more Mission: Impossible inspired version of Once a Thief in The Adventurers, which sports Stephen Fung in multiple facets behind the camera along with a massively impressive cast to go with it including the critically acclaimed and box office draws of both The Everlasting Andy Lau and Shu Qi in tow. Like many of the western films mentioned above, The Adventurers sets its sights on big screen suave with its international settings, cast, and adventure that’s mostly carried by the sheer charisma of its cast. It’s not a film that will have critics swooning for a new franchise, but it’s a film that earns its merits by being fun and exciting in its execution if nothing else. The Adventurers sets out for high stakes international adventure and finds a massively entertaining film in the process.

New Battles Without Honor and Humanity (1974)

Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Notable Cast: Bunta Sugawara, Tomisaburo Wakayama, Reiko Ike, Nobuo Kaneko, Sanae Nakahara, Kunie Tanaka, Shingo Yamashiro, Jo Shishido

Kinji Fukasaku’s intense and impressively crafted original Battles Without Honor and Humanity series was perhaps the epic highlight of his career with dense character builds, massive gangster plotting, and gritty execution of striking effectiveness. It was also notably popular with theater goers in the mid-1970s that pulled in some serious box office revenue. So it’s perhaps not all that surprising that Toei would eventually want to keep it running. By eventually, I mean that the first entry of the New Battles Without Honor and Humanity trilogy would be released the same year as the fifth installment of the original series. Toei and Fukasaku didn’t waste any time, I suppose. This new chapter of the series, with no connection to the original five, would see the director and new writers Fumio Konami and Misao Arai start to take the franchise in a new direction with three unconnected stories using many of the same principal cast members from the original series as new characters with new stories to tell under the banner. The results, while intriguing, are mixed and don’t nearly hold a candle to the original run. The first film of the series has its merits and stands on its own decently well, but considering some of the phenomenal films that Fukasaku released in this period it does seem to be a step back in quality which should be noted even if fans are certain to find plenty of enjoyment out of them.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Re-Animator (1985)

Director: Stuart Gordon
Notable Cast: Bruce Abbott, Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, David Gale, Robert Sampson

It was only last year that Arrow Video dropped on fans the fantastic new version of Bride of Re-Animator and it started a lot of online conversations about when the US would finally see some kind of new deluxe package for the original Re-Animator. Well leave it to Arrow to follow through on the unspoken promise and dropping a massive limited edition box set of the cult classic to match their previous release. Re-Animator is a film that uses its perfectly blended quirky tones of horror and comedy in the perfectly prescribed dosage and it’s quite deserving of a release like this. So not only does this film remain the iconic black comedic horror classic that has situated itself as a universal film to love for cult audiences, but this massive release matches the spunky and off beat style in an artistic manner, playing up images and content to spin fans into a fever pitch. This is the kind of collector’s release that not only showcases the a fantastic film in a grand manner, but it matches that kind of love with the features and packaging. Truly, the only thing better would have been if it came with a note attached to it that said, “Cat dead, details later.”

House on Willow Street (2017)

Director: Alastair Orr
Notable Cast: Sharni Vinson, Carlyn Burchell, Steven Ward, Zino Ventura, Gustav Gerderner, Dimitri Bailanis, Zelmia Bezuidenhout, Nicole de Klerk

One of the things that I love and hate about IFC Midnight as a distribution company is that the films that grab for release can be of varying quality. Not just in the scope of various niche genres underneath the banner of modern cult cinema, but even in quality of execution. House on Willow Street was a flick that I had decent expectations for. The trailer was solid, it had lofty production values, and the simplistic concept had me sold right away as four kidnappers accidentally kidnap  a young woman who may not be what they think she is. Unfortunately, the film is much more hit and miss in its execution than it should have been. For every fantastic moment and inspired horror punch, there is one that’s almost stunningly silly and off the mark. It leaves House on Willow Street to be an entertaining film in the end, but hardly as effective and impressive as one might expect.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Kung Fu Yoga (2017)

Director: Stanley Tong

Notable Cast: Jackie Chan, Disha Patani, Amyra Dastur, Aarif Rahman, Miya Muqi, Sonu Sood, Yixing Zhang

Stanley Tong and Jackie Chan have produced some phenomenal films together. Starting with Supercop (or as the rest of the world knows it, Police Story III,) the two have made some highly entertaining pieces of Hong Kong action spectacle. Even if their most recent output together has been less than stellar - The Myth was the last one that Tong directed, although he served as a producer on both Chinese Zodiac and Dragon Blade – it’s still a tempting combination that proves to be interesting. This leads us to Kung Fu Yoga, the massive money making hit in Asia, that sees the two reunite for another globetrotting comedy action adventure film. If anything, the conceptional idea of combining Hong Kong and Indian cinematic values is fascinating and on that level Kung Fu Yoga works as a kind of outrageous spectacle to be had that focuses on being more family friendly and easy to consume than anything else. On any other level, Kung Fu Yoga is a chore to watch and often sacrifices everything to try and awkwardly smash a Bollywood influenced essence into a modern Jackie Chan adventure flick like Chinese Zodiac. The results are awkward are best.

S Storm (2016)

Director: David Lam
Notable Cast: Louis Koo, Julian Cheung, Vic Chou, Ada Choi, Dada Chan Ching, Janelle Sing Kwan, Bowie Lam, Sek Sau, Lo Hoi-Pang, Jacky Choi, Derek Tsang Kwok-Cheung, Phillip Keung

Sometimes, being a dedicated film consumer means being a glutton for punishment. In this case, that meant watching S Storm. There is no official reason for me to watch S Storm nor is there any kind of benefit to reviewing it really, but I felt like I had to because I saw and reviewed the first film, Z Storm, for the site. The second of this newly minted franchise, S Storm might actually be inferior to its lackluster predecessor in a lot of ways. This is quite the statement. Z Storm, also starring Louis Koo, was about as underwhelming as it was flawed in its execution as a crime thriller and this sequel seems dedicated to dethroning it as one of the most irrationally crafted films I’ve seen lately. Despite some interesting ideas surrounding illegal betting and the corruption task force investigating it, S Storm is confusing, hollow, and more often than not utterly illogical in how it goes about telling its story. By the time the credits suddenly rolled out of left field at the end, I was almost impressed at how the film undercut itself at every turn and, if there is anything to be said, in that regard I should applaud it.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Boyka: Undisputed 4 (2017)

Director: Todor Chapkanov
Notable Cast: Scott Adkins, Teodora Duhovnikova, Alon Aboutboul, Julian Vergov, Brahim Achabbakhe, Paul Chahidi, Martyn Ford, Emilien De Falco, Tim Man

“Bring me your fucking champion.”

Perhaps this is just preaching to the choir, but by this point it’s pretty obvious that low budget, straight to home video action films are their own kind of art. Scoff if you want, but it’s true. Like most any other niche genre, it now has its own fanbase, its own rules, and its own set of expectations to be judged by. When it comes to this artform, it’s also pretty obvious that the Undisputed franchise are some the best there are, turning a fairly decent, but ultimately forgettable prison boxing flick into a strangely effective and rather brilliant straight to home video franchise. By introducing the world to Scott Adkins’ “most complete fighter in the world” Boyka as the villain in Undisputed II, this series suddenly had one of the most interesting action film characters in the last couple decades. Following his exploits has only proven to give the series more momentum in both quality and style, leading up to the best film of the franchise thus far, Boyka: Undisputed 4 (or just Boyka: Undisputed if you go by the main title card.) This fourth entry into the series showcases perhaps the best writing yet and continues to feature the high flying and impressive fight sequences this series has come to embrace. It’s a film that truly shows off the art form the genre has become and fans are going to eat it up.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Daggers 8 (1980) / Snake in the Monkey's Shadow (1979)

DAGGERS 8 (1980)
Director: Cheung Sum, Wilson Tong
Notable Cast: Wilson Tong, Meng Yuen-Man, Lily Li Li-Li, Peter Chan Lung, Cheng Kang-Yeh, Alan Chui Chung-San, Wong Yat-Fei, Sai Gwa-Pau, Cheung Sum

Truthfully, I stumbled into Daggers 8 on accident. The trailer for the film was randomly suggested to me on YouTube after watching something else martial arts related and I was sold. The film looked like the perfect blend of camp, strong action, and silly gimmicks. While Daggers 8 is not nearly as perfect as one would hope in balancing those three things, all three are most certainly available for those to enjoy as the film plays out. The weakest element of the film, despite the awkward dubbing, is the story which has our hero, played with the silliness and arrogance of early Jackie Chan knock off roles by Meng Yuen-Man, leaving his life under his scholarly father to pursue the life of becoming a kung fu expert. Along the way he finds three different teachers, but all three are mysteriously killed by the same assassin (played in straight face by Wilson Tong) who deals in effective killing styles with his titular eight knives.

A Cure for Wellness (2017)

Director: Gore Verbinski
Notable Cast: Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs, Mia Goth, Ivo Nandi, Adrian Schiller, Celia Imrie, Harry Groener

Upon hearing so many mixed opinions on A Cure for Wellness from trusted friends and critics, it was hard not to be skeptical of Gore Verbinski’s somewhat hefty return to the horror genre. It looked slick from trailers, but there was certainly a distance that it seemed to create in its viewers that didn’t spell great things. However, now that I’ve taken time to sit down with the film, I’m shocked there isn’t more love for it. It’s easy to see why more mainstream movie people would dislike A Cure for Wellness based on its somewhat abrasive approach, mixture of intent, and extensive run time, but it’s a film that uses its meticulously assured hand in crafting a cinematic experience that’s both modern and completely rooted in a decades old style that makes it both fascinating and strangely effective. A Cure for Wellness is the throwback modern horror film that the mainstream horror genre desperately needed and no one understood on its release. It’s a film guaranteed to develop a devout and voracious cult following in the years to come.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Savage Dog (2017)

Director: Jesse V. Johnson
Notable Cast: Scott Adkins, Marko Zaror, Keith David, Juju Chan, Cung Le, Vladimir Kulich, Charles Fathy, Matthew Marsden, Sheena Chou, Luke Massy

Some legends are born and others are made. For a film like Savage Dog, the idea of crafting a legend is central to its story and one that finds itself repeated throughout Keith David’s shockingly effective voice over narrative. It also seems to be the intent of its cast and crew in the bigger spectrum of making an action film that stands out from the rest. For B-action movie connoisseurs, Savage Dog has already developed hype and status. Jesse V. Johnson has accumulated a stunning modern action cast and gives the film a unique period piece setting to let them loose. On those three things (director, cast, and concept) the film already seems poised to be one of the cult classics of the year and perhaps one of its sleeper hits. While the ambitions of Savage Dog occasionally outpace its own boundaries which may not lift the film into the upper echelons of action filmmaking in a specific regard, the film partners those ambitions with a lot of memorable and fascinating approaches that make it one of the more interesting films one is likely to see this year, simply in its blending of genres and intent. It’s a film about legends and for fans it just may reach the next step towards becoming one with its action set pieces, screen devouring cast, and great concept.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Wolf Warrior II (2017)

Director: Wu Jing
Notable Cast: Wu Jing, Celina Jade, Frank Grillo, Hans Zhang, Yu Nan

Wu Jing’s vanity project, funded by what seems to be the military recruitment fund of China, was 2015’s military action flick Wolf Warrior. That film, ultimately, was a mixed effort. Thin in its writing and big in its ambitions for action, it seemed to be a throwback to 80s style action with a modern military action slant that was much more enjoyable than it was ‘good.’ Even with that in mind, Wolf Warrior II was something of a surprise. As is the intent with most action vehicles, this film intends to be bigger, badder, bolder, and beefier than its predecessor and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t succeed in almost every regard. It’s still not a film that I would call great by any classical film critique standard, but Wolf Warrior II is so much energetic fun that it’s hard not to be swept up in its unstoppable current as an addictive action tour de force.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Final Master (2015/2017)

Director: Xu Haofeng
Notable Cast: Liao Fan, Song Jia, Song Yang, Jiang Wen-Li, Chin Shih-Chieh, Maidina, Huang Jue
Also known as: The Master

Xu Haofeng is the next big name in Chinese cinema as an artistic force to be reckoned with. In many ways, he already is as his most recent film, The Final Master, is an award-winning piece of cinema that is finally getting its US debut from our friends at Well Go USA. Yet he’s proven throughout his three films as a director, The Sword Identity and Judge Archer prior to this one, that he has an innate knack of being able to take classic Chinese cinematic traditions and inject them with a modern artistic merit that brings them to a new level. The Final Master is Xu Haofeng’s finest cinematic work to date. It’s not only a highly entertaining martial arts film that utilizes many of the wuxia foundations as a base to build itself on, but it’s a film that strikes out as remarkably diverse in its tone without ever sacrificing the fluidity or depth of its narrative for the sake of making something entertaining for the masses. It’s a film that rides the line between the two worlds of cinema as art and entertainment while capitalizing on the successes of both. The Final Master is a brilliant display of inventive navigation of the genre and remains a film poignant and enjoyable in the best ways.

In this Corner of the World (2017)

Director: Sunao Katabuchi

Notable Cast: Non, 
Yoshimasa Hosoya, Natsuki Inaba, Minori Omi, Daisuke Ono, Megumi Han, Shigeru Ushiyama, Mayumi Shintani, Nanase Iwai, Tengai Shibuya III

Residing in the seaside town of Eba, a young girl named Suzu, who loves to draw and paint, works with her mother making nori (seaweed in an edible form). Some years pass, and she finds herself in in Kube, a quite large city that sports a Naval port base. There she meets a young man named Shusaku, whom she agrees to marry in an arrangement prepared by his family. Once the two are wed, she moves to Kube and starts to live her life and finds happiness in her new location, but the threat of the Pacific war looms over the city as her and the surrounding citizens find themselves dreading the days the inevitable attacks will come. An absolutely beautiful and poignant tale, In this Corner of the World is easily the finest animated film of the year, and deserves to be seen by as many people as humanly possible.

One thing that I love right from the get go about this movie is that it really draws you into the world and lives of these people that inhabit the few towns and cities set throughout. Even the smallest of characters are very well fleshed out and you get to know them all in and out. It truly feels as if you are a local citizen living in this world with them. It has a true sense of family and humanism that is represented with romance, drama, and just day to day life that goes by, through the ups and downs, naturally and with great ease. It feels as if an entire anime series is condensed down in to a two hour film, and while it may feel a bit long at times, the weight of what is to come is made all the more heavier by the beautifully written characters that you've come to love. More so, knowing the history and the tragedy that unfolded only adds to the drama and heartbreak. Without spoiling, there is a scene that is very bold and would've been cut from a film of this nature typically, at least going for a lighter rating for release, if the film were made elsewhere or perhaps by a different studio. It's haunting and will be ingrained in my mind for years to come.

Visually speaking, the film is absolutely breathtaking. There is a water-painted aesthetic to the film as a whole, but as we see through the eyes of Suzu and her artistic mind, the world unfolds around her like a painting. There are small scenes of her creating these paintings and drawings, and seeing her character paint these out feels surreal but realistic simultaneously. It is awesome to see stroke by stroke these paintings being created in real time as the scenes carry out. Animation within animation, truly a thing of beauty and something to behold. Certain key moments of the war itself coupled with her vivid imagination make for a unique cinematic experience filled with memorable sequences.

My one complaint, is that the film seemed to drag on a bit at times. I get that it was trying to make the world feel lived in and showcase the lives of Suzu and the people and family that surrounded her, and it mostly succeeds. Certain scenes felt bloated and dragged out to the point of exhaustion to the pacing and rhythm, like a missed note in a song, but it never entirely disengages the viewer. It is all worth it in the end though as it truly adds emotional depth to everything that plays out. That isn't to write off the scenes prior to the war unfolding, as there are a lot of truly wonderful moments, but certain scenes felt unnecessary to the plot or character developments.

In this Corner of the World is a film that will resonate and leave a deep impression in its viewers' hearts and minds. It's subtle and humanistic whilst also being rich and vibrant in its vivid imagery. It's a lighthearted film that dares to go into the darkest moments of tragedy and does so boldly with great success. This is one that should do quite well internationally and will surely get further award nods outside of Japan. It may be flawed at times, but is most certainly one of the standout cinematic pieces of 2017. Here's to hoping this makes to as many screens as it can. It needs to be scene and experienced by everyone. A lovely animated feature.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

City on Fire (1987)

Director: Ringo Lam
Notable Cast: Chow Yun Fat, Danny Lee, Sun Yueh, Roy Cheung, Lau Kong, Carrie Ng, Maria Cordero, Elis Tsui, Fong Yau, Chan Chi-Fai, Cheng Mang-Ha

For a majority of the world, the existence of City on Fire remains a footnote as a film that inspired Quentin Tarantino to make Reservoir Dogs. For those who have sought it out, they may be horrified to find that it did receive a US release in an edited and terribly dubbed version which in no way or form ably showcases just how effectively brilliant this film is as an action thriller. Even for fans of Hong Kong actioners, City on Fire tends to be overlooked for the more widely available and high-octane films of John Woo. While this is not a knock on films like A Better Tomorrow or The Killer (each of which is a sure fire classic in its own right), City on Fire at least deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as those for being a peak of the artistic merit of Hong Kong action flicks. This long-winded intro serves to simply state what more people need to realize: City on Fire is brilliant and should be handedly ranked up there with the finest crime flicks ever made.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Shippu Rondo (2016)

Director: Teruyiki Yoshida

Notable Cast: Hiroshi Abe, Tadayoshi Okura, Yuko Oshima, Tsuyoshi Muro, Keiko Horiuchi, Akira Emoto

Hiroshi Abe is a senior researcher at a university lab named Kazuyuki Kuribayashi who is sent to a large ski resort in the mountains by his boss (Akira Emoto) after a fellow researcher discovers their successful, albeit accidental, harvesting of K-55, a strong and highly illegal biochemical weapon. With his job on the line and being a single father who is trying his hardest to provide his son with a bright future, Kuribayashi heads out to the icy mountains of Japan's largest ski resort ever constructed. Will he be able to find this chemical that has been buried deep in the snow, or will his race against the sun lead to the peoples' impending doom?

Stormy Monday (1988)

Director: Mike Figgis
Notable Cast: Sean Bean, Melanie Griffith, Tommy Lee Jones, Sting

In the idea of being perfectly frank, Stormy Monday was a film that never crossed my consciousness until Arrow Video announced that they were bringing it to Blu Ray a few months ago. Considering the stacked cast, it did come as a surprise that the film seemed to be truly a cult item. However, it was concerning. A film with this kind of cast from a well-received director (and featuring cinematography of Roger Deakins) should have some notoriety going for it in cinephile circles, but perhaps it was just one that fleeted away from me somehow. After watching Stormy Monday though, it’s kind of understandable why this seems to be a forgotten piece of film. For what its worth, it’s a decently confident debut for director Mike Figgis, but it’s also a film so rooted in being a neo noir and subtle in its building of characters and plot that it comes off as too slow for its own good. On the back of the box it’s referred to as a ‘romantic crime thriller’ but the romance, thrills, and crimes all seem pretty safe in comparison to many of the other modern noir thrillers that have come and gone. It’s a good film, but hardly one to capture the heart.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Resistance at Tule Lake (2017)

Director: Konrad Aderer

Resistance at Tule Lake tells the long-suppressed story of 12,000 Japanese Americans who dared to resist the U.S. government's program of mass incarceration during World War II. Branded as 'disloyals' and re-imprisoned at Tule Lake Segregation Center, they continued to protest in the face of militarized violence, and thousands renounced their U.S. citizenship. Giving voice to experiences that have been marginalized for over 70 years, this documentary challenges the nationalist, one-sided ideal of wartime 'loyalty.' - Subject summary commonly found online.

I typically wouldn't copy and paste a summary of a subject matter, but for a film of this nature, I wished to have it accurate as the weight of its story and nature in general is of great importance and I didn't wish to get a single fact wrong. Moving on, Resistance at Tule Lake is a beautiful and heartbreaking story that seems to have been practically hidden from the typical learning of history in America, but has since come out to the forefront, thanks to the filmmaker and this powerful documentary on the prisoners who rose against the oppression from the government during such a time of great friction between the nation and Japan. The survivors of this internment camp recount both their experiences and how this tragic time in American history shaped them into the people and more bravely, the continued patriots that they are to this very day.

I won't deny the relevance of this documentary in our current times of racial tension in the country, and the impact that it will surely leave on the many viewers who experience it, and the mere fact that this is a very much unheard of and important part of American that has seemingly went untold. The historical value is rich and the importance is of no doubt, but the powerful content embedded within this documentary is undermined by a run-of-the-mill format for a typical educational film of this style. For starters, the voiceover is entirely bland and carries no weight for the heavy subject matter. I get that it is trying to be informational and give a solid tone in its narration, but the voice carrying said narrative is bland and leaves the viewer uninspired and more tragically, given the powerful story being presented, uninterested. I had to force myself to stay focused, which is pathetic, as it only sits at about ninety minutes or so, typically a brisk and memorable experience with most documentaries.

Furthermore it does nothing to stand out from other educational docs. It feels so by the numbers that I see the sheer blandness of its execution only appealing to school systems that plan to play this in front of students. I assure you once again, that the story being told is powerful, and has me dying to dig deeper to further educate myself on this slice of history, but the typical movie goer isn't going to have their interest held by this. As full of life and passion that the interviewees were as they bravely recounted their stories, the overarching product feels bloated and uninspired, which is sad, as a bolder approach in execution could've propelled this to the realm of truly great documentaries, but will sadly be shelved and occasionally dusted off at libraries throughout the world.

I feel as if I am completely trashing the film, but if you can keep yourself focused and not fall asleep from the bland and uninspired narrator, you will be amazed and moved by this group of brave souls who dared to resist oppression during a dire time for the Japanese during this time in American history. These individuals deserve to have their voices heard after such long silence. Resistance at Tule Lake provides a rich and vibrant chunk of history that has practically went untold, but unfortunately this powerful story is padded in such a mediocre craft. The music alone is extremely manipulative and highly intrusive and will leave you pulled out of the experience for a majority of the runtime. Still, this is a story that absolutely needs to be heard and is incredibly relevant now more than ever, and to all of the incredible people that bravely fought for their freedom and the lovely people that chose to explore and reveal the true story of Tule Lake, I thank you.

Written by Josh Parmer

Over the Fence (2016)

Director: Nobuhiro Yamashita

Notable Cast: Joe Odagiri, Yu Aoi, Shota Matsuda, Yukiya Kitamura, Shinnosuke Mitsushima

Officially dumped by his wife, Yoshio Shiraiwa (Joe Odagiri) returns to the town he originally hails from, Hakodate. Out of work, he finds himself at a vocational school learning carpentry so that he may start receiving unemployment checks to start earning a living again. At his school, he meets and interesting array of characters and one man in particular, Daishima, takes a liking Shiraiwa, and takes him to a cabaret, where he meets one of the hostesses, Tamura (Yu Aoi). She is a very vibrant human being and in an instant, Shiraiwa finds himself allured to her and the two begin to connect with one another in more ways than they initially realize.

Over the Fence is a very interesting film. On one hand, it seems like a lighter drama about friendship and a man rediscovering himself in a time when he has no lower a point to go, and on the other, its a dark and interesting examination of broken people suffering from various struggles such as mental illness, divorce, addiction, being a social outcast, and so on. There is always something going on under the surface of a majority of these characters, and it brings a level of depth to the characters that could've otherwise been flat in the hands of a less experienced writer. The screenplay, written by Ryo Takada, who also penned the equally rich and effective look on broken individuals, The Light Shines Only There, truly understands how to flesh out and balance a large myriad of characters and give them all enough time and attention to make even the smaller players extrude a great deal of importance and gives the feelings and emotions behind all the drama, no matter how large or small, a keen sense of realism.

The performances by both Joe Odagiri and Yu Aoi are are equally fantastic and fascinating. Joe gives his best turnout in a lead role in years as Shiraiwa. His suffering is deeply hidden under the surface and he tries so desperately to not let his emotional distraught bubble up to the surface. He surrounds himself in people, trying to move forward and form friendships with those who are a part of the next chapter in his life, but there always seems to be a disconnect, that is until Tamura walks into his life. This exuberant and vivid individual, played in a heartbreaking and bold manner by Yu Aoi, becomes the beating heart that Shiraiwa thought he had lost entirely in his life. At first, admittedly, her character comes off as obnoxious and an overburden to both the lead character and the viewer, but as the story begins to unfold, and the character's inner turmoils are revealed, we learn a great deal about why she is so loud and vivid, though it is never fully explained in great detail. It's a nice mix of subtlety in its revealing of what makes its characters who they are and leaving some of the background up to the viewer's imagination.

As I said before, while Yu Aoi gives a wonderful performance and giving it her all throughout, I couldn't help but be off-put by some of her character's brash and impulsive decisions. She bonds with animals and is fascinated by the mating dances and rituals of the various creatures at the zoo she works at, and while I get that the film is expressing her desire for true freedom similar to the way in which that animals boldly reveal themselves to one another, and that like these caged animals, she too is trapped inevitably, I couldn't get over how insanely absurd her many outburst were. I've known a couple people similar to her in certain regards, but to the level and more so the amount of times she lets out a barrage of bloodcurdling screams and flips out on Shiraiwa, I couldn't help but find myself being annoyed with her character at times. Perhaps it is intentional, and there is something I missed, but it takes the raw and believability that works to a great degree for its many characters, including her's the majority of the time, and shatters it in spots, ultimately taking you out of the experience.

In the end, Over the Fence is a fantastic examination of people who are struggling to rediscover themselves after some sort of loss or suffering that they are undergoing and how it effects their day to day lives. With a minimalist aesthetic, Nobuhiro Yamashita lets strong visuals take a back seat and instead allows the actors  to truly shine and take control, which works for a film of this nature, driven by its strong characters. There are moments of beautiful imagery, during key moments, though sometimes they tend to clash with the laid back visual motif the film is going for. As an absolute powerhouse of a drama, this film is quite powerful and bold in its realistic depictions of its complex characters and will long stick with the viewer after the credits have rolled. Highly recommended.

Written by Josh Parmer

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Breathless Lovers [Short Film] - 2017

Toshiyuki, the breathless lover.
Director: Shumpei Shimizu

Notable Cast: Kaito Yoshimura, Fusako Urabe, Daisuke Kuroda, Atsushi Shinohara

Toshiyuki is a young man who recently lost his boyfriend, Tatsuya, during a motorcycle the two were involved in. While Tatsuya left him behind, Toshiyuki becomes obsessed in trying to connect with his lover in the afterlife. He has developed a phobia of riding motorcycles or vehicles in general since the tragic crash, and instead treks on foot wherever he must venture. He shouldn't be traversing in this manner however, as he suffers from severe asthma. Furthermore, whilst trying to bond with Tatsuya pathologically, he sets out to do the training regimen that involves running for long periods and extensive boxing training at the gym in which he once trained. Struggling to catch his breath, Toshiyuki continues to struggle to connect with his long lost love.

Breathless Lovers is simply one of the finest short works I've ever seen. It's a quick watch, very impacting, and will leave you questioning its ambiguous ending and many themes that it manages to explore in such a short time, nineteen minutes and some change to be exact. I think choosing to do this work as a short film versus a feature length narrative really works to its advantage. It sticks in your mind and is surely one to haunt you for a while. It's dark and chilling in its effectively brooding atmosphere. The cinematography is in high-contrast and emphasizes the shadowy corners of Tokyo, from alleyways to bridges, every inch of the screen is filled with a sense of dread and is beneficial to the overall experience. The sound design, and in a sense acting as the score of the piece, consists of clinking of metal by the tools of workers in the construction surrounding our lead, and the sound of non-stop traffic passing by on the busy streets. It's extremely claustrophobic to the senses, and further adds to the thematic suffocation of Toshiyuki's mourning.

Absolutely stunning and atmospheric cinematography.
Kaito Yoshimura delivers a perfect performance, both physically and emotionally as the man in mourning. His character is only a mere 23 years of age, and while age doesn't entirely factor in to traumatic loss, for the most part, his youth is stripped away from him in an instant as his life spirals into to total bleakness and gives him a sense of misdirection. He has not a clue with what to do with himself, as one would, and I think he encapsulates the mind of a broken person who has just gone through such a horrible experience. Things go in a bold direction at a certain point, but Kaito Yoshimura handles it with ease and makes the scene believable no matter how odd or hard to watch the scene at hand is. With his wonderful and fun performance in Eiji Uchida's Love & Other Cults, coupled with this phenomenal and strong turnout, I believe he will be an actor to keep an eye on in Japan. As for the director, seeing this short film, and being completely taken aback by it has me immediately desiring to seek out his potential works in the future. I believe he made a film before this, but unfortunately I cannot find any information there, but regardless, with this much gravitas and perfection the execution of this short feature, I must keep an eye out on the filmmaker as I believe he will go on to do extraordinary things.

I didn't think a short film, with no disregard to the format in any manner, would effect me so greatly and leave a lasting impression on so many levels. As I said before, it is made with complete confidence in not only its style, but in its thematic exploration of subject matter and bravely goes into the direction which it does, which is to be commended. Breathless Lovers isn't a feelgood film by any means, but it strikes deep and gets you thinking when it's all said and done, and every praise for this little slice of cinema is more than well warranted. There's a lot to appreciate and take in here for a work of such short duration. Alas, it isn't the about the length of a film, but the value of the contents therein and with Shumpei Shimizu's haunting tale, it doesn't get much more valuable than this. Most certainly a cinematic highlight of 2017. If ever given the opportunity, seek this one out!

Written by Josh Parmer

Monday, July 17, 2017

Hengyoro (Queer Fish Lane) - 2017

Director: Go Takamine

Notable Cast: Susumu Taira, Saburo Kitamura, Misako Oshiro, Ryuichi Ishikawa, Katsuhiro Kawamitsu

This film is as mesmerizing as it is confusing. I could follow the story, to a degree, and understood what was going on for the most part with the actual plot itself, but to say the hidden meanings and symbolism went over me more often than not is an understatement. What I do know though is that Hengyoro a.k.a Queer Fish Lane thoroughly impressed me through its masterful experimental craft done to perfection through great labor and love by Go Takamine, whom unfortunately until now, has went under my radar. Seeing this film, not only have I the desire to seek out more works by this madman (genius), but I have question the lack of creativity in cinema comparatively to this bonkers journey.