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Patrick Lung Kong Retrospective Begins at Museum of the Moving Image
Posted on 08.15.14 by Administrator @ 1:33 pm

Starting tonight at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, NY is a multi-film retrospective of Hong Kong director Patrick Lung Kong, an early pioneer of Hong Kong cinema. Lung Kong will be receiving a Subway Cinema Lifetime Achievement award and attending a number of screenings over the first weekend of the festival, some with legendary director/producer Tsui Hark in attendance. Events kick-off tonight with a screening of The Story of Discharged Prisoner (1967), an inspiration for John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow, which kicked off his run of genre-defining Heroic Bloodshed films.

More information can be found here.


Filed under: General and Movie News
Comments: None

New York Asian Film Festival/Japan Cuts 2014 Report 2 – Why Don’t You Play in Hell?; The Snow White Murder Case; and No Man’s Land
Posted on 07.03.14 by David @ 9:59 pm
New York Asian Film Festival 2014 Japan Cuts 2014

 Why Don't You Play in Hell?Lots of interesting stuff this year from Japan Cuts and NYAFF, including the good (Snow White Murder Case, No Man’s Land, 3D Naked Ambition, Fuku-Chan of FukuFuku Flats), the bad (Portland Street Blues), the weird (The Passion, R100), and the awful –movies that are not bad, and in fact are pretty good, but I wouldn’t want to sit through them again (Moebius, Rough Play). I thought I would headline some of the best here.

I would write about Hitoshi Matsumoto’s R100 also – I thought it was absolutely fantastic, and uniquely Matsumoto while completely different from Symbol and Big Man Japan – but any review is likely to devolve into sputtered descriptions: “and then there was … spitting! And ninjas! And grenades!” Just go see it.


Why Don’t You Play in Hell?
AKA: Jigoku de naze warui
Dir. Sion Sono (Japan 2013)
Rating: 3 ½ out of 4 Stars (Great)

 Why Don't You Play in Hell?I have a weird relationship with the films of Sion Sono. His most crowd-pleasing genre films – Exte, Cold Fish and Suicide Circle – have left me kind of cold, whereas his go-for-broke 4-hour emotional opus Love Exposure was one of my favorite films of 2008. Fortunately, Sono is definitely in Love Exposure mode with Why Don’t You Play In Hell?

(Click Here To Read More…)


Filed under: Movie Reviews and Movie Reviews: Japan and Venues: The Japan Society and Venues: Film Society at Lincoln Center and Movie Reviews: China and People: Huang Bo and People: Tak Sakaguchi and People: Hitoshi Matsumoto and People: Shion Sono and People: Yoshihiro Nakamura and People: Ning Hao and Film Festivals: Japan Cuts 2014 and Film Festivals: New York Asian Film Festival 2014
Comments: None

New York Asian Film Festival/Japan Cuts 2014 Report 1 – Zone Pro Site: The Moveable Feast; Rigor Mortis; and May We Chat
Posted on 06.24.14 by David @ 11:24 pm
New York Asian Film Festival 2014 Japan Cuts 2014

This Friday sees the launch of Subway Cinema’s New York Asian Film Festival , to be followed as always by the Japan Society’s Japan Cuts series. Lots of great stuff to look forward to, including new films by old and new favorites like Takashi Miike, Kim Ki-Duk, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Pang Ho-Cheung, Lou Ye, Hideo Nakata, Sabu, Ning Hao, Hitoshi Matsumoto, Yoshihiro Nakamura and Sion Sono. As usual, the slate is heavy on China, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Unfortunately, aside from an Australian film about North Korea, there is nothing further off the beaten path – no Filipino thrillers, Thai actioners or Indonesian mindbenders. Alongside the main program, the NYAFF will be holding retrospectives for the Shaw Brothers studio, Hong Kong stars Jimmy Wang Yu and Sandra Ng, and Korean star Lee Jung-jae.

NYAFF 2014 will run at the Film Society of Lincoln Center from June 27 to July 14, and Japan Cuts 2014 from July 10-20. A full screening schedule for NYAFF 2013 can be found at Subway Cinema’s site here. A full screening schedule for Japan Cuts 2013 can be found here.

To kick off our coverage, we’ll take a look at some interesting new Chinese-language cinema, running the gamut from a goofy Taiwanese food comedy to a J-Horror influenced vampire flick to a girls gone wild youth-in-crisis film.


Zone Pro Site: The Moveable Feast
AKA: Mei Gaau Siu Nui
Dir. Chen Yu-hsun (Taiwan 2013)
Rating: 3 out of 4 Stars (Good)

 Zone Pro Site: The Moveable Feast This is about as light, fluffy and dispensable as a film can get – a romantic comedy that can’t even be bothered much with the romance or with pretending the stakes are particularly high. As such, this story of a ne’er-do-well daughter returned to claim her father’s catering crown (with the help of the usual ragtag band of friends and family) is able to cut out most of the cinematic fat and focus on servings of goofy slapstick and cooking, lots of cooking. We’ve got eel cooked in dangerously high flame, 2,500 year old soy sauce, chicken so finely chopped that all regret over untimely death leaves the meat, and a turducken made with pork, chicken and turtle, among other culinary creations.

Kimi Hsia is ditzily likeable in the lead role, everyone else vamps it up, and, as in the king of this genre, Tampopo, there is even a hobo master, cooking up mouth-watering stews and dispensing advice deep within the subway tunnels. Tasty stuff.

(Click Here To Read More…)


Filed under: Movie News and Movie Reviews and Movie Reviews: Hong Kong and Movie Reviews: Taiwan and Venues: The Japan Society and Venues: Film Society at Lincoln Center and Film Festivals: Japan Cuts 2014 and Film Festivals: New York Asian Film Festival 2014
Comments: None

King Hu Retrospective At the BAMcinematek
Posted on 06.08.14 by David @ 10:36 pm

Running through this week until June 17 is a marvelous King Hu retrospective at the BAMcinematek that both kung fu and wu xia aficionados and newbies will want to check out. If Chang Cheh was the lord of blood and guts chopsocky, and Liu Chia-Liang was the consummate martial arts craftsman, then King Hu was the dreamer, the painter and the poet. His films have a look that sets them apart from any other kung fu films, with sweeping landscapes, contemplative moments and crisp outdoor photography, and also have a courtliness that reads more as refreshing than old-fashioned. Similarly his heirs are the gorgeously shot thrillers of Chu Yuan, the wild fantasies of Tsui Hark, and, of course, the modern wu xia like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Those unfamiliar with his films will want to see his acknowledged masterpieces – the lovely meditative piece A Touch of Zen (1966) (which I have only ever seen in a print so dark the night scenes were a blur); the groundbreaking adventure Come Drink With Me (1966), which launched the ferocious Cheng Pei-Pei into stardom; and Dragon Inn (1967), which may be his most purely enjoyable feature. However, while each of those is excellent, those looking for deeper cuts should check out Raining in the Mountain (1979), a twisty puzzle of a film which takes a more metaphysical approach to the Dragon Inn setup of rival parties trying to suss out each other’s’ intentions within the confines of a limited physical setting and necessary subterfuge (see Jeff’s full review here).

(Click Here To Read More…)


Filed under: General and Movie News and People: King Hu and Venues: BAM Cinematek
Comments: None

Old School Kung Fu Fest Starts Friday
Posted on 04.16.14 by David @ 10:12 pm

Reviving an old and beloved tradition, Subway Cinema is bringing back its Old School Kung Fu fest this weekend, with nine classic martial films showing between Friday, April 18, and Sunday, April 20 at the Anthology Film Archives in lower Manhattan.

In honor of the passing of Liu Chia-Liang, one of the greatest kung fu directors and performers of all time (see our obituary here), the festival will be focusing on his films – in particular, highlights from his most productive period working for the Shaw Brothers. There will be no My Young Auntie or Eight Diagram Pole Fighter, but a great selection of Liu’s classics will be showcased at the festival. Those without much background in kung fu cinema will probably want to check out The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978), the Gordon Liu-starring stalwart that epitomizes the rigorous training ordeal and is the face of kung fu cinema for many. While 36th Chamber is a stone cold classic, however, some of the other films on display are a lot more fun. (Click Here To Read More…)


Filed under: General and Movie News and Contributors: David and People: Sammo Hung and People: Jimmy Wang Yu and People: Gordon Liu and People: Lau Kar Leung and Genre: Martial Arts and Venues: Anthology Film Archives
Comments: None

2014 Friars Club Comedy Film Festival Starts Today
Posted on 04.01.14 by David @ 11:18 pm

The 2014 Friars Club Comedy Film Festival (co-founded and organized by CSB’s own Charlie Prince) started today and runs from April 1 to April 5, with screenings from all over the world. Highlights include Bill Plympton’s Cheatin’, James Roday’s Gravy and the Dutch Borgman.

All the information you need is below.

::: FCCFF Schedule and Website


Filed under: Movie News
Comments: None

New York Asian Film Festival/Japan Cuts 2013 Report 6 – Japan Cuts Kicks Off
Posted on 07.12.13 by David @ 12:06 pm
New York Asian Film Festival 2013 Japan Cuts 2013

As the New York Asian Film Festival winds down over the weekend, with closing film The Rooftop on Monday at the Asia Society, the Japan Cuts festival at the Japan Society is just getting started in earnest, with lots of good stuff coming up between now and the 21st.

Shion Sono’s latest opus, Bad Film, screens tonight, along with the perverted super hero story Hentai Kamen. Also playing is Helter Skelter (see review here), one of the highlights of the festival so far, and the tragicomic Dreams for Sale – an increasingly dark film about a couple scamming lonely-hearts out of money to fund their restaurant.

 The Warped Forest While Rurouni Kenshin will draw in blockbuster crowds with its pretty-boy casting and manga crossover appeal, frankly it is way too conventional to be memorable (though the fight scenes are unexpectedly solid). Better and weirder is The Warped Forest, by Shunichiro Miki, one-third of the troika who directed CSB favorite Funky Forest: The First Contact. Warped Forest is more fitfully amusing, rarely reaching the sublime peaks of Funky Forest, but it is a pleasant fever-dream of a movie and you are unlikely to find a director more obsessed with navels.

For my money, though, you’d do even better to catch It’s Me It’s Me, the latest from Satoshi Miki (director of another CSB favorite, Adrift in Tokyo), about a young man whose life becomes a recursive identity crisis spiral after he tries to scam another man’s mother for some quick bucks. Miki’s films always have a shaggy-dog charm and It’s Me is no exception, with the internal logic of the situation playing out as more and more doppelgangers of the protagonist start to pop up. (Click Here To Read More…)


Filed under: Movie Reviews and Movie Reviews: Japan and Contributors: David and Venues: The Japan Society and People: Shion Sono and Film Festivals: New York Asian Film Festival 2013 and Film Festivals: Japan Cuts 2013
Comments: None

New York Asian Film Festival/Japan Cuts 2013 Report 5 – Mainland Crime Stories - Beijing Blues and A Mystery
Posted on 07.03.13 by David @ 3:54 pm
New York Asian Film Festival 2013 Japan Cuts 2013

This report focuses on two contrasting looks at crime in modern mainland China: Beijing Blues and A Mystery.

Beijing Blues
AKA: Shen tan Hengte Zhang
Dir. Qunshu Gao (China 2012)
Rating: 3 out of 4 Stars (Good)

 Beijing Blues Beijing Blues is slight but enjoyable – a slice of life piece shot in quasi-documentary style about a police officer, Zhang (Zhang Lixian), and his squad who are tasked with catching the thousands of petty con artists who prey on the populace daily. While the film eventually loses its thread a bit with a silly plotline about a master criminal who issues a challenge to law enforcement, the real enjoyment lies in watching the day-to-day efforts of Officer Zhang.

Much of the film depicts the police surveilling suspects, watching them enact small-time car insurance scams, counterfeit bill drops and religious trickery before Zhang’s crew swoops in with their bicycles and beat-up cars to bring the arrestees back to the station house for a ritual browbeating and confessional. Most of the crimes are not a matter of life and death – even when Zhang gets stabbed he brushes it off as an occupational hazard – and a little silliness and schmaltz do little to detract from the overall good vibes of the film.

(Click Here To Read More…)


Filed under: General and Movie Reviews and Contributors: David and Venues: Film Society at Lincoln Center and Movie Reviews: China and Film Festivals: New York Asian Film Festival 2013 and Film Festivals: Japan Cuts 2013
Comments: None

New York Asian Film Festival/Japan Cuts 2013 Report 4 – Confession of Murder and Countdown
Posted on 07.03.13 by David @ 1:49 pm
New York Asian Film Festival 2013 Japan Cuts 2013

Today’s report tackles two slanted takes on the psycho killer with South Korea’s Confession of Murder and Thailand’s Countdown.

Confession of Murder
AKA: Nae-ga sal-in-beom-i-da; I Am the Murderer
Dir. Jeong Byeong-gil (South Korea 2012)
Rating: 3 out of 4 Stars (Good)

 Confession of Murder The plot of Confession of Murder – boyishly-charming serial killer Lee becomes a media darling after publishing a tell-all expose about his crimes the day after the statute of limitations expires - is absolutely preposterous, but Confession makes a virtue of that very preposterousness. After years of very good but insanely dark serial killer movies from South Korea like The Chaser and I Saw the Devil, Confession finally has the courage to say, “Hey, why can’t serial killer movies be fun again?” By contrast to those films, which gave Seven a run for its money in the grim’n’gritty department, Confession uses its premise as an excuse for an extended cat-and-mouse game between Lee (Park Shi-hoo) and the detective whose life he ruined (Jeong Jae-Yeong - Moss, Castaway on the Moon) with ample opportunity for gonzo car chases, multiple assassination attempts by arrow and snake, and crazy plot twists. The film, as shot by Action Boys director Jeong Byeong-gil, is slick without ever being soulless, and heralds his arrival as a real force in Korean cinema.

(Click Here To Read More…)


Filed under: General and Movie Reviews and Movie Reviews: South Korea and Contributors: David and Movie Reviews: Thailand and Venues: Film Society at Lincoln Center and Film Festivals: New York Asian Film Festival 2013 and Film Festivals: Japan Cuts 2013
Comments: None

Jim Kelly, star of Black Belt Jones and Enter the Dragon, Dies at 67
Posted on 07.01.13 by David @ 12:19 pm

Jim KellyFirst Liu Chia-Liang and now Jim Kelly - it has not been a good work for the martial arts genre. Starting with his breakout role in Enter the Dragon, Kelly had a way of standing out even among the dreck, and made the most of his imposing physical presence and easygoing charm in his solo series Black Belt Jones. He was a ’70s icon and represented a type of film career that just doesn’t seem to exist anymore.


Filed under: Movie News and Movie News: Obituaries
Comments: 1 Comment

New York Asian Film Festival/Japan Cuts 2013 Report 3 – Aberya, The Animals and Helter Skelter
Posted on 07.01.13 by David @ 11:54 am
New York Asian Film Festival 2013 Japan Cuts 2013

Monday and Tuesday bring on a focus on the new Filipino cinema with Aberya and The Animals, along with the first Japan Cuts co-presentation, Helter Skelter. Also showing is Ryoo Seung-Wan’s The Unjust, an insanely dark political cat-and-mouse game between a corrupt cop and an equally corrupt prosecutor set against the backdrop of a child-killer’s rampage (see our review here).

Aberya
AKA: Breakdown
Dir. Christian Linaban (Philippines 2012)
Rating: 3 out of 4 Stars (Good)

AberyaAberya has been one of the real treats of the festival so far – an audacious, visually stunning piece of filmmaking from a new director whom I hope to see go far. Linaban takes four loosely connected characters – a Filipino-American boxer, an enigmatic prostitute, a drug-addled rich kid and a struggling nurse – and weaves their stories into a compelling, if bizarre narrative that constantly zags when you expect it to zig. While Aberya bogs down slightly in an extended drug trip, Linaban shows real talent here, making the most out of his young cast and bringing their tales together in a way that preserves the sense of wonder and surprise while avoiding a miserabilist Arriaga-esque wallow.

(Click Here To Read More…)


Filed under: General and Movie Reviews and Movie Reviews: Japan and Venues: Film Society at Lincoln Center and Film Festivals: New York Asian Film Festival 2013 and Film Festivals: Japan Cuts 2013 and Movie Reviews: Philippines
Comments: None

New York Asian Film Festival/Japan Cuts 2013 Report 2 – Ip Man Mania
Posted on 06.28.13 by David @ 1:08 pm
New York Asian Film Festival 2013 Japan Cuts 2013

The opening weekend of NYAFF is heavy on the fu, with a double helping of two very different films about Bruce Lee’s master, Ip Man - Ip Man: The Final Fight and The Legend is Born: Ip Man - along with special screenings modern classics Enter the Dragon and Arahan. Director Herman Yau and screenwriter Erica Li will attend the former, while actor Ryoo Seung-beom and DJs Fab 5 Freddy and MC Yan will hold down the latter.

The Legend is Born: Ip Man
AKA: Yip Man chinchyun
Dir. Herman Yau (Hong Kong 2010)
Rating: 3 out of 4 Stars (good)

Ip ManThe recent Ip Man craze (Ip Mania?) spearheaded by Donnie Yen and Wilson Yip (see our reviews of Donnie Yen’s Ip Man 1 and 2 here and our interview with Sammo Hung here) has led to a number of intriguing side projects and diversions, including two films by Herman Yau that essentially serve as bookends to Donnie Yen’s action-packed saga.

(Click Here To Read More…)


Filed under: General and Movie Reviews and Movie Reviews: Hong Kong and People: Ryoo Seung-wan and People: Bruce Lee and Venues: Film Society at Lincoln Center and Film Festivals: New York Asian Film Festival 2013 and Film Festivals: Japan Cuts 2013 and People: Herman Yau and People: Anthony Wong
Comments: 1 Comment

New York Asian Film Festival/Japan Cuts 2013 Report 1 – NYAFF Starts Today
Posted on 06.28.13 by David @ 9:51 am
New York Asian Film Festival 2013 Japan Cuts 2013

Subway Cinema’s New York Asian Film Festival and the Japan Society’s Japan Cuts series are back! Quite a line up this year, with new films from stalwarts like Takashi Miike (Audition), Johnnie To (The Mission), Toshiaki Toyoda (9 Souls), E J-Yong (Dasepo Naughty Girls), Herman Yau (The Untold Story), Shion Sono (Love Exposure) and Hideo Nakata (The Ring), along with less familiar names like Mika Nakagawa, Christian Linaban and Gao Qunshu.

This year has the usual assortment of primarily Japanese, Chinese, Hong Kong, Korean and Thai films. While there is unfortunately nothing from Malaysia or Indonesia - two countries that could usually be counted on for at least one outstanding oddity - there is consolation in the presence of major showings from the Philippines and Taiwan. From the Philippines comes a focus on the new thrillers from Manila, including the unconventional threat in The Refrigerator and the fascinating Aberya. Meanwhile, the festival will be showcasing less reputable entries from the “Black Movie” period of Taiwanese cinema when the marquees were ruled by sleazy actioners and youth in revolt pics like Woman Revenger.

NYAFF 2013 will run at the Film Society of Lincoln Center from June 28 to July 15, only to be supplemented and supplanted by Japan Cuts 2013 from July 11-21 (which we will cover in more detail on the 11th). Additional reports will follow. A full screening schedule for NYAFF 2013 can be found at Subway Cinema’s site here. A full screening schedule for Japan Cuts 2013 can be found here.

© David Austin


Filed under: General and Movie News and Movie Reviews and Movie Reviews: Hong Kong and Venues: Film Society at Lincoln Center and Movie Reviews: China and Film Festivals: New York Asian Film Festival 2013 and Film Festivals: Japan Cuts 2013
Comments: None

Liu Chia-Liang, Titan of Kung Fu Cinema, Dies at 76
Posted on 06.26.13 by David @ 9:22 am

Liu Chia-Liang (also known as Lau Kar-Leung) has passed away. What can I say, the man was a legend. From a martial family that included Gordon Liu and Lau Kar-Wing, and from a direct line of martial arts teaching passed down by Wong Fei-Hung, Liu was a titan of kung fu cinema who made genre-defining classics like 36 Chambers of Shaolin, My Young Auntie, Eight Diagram Pole Fighter and Legendary Weapons of China.

Liu could play it dead serious, like in 36 Chambers or Pole Fighter, but always seemed to prefer anarchic comedy like Dirty Ho, where one of the heroes has to fight a deadly battle while pretending to have a friendly conversation over tea. While at Shaw Brothers, this allowed Liu to act as a counter force to their other great martial arts director, Chang Cheh, whose deadly serious male-bonding epics could occasionally get a little too stuffy (don’t get me wrong, though, I love Chang). Liu, on the other hand, seemed far more interested in the martial arts than in the “heroic bloodshed” - his Heroes of the East, astoundingly for the era, actually sets up a conflict between Chinese and Japanese fighters in which no one dies and greater understanding is reached through kung fu.

Liu made stars out of some of the greatest staples of the genre, including brother Gordon and pixieish Kara Hui, and worked with just about every big name, including Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan. In addition to his achievements as a director and choreographer, Liu also did wonderful work in front of the camera. Check out his throwdown at the end of My Young Auntie or, for more modern viewers, his turn as the elderly general in Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master 2.

Liu’s work will forever stand alongside the other pillars of the genre like Sammo Hung, Chang Cheh, Tsui Hark, Bruce Lee, King Hu and Jackie Chan. I’m sad to see him go, but his legacy will live on.


Filed under: Movie News and Movie News: Obituaries and People: Lau Kar Leung
Comments: None

Jesus (Jess) Franco Dies at 82
Posted on 04.02.13 by David @ 3:38 pm

Jesus Franco, a man who defined both “prolific” and “sleazy” when it came to cinema, has died at the age of 82. I won’t even try to summarize his contributions to exploitation cinema, but suffice it to say that in a career that spanned from the 50s up until his death and dozens of pseudonyms, he did it all. I’d be lying if I said I liked it all, but there are some real gems in his filmography, like the wild Diabolical Dr. Z, the gothic Eyes Without A Face/Cabinet of Dr. Caligari mash-up The Awful Dr. Orlof, and the eurospy goofiness of The Devil Came From Akasava.
Even when the films were lacking, Franco could often capture one perfect element, like the freakout score of Vampyros Lesbos or the lovely cinematography of Venus in Furs.

Franco, as always, follows closely on the heels of his muse and lover, Lina Romay, who passed away last year.


Filed under: General and Movie News and Movie News: Obituaries
Comments: None

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