Review: The Ranger (USA 2018)

The Ranger, directed by Jenn Wexler and co-written by Wexler and Giaco Furino, is a fun, tight, modern indie slasher, in the tradition of “roll up your sleeves” regional splatter flicks like The Mutilatorand “punks vs. hicks” schlock like Punk Vacation.  While the film suffers a bit from bipolar plotting and tone, solid performances from leads Chloe Levine and Jeremy Holm keep things on track and make for a satisfying splatter flick with an emotional core. Continue reading

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CSB Interview with Kanata Wolf, Director of Smokin’ On the Moon – NYAFF 2018

Kanata Wolf’s first film, Smokin’ On the Moon (Japan 2017) had its International Premiere as part of the 17th New York Asian Film Festival.  The film stars Arata Iura and Ryo Narita as two aimless thirty-somethings, living weed-filled blissful lives until narrative vicissitudes force them to grow up and face the real world.  I had a chance to speak with Wolf, in NYC along with cast members Shaq and Dankichi Magnum, and his producer Tadahiro Sekiguchi, to present the film, about shooting a weed film in Japan, the apartment complex where he shot much of the film, and foiling audience expectations. 

CSB:  First off, why do you go by Kanata Wolf for this film?

KANATA WOLF:  My real surname is Tanaka, so I reversed it.  And my first name is Yuichiro and the kanji in it is the same as “wolf.”  I am only using that name for films, not for novels.

CSB:  This is your first feature film and you also wrote the script?

KANATA WOLF:  Yes. My background is in music videos, not film.  Here, first I wrote the novel, that’s where it all started.  The Japanese name of the story actually translates as Rooster, from one of the main characters [the character played by Ryo Narita]. Continue reading

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Review: Premika (Thailand 2017) – NYAFF 2018

Courtesy of M Pictures

Those in the mood for midnight movie fare need look no further than Premika, an absolutely bugnuts karaoke-themed horror movie out of Thailand. It’s funny, it’s gross, and it’s even a bit heartbreaking. Premika is gonzo filmmaking at its best, and I kind of loved it, stupid as it is. Continue reading

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Review: The Big Call (China/HK 2017) – NYAFF 2018

© 2017 Universe Entertainment Limited

The Big Call, the latest from Oxide Pang, is so hilariously overwrought (even by Hong Kong standards) for its subject matter that I spent most of the first half of the movie convinced it was a sly parody.  No such luck tough, this police thriller about the glamorous world of telephone scamming is dead serious. Continue reading

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CSB Interview with Richard V. Somes, Director of We Will Not Die Tonight – NYAFF 2018

Courtesy of Strawdog Studio Production

Richard V. Somes’s film, We Will Not Die Tonight (Philippines 2018) has its World Premiere tonight, June 29, as part of the 17th New York Asian Film Festival.  The film stars Erich Gonzales as Kray, a down-on-her-luck stuntwoman who stumbles into a dangerous situation with her friends and ends up having to fight for her life against a vicious gang.  I had a chance to speak with Somes, in NYC to present the film, about shooting on a tight schedule and budget, stunt work in the Philippines, and the greatness of The Warriors. 

CSB: I understand you shot this film in eight days.  How did you manage that?

SOMES: It was all about making the crew and the actors feel comfortable with long hours of work and long hours of action and fight scenes. I said to them, “This has no budget, and this is a passion project for us, you can always say no.”  But, of course, the main actress, Erich, she really wanted to do the film.  So I surrounded her with a lot of friends, and most of the actors I tapped to be producers.  They didn’t ask for compensation or anything, but my offer to them was that they would be producers and get back-end, hoping we could distribute it or sell it somewhere.  And the plan totally worked. They were more passionate because they were also producers, so they wanted to do their best, so that we could sell the project someday. Continue reading

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Review: Dynamite Graffiti (Japan 2018) – NYAFF 2018

© 2018 “Dynamite Graffiti” Film Partners

The 17th New York Asian Film Festival kicks off tonight at Lincoln Center and I could not be more excited.  I’ve been coming to Subway Cinema’s annual extravaganza’s since before they even were the NYAFF, and they’ve never once failed to put on a good show.  This year’s fest promises to be no different, with the now customary assortment of crowd-pleasers, big budget action, serious arthouse, and midnight movies.  All the favorite genres are out – we’ve got the gory Korean historical epics (Age of Blood), the Hong Kong crime thrillers (Beast Stalkers), the indie Japanese zombie horror (One Cut of the Dead) and freak-outs (Smokin’ on the Moon), a Thai surprise (Premika), and a robust selection from the upstart film industries of Malaysia and the Philippines. Continue reading

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Review: Heavy Trip aka Hevi Reissu (Finland 2018) – Cinepocalypse 2018

As a region, Scandinavia only has a few instantly recognizable cliché cultural exports. Smoked fish, 70’s art porn, IKEA … and the blackest of black metal.  I’m not much for the others, but I’ve been fascinated with the Scandinavian metal scene for years, since reading a Spin article on intraband murders and church burnings 20 years ago that pinned my ears back.  Since then I’ve had a chance to see a catch a few of the greats, like Abbath, and develop a healthy appreciation for the sound.  The genre is easily mockable, because of its tendency to take everything to extremes (see the great, loving Metalocalypse), but still an absolute blast.

The new Finnish comedy Heavy Trip, about a small-town metal band trying to make the big time, is well aware of the absurdity, but pokes fun at the genre without ever crapping on it. Continue reading

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Review: Satan’s Slaves aka Pengabdi Setan (Indonesia 2017) – Cinepocalypse 2018

I watch a lot of horror movies, and while I love them, I’ve become pretty jaded over the years.  Maybe one out of every hundred are actually frightening, and then usually only for a moment or two.  So when I say Satan’s Slaves is genuinely terrifying – indeed, for me, quite literally hair-raising – I mean it.  Continue reading

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Review: Shanty Tramp (USA 1967)

CSB’s Jeff talked up the glories of this low-budget hicksploitation movie for years, so when the Brooklyn Alamo screened it, we had to go. Fortunately, the movie lived up (lived down?) to its reputation, with plenty of go-go dancing, race-baiting, and trash-talking, and rarely a dull moment. Continue reading

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Chang Cheh at the Quad Cinema in NYC

The Quad Cinema in New York will be continuing its Chang Cheh retrospective – “Vengeance Is His: Chang Cheh’s Martial Lore” – over Memorial Weekend.  There are still lots of great films to see, including the stone cold classic Five Deadly Venoms, which combines the athleticism of the Venoms Mob with solid murder mystery plotting.  Continue reading

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