Review: Reign of Assassins aka Jian Yu (Taiwan/China/Hong Kong 2010)

Reign of Assassins is one of the best wu xia films of the past decade, marrying old school pleasures with comic book aesthetics and inventive action instead of relying on the grim seriousness mandated by the Hero model. Characterization is often a weak point in the genre but director Su Chao-pin turns it into a strength, casting a combination of reliable warhorses and talented new faces who imbue even minor parts with dignity and depth. Continue reading

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Review:  Atomic Blonde (USA 2017)

A hard-R gender-flipped Bond film pretending it’s The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, Atomic Blonde is one of the clearest cut cases of style over substance I’ve seen in a while.  The film – a mess of double agent gobbledygook set in divided Berlin during the fall of the Wall – is nowhere near as smart as it thinks it is.  Frankly, Atomic Blonde is not a film that rewards thought – on the contrary, the more thought you give it the worse it comes off.  But those momentary pleasures … Charlize Theron’s outfits, the ‘80s grunge and glam set design, and, most especially, the fights … ah, unglaublich! Continue reading

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Review: The Frisco Kid (USA 1979)

I feel like this movie never really evolved beyond the elevator pitch. “Gene Wilder will play a rabbi who gets into hijinks in the Wild West! And Harrison Ford will play his desperado sidekick! The comedy will write itself!” Unfortunately, it didn’t and the resulting movie is unfunny, formless, and shaggy as hell. Continue reading

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Review: Weiner (USA 2016)

This documentary contains some fascinating material on the failed Anthony Weiner 2013 mayoral run in New York, though I was not overly impressed with the way, at least in the early going, the filmmakers put their thumb on the scale in order to create the impression that the Weiner campaign had overwhelming momentum prior to the scandal breaking. Continue reading

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NYAFF 2017: Interview with Director Alan Lo and Actress Carrie Ng about Zombiology

Alan Lo’s first film, Zombiology:  Enjoy Yourself Tonight (Hong Kong 2017), starring Carrie Ng (Naked Killer), Alex Man (Rouge), Michael Ning (Port of Call), and Louis Cheung (Ip Man 3), opened July 18 as part of the 16th New York Asian Film Festival.  The film revolves around a pair of immature men who find themselves confronted with a genuine zombie outbreak.  I had a chance to speak with Lo and Ng, in NYC to present the film, about the genesis of the film, flying guillotines, and the merits of Western zombies vs. Chinese hopping vampires.  I also had a chance to ask Carrie Ng some questions about her role in the Hong Kong Category III classic Naked Killer, so stay tuned for part II of this interview addressing that film.

CSB:  What was the basis for the story?

Alan Lo:   My first introduction to zombies was through a video game called Resident Evil.  That interested me in zombies.  And I actually made an earlier film called Zombie Guillotines.  But the two films are not directly related.  Zombiology is based on a novel, but the thing is that it is not really based on the novel. Continue reading

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NYAFF 2017 Review: The Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio (Japan 2016)

Sick of serious Miike? 13 Assassins and Hara-kiri Miike? Yearning for the older, wackier V-cinema Miike? Look no further than The Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio (a belated sequel to 2013’s The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji). This film is a totally ridiculous live action yakuza cartoon from start to finish, featuring such over-the-top flourishes as a flying squirrel themed-villain, plane crashes over Hong Kong, and a toilet plunger fight. Worried you don’t remember what happened in the first film? No problem, our hero exposits prior events while hanging naked from a cage of yakuza suspended from a helicopter. Continue reading

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NYAFF 2017 Review: Fabricated City (South Korea 2017)

So, so, so dumb but so, so, so fun. Fabricated City starts off with our lead, disaffected loner Kwon Ju (Ji Chang-wook) going into battle in a multi-player war game with his team of random internet gaming geeks, performing crazy Matrix-style stunts and showing why he is the best. What’s nuts is that the movie gets even more unrealistic when it transitions to the real world, to the point where I spent the entire film expecting a last-minute twist revealing that Kwon Ju was still playing a game. Continue reading

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NYAFF 2017 Review: Suffering of Ninko (Japan 2016)

More an erotic fable than a proper narrative, Suffering of Ninko puts a Japanese spin on the popular mythological concepts of the succubus and the incubus.  Ninko is a Buddhist monk, fixated on his own asceticism.  Unfortunately, his very presence drives women (and some men) into an absolute frenzy and he finds himself pursued by lustful devotees despite his increasingly frantic efforts to withdraw from the world.  After teetering on the edge of sanity, he eventually meets his counterpart in a female mountain spirit, who possesses the same powers of attraction and uses them to destroy men. Continue reading

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NYAFF 2017 Review: Split (South Korea 2016)

The festival program describes Split as a mash-up of Rain Man and Kingpin, and that’s exactly right.  The problem is that there is way too much Rain Man, and way too little Kingpin.  It’s a bowling dramedy, but weighted heavily on the drama side, and the hackneyed Rain Man premise can’t sell the drama effectively.  I really disliked this movie for about the first hour and a half.  It’s well crafted on a technical level and well performed, but shameless and manipulative in the service of an obnoxious, dated plot.  And then, somehow, in the last half an hour, Split became SO shameless and SO manipulative that I kind of circled back around into enjoying it as an massively overripe piece of cheese.  I still don’t much like it, but at least it left me with a good, albeit pungent, taste in my mouth. Continue reading

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NYAFF 2017 Review: Kfc (Vietnam 2017)

Kfc starts out with the opposite of the Fargo disclaimer – a emphatic reassurance that the film’s events are purely fictional.  Whether that’s a reaction against Fargo or just an attempt not to get sued, I don’t know, because Kfc will turn you off not just the titular chicken franchise, but food in general.  This grotty little Vietnamese indie constantly assaults its audience with graphic, repellent imagery and a wet, visceral soundtrack that is somehow even more nauseating than the film’s visuals.  Yet the film is strangely absorbing, and I found myself lost in its puzzle box structure. Continue reading

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