Friday, June 25, 2010

NYAFF starts today. Plus Opening night film Ip Man 2 and some mini reviews

The New York Asian Film Festival starts today.

If you've been reading this blog over the last few weeks you've no doubt seen my posts about the schedule and the tickets going on sale. If you've been reading long enough you'll remember that back in April I did two weeks of films from last year's festival (click on the NYAFF tag in the side bar to see the films from those two weeks of reviews. Reviews for this year carry the NYAFF 2010 tag).

As I've said in an earlier post I will be attending the festival. Actually between June 26th and July 7th I will be attending double or triple features at the festival every day except two. As I said in the last post on the film festival the dance card is 25* films long (one just is part of Japan Cuts). However I have an additional 17* films from the festival and the related sister festival Japan Cuts on DVD. Making 42* films from the two festivals I'm trying to see before all the shouting is over. (I will be trying to see almost every film thats part of the NYAFF with the exception of the two shorts programs, the midnight quartet, Cow and Crazy Racer plus several films that are part of Japan Cuts)

As I did with the Tribeca Film Festival I'll be reporting from the road, giving brief reports of what I'm seeing as I go along. Full reviews will start to appear the week of July 19th beginning with a review of John Woo's Red Cliff which I think is one of the greatest films ever made in the full version that's playing the festival (Its out on DVD now listing as the two part international version, and for my money its the only way to see the film.) Assuming I haven't burned out on cinematic overload and need an extra night off I will be attending the five hour screening on the Fourth of July.

(Two films screening that I've already posted reviews of are IP Man, which is encoring from last year, and Bodyguards and Assassins. To read them you just have to follow the NYAFF 2010 tag in the sidebar)

Actually reviews of the films from the Festivals begin below and continue tomorrow and Sunday when I post some capsule reviews of some of the films I've already seen on DVD. The ones below didn't tickle my fancy enough either to say go or to recommend them at all, but I thought you might want to know about them. The ones tomorrow start the flood of films (lets hope) that are worth your time and you might want to try and score a ticket or two (Sundays films are all getting longer reviews in a few weeks).

To make sure that you, my loyal readers, have something to read while I'm off seeing too many movies I've front loaded a bunch of reviews starting with a weekend of films by the under appreciated Japanese actor and director Sabu. Next week contributor Ken Fries will have control of the website and he'll be doing something a little different (I'll let Ken tell you himself). Then we get some wartime comedies for the 4th of July, some randomly selected films, the first of our reader suggested titles (yes, we do take suggestions) and then a week of films that are extreme guilty pleasures because frankly they aren't really that good but they are fun.

By then I should have healed from the fannie fatigue, the soda shakes and the hot butter burns and will have written up some, if not all of the films I've seen.

I do want to take this time to say that the opening film tonight is IP Man 2. I recently saw this film on an import DVD. The showing tonight is sold out but there might be tickets available for the screening on Sunday. The film picks up after the war as Yip man opens a school and runs afoul of the other martial arts schools in Hong Kong and a crooked Hong Kong police official.

The plot and character make this play more like throw back to the 1970's or 80's martial arts film and its similar in someways to Jet Li's Fearless with its battle between East and West. I like the film, but was disappointed it wasn't as meaty as the first film. On the other hand if you like action this is a must see film with the Sammo Hung staged fight scenes producing two instant classic battles (fish market and table battles) and a few others that are near classic. It would help to see the first film, but honestly you don't need to. (And if you ever want to see how good Simon Yam is watch his three scene near wordless cameo and have your heart broken).

As I said I think you might be able to get tickets for Sunday's screening, which if you like action is a must.

Now, for the record here are some of the other films playing at the film festival that I've seen on DVD since the festival was announced that I wasn't overly crazy about:

Raging Phoenix a Thai martial arts film that I thought had some good, notice I said some, fight sequences, however I found it extremely disappointing and weaker than similar films I saw at about the same time (say the film Coweb).

Merantau is an Indonesian action film that I'm very mixed about. It didn't thrill me for about an hour and then in picked up and became quite good before becoming uneven at the very end. Its too soapy to start and the early action isn't that good (it looks too rehearsed) but it does have an emotional spark to it, but I'd wait for DVD.

Chaw is a Korean horror comedy, stress the comedy, about a giant man eating boar in the countryside (think Jaws in the forest). Its got great characters, funny black humor and some wonderful sequences but like a stew with the best ingredients that somehow goes wrong this film doesn't quite come together. I really like the pieces but for me it didn't work as a whole. On the other hand I've read some glowing reviews.

Dear Doctor is the story of what happens when a well loved doctor goes missing and the police begin to investigate. More drama than mystery this is a slice of life film about how we accept the people in our lives on face value (and how that can be a good thing sometimes and a bad thing at other times). Winner of a couple dozen awards around the world this is a film didn't click with me. Well acted and well made I didn't see what the shouting was about. (Its good enough that I reserve the right to change my opinion upon a second viewing)

That's it for now. Here's to hoping that the run of screenings provides lots of good films and very few of these mini reviews. Other than that I'm off.

Wish me luck I'm going to need it.

*- My math has been faulty and to be honest I'm not sure how many films I'm seeing, I think the total between DVD and the screenings maybe as high as 43, but it doesn't matter, its too many movies.

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