Tuesday, May 31, 2011


ADDENDUM OF JULY3- Because people are still coming to this post while the fetival is on and tickets are on sale need to ask you to please go to the Subway Cinema site for full details on whats going on. For Unseen Films Continuing and never ending coverage of the films and the festival go here.

(Addendum of June 1st- screening schedule goes up around June 13th with tickets shortly after that)

Here it is Boys and Girls the list for this years NYAFF. Sorry About the formatting but Blogger is not my friend this morning (and I don't have time to fight with it because I'm doing this at work which is a no no- but this is too damn important.):

NEW YORK ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL July 1 - 14 at Lincoln Center (July 1 - 14) Japan Society (July 7 - 10) The New York Asian Film Festival is ten years old! And we have presents for you! A Takashi Miike World Premiere! The long-awaited animated epic based on Osamu Tezuka’s life of Buddha! The International Premiere of the new movie from Johnnie To! Rare Filipino exploitation! An avalanche of retro screenings to celebrate our tenth birthday! And special guests Tsui Hark, Ryoo Seung-Wan, Su Chao-pin, Takayuki Yamada, Tak Sakaguchi and many more! The New York Asian Film Festival is presented in association with the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Japan Society's Japan Cuts: Festival of New Japanese Film. We’re deeply grateful for the support of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office New York, the Korean Cultural Service New York and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York. Keep up with the latest festival news at: www.subwaycinemanews.com

The Line-Up!!!! Official Opening Night Film MILOCRORZE: A LOVE STORY (Japan, 2011, North American Premiere, 90 minutes) Truly trippy, this bizarro musical/variety/samurai/love story from Japan is one solid slab of psychedelia from Yoshimasa Ishibashi, the mad genius behind the Fuccon Family. ***The movie’s director, Yoshimasa Ishibashi, and star, Takayuki Yamada, will be at the screenings Presented with Japan Cuts: Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema Centerpiece Presentation SHAOLIN (Hong Kong, 2011, North American Premiere, 131 minutes)
It doesn’t get any bigger than this. Superstar Andy Lau, Nic Tse and Jackie Chan all star in this swank, blockbuster retelling of the primal martial arts story: the destruction of Shaolin Temple, which is the birthplace of martial arts. It’s a movie that’s been made many times (hence the alternate title NEW SHAOLIN TEMPLE) but never before has it been this massive, this lavish and this chock full o’action.
***The movie’s director, Benny Chan, will be at the screening Centerpiece Presentation

NINJA KIDS!!! (Japan, 2011, World Premiere, 100 minutes) - Takashi Miike has been impressing critics with 13 ASSASSINS and his 3D remake of HARA KIRI that just played Cannes. Whatever. We’ve got the World Premiere of his insane new kid’s flick about feuding ninja schools. People wonder where all the craziness went from Miike’s two new films? He put it all in here. Your jaw will drop like an elevator with a snapped cable. We love you, Takashi Miike!!! Presented with Japan Cuts: Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema

Official Closing Night Film THE YELLOW SEA (Korea, 2010, New York Premiere, 156 minutes) - from the director of THE CHASER, and fresh out of Cannes, this is the Korean action movie in excelsis. A North Korean immigrant is sent to Seoul to perform a hit. Soon the Chinese mafia, the Korean mafia and the cops, are after him and hatchets are deployed, trucks are flipped and all hell breaks loose. ***The movie’s director, Na Hong-Jin will be at the screening

The 2011 Star Asia Awards will go to: Star Asia Rising Star Award Takayuki Yamada - Japan’s most versatile young actor has gone from being a TV heartthrob to a TRAIN MAN (his breakthrough role) to one of Takashi Miike’s 13 ASSASSINS. And in this year’s Opening Night selection, MILOCRORZE: A LOVE STORY, he plays every single male part.

Star Asia Lifetime Achievement Award Tsui Hark - One of our first events was a retrospective of Hong Kong’s veteran filmmaker and award-winning director, Tsui Hark, way back in 2001. We figured it was time to bring him to the festival and recognize his extraordinary, lifelong contributions to Hong Kong cinema, especially after his latest film, DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME, was a huge box office hit and won “Best Director” at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2011.

We’ve also got three special focuses: WU XIA: HONG KONG’S FLYING SWORDSMEN Presented with the support of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office New York of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, this special focus is on Hong Kong’s wu xia (literally “martial arts”) films. It’s a genre that’s unique to Hong Kong and while it’s all about showcasing the Chinese martial arts tradition it’s come to refer specifically to that brain-expanding genre of Hong Kong movies that use the cutting edge of cinematography and the best special effects of the time to paint a world full of flying swordsmen, deadly female warriors, legendary blades and more than a touch of fantasy.

This line-up will include: DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME (Hong Kong, 2010, 122 minutes) - Tsui Hark’s return to greatness is a Holmes-ian fantasia about spontaneous combustion and kung fu deer. An exiled detective is returned to favor in the Imperial court to solve a series of mysterious deaths that delay the inauguration of the Empress Wu, played by Carina Lau, who won “Best Actress” at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2011 for her performance. The movie also won top prizes in Art Direction, Costume and Make-up Design as well as in Sound Design and Visual Effects.
***The movie’s director, Tsui Hark, will be at the screening

THE BLADE (Hong Kong, 1995, 100 minutes) - a rare screening of Tsui Hark’s martial masterpiece, this is one of the towering achievements of Chinese cinema. In a rare 35mm print.
***The movie’s director, Tsui Hark, will be at the screening

DUEL TO THE DEATH (Hong Kong, 1983, 83 minutes) - Ching Siu-tung’s directorial debut deploys ninjas, poisoned blades and some of the world’s most innovative choreography to create a movie that’s one part martial arts film, one part exploitation shocker and one part ballet. Screening on a rare 35mm print! DRAGON INN (Hong Kong, 1992, 109 minutes) - two of Hong Kong’s greatest actresses, Maggie Cheung and Brigitte Lin, take on Donnie Yen’s bloodless eunuch in this Tsui Hark-produced swordplay romance. Directed by Raymond Lee, it’s a remake of King Hu’s 1967 masterpiece. A brand new print of this classic film, struck specially for the New York Asian Film Festival.
***The movie’s producer, Tsui Hark, will be at the screening

ZU: WARRIORS FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN (Hong Kong, 1983, 94 minutes) - the movie that launched a thousand wu xia, Tsui Hark’s surreal phantasmagoria will blow your mind. Recruiting Hollywood special effects technicians just off Star Wars and Star Trek the Motion Picture, Tsui Hark’s film reinvented a genre and kickstarted Hong Kong’s entire special effects industry. This is a rare chance to see a 35mm print of this movie in all its big screen glory.
***The movie’s director, Tsui Hark, will be at the screening

Special focus: SEA OF REVENGE: NEW KOREAN THRILLERS In 2008, when the Korean film industry was at its lowest point, Na Hong-Jin released the word-of-mouth hit, THE CHASER, launching a wave of twisty thrillers focused on intense action and ace performances. In this special focus, presented in association with the Korean Cultural Service New York, we show you the best of what THE CHASER has wrought. This line-up will include:

THE YELLOW SEA (Korea, 2010, New York Premiere, 156 minutes) - Na Hong-Jin reunites with his stars from THE CHASER to make this big, relentless follow-up. We’ve got it fresh from its Cannes screening as part of Un Certain Regard
***The movie’s director, Na Hong-Jin, will be at the screening

THE UNJUST (Korea, 2010, New York Premiere, 119 minutes) - longtime festival favorite, action director Ryoo Seung-Wan, turns in this epic, sprawling corruption saga that recalls Sidney Lumet back in his PRINCE OF THE CITY days.
***The movie’s director, Ryoo Seung-Wan, will be at the screening

BEDEVILLED (Korea, 2010, New York Premiere, 115 minutes) - this time, the ladies are doing it. An all-female version of DELIVERANCE, where a city slicker goes to an insular rural community where she’s not wanted. Possibly the greatest women vs. men movie ever made, lead actress Seo Young-Hee took home six “Best Actress” awards for her performance here.

THE CHASER (Korea, 2008, 125 minutes) - the thriller that saved the Korean film industry, this mega-hit is what you’d get if you cross-bred Alfred Hitchcock with a pit bull.
***The movie’s director, Na Hong-Jin, will be at the screening

HAUNTERS (Korea, 2010, New York Premiere, 114 minutes) - 50% superhero movie, 50% horror movie and 100% Korean thriller, this bigtime commercial hit is about a troubled kid who can control minds and the simple guy, immune to his ability, who’s out to stop him.

THE MAN FROM NOWHERE (Korea, 2010, 119 minutes) - one part Batman, one part Bourne, Korean mega-star, Won Bin, revamped his image as a hard man of action with this movie about a spy coming out of retirement to take on a ring of organ harvesters. The number one movie at the Korean box office in 2010 (beating INCEPTION and IRON MAN 2), it took home SIXTEEN film awards!

TROUBLESHOOTER (Korea, 2010, New York Premiere, 99 minutes) - produced by Ryoo Seung-Wan, this is a classic “wrong man” movie, only this time the wrong man is a hardcore ex-cop (Sol Kyung-Gu from the highly successful PUBLIC ENEMY series) and it’s got the black, bleak sense of absurdist humor most thrillers lack.
***The movie’s producer, Ryoo Seung-Wan, and director, Kwok Hyeok-Jae, will be at the screening

Special focus: SU CHAO-PIN: TAIWAN’S KING OF ENTERTAINMENT In the US, we think of Taiwanese movies as an endless stream of art films. But with the support of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York, we are proud to bring to New York one of the few Taiwanese directors who makes blockbuster hits that actual real live people go to see: Su Chao-pin!

This line-up will include: REIGN OF ASSASSINS (Hong Kong/Taiwan/China, 2010, 117 minutes, New York Premiere) - co-directed with John Woo, starring Michelle Yeoh and Korean star Jung Woo-Sung, this massive martial arts hit gives the genre a beating, bleeding, romantic heart.
***The movie’s director and writer, Su Chao-pin, will be at the screening

THE CABBIE (Taiwan, 2000, 94 minutes) - Su’s first movie set new trends in Taiwan for actually being entertaining. He wrote this flick based on his experiences driving a cab, and it’s a fast-paced black comedy about a cabbie in love with a traffic cop.
***The movie’s writer, Su Chao-pin, will be at the screening

BTS: BETTER THAN SEX (Taiwan, 2002, 92 minutes) - one of the most hyperactive, funniest movies about sex you’ll ever see. Pity this poor teenage porn-addict who just wants to find a real girl. Way ahead of its time, this movie manages to be all about sex without feeling pervy. ***The movie’s director and writer, Su Chao-pin, will be at the screening
And now…the full line-up!

BUDDHA MOUNTAIN (China, 2010, North American Premiere, 105 minutes) - gobbling up festival awards around the world, Sylvia Chang stars as a suicidal landlady who rents an apartment to three irritating young hipsters in this transcendent drama from Li Yu (LOST IN BEIJING) one of the only female directors working in China. Popular actress, Fan Bingbing (SHAOLIN), stars as one of the hipsters, but it’s Sylvia Chang, the most important woman in Chinese show business in the 70’s and 80’s, who owns this movie.

OCEAN HEAVEN (China/Hong Kong, 2010, New York Premiere, 96 minutes) - directed by another female director, this movie sees Jet Li team up with cinematographer Christopher Doyle and composer Joe Hisaishi to make a restrained, heartbreaking movie about a dad (Jet Li) trying to teach his autistic son how to live on his own. Beautifully shot, scored, acted and observed, it’s got no action, all heartbreak. HONG KONG THE BLADE (Hong Kong, 1995, 100 minutes) - part of Wu Xia focus.
***The movie’s director, Tsui Hark, will be at the screening

DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME (Hong Kong, 2010, 122 minutes) - part of Wu Xia focus.
***The movie’s director, Tsui Hark, will be at the screening

DRAGON INN (Hong Kong, 1992, 109 minutes) - part of Wu Xia focus. Brand new print!
***The movie’s producer, Tsui Hark, will be at the screening

DUEL TO THE DEATH (Hong Kong, 1983, 83 minutes) - part of Wu Xia focus. PUNISHED (Hong Kong, 2011, International Premiere, 94 minutes) - the latest movie produced by Johnnie To, this is a hardcore revenge drama featuring a powerhouse turn by Anthony Wong as a real estate billonaire whose wild child daughter has been kidnapped. Bullet-to-the-head action the way Hong Kong used to do it.

SHAOLIN (Hong Kong/China, 2011, North American Premiere, 131 minutes) - Centerpiece Presentation
***The movie’s director, Benny Chan, will be at the screening

RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY (Hong Kong, 1991, 91 minutes) - the classic Hong Kong midnight action movie about prison privatization and monsters who strangle you with their guts. Rarely seen on the big screen, this is a full-on, ridiculously crazy mind-melter full of crucifixion, flaying, classic kung fu combat and prison wardens who keep breath mints in their glass eyeballs.

ZU: WARRIORS FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN (Hong Kong, 1983 94 minutes) - part of Wu Xia focus.
***The movie’s director, Tsui Hark, will be at the screening

13 ASSASSINS: DIRECTOR'S CUT (Japan, 2010, 141 minutes, New York Premiere) - the complete UNCUT version of Takashi Miike’s samurai masterpiece. With 17 minutes of original footage restored.
***One of the movie’s stars, Takayuki Yamada, will be at the screening

ABRAXAS (Japan, 2010, New York Premiere, 113 minutes) - straight outta Sundance comes this movie about a punk rocker turned Buddhist monk who still yearns to rock out.

BATTLE ROYALE (Japan, 2000, 114 minutes) - a celebratory screening of Kinji Fukasaku’s masterpiece now that it finally - after 10 years!!!! - has a new distributor who wants people to actually see it.
Presented with Japan Cuts: Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema

A BOY AND HIS SAMURAI (Japan, 2010, North American Premiere, 109 minutes) - the director of FISH STORY and GOLDEN SLUMBER returns to the festival with this family film about a samurai who winds up in the modern era. Surprisingly, it then becomes an exceptional food movie! This is the father-son movie you’ve been looking for.

DARK ON DARK (Japan, 2011, International Premiere, 17 minutes) - this short film is the directorial debut from Makoto Ohtake, a well-known Japanese comedian and actor since the 80’s (he’s worked extensively with Takeshi Kitano and the popular City Boys troupe). It’s all about a two-bit talent manager and his outrageously endowed adult video talent bringing peace into the world via their various “gifts.” Screens with HORNY HOUSE OF HORROR.

GANTZ and GANTZ: PERFECT ANSWER (Japan, 2011, 130 minutes & 150 minutes) - presented back-to-back it’s the uncut, subtitled, live action movies based on Japan’s existential sci fi action manga. It’s the New York Premiere of the subtitled GANTZ and the North American Premiere of the subtitled GANTZ: PERFECT ANSWER.
Presented with Japan Cuts: Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema

HEAVENS STORY (Japan, 2010, North American Premiere, 278 minutes) - “King of Pink Films” Takahisa Zeze spent almost two years shooting this 4 hour movie about two random murders and the heartbreak, trauma and healing that spills out from them over the next two decades. Monumental and strange, passionate and philosophical, this is an epic in every sense of the word and a towering achievement in film.
Presented with Japan Cuts: Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema

HORNY HOUSE OF HORROR (Japan, 2010, North American Premiere, 75 minutes) – Japan does the violent porno horror thing better than anyone else and this oddity features butt-walls, wiener-eating and demon hookers. This is the directorial debut from the writer of MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD, and it’s firmly in the vein of that film and ROBO GEISHA. Only, you know, set in a horny house that’s full of horror.
Preceded by: DARK ON DARK (see above, 17 minutes)

KARATE-ROBO ZABORGAR (Japan, 2011, New York Premiere, 106 minutes) – Noboru Iguchi (Robo Geisha) makes his best film yet. Not just that, but this is the best-looking flick from label, Sushi Typhoon, yet. Slick, big budget and almost family friendly, it’s based on an obscure TV show from the 70’s about a young, bright-eyed police officer and his karate robot (who transforms into a motorcycle) fighting crime. But in Iguchi’s version, the two split up and have to reunite years later after middle-age has taken its toll.

THE LAST DAYS OF THE WORLD (Japan, 2011, World Premiere, 96 minutes) - a return to the trippy, socially-engaged, blackly comic, ridiculously violent revolutionary movies of Japan’s 60’s. A high school student has a vision that the world is ending and so, faced with no consequences, he abducts a fellow student and goes on a crime spree.

LOVE AND LOATHING AND LULU AND AYANO (Japan, 2010, North American Premiere, 105 minutes) - based on a book of interviews with porn film dayworkers, this exuberant, anime-influenced movie about life on the bottom rungs of the adult film business treats life in the porno business as a chance for some actors to escape their humdrum, everyday existences.
Presented with Japan Cuts: Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema

MILOCRORZE: A LOVE STORY (Japan, 2011, North American Premiere, 90 minutes) - Opening Night Movie
***The movie’s director, Yoshimasa Ishibashi, and star, Takayuki Yamada, will be at the screenings Presented with Japan Cuts: Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema

NINJA KIDS!!! (Japan, 2011, World Premiere, 100 minutes) - Centerpiece Presentation Presented with Japan Cuts: Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema

OSAMU TEZUKA'S BUDDHA: THE GREAT DEPARTURE (Japan, 2011, North American Premiere, 111 minutes) - the much-anticipated animated epic based on Osamu Tezuka’s landmark life of the Buddha.
Presented with Japan Cuts: Festival of New Japanese Film

RINGING IN THEIR EARS (Japan, 2011, International Premiere, 89 minutes) - Yu Irie (8000 MILES 1 & 2) returns with this ambitious flick about an upcoming concert by a reclusive rock group and the managers, obsessed fans, shut-ins, single moms and kindergarten teachers who are affected by it. A true tribute to the healing power of rock and roll. Presented with Japan Cuts: Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema

VERSUS (Japan, 2000, 120 minutes) - a tenth-anniversary celebration of the Japanese zombie action film that launched a thousand horror/splatter/action flicks. ***Star and action choreographer, Tak Sakaguchi, and writer, Yudai Yamaguchi, will be at the screening.

YAKUZA WEAPON (Japan, 2011, New York Premiere, 105 minutes) - stuntman-turned-director, Tak Sakaguchi, turns in a high calibre, action-heavy riff on Robocop all about a robot yakuza out to put his fist through the skulls of the bad guys. From Sushi Typhoon, purveyor of movies like Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl.
***The movie’s director and star, Tak Sakaguchi, and co-director and writer, Yudai Yamaguchi, will be at the screening Presented with Japan Cuts: Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema

BATTLEFIELD HEROES (Korea, 2011, New York Premiere, 118 minutes) - an absurdist satire about war, this movie from Lee Joon-Ik (director of KING AND CLOWN, the highest-grossing Korean film of all time) is like a Terry Gilliam movie gone Korean as a farmer too poor to even have a name gets drafted into one of medieval Korea’s eternal wars. ***The movie’s director, Lee Joon-Ik, will be at the screening.

BEDEVILLED (Korea, 2010, New York Premiere, 115 minutes) - part of Sea of Revenge focus.

THE CHASER (Korean, 2008, 125 minutes) - part of Sea of Revenge focus.

CITY OF VIOLENCE (Korea, 2006, 92 minutes) - an encore presentation of the best all-out action film from Ryoo Seung-Wan (THE UNJUST). Like a less ironic version of KILL BILL.
***The movie’s director, Ryoo Seung-Wan, will be at the screening

FOXY FESTIVAL (Korea, 2010, North American Premiere, 110 minutes) – a “Making Our Neighborhoods Safe & Happy” festival has the vice cops working overtime in this multi-character comedy that’s like a Robert Altman flick about fetishes. Love - and handcuffs, and nipple clamps - all conspire to save the day from the forces of conformity.

HAUNTERS (Korea, 2010, New York Premiere, 114 minutes) - part of Sea of Revenge focus.

THE MAN FROM NOWHERE (Korea, 2010, 119 minutes) - part of Sea of Revenge focus.

MSFF SHORTS (Korea, 2010) - Korea’s best directors assemble two selections of that country’s best short horror, action and comedy movies just for you.

THE RECIPE (Korea, 2010, New York Premiere, 107 minutes) - a serial killer escapes from prison but is recaptured when he stops to eat a bowl of stew that’s so good he loses track of time. What is the secret behind the stew? Korea finally delivers its best food film with this kitchen romance.

TROUBLESHOOTER (Korea, 2010, New York Premiere, 99 minutes) - part of Sea of Revenge focus.
***The movie’s producer, Ryoo Seung-Wan, and director, Kwok Hyeok-Jae, will be at the screening

THE UNJUST (Korea, 2010, New York Premiere, 119 minutes) - part of Sea of Vengeance focus.
***The movie’s director, Ryoo Seung-Wan, will be at the screening

THE YELLOW SEA (Korea, 2010, New York Premiere, 156 minutes) - Closing Night Movie Part of Sea of Revenge focus. ***The movie’s director, Na Hong-Jin, will be at the screening

SELL OUT (Malaysia, 2008, New York Premiere, 110 minutes) - one of the best, smartest and funniest movies ever made in Malaysia finally escapes from the clutches of its evil distributor and it was worth the wait. A musical about money, creativity and a reality show focusing on those who are about to die, this is like nothing else in our line-up except (maybe) MILOCRORZE.

MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED (Australia, 2010, New York Premiere, 84 minutes) - from the people who made Not Quite Hollywood, comes this definitive documentary about the Filipino exploitation film bonanza that erupted in the 70’s and 80’s.

RAW FORCE (Philippines/USA, 1982, 86 minutes) - one of the strangest Filipino/US co-productions from the 80’s, this rarely-screened exploitation fever dream is better known by its other title Kung Fu Cannibals. With zombies, ninjas, samurai, kung fu, and evil monks, this is the entire 1980’s exploitation industry fired into your eyes via firehose.

BETTER THAN SEX (Taiwan, 2002, 92 minutes) – part of Su Chao-pin focus.
***The movie’s director, Su Chao-pin, will be at the screening

THE CABBIE (Taiwan, 2000, 94 minutes) - part of Su Chao-pin focus
***The movie’s writer, Su Chao-pin, will be at the screening

REIGN OF ASSASSINS (Hong Kong/Taiwan/China, 2010, 117 minutes) – part of Su Chao-pin focus.
***The movie’s co-director and writer, Su Chao-pin, will be at the screening

BKO: BANGKOK KNOCKOUT (Thailand, 2010, New York Premiere, 105 minutes) - Tony Jaa’s mentor, Panna Rittikrai, will school you now. This exploitation stunt-tacular features all his best stuntmen and women unleashing muay thai, capoeira, dirt bike fu, shovel beatdowns, fights on fire, fights in the water, fights under trucks, fights in mid-air, and two back-to-back climactic smackdowns that have to be seen to be believed.

Prepare yourselves for the best New York Asian Film Festival yet!!!

ABOUT THE FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER Under the leadership of Rose Kuo, Executive Director, and Richard Peña, Program Director, The Film Society of Lincoln Center offers the best in international, classic and cutting-edge independent cinema. The Film Society presents two film festivals that attract global attention: the New York Film Festival, currently planning its 49th edition, and New Directors/New Films which, since its founding in 1972, has been produced in collaboration with MoMA. The Film Society also publishes the award-winning Film Comment Magazine, and for over three decades has given an annual award—now named “The Chaplin Award” —to a major figure in world cinema. Past recipients of this award include Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, Meryl Streep, and Tom Hanks. The Film Society presents a year-round calendar of programming, panels, lectures, educational programs and specialty film releases at its Walter Reade Theater and the new state-of-the-art Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, opening June 2011. The Film Society receives generous, year-round support from 42BELOW, American Airlines, The New York Times, Stella Artois, the National Endowment for the Arts, WNET New York Public Media, Royal Bank of Canada and the New York State Council on the Arts. For more information, visit: http://www.filmlinc.com/

ABOUT NYAFF Subway Cinema is a New York-based film programming, exhibition, and marketing collective, committed to increasing exposure and appreciation for Asia's popular cinema with year-round events and screenings. Its flagship event is the New York Asian Film Festival (July 1 - 14) which the New York Times has called "...one of the city's most valuable events..." Launched in 2002, the NYAFF is America's leading and most influential showcase for popular Asian cinema. Each year, the Festival selects over 40 feature films, and only the best, the strangest, and the most entertaining make the cut. The NYAFF was the first North American film festival to put a spotlight on Johnnie To, Bong Joon-Ho and Park Chan-Wook and it also held the largest retrospective of Tsui Hark's work outside of Hong Kong. It is widely considered invincible. The NYAFF is made possible through the support of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office New York, the Korean Cultural Service New York, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York, Japan Foundation and the Kitano Hotel.

ABOUT JAPAN SOCIETY The Japan Society Film Program has offered a diverse selection of Japanese films, from classics to contemporary independent productions. The Program has included retrospectives of seminal directors, thematic series and special screenings of international, U.S. and NY premieres. Several original film series curated by Japan Society have traveled to other U.S. venues in tours organized by the Film Program. The Film Program has provided English subtitles for films which have never been screened outside of Japan. Accompanying lectures help place the films in their aesthetic and social contexts, and filmmakers often introduce and discuss their work. This year, Japan Cuts: Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema (July 7 - 22, 2011) becomes the world's largest showcase of contemporary Japanese cinema with 32 films in its line-up.

Black Watch (2010)

The National Theater of Scotland’s play about the title regiment's time during the early days of the Iraq is powerful theater. The play is performed in a space that approximates a parade ground with the audience on two sides and the actors entering and exiting at either end. It’s the sort of thing that is impossible to capture on film adequately since the play is staged in such away that it puts the audience in to an environment that makes you an active participant in the events. (And it should be stated, it’s impossible to see completely in person because things are often happen to your right and left at the same time.)

And yet the show was filmed for British television to very good effect.

The film that resulted is not really the show but the same time it’s probably as good a film/video representation of the show as you are likely to get.

The story of the show is that of group of soldiers who are contacted by a researcher from a theater company who want to know if they want to talk about Iraq. They jump at the prospect of meeting a beautiful girl, and are angry when a guy shows up. After accepting drinks they begin to tell the story of their time in Iraq leading up to the death of several of their number in a roadside bombing.(That’s not a spoiler you learn how several end up early on.)

The story is focused squarely on the fighting men. It is not about the war, only the men who fight it, or rather a bunch of guys fighting one small portion of it. And when I say it focuses on the men I mean just that, other than the researcher, a couple of fleeting other characters we are focused squarely on the men and their life in Iraq supporting the American forces.

It’s a deeply moving story that plays differently than it does on stage. Stripped of the vast expanse of a stage and with our view picked by the camera the film becomes much more intimate. We now we really see the faces and expressions of the soldiers. Where they were friends on stage they are now intimates.

You probably won’t get any insight on Iraq, but you will stare deeply into the soul of our fighting men. I can’t really describe what seeing this is like. It’s a trip into the mind and soul of those who choose to fight for us…and ultimately for each other. Rest assured that by the time the end comes you will be moved.

Worth tracking down.(currently out on DVD in the UK it can be had via Amzaon UK.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Year in Asian Cinema So Far

What movie festival tells its audience, the day before announcing its lineup, which movies are NOT going to be shown? What movie festival tells us who’s given them the brush-off, and who they have given the brush off to? The New York Asian Film Festival, of course. As Subway Cinema, the collective that puts it all together, lets it all hang out on its twitter feed , I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at the Asian film activity that’s gone down in New York City this year so far on this “NYAFF line-up announcement eve.”

It hasn’t been a good year for Asian Cinema here in the Empire City , it’s been a great year! There have been numerous events highlighting exciting movies from the far East, which NYAFF’s rise in prominence is surely more than a little responsible for. Some of them have even been co-presented by This only increases the pressure on the Subway Cinema crew to deliver a spectacular festival this summer as they celebrate their tenth anniversary fest, their second one held at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater.

Events are listed below, as close to chronological order as I could get, with a few highlights from each.

1. Korean Movie Night @ Tribeca Cinemas (ongoing)

This almost biweekly free screening of rare films from Korea is in its second year, and occupies a small room at Tribeca Cinemas. Currently, they arein the middle of a run of independent movies, the next of which is Vegetarian on June 7.

Highlights: A Barefoot Dream (w/ director q & a), Take Off, Yobi the Five Tailed Fox

2. Run, Salaryman, Run! (Sabu Retrospective) @ Japan Society

A showcase of this hardworking Japanese director's films, which have rarely been screened in the US, was shown.

Highlights: Monday (w/ director q & a), Drive.

3. Hardest Men in Town (Yakuza films) @ Japan Society

Several films focusing on Yakuza gangster stories were shown at the Japan Society. Many were rare and from long ago.

Highlights: Outrage dir. by Kitano Takeshi, q & a w/ Jake Adlestein, author of the book Tokyo Vice.

4. Children's International Film Festival

This event featured two hard hitting anime features from Japan.
Highlights Welcome to the Spaceshow, Time of Eve

5. Film Comment Selects @ Walter Reade Theater

This is an annual event that features an inernational selection of unique and independent films, past and present. This year, three new Asian films were shown as a co-presentation from Subway Cinema.

Highlights: Cold Fish dir. by Sono Sion , I Saw The Devil dir. by Kim Ji-woon

6. Severely Damaged (Kim Ji Woon retrospective) @ BAM
Six of the highly regarded Korean director's films were shown, including I Saw the Devil, which the director introduced and answered questions about. I Saw The Devil went on to be screened in a few small nyc theaters for about a month.

Highlights: I Saw the Devil w/ dir. q & a, Host w/ dir. q & a, The Foul King

7. 13 From Takashi Miike (Takashi Miike restrospective) @ Walter Reade Theater
Several of the prolific Japanese director's films were shown, including the premiere of his latest film 13 Assassins. Plans for him to appear were cancelled due to the tragic earthquake that struck Japan. He spoke to audience of some of the films, however, via skype.

Highlights: 13 Assassins premieire w/ dir. q & Audition, Graveyard of Honor

8. Tribeca Film Festival

A few movies in this festival's (also in its tenth year) massive slate were from Asia. These include two big release from China. Their Cinemania program of more off beat independent films included a Japanese Pinku Yokai monster comedy.

Highlights: Detective Dee and the Phantom Flame dir. by Tsui Hark), Let the Bullets Fly dir. by Wen Jiang, Underwater Love dir. by Shinji Imaoka

9. Blissfully Thai @ Asia Society

A retrospective of dramas and experimental films from Thailand which started in May and continues until June 17. It kicked off with Ploy, a little seen film by Pen-ek Ratanaruang, director of the acclaimed Last Life in the Universe.

Highlights: Ploy w/ dir.q & a, conversation with Pen-ek Ratanaruang and Apichatpong Weerasethakul (director of Uncle Boomee, Who Can Recall his past Lives), Tears of the Black Tiger

Not bad, not bad at all, considering past years have had long stretches of several months where I had found no Asian cinema to write about at all! I’m sure that’s not everything, so do leave a shout if you’ve got something I’ve left out.

Now, let’s get ready for Subway Cinema and NYAFF to deliver the goods.

What is not playing at this years New York Asian FIlm Festival (amended)

A little while ago the powers that be at the NYAFF started tweeting the films that would not be on the list when the schedule when it comes out tomorrow. I had spoken to Grady about the Yamato situation this past Tuesday, he wouldn't go into any of the others since he was heartbroken that some of them didn't fall the right way.

For those not following Subway Cinema's Twitter account I present the list of films not playing this years festival as tweeted:

Today, in an effort to lessen disappointment after tomorrow's lineup announcement, we'll list some movies you WON'T be seeing at NYAFF 2011.

As just mentioned, you won't be seeing Hitoshi Matsumoto's SAYA SAMURAI

Also not at NYAFF: SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO. Sorry, folks; we tried so hard on this one. But distrib shenanigans have been ongoing for 6 mo's

Another one to file under distrib shenanigans: WU XIA. Saw it at Cannes, loved it, wanted to book it. But it's being recut & rescored, so no

We'd be willing to bet that neither of those previous two titles will ever see the light of a projector lamp in North America

Titles not ready for us that we were interested in: Hong Kong exploitation fest NAKED SOLDIER, Korean 3D monster movie SECTOR 7. Too early

Also too early for Soi Cheang's MOTORWAY (looks awesome), and Taiwan war epic SEEDIQ BALE. Ditto Ning Hao's NO MAN'S LAND, now in limbo.

Also not screening at NYAFF 2011: 3D SEX AND ZEN. We tried, they requested opening night, we laughed and said 'thanks - we'll letcha know'

Also no KING NARESUAN 3 for us. We sought Thai gov't support but couldn't get it, and the film slipped off our radar.

We tried but failed to book the CHINESE GHOST STORY remake as part of our wu xia focus program. Chalk that one up to distributor craziness.

So many high-profile targets weren't available this year we decided to increase the # of retro screenings. That's what WE'd rather watch!

A reminder that we still have nearly fifty awesome movies to show you, including two World, three International & ten N American premieres!

Shame (1968)

Today is Memorial Day. With that in mind I have decided to review one of the best antiwar films ever made SHAME.

Ingmar Bergman's meditation on war concerns a couple living an idyllic existence on a small island off the coast (of what country isn't specified). Raging off in the distance is a war they know only from news reports. As they go about their day the war comes to them and it soon becomes a struggle for survival as both sides seem not to care about them.

This is a bleak look at the human cost of war and those not readily engaged in battle but caught in the cross fire none the less. Its a movie ahead of its time as some 40 years since it was made the notion of armies at war where most of the casualties are the civilians have come of age. This is a dark disturbing film that is told from the average person's point of view with the complete sense of hopeless and confusion best expressed in the thought that kept running through my head, "what do I do now?".

As an intellectual exercise the film is top notch, this is a film that will make you think. As an emotional film it is touching but never fully moving. I was never moved emotionally even as the horror of the situation made my brain do flip flops. (I should state that I admire Bergman intellectually for the ideas that he brings to the table, however I have never been moved by his films. I am not a "fan". I always sided with Fellini in the old film class argument as to who was better since he had more emotion to his films).

Reservations aside this is required viewing especially since we live in a world were war, for most of us, is just a thing on a TV screen.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Restrepo (2010)

With tomorrow being Memorial Day we continue our weekend of films on the fighting men of the the US military with the Oscar Nominated film Restrepo.

The title of the film is the name of a fallen soldier. He was a well loved medic who died in battle. In his honor his men named the forward position of their base in the Korengal Valley. It's a place that takes fire everyday. It was built on the place that one of the main places used for attack by the men fighting American forces.

The film covers a year with the men at the base. It show the men as they interact with the locals, fight the enemy and wait. It's put together to give one the feel of what life is like in the trenches- or in this case on the mountain in the firebase. Footage of life in the base is inter-cut with interviews with the men.

I really liked this film. It's a great view of what the soldiers in Afghanistan are experiencing. It's a film that makes the news stories become more than just a sound bite with an action shot. This is a real nuts and bolts look at what our fighting men our experiencing.

You need to see this.

Currently out on DVD.

Addendum: When I wrote this brief piece several months ago co director Tim Hetherington was still alive. When I heard of Hetherington's death I started to tinker with the post in order to some how mention his passing but I couldn't come up with anything that worked. For me Restrepo works because it's basically the soldiers being themselves without outside interference. Its a simple film of great power that I had to mention even though I didn't have a lot of words simply because it's so important. Hetherington's death doesn't change that, even if it drives home the notion that war is dangerous.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Tillman Story (2010)

This is a celebration of the life of Pat Tillman and an examination of his death, and how the Army tried to turn his death into something for their own ends and how the family choose to take them on and reclaim their son's honor.

The story that the army wanted told was that in the wake of 9/11 Pat Tillman went to war to fight for his country. Sadly while in Afghanistan he was killed in a fire fight and died a hero fighting the enemy.

Sadly that was not the case and Tillman's death was a tragic accident which resulted from friendly fire, and which was not something that the army, nor anyone in the Bush administration wanted revealed.

What transpired was years of investigations and restatements of fact as layers of a cover up were revealed and the family was left disillusioned.

The strength of the Tillman's story is the simplicity of the tale. Pat Tillman was the sort of unconventional no nonsense guy that most people loved. He did what he felt was right and offered no explanation for it. He went to war because he felt he had to. He stayed in the army despite reservations because he had committed to it and to the men in his unit. He didn't want to be a hero or to stand out, he just wanted to serve and do what had to be done.

Sadly from the moment of his enlistment to well past the time he died the powers that be tried to control the Tillman story for their own ends. Tillman tried to fight them were he could and when he passed and the bullshit started to pile up his family started to look for the truth. While they didn't like the idea that his death was a friendly fire incident, they didn't like that Tillman's death was being used for reasons that went beyond what Tillman stood for.

This is a great film. It's a wonderful portrait of a man, and of a family that couldn't stand the BS and took a stand, even though what it revealed was very painful.

As we move towards Memorial Day on Monday we should remember the men like Pat Tillman, who fought and died for the right reasons, the belief in the greater truths of America and not the manufactured ones that those in power would have us believe.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Brooklyn Film Festival starts next week and is a go. The Gold Coast FIlm Festival is also next week and is unlikely

The Brooklyn Film Festival starts next Friday and runs until the 12th. Its an interesting mix of features and shorts. I've just purchased tickets and I'm planning on attending two series of shorts (June 6th) and three features (June 9th).

I'll report in once I go.

Sadly it appears that I won't be able to attend the slightly counter programmed Gold Coast Film Festival. Despite being closer to my home and the scheduling of some great looking films I have familial obligations that conflict just enough as to make my attendance very unlikely

Capsule Reviews 5/27/11

Lucky Devils(1933)

The story of some Hollywood stunt men. beginning with a great bank robbery set piece that turns out to be for a movie, the film then shifts gears to tell the story of the stuntmen and their women and their fears. The film stars William (Hopalong Cassidey) Boyd as Skipper, the leader of the bunch. Filled with great stunt set pieces this is neat little treat that is unlike any other behind the scenes film for a number of reasons. First off the film seems to be reasonably realistic with the way films were shot back in the early 30's. Granted there is the notion that things are shot straight through, but there is something about what it shows matching up with some of the tales I've heard about the early days of film making. Another thing that's atypical is that the film is about stunt men,. I don't think it was until the late 1970's that stuntmen really took the front and center as subjects for films.

The Body Vanished (1939)
Short British programmer about the death of a man who's body goes missing when the police arrive. They are helped by a Scotland Yard detective on vacation in the village. How he pieces together the crime, of who is dead and why is the film. An amusing film that runs only 45 minutes (it was a quota film) it does what it needs to entertainingly and gets off which is more than anyone could ask.... (The quota films were short little films just over the minimum feature length of around 45 minutes, made to fill the British Government demand that a certain percentage of films shown be British. There are many wonderful little films of this length and I'll be doing some of them soon.)

Phantom Shot(1947)
British murder mystery with the subtitle "Crime Quiz". The plot of the film concerns the murder of of a hated squire. The twist in the film is that the police detective in charge with the case speaks directly to the audience and challenges us to work out who done it along with him. He then gives us all the information he has before he begins questioning the suspects. It's a good little film running slightly less than an hour that reminds me of the Ellery Queen TV series from the 1970's which had Queen pausing to ask us if we know who did it. In this case we are brought in at the start. While the murder itself isn't anything special the fact that we are in on the investigation makes this a neat little film. Worth a look see.

I should point out that all three of today's films are available from Sinister Cinema.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

For those not following the NYAFF twitter feed...

...the announcement of the remaining titles and the schedule has been pushed back from today to next week:

NYAFF 2011 lineup announces early next week! 45 features coming your way this July, including 11 retro films. It's our ten year flashback!

This is 3 films less than originally announced (A May 19 Tweet said 48 films). I'll keep you posted as to anything I find out. If you want to beat me to the punch you should follow the Subway Cinema Twitter account and the Subway Cinema blog.

The Time That Remains (2010)

Utterly brilliant deadly serious farce/satire look at Arab Israeli situation from 1948 until now. Following various characters the film charts the stupidity of war and how, ultimately we're all the same.

It's kind of hard to explain the plot of the film other than to say it covers the life and times of the various characters over the sixty plus years from the founding of Israel until now. I know it kind of sounds like a cop out to say just see the film, but just see the film. The madness of life is there and it's done in such away that you'll end up wondering why we all don't get along with each other when you stop to think about it, we all are really living with each other anyway.

I really liked the film. rarely do you get to see people really being people and not cartoons or characters. Sure some of this is silly (covering the guy on the cell phone with a tank) but life is like that, just as the sudden dark turns never seem out of place (shooting the woman who taunts the soldiers). It's all life wonderfully portrayed.

Equally wonderful is how the film is shot. Rarely has the wide screen frame been used so magnificently. Not only do we see what is happening, but things are framed so that very often the very notion of the film being a film is demolished. We are in places looking through windows or doors, watching events transpire in "real" time. And of course it all looks great. You'll want to hop on a plane and go see the country yourself.

This is one of my finds of 2011. I just loved this film a great deal, and was annoyed when I saw this late one night on Sundance Selects pay per view service since I knew I wasn't going to be able to watch it one or two more times in the 24 hour rental period.

See this film, it's a great film that you'll enjoy as a story and as something greater.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Comic Book Confidential (1988)

Why don't more people talk about this movie?

I, after all, read a lot of comics. I talk about comics a lot. I read blogs and books about comics.

But until I came across it streaming on Netflix last year, I had never heard of it. (At least, to my knowledge.)

Independent comics have been a "thing" since the 1960s, but even now, they tend to be overlooked in favor of their mainstream counterparts. And that's understandable, certainly, but it's amazing to see a documentary from nearly 25 years ago covering this scene with intelligence and respect. It still feels relevant now, especially when taking into account how many of the creators here, such as Lynda Barry, Charles Burns and Jaime Hernandez, are still very much making comics.

Free of narration, Ron Mann's movie has a playful tone. There's a brief overview of the history of comics that uses archival footage to make its points. Mostly, though, the focus is on the creators. Mann doesn't ignore the superhero side of things -- Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are featured here -- but it's primarily about the alternative scene.

Lightly animated and narrated pages from various comics make the focus about the work itself and what it means -- to both creators and fans. I love that the comics themselves get to play such a prominent role in this film. It's a good introduction to the medium for people who may not be familiar with it. I think is a great, entertaining gateway into what comics are all about. It's also a great companion (although it has much higher production values) to the more recent Independents (or rather, Independents is a great companion for this one).

(Just as a note: Everyone looks so young! It's amazing to me! I also love the long-haired Frank Miller toward the end being all self-important. If you like comics and were maybe too young for some of this the first time around, it's a lot of fun to watch it just for that.)

Home (2009)

Amazing documentary showing the beauty and wonder of our home, the earth.

Yann Arthus-Bertrand filmed the majesty of the world from above. It's a stunning look at the planet both in it's natural and it's man made beauty.

Narrated by Glenn Close in the English version the film is a plea to stop the destruction we are causing on many parts of the planet. If there is a weak spot in the film it's that the narration can be a little to arch and meaningful. For me the beauty of the images is enough.

This is a film to make you go WOW.

I saw this on DVD, which is fine, especially on a big screen TV, except that having seen the film, I could kick myself for missing the chance to have seen the film, for free, in a theater a few weeks back when the film ran for a week at theater in Manhattan.

Out on DVD and available via the films website which links to the film on You Tube.

A must see for anyone who loves the beauty of the world.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Missing Person-The Korean Cultural Service film for this week (plus word on the NYAFF)

I attended the Korean Cultural Service screening of Missing Person tonight at the Tribeca Cinemas.

As Grady Hendrix from the New York Asian Film Festival said, its "a film you admire more than like". He added it's a "feel bad film of the highest order".

I think it's a well made, well acted film. Its a great little film on pretty much all the technical aspects. It's a film that really makes you feel miserable and hopeless.

Unfortunately the film itself is ultimately utterly pointless. I don't know why it needed to be 95 minutes since you know minute one what it's saying only they repeat it for an hour and a half.

The film concerns a real estate agent who is a real jerk. He's having an affair with a high school girl; he's sleeping with one woman who neglects her daughter; he's also sleeping with another woman who is the mother of his children; plus he is having other affairs. As life pushes down on him, he takes it out on a mentally challenged man he hires to hang up posters of missing dogs (and later people). Everyone is abusing someone with the lowest man taking it out on kids, dogs and some of the people who are abusing the real estate agent. It's told with an eye toward cold black humor.

The trouble is the round robin of abuse doesn't go anywhere, it's just a collection of cruelties and shocks (trust me, you don't want to know what is spread on trees to attract dogs) designed purely to get a rise out of the audience.

What is the point?

I don't know. There is no pay off or revelation only cruelty. While I despise a film like the Oscar nominated Dogtooth (find it stupid beyond words), I at least can see how it can be argued that there is a point to it. This film doesn't have one. There is no revelation that couldn't have been seen five minutes in. (For the record do I like this film way more than Dogtooth- even though I find it pointless).

I can't recommend it, even to people who like films that just push buttons.

I think this is the only real miss from the Korean Cultural Service this year.Having seen the next two films in the series, I can honestly say that this misfire seems to be a one off.

Onward and upward.


Before the film I got a couple of minutes to talk to Grady about the up coming New York Asian Film Festival. In answer to the emails I've received, Grady said the schedule and list of films should be announced Thursday (as previously announced), though a small possibility is that it will take place Friday. He said there that pretty much everything is in place but one small detail needs to be ironed out.

I did not press for additional titles simply because I'm sooooo looking forward to going to the festival that I would have blown the reveal and told you everything before they were ready.

I will post the schedule here as soon as I get it. You should also be checking Subway Cinema News and the Subway Cinema Twitter account

tiny Furniture (2010)

Young woman comes home after graduating from college and tries to get her life together as she deals with her mom, her sister, some friends and two potential boyfriends.

Inde darling film is both much better than I expected but not as good as I hoped. Don't get me wrong its a good movie and worth a look, I just was bothered by a few things. First up some of the performances are uneven. Lena Dunham who wrote, directed and stars in the film is good, but erratic in her performance, I think largely because she's doing too much. The guy who plays the slacker who latches on to her an leaches from her for a couple of weeks is so dead pan as to be nearly dead. The character is also so unlikable you don't see what out heroine sees in him (his philosophical cowboy is not even clever). The other people are mostly good, with Dunham's mom hitting one out of the park in every scene she's in.

Another problem I have is that while the camera work looks great its rather static and unremarkable. I understand Dunham was working under constraints but it makes the film feel like any number of inde films, which it really isn't.

On the other hand the script is often witty and on target (why the film isn't like many independent films recently). I really liked much of the dialog even if the drama is uneven.

Worth a look

Monday, May 23, 2011

Free Korean Movies continue tomorrow night in NYC

The next Korean Cultural Service screening is tomorrow night at the Tribeca Cinemas in Manhattan. The film is Missing Person and is about how cruelty in society trickles down. The press release says its a film that's guaranteed to disturb.

Barring a change in plan I'm going to be heading in.

Show time is 7PM and doors open at 630.

Capsule Reviews: Japanese TV

This time out three TV series from the 1950's and 60's from Japan that I saw on DVD via unsubtitled episodes.

This TV show started out as a manga by Astroboy creator Osamu Tezuka. It was turned into a 26 episode TV series a short time later. The series concerns a young man who comes to Tokyo from his village where he gets work doing animation for Osamu Tezuka. The twist in the whole thing is that he is really a vampire (though the notion of being a vampire here makes him more like werewolf). On the basis the first four episodes I saw the series is an interesting misfire. What is interesting is the fact that the werewolves and all the special effects are animated. The integration is hit and miss, but for the most part it works (not always well) but well enough to create it’s own unique feel. The real problem with the series for me was that the episodic nature of TV doesn’t allow it to build a real head of steam. Things begin to build only to find that they are over. Even allowing for the fact that things get picked up in part in the next show the rhythms are all off. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t see the show, you should, especially if you are interested in Comics, animation or just off the beaten track TV shows.

Tetsujin 28
Odd ball live action version of the cartoon and comic best known as Gigantor in the US. This is the original series about a boy and his giant robot. With characters dressed to approximate the characters in the cartoon, the series is a game attempt at doing the impossible on the cheap. It doesn’t work because the cheapness of the robot costumes is so silly as to be laughable. I wasn’t giggling I was laughing out loud at the ridiculousness of it all. Does it make it a bad viewing experience, no, it makes it a barrel of laughs. Sadly you kind of feel bad at laughing simply because the producers were trying as best they could. It just didn’t work. It was a good idea, unfortunately they probably shouldn’t have moved forward with it. Still if you love cheesy productions you really need to jump at the chance of seeing this because it is a great deal of fun.

Marine Kong
Off the wall giant monster TV series about a giant robot that looks like a giant monster and is used to try and take over the world. At least thats what the wiki entries and the messageboard posts I've read have said about it. I can't tell for certain since I watched three non-subtitled episodes, none of which seemed connected. Being a fan of giant monster movies in general I found the series to be a blast. The monster suit is very clearly a suit.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Scoutman (2000)

Parts of this film disturbed me. Parts of this left me wondering what its all about.

Very simply put this is the story of a couple who end up in Japan's porn business. It is an eye opening look at how things are done in another country. We watch as a young man becomes a scout-man, a person who accosts women on the street in a large Japanese city talking them into appearing in porn films or nude layouts. Eventually the girl drifts into the business and the whole thing puts a strain on the relationship. A good deal more happens and doesn't happen. Its kind of a weird slice of life thats almost cinema verite in style.

Its an odd film, that I'm not sure I liked completely. Its been ages since I've seen it and I'm still trying to put my feelings together about it. This is definitely not your typical run of the mill film. Its a something that would make for an interesting addition to a film festival of porn related films like Boogie Nights and Hardcore. Though say what you will the fact that the film has hung with me so long after I've seen it says a great deal.

If you're adventurous I'd give it a try. I can't say what you'll make of it but it will certainly not be your typical night at the movies.

Currently available in the US as an import DVD.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The End of the World (1931)

If you are reading this the world didn't end. The announced rapture didn't happen and the world continues to go on as it did before. (Sorry Mr Camping you got it wrong again)

In honor of the non-end of the world and to satisfy those of you hoping for some real destruction, I'm giving a brief review of Abel Gance's first sound film The End of the World.

The plot of the film has an astronomer (played by Gance) discovering that a comet is racing toward the earth and that it will soon crash and destroy the planet. As the people panic, the governments of the world try to stop the scientist from speaking because they figure it will stop the panic.

The version I saw was the chopped up American version running some 54 minutes. This is about an hour short of the original French cut and about two hours short of Gance's pre-release version which ran three hours (that information is from IMDB). This short version is an ungodly mess. A weird amalgam of sound and silent sequences, the film is full of typical Gance touches such as wild cross cutting and images within images. The film seems not to belong in either the sound nor silent era. Much of the dialog (which is in subtitled French) has been removed and the story is linked by title cards.

Its a trippy film that is full of incredible images and a weird sense that Gance had actually filmed people expecting the end of everything. The destruction is an odd mix of real images, okay special effects and images arranged for effect. The scenes are not your typical world ending images,and while they often seem cheezy they also produce a deeply disturbing effect (or is that simple because I'm writing this up hours before the supposed end of the world?)

Frankly the film as it is seen here, is not a real story. Its more a collection of images and scenes strung together for effect rather than a real drama. If you've ever seen any of Gance's other films ( say Neopleon or J'accuse)you know that the lack of characters and a more solid detailed plot is not Gance's doing. Indeed the credits on the version I saw seemed to be almost entirely bogus not listing Gance anywhere.

Personally I would love to see the full version of this film if I can ever find it, because despite this cut being a curio at best, the images and the snippets of plot that survive foretell a potentially amazing viewing experience in it's full glory. I should also add that I look forward to sitting down and seeing this film again in this version since there is something very primal about the images that mess with you on an very basic level.

Definitely worth a look see if you can find a copy.(Sinister Cinema is selling the short version I watched.) If anyone knows of a full version in English anywhere please let me know I would love to see it.

Nawa Deka aka Rope Detective

We're taking a couple of weeks off before getting to our last weekend of Morbius films. Eden is off on assignment the next two weeks so I'm back to programming things. Next weekend will be several films that tie into the Memorial day weekend. This weekend however we're taking a walk on the wild side with two films set in the Japanese sex industry. First up: Nawa Deka, a conventional murder mystery spiced up by it's setting.

How you react to this movie will depend on your tolerance for the ability of Japanese film makers to mix genres with the greatest of ease in order to make unique concoctions. Nawa Deka or the Rope Detective is an off beat mix of bondage, mystery and comedy that comes together in a rather one of a kind film.

The film tells the story of a guy who is very good at using ropes to tie up women for erotic photo shoots. As one women he's working on says, "you're very good, it doesn't hurt at all". The guy also works at a bondage club where S&M shows are put on. It isn't long before he's hip deep into a couple of side problems, one involving the missing sister of a woman he rescues and the other the death of a woman at friends house and who was being chased by the yakuza.

Its a story similar to ones you've seen a dozen times before but told with a new angle that makes it worth your time and popcorn. At first, as we see the first photo shoot, the film is somewhat erotic then as things progress and we see the matter of fact attitude of the crew the eroticism wears off and we're left giggling at the silliness of it all. Clearly this is a film thats going to put a spin on your expectations. I liked that the film drew you in with the promise of sex and then pulled the rug out from under you, leaving you instead in the company of some rather interesting characters. And make no mistake about it the reason that the film works is because you genuinely like the people on the screen. The main characters are actually just a bunch of ordinary people on the fringe of society where bondage is just a job. You feel their pain and happiness because they really are just like the rest of us.

I really liked this film a great deal. To be honest its probably not the 8 out of 10 that I've rated it at IMDB, but given that its a genuinely good movie that is pretty much unlike any other that I've ever seen I've had to give it a coupe of extra points. By being unique its gone from being a run of the mill mystery comedy that I just watched and enjoyed, and turned into something that I'll remember and can recommend to those who want to see something familiar done differently.

Be warned you will see nudity and bondage so if that sort of thing on the face of it upsets you look elsewhere. Also there can be a hard edge to some of the violence so this is definitely a hard R rated film.

If you can find yourself a copy do see it. I suggest trying places like Video Search of Miami

Friday, May 20, 2011

Cool stuff coming to Lincoln Center including the best film festival in New York (plus several other festivals and screenings)

Burn out is a terrible thing and we at Unseen Films have been contending with post Tribeca burn out, not to mention the slings and arrows of life. The practical upshot of this is that we have been slightly remiss in covering a wide variety of cool things going on in the film world.

I need begin to fix that by telling you there are several really great series happening at Lincoln Center over the next few weeks.

First up is this weekend’s Elizabeth The Golden Age. This is a weekend long look at the iconic films of Elizabeth Taylor. It’s a great selection of films.

After that they are doing a retrospect of the work of Norman Jewison, one of the more under appreciated directors working today. Over the last 50 years he’s made some classic films but no one seems to talk about him all that much any more. You need to find the time to go see some of these films on a big screen (Rollerball or And Justice For All Or Fiddler on the Roof or Thomas Crown Affair or Jesus Christ Superstar), more so since Mr Jewison will be in attendance at some of them.

From there we get the annual look at current Italian cinema. This will be followed in close order by the Human Rights Watch Film Film Festival.

In the middle of all of that will be the opening of the new film center. I’ve gotten a press release about this and god damn they have have some great stuff planned including twelve hours of free films that opened the New York Film Festival(Pulp Fiction, Ran Day For Night Among them), Oliver Stone appearing with the final cut of Alexander, Paul Schrader appearing with The Conformist and Kevin Smith taking on Valley Girl. There is some real kick ass stuff here and as soon as I get more details of whats happening when I will post it. Needless to say Unseen will be there.

Then at last comes one of the highlights of my film going year, The New York Asian Film Festival. This is the best festival in New York bar none. They are no longer tied with NYICFF and stand all alone at the top of the heap. (Sorry guys your vibe changed this year and as much I had a blast you guys seem to be going in a different direction). Based on what's been leaking out from the guys putting the NYAFF together this festival should be a blast and a half. They schedule comes out next week and I can’t wait. (I’m trying to figure out if there is going to be anyway I can see all 48 movies). Expect extensive coverage like last year from both myself, Mondocurry and anyone else we can sucker into going.

Related to that the Japan Society has begun teasing the films for their annual Japan Cuts series. The page where some pictures of up coming titles can be found here. And keep it bookmarked since that will be the place to go to when the whole schedule goes up.

Elsewhere in the New York Metro area there are a couple of other film festivals coming up.

June first through fifth is the Gold Coast Film Festival. It’s being held in several towns on the North Shore of Long Island and has several films from Tribeca screening in addition to some other good looking films. They are also having a master class with animator Bill Plympton and a talk with Bruce Dern. Details can be found here. I’ll have more details closer to time.

June 3rd is the start of the Brooklyn Film Festival. This film has a couple of good looking films attached and if I can work out how to get there (and I find out what the schedule is for the festivities for my nieces birthday)

Lastly Tuesday is the next film in the free screenings of the Korean Cultural Service. This time it’s Missing Person, a black film about the cruelty in society. The press material says the film will mess you up. I’ll be attending so watch this space Tuesday or Wednesday for a review.

That's it for now. I'll have more soon.

Chicken Park (1996)

A low low low brow spoof of everything with a Jurassic Park setting with chickens instead of dinosaurs. It's an Airplane style comedy with really low standards.

The plot of the film has a schmo Vladimiro (played by writer director and star Jerry Cala) trying to find his prize fighting chicken which was stolen. Following the clues he ends up in the jungle where he finds some one is breeding giant chickens. (And yes it is that stupid)

This is a movie to watch with a bunch of friends and loved ones who don't mind laughing at jokes so bad under normal circumstances you kill the person who told them to you (beer would also help).

You really have to like really bad and really low humor. The key to enjoying the film is to look at the title and the premise and realize that it doesn't get any better than that. If the title and premise don't make you snicker than avoid the movie, it wasn't meant for you, if you do snicker or smile as you say "oh come on" then you at least understand the humor and you may find it funny in a so bad its good sort of way.

Personally I like the film and its rude, crude, "we have no morals or scruples" way of dishing out laughs. I have no idea how you're going to run this down. I picked this up years ago from Video Search of Miami. I don't think they still carry it, but I have seen it listed here and there over the years.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Son of Hitler (1978)

Its nice to see Peter Cushing do comedy but couldn't he have picked a better movie? Cushing (who is quite good if badly directed) plays an ex-Nazi general looking for the son of Adolf Hitler, who was spirited away after the war. Cushing wants to use him as part of the NEIN party, a fascist organization attempting to get power. When Willi appears in the person of Bud Cort things don't go as anyone planned. This movie, which appears never to really have played anywhere, is one of a kind. I don't know how else to describe it. Offensive? Unfunny? Inept? How many words do I have? I would wonder how this film ever got made, but I suspect from the things that do work, that the script probably read well and seemed like a good idea (at least worth a paycheck for Cort,Cushing and Anton Diffring). The trouble occurred when it was filmed and what seemed like comedy and satire turned dark and decidedly not humorous, at least as its presented here. Then again I'm probably reaching for straws since this movie seems determined not to be anything else other than unnerving, why else would be have constant shots of Hitler cut into the action. It also seems to want to make a point of some kind, but I haven't figure out what that is. Should you see this? For bad movie lovers and those who must see movies unlike anything else its a must. This movie will scar you and have you screaming in pain like the best of them (figuratively speaking). There is nothing quite like this film, sort of like there is nothing like chewing on aluminum foil or putting lemon juice in a paper cut. Anyone not looking for bad or unique cinematic experiences should stay away. 3 out of 10 for bad movie lovers, otherwise this is impossible to rate. As far as I know this film has never been officially released. I picked up my copy from Shocking DVDS. An aside. Hitler probably really did have a son, the result of his time in France during the First World War. He grew up working for the railroad and having almost no contact with his father.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods (2010)

Grant Morrison is a man whose head is exploding with so many ideas that it seems he just doesn't have enough time to commit all of them to paper. Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods is a film trying to document the mind that can barely contain all those ideas. In an effort for the film to try and keep up with the mind, this is one of the more faster-paced documentaries you're likely to run across. Sound byte after sound byte is rapidly thrown at you, either by one of the many different comic book creators who were interviewed for this film, or from one of the numerous conversations with the man himself. There is a barrage of information hurled at you in almost non-stop fashion.

Morrison, possibly the most acclaimed and imaginative comic book writer of this generation, has led, and continues to lead, a fascinating life. The line between fact and fiction, between fantasy and reality, between what he makes up for his stories and what he's actually transcribing from his own experiences for his stories, is an incredibly thin and blurry one. Part of the appeal of his writing, and consequently of him, is the fact that no one is quite sure just what is fact and what is fiction when it concerns him. The mystery surrounding the man is part of his character, which he has in turn used for several different characters over his writing career.

The aforementioned information barrage is the thrust of the film. There must have been hundreds of hours of footage shot, between the at least half-dozen interviews with Morrison himself, along with the many different comic creators, counter-culture personalities, and friends who appear in the film. There are people who appear on-screen for literally 2 seconds to say something that bridges a gap between the 2 surrounding statements. It could be argued that this is incredibly efficient filmmaking, that only the best and most relevant bits are what comprise the film. While that may be true, it doesn't necessarily mean it's what should have been done. You aren't really given a chance to digest what anyone is saying, because the next clip is biting at the heels of the previous one, almost as if each sound byte is vying for your attention. Make no mistake, what's there is terrific; there are some fantastic quotes from many different people, and many quotable lines from Morrison himself. It's just not an easy film to watch.

Talking With Gods is a patchwork of interview segments, and must have been an absolute nightmare to compile from the editing standpoint. Often, brief segments of Morrison talking about a subject are intercut with other brief segments of Morrison talking, from a different interview, about the same subject. While it makes sense in a linear standpoint, you rarely get to see someone finish a sentence, let alone a full thought. It makes the film come across as a million little parts that never quite come together to form a cohesive whole. It gets the job done well enough; you learn much about Morrison, you get to follow his progression from childhood to professional writer to "comic book rock star"...but due to the way the million little bits are put together, you're left with a nagging feeling of "what else did each person have to say?" And while it does provide you with information about Morrison and his works, because of the manner in which it is presented, it somehow seems less than authentic. If you pull out tiny fragments from any sentence about anyone, you could make the worst person in the world seem wonderful, or vice versa.

Not that I'm trying to bash Morrison. I'm a huge fan of his work, and the man himself is incredibly positive and upbeat, and the energy he has is contagious, and he WANTS you to take some of his energy and put it to use for yourself. I just think the film suffers a little from trying to compress too many elements and sources of information into one 80 minute documentary. Which must be a bit like what it is being Morrison himself; too many ideas, and not enough time and space to get them all down.

Gainsborg (2010)

This is a wonderfully atypical biography of singer, songwriter, artist and father of Charlotte, Serge Gainsborg. This is the story of the man from his youth in occupied France during the Second World War until his death. It’s a film I failed to see at last years Tribeca Film Festival, and which seems to have only just picked up a US release. Unaware of the late summer release I got a DVD from the UK. Watching the film the other night, I found what was going to be a ten minute dip into the pond, instead became a late night in front of the TV past my bedtime.

I could fault the film for not being forth coming with dates and details about who was who and what was when, but on the other hand the film seems to assume that you know something of your subject. I really didn’t, but I didn’t care. Frankly the film paints such a wonderful portrait of it’s subject that you really stop caring about the details because you’re being so damned entertained by what you're seeing. There was a point where I realized that had the film not been true, I wouldn’t have cared about the details, and once that happened I stopped caring and just went with it.

On the other hand any film that has your main character interacting with cartoon costumes of himself can’t be held to be anything other than a portrait of the man as a human being rather than a completely historic document. Frankly by the end of the film I had the feeling that I had a better sense of the man than I would have had all the details been filled in.

Give a great deal of credit to director Joann Sfar, who manages to make a film that is anything other than typical. Yes, it covers the life of it’s subject, but it seems to tell you more about it than one normally would expect from a straight forward bio pic.

I really loved this film a great deal. Watching the film I was saddened that I didn’t get to see the film at Tribeca last year. I would have loved to have seen this in a theater and watched how people reacted. On the other hand by not seeing it at the festival I didn’t have to feel bad at not seeing the film again any time soon.

While its probably not one of the “best” films of the year, it’s looking to be one of my favorites.

When you can, give this film a shot.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Like Water (2011)

Like Water is probably the best sports film that played this year's Tribeca film fest. I think I saw all of them except one and this one was head and shoulders above the rest.

The story of Mixed Martital Arts (MMA) champion Anderson Silva over a period of several months as he prepares to defend his title for a record time.

The film has a couple of virtues that make it hard to dislike.

First the film is about a really nice guy. Silva comes off as a great person who doesn’t pretend to be anything other that what he is, a soft spoken gentleman who’ll kick your ass. He wants to provide for the family he loves and he wants to do it In such away that keeps him, them and his opponents out of harms way. I love that Silva is that rarest of things these days, a philosopher warrior. If you listen to what he’s saying and what his trainers are saying you realize that he believes in what he says and what he does and that all of the philosophy in his talk is more than talk but a way of life. I was blown away by one of his final statements about life being not about winning or losing but about how long you can keep moving forward. The reason being was that it was an attitude echoed by the award winning and truly great film Gallants, which ends with a similar statement about life.

Secondly the film tells its story with a skill and economy that most other documentaries I saw this year don’t use. It tells its story with a laser like precision and then it gets off. The film runs a scant 75 minutes but it fills each one with some great sights and sounds and enough information that even some one like me who doesn’t like MMA now wants to watch it.

Lastly the film the filmmakers lucked into one hell of a story. The battle of Silva and his opponent outside of the ring is mere appetizer to what happens in the octagon. I don’t want to tell you what happens but even Hollywood couldn’t make anything this dramatic or exciting.

I loved this film. It made me feel good. It has the rush that most Hollywood blockbusters and even small scale feel good films can only hope to achieve. Even if you don’t like MMA you need to see this film if for no other reason its just a great ride. (besides its infinitely better than the more highly touted Klitchko film.)

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Hideaways (2011)

The Furlong men all have miraculous powers of one sort or another. James' grandfather goes blind for 37 minutes if he even thinks about sex. His dad fries electronic equipment when frightened. James' power is even more terrible, he sucks the life out of anything around him for a wide distance if he is sick and injured. After causing a series of terrible tragedies he runs away and lives alone in the woods for fear of the destruction he might cause. He stays hidden for ten years until Mae, a young girl with terminal cancer wanders into his life after running away from the hospital where she is being treated. You’ll have to see the film to find out what happens.

A dark fantasy/fairy tale on the order of the Grimm Brothers or some of the best known works of Neil Gaiman and similar writers, this is a film that is one of the finds of the Tribeca Film Festival. It’s a wonderful film that is ballsy enough to dwell in the darkness and to not talk down to it’s audience. It’s film for those who like the darkness in say the Twilight saga but found those, and similar stories kind of soapy and too fantastical. It’s the weird cousin, in a way, of the Princess Bride but set here and now.

It has a couple of of great characters, especially Rachel Hurd-Wood as Mae. She’s the narrator and the heart and soul of the film. She’s the one that the girls will relate to and the guys are going to love. If the film works it’s due in large part to her stellar performance.

I should say that I wasn’t really planning on seeing this. It was the sort of thing I was kind of interested in, but wasn’t sure but I had to fill some time so I put it into my que only to find that it knocked my socks off. Trust me on this, this was the 6th film of 7 on the day I saw it, the 20th film in four days, the 39th film in all of the Tribeca related screenings to that point, and my tolerance for bullshit and crap was really low. I was really impressed by this good little film.

Okay, full disclosure, as much as I was impressed by this film I wasn’t the absolutely right audience for the film. There are things in it that aren’t my cup of tea. That said as I watched this film I was constantly going “Eden needs to see this” or “Randi needs to see this” or “Lee needs to see this”. All through out the film I kept picking out people I really needed to show this film to because I know so many people who would absolutely LOVE this film.

Walking out of the screening I stopped by and met the producer Jean Luc Ormieres who was sitting on a couch. I told him how much I liked the film and how I wanted to go off and tell people about the film. I also told him I was a member of the press and that I was planning on writing up this film. This is that review. I hope that this does this small treasure justice. I don’t want to over sell the film or tell you too much I just want you to get enough umph to get out of your chair and go see this film.It may not be your best of the year, but I do think you’ll like it.

Actually what I’d like to see happen is for this film to find a distributor who is going to nurture it into finding it’s audience. This is the sort of film that isn’t going to be a huge hit on day one, but it is going to be one that will get it’s audience via word of mouth and by friends taking friends to it or by friends pressing copies of it into friends hands. This is a film that’s going to be a hit once people start to see it and discover it.

Go discover it.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Movies of Moebius: Masters of the Universe (1987)

This movie is just silly.

It's clearly dumb fun, but even calling it "fun" may be overselling it somewhat. Masters of the Universe is not a good movie, but at least it's entertaining, despite itself.

The Eternia stuff is obviously where all the money went. The huge sets and complicated costumes are attractive and inventive (it's also a rare movie where our main hero is wearing fewer clothes than the female characters). Sure, this movie is based on a toy line, but these parts look better than they have any right to. I think just about everyone would've loved to have seen a movie completely based in this environment, but that wasn't to be the case.

No, instead, we get to spend most of our time on present-day earth with a couple of teenagers who get mixed up in He-Man and friends' dimension-hopping adventures. The generic small-town sets are such an apparent cost-cutting measure and that does feel annoying, but fortunately, there's not too much time spent on the "what is this strange world we've found ourselves in?" stuff.

Dolph Lundgren, as He-Man, is not nearly as bad of an actor as you'd expect him to be. He actually carries the film pretty well with an innocent nobility. Still, he does seem to be thinking really hard about his acting, although it works. Frank Langella's performance as Skeletor is appropriately hammy. Everyone else is largely interchangeable or forgettable, but you're not watching this movie for the performances.

Moebius is credited as "special designer" on this movie, which is about as vague as you can get, but there does seem to be his touches in terms of set design and styling of the costumes. All that stuff is great. There's just not enough of it.

But there are enough battles (with swords! and lasers!), reasonable PG-rated violence and explosions to keep Masters of the Universe mostly entertaining. But except for the Eternia stuff, it's also mostly forgettable.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Movies of Moebius: Willow (1988)

While doing this project, I've hesitated to link to any of Moebius' concept art for these films. Partially, I figure that most people know how to use Google and these images are pretty easy to find, but I've wanted to judge want makes it on screen more than what could have been.

But with Willow, I think it's absolutely a case of "what could have been." Moebius' concept images for Willow are striking, colorful and original. What is on screen is dull, muddy and unsurprising.

And sadly, it's those elements that keeps this movie from fully working. If the production had been better, so would have been the movie.

The plot isn't really anything new -- you have an unlikely hero in Willow (WarwickDavis) on a quest who acquires a few sidekicks along the way. Some are powerful, such as Madmartigan (Val Kilmer). Some are just annoying, like the Brownies. Most events are telegraphed in advance -- the audience is flat-out told that evil Queen Bavmorda's (Jean Marsh) daughter, Sorsha (Joanne Whalley) is going to betray her. And if you're thinking harm is going to come to baby Elora, you probably haven't seen a movie before.

In director Ron Howard's hands, the movie is overly deliberate and long. You know what's going to happen and basically how, so getting through it is a a bit of a slog. (It might be different if you're say, between the ages of 8 and 11, however. This may be exciting.) There are only a few inspired moments -- a wormlike two-headed dragon and the skull mask of the General Kael.

It does get a little more intense toward the end, but it never really becomes much of anything.

So really, it just leaves you with the idea that it could have been good. It could have been visionary (even with special effects that haven't aged too well). It could have been fun (even with uneven acting). Looking at Moebius' concept art, you see it could have been bright and weird and playful. Instead, it's just a by-the-numbers fantasy adventure we ended up with.