Sunday, July 31, 2022

QUE LE FAN SOIT AVEC TOI (aka May The Fan Be With You) (2022) Fantasia 2022

I'm not a Star Wars Fan.  There was a time around the original films when I really loved them but the stories drifted and things fell off with the prequels and I stopped caring- though I did go to all the new films as they came out. And because I'm not a big fan of the series I was hesitant to see QUE LE FAN SOIT AVEC TOI but it filled a slot....and it ended up making me tear up as I connected to it in all sorts of unexpected ways.

The film is a look at Star Wars fandom through the lives of three guys. Malgus, ais the leader of the cosplay group La Forteresse impériale. Steeve Gros-Louis, owner of a restaurant and an collector and dealer of merchandise. Jef is a figure in the fan community with a podcast on the whole Star Wars Universe. Through them we see not just how Star Wars affects people’s lives, but also how fandom creates community and bring meaning to peoples lives.

This is a great film. Yea it’s about three guys who love Star Wars but the truth is the film speaks volumes beyond that. This is a film about fandom and people following their passions. As some one involved in various forms of fandom (film in particular) I could relate to what I was seeing. I completely understood the passion.  While I didn’t care about the visit to the filming locations of the first Star Wars film, I completely understood the passion in the eyes and the in the voice. If I was going to a place that was part of my waking dreams I too would hug the furniture.

While I have seen multiple films on fandom this maybe the best. It’s the best because it transcends just on the specific fandom.

A must see.

CULT HERO (2022) Fantasia 2022


When a cult busting TV star Dale Domazar’s latest bust ends in a mass suicide he has to figure out what’s next. When he’s approached by a woman who thinks she’s joined a cult he jumps in to help her.

This is an amusing comedy about cults and TV fame. The humor is broad and low brow but it produces laughs. While there is a hard edge to the violence, the film pretty much plays everything for laughs.

If there is anything really wrong with the film it’s that hero Domazar is played much too over the top and can be the wrong sort of annoying.  Its not fatal but it makes things less perfect.

Worth a look.


Choi Min-sik gives a performance for the ages in HEAVEN TO THE LAND OF HAPPINESS . In all seriousness this is one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen.  I should add he is matched by Park Hae-il who is just as good in a less showy role.  The pair give performances that should be studied as how to play realistic buddies on screen.

The Plot of the film has  inmate 203 (Choi Min-sik) collapsing in prison only to discover he has at most two weeks left to live. Park Hae-il plays  Nam Sik, a worker in the prison who is stealing an expensive medicine he needs to stay alive. When an opportunity presents itself the pair escape from the prison, in a hearse with a coffin full of mob money in the back. The film then becomes a road film as the pair try to stay ahead of the mob, the police and get to 203’s daughter before time literally runs out.

One of the greatest buddy films ever made this films all of the characters dead nuts right. This is not the witty repartee of things like BAD BOYS or 48 HOURS or any typical Hollywood buddy film, but something deeper. We feel every emotion the pair feels and we understand how they come to love and trust each other. We understand why they yell at each other and why, when the chips are down they take care of each other.  It’s a relationship that produces tears…every damn one of which is earned ten times over.

While frequently funny the film is not a comedy. The humor comes from the situations and not joke writers. These are, mostly, situations we could find ourselves in.

I absolutely loved this film.  Sitting watching it I was completely riveted. I just stared at the screen never looking away except to try and find a tissue to wipe away one of the well earned tears.

I need to mention the performances of Choi Min-sik again. This should get him every award under the sun. It’s unlikely to happen but I can dream. Watch his whole being become 203. Watch how joy at seeing something again for the “first” time fills him, as it replaced by sadness as knowing it’s the last time for him.  Listen to the concern in his voice as he screams at his friend at leaving the medicine he needs to stay alive behind. You  can hear the tone of man about to die angry that a stupid mistake might mean his friend  would go before him. This is as perfect a performance as I’ve ever seen. When you see the film enjoy the film, but watch Min-sik’s seeming non-performance take it all to another level.

This is a magnificent movie. One of the very best films of 2022 and an absolute must see.

Island of Lost Girls (2022) Fantasia 2022

 Three little girls drift off to a deserted island and have encounters with seals and sea elephants.

A beautiful nature documentary is interrupted by a home movie of a non-thrilling family thriller. This is one of the few Fantasia films I've ever seen where I can’t understand why it was programmed at the festival. While not a “bad” film it is completely uninvolving. Yes the cinematography and nature images are stunning. They are the sort  of images you want to see huge. They are impressive and if this was a documentary they would make this a must see.

The problem with the film is the sections of the films focusing on the little girls. Shot as a sort of cinema verité, the little girl stuff is so artificial that we never fall into it. Yes it feels like its based on real life, but its shot in a way that lets us instantly know this is a “movie”.  It feels contrived. Worse once the film gets going and the trouble starts,  and the film tries  to make us  feel like the girls were in some sort of danger, but you never feet it. There was no suspense, you always felt like they were going to be okay because at no point did we see there was any real danger. Nothing “bad” happens anywhere and the girls skate by, such as when one sister catches her sibling when she falls off the counter. The film simply signals all along that everything will be alright.

 I never cared.

Worse I felt like I was being forced to watch the directors children be cute.

For my money this is a very expensive home movie.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Next Door (2022) Fantasia 2022 NYAFF 2022


A young man cramming to get into the police is unable to raise the fee for the application. A friend offers the money if he comes out drinking. All is good until he ends up locked into the apartment next to his with dead body on the floor of a pool of blood. Desperate to get out he suddenly realizes that he has to clean up the crime scene of any trace of his presence, however things become complicated by various people.

This is a mix of suspense and humor as sweet but nebbishy guy lives out one of our worst fears- in the firing line for a murder we didn’t commit. The film works because the film maintains the right tone from start to finish.  While some of the turns seem to be there just to keep things ratcheted up (I mean so much happens), we really don’t mind because we are invested.

This is a good thriller that’s worth your time.

The Protector (2022) Fantasia 2022

A young woman with a troubled past is sent to a remote town with no crime by the court. Crime stopped a decade earlier when there was some kind of massacre that put the town on the map. As the girl is settling into her new home she is gifted with a strange book called The Protector. The book concerns a god that brings peace to where ever he goes. As the young woman becomes obsessed with the book she also begins to look into the history of her new town.

This is an kind of obtuse horror mystery film  about the weird things going on in a small town.  Its one of those films were everything is off slightly and everyone is clearly hiding something. It’s a film where we lean in for much of the running time waiting for all, or at least most of the secrets to be revealed.

While the film has lots of mood and  generates genuine curiosity about what is going on, too much remains unexplained or is a bit too odd.  Some plot turns don’t seem to make sense (the alleged and debated bigfoot massacre for example). The film seems to either have been made in such away as to be a disturbing mystery to the end or too much was removed in editing, in either case, the result is a film that holds our attention until almost the very end when we suddenly realizes that this isn’t going to stick the landing and we are going to we leaving with too many questions.

Personally I was invested until almost the end when the lack of sense disconnected me. While I like what the film does with it’s mood and a bunch of not wholly likable characters, I dislike that it doesn’t pull it together in the end.

Friday, July 29, 2022



Takashi Miike concludes his MOLE SONG trilogy with more insanity as only he can inflict upon the world.

As the story winds down Reiji Kikukawa, the mole of the title, is in Italy with his gang. They are working to bring  tons of drugs disguised as  pasta into Japan. However Reiji has been told he needs to wrap things up. How is he going to arrest the boss and what of the inevitable betrayal of his "brother"?

This is a good ending to the series. Having been an early adopter of the series, I fell madly in love with the first film and I was equally thrilled with the second, I'm glad we get to have it all more or less resolved. I'm also thrilled that the insanity level remains  high. There are lots of laughs here, almost all will make even people walking in off the street laugh, though  jokes will be funnier many if you've been riding along.  They are almost all low brow but really really clever low brow. 

I roared from start to finish.

As good as the film is it isn't quite up to the first two films. It's not that there is anything wrong with the film, rather it's because the film is saddled with FINAL in the title.  Because the film is a final chapter everything must come to an end so things are forced to bend toward an ending.  The film doesn't have the pure joy of the first two where anything could and did happen. (That said some truly unexpected things happen here). 

The film also suffers slightly with a number of flashbacks to the first film. There is a bit too much refering back.

Quibbles aside, this film is a joy. It's a wonderful send off to good friends.

Running on Karma NYAFF 2022

When I saw this film the first time I was left sitting slack jawed and wondering what in the hell these people were smoking or ingesting when they made this off kilter little film. To say that this film is unique is an understatement. In all honesty there is no really way to full explain or discuss this film, you really have to see it.

 With that in mind I'm going to make a stab at trying to give you an idea of the plot, but even so I know I'm leaving out a few twists: A body building ex-monk who dances as a male stripper and who can see the future gets mixed up with a police woman going after a killer. Mix in some laughs, comic book villains, some very bloody deaths, some serious action, discussions of the nature of the universe and predestination; shake well and perhaps, just perhaps you may get an idea of what this film by Ka-Fai Wai and Johnnie To is like. 

Then again you may not since this film operates in its own orbit, going from pillar to post on its own crazy course. I don't think I had any moment where I really knew what was coming next. Say what you will about the plot elements but on its own terms it's a great deal of fun. In its way its a more sedate version of the "crazy" films people think are the norm in Asia cinemas. 

 The nice thing here is that while problem with the film is thats so incredibly quirky that it never really seems to pull it all together, it doesn't matter. Under normal circumstances not pulling it all together will kill a film, but here you don't really mind simply because its not only being different from pretty much any other film ever made, it's also being very entertaining. Just don't watch this when you're looking for a movie that makes perfect sense. 

 I would love to say more about this film, but I really can't. This is one of those movies that you just have to take it on faith that is worth your time. If you want to see a movie thats certainly unlike any other film out there, this film is for you. But be warned its bumpy and imperfect and you may hate yourself for liking it in the morning.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Fight Machine (2022) Fantasia 2022

Paul is a spoiled rich kid turns to body building and boxing after getting his ass kicked. Rob is a working class kid being pushed toward fighting by his father and uncle. Both are being set on a collision course in a bare knuckle ring where the winner is the man who can walk away.

This film looks good, has a great cast (including the always wonderful Michael Ironside) and some bone crushing fights. On paper the the film should be top rank. Unfortunately the film never nails down the right tone and as a result the film doesn't quite work.

This should have been played very straight and very serious. This is a compelling tale about families and friends and the things we do to find a place in the world. The trouble is that director Andrew T Hunt fudges things. Some sequences are played for laughs, Paul getting beaten up is more comedic then frightening. Its made worse by his running away like a small child. Some of the crowd reactions to the fights are silly. Some scenes are played much too lighthearted. This frequent dips into lightness runs counter to the blood and broken bones of the fight scenes. As a result we are never fully invested with the result the tragic ending leaves us nonplussed. I should have been rocked and instead I was trying to deduce what went wrong.

While the film is good on it's own terms, the truth of the matter is that what should have been a four star film is in stead a two and a half one.

Broken Commandment (2022) NYAFF 2022

 Based on Hakai (Outcast) by Toson Shimazaki a classic novel seeking for tolerance the burakumin minority, the film follows the fortune of a young man who leaves his home town at the age of 16 and is told by his father go make a life for himself, not return and under no circumstances  reveal that he is burakumin. He goes off and finds success at school, becoming a teacher in a small village. However when  racism rears it’s head he must decide whether to go a long or make a stand.

Okay film version of an oft filmed story never quite generates the sparks it should.  Looking more like a TV drama then a big screen film the film would have worked had the performances not been all over the place. While the adults are mostly good, the problem is the kids that make up the students are pretty much poor across the board. We never believe them and as a result we end up never emotionally invested. Watching the ending, which should have been a teary ending, al I could think was I was watching the end of Dead Poets Society with non actors as the kids. I should have been tearing but instead I was looking at a list of films trying to deduce what to watch next

Angry Son (2022) NYAFF 2022

Gay biracial teen comes of age.

Low Budget drama is hard for me to fairly review. The problem is that other than coming from Asia this film is very much like a whole subgenre of films here in the United States.  While the film is okay on it's own terms, the film suffers in my eyes because I am unfairly comparing it to the films I see here in the US.

Worth a look if it interests you.

A pointer toward A Balance (2021) which hits Film Movement Friday

A documentary filmmaker working on a film about the relationship between teachers and students and the damage it causes is rocked to her core when she discovers her father, a professor has been having a relationship with a student.

Very good drama is worth a look. I originally saw this film last year when it played the New York Asian Film Festival and it hung with me. It was so front and center that when I saw it was getting released on Friday that I instantly said- “I’ll rerun my review”. The trick is it was one of the few films I’ve ever seen at a NYAFF that I somehow never wrote up.   However since the film is good enough that 1000 plus film since I last saw it that I remember it I have to do a brief piece to say give the film a shot.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

A purely visceral review of Hansan: RIsing Dragon (2022) NYAFF 2022 Fantasia 2022

Playing tonight at Fantasia, tomorrow at the New York Asian Film Festival and theaters across the globe Friday HANSAN RISING DRAGON is the first of two prequels to THE ADMIRAL: RAGING CURRENTS which was the highest grossing film in South Korea when it was released in 2014. The film was the  story of the aging Admiral Yi  who was shuttle off to pasture just as the Japanese came calling.  It wasn't until they were on the verge of collapse that Yi was recalled and he saved the nation one last time. It big and bold and mind blowing. The sea battles are things that have stayed with me ever since I saw them the first time.

Eight years on filmmakers return to the story of Yi and because the first film is literally his last battle, travel back to when Yi was young and beginning to do impossible things.

I'm going to not try to explain all of the details of the plot. Not because I don't know it more that I know that if I try to explain it someone is going to say I got something wrong. Additionally misspell the names of the characters and places. I have some of them in my notes, but at a certain point I stopped writing and was too caught up to bother with notes. (Notes are you kidding me giant ships are crashing into each other making me leap out of my seat while yelling how cool it all is, I don't have time to take notes)

The battle sequences rock. I mean to hell with Errol Flynn sea battle or Star Wars space battles, give me turtle ships beating the crap out of each other. Talk about visceral delights, I was talking out loud to no one about how freaking cool it all is. Yes I know this wasn't how it really was, but who the hell cares when it's this awesome.

The battles are the reason I am going to see the film again on the big screen this weekend.

I should say that the drama sequences are also really good and I suspect that when the next film comes out we'll have a great portrait of General Yi.

I truly love this film and had a blast watching the battles. 

Recommended, even more so if you are seeing this on a truly big screen.

MAIGRET (2022) Fantasia 2022

Based on Maigret and the Dead Girl, the 45th novel in the series by Georges Simenon, MAIGRET finally has Gérard Depardieu finally playing the great detective. What took so long?

This is a slow burning character study wrapped mystery. The plot has a disinterested Maigret unhappy with life. Nothing interests him anymore. Heading home one night he stopped and redirected to the place where a young woman was found dead. Wearing expensive clothes that don’t belong to her (we know she rented them thanks to the set up prolog) there is no clue to who she was. Maigret begins his investigation and tries to slowly unravel not only what happened but who this outcast really was.

While we want to know who did what and why, the focus here is less on the mystery, though that is what moves the film, but the emptiness of existence. Maigret is unhappy. His wife says he is someone else. Maigret is pondering life , his own and that of the dead girl. He wants to know how something like this could happen to her. He is looking for a way to reconnect to life. If you are going into the film looking for a satisfying Agatha Christie style mystery you will be disappointed.

Depardieu gives one of his best performances in years. After years of walking through roles where he was good but not great, he finally seems to be taking roles that he can disappear into. While he doesn’t verbally say much he still hits it out of the park with a performance that is pure physicality. In every shot his body is telling us volumes about the state of the man. This is one of the best performances of the year. Yea it’s low key but it’s pure magic.

I love so much of the writing of this film. The dialog sparse and to the point until it suddenly drops a wisdom bomb on us. The film is also full of small moments that move us. For example a Maigret talks to his wife about the expensive clothing and it turns into a fleeting, but moving, discussion of the moment the two met at  fancy dress party where she felt out of place, only to find a similar soul in an equally out of place Maigret.

I love this film.

I love that it transcends being just a murder mystery and instead is a magnificent examination of life.

Highly recommended.

(And please make many more sequels)

SHARI (2022) Fantasia 2022

Shari, is a small town on Shiretoko Peninsula on the easternmost part of Japan’s northernmost island Hokkaido.  Its a place of interesting people and a blood red monster.

One part documentary, one part essay, one part experimental film. and one part fairy tale. Its a film that is kind of indescribable except it you've seen the other films of director Nao Yoshiaga. Working at a feature length this film is a lot of joys to take in. Its a film that you have to give yourself over to and just go with. You have to find the film's rhythms and click with them- once you do it's a hell of a ride.

If you like experimental or avant garde films you'll probably love this. This is the sort of thing that the New York Film Festival might run in their experimental side bar or that the Lincoln Center series The Art of The Real would highlight.

If you like off the beaten path docs this film is worth a shot.

SPACE MONSTER WANGMAGWI (1967) Fantasia 2022

Seeing SPACE MONSTER WANGMAGWI was one of the greatest cinematic experiences of 2022. The only way it could have been better would have been to see it with a rowdy audience ready for fun.

The film is a long lost kaiju film from Korea. It hasn’t been seen in decades and a print was recently discovered and is now being unleased on the world.

The film has a ship from the far off Gamma planet coming to earth as a Typhoon is supposed to strike and unleashing a monster on South Korea to see how earth people would react.

Played deadly serious the film is in fact full of jaw dropping turns:

A typhoon is coming and hundreds of deaths are expected, but one the monster comes the typhoon angle disappears.

A wedding is interrupted by the monster, and the bride is worried that the fighter pilot groom really just running out on her.

The Monster picks up the bride and carries her around for the whole film- despite everything that happens.

A little kid climbs the monster and goes in its ear and up and out its nose.

Two men challenge each other not to run from the monster with the prize being one of the men’s wife.

Looking at times like the Japanese Starman films, at other times it looks like a home movie with cheap ass sets and costumes. Because the film is played so straight you just go with it even as you are giggling.

I spent the whole film talking to the screen and replaying whole sections of the film because I had to make sure I really was seeing what I was seeing.

This is a jaw dropping cinematic experience. I’ve never quite seen anything like it because within all the cheese there are some really well done sequences.

You have to see this. Its wild and wanton and full of stock footage.





Inu-oh (2022) Fantasia 2022

 Masaaki Yuasa (MIND GAME) returns with a film that completely blew me away. A film of great beauty and complexity Inu-oh rocked my world.

Structured as a musical story performance the film tells the story of a musician who was blinded years when he and his father had attempted to retrieve a legendary sword from the bottom of the sea. While they found the sword, unsheathing it killed the boys father and left him blind. He then set off on a quest to find a hidden city and the stories that lie there. Along the way he takes up music and makes friends with a deformed young man who wears a mask made from a gourd. All around them is magic and spirits.

I am in total awe of this film. From the beauty of the art, to the amazing choices of the animation and the complexity of the story telling this is as good as filmmaking, of any sort gets.

Yuasa’s animation is perfect. The images are truly beautiful and they made me tear up. However they don’t exist to just be beautiful but to drive the story forward. Everything is done for maximum effect. Styles change with in a scene because the shot has to be a certain way to say something about what we are seeing. The images are not just telling the story, but the styles and inclusions and deletions add coloring to everything we are seeing. They are so vital to the success of the film that I don’t think the story would have worked if it was told in any other way.

The story construction is spot on. Nothing is extraneous. Every word we hear, every note that is played and every shot we see moves things forward. Everything that happens builds toward the next turn. I love how little throw away notations  echo later on in the film. Best of all the construction feels completely natural, with the result being that we care about the characters and are moved when things happen to them.

I am in genuine awe of his film. In all of the hundreds of animated films I’ve seen over the year, nay, in all of the tens of thousands of motion pictures, and a similar number of works of art that I’ve seen over the years almost no film has left me this gob smacked tearing up staring in jaw hanging awe.  This not only a great cinematic achievement but also a true work of art.

Highly recommended.

Blue Island (2022) opens Friday at the Metrograph

Tze Woon Chan's BLUE ISLAND will kick you in the knees and drop you to the floor. One part recreation, one part documentary and one part essay, the film is nominally a look at the protests in Hong Kong from 2019 and 2020, but the truth is the film is a mediation on the city and it's inhabitants and how both are being crushed by the Chinese government.

I am not certain where to start. Perhaps with the fact I was uncertain at the start. The film begins with a recreation of an escape from Mainland China to Hong Kong in 193 by a young couple. Its a recreation, as much of the film is, but it sets the tone for the long reach of the fetid finger of the Beijing going back decades. I wasn't sure what the film was doing with the recreation but I soon fell into the notion of the people being interviewed giving life to the past and the events that helped to shape them and their view of the world. Quickly my apprehension drifted away as I got lost in the talk of their lives, of their hopes and fears and the reality of life under an oppressive government.

To be honest I am having a hard time putting my thoughts in regard to the film into words. This was a film I felt on a visceral level more than an intellectual one. It's film where the the thoughts followed behind the feelings. 

The power of the film is best represented by the long sequence at the end where Chan reduced the tragedy of Hong Kong down to a level on one to one. Tragedy is best understood hen it's personal and one on one. Chan achieves this by showing us the faces of the people arrested and their charges brought by the government. Its simply close ups of the people we saw in the film looking at us. It left me misty. It was a reaction that was earned, and reaction that burned the level of injustice deeply into my heart. Yes I knew it was bad, but in every other iteration it was distant-even if it was only arms length. In this final sequence, one that was built up to by the previous hour and a half the distance closes and we face to the face with the injustice because we are essentially reaching out to touch the a friend who is in danger.

I was rocked. 

And sometime on I'm still processing, still trying to put words together to really express the power of this film.

Out In The RIng (2022) Fantasia 2022

Ry Levey‘s OUT IN THE RING is a hell of a film. A long time in coming the film is a look at the world of professional wrestling and it’s relationship with LGBTQ community.

Beginning with the obvious statement that at its heart the sport is very homoerotic, pointing out it involves big people in their underwear rolling round on the floor, it moves on to the history of how gays were viewed in the sport and how its changed over time.  Containing a seeming never ending string of extremely knowledgeable talking heads we see the history of the sport and how many wrestlers could express themselves without specifically coming out. We see how wrestling co-opted LGBTQ culture and used it for its own ends and how younger wrestlers are taking it back and openly turning it into their own form of self expression. Additionally the film explains how the sport has helped man LGBTQ youth and adults connect with something outside of themselves. 

This is is a magnificent film. Its one of those films that takes what you think you already know and reveals a way bigger picture than you could ever imagine.  I went from watching it with a half-assed attitude to falling into it and hanging on every word. I mean if nothing else this film is so full of great stories that are told with real passion that even if the subject wasn't important this would still be a must see.

What kills me about the film is that this is not hitting bigger fests. This should be at the big documentary fests not just Fantasia. That is not a slap at Fantasia who has the great programmers who understand this is not a "genre film" but a great one, rather at many other fest specializing in important docs because this is a film that looks at how the LGBTQ community is viewed through a lens that willl open up so many eyes.

A must see

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Resurrection (2022) Fantasia


Resurrection is the story of a successful single mom (Rebecca Hall) who’s world is turned upside down when an abusive ex (Tim Roth) turns up two decades later. At first Roth is just there but slowly he worms his way back into her life until things explode.

This is a tense thriller that works because of the award caliber performances by Hall and Roth. The pair are stunning together and so good that you just need to see them together to have your blood pressure rise 50 points. Its chilling.

If I would be a betting man I would say that with the right push Rebecca Hall could be in the running for an Oscar. She is really that good with the repressed pain and fear of a long ago bad situation quietly bubbling under the surface. The performance is a masterclass. I am in awe.

While I could quibble about some of the plot details, the performances make it so you don’t care.


Skinamarink (2022) Fantasia 2022


If you see this film I want you to know the ideal way to see this film:


I say that because how you watch the film the film will determine if you like the film or not. 

Shot as if it is a 1995 film with low res and highly grainy images, this is a film that is pure mood. This is a film about being a kid up at 2AM when the monsters are out. Its a film where all we see are the things as we drift between sleep and waking - shadows, doors, things in the room, and maybe monsters. Its a film with a deliberate sound track where the characters are all dialog. We really don't see anyone, jst things... well if you see someone they may not be alive. 

This film felt like what I felt when I was kid in the 70's and couldn't sleep. This was everything I felt when I tried to pass the night...except I didn't hear voices....

This is an experimental throwback horror film that you are going to love or hate. You're are going to love the mood and sense of place. You are going to love some of the images/sequences which had I been watching this alone at night I would have resulted in me turning on all the lights in the house.

What is going to make you hate the film is the pacing. This is a slow film that is essentially like being up all night, "nothing happens" except what you might see in the middle of the night. This is not a film of scares as such, but built up chills. If you don't like that this film will be interminable.

Personally I love a lot of this. The mood is super. The images are chilly. The pacing is deadly and the films run time is twice what it should be. As much as I like a lot of this is there is no f-ing reason for this to be 100 minutes. None.

Reservations aside, this film is worth a shot for the adventurous who can experience it under optimal conditions

THE BREACH (2022) Fantasia 2022

When a body is found floating down a river in a canoe, the sheriff, a deputy and an expert tracker, travel into the wilderness in order to find out what the scientist they believe to be the dead man was up to. However once they get to his home they find that things are seriously wrong. 

This is a good looking horror film with a nice visual style that despite having some kick ass sequences is done in by deadly pacing and jump scares that don't make sense.

The main problem with the film is that after a compelling opening fifteen minutes this film slows down to a crawl. Outside of the arrival of the wife of the missing scientist  not a whole hell of a lot happens until the half way point. Yes, we get the love triangle between the sheriff, deputy and tracker, but we didn't come into a horror film for a romance that is ultimately window dressing. While we get the triangle the breach of the title is largely ignored.  The filmmakers seem to have remembered  that when you are making a movie from a well worn template (mad scientist's creation goes astray and opens a door) you have to keep things moving. Unless you are showing us lots of really cool things you have to keep moving.

Things begin to move into action with a halfhearted jump scare that visually makes no sense. The problem from there  is  that the pacing remains slack (including the action scenes which have no urgency) and while things happen not a hell of a lot of them make sense, something we notice because the pacing never picks up. I replayed some sequences on my screener in order to make sure I was seeing things correctly. 

What kills me is that had the pacing been better, and had the logic been a little tighter this would have been a killer film. There is a disturbing nature to the story and the creatures, when we see them are f-ing disturbing.

While not bad, the film is just okay.  Its a film you're going to talk about the monsters and nothing else.

One Small Visit (2022) LA Shorts 2022

It sounds like the set up for a joke, but its not. In the days following the moon landing, the Abrahams are an Indian family on a road trip and stumbled upon the home of Neil Armstrong’s parents and knocked on the door. What happened was probably not what you think.

This little known true story was related to director Josephine Chim by her friend who was a baby at the time it happened. Chimwas intrigued and spent hours interviewing everyone who was there via zoom.  She then turned it into this short film.

The result is an unexpectedly rich tale that raises all sort of intriguing themes and issues beyond the heart warming premise of people connecting simply because despite it all we are all human. In a weird way the film is almost two films in one, one is the story of the dark skinned Abrahams traveling through Middle America in the 1960’s. They are very aware of the racism galloping through the places they are in but they go along anyway. The tale flips in the second half when they meet the Armstrongs and we see the connections between people blossom. While the film feels like two films it really isn’t because the first half makes the second all the more touching.

I was moved.

Honestly my reaction to seeing the film was that even at 32 minutes this film is too short. There is much too much to the tale, and specifically to OC, the father's, connection to the civil rights movement.  Reading the stories in the post credits text I was shaking my head wondering why some of that wasn’t in the film. Thankfully, director Chim is in the early stage of preparing a feature version of the tale.

This is a super little film recounting a wonderful story.


Tremble All You Want (2018) hits home video July 28

Premiering on Blu Ray this week TREMBLE ALL YOU WANT is a film I saw back in 2018 for Japan Cuts but never reviewed. The problem was I was backed up with three other festivals at the same time and something had to go and this was was the one I pushed overboard. It was not because it was a bad film but purely that it is a solid if unremarkable romantic comedy that I couldn't bring anything to the table to say that would make my review stand out.

The plot of the film has a young woman, ten years out of high school refusing to date or acknowledge anyone romantically because she is still madly in love with her high school crush. He doesn't really know she exists but that doesn't stop her from being in love. Things become complicated when one of her co-workers asks her out.

This is a good little romantic comedy that ticks all the right boxes. This is a film that does what a romantic comedy is supposed to do, which is make you feel warm and fuzzy and then get off. WHich is enough. Honestly it is good enough that I remembered the film to years on and didn't have to look it up to see what it was and I found I could describe the ending in detail (my memory matched my notes).  I did  have to check my notes to see why I didn't actually review it.

It's definitely worth a look - more so if you love romcoms.

HELLBENDER (2021) hits VOD today


The beginning of Hellbender is one of the most arresting starts to any film at Fantasia. It is also one of the most arresting starts to any film in decades. In all serious I dare you not to watch the opening and wonder what in the holy hell was going on. I’m not going to spoil this – just see it. After that you will be willing to follow one of the most beautiful horror films anywhere.

The film that follows is a coming of age story about a young witch being raised and sheltered by some older women. I won’t say any more other than something dark and sinister is going on, and odds are its not what you think.

Made by the same crew as one of my favorite films of the last few years The Deeper You Dig, Hellbender doesn’t behave as you  expect. For the first time outside of a fantasy film magic is deadly, one person is reduced to dust by hand gestures.  This is a film that takes something, witches, that never really were scary and turn them into something truly terrifying.  For the first time I was frightened by a witch tale by what I was seeing and not the obscure threat of the devil. Why no one had ever done this before is beyond me.

This film is great film in so many ways.

As I said I’m not going to spoil it I’m just going to say its one of the best horror films of the year and highly recommended.

Monday, July 25, 2022

KING OF PIGS (2022) Fantasia 2022


Yeon Sang-ho's (TRAIN TO BUSAN) first film was an animated film called THE KING OF PIGS. A memory play about two friends meeting after several years at which time they talk about the years when they were bullied. It's a dark gut punch of film that rocked audiences at Fantasia and the New York Asian Film Festival in 2012. The film has been turned into a twelve hour miniseries and while it may not have the concentrated punch of the original film, it still is compelling viewing.

The main thrust of the plot has the cops looking for  a serial killer who is seems to be working through the bullies who tormented them. The thing is nothing is quite as clear cut as it seems. Along the way we go back and forth through time as we are forced to relive the pain and suffering of being a kid.

When you see this series you best clear the decks because you are going to want to go through all twelve episodes in one sitting  when they become available (they screened 4 episodes at Fantasia).  I made the major mistake of not realizing that there were twelve episodes. Had I known that I wouldn't have watched the the four episodes I was given because I was left hanging.

I dislike reviewing a series unless I can see it all because one never know if the later episodes carry to the end. Having read a bit on the series and knowing the source I think this series is going to be killer.

One word of warning, this is dark stuff. Yes it has to do with a serial killer, but more importantly the series is long for examination of bullying. Its a film that deals with the darkness of human existence. If you don't want to deal with it don't watch this.

One of the unexpected finds of Fantasia.


Opal (2021) Fantasia 2022

Opal is a young princess who contains the magic that protects the kingdom, however the magic is waning and the kingdom is dying. It seems her father has been siphoning off the magic to fight the monsters that live underground. Additionally Opal is no longer happy and wants to flee.

I have to take the Fantasia programmers to task concerning this film, there should have been a trigger warning.  While OPAL is a good film, it is not for "young and old" and it is not for a many people because the film is metaphor for child sexual abuse. Yea, this is a fairy tale with an incredibly dark undercurrent. If you know the signs of abuse several of the conversations will set off your warning alarms.  The sequence when the king asks my daughter if he could have some more of her magic made my jaw drop open, I was not expecting that.  I had to rewatch the sequence to make sure I wasn't wrong.  I wasn't. And if you watch the film and have any doubts, you won't when you get to the final sequence which flips everything.

If you aren't interested in a abuse film, once you get past the the dark themes at the center, this is a solid fantasy film. Its  solid story of a young woman finding the strength to get fight the demons and find away into the light. Its a beautifully designed film with some great looking characters and wonderful sequences. I really liked it- even if the darkness disturbed the hell out of me.

Worth a look for those who think they can handle the darkness.

A Love Song (2022) opens Friday

Short whimsical drama wrapped up in a maybe romance doesn't have a hell of a lot going on except people talking- but oh dear god what talking it is. 

The plot is simple Dale Dickey waits in a campsite by a lakelake for her long ago love Wes Studi. She talks to her neighbors, the postman and a group of siblings who need her to move her trailer (don't ask just smile). When he eventually shows up they talk about old times.

That's it. 

And if you can tune into the films frequency you will be charmed,

Actually if you love great acting this is the film for you. Dale Dickey gives a performance that if this film had backing should get her an Oscar. Its an open and raw performance that makes you smile and breaks your heart. Wes Studi gives you pause to wonder why in the holy hell he hasn't been allowed to get more leads.I mean watch the little things he does, say getting ready in his car to go "meet: her. These two titans of acting give a masterclass in being real that will blow you away.

As good as the acting is it isn't perfect. It is a bit too meandering and it maybe a bit to whimsical (the sibling side story while charming is ultimately filler -which I say despite loving every damn minute of it).

Say what you will I enjoyed the hell out of this film, but I know it's small gentle nature is going to work against it, especially in a huge festival like Sundance where it is going to get over shadowed.

A LOVE SONG is ultimately a small gem of a film. Its one of the films that I go to festivals to find so I can report back to you about. If you want a small delicate flower that will live in your heart search this film out.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Demigod:The Legend Begins (2022) Fantasia 2022

The creators of LEGEND OF THE SACRED STONE return with another puppet wuxia epic that you have to see to believe.

The film begins with Win Lin unintentionally taking sides in a battle between two mythical monsters. This sets in motion events that may spell the doom of everyone.

Don’t let the fact this film is all puppets turn you off this is kick ass film making and towering story telling. The puppets give us a sense of reality while at the same time opening up our minds to the sense that anything can happen. Playing exactly like a martial arts epic of the 1970’s the film amps it up by having creatures that fit the world. There is no noticeable CGI so we believe anything is possible, and fear for the characters because they can get hurt (blood flows).  This is movie magic of the highest order.

I can’t recommend this film enough. It’s a great action epic and one hell of a story.

This is what going to the movies is all about.

Summer Ghost (2022) Fantasia 2022

Three friends try to make contact with The Summer Ghost who is supposed to appear on an old airport on a summer's evening. To call her they must use fireworks. Then they make contact....

Magnificent long short film, it runs 40 minutes,  is not a film I can easily discuss. The problem with talking about it is that where the film goes is the whole film.  I say that because the film turns several times that change everything you think you know. If I discuss the turns I ruin the magic. 

What I will say is that you really need to see this... with tissues.  Its a wonderful exploration of life and friendship.


Punta Sinistra (2022) Fantasia 2022

A journalist decides to hunt a mythical plane that went down on the coast of Mexico. Supposedly it was transporting a cartel cargo. However he quickly realizes he’s in over his head as he realizes that there are other people looking for the plane and they will stop at nothing to get it.

If you are willing to go with the restrictions of the microbudget (the guns don’t actually fire, the plane doesn’t fly) this is a solid little thriller. Running a breezy 63 minutes PUNTA SINISTRA move like the wind as it everyone seems to be up to no good. Kudos to director Renaud Gauthier for making a film that makes no excuses and simply tells the fest story he can. Frankly had the material from Fantasia not mentioned the micro budget I wouldn’t have noticed chaulking any issues to a stylistic choice.

I you want to see a small gem, this film is for you.

I AM MORE (2022) NYAFF 2022

Portrait Korean trans drag queen "More" who gets an invitation to go to New York to dance.

This is a good look at an interesting person and her life. While I am not a fan of some of the musical sequences, there is nothing wrong with them, just not my cup of tea, The real life stuff was wonderful and at times deeply moving.

Definitely worth a look.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

My Grandfather's Demons (2022) Fantasia 2022

An over worked young woman returns home after the death of her grandfather. He had been the one to raise her, however she  lost touch with him since moving to the city. Finding that the he had become a hermit prone to making odd figurines, she begins to try and sort out his life and figure out how he had disconnected from the village. In the process she begins to repair her own life.

Very good animated film  is probably going to play best for adults as the some of the themes and ideas running through the film may not hit the kiddies. This doesn’t mean kids shouldn’t see the film, only that unlike most American animation this film is operating on multiple levels.

Containing some stunning sequences and some great stylistic choices (The film opens in bland computer animation mirroring the office existence, it then switches to beautiful and live stop motion once the young woman gets to the farm) this is a film that is going to delight animation junkies. There is a true beauty and sense of life to the proceedings.

While the plot is kind of predictable over all the twists and turns and particularly the hard edge is not. Yea we know how its going to go- the route it takes is not one we’ve taken before which scores mega points as a result.

This is a wonderful film and its films like this that one goes to Fantasia

Deji Meet Girl (2022) Fantasia 2022

When a cute guy appears at a hotel on Okinawa, a young girl's life is turned upside down as amagic things begin happening around him.

This 20 minute movie is the result of Ushio Taizawa putting the film together as if it was a series of 90 minute episodes.  This film is an often magical little distraction that feel like its a compressed, if perfectly paced feature film. Thats not a knock more a statement that this film that has as much going on as most similar features.

This is a sweet little film that is worth seeing where ever you can see it.

Shin Ultraman (2022) NYAFF 2022 Fantasia 2022

New big screen version of the long running Japanese TV show was the hot ticket at New York Asian Film Festival this year. Everyone wanted to see the film that broke records in Japan, myself included.

I'm an early Ultraman adopter. I was watching the show from its first appearance in America in the late 1960's. I was such a brat about it that I was allowed to eat my family dinner on a small table while it was on before returning to the table with everyone else when it was over.

The film is essentially the origin story with Ultraman fusing with the body of a human killed trying to save a child during a giant monster attack. Ultraman takes out the kaiju and then goes back to the man's day job as a member of the forces fighting the giant monster. Along the way some aliens aliens try to take over the world and other try to destroy it because humans are potentially too powerful to be allowed to live.

To be honest my inner three or four year old was bouncing off the wall during the first part of this film as all the scenes from the trailers involving giant monsters played out. Then as the film continued on my inner three year old was getting fidgety as the giant monster gave way to three more story lines each running about 25 minutes - about the length of a TV episode.

And that's the problem, this isn't a big screen feature, but four episodes of a TV series strung together. Its shot like a TV show with lots of close ups and direct lifts from the various series. It moves like a TV series with introductions and conclusions every 25 minutes. It's not bad but I was hoping for an honest to goodness BIG screen film with a singular two hour story.

As it stands now the film has four parts:

Part 1: The Origin- Kaiju attacks
Part 2:Alien tries to make a deal to take over the world while making Ultraman look bad
Part 3: New alien tries to sell the humans new technology because he knows they will abuse it and wipe themselves out
Part 4: Ultraman's people realize humans are dangerous and set out to destroy the world-but Ultraman is wounded and human's have to save themselves.

The movie isn't bad but the film is so front loaded with craziness the pacing in the rest disappoints.  I mean most of the stuff in the trailers is the opening half hour.  While things happen in the remaining 90 minutes it's not as exciting.

Don't get me wrong I genuinely like the film, but the excitement I had from the trailers, and from being a life long fan kind of fizzled.  I wanted a huge epic film that transcended the TV series, not the TV series on the big screen. Hell I would have been happier had it not  in episodic in structure.

Watching the film with my brother we both had a grand time (more so because the low res screener made it like watching old tapes of the show) and we both came away wanting to see this on a big screen down the road, but neither one of us could quite justify going again to the NYAFF public screening at an extra cost and train fare (even with the director in attendance), it's good but not that good.

Definitely worth seeing (especially the first 40 minutes), but not worth selling the children or the planet for.

ADDENDUM-  Before anyone emails me about my issues with the film with the directors intentions know I spoke with Shinji Higuchi and Tomoya Nishino about 2 hours before the NYAFF screening and he addressed some of the issues above. However what he said did not effect how I feel about the film.  I will say more when the interview posts.

Preman (2022) NYAFF 2022

A deaf gangster soldier must fight his way out of a small village with his son when the gang murders a friend. 

This is an intense and one of a kind action film. One part action film, one part suspense drama and one part character study, this is film that puts us into the head of are hero. The film moves us in and out of the the psyche by showing us what he sees and more importantly what he doesn't hear. Time and again the soundtrack drops out. It forces us to focus. Honestly I want to go back and rewatch the film and figure out how the soundtrack drives the film.

Its also a film that makes us feel the violence. There is a visceral quality. Its dirty and ugly. Yes the blood doesn't always look real, but it feels real. It feels painful in ways we don't normally experience in the movies.

This is a killer film. It gloriously doesn't behave like most film I've seen. 

Expect this film to show up at festivals over the next few months.

Off Beat Cops (2022) NYAFF 2022

Hiroshi Abe delights in the wonderful OFFBEAT COPS, a wonderful feel good film that will leave you demanding an encore.

The plot of the film has Abe as a notorious lone wolf cop on the track of a group of robbers who call up senior citizens to warn them of scams. Then in the guise of getting information for a survey they ask them where the money in their home is. Moments later a delivery man arrives who then brains the senior and with the help of friends takes all the valuables.  Abe thinks he is on to a lead but he pushes things too far with his Dirty Harry tactics and is sent to be in the police band. As Abe is forced to play nice with others, the crimes escalate…

God bless Hiroshi Abe. One of the best actors working anywhere in the world he has a glorious knack of making the impossible work and making it all look way too damn easy.  While Offbeat Cops  is most certainly a great film, it suffers from weird tonal shifts that should kill the film dead  but some how Abe holds it all together and makes it work. The problem is that the crime stuff is very serious, with graphic violence and freely flowing blood. Its well done but it runs a bit counter to the feel good Abe lost with the band stuff which is lighter. Its never fatal but it never gels, until Abe through force of will makes it work. As I have discussed in several other pieces, I can not understand why Abe hasn’t crossed over into making films in Hollywood. With stunning good looks and a personality that is old Hollywood in wattage mixed with a modern day gravitas one would think he would have becomes an international superstar. On the other hand if Hollywood had grabbed him we probably would have wonderful films such as this.

I really loved this film a great deal. The longer it went on the more I fell under its spell. Not only was I getting misty (Abe jamming with his daughter was awesome)  but I was getting misty repeatedly as the genuine emotion  between characters pulled tears from me.

What an absolute joy.

By the time the film was done  I was in the mood for even more and when the end credits began to roll I groaned and then began yelling at the screen that the film shouldn’t have ended there.

I want a sequel and I want it now.

OFFBEAT COPS is a great film, probably the best film at the New York Asian Film Festival and an absolute must see.

Highly recommended

Friday, July 22, 2022

MEGALOMANIAC (2022) Fantasia 2022

Using the story of the Butcher on Mons (five people were killed and dismembered and left in clear plastic bags where they could be found before the killer disappeared) as a starting point MEGALOMANIAC ponders what if the the killer sired people who picked up his mantle.

Form over content film is a visually disturbing film that throws everything into the images. This is a film that has images that you will want to hang on your wall, when they are not turning your stomach.  In all seriousness this film has images that will haunt your nightmare and your conversations about the best things that films are doing visually in todays cinema.

The problem with the film is that outside of the visual this film is incredibly dull and soulless. This is a film that is all about the visuals, including the killings and torture at the expense of everything else. Honestly this is the most beautiful torture porn I've ever seen. However there is no point for this film to exist except for the stunning images to exist because there is no reason for us to be told this story.

While I know some will defend this film, the truth of the matter is this is a film that hates women. Yea I know one of the killers is a woman, but let's face it this is a film that truly seems to hate women and wants to see them cut up and destroyed. If you need proof don't just took at how the women are treated- look instead at how the brutalization of the women is shot as opposed to how the killings of the men are shot. The rapes and murders of the women are on screen and in your face. A woman's genitals are bitten off mid-rape and spit out. We watch the women suffer with the camera right in their faces. They are always turned to the camera. Not so much with the men who are allowed to look away or killed with part of the violent act off screen. We don't see the men. Additionally look at how the men all have names as if they are people  and we shouldn't see people killed, while most of the women do not, they are nobodies and nothings simply existing to be savaged. I'm sure the director had his reasons for how he shot the film but the way it came out is hurtful, vile and exactly the sort of thing that is going, or at least used to, create a fire storm.

The trouble is that the ugliness the film creates really has no reason to exist. As I said I know people will defend the film, but to what end? More ugliness in the world? You can't full say it's a reflection of the world  because how many serial killers do you know? Additionally while some could say its a reflection of the far right's attitude toward women, the reality is while they want to control women they aren't out to kill them horribly, yet. 

This is a just a pretty little hate machine and despite some impressive images can't not be recommended.

Country Gold (2022) Fantasia 2022


Country Gold is a strange film. A black and white mocumentary/comedy/expose/Lynchian riff on country music set in 1992. Nominally it has a Garth Brooks analog singer navigating the country music business, getting into trouble, having dinner with George Jones (I wonder if his family will sue) and being interviewed for TV. It ends with one of the more quietly disturbing things I’ve seen in a film in a while.

To be honest I don’t know what I think of this film.  It has moments and as a country music fan I found some of this interesting, however most of this just seemed odd for no reason other than to be odd. Its as if writer director -Mickey Reece went for effect rather than meaning by viewing things through a side show mirror. Its as if Reece managed to make us feel something but couldn’t manage to get his thoughts beyond that. I kept thinking this should have some sort of meaning but I couldn’t find any other than the typical showbiz is bad roasting. Worse the pacing is such it takes forever going nowhere.

While I appreciate Fantasia going of the beaten path, I sadly think this time they ended up in a ditch.

Princess Mononoke (1997) Plays the Japan Society Friday


Hiyao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke is a masterpiece. It’s a glorious fantasy about the fight against a monster that is devouring the forest and the people who fight to protect it.

Yes I know this an over simplification on what the film is, but it’s enough to get you started.

This is the film that got me hooked on Studio Ghibli. Seeing the film in a wonderfully subtitled version I was in awe of the epic scope of the film and the depth of the emotion. It was a hell of an experience. If you can you need to see the film subtitled.

I say this because when the film played the New York Film Festival in a dubbed version “written by” Neil Gaiman, it was a version that no one was happy. Miramax who paid for the dub tinkered with a script that Gaiman wasn’t happy with since what was said in Japanese simply couldn’t be said simply in English. Yes the film has a great voice cast but the script is a pale reflection of the original. (Even the Ghibli dub, they always did their own English dubs never surfaced in the US)

As the final film in their summer Anime series the Japan Society is running MONOKE in the right subtitled version. If you’ve never seen the film  or you’ve only seen it dubbed (or in a subtitled version based on the Gaiman dub) you need to see this. It will move you. It's visually over powering  emotionally moving story that is considered to be one of the greatest films ever made (full stop).

Go see it.

The Swordsman (2020) NYAFF 2022

A swordsman who had his eye sight damaged protecting the king is forced back into action when his daughter (really the daughter of the former king he was tasked with protecting) is kidnapped by some really bad Chinese dudes.

The first pairing of Jang Hyuk and director  Choi Jae-Hun got it’s first big screen showing at New York Asian Film Festival. Originally slated to release during covid, it ended up streaming and blowing up the services. Its success spawned the current hit THE KILLER. I completely understand why.

Though its based on actual events, you’re not going to care about the politics. The machinations of the lords trying not to get steamrolled by cliched Chinese bullies is the least interesting part of the film. What you want to see is Jang Hyuk becoming a one man army taking out anyone who would even think of hurting his daughter. This is awesome set piece after set piece as the near blind swordsman carves his way through the opposing forces. You understand why one of the big bad flees when he sees the blind guy taking out his army. Hyuk maybe even a more impressive blind swordsman than Zatoichi. This was a film that had the audience audibly reacting to his feats.

Actually what most people are going to love is the fights are a combination of typical sword work mixed with martial arts and other types of fighting. It feels realer than most film fights.

This is a must when it hits screens via Wellgo.

My Old School (2022) opens today

This is the story of "Brandon Lee" who in 1993 went to a crumbling prep school and became the toast of the school until it was discovered that he was actually 30 and trying to get his way into being accepted into medical school. Director Jono McLeod was one of his classmates and via interviews with them and lip synced performance by Alan Cumming as Lee he attempts to get to the bottom of it all.

Odd mix of animation and live action tells a hell of a hell of a story that kind of  leaves you scratching your head at the end. Yea, its a crazy story and it should be told but at the same time there really isn't enough here to support a feature. There is no dark revelations  or conflict. There is no real cautionary tale, I mean, hell, everyone likes "Brandon", even if they think he is a bit daft. There are just the stories of what happened and at a certain point that stops being enough. There is no reason for this to be almost two hours. At a certain point this was like a dinner guest who is really interesting but wouldn't shut up.

Worth a look for the curious but you may want to wait for streaming.