No announcement yet.

What Asian Films Have You Been Watching Recently?

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • I watched Lee Min-jae's debut ODD FAMILY: ZOMBIE ON SALE. It's a mashup of TRAIN TO BUSAN, QUIET FAMILY & SHAUN OF THE DEAD among other films. As a whole it falls short of the greatness of those movies but still very entertaining especially for a debut director. A lot of my praise goes to the ensemble cast featuring some fantastic actors like Jung Jae-young, Uhm Ji-won and veteran character actor, Park In-hwan (who I also enjoyed immensely in the disaster flick, EXIT last year). There is the right mix of quirky physical comedy bordering on slapstick with some hilarious family bonding humor. This isn't a horror movie in the strictest sense and there is very little in the way of gore or bloody violence but rather, it's like an indie "zombie/romantic" comedy. The story centers on a dysfunctional multi-generational Korean family in the boonies who happen upon the first victim of a defective diabetes drug and the hilarity ensues. Recommended! Going to keep an eye out for director, Lee Min-jae's future projects. Perhaps, Korea will be known for revitalizing the Zombie genre instead of revenge and vengeance based thrillers.


    • I checked out Jun'ya Sato's big budget joint Soviet-Japanese co-production, THE DREAM OF RUSSIA starring Ken Ogata. It certainly was a lavish production for the times and was decent but nothing special. Plot revolves around Ogata as the Captain of a Japanese trading ship (Edo period pre-Commodore Perry) whose ship and crew ends up getting shipwrecked off the coast of Siberia during a storm. The rest of the story is about Ogata trying to get whatever is left of his crew back to Japan. It's a difficult undertaking as the common Russians are helpless & it involves a risky cross country trek from Siberia to St. Petersburg during the dead of winter to meet Catherine the Great in hopes of getting her approval to send them back to Japan. Along the way, the Japanese seamen are introduced to Western science and lifestyles and a few of the Japanese sailors decided to stay in Russia due to falling in love with the local women, religious conversion as Christianity was a death sentence in Japan, etc. I usually enjoy Ogata but he plays the stoic yet curious Captain role without any real emotion - there is one scene where he finally gets an audience with Catherine the Great & she requests he sing a song from his homeland. Ogata belts out a traditional song with tears in his eyes yearning for his return but instead of being poignant, it came off bordering on comedic. Don't know if that was Sato's intention but it seemed to really deflate the entire scene. The Russians are generally portrayed as sympathetic to the plight of the Japanese castaways and good natured people but it's too simplistic. Anyway, watch once and forget.

      I'm more interested in checking out Fumihiko Kato's debut Roman porno, THE GIRL AND THE WOODEN HORSE TORTURE. There is a nice looking HD WEBRip with custom English subs! Thanks to the ARiN team and especially Kemushi who paid for the subs and timed them himself. Been blessed of late as Kemushi also provided the English subs for the BD Rip of Junichi Suzuki's KOICHIRO UNO'S WET AND RIDING too.

      Last edited by 47lab; 01-11-2020, 10:11 PM.


      • I checked out Satsuo Yamamoto's A TALE OF JAPANESE BURGLARS starring Rentaro Mikuni as an ex-convict burglar & quack dentist who during a lull in one of his burglary attempts of a storehouse, witnesses a group of men intentionally tampering with the railroad tracks to cause a train derailment. While in prison for one of his stints for burglary, he happens upon a group of prisoners (railway union members) who are wrongfully indicted for the train derailment and when he finds out they will be sentenced to death, he begins to have a moral conundrum whether he should testify what he saw that night. Unfortunately, that decision is made much more difficult due to constant pressure & harassment from a police detective played superbly by Yuunosuke Ito and the fact that he's finally found happiness with a loving wife and young son. The courtroom scene at the end with Mikuni's witty testimony and matter of fact narration of events had the entire courtroom in stitches and it was fantastic. Also, nice to see a young Sonny Chiba playing one of the defense lawyers for the wrongfully convicted. His role is brief but he sure makes an impact. This movie is based on real events and is Yamamoto's take on the Matsukawa incident. For a very interesting view into the string of post-war terror involving train derailments, murder, possible cover ups & intelligence agency involvement, please refer to this fascinating article. Recommended viewing!


        • Originally posted by Takuma View Post
          Big Magnum Kuroiwa Sensei (ビッグ・マグナム黒岩先生) (Japan, 1985) [DVD] - 3/5
          “Violence education is my motto”, explains one of the new teachers at the School without Honor and Humanity, an institution full of delinquents, neo nazis and girls flashing their breasts (imported Nikkatsu actresses, I believe). And by "violence education" he means using violence in education. But the real badass in the school is the other newcomer, Kuroiwa sensei, a harmless looking old man who is actually a secret agent armed to the teeth, sent by the Board of Education! A relatively insane Kazuhiko Yamaguchi high school action comedy runs out of bullets at the end when the educational Rambo has to clear the school of bad boys without actually killing anyone. Lame. It's because the film was a family friendly mainstream comedy manga adaptation, released just prior to the 80s high school action boom (Be-bop High School and Sukeban Deka followed soon). It's still a good bit of fun, though.

          I had this on my "to watch queue" for a while and finally got around to checking it out. Yeah, the opening looked so bad ass that I was getting giddy with excitement and it didn't live up to the initial anticipation but like you said it was still pretty entertaining and fun in a goofy Japanese sort of way. The DVD rip was a nice looking print and the English subs were on point. You could do worse than check out this movie.


          • One of the best from Kenji Misumi was recently subbed and now available from a TV rip. It's Katsu Productions INTERNAL SLEUTH starring Tomisaburo Wakayama as a grizzled cop working the underworld with his connections to the Yakuza. He is soon embroiled in a turf war between rival factions and is double crossed in the process. The Wakayama goes on the war path and it doesn't end well for those that betrayed him. This is a Kenji Misumi affair, so expect a bloodbath and it delivers with his famous arterial sprays when someone gets cut up & bloody gun violence. Imagine Wakayama going Ogami Itto but with a shotgun and pistol instead of a katana. It feels like a more nihilistic and grimy companion to Shintaro Katsu's BIG BOSS made a couple years earlier. Highly recommended!


            • I caught Po Chih-leong's 1977 action/espionage thriller, FOXBAT based on the MiG-25 Belenko defection (not sure if Craig Thomas' novel, FIREFOX was out before this movie was made?). I enjoyed this way more than I should've and while it had me snickering at certain points, it was still very enjoyable. Yes, I had to look past the wooden acting and terrible dubbing but the action scenes weren't bad and even though it looks dated now (especially in comparison to something like FIREFOX), you can tell it had high production values for its time. I'm sure all that location shooting in Northern Japan wasn't cheap. James Yi was goofy as the naive Chinese cook in love with blaxploitation starlet Vonetta McGee & he had me reaching for the remote. I understand they tried to bring a comedic element with his character but he was just too effeminate and annoying. Speaking of Vonetta, she was simply awesome in her role as a government agent hell bent on retrieving the micro film by any means necessary. The other standout was Melvin Wong as the brooding assassin of Roy Chiao's team sent by Russians. The fight scenes were engaging too. I would watch it again. If my review sounds harsh to Mr. Yi, I really enjoyed his other roles. He was memorable as the detective with "piles" in the early 80s slasher, RED PANTHER & in TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE STAR.


              • Originally posted by 47lab View Post
                I caught Po Chih-leong's 1977 action/espionage thriller, FOXBAT based on the MiG-25 Belenko defection (not sure if Craig Thomas' novel, FIREFOX was out before this movie was made?).
                Same year. Craig Thomas was a friend of my friend's dad when I was a kid. He mentioned the defection in the book but apparently he was already writing it when it happened.
                I'm bitter, I'm twisted, James Joyce is fucking my sister.


                • Originally posted by agent999 View Post
                  Same year. Craig Thomas was a friend of my friend's dad when I was a kid. He mentioned the defection in the book but apparently he was already writing it when it happened.
                  Thanks for the info.

                  Finding out that Spectrum Films is going to release DEVIL HUNTERS on blu ray later this year made me want to watch it again. So I pulled out my English dubbed German dvd titled ULTRA FORCE 2 and gave it a go. Not the best representation of the Girls with Guns craze but still a shit load of fun and of course, this movie is infamous for the final scene (tastelessly replayed multiple times in slo-mo with a voiceover adding some half ass platitudes wishing the actors a speedy recovery in the hospital lol) where Sibelle Hu and Moon Lee were badly injured during the explosion. Besides all the ballistic gun fu and fight scenes, it was cool to see Michael Chan-wai playing a sympathetic character for a change & damn, did Francis Ng look young here. Recommended for fans of the GWG genre. The German dvd is anamorphic and is a fine looking print.

                  You can see pics of Moon Lee in the hospital. Hard to fathom that Sibelle Hu got it even worse! Those ladies have my utmost hespect!

                  Last edited by 47lab; 01-21-2020, 07:30 PM.


                  • Recently re-watched Jeff Lau's THUNDER COPS 2 starring Sandra Ng and Stephen Chow. But this is no "mo lei tau" comedy and nothing to do with the original THUNDER COPS aka OPERATION PINK SQUAD also directed by Lau and starring some of the same actors like Ng, Ann Bridgewater, Shing Fui-on etc. This started out on a decent note with Sandra Ng (not being annoyingly loud) as a policewomen hellbent on revenge after her father (played by Eddy Ko) is killed in the line of duty protecting her by a drug dealer. The usual tropes are in effect here with Sandra going through rigorous training to become a hardened cop with a steadfast mission to track down the killer of her father. It would've been a decent if unimaginative revenge action flick if Lau kept this storyline but then he introduces Stephen Chow as a the lame (as in crippled) brother of Shing Fui-on's drug dealer character and it veers off into John Woo "heroic bloodshed" brotherhood territory with loyalties tested and truths revealed but without the gravitas needed to fulfill those scenes. Chow is essentially wasted here and the ending fight with katanas is beyond ludicrous. In fact, most of the action scenes are weighed down by Lau's misplaced artistic tendencies of using slo mo to the point of distraction. He's trying some John Woo balletic gun fu action but it just comes out all wrong. Lin Hsiao-lu (CHILD OF PEACH & MAGIC OF SPELL fame) playing Ng's cop partner had the best action/fight sequence in the entire film but unfortunately, Lau blew his load way too early. The other highlight was Ann Bridgewater as she is always easy on the eyes and it's no different here even if she's playing a drug addicted police informant. One of the funnier scenes was Shing Fui-on shagging her in all kinds of positions with Ng hiding in the closet while peeping Bridgewater's orgasmic facial expressions. Anyway, this is watch once if you're a fan of Stephen Chow and forget. This was a misfire for Lau but he'll always be in my good graces for directing one of the best HK movies of the early 80s with COOLIE KILLER. That's a movie that needs a blu ray release ASAP.

                    I'm going to try and make it this week to see at least 3 movies theatrically, the first being Dante Lam's latest RESCUE, Chen Sicheng's DETECTIVE CHINATOWN 3 and lastly, Woo Min-ho's THE MAN STANDING NEXT.


                    • For whatever reason, Dante Lam's RESCUE and DETECTIVE CHINATOWN 3 have had their opening dates pushed back, so that left Woo Min-ho's political thriller, THE MAN STANDING NEXT as the only movie that I could see theatrically this week. It's yet another Korean movie focusing on the assassination of South Korean president, Park Chun-hee. He was certainly a polarizing figure and ruled the country for nearly 20 years with an iron fist. His legacy is mired with the brutal oppression of the press, dissidents, students, etc but it's also acknowledged for bringing forth the modern economic miracle which is South Korea today. Hee is obviously a central figure in the plot but the emphasis is on his assassin, Kim Jae-gyu who was Chief of Korean Central Intelligence and Hee's right hand man. Kim is played superbly by Lee Byung-hun as all of Kim's foibles are laid bare for the viewer. He comes off as a jilted lover jealous that his rival, Hee's personal bodyguard is squeezing Kim outside of the President's circle of power and is becoming increasingly paranoid about his future under Hee's authoritarian rule. Overall, a very good film that is entertaining without being pedantic but it wasn't as engrossing as other films centering on Park Chung-hee such as the black comedy, THE PRESIDENT'S LAST BANG or even Im Chang-sang's THE PRESIDENT'S BARBER which is one of Song Kang-ho's underrated gems.


                      • Fukasaku x 2

                        Rampaging Dragon on the North (北海の暴れ竜) (Japan, 1966) [VoD] - 3/5
                        A fishermen vs. yakuza pot-boiler similar to many others (e.g. North Sea Chivalry, 1967) made around the same time. An evident pay-check job for Fukasaku, yet more energetic and entertaining than most of its kind. There are some overly clichéd plot developments, but also a delighting little twist at the end that I've never seen in any other yakuza film. Good performances as well: back in hometown punk Tatsuo Umemiya full of energy, villagers Yoko Mihara & Toru Yuri (in a less comedic role than usual!), opponent gambler Joji Takagi (a typical ninkyo role that always tends to be good), Hideo Murota looking literally dirty, etc.

                        Ceremony of Disbanding (解散式) (Japan, 1967) [DVD] - 3/5
                        "What are we, the yakuza, without honour and humanity?" A rare ninkyo effort from Fukasaku, one that embraces the genre's old fashioned form to the point of becoming unrecognizable in the director's filmography. There are several lyrically melancholic scenes with Tsuruta witnessing his old yakuza pals consumed by greed and abandon the traditional way of the yakuza, a beautifully depicted honour/duty play with rival clan ex-bodyguard Tamba, and mature performance by Junko Miyazono as a woman from the past. It's a shame the scrip as a whole isn't quite as accomplished, failing to give some wonderful scenes the context they deserve. Note: not to be confused with Gambler: Ceremony of Disbanding (1968), also directed by Fukasaku.

                        Nishimura x 2

                        Attack on the Sun (白昼の襲撃) (Japan, 1970) [35mm] - 3.5/5
                        Two punks and a girlfriend come in possession of a handgun in Kiyoshi Nishimura's politically and socially conscious Toho action film. This has similar vibe to early 70s Nikkatsu new action, only with Nishimura's trademark aggressive jazz score and international flair with G.I.s and their offspring flocking the bars in the era of ANPO controversy. An interesting film, though one of the lesser works by fascinating director Nishimura, mainly because of some slower patches and poor acting by the foreign enforcements. The Japanese cast does better, especially lead Toshio Kurosawa and girlfriend Noriko Takahashi (who had an exceptionally captivating presence and facial features. Unfortunately Takahashi would go on to retire soon after co-starring in Jun Fukuda's City of Beasts later the same year following marriage at the age of 24).

                        The Target of Roses (薔薇の標的) (Japan, 1972) [35mm] - 4/5
                        Superb Kiyoshi Nishimura action thriller with professional killer Yuzo Kayama hired to assassinate a foreign photographer (Rolf Jesser) and a Chinese woman (Zhen Zhen). Before soon, he falls in love with the woman and realizes his own employer is the Japanese branch of a neo-nazi organization planning to initiate the fourth reich! This features some of the most beautiful, naturalistic cinematography I've seen in any Japanese film, and very little music, which elevates the intensity near the level of Too Young to Die (1969), Nishimura's masterful debut film. The almost documentaristic attention to detail and observation, together with a rather outrageous (but cleverly down-played) plot ensure there is not a single boring scene in the film. The movie was shot in Japan and Hong Kong, the 1st half mainly in Japanese with some English, German and Chinese whereas the 2nd half is mainly in English, which isn't a problem because Kayama almost never butchers a line beyond understanding (something that was/is not a given with Japanese actors). His delivery does tend to go stiff when delivering English dialogue (as if he was looking at cue cards?) and the dialogue isn't exactly award winning stuff, but small flaws shall be forgiven when the rest of the film is so damn good. Only if the otherwise badass ending had had a bit more inspired action design the film would be even better.


                        The Vengeful Beauty (Hong Kong, 1978) [VoD] - 3/5
                        A less focused semi-sequel to the Flying Guillotine films, with a storyline that doesn't know if it wants to be a revenge film, an escape film, a straight kung fu film or a flying guillotine film. It ends up being a bit of everything - but remains entertaining. Plus, it has a female lead, a pretty strong finale, and one topless kung fu fight. That's got to count for something!

                        Ichi the Killer (殺し屋1) (Japan, 2001) [Netflix] - 3.5/5
                        Never been a huge fan of this, but I've grown to like it. Miike has always been good at location work and this, too, captures the threatening 90s anguish Tokyo much like Shinya Tsukamoto films. The violence seems surprisingly tame by today's standards; in a world where Hostels, Saws and Night Comes for Us pass for mainstream entertainment, Ichi could almost be downgraded to a “15”.

                        The Villainess (South-Korea, 2017) [DVD] - 2/5
                        Korean actioner opens with mechanical PoV action scene that forgets to tell us why this little girl is supposed to be able to beat more bad guys than Bruce Lee in his prime. The film then gets better as it goes on, with a cute love story + the unusual twist of the antiheroine having a child to take care of. Unfortunately the action doesn't get any better, with more complex but nonsensical camerawork that lacks understanding of action cinema dynamics. Feels like a hyper-active video game at times, amateur martial arts movie at others. Some of the stunt work is impressive, however.


                        • Caught Diao Yi'nan's noir crime thriller, THE WILD GOOSE LAKE. Diao definitely has a certain style and I'm a fan. His BLACK COAL, THIN ICE was one of my favorites from a few years ago and while this flick doesn't quite reach those lofty heights, it's still an impressive work. Doesn't hurt that he is reunited with two of the stars from his early film in Gwei Lun-mei and Liao Fan, although Fan has a much smaller role this time around. Gwei Lun-mei is impressive as usual playing a "bathing beauty" (type of prostitute who plies her services in the water as to elude police scrutiny) whose intentions are not quite known until the end. She played the mysterious femme fatale in Diao's earlier film and she reprises some of that character's traits in this one but in a much more earthy role. The central character is played by Hu Ge and he plays the taciturn boss of a local gang of bike thieves on the run from local thugs and the cops after a bounty is placed on his head. His quiet demeanor belies the fact that he is prone to extreme violent outbursts which makes the action scenes are all the more effective as they are succinctly shot with an almost detached feel to them. There is a shocking decapitation that occurs early on that I had to rewind a couple of times just to see what happened and another memorable scene involves an umbrella used as a weapon with an unexpected and creative twist. The print I watched was ripped from MUBI and had an annoying watermark pop up onscreen periodically which hampered my enjoyment somewhat and I can't wait to see it again in a pristine and higher quality print either theatrically or on blu ray when Film Movement puts it out later this year. Highly recommended!


                          • Recently watched Kim Hong-sun's latest supernatural horror flick, METAMORPHOSIS. I enjoyed a couple of his previous films like THE CHASE and his debut, TRAFFICKERS. In fact a couple of the lead actors from THE CHASE are featured here especially Sun Dong-il, who plays the patriarch of a family forced to move & start anew due the scandal involving Dong-il's priest brother. The title refers to an evil spirit which is able to assume human form and shapeshift causing chaos and havoc within the family. Soon members of Dong-il's family become highly suspicious and paranoid of each other and this leads to Dong-il calling in his defrocked priest brother to perform an exorcism. Overall, nothing special & quite mediocre. It has some decent acting, okay special effects but nothing puts it in the 'must watch' category. Unfortunately, it's biggest failing is it's not genuinely frightening or scary. It's also a case of missed opportunities for example, there is a scene early on involving a creepy neighbor who keeps the Il family awake at night with noisy animal bloodletting rituals but this goes nowhere. There were also some psychological horror elements that could've been emphasized more but instead the director focuses on cheap jump scares or characters popping out of nowhere. I have more Korean horror on the "to watch list" with Yu Seon-dong's 0.0MHz and Kim Jin-won's WARNING: DO NOT PLAY up next. Hopefully I'll get more entertainment from those two flicks.


                            • I re-watched Chui Chung-hing's 1985 kung fu comedy, DRUNKEN DRAGON aka EXCITING DRAGON. It's available from Toby Russell's defunct, Rarescope label in a decent pillarboxed print with original Canto audio or English dub. The first five minutes is just fucking off the chain. You got Phillip Ko-fei as an evil kung fu master leading his henchmen (including Shaw regular, Hsiung Yan with a freaking flamethrower on top of head) against his old sifu in a Shaolin monastery in an attempt to retrieve a secret sword. The monastery has all kinds of traps and secret weapons that pop out to deter potential thieves and a crazy ass fight breaks out with Ko-fei's old master rocking a small canoe with weapons.

                              The rest of the story focuses on Suen Kwok-ming being trained by Beardy to fight off Ko-fei and his minions. The best part is venom, Chiang Sheng is dressed in drag the whole movie as Ming's granny and Ko-fei's former love interest and now object of revenge. I really enjoyed the scenes with Ming's wife too. He's in an arranged marriage with old childhood friend Miss Piggy...errr, a full figured plus sized Chow Mei-yee and she can move for a lady her size! Director Chui Chung-hing worked under the Yuen clan in such films as the DRUNKARD films, MIRACLE FIGHTERS, etc and you can definitely feel their influence but he tones down the weirdness to make a more conventional kung fu revenge film with the training sequences and brutal showdown with Ko-fei. Highly recommended!


                              • I've been following Taiwanese novelist & director, Giddens Ko for a while ever since I watched his coming of age love story, YOU ARE THE APPLE OF MY EYE and followed that up with his social satire black comedy thriller, THE TENANTS DOWNSTAIRS. I really enjoyed both those films, so I eagerly anticipated his latest film that was released a couple years ago titled MON MON MON MONSTER. For various reasons, I didn't get to see it until fairly recently but it was worth the wait. This film utilizes many of the themes of Ko's previous works but wrapped around the central theme of teen bullying with horror film tropes. As the title suggests, the mcguffin in this flick is a pair of bloodthirsty young female zombie/vampires with a rather sympathetic backstory who feed on human flesh and are averse to light. I really enjoyed the effects work and the old school "gore" that is frequently shown. Don't want to spoiler the movie but there is a fantastic scene where Ko juxtaposes a watermelon smoothie being made in a blender with bloody carnage on a school bus. Interesting to note that Ko's inspiration for the film was the negative press & general hate he was receiving from the public due to a widely publicized affair he had at the time with a CTV reporter. You can definitely sense some of that pent up anger in the main character of this film. I recommend this flick for both fans of horror and those who are more familiar with Ko's style and previous films.