Highly Recommended Ten Nights of Dreams (2006) (Japanese Horror/Drama Anthology) (repeat viewing) – This is an anthology of 10 short films (lasting about 12 minutes each) that span a variety of genres, including horror, drama, and comedy. While there is much ambiguity and subjective interpretation to be had here, these short films are saturated with originality and refreshing elements. Pacing is slower during the opening half, but there are certainly some crowd-pleasing moments to be had throughout. Gamera: The Guardian of the Universe (1995) (Japanese Action) (repeat viewing) – An enormous monster turtle (Gamera) protects Japan from man-eating birds (Gyaos) in this film by Shusuke Kaneko. This turtle is one well-equipped badass with lots of surprises up its sleeve, a testament to the creative monster design that gives this film a refreshing, entertaining quality. The physical effects are very good, with little in terms of CGI. The acting is solid and the storyline is adequate, which really helps during the non-action moments. A high quality kaiju film. Gamera 2: Attack of Legion (aka Advent of Legion) (1996) (Japanese Action) (repeat viewing) – The giant turtle is back to protect Japan against a monster from space (named Legion). Legion is one tough cookie, sporting a number of human-size drones along with a large insect-like monster. Gamera gets his butt handed to him a few times, but breaks out a crazy last ditch effort near the end. Director Shusuke Kaneko likes shooting the monster fights at night to create a more ominous tone, and there’s also lots of green turtle blood sprayed around. The monsters are on screen for a good portion of the runtime and the special effects are very good. Gamera 3: The Revenge of Iris (1999) (Japanese Action) (repeat viewing) – The giant turtle Gamera returns to defend Japan from a deadly monster in this film by Shusuke Kaneko. The emphasis here is on the collateral damage that the big guy inflicts while fighting his enemies, and how this affects the lives of human beings. The monster confrontations result in tons of structural damage and explosions, but they are not quite as diverse or scintillating as the first two films in this trilogy. Nevertheless, the human elements are even stronger, the monster designs are fantastic, and the ending is satisfying. Recommended Bangkok Dangerous (1999) (Thai Action/Drama) (repeat viewing) – A deaf hitman woos a girl in this film by the Pang Brothers. One can tell that this is an early entry in their portfolio, as even the trademark specialities of the Pangs (visuals and soundtrack) feel rather cheap in certain instances – but this still has an effective style to it regardless. The script and scenario are also simplistic, but it definitely has a heart to it (the romantic angle feels realistic). Fortunately, the characters are very likeable, the action is good, and there are a few memorable moments to pull this one through. Not much dialogue either, which makes it an interesting watch. Blue Lake Girl (1986) (Japanese Drama/Horror) – Successful artist Nagare is invited to paint the portrait of Takigawa’s father, but the wife Mizue falls for the handsome painter. This film by Akio Jissoji has lot of atmosphere, vivid visuals, and a hypnotic score despite being direct to video. The lighting is especially good. An interesting little film for sure. (Viewed without subtitles.) Not Recommended Detective Chinatown (2015) (Chinese Action/Comedy) – After being rejected from the police college, a mannerly man travels to Bangkok where he and an energetic distant relative must solve a murder case. Tons of obnoxious overacting for the purposes of comedy. The action is all low-grade slapstick nonsense, with people falling over one another – or kicking people in the balls – for laughs. They don’t even bother to attempt a good action scene. This is 135 minutes of monotonous crap. Detective Chinatown 2 (2018) (Chinese Action/Comedy) – The protagonists return and team up to solve a murder in New York’s Chinatown. This has an expanded cast of detectives and takes place in NYC, but it suffers from the same flaws as the original. Lazy action design and lame humor. This was a box office blockbuster in its home country, by the way. Robinson’s Garden (1987) (Japanese Drama) – A hippie-like girl tries to turn an abandoned industrial site into an urban oasis full of greenery. Set during the hot months of summer, this a very low budget affair with weirdo characters who are not well developed yet still annoying. It’s also extremely uneventful and dull. This is a two hour film with a lot of dead weight as it shows people doing essentially nothing.