Recently seen, part 19 (August 2018)


Member: Rank 1
I hope you guys don't mind that I start the thread for August, since I have the last three movies from Montreal's Fantasia Film Festival to report.

What a Man Wants

Korean comedy about two brothers-in-law and their adulterous endeavours. The movie meanders for about half its runtime before finally getting all the pieces in place for some very funny situations. If I had been watching at home, I would have probably given up after less than 30 minutes, but in the end I was glad I stayed.

Big Brother

Hong Kong high school drama with the old trope of a teacher (played by superstar Donnie Yen) who changes the lives of several of his troubled students. Very simplistic and contrived screenplay that feels like it was written by a not particularly talented 14-year old. If you absolutely cannot miss any Donnie Yen movie, then by all means go for it. Otherwise, don't bother.

The Fortress

Korean historical epic about a siege of a mountain top fortress where the king has taken refuge from Chinese invaders. Great production values, as is to be expected from a Korean blockbuster, but it didn't quite resonate with me - maybe because it dedicates too much time to endless discussions between the king and his ministers and military advisors.


Member: Rank 5
The Empty Hands [2017] • Hong Kong
Director: Chapman To

Stephy is a Karate protegé (she's half Japanese in the film) who shuns it after she feels she's pushed too far. Then some stuff happens and she has to simply live through a three ring match in order to keep her home. Hero to Zero to Hero.

Reminds me of why I've lost track of what Hong Kong is doing cinematically. Me and Hong Kong don't jibe. I never really get the sense that the people are characters in some scenario that happens to be filmed. Everybody looks American to me, like actors are acting in a film for another notch in their bedpost towards stardom. So all the acting is awful (no matter how cute and plucky Stephy Tang may be). And the film flops around from mood to mood for Hong Kong reasons, I guess. The direction is awful. I watched and skipped through this with a wrinkled face.

Deadpool 2 [2018] • USA
Director: David Leitch

One was enough.

Avengers: Infinity War [2018] • USA
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

"Kick Names, Take Ass"! Names, Take Ass_EDIT.mp4

That line and its subsequent pregnant pause is worth the price of admission. The drama between Gamora and Thanos (actually, ALL the moments of drama--and there are far too many of them) makes you want your money back.

I blame the writing. The people in control of this one used blockbuster template bullshit with no interest in creativity or imagination. Every character is reduced--and there are too many of them--and every plot point could lead to the complete destruction of the universe. yawn.

Thor is still cool, however. Josh Brolin is fantastic as Thanos. I want a movie with just those two.
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Daniel Larusso

Member: Rank 3
It's been mostly videogames for me lately, so I haven't been watching many films...

Troublesome Night

Didn't get my attention. Still, the little girl was both scary and cute lol.

Dragon Ball Z: Wrath of the Dragon
Last Dragon Ball Z movie made in the 90's. And it's actually one of the best in the DB film universe. I made a ranked list with all DB films.

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Don't get the hype for this one.

Dragon Ball Z: Fusion Reborn


Norwegian Wood (re-watch)
I remember watching this film some years ago and finding the dark stuff very interesting, yet something was missing in it, it felt empty somehow.. then I found out that it was based on a novel, so while I enjoyed all the dark stuff, the book would probably fill the void that I felt in the film. I listened to the audiobook and it was so much better. The writing is awesome and there's so much description about the characters' feelings, we feel so close to them. Because the main character is so quiet, we get most of what's going on by understanding his feelings. The book isn't a masterpiece or anything, but the experience is so much better than the film.

After listening to the audiobook, I watched it again. While the cast is spot-on, cinematography is very pretty and knowing the book helps me to have a better understanding of the story, I must say that I remember now why I didn't like the film so much as I wanted to. The film skips from scene to scene very quickly in order to follow everything in the book, leaving out all descriptions about the characters' feelings which is what makes the book so good. Therefore, characters in the film feel so distant. "The film itself lacked detail. It felt like things were just happening one after the other. Why were they happening, one couldn't tell". - someone on Letterboxd.

I wouldn't mind having a longer cut of the film with all missing material in it and having a closer experience to, for example, The New World (Extended Cut).

Frank Herbert’s Dune
It's okay. Follows the book very closely, nothing much to say about this one.

The nature of my work consists of sitting on a computer stuck in the same room with the same people all day. I'm so bored with it and suddenly I had this huge interest in listening audiobooks. I hadn't read anything since my childhood, and even then it was all about Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings for me. Lately, I also (FINALLY) read/listened Battle Royale and 2001: A Space Odyssey. There's definately a new world here for me to discover lol. Also listenied Dune's audiobook in order to prepare for the new film adaptation coming out next year.
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Member: Rank 5
I watched and skipped through this with a wrinkled face.
Bwahahaha! I wonder how that translates into an emoticon.

Avengers: Infinity War [2018] • USA

The drama between Gamora and Thanos (actually, ALL the moments of drama--and there are far too many of them) makes you want your money back.
I also didn't like this. All these superhero movies that's been out lately I watch just on TV and throw them out the window after I watch them: they barely make a mark.

I made a ranked list with all DB films.
I'll make one too in the future.

Norwegian Wood (re-watch)
I remember watching this film some years ago and finding the dark stuff very interesting,
What's the dark stuff again.................. I can't seem to remember.


Member: Rank 3
On a side note, I purchased a VIP ticket for BAND-MAID’s November concert in San Francisco.

Highly Recommended

Mission Impossible 6: Fallout (2018) (American Action) – Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF team, along with some familiar allies, race against time after a mission gone wrong. This is a surprisingly fantastic action film that is the best of the franchise since the first installment back in 1996. There’s a ton of high quality action with a wide variety of set pieces to enjoy. Pacing is very brisk and it’s nice to see Henry Cavill in a role that actually works. There are a few effective scenes of misdirection and the script does make an effort to infuse some drama and tension to the proceedings. I will be adding this to my personal collection when it becomes available.

BAND-MAID Live: Zepp Tokyo (2018) (Japanese Music Concert Footage) – This two hour concert of 26 live songs was included in the limited edition Blu-ray that accompanied the “Start Over” single release. This hard rock band of hot maids is excelling in musicianship at an exponential rate, and this fantastic concert is compelling evidence. As an added bonus, this concert features an awesome instrumental piece that has yet to be officially released. This is one of those Blu-rays that you could play on a loop and never get sick of it.


Zeiram (1991) (Japanese Sci Fi Action) (repeat viewing) – A cute intergalactic bounty hunter fights a vicious shape-changing alien in this surprisingly fun, low-budget action movie by director Keita Amemiya. The highlight of this film is, without question, the physical effects and monster designs. The alien itself changes form on multiple occasions, allowing the filmmakers to explore a variety of weird body structures that are a joy to behold (even some stop motion animation is utilized). The lead actress is hot and has some charisma. The shootouts/fights are fun with their perfect blend of coolness and cheesiness, and the score is also very good.

Zeiram 2 (1994) (Japanese Sci Fi Action) (repeat viewing) – The intergalactic bounty hunter Iria returns to test a military robot, only to discover that it’s actually a new model of the Zeiram. The retractable alien core of the Zeiram does make a few memorable appearances, the action set pieces are frequent and at times innovative, and the scorching hot Yuko Moriyama is great in the lead role. Special effects are neat and the score is unique and catchy. Director Keita Amemiya returns, as do the two clumsy electrician sidekicks. The main reason why this film is a slight step down from its predecessor is the finale, which is not as multi-faceted or satisfying.

A Silent Voice (2016) (Japanese Anime Drama) – A young man is ostracized by his classmates after he bullies a deaf girl to the point where she moves away. Years later, he sets off on a path for redemption. This is a good quality anime film from top to bottom, with a good dramatic foundation and character development. A bit on the long side at 130 minutes though.

Of Unknown Origin (1983) (Canadian/American Horror) – A man who recently completed rebuilding a townhouse becomes obsessed with a rat infestation until it becomes an interspecies duel. This stars Peter Weller (from “Robocop” fame). The tone is deadly serious for the most part, which makes for some hilarious sequences. This also has a pretty good psychological slant and Weller is a convincing lead. But man, the rat in this movie is one tough son of a gun!

Batman Ninja (2018) (Japanese Anime Action) – Batman, along with a number of his allies and adversaries, finds himself transplanted from modern Gotham City to feudal Japan. The animation is fantastic and gawk-worthy, but his is probably a bit too wacky for its own good (it infuses some Japanese anime tropes along the way too). The story feels rushed, the dialogue is cheesy, and the English voice-acting is hit or miss. The constant use of futuristic technology kinda defeats the purpose of the historical setting, but it does provide an interesting visual experience. This is a flawed but moderately enjoyable affair, from a superficial stand-point.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower (2017) (Japanese Anime Drama) – A strange flower grants a girl magic powers. The plot is predictable and very simplistic, but the animation is nice and it’s moderately fun to watch. Based on “The Little Broomstick”, a children’s novel by British writer Mary Stewart. English voice-acting is good and appropriate, given the characters and source material.

Not Recommended

Ocean’s 11 (1960) (American Drama/Comedy) – Danny Ocean gathers a group of his World War II compatriots to pull off the ultimate Las Vegas heist. Together the friends plan to rob five Las Vegas casinos in one night. It’s kinda interesting to see these big names act cool and chill out, but there’s too much filler material, pointless dialogue, and Dean Martin songs. It’s too unfocused and inconsequential.

Foret Debussy (2016) (Taiwanese Drama) – Deep in the barren mountains, a mother and a daughter live an isolated quiet life. Kwai Lunmei is good as usual (and sexy), there are some very nice forest environments from start to finish, and the film is shot well. Unfortunately, there is almost no story or dialogue, meaning that much of the film shows Kwai sitting or sleeping in the forest – doing literally nothing else. This is a sleep-inducing experience.

Elevator to the Gallows (2010) (Japanese Drama/Thriller) – A doctor at a big medical corporation (Hiroshi Abe) has decided to run away with his lover, the wife of the president of his company. But before he is able to leave, he has to kill her husband and make it look like suicide. This movie feels flat and unengaging, almost like the filmmakers were just “going thru the motions” instead of providing impactful moments. It’s not bad, just boring.

Champion (2018) (Korean Drama) – A Korean American arm wrestler goes to South Korea for a competition, finds a sister that he didn't know about, and clashes with a local gangster. This is blandly written, cliched, and predictable fluff. Dong-seok Ma’s character has no personality at all, and the gangster conflict subplot is completely worthless. The acting is good, but this is simply boring to watch. Go watch “Over the Top” instead; at least it’s cheesy.

Stardust (2007) (British/American Fantasy Drama/Comedy) – In a countryside town bordering on a magical land, a young man makes a promise to his beloved that he'll retrieve a fallen star by venturing into the magical realm, but the star turns out to be a beautiful woman. This is a very shallow affair that involves way too many wafer thin characters. The story seems rushed, with scenes feeling abbreviated to the point of not being allowed to breathe at all. Consequently, none of the “endearing” or “dramatic” moments in this film are earned. In fact, all of the alleged “charm” in “Stardust” feels forced and artificial. Some sequences are just stupid, like the pirate ship fight. Claire Danes over-acts in almost every scene she’s in.

Pulse (2006) (American Horror) (repeat viewing) – This is another remake where you know you’re in trouble during the opening 10 minutes. We get a lame jump scare, then we are immediately introduced to a bunch of obnoxious college folks. Scares are incompetent, with CGI effects that show human souls getting sucked into the ghosts. Cheap, amateurish scare tactics are littered throughout, which include a healthy dose of jumps. Dialogue is stilted and the acting is crap. Color schemes and lighting are one-note and boring to look at. The most important character is a dude named Zeigler, and the protagonists say his unintentionally hilarious name over and over again. At one point, near the end of the film, the protagonist girl kicks a ghost square in the face.


Member: Rank 5
BAND-MAID Live: Zepp Tokyo (2018) (Japanese Music Concert Footage) – This two hour concert of 26 live songs was included in the limited edition Blu-ray that accompanied the “Start Over” single release. This hard rock band of hot maids is excelling in musicianship at an exponential rate, and this fantastic concert is compelling evidence. As an added bonus, this concert features an awesome instrumental piece that has yet to be officially released. This is one of those Blu-rays that you could play on a loop and never get sick of it.
The bass player, drummer, and lead guitar player have always been good. It's that leader of the band chick who's not any good. Can't sing, can't play guitar. But it's all about song-writing. I've yet to hear anything close to THRILL, but they do have some good tunes, and they are fun to watch.

Bummed they don't do THRILL at that concert. I checked out other youtubes of them playing it live, and if you can get past that leader chick singing out of tune and off key, it's really cool how they play it live--deeper and heavier, almost funky. If they would have put it on that concert disc they would have surely pitch-corrected the mistakes.

Where is the show at in SF?

Foret Debussy (2016) (Taiwanese Drama) – much of the film shows Kwai sitting or sleeping in the forest – doing literally nothing else.
I'm all over it!


Member: Rank 4
Not an Asian film, but "International," so here goes:

Phenomena (1985)

Dario Argento has a certain style. For some people, it's OMG! an Argento movie! and others it's WTF Argento? I fall somewhere in the middle. I appreciate the style of gore and mystery, and the Goblin (or Goblin-esque) musical drops, but would like a little more in the way of dialog and plot. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Tenebre, and Deep Red were 3 star films for me, with Suspiria and Opera coming in higher at 4 stars.

Phenomena comes in a bit at the low end. A 15-year-old Jennifer Connelly is certainly attractive in her role, but the acting? Hoo-boy. Her first two major scenes are of her literally sleepwalking, but the rest of her acting in the "wide awake parts" of the movie is exactly the same. So this is one instance where you could literally suggest an actress is sleepwalking through her role.

The dialog is SOOO bad, and delivered so weirdly. But can't you say that for all Argento films? I'm not sure if the off-kilter nature of the dialog is due to overdubbing the native language (the spaghetti western approach), of if the poor saps are asked to deliver the lines phonetically. And the plot is full of gaping holes. For instance, the first murder is of a schoolgirl who misses her bus and wanders to a house which is less than like a 3 minute walk away. And no one thinks to investigate the house for weirdness? Based on the sweeping cinematography, it's the only house within 5 miles or so. And who was chained in THIS house? The other house, yeah, I get it, but this one?

The insect/bug stuff is cool. I guess it wouldn't be an Argento movie if there weren't a bunch of maggots at some point. (Many points, actually). Or, if you are creeping along in a spooky abandoned house and the soundtrack suddenly breaks into Motorhead thrash metal or Iron Maiden--yep, that's an Argento movie.

But the movie does have a monkey in it. I hate monkeys. I hate movie that have monkeys in them. You make a horror movie with a monkey and I guarantee you you'd make a better horror movie WITHOUT said monkey. Except for the ending. I guess you couldn't have the ending without the monkey.

I thought about giving it 2.5 stars, but convinced myself to round up to 3. So, 3 stars it is.

Daniel Larusso

Member: Rank 3
Best movie I've seen lately was Legend of the Eight Samurai.

This is a samurai movie by Kinji Fukasaku with lots of fantasy elements. Story is lots of fun and reminded me of Seven Samurai and The Hidden Fortress. Practical visual effects and visuals have a lot of charm. There's even a very strange sex scene. Everything worked so well. Even the poster is awesome. 8/10

I've been playing so much Silent Hill (1, 2 and 3) that I needed to distract my mind with some american comedies...Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Wayne’s World, 21 Jump Street and Deadpool 2 are good stuff.

What's the dark stuff again.................. I can't seem to remember.
Mostly sex, death and mental issues.


Member: Rank 5
The Accidental Detective (South Korea, 2015)

A refreshing take (at least for me) on the thriller genre with a comic twist courtesy of two of SK's great actors, Kwon Sang-woo and Sung Dong-Il. The chemistry between the leads is undeniable. It is of no surprise as both actors are versatile in their own right. Kwon Sang-woo was unrecognizable at first (man he ages backwards!) and in his slender look, he manages to regain the youthful look that gives life to his dumb-not-dumb role.

Kang Dae-man (Kwon Sang-woo) is a subservient husband with an All About My Wife type of wife (played by Seo Yeoung-Hi). He is a frustrated cop after having failed in the entrance exam for cops. Investigating is his passion. And even without a license he practices being a cop. He occasionally drops by the police station to his cop friends to meddle in the investigations. He finds an accidental team-up with top-of-his-game/highly acclaimed policeman, Noh Tae-soo (Sung Dong-Il) after his friend's wife was murdered.

Their banters are fun to watch, with their opposite ideas usually the topic for their debates. The two characters have opposite minds, one is more advanced in his craft, the other an amateur. The watching experience draws you into a whole, on the one hand awaiting the resolve to the murder mystery, while in the process getting a few good laughs from the investigators themselves. This is a two-hour film but it never felt long at all, mainly because we enjoy and get a laugh at the scenes. The "thriller" aspect is not lost. The "comedy" aspect is well-delivered, without sacrificing the mystery played upon. The ending was not twisty or something that will shock you, but something that gives the two-hour watching experience justice.


(The sequel is on the works, it is dated to be 2018 on IMDb).


Member: Rank 3
Highly Recommended

Big Bullet (1996) (Chinese Action) (repeat viewing) – Lau Ching Wan, Jordan Chan, Yu Rongguang, Anthony Wong, and Francis Ng star in this cops vs. robbers action movie. Everything here has been seen before, but this film by Benny Chan is a template for entertaining action flicks. It’s 91 minutes long and frenetically paced, with solid performances and conflicts that are simplictic but intense and effective. the shootouts are well done and the plot is good enough to bridge the gun battles. This is a solid action flick with a star-studded cast who deliver the goods.

Coco (2017) (American Animated Drama/Fantasy) – Aspiring musician Miguel, confronted with his family's ancestral ban on music, enters the Land of the Dead to find his great-great-grandfather, a legendary singer. This is an animated film with a heart. The story and characters are properly developed. I liked the glowing night-time environments as well.

Pyrokinesis (aka Crossfire) (2000) (Japanese Thriller/Drama) (repeat viewing) – A girl with the ability to telekinetically manipulate fire decides to use her gift to become a vigilante in this film by Shusuke Kaneko. Much of the movie focuses on the lead character’s emotional instability. Her power is fueled by anger, so the relationship between state-of-mind and weaponry is omnipresent and interesting. Special effects are a huge mixed bag in this. Some of the CGI fire effects look very fake, but on the other hand, there are some convincing explosions and stuntwork as well. Consequently, there are some very entertaining death sequences, some of which involve fake-looking CGI that’s pretty cheesy, and others that are pretty damn cool. The long, two-part finale is sweet. It’s a bit goofy in spots and the dialogue is “on the nose”, but this is entertaining stuff for sure.


Birds Without Names (2017) (Japanese Drama/Thriller/Romance) – Tawako (Yu Aoi) looks for love in all the wrong places, engaging in relationships with men who treat her badly and use her for sex. She shacks up with a male friend, but certain events lead her to investigate the disappearance of a former lover. Yu Aoi is fantastic in a lead role. She gives a gloomy and intense performance, with some sultry sex scenes early on. This is definitely one of the darkest and most erotic films of her career. This is nicely directed as well, with a naturally evolving storyline. In terms of pacing, this is slow at the start, but becomes much more interesting near the mid-point when the mystery element kicks into gear. Viewer will need a bit of patience. One flaw is the ending, which is a bit unconvincing, melodramatic, over-explanatory and drawn out.

Love and Other Cults (2017) (Japanese Drama) – A young woman drops out of school to live with a rock-bottom delinquent family, then moves on to be part of a middle-class family, all along trying to find her place in this world. This is an interesting film by Eiji Uchida, but it may take a while for the viewer to “get into it.” The gangster stuff is pretty good, but the best stuff involves family dynamics. Sairi Ito gives a great performance in the lead role. At times I barely recognized her, because her appearance and demeanor changes wildly throughout the film. It’s worth watching for her alone.

Double Mints (2017) (Japanese Drama/Thriller) – When one Mitsuo Ichikawa hears from another Mitsuo Ichikawa, who was a school-mate who bullied him, he learns that the man is not only a thug, but has also murdered a woman and has some cops and gangsters on his tail. It’s difficult to describe why this movie works and feels different. There are a few dull patches here and there, but I enjoyed the story flow and there are some unexpected plot developments too. Acting is solid. This film by Eiji Uchida goes to some dark places, but is certainly worth watching.

Ready Player One (2018) (American Action) – When the creator of a virtual reality world called the OASIS dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all OASIS users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune. This film by Steven Spielberg is fun overall. There are some good action and suspense sequences and it does a good job of maintaining interest with its story. However, there are too many movie references, since many of them show up from out of nowhere and then disappear soon after (there are some really lame references too). Also, is it wrong that I want to punch Mark Rylance in the face every time I see him in a movie? There’s something about his acting style that annoys the hell out of me.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) (American Action/Comedy) – In the early 1960s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill), KGB operative Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer), and the daughter of a scientist (Alicia Vikander) participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization, which is working to proliferate nuclear weapons. There’s good chemistry between the characters, with some charmingly funny bits along the way (e.g., the electric chair scene is a good one). The highlight is a fun chase/shootout near the beginning, but the action never quite reaches that height afterward. Still, this is a nicely entertaining flick. Can someone please keep Zack Snyder away from Henry Cavill?!

Not Recommended

Monster Hunt 2 (2018) (Chinese Fantasy Comedy/Drama/Action) – This is set in an ancient world based on medieval China. The darker forces of the evil monster king are in search for our dumb-looking protagonist monster. The main reason why this movie does not work is because the monsters are tremendously unappealing on a visual level. The special effects are absolutely atrocious and will immediately take the viewer out of the film. This problem is magnified by the fact that the story, characters, and action are all flimsy and annoying. It’s like watching a CGI version of “Barney and Friends.”

The Crossing: Part 1 and 2 (2014-2015) (Chinese Drama/Romance/Action) – In the midst of the Chinese Revolution during the late 1940s, couples flee to the island of Taiwan. John Woo directs this 4.5 hour snoozefest that has high production values but is nevertheless low on interesting content. Characters and romance are shallow. It tries to be emotional at times, but I could not have cared any less.

Frozen (1996) (Chinese Drama) – A young performance artist decides to make his own suicide his last work of art. This is a great premise with thoughtless execution. Based on the fantastic poster/DVD art, I was expecting this to be a bit more atmospheric and have more art-house flare, but there’s nothing visually interesting about this at all. The dialogue is matter-of-fact, with everyone talking about suicide from the very first scene. There’s a lot of dead weight and filler material as well. The film started to lose me around the 20-minute mark (when it contributes an overly long scene of two dudes who have an eating competition and try not to puke), and it completely lost me by the midpoint (during the mental health clinic scene). It does get a bit more interesting at later points, but not enough to save it.