A big update from the past 3 weeks. Some of these I saw while on plane flights to and from Japan. Highly Recommended The Night Comes for Us (2018) (Indonesian Action/Thriller) – After choosing to save a little girl against the orders of his triad bosses, an enforcer (Joe Taslim) must survive the constant attacks by triad gang members, vicious hitwomen, and his former friend (Iko Uwais). This film is filled to the brim with gratuitously violent fight scenes and shootouts that are intricately choreographed, well staged, perfectly shot and fun to watch. Of course, there’s no way normal people in real life would survive this level of physical abuse and continue to fight, but the action physics are very realistic, with no use of wires or superhuman abilities. The script and characters are thinly developed, but no one should care with this much bone-crunching action. Julie Estelle plays a sexy assassin whose allegiences are questionable, and she yet again handles herself very well during her fights. The two-location finale is fantastic stuff. This is an instant classic by one half of the Mo Brothers (Timo). Inuyashiki (2018) (Japanese Thriller/Action/Drama) – A 56-year-old office worker encounters aliens and is gifted with alien technology and limitless powers, but a younger man (Takeru Satoh) is also endowed with these gifts and intends to use them for dubious purposes. The viewer is definitely on the protagonist’s side because everyone pushes him around (including his family and boss). This film does focus a lot of character development. There’s a certain intensity to the low-key thrills that are introduced throughout, and it does get a bit bloody. This movie contributes one of the best sequences of any film that I’ve seen this year, and it involves internet trolls. A very unique scene that I will never forget. This is a genre-bender that is proficiently exciting and crowd-pleasing when it needs to be. The cyborg special effects are also quite good. One Cut of the Dead (2017) (Japanese Comedy/Horror/Drama) – Things go badly for a hack director and film crew shooting a low budget zombie movie in an abandoned WWII Japanese facility, when they are attacked by real zombies. It’s difficult to discuss the plot without spoiling it. This is basically a genre-bender that infuses family drama and the theme of “the love of filmmaking.” It’s a lot better than I had expected, and the main reason for that is the scriptwriting – which is very detailed and very well-written. The finale is lengthy and a lot of fun. It reminded me of a certain Japanese comedy film from the mid 1990s. (Viewed without subtitles.) BuyBust (2018) (Filipino Action/Thriller) – An anti-drug enforcement agency stages a massive drug bust in the slums of Manila, but they become trapped and hunted down by criminals and civilians alike. The night-time setting, slum neighborhood, rainy weather, and neon lights add a lot of atmosphere that pops because there is a lot of roaming around, quietly, with guns drawn as the protagonists move and secure small areas within the slums. Fighting is scrappy, which is fine, but some the camerawork and editing is a bit off at times. You can actually see the spectrum of quality in the trailer alone, with some fights being cleanly shot while others being difficult to see. Still, there are some inspired moments, like the lengthy, seemingly uncut shot when a protagonist battles a small army on a series of rooftops and alleyways. This is a sufficiently violent film with a very likeable lead actress, tons of action, and a huge body count. Housewife (2017) (Turkish Horror) – Haunted by a horrific childhood trauma for 20 years, a woman struggles with vivid, disturbing nightmares that leave her detached and unable to live a normal life. After being introduced to the leader of a cult, she is led on a twisted journey of waking dreams that will begin to unravel the fabric of reality. This film is loaded to the brim with atmosphere. It is set in winter and contributes a ton of moody visuals, fantastic lighting, and a solid score. The script is also very psychological because it incorporates dream logic (or lack thereof) where it is uncertain as to what is a dream, what is reality, and how the two impact one another. I found it to be fascinating and well-crafted on that level. From the director of “Baskin”, which also means that you get a bit of bloody violence. Apostle (2018) (Welsh Horror/Thriller) – In 1905, a drifter on a dangerous mission to rescue his kidnapped sister tangles with a sinister religious cult on an isolated island. There’s a constant aura of stifling danger present, right from the start of the film, which creates a thick layer of unending suspense and tension. In terms of violence, there is some nasty stuff during the final third – which includes a few disturbing torture scenes, but the film is rather measured with its bloodiness, overall. The lair of twisted branches is horrifying. Shot in Wales, there are some fantastic shots of natural environments. This takes place in a small village of wooden houses that lies in the middle of a forest area on an island. Scoring is good and unnerving without resorting to loud booms. In terms of flaws, the scriptwriting is a bit loose/contrived at times, the film does get a bit unrealistic regarding how much punishment a person can take and still walk around, and the final shot in a bit gimmicky, but this is solid stuff. Performances are very good across the board. Directed by Gareth Evans. Animal World (2018) (Chinese Mystery/Drama/Action) – This film has one of the most misleading trailers in cinematic history. In actuality, it’s about a young man who boards a ship to attend a gambling party. Our protagonist has a mental condition that gives the film every opportunity to throw in a few completely unnecessary and ridiculous fight scenes, but it’s actually based on the manga “Kaiji” (the gambler one). The gambling game of “rock paper scissors” also reminded me a lot of “Liar Game” in its use of probability and deception. The strategies will certainly make the viewer think a bit, and that’s what makes this one fun to watch. I like the lead actor; he can definitely carry a film. Michael Douglas has a supporting role and Zhou Dongyu has a smaller role, but they give lively performances. The 130-minute runtime is justified. The ending is a cliffhanger that sets up a sequel. I’ll watch it. Recommended The Ghost Bride (2017) (Filipino Horror) – To save her family’s home and her ailing father, a young woman accepts a lucrative offer to become a “ghost bride”, marrying a wealthy, deceased man. The deal suddenly turns to a curse when the ghost of her groom turns jealous and possessive of the young bride. Most of the death scenes are surprisingly bloody and I like the design of the ghosts as well, because they wear masks or head-dresses much of the time. There are a lot of cultural aspects to this film (both Filipino and Chinese). I really like the lead actress, and there’s definitely an emotional core and conflict to this movie that works. Good production values with some colorful lighting. There’s an elaborate ceremony that’s used for the finale. Dementia (2014) (Filipino Horror) – In the hopes of helping her aunt better deal with her dementia, a woman moves her out to their family's remote ancestral home, but the old woman’s presence stirs up memories that are better left undisturbed. This definitely has a lot of atmosphere to it, with cool archaic stone architecture, a moody score, good use of sound, fantastic seaside environments, and lots of rocks. There are certain genre tropes that the film uses, but this is a legitimately good movie. (Viewed without subtitles, but some English is spoken and much of the story is told visually.) We Make Antiques! (2018) (Japanese Drama/Comedy) – An antique dealer heads to Osaka in the hopes of scouring antiques for hidden treasure, but meets a down-and-out potter with his own problems. This is a good flick with likeable protagonists and some interesting info on antique tea bowls. The ending is a bit unfocused though. Happy Death Day (2017) (American Horror/Comedy) – A college student must relive the day of her murder over and over again, in a loop that will end only when she discovers her killer's identity. This is sufficiently fun, briskly paced, engaging and suspenseful. The lead actress (Jessica Rothe) is actually quite likeable. The viewer will feel the frustration of the protagonist as well, which is a good thing. At times it’s a bit too similar to the film “Groundhog Day”, but I’ll watch this over a “Conjuring”, “Insidious” or “Ouija” film any day of the week. Not Recommended Illang: The Wolf Brigade (2018) (Korean Action/Drama) – Set in the future where both North and South Koreas agree to establish a joint government, the plot focuses on political uprisings on opposing sides which grow fierce when a special police unit is formed to stop the chaos. This is not a complete disaster, in my opinion, because the action is good and Hyo-joo Han is the female lead, but the excessive runtime of 139 minutes, over-plotting, and weak dialogue make this film . . . at its best . . . watchable fluff. A disappointment by Ji-woon Kim that is based on a Japanese anime film that is better overall.