Thespian Equestrian | Ran (1985) Review

The horses and the horse riders are put through the wringer in Ran, the final epic of Akira Kurosawa and perhaps his greatest film. I saw horses struggling through water coming up to their necks, soldiers falling off horses, and horses just about to trample a soldier who fell off his horse. It’s a movie entitled “Chaos,” after all! And, well, that’s about as fresh an angle I can manage for this or any Kurosawa title, the director being so widely studied and appreciated. Of course, I’ve come into this one for the first time nearing the age of 30, long after film school let out. I have nothing to add to the conversation, so take this review on a humble blog as a missive – delivered by horseback – that I’d like the conversation to continue. … More Thespian Equestrian | Ran (1985) Review

Jang Eun-sil Report – Physical: 100 Episode #2

Well, there won’t be much to report on Jang Eun-sil here. See, one hundred is a big number. It makes sense that the first actual challenge will remove half. But in the meantime, managing the titular one hundred affects the show’s pacing, so we’re in for a multi-parter to cover the event. Unfortunately, that means Jang does not perform in this entire episode. So, what happened with our cliffhanger, the hanging challenge? Well, it was the soldier who won, and in doing so, gains an advantage for the upcoming game. But before we get there, we have to watch the other fifty do the same challenge. Come on, guys. Notable here is that the cheerleader drops second, alongside the huge dudes. Overall, the women didn’t do as well in this group, with the top scorer taking 16th place. … More Jang Eun-sil Report – Physical: 100 Episode #2

Jang Eun-sil Report – Physical: 100 Episode #1

One of the biggest lessons about writing that I have practically no use for came from a book entitled Rise of the Warrior Cop by Radley Balko. Highly recommended anyway, I noticed that each chapter in this larger account of police militarization in America chose a perspective – a main character. It wasn’t just “here are the facts,” it was “here are how the facts impacted this guy.” Framing history with subjectivity is what I tried to do with the feature about Mulan and more recently on Collider about a lost film, identifying H. R. Giger as the protagonist of that story. Clearly, I haven’t got it down, but that’s why I write opinion pieces, not history. And if you’ll indulge further meta, I had no idea how I was gonna approach writing about Physical: 100, so I’ve chosen Jang Eun-sil as the protagonist because it’s simply the most honest choice. … More Jang Eun-sil Report – Physical: 100 Episode #1

Once Upon a Time in Singapore | Crazy Rich Asians (2018) Review

Despite my best efforts, I was moved by this film. Granted, if you’ve read any of my coverage of Korean dramas, you know I’m a pretty easy mark. Crazy Rich Asians has a rocky start, pitched more toward comedy as we’re guided by a too-cute film language bordering on fourth wall breaks. Like, at any moment, Constance Wu is gonna look into the camera with an ironic “You’re probably wondering how I got here.” I suppose what I’m really thinking of is characters introduced with loud title cards, because they are introduced with voiceover and cutaways, and it’s a toss-up whether it’s an Asian or Asian-American celebrity who’s great or who totally sucks. … More Once Upon a Time in Singapore | Crazy Rich Asians (2018) Review

Beautiful China Doll | Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) Review

If you were to accuse me of disliking this film simply because it’s an insensitive American portrayal of an Asian culture, my only objection would be the word “dislike.” I disliked the movie the first time I saw it, in high school as part of AP English Literature – parents, if you were wondering what your kids are getting up to at school – where we also read the book. I didn’t remember much, other than it wasn’t that good but the Spielbergian style was sort of amusing. Well, TVs back in 2011 sucked, especially ones wheeled into public school classrooms. I don’t know what I saw in even the cinematography. This is, quite possibly, the worst movie I’ve ever seen. … More Beautiful China Doll | Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) Review

Costume Drama, Hold the Costume | The Treacherous (2015) Review

This movie is brutal. Like, tremendously, exceptionally disturbing. Chronicling the last days of a mad king, director Min Kyu-dong apparently wants you to feel that madness, to leave the film a wide-eyed, gibbering mess, soaked in blood and stabbing at pigs. My understanding of Korean cinema – which I’m trying to advance past – is that there are the early export arthouse films like Oldboy and Memories of Murder, and then the movies indistinguishable from K-dramas like My Wife is a Gangster 3. The Treacherous leans more toward the latter in terms of visuals and direction, but has the unflinching violence and sex of the former. It’s a mostly discordant mix, all set against the constant soundtrack of screaming and moaning. … More Costume Drama, Hold the Costume | The Treacherous (2015) Review

A Shimmering Vegetable Death | Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989) Review

Godzilla vs. Biollante is good. Especially for the Heisei era, it’s held in high regard among Godzilla movies. Surprisingly, it derives a lot of its profitable ambition from being a true sequel to Return of Godzilla, imagining what the world would be like after a giant monster attack. We find that international corporate interests are competing for Godzilla cells, whose magic properties have the potential to shift world power. In the fictitious and ridiculous Middle Eastern country “Saradia,” a nationalized oil firm plans to harvest the cells’ immortality to grow vegetation in the desert, divesting the region of its reliance on a valuable but limited resource. Meanwhile, the American company Bio-Major resorts to terrorism to claim the cells, as their science experiment would neutralize the threat posed by nuclear missiles. Somehow, in the midst of this political spy thriller, a giant rose emerges from the sea, and Godzilla burns it with the heat ray. … More A Shimmering Vegetable Death | Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989) Review