Ten Directors Challenge

This morning, a friend messaged me his list of ten favorite directors as part of a Twitter challenge, appending a note of concern that his picks were too bro-y. In retrospect, I’m not sure if that meant genre-wise or that they were all men. There are lists out there of female directors and I’ve certainly enjoyed many female-directed movies, but my own list is the same kind of bro-y. In no particular order (and because I’m not on Twitter) … More Ten Directors Challenge

American Kung Fu Primer [PODCAST]

This month, Donovan Morgan Grant returns to provide an overview of the American kung fu movie, which is also the story of the evolution of the action scene and the United States’ cultural perception of China, Hong Kong, and Japan. We start at prehistory, before the advent of martial arts styles, and move through the watershed year of 1973 — challenge the conventional wisdom that that was the beginning — and continue onto the Golden Age and the resulting Doldrums, both pivoting around the rise and fall of The Matrix. Throughout, we introduce the careers of the action icons like Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme, and whittle down a list of recommendations. … More American Kung Fu Primer [PODCAST]

Gianna Jun | The Last Vampire vs. Ashin of the North

Like all those books with straightforward titles like How to Learn JavaScript, I’ll note in this introduction that “This is not a book on how to learn JavaScript,” and in this case, I won’t be summarizing Gianna Jun’s career between the films Blood: The Last Vampire and Kingdom: Ashin of the North — not exactly. But I chose these two movies because together, they suggest something about how stars are made. … More Gianna Jun | The Last Vampire vs. Ashin of the North

Zombie Mad Scientist [PODCAST]

With Netflix K-shows being renewed left and right, what better a time to talk about Kingdom than this tense moment before season three gets the green light, too? In other words, I couldn’t wait. How could I resist Gianna, focus of this month’s discussion? For whatever reason, when Kingdom: Ashin of the North was released, my first thought was Blood: The Last Vampire, and together, they may say something about international star-making. … More Zombie Mad Scientist [PODCAST]

RRR

One of the joys of exploring movies from different countries is encountering new cinematic languages. I buckled at the deliberative pacing of K-dramas before giving myself over entirely, and went into Shu Qi-starrer The Assassin assuming it was an action movie before leaving perplexed but intrigued. It’s strange, especially for a critic, to think “I don’t really understand what I’m seeing.” Yes, the image is crystal clear, of an extremely muscled man straining against the bonds of an ensnared tiger and screaming back into its roaring face, but nothing in my career of watching historical dramas has prepared me for this. Am I supposed to be registering some level of irony? Can they do this, even? And of course, subtly suggesting that I myself discovered RRR is a willful misguidance, as it came at the urgent recommendation of my QNA cohost Donovan – our own friendship highly reminiscent of Rama and Bheem’s, complete with underwater Predator handshakes. … More RRR

Why I’m Quitting Dinosaurs

It happened with Terminator: Genisys, it happened with Godzilla vs. Kong. I will eventually see Jurassic World: Dominion and anything that comes after it, but I wish I had the inner strength to resist. The self-respect, really. Some of my favorite movies are American blockbusters, but the “artform” is in a valley phase. They’re now produced with a TV model, where every film is an episode. This works on TV where the budgets are low enough to keep the moneymen off the lot. The proud catchphrase from the golden era was “On TV, the writer is king,” though that was before we learned that a lot of those guys were mad kings. To be honest, the role of a good director in television is underrated, and the problem is that our modern blockbusters make no room for directors. Jurassic Park was directed. And given that these legacy franchises are all about worshiping older work, I can’t escape this thought even if I wanted to. “Look at how much better this earlier movie was!” the movie is saying. … More Why I’m Quitting Dinosaurs

Queendom of the Gods

First and foremost, congratulations to WJSN for winning Queendom 2, though the real winner of course was Taeyeon, filling in for Lee Da-hee. I got into Girls’ Generation a bit sideways, so I’m only now reconciling with the scope of Taeyeon’s celebrity. For anyone else who doesn’t fully understand, Taeyeon is an idol for idols. I’ve seen a number of other idols talk about how cool it would be to one day meet Taeyeon, and I saw Bomi all nervous before being in the same room with her. That’s one thing I’d love to really get, the X factor of knowledge that might come from growing up with all that pop culture. The implicit things like Taeyeon’s godliness or what do Koreans reference in their day-to-day? I’ve picked up on some of it, like references to White Tower or The World of the Married? Anyway, speaking of K-dramas, what was interesting about Queendom 2 for me was Bona’s return of the king, where she joined her group after having missed more than half the show due to Twenty-Five Twenty-One. … More Queendom of the Gods

Hydra

It would be a cliché if it were true, that action movies always start off with a bang. In the opening scene of Hydra, a peeing man is attacked and dragged into a stall – piss spraying everywhere – to be stabbed repeatedly. It’s fast and brutal and that not-insignificant urinatological detail recalls Japanese shockers like Ichi the Killer. It also sets the wrong tone, quickly giving way to a moody, synth-infused credits sequence tracking a long drive home and deflating the excitement. It’s unfortunate, and this review is the worst kind to write. Hydra should be a success story on the order of The Raid or John Wick, and it follows that formula: the talent showcase. This is the directorial debut of Kensuke Sonomura, whose work you may have seen floating around the Internet accompanied by “holy shit, what,” in the form of a high-speed fistfight with, say, Chris Redfield or maybe Raiden and a U.S. senator. Without knowing it, I’ve been enjoying Sonomura’s work as an action director for decades, since Godzilla: Final Wars and through Hard Revenge Milly to Gantz: 0. I’d always assumed this frenetic, anti-gravity action choreography was a broader cultural product – “so Japanese” – when in fact, it’s the brainchild of one twisted genius. … More Hydra

K-Pop 2021: Top 3

May this come in a little late but find you, nevertheless, well. Only appropriate; this could be the first year I’ve been current with K-pop groups enough that a ranking is even possible. I’m still digging through the archives, but 2021 was a big year for comebacks. Strangely, none of these entries are group efforts. I guess that while the industry is recovering still, they’ve found that solo outings are more manageable? Either way, I heard some great stuff. What were your picks? … More K-Pop 2021: Top 3

I Need a Herb

Tomorrow I’ll be booting up an old favorite, Resident Evil 5, to play with a friend over online co-op. This game has remained significant to me for two reasons: one, it was probably the last title from my golden age of video games, back when it was couch co-op. My buddy and I had done … More I Need a Herb