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

02/26/2022 – Turning a Corner?

To my mind, Li Bingbing’s appearance in the good old-fashioned, all-American movie The Meg was conspicuous, only another in a line of conspicuous Chinese faces in Hollywood films. This week, it was reported that she won’t be returning for the sequel. Good. We talked briefly about Li Bingbing for our look at the historic and folkloric warrior women of China, as she played a staple character originating in literature, the White-Haired Witch. Of course, she played that character in The Forbidden Kingdom, and she was a bad guy witch. That’s the rare case where you have to cast Chinese actors in Chinese roles, and they did, for the most part, going so genuine-article that they overlooked Chinese-American talent. Bingbing was already an established star, racking up industry awards since the late ‘90s, but it wasn’t until 2011 that she began her Hollywood career proper, with Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, costarring with Jun Ji-hyun of all people. From there it was Resident Evil: Retribution as Ada Wong, Transformers: Age of Extinction, and The Meg in 2018. … More 02/26/2022 – Turning a Corner?

The Shadow Whip

There’s a scene where the heroine Yun enters a tavern and all the patrons look up from their tea and wine and my heart sank a little. What are they seeing? What are they thinking? There’s no spark, no grin threatening on Yun’s face at the realization she’s the baddest guy in the room. The problem is that Yun is played by Cheng Pei-pei, and this is a woman who doesn’t just walk into a tavern. Her debut character, Golden Swallow in Come Drink with Me, exuded such an aura of mystique, a gravity I’m missing in The Shadow Whip. What we have, then, is a study in functional direction, and how imprecision can be ruinous. … More The Shadow Whip

Great Fight Scenes | Throne Room, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

This sequence begins with the dialogue preceding the action. Supreme Leader Snoke has our heroine Rey in hand, and he’s confident that padawan Kylo Ren will strike her down (which doesn’t usually have consequences, as I understand it). The villain chatters on about destiny while Kylo surreptitiously turns the lightsaber toward him, a tense scene culminating in the shock of Snoke’s assassination. Rey and Kylo barely have time to make eyes because now the Praetorian Guard have been activated. … More Great Fight Scenes | Throne Room, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Rewaking into Dream: The Matrix Resurrections [Podcast]

After a second viewing of The Matrix Resurrections, special guest host Stella and I attempt to piece our feelings together. It’s a complicated story, isn’t it? A movie that shouldn’t exist but is entertaining. A good movie but maybe a bad sequel. An action movie with questionable action scenes? And this is assuming we understood it at all, which is very much up to debate. … More Rewaking into Dream: The Matrix Resurrections [Podcast]