My Wife is a Gangster 3

There’s a tropey thing in movies where the badass hero guy goes big-league, demonstrating killer skills outside his usual environment. Maybe it’s Ray Liotta pistol-whipping the guy in Goodfellas, or Jason Statham beating up the basketball court in The Expendables. We know they deal with bigger threats, so this one’s just for fun — applied badass. I went looking through the Goodfellas listing on TV Tropes and didn’t find anything, though the scene is considered, among others, an example of their trope “All Girls Want Bad Boys.” True enough, in both cases, the badass application makes audience of a woman (“I gotta admit, It turned me on,” says Karen Hill). … More My Wife is a Gangster 3

Search: WWW | Recommended Korean Drama

“Give me Cha Hyeon,” Ga-kyeong says, and as the scene whips between reaction shots and the music swells, I’m bouncing the iPad on my knees, making a positively indescribable noise. Search: WWW often shocked me like this, inducing so much excitement and even dread, then clocking me square in the stupid grin. It was urgent somehow, to even process my experience with it — but I couldn’t. Perhaps it left me feeling so much that my thoughts were annihilated. I’d like to recommend it, but where do I even start? … More Search: WWW | Recommended Korean Drama

Lee Da-hee: Dichotomy

I promise not to make this a regular feature, especially since it’s rare anyway. It’s something I’ve always liked about actors, when an already compelling turn is underscored by just how opposite the performer seems to be in reality. It’s a strange thing to write about, but the actress Lee Da-hee represents an extraordinary case. … More Lee Da-hee: Dichotomy

04/11/2021 – Pilot Pains

It’s just how things are these days, that the credits on the Kung Fu revival fade in and make a promise soon to be unfulfilled: “Based on Kung Fu by Ed Spielman.” This new show has nothing to do with the earlier one, which was a western, and the current narrative in television is that Kung Fu has been reclaimed by the Bruce Lee estate, by way of Cinemax’s Warrior. Why go back and reclaim again, in that way we ordinarily do, by only populating a problem canvas with better faces? The whole thing needed restructuring, from the draft phase, and it was already done. It was done. So I guess, well, now time for the next one! Hell, bring on The CW’s Kung Fu, because I don’t need to hear the argument that The Hunger Games is a ripoff of Battle Royale. If The Hunger Games can offer anything new, anything extra or different or special, why argue it shouldn’t exist just to boost your cult film creds? (Battle Royale does not count as “cult”). I’m perfectly willing, even possibly excited, to see the Y.A. version of “martial arts woman,” because I want to see all versions. I want to see a martial arts woman in everything I ever watch — provided she’s treated with respect. Or rather, demands respect — takes it, by the throat. … More 04/11/2021 – Pilot Pains

Battle of the Warrior Queens Part II

Something that strikes me is the notion of international law as it pertains to imperial conquest, that you have to contrive a legal basis for something morally illegal. The British East India Company wouldn’t annex Jhansi unless Rani Lakshmibai’s heir was considered illegitimate. But why? Were they worried about a rebellion? Either way, I think that speaks to the time, the mid-19th century — that even empires were run by gentlemen, and that’s either inherently contradictory, or more true than they realized. But first, I think a recap is in order. … More Battle of the Warrior Queens Part II

Sisters of Mulan Part II: Golden Swallow vs. The White-Haired Witch

Whether it’s Wang Cong’er taking up her righteous sword against the Qing Dynasty or Ching Shih living the freest possible life yet expressed, rebellion lies at these restless hearts. Where there is war, there are warriors, and where there are warriors, there are warrior women. It’s really that simple, and so I think it’s only right how we’ve gone to great lengths, by way of mythology and science both, to complicate it. Selective history is exactly that — it is conscious. Before I raise hell about all the Chinese warrior women omitted from my American public school education, what about all the important American women of history I only learned about later and at random? Why were they excluded? Did the people who made the choice to exclude even know about them? Were they excluded for them too, and then, who was the original excluder? By George, this goes all the way to the top, or at least, to some rather unpleasant gentleman. … More Sisters of Mulan Part II: Golden Swallow vs. The White-Haired Witch

Sisters of Mulan: The Warrior Women of China

What about Mulan? I always thought she was a real historical figure, maybe because she was also pretty. The movie has only a dash of the supernatural — seasoned just right — and we certainly never learned about Chinese history in school, so how, before I looked it up, could I have known, how? Well, it turns out that the Mulan story dates back to a poem, not an actual, factual woman who rode off to war in her father’s place. But that’s such a good story, I want it to be real. And because our perception today of Mulan is so tied in with female empowerment, that she’s the Disney princess who kicks butt and challenges a woman’s place in society, shouldn’t that have some basis in reality? Obviously you can enjoy the Mulan story or the movies any way you’d like, and feel empowered by them, so the answer is no. But if the answer is yes, the question “Was Mulan real?” becomes “Is Mulan believable?” And to answer that question, I’d like to take a look today at the historical figures with similar stories, and their depictions in movies. Because it’s not enough that Mulan has spiritual sisters, we have to understand that she does. And so, our story begins where a lot of great stories begin. … More Sisters of Mulan: The Warrior Women of China

Ghost in the Shell | 5 Essential Elements

Call me a romantic if you must, but I’m one of those people who believes in the one. If you find yourself at a loss out in the dating circle, take heart: there is a perfect match for everyone. I know that because I found Ghost in the Shell, and I hope you can be even half as happy as we are. For me, Ghost in the Shell is electric to the touch. The premise of the world, and the perspectives through which we engage in that world make for the most stimulating meditations on human nature, on existence itself, building toward spectacular releases in mind-bending action. This is thought-provoking science-fiction, one of the quintessential anime, period. The arrival of any new installment in this media franchise which has spanned manga, film, television, books, and video games means that so much is again possible as we return to such a richly-imagined world. But it’s also a moment where I reflect on what makes a good Ghost in the Shell? What are the fundamentals that I’d like to see reembodied each time, so to speak? Now ideally, a top five listicle like what follows is more of a celebration than a list of demands, but I think outlining what I most appreciate and look for in Ghost in the Shell will help me evaluate what comes next. … More Ghost in the Shell | 5 Essential Elements

Zeiram

Zeiram is a film of details. Necessarily so; the big picture is murky, with its strange plot and stranger circumstances. The mystery of Iria: Zeiram the Animation, or at least, the mystery of its awkward title, terminates here, in a live-action Japanese science-fiction film from 1991. It’s directed by Keita Amemiya, and I’ve long wondered the how and why of this man. What market granted passage to the wellspring of his imagination? It remains a mystery to me even after watching the film, which offers no clear rationale for its existence and yet exists so loudly. All of its details, whether protagonist Iria’s braids which have cultural meaning or every gun and piece of armor that’s associated with a proper noun, seem to be shouting a franchise into being. On closer inspection however, these details are also shouting in a strange, wonderful language, and this might be its downfall. In total, there are two Zeiram features, a six-episode OVA (the Animation), and a PlayStation video game. As soon as it arrived, it was gone, and all follow-up questions went with the solar wind. … More Zeiram

The Villainess

You ever go on a date with someone fun and you’re, like, a 95% match, but then they say something that grinds the conversation to a halt, and it throws the integrity of the match into question and also possibly the premise of matchmaking itself, that there are no true matches, only fish in an endless sea broiling with riptide and Bermuda Triangles? Well, I didn’t actually go on a date with director Jung Byung-gil, but him and I are that 95% match, and his 2017 film The Villainess is my Bermuda Triangle. It is a siren’s song; it is my doom. … More The Villainess