• The Hole

    The Hole

    ★★★★

    [75]

    My ninth Tsai.

    Indefinable according to some, but I think it's clear what this is: writer-director Tsai Ming-liang's version of an apocalyptic zombie romantic-comedy, doubling as both Tsai's unrequited love letter to Lee Kang-sheng, whom he is completely infatuated with, and as an offbeat concert film for singer-actress Grace Chang, whose music features heavily.

    A disease borne from cockroaches, dubbed the Taiwan Fever, is rampaging through the streets of Taipei, turning those infected into crawling beasts that seek darkness—a…

  • Gamera vs. Zigra

    Gamera vs. Zigra

    [19]

    I did the math. The eponymous Zigra, a goblin shark-like kaiju, abducts a bathysphere occupied by our heroes and takes them deep into the Japan Trench, where one of our lead reports they are 7.6 miles under the surface, equal to ~40,128 ft deep. The Japan Trench at its deepest is only 26,398 ft. The deepest place on Earth, the Mariana Trench, is ~36,037 ft. So, longtime Gamera screenwriter Niisan Takahashi is full of shit. Plus, an extremely powerful…

  • The Green Knight

    The Green Knight

    ★★★★

    [77]

    My fourth Lowery.

    Like several epic poems, verses, and works of literature of old, many have different versions of the same story. A change of characters, moral didactics, relationships and family trees, endings, beginnings. Such vast discrepancies may issue a seemingly limitless creative license to any who wish to adapt them into another medium, namely, in this particular case, film. In one case among many, writer-director David Lowery chooses to make the mother of the titular Gawain, Morgan le…

  • Pig

    Pig

    ★★★

    [61]

    It would seem the memeification of Nicholas Cage is, unfortunately, working against this film two-fold: [1] there is a certain portion of the audience, knowing Cage's shameless output of late, that is likely expecting some highfalutin, action-thriller à la some John Wick-esque revenge tale based on the kidnapped critter, and [2] the slightest inkling of Cage turning in a genuine performance—after so long turning in some real over-the-top stinkers—makes everyone lose their minds and oversell the film. That said,…

  • Flowers of Shanghai

    Flowers of Shanghai

    ★★★½

    [70]

    My fourth Hou.

    Shanghai, 1884—sometimes noted as the "City of Shēn" or the Pearl of the Orient. Being a major port city of the Chinese mainland, Shanghai was sought after by many Western nations as a major trading post between the West and the East. At the time of the film's narrative, the city was split apart into districts, variously controlled by the British, the French, the Americans, or the Chinese themselves. None of this is mentioned in director…

  • Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning

    Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning

    ★★★

    [59]

    For the closing film in a nearly decade-long pentalogy, it's an interesting choice to, now at the end, begin at the beginning. There is weakness there, in that the viewer who has kept up with this serial live-action adaptation of the popular manga of the same name knows all the major plot points that are to transpire in this consummating closer—plot points that have already been seen before in piecemeal flashback sequences in nearly ever preceding film. This time,…

  • Gamera vs. Jiger

    Gamera vs. Jiger

    ★★

    [44]

    More of the same—Gamera vs. Giant Devil Beast Jiger—this sixth entry in the exhaustingly lousy Gamera film series, yet a decent step up compared to the previous Shōwa-era films and likely the best of the lot thus far. Still, I am beginning to realize now more than ever that these films are just a series of recycled ideas done over and over again in Daiei's apparent hope that something, at some point, will stick—a pair or trio of interracial…

  • Gamera vs. Guiron

    Gamera vs. Guiron

    [23]

    Gamera vs. Giant Evil Beast Guiron (Or, How Gamera Learned to Stopped Worrying and Be a High Bar Gymnast). The fifth entry in the Gamera series and still the agony has not let up. Essentially a redo of the previous film in the series (the shitshow that was Gamera vs. Viras), where once again do two interracial boys become kidnapped by aliens and Gamera must "jet spin" his way to save them from not only the dastardly aliens but…

  • Goodbye, Dragon Inn

    Goodbye, Dragon Inn

    ★★★★

    [83]

    My eighth Tsai film.

    Situated in a rainswept apocalypse in the outskirts of Taipei lies the Fu-Ho Da Xi-yuan, or the “Lucky Together Grand Theater,” a now-defunct two-screen movie theater that served as the sole setting for writer-director Tsai Ming-liang's Goodbye, Dragon Inn [originally Bú sàn, "to never leave"], a film-within-a-film narrative that functions as a near-perfect synthesis of Tsai's frequented themes and mechanics: a deluge of invading water brought on by flooding and poor infrastructure, an intertextual commentary…

  • Attack on Titan II: End of the World

    Attack on Titan II: End of the World

    ★½

    [27]

    See my review of the previous film for what is essentially a repeat of my thoughts on this one. The short of it: not an improvement over the bust that was the first entry in this two-parter adaptation of the manga of the same name. The slight score drop from the original film (29) is accorded to one specific failure, seen magnified in this entry: once again interesting that Isayama compelled the writing team to take the original story…

  • Attack on Titan

    Attack on Titan

    ★½

    [29]

    I had been curious about this one since its initial announcement, a live-action adaptation of the manga and subsequent anime television series that took the pop culture zeitgeist by storm in 2013. And it turns out it would have been best had it stayed a mere curiosity because this glossy film is a determinate misfire. Word is that director Shinji Higuchi and crew aimed to make a faithful adaptation of Hajime Isayama's manga, but Isayama wanted otherwise. Virtually a…

  • Space Jam: A New Legacy

    Space Jam: A New Legacy

    [21]

    Not horrendous necessarily, but—arguably worse—it is intensely, intensely shameless. A postmodernist, IP-driven bore of a film replete with memeification, utter stylelessness, and the uncanny ability to ceaselessly send one into a cringe. LeBron James is the better performer than Michael Jordan ever was in the original, but such low praise that is, especially when the more damning performance belongs to Jeff Bergman, who voices many of the tunes. He's no Mel Blanc. Endlessly comical that many of the notable…