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  • Demons

    Demons

    ★★★★★

    This world is a sea of blood.

    A disgraced samurai mired in debt, with aspirations of joining the 47 Ronin in their vengeance. A woman in love, desperate to escape her geisha servitude. A cruel deceit and crueler repercussions.

    Toshio Matsumoto’s Demons makes Sword of Doom seem tame by comparison. Upon sets cloaked in blacker-than-night shadows, this jidaigeki is awash in misery. A film so plagued with darkness that the frame itself is lost in an abyss, its theatric staging…

  • Branded to Kill

    Branded to Kill

    ★★★★½

    I thought Youth of the Beast had prepared me for Seijun Suzuki, but Branded To Kill laughed at the notion. I’d like to imagine that its cackle looked something like the nightmare rictus of The Man Who Laughs. Now that’s an image to sum up this film’s deranged genre-defying romp.

    Disorienting and challenging us to play catch-up from frame one, Branded To Kill is ostensibly a hitman thriller. And it’s a tremendous one too, with furious guns-blazing action and masterfully…

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  • China Girl

    China Girl

    ★★★★½

    Abel Ferrara brings Romero & Juliet to the gritty underbelly of ‘80s New York, positioning the doomed romance between warring gangs of Chinatown and Little Italy. The love at the story’s core feels innocently sincere, thanks to the performances of Richard Panebianco and Sari Chang. But it’s everything around the romance that makes China Girl stand out: the shadow-&-neon stylized theatricality of its time and place, the hard frenetic violence that constantly makes victims of its ethnic communities, the communal atmosphere…

  • Moon Warriors

    Moon Warriors

    ★★★

    It’s solid.

    To my surprise, not sure what else I could say about Moon Warriors. Sammo Hung does wuxia (the more subdued form, not the hyper-zaniness of Butterfly Sword) and it’s all-around just decent. The highlights were an orca showing up and the villain literally firing a guy’s head off his shoulders with a bow. But regarding story, choreography, characters....Moon Warriors was neither the worse I’ve seen but never comes close to the heights of everyone involved.

    It’s solid.

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  • Enola Holmes

    Enola Holmes

    ★★★½

    Nothing earthshaking, just a brisk bouncy mystery-adventure with an exuberantly charismatic performance from Millie Bobby Brown (her career is going to be long and vast) and a solid turn from Henry Cavill as a Sherlock with more warmth than most. Definitely too long for what it is, but Enola is the kind of endearing protagonist that makes the time worthwhile. The themes certainly aren’t subtle, but an excess of hopeful heart-on-sleeve fun is welcome nowadays. I’m down for more sleuthing misadventures with the witty, resourceful, butt-kicking Enola Holmes.

  • The Untouchables

    The Untouchables

    ★★★★

    De Palma does his “The Sting” in The Untouchables. If Scarface was pre-code gangster pulp given a garish modern update, then The Untouchables is Classic Hollywood drama meets the ‘80s’ hard-edged violence and grit. Hard to make a louder statement than blowing up a child in the first ten minutes.

    De Niro’s grinning pulp-villain Capone personifies the monolith which Ness (Kevin Costner) and Malone (Sean Connery) aim to collapse: their driven beleaguered lawmen against an underworld luxuriating contently in protections…