Saturday, December 23, 2023

The Old Man and the Sea: Noryang: Deadly Sea (2023) Review

Director: Kim Han-min

Notable Cast: Kim Yoon-seok, Baek Yoon-sik, Jung Jae-young, Heo Joon-ho, Kim Sung-kyu, Lee Kyoo-hyung, Lee Moo-saeng


I will go out on a limb and say it right away: Noryang: Deadly Sea is perhaps the best of the Admiral Yi Trilogy. It's got the emotion and melodrama that helped push the first film along, and it takes the more war-driven elements of Hansan and pushes the envelope even further. This is one brutal and sprawling conclusion to Yi's epic naval battle journey, as told by director Kim Han-min.


It's been nine years since the initial theatrical release of Roaring Currents, and the finale here is worth the wait. We see a filmmaker entirely in touch with his material, and the passion on display is felt in every frame. The sense of scale, the thundering score, the visuals, everything fires on all cannons (pun intended). Noryang takes a nearly decade-old franchise and pushes it into the stratosphere of great trilogies.


Saturday, December 16, 2023

Curses and Epitaphs: The Ghost Station (2023) Review

Director: Jeong Yong-ki

Notable Cast: Kim Bo-ra, Kim Jae-hyun, Shin So-yul, Oh Jin-seok


As the old adage goes, what’s old will always be new again. The same is very relevant for film cycles and, if I’m being honest, the resurrection of the various trends in horror from the early 00s has been a delight. 


When The Ghost Station first crossed my path, the fact that it was co-written by Hiroshi Takahashi (Ring, Ring 2, Ju On Origins) and Koji Shiraishi (Noroi, Carved, Sadako Vs. Kayako) is what caught my eye. The sheer amount of awesome J-horror films that those two have crafted in the last 30 years is essentially jaw-dropping - so the two coming together to work on this one immediately caught my attention.


Fortunately, Well Go USA picked up The Ghost Station for distribution in the US, and it’s a welcome addition at the end of the year. The Ghost Station is pure 00s J-Horror through and through, wrapping up classic inspirations into a love letter of spooks, spins, and spiritual horror hijinks. Its mileage will vary drastically depending on your love of the throwback J-Horror. Mainly since this is a Korean film and some expectations come with that, but it also suffers from some of the same drawbacks that hindered the genre back then. Still, it was a pleasant trip down nostalgia lane that hit many of the right buttons. 


Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Repossessed: The Exorcist: Believer (2023) Review

Director: David Gordon Green

Notable Cast: Leslie Odom Jr, Lidya Jewett, Olivia Marcum, Ann Dowd, Jennifer Nettles, Norbert Leo Butz, Okwui Okpokwasili, Raphael Sbarge, EJ Bonilla, Ellen Burstyn


Although David Gordon Green's Halloween trilogy certainly had its issues, those films were at least interesting to some degree. Big swings were being taken by the end, and whether you liked it or not, it deserves some respect. To that degree, while I didn't love the latter two entries, those films are worthy of the occasional rewatch, if only for those swings and choices being made. 


Which is why, to some degree, The Exorcist: Believer is such a wild misfire on so many levels. At its core, it deals with some interesting ideas about world religious practices, the pairing of girls who become possessed, and two families from different backgrounds forced to come together to face a mutual evil. 


Yet, no matter what, The Exorcist: Believer never capitalizes on any of it. Instead of dwelling on those topics, the film is far more concerned with playing things safe within the world of The Exorcist. The callbacks to the original feel trite, the scares are mundane in a world of more interesting Exorcist knockoffs, and the overall narrative feels bland. Compared to some of the other Exorcist films, particularly the wild swings of The Heretic and Exorcist III, Believer feels more like a drab love letter to the series rather than a new and exciting continuation. It's baffling. 


Sunday, December 3, 2023

Magic Is Real: Dr. Cheon and the Lost Talisman (2023) Reivew

Director: Kim Seong-sik

Notable Cast: Gang Dong-won, Heo Joon-ho, Esom, Lee Dong-hwi, Kim Jong-soo, Park So-yi, Yoon Byung-hee, Joo Bo-bi, Park Kyung-hye


Kim Seong-sik's directorial debut Dr. Cheon and the Lost Talisman is sure to be one of the sleeper hits of 2023. It’s a gorgeously directed horror-tinged swashbuckling adventure film filled to the brim with fun characters and great action.


Dr. Cheon and the Lost Talisman don't waste any time building the world around the characters or explaining too much. There is an exorcist who goes around dispelling fake curses and scheming folks out of their money. It's something we've seen before, but once things become reality, the film begins to happen. It kicks the story into overdrive, and we get to see the titular Dr. Cheon (Gang Dong-won) showcase his real wizardry powers, which are imbued within a nifty-looking broken sword that he wields. Esom plays a woman with eyes that can see into the other realms of existence, and thus, the two pair up to stop a villain that is threatening their very existence.


Friday, December 1, 2023

A Place at the Table: Thanksgiving (2023) Review

Director: Eli Roth

Notable Cast: Nell Verlaque, Patrick Dempsey, Addison Rae, Milo Manheim, Jalen Thomas Brooks, Gabriel Davenport, Tomaso Sanelli, Jenna Warren, Rick Hoffman, Karen Cliché, Gina Gershon, Ty Olsson


Sixteen years is an incredibly long time. To think where I was in my life sixteen years ago, is to feel like I’ve looked back upon a half dozen lifetimes. For director Eli Roth, it’s damn near half a dozen films. Yet, his 2007 fake trailer for Thanksgiving has remained one of those fan-favorite ideas that kept coming up repeatedly. Attached to the Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez double feature Grindhouse, this throwback trailer to some long-lost sleazy slasher had fans in a tizzy for nearly two decades. Watching a fake trailer became a staple of the turkey-powered holiday, and everyone just kept asking, “When, Eli, when?”


Eli Roth always remembered, and now, sixteen years later, he has fulfilled that promise of delivering his own holiday treat, Thanksgiving. Trying to compare this film to its fake trailer is something of a fascinating way to view it, but really what Roth has done with this film is he’s delivered a raucous and gory classic slasher with a modern lens that fits right in with his style of filmmaking - updating genre pickings with a dark comedic bent as a love letter to cinema. Thanksgiving gives thanks to all the slashers that come before but manages to hold its own identity with piss n’ vinegar. 


Thursday, November 30, 2023

Horrors in the Aftermath: Godzilla Minus One (2023) Review

Director: Takashi Yamazaki

Notable Cast: Ryunosuke Kamiki, Minami Hamabe, Yuki Yamada, Munetaka Aoki, Hidetaka Yoshioka, Sakura Ando, Kuranosuke Sasaki, Mio Tanaka, Yuya Endo, Kisuke Iida, Saki Nagatani


At this point, we might be in one of the best ages for Godzilla. As a long-time fan myself who used to watch Godzilla Vs Megalon on repeat on a shitty VHS tape, it’s truly a golden age. Just in one year, we have a new Godzilla TV show on Apple+, a new Godzilla/Kong film, and the topic of this piece - the latest Toho Godzilla stand-alone story, Godzilla Minus One. It’s so much content it’s hard for my heart to hold it all in. 


Godzilla is the word. And the word is spreading, even in the US. 


Despite Godzilla’s dominance in newer US films, TV, and video game appearances, it’s hard to deny that a new Toho Godzilla film isn’t the most exciting thing from the kaiju franchise. Even though Godzilla Minus One is essentially remaking the original Godzilla film at its base, the participation of director/writer/visual FX guru Takashi Yamazaki and strong initial marketing hyped this film to a new level. Could it hold a candle to the strength of the last Toho Godzilla “reboot,” Shin Godzilla? Could it tell a new story with Big G in a way that could still be exciting?


The standing ovation that Godzilla Minus One received at my theatrical screening says in its own deafening Godzilla-like skreeonk, abso-fuckin-lutely. 


Saturday, November 18, 2023

With Our Powers Combined: The Marvels (2023) Review

Director: Nia DaCosta

Notable Cast: Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, Iman Vellani, Zawe Ashton, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Lewis, Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur, Park Seo-jun, Lashana Lynch


Although I was overly optimistic about Captain Marvel initially, I’ve cooled quite a bit on the film since its release. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has struggled to figure out how to use the character in any kind of exciting way outside of being a deus ex machina-esque plot device in Avengers: Endgame. Yet, the Disney-led Marvel machine seemed intent on creating more layers around the character by introducing two other Marvel-style characters, Monica Rambeau and Kamala Khan, introduced in the Disney+ Marvel series WandaVision and Ms. Marvel, respectively. 


Thus, powered by the synchronicity of the MCU, we are now delivered with Captain Marvel 2. Oh, I’m sorry, it’s called The Marvels and not Captain Marvel 2. A film where Ms. Rambeau and Ms. Khan join Captain Marvel to take on the latest threat of world-ending sky beams powered by a villain with a semi-relatable cause in a spectacle-driven blockbuster. You know, it’s a post-Avengers MCU film through and through. 


Yet, don’t let my inherent sarcasm in that last statement dissuade you from this one. While the MCU has undoubtedly struggled to be consistent in recent years, The Marvels is a shockingly fun and loose ride that moves like lightning, warts and all. After the abysmal garbage fire that Marvel released under the title Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, maybe The Marvels feels like it's worth its weight in gold, but it’s a film that finds a pop and energy that makes it move like it has places to be. 


Sunday, November 5, 2023

Don't Touch That Dial: Late Night with the Devil (2023) [Telluride Horror Show 2023]

Directors: Cameron Cairnes, Colin Cairnes

Notable Cast: David Dastmalchian, Laura Gordon, Ian Bliss, Fayssal Bazzi, Ingrid Torelli, Rhys Auteri, Georgina Haig, Josh Quong Tart, Christopher Kirby, Steve Mouzakis, Gaby Seow, Michael Ironside


A dedication to the gimmick is always a welcome change of pace from the usual mainstream, overly noted-film fodder. Late Night with the Devil, the latest film from directors Cameron and Colin Cairnes, is absolutely dedicated to its gimmick.


It starts like a documentary about a fictionalized 70s late-night talk show host Jack Delroy. Then, it quickly becomes a “lost” television show episode where wild, horrific events happen to Jack and his guests. It’s found footage to a certain degree, but the choices around replicating the style of a 70s late-night show fully embrace the gimmick to an impressive end. Embracing its style with vigor while delivering a building tension and underpinned dramatic sadness makes Late Night with the Devil one of those cinematic experiences that sticks with you. 


Does its narrative always make sense with its intentional style choices? No, but goddamn, is the ride for Late Night with the Devil worth taking. 


Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Mad, Mad World: When Evil Lurks (2023) Review [Telluride Horror Show 2023]

Director: Demián Rugna

Notable Cast: Ezequiel Rodríguez, Demián Salomón, Silvina Sabater, Virginia Garofalo, Emilio Vodanovich, Luis Ziembrowski, Paula Rubinsztein, Feerico Liss, Marcelo Michinaux


When Terrified appeared on Shudder six years ago, I would have placed writer and director Demián Rugna as THE artistic voice to watch in horror. That movie, with all its flaws, scraped my bones with its tension and conceptual horrors. Indeed, it is the kind of statement film that should have had Rugna on the shortlist to direct every horror film for any studio project. 


Although I’m sure he was on that list, he took approximately six years to release his next feature-length film. Of course, he did have a segment in the recently released Satanic Hispanics anthology film, but the man took his time dropping his follow-up When Evil Lurks. Waiting to see this effort was almost as tense as watching Terrified.

It was absolutely worth the wait.


When Evil Lurks is the horror film to beat this year. And, if I’m being perfectly honest When Evil Lurks is the kind of horror that beats up its viewers too. While its “evil entity” is treated like a biological infestation, the combination of folk horror elements within a possession film is impressively navigated. All the while, Rugna and his team deliver some of the most brutal sequences since the French Extreme movement of the 2000s. When Evil Lurks is the kind of horror film that pulverizes its audience’s nerves and stomach in all the best ways. 


Sunday, October 8, 2023

Resharpened and Retooled: Saw X (2023) Review

Director: Kevin Greutert

Notable Cast: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Synnøve Macody Lund, Renata Vaca, Paulette Hernandez, Octavio Hinojosa Martinez, Steven Brand, Michael Beach, Joshua Okamoto, Jorge Briseño


The third time’s a charm, huh?


Although the 8th and 9th films of the Saw franchise both essentially sold themselves as soft reboots for the long-running horror series, see our reviews for Jigsaw and Spiral: From the Book of Saw, respectively, neither one really grabbed the core ideas or style in a way that genuinely recaptured audiences after a brief hiatus after the seventh film, Saw 3D


Two failed attempts, but Saw X - which I like to pronounce as “socks” for the record, was going to find that sweet spot, right?


Well, Saw X rectifies previous misfires by returning to the start but taking a few exciting side roads. A combination of simplification in the now very lore-heavy Saw franchise and bringing back the series’ two most famous villains, Saw X does many things right, even when treading on some new territory, which has always been a problematic area for the series. With brutal new traps and a renewed sense of dramatic heft, Saw X threads many thin lines and manages to do impressively. At least when it comes to the Saw-iverse, is that a thing?


Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Untouched Corners: Cobweb (2023) Review

Director: Samuel Bodin

Notable Cast: Woody Norman, Cleopatra Coleman, Lizzy Caplan, Antony Starr, Luke Busey


At a brisk runtime of 88 minutes, Cobweb still took at least 20 minutes for me to latch onto what it was doing. It was focused on the 8-year-old protagonist, the acting for the family - including his mother and father - felt four times larger than life, and the house they lived in felt like an intentional set, particularly when compared to his school life outside the home. 


I had only seen the trailer once, but my assumption from the trailer was that this film looked to capitalize on the “trauma horror” trend currently running circles in the genre. Still, this - this opening of the film all felt like it was two steps disconnected from reality in some heightened way, and my brain was desperate to figure out the tonal intent. Twenty-ish minutes in, it hit me like the clawed fingers of its spider-infested antagonist. Cobweb is a fairy tale horror flick. Not some high-brow artistic supernatural yarn. Duh. 


Once I finally grasped what this film would be with its more serious and realistic tone, I totally bought into it. Cobweb is a film that embraces this other-worldly, Halloween-injected-fun-scare style, wrapped in a fairy tale aesthetic, and is a tight, entertaining horror flick. It swirls its audience into a kind of silliness not unlike James Wan’s Malignant did with its blend and still manages to deliver just enough soul to sell the entire thing. By the time the bonkers final act came ripping out, I was fully cocooned in Cobweb - in all the best ways. 


Godsmacked: Creation of the Gods I: Kingdom of Storms (2023) Review

Director: Wuershan

Notable Cast: Kris Phillips, Li Xuejian, Huang Bo, Yosh Yu, Luke Chen, Naran, Xia Yu, Yang Le, Chen Kun, Yuan Quan, Ci Sha, Yafan Wu, Luoyong Wang, Hou Wenyuan, Tim Huang


Now that the Chinese film industry has punted many of its lower-budget films to streaming services, it’s not shocking to see a massive CGI-heavy multi-film adaptation of a classic fantasy story look and feel so much like modern Hollywood blockbusters. The initial trailers for Creation of the Gods I: Kingdom of Storms were brimming with massive superhero-like action set pieces, while the promise of this being a “part one” of a trilogy indicated that this would be E.P.I.C. Truly, this looked like the Chinese fantasy blockbuster to end all blockbusters. 


Director Wuershan’s adaption of the Investiture of the Gods story is undoubtedly just that. Nothing in Creation of the Gods I: Kingdom of Storms is subtle or straightforward. This is a big scale to the blockbuster nth degree, and it shows for better or worse. As the first part of this trilogy, it’s still a highly entertaining film; for that, it does get credit. It’s just par for the course that its stunning visual feasts and entertaining action sequences come with a script that is scattered in trying to jam in dozens stacked upon dozens of characters, plots that never feel fleshed out, and a narrative that feels elongated and still rushed. 


But it also features two massive stone monsters possessed by an occasionally headless evil wizard chasing a god stripped of his powers on horseback. So, you know, give a little, take a little. 


Monday, September 11, 2023

Howling into the Void: Wolf Pack (2023) Review

Director: Michael Chiang

Notable Cast: Max Zhang, Aarif Rahman, Jiang Luxia, Mark Luu, Zhang Yi, Xue Jianing, Ye Liu


Honestly, I’ll watch any film with Max Zhang in it. His rise to leading A-list stardom in China has been a blast to follow and he quickly becomes a highlight of any film he’s in. When it was announced he would be in a new military action flick, Wolf Pack, along with Aarif Rahman and Jiang Luxia - two very underrated stars in their own right - I was doubly in. A military group led by Zhang kicking ass, taking names, and setting their sites on out-America-ing Hollywood in military actioners with weirdly patriotic themes? Hell yeah, I’m in. 


For all of its bullet blasting, secret character heroics, and a handful of exciting action set pieces, Wolf Pack is a movie that throws many punches and only lands a few of them. A charm is inherent in many of its ideas and a few of its executions. Still, its narrative could be more straightforward, and its characters - despite some fantastic casting - are bland blends of various tropes and unfinished arcs. Wolf Pack does a lot of loud howling, but it's howling its loudest into a void that swallows any sound and kills any lingering echo after the credits roll. 


Sunday, September 3, 2023

Find Your Peace-eria: The Equalizer 3 (2023)

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Notable Cast: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Gaia Scodellaro, David Denman, Eugenio Mastrandrea, Remo Girone, Daniele Perrone, Andrea Scarduzio, Andrea Dodero, Giovanni Scotti, Melissa Leo, Sonia Ammar


Over the last 30 years, the relative variety of films that Antoine Fuqua has made that exist within the realm of action/thriller/crime has been fairly impressive. Does anyone remember that he made a historical flick with Will Smith called Emancipation last year? Probably not, since it went to Apple and subsequently died a forgotten death, but he did. Yes, he made one of those too. Yet, the only real “franchise” he has repeatedly returned to is The Equalizer, the modern update of the 1980s television show featuring his frequent collaborator Denzel Washington. 


Finding relative success with the first two entries, it’s no shock that The Equalizer 3 was on the docket for some time in the future even if Denzel is starting to show his age at 68. Trilogies are not easy to pull off, but the first two entries have only grown on me since their releases as they are kind of Charles Bronson meets John Woo melodramatic slices of action cinema. Thus, my expectations - even mediated - were elevated for this threequel. 


The Equalizer 3 is a perplexing puzzle, though. Despite being the shortest film in the series (by at least 15 minutes) and featuring the least complicated story and plot, it’s trying to do a lot and rarely managing to find its identity in doing so. It’s making many bold choices compared to its predecessors, changing up the film's tone a smidge, fully taking Denzel’s Robert McCall character out of Boston, and it doesn’t necessarily land where it needs to thematically or what it's setting up for the character. Despite some highly entertaining moments elevated by the Oscar-winning actor, The Equalizer 3 rarely feels equalized in its balance, and it leaves the trilogy feeling a tad underwhelming. 


Friday, August 18, 2023

Space Feels Like Hell: The Moon (2023) Review

Director: Kim Yong-hwa
Notable Cast: Sul Kyung-gu, Doh Kyung-soo, Kim Hee-ae

When you think of big, entertaining blockbusters from South Korea, the types of works that draw in the masses, there are a few names that leap to mind. But even among the ones that you just thought of, there is no doubt that Kim Yong-hwa came up. 

He's one of the most successful filmmakers, alongside other blockbuster giants such as Ryoo Seung-wan (Veteran) or Choi Dong-hoon (The Thieves). His previous works, like the two part Among the Gods films or even the Chinese co-production Mr. Go, have this formula and local flavor that works both in their region and abroad. Universality is one of the things that makes Kim's films works. They are big, grandiose, and a bit emotional, but I have always found myself to be counted as perhaps one of his biggest champions. So needless to say, I was absolutely ready to take a trip to The Moon. How does this summer blockbuster fair, and is this effects driven extravaganza worth the journey? Let's get into it.

It's the year 2029 and South Korea has embarked on a mission to the moon with a small team and their prized lunar probe, Woori. This captures a lot of eyes globally and just when all is seeming to go well for the team, a sudden solar windstorm wreaks havoc on the crew leaving astronaut Hwang Sun-woo stranded alone, fighting for survival. The team sent this time around had hoped to avoid the disasters that an earlier attempt met with disastrous results. The drama that unfolds around one man's fate brings the tensions of many nations to the forefront and a question that comes to all of our minds is presented to the world, what are our nationalities at the end of the day and what ideologies are we really putting aside to save a life? 

It's a very patriotic question that The Moon explores, and it is this exact sense of nationalism that clashes with its own sense of trying to push a one human race mindset. While I think the sentiment is great and the heart is definitely in the right spot with the film, it's the huge explosion of melodrama that really pushes the film away from a pure entertainment spectacle and it loses itself along the way.

Friday, August 11, 2023

From Shaw to Shining Shaw: The Shaw Brothers Classics, Vol. 1 Boxset - Ranked List (Shout Factory)

Although I’ve spent a solid amount of my time as a writer digging into the massive Shaw Brothers martial arts catalog of films, the current onslaught of Blu-Ray releases from boutique labels like Arrow Video or 88 Films has seen a lot of renewed interest in the classic Hong Kong studio and their output. Yeah, that’s fuckin’ great cause it’s only one more reason for me to revisit them and write about some of the classics that far too many cinephiles overlook. 


Just recently, Shout Factory revealed their own box sets, bringing together large swaths of the filmography of the Shaw Brothers studio. After announcing a Brave Archer set that contains the original three Brave Archer films and the two unofficial sequels, they dropped this gorgeous set on fans. Titled The Shaw Brothers Classics, Vol. 1, this set brought together 11 classic wuxia flicks from the golden age of the studio and it’s one of the year's best releases. 


With a handful of films new to me and a ton of classics that were available previously (either in digital form or from previous DVD releases), here is my official ranking of each film included - with a few additional comments of why each film deserves to be seen. 


11. The Thundering Sword (1967) [dir. Hsu Tseng-Hung]


The Thundering Sword suffers mostly from just being very bland. Despite an intriguing romantic throughline for its lead characters, one of which is played by Cheng Pei Pei - an incredible actress that will be referenced quite a bit throughout this article, this film stumbles into mediocrity at most turns. Lo Lieh pops up early as a bright point to be sidelined for most of the film, and its plot gets widely convoluted by its third act despite its strong set of Shaw stars. For fans, it’s more of a curiosity than a gem from the earth. 


Tuesday, August 8, 2023

An Outsider Bewitched: Poison for the Fairies (1986) Review

Director: Carlos Enrique Taboada

Notable Cast: Ana Patricia Rojo, Elsa Maria Gutierrez, Leonor Llausas, Carmela Stein, Maria Santander


Although I was privy to the work of director Carlos Enrique Taboada before the unveiling of the Mexican Gothic from Vinegar Syndrome, the recent release schedule from the boutique labels perked my interest. The Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched documentary released last year pushed me to dig further to find more Mexican cinema, and this set was as good of a place to start as any. 


Despite its 1986 release year, Poison for the Fairies, the first of three films included in this set, this little gothic Mexican film is a dark, often unnerving horror drama about childhood friends, lost innocence, and the consequences of the small choices made that begin to spiral out of control. Poison for the Fairies is a shockingly relevant and poignant slice of cinema, more akin to the tones and seething realism of 1970s horror than mid-80s, and it’s one hell of a witch’s brew once it's cooking. 


Friday, August 4, 2023

The Thin Line Between Evil and Just: Bad City (2023) Review

Director: Kensuke Sonomura

Notable Cast: Hitoshi Ozawa, Mitsu Dan, Akane Sakanoue, Katsuya, Masanori Mimoto, Taro Suwa, Kentaro Shimazu, Koji Kiryu, Akira Hamada, Arisa Matsunaga, Huh Soo-cheol, Akihiko Kuwata, Hideo Nakano, Kenji Fukuda, Kazuyoshi Ozawa, Daisuke Nagakura, Yoshiyuki Yamaguchi, Kazuki Namioka, Tak Sakaguchi, Tomokazu, Lily Franky, Rino Katase


With the recent boom of boutique labels releasing forgotten classics and foreign films, it is fantastic that auteur directors like Kinji Fukasaku are being discovered or rediscovered by legions of new fans. Although his style and influence could be felt throughout the decades in Japanese cinema, particularly around his work in the yakuza genre, it feels as though there is growing stronger—or, at least, Westerners like myself are more aware of seeing it in modern films. 


Yet, watching Bad City, it becomes fairly obvious that director Kensuke Sonomura has also been to the school of Fukasaku. In its tale of political and police corruption, poisoned by a brewing war between a yakuza outfit and a South Korean one, Sonomura delivers on the seething socio-political ideas that powered classic films like Cops Vs Thugs or Yakuza Graveyard. He then gives it the empowered V-Cinema DIY nature version of that while still polishing it with some impressive action combat reminiscent of The Roundup (The Outlaws) films. 


To say that Bad City is thoroughly enjoyable is an understatement. Bad City is one of the best action flicks of the year, energized by its screen-eating cast and brutal street-level beatdowns. Bad City is a good time. 


Thursday, July 20, 2023

Incarnation of Chaos: Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One (2023)

Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Notable Cast: Tom Cruise, Hayley Atwell, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby, Esai Morales, Pom Klementieff, Henry Czerny, Shea Whigham, Greg Tarzan Davis, Cary Elwes


Just before the Impossible Mission Force (IMF) team heads off on a train to ride towards their destiny in the final act of the seventh (and not final) Mission: Impossible film, Hailey Atwell’s new character Grace asks Tom Cruise’s now iconic Ethan Hunt if he will be on the train. He looks at her, and thus to an entire packed IMAX audience in my theater, and says that he will. He will be there. You can count on it. 


It’s Tom Cruise’s modus operandi at this point. After a billion-dollar grossing Top Gun: Maverick and a marketing campaign for this latest Mission: Impossible film that saw him and director Christopher McQuarrie taking pictures with their tickets to see every new film in theaters, he’s going to be there. You can count on it. 


It’s seemingly the warcry of Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One, a film that so adamantly sticks to its franchise guns and formulas that it’s no wonder it was opened two days earlier than originally planned. It’s going to be there for the fans. You can count on it. 


Friday, June 30, 2023

Back to Extract: Extraction 2 (2023) Review

Director: Sam Hargrave

Notable Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Golshifteh Farahani, Adam Bessa, Tornike Gogrichiani, Tornike Bziava, Tinatin Dalakishvili, Andro Japaridze, Justin Howell, Idris Elba, Olga Kurylenko, Daniel Bernhardt


Netflix is making some entertaining films, but I feel like there is a problem. 


Extraction 2 recently dropped on Netflix instead of theaters, green-lit after whatever imaginary numbers that Netflix made up for the viewership of the first film. Like many sequels, Extraction 2 suffers from a bit of sequel-itis as it attempts to go bigger, badder, and broader with what fans loved in the first one and, like many sequels, it tends to lose some of its grip on the ground in doing so. Those who loved that its predecessor was a gritty old-school action hero thrust into exponentially rising action with exponential chances of failure will appreciate the larger scope of this one and Hemsworth’s stone-cold performance. Those fans who loved the militaristic and earthy realism of the original may find themselves lost in the sillier action formulas that Extraction 2 starts to dabble in. 


To say it simply, Extraction 2 is more of a mixed bag, but it is the kind of throwback action flick that’s meant to be seen on the most giant screen possible. It's loud and proud of itself, but seeing it at home takes away some of the fun of it. And it feels as though its hero and his plight in Georgia (the country, thanks) deserve more than just decaying in the Netflix Graveyard where streaming films go to die. 


Monday, June 12, 2023

The Ultimate Sakra-fice: Sakra (2023) Review

Directors: Donnie Yen, Kam Ka-Wai

Notable Cast: Donnie Yen, Yukee Chen, Liu Yase, Kara Hui, Wu Yue, Eddie Cheung, Grace Wong, Do Yuming, Ray Lui, Tsui Siu-Ming, Cai Xiangyu, Michelle Hu, Zhao Huawei, Yu Kang, Xu Xiangdong, Yuen Cheung-Yan, Cheung Siu Fai, Cya Liu, Kara Wai, Kenji Tanigaki, Hua Yan


Donnie Yen has solidified himself as one of the biggest action stars in the work in the last 15 years. For those who follow Hong Kong and Chinese cinema, we’ve known that for much, much longer than that - but the international success of the Ip Man films along with stints in Hollywood blockbusters like John Wick: Chapter 4 have made sure that his name was synonymous with action godhood for the entire world. 


How does he decide to cash his blank check of this fame for his first directorial effort in almost 20 years? He decided to do an adaption of the wuxia novel Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils. It’s not the most obvious choice, mainly since his brand of action has been reasonably modern, gritty, and grounded even when doing classic kung fu flicks like the Ip Man series. Yet, as a star and director, Yen tackles big-scale wire-fu, chi powers, and classic heroic tropes for Sakra


Sunday, June 4, 2023

Hopper Boy Reborn: Shin Kamen Rider (2023) Review

Director: Hideaki Anno

Notable Cast: Sosuke Ikematsu, Minami Hamabe, Tasuku Emoto, Shinya Tsukamoto, Toru Tezuka, Suzuki Matsuo, Nanase Nishino, Mirai Moriyama, Masami Nagasawa, Nao Omori, Takumi Saitoh, Kanata Hongo, Tori Matsuzaka


Hideaki Anno’s “shin universe” continues to be one of the most fascinating series in cinema. Shin Godzilla was a distinctively Japanese recreation of the iconic kaiju that works as a perfect counterweight to the American Monsterverse series and Shin Ultraman (released in the US earlier this year) was a love letter to the monster-fighting hero that weirdly managed to pack in some thematic heft while balancing silly monster fights with existential questions.


For his third film in this universe, Anno tackles another tokusatsu legend by bringing a “new” version of Kamen Rider to the silver screen. Naturally titled Shin Kamen Rider, this film serves - like the other two Shin films - as both a reboot and a love letter to the character's previous incarnations. Although both Shin Godzilla and Shin Ultraman managed to find a better balance in their respective reinventions, it’s hard not to love what this is pulling off here too. 


Shin Kamen Rider is outlandishly silly and takes each level of craziness with a stone face while leaning into the aesthetic of the original series with a modern CGI element. It is the best kind of insane, even when it leaves its audience feeling like they have to sprint to keep up. 


Thursday, May 25, 2023

Shifting into Tenth Gear: Fast X (2023) Review

Director: Louis Leterrier 

Notable Cast: (deep breath) Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, John Cena, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jordana Brewster, Sung Kang, Jason Momoa, Scott Eastwood, Daniela Melchior, Alan Ritchson, Helen Mirren, Brie Larson, Jason Statham, Charlize Theron, Rita Moreno, Joaquim de Almeida, Leo A. Perry


Every two to three years I get the pleasure of revisiting the Fast & Furious franchise and, in a rather unfortunate manner, the last couple of films in the series - not counting the surprisingly fun spin-off Hobbs & Shaw, have been declining returns in creativity and quality. Not that Fate of the Furious or F9: The Fast Saga don’t have their strengths or their fans, but compared to the first of the fifth, sixth, and seventh films, they just were missing that special heart that beat underneath the illogical scripts and outlandish action set pieces. 


Thus, my expectations were metered when Fast X, the tenth entry into this billion-dollar grossing action blockbuster series, was finally on track to vroom vroom its way into theaters. Could Vin Diesel and company find a way to start their own Avengers: Endgame with this reportedly first of two (or three?) “final” films in the series?


Tuesday, May 16, 2023

A-Club, Assemble: Assassin Club (2023) Review

Director: Camille Delamarre 

Notable Cast: Henry Golding, Noomi Rapace, Daniela Melchior, Jimmy Jean-Louis, Sam Neill, Anastasia Doaga, Claudio Del Falco, Gabriele Mira Rossi, Runo Bilotta, Sheena Hao, Lorenzo Buran, G-Max


There is a point around the halfway mark of Assassin Club that I came to a realization. Someone needed to recognize Henry Golding, playing the assassin with a heart Morgan, for the serious effort he is putting into this movie. At this point, he’s speaking with a “faceless” assassin, played by the always go-for-broke Noomi Rapace, over the phone about the puppet master that has set up six assassins to kill one another. No lie, he’s giving the scene 1000% more than it deserves. He is carrying the poor exposition, plot progression, and character bits kicking and screaming through that entire scene. 


Golding often oozes charisma in this film, straining under the sheer weight of a script and director that don’t understand the potential of the material outside of “look how cool this should be for the 18 to 25 male demographic,” and I almost started feeling pity for the man. After his meteoric rise with Crazy Rich Asians, his career has seemingly been ignored by the masses (even though I still believe - and will fight - for Snake Eyes) and now he’s relegated to a straight-to-home video actioner like Assassin Club


Thursday, May 11, 2023

Rise, Dead, Rise: Evil Dead Rise (2023) Review

Director: Lee Cronin

Notable Cast: Lily Sullivan, Alyssa Sutherland, Morgan Davies, Gabrielle Echols, Nell Fisher, Anna-Maree Thomas, Mirabai Pease, Richard Crouchley, Jaden Daniels


My bias toward the Evil Dead franchise is rather blatant. The series defined my youth, characterized a large part of my taste in film, and eventually pushed my love of cinema to the next level. When Fede Alvarez nailed his Evil Dead remake in 2013, my body and mind were ready for a new era for the demonic horror series. It was time to reinvent it for a modern audience. 


Then it never happened. 

And that’s when my 10-year Evil Dead depression started. 


Fortunately, like the Deadites that infest and torture our protagonists, you can’t fuckin’ kill this series. It might have taken 10 years and required Warner Brothers and New Line Cinema to grow a brain and not push this straight to HBOMax (I’m sorry, it’s “just Max” now), but we are now treated with the latest entry, Evil Dead Rise, and it certainly rises to the occasion. At least, if you want gratuitous violence and gore, a brisk pace, and lots of physics unawareness for unspecified demonic powers. Evil Dead Rise delivers in spades the elements necessary for a great Evil Dead entry, even going so far as carrying some of its oddities along with it. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Redcaps Paddy Whacks: Unwelcome (2023) Review

Director: Joe Wright

Notable Cast: Hannah John-Kamen, Douglas Booth, Jamie Lee O’Donnell, Chris Walley, Kristian Nairn, Colm Meaney, Niamh Cusack, Lalor Roddy


Having been a big fan of Grabbers, where drunkenness is the only way to fight off an alien invasion, my expectations for director Joe Wright’s latest horror comedy, Unwelcome, were reasonably high. To try and temper those expectations, I didn’t watch or dig into any of the promotional material for it and waited patiently for its release from our friends at Well Go USA. 


While the balance of horror and humor in Unwelcome isn’t nearly as good as the previously mentioned Grabbers, it is one of the year's more offbeat and fascinating films. Mainly because, when this bad boy is boiled down to its bones, it’s basically Straw Dogs that happens to have the Far Darrig (they are NOT leprechauns) in it. Throw in a dash of Raimi-inspired slapstick horror along with some Italian gothic pops and it is a combination that should be as entertaining as it is batshit insane. Yet, as the film progresses, it becomes apparent that the balance of tones, narrative buoyancy, and darker dramatic elements just cannot find their footing. 


Saturday, April 22, 2023

Bewitched in Moving Paintings: Agatha (2023) Review [Panic Fest 2023]

Directors: Roland Becerra, Kelly Bigelow Becerra

At this last year’s Academy Awards, Guillermo del Toro stepped up to the podium upon winning the Oscar for Best Animated Film and talked about how animated features are ‘not a genre, but still cinema.’ While I’m sure readers on this site will more than likely know this already, it’s a great reminder that animation is just a choice in creating cinema and not inherently separate. 

This year, Panic Fest 2023 showcased a rather unique “animated” horror feature that struck a unique chord with me. Agatha became an unnerving cinematic venture that burrowed under my skin with its distinctive visuals that blend animation and live action in one of the most fascinating ways. It’s the kind of experimental style in film that warrants a viewing, even if it makes some choices that may alienate some viewers.

My screening included a brief introduction by one of the directors, Kelly Bigelow Becerra and she notes that the film was a combination of animation and live action where the footage of the actors was painted – frame by frame – over with the animation. It’s an interesting expectation that’s set prior to the film. It’s almost necessary because being thrown into the film might be a bit overwhelming for those not expecting what it is bringing to the table. 

Friday, April 21, 2023

The Best Worst Man: The Best Man (2023) Review

Director: Shane Dax Taylor

Notable Cast: Brendan Fehr, Luke Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Scout Taylor Compton, Nicky Whelan, Scott Martin


Although there are plenty of action stars that have been relegated to the direct-to-video market in the last handful of years and while many film critics and fans are eager to pounce and people like Bruce Willis or Nic Cage for falling into this category, it’s a corner of the market that has its own feel and approach that often gets overlooked. 


When The Best Man first stumbled into my consciousness, it was hard not to buy in for me simply based on the Dolph of it all. Yet, it was apparent that he would play a secondary character to Brendan Fehr and Luke Wilson (?!). Now my interest went from piqued to full-on curiosity. Yet, with films like The Best Man, it is best to keep expectations tempered and that’s my recommendation here. While the idea of seeing Fehr, Wilson, and Lundgren team up to fight off terrorists is seemingly outlandish enough, the reality is that The Best Man is rarely as entertaining as it might have been. It’s a fine paint-by-numbers low-budget action flick to burn a lazy Sunday afternoon on, but it never reaches its own potential. 


Friday, April 7, 2023

Birds Don't Have Fists: Fist of the Condor (2023) Review [Hi-Yah!]

Director: Ernesto Díaz Espinoza

Notable Cast: Marko Zaror, Marko Zaror, Eyal Meyer, Gina Aguad, Fernanda Urrejola, Man Soo Yoon, Jose Manuel, Cristian Garin, Francisco Castro


When I told my wife that I had a new movie to watch the other night, she asked the question that most people ask. “Which one?” I replied, “Fist of the Condor. The new kung fu movie starring Marko Zaror.” She paused for a moment. “Well, that doesn’t make sense. Birds don’t have fists.”

She’s a funny one, that gal. 


On the one hand, she’s absolutely right. Condors are big badass birds, but they certainly don’t have fists. In true, classic kung fu fashion, it doesn’t really matter though when the animal is just an inspiration for the martial arts. Condors don’t need fists... because you know who does have fists? Marko fuckin’ Zaror. And he’s bringing his own martial arts style to the screen in that classic kung fu manner. It just so happens that he has the perfect physique that he looks like a condor when he extends his arms into a full wingspan. Just before he starts handing people their asses. 


Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Fishy Is As Fishy Does: The Lake (2023) Review

Director: Lee Thongkham

Notable Cast: Theerapat Sajakul, Sushar Manaying, Vithaya Pansringarm, Supansa Wedkama, Wanmai Chatborrirak, Thanachat Tullayachat, Ren Youxan, Su Qiucheng


"What is more cruel than the monster is the lie...the lie that a group of people made to cover up their own failure so that everything remains peaceful. But there was never true peace."


The quote above is delivered via a voiceover narrative that bookends the Thai blockbuster The Lake. While I am normally one to roll my eyes at these kinds of storytelling choices, it’s one that lingered with me well into the credits and the Thai pop song that adored them. Was this by-the-numbers monster flick one that had far more depth under its surface than I gave it credit for while watching it?


Yeah, there is more depth than expected. The brilliance (and perhaps the biggest obstacle) of The Lake is that this monster flick, which steals fully from other monster movies in both concept and execution, is way better than it ever should be. It is monster madness that somehow manages to pop in some incredibly heartfelt moments and some odd moments of existential crisis that elevate the experience. All while it delivers some fun bigger-than-life fish monster mayhem. 


Monday, March 27, 2023

A Man with a Cause: John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023) Review

Director: Chad Stahelski

Notable Cast: Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgard, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Lance Reddick, Clancy Brown, Hiroyuki Sanada, Shamier Anderson, Rina Sawayama, Scott Adkins, Marko Zaror


At one point leading into the final portion of John Wick: Chapter 4, Clancy Brown’s Harbinger warns the big bad of the film, The Marquis - played with a seething and conniving performance by Bill Skarsgard, that a man’s ambition should never exceed his worth. The moment is one to indicate that, despite the villain’s endless amount of resources and skilled killers, The Marquis is still over his head in trying to kill John Wick. Yet it’s also the same warning that echoed my worries for this fourth entry.


Would the ambitions of the John Wick franchise eventually exceed its worth?


With John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, one could see the ambitions for building the globe trotting world start to stretch to the point of excess. Not that the film is inherently bad, nay, but it is one where some of the choices for plot and narrative felt the strain.


With John Wick: Chapter 4, the series addresses those (including an opening sequence that neatly ties an open thread with a bullet point of finality) and then proceeds to grow the series in scope while going back to the thematic and narrative points about the character that made this franchise explode with audiences. It’s a cinematic magic trick of epic proportions. It balances its emotional parallels for the character while simultaneously giving the viewer the biggest and most ambitious entry yet. If the ambitions were exceeding the worth, Chapter 4 grows the worth to match those ambitions. The results are glorious and punctuated with the viciousness of a napalm loaded shotgun blast.


Monday, March 20, 2023

Ghostface Takes Stabhattan: Scream VI (2023) Review

Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett

Notable Cast: Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Mason Gooding, Courteney Cox, Hayden Panettiere, Dermot Mulroney, Liana Liberato, Jack Champion, Devyn Nekoda, Josh Segarra, Samara Weaving


The meta-commentary that has always been provided within the Scream franchise found new life with Scream 2022 when it was released… let me check my notes, uh, yep, last year. The attack on the “requel” - or which can also be labeled as the “legacy sequel” - was smart in playing on the freshly minted tropes, particularly for slashers, and suddenly this horror franchise had legs and momentum under it once again. In the rather insane way that the Scream films have evolved, it was the next step to bring it to the current state of horror. 


Although Scream VI tries out a few “new” ideas by taking the sequel and planting it in Montreal New York and attacking modern horror franchise continuations, it’s one that mostly sticks to its knives when it comes to delivering a Scream sequel. Although it hardly reaches the cleverness or seemingly invested writing of the fifth entry, it does happen to deliver quite a bit of slasher entertainment as it ramps up the brutality and cutting slasher chase sequences that maximize its Montreal New York setting. 


Friday, March 17, 2023

Focus and Control: Creed III (2023) Review

Director: Michael B. Jordan

Notable Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors, Wood Harris, Phylicia Rashad, Mila Davis-Kent, Jose Benavidez Jr, Selenis Leyva, Florian Munteanu 


One step. One punch. One round at a time. 


This mantra from the first Creed makes a brief appearance in the final act of Creed III. It’s a smooth callback to the original and it’s a small reminder of just how far this sub-series within the Rocky franchise has come in three films. Yes, it’s a phrase that has stuck with me since the first film, but hearing Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis Creed mutter it under his breath prior to the big final match was a stark reminder of why this series has had potency in recent years. For a franchise with almost 50 years of material, Creed III is tackling legacy in such a smart way that even bringing back the mantra as thematic is potent. 


However, the problem that plagued the previous sequel was that the Creed series was still living in the shadow of its past. Creed II was less a sequel to its predecessor and more of a sequel to Rocky IV. Fun, yes, but it’s a problem that Creed III needed to address. Creed needed to step out from the shadows of the past and into the future, both as a character and as a film series. 


This is the first reason why Creed III finds success. The series attempts to alter the course by pulling as far away from Rocky as possible. Yes, Rocky’s mantra makes an appearance and Sly Stallone’s Italian Stallion is mentioned briefly, but this entry is making the intelligent maneuver of leaning away from Rocky’s lore as a basis and finding its own lore to create. Although it is still hard to beat the coming-of-age and rise to glory of the original Creed, Creed III is a large step up from its predecessor and finds an incredible balance of entertainment, heart, and a new vision for the franchise's future. 


Thursday, March 16, 2023

Stab for Stab: Psycho (1998) Review [Scream Factory]

Director: Gus Van Sant

Notable Cast: Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, Viggo Mortensen, Robert Forster


I originally saw the 1998 Psycho remake with my family when we rented it as a new release on VHS. I was a mere 15 years old at that time and had seen/owned the first 3 Psycho films on VHS. Upon viewing it, my family found it completely pointless and I remember disliking it myself. Being a teenager, sometimes your opinion can be influenced by the views of your family so when I picked up the original Psycho Tetralogy on Blu-ray (with the snazzy Scream Factory issues), I decided to pull the trigger and purchase the lambasted Gus Van Sant remake to see if my opinion was still the same 25 years later. Perhaps I could see the film in a new light through the filter of time and perhaps see some artistic integrity I initially missed. Welp, I can honestly say 25 years later, I still find it a completely pointless film.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Correct Your Tastes: Hidden Blade (2023) Review

Director: Cheng Er

Notable Cast: Tony Leung, Wang Yibo, Eric Wang, Zhou Xun, Huang Lei, Chengpeng Dong, Maggie Jiang, Zhang Jingyi, Hiroyuki Mori


Although the Japanese occupation of China has been the topic of umpteen-million Chinese films throughout their cinematic history, many different genres approach the subject in unique ways so that it still can feel fresh… with the proper execution. Hidden Blade, the latest film from director Cheng Er, leaps into the world of Shanghai in the late 1930s and early 1940s during the Japanese occupation. It’s not a wholly original concept, in fact, Cheng Er dealt with similar subject matters in his previous effort The Wasted Times, but it’s an artful and tensely executed espionage film with an overt style that slices through each moment. 


While the big draw of the film will be Tony Leung doing his thing in a nifty period setting, which we will get to momentarily, the most fascinating aspect of Hidden Blade is its almost dream-like narrative structure. While the first act features some stunning visuals and tense key moments, it practically drifts in a fluid manner through each sequence in a way that thinly draws some connections but never solidifies the ‘why’ or even ‘when’ they are occurring. 


This allows Hidden Blade to play games with its audience. The film is inherently about the Chinese men and women who are working with the Japanese during the occupation of its time frame, but it’s immediately known that each one carries ulterior motives. Like the characters, who hide, reveal, or manipulate one another, the narrative does the same. As allegiances shift, the characters bounce through their navigation of multiple alliances and it’s just damn good espionage. It’s toying with the audience and it’s entertaining in that manner. 


Saturday, February 11, 2023

Mirages Are About to Appear: Ox-Head Village (2023) Review [Screambox Original]

Director: Takashi Shimizu

Notable Cast: Koki, Riku Hagiwara, Keiko Horiuchi, Rinka Otani, Haruka Imou, Akaji Maro, Satoru Matsuo, Fumiya Takahashi, Naoki Tanaka, Satoru Date, Riko


At just over the fifteen-minute mark in Takashi Shimizu’s latest horror flick, Ox-Head Village, our leading lady and her “not-boyfriend” go to a smaller seaside town looking to investigate a viral video.  An announcement over a loudspeaker is made, “the mirages are about to appear.” Everyone skitters to the water’s edge to see the mirages and Kanon, the lead character of this story played by Koki, starts to see the forms of people on the water. Ghostly people.


Although this would seem like the first ghostly images to start off a horror film, we’re already fifteen minutes into a Shimizu story. That means we’ve already seen plenty of visual trickery, ghostly images, and classic unnerving subtle spook work. Unattached hands, vague visages of oxen's head, and a minor case of doppelganger reflections. By the time these ‘mirages’ show up, Ox-Head Village has already been littering the landscape with classic J-horror visuals and tones. You’re damn right, it’s a Shimizu film. 


The first fifteen minutes of Ox-Head Village is a stark reminder of why the previously appointed sub-genre of J-Horror, an entire tone and style that Shimizu helped establish with his Ju-On (Grudge) films, can be so damn compelling. This third part of his “Village Trilogy,” which includes Howling Village and Suicide Forest Village, is Shimizu going back to the well that has kept him a staple of the haunted genre for decades. It’s also the best one of the trilogy. 


Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Burn It to the Ground: Burning Paradise (1994) Review

Director: Ringo Lam

Notable Cast: Willie Chi, Carman Lee, Wong Kam-Kong, Yamson Domingo, Maggie Lam Chuen, John Ching Tung, Kam-Fai Yuen, Ng Hey-Sin, Lee Chi, Chris Lee King-Sang


Wuxia films from the 90s, particularly the early 90s, are their own breed. After the genre lost some favor with audiences throughout the 80s as urban and modern action films started to dominate the box offices, Tsui Hark rekindled the genre with his epic Once Upon a Time in China series, and a new age of wuxia was born. In the wake of the success of that franchise, a lot of studios and filmmakers took their own stab (swing? slice?) at the genre but with slightly updated tones and style for the 90s. 


One of the most intriguing gaps in my own experience of working through the bigger titles from this decade was Burning Paradise. Directed by the iconic Ringo Lam, only two years before he would exit the Hong Kong industry to make his attempt at breaking into Hollywood, Burning Paradise was the only time he would dabble in the wuxia genre. 


And while the film had its own cult reputation through bootlegs, it’s only just recently did the film find a fantastic home video release via Vinegar Syndrome for fans, like me, to finally experience.