Friday, August 18, 2023
Friday, August 11, 2023
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
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
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.