Just One Look

Wong Yau Nam, a child, and Shawn Yue work the fishball stand in 1970's Cheng Chau.

Riley Yip’s Just One Look is a pleasant surprise of a film. Given the pop star pedigree of the cast, which includes young idols Shawn Yue, Wong Yau Nam, and both Twins (Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung), it’s not hard to come in expecting a lightweight commercialized youth romance. While romance is indeed involved, the film is also about of bitter grudges, martial arts, the transformation into adulthood, and of course, the love of cinema.

The films starts out with Fan, played by Li Ting-Fung as a child and Shawn Yue as an adult, witnessing an argument between his father (Sam Lee), a decorated policeman, and Crazy (Anthony Wong), a local triad who Fan’s father is in debt to. The two see a movie shortly afterward, and partway through, the father gets up to leave, taking one last look at his son before entering the bathroom, where gunshots are soon heard from. While the death is largely assumed to be a suicide, Fan swears for many years that Crazy was responsible. Read more of this post

Macross Plus

If someone were to ask me to compile a list of the best OVAs ever made, there are a few titles that would immediately leap to my mind.  Gainax’s landmark 1987 anime Gunbuster is one, and so is Giant Robo, which had its first episode released in 1991.  FLCL (2000), Time of Eve (2007), Green Legend Ran (1992), Cat Soup (2001), Key: The Metal Idol (1991), and Bubblegum Crisis (1987-92) would each probably have places on that list as well.  It isn’t that there must be anything of profound substance in a work, nor even any incredible feats of narrative brilliance, for me to consider it worthy of inclusion among the “best ever made”.  A lot of it comes down to sheer enjoyment, I’ll admit, but the compilation of such lists inevitably involves some amount of subjective preferences.  But there’s no denying that a lot of that enjoyment relies on things such as animation quality, the uniqueness or quality of the cinematic form, the adroitness of the writing, the development of the characters and the presentation of the themes, etc.  And while I’d certainly consider these titles—and others, probably—as being within the top ten or twenty, I don’t believe any has what it takes to be the best ever made. Read more of this post

Spotlight on Japan: My Neighbour Totoro

No matter how many Japanese films I see and write about, I find myself returning to Studio Ghibli’s work – more specifically Hayao Miyazaki’s films. After two adventure-driven films, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Laputa: Castle in the Sky, he engaged on a different kind of adventure. My Neighbour Totoro depicts the wonders of real life through the eyes of two cheerful kids. The sheer energy of the film and the honest depiction of childhood have earned the film many fans – it has become one of the most beloved “kids’ films” which also offers genuine entertainment for all ages. The titular character was even included in Ghibli’s own logo. Read more of this post

The Guilty Pleasure Pile: Carnosaur 2

Science Fiction, Action; 1994; 83 minutes; U.S.; Directed by: Louis Monaeu; Produced by: Mike Elliot; Executive Produced by: Roger Corman; The Pacific Trust; New Horizons Home Video

Actual Quality

Guilty Pleasure Quality

In 1993, Roger Corman’s Carnosaur compared itself greatly to Jurassic Park, which in turned showed signs that Spielberg was more directly inspired by Comran to come into the world of executive producer and increasing his quantity of film in his filmography. It was a rather unlikely turn of events, but it happened. Elements from Carnosaur were even taken and placed in a mock script for Jurassic Park IV, which greatly infuriated fans in 2003 when they thought that it was the actual production script for the film; a film which never came came to realization in any form of production as of yet.

Corman quickly went into production with the sequel simply titled Carnosaur 2 much faster than Spielberg came to production with his sequel film The Lost World: Jurassic Park. In fact, the film was released in 1994, only roughly one year after the release of the both the first Carnosaur and Jurassic Park films and 3 years before Spielberg would release his Jurassic Park sequel in 1997. Despite Corman’s film again starring dinosaurs, the film’s creative team decided to take a different approach to their sequel film by “paying homage” to the techniques and films of director of James Cameron, specifically his 1986 film Aliens and 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Carnosaur is a sequel ripping off both an Alien sequel and a Terminator sequel, and was released during the announcement of a Jurassic Park sequel. Considering the first installments to all of these three franchises, that’s a scope of at least 8 movies. And that’s not considering the other sequels that all four of these franchises later put into production. Could this review get anymore crowded? Read more of this post

Boris Barnet: Outskirts/The Patriots & Girl with the Hatbox

The Girl with the Hatbox (1930)

Outskirts/The Patriots (1933)

Outside of Jonathan Rosenbaum, who called Outskirts and By the Bluest of Seas masterpieces, Boris Barnet is a little-known figure even in cinephile communities. It’s a shame too, as the two films on this DVD point towards an early master of Soviet cinema. Of course, even mentioning “Soviet cinema” brings to mind the likes of Eisenstein, montage theory, and propaganda, but Barnet is the rarest of birds: an early master of Russian cinema that shies away from propaganda, and is supremely tasteful and judicious in his use of montage. The Girl with the Hatbox closely recalls the silent comedies of Charlie Chaplin in its elegance and charming humor. In the case of Outskirts, the truth is more devious; it’s a film that’s almost anti-Soviet in its satire, mixing comedy, drama, war, as well as sound and images in utterly original ways for a film from 1933. Read more of this post

The Fighter

Micky: “Everyone said I could beat him.”

Charlene: “Who’s everyone?”

Micky: “My brother, my mother.”

Between the ultimate stand-up-and-cheer-for-the-underdog Rocky, and one of the most brutally visceral character studies ever in fiction in Raging Bull, one wonders if there’s anything left in the field of the boxing sub-genre to cull. All those since have added precious little to the formula, except Million Dollar Baby, which substituted a female boxer and became a film about the most unusual of friendships. Really, the best boxing films all have one thing in common, and that’s that they’re about character infinitely more than boxing. Even Rocky would be nothing without Stalone’s iconic performance, and who can imagine Raging Bull without DeNiro’s ferocious Jake LaMotta? At its core, The Fighter is another such character study. Read more of this post

Spotlight on Japan: The Happiness of the Katakuris

Only Takashi Miike would be crazy enough to make remake a grim Korean film as a satirical musical. That’s what he set out to do with The Happiness of the Katakuris and, believe it or not, succeeded incredibly well. With one of the most unforgettable opening sequences I’ve ever seen Miike leads the audience to a bizarre yet strangely moving story of a desperate family trying to make a living with a remote guest remote house. The father is obsessed with maintaining the business. The mother is a loving housewife who sacrifices herself for the family. Their daughter is a love-struck single parent and their son a rebellious ex-thief. The grandfather shows great dedication in protecting the family from all sorts of trouble while killing birds by throwing wood planks. Yes, wood planksRead more of this post