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12:00 PM on 03.25.2013

Review: Bloody Fight in Iron Rock Valley

[This review was originally posted as part of our coverage of the 2012 New York Asian Film Festival. It is being reposted as a reminder that the film will be screening for free tomorrow evening at the Tribeca Cinemas in New Y...

Hubert Vigilla


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Review: The King of Pigs photo
Review: The King of Pigs
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[This review was originally posted as part of our freaking awesome coverage of the New York Asian Film Festival. It is being reposted here to remind NYC residents that they can see it for free down in Tribeca on Tuesday, January 15. For more information, head over here.]

Normally I try not to let translations affect my impression of a movie. The occasional typo can be irritating, but it won't usually ruin a film. I do this so my review can be as accessible to Korean readers as it can be for English-speaking ones. Maybe I'll mention the poor translation at some point, but it won't be a factor in my final opinion. 

Until now. The King of Pigs has without a doubt the worst translation I have ever come across in a film, and it is beyond unacceptable. I truly hope that every single person involved with the translation its approval has been fired, publicly shamed, and blacklisted from ever working again. It's that bad.

If you speak Korean, King of Pigs is absolutely worth watching. If you don't, you'll want to tear your hair out.

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Review: Dragon (Wu Xia) photo
Review: Dragon (Wu Xia)
by Hubert Vigilla

[This review was originally posted as part of our coverage of the 2012 New York Asian Film Festival. It has been reposted to coincide with the theatrical release of the film.]

During the NYAFF screening of Dragon, it was noted that the film's Chinese title, Wu Xia, carries a lot of weight. The moderator of a post-film Q & A likened it to calling a comedy film Comedy or a dramatic film Drama. That's the right track, but I think it needs to be finely tuned. It's more like making a movie called Spaghetti Western, Film Noir, Space Opera, or Chambara. These are distinct genres with well-known tropes.

To call a movie Wu Xia is to suggest a certain kind of period martial arts film with certain kinds of story beats and certain kinds of characters. What the film Wu Xia does so well is play to and around those expectations, and even subverts them.

Yet Dragon is not a reinvention of the genre, and it's not a deconstruction either. It's more like a reinvigorating riff. Given his stardom and what audiences want out of his films, it's also an ideal starring vehicle for Donnie Yen, but maybe not in the way you'd think.

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Interview: Donnie Yen photo
Interview: Donnie Yen
by Hubert Vigilla

[This interview was originally posted as part of our coverage of the 2012 New York Asian Film Festival. It has been reposted to coincide with the theatrical release of Dragon (Wu Xia).]

Donnie Yen had a busy weekend. This year's NYAFF was his first North American film festival, and he attended four screenings of his films in three days, each one crowded with fans. By the time he accepted the Star Asia award at the screening of Dragon (Wu Xia), he seemed tired but in good spirits. At each screening, the audience received double-sided folders that Yen brought over from Hong Kong, each side bearing his image. I can't even estimate how many of these he signed.

Yen survived the implosion of the Hong Kong film industry during the mid-to-late 1990s. A reliable action performer since the late 1980s, Yen has since become one of the world's biggest action stars, the HK heir to Jackie Chan and Jet Li. It began with Kill Zone (SPL: Sha Po Lang), but it was Ip Man that really made Yen a bona fide leading man.

When he entered the conference room at the Kitano Hotel on Saturday morning, the assembled writers and I stood. Yen took a moment to learn our names and shake our hands and, even though he didn't have to, he gave everyone a t-shirt (something else he brought from Hong Kong for his fans). It's always interesting to meet people whose careers you've admired for many years (I still have my Tai Seng VHS copy of Iron Monkey somewhere), and Yen struck me with his class and charm the entire time he was in town.

Before the interview started, he smiled and said, cutting through the small talk, "Don't ask me about New York."

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Flixclusive Interview: Director Grandmaster Y.K. Kim photo
Flixclusive Interview: Director Grandmaster Y.K. Kim
by Hubert Vigilla

[This interview was originally posted as part of our 2012 New York Asian Film Festival coverage. It has been reposted to coincide with the wider theatrical release of Miami Connection. Look for our review of the film tomorrow.]

Grandmaster Y.K. Kim -- the star, co-producer, and co-director of Miami Connection -- was in town last weekend for the NYAFF. He opened the screening of Miami Connection by holding up a red apple to the audience. "Whoever catches this one will have million-dollar luck this year!" He threw the apple into the crowd, and then proceeded to do a taekwondo demonstration. A friend of mine at the screening turned to me and said, "I think I'm in love."

After I sat down with Grandmaster Kim the next morning, I came away thinking: "I'm surprised someone like this exists, and I am absolutely glad that someone like him exists." Y.K. Kim is a unique specimen of rarefied enthusiasm, maybe the best kind of odd duck: too strange to live, too rare to die; maybe part camp, but sincere all around. In the room with him was Joe Diamand, one of the co-stars of Miami Connection and also one of Kim's old students. It was an unexpected surprise, and though I didn't get to speak with Joe too much, it was cool that they were both there, and he shared a touching story about Kim's down-and-out days in NYC.

We talked a bit about making Miami Connection, how the film got re-released, and the fact that there's a different and darker version of the movie out there. Grandmaster Kim even outlined his ambitious five-point philosophy for a follow-up film (or five follow-up films, it sounds like). Funny enough, it was Grandmaster Kim who asked the first question.

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NYAFF and Japan Cuts 2012 Flixist Awards and roundup photo
NYAFF and Japan Cuts 2012 Flixist Awards and roundup
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[For the month of July, we covered the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our specifically NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

It's all over. In the past month, we have written approximately 70,000 words (the length of an actual novel), spanning forty-seven reviews, five interviews, twelve news posts, and more. Looking back on that, those numbers are kind of incredible. The two of us saw and reviewed over half of the 80+ films showing between the New York Asian Film Festival and Japan Cuts. There were plenty of films we missed (some more regrettably than others), but nonetheless, we brought you some of the best damn coverage of those festivals on the entire internet.

Below you will find the official Flixist Awards, as well as a roundup of everything NYAFF/Japan Cuts related that we have done in the past month. In the gallery, you will find higher quality versions of the photographs that we have been putting in some of our posts, as well as new photos that we weren't sure where to put (special thanks to Alex DiGiovanna from Movie Buzzers for taking the one above). Be sure to check them out!

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Japan Cuts Review: Tormented photo
Japan Cuts Review: Tormented
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

The Japanese name for Tormented is Rabito Hora. If your Engrish skills are lacking, that means "Rabbit Horror." It's a pretty dumb name (especially since "3D" is often thrown at the end), and it brings to mind something like the 1972 film Night of the Lepus. It's silly. Tormented, on the other hand, is much more serious (although tacking "3D" on the end of it would do a lot to mitigate that). If I were to look at the Japanese name, I would go in expecting something silly and crazy, but looking at the American name makes me think it's serious and scary.

Well... it's silly all right, despite its attempts at serious horror, but not for the reasons you might think.

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Japan Cuts Review: Tokyo Playboy Club photo
Japan Cuts Review: Tokyo Playboy Club
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

Before many of the screenings at the Japan Society, they showed a trailer for the festival. I'm not a huge fan of the trailer (mostly because it spoils the best parts of Monsters Club, even if you don't realize that at the time), but there is a short series of shots where a young man looks through a peephole and sees a woman dressed like a Playboy bunny. It was bright, colorful, and disorienting. I logically assumed that these would be from Tokyo Playboy Club, and I was totally ready for that. Well... those shots weren't from Tokyo Playboy Club. I have no idea what movie they were from, and I still want to see that movie.

Nonetheless, I'm still quite happy with what I actually saw.

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Japan Cuts Review: Hard Romanticker photo
Japan Cuts Review: Hard Romanticker
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

Before the screening of Hard Romanticker, one of the programmers talked about how the film is a throwback to a style of Japanese cinema that I know almost nothing about. It's an old-fashioned crime drama, and it's got violence and sex and all of those other things that you want from your crazy Japanese entertainment. I haven't seen any of the movies that Hard Romanticker is harkening back to, though, and the closest point of comparison I have is a film from 1960 called The Cruel Story of Youth. Hard Romanticker reminded me a lot of The Cruel Story of Youth.

I hated The Cruel Story of Youth.

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Japan Cuts Review: The Big Gun/Metamorphosis (Henge) photo
Japan Cuts Review: The Big Gun/Metamorphosis (Henge)
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

The Big Gun and Metamorphosis (henceforth referred to as Henge) were shown at NYAFF/Japan Cuts (it was a co-presentation) as the final two segments of The Atrocity Exhibition, having been preceded by Let's Make the Teacher Have a Miscarriage Club. That one was the odd film out, having been made by a different director and being of dramatically lesser quality. For those reasons, it got its own review. But because The Big Gun and Henge were made by the same director are both short (31 and 54 minutes respectively), I felt it was appropriate to lump them together into a review the way they were lumped together at the screening.

It sure was an interesting screening.

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Review: Let's Make the Teacher Have a Miscarriage Club photo
Review: Let's Make the Teacher Have a Miscarriage Club
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

Before the Japan Cuts screening of The Atrocity Exhibition, of which Let's Make the Teacher Have a Miscarriage Club was a part, a festival programmer came out and made a point of telling the audience that it was not named that because the films were atrocious, but because the themes within the segments were. Which makes sense, given that Let's Make the Teacher Have a Miscarriage Club can only really be about an atrocity.

Unfortunately, the name of the film is the most interesting part of Let's Make the Teacher Have a Miscarriage Club. The programmer was wrong, this film is atrocious. The other two segments of The Atrocity Exhibition (The Big Gun and Henge) will be getting their own review later on, because I didn't feel right tainting their image with 

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NYAFF Review: Make Up photo
NYAFF Review: Make Up
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

If are now or have ever wanted to be a writer, I've got an exercise for you. First, you have to envision a relationship. Now you have to make it a relationship that most people cannot immediately relate to (in this case, make them lesbians). Sound good? Okay, next you have to take this relationship and add something that basically nobody is okay with (in this case, pederasty). Now take your lesbian pederast and her too-young love and make their relationship one that people will care about. Can you do it?

Because the people behind Make Up did. Mostly.

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Japan Cuts Review: Smuggler photo
Japan Cuts Review: Smuggler
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

The late George Carlin once gave a very concise explanation of the difference between a "maniac" and a "crazy person." He said, "A maniac will beat nine people to death with a steel dildo. A crazy person will beat nine people to death with a steel dildo, but he'll be wearing a bunny suit at the time." Like so many of his jokes, that particular line has always stuck with me. Very rarely does it apply to movies though. Generally speaking, even the most disturbed and violent antagonists are maniacs. I've seen (and sometimes enjoyed) all kinds of disgusting movies, but even though I must have seen at least one or two crazy people, none really come to mind.

Smuggler's got a crazy person, though, and he's really, really crazy. 

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Japan Cuts Review: Gyo photo
Japan Cuts Review: Gyo
by Hubert Vigilla

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

I don't know if anything I write can accurately describe the experience of Gyo. After the screening over the weekend, I was confused and yet laughing. It's such an audaciously strange anime full of farts and fury, teeming with mutant fish bent on world domination. Gyo goes into such unpredictable places. It's baffling, but bafflement can be fun, and this is a fever dream of a movie full of many delightfully repulsive bafflements.

The old "Citizen Kane of _____" cliche gets used pretty often, and usually it's facetious. I keep applying it to singular instances in a niche genre or sub-genre. But Gyo really is the Citizen Kane of apocalyptic flatulent fish movies. This is the kind off story that H.P. Lovecraft might have written if he was afraid of bad gas as well as seafood.

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NYAFF Review: Potechi (Chips) photo
NYAFF Review: Potechi (Chips)
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

Chips is the final film playing as part of the 2012 New York Asian Film Festival. It's definitely a noteworthy position, placing the film in a spotlight with Vulgaria, Guns N' Roses, and Doomsday Book. Although none of those films are my favorites of the festival, I loved all of them for what they were, and they are all absolutely worth watching. So even though I have never seen any of Yoshihiro Nakamura's movies (shame on me, I know), had no idea what the movie was about, and found the 68 minute runtime somewhat off-putting, I went into the film with high expectations. Spotlight films had come from Hong Kong, China, and Korea. I wanted to see what Japan would have to show for itself.

And you know what it had? It had something pretty damn great.

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Japan Cuts Review: Ace Attorney photo
Japan Cuts Review: Ace Attorney
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

I really like the Ace Attorney game series. I played and really enjoyed all three main Ace Attorney games as well as Apollo Justice. I skipped the game centered around prosecutor Miles Edgeworth, but I am more than familiar with the characters and conceits of the series. With my love of the series intact, I went into Ace Attorney with a fair bit of hesitation. The gamplay-light/narrative-heavy style made a quality adaptation seem more reasonable, and putting Takashi Miike at the helm was definitely a bold move, but nonetheless it's hard to have high hopes for a videogame movie.

So when I say that Ace Attorney is, without a doubt, the best videogame movie ever made, it may not mean much. But I want to make this very clear: Ace Attorney has single-handedly justified the existence of videogame adaptations, and proved that they can be amazing films in their own right.

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2:30 PM on 07.13.2012

NYAFF 2012: Actress Michelle Chen's reception speech

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAF...

Alec Kubas-Meyer



NYAFF Review: Monsters Club photo
NYAFF Review: Monsters Club
by Hubert Vigilla

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

I don't know what it is, but over the last year or so I've wanted to try living off the grid. Nothing too extreme, but maybe I'd just hole up in a cabin in Maine somewhere so I can read, write, and get away from the frustrations and grind of daily life. There might be a comfort in that sort of isolation, but I imagine there would eventually be a kind of madness that takes hold as well.

In Monsters Club, there's a bit of that, but the self-imposed exile from modern society has a different flavor. It's partly a Unabomber tale (let me be clear: I wouldn't live off the grid to be a terrorist), but it's also a story about alienation, loneliness, and absolute solitude. The main character doesn't just feel dehumanized because of the bustle of daily life, he feels detached from what it is to be a person.

Oh, and there are ghosts.

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12:30 PM on 07.13.2012

NYAFF 2012: Director Giddens Ko's reception speech

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAF...

Alec Kubas-Meyer

7:00 PM on 07.12.2012

NYAFF 2012: Actor Choi Min-sik's reception speech

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAF...

Alec Kubas-Meyer



Flixclusive Interview: Yeun Sang-ho, The King of Pigs photo
Flixclusive Interview: Yeun Sang-ho, The King of Pigs
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

Whatever you (or I) think about it, The King of Pigs is a significant achievement. It was Yeun Sang-Ho's first feature length film by director Yeun Sang-ho, it was independently funded, and it was the first South Korean animated film to be invited to the Cannes film festival. He has a lot to be proud of. I got a chance to sit down with him prior to the first screening of his film at the festival. It was a nice, relaxed chat, and we talked about the state of animation in South Korea, his own contributions to The King of Pigs, his future projects, and a whole lot more. I wish we'd gotten more time, because I had a lot more questions about the process of making his film, but I'm still pretty happy with what I got.

Yeun Sang-ho is a really cool guy, and I'm definitely excited to see what else he has up his sleeve. I should have asked him for a hug. He probably would have given me one too.

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Japan Cuts Review: Love Strikes! photo
Japan Cuts Review: Love Strikes!
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

I am mad at director Hitoshi One. Really, really mad. I was really tired when I started watching Love Strikes!. I wanted to watch it, but I didn't really want to watch it when I needed to. I needed something funny and lighthearted to watch. Something that would serve as an antithesis to the bleakness of films like Asura. Something like a crazy Japanese pseudo-musical romantic comedy. Love Strikes! probably isn't the only movie to fit that bill, given how ridiculous Japanese films can be, but it's the only one I'm currently aware of. So I watched it, and I was in absolute, blissful love. The music-video inspired scenes (complete with karaoke lyrics at the bottom of the screen). It pumped me up, and I was happy that I had just up and done it.

And then things changed, and it was a dramatic turn for the worse. Even moreso than with My Way, I was horrified how far off the rails Love Strikes! went. It's so sad, and it makes me oh so mad.

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

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