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  • My Young Auntie

    My Young Auntie

    ★★★★★

    MY YOUNG AUNTIE (1981, HONG KONG)
    Dir. Lau Kar-Leung

    Bar none, the funniest film Shaw Brothers ever made.

    MY YOUNG AUNTIE is an absolute, stone-cold, Shaw Brothers kung fu classic. Mixing musical, farce, romantic comedy, social commentary, nostalgia, and action film in an electric neon grab-bag with heart, charm, and swagger-- a perfect cinematic cocktail. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

    The titular Auntie is played by the stunningly beautiful Kara Hui, who in the prologue is asked by her…

  • Black Christmas

    Black Christmas

    ★★★½

    John Saxon and Margot Kidder are fun, Olivia Hussey is suitably terrified as the final girl, and this is an effective and memorable pre Halloween slasher. Few films rely as heavily on convenience and incompetence to keep the plot going though.

  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi

    Star Wars: The Last Jedi

    ★★

    I think people ascribe a profundity to THE LAST JEDI that it didn't have.

    It tried to deliberately subvert many of the tropes of the Star Wars movie, but what are we left with as a result? A B plot that could be solved with a single staff meeting, an ode to following orders, and dual anti climaxes on the two biggest story beats from the first film.

    Ultimately it was the second part of a trilogy that had no…

  • Star Wars

    Star Wars

    ★★★★

    All the little beautiful details I loved about this film as a child make no sense in the face of the umpteen sequels, prequels, and interquels released since.

    There's a hint of Tolkien in how Kenobi and Tarkin talk about the Jedi as a force for a thousand generations that slowly faded out over time. There was once an Age of Magic but it's long gone now... instead we learn 18 years ago everyone in the galaxy knew what a…

  • The Berlin File

    The Berlin File

    ★★★★

    THE BERLIN FILE (2013, SOUTH KOREA)
    Dir. Ryoo Seung-wan

    A brutal, fast, fun, spy thriller, THE BERLIN FILE isn't afraid to drop you in the middle of a messy espionage plot or drop a nasty action sequence on you. Like the very best Korean thrillers of the last few years, it feels like this it came out of crazed desire to show up a big time Hollywood effort, while maintaining an authentically Korean voice.

    Ryoo Seung-wan is behind the camera…

  • Marriage Story

    Marriage Story

    ★★★★

    I really loved that in the scene after you find out that the play Charlie is working on is Electra, the rehearsal scene shows the cast acting as a Greek chorus.

    The notes of the story are all competent. The music is in the regret and anger and pain and eventually contentment in the faces of the couple.

  • The Sword Stained with Royal Blood

    The Sword Stained with Royal Blood

    ★★★

    THE SWORD STAINED WITH ROYAL BLOOD (1981, HONG KONG)
    Dir. Chang Cheh

    Martial Chivalry readers: I know I have a list of upcoming reviews posted and everything will be done eventually, but I just needed some Shaw Brothers recharge time. Hope no one minds.

    THE SWORD STAINED WITH ROYAL BLOOD is a Venoms Mob picture with all the trimmings. It's by no means perfect, but the final hour of this film is a swaggering masterpiece of martial arts choreography and…

  • Legendary Weapons of China

    Legendary Weapons of China

    ★★★★

    LEGENDARY WEAPONS OF CHINA (1982, HONG KONG)
    Dir. Lau Kar-Leung

    Lau Kar-Leung is one of the great cinematic moralists of the 70's and 80's. Like O. Henry, his moralism is couched in a wry wit and like Serling he never forgot that it was the exhilaration of his chosen genre (in Lau's case martial arts, in Serling's science fiction,) that made the medicine go down and kept everyone honest. We in the west are so overwhelmed by his commitment to…

  • Knives Out

    Knives Out

    ★★½

    The performances are, to a man, a lot of fun. The direction is slick, and the production design harkens back to classics like SLEUTH.

    I just wish the mystery was as polished.

    The poor people are all virtuous, the rich people are all vicious, and the killer is the suspect most helpful to the investigation-- one of the laziest Hollywood mystery contrivances. Trump stuff feels lazy and pointless but then everyone's characterization feels like it was done on the drive…

  • The Irishman

    The Irishman

    ★★★★

    I was pleasantly surprised at how different this felt from GOODFELLAS or CASINO. This felt like being inside the actual head of a psychopath, complete with outrageous connections to the Bay of Pigs and the Kennedy Assassination.

    I love the central ambiguity the final third of the film presents but doesn't quite resolve-- if Sheeran really feels no remorse, how can he have felt such love for Hoffa? Or for anyone? The final thirty minutes of a man knowingly beyond any kind of redemption but going through the motions was super chilling.

    Love this picture.

  • Ringu

    Ringu

    ★★★★

    RING (1998, JAPAN)
    aka RINGU
    Dir. Hideo Nakata

    If the fevered memory play style of KWAIDAN represented postwar Japanese cinema at its zenith, then RING represents contemporary J horror and its ability to build atmosphere and tension in the mundane, the ubiquitous, the everyday. Nakata's film is, like so many of the best horror movies, a quiet and nervous enterprise punctuated by a few bits of nasty surrealism.

    Those who have seen the American remake by Gore Verbinski will have…

  • Kwaidan

    Kwaidan

    ★★★★★

    KWAIDAN (1964, JAPAN)
    Dir. Masaki Kobayashi

    KWAIDAN is so beautiful it's like a challenge to the viewer and other filmmakers. Utilizing sets so big they were staged on a disused aircraft carrier, and a visual style that mixes traditional Noh theatrical touches with three strip Technicolor and the biggest production values available in Asia at the time, KWAIDAN is a jewel in the diadem of Japanese postwar cinema.

    Four ghost stories, connected loosely by themes of oath breaking and framed…