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"A lonely and embarrassing situation brings out funny and weird."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: There's likely a bit of truth in the way "Almost Coming, Almost Dying" slows down after a bizarre, titillating beginning: Recovery is not always hard in a way that obviously challenges someone, but it's often kind of boring and/or embarrassing, with a lot of waiting to see if something has healed properly or not being sure how to ask if this illness has affected something intimate. And so, after a fair amount of funny nudity and a themed "massage parlor" to open things up and get Manabu (Misoo No) into the hospital, the rest of the movie seldom strays far from his bed as he spends a month convalescing from a particularly ill-timed brain hemorrhage." (more)
"Time to live."
4 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "There’s a lot to say about "Blade Runner 2049," the long-gestating sequel to the 1982 cult classic, but here’s my initial thought: see it, don’t see it, but know that something like this — a downbeat, two-hour-and-forty-four-minute, expensive (anywhere from $150 to $185 million), R-rated work of art — will not come along again any time soon. (Especially because its opening-weekend take was “only” $31 million, which is thought to be disastrous.)" (more)
"Good things happen when you hit the "Rock" button."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "As enjoyably goofy as I found Chengpeng "Da Peng" Dong's first film ("Jian Bing Man", aka "Pancake Man"), it didn't quite prepare me for how charmingly silly and sweet "City of Rock" would be. It's the most familiar rock & roll movie plot ever (mismatched band has to put on a show to save their inspiration from a greedy developer), but the jokes are good, the music is catchy, and the cast is awfully easy to like. You don't necessarily need to innovate if you do all that well." (more)
"Not the usual sort of Tokyo love story."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: It's unusual for a film to be based upon a book of poetry, even one with a title like "The Tokyo Night Sky Is Always the Densest Shade of Blue" which frequently allows one of its characters to narrate with a voice that is piquant in its cynicism. Seeing the credit for poet Tahi Sihate is a little more surprising given that director Yuya Ishii adapts it into a film that has a strong narrative despite appearing to be just as focused on what its characters think as what they do." (more)
"Second verse, better than the first."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: I honestly retained very little of the first "The Mole Song" movie Takashi Miike did from when I saw it at the festival a couple years back, and the "previously" reel suggests my brain may have been overwhelmed more than it being a case of it not being memorable; a metric ton of stuff happened, and I have vague memories of musical numbers on top of that (my review suggests I liked it a fair amount even if it did wind up not making a lasting impression). "Hong Kong Capriccio" benefits from being relatively simple - undercover cop rising in the yakuza uncomfortably quickly must save the boss's daughter from human traffickers and try to take him (and the Chinese mafia) down." (more)
"'Ai' means love, but, well..."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Despite being one of those Japanese films that not only never actually seems to circle back around to the flash forward where it starts but has no spot where that scene would fit - with a more pointed opening than most films that do that - "Love and Other Cults" works in large part because, even with the jumps and changes it features, there's a sad inevitability of things getting to that point, that there's no way for its lost girl to avoid the situation she finds herself in at the start. And like a lot of those very same movies, the path that gets everyone to a depressing place is often not just darkly funny, but even exhilarating." (more)
"Big stars, legendary criminals."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "A large part of the buzz I saw on "Chasing the Dragon" was that it featured Donnie Yen in a role that was more "acting" than "action", but even though we know he's playing a character called "Crippled Ho", rest assured, he does a fair amount of punching and kicking in the first act. The rest of the film has a similar sort of stated ambition that ultimately delivers more conventional results, but given that the expected result is a Hong Kong crime movie with plenty of fistfighting and gunplay, that's not a bad fallback." (more)
"Note quite so go-for-broke as its title, but still pretty funny."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Mahua, the comedy troupe behind "Never Say Die", is not terribly well known outside of China - you'll forgive me if I mess up names because it is frustratingly difficult to find an English-language site that matches actors to characters - but they're a funny group whose last movie ("Goodbye Mr. Loser") may have made me laugh more than any other comedy from Mainland China. Their follow-up is only that funny in fits and starts, but it's got enough hilarious moments to recommend, especially since it seldom truly flops." (more)
"See it, don't eat it."
5 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "“In Soviet Russia, sandwich eats you!” is not a joke featured in the retro sci-fi/horror tribute "Inhumanwich!" (pronounced IN-hyoo-MAN-wich), but there are plenty of other jokes." (more)
"More Human Than Human--At Least More Human Than "Arrival""
5 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "I cannot easily think of another film in recent years that has filled me with such equal amounts of anticipation and trepidation as “Blade Runner 2049,” the long-awaited sequel to the 1982 cult classic that has overcome its initial critical and financial drubbing to become one of the most celebrated and influential sci-fi films of all time. On the one hand, it is a film that I have pretty much adored ever since I first encountered it as a kid 35 years ago and to be able to dive once again into the futuristic noir environment that Phillip K. Dick envisioned on the page and which Ridley Scott brought brilliantly to life is an undeniably enticing notion, especially with the original film’s star, Harrison Ford, back for more in the latest stop of his recent encore tour of his most iconic roles. On the other hand, the original film was just about perfect as is (although it may have taken a couple of decades and several recuts before Scott finally worked out all the kinks) and to continue it after so much time seemed to be redundant at best and pointless at worst—after all, when was the last time that any of you gave much thought to “2010”? My other major qualm with the film came when it was announced that while Scott would be participating as a producer and original co-writer Hampton Fancher would be one of the screenwriters, the directing chores were being handed off to Denis Villeneuve, the absurdly overrated man behind “Prisoners,” “Sicario” and “Arrival,” films which do have their supporters but which have struck as ridiculously overblown and pretentious genre films made with some style but no idea of how to tell a straightforward story, especially in regards to wrapping them up. The announcement that the deeply annoying Jared Leto would be playing a key role as well did not exactly help matters either, especially after it was recently revealed that one of the people discussed for the part that he played was none other than the late David Bowie." (more)

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