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Bobo_Vision returns with more NYAFF reviews, including TOKYO GORE POLICE, Johnnie To's SPARROW and more!!!

Published at: July 6, 2008, 11:25 p.m. CST by quint

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with another report from our own Bobo_Vision at this year's New York Asian Film Festival, giving us a round-up of the quality flicks he's seen. The one I'm most looking forward to catching is TOKYO GORE POLICE, which he describes as a mix between RoboCop and Evil Dead. Count me in! Here he is with the good word!

Hey, all. So the New York Asian Film Festival comes to a close this week and I managed to catch some great flicks during the second week, including Accuracy of Death, Johnny To's Sparrow, Public Enemy Returns, M, and Tokyo Gore Police. Here are my reviews: ACCURACY OF DEATH (Dir - Masaya Kakei, Japan) This is the story of the Grim Reaper (one of many) who, with the aid of his faithful dog whom he communicates with telepathically, decides whether certain people are ready to die. If so, he proceeds with death, if not, he suspends. In between working on these jobs he spends most of his time in a CD store listening to various tracks as he's an avid music lover. The character of the Grim Reaper is played with great wit and sensitivity by Takeshi Kaneshiro, and it's fun to watch him on the job as he intervenes in peoples' lives. As I watched this film, I thought that perhaps it would be better suited as a Quantum Leap-styled Japanese TV show where he would decide individuals' fates each week and give them a chance to fulfil their life's purpose, because it seemed odd to be introduced to entirely new characters in the film as he went from one job to the next. This was remedied by the end as all the loose ends were tied together and made into one cohesive, beautiful film, creating a broader scope than you realize as the story unfolds. An exceptional movie; one of my favourites of the festival. SPARROW (Dir - Johnny To, Hong Kong) This is not an action film, so don't expect typical Johnny To fare here. However, it's not a complete departure for To because even his action films tend to have strong human elements which makes the action more compelling; it's more than just fights, explosions, and gunfire strung together. This film is about a group of four pickpockets who meet and become mesmerized by a woman who is a con-artist of a higher caliber. She works for a gang boss who practically owns her like property. These four men fall for this woman and come to sympathize with her, even after she dupes them, and they decide to help her. The most notable thing To has accomplished with this film is the tone. It's like a film from a classier era, and has a cheerful, upbeat mood. A scene where the woman and one of the pickpockets share a cigarette reminded me of the 50's diner scene between Travolta and Thurman in Pulp Fiction. It's brief, but while driving in a convertible at night, as the neon signs are reflected in the windshield, the woman takes the cigarette from his mouth for a puff, and he watches carefully as she gets lipstick on the filter. It's the type of playful flirtation that makes you feel as though you're transported to another time. The climax involves of the film involves a challenge between two groups of pickpockets while under umbrellas in the rain, and it plays like a choreographed number by Fred Estaire. However, despite being well made, I must admit, I was fighting to stay awake towards the end. It's good overall, but a little too cute for my liking. Perhaps I wasn't in the mood. PUBLIC ENEMY RETURNS (Dir - Woo-Suk Kang, Korea) Detective Kang, the police officer with the intense moral indignation, is back! In the original film, Kang was a cop surrounded by crime and corruption and he declared war on anyone acting against society or breaking the law as they were "public enemies". This time around, he's unemployed, strapped for cash, and raising his 9-year old daughter and is called back to duty when the force needs his help to stop a gang syndicate that's recruiting 17-year old boys as their gangsters. The movie is more humourous and light-hearted than the original while still providing lots of action and drama. The best scenes are where Kang simply talks with various suspects and gets under their skin like Columbo while displaying his disgust for them and their ilk. These films are great largely because Detective Kang is such a fantastic character. He's the Korean Charles Bronson, and I hope there are several more films in the Public Enemy series. DAINIPPONJIN (Dir - Hitoshi Matsumoto, Japan) This "mockumentary" starts with a slow pace as we follow Dai-Soto and learn about his salary, his wife whom he's separated from, and his daily routine. Eventually it's revealed that his job is to fight giant monsters (a rampant problem in Japan) by growing to an enormous size with the help of a massive infusion of electricity. The "baddies" he fights resemble creatures generated from the Spore videogame. The Japanese have an insane sense of humour, and those in the audience found this movie howlingly funny. For me, it had humourous moments, but the jokes wore thin long before the movie ended. An interesting concept, but not enough humour to sustain an entire movie. Worth renting on DVD. M (Dir - Lee Myung-Se, Korea) No relation to the Fritz Lang classic, this is the story of a writer (Mr. M) struggling with his next book. He's engaged to be married, and in addition to contending with a concerned father-in-law and publisher, he is suddenly visited by the ghost of a young woman who is very much in love with him. It's not clear whether she is real, imaginary, or a fragment of his memory, but Mr. M begins to go in and out of the real world to the underworld where he visits this woman. This turns out to be a very touching and well-crafted love story. The best love stories are unconventional, and love is merely one of many other themes being dealt with, like death, career, and marriage for example, just as in life. This was a low-budget film but the director manages to use camera techniques, sound, and lighting to create a picture full of emotion and symbolic imagery. "M" is a film worth checking out. THE MOST BEAUTIFUL NIGHT IN THE WORLD (Dir - Daisuke Tengan, Japan) This is one of those movies where an outsider (in this case, a journalist) comes to a small town and gets charmed by the quirky locals. For the first hour or so, it plays like so many comedies that come out of the UK about small, working class towns, but then it shifts gears and becomes a David Lynch film. We are introduced to a female bartender who communes with spirits and the dead, a suspected terrorist creating an aphrodisiac "love bomb", and a man who turns into a snake. The film culminates with a grand orgy amongst all the town members thereby creating the most beautiful night in the world. It sounds better than it really is. With a running time of 2 hours and 40 minutes, the film meanders all over the place and we're introduced to too many side characters with little significance or entertainment value. If the filmmakers had focused on the more interesting characters, with tighter editing about an hour could be cut out of the film, and it would be a much better movie. But as it stands now I can't recommend it. TOKYO GORE POLICE (Dir -Yoshinori Nishimura, Japan) Wow. This is one of those films you check out to satisfy your morbid curiosity, and it delivers. The world this film is set in is like a cross between Robocop and Evil Dead, where crime has progressed causing the police force to become privatized like a Blackwater-esque organization of samurai. They hunt "engineers", which are a type of scientifically engineered superhumans who have fleshy appendages like something out of a Cronenberg film. I used to love gore when I was growing up, and accumulated a drawer full of Fangoria magazines by the age of 14, but I outgrew it. Now, gore in films is like explosions - unless it's integral to the story, I don't care for it. However, this film reminded me of how I felt when I was 14 when I was curious as to all the inventive ways a movie could use gore. Some of the film's inventions include a man whose penis regenerates to the size of an elephant's trunk after being bitten off (and fires bullets to boot!), a gimp who walks on all fours with samurai swords as artificial limbs, and a woman whose legs from her knees to her crotch are like the gaping maw of a crocodile. This isn't the type of film where you leave pissed off at the director for trying to shock or disturb you, or mess with your head like many American gore films of late. Instead, it's like a celebration of gore, and the filmmakers use gore as their medium to explore their art. And it's just a lot of wacky, blood-filled fun. If you like grindhouse films, slasher films like Re-animator, or if this plays at a midnight showing in your town, it's worth checking out for that shared experience of a theather full of people simultaneously thinking "I can't beleive what I'm watching". And that does it for me. There were other films I wanted to see like Sukiyaki Western Django and King Naresuan 1 & 2, but I didn't get the chance. But if you have an opportunity to see these films for yourself, or any of the films I recommended, it would be worth your while and a refreshing change from the typical films churned out of Hollywood. Peace. Bobo_Vision

Readers Talkback

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  • July 6, 2008, 11:28 p.m. CST

    first!!!!!

    by Groothewarrior

    i would like to thank the academy...

  • July 7, 2008, 12:09 a.m. CST

    GIVE ME THE AMULET, YOU BITCH!!!!

    by DRACULA_WANTS_THE_AMULET

  • July 7, 2008, 1:19 a.m. CST

    Sounds great, Bobo.

    by Bungion Boy

    I really wanted to go to these but I have a guest from out of town I've been entertaining all week. Sounds like some fantastic films. Always enjoy your reviews.

  • July 7, 2008, 1:35 a.m. CST

    You can have your fucking amulet

    by Chicken Thunder

    And your pigfucking. <br> Thanks for the reviews Bobo, look forward to checking some of these out.

  • July 7, 2008, 1:47 a.m. CST

    Good Work, Bobo_Vision

    by psychedelic

    I wish crazy wacko movies like these could get larger audiences on a regular basis. Sounds like the festival was fun and there are good things to check out. I've been stoked to see Tokyo Gore Police since Twich ran trailers for it. It's good to know it didn't disappoint you.

  • July 7, 2008, 8:51 a.m. CST

    As excited as I am for Tokyo Gore Police

    by Hawaiian Organ Donor

    The big news here is the release of another Public Enemy movie. What a great series so far.

  • July 7, 2008, 8:55 a.m. CST

    Accuracy of Death, Sparrow and M all sound worthwhile..

    by Jonah Echo

    I've seen both Dai Nipponjin and Sukiyaki Western Django and while Nipponjin was diverting and clever for a bit, it falls apart for being too slow and too random with no closure. A change of pacing and making things a bit less mystifying would have helped. <p> Django is just a big giant mess. Almost all of the japanese actors talk in broken english which is almost incomprehensible,quentin tarantino mugging ferociously, and too much wierdness for wierdness sake. I understand something surreal and bizarre was the aim, but it doesn't have any structure or apparent vision and that makes it frustrating and tedious. And this is from someone who adores Happiness of the Katakuris.

  • July 7, 2008, 10:41 a.m. CST

    How would you define Re-Animator?

    by Bobo_Vision

    Its typically in the Horror movie section, but I didn't call it horror because it's not really scary. I know, slasher implies some guy with a knife slashing people, but it could also mean there's blood and gore in it? I concede, slasher is not the best term. <p> Jonah Echo, thats too bad about Sukiyaki Western Django. The notion of a post-apocalyptic western with Japanese characters seemed interesting, but QT in an acting role also boded poorly.

  • July 7, 2008, 10:52 a.m. CST

    Johnnie To best Filmmaker right now, period!!

    by picardsucks

    I love Johnnie To !!! Johnnie To should be in hollywood and he should bring Andy Lau, Francis Ng, Anthony Wong, Simon Yam,Aaron Kwok Roy Cheung, Lam Suet,and a bunch of very hot Hong Kong actresses with him. He should be given $100 mil to write, produce and direct a huge American Triad opus and no politically correct hollywood socialist queers should be allowed to come within 50 miles of the set or the editing room. I would pay a hundred bucks to see that film

  • July 7, 2008, 11:31 a.m. CST

    Fantasia ?

    by siatrisx

    I have tickets to see those same movies at Fantasia Fest this month in Montreal...

  • July 7, 2008, 1:15 p.m. CST

    Nice set of reviews, Bobo

    by Drunken Rage

    Succinct, not filled with autobiographical detail, quick and to the point. Wish more of the reviewers here would write like that. Also wish there were more reviews of international films.

  • July 7, 2008, 1:52 p.m. CST

    Hollywood would ruin Johnnie To

    by Hawaiian Organ Donor

    Too much control over his projects would destroy their integrity. He needs to learn from the hard lesson of John Woo, and Ang Lee to some extent.

  • July 7, 2008, 5:10 p.m. CST

    Nice one.

    by Knuckleduster

    Looking forward to just about all of the movies mentioned, especially Sparrow and Accuracy of Death.