It's time to rejoice! The Subway Cinema and Japan Society present this year's spectacular Asian Film Festival, featuring scores of Hong Kong, Japanese and Korean films -- not to mention Pakistan's first splatter movie called Hell's Ground. And once again on the big screen: Hard Boiled, the astounding genre-defining 1992 John Woo film starring Chow Yun-fat with that unforgettable, final, wild shoot-out in a hospital that still unhinges jaws. There are plenty of films to recommend, so let me dive in:
AACHI & SSIPAK (Korea) Loony animated film set in the future where roving gangs of "diaper kids" go after an addictive hallucinogenic laxative called a "juicy bar." The opening Mad-Max-like attack on the highway is really eye-popping and action-packed.
THE BANQUET (China) Call this Crouching Tiger, Hidden Hamlet or House of Flying Hamlets. Shakespeare's tale of the doomed Danish prince gets a martial arts remake in this opulent action film directed by Feng Xiagang. The film is set in 907 AD when the emperor has just been fatally stung to death by a scorpion in his palace. Actually, the culprit is his brother (Ge You) who has designs on the empress (gorgeous Zhang Ziyi). But the crown prince (Daniel Wu) cheats death and returns home, hell-bent on revenge. Gorgeous sets and costumes and plenty of gravity-defying swordplay and ballet-like violence makes you fantasize what it would have been like to watch Laurence Olivier sailing over treetops and slicing off heads with a sword.
BIG BANG LOVE, JUVENILE A (Japan) Great mad maestro Takashi Miike's (Audition, Ichi the Killer) arty, avant-garde, homoerotic prison movie. It's experimental in style and execution -- sets are often Dogville-like minimalist, and the plot's (sort-of) about a shy, feminine-looking new male prisoner and his fascination with his sexy, violent and tattooed cellmate. It defies easy categorization but is mad and kind of fabulous. And did I forget to mention that it becomes a murder mystery and there's a spaceship and a Mayan ruin outside the prison walls!Papermag.com