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For the second year in row, Subway Cinema will invade the Japan Society and screen a splatterific film from one of Japan’s new wave of underground cinemaniacs -- all in the name of promoting this year’s New York Asian Film Festival, and even giving the lowdown on a few of this year’s titles to look forward to.
Here are a few reasons why you should be there:

1 - Splatter Matters:  not only will this year’s event be held in the name of entertainment, it will also serve as a charity, as the proceeds for this and screenings in other cities will go directly towards earthquake relief in Japan.  There will even be an auction of some of the wildly imaginative set pieces from Yoshihiro Nishimura’s studio to raise more money for the cause.

2 – Eihi Shiina:  along with Helldriver director Yoshihiro Nishimura, lead actress Eihi Shiina will be there, making it her first public appearance in the US.  For Japanese horror fans, she is an iconic figure known for her unsettling role in Miike Takashi’s Audition.  My mind has forever been branded from the scene from this film where she coos ‘kiri kiri kiri’ soothingly while inserting ultra long acupuncture needles into her subdued male victim’s eyes and other body parts.

3 – NYAFF 10th anniversary preview: this year isn’t just any for the NYAFF; it’s the tenth anniversary.  Not only that, it’s their second year settling into the high profile venue of Lincoln Center, so they are bound to try to outdo themselves this time around.

4 – Heavy Metal:  somewhere in the Japan Society’s modest space, a genuine metal band, Vaura, is set to make some serious noise.

5 – Free Beer!  and other snacks in the lobby after the film finishes.

Reports appeared yesterday of there being only 40 tickets still available, so don’t sleep on this one!
23 April 2011 @ 12:35 pm

This week and the next, I’ve got some screenings to attend at Tribeca (the film festival so esteemed, no need to elaborate on its title). This is the first year that I’m checking anything out at Tribeca. Perhaps it’s the recent affiliation with dbbouroughs and his monster film reviewing machine, Unseen films, which is kicking ass and keeping track of the names. Or perhaps, as some media outlets have suggested, it’s just better this year. There is reportedly less hype, less vanity projects, and more good films.

And in terms of asian films, there is absolutely no slacking there.

There is still an overwhelmingly large selection of films on hand, making the prospect of seeing everything you want next to impossible. I’m taking in a very slight sliver of the action, and leaving some room to add a few more possibilities. 

I’m starting with an Asian mind bending film sandwich. Two blockbusters from China, Detective Dee and Let the Bullets Fly make up the bread, while the gooey flavorful middle comes in the form of out of left field Japanese spectacle Underwater Love. 

As of this post, I’m about a third of the way through my sandwich. Detective Dee, by acclaimed Hong Kong director Tsui Hark, was shown Friday late afternoon to a packed and delighted audience. This serious mystery, complete with clues and red herrings, is wrapped up in a fantasy period piece’s clothes. It is epic, and far beyond the  reproachful reach of cynicism. The panoramic views of the Tang Dynasty city in which the story takes place and the massive Buddha statue under construction create a sense of awe that is sorely missing from much of today’s cinema.

Up next is Underwater Love, from Japanese director Shinji Imaoka and director of photography, Christopher Doyle, infamous for his work with Wong Kar Wai. It promises mermaids, sex, and musical numbers. 

After a bit of a break, I’ll return to the Tribeca scene again for a bit of scifi  weirdness, Beyond the Black Rainbow. This is being presented under the Cinemania flag, which also waves over Underwater Love,  and a few other mischievous works that stray off the beaten path. All are being shown towards the later ends of each evening and most involve a horror angle.  After that, plan to end things with one of the more mainstream, attention garnering affairs:  Detachment, a film ended after most of Tribeca's programming had already been set.  It features Adrien Brody, is directed by Tony Kaye (American History X), and is said to give some insight into America's education system, a topic I deal with intimately on a regular basis.

Somewhere in the middle of the Tribeca action, Subway Cinema is poking its head through for its second annual preview of the New York Asian Film Festival at Japan Society. They will show Hell Driver, with promises of an appearance by director and splatter guru Nishimura Yoshihiro, and a performance by a bona fide death metal band.



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10 March 2011 @ 12:26 am
Mort Mickler here. cease and desist warning has been issued by Lynch, et al.  I will be issuing a public statement of apology here soon.  I shall continue taking a look back, and tonight, I will find out the SECRET of Catfish.  more to report soon!
26 February 2011 @ 09:35 am
Mort Mickler here to sum up the penultimate episode of Inland Umpire, David Lynch's short lived return to television.  Perhaps sensing network pressures to end the show's run, Lynch made this one particularly vicious, leaning more towards the murder mystery elements of Twin Peaks than the cruising chicks elements of Entourage.

Dern's character wants to prove that she can make it on her own, without any support from the Umpire's empire of wealth, so she decided to try her hand at prositution for 48 hours.  This gives the show a chance to show the mean streets of Alaska's red light district, in particular, an section of streets modeled after Hollywood known as Litle Hollywood.

Lynch also put the spotlight on a young female Japanese comedian/spoken word performance artist living in the real Los Angeles now.  She's been garnering fame for her routine about her friend who looks beautiful in a blonde wig and has a hole in her vagina wall.  Lynch made a deal with her that allowed this routine to be incorporated into the Inland Umpire story.  He also included an exclusivity contract in the deal, meaning any searches for the comedian's performance of the bit about blonde wigs or holes in vagina walls on youtube etc. will only yield the footage from this show.

We're closer to the end than we were to the beginning as we look forward to taking a look back at the last episode of Inland Umpire!
25 February 2011 @ 07:20 pm
thank goodness for subtlety.  i really needed it after 3 screenings of blood soaked madness, and today's movie, The Silence, delivered.  although i don't know how i was expecting to be completely uplifted out of the dark state of mind i've been in, considering this is the closest to being an actual serial killer movie of the ones that purported to be so this week, with a focus on paedophilia.

this German movie, part of Film Comment Selects, is almost completely absent of gore, but creates a mood of initial confusion and eventual suspense.  It is very much worth seeing, but will probably not get a release here due to its lack of flash or other easily marketable traits.   

The movie threatens to reach a chilling, disturbing ending, and I for one shall not reveal whether it does or not.  Seek it out, or write an email to IFC expressing interest in it.

Tomorrow, a late lunch date with a family of Mexican cannibals.
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have passed the half way point of the independent international suspense and intrigue film festival, an event that i just made up, and i alone am attending. well, others might be, but are doing so unknowingly.  there have been some very noteworthy screenings so far. 

but no writing forthcoming tonight.  not for the usual reasons -- laziness, work obligations, attention deficit disorder.

i am just too burnt out on the bloody bleakness.  i need to absorb it....or forget about it...or supress it, just not write about it...yet. It was Cold Fish that put me over the edge, and for anyone in the mood for some disgusting, dysfunctional film viewing, it is being screened again up at Walter Reade next Tuesday, March 1st at 8:45.

It is not an easy movie to watch.

As far as the battle between I Saw the Devil and this one, it was truly a war of attrition.  I will write give a more in-depth commentary a go after a little bit of distance.

i'd actually been feeling in the mood to see I Saw the Devil again, which is a reversal from last weekend.  I won't make it to the screening at BAM with director Kim Ji-woon in attendance. I truly need a break from this stuff.  Perhaps I will try to catch it again when it is screened at the IFC theater in March.

I am not sure I will feel the same way about Cold Fish.

My personal film fest presses on, but with quite a bit less gore (i hope!).  The Silence tomorrow back at Walter Reade, and We are What We Are at the IFC on Saturday.
Current Mood: burn out
24 February 2011 @ 11:20 am
Mort Mickler here, and before getting into the usual, I will start by stating that i'm beginning to suspect shennanigans.  as i was getting ready to make my way through the unseparated episodes of David Lynch's sports comedy sitcome for premium cable, Inland Umpire, I noticed the title in the menu screen is printed as Inland Empire.  I suppose this could be chalked up to it being released during the titlers strike of 2007 (which lasted 3 days), but there are also the cease and desist emails I've been receiving with claims of false representation and threats of a libel suit.  It's enough to put this critic into a state of panic, and shot nerves have caused a long break between episode reviews once again.

But Mort Mickler doesn't bend like an adolescent Chinese acrobat, and will keep to his post until the missing is complete.  This episode marks the beginning of the second half of episodes before Showtime pulled the plug.  There are some interesting turns.  It was decided to emulate as many HBO programs as possible, so the first part of the episode takes on an In Treatment feel, with the character played by Dern discussing her marital problems with a therapist.  the plan was originally to get Gabriel Byrne to do a cameo as the shrink, but he found the script vaguely offensive and confusing and turned down the part.

Things then go decidedly in the Entourage direction as the ump and his buddies have a good old fashioned backyard bbq. The tension between the ump and his lady intensifies, and there is a bit of levity in the form of some good old fashioned Russian toilet humor, a play on the theme of Russian guy goes off to the use bathroom and comes back reporting that there is no more toilet paper. Can't mess up a classic like that!

The episode ends with a dramatic showdown between Dern, the Ump, and a mistress the Ump's been keeping on the side.  It is a love triangle that threatens to explode in the last two episodes.  I believe it will be a two-parter.

'hope you've enjoyed taking a look back...at Inland Umpire episode 4!
20 February 2011 @ 11:49 pm
i have a week off from my day job, which has magically coincided with several great movies, more than usual in fact, that i want to see.  and so i'm faced with heading out to see more movies in the theater in one week's time than i've ever done before, excepting when the New York Asian Film Festival has been in town. 
none of them are from the US.  all of them tread dark territories.  it looks like i've carved out for myself a nice little international suspense film festival. 

for those playing along at home, or want to come out and play at the cinema, here's what's on the agenda...

I Saw The Devil*
Biutiful (least suspenseful and most well known of the bunch)
Dream House (surreal Chinese real estate horror)
We Are What We Are (Mexican cannibal family drama)
Klaus Kinski: Jesus Christ Savior (documents a live performance by this German new wave cult figure)
Cold Fish*
The Silence* (Italian surreal suspense mystery)

the starred films are part of the excellent Film Comment Selects series going on at Walter Reade Cinema, and that is largely responsible for me being so excited to see movies this week.  two of those, I Saw the Devil and Cold Fish, are not only the films i am most excited to see this week, i have been highly anticipating seeing them for the past several months, since reading about them at twitchfilm.net

and let's face it, the whole Film Comment Selects series is just a smoke screen to draw attention away from those two movies participating in a high stakes showdown, a superbowl of psychological thrillers between two Asian countries that have put out the best and most twisted of this sort of movie for quite some time, Korea (I Saw the Devil) and Japan (Cold Fish).  i've participated in the first half, watching I Saw the Devil this afternoon, which left me slackjawed and shaking (the shaking may have been caffiene-related).

actually, when i wrote up livejournal entries of my experiences at the past two New York Asian Film Festivals, i did so with an angle of determining a ridiculously titled non-existent honor, "most-kick-ass-asian-movie-country,"  to bestow on the country with the most intriguing, off the wall, and twisted films represented at the fest. 

it's kind of funny that now, at Film Comment Selects, there are two entries that lend themselves so perfectly to just this sort of outlandish competition.  and no surprise, they are being co-presented by Subway Cinema, official bringer of NYAFF.

actually, it's a triple threat match, with an entry from China, Legend of the Fist: Return of Chen Zhen, but i will leave that to friends who are more into the martial arts realm.  in the meantime, seeing which of two serial killer movies is the more intense, disturbing, and psychologically...thrilling, is turning into a  frighteningly delightful undertaking. 
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17 February 2011 @ 07:32 pm

Girls girls girls!

Mort Mickler back with ya, taking a look back at the canceled David Lynch sitcom for premium cable, Inland Umpire episode 3.  and it's an extra hot one at that.  After previewing the material for the first 2 episodes, studio execs complained they were gettin plenty of the Twin Peaks feel, but not enough of the Entourage feel.  so this time around, Lynch gave us appearances by lots of cuties.  sometimes studio interference can be a good thing, eh?

i've...enjoyed...this episode quite a few times, hence the long break since the last review. So, what is this episode about?  Our main man behind the mask, Theroux, has a birthday coming up, so his madame (Dern) is planning a surprise bachelor party themed birthday party to prove she does not have any insecurities about the relationship.

the dvd version of the episode includes a bonus music video tacked onto the ending (with more beautiful girls!). The story behind this one is, Lynch and people at the studio put their heads together to think of ways to generate publicity for the show.  He conceived of nothing short of 3 of the pop music world's brightest and most prominent female voices combining their talents to do a cover version of an 80s top 40 staple.  He convinced Pink, Ke$ha, and Katy Perry (Lady Gaga was a first choice but turned the project down) to record the song Loco-motion, which he would then design a video for with scenes from the tv show.

the recording went without a hitch, but people at the record labels started putting the numbers together and realized they were sitting on a potentially HUGE money maker.  They bought out the recording from an irate Lynch, going around him completely and dealing only with Showtime.  Rumor has it, the labels are still sitting on the recording, working out negotiations. It is slated for a possible 2015 release along with a full album's worth of 80's covers by the aforementioned trio.

In an act of defiance, Lynch included the completed video here with the audio replaced by the Kylie Minogue version from the 80s.

well how about that, girls galore, a glimpse into a pretty neat future...all while taking a look back!

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07 February 2011 @ 08:43 pm
Mortimer M.Gordon Mickler back atcha with the second episode of Inland Umpire, and it's a weird one!  I didn't expect things to get twisted so fast.  Little connection to the first episode.  Rumor has it, Lynch began fielding things out not long after producton started and the network expressed concerns.  He had over a dozen script writers turning out episodes and was selecting them on a whim.

This episode starts out with our beloved masked mitt man in on the commercial gig with his wife (Laura Dern!).  Things are going smoothly until it is revealed that this ad had been written and acted out once before, when production was haunted by a mysterious death.  Involving a moose no less.  Will the ump and his lovely lady go through with it?

Meanwhile, the couple decides to heat things up by arranging for an extra marital affair.  But the affair is with each other, with the wife acting as though she is another lady (who experiences deja vu). and the ump is in on it all along.  Here, Lynch gave a nod to the documentary We Live in Public, which he has professed much respect for, and added the twist that the affair is all being carried out on a live webcam feed.

Wild kinky stuff!  Really makes me look forward to taking a look back...at Inland Empire episode 3!
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