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The Shaw Brothers were famous for producing slightly hysterical, often hallucinatory, over-the-top karate films with frequent mystical overtones. "The Boxer's Omen" is no exception, except that it throws in quite a bit of full-frontal female nudity and a copious amount of vomiting in addition to all the usual SB stuff. A gangster is bewitched by an evil wizard, but he has someone who can help him: a Buddhist monk who has been poisoned by the same evil wizard! But in order to receive that help, the gangster must give up his wanton ways and become a monk himself....

I quite like most of the Shaw Brothers movies that I've seen, but this one seemed a bit.... much, somehow. Perhaps it was the grossness factor (recycled vomit, anyone?), perhaps it was, at 107 minutes, just a little bit too long (I mean, how many times can you show recycled vomit, after all?); in any event, I ended up feeling, not uplifted by the zaniness of the show, but rather just vaguely disgusted.
CIA Agents D. T. Gagano (Daniel Tadesse) and Palmer Eldritch (Agustin Mateo) are given the assignment of entering the agency's operating system to find and destroy a computer virus that is taking over. The task isn't as straightforward as it would seem, because in addition to the Soviet-Leader-Masked virus there's a Substance, which induces all sorts of hallucinations in its users. Bring in the leader of Beta-Ethiopia, Batfro (Solomon Tashe), and a man who might be Jesus and might be Roy (Guillermo Llanso), and things get complicated really, really fast....

There isn't really a way to describe this film, which could be equally considered science fiction, romance, comedy, thriller, Afro-Futurism and super-psychedelic trip, depending on one's perspective at the moment. Clocking in at a fast 83 minutes, it's exactly the kind of film to see with Montreal's Fantasia Festival audience, people who love genre and love gonzo and most of all, love movies. Director Miguel Llanso's earlier film, "Crumbs," also played at Fantasia, though I must say that I didn't really understand it; despite my description above, "Jesus Shows You...." is much more coherent - and hilarious. And a great stomping shaggy dog's tale to boot!

FantAsia III: It Comes (Japan, 2018)

Hideki (Satoshi Tsumabuki) and Kana (Haru Kuroki) are happy young newlyweds, ecstatic about the pending birth of their first child. When a visitor shows up at Hideki's workplace, saying she wants to talk to him about Chisa, Hideki is confused - that is the name he and Kana have chosen for the baby, but nobody else knows that. The visitor disappears before Hideki sees her, the colleague who took the message is soon very, very dead, and Hideki begins to have dreams about a creature, about the phrase "blood calls" and about the fate of the baby. So, as anyone would, he turns to an exorcist named Makoto (Nana Komatsu) for aid....
I won't say more than that about the plot because it quickly becomes more and more convoluted as the (longish, 2 1/4 hours) film goes on. Many years ago, I discovered Tetsuya Nakashima's "Kamikaze Girls" (about strange subcultures among Japan's teenage girls, it's a fantastic coming of age flick) at Montreal's Fantasia Festival, and when this year's selections for that great festival included "It Comes," described as Nakashima's first foray into horror, I was hooked; "Kamikaze Girls" is not only one of my favorite Fantasia films, it's one of my favorite films of all time. True to form, "It Comes" takes all the horror tropes one might imagine, and turns it all up to eleven. I can't say that it actually *scared* me because it was just so over-the-top, but my goodness it is a mighty fine, hallucinatory ride!

FantAsia II: The Wonderland (Japan, 2019)

Teenage Akane is unmotivated and moody, just like any teenage girl. She always feels put out by her mother's requests, never more so when she's sent to see her shopkeeper aunt Chii to pick up her own birthday present! Once there, however, Chii and Akane are visited by strangers from the basement, Mr. Hippocrates and his apprentice Pipo. But Mr. Hippocrates is an alchemist, Pipo is an elf, and the basement is a portal into another world, one that desperately needs Akane's help to avoid utter destruction.... A few years ago I saw another animated film by director Keiichi Hara, "Miss Hokusai," and was very taken with the incredible beauty of the work; the director works the same magic here, with some stunningly gorgeous backgrounds (and foregrounds for that matter), along with a story filled with imagination from an evil mouse-shaped monster machine to oversized sheep who provide wool *and* protection, to the very real crisis that the Wonderland is facing, that of running out of water. Oh, and there's an enchanted Prince, too! Even if the viewer isn't taken by the story itself (based on "Strange Journey From the Basement," a children's book by Sachiko Kashiwaba), s/he will certainly enjoy simply watching this very colorful feast for the eyes.

FantAsia I: Away (Latvia, 2019)

A young boy finds himself hanging from a tree by a parachute, with no idea of how he came to be there. He sees an enormous amorphous shape coming toward him and instinctively knows it means him no good; he manages to escape the creature by cutting the straps of the parachute and makes his way into a temporary refuge. There, he is kind to a baby bird, encounters a motorcycle and a knapsack with handy items like a water canteen, compass, blanket and a map. Soon, he and his bird companion must follow the map to return to humanity, while the monster follows inexorably behind him, getting closer.... The amazing thing about this animated 75-minute feature is that the entire thing was made by one single person, Gints Zilbalodis, everything from the story to the direction to the animation to the music and sound effects. Another amazing thing is that the entire film is without a word of dialogue - it's just the boy, the bird, the monster and a variety of creatures they meet along the way. I found it to be both suspenseful and beautifully gentle, a film perhaps a little intense for very small children but gorgeous and inspiring for everybody else.

And we're off to a great start at FantAsia once again!

Books in May

Books in April

Not a great month for reading, but in my defense, I was traveling at the beginning of the month and was very sick with the flu at the end of the month. Glad this April is over!

Kissed a Sad Goodbye, by Deborah Crombie.Collapse )

Just After Sunset, by Stephen King.Collapse )

A Very Good Hater, by Reginald Hill.Collapse )

Happy Beltaine and bring on May!

Books in March

Here's my reading for last month, not too shabby!

The Vanishing Box, by Elly Griffiths.Collapse )

Lupin Leaps In: A Breaking Cat News Adventure, by Georgia Dunn.Collapse )

A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness.Collapse )

Unto Us a Son is Given, by Donna Leon.Collapse )

The Power, by Naomi Alderman.Collapse )

Dreaming of the Bones, by Deborah Crombie.Collapse )

And soon we're off to rainy Northern California to see my family and friends - better than the ongoing snow and sleet of Montreal!