House Logo
Explore categories +

John Woo (#110 of 5)

Sinful Cinema Super Mario Bros.

Comments Comments (...)

Sinful Cinema: Super Mario Bros.
Sinful Cinema: Super Mario Bros.

Let’s get one thing straight: You can say whatever you want about Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel’s Super Mario Bros. (1993), but you need to remember that it wasn’t cheap—in fact, a more brazenly commercial product of this size and sweep may never have crawled out of studio hell in the 1990s. Furthermore, the conditions that leavened it—a hotshot husband-and-wife directing team propelled into the eye of a sprawling, committee-bred, synergetic summer-blockbuster hurricane, well after shooting began—would probably never be repeated again. The result is a queasy jumble of genre tropes (re-appropriated to hit kids’ sweet spots), and remarkable modernist visual gags, packed with political subtext, yet tossed off like so many cheap pizza napkins.

New York Asian Film Festival 2012: Doomsday Book, Monsters Club, Guns N’Roses, & Wu Xia

Comments Comments (...)

New York Asian Film Festival 2012: <em>Doomsday Book</em>, <em>Monsters Club</em>, <em>Guns N’Roses</em>, & <em>Wu Xia</em>
New York Asian Film Festival 2012: <em>Doomsday Book</em>, <em>Monsters Club</em>, <em>Guns N’Roses</em>, & <em>Wu Xia</em>

Since its relatively humble beginnings at Anthology Film Archives (not to mention the long-defunct ImaginAsian), the New York Asian Film Festival has emerged as quite possibly the most sheer fun of all the major New York film festivals. Go to just about any one of its screenings—especially any one introduced by Grady Hendrix, one of its founders and still its official voice—and you’ll immediately be startled by its proudly rowdy spirit, a far cry from the usual buttoned-up “official” nature of most other film festivals. Plus, there are the prizes that Hendrix and his fellow Subway Cinema cohorts often give out at screenings.

Above all, though, it’s the selection of films—with a marked emphasis on genre pictures and other sorts of unabashedly commercial entertainments—that distinguish the NYAFF from other film festivals of its type, especially in New York. In its desire to encompass a wide range of cinema in China, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, and other Asian countries, the festival is unafraid to juxtapose popular cinema with artier fare. Freed from the shackles of what programmers deem worthy of passing through the festival circuit, the folks at the nonprofit organization Subway Cinema present a more varied and complete view of the kinds of movies being made in these countries. If you thought, for instance, that the only kinds of films coming out of China or Taiwan were the kinds of slow-paced, long-take-saturated dramas by the likes of Hou Hsiao-hsien, Jia Zhang-ke, and others, then one should make a beeline for this year’s Independence Day screening of the complete two-part Taiwanese epic Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale, a grand spectacle in the mold of executive producer John Woo’s own Red Cliff. Either that, or give Giddens Ko’s highly successful (at the box office, at least) romantic comedy You Are the Apple of My Eye a shot.

Critical Distance: Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Comments Comments (...)

Critical Distance: <em>Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol</em>
Critical Distance: <em>Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol</em>

As commercial cinema goes, animation and live action are seen as divergent modes of filmmaking sharing the mutual goal of aesthetic cohesiveness; they only achieve it by different means. While Avatar and The Adventures of Tintin achieve a melding of live-action and animation techniques, other examples suggest that the sensibilities of animation and live action are more disparate and incompatible. If the static shots and deadened rhythms of the big-budget fantasy films John Carter and the first two Chronicles of Narnia entries are any indication, the qualities of animation may not so easily translate to live action. These films were directed by animation veterans—Andrew Stanton and Andrew Adamson, respectively—whose authorial voices evaporated under the conditions of live-action filmmaking.

15 Famous Fights to the Death

Comments Comments (...)

15 Famous Fights to the Death
15 Famous Fights to the Death

Nearly two dozen teens bite the big one in The Hunger Games, sure to be cinema’s most popular source of adolescent bloodshed. There’s no darker vicarious thrill than watching someone perish on screen, as many an action junkie will certainly tell you. In light of Jennifer Lawrence’s blockbuster standoff against her oppressed peers, we’ve got 15 Famous Fights to the Death, which, together, should sate even the bloodthirstiest film fans.

Red Cliff and Red Cliff 2

Comments Comments (...)

<em>Red Cliff</em> and <em>Red Cliff 2</em>
<em>Red Cliff</em> and <em>Red Cliff 2</em>

If we’re to believe the military general in Red Cliff 2 who muses, “The times makes the hero,” then somebody ought to tell Magnet Releasing, the American distributors of Red Cliff (John Woo’s records-shattering period war epic set in 208 AD), that they’re the villain. Just like British distributors before them, Magnet is releasing Woo’s five hour, two-part epic as a single film in America, callously lopping off 140 minutes of footage because they simultaneously want to cater to a broad audience as well as to Woo’s established fanbase. The times, it seems, when “Asian cinema” is sold as either exotic genre fodder for geeks or high-end Art for the culturally advanced, are against Magnet.

With its sweeping pageantry and spectacularly choreographed battle scenes, Red Cliff falls neatly into both categories, making the temptation to sell it both as a cultural event and tempting junk food understandable though hardly commendable. In doing so, Magnet is only cutting out the legs from underneath either of their respective target niche markets. (South Korean, Singaporean and Japanese distributors released the film in two parts, suggesting that the “international cut” is only tempting to Whitey.) And while the ghettoization of foreign film in America is hardly new news, it particularly reeks here.