Thursday, June 25, 2015

NYAFF 2015 Preview

It's that time of the year again. New York Asian Film Festival is upon us. The sprawling two-week event (June 26 - July 11) is, as usual, filled with craziness- impossible action sequences, absurd humor, beguiling romance and general nutty mayhem. It takes place in FSLC and SVA Theater this year.

From Subway Cinema website:
Welcome to the 14th edition of the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF). We’re back with 54 feature films, including 2 World Premieres, 3 International Premieres, 14 North American Premieres, 5 U.S. Premieres, and 12 New York City debuts. The festival will be attended by 18 international filmmakers and celebrity guests traveling from Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the U.S., headlined by this year’s NYAFF award recipients: Hong Kong’s legendary director Ringo Lam (Lifetime Achievement Award), Hong Kong superstar Aaron Kwok (Star Asia Award), and Japanese actor Shota Sometani (Screen International Rising Star Award).

NYAFF 2015 will feature five focus programs: Hong Kong Panorama; Myung Films: Pioneers and Women Behind the Camera in Korean Film; New Cinema from Japan; Taiwan Cinema Now!; and The Last Men in Japanese Film, a joint tribute to actors Ken Takakura and Bunta Sugawara, both of whom passed away last November.NYAFF 2015 will feature five focus programs: Hong Kong Panorama; Myung Films: Pioneers and Women Behind the Camera in Korean Film; New Cinema from Japan; Taiwan Cinema Now!; and The Last Men in Japanese Film, a joint tribute to actors Ken Takakura and Bunta Sugawara, both of whom passed away last November.

Please visit Subway Cinema website and FSLC website for more info and tickets.

Here are 4 films I could sample:

Vengeance of an Assassin photo 6b71c8b9-95e7-400c-b17e-9b41de6bb18a_zpsjtyohpwj.jpg
Thai martial arts action choreographer cum director Punna Rittikai died of liver failure in 2014. Rittikai was a mentor for Tony Jaa and largely responsible for the rise of Muai Thai craze. So unsurprisingly, his last film Vengeance of an Assassin features some of the most delicious no-holds-barred choreographed action sequences to cover up some very schmaltzy storyline and bad acting.

It starts out strong with full contact soccer match in a rusty factory full of sharp objects. Then there is low angle, shooter's POV long take gunfight sequence. Runaway train fight sequence is also awe-inspiring. Rittikai tops it all off with John Woo style gun fight sequence in one continuous shot, which is so mindblowingly choreographed, all I couldn't help but admire the logistics team behind it all. You definitely need to get a tetanus shot after seeing the movie!

FULL ALERT - June 28, 2pm *Director Intro
Full Alert photo 29fed632-80cc-40a4-9c20-13883dbf3ed7_zpslvzjpfob.jpg
Full Alert is a great Policier from the director of City on Fire (which Tarantino ripped off for Reservoir Dogs) and arguably the last great HK film he directed. Lam announced retirement from film business after his unsuccessful Hollywood stint with string of movies starring Jean-Claude Van Damme.

This kinetic film tells a cat and mouse game between inspector Pau (Johnny To regular Ching Wan Lao) and the educated master criminal Mak (Francis Ng). After Mak is captured and confessed for the murder of a chemist, his crew bows to get him out of police custody. This sets up the full scale street battle and heist sequence akin to Michael Mann's Heat. Full Alert also features great car chase sequence running through crowded downtown city scape and presents great street chase scene through bustling outdoor markets of Hong Kong. Lam doesn't neglect the human drama he is known for - loyalty, honor, family all play big parts amidst of mangled metals and flying bullets.

After a long hiatus, Lam is directing again. I am excited about his new film Wild City which he describes as the last of the City Trilogy (After City on Fire and Full Alert), starring Louis Koo and Shawn Yue.

*Director Ringo Lam will be honored with the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award at NYAFF

BANGLASIA - July 10, 8pm *Intro Q & A
Banglasia photo 5010b7e6-ff8a-4bc9-8ff9-05d7d3fdca87_zpsazpvpd0p.jpg
Censored upon release then subsequently banned by Malaysian censor board, Banglasia is a controversial Malaysian musician/filmmaker/internet personality, Namewee's all-out satire on racism and jingoism in Malaysian society. The irreverent comedy stars a lowly worker from Bangladesh trying to earn enough money to get back to his fianée back home before she gets married off to another by the Chinese New Year, which is January 31st. He is confronted and bullied by a jingoistic internet activist (Namewee) who regularly calls him Bangla, even though he himself is from a Chinese heritage.

Throw in a pretty nurse who is smitten by the handsome, good natured foreigner and a cute tattoo artist, Banglasia is a kitchen sink full of infantile humor, gunfights, crazy dream sequences and instantaneous singing (including a Bollywood style dance number). It also is damning indictment of a politicians who uses race as bait for their own political gain. Banglasia is an over-the-top satirical comedy with a style and resonance that makes you wonder about paranoia and humorlessness of those in power.

SECOND CHANCE - July 11, 1pm
Second Chance photo 615fbf37-52e8-41bc-a66a-e29bfdd4569f_zpsbxgo8v52.png
An orphaned high school girl Hsieh (Huang Peijia) has to keep up with both being a Miss Little Perfect (a sword wielding captain of the school's honor guards) and a billiard parlor owner (inherited from her father). But unless she finds her washed up billiard champ uncle Siang Shuan Fen (Monster of Taiwanese rock group Mayday, making his feature film debut here), she has to go to a foster home and will surely lose her beloved billiard parlor to loan sharks. Thanks to a youtube clip, Shuan Fen is located and forcibly brought back by Hsieh Hsieh's long time admirer/neighbor/best friend/minion Oden (Liu Yihao). Hsieh decides to get into playing pool to save the parlor but needs a lot of practice and coaching. Shuan Fen sees it as an opportunity to get back in the game and get a second chance to get it right. Filled with likable performances, featuring real life international pool players and redemption plot, Second Chance is a great sports film in the tradition of Color of Money and Rocky.

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