CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON 2: THE SWORD OF DESTINY
16 years ago, CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON slayed the Y2K. With amazing breakout performances, spectacular fight choreography, and surprising emotional depth, the Oscar-winning kung fu film is an indisputable classic, widely considered one of the best films ever to come out of China. So obviously—we’re pretty jazzed about the sequel. In THE SWORD OF DESTINY, Michelle Yeoh returns as warrior Yu Shu Lien, forced to come out of retirement in order to protect the legendary sword that drove the plot the first film. As if that wasn’t enough to entice you: Donnie Yen (IP MAN) costars as Wolf Shadow, with Yuen Woo-ping, who served as fight choreographer for THE MATRIX, in the director’s chair. The film’s also breaking new ground by premiering simultaneously on Netflix and in select IMAX theaters.
Nobody does revenge quite like writer/director Park Chan-wook (OLD BOY, SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE, LADY VENGEANCE) and this year’s upcoming THE HANDMAIDEN promises double-crosses and plot-thickening intrigue by the gallon (of blood). Based on the book Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, Park’s film transports the novel’s period setting from Victorian England to 1930s colonial Korea. The story follows a handmaiden who accidentally falls in love with the young heiress whom she’s been enlisted to swindle out of her fortune. Park’s oeuvre is above all else a study in style; we can’t wait to see what he does to stamp this adaptation with his signature vision.
SADAKO VS. KAYAKO
2 curses. 2 creepy murderous ghost girls. 1 house. Welcome to the sequel of two of the biggest J-horror franchises: RINGU and JU-ON (or THE RING and THE GRUDGE, in the style of American remakes). It’s the crossover you never knew you needed. Directed by the Kôji Shiraishi, the brain behind found-footage horror flicks THE CURSE and OCCULT, SADAKO VS KAYAKO is sure to deliver on scares and substance—Shiraishi’s known for the relative complexity of his J-horror films, and the intertwining mythologies of Sadako and Kayako are ripe for spooking.
It’s the terrifically prolific director Takashi Miike’s 99th movie. It’s gonna be a doozy. The action-packed tale of planet-hopping is based on the uber-popular (and uber-violent) Yū Sasuga manga TERRA FORMARS. Boiling the plot down to the essentials: 21st century scientists send moss and cockroaches to Mars in an attempt to make the planet habitable for future generations. 500 years later, a team of astronauts returns to Mars to check out the progress. It isn’t pretty. (Unless you expand your definition of pretty to include monstrous bipedal sentient cockroach mutants. Which you probably wouldn’t be inclined to do.) You can, however, feel free to swoon over the movie’s stellar cast, which includes many previous Miike collaborators: Hideaki Itō (Lesson of the Evil, Sukiyaki Western Django), Takayuki Yamada (13 Assassins), Emi Takei (Rurouni Kenshin), and Shun Oguri (Lupin III), as well as Hollywood success stories Rinko Kikuchi (Pacific Rim) and Rila Fukushima (The Wolverine).
The first trailer for this film didn’t reveal much in the way of plot, but with visuals like this, story seems secondary. Mikato Shinkai (5 CENTIMETERS PER SECOND, THE GARDEN OF WORDS) has outdone himself with this gorgeously animated film, with Mishashi Ando (SPIRITED AWAY, WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE) serving as Animation Director. But the animation isn’t truly the only draw—the plot is a sort of mystical mystery/romance, as two teens living very different lives suddenly find themselves connected by their dreams in the wake of a meteor shower. It’s a romance literally written in the stars.
(Actually, that’s a slight misrepresentation: HA Jung-woo gets trapped in the tunnel all alone on the way to his daughter’s birthday party. His poor bae BAE (nice one, me) is left to helplessly listen to the attempts of his rescue squad–helmed by box office bait OH Dal-su (ASSASSINATION, VETERAN, ODE TO MY FATHER)–to extract him from his untimely tomb. HA’s only hope for salvation, his only connection to the outside world, is his cell phone. How is he getting service in there? Who knows. Must have Verizon.)
NOW you’re hooked.
After a two-year hiatus from his usual crime thrillers—during which he directed rom-coms and musicals—Johnnie To is finally back with a gangster flick: THREE. In this latest venture into the seedy underbelly of Hong Kong, a mob member puts a bullet in himself during a shootout so that police are forced to cease fire and take him to the hospital. Once there, he refuses treatment in order to stall long enough for his henchman to break him out. In this game of cat and mouse, the detective realizes the gangster’s ruse, but decides to play dumb in hopes of taking out the whole gang in one fell swoop. Everybody loves a man with a plan! Unless you’re a wanted felon and his plan involves the downfall of your criminal empire. Then you’re probably not a fan of this particular man and his particular plan.
The original 1954 film was a landmark in filmmaking—and a poignant metaphor for the devastation of nuclear warfare. Since then, there have been countless reimaginings of the franchise: comic books, tv shows, 2 American film remakes. Godzilla has evolved so much over the year that some iterations of the monster even have playing the good guy! No such luck for Tokyo this time around—this Godzilla is going back to basics: destruction and mayhem without a cause. There are even rumors (POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT!) that Godzilla might go through some kind of transformation during the course of the movie, which means the Big Bad could be getting bigger and badder.
From Stephen Chow (KUNG FU HUSTLE, SHAOLIN SOCCER) comes the latest in wacky (and watery) rom-coms, the tale of an average Joe’s life derailed when he’s rescued/kidnapped—it’s amibiguous?— by a beautiful mermaid. The first few trailers are a cacophony of color and confusion, as protagonist Deng Chao tries to convince others of the reality of his amphibian angst. But really, the funny flick is meant to uplift as much as amuse; in Chow’s words, “after you see the film, you will not feel alone.” Sounds good to us!
THE RED TURTLE
A joint effort from Studio Ghibli—the animation house of the now-retired auteur Hayao Miyazaki (SPIRITED AWAY, KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE)—and French production and distribution company Wild Bunch, THE RED TURTLE is a cross-cultural experiment in universal filmmaking. Helmed by Academy-award winning Dutch director/animator Micheal Dudok de Wit, the animated movie won’t have any dialogue at all. Which makes sense, if we’re being logical: the story chronicles the life of a man living alone on a remote island with only turtles, crabs, and birds for company. No talking animals (or charming volleyballs) for this poor castaway. But if we trust anyone to make a silent film fascinating, it’s Studio Ghibli.
So while this comedy-drama is writer/director Zhang Jiajia’s first feature film, it’s produced by Wong Kar-wei (THE GRANDMASTER), a major heavyweight in Hong Kong cinema. We’re not sure what to expect from Zhang, but with Wong’s finger in the pot, we have high hopes for an awesome film experience. The movie’s based on one chapter of a popular Chinese short story collection written by Zhang himself, I Belonged to You. But even without a director’s credit, producer Wong couldn’t resist flavoring the film with his stable of favorite actors–Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Taneshi Kaneshiro. The story follows the affair of a girl and a painter with an unfaithful wife, featuring it-girl Angelababy as the pining young woman.
So, those are the flicks that are making us flail for the new year. What are yours? (JK ours are the only opinions that matter).
(Double JK: obviously we value you your point of view, the internet is a direct democracy and YOUR VOICE WILL BE HEARD, SO HELP ME GOD).