Hiromasa Yonebayashi directs the animated fantasy based on the children's novel by British author Mary Stewart

‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ – a magical odyssey on Netflix

Mary and the Witch’s Flower (Japan, 2017), the magical fantasy by Japanese animator and filmmaker Hiromasa Yonebayashi (director of the marvelous When Marnie Was There), based on a children’s novel by British author Mary Stewart, follows the adventures of a schoolgirl who receives magical powers for a day from a magical flower that blooms once […]

Takeshi Kitano directs and stars in "Violent Cop"

‘Violent Cop’ and ‘Boiling Point’ – The volatile Takeshi Kitano on FilmStruck and Sundance Now

In Violent Cop (1989) and Boiling Point (1990), actor-turned-filmmaker Takeshi Kitano has a way of transforming stillness into tension in his crime films. In the opening shot of Violent Cop, Kitano’s 1990 directorial debut, the camera holds on the smiling face of a toothless derelict. Like a pebble dropping into a pond the calm is […]

Yasujiro Ozu's 1932 silent family comedy 'I Was Born But.'

‘I Was Born, But…’ – Ozu’s cheeky comedy on FilmStruck

If all you know of Yasujiro Ozu, Japan’s national treasure of a film director in the 20th century, is the quiet restraint and rigorous simplicity of his sound films, then you only have half of the story of the director’s remarkable career. The artist called the most “Japanese” of Japanese directors was a voracious film […]

Kyle MacLachlan and Michael Nouri in the film by Jack Sholder

Cult Blu-ray: ‘Basket Case,’ ‘Ichi the Killer,’ ‘Macon County’ justice, and ‘The Hidden’ with Kyle Maclachlan

Basket Case (Arrow, Blu-ray) Ichi the Killer (Well Go, Blu-ray) Macon County Line (Shout! Factory, Blu-ray) The Hidden (Warner Archive, Blu-ray) Basket Case (1982), the debut feature of filmmaker Frank Henenlotter, is a gruesome little cult indie-horror drama of brotherly love and righteous vengeance shot on location in the seedier sections of New York City. […]

Takuya Kimura stars in Miike Takashi 's extreme samurai violence epic from Japan

Miike Takashi’s samurai Armageddon ‘Blade of the Immortal’ on Hulu

Japanese filmmaker Miike Takashi made his reputation directing offbeat crime films with wild twists, energetic momentum, creative imagery, and often extreme acts of violence, cranking out as many as eight films in a single year at his most prolific, but his filmography is much more diverse. He’s slowed down in recent years as his productions […]

Young Dais and Ryohei Suzuki in the hip-hop musical gang war thriller from Japan

‘Tokyo Tribe’ – gonzo gang war musical on Amazon Prime Video

The films of Sion Sono, who is fast closing in on Miike Takashi as Japan’s cinema wildman rebel, are increasingly outrageous, unhinged, extreme, and unpredictable, pushing expectations as well as boundaries, and trying anything and everything in a wildly creative (if unfocused) attempt to refresh familiar genres. Tokyo Tribe (Japan, 2014), adapted from a graphic […]

The Belladonna of Sadness from Japan, directed by Eiichi Yamamoto

‘The Belladonna of Sadness’ on Amazon Prime and Fandor

The Belladonna of Sadness (Japan, 1973), a lost classic of Japanese animation, is an erotic drama by definition, but it is quite a sophisticated one that is part subversive folk tale, part rock ballad musical, and part experimental filmmaking. Set in an unnamed kingdom in an abstracted medieval Europe, it’s a provocative film about female […]

Animation on Blu-ray: ‘Your Name,’ ‘Napping Princess,’ ‘In This Corner of the World’ from Japan

Your Name. (Funimation, Blu-ray, DVD) Napping Princess (Shout! Factory, Blu-ray, DVD) In This Corner of the World (Shout! Factory, Blu-ray, DVD) Japanese animator and filmmaker Makoto Shinkai turns his own young adult novel into Your Name. (Japan, 2016), an animated feature that brings a fresh approach to the classic comic situation of body swapping. In […]

Song Kang-ho stars in the South Korean spy thriller by Kim Jee-woon

‘The Age of Shadows’ – Korean spy thriller on Netflix

Kim Jee-woon, director of such hits as hits The Good the Bad the Weird and I Saw the Devil, announced his return to South Korea after his Hollywood tryout with The Age of Shadows (South Korea, 2016, not rated, with subtitles), a sprawling spy thriller set in the underground resistance to the Japanese occupation of […]