Monthly Archives: October 2021

“YOKAI MONSTERS”— The Collection

“YOKAI MONSTERS”

The Collection

Amos Lassen

“Yokai Monsters: The Collection” is a trilogy of terror films based on Japanese folklore. We have ghosts and monsters from ancient myths and legends brought to life through special effects, alongside an epic, big-budget reboot of the series from a modern-day master of the macabre, now available together on Blu-ray for the first time.

“100 Monsters” is the story of a greedy slumlord’s attempts to forcefully evict his tenants and this brings about the wrath of spirits when a cleansing ritual is messed up with terrifying results. “Spook Warfare” is the story of an evil Babylonian vampire who is inadvertently awoken by treasure hunters, and a brave samurai that teams with the Yokai to defeat the bloodthirsty demon. In “Along with Ghosts” , the Yokai are roused to defend a young girl on the run from deadly yakuza.

The Great Yokai War is a loose remake of “Spook Warfare”  used cutting-edge digital effects to renew the franchise for a new generation. A young boy is given a grave responsibility to band together with a group of Yokai to defend humanity against a vengeful and powerful demon that has sworn retribution against modern-day Japan.

LIMITED EDITION BOXSET CONTENTS

  High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentations of all four films

  Optional English subtitles on all four films

  Illustrated 60-page collectors’ book featuring new writing on the series by Stuart Galbraith IV, Raffael Coronelli and Jolyon Yates

  Reversible sleeves featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jolyon Yates

  Postcards featuring newly commissioned artwork for each film by Jolyon Yates

  Foldout ‘yokai guide’ poster illustrated by Jolyon Yates

DISC ONE – 100 MONSTERS

  Original uncompressed Japanese mono audio

  Hiding in Plain Sight, a brand new documentary giving a primer on yokai for Western audiences, featuring interviews with experts Matt Alt, Zack Davisson, Kim Newman, Lynda E. Rucker and Hiroko Yoda

  Theatrical trailer

  US re-release trailer

  Image gallery

DISC TWO – SPOOK WARFARE / ALONG WITH GHOSTS

  Brand new 4K restoration of Spook Warfare by Kadokawa Pictures

  Original uncompressed Japanese mono audio for both films

  Theatrical trailers for both films

  US re-release trailers for both films

  Image galleries for both films

DISC THREE – THE GREAT YOKAI WAR

  DTS-HD MA 5.1 original Japanese and dubbed English audio

  Brand new audio commentary by Japanese cinema expert Tom Mes

  Archive interviews with the cast and crew, including Takashi Miike

  Short Drama of Yokai, two shorts detailing the further adventures of the yokai

  Another Story of Kawataro, two shorts featuring the continuing story of the kappa character in the film

  World Yokai Conference, a publicity event where Miike speaks about the film

  Promotional Events, video of the press conference to announce the start and completion of filming, as well as the premiere in Tokyo

  Documentary on the film’s young star, Ryunosuki Kamiki, and his experience making the film

  Theatrical trailer

  Image gallery

“THE SHEPHERD”— A Psychological Drama

“THE SHEPHERD”

A Psychological Drama

Amos Lassen

Jonathan Cenzual Burley’s “The Shepherd” is a psychological drama and a parable of corporate greed. Anselmo is a taciturn shepherd who lives a spartan life on a small farm in the Spanish plains. He is approached by a construction company looking to buy his land but when he casually refuses, results occur through the community. It seems everyone around him has a stake in the development and increasingly extreme opposition from his neighbors leads to bitter conflict.

He doesn’t realize that his life is about to be turned upside down. The owners of the neighboring lands have all agreed to sell and Anselmo’s refusal jeopardizes the whole deal. The others are blinded by greed and determined to do whatever it takes to make him change his mind.

Anselmo’s  dog Pillo and sheep are his only company aside from a few friends in town. When Espanax Construction company pays him a visit with an offer to buy his house and land on which they plan to build a new residential complex, his life changes. Julian, Paco and Ignacio, are eager to unload their plots and homes in return for the construction company’s cash and this brings about a conflict with Anselmo’s unwillingness to sell; he soon learns that if Espanax cannot purchase his land, they will not buy the surrounding plots either.

Unbeknownst to Anselmo, Julian has entered into a dodgy agreement for Espanax to finance his deeply indebted slaughterhouse business using his house as a down payment and in return he is to make sure that the land owners sell, no matter what it takes. As the film’s biblical theme begins to unfold, forces quickly conspire against Anselmo as Julian grows more desperate to save his house and business.

A wonderful opening sequence establishes the character of Anselmo, as he leaves his isolated house in the middle of the arid plains of Salamanca, to go out with his beloved dog to take the sheep to pasture in the early morning light.  The peace of this place is threatened when the property developers decide to buy up land in the area to build a new town. The whole rural community of the area is turned upside down by the destructive nature of corporate greed.

We get a message against avarice and the abuse by those who feel entitled to step on those that are small.

“The Emphatically Queer Career of Artist Perkins Harnly and His Bohemian Friends” by Sarah Burns— From Nebraska to the World

Burns, Sarah. “The Emphatically Queer Career of Artist Perkins Harnly and His Bohemian Friends”, Process, 2021.

From Nebraska to the World

Amos Lassen

In Sarah Burns’ “The Emphatically Queer Career of Perkins Harnly”, we read thestory of Nebraska-born artist, Perkins Harnly (1901-1986),who during his life came into contact with famous and infamous personalities. He went to parties with Sarah Bernhardt, was friends with Paul Swan (“The Most Beautiful Man in the World”),  was the frequent houseguest of Rose O’Neill, the free-living artist who invented the Kewpie and corresponded with William Seabrook, author and occasional cannibal who introduced the zombie to America. 

We are with Harnly from Nebraska’s remote farmlands to silent-era Hollywood, post-revolutionary Mexico, Depression-era New York, wartime Hollywood, queer Los Angeles the repressive 1950s, and the rest of his life. He traveled in Europe and South America, where Harnly practiced his hobby of visiting the famous and infamous graves from Vladimir Lenin to Oscar Wilde, Queen Victoria, and Eva Peron.
Through archives of letters and interviews Harnly comes alive along with his circle of creative friends and he is a character who is unlikely to be forgotten.

“ONE IN A THOUSAND”— Affection, Desire and Sexuality

“ONE IN A THOUSAND”

Affection, Desire and Sexuality

Amos Lassen

Iris (Sofía Cabrera)) lives in the poor neighborhood of Las Mil Casas, in Corrientes, Argentina. She left school and spends her free time with her gay cousins Darío (Mauricio Vila) and Ale (Luis Molina) or wanders around the neighborhood, One in a Thousand as it is known, with her basketball. Renata (Ana Carolina García) comes into her life, bringing love. 

Iris is fascinated with Renata who is an outgoing femme fatal who is older than her. Even with all of the gossip in the neighborhood, the two girls become close. We see Iris’s close friendship with her cousins ​​and how both brothers live their gay sexuality in very different ways, in an environment where sexual choices and their fields of action are far from acceptable.

The young people of One in a Thousand make up a world with adults almost always distant. Total sexual frankness prevails and modesty or explicitness are consistent with the psychology of the characters and situations. 

Director Clarisa Navas gives us a powerful portrait of the circulation of affection, desire and sexuality in a group of young people in a marginal neighborhood and a love story that is far from  the acceptable manners and without any misery.

When Iris meets Renata in the projects of One Thousand in Argentina, she is immediately and inexplicably attracted to her. Renata makes everyone uncomfortable, and prejudices grow. Iris has to overcome her fears and struggle with her insecurities in order to experience first love. The two girls and their small group of friends are the queer resistance in an environment where desire adapts many forms and gossip is a hateful weapon.

One in a Thousand is rundown project characterized by prostitution, drug-dealing, unemployment and basketball and where sexual desire is high. Renata exudes an exciting sexual energy who to whom Iris writes a letter and gives it to her after meeting on the bus. They develop a quick relationship that is complicated by the rumors of Renata’s past. 

This isn’t your average film about LGBT struggle, whereby protagonists struggle against hatred. There is plenty of talk about what “they” say, especially with regards to Renata’s past, yet we never know who “they” are. Iris’ family members are never seen and her cousin’s supportive mother is okay with her two gay children. 

“My Father’s Wife and My Daughter’s Emu” by Nina Dabek— Moments in Life

Dabek, Nina “My Father’s Wife and My Daughter’s Emu”, Atmosphere Press, 2021.

Moments in Life

Amos Lassen

Nina Dabek brings us a collection of funny and sad stories in “My Father’s Wife and My Daughter’s Emu”.We read of moments in the life of one worried, loving woman that remind us that ordinary life is never ordinary, and is also more dangerous than we might think. Yet, with the right partner-a woman as loving as she is, happiness may be saved.

Dabek shares domestic life frankly and with humor. Nostalgia, grief, gratitude, devotion are all here. This is a  portrait of a woman’s passage from the delusions of childhood to the revelations and burdens of adulthood.

Naomi is the middle of three sister who grows up in late 20th century New York. Just as Naomi comes into her own, history frames the narrative of her life.

She lives in the Bronx with her two sisters and her parents and grapples with the complexity of her relationships, her family’s mysteries, and the world around her. She experiences the challenges and pleasures of lesbian motherhood, while at the same time dealing with her father’s past and present and her complicated love for him. We are with her from childhood to motherhood as she deals with and makes sense of the world.

“Eleven Inch” by Michal Witkowski— In Search

Witkowski, Michal. “Eleven-Inch”, Seagull Books, 2021.

In Search

Amos Lassen

Right after the fall of the Berlin Wall, two queer teens  travel from Eastern Europe Vienna and then Zurich, in search of a better life as sex workers. They are total opposites. Milan, aka Dianka, is a dream-filled, passive guy from Slovakia, who has moved from one abusive sugar daddy to the next and Michał, a Pole, seeks pleasure and is selfishand ruthless, qualities that allow him to succeed in the West as he takes advantage of his huge penis that he calls ‘Eleven-Inch’.

The two enter a world of hustler bars, public toilets, and spend nights sleeping in train stations, parks and in the homes of their wealthy clients. Writer Michał Witkowski explores the transition from Soviet-style communism to neoliberal capitalism in Europe through the  eyes and experiences of the destitute queers, the most marginalized societal group. 

Through detail and wit, we get quite an emotional story of acollapsing culture that takes us to metro stations, seedy bars and sad streets.Witkowski  challenges ideas of what it means to be queer .

 

“The Museum of an Extinct Race” by Jonathan Hale Rosen— Faith and Resurrection

Rosen, Jonathan Hale. “The Museum of an Extinct Race”, Atmosphere Press, 2021.

Faith and Resurrection

Amos Lassen

“The Museum of an Extinct Race” is story about faith and resurrection at a time of great persecution. Hitler’s Germany has won the war and conquered the world and has succeeded in eliminating Jews and Judaism. 70 years later, Hitler’s successors realize the fuhrer’s desire for a museum to memorialize that extermination. 

The story is told through the eyes of Dano Adamik, a Czech native who is talked into curating the museum, and Eva Novak, a museum docent of Jewish heritage-who shows the subjugated society that had been dominated by a self-proclaimed super race. We are taken into a world with no Jews and without the ethical guidance of Judaism.

Mystery, emotion, and historical depth come together to give us the story of one man’s torn conscience as he faces political and personal oppression. We confront what happens in a world where six plus millions souls are left to inherit the consequences. In an attempt to tackle the issue of political domination. The question arises of what happens when history is rewritten and evil wins. Here is a world of corruption in which redemption/humanity comes through the dialogue of the main two characters. We examine the questioning nature of theology, the relevance of Jewish heritage and perseverance of hope.

“Sapiens: A Graphic History, Volume 2: The Pillars of Civilization (Sapiens: A Graphic History, 2)” by Yuval Noah Harari— The Agricultural Revolution

Harari, Yuval Noah. “Sapiens: A Graphic History, Volume 2: The Pillars of Civilization (Sapiens: A Graphic History, 2)”,  Harper Perennial, 2021.

The Agricultural Revolution

Amos Lassen

This is the second volume of Yuval Harari’s Sapiens: A Graphic Historyand it is the full-color graphic adaptation his bestseller. The focus is on the Agricultural Revolution when humans worked harder with diminishing returns.

Using the supposition that war, plague, famine and inequality began 12,000 years ago when Homo sapiens changed from nomads to settlers seeking productivity and efficiency, we question whether they were attempting to control plants and animals. They ended up being controlled by kings, priests, and bureaucracy. Harari explores how wheat took over the world; how a union between a god and a bureaucrat created the first empires; and how war, plague, famine, and inequality became a feature of the human condition.

The characters from volume 1— Yuval, Zoe, Professor Saraswati, Cindy and Bill (now farmers), Detective Lopez, and Dr. Fiction return and investigate the impact the Agricultural Revolution has had on our humankind. We see how Mephisto shows them how to trap humans, King Hammurabi sets the law, and Confucius explains the meaning and importance of harmonious society. Modern farming is introduced through Elizabethan tragedy; we see the fate of domesticated plants and animals as tracked in the columns of the Daily Business News; urbanization is seen as a travel brochure and the history of inequality is related as a superhero detective story. This is a radical retelling of the story of humankind for adults and young adults.

“MASCARPONE”— An Italian Queer Dramedy

“MASCARPONE”

An Italian Queer Dramedy

Amos Lassen

Directors Alessandro Guida and Matteo Pilati bring us “Mascapone” a dramedy. It all starts when Antonio (Giancarlo Commare) wakes up alone in bed. His husband Lorenzo (Carlo Calderone) isn’t there.  Antonio goes about his day, going to the gym, making a pastry as a surprise and enjoying married life. Then Lorenzo comes home and asks for a divorce. Antonio is now adrift.

He finds a spare room with Denis (Eduardo Valdarnini), a flamboyant sex worker. Denis introduces Antonio to Luca (Gianmarco Saurino), the owner of a small bakery that needs help. Working with Luca, Antonio discovers his passion for baking. In doing so, he learns to become the person he’s has needed in his life for a long time.

“Mascarpone” is a  celebration of queer friendships. Denis and Luca look out for Antonio as he finds his way on dating apps and eventually rediscovering his sexual groove.  .

Even with some missed opportunities to make the film feel tonally complex, things come together. Captivating performances and fine direction keep the audience interested and amused.

“DOWN IN PARIS”— A Spiritual Gay Journey

“DOWN IN PARIS”

A Spiritual Gay Journey

Amos Lassen

Antony Hickling co-wrote, directed, and stars as a gay movie director named Richard in “Down In Paris”. Richard is trying to make a scene work when suddenly he has a creative and spiritual crisis. He runs from the set and spends the night wandering Paris, having adventures as he finds miracles and deals with emotional turmoil.

After an early at his favorite bar, where he meets Elizabeth (Nina Bakhshayesh), who is in a crisis of her own, he runs into his ex, Frédéric (Raphaël Bouvet), on the street. They begin shouting at each other and this sends Richard into an emotional state — including an emergency appointment with a psychic (Dominique Frot) and a stopover at a church, where an otherworldly young man (Claudius Pan) reads him the riot act.

As the night further unfolds, there are still more extremes and surprises are in store, including an reunion with an old friend (Manuel Blanc), an adventure at a sex club, and an encounter with an old man who might just be God (Jean-Christoph Bouvet).

Each meeting opens more layers and we see an artist in the midst of the creative process who is also a bereft lover, a grieving son, and an adult who’s still trying to reconnect with his inner child. Richard is led to a place of cleaning and renewal and we share his apprehensions and fears.

In the Covid era, the film takes on a new meaning of its own. For a director, a film studio or a film set is like a second home, and spending too much time in it can bring about claustrophobia and can lead to mental stagnation. Richard goes out into the real world to look for for fresh perspectives. He meets people – some strangers and some former acquaintances – with diverse opinions and world views and every person that he meets on that particular night maintains an air of mystery about them. They just might be physical manifestations of Richard’s soul and the existential questions that have bothered him for a long time.

Richard is half-Indian and half English and this identity adds cultural pluralism to the narrative. The film is a personal tale of overcoming emotional and creative roadblocks as well as a commentary on creating art. An artist is shaped by the people he meets and the mistakes he makes.