Japanese Superstar Takeshi Kitano returns to the Yakuza genre with “Outrage”, a savage tale of violent yakuzas. The plot details gangsters trying to kill each other. It features betrayal, revenge, corruption and war. After making a number of unconventional films (Takeshis’, Glory to the Filmmaker!, Achilles and the Tortoise), Kitano comes back to the screen in an old fashioned Yakuza film. Outrage is hollow in the best sense. It doesn’t give any profound insights but does have great action.
10. The Secret World of Arrietty
Mary Norton’s The Borrowers becomes an Aime from first time director Hiromasa Yonebayashi. A boy named Sho is resting at his aunt’s home due to having a heart condition and the fact that his parents aren’t giving him proper attention.
It’s a lovely place and to top it all there is a secret under the surface. Underneath the floor boards lives a family of tiny inhabitants called borrowers. The family consists of Arrietty and her parents, a sweet family with no bad intentions. They only borrow, not steal, what they need and one day Arrietty tags along with her father for the first time into the land of the humans. She drops a sugar cube, exposing the pair to Sho. They decide to move in the face of such troublesome situations as both a cat and the housemaid, Haru, trying to catch them.
This is the beginning of the adventure. The animation is wonderful, the characters are sweet and likable, the design is simple but pleasing, and the script and direction are both stellar.
11. The Yellow Sea
Hong-jin Na returns to the screen with The Yellow Sea after directing the brilliant 2008 thriller The Chaser. The lead character, Gu-nam (Jung-woo Ha), is in need of money so he accepts an offer to kill a man for cash, and in order to be able to see his wife. The man in charge of his fate is played by Yun-seok Kim.
The film has a complicated script with a layered plot. There are a lot of characters and the story evolves into becoming ever more complicated. It becomes better with each viewing. There are excellent action scenes, acting and camera-work. It is a terrific film, highly praise worthy for all the things that are right in it.
12. Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City
This is a satirical Takashi Miike super hero film starring Shô Aikawa and Riisa Naka. In the first film, Shin’ichi Ichikawa (Shô Aikawa) is a teacher bullied by his students and a family man hated by his kids. He escapes his life when he puts on his homemade Zebraman outfit. (Zebraman was a short lived TV-show from the 70s). Gelatinous aliens invade his city and Ichikawa somehow really turns into Zebraman.
In the sequel, Zebraman has been asleep for fifteen years and Tokyo is now being run by an evil, sexy, singing dictator named Yui Aihara/Zebraqueen (Riisa Naka). Zebraman survives an attack by the Zebra police, and finds himself in the headquarters of an underfunded rebel group, fighting to overthrow the government of Zebraqueen and her dad, Koza Aihara (Guadalcanal Taka), the mayor.
The film has strengths such as satire, action, playfulness, Naka’s look and acting abilities, the overall design of Zebra city. The film has plenty of charm and it’s quit edgy for being mainstream. Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra city also has one of Miike’s best endings.
13. Ip Man 2
Wilson Yip/ Ip Man (Donnie Yen) is taking his school of Wing Chun Kung Fu to British Hong Kong. He fights the masters of the other schools and a foreign boxer known as Twister (Darren Shahlavi). The film is loosely based on a true story.
Ip Man 2 is packed with gravity defying martial arts sequences, highlighting the impressive talents of Donnie Yen and co-star/fight choreographer Sammo Hung Kam-bo. The sequel is much more action oriented than the plot driven original. The film is worth seeing for the fish market fight alone and the ending makes one dizzy with anticipation for another sequel.
14. My Name is Khan
Rizvan Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) is a Muslim from Mubai. His life is not easy since he has Asperger’s Syndrome. As a grown man he goes to America where he meets a beautiful single mother, Mandira Khan (Kajol). They marry and their lives look rosey until the day everything changes. This is a Bollywood production and as such is long. A number of events transpire such as love, hate, death, forgiveness, singing/dancing and political activities. Khan decides to pay President Bush a visit. “My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist” is his message.
The film is extremely warm in its emotions. The acting is terrific, including the western actors (though the best actings come from the Indian actors, who are acting in a different language from the others.)
15. True Legend
The fight choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping delivers a love letter to 90’s Wu Xia films. Su Qi-Er (Wenzhuo Zhao) is a former general who, in the pursuit of a peaceful life, chooses to put his past behind him and raise a family. His wife’s brother, Yuan Lie (Andy On), tries to kill him with an awesome skill called The Deadly Five Venom Fist, along with hardening his body with plates of black gold.
This is an act of vengeance, as the man wishes to take possession of the general’s family as his own. Su’s wife, Xun Zhou (Yuan Ying) manages to save Su. He must strengthen his technique in order to defeat Yuan. Su sharpens his skills with the aid of an old sage (Gordon Liu) and The Wu-xia God (Jay Chou).
The film is filled with talent and plenty of cameos (Michelle Yeoh, Xiaogang Feng, Cung Lee, Jacky Heung) and works as a tribute to other Wu Xia pieces including cinematic kung fu items such as flying daggers, excessive blood, drunken boxing, revenge themes and foreign “baddies”. What makes the film work is the beating heart at the center.
16. Revenge: A Love Story
A psychopathic killer is making a name for himself by killing pregnant women by giving them improvised abortions and leaving them to bleed. Their husbands join them in death. The police are frustrated.
Through flashbacks the viewer sees the story of Chan Kit (Juno Mak) unfold. He is a grocery store clerk who falls in love with a beautiful but mentally challenged girl named Cheung Wing (Sora Aoi). They become a couple only to have something awful happen to them, something worthy of revenge. The director Ching-Po Wong has a cinematic style reminiscent of Tony Scott. The actors all give top notch performances and the script deserved to be made into a feature.
Author bio: John Berntsson is a 23 year old Swedish film aficionado who loves all film from Bergman and Tarkovsky to 70’s kung fu and blaxploitation. His zero budget short films can be seen on his Youtube channel where he goes under the name of John Davidsson/MacaroniCombat.