Rob Larsen


Featured Blog Reviews

13 Assassins

Koji Yakusho in 13 ASSASSINS, a Magnet Release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

Koji Yakusho in 13 ASSASSINS, a Magnet Release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

You know what? 13 Assassins is probably the most straightforward film I've seen from Takashi Miike. I haven't seen everything he's done, so there might be something out there I'm missing that feels 100% like a normal human movie; but based on my limited sample I think this is the one. This is especially true since I know the genre he's working in so well. It's still a ridiculously violent, over-the-top exercise in watered steel and bloodshed. It's just that's common for the genre. He's not really pushing any boundaries here in terms of violence.

And you know what? That's fine.
Read the rest of the 13 Assassins review


I find it hard to believe I've never written about Rashomon, but I've been through my archives and I've never fully written it up for public consumption.

Again, hard to believe.

I better put my serious hat on for this one.

I saw this at a member's appreciation event at the Brattle theater. I love that place. You should love it too.


Then again, maybe it's MIFUNE.

Both? Both.

This is a nearly perfect film.

Read the full Rashomon review.

10 For 10: Ten Movies That Kicked My Ass Over the Past Decade

My site is celebrating 10 glorious years on the internet and to honor that I'm going to be tossing out a few top ten lists over the next few months. This movie themed list hearkens back to the very origins of this site.

Ten years ago was mostly a repository of my writing for Boston's late, lamented Shovel Magazine. At that point I'd been writing 1-2000 words a month on Hong Kong movies for a couple of years, so there was a lot of content to share. Since then, the site has transitioned from mostly film writing to mostly art, but at its heart the site still has a lot of cinema flowing through its veins.

Because of that, it's only right that I start with this list of ten films released over the past ten years that fit the aesthetic to a tee. If I were still Mr. Movies the following 10 films would have been trotted out at every opportunity. For those of you who followed my writing back in the day, imagine the geeking out I did over Iron Monkey and you'll get a clear picture of how much I like the following films.

So, without further ado, here are 10 movies that have kicked my ass over the past ten years (in one way or another :) )

Red Cliff

It's been so long since he was truly relevant to me, I almost forgot how much I used to like John Woo's work. While I was always particular to Ringo Lam's substance versus Woo's style during the height of the heng dai era, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a fool for films like The Killer, Hard Boiled and A Better Tomorrow. I greedily devoured those classics (as well as everything else Woo did that I could get my hands on,) so it's with no small measure of joy that I report that John Woo has once again made a good film. After a mildly nauseating decade and a half parodying himself for Hollywood dollars, Woo has delivered Red Cliff, an engaging, sprawling epic, full of stunning visuals (including some grand special effects) and, not surprisingly, killer action pieces.

Read the full Red Cliff review.

Red Cliff II

Red Cliff II is a highly satisfying conclusion to John Woo's two-part, epic retelling of the Battle of Red Cliffs. It's a massive, sweeping melodrama full of style and cinematic bravado. This is the kind of movie-making that drew westerners to Woo's films the late '80s and early '90s; so it's a real joy to see Woo come out from the other side of the Hollywood experience with the ability to create something of this scale and undeniable power. I gave up on him at least a decade ago, counting him lost to the Hollywood machine. I've rarely been so happy to be wrong about a filmmaker. I was one of those people that was obsessed with Woo's work in the early/mid 90s so it's like a weird cinematic homecoming to be able to feel like a fan of his again.

Read the full Red Cliff II review.

Ip Man

Simply, Ip Man is a great pure martial arts movie. Everything that's right about the genre is present here and, for my money, that makes this one a keeper.

Directed by Wilson Yip (SPL) and starring Donnie Yen, one of the greatest screen fighters of all time, The film tells the story of the Wing Chun master (and teacher to Bruce Lee) and does so in a wildly appealing style.

Read the full Ip Man review.


War This should have been the greatest movie ever made.

Okay, that's an exaggeration (when have I ever done that?,) but it really should have been at least 75% more fun.

With a set-up this preposterous (Yakuza! Ninjas! Triads! FBI! Back Alley Plastic Surgey!), one of the best screen fighters of all time and one solid screen fighting brit, it should have played like the best of 1980s Hong Kong action- a nonsensical plot buoyed by end to end violence (of the gun and martial arts varieties), stunts and car chases (preferably of the Rémy Julienne style.)

Read the full War review.

Forbidden Kingdom

Speaking directly to the makers of this film, and quoting Yngwie Malmsteen in the process, I say, "you've released the fucking fury."

Why? Well, as far as I can tell nearly fifteen years of my life, countless hours of watching films and probably 100,000 words on the subject were kicked square in the nuts when I finally sat down to watch The Forbidden Kingdom.

Seriously, it ought to be illegal that a film featuring two of the best screen fighters of all time should turn out to be this bad.

Read the full Forbidden Kingdom review.

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More Featured Reviews/Interviews

Iron Monkey, a review and discussion with Donnie Yen

image, donnie yen iron monkey

I've been saying this for years and I have no qualms about saying it now, Iron Monkey is one of the best martial arts movies ever made. As a bonus, the version being released here in the States doesn't have me reaching for my revolver. Seriously. Buoyed by the success of Sony's Chinese language Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Miramax has gone and done what would have been unthinkable a couple of years ago- release Yuen Wo-Ping's 1993 classic basically uncut and in the original Cantonese language. Sure, with new subtitles, a new soundtrack and new sound effects it's not exactly the original version; but it's a lot closer than I ever expected to see from one of these Hollywood re-releases. Besides, since I like the new soundtrack, subtitles and sound effects, I'm actually happy with the changes. In all honesty, if they hadn't left out Wong Fei-Hung's theme, I would have no complaints at all with their handling of the film.

Will wonders never cease?

Read the full Iron Monkey article.

Requiem for a Dream, a review and discussion with director Darren Aronofsky

image, requiem for a dream

Requiem for a Dream, the second feature from director Darren Aronofsky, provides a rare synthesis of cinematic experimentation and emotionally compelling storytelling. It's a brilliant effort. Taking the potential glimpsed in the low- budget, high energy Pi, and marrying it to Selby's powerful tale of love, dreams and addiction, Requiem for a Dream provides a jolting, heartfelt journey into the depths of the human experience.

Read the full Requiem for a Dream article

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

I'm biased (which I'll get into), but this is probably my favorite film of the year.

Ang Lee, the director responsible for films like The Ice Storm and Eat Drink Man Woman, here delivers a fascinating exploration of the traditional Chinese Wuxia Pian (film of martial chivalry.) With a blend of traditional elements and a modern attention to craft and character this film plays like a weird hybrid between the worlds of King Hu , Tsui Hark and Lee's own efforts. With an overalltone straight out of Hu's Dragon Gate Inn or Come Drink With Me, wild bursts of outrageous, fantastic action a' la Tsui's Once Upon a Time in China or Zu, Warrior from the Magic Mountain and Lee's own masterful appreciation of humanity. Crouching Tiger. represents a unique and welcomed achievement in genre cinema- a film that should satisfy both the genre fan and (because of its Academy blessed pedigree) the casual moviegoer.

Read the full Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon review.