‘Ben & Jody’
If you haven’t seen “Filosofi Kopi” or its sequel, no need to fret. “Ben & Jody,” the rollicking third film in the series by the Indonesian director Angga Dwimas Sasongko, offers plenty of pleasures as a stand-alone anticapitalist, pro-environmentalist statement.
Nearing the opening of his new upscale cafe, Ben (Chicco Jerikho) learns that a band of lawless loggers led by the villainous Aa Tubir (Yayan Ruhian) has kidnapped Jody (Rio Dewanto) to stop him from leading a strike against deforestation and the relocation of local villagers. Venturing into the jungle to find his friend, Ben is captured but, aided by other prisoners, escapes with Jody. After their getaway, Ben and Jody come across a matriarchal village led by two sisters, Rinjani (Hana Malasan) and Tambora (Aghniny Haque), who are trying to find their imprisoned father.
While the two men do help, Sasongko thankfully doesn’t move the women to the periphery. The best fight choreography features the sisters while Ben and Jody occupy the background in an endearing bromance. The film is also visually arresting, with the cinematographer Arnand Pratikto utilizing to devastating effect of the double dolly-style camera move popularized by Spike Lee.
Another sequel that requires little background knowledge is the Japanese director Kan Eguchi’s gruesome yet comedic underworld thriller. Based on a manga series, this installment sees the hit man Akira Sato (Junichi Okada), code-named Fable, living in semiretirement with his partner, Yoko (Fumino Kimura). Unbeknown to Sato, however, Utsubo (Shinichi Tsutsumi), a ruthless gangster posing as a disability-rights activist, is searching for him.
Utsubo further burnishes his public persona by caring for the teenage wheelchair user Hinako (Yurina Hirate), whose parents were killed by an assassin. But Utsubo is a predator who’s actually holding her captive. And when Sato befriends Hinako, he makes it his mission to free her.
While “The Fable” features intricate kills, like a bulldozer used to hang a man over a freshly open grave, it’s the film’s gut-busting humor that leaves the biggest impression. If you’re a fan of manga comedy, then Eguchi’s film is catnip. Sato is the perfect unfazed hero, containing both the ability to kill someone in six seconds or less, and a love for corny soap operas.
Taking place during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-45), this film from the Chinese writer-director Yang Feng tells the story of the Shandong Rail Corps, a group of resistance miners and train workers battling for Chinese independence.
The faction’s leader, Hong (Zhang Hanyu), dispatches unlikely fighters like the drunken station operator to gain Japanese trust and intercept intelligence documents. But the arrival of the vicious Hirokazu Fujiwara (Hiroyuki Mori), an officer tasked with ending the Rail Corps’ progress, brings new challenges. Hong executes four dangerous missions to undermine the occupying Japanese soldiers.
Apart from the shootouts, evoking film noir of the 1940s, it’s the sheer scale of “Railway Heroes” that excites. The snowy sets are teeming with extras, the precise period details offer a tactile texture and the large set pieces gives the story an epic quality. The director’s exacting vision is best felt in the final claustrophobic passenger-car showdown, where Hong and Hirokazu trade slow-motion bullets.
A man singing in a tree is suddenly killed by an unknown gunman. Later that night opium dealers rob and murder a husband and wife. On their face, the two are separate tragedies. And yet, a peculiar antiques salesman named Siddharth (Harshvardhan Kapoor) might be connected to both.
Set in 1985 around the desert border of Rajasthan in northern India, this revenge neo-western by Raj Singh Chaudhary is a grisly, unrelenting adventure with few winners. Because hiding behind Siddharth’s quiet, amiable exterior lies a monstrous brutality fueled by grief. When he’s not falling for the wife of a target, he’s torturing her husband and his friends on a remote cliff by driving spikes into their feet.
This muscular movie adores the sound of crunching bones and is never visually squeamish: The makeup work and practical effects of gouged wounds are deliciously gnarly. Equally effective is the outlaw milieu created by Chaudhary. Ajay Jayanthi’s score recalls the spaghetti westerns of the 1960s like “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” while Anil Kapoor as the motorcycle riding, aviator-glasses-wearing Inspector Singh is akin to Marlon Brando in “The Wild One.” That collection of influences makes “Thar” an ingenious reinvention of a classic genre to tell a distinctly Indian story.
Set in 1944, this fictional World War II story features a unique premise: A group of German soldiers known as KG 200 are flying captured American and British aircraft to use as Trojan horses in a larger plan to decimate London. Capt. David Holden (James Maslow), an American pilot downed behind enemy lines, must evade another marooned German pilot (Trevor Donovan), free a band of POWs and destroy a Nazi air base if he hopes to give the Allies a chance to win the war.
For combat-movie lovers, this film, directed by Michael B. Chait, offers tangible thrills by leaning on practical effects for its intricate dog fights. Rather than recreate the battles in the sky through clunky computer graphics (there is some use of visual effects fire), Chait mixes real air crafts with Westley Gathright’s palpable cinematography and Janina Maria’s electrifying editing to build intoxicating air action that transports one back to the peak of 1950s Hollywood war films.