Fantastic Fest is filled with so many consecutive movies that writing timely, full reviews of each without losing a considerable amount of sleep or sanity would be difficult. There are writers out there who will do it and I salute them. But for me, being the lone wolf for /Film in 2011, I’ve decided to provide mini-reviews of most things, with the occasional video blog, full review and interview thrown in. This way you hear about everything. So here’s a pair of mini-reviews: A Boy And His Samurai directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura and Let the Bullets Fly by Wen Jiang.

A Boy And His Samurai combines time travel, samurais and baking reality shows into a perfect little package that will have you smiling ear to ear. Let the Bullets Fly stars Chow Yun Fat as a local crime boss who engages in a battle of wits and bullets with a notorious con-man. It’s a tad confusing but constantly entertaining. Read more about each after the jump.

If you know Yoshihiro Nakamura’s films like Fish Story and Golden Slumber, you know he weaves an epic, varied yarn that – on paper – shouldn’t work, but always comes together beautifully. Such is the case again with A Boy And His Samurai, a film about a single mother and her son who haphazardly cross paths with a samurai from the 1800s. How did he get there? Why is he there? The movie kicks off as if this mystery will be the crux of the film but as the samurai bonds with the son, it evolves into a fish out of water story with samurai ethics. Then, the samurai develops an aptitude for baking and to say much more would be a disservice. Suffice to say, the film finds humor in most of its situations and really draws the audience in with the rich and relatable characters. It’s such a cliche to say a film will make you laugh and cry but that cliche was made for a film like A Boy And His Samurai. It’ll surely end up being one of the best films of the festival.

/Film Rating – 9 out of 10

Let the Bullets Fly is incredibly hard to describe. It’s sort of like a period version of Infernal Affairs (which was remade as The Departed) in that it’s one of those films where no one is who they seem to be and everyone is double crossing everyone else.

A notorious bandit named Pocky Zhang robs a train and gets wise to a genius scam where someone can pose as a Governor, roll into a town and rob them blind. Zhang decides to steal that idea, along with the man who gave it to him, but when the pair gets into town it’s already run by a crime boss with a penchant for being shady. Zhang and the local boss end up in a battle of wits that unfortunately leaves the audience in its wake.

Maybe it’s all lost in translation but at no time did I ever feel I had a grasp on which way was up. Everyone has different aliases, motivations, bosses and more. Still, while the film is disorienting, the action is good and the performances – especially by Chow Yun Fat as the bawdy, hilarious crime boss – make it easy to enjoy. It’s a little too long but you can tell Wen Jiang really gave this film his all and it pays off.

/Film Rating – 6.5 out of 10

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About the Author

Germain graduated NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Cinema Studies program in 2002 and won back to back First Place awards for film criticism from the New York State Associated Press in 2006 and 2007.

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