What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Discussions on Asian cinemas: Japanese, Korean, Thai, ....

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby cal42 » Sun Jan 10, 2010 7:30 pm

Masterofoneinchpunch wrote:terse and quick reviews on:

From Beijing With Love...(has anyone seen this film here), but you will learn the importance of watching a porn film while have a bullet taken out of your thigh.


Yes I've seen it, and I never have a bullet removed without watching porn now. Incidentally, the painkilling effects of watching porn were discussed in an episode of House once, so it seems Chow did his homework!

Masterofoneinchpunch wrote:
Which choice? I know July Rhapsody is not liked by everyone :D. Just have fun with the lists they are never that serious. I think no matter what we always want to watch more films (460 movies watched last year :D) and I'm always looking to see more.
[/quote]

I was of course refering to In the Mood for Love, but I know I'm in the minority on that :D .

It's nice to see so much good stuff posted on here recently - I'm catching up slowly as I've been away for SO long. It's partly self enforced as I really haven't been in the mood for Asian films lately, but I finally got the urge again this weekend and hope to be a bit more active again in the writing department.
Heroes of the East - the only blog in the world with the world famous Lam Suet-o-meter!
User avatar
cal42
 
Posts: 467
Joined: Mon Feb 07, 2005 9:45 am
Location: Birmingham, England

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby Masterofoneinchpunch » Thu Feb 04, 2010 6:11 pm

A couple of reviews I might make longer and add here:

Curse of the Golden Flower (2006: Zhang Yimou: China/HK) ***/****:

Marking the return collaboration of Gong Li with Zhang Yimou (they had last worked on Shanghai Triad in 1995) and Zhang's third period action film is an amazing colorful and opulent that beautifully displays the ostentatiousness of a ruler during the Late Tang Dynasty (technically it takes place in the Five Dynasties period). Based on the play Thunderstorm (1937) by Cao Yu but set in a much earlier timeframe it takes on a Shakespearean grandeur that is brilliant to behold, but ultimately falls under the weight of its aspirations.

Chow Yun-fat plays the Emperor, not only the head of the kindom, but the head of a dysfunctional family brought together by the marriage with the Empress Phoenix (Gong Li) that was done for the purpose of political gain instead of love. There are three sons, Wan who was bore by the Emperor's first wife and was previously in love with Phoenix, Prince Jai (Jay Chou) who is loyal to his mother Phoenix and Prince Yu who is mostly ignored by the rest of the family. The Emperor is slowly poisoning his wife (for reasons I'm still not quite sure of), but soon the Empress finds out about it and concocts a plan of her own.

The action is not as frequent as in his previous two movies, but they are well choreographed by Tony Ching Sui-tung (Duel to the Death), take on a more realistic tone than the previous two wuxia films, but still hold an ethereal quality that I found quite impressive. The assassins for the emperor were quite interesting in their Tarzan approach to their attack with sickle weaponry. The finale is awesome in it's use of mass actors (Zhang stated thousands of real soldiers were used, no mention of CGI in the extras, but I do suspect some usage), strategy and body count.

Some of the acting was less than impressive. The biggest problem was Prince Jai (played by singer Jay Chou Kit-Lun in his third acting performance) who lackadaisical acting seemed strange not laconic or anything we would expect from a son whose filial loyalty would expect some real emotion.

There comes a point in the movie where I thought the plot went from sagacious to ridiculous. Without giving too much away, I thought some points could have been more subtle and with more emphasis on the mindset of the Emperor.

However, with the beautiful sets (the royal palace chamber-yard is actually a set, it is insanely huge with the most flowers I have ever seen together), the beautiful attire and the sublime kinetic use of camera it is easy to recommend this movie. The story is not bad, but not satisfactory either. The performances from Gong Li and Chow Yun-fat work well within in this movie, but something is lacking.

If you have not see an Zhang Yimou action film I would say that Hero and House of Flying Daggers are both better movies. If you have not seen a dramatic piece from Zhang than To Live and Raise the Red Lantern are amongst some of my favorite films.

Triangle (2007: Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam, Johnnie To: Hong Kong) ***/****:

The idea behind this film was to get three of the best Hong Kong action/crime directors today working together. The result was each did one segment (around 30 minutes each) in chronological order with Tsui first, Lam second and To finishing it off. This would be done differently than a film like Four Rooms () where each segment was basically a separate story. In this film each director would continue after the other to move the story and characters along from the previous segment. Like many conceptual films this movie sometimes seems a bit forced, sometimes clunky, some plot angles hang, disappear and seem a bit confusing, but I still found the movie quite interesting and entertaining.

Triangle (in Chinese it is The Iron Triangle) starts off with Tsui Hark creating the basis for the plot. It is both good and bad that Hark creates tons of plot angles for the movie to go. It gives the Ringo plenty of room to move with, but also will leave either a bit too much to be either ignored, some angles barely gone over that a tighter script would have just ignored.

Simon Yam (PTU, Election) is Lee Bo Sam a former race driver who is friends with Fai (Louis Koo: Throwdown) and antique shop owner Mok Chung-yuan (Sun Hong Lei: Seven Swords). Fai is trying to get him to acquiesce to a driving job for a jewelry heist. If he does not Fai will receive harm from some local triad members. All three need money though. In the middle of the meeting between Fai and Lee a strange man gives those three a small gold piece and states where they can find the rest of this treasure. His motives for doing this are a mystery to the bunch. Meanwhile Lee's wife Lin (Kelly Lin: Sparrow) is having an affair with policeman Gordon Lam, states that her husband is trying to have her killed off and wants Lam to get rid of Sam first.

When Ringo Lam takes over he ups the psychological attitude of the film and enriches the characterization. The most effective change is how the love-triangle relationship between Lam, Lin and Sam no longer appears to be the stereotypical triangle in the beginning and takes on a new bizarre dimension. Lam does homage to Reservoir Dogs which was based on his film City on Fire homage to an homage) by using a record player, a handcuffed cop and a few other scenarios in this middle segment of the film.

The last segment belongs to Johnnie To and from the beginning where we see Lam Suet (Lam is in a lot of Johnnie To movies) we know who is directing this. Suet plays a drug addicted epileptic who causes flats in both automobiles and bikes and offers to fix them. The area where he is in has no cellular reception and a conveniently located eatery where they can wait while their vehicle is being fixed. To offers his normal use of "Team Spirit" themes and Mexican standoff action to make the last half hour quite interesting.

While this film never fully jells together, some plot changes are just a bit bizarre like Lin's character change (or really non-use) in the third segment, I still ended up really liking this film. There are quite enough brilliant moments that make this movie a recommendation for fans of not only Hong Kong cinema and Johnnie To, but movie fanatics as well. You just have to get past the first 20 minutes.
My Amazon Reviews

“That’s Icky to Infinity.” – The Tick
User avatar
Masterofoneinchpunch
 
Posts: 635
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:39 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby Masterofoneinchpunch » Thu Mar 18, 2010 6:46 pm

Will make longer some time later:

Beijing Bicycle (2001: Wang Xiao-shuai: China) **½/****:

Frustration can sometimes be a powerful force in cinema, but sometimes it can also mean obvious manipulation of characters and situations that leaves the viewer unsatisfied by what is shown on the screen. Beijing Bicycle is an uneven film with some brilliant scenes, yet remains a maddening muddled account of two young male teenagers’ life in Beijing.

Guei (Cui Lin) is a recent country immigrant (would literally be called a country bumpkin in Mandarin) to Beijing and he has landed a job as a bike courier. Most of his pay at first is used to pay off the bike (80 percent of what he takes in as a courier), but he almost pays it off within a month. Guei is a languid (not as bad as Han San-Ming in Still Life, but close), shy youth who we find out later is quite stubborn. The most effective scenes in the movie are of him dealing with a much different culture then what he is used to. In one incident he is supposed to pick up a package at an office for a Zhang, has to take a shower and get cleaned up to meet him, finds out it is the wrong Zhang and then almost gets arrested because he cannot pay for the shower (effective frustration used here). Luckily the right Zhang sees him (Zhang Yimou is mentioned as an in joke in this scene); however, chastises him for taking so long and sends him on his way.

After Guei almost gets arrested he comes out to find his bike is stolen. This leads him to be fired – not because he lost the bike, but he did not move the package over in time. However, he talks the manager into giving him his job back if he can get his bike back in a Quixotic quest since he marked the bike to signify it at his own. A question I had with the film was why his management never taught him to lock the bike. At this point you wonder how much the film will end up like Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves. Other then the basic plot points and a neorealist tone it really does not have that much in common.

The bike ends up in the hand of Jian a slightly spoilt youth who has to hide the bike from his dad who keeps promising him to buy him one. Jian is a normal teenager who likes the girl down the street, has friends he hangs out with and wants to seem cool (which is why he had to get the bike). At this point I thought the film might be more episodic, but soon a friend of Guei spots the bike and tells him about it. Guei tries to steal the bike back (this scene does remind me of Bicycle Thieves) but is caught and beat up (this would happen a few more times). When the two finally have reconciliation the last act takes an idiotic turn.

The abuse Guei goes through with almost none of it being his fault makes you wonder what the point was. Guei is not given much background and could have been given more depth. I admired his determination, his monomania for the bike. There are also a lot of plot angles that really do not help the film and do not go anywhere. The movie works for me when it covers the alienation of a country person. When it tries to be a teen angst movie it fails. Beautiful photography though.
My Amazon Reviews

“That’s Icky to Infinity.” – The Tick
User avatar
Masterofoneinchpunch
 
Posts: 635
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:39 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby Masterofoneinchpunch » Thu May 13, 2010 6:07 pm

I might post the whole article here (in the Hong Kong area), but might not because I always feel that my watchings are not as much as others :D. Warning it's a long read:

Here is my top 50 HK films: http://www.criterionforums.com/forums/i ... wtopic=861
My Amazon Reviews

“That’s Icky to Infinity.” – The Tick
User avatar
Masterofoneinchpunch
 
Posts: 635
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:39 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby Brian Thibodeau » Thu May 13, 2010 8:55 pm

Nice work, and a solid overview. I particularly like the way you admit there are areas with which you've yet to become better acquainted and many films you still plan on seeing. If only everyone who writes about HK cinema in online forums was possessed of such humility and foresightedness!

Still, I'm not seeing very much Simon Loui on that list, and that concerns me deeply . . . :lol:
User avatar
Brian Thibodeau
 
Posts: 3951
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2004 2:50 pm
Location: Near Chinatown

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby Masterofoneinchpunch » Thu May 13, 2010 9:12 pm

Brian Thibodeau wrote:Nice work, and a solid overview. I particularly like the way you admit there are areas with which you've yet to become better acquainted and many films you still plan on seeing. If only everyone who writes about HK cinema in online forums was possessed of such humility and foresightedness!

Still, I'm not seeing very much Simon Loui on that list, and that concerns me deeply . . . :lol:


NOTE: I just lost my first reply which was several paragraphs (damn).

Thanks. I spent a long time on it :). The more I have learned about film in general the more I learned that I need to learn more (my knowledge of my ignorance has grown).

I have a few films with Simon Loui, but have not seen any (I had a link to his films in my past post :D). I am concerned about this as well.

Sometimes it is difficult to tell whether you should call a MA film Taiwanese or HK (sometimes they are collaborations). Taiwanese generally have lower production values though have some great martial artists. I watched Shaolin vs. Ninja last night :D. I noticed many books have problems identifying which country it should belong too :D. I do tend to prefer HK MA films.
My Amazon Reviews

“That’s Icky to Infinity.” – The Tick
User avatar
Masterofoneinchpunch
 
Posts: 635
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:39 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby Brian Thibodeau » Thu May 13, 2010 11:33 pm

Masterofoneinchpunch wrote:The more I have learned about film in general the more I learned that I need to learn more (my knowledge of my ignorance has grown).


It's as true as it's said. In a way, the slow decline of DVD—and the phenomenal bargains that have accompanied it—has meant that now is probably a better time than ever (in the past, at least) to learn more about cinema both domestic and international, to rediscover it for oneself rather than having to trust, in the case of Hong Kong cinema in particular, decade-old reviews by people who were often misinformed despite their best intentions. The bargains at Big Lots and Amazon are obviously great places to start for not a lot of money, and certainly the local library system here has turned out to be a gold mine for Criterions and nearly everything else, and the more I watch (and read!), the bigger the "bigger picture" becomes, which subsequently informs my reviews to a greater degree than in years past. Thankfully, I've always tended to err on the side of caution in my reviews—brief though they are :( —which means revisions have (thankfully) never been reversals of opinion so much as expansions of existing thoughts (unlike so many bygone "experts" who've ended up doing flip-flops on Hong Kong films vis-a-vis their writings from the earlier days of the internet). At this point, I've almost reached a saturation point in discreet storage capacity (don't like having the "collection" on display - it's an eyesore), which is the primary reason I end up selling off a lot of recent purchases, occasionally jotting a note or two into the computer when the little "this reminds me of Hong Kong movie X" light bulb goes off. :lol:



I have a few films with Simon Loui, but have not seen any (I had a link to his films in my past post :D). I am concerned about this as well.


No worries! ;) Your list as it stands is largely composed of mainstream (and uniformly excellent) Hong Kong fare, which is not surprising. I find most "Top" lists of Hong Kong movies usually feature some variation on, or selection of, the very films you explored, and were I to compile my own, a substantial number of the titles on your list would make the grade for mine. I find this a blessing and a curse, though, in that most such lists remind me of the types of HK films given coverage in nearly all mainstream western books on the form, such as the books by Logan, Hammond, Server, VideoHound, among others, where if you actually wrote down the name of every film discussed/reviewed in each book, you'd find a tremendous amount of overlap, much of it involving the usual suspects (Chan, Chow, Li, Yeoh, Girls 'n Guns, Wuxia, Old School Kung-Fu, New Kung Fu, Category III and Horror). Those categories do indeed cover a lot of interesting productions, but nearly as many (if not more) productions fall outside of them. Heck, even Bordwell, as you mention in the preamble to your Top 50, wrote Planet Hong Kong after having seen around 380 films, and yet the ones he dissects in the book are, by and large, are the same ones feted, albeit in far less scholarly fashion, in virtually every other mainstream book on Hong Kong cinema, so to say he barely scratches the surface in terms of film count is apt. However, his saving grace is his clinical analysis of the construction of these pictures, something I've yet to see another scholar or popular writer tackle.

As valuable as existing studies are, all of their authors have in effect limited themselves to the upper echelon of Hong Kong cinema, the top, let's say, 500 movies one could—and should—label as quintessentially Hong Kong. That's fine on its own, but I've found virtually no book that explores (even in a simple review format) the complete breadth of Hong Kong cinema genres or the full range of budgets, especially, for example, the kinds of films in which Simon Loui made regular appearances. I mentioned him previously as an in-joke reference to previous threads throughout the forum due to his prolific resume and willingness to help out even the most destitute of filmmaking hopefuls, but he's just one representative (and one talented enough to straddle and A-list and B-list production worlds for a time) of a massive segment of the industry that, were more people to seek it out and explore it, would force many writers and even fans to seriously adjust their sliding scales of quality. Once one has experienced the likes of the SEAMY SIDE OF LIFE, MYSTERIOUS STORY, NEW OPTION or BOND'S ANGEL pictures (to name but a few out of hundreds), suddenly that 1-star review they may have confidently assigned an A-list mainstream film they thought they hated becomes a bit of an albatross, frankly.



Sometimes it is difficult to tell whether you should call a MA film Taiwanese or HK (sometimes they are collaborations). Taiwanese generally have lower production values though have some great martial artists. I watched Shaolin vs. Ninja last night :D. I noticed many books have problems identifying which country it should belong too :D. I do tend to prefer HK MA films.


The whole ownership issue regarding a lot of old HK/Taiwan/Korean pictures will still a long some time to clear up I suppose, especially when much of that work is being done by the likes of folks like us right here, as well as those at a handful of other forums (and a few scholar/authors spread out around the globe), in large part because the people who actually made and/or distributed the pictures never took the proper precautions to ensure their film history could be accurately cataloged from a much earlier point in time than the dawn of the internet. I'm sure with just about any given picture, there's somebody out there somewhere (cast/crew, author, fan, etc.) who knows its true pedigree, but corralling their information into one place (like the HKMDB, where it absolutely should be) is a Herculean and ongoing task.
User avatar
Brian Thibodeau
 
Posts: 3951
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2004 2:50 pm
Location: Near Chinatown

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby Masterofoneinchpunch » Fri May 14, 2010 10:29 pm

suddenly that 1-star review they may have confidently assigned an A-list mainstream film they thought they hated becomes a bit of an albatross, frankly.


I found these 1-star ratings quite absurd for the most part. The lowest review I have given here is 3 for Silly Kung Fu Family (2004). A film that will most likely never be in any book :D. But I know that there is always room to go lower. The worst offenders are people on amazon who have a binary rating system (10 or 1). Citizen Kane has 4,608 1-star reviews. What the... Look at every top 250 film (I have seen 91 percent right now :D) and you will see thousands of 1-star reviews. That is just stupid.

RE: ownership of film determined on this site. Look at the film Master of the Flying Guillotine (1976) here. It states HK because of production company First Films. However, it was filmed in Taiwan, has many Taiwanese actors, I believe Jimmy Wang Yu was living at Taiwan at that time, but it also has some HK actors (Lau Kar-wing).

RE: VideoHound. The good thing about this book is that it mentions many Taiwanese (though gets confused on where they were actually made) MA films, many which don't have reviews even here. Taiwan MA, that is a much needed book topic. Most of the topics of Taiwan when it comes to books deal with a few directors (like Ang Lee, Tsai Ming-liang, Hou Hsiao-hsien are the usual suspects).

When dealing with cohesive studies I think you are always going to get a good amount of overlap. You see this same phenomenon when you look at top 1000 lists like New York Times, They Shoot Pictures Don't They and Steven Jay Schneider's "1001 Movies You Must See. I just think it is natural when studying film to find certain films that are above and beyond most other pictures. Sometimes it is more worrysome and possibly useless when someone tries to be contrarian (just to be contrarian). Now when dealing with comprehensive studies yes I agree they do miss a lot. But with so much out there it certainly is a very difficult thing to do to any great extent.
My Amazon Reviews

“That’s Icky to Infinity.” – The Tick
User avatar
Masterofoneinchpunch
 
Posts: 635
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:39 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby Masterofoneinchpunch » Tue Jun 08, 2010 4:50 pm

Yi Yi (2000: Edward Yang: Taiwan) ****/****:

RE: Comments on the movie (some spoilers ahead)

I found this a brilliant moving piece on several interlocking stories of an upper class Taiwanese family. In certain aspects it reminds me a bit of Robert Altman in the use of character changing and cross-plot interchange with even more use of parallelization (especially between the older and younger relationships). With the description of "...beginning with a wedding and ending with a funeral..." I was thinking that I might get a Four Weddings and a Funeral type of film (I do like that film), but it certainly has its own vibe and current throughout the film.

The only plot point that slightly annoyed me (I wasn't the only one) was probably the murder. It just seemed a bit out of place (though not completely unreasonable). The use of the software to show the murder was hilarious. The most shocking scene for me was when Yang-Yang went for a swim. I wasn't sure what was going to happen to him until of course he shows up later all wet.

I'm thinking that Yang-Yang and Nj Jian are the autobiographical characters of Edward Yang since the combination of Yang-Yang's interest in film, derision by teachers and NJ's engineering background (Yang received his Masters Degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from University of Florida).

Mr. Ota was a fascinating "muse" type of character. I wonder if a bit too much, but I liked his dialog like "Why are we afraid of the first time? Every day in life is a first time. Every morning is new. We never live the same day twice. We're never afraid of getting up every morning. Why?" (unless of course you are afraid of getting up, I call those Mondays).

Edward Yang's Mise-en-scene I found quite interesting. He lets the master shot play out, doesn't cut much and keeps his characters in the mid-ground for many scenes. I know this works quite well on a good theatrical screen, though not as well on the TV (not a critique, just wish I had a bigger television). Many scenes are either reflections or shot through a window showing another reflection while you focus on the character dialog. I look forward to watching other auteurs as well as Yang's other work to compare. I do hope Criterion comes out with another Taiwanese film.

After watching the film, the Criterion cover makes much more sense . The subtitles are more of an England-centric translation (such as using terms like lift and spellings) which I found interesting for a Criterion release (not a critique just an observation; I see the same thing on a lot of MA movies released here which normally means that they were done in HK or elsewhere). I probably won't get to the commentary anytime soon though. Has anyone listened to this (or will)?

RE: New video interview with Rayns about Yang and the New Taiwan Cinema movement

Whenever I read or hear something dealing with this topic I know that the genre, martial arts, that has resulted in the creation of the most films in Taiwan will either be ignored or derided. In this segment it is derided. Now there is definitely a truth that many of those films were quickly done, with a tight budget (even though that is the same issue with much of the Taiwanese movement) and do not have the most pleasing cinematography aesthetics, but to scoff everything as a whole (as it appears to me in this doc with Rayns) seems a bit problematic. But while I have seen a decent amount of Taiwanese films (you can guess what genre) I have not seen much of the later directors (I will make a point to correct this; I started with this film, hereby finishing all the Chinese language films in Criterion).

Ultimately the documentary is just too short to cover such a vast topic as the New Taiwan Cinema movement. What can you do with 15 or so minutes? This doc seems to ignore Tsai Ming-Liang as well as Ang Lee while focusing on (of course) Edward Yang and Hou Hsiao-Hsien. When I revisit the doc, I will have more to say about this.
My Amazon Reviews

“That’s Icky to Infinity.” – The Tick
User avatar
Masterofoneinchpunch
 
Posts: 635
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:39 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby Masterofoneinchpunch » Mon Jun 14, 2010 11:22 pm

Help!!! (2000: Johnnie To, Wai Ka-fai) Hong Kong

Successful use of satire can be quite difficult to pull off for a film. It certainly gives the directors and writers lots of leeway to make their point(s) by eschewing complete realism but therein lays the rub. How much humanity do you give your characters, do you have any straight characters and how do you work the scenarios that you put your protagonists through? Johnnie To and Wai Ka-fai in their second collaboration have an easy answer to this: anything goes in their attack on hospital bureaucracy.

The collaborative work of To and Wai tend to be more audience oriented with To doing the direction and Wai in charge of the story (though Wai gets directorial credit as well). While humor is present in most of To’s work only a few films I have seen like The Eighth Happiness (1988) of his have been this silly. This is a mo lei tau (nonsense) black comedy that feels Stephen Chow influenced.

Yan (Cecilia Cheung) is a new doctor who finds her assigned to the worst hospital in Hong Kong where it pays to just not get sick. After a random encounter she saves a choking transient (who later falls in love with her) and she revitalizes the interest of a once promising doctor Jim (Jordan Chan) but had fallen to the ways of that hospital. Those two then recruit an excellent doctor (Ekin Cheng) who had given up the profession to become a mechanic. Those three go on a mission to improve the hospital fighting complacent doctors and mischievous management who are more concerned by the bottom line than anything else.

The film does suffer a bit from a change in tone later in the film, particularly with the car crashes scene (though there are some hilarious gags here; this does remind me a bit of the later The Eye (2002)) and I felt cheated by the annoying ending. The romantic triangle involving the three main doctors did not really work for me either.

What surprised me though is how many of the jokes I actually found funny. Maybe I was just in a good mood, maybe I was partially catatonic because of this late night viewing but still thinking of a few scenes makes me chuckle. “How could I miss that?” is a great scene involving a patient who is completely coherent of all his injuries except for a pipe sticking through his body. The continuing use of the transient who will do everything to win the affections of Yan including becoming a millionaire and having complete body plastic surgery was quite hilarious as well.

Anyone else notice Biozombie (1998) playing on the TV? Jordan Chan stars in that film and is a recommendation to whoever is interested in zombie films.

The release I have is the Mei Ah version released through Tai Seng which actually has decent subtitles (compared to most of the Universe releases) and an OK print. This is not a fantastic release and no extras except a few trailers.
My Amazon Reviews

“That’s Icky to Infinity.” – The Tick
User avatar
Masterofoneinchpunch
 
Posts: 635
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:39 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby Brian Thibodeau » Tue Jun 15, 2010 4:25 pm

Not sure I'm entirely onboard with the comparison to Stephen Chow comedies (though I can sorta see the dots being connected) -- I found HELP!! to be more of a western-style poke at bureaucracy/hypocrisy along the lines of Arthur Hiller's THE HOSPITAL or Lindsay Anderson's BRITANNIA HOSPITAL, only with some talking points and a few in-jokes playing to contemporary Asian sensibilities and pop culture trends (such as the gags involving the creepy long-haired girls), but not so much that they occlude Western comprehension, which can be the case with a lot of Chow's material. A favourite gag of mine (in any film ever!) occurs when a disgruntled patient threatens to jump off the building and various doctors scramble to move their luxury cars out of his way! :mrgreen: My only gripe, and I suppose it's a minor one when a satire is this strong on the whole, is that it seems to morph into a spoof of Hospital-based soap operas in its final sequence (if I recall correctly), rather than sticking to its indictment of the real-life medical system that it lays out from the very beginning. Still one of the sharpest HK comedies of the past decade to these eyes. :D
User avatar
Brian Thibodeau
 
Posts: 3951
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2004 2:50 pm
Location: Near Chinatown

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby Masterofoneinchpunch » Tue Jun 15, 2010 7:45 pm

Stephen Teo also makes the connection Lindsay Anderson's BRITANNIA HOSPITAL and I think one of the reviewers here states the Arthur Hiller's THE HOSPITAL connection but unfortunately I have seen neither.

Some of the gags remind me a bit of the style of Chow from the 90s, not the film as a whole nor Chow's use of local idioms. It seems strange to say, but more of feeling. I will try to analyze that feeling though. For example, the older gentlemen who gets struck by lightning. He has a great scene (twice technically) where he states he fought off the upper management and in flashback it shows a counterpoint of him getting beat up and that great slide into the beam(?). That joke just reminded me of something Chow would do. Regardless that one had me cracking up.

Teo actually covers a bit of this film in his book (one of the few non-action films he has a decent material on) and finds it his favorite To/Wai collaboration (the book came out I think right before Mad Detective).

I was a little dissapointed with the ending though I think if I was to do a proper review I would push it up to ***/****.

The car scene was quite funny. Actually I found myself amused by much on the screen. Apparently the film was shot quite quickly too :).

EDIT: This is another case where I wish I had more material on the film, especially extras. I found one review in, of all places, the Videohound guide and of course read the ones here. Some material can be found in Teo's book though a bit too much on how the film is an attack on capitalism. I really would like to ask Johnnie (or Wai) about this film.
My Amazon Reviews

“That’s Icky to Infinity.” – The Tick
User avatar
Masterofoneinchpunch
 
Posts: 635
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:39 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby Brian Thibodeau » Wed Jun 16, 2010 6:04 am

Masterofoneinchpunch wrote:Stephen Teo also makes the connection Lindsay Anderson's BRITANNIA HOSPITAL and I think one of the reviewers here states the Arthur Hiller's THE HOSPITAL connection but unfortunately I have seen neither.


I think you'd get something out of both of them. Sadly, the U.S. DVDs went OOP, so big $$$ for them. Sometimes used copies turn up for a fair price. In fact, if you've seen IF.... and O LUCKY MAN, then you need BRITANNIA HOSPITAL to complete the trilogy, as Malcolm McDowell plays the same character in all three. I have no recollection of Teo's writing about HELP!! :shock: Definitely time to revisit his book, methinks! :lol:


Masterofoneinchpunch wrote:EDIT: This is another case where I wish I had more material on the film, especially extras. I found one review in, of all places, the Videohound guide and of course read the ones here. Some material can be found in Teo's book though a bit too much on how the film is an attack on capitalism. I really would like to ask Johnnie (or Wai) about this film.


It would be very interesting to hear To or Wai give some background on this one, or to find materials contemporary to its release in which they discuss it. I think it stands apart from most if not all of their work together, despite the expected visual similarities and often casual humour (cut with the broader stuff not often found in their other pictures). As mentioned I think this is one of the better black comedies of the decade, in small part because there were few Hong Kong pictures like it prior. Oddly, I can understand Paul Fonoroff's negative review, which is in our database, even if I don't entirely agree with it, as I think it assumes that a familiarity with the other "hospital" films discussed here and in the various reviews will automatically make it a lesser experience. While THE HOSPITAL and BRITANNIA HOSPITAL ultimately have Bigger Things to Say®, by Hong Kong dark social comedy standards circa 1998 (and earlier) HELP!!! is better than one could rightly expect from the city's film industry. Still, it's a well to which To and Wai never really returned, so perhaps even they found themselves too far out of their element. :?
User avatar
Brian Thibodeau
 
Posts: 3951
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2004 2:50 pm
Location: Near Chinatown

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby ewaffle » Thu Jun 17, 2010 6:07 pm

The Human Condition Masaki Kobayashi, 1959-1961, Japanese.

Very good review by YTSL on her blog--not sure what the linking policy is on HKMBD so I didn't--led me to this trilogy that is over nine hours long. I have watched Part I, "No Greater Love" which is very powerful as a film in its own right. NOTE: "No Greater Love" is three and one half hours long. Do not drop it into the tray on your DVD player at 11:00 PM, thinking to watch the first hour or so, if you have anywhere important to be the next morning. For me it was not only a riveting movie watching experience but also a haunting one, keeping me awake for a few more hours after it ended.

It looks as if there are visual influences from Eisenstein and Italian neorealism. If I had been less entranced while watching I would have bookmarked some scenes or at least made notes and will do so to get screencaps before doing a proper review.

Will watch Part II "Road to Eternity" which comes in at only three hours today, starting much earlier in the evening than with Part I.

Available through Criterion in four discs including one of special features.
"I stopped being half-witted and became sly whenever I took the trouble."
Samuel Beckett, "Molloy"
User avatar
ewaffle
 
Posts: 737
Joined: Fri Nov 12, 2004 1:53 am
Location: Motown, Michigan, USA

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby Masterofoneinchpunch » Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:47 pm

I've heard great things about that film and luckily I do own it. Not sure when I will get to it, hopefully soon though.

I watched a triad film last night, Hong Kong Godfather and the night before watched a yakuza film with the Criterion release of Youth of the Beast.

Hong Kong Godfather is the best looking Well Go release I've seen so far. The previous two Shaolin Hand Lock and The 14 Amazons have terrible ghosting issues (really bad; simple movement looks blurry; bad Pal to NTSC transfer). Shaolin Hand Lock is not a great film but The 14 Amazons really needed a better release then this.

The first review of HK Godfather in this database is insanely positive equating this as one of the greatest films of all time. It is not. It has its issues, takes too much from other films (spot all The Godfather references), has a protagonist with one of the less manly haircuts :D, though Shek Kin and Beardy are quite good in it. But oh my, the ending is insane. Of course watching this after Youth of the Beast is not the best way to enjoy that as well.

Suzuki's film is quite good. There is a coolness factor to much of his work and in here it definitely seems to work quite well. I love the mix of color, B&W, set design, Jo Shishido in all his cheek glory and has an excellent story (which is sometimes an issue I've had with some of his other work).
My Amazon Reviews

“That’s Icky to Infinity.” – The Tick
User avatar
Masterofoneinchpunch
 
Posts: 635
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:39 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby cal42 » Mon Aug 30, 2010 2:58 pm

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am still alive :shock: .

If anyone is wondering why I've not posted any reviews on HKMDB lately, it's for one reason only: I've just been watching so many Japanese films lately. I started with an extended Sonny Chiba session, then watched a few Kenji Fukasaku movies (Triple Cross, Battle Royale (again) and Shogun Samurai) and am now going through a few of Kurosawa's films.

This should perhaps go under the Digital Bonanza thread, but I ended up getting a HK collection of Kurosawa films called AKIRA KUROSAWA'S COMPLETE COLLECTION (even though it doesn't include all of his films, frustratingly). The quality is variable - and I'm not entirely convinced it's legit - but the following films are included:

Sanshiro Sugata
The Most Beautiful
Sanshiro Sugata 2
The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail
No Regrets For Our Youth
One Wonderful Sunday
Drunken Angel (no English subs - bah!)
Stray Dog
The Quiet Duel (no English subs)
Scandal
Rashomon
The Idiot
I live in Fear
Yojimbo
Sanjuro
Throne of Blood
Seven Samurai
Red Beard
Madadayo
The Bad Sleep Well
The Lower Depths
Hidden Fortress
Dreams
Ran (no English subs, but I have this already)
Rhapsody in August
Dersu Uzala (no English subs - double "bah!" with a side order of "hrrumph!")
Ikiru (mis-spelled as "Lkiru"on the DVD - not a good sign)
Kagemusha

So now I'm ordering the others and the ones without subs. Should keep me going for a while :D .
Heroes of the East - the only blog in the world with the world famous Lam Suet-o-meter!
User avatar
cal42
 
Posts: 467
Joined: Mon Feb 07, 2005 9:45 am
Location: Birmingham, England

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby Masterofoneinchpunch » Tue Sep 07, 2010 7:35 pm

Cal should really get the Criterion and Eclipse releases of Kurosawa (and then the Kino of Dersu Uzala).
My Amazon Reviews

“That’s Icky to Infinity.” – The Tick
User avatar
Masterofoneinchpunch
 
Posts: 635
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:39 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby Masterofoneinchpunch » Wed Sep 08, 2010 6:40 pm

Games Gamblers Play (1974: Hong Kong: Michael Hui) **½/****:

Michael Hui’s directed/acted/scripted The Private Eyes (1976) is one of my favorite Hong Kong comedies. From the reviews I have read on this film I knew that this would be below that film in quality and laughs. Well the reviews were correct. I did like the film a bit more than some of the caustic comments on HKMDB, but watching The Private Eyes first and then this is probably the wrong way to approach the former TVB star’s work.

This is Hui’s first directed film and shows signs of life but then gets bogged down a bit with an overplayed message of gambling is bad and Sam’s continuing bad luck which gets frustrating thorough the film. Here is a film that is more important because of its influence than the actual content of the movie. This was a blockbuster smash that broke the HK box office record (read this in a few sources though I cannot find the exact money it made) and helped push the local Cantonese language back into the cinema with the success of this and Chor Yuen’s The House of 72 Tenants (1973).

Michael Hui plays Man a consummate gambler who is currently serving a stint in jail who meets and befriends Kit (Samuel Hui who also sings the theme song which was wildly popular as well) a not-so-good gambler. Why this friendship works when they get out-of-prison I’m not sure (other than Kit’s relationship with Man’s relative), but throughout the episodic film one bad gamble after another seems to happen to these two with Kit mostly at fault. Later they go for the big score (with a cheating approach) against a local bookie who will kill them if he finds out (I wonder if Hui had seen The Sting (1973).

Gambling has always been big in Hong Kong cinema with its apex in the late 80s and early 90s of entire films based on card games (the God of Gamblers series, Casino Raiders series). If you like those types of films mixed in with a bit of comedy then this is not a bad film. Just do not expect it to be a great comedy.

On a side note I’ve never understood the appeal of Betty Ting Pei who plays Man’s mistress in this movie. She is most known now for her alleged fling with Bruce Lee and the fact Lee died in her apartment, but she was a popular actress at that time.

Make sure you get the remastered Fortune Star R0 release of this film. Not much of extras except for "Sam's 9 Minutes" which clocks in a few minutes less than 9 minutes, but is a Golden Harvest special of basically a music video of Sam Hui singing two songs. But the best extra is the deleted scene pitting Sam Hui versus Sammo Hung in a fighting (part fantasy) scene which is quite funny and I do not think you get to see Sammo (who was the action director) in any other parts in the film (you can glance a little bit of him in the trailer which shows parts of this deleted scene).
My Amazon Reviews

“That’s Icky to Infinity.” – The Tick
User avatar
Masterofoneinchpunch
 
Posts: 635
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:39 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby cal42 » Wed Sep 08, 2010 7:39 pm

Masterofoneinchpunch wrote:Cal should really get the Criterion and Eclipse releases of Kurosawa (and then the Kino of Dersu Uzala).


Yes. A bit of false economy on these Kurosawas, but some of them are rather good discs. I can live with the slightly weird subtitling at times on Scandal, but I've heard some of the others are complete write-offs (One Wonderful Sunday looks unwatchable). With this in mind, I wrangled BFI's* of Ikiru and Drunken Angel (ace - review coming soon) and Criterions of High and Low (not in the set) and The Bad Sleep Well (which I was desperate for). I'm scouting around for decent prices on Dersu Uzala and The Quiet Duel but not getting far. I tried ordering them from HKFlix, but they're out of stock and I'm not terribly optimistic they'll get them back.

I'm currently reading Akira Kurosawa - Something Like an Autobiography. I guess you could say I'm on a serious Kurosawa bender right now.

*British Film Institute - they're like our Criterion, only not quite as good.
Heroes of the East - the only blog in the world with the world famous Lam Suet-o-meter!
User avatar
cal42
 
Posts: 467
Joined: Mon Feb 07, 2005 9:45 am
Location: Birmingham, England

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby Masterofoneinchpunch » Wed Sep 08, 2010 9:06 pm

cal42 wrote:
Masterofoneinchpunch wrote:Cal should really get the Criterion and Eclipse releases of Kurosawa (and then the Kino of Dersu Uzala).


Yes. A bit of false economy on these Kurosawas, but some of them are rather good discs. I can live with the slightly weird subtitling at times on Scandal, but I've heard some of the others are complete write-offs (One Wonderful Sunday looks unwatchable). With this in mind, I wrangled BFI's* of Ikiru and Drunken Angel (ace - review coming soon) and Criterions of High and Low (not in the set) and The Bad Sleep Well (which I was desperate for). I'm scouting around for decent prices on Dersu Uzala and The Quiet Duel but not getting far. I tried ordering them from HKFlix, but they're out of stock and I'm not terribly optimistic they'll get them back.

I'm currently reading Akira Kurosawa - Something Like an Autobiography. I guess you could say I'm on a serious Kurosawa bender right now.

*British Film Institute - they're like our Criterion, only not quite as good.


I'm familiar with BFI :D. At the Criterion forum we have a bunch of fans of MOC (Masters of Cinema). I have the MOC version of Mad Detective (which for some reason is R0/NTSC which a few of the MOC discs are).

Something Like an Autobiography is an excellent read. I wish he went past Rashoman, but it is great to get to know a bit about his life. I know he has stated you can learn everything about him from his films (I believe he said this), but, of course, there is so much to learn. When you finish reading (or you can talk about it now if you like) we can discuss that book. I should reread it; though I will probably do that after I pick up the THE FIRST FILMS OF KUROSAWA set from Eclipse.

The BCI release http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000GTJSYY/ of THE QUIET DUEL is actually quite good and a bit surprising since it comes from BCI. It is OOP, but still quite cheap. It has extras and even liner notes. A great release. Pick up it now Cal :D.
My Amazon Reviews

“That’s Icky to Infinity.” – The Tick
User avatar
Masterofoneinchpunch
 
Posts: 635
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:39 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby cal42 » Fri Sep 10, 2010 7:01 am

Masterofoneinchpunch wrote:
The BCI release http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000GTJSYY/ of THE QUIET DUEL is actually quite good and a bit surprising since it comes from BCI. It is OOP, but still quite cheap. It has extras and even liner notes. A great release. Pick up it now Cal :D.


Ah, if only I could! Sadly, amazon.com does not ship to the UK. We have the ability to buy used copies from amazon.co.uk, but they are twice the price as your new copies! I'm putting a load of old DVDs (mainstream US titles) on eBay, so if I get lucky (which seems unlikely - although I did get about 55p for Mr and Mrs Smith :P ) that will be top of my list!

I've just read the part in Kurosawa's autobiography where he went looking at the aftermath of the Great Kanto Eathquake. Pretty harrowing stuff...
Heroes of the East - the only blog in the world with the world famous Lam Suet-o-meter!
User avatar
cal42
 
Posts: 467
Joined: Mon Feb 07, 2005 9:45 am
Location: Birmingham, England

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby Bearserk » Sat Sep 11, 2010 7:35 am

Magadheera

I just had to get this one after having seen THIS fantastic clip from it :lol:
So finally seen my first Bollywood movie to the end, it it was to be honest quite a pleasure.

I have always been a bit biased towards the movies having heard all the stories about the singing and dancing which really never have been something I have enjoyed in western movies, about the only musical I have ever enjoyed is The Wizard of Oz, but the music pieces here fits in a much better way, and didn't distract from the movie to my surprise.

The story is about a young man which lives pretty much carefree driving around on his motorcycle doing stunts without a worry in the world until he one day comes in contact with a woman which wakes something old and mysterious in him, a tale of unresolved love from days gone by. He never got to see her face and in the search for this mysterious woman he is led around by a woman claiming to know who his mystery woman is.
As in most stories there also have to be a bad guy, this time in the form of a cousin who is used to get what he wants and have no problems killing whoever stands in his way, he also have a tendency to look up at the sky screaming out his rage ever so often, really menacing :P

The movie is somewhat of a mix between action and romantic comedy, with lots of special effects, very poorly done, not that it distracted me that much, never been that obsessed with them to begin with :-)
But I have seen way better SFX done in other very small budget movies so I can imagine that some will be put of by them.
The acting is so so, at times I wouldn't even call it acting :shock: it is so bad :lol: but the movie maintain a great atmosphere and never takes itself seriously and is warmly recommended for someone who wishes to relax with a little bit of bollywood magic :-)
User avatar
Bearserk
Chief Image Editor
 
Posts: 1801
Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2004 3:40 am
Location: Norway

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby Brian Thibodeau » Wed Sep 15, 2010 9:26 pm

This is a review in progress, so it's a bit of a mess and needs drastic trimming, but thought I'd share anyways:


LEGEND OF THE FIST: THE RETURN OF CHEN ZHEN (2010) A "super hero" movie for what I assume the its makers feel is an undiscriminating mainland audience that will believe all that flash and dazzle makes this movie the equal of something done in Hollywood or even in Hong Kong, though by better filmmakers than Andrew Lau.

The picture's bravura opening sequence suggests a far more interesting road the filmmakers could have traveled, but it's only the set-up here. The legendary Anti-Japanese freedom fighter Chen Zhen (Donnie Yen, partially reprising his role from a 1995 television series), originally played by Bruce Lee in FIST OF FURY (1972), apparently survived the climactic (and famous) freeze-framed leap of death that closed that picture and was subsequently recruited, along with some 150,000 other men (some evidence suggests this number might actually have been closer to 50,000) by the European Allies into the Chinese Labour Corps to serve behind the scenes on the the muddy battlefronts of France in 1917. During a particularly vicious and battle, the French rather tellingly run away, abandoning Chen's labour unit to the well-ensconced Germans. With frightened comrades he swore to protect falling around him, Chen grabs a pair of knives and reveals his martial arts prowess in spectacular fashion, darting, leaping, swinging, dodging bullets and climbing walls to make some seriously sour krauts. A lesson in self-sufficiency is learned, as is a little parkour, apparently.

Several years later, back in glitzy, glamourous, mobbed up and flapper-infested Shanghai during a time of increasing Japanese colonialism and nationalistic Chinese resistance -- and on that same damned street set that turns up in every mainland Chinese period piece from the past several years and never really looks any different from one film to the next (possibly because there only seems to be about three decent ways to shoot wide shots of it, and everything else must be closeups) -- Chen dons a snappy black suit, hat and face mask he spies in a movie theatre display window during a political melee to foil a plot by the occupying Japanese and their colluders, led by stone-faced piece of Japanese lumber (Kohata Ryuichi, playing, all too conveniently, the son of the man Chen Zhen killed in retaliation for the attack on his school in the original film), to eliminate influential resistance leaders.

In his introduction to the film, TIFF honcho-thingy Cameron Bailey introduced director Andrew Lau by noting a few of his achievements, including his work as cinematographer on Wong Kar-wai's DAYS OF BEING WILD and his direction of the INFERNAL AFFAIRS trilogy, which drew easy applause from the crowd and allowed for the obligatory mention of Scorsese's remake (ahhh, festies). What he SHOULD have said, in light of the film that was about to unspool, was that this was a work from the director of THE PARK, WESLEY'S MYSTERIOUS FILE and AVENGING FIST. You can offer up any defense of those films that your heart desires -- guilty pleasures would be chief amongst them in some cases, I'm sure -- but the fact remains they're all hackwork, undistinguished, even sloppy affairs that collectively confirm that Andrew Lau, when he doesn't have Alan Mak around to smooth out the edges and refine the characters, is a remnant of Hong Kong's 1990's heydey whose style and story-telling abilities have barely evolved. What was novel then -- many of his 1990's films are quintessential populist Hong Kong cinema -- is stale now.

To Lau's (many) post-2000 lesser lights we can now add LEGEND OF THE FIST, and he now takes his place among the pantheon of Chinese filmmakers who have in recent years pandered to (or, more appropriately, exploited) the upswing in Mainland Chinese Patriotism® with a vengeance, and he does so with a picture that sacrifices the emotional conviction and filmmaking elegance of his pictures with Mak for shallow haste and cornball chest-thumping, seemingly insulting the intelligence of his domestic (mainland) audience even while he enflames their national pride. Or something. (it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyways, that stoking Chinese patriotism these days is like shooting fish in a barrel, and is growing tiresome in the country's cinema. China, we get it, you're not the sick men of Asia. Some of us never thought you were. But let's try something new in your action epics, okay?)

Leading man Donnie Yen takes Action Director credit on the picture. I didn't stick around to see who his assistants were, if any, because I just didn't care. His work here is passable, but far from his best, and most of it is obscured by unnecessarily chaotic cutting and camerawork. All flash, little substance. Worse still, there are moments where it seems like he may have been stunt-doubled more than we're used to seeing (or being physically able to see!). Donnie might as well be any of a million Hong Kong pop idols who look believable enough going through these paces in lesser films. There's some good bits of choreography scattered about -- individual shots, really, some of which, if you're lucky and can spot them, actually combine quite nicely with the shots joined to either side of them -- but far too much of it is either buried deep in the film's montages, meaning many individual confrontations and their outcomes never resonate at all, or it's edited to within an inch of its life, meaning that when we are treated to one of the film's three showcase fight sequences, Lau's addled camera operators and editor Azrael Chung appear to be doing most of the muscle-work (at whose behest, Lau's or Yen's, I don't know). Worse, these editing rhythms carry over to almost every other part of the picture -- tap your finger while watching it and you'll be hard pressed to find more than a handful of shots lasting more than about two or three seconds -- draining moments of chest-thumping pride and tender romance alike of the possibility of anything approaching a satisfying emotional connection with the characters, making the frequent swells in Comfort Chan's full orchestral score seem laughably overblown as a result. Techniques that (barely) work in the action choreography nearly kill the rest of the picture.
User avatar
Brian Thibodeau
 
Posts: 3951
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2004 2:50 pm
Location: Near Chinatown

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby Brian Thibodeau » Fri Sep 17, 2010 8:36 am

The first few minutes of THE BUTCHER, THE CHEF AND THE SWORDSMAN gave me pause: the hip-hop-rock scoring, the one- and two-second cutting rhythms, the alternating between color, black & white, and artificially colored black and white, the use of kooky on-screen graphics. Everything just screamed that this would be a 90 minute assault on the senses from a director who probably had a lot of experience with music videos. And that's basically what it is, but where Hong Kong director Andrew Lau tried this fast-cutting bullshiht with THE RETURN OF CHEN ZHEN, more or less ruining a story and trivializing characters that didn't deserve it, Wuershan's THE BUTCHER, THE CHEF AND THE SWORDSMAN is a gonzo story stocked to capacity with a grimy grotesquerie of characters that all but demand an addled directorial style to give them life. Expanded from a fiction piece from a magazine (according to the director), the movie is a story within a story within another story in which three cursed owners of a near-mythical blade (forged from a ball of iron originally melted down from the weapons of many powerful swordsman) relate in flashback the stories of the how they came to possess the knife. Reaching the third tale, the film then boomerangs back through the climaxes of each story to bring us back to the present. Sounds a bit like INCEPTION, right? Only with flashbacks instead of dreams. The two films were shot independently of one another, making the similarity in structure a pure coincidence. Everything but the kitchen sink is in here: a brothel madam and her charges berate "The Butcher" with a catchy modern-style hip-hop rap number (so yes, this is partly a musical!); crudely but cleverly animated childrens sketches illustrate "The Chef's" flashing back to his father being killed by a corpulent eunuch for not satisfying his finicky culinary demands. Duped by his beloved, "The Butcher" skirmishes with her true beau in a Streetfighter-like video game scenario, complete with life-meters and flashing scores. This is truly unlike any other film made in mainland China to date, and while I wouldn't want to see an abundance of punked-out period pieces like this from the country, it is a long-overdue antidote to the seemingly inexhaustible supply of self-important, tiresomely nationalistic, cast-of-millions costumers that have flowed out of the country for nearly a decade now. This is like a breath of fresh air, even if much of it was previously exhaled by the likes of Takashi Miike in Japan. The fact remains, nobody was doing anything this over-the-top in China, and one wonders if this picture won't mark a turning point away from action pictures that do nothing but thump their celluloid chests. Executive produced by BOURNE IDENTITY director Doug Liman, though I suspect he attached his name after the project was in the can, as the version screened at TIFF also had the full 20th Century Fox (Asia) logo attached.

Also saw DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME. A super-sized fantasy epic from a director who, for my money, has never completely lost his mojo! I know a lot of folks are split on a picture like LEGEND OF ZU, but I'm in the pro camp on that one for the most part, and I think DETECTIVE DEE carries on the tradition of pure, exhilarating craftsmanship that Tsui Hark demonstrated on that film, only here it's married to compelling characters, a franchise-worthy lead character in Tang Dynasty forensic detective De Renjie (Andy Lau), a smart and extremely-satisfying political mystery in which senior officials spontaneously combust from the inside out, and Tsui Hark's wild visual imagination, which once again gives us some of the most fantastical settings yet seen in a Chinese film, including a 200-foot tall Buddha statue-in-progress (complete with scaffolding and suspension bridges connected to a central tower) that figures prominently into a spectacular plot to kill the wicked and divisive Empress Wu (Carina Lau), and the underground Phantom Market, a massive, forbidding, fire-lit city of caves wherein a key witness (RIchard Ng) resides. Palace interiors have been seen in a zillion Chinese action pictures over the years, but they honestly feel fresh here -- I don't know if it's simply new set dressing or new camera angles, but it all feels purpose-built for this production (perhaps it was?). Sammo Hung's choreography is exhilarating, impeccably designed and edited and loaded with the kind of soaring wirework I didn't realize I missed in Hong Kong/Chinese movies because so many people knock it every time it gets used these days, despite the fact that it's a legitimate screen art form. The film is packed with CGI, but for the most part it's seamlessly integrated, such is the level of technical expertise of effects houses in various Asian countries, in this case seeming armies of designers in Korea and Hong Kong (their only weak spot being the battling deer, which are still OK by Chinese FX standards). Despite being a Mainland production (as far as I know), this has the heart and soul of a classic Hong Kong fantasy, only made with much nicer modern filmmaking toys.
User avatar
Brian Thibodeau
 
Posts: 3951
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2004 2:50 pm
Location: Near Chinatown

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby Masterofoneinchpunch » Tue Sep 28, 2010 9:44 pm

The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008: Kim Ji-woon) Korea ***/****

It has been several years since I have seen a South Korean film. I have concentrated so much on Hong Kong cinema and other various countries and genres that I have put many potentially fine movies on hold (yes I still need to see Oldboy).

This movie belongs to the small genre of American western Asian films (directly not indirectly; there are tons of Japanese period films that are influenced by the western and the same with the Hong Kong kung fu/wuxia genres; but few that I know of that look like a western; Takashi Miike’s Sukiyaki Western Django and Sammo Hung’s Millionaire’s Express are a couple of exceptions).

This film is partially influenced by The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (besides just the title), but maintains a universe that is a cross between Mad Max and a western, but takes place in Manchuria and Korea is in a fight for its independence and, of course, the Japanese are the oppressors. The Good is in a search for a very bad Bad guy who is known as The Finger Chopper well because he chops off the fingers of his foes and does other nasty assorted things to them with his knives and/or gun. The Bad guy is looking for a treasure map which holds un-foretold riches. The Weird just happened to get that map accidently before The Bad while robbing the same train that it happened to be on. And the chase begins.

The action scenes are impressive. There is a bit too much Michael Bay shaky cam influence, but still some very fun scenes of mayhem and violence. Where I think the film has the biggest issues (besides the ending) is the characterization of The Good and The Bad (The Weird is the most interesting character in the film). Those two are somewhat bland with The Good being way too bland in demeanor (does not come across as well as Eastwood does).

The R1 release is the international release. The Korean version has an ending that explains more while this one has a more mysterious tone.
My Amazon Reviews

“That’s Icky to Infinity.” – The Tick
User avatar
Masterofoneinchpunch
 
Posts: 635
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:39 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby Masterofoneinchpunch » Mon Oct 04, 2010 9:03 pm

The City of Violence (2006: Ryoo Seung-wan: Korea) **½/****

Well I ended up watching it this weekend and since I feel it is a bit mediocre I better write some of my thoughts on it. When discussing it with my friend who had watched it he meant to say some scenes were unbelievable not that the film itself was over-the-top. I was wondering why not much action was going on in the first half of the film.

Not much is original or interesting in dealing with the plot. It is partially a tale of several youths who grew up together and would be on different ends of the law. One would be a criminal, one would become a cop, one would be a junkie, and one would be a junkie's brother (not sure what his job was, but he would be a big part of the film by ganging up with the cop against his old friend who would become a gangster) and one would reform (of course he is the one who gets killed in the present day). The flash back scenes are the most interesting in the movie and incorporate humor, but really did not add anything to the story.

The performances are a bit languid. The gangster Pilho is one of the least interesting heavies I've seen in awhile (of course several on IMDB think he's the greatest villain of all time). I just really could not believe him or accept him as a lead manager of a Taco Bell much less a murderous villian, but maybe I was grumpy when watching the film.

The direction is actually pretty good with a strong emphasis on optical transitions, frame within frame (not overused luckily) and various interesting effects -- I'm sure the director was influenced by Quentin Tarantino. The action feels more American in direction with a sometimes overuse of hand held and shaky-cam feel, but with some decent martial art (especially Tae kwon do) scenes. One action sequence will have you thinking of The Warriors (1979), OK it must have been an homage because it is that obvious.

I just wish I could have seen a better plot, characters or at least substitute more action in. Almost all the characters are either underused or not really explained at all.

Now where can I find that drink with the snake in it.
My Amazon Reviews

“That’s Icky to Infinity.” – The Tick
User avatar
Masterofoneinchpunch
 
Posts: 635
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:39 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby Masterofoneinchpunch » Wed Oct 06, 2010 5:56 pm

Brian, I'll PM if you don't read this :D:

Did you know that the Tokyo Shock release of Black Magic 2 quotes your essay here? It does it on the front and back cover.
My Amazon Reviews

“That’s Icky to Infinity.” – The Tick
User avatar
Masterofoneinchpunch
 
Posts: 635
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:39 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby Brian Thibodeau » Thu Oct 07, 2010 4:50 am

Masterofoneinchpunch wrote:Brian, I'll PM if you don't read this :D:

Did you know that the Tokyo Shock release of Black Magic 2 quotes your essay here? It does it on the front and back cover.



I had no idea, and I've held the damned thing in my hand countless times in stores. I'm conflicted, actually, though not for reasons of accreditation that one might expect, but because I'm not fond of seeing amateur internet reviews (like mine!) quoted on movie posters and DVD sleeves, even as it seems to have become de rigueur with exploitation releases on the format thanks to "name brand" print+online reviewers simply having run out of time ages ago to write about everything DVD was making available to the world, and the only people capable of picking up the slack were literally everybody and their mother with an opinion and a keyboard.

On the other hand, it's nice to see the HKMDB quoted on anything, as it gives the site --specifically because this sleeve doesn't name the writer -- a whiff of authority outside of the content of the site itself. At least the quote is attributed to a website devoted to Hong Kong cinema, rather than the various catch-all sites (DVDTalk, Bloody Disgusting, HTF etc.) that too often get pull-quoted for my liking these days.

Maybe I'm biased because I work in the media, but part of me would still prefer to see quotes from an "name" critic or scholar I might recognize or respect -- rather than the name of a blanket website -- in place of "More Gore! More Nudity! More Zombies!" I'll bet I read that in a store somewhere and rolled my eyes at such a seemingly low-brow evaluation. :lol:
User avatar
Brian Thibodeau
 
Posts: 3951
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2004 2:50 pm
Location: Near Chinatown

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby Masterofoneinchpunch » Wed Oct 13, 2010 11:57 pm

The Contract (1978: Michael Hui) Hong Kong ***/****

While this movie is nowhere near as funny or cohesive as The Private Eyes (1976), I still found it a worthwhile comedy that mixes TV satire (Hui worked for many years in the HK TV industry), broad silly comedy and elaborate gags and gadgetry to form an episodic film that occasionally sputters but mostly entertains me.

Chih-Wen (Michael Hui) works for MTV (its logo is a rat; this is parodying TV station ATV) who does not value his talents (though he cannot sing or dance), but also will not let him go from his contract to pursue another more lucrative contract from TVC (parodying TVB which Hui worked for several years with). MTV is a strict organization whose managers tend to commit suicide by leaping off the building (reminding me a bit of The Hudsucker Proxy) if they are not successful. Along with his inventor brother Frog (Ricky Hui) he sets out to steal the contract which is locked up in the manager’s safe which is guarded by a few thugs and a very talkative parrot.

Meanwhile Shih-Chieh is a struggling magician whose indentured servitude with his sister to an Indian magician (who ate their practice pigeons when they couldn’t pay their dues) caused them to flee him and join MTV where he gets stuck with a bad contract.

The film works best when the gags are plenty like the fight between the obviously fake Indian and the magician or when Frog accidently gets locked up into a safe. Some of the material is a bit dated because caustic attacks on TV networks is nothing new (and not new at this point since Network had already been released, but it still was territory that had not been overexploited) and a little obvious like the game show which a lady can choose death for her husband or a chance at what’s in the box. But overall I enjoyed it and found it funny regardless of whether plot points did not make sense or a few flat gags. One thing I notice is that Hui’s films always seem to have gags ahead of its time – The Clapper is used here way before the American invention to turn on and change channels for a TV – though do not clap too much.

The remastered Fortune Star release is by far the best DVD to purchase. Like most of these R0 releases the subtitles are not perfect and could easily use a dedicated writer of English to modify awkward phrases, occasional misspellings or misuse of words.
My Amazon Reviews

“That’s Icky to Infinity.” – The Tick
User avatar
Masterofoneinchpunch
 
Posts: 635
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:39 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Re: What Asian films have we all been watching lately?

Postby Masterofoneinchpunch » Mon Nov 01, 2010 6:51 pm

A Tale of Two Sisters (2003: Kim Ji-woon) Korea ***½/****

I wanted to watch at least one more Asian horror film before the month was out and this film was quite high on my list due to my lack of South Korea watchings. I will probably watch several more horror films this month because I lost over a week due to a cold (I don’t like watching horror when I’m sick, not sure why).

Su-mai and her sister Su-yuen have just came back from a time in a sanitarium after their mother died to a house with a new step-mom and a taciturn dad. However, the step-mom does not seem to want them there and strange things start happening at night.

You could definitely see some scenes that I feel were probably influenced from Ju-on (2002) a film that is quite a bit scarier to me, but nowhere near as coherent with the story and ultimately overdone with the amount of sequels and remakes (and even the first film was based on two shorts) as well as Ringu (1998). I did feel that a few scenes seemed misleading and could have possibly been trimmed.

This is a psychological tragedy with horror elements in it. While several scenes are indeed frightening after finishing the movie I found myself more depressed than anything else. I feel the film is effective in what it is trying to accomplish by using a slower paced, mood and dramatic oriented plot mixed with a non-linear timeline. This movie is partially open-ended and partially not. It overdoes the mixture of subjective and objective views making it hard to decipher. The overlying story of what happened to the two sisters is known, but many of the smaller pieces can have multiple meanings. A second viewing is probably essential to understand more of the potential meanings or expose more of the plot issues.

It is a beautifully directed film (not sure of Kim Ji-woon’s cinematography approach to his later film The Good, The Bad, The Weird) with a haunting soundtrack from Lee Byung-woo. The acting is particularly good with a stoic performance from Kim Kap-su as the father. This is based on a Korean folk story (Janghwa, Hongreyon-jon) and it was remade (which I did not know until know) in the States as The Uninvited (2009).

--- spoilers below

I always hate when writers state an analogy or reference to another film and do not explain the two. The scenes most like Juon in this film include the crawling around of the “black” ghost as well as the closest scene with the slithering “black” creature (this was also somewhat reminiscent to some scenes in Ringu) and that same ghost in Juon had a broken neck just the same as in this film. The kid under the sink had the same feel as several scenes in Juon as well (though having a third party see the kid when she was having a seizure was just interesting and scary as well).

The most effective scary scene in this movie was the neck broken creature (we later find out it is the mother) who moves like a puppet to the bed of the younger sister (I believe it is the younger sister Su-Yeon who sees this, but of course she is dead, so it is probably Su-Mi who thinks she is Su-Yeon who sees this).

Is there a sadder way of dying than what happened to Su-Yeon. I normally think that even in the sad situation she was in to be covered by her mother’s corpse trapped in the closet that has overturned would not kill her. But the emotional torment of that happening would certainly take its toll. This is main plot point that we are sure has happened and help explain what goes on earlier in the film. The grief that Su-Mi will have for not checking up on that noise will of course haunt her for the rest of her life as well as leave her completely alone. She could accept the death of her mother, but she could not accept the death of her sister.
My Amazon Reviews

“That’s Icky to Infinity.” – The Tick
User avatar
Masterofoneinchpunch
 
Posts: 635
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:39 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

PreviousNext

Return to Asian Movies

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests