Tuesday, March 31, 2009

亂青春 - Beautiful Crazy - Upcoming

亂青春 (Beautiful Crazy) is being released Friday, April 10th in Taiwan.

The movie title is translated for me to "messed up youth". Look at the movie poster. Its suggesting something. However, its about 3 girls, but only 2 are pictured.

From the trailer, its a tale of some girls trying to figure out friendships, men, and suggested lesbianism.

I am not sure I am up for watching this. But since its a Taiwan movie, I thought I give it a holla here.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Detective - C+偵探

The Detective (C+偵探) is a 2007 film out of Hong Kong based in Thailand starring Aaron Kwok (郭富城), directed by Oxide Pang of The Pang Brothers.

Aaron Kwok plays a private investigator named Tam. Tam is approached by a bar buddy to investigate a girl. The bar buddy, now client, says that the girl is trying to kill her. At first Tam, rejects the request saying that the client is just trying to get a girls phone number. But when he drops a stack of bills, Tam quickly changes his mind. The investigation happens and that's where the fun begins. The movie seems to be based in a "Chinatown" type area of what I presumed to be Bangkok. However, I first thought he was in Vietnam when the movie started.

The movie is gritty and dark. Which added to the appeal. It presented a slice of Chinese immigrant life in Bangkok that I've never seen (hey, I live in LA). If there were more scenes at night and a love interest, I'd classify this film as film noir.

But its a thriller suspense mystery movie all rolled up into one. Aaron Kwok gives another stellar performance after his turn as a degenerate father in 父子 (After This Our Exile).

Sunday, March 29, 2009

一八九五 - 1895

一八九五 (1895) is a 2008 film out of Taiwan starring Cheryl Yang and Wen Sheng Hao. My local Chinese media store AMAX got it about a month ago, but it's taken quite a few days for my wife and I to finish it.

The movie is the telling of Hakka resistance in the wake of the 1985 Japanese invasion of Taiwan. It intertwines the lives of the the 2 leaders of the Hakka resistance with their family, wives and servants.

Along with the telling of the lives with the families, there's also a Japanese perspective. That perspective has the Japanese Prince compassionate toward the Taiwanese. It is one that shows compassion and one that tries to avoid conflict.

However, in times of war, there is a losing side and a winning side. Both sides have causalities and in this case, it was the Taiwanese that suffered the most.

Having just seen Nanking recently, war seems like a lot of suffering. Lots and lots of people die. The numbers are staggering. It saddens me to think about it and to appreciate the relative calm and quite of my life.

The language is mostly Hakka and some Taiwanese. You'll notice actors that you've seen in Taiwanese dramas.

If you're in the US, you can only get a bootleg or an imported version. I don't know if it'll get a US release.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Nanking - 被遺忘的一九三七

Nanking (被遺忘的一九三七) is a 2007 film documenting the 1937 Nanking Massacre in Nanjing, China.

The film revolves around the formation of the Nanking Safety Zone set up by foreign missionaries, professors, and businessmen that did not flee when the Japanese started its seige on Nanjing in 1937. The style of the film is contemporary actors reading (facing the screen) letters, journal entries of highlighted characters. They include readings from the non-Chinese, Chinese, and Japanese readings. Interwoven into these readings are interviews with survivors of the Nanking Massacre and Japanese soldiers. Footage and pictures are prominently added during the readings.

I've known about the Nanking Massacre since the 90s when I saw "Black Sun: The Nanking Massacre" out of Hong Kong (I am actually guessing that's the film I watched as I don't remember it too well). I was shocked and angry at the brutally of war. In recent years, its been a subject that's come up a few times. Including the movie Tokyo Trial with Ken Chu and Kelly Lin. The 2005 Japanese Textbook Controversy that sparked demonstrations in China. Around that same time, "The Rape of Nanking" was getting a second wind of sorts because of this.

I was a little apprehensive about watching this as its a very serious subject matter and talks about lot of suffering. War is never a easy thing, especially the suffering that it brings to the areas affected. In my lifetime, I've not experienced war or conditions remotely close to it. So, I have no context to wrap my feeling around. I've lived in the comforts of Los Angeles since the age of 4. I had to remind myself that the anger and sadness I felt of the events are valid, but not based on anything I've experienced. It was the Japanese soldiers and army in that era and time of war that allowed it to happen. It is not the Japanese people. Just as the PRC is not representative of the Chinese as a people, but the governing party of China.

Friday, March 27, 2009

敲敲愛上你 - Knock Knock Loving You - Upcoming

I wrote about 敲敲愛上你 a week ago here. Today, I noticed that CTS has a mini site for the drama and posted a couple of clips via its YouTube profile. Set to air on April 12 in Taiwan.

They've also changed the name from "Quietly Falling in Love with You" to "Knock Knock Loving You".

Check out the mini site at CTS and YouTube clips below.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

人魚朵朵 - The Shoe Fairy

I caught The Shoe Fairy (人魚朵朵) via Netflix awhile back. The Shoe Fairy is a 2006 film out of Taiwan by director Robin Lee starring Vivian Hsu and Duncan Chou. It is also one of six project's for Andy Lau's Focus:First Cut films.

The movie is about Vivian Hsu and her eventual marriage to Duncan in the movie. Vivian, prior to her marriage with Duncan, was a shoe-a-holic. Vivian would buy many many shoes and even talked to them. Duncan is a dentist and Vivian happened to chip a tooth one day. That's how they meet and fall in love. But the story is mainly on how they cope with marriage and the many many shoes that Vivian has.

I thought the movie was endearing and the set designs were top notch. I was noticing the way the world was created around Vivian and it was very unique. Sort of a sheik 60s feel.

I suggest you pick this up if you're into Taiwan cinema as its charming and shows the artistic range of the talent from Taiwan.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Iron Man vs. Bruce Lee

This seems to making a bunch of the Asian American blogs out there.

And I am a big fan of Bruce Lee and Iron Man.

Shinobi: Heart Under Blade - 忍

Shinobi: Heart Under Blade () is a 2005 Japanese film starring Yukie Nakama and Joe Odagiri. The movie is based on two warring ninja clans. A anime by the name of Basilisk is based on the same story.

Two ninja clans have been traditionally in conflict with each other for hundreds of years. The current Shogun feels threaten by them and devises a plan to eliminate them. A tournament is set up where the leader of each clan selects five ninjas and the surviving ninja(s) and their clan are the winners. There's a plot twist! Joe is the leader the Koga clan and Yukie is the leader of the Iga clan. But they are secretly in love with each other! In the meantime, before Joe and Yukie can make sense of everything, the other 8 ninjas are already battling and killing each other.

I thought this was a pretty entertaining film and was intrigued by the different styles each ninja processes. With each new ninja's introduction, I was looking forward to seeing their skill. Although I was not to happy with the ending.

You can buy it on Amazon or rent it on Netflix.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sukiyaki Western Django - 日式牛仔一品鍋

Sukiyaki Western Django is 2007 movie out of Japan starring Hideaki Ito. A mix of a Yojimbo with Man with No Name. The funny thing about this film is that its completely spoken in English. No subtitles. I don't know if anything was dubbed, but I didn't have a problem understanding the English at all.

Its a mix bag for me as I just watched this a month ago. I wasn't sure what to expect and I didn't know the historical context of the conflict between the Genji and Heike clans. I had a inkling that Hideaki Ito's character of Yojimbo type qualities was going to out last both clans. The back story that Quentin Tarantino's story provided didn't enhance the movie much.

You can get it via Amazon or Netflix.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Harakiri - 切腹

Harakiri - 切腹 is a 1962 film out of Japan based in the the 17th century. It's quite an interesting film. Here's the synopsis from the Criteion Collection website:
Following the collapse of his clan, unemployed samurai Hanshiro Tsugumo (Tatsuya Nakadai) arrives at the manor of Lord Iyi, begging to commit ritual suicide on his property. Iyi’s clansmen, believing the desperate ronin is merely angling for charity, try to force him to eviscerate himself—but they have underestimated his honor and his past. Winner of the 1963 Cannes Film Festival’s Special Jury Prize, Masaki Kobayashi’s Harakiri is a scathing denouncement of feudal authority and hypocrisy.

I enjoyed this film for its old black and white feel and for the twist and turns in the story telling. Almost a spin off the Rashomon's episodic telling of the story from different points of view. It's a mystery to unravel, but you're not quite sure what the truth is.

I'll be honest, it took a lot of brain power to watch this film. First, its in Japanese so you have read the subtitles and try to follow images. The story is dense and complex with many many characters. If you're not prepared to put on your thinking cap, the movie will confuse you. I had to re-watch many scenes so I could read the lines and than watch the images.

You can pick this up on Amazon or Netflix.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Hidden Blade - 隱劍鬼爪

The Hidden Blade (隱劍鬼爪) is a 2004 film about a samurai that isn't what you would expect. A samurai that is willing to break the rules in order to see someone happy.

The Hidden Blade is director Yoji Yamada's follow up to his other masterful petty samurai film, The Twilight Samurai.

Gone are the slashing and massive killing sprees of other Samurai films. This is about normal day samurai life and the politics of navigation through traditional mores and choosing to break those.

If you're looking for a samurai film like Zatoichi or Yojimbo, look elsewhere. I picked this up at Blockbuster back in the day, but you can get it via Amazon or Netflix.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Twilight Samurai - 黃昏清兵衛

The Twilight Samurai (黃昏清兵衛) is a 2002 film out of Japan starring Hiroyuki Sanada and Rie Miyazawa.

Unlike samurai films where the samurai chops, slices, and dices all in his path, this is the story of a widowed Samurai in 19th century Japan. A samurai of less means and a dedicated father and son. The movie explores what its about to live for your family as a Samurai.

I was both touched and moved by this tale of a petty samurai, like I was with Aaron Kwok's "The Bare-Footed Kid". The dedication to bringing up two daughters and take care of his mother is more important than his looks or the social acceptance of his peers.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance - 復仇

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (復仇) is a 2002 film out of Korea starring Song Kang-ho. This is the first installment of a vengeance trilogy by director Park Chan-wook, succeeded by Oldboy.

Although this was the first in the trilogy, this was the last film in the trilogy that I saw. And also the most disappointing.

Violence, deceit, revenge, and vengeance are all here. You get it all.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (Lady Vengeance) - 親切的金子

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (親切的金子) is a 2005 film out of Korea starring Lee Young Ae of JSA fame. This is the third installment of a vengeance trilogy by director Park Chan-wook. Preceded by Oldboy.

Like the other 2 films of this trilogy, theres a twist as to why "vengeance must be mine". If I tell you, I'll spoil the movie. Just believe me that vengeance is gotten.

Unlike the other two, this one features a female protagonist and shows some "heart" that the other two seemed to lack.

In the end, I was disappointed and can't recommend this movie.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Oldboy - 原罪犯

Oldboy (原罪犯) is a 2003 film out of Korea starring Choi Min-sik and the lovely Kang Hye-jeong (both pictured below). Oldboy is actually part of a vengence trilogy by director Park Chan-wook. Oldboy is the second installment, preceded by Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and succeeded by Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. The movie is based off a Japanese manga.

Its been a few years since I've seen it. It was being lauded as amazing and a "blow your mind" kind of film in 2004 after its release in Korea in 2003. I picked up a English subtitled version from a local DVD place back in 2004. The sub wasn't bad nor was it good. It was decent and I understood the movie for the most part. I watched it again in 2006 via Netflix. I appreciated it much more the 2nd time around.

Well, to say the least, the movie is a mind trip over and over. The trailer does not do it justice and the fight clips are only a portion of what makes the movie blow your mind.

The movie is laced with action, vengeance, and the ultimate debate of incest. Don't read the synopsis on wikipedia because it reveals to much and watch the movie yourself. Mind trip? Check! Mystery? Check! Violence? Check! Vengeance? Check!

Kang Hey-jeong is a speck of light in the glum movie of violence, deceit, and vengeance. Her beauty is brought forth by a childlike innocence.

I hear that Will Smith is attached for the US remake of this tale of ultimate vengeance. I don't know, I think the twist of this film is not going to go over well with mainstream US audiences.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

敲敲愛上你 - Quietly Falling in Love with You - Upcoming

The much anticipated release of Taiwanese Drama, 敲敲愛上你 (Quietly Falling in Love With You) is soon. Set for broadcast in March or April around Taiwan. I think they started filming in 2007. I saw the TV ad spot on youtube and it looks good.

Starring Ming Dao, Dylan Kuo, Li Xiao Lu, We Ya Xin, and Coco Jiang. It looks sorta funny and a bit of a re hash at the same time.

Let's see if it lives up the hype. Check out the trailer.

Monday, March 16, 2009

詭絲 - Silk

Silk (詭絲) is 2006 film out of Taiwan starring Chen Chang with a supporting cast of 大S (Barbie Hsu), Wilson Chen, Karena Lam, and Janine Chang.

Chen Chang plays a cop with extraordinary vision. So good, he can see the feathers of the birds flying above him as well an expert lip reader and a sharp shooter. A cop with an extreme temper to go with it. Chen Chang gets re-assigned to a special paranormal division for all the previously mentioned skillz, but mostly for his keen eyesight. The time has trapped a ghost with a special technology called the Menger Sponge. The plot thickens as the guy that put this team together is a little tipsy and doesn't play by the rules. Rules fly out the window and the triller horror begins.

When I first heard about this movie back in 2007, I thought it was a Japanese movie. I didn't find much more back in the day, but when I saw it via Netflix in 2008, I realized it was a Taiwan movie. With the supporting cast a who's who of the "it" actors and actresses, I was pleasantly surprised.

The action, suspense, solving of the mystery, and the resolution all left me satisfied. Before I started the film, I thought it was going to be a movie like Ringu or The Ring or ghost with hair that covers the face, etc. type movie. Boy was I wrong. It was a mystery and the subplots revolving around the main plot made it all the more intriguing.

I highly recommend this film.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Brave Archer - 射鵰英雄傳

The Brave Archer (射鵰英雄傳) is 1977 film from Hong Kong. This is the first of a 4 films in the series based off the Condor Heroes storyline. The film stars the late Alexander Fu Sheng (傅聲) and the Venoms make appearances throughout. This is also a Chang Cheh directed film.

I think this was the first screen adaption of the 射鵰英雄傳 and it was one made for the big screen. Which meant you couldn't take a 6-7 volume novel and spread it across 50-60 episodes. Which meant a super condensed version of the novel. And that's exactly what you get. If I hadn't recently seen Hu Ge and Ariel Lin's version last summer, I would have been completely lost.

I liked it and while watching, never forgot that the context that this was made in 1977 and was the first visualization of the 射鵰英雄傳 for the masses.

Fu Sheng and Tien Niu (most recently in Fatal Move) were a cute couple and saw their chemistry.

As for the title, The Brave Archer. A bow and arrow is only used in the title section of the movie. As well as a cast and character introduction, which helped a lot. The title can be translated as "shoot condor heroes adventures". So, the Brave Archer is based on this and not the actual use of a bow and arrow.

If you're a fan of wuxia, Jin Yong, Condor Heroes, and old Shaw Bros. classics, this is one for the ages.

There were 4 official Condor Heroes movies from Shaw Bros. This is the first. A fifth is not normally recognized as part this as it has a different cast.

I was a little disappointed that this was not a Dragon Dynasty release. Tokyo Shock's version is probably the straight Celestial Pictures remastered version. The extra's were weak and did not add any value. I was only patient enough to listen to a few minutes of the Expert commentary. Very informative, but I can't set around for another 2 hours. I need a condensed version!

Here's the info page for The Brave Archer from Celestial Pictures website.

You can buy it via Amazon or rent it via Netflix.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Proud Twins - The Handsome Siblings - 小魚兒與花無缺

The Proud Twins - The Handsome Siblings - 小魚兒與花無缺 was a 2004 and 2005 wuxia series starring Nicholas Tse and Dickie Cheung, based off the Gu Long novel, The Legendary Twins (絕世雙嬌).

I originally wrote a brief review of this series in March 2007.

Here's my review from March 12, 2007:
One is called "The Proud Twins" starring two HK male leads, Dicky Cheung and Nicholas Tse. Its around 44 or 45 episodes (depends on which DVD set you're watching). I must say that the first 25 episode were fantastic. Simply amazing. I watched in anticipation for each story arc to unfold. But the series took a really dark tone after that point and I ended up fast forwarding through at least 80% of the rest of the series. I remember telling my wife that she had to watch it and I'd translate whatever she couldn't understand. But I couldn't recommend it after I watched it all. Only 60% of the series was any good. Do the producers and makers even know how good it was and how much it sucked after? In any case, it was GREAT for 25 episodes. I can tell you when to stop and not watch anymore. This story was based off a Gu Long novel.

That was both a glowing and loathsome review. It really was a amazing first half to the series. However, the second half turned really morbid and doesn't give you that nice fuzzy ending you would like.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Tropic Thunder - 開麥拉驚魂

Tropic Thunder (開麥拉驚魂) is a 2008 film starring Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, and Tom Cruise.

The film is a mockumentary of the film industry. The premise is that real actors in a war film are dropped into a real war situation for the sake of making a film.

That war situation is the Golden Triangle with the Flaming Dragon gang as the main antagonist.

Some of the guys get captured by the Flaming Dragon gang who speak Mandarin Chinese.

There's a part of the movie where Robert Downey Jr. attempts to speak Chinese to the captors. The Chinese is barely decipherable. I had to read the subtitles and watch it over about 10 times. How the Flaming Dragon didn't just say, "what the heck are you saying?" is beyond me, they were understanding him. Got to give credit to RDJ for even getting all those Chinese words out of his mouth. I have a hard time these days and I am a native speaker.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

練‧戀‧舞 (練戀舞) - Step by Step - Upcoming

On March 27th, another Taiwan film will be released called 練‧戀‧舞 (Step by Step) staring Joseph Chang and the lovely Janel Tsai (蔡淑臻).

From the trailer, it looks quite interesting and I like all things dance!

I've been a big fan of Janel Tsai since I saw her on a Taiwanese drama called Angel Lover.

I hope it does well at the box office and gets to the US shores in good quality soon.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dragonball Evolution - 七龍珠:全新進化 (2009) - Upcoming

Dragonball Evolution (七龍珠:全新進化) is being released in Taiwan on March 13, 2009. Coming to the US on April 8, 2009. Which is unusual since its a US film.

The trailer are out and the hype and promotion is starting to pick up.

For the record, Dragonball is after my time. I have not watched or read the comics in the past, so I have no warm and fuzzy feelings about this movie. Not like I did for Transformers or the upcoming G.I.Joe. I grew up on Voltron, Thundercats, Transformers, Go-bots, and G.I. Joe. I am in 80s kid through and through. Dragonball is a late 90s thing. I was already working when it made it to the US.

The controversy is the casting of a non-Asian actor in the lead role of Goku. There is a smattering of Asians in other less prominent roles. Its racist Hollywood at work again.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

囧男孩 - Orz Boyz

冏男孩 (Orz Boyz) is a 2008 film out of Taiwan about 2 boys. These two boys are not your normal boys. They are troublemakers and come from broken homes.

The movie follows what seems like a 2 week period in the lives of 2 trouble making elementary school level kids. If I were to guess, they were roughly 10-12 years old. These 2 kids make so much trouble at school, they are labeled troublemaker #1 and #2. The kids call them by their number instead of their names. Its not just school that they make trouble at. Its at their home and neighborhood. But there's a reason to all the trouble they make. They're 2 boys disparately looking for direction, but their homes cannot provide. The 2 boys come from broken homes that reveal a little about why they choose to act out the way they do.

I'll be honest, I was quite annoyed watching this film. I probably would've stopped it half way through, but I was watching it with my wife, so I watched it all. Also, the hype surrounding it in the latter half of 2008 was undeniable. Along with Cape No. 7, Orz Boyz was a statement that Taiwanese films are good and that the rest of Asia should recognize! Ok, with that said, the hype was hype for me and I was let down. I didn't like watching 2 annoying elementary level kids terrorize everyone in their path. Yes, yes, they showed their homes and how messed it is. These boys have crazy imaginations, etc. But I still didn't like them. They didn't grow on me. You might want to check out lovehkfilm's review as it was quite positive as well as a newspapers in Taiwan, The China Post and Taipei Times.