April 26, 2010
Due to a lot of distractions in life, I accidentally got one of the Netflix movies I keep in the queue for the rare times when Jean and Renee are out of town. This movie, Sholay, is billed as a 'curry Western', and clocks in at a leisurely 199 minutes! I didn't watch it all in one sitting (in fact I watched several patches while walking on a treadmill), but I did finish it.
Let me tell you, there is nothing quite like watching a Bollywood interpretation of Sergio Leone's ouvre, with a dash of The Magnificent Seven thrown in, all the while boosting your spirits with whimsical Bollywood musical numbers!
Jean wondered how I endured it, but in truth, I enjoyed it, and am glad I picked it up. Thanks to whoever put together that list of seminal Bollywood movies!
January 01, 2010
Two More Movies
Today put two more movies under my belt. Streaming from Netflix, I watched Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, which is one of three films by Chan-wook Park on the theme of vengeance and how people get trapped by it, and how it affects them. While I'm sort of glad I finally watched this film, let me say that it is more or less unrelentingly bleak. Not much happiness for anyone. There were moments of humor, and quite a few of surreal oddity, but mostly bleak, bleak, bleak.
The other movie I saw was in the theater with my family: Sherlock Holmes. While they took some liberties with the characters, I felt most were in harmony with the originals. The story was similarly sinister to those of previous film adaptations, the setting was rendered very believably, and the music just felt right (thank you Hans Zimmer). There are a couple of scenes foreshadowing a follow-up movie, and given the panache with which the first was delivered, I can't say I would mind seeing the second. Guy Ritchie turns out to be good at mass-market escapism.
December 29, 2009
During the Snow
Portland is having it's annual 'blizzard' today. I came home early and took maybe twice as long as usual to get home. Jean is still out there, and thankfully she has her cellphone so I can get frequent updates on her progress, which currently translates to 'slow'. Given that I'm currently sitting on my hands waiting anxiously, I'll use the time to mention the movies I've seen with her and separately lately. Since they just happen to all be Asian, I'm using the Asian Movies tag.
Summer Time Machine Blues.I first heard about this movie a few days ago when following a pointer from another web log (sorry, don't remember which) to this review. This website will be a bit of a jumpstart to my Asian movie viewing habits, I can tell. STMB is a silly, light comedy with many nods to other time travel movies and a lot of confused conversations over what constitutes a time travel paradox. Its best departure from standard fare is that the protagonists dream up a new use for time travel: recovering an air conditioner remote control from the past as their present one is now broken!
I watched this movie streaming, and Renee watched parts of it with me while playing Last Remnant on her Christmas Xbox360 (thus interleaving a Japanese RPG with a Japanese Sci Fi movie). I gotta say that this is a very fun movie. Jean did not watch this with us.
The movie that Jean and I did watch together recently was also a Japanese movie, Shall We Dance?. Given my spectator-only interest in dance (I'm hideously clumsy in the act, as Jean can attest after our efforts at a Cha Cha class), this was a very nice movie. The story was pleasant, with that other-culture aura that comes from hearing that ballroom dancing is considered something to be ashamed of by the average Japanese salaryman. Recommended.
The same guy who recommended Summer Time Machine Blues took pains to not recommend Protégé de la Rose Noire, as it is a rather weak 'madcap adventure' with next to no plot. But alas, it is a Twins movie, and I'm bound by a silent oath to watch every one of their movies before my death. Fortunately, I am neither diabetic nor particularly demanding, so I managed to breeze through the film with only a few cackles of "this is really bad!"
Jean got home after three hours of travel from Beaverton! The roads are truly sucky right now, but my sweety is safe at home with Renee and I once again.
April 05, 2009
This will be an omnibus post, as I just want to jot down some notes while I think of them.
Jean's been encouraging me to get back into cooking, and this weekend she selected a recipe for me to try. It was from an older copy of Cook's Illustrated, so I can't link to the online recipe (it's behind their paywall). Instead, I'll just include a generic link to Chicken Tikka Masala. We modified the recipe, substituting plain yogurt in the masala sauce for the cream in the recipe. Verdict: definitely very good.
Mid-last-week, I began an experiment with Netflix. I got the minimal subscription, with one DVD at a time. I really wanted to try out their instant streaming, as we are now using Hulu to watch a number of television programs, and I hoped that we might be able to do the same with some movies. I was skeptical, as most posts seemed to complain about quality at higher bandwidths than we get. It turns out that some movies are watchable, but not all.
I tried watching Banlieue 13, a French action movie with a lot of stunts based on parkour. The stream paused and even skipped, every few seconds. This turns out to be a bad thing for a movie filled with physical stunts.
On the other hand, we watched a movie recommended by one of Jean's co-workers, Monsoon Wedding, and it was not too jerky. The movie itself was great.
Finally, our first actual DVD from Netflix arrived this weekend, and we watched it today. It is called Bride & Prejudice and is a Bollywood-style musical based on Jane Austen's novel. It was produced by Indian, British and American companies and was mostly in English. I love musicals, and have a weakness for Bollywood musical romances and comedies, so this was a real treat. Jean seemed to enjoy it too.
Coming up in our queue next will be Memento.
February 17, 2009
This movie has been sitting in my pile unwatched since the very last Anime Expo I attended (2005?). Anyway, I decided I wanted to watch a HK movie while exercising, and had one of the Twins movies all ready to go (thanks for the loaner, Lisa!) when I discovered that it was not Region 0 or 1, and so would not play on the deck downstairs. So I grabbed Breaking News off the stack as a consolation prize.
And a consolation prize is what it is. It's an acceptable action movie, with a bit of cat-and-mouse, but nothing really special, and not exhilarating in the way a silly Twins movie can be. Basic HK police action movie.
January 12, 2009
Seen and Wanna See
I could have seen this years ago, but somehow, I only just now got around to watching Battle Royale, a goofy movie I won't even try to describe. Fun if grim Japanese movie. Note: Chiaki Kuriyama, who plays Takako Chigusa in Battle Royale, later played the role of Gogo Yubari, in Kill Bill, Vol. 1.
Another movie I just found out about was directed by Tarsem Singh, and was apparently making the art house rounds last year, but I missed it. It's called The Fall, and Roger Ebert gives it unequivocal praise. It sounds really neat, so I'm gonna try to rent it some weekend in the near future. Noted here so I remember the details...
December 27, 2008
Since DOA wasn't as bad as I anticipated, I hunted down Oneechanbara, a zombie-fighting movie starring a sword-wielding woman in a bikini, cowboy hat and feather boa. I don't think I need to say more than that!
May 26, 2008
Lisa lent me this DVD, with the assurance that it was awful, and right up my alley. Right on both counts, Lisa! But with extra emphasis on the awful. Man, was that a klunky 'plot'!
Anyway, thanks for the movie, I'll get it back to you at the next gathering.
December 02, 2007
I finally got around to watching Infernal Affairs, a movie which was quite hot in Hong Kong when it was first released, in 2002. I bought it in the Dealer's Room at the last Anime Expo I attended in 2005, but have been sitting on it for the right moment. So long, in fact, that I actually saw the Martin Scorsese remake, The Departed, in the theatre before watching the original.
Not into writing elaborate essays on the Asian movies I watch anymore, so I'll just say that I enjoyed it thoroughly. It differed from The Departed mostly in cultural ways, and I suppose in ways specific to Martin Scorsese. A major plot element in Scorsese's version was not in the original, but I won't give that away here.
Two thumbs up.
December 04, 2006
Onmyoji II is, as the title suggests, a sequel. I watched the original several months ago, and only now got around to the second title. I think I liked this one better than the last one. It's a bit darker, and while it still has the borderline Power Rangers monsters, I am sufficiently 'child-like' to go with the flow and enjoy the story.
November 30, 2006
The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter
It's late, so I'll just note this review and background article on The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter, which I watched on a whim this evening. It's considered one of the classics, and though occasionally flawed, I'm glad to have seen it.
September 10, 2006
Tom pointed out yesterday that the new Tony Jaa film, The Protector, was in general release. That is, showing in regular theatres in the 'burbs, not just arthouse theatres downtown where I'd never get to see them. Given that I had to miss the theatrical release of A Scanner Darkly due to a limited downtown release, I knew I really wanted to try to see this one. Ong-Bak, the first Tony Jaa action vehicle, is in my collection, as a VCD, no less, and is one of my favorite martial arts movies.
So I cleared it with Jean and ran off to the theatre with money in my sweaty fist.
If Ong-Bak was a classic Asian martial arts movie, heavy on action, stunts and angst, light on plot and character development, then The Protector ... well, let's just say that director Prachya Pinkaew has pared things down to the 'bone' for his second film with Tony Jaa. Ong-Bak might have been twenty percent plot, but The Protector is lucky if it is five percent. After a brief, sentimental, narrated opening montage to set the scene, we are plunged into ten straight minutes of foot and vehicle chases through Thailand, culiminating in two tail-boats shooting off a ramp into a mid-air collision with a helicopter (helicopter go boom). Occasional pauses for motivational plot elements links the following action sequences, but this is condensed Muay Thai, here.
I like the fact that Tony Jaa speaks Thai throughout the film, with his conversations (and shouted challenges, imprecations, curses...) being subtitled for the benefit of the audience. The rest of the actors are ostensibly members of the Chinese mob, or Australian, as the chase (after Jaa's kidnapped friend and ward, a baby elephant) has led to Australia. Chinese tong leader Xing Jing has had the adult mother of said baby elephant poached because the symbol of the elephant will grant her power, like the ancient Khans. Yeah, I know...
Fights include random encounters with masters of other disciplines (wushu, capoeira, some sort of machete master), two or three huge hyper-muscled, adrenaline-drenched thugs who must hail from professional wrestling, and of course, the obligingly serial stream of cannon fodder who rush forward one by one to be mangled by Tony Jaa in the grand Bruce Lee tradition.
There was a lot more shouting, angry aggressive posturing and running attacks in this movie than in Ong-Bak. But there were still a number of the impressive, poetic battles and ballet-like stunts which made Ong-Bak such a joy. In sum, I have to give Ong-Bak the crown, but I'm just happy to see this crew getting wide-release treatment, and hope that when they find their stride again, they are allowed to debut in the 'burbs again.
P.S. - Jackie Chan had a movie called The Protector in 1985, a rather sad attempt to break into the U.S. film market. So it's amusing that he does a ten-second uncredited walk-on where he bumps into Tony Jaa at the airport. Jacky is still the king, but he pays his respects to the young pretender.
July 27, 2006
One side effect of the family reunion is that every evening after retiring, I watched at least one episode of Sh15uya. Sunday I finished the series. At the end of the last episode, I feared that they were going to go for the stark, bleak ending. Small spoiler: it ended 'happy'. All told, I liked this series quite a lot. Twelve episodes was just about perfect. Some repetition, but mostly in the service of the story.
I really enjoyed the role of Piece (yes, that's the correct name), the 'supernatural' executioner who reaps the 'broken' 15-year olds in Shibuya 15. He was played by Mark Fulenwider (stage name Mark Musashi), who made no effort to erase his Western pronunciation of the random Japanese proverbs they had him spouting during battle. It was a chuckle every time he appeared. (Just search YouTube for 'Mark Musashi' for some interesting demo tapes).
June 30, 2006
As it was the beginning of the Fourth of July weekend, I took some vacation time and went to an early showing of Superman Returns before going down to work. I don't think I had any expectations to speak of, so I hope my reactions were mostly unbiased. I enjoyed the movie, liked Kevin Spacey's Lex Luthor, and felt that they were mostly faithful to the general concepts of the comic character. It's also nice to get the taste of Superman III and Superman IV out off my mouth after all these years. Now I can just pretend they were a bad dream.
Still, all the while I was watching it, I felt less like I was watching a sequel than a review. It felt like we were being given an overview of the principal characters to remind us of what we were supposed to know. Sort of as if this was a dry run, and that the franchise will really take off with the second movie starring Brandon Routh. Assuming they get the box office response I imagine they will, I'm sure I'll find out in about a year...
As if that were not enough, when I got home this evening, I decided that I wanted to watch something on my den television, as I'd had such a good experience watching Koi...Mil Gaya. So I dug through my pile of Asian movies I keep in store for re-run season, and pulled out the DVD I bought on Max's say-so: Bayside Shakedown. The supplied link gives a fair assessment of the movie, so I won't repeat all the same info here. Suffice to say that I enjoyed it plenty, and thank Max for the reference.
February 28, 2006
In the mood for a Hong Kong romantic comedy, I put in one I'd been saving: Magic Kitchen. This was nominated for Best Screenplay at the 41st Golden Horse Awards, which is one reason I bought it. Another is that I love cooking dramas and comedies. Having watched this one, all I can say is, my God! What a chick flick!
Lots of chummy and likable female friends, lots of internal dialogue, seeking after love with many hunky and/or beautiful males. Chick flick. But even so, I enjoyed it, and laughed out loud at least a couple of times. I definitely don't regret getting it.
August 21, 2005
The Tale of Zatoichi
Bought at Kinokuniya in Seattle, The Tale of Zatoichi is the original inspiration for the Takeshi Kitano vehicle Zatoichi, which reimagines the character. I got the Kitano work as a Christmas present last year, and enjoyed it tremendously. So did many of my friends, both in anime and at work. As a result, I'd been planning on grabbing this original film for some time, and seeing it on the shelf at Kinokuniya, I just had to grab it.
Watching this movie last night, I was reminded many times of the Kitano movie. The broad strokes of the story, introducing the character of Ichi, the blind masseur, his prowess with the sword, and his friendship and rivalry with an unattached samurai, are the same. Beyond that, what makes this movie is the screen presence of Shintaro Katsu. Shigeru Amachi is also great as Miki Hirate, the former samurai suffering from tuberculosis.
I'll be handing this movie around the same circle of friends who enjoyed Zatoichi.
The first meeting of August at NOVA, my friend John Jackson lent me the movie Onmyoji. I didn't get around to watching it before the trip to Seattle, so I decided to take it along with me. Friday night, worn out from our drive and initial forays into the city, I loaded up my iBook and sat down to watch it. Jean and Renee both went to bed and I sat up with headphones in an armchair with the laptop in my -- lap -- and watched the remainder of the movie.
I found it very fun. It's occasionally a little cheesy, and the special effects are occasionally weak, but the story was quirky and engrossing. I also have the sequel from John, and I'll try to watch it before the next meeting I'm likely to make, which will probably be the second one in September. That should be plenty of time, right? Riiiight....
July 21, 2005
One Night in Mongkok
One Nite in Mongkok is about exactly what the title suggests, a night in Hong Kong's most densely populated city blocks, where myriad people and circumstance crop up every two or three feet.
This was our second feature last night. It stars a large ensemble cast, with star turns by Daniel Wu and Cecilia Chung as a yokel hitman and green card prostitute who are flung together by circumstance one night in Mongkok. The story is fast, varied and at times confusing. The ending is bleak and uncompromising. This movie won a Best Director and Best Screenplay award, and was nominated for a slew of others, which is why I bought it. If I'd known how it ended, I honestly might have given it a pass. But in retrospect I'd have to recommend it to my other Asian movie watching friends.
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:41 PM
July 20, 2005
Come Drink With Me
Jean and Kelly are still in Michigan, woe is me. They return Friday, and so, in what is probably my last act of bachelor defiance, I joined my friend Burr after work for pizza and movies. He is also bereft of his wife for this week, so we had his place to ourselves. We watched Come Drink With Me, my second King Hu movie experience, and One Night In Mongkok, which I'll post about separately.
Come Drink With Me stars Cheng Pei Pei as the daughter of a provincial governor. Blood will tell, and she is gifted with the almost magical martial arts powers that only manifest in these movies. She has been sent by the governor to rescue her brother, another official, who has been captured by bandits as a hostage. They want their leader freed, but Cheng Pei Pei has no plans to comply.
Throughout this movie, I was silently comparing it to A Touch of Zen, the only other King Hu movie I've seen. Overall, ATOZ is a better film. The story has more depth, and the atmosphere seems more genuine. Frequently I found myself criticizing the movie for all the conventions it displayed. Then I realized that many of these conventions originated with King Hu, and probably in this very movie. The teahouse ambush for instance, is a classic of wu xia movies, but here it is possibly realized in film for the first time. It is a charming scene.
So while I'd say that CDWM is the lesser of the two movies by King Hu I've seen, it is still better than many other wu xia movies I've sat through, and was definitely worth my time.
Posted by dpwakefield at 10:33 PM
July 17, 2005
Twins Effect I & II
Yesterday I went to Alan's house for the first time ever. He was throwing a little Hong Kong movie soiree, showing his copy of Twins Effect and my copy of Twins Effect II. Many other high definition video wonders were shown, but Twins Effect was the impetus. The supplied links give detailed and reasonably fair reviews of the two movies. I for one laughed myself hoarse.
These are a pair of cheesy fantasy action movies starring a couple of cute pop stars and their male counterparts. It's funny that I watched these so soon after New Police Story, as it seems that the stable of 'actors' in all these movies came from the same pool, the Emperor Entertainment Group, a multimedia conglomerate that is pushing it's pop stars into movies as fast as it can.
I won't be doing this sort of gathering in another blue moon. I was only able to do it this time as Jean and Kelly are in Michigan visiting Jean's parents. On the plus side, I have the flexibility to go to an all day impromptu film festival. On the minus side, I dropped them off at the airport on Wednesday, and I miss them a whole lot about now. And there's five more days to go!
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:24 PM
July 13, 2005
New Police Story
Lazy getting around to writing this one up. I watched most of this movie on the plane back from Expo, then finished it up Thursday afternoon. I also watched most of the DVD extras Thursday too (a behind-the-scenes feature, a making-of short, trailers and music video).
There are two kinds of Jackie Chan movies. Serious and comic. In both veins you'll see stunts and martial arts to one degree or another. The Police Story movies have been Jackie's big 'serious' works, and feature drama, stunts and some martial arts. This is not so say that humor is banned from these films, as Jackie Chan made his name with his signature humor. But he tried to establish himself as a serious actor as well, here.
Nailing down a filmography of Police Story movies is difficult, as Jackie Chan and others freely relabel his cop movies, both into and out of this franchise. So it's hard to say how many are 'really' part of the Police Story universe. But the Love HK Film review of the original Police Story links to four films, not counting New Police Story. While hardly definitive, I pretty much agree with this list:
- Police Story (1985)
- Police Story 2 (1988)
- Police Story 3: Supercop (1992)
- Police Story 4: First Strike (1996)
- New Police Story (2004)
To date, I'd have said that Police Story and Supercop were the two best movies in the cycle, and I haven't seen anything to change my mind. New Police Story is entertaining enough, to the mind of a Hong Kong action movie fan like myself, but it is not a sterling example. Read the linked reviews for more detail, but I think Jackie is finally stepping back from his stuntman, martial arts glory days. The movie is as much an ensemble cast as any he's ever had. True, some of his early work with Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung depended on teamwork, but here, the reliance is on pretty faces and hammy pose striking.
Interesting, though not surprising after all these years, were the behind the scenes documentaries showing Jackie wearing harnesses for every stunt (which were then digitally removed from the film). Jackie works with a net! Now I'm feeling my age.
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:37 PM
July 06, 2005
I'll put all of the Hong Kong movies in my cumulative list, but I just wanted to share my acquisitions with all (two) of you:
- The Brave Archer 1-3. There are supposed to be four volumes to this series, but this box set seemed pretty nice, so I went for it anyway.
- Come Drink With Me. This is a movie by King Hu, who also created A Touch of Zen, which I've raved over before. This is considered his other masterpiece.
- Eight Diagram Pole Fighter. A classic Shaw Brothers martial arts film.
- Infernal Affairs. A cop drama, supposedly one of the best in years.
- New Police Story. Revisits Jackie Chan's classic police character, though relying on a younger cast to carry the story.
- One Night in Mongkok. An award winner this year.
- Throw Down. Another award winner. Funny story: I had this and another movie in my hands, and was trying to decide which to get (both! nope, stick to the budget). I asked the grey-bearded gent who runs Drunken Master, the store I always buy from at Expo, what he thought. He said, "well, I did the commentary track on the English track of the DVD of Throw Down, so I gotta go with that."
- The Twins Effect II. I was trying to buy Twins Effect, but in the hustle and bustle of the convention Dealer's Room, I was handed the 'sequel', instead. I'm gonna borrow the original from Alan, and let him borrow this one...
- A World Without Thieves. One more award winner...
For myself, I also got a Gankutsou T-shirt and mug. For Kelly, aside from all the Dealer's Room freebies, I got her the T-shirt, a baby-doll T with a cute picture, and a manga, called The Wallflower (which I guess I already mentioned).
Posted by dpwakefield at 04:29 PM
April 01, 2005
Running Out of Time
Some may recall that I saw Running Out of Time 2 a couple of years ago, and rated it high enough to purchase the original, Running Out of Time. So now, two years later, I've found time to watch it (feeling a little under the weather myself, I've been unable to sleep, so...).
The verdict: I don't know why the reviews I read rated this one so much higher than the sequel. It is great fun, in the typical Hong Kong melodramatic way, and I still love Lau Ching-Wan, but it's not really head and shoulders above the sequel. Worth a gander, if you're a friend and want to borrow it, though.
Posted by dpwakefield at 08:54 PM
March 29, 2005
Okay, I saw this one on sale at Fry's for $7! At that price, I figured, it would be hard to go wrong. All the reviews I read said it was heavy on action and light on plot, but that's my bread and butter. I'll go one further, and say it's about pretty people saying clever things while fighting in fashionable jump-cuts and slow-mo.
I'll just include a quote from this review:
"I’ve said this before, but I relish the chance to say it again: I love Hong Kong movies where you can spot the bad guy because he’s unshaved and Japanese!
"I hope you love those too, because this film is one of them. This is also the kind of film where a bunch of little Asian chicks in black leather show up, beats the crap out of everybody and saves the day! In other words, we’re in the shallow end of the pool here."
Posted by dpwakefield at 08:33 PM
March 07, 2005
Kung Fu Hustle
Okay, I have to take Kelly in to school tomorrow, so I'll forgo a long, rhapsodic review. I watched this non-stop tonight, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I would have loved to see this on the big screen, but even on a television screen it is a visual funhouse. The humor is pure Stephen Chow, from the dumb slapstick, the word play (most of which I'm sure is lost in translation) and the over-the-top visual effects. He started playing with this last in earnest in Shaolin Soccer, and here he has perfected it.
Leung Siu Lung as the Beast was my favorite character, though Yuen Qiu as the Landlady was really cool as well. Oops, I'm starting to outline everything I liked, and before I know it it will be morning! So just give it four or five stars and leave it at that. Thanks for loaning this one to me, Tom!
Posted by dpwakefield at 10:23 PM
February 20, 2005
In the Mood for Love
It's Sunday, which means I take Kelly to Sunday school. As usual, I towed along my laptop, and this time began watching another movie I've had in my stack for a year and a half, In the Mood for Love, by Wong Kar-Wai. This synopsis conveys the factual element of the story admirably.
Of course, no Wong Kar-Wai film is solely about the story. 'Mood' appears in the title of this movie, and 'mood' is a major component of each of his films I've seen so far. I first heard of him when I went to see Chungking Express at Cinema 21 with my friend Alan Matzka. More recently I watched Ashes of Time on DVD, and now Mood. I enjoyed this sad character study, and I hope I can get more of his films at Expo this year. I know that his latest film is 2046, so it should be readily availble.
Posted by dpwakefield at 02:17 PM
February 07, 2005
A Touch of Zen
Yes, Anime Expo is looming on my mind, as I am digging through my cache of Asian movies that I bought at AX2003! I have now finally watched A Touch of Zen, and all I can say is, "wow."
This film is presented in two parts, in the grand tradition of serial adventures. I would not say the two parts stand alone, though each is presented with opening credits as if separate movies. Totalling their run time together, ATOZ clocks in at nearly three hours! I took advantage of Kelly's various extracurricular classes to watch the two parts about a week apart.
The film is often slow, pacing itself in a manner not much seen in modern film. The first forty minutes are devoted to developing the character of Hu, a bachelor artist who lives with his mother in penury in an abandoned fort and resists her repeated entreaties to take the Imperial service exam. A few other characters make their entrance, each adding a new grace note to the slow story unfolding. I was almost disappointed when, three quarters of an hour into the film, swordplay makes a first appearance. But I soon grew used to it, and mark this as a true wuxia movie.
Granted, it is not a perfect film. I'd cut back a number of scenes, and leave a few out entirely. But even at three hours, I was fascinated. The biggest problem with this film is not the pacing, or the story, or the somewhat corny martial arts, where trampolines are used to induce the illusion of flying monks. The single flaw I wish I could correct is the low contrast, murky print which Tai Seng managed to put on DVD. Daylight scenes are colorful enough, but there are a number of night scenes, and I missed quite a lot of action due to the poor contrast.
When the Star Wars boxed set came out, much was made of John Lowry's restoration work, using a phalanx of 600 Powermac G5s running custom software to remove dust and noise from the digitized prints. Each movie took a month to restore, and the personal attention of Lowry and his band of wizards. When I think of what he could do with A Touch of Zen, I kind of tear up.
So that's my wish. Some cineaste philanthropist with too much cash and a serious jones for this 1971 King Hu film steps up and lets loose the dogs of technology on this wonderful movie. I can dream, can't I?
January 29, 2005
Aces Go Places
This is the movie I loaded onto my iBook to watch during this morning's acting class.
As the linked review says: "Sure it's dated, but it's also quite entertaining. That is, if you can get past the fact that's it's dated." Actually, it's not only dated, but comes from that same school of forced jollity and madcap wackiness that the My Lucky Stars movies also sport.
I guess I was more in the mood for it this time, as I enjoyed this one enough to give it a tepid thumbs up. I may actually go ahead and get Aces Go Places II at Expo this summer!
Funny, originally, I thought this movie starred Jackie Chan, but the lead is Sam Hui (Koon Kit), who bears a familial resemblance...
Posted by dpwakefield at 08:48 PM
January 27, 2005
Kung Fu Hustle
For those of you who don't know, this is Stephen Chow's latest movie, which is breaking Asian box office records left and right. I've been a big fan of his for a long time, and own a few of his movies, foremost of which are God of Cookery and Shaolin Soccer. Needless to say, I'm rather excited that there'll be a (possibly well treated) theatrical release of this, and I'm planning to see it, even if I have to take vacation time to do it!
Posted by dpwakefield at 08:36 PM
January 24, 2005
I forgot to mention that I finally got around to watching Jiang Hu. This was a present from James, one of my anime buddies. He bought it at last year's Anime Expo (held every year over the July Fourth weekend), so that should give you an idea how long I can sit on a DVD.
I actually enjoyed this movie, though I watched it in patches, usually on my laptop while waiting for Kelly to attend one class or another. When I finished it, I didn't get quite the buzz I had watching Zatoichi, but that's hardly a fair comparison.
Is it worth watching in general? Probably not. Only a hardcore Asian film junkie will appreciate it, and even that worthy may walk away disappointed.
[P.S. - I'm posting this from the parking lot of Kelly's dance instructor. Wireless rocks!]
January 13, 2005
I watched Sonatine on my laptop while Kelly played Simpsons Road Rage.
I've seen a few of his movies on cable, but only seen this and Zatoichi on DVD. However, I'm prepared to state that if you've seen one Takeshi Kitano movie, then you will recognize others by his distinctive style. I'd give Zatoichi 4.5 out of 5 stars, while this rates a solid 4.
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:20 PM
January 10, 2005
I was fiddling with my iBook tonight trying to prove to myself that I could play region-coded DVDs without 'flipping the code' of my DVD drive. I'd read that a video player I already have installed on my iBook is able to play any region-coded disk as if it were region-free. While I can already play my Region 2 and Region 3 disks on my PS2, I'm always interested in new ways to stick it to the man!
Initially I stuck in the Korean movie The Foul King, a disc I've had for two years. I mistakenly assumed that it was Region 3, being from Korea. It's been so long since I watched it I forgot it was actually Region 0. Anyway, it refreshed my memory about what a strange film this is. It has a lot of comic elements, but it is definitely not a comedy. It is the story of an underdog, but the underdog never really succeeds in overcoming his underdog status. And while it doesn't have a conventional happy ending, I was nevertheless satisfied with the story.
Dae Ho is a bank clerk bullied by a boss who literally puts him in a headlock whenever he feels the need to establish dominance. Dae Ho eventually comes to the conclusion that if he can just once break the headlock, he will break out of his stale life. So one evening when he coincidentally passes the delapidated gym where some bush-league professional wrestlers are trained by a washed up retired masked marvel, it only makes sense that he would decide to beg to be trained as one himself.
He gets given the role of a wrestling 'cheat', The Foul King, and stumbles into the role with relish. Still working as a bank clerk during the day, and training or attending matches at night, it's a wonder he manages to stay awake, but somehow he has deep wells of stress to draw on from his years of repression.
I won't risk giving away the remaining plot. I'll only say that I really enjoyed this, moreso after I'd had some time to think about it. Four out of five stars.
Oh, and a test with Killer Clans, a Region 3 disk, confirms that I can play region-encoded disks on my iBook!
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:47 PM
January 09, 2005
Asian Movie List
Because I've had a couple of my friends ask about borrowing various movies from me, and since this is an Anime Expo year, where I typically buy a spate of new Asian movies in the Dealers Room, I decided to post all my movies here. Friends can reference the list and find out what they'd like to borrow, and I can check it to make sure I don't buy something I already have.
So I'll update this list as I add new members to the family (or sell/recycle disappointing items). Note: I may have forgotten when a movie is in fact region-controlled, so let me know and I'll correct it. I'll add real links to reviews as time permits, but for now, most are dummy links. Forthwith, the list:
DVD, Region 0 or 1
Should be playable on any DVD player.
- Aces Go Places I
- Ashes of Time
- Avenging Quartet
- Bayside Shakedown
- Beauty Investigator
- The Brave Archer 1-3
- Butterfly & Sword
- Downtown Torpedoes
- Eastern Condors
- Fire Dragon
- Flirting Scholar
- Foul King, The
- God of Cookery
- Godfather's Daughter Mafia Blues
- Iceman Cometh
- In the Line of Duty III
- In the Mood for Love
- Infernal Affairs
- Iron Monkey
- Jiang Hu
- Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, The
- Master of the Flying Guillotine
- Mr. Vampire
- My Lucky Stars
- New Police Story
- One Night in Mongkok
- Princess Blade
- Prodigal Son, The
- Return of the Chinese Boxer
- Royal Tramp
- Royal Warriors
- Running Out of Time
- Shaolin Soccer
- Storm Riders
- Tai Chi II
- Tale of Zatoichi, The
- Throw Down
- Tokyo Raiders
- Touch of Zen, A
- The Twins Effect II
- Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars
- A World Without Thieves
- Yes, Madam!
- Young and Dangerous
DVD, Region 2 or 3
You need a multi-region or region-specific player for these...
- 36th Chamber of Shaolin, The
- Attack the Gas Station
- Come Drink With Me
- Eight Diagram Pole Fighter
- Killer Clans
- Wild Zero
Will play in many DVD players.
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:09 AM
December 31, 2004
Okay, in the 70's there was an anime, Casshan, about an extraordinary human who battles robots to free an enslaved mankind. Now we have a live-action movie containing some of the key elements of this story, but as it turns out, a lot more depressing.
I saw the trailers for this a while ago, and Tom got me the movie to watch. Kelly and I just finished watching it. All I can say is, MEGA-BUMMER. It was at times hard to follow, but I think we figured out most of the storyline. The ending seems to be a symbolic rebirth of humankind after most are wiped out in a war that's escalated until humanity's ultimate ancestors are destroyed, reborn and turned against us. Hows them apples?
Anyway, if you care, here's a link to the official site.
Posted by dpwakefield at 05:13 PM
December 29, 2004
Well, my tolerance for long, melodramatic Wu Xia remains undiluted. Jean gracefully allowed me to join my friends Tom and Alan downtown this afternoon/evening to see a theatrical screening of House of Flying Daggers, Zhang Yimou's second Wu Xia movie, after Hero.
Turns out that there were a couple other people I recognized as well. James was there, with his friend Jeremy (and one other guy I confess I didn't recognize). So we had a little crowd in our own row.
All the principals (Takeshi Kaneshiro as Jin, Andy Lau as Leo and Zhang Ziyi as Mei) were great. The action sequences were fun, sometimes lyrical, and almost always over the top, though usually more polished and believable than in classic flying people movies like Deadful Melody. In the last few years, the bar seems to have been raised for credible special effects and martial arts stunts. I'd credit Storm Riders and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for this shift, though what do I know?
This seems to be my week for seeing movies about blind martial artists, as Zhang Ziyi plays a blind daughter of a now dead revolutionary. Or is she really blind? Zatoichi had folks asking the same thing...
December 27, 2004
One last post tonight. I've still got several days until my schedule at work precludes it, so I need to get my bod downtown and see the theatrical screening of House of Flying Daggers at the Fox Tower Stadium 10. This is the second Wu Xia movie by Zhang Yimou, the first being Hero, about which I wrote here recently.
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:11 PM
Christmas night I made a nest in the den, curling up on the captain's bed with a comforter and my iBook. I loaded Zatoichi, given to me by one of my anime friends (John Jackson) for Christmas. I watched it beginning to end in the dark with headphones on. I'm gonna have to do that more often!
The movie itself is entertaining, with Takeshi Kitano giving a sometimes subtle but charismatic performance as the blind masseur Zatoichi. I'm giving away my age here when I compare this character, somewhat tongue in cheek, to Jim Bronson, in Then Came Bronson. The basic story line goes: exceptional man sees all the mysteries and tragedies of the world, stands tall after every disappointment, but one day tires of working within the system. He sheds his old life like a discarded skin and embarks on a pilgrimage. Where it leads and how it will end, he doesn't know. But in the meantime, he wanders from town to town, and being the exceptional man, cannot help but aid the downtrodden where he meets them. Bronson did it from the saddle of a Harley motorcyle, Zatoichi shuffling along on tattered sandals. Bronson with his wits and fists, Zatoichi with his wits and his cane/sword.
But no, I'm also reminded of Clint Eastwood in the Sergio Leone films. Particularly Fistful of Dollars, where the nameless stranger enters a town and plays two greedy families against each other to his own advantage. That's not the plot of Zatoichi, but captures the amoral, elemental nature of his character. I wonder if the creators of Zatoichi hadn't read Red Harvest, by Dashiell Hammett (published in 1929). In it, the nameless detective in the employ of the Continental Detective Agency brings a tower of corruption crashing down by guile and playing on peoples' greed. Neither of these stories has anything to do with Zatoichi's storyline, but I kept coming back to the central characters, essentially amoral, unjudging, yet always seeming to come down on the side of the weak.
There have been a couple dozen Zatoichi series movies. He's a popular character in Japan. Kitano's movie is an irreverent tribute to this original series. Now that I've seen it, I'll almost certainly have to check out some of the originals.
Posted by dpwakefield at 04:57 PM
October 21, 2004
Gojira 'Versus' 'Zilla
Funny, I just read in this article that Toho is making a 'final' Godzilla film for his 50th anniversary, sounding sorta like Destroy All Monsters. Aliens attempt to invade Earth using ten classic Godzilla foes, and one 'wild card', the Tri-Star CG Godzilla which was just an undercranked iguana, here referred to as Zilla, to underscore it's imposter creds.
The kicker which draws me to see this cheese fest is that it will be directed by Ryuhei Kitamura, the creator of Versus, a totally cheesy and fun apocalyptic battle for supernatural supremacy in a zombie graveyard.
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:18 PM
August 27, 2004
While I already own the DVD, purchased at last year's Anime Expo, I was thrilled to see that Hero is actually showing in a fair selection of theatres in town. Not just the downtown art theatres, but the megaplexes in the burbs, too.
So I took some vacation time, and went to see it on the big screen today. Wow. One very neat visual treat. If you have the DVD, don't think you've seen the movie until you watch it in a darkened theatre, on a big screen. Of course, if you don't like Wu Xia movies, never mind.
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:08 PM
August 09, 2004
Godfather's Daughter Mafia Blues
So I finished another Yukari Oshima epic. She was pretty young in this one, but still a stunning fighter. The storyline is a bit dry, unfortunately. A lot of these late 80's / early 90's triad movies are like that. But the martial arts is what I came for, specifically the martial arts of Yukari Oshima, and that was worth the price. If you split the cost of the DVD over the two movies, this one cost $7.50, and I got three good fight scenes with Yukari-san, so I'm happy.
What's next up in the Asian movie train? Probably Jiang Hu. Another triad movie, but this one is from just this year. Lots of big name HK actors. James got it for me at Anime Expo this year. He must have too much money, as this is a boxed director's set. Really nice. As usual, I'll post a report, if only a simple thumbs up/down, after viewing.
On the other hand, Tom just gifted me with a copy of Master of the Flying Guillotine, that uber-classic of chop-socky schlock. I was fortunate enough to see this the way I think it was meant to be seen, in a crappy theatre with ripped seats and a stained screen (the Clinton Street Theatre). And now, thanks to another friend with too much money, I own a copy on DVD. And it's not some pirate junk either, but the sanctioned American disc with some nice features besides, such as original trailers. Too much Kung Fu goodness!
Posted by dpwakefield at 08:57 PM
July 31, 2004
Godfather's Daughter Mafia Blues
This is paired with Avenging Quartet. More on my own impressions later...
Posted by dpwakefield at 08:00 AM
July 24, 2004
I just started watching Avenging Quartet, one of the two movies on a single DVD I found at Suncoast recently. I already knew it was a weak movie, and I'm only interested in the cheesy value of seeing Moon Lee, Cynthia Khan, Yukari Oshima and Michiko Nishiwaki all in one film.
It's painful to watch for more than the cheesy plot. This 'DVD' is obviously a bad video transfer from a third or fourth generation videotape copy of an original. The colors are washed out, the sound is muddy (all English dubbed by the way) and whole frames will drop out without warning. If this wasn't out of print, I'd certainly hunt down a better copy.
More to report, perhaps, when I've finished it...
Okay, this is another movie with Moon Lee as the star. She's mostly sharing the bill with Cynthia Khan. Michiko and Yukari are peripheral villains, and Yukari once again gets limited screen time. She gets to do about two decent martial arts scenes. So while I'm glad I saw the movie, I wouldn't inflict it on any of my friends.
Posted by dpwakefield at 11:08 PM
July 23, 2004
First I want to thank Tom, who bought Ong-Bak for me while he was at Anime Expo this year (I asked him to, but he made it a giftie). I'd been reading about this movie, and seeing interviews with the various participants, for over a year, and was planning to buy it soon, so thanks Tom.
Phanom Yeerum took the name Tony Ja and a star was born. He's been training for years, inspired by the likes of Jacky Chan, but with a distinctly Thai flavor, specializing in Muay Thai, his home-grown martial art. The director, Pracha Pinkaew, obviously likes the Jackie Chan comparison, as the movie is filled with stunts replayed lovingly from multiple camera angles, a signature that Jackie Chan uses a bit more sparingly.
This has the feel of an early Chan-helmed movie. The production is inexpensive, the stunts small, and the story simple. Overall, I'm glad I had no idea what to expect, since if I'd been expecting a faithful later-Chan extravaganza I might have been disappointed. But taken on it's own terms, Ong-Bak is definitely worth watching.
July 15, 2004
I've always been a fan of Yukari Oshima. I've seen a number of her movies, though I'm not enough of a fanatic to have tracked down everything she ever did. In fact, I've had a movie in my stack for a year, Beauty Investigators, which I only watched the night before flying to Chatanooga. It's a corny story, with much bad acting. But I think it is a good showcase of Yukari Oshima's martial arts prowess, perhaps better than Kickboxer's Tears. I only wish she'd been given meatier roles...
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:20 PM
June 14, 2004
Here's another instance of my idealizing things I like and not empathizing with Kelly enough. Recall that I tried to get her interested in the Marx Brothers, as I really enjoyed their movies. But watching them with her, I realized that a lot of what made them special was fairly fast-paced and complicated wordplay, made worse by the fact that a lot of it was way out-of-date. Kelly had no cultural experience to understand what made it funny, and quickly became bored.
This time, I noticed that she really enjoyed the Jackie Chan Adventures cartoon series, and told her about some of Jackie's Hong Kong movies. I told her I'd look out for one that she might enjoy and record it for her. So when AMC showed Rumble in the Bronx, I thought that would be a good choice. It's pretty corny, as the bad guys are ridiculous, almost clown-like images of a biker gang. Additionally, it was retargeted for America with a full redub in English, and Jackie Chan did his own voice.
We watched for around fifteen minutes, and Kelly asked when Jade would show up. She's a character in the cartoon. I explained that this was a different story. I got my first inklings that things were going astray after the second fight. To me, the stunts and acrobatics are primary, but the fights are not like in the cartoons. Even though Rumble is cartoony, there's special effects blood, and the actors, though poor, can get across the pain of being hit more effectively.
The nail in the coffin, so to speak, is that in the cartoon, no one ever gets killed. Something undignified may happen to them, but they only ever go to jail. Most of the bad guys are back for more in the next episode. In Rumble, though they don't actually show the death, one gang of bad guys kills another bad guy. Kelly was just shocked at that and drew the line. I apologized for not anticipating her sensitivity, and watched the remainder on my own.
We recovered some of that last night, when she came downstairs as I was watching the last few minutes. It was the outtakes, where Jackie shows all the stunts that he does and doesn't quite get right on the first try. Kelly enjoyed watching him 'water-skiing' with his sock feet, and falling into the water again and again.
Dunno what I'll scar her over next, but you can be sure I'll keep making this mistake.
Posted by dpwakefield at 08:57 PM
August 13, 2003
I watched Versus last night. Definitely a gem in the rough, but pretty close to polished. I have to take exception with the few reviews I read that called it flawed or uneven. If you view it in the spirit in which I think it was intended, it succeeds quite well. Think of it as an homage to early Sam Raimi (around Evil Dead 2), with the style aesthetic of Pulp Fiction, and you're halfway there.
Add in the roots of over-the-top bad-guy posturing and absurd macho street fighting from shows like GTO, and you've come most of the way. In any case, it's going to assume a place next to Wild Zero and Bio-Zombie in my Asian zombie gallery.
I got the two-disc Special Edition, with the director's cut and a disc of extras. I browsed the extras disc, but haven't watched it all. Among other things it includes a short 'side story' film, called "Nervous". The main disc is like four movies in one. There is the version I watched, Japanese with English subtitles. Then there is the English dubbed version. I watched a bit of that for chuckles. It made the movie seem like a Sandy Frank extravaganza.
The other two versions are commentary tracks. I watched a bit of each. The first is a commentary track in Japanese by the director and members of the cast. It's subtitled, and seems like lots of fun. Everybody is giggling and making fun of each other and telling anecdotes about the filming.
The second commentary track is with the director and someone else I didn't recognize, in English. Turns out Ryuhei Kitamura speaks pretty good English. I watched a tiny bit of that, when he was telling how he hired the main bad guy. He was on the set for three weeks before they began shooting his scenes, so he did unit direction for Kitamura, and did all the cooking! Lots of fun to hear stuff like that.
So yeah, Alan, I'm definitely going to force you and Tom to watch this baby. It's not perfect, slows down now and then, but is overall a buncha fun.
Posted by dpwakefield at 08:40 AM
July 10, 2003
I just watched the first of my Anime Expo 2003 purchases, the 1976 Shaw Brothers movie, Killer Clans. My oh my, is this a beatiful movie. It would put my wife to sleep in under ten minutes, but for me it's a pageant. Follow the link for a synopsis and review. This is one of my favorite martial arts movies so far.
Moreover, I'm going to be watching it again someday, as it comes with an audio commentary by Bey Logan, and is stuffed to the brim with extras. I paid $20 for this, and got way more than that in value. Now I can't wait to watch 36th Chamber of Shaolin!
Posted by dpwakefield at 10:17 PM
July 04, 2003
I may fold like a cheap suit and buy more, but here are the HK and Korean DVDs I grabbed so far:
- Aces Go Places I - Another ensemble cast comedy series, again with Jacky Chan
- Beauty Investigator - Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima go undercover to investigate crime in the cosmetics industry -- and much martial mayhem ensues...
- Foul King - Korean movie about a social reject finding self respect through professional wrestling
- Iceman Cometh - a 'serious' movie with Yuen Biao
- Killer Clans - Shaw Brothers Old School
- Royal Tramp - a Stephen Chow movie
- Running Out of Time - I wrote up Running Out of Time II previously. I grabbed it off the International Channel, and subsequent research indicated that the first movie was better, so here it is.
Posted by dpwakefield at 10:05 AM
June 29, 2003
Two More Movies
These'll be the last two as I'll be picking up Kelly and Jean at the airport after work tomorrow. And I'm really looking forward to seeing them, for Monday and Tuesday nights.
Anyway, I watched a movie I grabbed off the International Channel: Kickboxer's Tears, starring Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima. Let me just go on record that this movie is about as bad as anything Jean Claude Van Damme ever did. Poor photography, cheap story, bad acting, and it's own special brand of dumb, fifteen minutes of regulation kickboxing. In the end, the only thing that made it worth it was the grudge fight between Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima. I really like Yukari, and wish she'd been a bigger martial arts star. So this fight was a treat.
Just now, I finished watching the sequel to My Lucky Stars (sequel to a sequel), Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars. A number of good martial arts sequences, but otherwise the same formulaic plot and by-the-numbers humor sketches as in the previous one. Maybe I'll skip Winners and Sinners after all.
So now the only Asian movie I have in my stash unwatched is Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love, a nostalgic love story that is considered one of his best works. I'm saving this one for a special occasion.
Of course, as I'm going down to Expo on Wednesday, I'll probably stock up on more Asian movies in the dealers' room.
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:32 PM
Yet another Asian movie. I've only got two left in my stack.
This is a mediocre movie, but has some decent martial arts, including some humorous stunts. Notable as yet another movie featuring Nishiwaki Michiko as a villainess. Gotta find something with her as a hero...
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:29 AM
June 28, 2003
Yes, 'flirtong'. Depending on what dialect you view the film in, the Stephen Chow character is Tong Pak Fu or Tang Bo Hu. As the foremost of the Four Scholars, he falls in love with Chau Heung (played by Gong Li), and schemes to win her heart, posing as a poor workman to be close to her.
This is not as much fun as God of Cookery, which had more visible slapstick and Western-accessible humor. Watching Scholar, I had the definite feeling that this was a fine example of one of Chow's many talents, puns. Much dialogue flew between the characters in a manner which was obviously intended to be funny, but the literal subtitles couldn't capture the wordplay. And lacking a deep background in Chinese culture, I missed even more. Still, it is laced with enough moments of patent physical humor that I enjoyed it, watching with my work friend Burr yesterday.
Posted by dpwakefield at 06:37 PM
June 26, 2003
Two More Asian Movies
This is really a nostalgia festival, since all the movies I've been watching have been from the 80's and 90's. Last night I watched In the Line of Duty III, starring Cynthia Khan (with Nishiwaki Michiko as a ruthless villainess). Lots of brutal gunplay and frenetic martial arts.
Just tonight I watched Royal Warriors starring Michelle Yeoh. This is actually the first film in a collection of films about women cops, though they are only related by the umbrella title "In the Line of Duty." This one was even more over the top than last night's, but I had fun.
Posted by dpwakefield at 10:27 PM
June 23, 2003
Some guys would take the absence of their families as an excuse to go party. Or maybe drive to the coast and surf, for all I know. But I'm a boring kind of guy, so I've been playing Dungeon Siege and watching a bunch of Asian movies. I don't feel like writing a review, so I'll just link to a few:
Attack the Gas Station. This is the best of the bunch I've watched so far. Filmed in Korea, it recounts one night of criminal mischief at a 24 hour gas station. We get flashbacks into the life of each of the criminals, as well as a bunch of silly interaction between the civvies and the criminals. You're not supposed to root for criminals, but go with the flow on this one...
Eastern Condors. Mostly notable for having Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao in substantive roles, this is a fairly conventional 'dirty dozen' style war drama, with the usual generous helping of corny acting found in lots of Hong Kong martial arts films. The climactic fight scene in the final fifteen minutes is worth getting the DVD for, however.
This is not Wong Kar Wai's best picture (I say this even though I've only ever seen three of his films that I know of, since either of the other two are better). But it does have Brigette Lin in a starring role, and I've had a crush on her ever since I saw Bride with White Hair, the movie which started me on my Hong Kong movie journey.
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:55 PM
April 25, 2003
Asian Action Movie
I've mentioned before watching the Hong Kong Movie Express on the International Channel. It was pretty hit and miss, and even the better movies were pretty low quality. Apparently I wasn't the only one who felt that way, because Hong Kong Movie Express isn't being shown anymore.
But now they are showing the Asian Action Movie. This show is hitting 50%, which is waaaay better than before. Red River Valley was somewhat boring, but the next two movies I captured on my ReplayTV were pretty good. Both were by the director Johhnie To, who was pretty hot a few years ago.
Running Out of Time 2 was a tale of a clever criminal (Ekin Cheng) who plays a game of cat and mouse with a smart, serious policeman (Lau Ching-Wan). The movie is seriously flawed, with such wooden concepts as a CGI Bald Eagle, which is the criminal's 'mascot'. However, I was totally amused by the interplay of personalities, and the chase across nighttime Hong Kong was hilarious.
It's a good thing I didn't read the reviews until I'd watched most of the movie. It seems most of the folks submitting reviews could only see the negative aspects. Apparently, Running Out of Time is much the superior movie to this sequel. In that movie, Andy Lau plays the criminal, in this case dying of an incurable disease. So the first movie really was about running out of time. Lau Ching-Wan was the cop in this original movie as well. Anyway, I gotta see it now...
Where a Good Man Goes is about a former Triad boss who returns to the world after spending several years in prison. The role was again played by Lau Ching-Wan. He's quickly becoming one of my favorite Asian actors. Here he manages to show how a former Triad member moves from his habits of brutal and relentless obsession with money to a caring man who can actually feel for a family.
The latest movie was the live-action Dragonball! I watched about ten minutes of it, then deleted it, it was that painful. I felt like I was watching a Power Rangers feature-length movie. Man, it was bad!
So as I said, batting around 50%.
Posted by dpwakefield at 08:57 PM
January 17, 2003
Asian Movie Roundup
We get the International Channel, and I take advantage of it by recording Hong Kong Movie Express each week. Most of the time they are a big disappointment, like a recent selection known as The Nightmare Zone. It was an anthology of three stories each of which was supposed to be spooky, but was usually 'oooo, wasn't that scary, kids?' rather than truly creepy. The punchline was always anticlimactic.
Somewhat more entertaining was When I Look Upon the Stars. Directed by Dante Lam, it is an offbeat love story, sort of a love triangle, but more mixed up. I confess that it also has an actress I've always had a crush on, Shu Qi, whose reputation centers around cuteness and clowning around.
This time around I was surprised to see the movie was actually fairly well known. It was King of Comedy starring Stephen Chow. I own God of Cookery and Shaolin Soccer, which are both hilarious. Watching this one, I can see why it made the International Channel lineup. It is not as sustainingly entertaining as those other movies, though I did laugh out loud a few times (enough so that Jean came downstairs to see what all the hubbub was about).
Final verdict, I'm glad i saw it, but I won't be buying my own copy or forcing my friends to watch it.
And now we're entering a dry spell, until at least February 7th without subtitled Hong Kong movies. Poo.
Posted by dpwakefield at 08:29 PM