So, it’s that time of year where we sit back and reflect on the films that we have seen for the year. Overall, how did 2010 look? Well, there were certainly some highs and some lows, and I am not one to try and act like a film snob and go against the grain here. This was not a staff selection, but instead, this is my own personal selection, which may not align perfectly with our readers’ opinions. But, that is OK, because that is what makes Japan Cinema’s film community so great. We are all different and have our own set of views although I will be hard pressed to find a difference in opinion with my ‘worst’ choices. So, please enjoy my list and let me know your thoughts and/or if I missed anything. Let’s kick off the list with the #5 worst film of 2010:
Why it’s awful: Future X-Cops had finished filming last year, and it was supposed to be on the screens around February. Then, the crew said the special effects weren’t finished yet, changing the screening dated to the same with Hong Kong’s. For having to delay a film to improve the CG, I am completely dumbfounded since the special effects are awful. I would say about almost 90 percent of it was made with actors acting in front of the green screen. At times, the actors look a little confused – where to look or how to react. The movie tried too hard to recreate a futuristic landscape.
Why it’s awful: Never in my life have I seen a film so gory yet been bored to tears. It has every movie genre in one, shoved in Batman, Green Hornet, war movies, black & white, color, undercover heist movies, and every kind of gimmick shoved into this mess of a film. My biggest complaint is that everyone involved has been better. In any career, in any occupation, the idea is to get better with age, to make your next project better than the last. It seems that everyone here was just trying to cash a paycheck. At the end of the day, the audience is going into Legend of the Fist for the action. But, that doesn’t excuse shoddy filmmaking, at least not for this reviewer.
Why it’s awful: The plot was thin, the character motivations were practically nil and the fight scenes were shot with far too many cuts. The acting ranged from over the top to poor. There is no background to the characters being shown, for example the whole world is fallen in to corruption, but how? They probably figured that if they include MTV styled quick cuts to try and put through that feeling of adrenaline pumping, we would forget all about the lame storyline. It reminded me of the type of films you see late at night on SYFY, and I would advise all hardcore fans to treat this like the anime and shun it.
Why it’s awful: Surprisingly crisp swordplay will be the only redeeming factor walking away from this film and I am glad i lasted past the dreadful first 30 minutes where the pacing is so slow I almost slipped into a coma. It is generally pointless to gimmick ninjas in the advertisements considering all of their weapons are useless against the alien invaders. The aliens in this film look like rubbery dinosaur lizards and they are beyond laughable. It just comes across as stupid and plays to the lowest common denominator. The hungry brutal aliens starts to savage and feast on the Ninja warriors, leaving only few to survive. Why even let a war break out? It never fully explains!
If you are a King of Fighter fan and you follow its story then it is best not to watch it. It is really a shame the beautiful Maggie Q wasted her time on this project. Seriously, I don’t understand how someone can make a movie about something they have no idea about, do some research people, you are playing with fans of this game that go watch your movie expecting the minimum from you. I’m usually very forgiving of movies and understanding of their flaws, but this movie was an epic fail. The whole reason being, is The King of Fighter’s actually takes itself seriously. I am sure that the director had the best of intentions at heart, but there is no need to make a movie out of a fighting game that has long gone out of date. One of the worst movies I have had to sit through.
Why it’s great: Fire of Conscience is a pure adrenaline rush, make no mistake about it. It is a film made with real verve and skill. It is shot in a very Michael Mann-ish type of direction with cool, suave camera movements. This film goes beyond the bullets and smoke to explore the people behind the guns. It makes for good plot development while at this same time, when the action hits, you feel more invested in the characters. The action scenes are wonderfully staged, while Leon Lai and Richie Jen make for a fascinating pair of complex cops. Fire of Conscience is a winner!
Why it’s great: This film is very mature for a Miike film and after his last few outing I have to admit I wasn’t really looking forward to this particular film. Even the suicide ritual of hari-kari was portrayed well as well as the different class attitudes. I have to give Miike a pat on the back for offering mainstream audiences an earnest look at vintage Samurai cinema. And as a huge Kurosawa fan, I really don’t say that lightly. 13 Assassins is not only the most accomplished and polished film of Takashi Miike’s career, it is also the best film I have watched so far at the Fantastic Film Festival. Takashi Miike deftly moves between moments of great battles, to one-on-one fights, all neatly wrapped up into a film that is entertaining on all cylinders.
Why it’s great: I Saw the Devil is a brutally violent, hypnotic thriller. I Saw the Devil is the best serial killer movie in many years and clearly one that goes in my Top 5 serial killer films of all time. The action scenes are shot surprisingly well, and there’s a certain pleasure to be derived from watching the hunter become hunted. The film is a gritty, merciless experience that could never be truly recreated in North America. This is the kind of hard-boiled revenge thriller you could only find coming out of Korea.
Why it’s great: Given the source material, it is a sincere films that might pull at the heartstrings. I must also priase how the film looks very authentic for its era portrayed which is key in the success of the films’ overall appeal. Law’s screenplay is pleasant and all the actors do a great job. Hong Kong is I feel a hard place for many people who are local Hong Kongese. I feel a little guilty to live a comfortable life here. This is why the film is so powerful because it makes you think about your own life. Echoes of the Rainbow won the Crystal Bear Award at the 60th Berlin Film Festival for Best New Generation Film and has been nominated for six prizes at the Hong Komng Film Awards. This is a great achievement and only reiterates my point that this film needs to be seen.
Why it’s great: The first movie to ever be shown in IMAX in China is one doozy of a film. Currently the most popular domestic blockbuster in Chinese history and China’s entry for the 2011 Academy Awards, the 2010 drama is a crowd pleaser to be sure. The director even took note of the time when this earthquake took place. The Tangshan earthquake really took place in the morning. It is attention to detail like this that really sets the tone and authenticates the film in itself. On the whole, it manages to be compelling, giving a sense of nostalgia, and making you feel affinity with the life of this people. What more, all the cast members gave stellar performances. Highly recommended, and a natural inclusion to the shortlist of this year’s best. As a fan of Feng’s films thus far, he continues to show that he’s worthy of my time as both a reviewer and a film lover.
All in all, a great year in film and heres to an even better year in 2011! I hope everyone, old and new readers alike, will continue to follow Japan Cinema into the new year.