It’s mainland box-office never really kicked off since it is an an art cinema alternative from a first-time director and without any bankable names in it, still I was intrigued by its warm reviews (also it got three Golden Horse Awards nominations last year), so needless to say it is the kind of film I prefer to offer my contribution.
Adapted by a true story, a blind pianist prodigy Yu-Siang Huang, who plays himself in the film, and the film stretches out his pristine university life with a college drop-out girl’s endeavor to pursue her passion for dancing (played by Yung-Yung Chang, already a three-time Golden Horse Awards best actress nominee at the age of 25, including one she got from this film), the film’s greatest merit is the light touch of its tear-jerking scenario, the mother-son affection has managed to deliver a kitchen-sink authenticity without too many embellishments, actress Lieh Li who plays Huang’s mother, brilliantly incarnates a subtle flair of humbleness, lovingness and tenderness.
It is an encouraging film, exhorts everyone to follow his or her dreams, to strive for it, and it also shuns a hackneyed underdog’s victory, neither the quartet performance nor the dance competition has functioned as a means of gaining instant fame or success, more or less it symbolizes Huang’s motto – everybody is born equally, although he is blind, it should not be considered as his disadvantage or his perk, his zeal of music is out of his heart, not a tool to grandstand for his own favor, the same can be inducted to Yung-Yung, she may not be pick of the bunch, but when she dances, she radiates with happiness.
The uplifting theme is perpetually presented by a hazy cinematography (a nice focus on Huang’s eyes with mostly looking-up angle) under the accompany of gentle light and a melodic score, this type of film is categorized as a sub-genre in Taiwan’s cinematic scene, in Mandarin we call it “Xiao Qing Xin”, literally means “small, fresh and novel”, aiming at youngsters’ love and friendship in rural or urban lives. Touch of the Light is an engrossing storyteller, although all its components are stock-in-trade, the sleight of hand and a competent cast are worth at least some ovations and for me it is always delightful to discover new blood from that insular isle.
Rurouni Kenshin is composed of three films. The first film is complete in itself and others consist one story. The first live-action installment of Rurouni Kenshin judiciously cut several arcs from the original manga and anime story to deliver a tight, cohesive narrative that built up to a satisfying conclusion — even if it did reveal a few late-story secrets far, far too early. I know a lot of the critics’ complaints are centered on which aspects – too long, too many characters, too much info to digest, and the pacing is not furious enough. To some extent I do see where the complaints come from but I really didn’t mind the duration. For a layman like me, I feel the director, Keishi Ohtomo told his story with great clarity, perhaps even too much clarity. It does feel over-written especially if you already know the world of Kenshin. All the characters’ motivations are clearly depicted. There are indeed a myriad of characters on screen but I never have a feeling they are under-developed to the point of detriment. Perhaps the only relationship I feel suffered is the love between Kaoru and Kenshin. Wished I had seen more of that because she looks great.
One standout, however, is Tao Tsuchiya, who’s delightful to watch as Oniwa Banshu ninja Makimachi Misao. While her attempts at anime-style spunk don’t quite work, her full-throttle wire-assisted combat displaces enough bamboo to evoke positive memories of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Ryunosuke Kamiki (voice of Bo in Spirited Away and Marukuru in Howl’s Moving Castle) similarly sets up an effectively creepy Sojiro Seta, though in a film crammed with so many new characters, we don’t quite get to know who he is so much as simply what he does. As for the remainder of the supporting cast from the first film, they are almost entirely cut from the runtime, appearing only during Kenshin’s should-I-go-to-Kyoto quandary at the opening and then again at the end. This leaves Kenshin meandering the middle arc as an arbitrary avenger, with only an incidental connection to the travesties Shishio creates around him — and repeated scenes of women and children weeping extravagantly over dead bodies feels more desperate than driving. With Sato’s portrayal of Kenshin predominantly set to glower, we don’t get a clear sense of the radical shift between his carefree and killer states, and it’s unclear which moments truly resonate with the reformed assassin.
The action sequences are exceptionally well-choreographed, and generally fun to watch. But with so many featuring hero-vs-the-world stuntman slaughter, tension is quickly lost. While there are fits of incidental action, there are only two big one-on-one fights for the title character, and the second, though Bourne-like in its innovative use of tight spaces, involves an antagonist we barely know and who only serves to mechanically set up the next plot point (He’s also done up a little too ridiculously for a live-action villain — another area where deviation from the source material would have been wise). Taken on the whole, the film feels like watching only the first quarter of Kill Bill Volume 1 stretched to 139 minutes. Much sound and fury, signifying little — and even a citywide battle in the penultimate arc seems arbitrary and unearned. Having gone through so many unrelated minor objectives, the stakes are unclear and the emotional investment isn’t there. Perhaps this will all be put paid in the second half, promised in September. But until then, this Rurouni Kenshin feels long on tease and short on delivery.
For a movie that is about a cult manga, the titular characters all look and behave exactly like their manga counterparts. The clothes, intricate set designs and modern soundtrack, all tied in together for a sumptuous feast. I know I did miss out on some manga/anime references because the boisterous crowd last night was full on hyped up and laughing away. For a movie that is one week old the 90% crowd last night was superb. Finally, talking about boisterous audience, there were two PRC girls sitting in front of us. At the final scene where yet a new character is introduced, the two girls screamed their heads off and arms gesticulated everywhere. I am confident that Kyoto Inferno left a good ending to what will be a legendary beginning in The Legend Ends.
Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case provides an interesting, provocative look at the oppression of the People’s Republic of China, focusing on the prosecution of artist Ai Weiwei on trumped up tax charges. Although it at times could benefit from greater background on the legal and political situation, it ultimately paints a compelling portrait of struggle against an overbearing state.
The film does not make its point through graphic depictions of torture or by rattling off statistics of people imprisoned or executed. Rather, it emphasizes the human impact of persecution at an individual level. We watch as Ai Weiwei and his family deal with the fallout of his imprisonment and house arrest. We see surprisingly frank discussions with his legal team in which his lawyers matter of factly acknowledge the dirty tricks used by the police. We hear the artist’s mother express fear for her son.
This human approach has advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, we do not get much background on how the Chinese legal system works or why the Chinese government pursues Ai Weiwei. We see the artist play fast and loose with the restrictions imposed by the Chinese government during his probation with no apparent consequences, even though he is obviously under heavy surveillance. No explanation is given for the lack of retribution. Nevertheless, the film gradually paints an unsettling portrait of a society on the edge, still mired in authoritarianism and looking toward an uncertain future.
We also see strength in the face of adversity. Ai Weiwei maintains a sense of humor throughout and even takes small steps to defy the Chinese authorities. Such courage in the face of state authority is inspiring. This documentary saves its strongest blow for its conclusion. We see the art installation based on Ai Weiwei’s imprisonment, smuggled out of the country in several boxes. Although they don’t depict anything horrific, the sheer starkness of how they depict the surveillance and interrogations he endured gets across the true brutality of the Chinese state.
Ning’s latest offer NO MAN’S LAND ventures into a territory where Chinese films scarcely enter, Western, more specifically, it is a road movie sets within a 500 mile no man’s wilderness, Xu is an uprising lawyer just won a lawsuit for a callous falcon hunter (Duobujie), when Xu drives the hunter’s car (as his reward) back to city, en route in the bare desert, a series of mishaps successively occur, which encompasses a killer (Huang), a prostitute (Yu), two lorry drivers (Ba and Wang), the owner of a tourist trap (Yang) and his retarded son (Pei Wang), while the ultimate boss of the catch and release is the hunter himself, who harbors a vicious scheme to both carry the contraband to the buyers and get rid of the snobbish lawyer.
Nevertheless Man proposes but God disposes, the Domino effect starts with one single sputum, everything starts to run amok. Ning does go to great length to make all the incidents sound logical, there is plethora of human stains among these boors, self-seekers, extortioners, poachers and murderers, the only counterbalance is the goodhearted but frail sex worker, who assumes a pivotal impetus for Xu’s heroic self-sacrifice. The vast Gobi desert provides a stupefying outlook to inspect the good and the evil stem from one’s heart, violence abounds, the rule of survival turns citizens into voracious animals.
Highlight from the cast, Duobujie is a Chinese analog of Jarvier Bardem in No Country For Old Men, the action chick Nan Yu retreats back into a stereotyped damsel-in- distress niche but is tellingly watchable. Bo Huang brings about the same sum of trembles and laughters with empowering swagger, and by design our heart roots for Xu’s character, whose ill- fated story strikes a chord although his loft transition is a bit too intentional for a heroic cause, like the bombastic ending.
Clearly the cast has undergone some physical maltreatment during the filming, under the extreme weather and locale, and the final product is principally recommendable for its sleek plot twists, waggish dialog and highly entertaining cat-and-mouse chases and skirmishes, but bearing in mind Hao Ning’s reputation as Chinese Guy Ritchie or Quentin Tarantino, NO MAN’S LAND could be more unorthodox and maybe its original version is, but woefully we would never know.
The movie is about a hit man from America’s mid-west who is of Korean decent. When he botches what was supposed to be his last job by killing an innocent kid, he is sent to Korea to fix what he screwed up by killing the kid’s mother. It sounds a bit like a fish out of water story, but the movie only proves that the crime world is the crime world no matter what country you are from. The night shots of Los Angeles are especially gorgeous which reminded me of Michael Mann’s signature visual shots of Los Angeles in his flawless crime thrillers, “Heat” and “Collateral”.
The money part is where all the crime Drama comes in as it’s about a Korean gang uses a legit network to launder Triad money, The plot tries to be complex with the an everyone is not who they seem kind of situation. They film also tries to give some depth to the main character showing us why a harden hit man would allow an accidentally killing to melt his heart like it did. For me the story was not as complex as the action sequences.
The lack of character development in “No Tears For the Dead” is what makes “The Man From Nowhere” so much better. In “The Man From Nowhere”, you actually cared about the characters and what the protagonist goes through to save his neighbor’s child. Here, it is almost nonexistent since the action sequences leave no time for them to get acquainted. However, both use the exact same format of revealing the protagonists’ past that made them become who they were and it is also effectively done in “No Tears For the Dead”. I came to care about the protagonist but there should’ve been more between the killer and mother.
The ending was also disappointing since it wasn’t clear what really happens to everyone. But the final scene was a good way to end the movie on a tragic note which pretty much explains the title of the movie. Overall, it’s not as good as “The Man From Nowhere” in terms of plot and character development. The reason I bring up the “The Man From Nowhere” is that “No Tears For the Dead” is a very similar movie but shot on an entirely different canvas. However, “No Tears for the Dead” is nevertheless another enjoyable entry from its director.
I have to admit that I am not well versed in Asian action films, nor Korean history but I love this film. YOON Jong-bin’s “Kundo”is the story of a bandit clan that take on the tyranny inflicted on the peasant population during the Joseon Dynasty. The film is a Korean period piece, set in 1859, and brings together a modern vision to classic Asian action-fantasy with tradition dramatic passion.
“Kundo” tells a very powerful saga between the impoverished people suffering at the hands of the ruling nobility. It is a tale that rings, not only in historical record, but in modern time around the world. Similar to the legend of Robin Hood, “Kundo” creates a wonderful narrative of one group of individuals standing up to the oppression, taking what they can from the rich, and handing it out to the poor. Something that is universally recognizably as true human heroism. Yoon brings the story to live in epic style, filled with both visual and emotional power that captivates.
The special effects in “Kundo” are restrained and by no means rise as the star of this film. The story, with all its raw intensity, personable emotion, and hypnotizing sound effects are of equal status in this one. The choreographed fighting style is every bit as entertaining as Hong Kong’s action films that match this type of film. However the character that develops in “Kundo” balances that fantastical ability of Asian martial arts and war with true passionate story telling that hits at the heart. It is relatable on so many levels. At times the film reminds me of the American westerns of the late 60’s and early 70’s that tried to give an honest voice to the First Peoples plight.
Over all I have to say the “Kundo” is an affective film-creating a strong atmosphere than pulls you into the story completely. Yoon is brilliant in his ability to make a historical picture relevant to modern audiences while honoring the past. Elements of Western bravado show at certain moments, without spoiling the film I can only say that the film is truly entertaining, giving moments of Kevin Reynolds’ “Prince Of Thieves” dramatically-Hong Kong styled fighting and action reminiscent of Tsui Hark’s “Once Upon A Time In China”. Ther is also a bit of wild west attitude in “Kundo” that reminds me of Christopher Cain’s “Young Guns”. And yet Yoon manages to keep a unique signature style that is what must be totally Korean, all the elements that make “Kundo” such a stellar film are balanced perfectly with out being overstated. It is a true cinematic gem.
South Korean trademark genre “Revenge Thriller” is back with Jeong-ho Lee’s “Broken” based on the novel by Japanese novelist Keigo Higashino. A widowed father Lee Sang Hyeon (Jeong Jae Yeong) is seeking vengeance after her only daughter is raped and murdered. He is utterly disgruntled by ineptitude of police until he finds a clue about the murderers, he takes the law in his own hands and kills one of the murderers. Now he becomes a fugitive and detective Eok-Gwan (Lee Sung-Min) is in his pursuit. Broken is a carefully crafted film with gloomy and revolting notions. It raises questions about juvenile felony and adult crimes. It rather blemishes of Korean law regarding juvenile delinquency. Is it veracious to kill minors who are involved in heinous crimes because Korean Law does not have a rigorous imprisonment system of minors? We can hear a lot of conversations in the movie regarding the moral or ethical verdict.
“Broken” unveils many contemporary concerns: adolescent bullying in schools, teenage prostitution and incompetent judiciary system. Jeong-ho Lee makes you embroil up with the characters and their dilemma is felt in every manner. The begrimed mood goes very well with immaculate cinematography. The actors are perfect in their roles; every character has been played with utmost solemnity. Lee Sang Hyeon gives a stunning performance as a devastated and unforgiving father. Broken is a thoughtful look at vehemence and violence with use of definitive elements of film-making.
I was very skeptical at first, but after reading the synopsis of the movie I decided to give it a shot. I was well rewarded for that decision. As a father with a daughter who is the love of my life, I found the story line very appealing and riveting. The acting was superb. I identified with what the father was going through after his daughter’s death and actually believe that I would seek out my own personal justice too. All of the actors were great. I was very surprised at the level of entertainment that this movie provided. I never left my seat for the entire movie. I hope to see more entertaining movies such as this one in the future. I highly recommend that you sit down and watch this movie. You won’t be disappointed.
Ji-woong is a loser who can’t find a job so he lies to his mom for money, but his mom abruptly cuts him off one day, and he becomes homeless. But that same day, salvation arrives in the form of Hong-sil who’s extremely stingy. Her hobby is visiting the bank to make savings deposits, and her specialty is selling empty glass bottles and old newspapers for cash. One day, her savings plans are brought to a screeching halt when she learns she needs a separate bank account under someone else’s name to reach her goal of 20 million dollars. That’s when Ji-woong comes into the picture.
What Penny Pinchers does best is making its characters’ motivations clear. Ji-Woong is a young guy looking to have fun in the city and maybe even hoping to get laid. Hong-Sil’s father instilled in her a deep-seated fear of poverty after he lost their family’s life savings gambling, which is why she is intent on saving as much as possible for the future. When Ji-Woong and Hong-Sil team up, they both teach each other a few things about saving money and using that money to do what you want in life.
Ultimately that’s what this movie comes down to: you can scrounge and save as much as you want, but if you don’t have a goal in life, what’s the point? It’s a simple message, and one you’ve seen done before. Still, the film has some fun moments, and both Song and Han have good chemistry together. Song is essentially the film’s lead, and he sells even the most inane comedic moments with an energy that, however juvenile the scene may be, usually works. A side plot involving him trying to get in bed with a crush plays out quite nicely, with a final payoff that made me laugh out loud. The film also does a fair job of making the inevitable romance between Ji-Woong and Hong-Sil humorous. One gag involving a melodramatic Korean film may be stolen straight out of the silent era, but it still works. The film may be nothing new, but it’s charming and manages to make its comedic touch feel refreshing within its own narrative context.
Until Zou deploys nuclear option of rom-com twists, “But Always” meanders from one flashback to the next. After we meet struggling artist Anran. Fast forward a couple of years more and we catch up with both of them in the Big Apple; but whereas An Ran is now working as a tour guide, Yongyuan is a successful businessman on Wall Street whose masterful grasp of English proves that you can do a lot with your time in prison. Though the hand of fate has turned, Yongyuan is still very much in love with An Ran, and despite knowing that she is already attached to a painter (Qin Hao), wants to let her know that his feelings for her have never diminished through the years. On the other hand, An Ran is less sure, and only sparks to Yongyuan’s advances after being convinced of his sincerity – alas, a happily ever after isn’t on the minds of co- writer and director Snow Zou.
In a most clichéd turn of events, An Ran’s on- and off-boyfriend is left paralysed from the waist down after a car accident, and because he had just visited her prior to it, she feels responsible for his condition and chooses to stay by his side to take care of him. But just as you think Zou might be ending things on a bittersweet note, he goes on to deliver yet another stunner straight out of a certain Robert Pattinson movie called ‘Remember Me’. Yes, it’s no coincidence that our couple find themselves in New York in the year 2001, but instead of being poignant, that supposed twist is so shamelessly manipulative that it may leave you infuriated.
It comes off even worse when you consider the coda at the end, which sees An Ran returning to Beijing in 2014 on board a bus which announces how many Chinese like her are doing likewise to take advantage of the opportunities in their own hinterland. Admittedly, Peter Chan’s most recent ‘American Dreams in China’ also had the same message, but the positioning here reeks of sheer insensitivity, so much so that you won’t be thinking of the romance by the time the movie is over.
On their part, Tse and Gao try to muster as much chemistry they have with each other against weak plotting and one-note characterisation, but ultimately neither their characters nor their relationship resonates as much as it should. There aren’t any strong supporting characters to speak of, which is why it is fortunate that the cinematography is excellent, so even though the story or the characters aren’t particularly engaging, the shots are always pretty to look at.