Friday, September 7, 2007

if you were me

If You Were Me (various directors, 2003)

If You Were Me is comprised of six short films by different directors. Each segment tackles the subject of human rights. The Human Rights Commission in Korea had asked for a film to be made regarding the issues, and If You Were Me is the first of an ongoing series (If You Were Me 2 and I read a third is being made).

The Weight of Her (Im Sun-Rye)

The Man with an Affair (Jeong Jae-Eun)

Crossing (Yeo Gyun-Dong)

Tongue Tie (Park Jin-Pyo)

Face Value (Park Gwang-Su)

Never Ending Peace and Love (Park Chan-Wook)

Stories of self-image, disability, embarrassment, identity, are societal problems covered in the segments.
If You Were the saying "put yourself in someone else's shoe," and how would you react or not react?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

i'm a cyborg, but that's ok

I'm a Cyborg, But That's Ok (Park Chan-Wook, 2006) - 8/10

"Sympathy is the worst of the 7 deadly sins.
For your reference, the following 6 are as follows.

Being sad.


Hesitating about anything.

Useless daydreaming.

Feeling guilty.


The above was in the order of evilness.

Useless daydreaming about whether the white 'uns have grannies, too...
Sympathy about their grannies if the white 'uns died...
And hesitating about killing them, you must forego these sins."

Friday, July 6, 2007

café lumière

Café Lumière (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2003) - 8.5/10

After watching Café Lumière, my third film from Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien (Three Times, and Millennium Mambo), I realize the patience his films require.

When watching Millennium Mambo I was put off by the long takes of the characters doing the most ordinary and mundane actions. Such as a one minute take (might be a little off) of Shu Qi's character lighting and smoking a cigarette. Or a character walking in and out of the kitchen pouring a drink.

Café Lumière is the slowest of the three films I've seen from Hsiao-hsien. I have no problems with this. In fact, Café Lumière is the one I love most. The movie is constructed in a way where you feel like an observer. From the train ride scenes, where it seems the viewer is settled inside the train accompanying/observing the character of Yôko (played by Jpop artist, Yo Hitoto, in her first film acting role). Yôko is a freelance writer content on being independent. She has a place of her own, and feels no desire to marry the guy whom she is pregnant with, wanting to bring up the child on her own. It may seem from an outer layer that her relationship with her parents is close, but far from it. As far as them struggling to communicate with one another.

Tadanobu Asano (Ichi The Killer) is Hajime, a book store owner and a very close friend to Yôko. Hajime comes off as carefree and laid-back, and acts as a support to Yôko's problems. But maybe deep inside Hajime is isolation. Something curled up, like the digital artwork he created of a fetus enclosed between multiple trains. When Yôko tells Hajime about her pregnancy, there is only a quiet response from Hajime.

The everyday existence of these characters are portrayed with ordinary actions from the characters, little dialogue, and a serene and quiet paced film that maybe mimics the existence of our ordinary beings.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

millennium mambo

Millennium Mambo (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2001) - 6/10

As she jogs through a blue lit tunnel with a captivating soundtrack playing in the background, the presence of Shu Qi, may compel you from the start. However, it's scenes like this which helps make Millennium Mambo watchable. What this film lacks is any real closure between scenes. Instead, director Hsiao-hsien, crafts his scenes to make them overly long. Characters performing the most mundane actions and daily routines taking up a lot of run time. Three Times, his only other movie I've seen contain elements of this, yet that movie manages to evoke wonder from those scenes. Millennium Mambo, almost feels rugged and raw (yet wonderfully shot), not surprising, considering the content the movie brings. The radiant and bright lights, seen illuminating the screen from Taiwan's underground night life, strikes a balance of tone in colour.

Shu Qi plays Vicky, a women who's life has been torn and somewhat wasted caused by a relationship gone wrong. An abusive, manipulative, and jealous boyfriend, Hao-hao, who deliberately ruined Vicky's education prospects. Fearing she would move on without him, both live together unemployed, and are frequent visitors of a nightclub, and inhabit the world of drugs. The depressing nature of their relationship heightened in a couple scenes, may make it hard to witness for some. Like the way Hao-hao scrutinizes Vicky in an attempt to uncover if she's cheated, by sniffing all over her, with her feeble attempt at annoyance. The anger that may evoke from viewers towards Hao-hao is another strong point the movie delivers.

Narrated by Shu Qi's character herself, in a third person point of view -- 10 years after the fact -- we at least sense some closure and contentment into her distraught life.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

the road home

The Road Home (Zhang Yimou, 1999) - 8/10

Why not take that one last path to the road home? Another beautifully told dramatic tale from Zhang Yimou. Opening with black and white moving visuals, The Road Home glances back to the life of a young Di (played by Zhang Ziyi), into a luscious and colourful landscape enveloping a small village. Before elaborating into the past life of Di, we first learn of her husband's passing. Yusheng, Di's son, is realyed the news of the passing, where he leaves the city for the village where Di resdies. By Di's request, she envisions a long tradition of the funeral procession being carried along a road that connect the city to the village. For one last moment, she wants to walk side by side with her husband to the road home.

The story of Di is narrated by her son, Yusheng, as he tries to uncover why fulfilling his mother's request would mean everything to her. The simplicity of Yimou's film -- witnessed in his other poignant film, Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles -- uses beautiful imagery to help capture the emotions of the characters and mood. Zhang Ziyi, as the young Di, endures a graceful and innocent look, painted on her face, making it easy for us to care for her character.

Di and Changyu are 18 and 20 years old respectively. Yimou doesn’t forget they are 18 and 20 years old, young and ambitious. Like school kids in love. When Di fetches water from a well, she glances below to see Changyu reaching for the well. Her bucket already filled with water is dumped back into the well. And how does Yimou capture our interest when an elderly man puts together pieces of a broken bowl? The imagery to capture emotion, as we realize the emotional connectivity the bowl has for Di, and her devotion and care into making the perfect meal for Changyu.

The expansion into the character of Changyu could have gone further. After 40 years, what is it about Changyu that has made Di love him after all these years. Is it just the pleasure of hearing his voice? Or the young, blind love that has carried on for 40 years? Di’s devotion to Changyu, who has been strayed away from her in the beginning, makes her character ever more fragile. As the funeral procession to the road home commences, we may not feel emotion for Changyu, but I would think Yimou would like us to sympathize for Changyu through Di.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

memories of matsuko

Memories of Matsuko (Tetsuya Nakashima, 2006) - 10/10

Director, Tetsuya Nakashima brought you Kamikaze Girls previously. A movie boasting two female characters struggling to find common ground in their friendship. My first glance into Nakashima's work, his film-making style hit me from the start. Memories of Matsuko opens almost fairytale-like. The opening underwater sequence reminded my of the sequence in Walt Disney's The Little Mermaid. In fact, Nakashima manages to combine numerous fantasy/fairytale elements and elements from famous films. An example include The Wizard of Oz, where we experience a scene reminiscent to the yellow brick road. Aside from the beautifully stunning scenes of bright and luscious colours, Japanese pop music (Jpop) vibe, and bits of animation, therein lies a beautiful and tragic story of Matsuko.

Told through flashbacks (memories) into the life of Matsuko, Matsuko's nephew attempts to unearth why she was murdered, and any traces of memories others and him might have of Matsuko. We realize through these memories, that love and loneliness played opposing forces throughout Matsuko's life. Love she seeked, loneliness she avoided. But through avoiding loneliness, love avoided her. From the two films I've enjoyed in Nakashima's work, he creates female character roles with strong development and personalities, and with their own set of misguided opportunities in life. What is life if you don't live it to the fullest? Its no wonder the resemblance to the yellow brick road recognizes the road leading to one's path in life, no matter how difficult or tragic.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

update for may......

Nobody Knows (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2004) - 9.5/10

A realistic portrayal into the lives of four siblings who struggle to survive and live on their own. After their mother takes off, the oldest sibling Akira, is left responsible to maintain their survival. Based on true accounts (which appear more grisly than what the film portrays), Nobody Knows sustains the touch of realism. The film sucks you into the lives of these characters, with a feeling of empathy through their innocent persona and heartbreaking moments.

Time (Kim Ki-duk, 2006) - 8/10

My fourth Ki-duk film which looks into Korean's societies' fascination with plastic surgery. Time specifically focuses on two lovers, where Seh-hee questions her lover's (Ji-woo) appreciation of her physical attributes. Is Ji-woo tired of gazing at Seh-hee's same features day after day? Would plastic surgery cure Seh-hee's doubts? Time contains some confusing and fascinating moments. Confusing, when characters appear or don't appear to be who they are. Fascinating, in how the film gets you thinking at the few twists. In the style of Ki-duk, the characters and actions don't really add up to reality.

Windstruck (Kwak Jae-young, 2004) - 7/10

Not a follow up/sequel to My Sassy Girl, which stars the same main lead and directed by the same director. Jun Ji-hyun (Kyung-jin is her character name) plays almost the same character traits she played in My Sassy Girl, as someone who doesn't care what others think, who is mentally strong, thinks on impulse, and edgy. Here, she plays a cop who meets a guy (Myung-woo) whom she mistakenly arrests. Myung-woo volunteers as a neighbourhood patroller, and finds out his partner is Kyung-jin. A light-hearted romantic comedy with some entertaining/comedic action takes. The ending could have killed the film with sappy melo-drama accompanied with a ridiculous dream/heaven like scene.

Infernal Affairs (Lau Wai-Keung & Mak Siu-Fai, 2002) - 8/10

A dectective thriller featuring two of Hong Kong's biggest stars, Andy Lau and Tony Leung Chiu Wai. Both of their main characters are planted in as moles within the police force and the local triads. The task is to outwit one another and unveil their hidden identities. Lau and Leung exert great wit and force within their roles, leading us to unexpected results for the finale.

Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles (Zhang Yimou, 2005) - 8/10

A relationship between a Japanese father and his son turns cold from past circumstances. Only their pride barricades both, straying them apart, until it is too late to settle their differences. Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, is also the title given to a Chinese opera portrayed in the film. Takata, the father of his ailing son attempts to make-up for their differences by filming the opera, Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, located in China. Takata decides to travel to China to fulfill his son's adoration for the opera. A solemn piece of work different from other Yimou's filmography that made him renown for the extravagant works displayed in Hero or House of Flying Daggers.

Fearless (Ronny Yu, 2006) - 5.5/10

A cliche filled and predictable film featuring revenge, remorse, broken promises and friendship. Jet Li plays a fighter trained in the art of wushu, and renown for his skills and competitiveness in his hometown. Barred from setting sights in the art when he was a child, Huo Yuanjia continues his father’s teachings after his death. Yuanjia’s cockiness and erratic actions attract rivals, strangers that feed off his success, and family tragedies. Years working in an isolated village consoles his sorrows and make amends for past actions. The clichés, predictabilities, and cringe inducing acting from Li dampens the film. A couple positives, good cinematography and the finale between Yuanjia and his Japanese competitor.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

ping pong

Ping Pong (Fumihiko Sori, 2002) - 8.5/10

Is a game just a game? Or is a game more than just a game? Two questions and two characters with different mindsets to the game of ping pong. Peco and Smile are two friends who play for a school ping pong team. One has all the talent in the world and fails to utilize them completely. He views the game as just a game to pass time. One brings arrogance with him to the game, but fails to realize his faults. Whether those faults are within his skill range or the faults lie within life. Butterfly Joe is the school's ping pong coach. Once considered one of the best in the game, Butterfly Joe attempts to squeeze the hidden potential Smile possesses. Is this an attempt to relive the glory days of Butterfly Joe's career? Tension mounts within each character. Within inside themselves or confrontation between each other.

These are the strong points within the film. The character developments that occur through the strains of these characters fills the film with emotion, character, and heart. The supporting cast completes the already excellent cast, bringing with them their own set of persona. A ping pong player from China (named China) wants to prove his skills and worth, something he failed to accomplish back in his own school national team. Dragon and Akuma play for the same team that rivals Peco and Smile. One is a two time champion with a strict discipline and routine. The other puts everything he has on the line -- from countless hours of practice -- but never lives to his own expectations. And finally Obaba, the owner of a ping pong dojo, and one who trains Peco to whip him back into game shape and get his mind back on track.

With each competitor striving to hold themselves in check, it brings unpredictable results to some of the competitive matches between the characters. Another reason this film differs from the majority of sports films and cliches. The conclusion brings two competitors together, as rivals and as friends. The outcome is an unpredictable and solemn approach between two people who are playing a game that means more than the game itself. Ping Pong uses some CGI effects, excellent cinematography, an amazing soundtrack with a fusion of futuristic beats and video game-like tunes that fit the game play scenes, and brilliant metaphoric imagery to capture the resonance of these characters' dreams and persona.

Friday, March 23, 2007


Failan (Song Hae-sung, 2001) - 8.5/10

**may contain spoilers

Cecilia Cheung in a Korean drama? Works for me. A Korean drama that manages to stay away from the over-the-top sappiness found in most Korean dramas. What happens when two people bound by an arranged marriage never meet? Failan, starring Cecilia Cheung and Choi Min-sik (Oldboy) -- play Failan and Kang-jae -- whom they discover a connection and feeling they have for one another through photographs and letters.

Kang-jae, a gangster who loses the respect from other members, seeks to find meaning in his life. After a life of time in prison, violence, and living an apathetic life. The first part of the film showcases the life of Kang-jae and the cruel world he inhabits. Failan (the titled character) is an immigrant from China visiting Korea after her parents' death, hoping to find her aunt, her only remaining relative. Failan discovers her aunt has moved to Canada, and with no money, her alternative to stay in Korea is through an arranged marriage.

At this point in the film, the film changes to a poignant and emotion filled piece. Failan struggles to cope in a new place, a new culture, a new language. While Kang-dae seeks out Failan after learning of her death. As an audience, learning the death of Failan through the half-way point does not detract from the emotional aspect. Its an interesting take in the film as we know of her death before being introduced to her character. And for this reason, we are presented a film that shifts in time and focus on the moment of Failan's struggles and Kang-dae's journey.

For all the misery and burden Kang-dae carries with him, he realizes the appreciation and respect he receives comes from someone he's never met. The tragedy lies in being too late to close that gap.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

confessions of pain

Confessions of Pain - (Wai Keung Lau & Siu Fai Mak, 2006) - 7.5/10

I caught the HK film Confessions of Pain a few days ago. Starring Tony Leung (Infernal Affairs) and Takashi Kaneshiro (House of Flying Daggers), and the same crew that made the Infernal Affairs trilogy. The film functions as a murder mystery/thriller. The finding and analyzing of clues and suspects carries sort of the same style as the TV show CSI (from the few glimpses I've seen).
We are revealed who the murderer is early which could've worked better for the ending, the same time the characters know this too.
There are enough intricate details of the story that manages to sustain the audience till the end, even if they already know the killer.

**I'll post an image if I can find one, which I can't.

Friday, March 2, 2007

shinobi: heart under blade

Shinobi: Heart Under Blade (Ten Shimoyama, 2005) - 6.5/10

A film based on a manga and the anime series, Basilisk, both of which I've never read and seen. Two rival ninja clans (Koga and Iga) are forced to battle each other by the ruling of Japan's Emperor. The Emperor, wanting to bring all of Japan under his ruling, fears the powers these two clan possess. Five top warriors from each clan are chosen to battle. Similar to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, two lovers (Oboro from the Koga clan and Gennosuke from the Iga clan) from both sides have fallen in love in secrecy. As one of the five chosen warriors from their respective clan, they must put their love aside and confront each other as enemies.

While this film has the right idea with its action sequences and mixing that with descent dramatic moments, the acting and emotion seems forced at times. The action sequence uses a mix of CGI and wire work. The swift and rapid movements shown through some of the battles were nicely done. I've read many complaints stating the effects were off and what not, but I didn't find it a distraction at all. The powers that each ninja warrior posses is reminiscent to what you would find in superhero comics and shows (e.g. X-Men). This is one film where I would've liked to see more use of the action sequence techniques, just because I didn't care much about the dramatic elements. The premise is there, but the execution falls short.

Monday, February 26, 2007

a battle of wits

Battle Of Wits (Chi Leung 'Jacob' Cheung, 2006) - 6/10

There hasn't been any costumed battle epics that I've really like. I've seen, Musa the Warrior, Seven Swords, The Myth, and that's all I can think of right now. I was sort of recommended Battle of Wits, based on using strategy and wit to outsmart one's opponent instead of sheer numbers and brute force. Andy Lau as Ge Li, a Mozi warrior protecting the small city of Liang plays the character with conviction. And those are the only things going for this film.

The battle sequences are typically seen in other films of the same genre (listed above). At times, the close up battles were shaky and choppy. It had some great shots though, like the panned and distant shots capturing the soldiers in formation.
The problems with these type of films, for me anyway is the lack of involvement I feel with the characters and the story. With the exception of Lau, the supporting actors fell flat (on their, they just weren't exciting).

Saturday, February 24, 2007

my boss my student

My Boss My Student (Dong-won Kim, 2006) - 7/10

The sequel to the 2001 Korean hit, My Boss My Hero, where 30-something gang leader Gae Do-Shik is forced to get his high school diploma by posing as a teenage student. In My Boss My Teacher, Gae Do-Shik continues his studies to get a college degree. He decides to become a student teacher at a high school. Coincidentally, Gae Do-Shik's boss is posing as a student himself to get his high school diploma.

Here, Gae Do-Shik tries to befriend a student, Yu Mi-jung, who lives with her grandmother and helps her run a food stall. Both her parents are dead. The school system is flawed and corrupted, where Yu Mi-jung and other students play victim to bribes and sexual harassment posed by the board of director. Away from the school, Gae Do-Shik and his gang try to work out a settlement between a gang in Hong Kong over territory ownership.

Part comedy, drama, and action, My Boss My Student is a descent follow up to the original, but the film feels a lot similar, not really bringing anything new. Although I'll say, it contains the most unexpected death I've seen. Shocking and sad. Since it was my second time seeing this movie, it was expected, but the impact still hits you.

Friday, February 23, 2007


Exiled (Johnnie To, 2006) - 8/10

A film by Johnnie To, soon to be or if he already isn't, a HK legendary filmmaker. His latest action thriller Exiled is reminiscent of the shoot-em-up genre of John Woo's The Killer, A Better Tomorrow, and Hard Boiled. Johnnie To has brought in some of the same casts in his other films, Election, Election 2, Breaking News.

Ordering hits, accepting missions, and all that good stuff presented in other triad films. Simon Yam, one of the best in the business, plays Boss Fay. The one who orders the hits. Complimenting all the hard-ass action, is friendship and loyalty amongst a group of friends. Among them is Anothony Wong, Francis Ng, Suet Lam, Nick Cheung, and Roy Cheung. They work together through different missions, protecting each other's backs. What we witness in the beginning is Nick Cheung's character (Wo), being a target and ordered (by Boss Fay) to be killed by the other four members of the group. Exiled is carefully constructed to create great action sequences set in close knit settings. From a small apartment setting to a hallway of a small hotel, the sounds of gunshots and bullet casings pelting the floor rings through your ears.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

the host

The Host (Joon-ho Bong, 2006) - 7.5/10

Like Steven Spielberg's film Jaws, about a creature terrorizing the ocean, the Korean film The Host treads on the same idea. Except The Host isn't about a shark, but a sewer monster that lives in the Han River of Seoul and terrorizes those that surround it.

The film opens with two doctors rummaging through bottles of toxic chemicals. One of the doctor is told to dump some of those chemicals rarely in use. Pouring toxic chemicals down the drain means having it flow into the Han River. A mutant creature emerges from the river, attacking those in its way.

After a little girl is grabbed by the mutant, her family attempts to hunt down the mutant and retrieve the little girl, Hyun-seo. Hee-bong, the owner of a small snack shop located along the Han River lives with his daughter (Nam-joo), grand-daughter (Hyun-seo), and two sons (Gang-du & Nam-il). Gang-du is the father of Hyun-seo.
The military arrives to evacuate the city and disinfect, for fear of a virus outbreak. Hyun-seo's family is placed under quarantine. Their belief in Hyun-seo's survival prompts them to escape. At this point, it is a chase between Hyun-seo's family versus mutant, and the law versus Hyun-seo's family.

A pretty good monster thriller with a mix of odd comedy you wouldn't expect, sometimes wondering if intentional or unintentional. You feel yourself pulling for Hyun-seo's father as he's stricken with grief and unfairly treated by the law. The character Hyun-seo herself evokes a great amount of believability that you feel compelled by her situation.

Under all the monster action is an underlying moral of family relationships. Where Gang-du has been neglecting his role as a father, he realizes through the above circumstances his faults. The Host is entertaining for its genre, and quite on par with Jaws.

pan's labyrinth

Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, 2006) - 7/10

A film set during the Spanish Civil War, Pan's Labyrinth is a dark tale of one girl trying to escape her violent reality into a fantasy world. When Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) steps into another world, a gorgeous display of creatures and visuals capture the imagination of a fairy tale -- a dark, grim fairy tale. A world of fairies, a faun, giant toads, and a pale creature with eyes on its palms.
Capitán Vidal is a sadistic man who only cares for himself. His pregnant wife along with her daughter Ofelia move from the city to the countryside. Strange things happen as Ofelia meets a faun that puts her through numerous tasks to see if she has what it takes to belong in the kingdom as princess.
A dark film, not only fitting as a dark fairy tale, but the reality of brutal violence and war.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

stranger than fiction

Stranger Than Fiction (Marc Forster, 2006) - 9/10

"Who just said that I was counting brush strokes?"

Harold Crick (Will Ferrell), an IRS agent lives his life counting. From counting brush strokes, to counting his steps, Harold Crick lives a routine life. Until one morning he begins to hear a woman's voice narrating his life. That voice is Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson), an author who has written a number of tragedies that end in her characters death. Her latest novel happens to involve the story of Harold Crick. Of course like all her stories, she must find a way to kill off Harold Crick. With the help of her assistant, Penny Escher (Queen Latifah), they go to unordinary settings for ideas.

Harold Crick seeks the help a literary professor, Professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman), in determining if his life is written as a comedy or tragedy. Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is Harold's love interest, and a baker with her own shop. She despises Harold, learning Harold is assigned to audit her taxes. As days go by, they grow fond of each other. And as days go by, Harold must conform to his destined death.

Great performances all around, from the supporting roles of Dustin Hoffman and Maggie Gyllenhaal (whose character brightens up the screen). The leading performance from Emma Thompson, who portrays a bogged down author searching for the perfect ending. She does this with conviction, from her worn down facial expressions and moody personality. And Will Ferrell, playing opposite his usual frantic and outburst roles. A simmered down (although he kinda goes crazy in one scene, for good reason) Will Ferrell displaying emotion. We feel what it is to live the life of Harold, and we get sucked into his world, and we start thinking how we live our lives. Do we want to live in a comedy or tragedy, or is it not in our control? A well crafted film providing subtle humour an some great shots. I like the minimalistic visuals in some scenes, almost in comparison to Harold's minimalistic world.

Monday, February 19, 2007


Babel (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2006) - 7.5/10

Three different stories, three different settings, and all manage to somehow connect together in the least spectacular way.

Brad Pitt (Richard) and Cate Blanchett (Susan) play a married American couple/tourist in Morocco. Their rocky relationship unfolds off the top -- seeing them scuffle over ice -- and as tragic circumstances happen, we get a deeper look into their relationship. Within the same storyline, two Moroccan boys are handed a rifle with the task of protecting a flock of goats. As these two boys go about experimenting with the rifle, a shot causes serious repercussions.

Tokyo, Japan. Chieko (played by Rinko Kikuchi) is a deaf-mute teen (living with her single father) who feels rejection. Inside her is a passion of love and desire she is unable to experience. Desire and lust slowly build up in desperation to seek that one guy who can love her.

A third story revolves around a nanny named Amelia who takes care of two kids in America. In an attempt to attend her son's wedding in Mexico, she has no choice but to bring along the two children. They find themselves in a dire situation attempting to get back to America.

The way these three stories connect is rather tame (lack of better word) as compared to 2004's Crash, where the stories' interconnectivity had an in-your-face approach, and each one relied on the other. In Babel, each story could've been told without being connected to each other. Connecting for the sake of connecting, it seemed. The two kids happen to be the son and daughter of Pitt and Blanchett's characters, and the rifle, which was given by Chieko's father (who was a hunter) to a Moroccan villager as a gift.

The different settings and backdrops provides a diverse setting that keeps the film alive. The rocky terrains and mountains of Morocco gives a portrayal of how the Moroccan villagers live their lives. The gritty look and feel of these people in what seems to be a harsh environment creates a realistic portrayal.
The glimpse into the different cultures pulls you into each one. In a couple scenes of Amelia's story, the two children experience firsthand life in Mexico. From the twisting off of a chicken's head to the sound of gunfire, they fear and learn to cope with their surroundings.

With the story of Chieko, here, we are transferred into the realm of Tokyo, Japan. We follow the teenage life of Chieko who struggles to fit in, aside from her other deaf-mute friends. In "typical" teenage angst, the conforming to alcohol, drugs, and partying is portrayed. The story has a calm and ambiance feel in some scenes. The park scene with a serene feel -- leading up to the club scene -- is a beautiful thing to watch. In this moment, Chieko is able to free herself from "reality" and experience what it means to be accepted. Then there is the seizure-inducing club scene. The sound shifts from a club induced pulsating vibe to sheer silence, giving us the experience from Chieko's point of view (or lack of hearing, lol).

Where the score and actions dictate the flow of the story -- including the ending -- it provides a longer and stronger impression. Fitting that it ends with the strongest story.

Monday, February 12, 2007

re-cycled baby

Worst blog title ever. I'll be reviewing two films, Re-Cycle and Rob-B-Hood.

Re-Cycle (Oxide Pang & Danny Pang, 2006) - 8.5/10

Ting-Yin (Angelica Lee - The Eye) is an author who writes from her own life experiences. After finishing writing a novel of love stories, she titles her new book "Recycle", about the supernatural world.

The film starts off as a typical horror film with strange figures, strange phone calls, and scenes that try for jump scares. But the film steers and pulls you into a strange fantasy world quickly. A world created by Ting-Yin. A world filled with abandonment. A world filled with amazing visuals and effects.

In an abandoned amusement park, Ting Yin meets a man who tells her that everything which gets abandoned is discarded in that world, and recycled. The opening scene where Ting-Yin enters the amusement park contains one of the most striking piece of work I've seen. The gigantic viking ship swinging over top the giant ferris wheel, while confetti-like paper falling and scattering adds to this breath-taking scene.

In a journey (resembling Neil Gaiman's MirrorMask) to escape that world, Ting-Yin is aided by a little girl. In their journey, they stumble across abandoned toys from Ting-Yin's childhood -- another scene filled with vibrant images and colours -- aborted fetuses, and the forgotten dead. Along the structure of MirrorMask, I thought it grabbed some ideas from Spirited Away as well. Not only the fantasy world, but the scenes where Ting-Yin holds her breath while crossing the bridge. Another involves Ting-Yin's hands slightly diminishing. We see the relationship between Ting-Yin and the little girl unfold like a mother-daughter relationship.

This film works in showing symbolically through visuals, the idea and theme of abandonment -- although lacking a deep narrative. The final moments provides an emotional affect between Ting-Yin and that little girl. Another scene that left me in awe. Emotional and breath-taking in view of the visual artistry encircling their final moments.

Rob-B-Hood (Benny Chan, 2006) - 7/10

In Jackie Chan's latest HK film Rob-B-Hood, Chan plays "Thongs", a member of a trio of professional thieves. Louis Koo (Throw Down, Election 1 & 2) and Michael Hui, play "Octopus" and "Landlord" respectively, to round up the trio.

Aside from their conniving ways, all three face their own set of problems. "Thongs", a victim of a gambling addiction also has family issues. "Octopus", a womanizer, has relationship issues with his wife, played by Charlene Choi (House Of Fury). And "Landlord", the mastermind behind their thieving plots, whose wife becomes mentally ill after the loss of their child. Other famous HK actors to make (cameo)appearances (ones I recognized) include Yuen Biao, Nicholas Tse, Daniel Wu, Ken Lo).

In the trio's latest ploy, they have been ordered (paid) to kidnap a triad boss' grandson and deliver it to him. Unforeseen events occur that forces "Thongs" and "Octopus" to keep the baby longer than expected. Here, they learn to take care of the baby and a bond builds between them.

Directed by Benny Chan (New Police Story), this Chan flick follows New Police Story as a reason why Jacky Chan should stick with HK cinema. Expect laughs, Jacky Chan choreography, and stunts. A couple stunts in particular has Chan leaping from one apartment ventilator down to another, and another where he maneuvers along roller coaster tracks with oncoming carts.

Monday, February 5, 2007

no. 3 "stray cat"

Really short review:

Pistol Opera (Seijun Suzuki, 2001) - 8/10

A visual masterpiece from director Seijun Suzuki. A remake/sequel to his 1967 film, Branded to Kill. This film is filled with awesome visual imagery. Vivid colours, costumes, set designs. As the title suggests, the film plays out mostly like a stage play (Japanese opera).
The story plays out more intricately than a straight narrative -- an assassin named "Stray Cat" (Makiko Esumi) tries to climb the ranks as No. 1 assassin (she begins at No. 3) -- with a ton of visual connotations. Visual connotations which confused me at times.
Putting my confusions aside, Suzuki's visual style and imagination amazes me. His latest film, Princess Raccoon is one I'll have to check out.

Monday, January 29, 2007

the great yokai war

The Great Yokai War (Takashi Miike, 2005) - 6/10

This Miike film is panned as family-friendly. To some extent, yes. If you've seen other Miike films, you'd know that he doesn't shy away from sexual innuendo. Even this family-friendly film contains a little trace of that, but nothing to the extent of his other films. Plus, some dark scenes and characters that may scare the little kiddies.

A young boy, Tadashi (Ryuunosuke Kamiki) is chosen to keep the peace from evil. Through his quest, he meets different and strange spirits (Yokai). Chiaki Kuriyama, from Battle Royale and Kill Bill fame, plays one of the villains. These spirits seem to be taken from Japanese folk tales and reminiscent to characters in Miyazaki's Spirited Away.

Realize the budget of this film. Mixed with CGI effects and some stop-motion, don't expect or compare it to the proportions of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. That said, with the fantasy aspect of this film and the amount of great characters, this film lacks energy and excitement. A rather dull film with wasted potential. A film such as Cutie Honey lacked the glossy effects and style, but at least it provided plenty of energy and characters with a ton of charisma to make a good film in its own unique way.

Monday, January 22, 2007

samaritan girl

I meant to post this days ago, but got lazy.

Samaritan Girl (Ki-duk Kim, 2004) - 10/10

*Contains Spoilers*

Just when I thought Kim Ki-duk couldn't create an almost masterful gem like Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring, I may have witnessed his best work so far in Samaritan Girl.

Samaritan Girl conveys two teenage girls, Jae-yeong (Yeo-reum Han) and Yeo-jin (Ji-min Kwak) who resort to prostitution to pay for their trip to Europe. While Jae-yeong sleeps with clients, Yeo-jin sets up clients and manages their income. During a police raid, Jae-yeoung forces herself out a window and plunges. Jae-yeong's death in a hospital bed, to the sorrow of Yeo-jin, has Yeo-jin tracking down previous clients. Yeo-jin sleeps with them in order to return the money they've earned, as a sort of retribution.

Yeo-jin's father witnesses her daughter one day with a client. In shock and disbelief, he tracks them down as a form of revenge -- without the knowledge of Yeo-jin -- eventually beating one to death. In the final moments of the film, we see a closer connection between Yeo-jin and her father. Yeo-jin's father realizing she knows her mistakes, and Yeo-jin realizing her father may know of the events.

Like all the other two Kim Ki-duk films I've seen (Spring, Summer...... and 3-Iron), Samaritan Girl works in a symbolic approach surrounding the quite unlikely realistic events. This is illustrated in the closing segments when Yeo-jin separates from her father -- the father is taken away for his crime -- and driven to a path of new life on her own.

Monday, January 8, 2007


Versus (Ryuhei Kitamura, 2000) - 7/10

After reading a book on zombies, Versus provided a gorefest of the living dead. Blended in with gunplay and samurai swordplay, the movie splurged all kinds of blood and guts. Violence so over-the-top, it becomes laughable. Forget how thin and messy the story becomes (about good vs. evil), but be entertained for the film's stylish, choreographed action sequences and main directing. However bland the main character becomes, there are more extravagant or interesting characters that provide the energy and humour of this film. The use of rock/metal/techno as a backdrop is a testament to how much fun you'll experience watching this film.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

the iron man audition

I got around to viewing Tetsuo: the Iron Man and Audition.

Tetsuo: the Iron Man (Shinya Tsukamoto, 1989) - 7/10

The back of the DVD cover states, "...a cinematic experience like you've never seen." I really don't know what to make from this film. Or I've never experienced Tsukamoto before, or any Lynch films which I read this movie is in the realm of. Which means I need to experience this movie again. As it stands, I'll give a rating of 7 for its absurd and unique film making style and narrative. Black and white visuals mixed with fast cuts and editing, and hypnotic imagery and sound.

Audition (Takashi Miike, 1999) - 7.5/10

With the exception of a severed head and foot using a wire, the grotesque nature of this film wasn't bad at all. Nothing too disturbing. The first half of the film moves a bit slow. The director Takashi Miike in his commentary even says he did that deliberately. We see the build up of the relationship between Aoyama (a middle-aged man who seeks to find another woman to marry a few years after the death of his wife) and Asami (a young woman who auditions for a fake movie audition set up by Aoyama). Could Asami be perfect and innocent as Aoyama wants to believe?
The second half of the film changes in atmosphere as we see the other side of Asami, a darker side. It brings a creepy feeling, not in the sense of monsters, ghosts or demons jumping out onto the screen.