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.