The Queen of Asian Drama is Back with more Irreverent Reviews and Snarky Commentary.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Chinese Movie Reviews

Cape No. 7

2008 Taiwanese movie that stars Van Fan (he's really handsome in a grows-on-you sort of way)

I'll quote (wikipedia): "Starring popular singers from Taiwan and Japan, Cape No. 7 took the grand prize at the 2008 Taipei Film Festival with its heartwarming tale of music and longing."

I don't know about heart-warming, but the beginning of this movie took awhile to get to the point, and then suddenly it all fell into place, everything made perfect sense, and it was the ending I couldn't wait to see just to find out how it would all turn out for everyone.

I liked it a lot.

Look For A Star

2009 Cantonese comedy/romance that stars Shu Qi and Andy Lau - star-crossed lovers who meet, fall in love, and then separate because of their opposite worlds.

He's a mega-billionaire land developer and she is a poor orphan who dances in a men's clubs to make ends meet.

The scenery is breathtaking even if its local and probably studio driven.
What I mean to say is, the set decorators amaze me sometimes, and I'd like to either have my own place look that way, or become a set designer myself.
At the very least, I'd love to be able to travel to such places and taken millions of pictures.

Highly recommend this one and the title is linked to for your convenience.

The Drummer

At first, I didn't make the connection between Jaycee and his popular father, Jackie Chan. After his hair is shaved off when he is officially inducted into the Zen Drum troupe, Jaycee reminded me more of a young, handsome JORDAN Chan! Not that any of it mattered, though, because, Zen Drummer, or The Drummer was a terrific movie, and Jaycee did a wonderful job as the lead character, Sid. It's a 2007 Hong Kong/Taiwan release that received praise at the Sundance Film Festival.

The Drummer is about a young kid (Sid), the son of a mid-grade Triad boss, who messes around with a rival gang leaders girl, thus getting him and his old man (Tony Leung Ka-fei) in trouble. Sid is sent to Taiwan, to lay low for awhile, and he ends up following the beat of distant drums into the lush, green hillside, where he discovers Zen Drummers doing their thing. Sid has banged on drums since he was little, taking out his frustrations on the hides and later joins a bar band for something to do.

Being a Zen outfit, Sid must first learn about himself and his weaknesses before he can become a full-fledged member of the group. He is asked to carry forty rocks in a gunny sack every time the troupe goes for a daily walk. Whenever the group are set to practice, a matronly member will dismiss Sid for one reason or another, never giving him a chance to actually beat on the drum. He doesn't understand any of the discipline at first, and his frustration grows.

Angelica Lee is his abrasive nemesis in the troupe, and she knows why Sid is hiding out in Taiwan, too. They clash the moment that they meet, and their relationship takes a long time to mature throughout this film. She's a pretty girl with huge, brown eyes and nice hair. Sid is still thinking about Carmen, though; the woman he had an affair with.

Taiwan's U Theater Troupe who, like the role they portray on screen, train vigorously in the mountains practicing zen drumming, meditation, and martial arts.

I love Tony Leung Ka-fei, and I especially love him when he portrays wacked out, psychopathic characters like the one he played in The Drummer. He's filled with life and passion, but with no, redeeming qualities to make the audience want to root for him, and yet you end up crying when anything tragic or disappointing occurs to him. Quality acting.

Here is the movie's trailer:

Moonlight in Tokyo / 情义我心知 / Qing Yi Wo Xin Zhi

This was silly fun, ridiculous comedy, but with an interesting storyline and somewhat credible characters.
Leon Lai plays a guy with an IQ of 70 who gets lost in Tokyo, and then he meets a fellow Hong Konger (Chapman To) on the lam from Yakuza - the story takes off from there.

Jasmine Flower / 茉莉花開 / Mo li hua kai

A June, 2004, Mainland release that stars Zhang Ziyi as three generations of women from the same family who commit the same or nearly the same mistakes, thus passing on a legacy of shame, self-doubt, and grief.
The time-lines were a little sketchy, but besides that, there was little to complain about with this, particular movie.
I loved it, as weak as the ending turned out to be.
Young Mo, in the 1930's, is beautiful and ends up becoming a famous actress, only to be taken in by her scout, who puts her up in a hotel, buys her things, gets her pregnant, and disappears when he finds out.
Mo returns to her mother, gives birth to Li, and we are transported to the 1950's, where Li meets a wonderful man who falls in love with her and the two get married.
This was another, odd plot twist when Li discovers she can't conceive.
They adopt a little girl who grows up to look just like Li, and her name is Hua.
It's also in the 1980's now - a 30 year leap, despite the fact that Hua was already about 10 when she was adopted.
Regardless - Hua is a disciplined college student who gives up her life and her career to take care of her boyfriend, who is off to Japan to study further.
She scrimps, she saves, she toils, she struggles to save up enough money to get married and to put this guy through his schooling.
He returns from Japan and dumps Hua for another woman, but not before he gets her pregnant.
It sounds ill-advised and far-fetched, but I think it was a wonderful story and a good watch.

我的父亲母亲 / wǒde fùqīn mǔqīn / The Road Home

This Chinese film won a lot of awards and nominations after it's debut in 1999 and stars Zhang Ziyi (her debut) and Zheng Hao.
It's about a young girl living in a tiny village during the 1958 Anti-Rightest movement in China, and when a young man (Hao) arrives in the village to teach school, she falls instantly in love.
The story begins, though, with their son returning to the village to bury his father, the teacher, and then it takes us back to how his parents met, fell in love, the many trials they faced, and then it returns to the funeral preparations.
It's a love story that made me cry.
Zhang's Zhao Di was a memorable and adorable character from beginning to end, and the love story was touching, compelling, and enviable as well.
With The Road Home, it was the little things that mattered most, like when she sees the teacher for the first time, she runs back home, removes her cute, red jacket, folds it neatly, and stores it in her hope chest - showing the viewer that she intended to remember that day for the rest of her life.
Hao is suddenly ordered to return to the city, and Di ran to the main road in winter to see him off, but then she waited all day, all night, all day again for him to return.
The townspeople found her and returned her to her mother's house, where she spent the next, two weeks recovering from her exposure illness.
She then sneaked inside the school house and spent hours washing, waxing, dusting, wiping, cleaning, papering, and improving the one-room classroom in preparation for his return.
She made sure not to erase his writing from the center of the chalkboard while meticulously wiping clean the rest of it.
A majority of the movie was spent defining the love story, with the beginning and then the end showing us how Di intended to have her husband buried - in an unconventional and (according to her son) painstaking ceremony that he tried in vain to talk her out of going through.
By then, we the viewer knew better than to assume Di would have it any, other way but her own by honoring the man she loved the only way she knew how.

Next, I'd like to review Sophie's Revenge. 非常完美.

A 2009 Korean-Chinese venture that stars Zhang Ziyi as Sophie, So Ji sub as Jeff, and Peter Ho as Gordon. Fan Bing bing is her good friend, Joanne.
Again, my only interest in this one was So Ji sub, and I had to view this at Youtube, which, for those of you familiar, is hard since each video is 10 minutes long or less - so it takes forever and disrupts the flow (imho).
The subtitles were poor, but the movie was really, really good!
My only complaint is that they used So to play a big character in the movie, and yet his voice was dubbed!
So fine happens to have one of the sexiest voices in Korean cinema - so, I was beyond disappointed to hear a random Chinese guy speaking for him.
Anyway, it's a story about a girl who is dumped by her doctor boyfriend (Jeff), so for the duration of the movie, we watch her set out to exact her revenge (hence the title).
Zhang Ziyi is a terrific actress, and it saddens me to hear rumors that most Asian women detest her and think she is a stuck-up snob.
Recently, I saw pictures of her with her Israeli boyfriend, racy images with her butt hanging out of a red bikini.
While everyone else seemed to be in an uproar about her nudity, I couldn't get past the fact that her boyfriend is - well, he's yuck!
Which tells me he has to possess a mighty fine personality, and if that's true (since she doesn't need his $$ to make her happy), then doesn't that say volumes about her true character?
Whatever - Sophie's Revenge was hilarious, well-acted, thought-provoking at times, nail-biting at others, and with the fast-pace, modern style of making it seem as if you're reading from a Manga instead of viewing something on the big screen.
It was filmed in Beijing, and for the first time, I don't view that place as some desolate freeze factory - comparable to a Zhivago-esque Siberian wasteland.

I never saw Xiaojia Zhang do comedy, either, and she's great at it!
Refreshingly, too, was that I had longed to see my Oppa So do something other than to portray the down-&-out, angry character he's famous for.

So fine looked like the dopey Ken doll again, though.

Fallen Angels 堕落天使 is a 1995 Wong Kar-wai film that is supposed to be the third movie in his Chungking Express series.

You'll begin to notice (like with my drama blog) that I make my movie choices based entirely on the actors who star in them - and only occasionally for the content.
Fallen Angels stars Takeshi Kaneshiro and Leon Lai - two of my favorite Hong Kong stars.
It's two stories in one, with Leon posing as a contract killer with a beautiful accomplice who goes behind him to clean up after his dirty work.
Kaneshiro is a crazy boy who stopped talking after eating an expired can of pineapples (don't ask why, though), who is in the habit of breaking into businesses that have closed for the night, and then he terrifies people into buying whatever it is the store has to sell.
Leon's character decides to quit his job, and he leaves a coin at a bar where his accomplice frequents, asking the bar tender to give it to her with the request that she play song 1818 on the jukebox, 'Forget About Him'
Kaneshiro's character meets a girl named Cherry, who is about as spaz as him, but he still falls for her anyway.
He begins to slow down, taking into consideration the hard work his father has endured, and that he's getting older.
It's acid-trippy noir that doesn't appeal to me, and yet somehow manages to suck me in for the duration - and when it's over, I can do nothing more than shake my head & wonder if I just wasted my time, or if I've actually come away with something significant to ponder.
Heck, it's a two for one deal in that you get to see Takeshi and Leon for about two hours (even if the scenes are overly dark).



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