Asian Cinema : Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Our last thread went for two years!

Our Little Sister Umimachi Diary (2015) Japan
Director: Hirokazu Koreeda

About half way through I was filled with joy by this movie about nice people getting along with very little drama in their lives. About 3/4 of the way through I started to question the feasibility of the venture and began to imagine ways the film might introduce some drama. I took a break. When I came back I was happy to be in the company of these people again. This is a beautiful film. Of the 1% or so of directors in the world I'm aware of, Koreeda has just cemented himself as the greatest living one.

A Hard Day Kkeut-kka-ji-gan-da (2014) South Korea
Director: Seong-hoon Kim

This is what I love about Korean cinema. A ridiculous premise played straight: A guy, on the way to his mother's funeral, thinks he just hit a man with his car and killed him. He ends up stashing the body in his mom's coffin. With her in it. Gotta be the best "sorry mom" you'll ever see.

There are two kills in this movie that are also what I like about K-cinema. They're quick, subtle, and huge.

I'm not generally a fan of Sun-kyun Lee. He seems to whine his way through most films. But here it works. Fun movie.

Exit Hui guang zoumingqu (2014) Taiwan
Director: Hsiang Chienn

Exit isn't meant to be a pleasant film, but it seems like it wants to be an important one. It thinks it's doing a woman power thing, but the director spoils his own movie by injecting his personality into it. There's a lot to admire, but I didn't enjoy it.

Over Your Dead Body Kuime (2014) Japan
Director: Takashi Miike
Great atmosphere. A group of actors rehearsing a stage play, Kaiden. Most of it is shot on the stage. A bloody fetus notwithstanding this is Miike the professional more than Miike the provocateur. It will bore most Miike fans, but I liked it.

The Silenced Gyeongseonghakyoo: Sarajin Sonyeodeul (2015) South Korea
Director: Hae-young Lee

This film deserves to be Whispering Corridors 5 more than the film that was released with that name. The school here is a private one up in the forested mountains with basements and caves providing some eerie sets. I wish it would have stuck with eerie and psychological. It gets a little bloody at the end. I didn't see that coming, and/but it works. The girls at the school are there because they have some disease, like tuberculosis. Their families don't want to care for them any more so they won't be missed if something happens to them. Drum roll.

Kuro Hanare banareni (2012) Japan
Director: Daisuke Shimote

Long takes where nothing happens fill this film that follows three characters who hang out at at an abandoned seaside inn. I could have liked this a lot but, a few things: one of the guys is supposed to be a hip young fashionable director who wears a scarf and a hat. I don't think the actor who plays him has ever worn a scarf or a hat in his life. It shows. So he was no fun. The second guy had most of the narrative drift, but he's completely nondescript. No harm, no foul, but it doesn't make the film good. Finally, the girl is a pretty cool, tough, smart whippersnapper, who for no reason, or the wrong reasons, is also a little mean. No point to that (in this context) except for deducting points.

Office O piseu (2015) South Korea
Director: Won-Chan Hong

I had high hopes for this one: a group of office workers unravel after learning that one of their colleagues took a hammer to his family. Yep. This film starts off with a guy bashing his wife, his mother, and his son to death with a hammerSouth Korean style in concept, but it's tamer than usual. We don't actually see it, but we know it happens.

Most of the scary tension points are the result of a dream or a hallucination. Or worse, something unexplained that's similar. It's a very common trick in horror movies. Think An American Werewolf in London (1981). The problem here is that after each one happens, you realize it hasn't developed the narrative and so it feels cheap.

A Bizarre Love Triangle Cheoleobtneun anaewa paramanjanhan nampyeon geurigo taekwon sonyeo (2002) South Korea
Director: Mu-yeong Lee

I stumbled across this opportunity to watch me some vintage Hyo-jin Kong. She is, of course, awesome as a lesbian martial arts instructor. But this film is less than B-grade humor, and for some reason, instead of just telling the story they have some people from outer space in the future tell it. Things get tied up at the end but the film isn't worth it for other Hyo-jin Kong devotees to seek out.

Mojin - The Lost Legend The Ghouls (2015) China
Director: Wuershan

There are a few really good action/suspense scenes in this film about a group of grave robbers, but that's it. The humor is mostly the obnoxious kind, and the 'romance' angle was of the kind where one party insults the other one for the whole movie so we'd never guess there's love brewing. This film is that dumb.

Watched some Oscar bait just to keep up:

Truth [2015] Australia, USA
Director: James Vanderbilt

The best of the bunch by far. Because Cate Blanchett. We don't get to watch this movie as much as watch her chew it up and spit it out at us. Excellent. It's the story of the Dan Rather case that got him fired. Robert Redford plays Dan. Why haven't you heard of this film?

Spotlight [2015] USA
Director: Tom McCarthy

Amateur hour compared to Truth.

Bridge of Spies [2015] USA, Germany, India
Director: Steven Spielberg

The guy who plays the Russian spy is great. I'm glad he won an award. Other than that this is just Spielberg splooge. It has its place.

The Big Short [2015] USA
Director: Adam McKay

If I didn't think this film did a disservice to the country by making lite of the disasters contained within, I'd give it a higher score. It's paced well, and acted very well. It does help you understand what went down during the financial meltdown of 2008. And I actually liked the spoofing about bits (some random celebrity, like Anna Nicole-Smith naked in a bubble bath, explain the finer points of an issue such as a Credit Default Swap), and understand why the director went with them. Something bugged me tho. Everyone should watch this movie.

The Hateful Eight [2016] USA
Director: Quentin Tarantino

Lots of talent as a film maker on display, but most of the script felt like that bit QT does in some kitchen about Top Gun. It's little bits of mumbo jumbo QT wants to blab on about, and offer an opportunity to drop N-bombs. Golly, he's cool.

Steve Jobs [2015] USA
Director: Danny Boyle

I love Aaron Sorkin but his style is un-Mac like.

\_-|/`— my opinions are incomplete. always will be

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Ahhhhh. A fresh thread.

Part 8 of my Asian Horror Year In Review playlist is now up. It covers movies released from 1987-1989:

Here are the films I saw this week.

Highly Recommended

Accident (2009) (Chinese Thriller) (repeat viewing) The leader of a team of hitmen (who kill people and make their deaths look like accidents) grows suspicious when one of his team members dies in an apparent accident. This film is a non-stop exhibition of paranoia. The scriptwriting is first-class as it straddles the line between chance and intent through a number of events that may signify an orchestrated murder by another party. Pacing is surprisingly deliberate, but this could be considered a positive because it allows the paranoia to take center stage. The accidents themselves are very cool, Louis Koo gives a great performance, and the direction is top notch.

Office (2015) (Korean Mystery Horror) After a section chief murders his family, a detective questions the mans co-workers but suspects that they are hiding something. This is a proficiently executed slow burn that feels somewhat unconventional due to its emphasis on the relentless, psychological pressures of competing in an office environment. This provides a sufficiently dramatic basis for the violence. I work in an office myself, so two additional elements worked well for me: (1) the concept of a psycho killer who hides and lives within an office building; and (2) the fact that danger is manifested by working late at night. The way the mystery is crafted holds interest throughout. This is nicely directed and acted (Ah-sung Ko is really good), with a creepy vibe that is earned thru excellent sound design. Some intense moments to enjoy down the stretch.


Socialphobia (2014) (Korean Drama) After an internet message board poster leaves vicious comments on a soldiers death, a group of young men seek out the persons house in order to scare her. An unexpected event occurs, which forces these people to perform their own investigation so that the incident does not negatively impact their futures. This focuses quite a bit on social media. Its glacially paced, which results in some dull patches, but its got enough to hold interest and is well-acted.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2: Sword of Destiny (2016) (Chinese Action) I went into this expecting a typical period action film thats less artsy than its predecessor, and thats basically what I got. Nicely shot, with some impressive locations. Good fights are peppered throughout the best of which involve Donnie Yen on an iced-over pond and Michelle Yeoh in a dark room (fighting a witch). There is use of wires (as expected) and some use of CGI (but not too much). The characters and story are generic, which makes this feel like a by-the-book movie. Certainly a style-over-substance affair, but a watchable one.

Not Recommended

The Visit (2015) (American Horror/Comedy) M. Night Shyamalan continues his streak of underwhelming films with this tale of two siblings who become frightened by their grandparents disturbing behavior while visiting them on vacation. Right from the start, the comedy simply does not work. The rapping kid is annoying, and the lame humor basically just destroys any sense of dread or fear. Plenty of idiotic moments to sit thru, as well as some terrible performances by the grandparents. Everything feels so staged and fake. The dialogue is boring to sit through, so this flick feels longer than its 94-minute runtime. Attempts at serious drama are embarrassing. This is a very poor effort, and I have no idea why its getting positive reviews.

Bottom of the Barrel

Apartment 1303 (2012) (American Horror) Following a family dispute, a woman moves out of her home and moves into apartment 1303 on the thirteenth floor of a downtown Detroit apartment building. However, a 9-year-old neighbor explains that a previous occupant of her new apartment killed herself. Strange things begin to occur in the apartment. This is a remake of a Japanese horror film that fails miserably to live up to the fairly low standards of the mediocre original. This is god awful garbage that is almost incomprehensibly worthless on every single level! Immediately the viewer will notice the atrocious acting; Rebecca De Mornay is at her worst, but this film showcases one of the most embarrassing performances by a lead actress in years (Julianne Michelle). The dialogue is abysmal and totally artificial. The scare tactics are as lazy as humanly imaginable. The only redeeming factor is the unintentional laughter that it provokes. This is truly one of the worst horror films of recent memory.

YouTube Asian Movie Review Channel

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

So glad to see you're the host of our Recently seen thread! :)

Although I tried to fasttrack watching some Asian stuff so I can do the honors of starting the recently seen thread. Only to find out you beat me to it So to compensate, I made this post to see my name on the first page. lol Welcome to my life.

I've been quite slow with my viewings lately as I'm re-watching the anime series Fushigi Yuugi (Mysterious Play). I'm still on episode 9, out of 52 episodes, so goodluck to me as I still have a long way to go.


Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

I logged in with a load to post and couldn't post it so I started the new thread. We should start a new thread when the posts trail off instead of waiting for iMDB to lock it. Giddy up!

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Hello all. It's been several years since I've frequented the IMDb boards, so it's good to know this community is still going strong. I'm trying to get back to watching more Asian films and the most recent recommendation I took upon viewing was Koreeda's Our Little Sister.

Having seen some of his earlier films, I came into it knowing it would be a slow burn of a family drama. Although it was, I was not disappointed at all. The acting was nothing short of great, and I genuinely felt as if I was invited into the lives of these sisters and became empathetic to their situation a quarter-way into the film. The attention I gave it may also be due to the actress who plays the oldest sister, Haruka Ayase. Having just seen Cyborg Girl - another recommended film by some of you - I was not only surprised to know she starred in this but was surprised at her 7 year transformation as an actress and a woman (or maybe I shouldn't be?). Much more mature now - yet still breathtakingly beautiful - she played the part of the older and responsible sister quite convincingly. But the actress who really shone here was the titular little sister, Suzu Hirose. The expressions she portrayed with limited dialogue kept me invested. Koreeda has a knack for choosing and directing child actors and actresses. I wouldn't mind watching any of her future starred films.

In short, I loved it. The pacing was slow and deliberate but I felt as if I wanted to spend more time with the family in the end. Thanks for the tip.

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Part 9 of my Asian Horror Year In Review playlist is now up. It covers movies released from 1990-1991:

Here are the films I saw this week.

Highly Recommended

The Piper (2015) (Korean Horror/Drama) This film is inspired by the Pied Piper of Hamelin legend. Shortly after the Korean war, a father and a son are wandering through the country and make a stop in a remote village, where the residents still believe the war to be ongoing. During his visit, the protagonist attempts to help the villagers with their rat infestation problem, but he gets a bit too nosy regarding the local secrets. The horror elements are backloaded, but the opening 45 minutes do a very nice job at establishing the characters and conflicts. This builds a nice dramatic impact when the horror arrives. Direction and performances are solid. This is an old school, classy, legend-inspired horror.

Trouble Every Day (2001) (French Horror) While visiting France with his new wife, a man (disturbed with thoughts of murder) seeks out a neuroscientist for help. Unfortunately, the doctors wife (Beatrice Dalle) suffers from the same condition and must be locked indoors to prevent her from murdering people. Viewer be warned that there are some really nasty, disturbing scenes of bloody violence. Some of the violence is also mixed with sexual content. Its truly disgusting stuff, but it is also elevated above mere exploitation due to the overall quality of the film. Sound design and direction are very impressive. This is deliberately paced but still piles on a menacing tone and tension. Minimal dialogue helps matters.

Room (2015) (Canadian/Irish Drama/Thriller) A kidnapped mother and son live their lives in a small room. This begins rather slowly but efficiently builds tension with the situation. If the viewer is lucky enough to avoid an online plot synopsis, they will be treated to an unforeseen turn of events that adds more depth to the characters and premise. Very good performances anchor this emotionally affecting drama.


Mermaid (aka Mei Ren Yu) (2016) (Chinese Fantasy Comedy) An estate project involving reclamation of the sea threatens the livelihood of the mermaids who rely on the sea to survive. So they dispatch one of their own to seduce and kill the project manager. Director Stephen Chow gives us a charmingly wacky, high energy film that moves at a brisk pace from start to finish. The premise allows for some unorthodox character interaction, which is especially entertaining. Like some of his other flicks, there are some serious moments that are introduced but they work well despite resulting in some tonal shifts. The special effects are lower grade, but they dont distract quite as much due to the comedy genre. The environmental theme and characters are basic, but this is certainly fun and quite different.

Bronson (2008) (British Comedy/Drama) A young man who was sentenced to seven years in prison for robbing a post office ends up spending three decades in solitary confinement. During this time, his own personality is supplanted by his violent alter-ego. Tom Hardy is very good in this; its definitely one of his livelier roles and hes frankly hilarious as an incredibly surly dude who loves to punch people in the face. I was totally surprised at the amount of humor present, since IMDb inexplicably does not list it as a comedy. The script meanders around and is a bit odd, but it works overall.

The Witness (2015) (Chinese Thriller) A former policewoman, blinded by an auto accident, crosses paths with a serial killer who targets women. This is a remake of the Korean film Blind (2011), with the same director returning here. The original film was good, but this film is just as entertaining, if not better. It is a conventional thriller that is executed well and has a bit of heart. The acting is good and the characters are likeable. Some good set pieces are introduced, like a chase involving a motorcycle and a rollerblader, as well as a pretty good finale.

Not Recommended

Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015) (American Horror) A prequel set before the haunting of the Lambert family that reveals how psychic Elise Rainier reluctantly agrees to use her ability to contact the dead in order to help a teenage girl who has been targeted by a dangerous supernatural entity. This has the same general flaws as its precedessors, with loads of boring filler material that is infused with jump scares. Dermot Mulroney is terrible and Lin Shaye is yet again completely unwatchable. There are some incredibly dumb scenes in this, especially during the latter half. The big confrontation between the psychic and the spirits has some eye-rolling dialogue.

YouTube Asian Movie Review Channel

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Saw some of those films recommended here and some others:

1. Our Little Sister: I wish I could have liked this half as much as you guys. I'm on board with Koreeda but I think his films are split into two types: those with problems and those without problems. Little Sister suffered from a severe lack of a problem. I appreciated all the nicey-nice, especially considering some of the horror we accidentally get exposed to in films (see below). It's a nice break from that and a refreshing atmosphere generally. But when they started complementing each other's pickled cabbages and supportively showing up for every junior-varsity soccer practice my internal screaming irony meter started going nuts. Like, come on.

I got really bored of this film about halfway through and bailed, because it was very clear nothing was ever going to happen. Koreeda sometimes thinks he can just Ozu his way through a film with nothing in particular happening. But his characters and his photography are not as good as Ozu. I also bailed on Still Walking. He is just Woody Allening his way through films, enjoying making them, but he doesn't care how they 'come out.' But his films Like Father, Like Son, and Nobody Knows, where there is a very severe problem, are world-class good. I guess it says a lot for a filmmaker if he is different things to different people.

Some Japanese films are just too sincere and don't rise to a higher level of self-awareness..

2. Like this one, Jinkusu!!! Also had some charm, but never rose above the one-dimensional level. Just too dry and pat for me. Okay, it had a few good jokes, when referencing Western films in a very Japanese way. I did enjoy the comparative Japan-Korean thing. Especially since it has been much discussed here.

3. Flying Colors (2015) right up the same alley. If you like very straight, sincere heartwarming Japanese fare, you'll be gratified with this one. But as film cute girls doing cute *beep* It's not enough, and I start to fast-forward through the last half hour.

4. The Witness makes me think that for lack of a better plan, the Chinese are trying to just make Korean movies with Korean scripts and Korean directors. This one is about average for a Korean thriller. Well it's on youtube in high quality so it don't cost you nothin' to watch it.

5. On a slightly higher level, Black Coal, Thin Ice is another very Korean Chinese movie. This is certainly one of the best Chinese films I've seen so far. I'm still optimistic their output will improve. Certainly when they overthrow the communists it will. Great cold-weather setting in this one. Harbin is not on my shortlist of must-see places, thanks anyway.

6. Spirited Away. The stuff of nightmares.

7. Lost In Thailand. As stupid as this film is, it's got to be one of the best "movies" out of China so far, in an 80s American comedy kind of way. You can almost see the tectonic plates of China's culture grinding, this thing is so new to itself. If you like a good stupid comedy once in a while, this one doesn't fail to deliver, but it also has a lot of that toe-curlingly bad Chinese quality to it. Too straight, too baldly corporate and censor-friendly. Shallow, crass consumerism, the worst kind of new-money materialism, objectification of da girls Some Chinese films come from the same place, theatrically, as those corporate rah-rah sessions where everyone demonstrates excellent posture and team spirit for the boss. Gag me with a spoon. The one major cockup of this film was the inevitable Fan BingBing cameo, where she should have strode out gamely, but instead really came off as the flint-hearted corporate whore she is. Yikes. Would it kill you to smile once?

8. Devil and Angel (2015) was another really bizarre one. I still just can't decide what I think of this one. It's bad, but really interesting and enjoyable in some ways. Weirdly square Beijing millennial hipsters. There's something about Chinese films with the sound like they overdub everything and you feel like you're in a strangely one-dimensional and tedious dream; everything a little bit at arm's length, sonically. Visually, there's an element of 1980s London punk underground to it that I'm sure they are not even aware of. Pretty bad film apart from the hilarious supporting role from unknown hottie Lele Dai. Must-see for anthropologists of China.

9. Deadpool. The worst movie I have ever seen [half of, before walking out] by a long shot.

10. Penny Pinchers (2011). I don't know how I missed this one, but it's every bit as good as your average good krom-kom. Laugh out loud funny in parts, a little crude but not offensive, dialed right into the zeitgeist of millennial generation Koreans, touching and clever and twisty. CJ Entertainment just bats this kind of thing out like a machine; it really is exactly what it says on the tin. Han Ye-Seul is so incredibly nice to look at, I enjoyed every frame of this film. The girl knows how to wear a flannel shirt. Was thinking man, what is it about these korean chicks? then saw that she's from LA.

Bonus for reading this whole post:
Enjoyed this analysis of Memories of Murder, and some of you might too

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

I entertained the notion of punting on Little Sister for a moment about half way through, then I decided to reassess my notion of what a film is supposed to do = ie., resolve conflict. Thanks Aristotle, but you're old. I applaud Koreeda for exploring "nice". It's got to be one of the greater challenges a film maker faces because of a reality TV culture that wants Jerry Springer BS vs the notion that nice means it belongs on the Hallmark Channel. And I'm weird in that I really don't give a turd what a film does if I like hanging out with the people in it.

Sidebar: Name one Korean film maker whose photography is better than Koreeda's. I challenge you. Korea doesn't seem to be known for photography. Production Values, yes. Sorry, but Monkees. In Still Walking, the shot of the kids reaching for the Sakura. Come on. Beat that with any moment from any film made by a Korean.

I'm bummed you didn't like Jinks!!!. I thought you'd at least have fun with it. I'm sure all those scenes of the Japanese doing their bowed head thing irritated you, while it entertained me. That scene where K tells J to smile and then K throws a perfect smile at her and J simply can't do it. Too good. Brilliant film.

Black Coal, Thin Ice kicks ass. You might try the director's Night Train. More more bleak. There's nothing Korean about his films but if being good means Korean to you, then okay.

Can't tell by your unwritten words if you know this (I bet you do) but The Witness is a Korean film. A remake by the same director of his Blind (Beul-la-in-deu) [2011]. It's in my queue out of curiosity. I don't know what to make of this kind of thing.

Lost In Thailand
is the kind of movie I will never watch. Too bad it's what China is trying so hard to accomplish. But then again, I've all but completely given up on Hong Kong movies. They are mostly worse than the worst of Hollywood.

China has moved way out in front in terms of trying to sell movies with posters of people making stupid faces. So sad. Very few Japanese posters do that. Bless them. Korea is somewhere in the middle but advancing quickly on China. Sads.

Penny Pinchers = queued

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Hey on a side note, I'd love to see your top 10 list of asian comedies. If I am reading your taste in films right, you can't stomach the crass broad comedies, and a lot of what you like is the arthouse style that is sometimes too dry and humorless for me. What kind of comedy is up your alley?

Believe me, I'm not bashing Koreeda and I will watch all his films on the strength of Father, Air Doll, and Nobody. And I know you're not directing the Jerry Springer thing to me, cause I don't resemble that remark. It's just for him particularly, that I think HIS films with a plot are much better than the ones without. I could give you a list as long as my arm of pure atmosphere films I dig starting with Lucrecia Martelwho not so famously remarked 'story is overrated' that's not the issue. I agree, nice people are underrepresented in the media.

Yeah funny you mentioned the bowing the head think in Jinkusu, I did enjoy that, and it reminded me actually of what's-his-name in Last Life in the Universe. A very Japanese thing, observed and visualized by that Thai director.

Black Coal, not Korean style? Seriously sitenoise? I thought I was watching Yellow Sea, or that other one, same director. It's totally formulaic Korean thriller in style and script. Name another Chinese film it remotely resembles. What I forgot to say about this one is it struck me as Jia Zhang-ke does a korean thriller. I dug it.

Yes I know Witness was korean, that's what I was trying to say in my contorted way. It was decent but could have been one hour, not two.

These Lost in Thailand type films greatly inform my impression of what's going on in China, which I have no end of appetite for, so I don't regret watching them. Even though it is basically warmed-over Tiny Times.

Name one Korean film maker whose photography is better than Koreeda

Easy. Chang-dong Lee. Neither of them are an Ozu, they're about on par. Pretty straight and classical. But there is some more fancy photography on display in flicks like Mother, Han Gong-ju, I'm not your go-to Kim Ki-duk fan but Spring, Summer? Come on. I would agree the Korean film industry probably pushes things in a more pop direction visually, whereas in Japan directors have a more classical auteur style. I think it's more just how they are trying to identify themselves and what they're doing. I don't see a lot that looks experimental coming out of Japan. Apart from the TV commercials..

Penny Pinchers is great fun if you're not expecting too much. Don't expect anything really intelligent.

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

'scuse my sensitivity re: Koreeda. And no, you do not resemble my Springer remark. Little Sister came as a revelation to me. Remarkable in what it accomplished. I watched the Tawainese Film Exit at about the same time. It's a fantastic film that clearly wants to annoy. Little Sis was my anecdote, and it took on other-worldly powers.

I don't know if I can muster a Top Ten Asian Comedies. The phrase itself sounds strange. Asian Comedy?

I liked Satoshi Miki, Japan's Christopher Guest. That's the closest I'll get to laughing at someone with bad table manners.

I instructed my little database to show me everything I rated 8 or above with "comedy" in the genre. None of them are comedies. Visitor Q. Why Don't You Play in Hell?
Setting aside stuff like that, and a few Zhang Yimou (comedy?) films, and even Air Doll and I'm a Cyborg, But That's Ok here's things I think are meant to be comedy:

Like Asura Director: Yoshimitsu Morita
A Stranger of Mine Director: Kenji Uchida
Green Mind, Metal Bats Director: Kazuyoshi Kumakiri
Don't Laugh at My Romance Director: Nami Iguchi
Adrift in Tokyo Director: Satoshi Miki
Cafe Isobe Director: Keisuke Yoshida
Crush and Blush Director: Kyoung-mi Lee
Chaw Director: Jeong-won Shin
Let the Bullets Fly Director: Wen Jiang

And tied for number 10 is all these krom koms:

Someone Special Director: Jin Jang
When Romance Meets Destiny Director: Hyeon-seok Kim
A Good Day to Have an Affair Director: Mun-il Jang
Hellcats Director: Chil-in Kwon
Lost and Found Director: Jeong-hwa Jeong
My Wife got Married Director: Yun-su Jeon
Hello, Schoolgirl Director: Jang-ha Ryu
Kiss Me, Kill Me Director: Jong-hyeon Yang
Venus Talk Director: Chil-in Kwon

What's yours?

You may be right about Black Coal. I didn't watch it as a thriller, and it seems more deliberate than what I see from Korea.

Re: the Koreeda photography challenge. No way. Clearly you have a more informed and educated point of view than I do but I think that shadows you from the more fun naive approach I take. Kim ki-duk doesn't count because he doesn't represent the Korea we usually speak about here (but that would have been a good one). Mother had very good sets and visuals but (to me) they're compositions, not the poetic realizations of nature and humanity that Koreeda sees. Maborosi is a 90 minute painting. I've never stopped a Lee film to gawk at its beauty.

So we'll disagree, but I think your subtext that S Korea knows There's No money in Art, so why bother? is true. I'm too precious to play in the real world.

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)


Oh yeah, Kim Ki Duk, you got me there. Except he's arbitrarily disqualified from being Korean. Lolz

Asian comedies, I think we've inadvertently started a whole new thread again. Or have we done this one before? Please don't take this as trollerly, kwite the kontrary, komrade I made my ratings private cause I hate when people troll me about it but I scrolled through some of your imdb ratings, and I get the impression you don't watch comedies much, and when you do, you hate them. Am I off base? I exaggerate a little. But Play in Hell, Zhang Yimou? Man! Adrift in Tokyo is a comedy, I'm gonna kill myself. I guess I would say my favorite kind of film is an intelligent comedy, and my second favorite, stupid comedy.

I don't have my ratings organized, but from the Japanese for example,
1. Swing Girls/Waterboys/Robo Ji/Wood Job! This director can't pump em out fast enough to satisfy me.
2. Other similar J-coms like Judge! Woodsman and the Rain, Linda Linda Linda, Thermae Romae

I guess what you hate most is what we can call Hong Kong Stupid: Everything starring or directed by Stephen Chow. You're not-enjoying at least 40 hours of solid good stuff there. Personally I find his stuff stupid on the outside, very intelligent on the inside. Love it.

From Korea, practically every film, as we know, is a family/buddy/action/romantic-dramedy with elements of political documentary. They all make me laugh. I like all of it including the really dumb stuff like Please Teach Me English, 200 Pound Beauty, Miss Granny, Plan Man, etc. whereas Crush and Blush, Castaway on the Moon and Sunny are the really high-end stuff. Not necessarily comedy, but funny.

I jest but I will probably watchlist all those krom-koms you mentioned - I've only seen a couple of them. I generally thank myself when I just pull out an ordinary Korean flik rather than taking a chance on the latest Chinese movie.

S Korea knows There's No money in Art, so why bother? is true

Wow I see it completely 180 degrees off from that, so it's an interesting outlook. That's what comes from good discourse.

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Not necessarily comedy, but funny.

That's where I draw the line. I told you none of the films with comedy in the genre (from IMDb) were comedies. I'm like the Oscars: comedies aren't real movies, or whatever. Not saying it's true. It's just how I roll. I think you're funny.

Black Coal, Thin Ice just arrived, cough, in BluRay, so I watched it again. Some drag. I'm less the Guey fan than I've been. But that ice-skating scene. Where did that travel to? I've only recently come to terms with the fact that a song and dance number at the end can be a winner.

I can see what you mean about the Korean thriller template. I think I may have already called the scene where the three guys are sitting on the floor and the cop gets shot, "Korean". The meme it belongs to is "Hey! It's Twin Peaks in the Provinces, People". His previous film set that precedent, wonderfully. Films like Stolen Life, kind of, Blind Shaft/Blind Mountain; Bejing Blues, backwards. That's where I watch it from, I guess. The unwashed brethren of Cultural Revolution stuff like Balzac the Seamstress, and Shanghai Dreams. This is the nail on the head.

Kim ki-duk is only Korean when he's needed to be.

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

That youtube link on Memories of Murder was enjoyable (although when you mentioned analysis I thought it would crack the unsolved (??) mystery of the serial killer). I never noticed that ensemble staging was accurate. And befitting. Although, doesn't most films do that??

I have totally left Koreeda that now I'm reminded again to do my homework. It's really so hard for me to look for his movies but of all the *drumroll* 2 films I've seen from him, they were all impressive.


Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

I thought it would crack the unsolved (??) mystery of the serial killer).

Yeah, I'm glad it didn't! That's part of what I like about that film is the unresolved thing. It makes the film sort of open-ended, like the Silence of the Lambs. He's still out there

I don't know which Koreeda films you saw, but Like Father, Like Son was my fav. I found it incredibly moving, and one of the most mature films I've ever seen. I think I underrated it as an "8," and will probably watch again soon.

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

"That's part of what I like about that film is the unresolved thing. It makes the film sort of open-ended.."

Yeah me too. I was actually awestruck at the end that I had to do some quick research about the real story behind it. Funny because I watched it thinking it was a closed case already so I had to alert my detective senses trying to figure out who the culprit was so I can finally boast to the world how I managed to crack the mystery only to find out that it was still unsolved.

I've seen After Life and Airdoll from Koreeda and I think I gave both a 10. I like the serenity I find in his films, and weird that whenever I see his face on photos, it just suits his craft. He's someone I really love to explore and see a lot of movies from but for reasons beyond my technological know-how, I can't get my hands on those. :(((


Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Part 10 of my Asian Horror Year In Review playlist is now up. It covers movies released from 1992-1993:

Here are the films I saw this week.

Highly Recommended

Flash Point (2007) (Chinese Action) (repeat viewing) After being exposed, an undercover cop (Louis Koo) enlists the help of Donnie Yen, who then promptly beats the living hell out of anyone who stands in his way. The pacing is back-loaded toward the final half hour (offering a 15-minute finale), but its well worth the wait. Dramatic elements are weaker than Kill Zone, but never get boring. The action presents itself in a variety of ways: a great footchase; a tense shootout in a high grassy field; and a stunningly brutal one-on-one fist-fight in an abandoned house with so many bone-crunching moves that even the most hardened action fans will lose count. The choreography is a refreshing mix of kickboxing and grappling that is rarely seen in cinema. And dont forget Donnies over-the-top mannerisms, which do provide some laughs now and then. This film helped to propel the Yensters red-hot streak of awesomeness over the past decade. Director Wilson Yip is a key reason for this.


Sa-kwa (aka Sorry Apple) (2005) (Korean Romance) Fresh off a painful break-up, a woman gets involved with a man in a rushed attempt to get married but relationship problems later arise. This film is anchored by the presence of three very good actors So-ri Moon, Tae-woo Kim, and Sun-kyun Kim. The supporting cast is solid as well. The female lead does come off as a selfish wench at times, but it makes her character interesting. This film is not concerned with plot, so the interaction is key and it delivers, but the runtime of two full hours does feel a bit too long. Regardless, this is good quality stuff.

The Tiger: An Old Hunters Tale (2015) (Korean Thriller/Drama) Set during the early 1900s, during Japans occupation of Korea, some hunters are dispatched to take out a vicious tiger that is killing workers. This film stars Min-sik Choi and Man-sik Jeong, who are both really good in this (not surprisingly). Natural environments are nicely captured, especially during the winter scenes. The tiger effects are also shockingly convincing, which yields many attack sequences. There are some intense scenes to enjoy, as well as some dramatic interaction between the humans and animals. The runtime of 139 minutes does feel a bit too long, leaving some dull patches along the way.

Pitch Black (2000) (American Sci Fi Horror/Thriller) (repeat viewing) A commercial transport ship and its crew are marooned on a planet full of bloodthirsty creatures that only come out to feast at night. (The premise reminded me in some ways of the Isaac Asimov novel Nightfall.) Unorthodox sunlight and sand effects do make you feel like you are on a distant planet. The horror elements dont even really pick up until after the one-hour mark, but the script successfully maintains interest throughout. Radha Mitchell and Vin Diesel really drive things forward and I enjoyed both of their characters. There are a few cool moments down the stretch too, with the line of sight moment being my personal favorite.

Baptism of Blood (1996) (Japanese Horror/Drama) (repeat viewing) A fatal skin disease forces a beautiful actress to retire from the silver screen. Decades later, this woman attempts to prolong her life through her daughter. Despite the title, the violence in this film is almost non-existent with the exception of one excellent surgery sequence involving archaic-looking machinery. The structure of the story is unorthodox, with the two halves of the film focusing on two different characters, separated by a defining moment between them. There are flaws (some of the early moments come off as fairly cheesy), but they dont take away much. Dramatic and story-driven horror, with a few very unexpected moments. This based off of the works of Kazuo Umezu.

Shopaholics (2006) (Chinese Comedy/Romance) (repeat viewing) Cecilia Cheung, Lau Ching Wan, and Jordan Chan star in one of the most frenetically paced Hong Kong comedies of all time. A girl woos a psychiatrist and a billionaire while attempting to cure her demonic-compulsive shopping syndrome. Yes, this is silly stuff that uses fake psychology throughout (and the romance is extremely shallow), but it is very breezy and very easy to sit through. The actors are energetic and fun to watch. The wedding finale is pure craziness.

Paris Holiday (2015) (Chinese Romance) A wine company executive (Louis Koo) flees to Paris after his marriage proposal is denied, but is forced to share a flat with a lady artist (Amber Kuo). This is a bit cheesy at times with its melodramatic music, but the leads are properly developed, have good chemistry, and are likeable. Nice views of Paris are an obvious plus.

The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) (American Sci Fi Action) (repeat viewing) The wanted criminal Riddick arrives on a planet called Helion Prime, and finds himself up against an invading empire called the Necromongers, an army that plans to convert or kill all humans in the universe. I can see why some people dislike this film. Its a sequel to Pitch Black but almost instantaneously introduces itself as a space fantasy instead of science fiction per se. Its definitely a step down from its predecessor, but I still enjoy it. The writing of the main conflict is weak, with stiff, uninteresting villains and some dumb terminology like Under-verse. However, there is enough action to enjoy and Vin Diesel is correctly cast for this role, making virtually every scene hes in watchable. A number of protagonists die in this as well, which gives it a slight dramatic impact.

Collective Invention (2015) (Korean Comedy/Drama) After a pharmaceutical trial goes awry, a man develops a giant fish head. He then receives heavy publicity and receives persecution. This film also focuses quite a bit on a reporter and a female acquaintance of the victim, who in some ways attempt to take advantage of the mans situation for personal gain. Actually, everyone does, and thats the point of the film. Not especially deep stuff here, but it is somewhat amusing to watch.

Not Recommended

Attack on Titan 2: End of the World (2015) (Japanese Sci Fi Action/Horror) Surviving humans fight each other more than the titans in this disappointing sequel to the moderately enjoyable first film. First of all, the Shikishima character is badly acted and stalls the film whenever he shows up; and he shows up way too much. After a decent opening 20 or so minutes, there is too much dull filler during the middle section, which exposes the very weak scriptwriting and dialogue. This is less of a horror film than its predecessor because it opts to focus on mind-numbingly stupid human conflicts instead of the giant monsters. The titan action during the last half hour is decent, but not worth the wait because its also rather dumb. I did enjoy the first film, but this one is a waste of time.

47 Ronin (2013) (American Fantasy Action) In this fantasy-infused remake, a band of samurai set out to avenge the death and dishonor of their master at the hands of a ruthless shogun. This is very badly written, with dialogue that is embarrassing to listen to. The drama and characters dont work at all. Even more unfortunately, it doesnt even work as a brainless action spectacle because the action choreography is below average. This is mostly boring stuff. Go watch Chushingura (1962) or 13 Assassins (2010) instead.

YouTube Asian Movie Review Channel

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

It's been like Halloween around here with six degrees of Ryuichi Hiroki.

The Creepiest

An Adolescent Shôjo (2001) Japan
Director: Eiji Okuda

The guy who directed this film is Sakura Ando's father. He directed Sakura's nude scene in her feature film debut, Out of the Wind (Kaze no sotogawa (2007)). In show-biz families that may be a non-event, or even a bold and smart thing to do. It's a little creepy to me. He directs and stars in this film about a 40-something cop and a fifteen year old girl who fall in love. This thing got "good press" when it ran the festival circuit for the great lengths it went to in trying not to be creepy: like making the girl tough, smart, and the aggressor. Yeah, poor cop, what's he supposed to do?

I applaud the convoluted script which allows for this kind of synopsis (from IMDb):

Tomokawa is a tough guy turned bored cop who spends much of his time sating lonely housewives and looking after retarded teen Sukemasa. One day while hanging out at a bar, he is approached by a 15-year-old enjo kosai named Yoko, offering a round of illicit sex in exchange for cash. Though he demurs, their paths cross again and soon a relationship of sorts forms. Yoko, it turns out, is Sukemasa's sister; and both are the children of his old flame Yukie, a grasping, self-centered woman. Moreover, Yoko's grandfather is responsible for the massive tattoo sprawling across Tomokawa's back. Tomokawa soon takes both teens under his wing, protecting them from their heartless mother, and their lecherous stepfather. Soon, Yoko gets a similarly massive tattoo illustrating her bond with her policeman savior.

It's all true. The savior cop demurred, and etc. Tomokawa kidnaps runaway dogs and keeps them for a long time so that when he finally returns them to lonely housewives they are so grateful they have sex with him. That's in the script. But he's friends with a retarded teen. See how balanced he is? The cop and the girl are both so far out there misunderstood-with-baggage they were destined for one another.

Lolita films are nothing new and this might be a good one as far as they go. It's restrained, not too graphic; there's interesting photography and directorial choices made; May Ozawa (~20) is "daring" and "courageous" [festival-speak for 'does nude scenes'] as the young girl; the script is well-contrived; there's spiritualism. Great lengths.

Watching Eiji Okuda direct himself and show his butt as irresistible to a fifteen year old girl was never going to work for me. YMMV. I watched it as a geezer-fantasy anecdote to the teen-fantasy poison I'd just gone through.

To wit:

I watched a couple more by Jinkusu!!! (2013) director Naoto Kumazawa to see if we had another Ryuichi Hiroki type who could do these pure love teen flicks.

Close Range Love Kinkyori ren ai (2014) Japan
Director: Naoto Kumazawa

A twenty-something teacher and a 16 year old student fall in love.

Too soon.

Nana Komatsu (Kanako, from World of Kanako Kawaki (2014)) nails the "model gaze". That is if you have to turn your head and look up at someone, you do so by turning your head first with your eyes closed, and then when your lined up with whomever you're going to look at, you open your eyes and Bang! I saw Gary Oldman demonstrate this move on the Conan O'Brien show. It's very effective: Scary if you're a guy; sexy if you're a girl.

From Me to You Kimi ni todoke (2010) Japan
Director: Naoto Kumazawa

This is really good at what it is: an afterschool special that aims to promote and show what friendship is. Schoolgirl Sawako has a Sadako haircut. Whoa! Good work, parents. She's delicately bullied by negatively portrayed characters. Her ultra low volume baby talk, with stuttering, is unbearable. After she comes out of her shell she's okay. Of interest are actresses playing two side characters: Misako Renbutsu as one of her friends; and Mirei Kiritani as beotch girly-girl who wants the affection of the stud who likes Sawako. After he rejects her, Kiritani says to the stud, " You really don't have the eyes for women. This cute girl won't appear before you again." So heartfelt. Kiritani rocked it. It was her Ryuichi Hiroki money shot. More on her later.

Misako Renbutsu first caught my eye in Switching: Goodbye Me Tenkôsei: Sayonara anata (2007). Then in Ryuichi Hiroki's River (2011). Those were starring roles. She's in a supporting role here but adds to the film. I think she's going to be one of these kids who turns into an actress.

Heroine Disqualified Hiroin shikkaku (2015) Japan
Director: Tsutomu Hanabusa

This is the closest the Japanese may get to a krom kom, even though it moves at a snail's pace comparatively, and it's with kids. Mirei Kiritani brings energy to the 4th wall breaking princess who wants the stud who likes the delicately bullied girl. Wait! Didn't I already see this? Kiritani's character and Ryuichi Hiroki money shot from the aforementioned From Me to You got her this starring role. She delivers exaggerated shouting and other visually enhanced physical humor. She even reprises her "This cute girl won't appear before you again" line! I think zelena might barf minor approval.

I looked to see what else I might have with Mirei Kiritani. She was the only thing I liked about I Have to Buy New Shoes Atarashii kutsu wo kawanakucha (2012). She was the sister of the guy who hogged the film with his unbelievable relationship. To my chagrin, she was the reason I punted on Ryuichi Hiroki's Crying 100 Times - Every Raindrop Falls 100-kai nakukoto (2013). Maybe I'll revisit that one and wait for the money shot.

LDK L.DK (2014) Japan
Director: Taisuke Kawamura

Way too for the kids. I only watched a little of it. Same stud guy from one of these other films. Forgettable script and girl.

Finally, for some palette cleansing:

The Revenant [2016] USA
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu

I deducted a point for the dumb gun battle, and it was a little too grunting man for my taste but this is a gorgeous film. Very un-Oscary, imo. Well, except for DiCaprio. But he's good, too. Iñárritu is pumping out films at a Hirokazu Koreeda quality level, although this film probably cost more than every inch of film Koreeda has ever shot. Watch it on a big screen.

\_-|/`— my opinions are incomplete. always will be

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Hilariously well-written reviews I want some of whatever you put in your coffee this morning.

I also kind of enjoyed the Revenant, but just for the photography. Because there ain't no plot, except maybe "me kill bad guy." I had to look it up, and apparently this was the first feature shot on the new Arri 6k digital cinema camera, which they won't even sell to you. You have to rent it. This is what digital cinema will all look like in five years or so. I have to grudgingly agree with everyone else about dicaprio - let the guy have his oscar. But Iñárritu, I'm not a fan. I hated Birdman a lot, and generally the guy's stuff strikes me as vapid and pretentious.

Your incredibly sardonic review of the Adolescent almost makes it a must-see, although from the trailer, a tough-guy cop on a bicycle is never gonna work for me. The Lolita subject is a bottomless goldmine of bad fiction, because oh man, too big a subject. Really only Nabakov could do it, and I'd probably rather read the novel for the third or fourth time. If a writer doesn't have the intellectual firepower to take on all of society, he can't confront this subject.

And yes, the Heroine Disqualified trailer looks like that girl is doing just enough histrionic shouting and foot stomping to make me happy. She almost has to say "yah!" in Korean, doesn't she? Might check that one out just to see the Japanese doing kdrama. From Me To You was somewhere down on my watchlist and will now probably get the boot.

Re: Cameras

I admire something you bring up from time to time which floats in above my pay grade: cameras. You wrote about the Korean Treacherous's cell-phone ready digital lensing (I think), and Zhang's first foray into digital film making. This is all lost on me. I can walk into any number of friends' house and notice immediately that the aspect ratio on their TV is off (amazing how many people suffer through this, although I think newer TVs auto-adjust), and there was a period where something was going on and all HDTV had a Soap Opera look to it. But beyond that, I got nothing.

I've noticed that a lot of Japanese indies look like they were shot on VHS handhelds but it hasn't bothered me much. It sort of adds to their charm. A Drowning Man is a good example. And I've noticed that even the indiest of indie Korean films look like a million bux. Why is that?

I watch a lot of movies on my laptop, and a lot on big TVs (25"-55", via HDMI from my laptopI was never happy with earlier connections). I've never noticed a digital coldness, but I also don't watch many "old" movies that might provide comparison. (I'm presently trying to work through The Human Conditionfinished part 1 of the first film, but the acting is so stiff and Western to me and the music is horrible, I'm not sure I can go onbut I digress .).

How do you watch most movies? When you say "This is what digital cinema will all look like in five years or so", is that a good or bad thing? I watched Revenant on a 55" and found it jaw-droppingly beautifuleven looked all warm and analoggy to me. (Great plot synopsis on that one, btw) I'm afraid that if you explain this to me it might ruin my film watching career. lol

Re: Cameras

Oh yeah, I'm what they call an 'impassioned amateur' photographer and pretty obsessed with the technical end of that stuff. I know exactly what you mean about the soap opera thing, and you hit the nail on the head. Recently I tried to watch Apocalypse Now with a friend on his fancy huge TV, and it looked unbearably intolerable. At first I really thought his TV was converting the 24 frames per second (which is what film is) into 30 frames per second (which is television). But that wasn't it. It is a color setting on the TV which tends to really juice the color for TV, whereas film has a certain gramma curve (contrast setting), meaning blacker blacks and whiter whites. Everybody needs to find that 'film' color setting on their TVs, like STAT. It solved it instantly.

I really have mixed feelings about digital. A lot of photographers say resolution of cameras is overrated, and it doesn't really make sense to shoot in say, 8k, if your TV is 1080p. You won't see the detail. But there is another factor. Look at your jeans right now. What color are they? If you sample a 1 cm square area, it will be on average, "blue." But when you look closely at it in detail you can see that it's white, blue, black, grey, white, blue etc. So the resolution of the camera initially effects the realism of the color, even when it is downgraded to say 1080p. That's part of why the Revenant looked so awesome to you.

The other thing with that camera which they were "showing off" with The Revenant is the sensitivity. It's getting to the point where some digital cameras are more sensitive in low light than film. This new ARRI is two clicks more sensitive than anything else, so they shot in dusk/dawn natural light outdoors, and it's something you have literally never seen before. Total eye candy. I should add that *all* cameras and TV/projection systems still have significantly less of this 'dynamic range' than the human eye, so this is somehting you can expect to see vast, mind-blowing advancements in your lifetime. Think of when you get pulled over by the cops and there is that flashing light in your mirror. Nothing that bright has (or could) ever popped off a movie screen. But eventually.

I still find digital cold and clinical in a way, partly because each frame looks exactly like the prior one - there is no randomness like you get from the organic nature of chemicals on film - each frame is different. Also, there is sometimes just way too much detail seen, and photography is much more about what you *exclude* from the frame yet still manage to plant in the viewer's imagination to me anyway. One of my fav photogs (Alec Soth) said smth like photography is what happens in the space between the photographer and the subject; what you're looking at is the effect the subject has on the photog basically. Sometimes the viewer has the same feeling. Movie magic.

I notice in Japanese film a certain tendency toward big, classical film looking photography, the festival-ready kind of look; in Koreeda, Iwai.. And on the other hand a lot of that uber-modern Japanese TV commercial look. Even Koreeda said he hired the cinematographer for Like Father, Like Son based on a TV ad he had done He was like, 'give me that look.' The Koreans, like we have talked about, are pretty much an artist's colony. I think they are all shooting for 'street credibility' with each other for world-class artsy quality. They just got swag.

I'm totally in favor of digital if it means that good scripts get made. A lot of people in the US want to like indie films, but there are really few, because there is so much conformity of thought. They are mostly just small-scale films. But in Asia I think it's different, I think it's a blessing that they can get their stuff done for $0.5-3 million; their films are more honest and real, less ironic and self-conscious than American indie. So digital helps make that happen-able.

I'm gonna ruin your impression of me: I mostly watch everything on my 15" laptop Did see the Revenant (and a lot of hollywood crap) in the theater though.

As Mark Twain said, I'm sorry I wrote such a long forum post. I didn't have time to write a short one.

Re: Cameras

The general color palette, lighting, and framing are about all I can grasp about photography. I'm a little color blind (and unobservant) so accuracy or 'trueness' are out of my reach.

When I show someone a picture of my cat they often comment on the little buddha statue 50 feet behind her that's In Focus too. Old cameras have a different 'depth of field' than my iPhone, so people are put off. I like older photographs with that depth of field thing going on. I've lasso tooled a few pictures of my cat and blurred the background to mimic that look. But I'm not put off or disappointed by the digital look. Although that Soap Opera effect is horrible.

I'm simply not trained to see most of these things. Comparing Revenant and Hateful Eight (which I believe was shot with old-timey cameras): Hateful Eight didn't seem better or richer or more accurate to me. It looked like the way movies used to look, a little, I guess. Revenant looked warmly amber hued and soft, to me. I read afterwards that the film was shot with only natural lighting and almost exclusively during sunrise and sunset.

Is it that 'everything in focus' that's the giveaway for you? I do sort of get the 'every frame of film is different', and how that subconsciously (and consciously) affects ones appreciation of a film. But in the end Treacherous, for example, didn't seem at all obviously digital to me. The photography seemed rather nice. Lots of blurry edges and warm colors. I guess maybe the outdoor scenes did have a digital crispness to them. So now I'm thinking natural light might be a bigger hurdle for digital. I dunno. I appreciate your response, but think I'm just not going to get this.

Thanks for the link to that Koreeda interview. For a fanboy who hasn't read anything about the guy before, it was pretty "sweet". The interviewer was in a little over his head, culturally, at least, but did stumble things into interesting areas of discussion. I especially liked Koreeda's corrective comment about forgiveness re: Like Father, Like Son:

I was trying to depict Ryotas eventual understanding, and how he learned from the nurses new family situation. As to whether that might develop into forgiveness, thats hard to say.

Koreeda is clearly not a god-fearing christian.

I read the bit about the photographer differently than you, I think. He didn't say "give me that look". More like, "I know what I want the film to look like and 'this was a look that he could create'." This is more what I would expect from someone as visually creative and skilled as Koreeda.

Re: Cameras

He didn't say "give me that look". More like, "I know what I want the film to look like and 'this was a look that he could create'."

Yes of course you're right, that was a small zelenazation on my part. He's not exactly Samuel Goldwyn, is he? Barking "The kid stays in the picture!"

I read a couple 'sa-weet' interviews with the guy. I liked what he had to say about making universal, international films vs. really Japanesey ones.. goes to the heart of the granularity that makes things universal because they are so specific that they're real. You hear this in a lot of different arts. Can't remember if it was that same interview or what.

Appreciate your comments on photography. Yeah to me it was something about the editing and framing in Treacherous that just screamed I'm watching this on a cell phone all the faces were big and up in the camera, super short shots, like 50 per minute something. Digital cameras have had a leg up on low-light sensitivity for a while I think (this contradicts what I said last time). I remember the low-light streetlight scenes in Jia Zhang-ke's The World ten years ago being very striking.

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Part 11 of my Asian Horror Year In Review playlist is now up. It covers movies released from 1994-1995:

Here are the films I saw this week.

Highly Recommended

Eye in the Sky (2007) (Chinese Suspense/Thriller) (repeat viewing) This is the ultimate surveillance film that revolves around the covert operations of an undercover police unit attempting to gather intelligence on a highly sophisticated crew of jewel robbers. From minute one the cloak-and-dagger shadowing begins and continues right up to the final moments. The pacing is fast and is assisted by fluid camerawork that keeps things moving while safely avoiding the subpar editing so prevalent in modern filmmaking. The acting is solid (Simon Yam, Kate Tsui, and the other Tony Leung are all great), the score well made, and the ending very satisfying. Fans of realistic, suspense-driven tailing sequences ala The French Connection will drool all over themselves.

Le Portrait de Petite Cossette (2004) (Japanese Anime Romance/Horror) (repeat viewing) A young man uncovers a delicate Venetian glass that holds a startling secret within: a haunted beauty, Cossette, has been waiting 250 years for someone to set her spirit free. The man soon becomes obsessed and determined to help the girl trapped inside the crystal, but the necessary sacrifices might be too great for him to bear. This outstanding film is one of the most visually stunning anime ever made as virtually every frame is saturated with fantastical gothic eye candy. Scoring is no less than phenomenal; a true accomplishment that should be mentioned more often. There is much in terms of surreal, nightmarish imagery that may confuse some viewers, but the storyline is nevertheless gripping because it develops the characters and conflicts in absorbing ways. Most interestingly, there is a dense romantic tone that mirrors the horror. The themes of love, sacrifice, and haunted imagery are expertly blended together. As one online reviewer noted, The result is a creepy riff on beauty, love, the madness of artists and the treachery of images. This is a work of art.

Cold Eyes (2013) (Korean Thriller) (repeat viewing) A high-tech police surveillance team attempts to take down a gang of ruthless bank robbers in this remake of the excellent Hong Kong film Eye in the Sky. Events play out in a very similar fashion here, but there are also a number of differences (e.g., the ending, etc.). In any case, there are a lot of positive qualities that make this a very entertaining movie. The focus on realistic, suspense-driven tailing sequences is preserved and proficiently executed. Pacing is brisk and all three leads (Hyo-joo Han, Kyung-gu Sol, Woo-sung Jung) give very good performances. Theres also a bit more action and bloody violence in this one. I still prefer the original, but thats likely because I saw that one first. Regardless, these two movies would make an outstanding double-feature.


Skyline Cruisers (2000) (Chinese Action) Wilson Yip directs this action adventure in which the formula for a cancer-curing medicine is stolen, and a kung-fu fighting team must overcome rivals and doublecrosses in order to get it back. This has a loaded cast of recognizable names: Leon Lai, Jordan Chan, Shu Qi, Sam Lee, etc. Its really cheesy stuff, but totally entertaining (I laughed a lot). There are some really cool heist sequences that use creative tactics that are totally unrealistic but still very interesting to watch. Some unexpected twists are introduced along the way. Look out for the scene involving red laser-sights, which has some smart camerawork.

Ingtoogi: The Battle of Internet Trolls (2013) (Korean Drama) A young man is ambushed in public, physically beaten by an internet message board rival, and his personal information is hacked and released to the public. Afterwards, he trains in kickboxing and seeks out the perpetrator for revenge. The film does a good job of showing that the protagonist has been psychologically affected by the incident, but it also blends in some bits of humor as well. The lead actress (Hye-young Ryoo) is highly entertaining; shes got an attitude problem and shes quite funny. The ending is different from what I had expected.

Spectre (2015) (British/American Action) A cryptic message from Bonds past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE. This begins with a lengthy, cool tracking shot and a good fist fight within a helicoptor. The film really pops during the action (and there are at least 4 solid sequences to enjoy), but the story is rather bland. Almost every non-action scene involving the lead actress is boring. The runtime of 148 minutes is also a bit too long. However, theres one particularly hilarious sequence where Bond subtly threatens the lives to two cats. A good film that feels like it should have been better.

The Classified File (2015) (Korean Drama/Thriller) Set in 1978, a child of a wealthy family is kidnapped. They seek the guidance of a fortune teller, who recommends a particular detective who wants nothing to do with the case. This is a basic kidnap-ransom film, but the acting is solid and its competent overall. A pretty good genre film, but it doesnt really distinguish itself from other films of its kind.

Not Recommended

Bubba Ho-Tep (2002) (American Comedy/Horror) (repeat viewing) Elvis and JFK, both alive and in a nursing home, fight for the souls of their fellow residents as they battle an ancient Egyptian mummy. The low-key, laid-back approach to this film is something that I can respect to a degree, but the humor is juvenile and does not work well overall. The slow-burn strategy leads to a frustratingly anticlimactic and boring finale. One all-time classic line of dialogue from the mummy, near the very end of the film, cannot save this.

Shake Rattle and Roll 10 (2008) (Filipino Horror Anthology) This is an anthology of three short horror films. In Emergency, ghoulish creatures attack a remote hospital. In Class Picture, the ghost of a sadistic nun attacks a group of college friends. In Nieves, a local hero must save her hometown from rampaging nature spirits known as Engkanto. The runtime seems too long, which is odd for an anthology, but 140 minutes for three short films seems excessive especially considering that the scriptwriting and dramatic elements are weak in all of them. This is not terrible, but it feels like a B-grade flick thats lacking in memorable scenes.

Hill of Freedom (2014) (Korean Drama) A Japanese man temporarily returns to South Korea in an attempt to find the student he fell in love with, and interacts with others along the way. The dialogue is mostly in English and is very stilted, with nothing interesting to note. The use of English almost forces the scriptwriter to be as simplistic and childish as possible, which is a problem when the entire film is structured on conversation. This film by Sang-soo Hong is frankly embarrassing to watch.

YouTube Asian Movie Review Channel

Our Little Sister (Koreeda)

I'm late to the party. All this Koreeda talk has got me scrambling to the nearest copy of his latest film and I watched it.

I'm with sitenoise on this (I read zelena's thoughts on the film and he didn't like it as much as we did) and I would also rate it a 10/10. Sitenoise and I usually don't meet when it comes to our favorite directors but we're on the same boat on Koreeda and I think he's the one of the few directors I never get bored watching their films even if nothing much is really going on or there's no eventful twist or mystery that would make me attentive as a viewer.

True, the film reached utopian levels that it made me wonder if Koreeda is a real person who watches the news about how cruel the world is (that's why I made mention about looking at his face on his IMDb photo which really looks like he's a kind soul who has experienced nothing but sunshines and rainbows). I see his movies as someone made by a child (I'm not saying it's childish and immatured) who has this simple and innocent view of the world and it effectively reaches out to me. I personally would not have wanted that a "problem" would occur on "Our Little Sister" because I can personally relate to the story somehow so on a personal level the movie was a "hey the world still has beautiful traits left after all" testament to me.

I think Koreeda has this "magic" on how he does that that even if there's not much action and thriller/mystery elements, I'm still going on with the film and not bailing out. I'm trying to figure out if it has something to do with the scenery, his love of nature, but definitely has something to do with his background music. Yes, the music. And the nature, sceneries..that helps. It's like you're watching through a life of your neighbor, or someone you know, someone that exists in the real world, then you get attached to his characters and you're curious as to how their story will go.

The movie could be labelled as monotone-ish (i.e. its just same flatline story without a climax and a resolution) but I could say it was a successful movie. It well-conveyed its message, its message and story was clear, the actors were good, the sceneries helped me to "breathe" (I'm biased for movies with green sceneries), and the music was a big plus.

Sidenote: Kudos to zelena for his post "Koreeda sometimes thinks he can just Ozu his way through films.". If that's not trademarked, I'd like to borrow that in the event I get involved in a confrontation and I'd say "Hey you think you can just Ozu or you way out???!!!!! or Hey you think you can Koreeda your way through work?????!!!" lol.


Re: Our Little Sister (Koreeda)

the film reached utopian levels

That's an interesting observation and choice of words. I think maybe that is the perfect word. There is indeed something utoptian about it. I think that is an excellent 'lens' to view it through. I just don't have sensors to pick up that kind of thing (cynical New Yorker) and I'm missing something going on in this film that others pick up on. Almost reminiscent of a hippy commune or something. Everybody just holding hands and singing kumbaya, so to speak. There is a consistent harmony and calm. And obviously is takes a certain huge artistic imagination to conceive of a world where people are not scheming and being crappy to each other. For me it's just hard to see why this is a "10" for three or four of you, while to me, it's just like any other arthouse film where people chat and nothing happens. But this stuff about "hey the world still has beautiful traits left after all" I'm like, huh? No it doesn't!

I share your appreciation of music in films, it's so important. And also the nature and outdoor shots. Sometimes directors forget that we are watching, not just listening to the conversation, and it's so boring when it's just people in a room talking. I want to see some natural splendor or good architecture.

Señor Sitenoise is definitely going to gag, but I would suggest that there is a similarity between Koreeda and Steven Spielberg in some ways in how he directs children and can channel their point of view. It's a very warm and simple concept around children. I'm thinking of E.T., not Saving Private Ryan So no surprise Spielberg is a fan and bought the rights to the hollywood remake of Like Father, Like Son. And also some of Koreeda's shots have that Movie Magic transcendent quality, like the last shot in Like Father very big.

Like I said before, I love Koreeda's movies. I just don't love his home movies of the family hanging out in the kitchen making tofu. He seems to make those two types. What I like about him is the massively adult maturity, which is rare in people, not just filmmakers. But I do think he's a little too conscious of Ozu and trying to well, Ozu his way through a film

By the way, did you see Floating Weeds?

Re: Our Little Sister (Koreeda)

"Everybody just holding hands and singing kumbaya, so to speak.
I just don't love his home movies of the family hanging out in the kitchen making tofu."

I should have been warned before reading these parts. I literally laughed out loud!

"while to me, it's just like any other arthouse film where people chat and nothing happens."

I understand what you mean as I'm one who's more into visuals rather than dialogue. But I think Koreeda reconciles the two: His visuals aren't the conventional type. But the visuals talk. Then he has this dialogue that's..natural. Its hard to describe but I see that as magic because I'm usually the first one to bail out when there's nothing much going on in the movie.

"By the way, did you see Floating Weeds?"

Unfortunately, I haven't. But if you recommend it, I'll include it on my priorities list.

Meadows of Heaven-

Re: Our Little Sister (Koreeda)

Oh yeah,

Re: Our Little Sister (Koreeda)

Alrighty, I'll put it on my to-watch list. :)

Meadows of Heaven-

Re: (Koreeda)

You've seen After Life Wandâfuru raifu (1998), Our Little Sister Umimachi Diary (2015), and Air Doll Kûki ningyô (2009). All 10s, or thereabouts. You've yet to see my favorite, zelena's favorite (I believe), or Koreeda's two highest rated ones on IMDb. That's a ridiculously good batting average and on deck circle for a director.

His visuals aren't the conventional type. But the visuals talk.

Likers gonna like.

Re: (Koreeda)

Sitenoise, what's your favorite? Maborosi?

Zelena's is definitely Like Father, Like Son.

Meadows of Heaven-

Re: (Koreeda)

yes. Pretty sure it won't be yours, tho. But Koreeda has a few that are quite different from what you've seen so far.

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Part 12 of my Asian Horror Year In Review playlist is now up. It covers movies released in 1996:

Here are the films I saw this week.

Highly Recommended

A Brand New Life (2009) (Korean Drama) (repeat viewing) After being abandoned at an orphanage by her father, a little girl must adjust to her new life. This is deliberately paced and very realistic. The main characters are very young but their world is captured beautifully by the director, who apparently used her own personal experiences as a guide. The actresses are all good, but Sae-ron Kim is flat-out excellent. Theres a lot of feeling and information that is expressed without words, and the interaction between the girls is very interesting. Quite sad at times but all of the emotion is earned thru minimalism without the need for melodrama. Runtime is perfect at 92 minutes. Awesome.

All Esper Dayo (2013) (Japanese Comedy Television Series) In Notsu, Oita Prefecture, a variety of sexual perverts are inexplicably endowed with supernatural powers in this J-drama (12 episodes, 30 minutes each). High school student Yoshio Kamogawa (Shota Sometani) is one of them and can read other peoples minds. He befriends some other oddball characters and hopes to one day save the world. Sion Sono co-directs, which is obvious due to the number of upskirt panty shots (and leg shots). The humor is relentlessly sex-themed and perverted, but its also delightfully light-hearted. Im not the biggest fan of sex-based humor, but this is phenomenal stuff! Tons of laugh-out-loud moments in this one. This isnt just a compilation of jokes, however, because some dramatic elements creep up at times and are well-executed. The characters are properly developed too. The finale episode is one huge curveball, and I really liked it. Sometani is perfectly cast as the lead. Kaho has played some disturbed characters in the past, but shes totally awesome here as a spiffy, tough-as-nails chick. Erina Mano is smoking hot, by the way.

Run and Kill (1993) (Chinese Thriller/Horror) (repeat viewing) A chubby salesman inadvertently starts a series of violent events that gradually escalate to produce a heaping body count. This is a rarity because it offers a scintillating storyline despite its CAT III classification. The real treat of this film though is Simon Yam, who gives one of his best performances as one of the most sadistic bad-asses in the history of CAT III cinema. His character is a highly trained war vet who breaks out machetes, flammable liquids, and even AK-47s to wipe out victims of all ages and sizes. The violence isnt as graphic as the more extreme movies within this genre, but it does have some rather shocking deaths. The finale is one of the most exciting duels-to-the-death youll ever see.

Spotlight (2015) (American Drama) Revealing a string of cover-ups stretching back decades, a team of reporters exposes the Catholic Archdioceses history of keeping reports about child molestation and other preist-initiated abuse under wraps. This is predictable stuff, but its proficently executed and absorbing. It reminded me in some ways of The Insider with its premise of journalists who fight an uphill battle against a seemingly insurmountable system of cover-ups. This movie does a good job at showing the amount of work that is necessary for such a task. This has a solid cast of Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, and others who are assisted by well-written dialogue. Its nice when the Academy awards Best Picture to a film thats not a turd pile.


Vendetta (1992) (Chinese Thriller/Action/Horror) (repeat viewing) A police officer kills two violent robbers (a man and a woman, who were twins), but years later his twin children become possessed by the spirits of the dead criminals and seek vengeance upon him. In true Hong Kong style, you get a mix of horror, action, bloody violence, and laughable absurdities. Its an entertaining mix indeed, especially when considering that the children are toddlers! Toss in a sadistic third robber whos a tough son-of-a-gun and youve got a fun romp on your hands.

Mood of the Day (2016) (Korean Romantic Comedy) By chance, a man and a woman meet on the KTX train and spend 24 hours in the unfamiliar city of Busan. This has a nice rhythm to it, with a laid-back mood and good performances. Its simplistic but very focused on the two leads, which showcases a lot of interaction between them. The male character is basically trying to sleep with the lady throughout much of the runtime, but there are some good moments along the way. The script uses a few contrivances and the ending is cliched, but I enjoyed this one. Ill watch Chae-won Moon in anything.

Armed and Dangerous (1986) (American Comedy/Action) (repeat viewing) A fired cop (John Candy) and useless lawyer (Eugene Levy) sign up as security guards and find theyve joined a corrupt union. The story and characters are weakly developed, but this still holds up in terms of fun comedy. Theres also some pretty good explosions and stuntwork near the end. Practically every bad buy character actor from the 1980s/1990s is in this one (Robert Loggia, Brion James, Jonathan Banks, James Tolkan, Tommy Lister, etc.).

I Am Waiting (1957) (Japanese Crime Drama) A former boxer gets involved with a club hostess trying to escape the clutches of her gangster employer. Nicely shot and acted, with properly developed characters and story. Some plot turns are introduced as well. On the slow side, but worth watching.

Not Recommended

Escape from L.A. (1996) (American Action) (repeat viewing) Snake Plissken is once again called in by the United States government to recover a potential doomsday device from Los Angeles, now an autonomous island where undesirables are deported. I remember liking this one when it first came out, but it has not aged well. Its biggest problem is that its boring for the most part, giving the impression of a generic rehash. Very little of the action and character interaction seem to be properly constructed or thought out. The only two scenes that I found memorable were the basketball challenge and the ending. Everything else is forgettable or dumb. Escape from New York is a far better and more entertaining film.

Riddick (2013) (American Sci Fi Action) Left for dead on a sun-scorched planet, Riddick finds himself up against an alien race of predators. The Chronicles of Riddick had its flaws for sure, but it was setting up something far more interesting than this film, which frankly comes off as an extremely lazy step back in terms of concept. The opening 30 minutes are sleep-inducing, with random CGI animals and badly written monologue. After a while, mercenaries land on the planet led by Johnny Tapia from Bad Boys 2 but they only add to the tediousness. These characters are shamelessly uninteresting. Everything builds up to a real whimper of an ending.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (2015) (American Action) This film caps off one of the most over-hyped, over-rated franchises in recent memory. These movies are so lacking in filmmaking quality that it instantly becomes embarrassing because they take themselves oh so seriously. And another thing, how can a film series with a combined budget of almost $500 million have so little impressive action? Where the hell did all of that money go? And why is the action frequently in the form of CGI monsters and environmental dangers when the conflict is primarily between humans? Anyways, this fourth installment continues to tease with incompetent scriptwriting, dialogue, and build-up towards a finale that yields yet another thats it? response from the viewer. So much dull filler and lame speeches to sit through in this 137-minute exercise in tedium.

YouTube Asian Movie Review Channel

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Nice write-up, All Esper Dayo (2013) looks completely bonkers. Not sure I'll watch the whole series, but it's kind of kooky with all the signature Marilyn Monroe oops!-my-skirt shots. I just happen to have watched Mood of the Day last night - will give my take next time. I share your take on Mockinjay. Where did all the money go indeed. Malibu, I think. I have a bad habit of paying $10 to see this stuff just for the sake of going to the movies - that makes me an enabler or something..

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

I'm interested in hearing others' opinions on Mood of the Day. I get the feeling that I may be in the minority on that one.

YouTube Asian Movie Review Channel

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Watched a hell of a lot of films recently:

1. Kiki's Delivery Service (1989)
Not a big fan of Ghibli, but I popped this one on to cleanse the palette from something toxic, and I loved it. Liked it much better than Spirited Away, which I found good but disturbing and pushy. Kiki is put together in a way that is just like how kids play make believe. Just takes kooky ideas and runs with them, in a cutely serious and guileless way. The "city" where it takes place is a real work of imagination. It's funny how everyone sees their own city in it. It's a hodgepodge of European city characteristics, as imagined by a Japanese kid. The *beep* street signs were a great touch. Fake jumbled Hungarian and Italian, etc. I saw Prague and Dubrovnik in this city. Phil Hartman from SNL as a cat? My girl Kirsten Dunst in the lead, and Janeane Garofalo as artsy aunt saucypants. Great casting. This is a real nice charming film; that characteristic Japanese nicey-nice that many of you like. By the time you get to the end credits, with the bopping 80s Japanese pop song, you think; yeah, that was good. I'm glad I watched that. 8/10

2. The Wind Rises (2013)
So I also queued this one up. Absolutely gorgeous animation. Not a big anime guy, but one thing I like about animation is the ability to create whole worlds, especially historical worlds. For the audience, it's not important whether it looks real, it's important whether you can "buy it." And animation does that better than CGI when it comes to creating whole cities at specified points in the past. This one is closely related to Grave of the Fireflies. The cameo from a famous person is great. It's a big spoiler to say this is a heartbreaking tragedy. Sometimes you're in the mood for that. 7/10

3. Mood of the Day (2016)
I basically agree with everything Ebo-san had to say about this one. It is a little below par for a krom kom, but that's a pretty high bar. I thought this one was going pretty well for the first half. But it fell into the trap that a lot of romcoms do: the first half is just the characters being fun, and everyone including the audience is having fun. Then around halfway, the writer realizes, damn, I'm gonna have to wrap up this plot. And the second half just gets bogged down in tying up the plot, in cliche and obvious ways, when it can only really end in one way: Smootching on a train platform (duh). If they just kept being fun, I wouldn't give a damn what happened to the plot. As ebo says, a lot is 'forgivable' in a comedy. Everything except being annoying.

Moon what's-her-name from Love Forecast is great - great at facial expressions. But pretty-boy was in over his head. He could handle playing the rake: a charmingly-arrogant-millionaire-who-is-kind-to-old-ladies-and-children, but a lot of guys can handle that. I think that's the easy part. When it came to the moment of deep feelings flashing across his face, he looked like "damn, what do I do with my face again?", and it took me out of the film. An actor needs to know what to do with his face. Hell, I'd rather watch Kang ho-Song as a romantic lead! Any day, and twice on Sunday!

I bet they shot this in two weeks last October and had it in theaters in January. Some nice images of Busan. This movie really had that fresh-out-of-the-oven smell that Korean TV and pop films have, and I do love that. Maybe it was the opening drone shots of Seoul, but it feels incredibly 2017, in a good way. It's like stepping into next year. Korean films do seem to carry a spirit of communal experience, all of us in on it, more than Japanese or Chinese culture exports. Maybe I'm just more open to it, but judging by how korean wave has swept the world, I think there's some magical secret sauce to it. A foreign policy of inclusion and charm. Like Serbia on organic vegetables, but more clean-cut and happy and sober and financially solvent and with fewer machine guns. Yeah. 6/10

4. My Love, My Bride (2014)
I bail on a lot of films if I'm just not feeling it, so you might want to take this with a pinch of salt. This wasn't that bad, but I bailed at the halfway mark. So I'd say definitely below par for a krom kom. Too much drama. 5/10

5. A Hard Day (2014)
Watched this one by accident because I confused it with a different film, a comedy.. I think someone here reviewed it recently. I don't normally watch this kind of film - action/suspense/thriller - so it was kind of fun and certainly well done. I think Hitchcock is huge in Korea; this is some well done no-don't-go-in-there suspense and great real (not CGI) special effects. Some violence but not the kind of spurting blood you see in a lot of asian films, which I can't stomach. Jin-woong Jo great as the unkillable baddie. 7/10

6. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Ok, Western Asia? I had somehow managed to not see this film up until now. Just didn't interest me. Arabs? Nah, I don't want to watch a movie about Arabs But this film is simply stunning. It instantly slam-dunked itself into a spot on my list of 10s, of which I only keep 10 films. The 65mm widescreen photography is simply mind-blowing (I might just buy the 4k restored blu-ray), and probably safe to say unparalleled in filmmaking. Peter O'Toole is a marvel. There's a great interview on youtube on his technique for this one.

There's just too much to say about this film. Ridiculously British, which is fun. LoA harks back to a more innocent time, when we were not in a war of civilizations with everyone muslim, and the 'east' was romantic.

I like to say that in movies, you have to show the audience something they really don't see everyday. And that's a broad directive. Even Woody Allen is taking you to a place that people don't see every day the cocktail party of upper west side Manhattan middle-class people who only say funny and witty things. You gotta show them something. Well Lawrence of Arabia shows you some stuff that you'll never see again. Spielberg thinks it would take $280 million to make LoA today. Well it would take *Spielberg* $280m, but I could imagine some Asian genius making something at this level of organization in the Gobi for $30 million. It's just the genius that is hard to come by, not the money. I could talk about this one for hours, but I can safely say that anyone who loves film and has skipped this one, owes it to themselves to check it out. "It's going to be fun." 10/10

7. Right Now, Wrong Then (2015)
Pure arthouse. At first I thought this was going to be the worst kind of academic arthouse self-indulgence. But some good acting was a tip-off that there might be more to it. The guy from Castaway on the Moon and Min-hee Kim (who sounded very familiar but I haven't seen her before she's cast in Park Chan-wook's upcoming) were both very good. There is not much filmmaking here, it's more of a play. In fact it could easily be done as a play. Around the halfway point it starts giving you a reason to want to see it through to the end. Very sterile and film-profressory (almost solipsistic in that way) I mean, who uses zoom lenses in 2016? But actually pretty good and worth it, if you're looking for a grown-up take on love between consenting adults. 7.4/10

8. Lost in Hong Kong (2015)
Shout out to Senor Sitenoise; are you ready? Although I gave Lost in Thailand somewhat of sarcastic tongue-lashing, it was genuinely entertaining and kind of funny. So I had to check out last summer's blockbuster sequel. Well this one is everything some people hate. Alas, it was just too dumb to watch. Mind-crushingly dumb. I made it less than halfway and bailed.

There's something downright weird about bad Chinese films, and this is no exception. If you think bowl haircuts are hilarious, you might like but really, WTF? It's really three-stooges level stuff. The writing was just awful and the directing was surprisingly bad: the outdoor scenes in HK just looked like something from a tourist with a camcorder. I thought I'd at least get out of this with some gritty HK shots. They put $15 million into making this turd, probably $14 million up front to actors, and it grossed something over a quarter billion.

I'm starting to kind of loathe Wei Zhao. She was once cute as a button all uglied up in Shaolin Soccer. Now she's getting very rich playing the 40-but-still-looks-good, impatient with her idiot husband, new-rich Chinese soccer mom in everything. She's just so matter-of-fact about it. Thud. She seriously annoys me. To add insult to injury, there are winky music-cue references to Wong Kar Wai's HK films. What!? You can't steal that. That's ours! 4/10

Bonus for reading all this: trailer for Koreeda's new one. Thoughts?

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Jin-woong Jo is the reason I decided to watch A Hard Day. I loved him in An Ethics Lesson. I like these big frumpy unstoppable Korean guys like him and Kang-ho and the guy from The Chaser.

I'd probably agree on the Wei Zhao issue if hell froze over and I watched Lost in Hong Kong. I recently called out Zhou Xun for Jumping the Shark. That generation is over.

I'm excited about Right Now, Wrong Then because of Min-hee Kim. She so impressed me in Hellcats that I forgive her for Very Ordinary Couple. Haven't liked her in Action/Thrillers either. RNWT and Hong seems like a fit for her.

I'm not sure yet if I want to break my vow of never watching movie trailers.

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

I think Right Now, Wrong Then is right up your alley. I didn't know you're anti-trailer, but this is certainly one case where the trailer won't help you and won't do justice. You seem to have a much higher tolerance for the dead serious, and even I liked this one. In fact, I hated it at first so much that I wasn't fully prepared to like it by the end. But it's actually about more than I said in the review. Would be very curious to hear your take. Min-hee Kim is really good. I am just trying to place where I've seen her maybe something from TV that isn't credited on imdb..

By the way, Kang has one coming up this year as a secret agent, with director Jee-woon Kim of Good Bad Weird, and Tale of Two Sisters This could actually be a strong year for films.

Oh, you meant Koreeda's trailer. Yeah, check it out, I think you're going to hate his new one.

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

"Not a big anime guy, but one thing I like about animation is the ability to create whole worlds, especially historical worlds. For the audience, it's not important whether it looks real, it's important whether you can "buy it.""

Yeah, that's one thing I like about anime or animation in general. It brings you to another "world". What I like with Ghibli in particular is that it has this trademark of putting life to overlooked little-yet-lovable things, such as butterflies, the grass, or a pond and it breathes life to it. It gives me a light feeling whenever I see these drawings.

"Arabs? Nah, I don't want to watch a movie about Arabs"

Lawrence of Arabia has been on my to-watch list for a million years now, I wonder why I keep on forgetting. I'll have to watch this but if you don't mind, why don't you like to watch a movie about Arabs?

Speaking of Arabs and animation (although this one's not really Arab but close to it) I just finished watching a 2013 Indian animated film entitled MAHABHARAT. And wow, so much for being India's most expensive animated film. I have read it stars the big names of India, so its probably where its budget went? Because I didn't see it in the animation. It was very poor. I don't know if it was in 3D or 2D or whatever D, it was really messy. The story had a good premise, it had potential. And the voices were soothing and accurate. Wasted and gone because of the crappy animation. Like, I can't make of the character who speaks their lines because they look all the same?????????

The story was good. It was about betrayal, love for family, revenge, thirst for power, etc. All serious themes. Then the letdown: since it was about a family or two with hundreds of members battling it out on the kingdom, you have to make of the many Hindu names that I can't memorize. Then added with the same-looking faces talking to each other, so yeah, great. lol.

(Sorry I had to inject my thoughts on the film on my reply to your post. Everything is just so fresh I wished to write them down immediately. Hehe.)

Koreeda's new film! I won't watch it. The reason being: I almost cried watching the trailer. Although if Koreeda stays on tract with his pattern, it should end in a happily ever after. ButI pitied the father. I'm not ready to cry. So I'm not watching it. Anything with someone living like he's useless and worthless, I really pity. Sorry, I'm that immatured that I had to take everything so seriously. lol.

That's what happened with me with MIRACLE IN CELL NO. 7 that's why I bailed out after a few minutes. I just can't take too much sadness. I mean, life-sadness. Except for love stories because that's what I'm looking for. I'm talking about life sadness. You know, being left by your loved ones, being alone and you're sick, feeling so worthless, defenseless, prejudiced, judged, etc. etc. Hehe. I can't handle it.

Meadows of Heaven-

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

What? You don't like soul-crushing tragedy? I love that stuff! It's fun, it's like dark music, the whole point is to get it out of your system. Let's not fish for spoilers, but with the new Koreeda, I wouldn't be surprised if it has a happy ending. Or some kind of wholesome ending anyway. I think it looks good. More like my kind of Koreeda film because it has a little bit of levity to it. I'm certainly going to check it out.

I agree, the details in the Ghibli films are pretty amazing. I like his lighter, more childish ones. I don't think the heavy themes translate as well into animation for me. I want to see a real person suffer and fear

By the way I forgot to mention I re-watched Floating Weeds after we discussed that. One of my all time favorites. Some scenes from that one just stick with me over the years the upstairs place where the actors work on their make-up, the colors. Nothing else looks like that film. And it's so dense as a "play," it's like there are three films crammed into one. Some scenes are unforgettable Machiko Kyo is amazing. I guess all of Ozu's films are basically the same, but this one is the most beautiful, to me.

Re: Arabs; I just mean my country has had such a tortured history in the past 15 years with the Arab/muslim world, and I find none of the film coverage of it any good. Most of it is terrible, and like a lot of people I would just rather not think about it. That's part of what makes LoA so incredibly refreshing and unexpected to me. It felt like a cool, crisp spring morning.

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Part 13 of my Asian Horror Year In Review playlist is now up. It covers movies released in 1997:

Here are the films I saw this week.

Highly Recommended

Rocky (1976) (American Drama) (repeat viewing) When world heavyweight boxing champ Apollo Creed announces hell give an unknown fighter a shot at the title as a publicity stunt, his handlers pick Rocky Balboa, an uneducated collector for a Philadelphia loan shark. I almost forgot how much I enjoyed this one. The dialogue is especially good and it develops the characters very well. It really builds towards the fight in a profient manner, which makes the fight itself very exciting. Carl Weathers screentime is limited, but hes fantastic.

The Big Short (2015) (American Drama/Comedy) Four denizens in the world of high-finance predict the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s, and decide to take on the big banks for their greed and lack of foresight. Some very interesting observations are introduced regarding the recklessness of bank lending, as well as the behind-the-scenes deals with those who in some ways should be regulating them. There was also a lot of pressure on the protagonists that tested their resolve. The cast contribute impressive performances. Christian Bale is great as the oddball. Im not a fan of Ryan Gosling or Steve Carell, but even they are really good in this. The infusion of comedy also helps to maintain pacing, and there are a handful of legitimately funny moments.

Surprise Party (aka Surprise) (2002) (Korean Romantic Comedy) (repeat viewing) A girl plans to give her boyfriend a surprise party upon his return to South Korea, but her plans are thrown into chaos when her father expresses his disapproval. Therefore, she sends her best friend to the airport in an attempt to stall her boyfriend for 12 hours while she works to change her fathers mind and set up the party. Unfortunately, her friend has never met the boyfriend previously, which forces her to think of ways in which a stranger could possibly stall someone for that long resulting in a variety of misadventures. The acting is solid, the characters are likable, and the tempo is fast. The scriptwriting is smarter than you might expect, and gets more interesting as the film progresses. This is a remarkably pleasant genre film with an emphasis on charming interaction and simplistic everyday humor instead of over-the-top wackiness. Look out for the supporting roles and cameos by now popular Korean actors and actresses.

Appaloosa (2008) (American Western Drama) Two friends hired to police a small town that is suffering under the rule of a rancher find their job complicated by the arrival of a young widow. This has a generic plot, but it is executed very well. I especially enjoyed the dynamics between the lead characters and how it developed throughout. The big decision that is made near the end is understandable and nuanced. Performances are top notch (Ed Harris, etc.). Heck, even Viggo Mortensen is impressive in this and that doesnt happen often.

Rocky 2 (1979) (American Drama) (repeat viewing) After Rocky goes the distance with champ Apollo Creed, both try to put the fight behind them and move on, but soon enough, the Italian Stallion and the Master of Disaster are set on a collision course for a climactic battle. This is a solid follow-up that shows the unfortunate events that befall our protagonist. Pacing is actually a bit slower than Rocky, but the final half hour is pure awesomeness. I love the scene with the kids running with the protagonist, and the fight is one of the best ever. For maximum impact, I highly recommend that this film be watched immediately after its predecessor.


I Hate But Love (1962) (Japanese Drama/Romance/Comedy) A famous talk show host contemplates his unsatisfying lifestyle, deals with his nutty lover/manager, and helps a caller who has promised to deliver an old jeep to her penpal boyfriend. The first half is practically a romantic comedy, while the second half shifts towards a road trip drama with the theme of celebrity. This has a lot of energy and some major sparks between the leads. All of the actors really bring it in this one, almost with a sense of determination in all of their everyday actions. I must say that I enjoyed the first half more than the second, but this is good stuff overall. Ruriko Asaoka is insanely hot too.

Coming Home (2014) (Chinese Drama) A devoted couple is forced to separate when the man is arrested and sent to a labor camp as a political prisoner during the Cultural Revolution. He finally returns home (years later) only to find that his beloved wife no longer remembers him. This causes some distress for the man and his teenage daughter, who try various methods to cope with the situation. This is directed by Zhang Yimou and stars Gong Li, so its no surprise that its good. I also liked the male leads performance as well. Im glad this avoided melodramaticism for the most part. A simple but well-crafted drama.

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) (American Drama) A mans wife leaves him, allowing for a lost bond to be rediscovered between him and his son. But a heated custody battle ensues over the divorced couples son, deepening the wounds left by the separation. This is simplistic but effective in its realistic dilemmas, especially work-life balance. The acting is also good, but the ending is merely okay. Good film overall. On a side note, the DVD and poster cover art are one of the most shameless feats of false advertising in the history of cinema. At no point is this depicted as a happy family during the actual film.

Not Recommended

Black Sun (1964) (Japanese Drama) A Japanese criminal (who greatly enjoys jazz and blues music) crosses paths with a black GI who is on the run. They both hole up in a dilapidated, abandoned church tower. This begins well but stalls out rather quickly. The humor does not work well, and the acting is hokey. I found this rather dumb, actually (especially the ending).

300 (2006) (American Action) (repeat viewing) In this fantastical movie, King Leonidas of Sparta and a force of 300 men fight the Persians at Thermopylae in 480 B.C. The filmmakers attempt at being manly is rather juvenile and stiff with so much fake posing and lame dialogue that it will provoke endless eyerolling. Its embarrassing to watch. This is a below average movie when no action is on screen, just like most of Zack Snyders films (which lack rhythm and proper pacing). Some scenes are hopelessly stupid too (who the hell carries enemy coins into a senate meeting?). The first battle doesnt show up until after the 45-minute mark, but it is a pretty good one despite its repetition and excessive use of slow-motion. The second battle is also pretty good, mostly due to the presence of a big monster dude, but theres too much friggin slow motion! After that, theres nothing memorable at all and the film seemingly takes forever to finish. Im all for brainless action, but this just doesnt cut it.

Terms of Endearment (1983) (American Drama) This follows a widow (Shirley MacLaine) and her adult daughter (Debra Winger) through the years as they handle their relationships with men. This is basically about pathetic women who live miserable lives, and neither of them are interesting enough to make it worth watching. The men arent any better, but at least Jack Nicholson brings some spunk and energy. Nicholson and the bits of humor are the only good aspects here, because the drama is whiny, shallow life sucks stuff. There are jumps in time and huge progressions in relationships that are completely glossed over. The turn of events during the latter half is low-hanging fruit that is drawn out, boring, and completely ineffective. This is a soap opera that won Best Picture; it even has a musical jingle that it plays every few minutes.

Ulterior Motive (2015) (Chinese Thriller) A womans husband and daughter are kidnapped, presumably because the womans father is rich, but this kidnapping may be related to an unsolved case from 20 years ago. The police assign the ex-boyfriend of the woman onto the case. This is below average stuff for the most part, with a few melodramatic scenes that are embarrassing to watch. Editing seemed awkward as well.

YouTube Asian Movie Review Channel

disappointment and recovery

Suna no utsuwa (1974) AKA "The Castle of Sand" (Yoshi-tarô Nomura, 1974)
Watched it conveniently on Hulu because of a current dedicated thread on Film General. It didn't click with me so I was motivated to dig out my custom subtitled DVDR of "Home from the Sea" which I know I like.

Furusato (1972) AKA "Home from the Sea" (Yôji Yamada, 1972)
Rewatch of the nice 2.35:1 Region 2 DVD bootlegged with custom subs. 8/10

Re: disappointment and recovery

"The Castle of Sand" was pretty good, I think. It is less concerned with evidence and more concerned with the investigation into the victims relationships with his acquaintances. Theres an abrupt, stylistic change made during the final 40 or so minutes, which was rather interesting. A good film, but perhaps a bit too long at 143 minutes.

YouTube Asian Movie Review Channel

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Da zui xia (1966) (Come Drink With Me) / King Hu. The wuxia films are based on Chinese literature that feature martial artists who, like the Knights of the western world, are defenders of justice and the powerless. This type of film began to flower in the 1960s and director King Hu (born Hu Jinquan) is one of the major creative forces in this genre that continues to be popular into the 21st century. This particular film is a fine example of his work. It was Chinas selection for the 39th Academy Awards (the films of 1966), but wasnt one of the five nominees. The story is of a gang of bandits who kidnap the son of the local governor so they can trade him for the gangs leader who is in lock-up. When a young man shows up in the town near where the gang operates and proceeds to defeat every fighter in the local cafe/bar, he attracts a lot of attention. But the young fellow isnt all he seems, mainly, he is not male, but the sister of the kidnapped official. She is an accomplished martial artists of her own right, but when she is finally brought down by a poison dart, she is rescued by an unexpected ally, the town drunk, known as Drunken Cat. He is, himself, a martial arts Master who has issues of his own and a past about to catch up with him. Pei-Pei Cheng, who was cast because of her dancer training, plays the skilled young woman. She is best known to western moviegoers for a role 34 years later as the villainous Jade Fox in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Hua Yueh (Drunken Cat) continued to act in Hong Kong productions until 2008.

Nihon no ichiban nagai hi (1967) (Japans Longest Day) / Kihachi Okamoto. Excellent docu-drama covering the events in Japan as the defeated nation makes plans to surrender at the end of World War II. During a 20-minute prolog, a narrator takes us quickly through the last months of the war, the island defeats, and the atomic bombing of the homeland. After Japans government receives the Allies demands for surrender (The Potsdam Declaration), the Emperors Cabinet meets for debate. They are bothered by a phrase that the Emperor will be subject to the occupying force, so they take their concern directly to the Emperor. The Emperor stands up to speak at noon on August 14, 1945, beginning the last 24 hours of the war. The film ends at noon on August 15. That Longest Day begins with one of the films best scenes. Emperor Hirohito (being portrayed for the first time ever in a Japanese movie) tells his leadership (while being photographed either from the back or having his face partially hidden) that he wishes the war to end. He goes on to say that he will go anywhere and do anything to appease anyone opposed to peace. It doesnt matter what happens to me, he says. Save my people. The room full of high-powered politicians and high ranking military officers begin to sob uncontrollably, some falling to the floor. One of the more restrained is General Anami (Toshirô Mifune), Minister of War and Commander of the Army. Of the dozens of people that the movie follows over it course, Gen. Anami could arguably be called the major character, not only because of screen time but for Mifunes powerful performance. Anami is an old-time soldier in the Japanese military culture of honor, so would prefer with every fiber to fight until the entire population was killed. Yet, in some way he realizes that futility and battles with another powerful pull on his life: to do his duty by obeying the Emperor. Meanwhile, back at Anamis headquarters, a group of junior officers, devastated by news of surrender, hatch a plan to storm the Imperial Palace and take the Emperor into custody for his own good. In addition to Mifune, some other faces familiar to Western viewers can be seen. Takeshi Shimura, Mifunes frequent co-star when he was with Kurosawa, plays the Information Bureau chief and Ozu regular Chishû Ryû appears as Prime Minister Suzuki, a man of quiet authority, soft-spoken but with a spine of steel. As conspiracies are formed and fall apart, desperation increases as the time approaches for official action. The only real critique I can bring against this film is that its running time of 2:33 is too long. While individual moments are perfect, there is a bit too much of it. Even a 10 minute trim would have helped considerably. Other than that, this is a fine motion picture.

Shao Lin si (1982) (The Shaolin Temple) / Hsin-Yen Chang. This was the first of a loose trilogy that gave Hong Kong superstar Jet Li his film debut. The setting is the Shaolin Temple in the northern China province of Henan. It was here, as legend has it, that Chinese, indeed all Asian, martial arts began in the 5th century C.E. The story of the movie takes place about 200 years later. Li plays a young man whose family had been killed by a local warlord who has aspirations of overthrowing the Emperor. Badly wounded, he is taken in by the Temple monks. As he grows, he becomes the best pupil in the Shaolin kung-fu method but his path to becoming a monk faces the obstacle of his need for vengeance. As serious as that sounds, most of this is played for laughs, esp. Lis repeated violations of Temple rules (such as killing people) and his pleading to be forgiven and taken back. The martial arts are (mostly) real, actual masters (including Li) performing actual kung-fu moves in continuous action on the screen. The exposition portions are not very well done, but you know another creative action sequence is coming up soon.

Wing Chun (1994) / Woo-Ping Yuen. Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Tomorrow Never Dies) was already established as a martial arts star and Donnie Yens career was just revving up when they joined forces for this action/comedy/romance. Yeoh plays the title character, named for the Shaolin-based style of kung fu that she is a Master of. Some recent raids by a bandit group has required her to kick some serious butt, which makes her a hero to the townspeople. At the same time, Donnie Yen returns to town after an absence of many years. He mistakes the pretty young female who lives and works with Wing Chun and her father, for Wing Chun herself, to whom he was betrothed in childhood. While Yeoh and Yen perform admirably in every regard, everyone else in the film, including a whole village of extras, try to be comic by talking and yelling at the top of their voices, gesticulating wildly, popping their eyes, and just generally behaving in a manic, almost hysterical, manner. Its not funny at first and it certainly doesnt get funnier as the story goes on. It becomes painful. Happily there are plenty of well-choreographed fight scenes to distract.

Gohatto (1999) (Taboo) / Nagisa shima. It is the 19th century and the Tokugawa shogunate at Edo is under threat from many factions. The Shinsin Militia has been called upon to keep the peace. In the search for new recruits they find two excellent young swordsmen, Tashiro (Tadanobu Asano-Ichi the Killer, Last Life In The Universe, Mongol) and Kano (Ryuhei Matsuda-The Raid 2). Kano is a young teen with soft features giving him an androgynous look. He also is mysterious, revealing nothing of himself and often unresponsive to others. In spite of his blank innocent expression, he is a fierce fighter and kills without hesitation or emotion. These qualities lead some of the samurai, including Tashiro and the top commander, to be more than a little interested in him, some revealing feelings within themselves that were previously hidden. While gayness is not seen as all that unusual (the militia men appear to know who leans that way), the second in command, Hijikata (a real life person played by Takashi (Beat) Kitano), is worried that Kano will be a disruptive influence. Little does he know. Poetically directed and more than a little ambiguous, this is by turns lyrical and disturbing. Recommended for anyone looking for something a little different.

Pendekar Tongkat Emas (2014) (The Golden Cane Warrior) / Ifa Isfansyah. This Indonesian martial arts film is produced with the seriousness and polish that this national film industry is becoming known for. The plot is a pretty standard one for this type of historical drama. An aging master of cane fighting has raised as her own and trained in her art four children whose parents she had to kill to maintain order in the area where she lives. The two oldest of the adoptees, Biru a young man and Gerhana, a woman his age, were grown and had become lovers. The third was a teen girl, Dara, and the youngest, a boy of about 10. When the time came for the master to retire and pass on the Golden Cane, symbol of her office, Biru was the obvious choice. But instead of him or Gerhana, Dara is picked to everyones surprise, including Dara's. The causes anger and bitterness in the more mature couple who plan how to seize power for themselves. The rest of the story is a typical revenge tale whose interest lies in Daras journey to regaining her place and avenging her master with the help of a mysterious young man.

Hyeomnyeo: Kar-ui gi-eok (2015) (Memories Of The Sword) / Heung-sik Park. A beautifully shot film (mostly CGI) in which each frame could be a still picture worthy of contemplation. A young girl, living about a millennium ago in Korea has been raised and trained in the martial arts by her mother. The mother has planted in the girls mind that her only goal is to grow up and kill the two people who killed her parents. One day, as a teenager and confident of her growing abilities, slips away from her remote home and goes to the big city to compete in a martial arts fight. There, she attracts the attention of a steely-eyed army general. His recognition and subsequent pursuit of her triggers the need of her mother to reveal some upsetting history about the girls own identity. She flees in order to find the truth about her parents, their deaths, and herself. The script is highly literate, all the characters are well-acted and the story takes on aspects of fantasy. I especially emphasize the acting of Byung-hun Lee as one of the most three-dimensional villains I have ever seen in an action movie. Lee has appeared in English language films before: the two G.I. Joe films, Terminator Genisys, and the upcoming The Magnificent Seven. About the only thing I would fault this film for is the ending which is really drawn out past its expiration date and some of the actions taken by the characters are arbitrary and unlikely. Before that happens, though, there is a magical fantastical movie to enjoy.


Trust me. Im The Doctor.

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Japan's Longest Day was awesome. I really like Okamoto as a director.

I feel like I need to give Come Drink With Me a second chance. I didn't like it much the first time around.

I disliked Memories of the Sword. Performances are good, but right from the start I thought that the sword fights are overly-edited and irritating. I also felt that there were too many dramatic moments that were unsupported by normal moments. There is a fairly good twist that is revealed later on though, so I'll give it that.

Gohatto was beautifully shot and acted. There are a few good, realistic swordfights to enjoy too.

I hope to watch The Golden Cane Warrior soon.

YouTube Asian Movie Review Channel

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Thanks for your reply. Some of the external and user reviews of "Memories of the Sword" agree with your assessment, but I just liked it better. It's just me. Thanks again.


Trust me. Im The Doctor.

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Part 14 of my Asian Horror Year In Review playlist is now up. It provides a lengthy introduction on contemporary Asian horror, then includes mini-reviews on some of the less impressive films released in 1998 (the better ones will be covered in my next video):

Here are the films I saw this week.

Highly Recommended

The Flame of Devotion (1964) (Japanese Drama/Romance) The tale of a young woman from a mountain who fell in love with a fishermans son, and her devotion to him during World War II. Theres a lot of cultural value here that shows the daily life of these people. Another interesting aspect is that the female lead isnt a push-over, subservient woman; shes actually quite selfish, which makes her more interesting. This film is great to look at, with very nice environments that are beautifully shot in black-and-white. The ending is dramatically effective. This is really good stuff by Koreyoshi Kurahara.

Vengeance of an Assassin (2014) (Thai Action) (repeat viewing) When a young woman is targeted for assassination, some underworld hitmen and gangsters tangle in a series of deadly clashes in this film by Panna Rittikrai. Like many action films from Thailand, the story here is weakly constructed but the action is outstanding. Fight scenes are expertly crafted and extremely hard-hitting. Were talking tons of bloody violence, bone-crunching knock-out blows, and some fantastic deaths. There is one sequence that uses poor vehicle CGI, but its still fun. There are also some creative moments to enjoy, like the insane opening martial arts soccer match and two lengthy shootouts that were shot in a single take (with great use of squibs). For brainless action, you cant go wrong here.

Rocky 3 (1982) (American Drama) (repeat viewing) After successfully defending his title for the tenth time, Rocky Balboa is challenged by the hungry, powerful Clubber Lang. Easily the flashiest of the franchise to this point, it starts with a lengthy and entertaining 7-minute montage that sets up the whole film. The antagonist is shallow and poorly developed, but this is pure 80s entertainment regardless. You got Hulk Hogan, Mr. T, bromance between Stallone and Weathers, and Eye of the Tiger baby. This has got some good dialogue too, and two fights that do not go to the cliched 15th round. This is also very briskly paced. Oh, and it has one of the best freeze frame final shots in cinematic history. Let the smack talk begin.

Rocky 4 (1985) (American Drama) (repeat viewing) Rocky is coerced back into the ring to battle against Drago (Dolph Lundgren), a big Russian with freakish strength. This has the best music of the franchise. There are some outstanding montages that get the viewers blood pumping, and James Brown tears it up! Like Rocky 3, the pacing is very fast (likely due to the inclusion of an additional fight inserted near the mid-point). Its fairly ridiculous American propaganda, but if anything that makes it even more entertaining!


When Animals Dream (2014) (Danish Horror/Drama) A teenage girl lives on a small island with her seriously ill mother and her father, who takes care of the family. But something strange is happening to her body, and the neighboring residents seem to know more than she does. This has a common premise that is fairly predictable, but the overall quality is good especially in terms of acting, direction, and dramatic build-up. The conflict between the protagonists family and the townspeople is vicious and effective. The seaside fishing town environment also adds some mood.

A Company Man (2012) (Korean Action) A hitman works for an organization that fronts itself as a legitimate company, but his morals create problems for his profession. Very generic premise here, but the action is solid. Both the hand-to-hand fighting and shootouts are quite good and sufficiently violent, with the highlight being the lengthy office shootout near the end. The lead actor is good and is a convincing badass. He kills female assassins along the way.

Alice In Earnestland (2015) (Korean Comedy/Drama/Thriller) A woman gets some bad breaks in life and must now earn money to pay off hospital bills. She is granted an opportunity to assist in a redevelopment project, but soon realizes that her honest mentality may not be the right way to go. This is a fairly slow-paced film that is infused with low-key, black comedy from start to finish. One hilarious scene involves an unintentional assassination. There are a few scenes of bloody violence and macabre moments, but the humor component never completely goes away. The lead actress is quite good. An interesting genre-bender.

The Virgin Psychics (2015) (Japanese Comedy) This theatrical film is a spin-off of the J-drama about sexual perverts who are endowed with supernatural powers. It is recommended to watch the television series first because the film focuses less on developing the characters (although it does give a brief introduction to everything so that first-time viewers will not be completely lost). Most of the cast does return, which is nice. The conflict is entirely different from the television series, which is a good thing because it feels like a separate episode instead of a rehash. This is funny stuff with a light-hearted, charming slant on perverted, sex-based comedy. This movie must have set some kind of record for its insane number of scantily clad women. I kid you not, most of the women walk around in their underwear for the entire film! We can thank director Sion Sono for this.

Man of Tai Chi (2013) (Chinese/American Action) A young fighter of Tai Chi (Tiger Chen) gets recruited by an illegal underground organization (headed by Keanu Reeves) that broadcasts fights on the internet. This taints the protagonists philosophy to be overly aggressive and violent. This has a lot of fighting that is of a generally good quality, with a few exceptions. It also has a decent character ark. Reeves gives one of the worst performances of his entire career and thats saying something but it is cool to see him as a villain. Karen Mok has a supporting role. Iko Uwais is completely wasted in a cameo fight scene that is shamefully short and lame this is actually one of my biggest gripes for this film because it builds up to this moment and just deflates. This flick was rolling along very nicely until it completely dropped the ball during the final half hour. As is, its still moderately enjoyable.

Bridge of Spies (2015) (American/German Drama) Set during the late 1950s, the basic outline of the plot is an attorney at laws involvement in the confluence of two events involving spies. He is assigned to defend a Soviet spy in court, then must deal with a related event. Nothing mind-blowing here, but this is a good film overall. The acting is solid and it has a low-key nature that still maintains interest through dialogue.

Not Recommended

Crimson Peak (2015) (American Horror/Romance) In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. This has cliched, repetitive horror elements with CGI ghosts that speak stiff, artificial dialogue. None of it is scary or interesting. The set designs are very nice and there are a few visually pleasing candle-lit walks at night, but the story is boring and the way it develops down the stretch is rather dumb. Also, the runtime of two full hours is way too long. Ive enjoyed a few films from Guillermo Del Toro, but Im no fan of his and this is just another piece of evidence as to why. Oh, and Jessica Chastain is a bad actress.

Bottom of the Barrel

Wild At Heart (1990) (American Drama/Comedy/Thriller) David Lynch directs this film about a star-crossed couple who is in for the most gruesome ride of their lives when they encounter a handful of bizarre strangers. Laura Derns body is the only good thing about this movie. It begins with an idiotic, juvenile, obnoxious murder that represents everything I hate about this director. Its so friggin stupid, with atrocious dialogue and even worse acting. And almost unbelievably, the rest of the film is just as bad! My 15-year-old nephew could write a better screenplay. It takes some real talent to make movies this bad, and Lynch is one of the absolute worst directors Ive ever encountered.

YouTube Asian Movie Review Channel

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

Its so friggin stupid, with atrocious dialogue and even worse acting.

Yeah I have to agree with you on that one. I recently re-watched this one, and I was surprised how poorly it aged. It came out when I was a teenager and it seemed pretty hardcore then. So I think Lynch had a lot to do with introducing certain styles that became really mainstream in the 90s and are completely tiresome now. Also it's just a terrible movie. I generally hate David Lynch, but that's why I was surprised how much I loved Mulholland Drive (although it has some of that cheap, Lynchian awfulness). It's a film I re-watch over and over. So he's a guy with "one film" as far as I'm concerned.

Man, Alice In Earnestland is pretty polarizing. Has been on my watchlist but not sure whether it's for me.

Re: Recently Seen, part 11 (March, 2016)

That's weird. I also find Mulholland Drive to be the only Lynch film that I actually enjoyed.

YouTube Asian Movie Review Channel

Re: Alice In Earnestland

Man, Alice In Earnestland is pretty polarizing. Has been on my watchlist but not sure whether it's for me.

Saying it's polarizing gives it way more credit than it deserves. It's not a film that takes chances. For ebo it is an effective genre-bender with black humor. If you have a good idea of what he likes and dislikes and you have a good idea of what I like and dislike then you have some help deciding if it's for you. It's not.

Re: Alice In Earnestland

Lol Well I am pretty much on exactly the same page as Ebo-san when it comes to comedies. But I can't stand any of the blood and gore that both of you guys are fine with. And it's hard to tell which films I am on the same page as you with. I guess the dramas and more high artsy-fartsy stuff. Actually my ratings of films are almost always in the range of what everyone else thinks, but sometimes more emphatically yours is more unpredictable. So I'm on the fence. Like most people on this board it's at the point where I'm hurtin' for more good asian films to watch. I've burned through 70% of the classics from the past 20 years and I'm scrapin' the bowl. I get a substantial proportion of my leads from this board.