Posted by: asianfilmreviews | July 8, 2010

White Tower (2007)

White Tower – 하얀 거탑

Director: Ahn Pan-Seok (안판석)

Cast: Kim Myeong-Min (김명민), Lee Jeong-Gil (이정길), Lee Seon-Gyoon (이선균), Byeon Hee-Bong (변희봉), Song Seon-Mi (송선미), Kim Bo-Kyeong (김보경)

Adapted from the novel Shiroi Kyoto by Yamazaki Toyoko, Korea’s adaptation of the twice-produced Japanese drama is an excellently conceived and gripping saga of power and corruption at Myongin University Hospital. Now, if you just went by the previous sentence in combination with the picture at left, you would be forgiven for thinking this is just a medical drama. Happily, it is much, much more than that. Equal parts ER and Law & Order, White Tower is a rather complex character study of Dr. Jang Joon-Hyuk (Kim Myeong-Min), an ambitious surgeon who has his sights set on the position of Chief of Surgery at the hospital and is willing to do almost anything to succeed. Spread over 20 episodes, his do-or-die methods win him a bevy of loyal supporters, but also detractors who fear that his actions will have severe repercussions not only on the reputation of the hospital and those around Dr. Jang, but also on his own future. Again, as with previous drama reviews, I will refrain from giving away major plot points. Suffice to say that White Tower eschews romantic dilemmas for more occupational sorts of complications. Read More…

Posted by: asianfilmreviews | June 11, 2010

Chaw (2009)

Chaw – 차우

Director: Shin Jeong-Won (신정원)

Cast: Eom Tae-Woong (엄태웅), Jeong Yu-Mi (정유미), Jang Hang-Seon (장항선), Yoon Je-Moon (윤제문), Park Hyeok-Kwon (박혁권)

Dark comedy is incredibly difficult to successfully pull off. Case in point – Chaw. The story of a quaint, rural town besieged by a giant killer boar is equal parts Jaws and The Host (괴물), sometimes aping the former scene-by-scene for action bits while attempting to capture some of the satire of the latter. Jaws is certainly a good model for narrative purposes, but it is in the humor where Chaw really falls flat. Tired, worn, and also incredibly mean-spirited, Director Shin’s attempt at humor includes cross-eyed police chiefs, lazy and incompetent police captains, opportunistic city officials, police officers falling down hills and over each other, and anything that makes police officers look like total buffoons. Whereas someone such as Bong Joon-Ho is able to use such characterizations for brilliant satirical effect, Director Shin is neither brilliant nor clever. The boar, you ask? Shots of the creature alternate between serviceable to what the hell is that? The special effects were done by the same effects house which also worked on Haeundae. I guess they got the B-team to work on this one. Read More…

Posted by: asianfilmreviews | February 3, 2010

Coolest. Music. Video. Ever.

I’m a sucker for silhouette animation (Michel Ocelot’s Princes & Princesses is one of my favorite films of all time). Some of you have probably already seen this music video for the song Bad Apple, from the Touhou Project series of Japanese bullet hell games, but for those who haven’t, feast your eyes on the most stylish music video ever!

You may not be familiar with the concept of bullet hell (danmaku) or the Touhou Project games from mastermind Zun, but if you’ve played No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle for the Nintendo Wii, specifically the in-game minigame featuring the BJ5, then you know what I’m talking about – Galaga-style, top-down shooters with a cast of ultra-cute females and MASSIVE amounts of bullets onscreen at once. Despite their near impossibility, the Touhou Project games are addictive!

Posted by: asianfilmreviews | January 25, 2010

Haeundae (2009)

Haeundae - 해운대

Director: Yoon Je-Kyoon (윤제균)

Cast: Sol Kyung-Gu (설경구), Ha Ji-Won (하지원), Park Joong-Hoon (박중훈), Uhm Jung-Hwa (엄정화), Lee Min-Ki (이민기), Kang Ye-Won (강예원), Kim In-Kwon (김인권)

America’s not the only country that can have a grand ol’ time symbolically destroying itself! Witness Haeundae, Korea’s answer to Hollywood disaster epics that stars a giant tidal wave which runs clean over Pusan. Oh, and there are some people in it too. All joking aside, despite the various similarities to its Hollywood counterparts both watchable (Independence Day, for example) and God-awful (Volcano), and despite taking some pages right out of the Roland Emmerich Disaster Movie Playbook, Haeundae proves to be an entertaining film that provides compelling human drama and genuinely likable characters to match the visual extravaganza in the latter half of the film. Emmerich, take note. Read More…

Posted by: asianfilmreviews | January 7, 2010

One Nite in Mongkok (2004)

One Nite in Mongkok – 旺角黑夜

Director: Derek Yee Tung-Shing

Cast:  Daniel Wu (吳彥祖), Cecilia Cheung (張柏芝), Alex Fong (方中信), Anson Leung (梁俊一), Chin Kar Lok (錢嘉樂), Lam Suet (林雪), Sam Lee (李璨琛)

Gritty, dark, and violent, Derek Yee’s One Nite in Mongkok has more in common with Johnnie To’s Election films than popular heroic bloodshed gangster movies or slick commercial vehicles such as Infernal Affairs. The story that violence can erupt from the smallest of events is a potent one, and the overall theme of the inevitability of conflict in society is subtly laid out in the film’s closing sequence. Anchored by fine performances from the leading actors (and especially Alex Fong) and a tight script, One Nite in Mongkok was a bright spot in Hong Kong cinema in 2004 and one of the most engaging triad films to ever emerge from the industry. Read More…

Posted by: asianfilmreviews | January 2, 2010

A perfect time for K-pop parodies!

A general rule of thumb in entertainment that should be discernible to just about everyone is that whenever something is popular, or whenever something strikes a chord with the general, mass-consuming public, a slick parody could do just as well. And in 2009, the absolute dominance of Korean pop music provided fertile ground for some hilarious videos!

First up, we’ve got Dirty Eyed Girls, composed of the lovably effeminate lads from 2PM (the hottest time of the day!) and 2AM, doing their parody of Brown Eyed Girls’ song Abracadabra. Catch the parody underneath the original video. Caution: I am not responsible for any involuntary hip-swinging on your part while watching the original video:

You’ve really got to hand it to Brown Eyed Girls. After wallowing in obscurity, they completely reinvented themselves and, with the help of perhaps the catchiest dance this side of the Macarena, they shot right to the top! Here’s a bonus video of the Dirty Eyed Girls getting a surprise visit from the parody victims themselves, as well as the extra 2PM members. I can practically SEE my girlfriend swooning over Nickhun right now… That’s fine, though, because I think Ga-in looks amazing!

Next up is another video with those ridiculously good-looking bastards from 2PM. Their most recent MV, Heartbeat, is making the rounds and making girls everywhere (and maybe even some guys) fall over in fits of excessive passion! Luckily for the rest of us, a fan-made parody does the whole thing one better!

I’m becoming more and more fascinated with the K-pop explosion, so expect more posts in the future! In the meantime, drop me a line if you stumble across some other good parodies. Happy viewing!

Posted by: asianfilmreviews | December 31, 2009

Project A (1983)

Project AProject A – A 計劃

Director: Jackie Chan

Cast: Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung (洪金寶), Yuen Biao (元彪), Mars (火星), Lee Hoi San, Kwan Hoi-San, Dick Wei, Isabella Wong

After the disaster that was Sophie’s Revenge, let’s move on to a good film, a true classic of Hong Kong cinema – Jackie Chan’s Project A. Though not his first job as director, it was the film that first demonstrated his matured sense of action filmmaking and his ability to provide a competent story with amazing action scenes that are funny, incomparable, yet a part of the story – not just a distraction, as seen so often in lesser action films. Make no mistake, this is required viewing not just for Hong Kong cinema fans, but lovers of action cinema. The creativity is light years beyond what is done today and the sense of fun and adventure is undeniable. Read More…

Posted by: asianfilmreviews | September 8, 2009

Zhang Ziyi says women shouldn’t be directors?

If Zhang Ziyi’s own words are to be believed, then women should not be directors. Why, you might ask? Because it’s too hard. Aww, let me play you a sad song on the world’s smallest violin:

Tell this to Kathryn Bigelow, director of films like Point Break and, more recently, The Hurt Locker, the latter of which is easily one of the very best films in recent memory. Or how about Korean director Kim Mee-Jeong (김미정), who wrote and directed one of my favorite Korean films -  Shadows in the Palace (궁녀). Then there’s Chinese director Xu Jinglei (徐静蕾), who rose above her critics who claimed she was nothing more than a pretty face and whose sophomore feature Letter from an Unknown Woman (一个陌生女人的来信) won best director prize at the 2004 San Sebastian International Film Festival. Aren’t you glad these women ignored any thoughts they might have had about “directing is too haaaaaaaaaaard”? I know I am.

Kathryn Bigelow totally rocks

Kathryn Bigelow totally rocks

Posted by: asianfilmreviews | September 6, 2009

Sophie’s Revenge (2009)

Sophie's RevengeSophie’s Revenge – 非常完美

Director: Eva Jin

Cast: Zhang Ziyi (章子怡), Fan Bingbing (范冰冰), So Ji-Sub (소지섭), Peter Ho (何润东)

Hilarious! Inspiring! Wholly imaginative! Heartwarming!

These words, and other positively connotative adjectives like them, do NOT describe Sophie’s Revenge. Zhang Ziyi’s much hyped debut as an actress in a comedy and as a producer is a total mess of a film from start to finish. What the filmmakers have done is to make a love story that says absolutely nothing about love. It’s not hard to pinpoint WHEN it all goes wrong, because it’s from the opening credits which quite literally give away the ending (not that the ending should come as a shock to anyone with half a brain), but it is hard to narrow down just how the film, which I’m sure began with the writer’s honest intent to make an amusing love comedy, turns into a cliched, disingenuous, unoriginal, generic, unfunny, and frankly stupid waste of money, time, and collective energy – “hard” in the sense that there are many aspects of the film which speak to its rank idiocy. Should I begin with the characters’ shallow nature? The filmmakers’ stereotypical views of women and relationships? Or how about the insulting way it deals with the psychological after-effects from which some people suffer after a difficult breakup? Rest assured, all of this and more will be covered. But to close out this little intro, let me clear about this film’s implications – Zhang Ziyi should 1.) stop producing films and 2.) stop acting in comedies. No, that is not multiple choice. She has no gift for comedy and no mind for recognizing talent as a producer. Read More…

Posted by: asianfilmreviews | September 5, 2009

The Celebrity and Poor Taro (2008)

The Celebrity and Poor TaroThe Celebrity and Poor Taro – セレブと貧乏太郎

Producer: Tsuchiya Ken (土屋健)

Directors: Matsuda Hidetomo (episodes 1-2, 5, 8, and 11), Ishikawa Junichi (石川淳一, episode 3), Sato Genta (佐藤源太, episodes 4, 7, and 10), and Kitagawa Manabu (北川学, episodes 6 and 9)

Cast: Ueto Aya (上戸彩), Kamiji Yusuke (上地雄輔), Kuninaka Ryoko (国仲涼子), Kashiwabara Takashi (柏原崇)

(note: even though this is a Japanese drama, it will still be classified under Japan Film Reviews)

Ok, now THIS is going to be difficult. Anyone who is familiar with Japanese dramas knows that part of the fun of any particular drama (especially the romantic comedies such as this) is realizing that with a multitude of characters through the 9-12 episodes or so, some are bound to fall in love, and yet they never admit it until the next-to-the-last or the very last episode, sometimes in the last 30 minutes of the last episode. So I’m going to attempt to succinctly review this 11-episode drama without giving too much away, hoping that the silly premise of an insanely wealthy socialite befriending a poor-as-dirt nobody will be enough to attract readers to this review and viewers to the drama… because both are very good. Read More…

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