Posted by: asianfilmreviews | August 26, 2009

The Ring Virus (1999)

The_Ring_VirusThe Ring Virus – 링 바이러스

Director: Kim Dong-Bin (김동빈)

Cast: Shin Eun-Kyeong (신은경), Lee Seung-Hyeon (이승현), Jeong Jin-Yeong (정진영), Bae Du-Na (배두나)

The Ring Virus is a curious film. A hot-on-the-heels follow-up to Hideo Nakata’s Ring, this film is proof that adherence to the source material, Koji Suzuki’s original novel in this case, does not always produce a superior film. Less scary and even more self-serious than the original film, The Ring Virus follows journalist Sun-Joo as she tries to uncover why her niece and three of her friends died mysterious deaths at the same time but in different locales. What follows is the now-typical investigative framework wherein Sun-Joo comes into possession of a video tape that kills those who watch it and attempts to get to the bottom of its origin. The film is well-intentioned in its horror ambitions, and it certainly beats a lot of the torture porn and downright silly horror that is currently available from any number of countries, but it’s a little too sedate and generally less polished than its Japanese predecessor. But hey, it beats the hell out of the later American remake if that makes a difference to anyone. Read More…

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Posted by: asianfilmreviews | July 20, 2009

Look to the stars

I realize this has nothing to do with my blog’s stated purpose, but… I’m an astronomy nut. Sue me.

Today is a monumental day, a day which marks the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. A challenge put forth by President John F. Kennedy at the beginning of the decade, it was met by NASA, fearless test pilots and astronauts, and literally hundreds of thousands of technicians working behind the scenes to ensure that we successfully put human beings on the surface of another planetary body. It was without a doubt the single greatest achievement in human history, and I can only hope that we continue to rise to meet other, more difficult challenges in the decades to come – if only for the astronauts around the world who have given their lives in the pursuit of knowledge and exploration.

Buzz Aldrin photographed by Neil Armstrong on the surface of the moon

Buzz Aldrin photographed by Neil Armstrong on the surface of the moon

Posted by: asianfilmreviews | July 20, 2009

Memories of Murder (2003)

Memories of MurderMemories of Murder살인의 추억

Director: Bong Joon-Ho (봉준호)

Cast: Song Kang-Ho (송강호), Kim Sang-Kyung (김상경), Kim Roe-Ha (김뢰하), Byeong Hui-Bong (Byeong Hee-Bong, 변희봉), Park No-Shik (박노식), Park Hae-Il (박해일)

Every so often, a film comes along that is utterly mindblowing in its storytelling, characterizations, and lasting impact. For me, Memories of Murder is such a film, one that compels the viewer to contemplate what they are watching as they watch it and one that greatly impacts those that take the initiative to understand its importance as both a masterpiece of filmmaking and a distinct and notable South Korean text. To those who are unfamiliar with Korean culture, popular culture, and history, I hope this film will motivate you to learn all that you can. No jokes whatsoever, this tale of South Korea’s first recorded serial killer is an absolutely remarkable film, thanks in part to what is perhaps Song Kang-Ho’s best performance to date, atmospheric cinematography, and a chilling score from Taro Iwashiro (岩代 太郎). But easily the film’s most outstanding features is the relationship between the characters and the time and place in which they inhabit. In the midst of a military dictatorship, detectives from different parts of Korea do all in their power to catch a murderer in spite of societal limitations. The portrayals of the detectives in this manner and the development which they undergo cast a critical eye on misguided law and order with a biting sense of irony. Read More…

Posted by: asianfilmreviews | July 18, 2009

Goddess of Mercy (2003)

Goddess of MercyGoddess of Mercy (aka Jade Goddess of Mercy) – 玉觀音

Director: Ann Hui (許鞍華)

Cast: Vicki Zhao Wei (赵薇) , Nicholas Tse (謝霆鋒), Liu Yunlong, Chen Jianbin

Ann Hui is a pretty consistent director in the world of Hong Kong cinema in terms of quality. She made a name for herself early on with films such as The Story of Woo Viet (胡越的故事) and Boat People (投奔怒海), and she has continued to shine in recent years with just a few missteps along the way. With Goddess of Mercy, Hui takes on a complex character study of An Xin (Vicky Zhao Wei) and examines her tragic life. Borrowing themes associated with Guan Yin, the Buddhist deity of mercy and compassion, An Xin’s progressive suffering is used in a narrative sense to reveal more about her as a character and about the human experience, which is often fraught with tragedy and unpleasant situations. It’s an interesting film, but actually not one of Hui’s best, as An Xin’s tragedies become increasingly thriller-esque and parodic in nature and lose some of their dramatic punch. Read More…

Posted by: asianfilmreviews | July 6, 2009

Only Yesterday (1991)

Only YesterdayOnly Yesterdayおもひでぽろぽろ

Director: Isao Takahata (高畑 勲)

Voice Cast: Miki Imai (今井 美樹), Toshio Yanagiba (柳葉 敏郎), Yoko Honna (本名 陽子)

I am extremely happy that my first review for an animated film is the astounding Only Yesterday, from master director Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies火垂るの墓). I’ve been a fan of Takahata’s work since first watching Grave of the Fireflies years ago and crying my eyes out when it was over. BEFORE it was over. Yes, I cried. The level of humanity with which he approaches his films is a welcome relief from the glut of  animation in general, where filmmakers seem to regard their products as Saturday morning fodder amidst a sea of competing mediocrity. With Only Yesterday, Takahata has painstakingly painted a picture of one young woman’s transition to adulthood, where she reflects on her formative years as a child and discovers who she really is. And he has done so with such care and such grace that it’s hard not to admire the film. The beautifully conceived ending, rousing in its emotionality and unfettered idealism, only seals the deal. Read More…

Posted by: asianfilmreviews | July 3, 2009

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (2009)

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li

Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak

Cast: Kristin Kreuk, Chris Klein, Neal McDonough, Robin Shou, Moon Bloodgood, Josie Ho (何超儀), Taboo, Michael Clarke Duncan, Cheng Pei-Pei (鄭佩佩)

I really wasn’t planning to actually write a review of this film, or even admit that I saw it, but while watching it, it became painfully obvious that the movie is actually in keeping with this blog’s intent – to review, critique, and analyze Asian and Asian-related entertainment. And since this movie features a number of Asian and Asian American stars, was shot in parts of Hong Kong and Bangkok, and features choreography from Dion Lam (林迪安), then I thought it only logical to voice my opinions. So yeah, consider this a review – a review that can be summed up in one short phrase: this movie sucks. Read More…

Posted by: asianfilmreviews | July 2, 2009

Election (2005)

ElectionElection黑社會

Director: Johnnie To (杜琪峯)

Cast: Simon Yam (任達華), Tony Leung Ka-Fai (梁家輝), Louis Koo (古天樂), Nick Cheung (張家輝), Wong Tin-Lam (王天林), Maggie Siu (邵美琪), Lam Suet (林雪)

Johnnie To knocks it out of the park yet again! Election is a fresh take on the triad genre, a perennially popular subset of Hong Kong cinema. Temporarily sidelining his stylized and expertly choreographed gunplay scenes, To relies on compelling characters, a finely tuned story, and an amazing attention to detail and history. This film and its sequel (Election 2, to be reviewed later), are exceptionally important films for their chronicling triad society within Hong Kong without resorting to glamorizing frankly evil people. These guys are not Ekin Cheng cool (but then again, who is?). They are manipulative, competitive, and backstabbing despite their oath to their brothers, and the result is a gritty and uncompromising film with some shocking scenes of violence used to amazing effect. Read More…

Posted by: asianfilmreviews | June 29, 2009

Oldboy remake in trouble?

Rin’s comment on The worst remake idea of all time couldn’t have had better timing. According to Hollywood Reporter, South Korean film distributor Show East never obtained the rights from manga publisher Futabasha to negotiate a remake of Oldboy with Hollywood producers. This could slow production, but I have a terrible feeling this will just be a minor stumbling block for the combined wealth and influence (and egos) of Steven Spielberg and Will Smith. I, for one, don’t believe that either one of these guys should be allowed near a remake of Oldboy, or that the film should even be remade at all. If they’re that enamored with it, why didn’t they help give the original film more exposure here in the U.S. upon its release? Why don’t they attempt to popularize the original source material?

I’m not one to proclaim Oldboy the greatest film of all time (I actually think that Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is the best of Park Chan-Wook’s revenge-themed trilogy) or even a modern classic, but it is a powerful, mesmerizing tale of revenge with an appropriately dark and abstract conclusion. Again, we’re dealing with Hollywood here. Take one look at Will Smith’s I Am Legend to see how a remake of Oldboy will turn out. Dark and controversial subject matter will be sidelined in favor of more audience-friendly material. Mark my words. It will pale in comparison to the original.

Posted by: asianfilmreviews | June 29, 2009

Tokyo Sonata (2008)

Tokyo SonataTokyo Sonataトウキョウソナタ

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Cast: Teruyuki Kagawa (香川照之), Kyoko Koizumi (小泉今日子), Yu Koyanagi (小柳友), Inowaki Kai (井之脇海), Koji Yakusho

Tokyo Sonata is visually simple yet an overall thematic gut punch. Eschewing his trademark motifs of supernatural occurrences as metaphors for social ills, Kurosawa boils down the complex issues surrounding societal breakdown to its most basic unit – the family. After Ryusuke Sasaki (Teruyuki Kagawa) loses his job, how can he just willy nilly tell his family about it? His subsequent shame and secrecy threatens to destroy all that he has worked for and carve a permanent rift between himself and his wife and children. The result is a film that is emblematic of a society that puts an unhealthy amount of pressure on individuals to succeed in a strict education system and highly specialized, inflexible jobs. This may not be Kurosawa’s most shocking film, but it is his most relevant and perhaps most important one. Read More…

Posted by: asianfilmreviews | June 26, 2009

R.I.P. Michael Jackson – The King of Pop

Michael Jackson will forever be the King of Pop. A towering artist with a phenomenal voice and inhuman dance skills, the man sold albums like nobody since.

Here’s to a time when music was at its best, and when an artist as creative as Michael Jackson could cross gender, racial, and generational lines with some of the best music ever conceived.

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