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Asian Cinema on DVD


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#1 of 685 ChrisBEA

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Posted February 18 2004 - 03:07 PM

Someone in another thread mentioned an idea of startinga discussion of Asian cinema on disk.

Well, I thought it was a good idea, so let's kick up a discussion, OK?

ANyway, I have a growing love for Asian films, although I don't have extensive knowledge, I am willing to try just about anything.

The most recent Asian film I have watched is 2002 from Wilson Yip and starring Nicolas Tse and Stephen Fung. I had this sitting on the shelf for months and finally popped it in for the first time today. Bottom line, I loved it! Great film, it has action, comedy, romance, drama. It seemed to combine some elements of Ghostbusters and Blade. The basic story concerns a specialized police department comprised of a man and a ghost who keep the peace.

Well hopefully this will catch on and take a life of it's own. Please let's talk movies!

#2 of 685 Lew Crippen

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Posted February 19 2004 - 01:54 AM

This probably will fit best if a moderator moves the thread to ‘movies’.
¡Time is not my master!

#3 of 685 ChrisBEA

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Posted February 19 2004 - 02:36 AM

Well I had hoped this would be a discussion of movies on DVD< so I thought it would be best here.
But doesn't looklike anyone wants to join in.
Oh well.

#4 of 685 PaulaJ

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Posted February 19 2004 - 02:50 AM

>Well I had hoped this would be a discussion of movies on DVD


I think the problem is that the topic is too general. You say "Asian movies" on DVD and that covers a huge territory -- martial arts, comedy, drama, cop/action thrillers, horror movies, movies from Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Thailand, etc., etc. So if you could narrow it down a little...

Anyway, the most recent Asian movie I watched on DVD (just last night as a matter of fact) was Hong Kong Legends' version of Fist of Fury. Bruce Lee rocks. Posted Image
PaulaJ

#5 of 685 Brian Thibodeau

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Posted February 19 2004 - 02:52 AM

Well, since I'm the one who proposed the idea of an asian discussion in those other threads, I guess I should take part. I was planning on starting a thread like this today, but it looks like you beat me to the punch, Chris! Sorry it took so long to contribute something; there's just so much I'd love to talk about in this regard.

(In fact, I was hoping they might one day start and actual Asian Cinema forum at HTF because I think the volume, density and diversity of films from that region are worthy of their own dedicated forum. I suspect the moderators might worry that it might draw out requests for a million other such genre- or country-specific forums, in which case things could get messy. On the other hand, there just aren’t that many articulate, intelligent forums on the web to discuss Asian cinema, and a couple of the better ones have grown frustratingly cuddly over the last year. Oh well, a thread’ll have to do...)

I guess I could start off by repeating my thoughts from another forum. I think there's a comparitively limited catalogue of films that the uninitiated will invariably visit as their introduction to Hong Kong cinema (or simply to say they've seen Hong Kong cinema), largely due to factors like availability on US video and in the local Blockbuster, or praise (rightly) given them in the review books (like Sex & Zen or Videohound Dragon's sidebars). I'm thinking, of course of Wong Kar-wai's arthouse dramas, the John Woo/Tsui Hark/Ringo Lam actioners, the Jackie Chan/Jet Li catalougues, and the horrid full-screen English dubs of old martial arts movies (from companies like Ground Zero).

Not to deny these films and filmmakers their place and importance within the Hong Kong canon, but indeed there are so many different avenues of Hong Kong cinema to explore beyond them that the 14 years I've spent exploring still have the sum total effect of just barely scratching the surface, particularly each time some new (or old) title appears before my eyes and opens up a whole new can of cultural curiosity.

When my “to watch” pile got unreasonably high in the last year, I realized I needed to focus on plowing through it. As Asian films have been my main area of purchasing focus over the last several years, and the cinema from which I derive the most enjoyment, I decided to cut myself off from it temporarily while I “worked” through the tall stacks of American and European discs that had been piling up. Now I’m down to the last three discs in that pile (thanks to a very understanding girlfriend) and am anxiously looking forward to attacking the even bigger piles of Hong Kong, Korean and Japanese discs I have waiting, so hopefully this thread lasts long enough and goes in enough directions that I can continue to contribute my thoughts.

I currently have about 600 Hong Kong movies on DVD and VCD, many purchased before the rapid price drops of a few years back (rampant piracy of HK product over the years has had the beneficial side effect of forcing down the prices of legitimate material to very, VERY reasonable levels. I can say with certainty it’s a much cheaper hobby now than it was then, dollar for dollar and especially compared with collecting American movies (especially new releases). I’m up to about 100 each Korean and Japanese DVDs. Between the three I’ve got about 175 additional discs waiting to be watched, many for the first time. I guess this qualifies as an obsession, but then around these forums, it’s probably par for the course. I’m still no expert in Asian cinema or culture, but there’s no easier and cheaper point of entry than a country’s cinema and it’s through these movies that I’ve become far more culturally hip, since they often require me to go online or visit the local library for background information that might help me better understand context for so many great movies, which only enriches the experience.

I think the appeal of Hong Kong cinema, at least to some of us, is in it’s budget-savvy, “let’s-put-on-a-real-show!” mentality, the speedy, scrappy, capitalistic fervour that permeates not only the culture but it’s films. It really is quite unlike any other cinema on earth. Westernized in terms of concept, yet unflappably Chinese at it’s core, obviously moreso in recent years since the handover. Much like we’ll never see another city like Hong Kong again, we’ll probably never find a national cinema on the planet to rival it. Even if its heydey has faded somewhat, there’re still thousands of fantastic films out there awaiting rediscovery. Even the new stuff frequently surprises me (and I’m the first to admit I go into these films with fewer preconceived notions that I would with films from the culture in which I was raised; that’s the joy of them)

Korean cinema, on the other hand, rivals Hollywood in terms of breadth of scope and technical bravura, which is all the more impressive in light of the fact that the Korean cinema rennaissance really only began about 5 years ago. Granted, there are many fantastic Korean films from before 1999 that are well worth seeking out (and hopefully more will make it to DVD in the years ahead). For all the criticism their high-concept sci-fi and action movies, and melodramatic romances endure, I’ve yet to find a cinema that has formed to solid a national identity to the outside world as fast as Korean cinema. Some folks hate the excessive melodramatics and overt patriotism on display in Korean films, but an understanding of the culture beyond its films, which I’ve undertaken over the last couple years through several good books, puts these traits into some perspective.

But enough babbling (although I’m curious to hear about the collections of other members).

I’ll second 2002 as a fantastic piece of HK cinema. I loved the way it took uniquely Chinese traditions and added a clever supernatural action-fantasy spin to them. We loved that funny gag where the kid gets hit by the car. Nicolas Tse and Stephen Fung seemed to have a good thing going for a while, with this, GEN-X-COPS, METADE FUMACA (an excellent film), but seemed to kill it with MY SCHOOLMATE, THE BARBARIAN, which seemed kinda cheap, and haven’t been re-teamed since to the best of my knowledge. In fact, both of them seem to have faded a bit from leading roles, particularly Tse, who’s run-ins with the law seemed to seriously damage his career.

#6 of 685 Brian Thibodeau

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Posted February 19 2004 - 03:01 AM

Paula makes a good point:

Quote:
I think the problem is that the topic is too general. You say "Asian movies" on DVD and that covers a huge territory -- martial arts, comedy, drama, cop/action thrillers, horror movies, movies from Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Thailand, etc., etc. So if you could narrow it down a little...


General enough to support it's own forum I'd say.
This is sort of what I was worried about in the other threads that prompted this one. All of these areas could spur discussions along so many different lines, but the overall uniting theme would be Asian Cinema in one form or another. Still might make a good forum all on its own, but this thread will suit me just fine if it never comes to that.

I have literally dozens and dozens of Asian DVDs to watch in the months ahead, so hopefully I'll be able to contribute more once I'm more fully dedicated to watching them, which is the plan. Then there's all the stuff I've already watched over the years. That'll be discussed in time as well. I just wanted to give a general overview of my thoughts in the above post.

#7 of 685 BryanV

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Posted February 19 2004 - 05:35 AM

Well since there is also no Anime forum or other "Genre" forum I think it would be a good idea to keep this one going similar to the huge multi part Anime post.

I would like to make my recomendations:

For Mainland Chinese movies (bring your tissue mainland movies are tear jerkers):

Shower
(Kind of like Rain Man were a yuppie type has to give up the fast pace of the big city to take care of his brother when their father passes)

Bejing Bicycle

The King of Masks
(This one would make a great double feature with Whale Rider or Real Women have curves or Bend it Like Beckham etc.)

Xiu Xiu

Not One Less
(this movie is based on a true story and most of the "Actors" are the actual people the movie is about)

HK (hong kong cinema):

The Entire Once Upon a Time in China Series.
(If you see nothing eles please watch this series as the Wong Fei Hung character is the basis of all HK movies)

Japanese Contemporary:

Tampopo
(On my top ten list of greatest movies of all time, it features a young Watanabe from The Last Samurai)

Kikujiro
(The Colors in this movie are amazing this is a great movie to test your AV equipment with)

Japanese Classic:
Just start with anything directed by Kurosawa.

Viet Contemporary:

The Vertical Ray of the Sun
(I think you can really see the French influence here.)

Everything I listed can be rented from netfilx and will give you a good Idea of the different styles.

#8 of 685 Brian Thibodeau

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Posted February 19 2004 - 08:54 AM

In an effort to keep this thread alive, Thought I'd comment on some interesting Korean movies by porting over and augmenting some info I contributed to a recent thread on must-see Korean films:

These are some of my favourites to date, plus a couple so-so ones:

MY SASSY GIRL (2001): At the time of its release, this was the number two Korean box-office hit of 2001 (after the much gloomier FRIEND). Clever story of a layabout student who briefly looks after a drunken girl who, at first, seems to represent everything he dislikes in a woman, but who's complicated nature keeps him from simply walking away. Very perceptive study of contemporary relationships, particularly in Korea, and surprisingly balanced in light of the uniquely Korean tendency toward hyper-melodrama. Granted, the first climax will have you bawling, while the second nicely folds the narrative back to the beginning of the film. Long, but extremely rewarding.

2009 LOST MEMORIES (2002): Fantastic action thriller set in an alternate future in which Korea is just another Japanese state, and Koreans have largely lost their identity. A Korean-blooded, Japanese-named cop slowly realizes that the terrorists he's paid to wipe out are actually Korean freedom-fighters trying to restore the timeline to its proper state. This film gets slagged nearly everywhere, so I defend it whenever possible. It's a big, loud, arguably overblown "blockbuster" that deals with a very sensitive subject: Korean identity. People have, I believe, unfairly examined and criticized this film on two fronts: one, it's inherent patriotism, which is an element of Korean cinema that seems to alienate so many non-Korean viewers and yet is a fundamental part of the culture, probably more so than in any other Asian country (let alone much of the world). And two, the historical events behind its "science fiction," which nearly everybody I've read gets wrong. The key plot device of the film is NOT simply that Japan won World War II, but that the legendary Korean patriot Ahn Chung-gun FAILED in his assassination of Japanese foreign minister Ito Hirobumi in China in 1909 (thus, sort of, the point of the title being 100 years later). This single event is extremely important to the Korean culture and not only is their a gigantic memorial named after Ahn, but also a form of Tae Kwon Do. Looking these two names up on the internet greatly aids in understanding the deeper messages this film offers.

THE WAY HOME (2002). I'll heartily second Angelo M's recommendation of this one. A low budget tale of a terrifying little brat sent to live temporarily with his ancient grandmother in the country while his single mother looks for work in Seoul. Hollywood would turn a movie like this into pure sap, but director Lee Jeong-hyang doesn't offer any easy solutions to the ever growing disconnection of modernized, urban Korean young people from their traditional ancestry. The film often feels like some big catharsis is just around the corner, but wisely never delivers one. The boy changes a bit by the time his mother returns, but he only, suddenly, becomes aware of it when it's too late. And thankfully, NO ONE DIES in this movie, which is usually the case with dramas dealing with the elderly. Definitely leaves you thinking about things, though. Paramount has released this on DVD in North America.

SHIRI (1999): The one that started it all, reviving a generally moribund Korean cinema into it's high-concept renaissance, turning a sensitive topic political issue into a fantastic action movie as cops Han Suk-kyu and Song Kang-ho race to unmask a band of deadly North Korean terrorists bent on wiping out North and South Korean leaders at a peace-making soccer match, unaware that one "bad guy" is operating right under their noses. Nice to see an action movie where the villains aren't one-dimensional cartoons, which could have been so easy when dealing with North Koreans in the contemporary climate.

PHONE (2002): Slick thriller in the Ring mode, with a cursed cel phone causing all sorts of trouble for it's new owner. The child actress in this is uncomfortably convincing once she becomes posessesed by a vengeance-seeking spirit from her mother’s cell phone.

THE HARMONIUM IN MY MEMORY (1999): Sweet, simple tale of a naive country girl who gets a crush on her newly-arrived teacher, an engaged, educated city boy who at first dismisses her silly efforts to impress him as so much childish infatuation, but soon comes to realize, thanks to a convenient development in one of the secondary characters, how much she really cares.

JAKARTA (2000): This one almost never gets mentioned on the Korean film websites, and yet I believe it cracked the top ten that year). It's a twisty comic heist movie about three "teams" of thieves who independently plan to rob the same bank on the same day, which causes no end of pandemonium and confusion, or does it? Clever mid-film twist paints nearly all the characters in a new light and reveals a much more intriguing plot has been afoot all along. Excellent ensemble cast, including SEX IS ZERO leading man Lim Chang-jung. Worth hunting down, and still available at some online retailers. Nice K-pop theme ballad, too.

SEX IS ZERO (2002): Raunchy comedy/drama starring pop idol Lim Chang-jung (see JAKARTA) as a hapless college schlub who falls for Miss Popularity, who conveniently happens to be dating the biggest prick on campus and is therefore blind to Lim’s hopeless overtures until she gets knocked up and beaten silly by her embarrassed mother. Often feels like an idealized male-centric filmization of the director’s unrequited college romance, except that here the dream girl is made to suffer unspeakable anguish before she wises up to the man who really cares about her (a made-for-the-movies conceit if ever there was one). The dramatic scenes are uncommonly powerful, but they seem almost too heavy in places for a comedy that tries so hard to be base. You may never look at bread or frying pans the same way, though. UNBELIEVABLE FACT: if you watch the making of doc on the Korean DVD, you’ll learn that the scene where a secondary female character throws up on her date WAS NOT FAKED. Man, talk about suffering for your craft: the girl downs two full 1.5 Litre bottles of water, mixed with one cup instant noodle soup and voila! Real barf! Which the actor then has to enjoy while he kisser her in the same take. Probably the most f’d-up thing I’ve ever seen in all my years of movie watching.

TUBE (2003): While I can't highly recommend it, it is kind of fun, provided you don't think too much about the plot, which has a walking stereotype loose-canon cop (Kim Seok-hoon) battling a terrorist (Pak Sang-min) onboard a hijacked subway train. The terrorist is a former government eraser that the government tried, but failed, to erase, and he's taken the train, and Seoul's mayor, hostage to uhh, well, to apparently have the plan be doomed from the start. Equal parts Speed, Money Train and Die Hard, the film has few pretentions, which make it easy on the derriere. Poor Bae Doo-na gets one of the stranger film roles in film history, as a pickpocket who apparently knows she must love the hero even before she KNOWS the hero, and creates all the necessary Korean histrionics along the way (as well as almost bearing more physical brutality than the hero!) while our glowering protagonist poses with a series of unlit cigarettes in his mouth (and which only one person will ever be allowed to light, care to guess who?). Columbia Tri-Star is releasing this April 20th. Here’s the cover, which is highly reminscent of the art for TRANSPORTER and, not entirely unexpectedly, substitutes a generic Asian face for that of star Kim Seok-hoon.

BARKING DOGS NEVER BITE (AKA: A Higher Animal) (2001). Delightful black comedy with a signature role for Tube’s Bae Doo-na as a plucky girl who witnesses a henpecked student throw a dog that annoyed him off the roof of a neighboring apartment building, and proceeds to hunt him down for the rest of the movie. Things get funkier when the guy realizes he tossed the wrong animal! One memorable scene has crusader Bae, in her ubiquitous yellow windbreaker, chasing the villain across rooftops in slow motion, while in the background, hundreds of imagined onlookers, also in her trademark attire, cheer her on! Many may cringe at the apartment janitor with an affinity for dog meat, but the filmmakers wisely treat this as an everyday occurence - not some shock gross-out thing as most Westerners might be inclined to expect - and acknoledge it as part of the culture.

DITTO (2000): If you CAN handle Korean schmaltz and like a good cry, this sorta-sci-fi romance will do the trick. Taking a cue from the Hollywood film FREQUENCY, it deals with a female student who meets a fellow student via her shortwave radio - only he's in 2000 and she's in 1979. This gorgeously filmed story manages to defy expectations twice, first when the guy realizes the girl knows the people who will become his parents and is, in fact,
Spoiler:
secretly in love with the man who becomes his father
and second, at the climax, when the guy decides to see how life turned out for the girl and finds a rather bittersweet answer. Great date movie, provide your date isn't too cynical.

IL MARE (2001) Another soapy time-travel romance that, if you watch it in the right frame of mind, could have you in tears. It's about a guy who finds a letter in the mailbox of his new seaside rental house from the previous tenant advising him about little things that haven't happened yet, like the paw prints his dog leaves on the floor days later! In trying to meet the woman who wrote the letter, he come to realize she lives about a year or two ahead of him in the timeline, and lived in the house after he vacated it. He asks her to find him in the future, but she can't... Like DITTO, the film manages to defy conventions on a couple of occasions, and it's internal logic is solid enough that you don't think about it too hard. Another great date film, again provided you're not too cynical about such things.

BICHUNMOO (2001). This is a fantastic period swordplay film, based on a Korean comic book, with a nice tragic love story, wicked HK-style choreography, stunning costumes and glossy production values. The soundtrack blends traditional orchestrations with pounding percussive rock beats during the fight scenes and, as such, is surprisingly effective. I'm sure this movie's been written up in these forums before, as it is available in the US (through Tai Seng, I believe), so folks likely found it at their local Best Buy. Leading man Shin Hyun-june has a brooding face that was practically designed for a role like this. The Korean DVD of the film is uncut.

RESURRECTION OF THE LITTLE MATCHGIRL (2002), an ambitious cyber-punk actioner from the director of 2000's LIES and 1996's A PETAL. It's one of the few Korean films I've seen that has polarized audiences as much as it has. An expensive failure upon its first release, the film has, with a couple of repeat viewings on DVD, started to grow on me, not that I didn't like it in the first place. The narrative has a socially disaffected gamer attempting to make the title game character fall in love with him before she dies while fending off an array of well-armed oddballs. Eventually though, she rebels against the system with a Great Big Gun. There's a tricky blur between real world and game world in this often maddeningly vague film, and I'm still not sure I've read all the director's messages correctly, or if he even makes them at all, but the visuals are so enticing, the action so deliberately overblown, and the philosophy so seemingly just out of reach, it's tough to stop watching (and watching again). I suspect that this film will develop a strong cult following in the years to come, with even many of those who absolutely hated it reapproaching it from different angles and perhaps finding new meaning in it. Despite it's Korean setting and cast, it's probably the least Korean-feeling Korean film I've yet seen, generally eschewing themes of identity and patriotism as well as the maudlin melodramatics so often found in Korean cinema. Somehow, I suspect that was all intentional. Unfortunately, the Korean DVD of this title had no English subs, so most people who've seen it subbed have had to spring for the bootleg.

I also really enjoyed WONDERFUL DAYS (2003), directed by Kim Mun-saeng,a stunningly designed and rendered flat animation/CG/model hybrid that only wants for a better story. Despite it’s box office failure (still the most successful Korean animated film to date I heard), it’s bodes well for future endeavours in the genre. At it’s core, its about the “haves” in an environmentally-polluted future world plotting to wipe out the “have-nots” so they can replenish the dwindling energy supplies to their self-contained megacity. Fortunately, the have-nots have a brooding outcast on their side who knows how to put things right. ADV has picked this up for distribution in North America, so hopefully they might include the impressive extras on the 2-disc Korean DVD.

Oh, there's just so many more...

#9 of 685 ChrisBEA

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Posted February 19 2004 - 11:05 AM

First off, let me thank Brian for picking up the ball here!

Over the past few years I my interest and love for Asian cinema, and world cinema in general has grown considerably. It pretty much started with my DVD addiction! I love films from other countries as it serves to show many different views on film making in general and more specifically it gives a window into other cultures. Besides seeing things that never would make it in the current Hollywood landscape. I can't point to any specific disk or film that started my love for Asian films, but it started with the old Godzilla movies and then Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee movies. Then I started looking around online and started coming to forums such as this one and other titles started popping up. So I started looking for avenues to acquire these titles.

I don't have a great knowledge, more than the uninitiated but it pales in comparison to a lot of peopl o here. My biggest plus is that I am willing to try just about anything.

Some of my favorite titles in my collection are:
Battle Royale
2002
Audition
City of Lost Souls
Happiness of the Katikuris
Hero
Fist of Legend
Legend 1 and 2
Returner
Avalon
Shaolin Soccer
Twins Effect
Rashomon
JSA - Joint Security Area
Versus
Infernal Affairs
Shaolin Temple
Drunken Master
GMK: Giant Moster All Out Attack

I have many unwatched films in my collection.
I'll try to put a list together of my Asian titles in the next day or 2

I watched Tokyo Raiders today and found it to be rather enjoyable, I found all the dble crossing a bit hard to follow, but the action was fantastic.

As for some of the titles mentioned here:
I enjoyed My Schoolmate the Barbarian, another blind purchase. I like Nicolas Tse. I've heard good things about Gen-X Cops but haven't seen it yet. I've seen Gen-Y for sale, but I've heard it isn't as good?

Bejing Bicycle and The King of Masks: I've heard of both of these, but am unfamiliar with them, I'll have to check them out.

Tampopo: again another one I've heard of, may have to check it out for Watanabe, I LOVED his performance in Last Samurai (My number 3 movie of 03 that I viewed on the big screen).

Phone and 2009 Lost Memories are couple more I've been wanting to see.
I've seen Shiri, but it was awhile back, I need to go back and revisit it.
Jakarta and Sex is Zero, are names I've seen pop up a few times.


Tube sounds like it could be a lot of fun and show that movies need not always be high art and can be simply enjoyed. This is a fact I think a lot of Film buffs and crtics forget.

Bichunmoo is one I've seen on the shelves a few times but never actually picked up despite reading such good things about it.

#10 of 685 Matthew Brown

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Posted February 19 2004 - 01:42 PM

Brian -
You make an excellent point about the HK Cinema books always mentioning the same directors and actors.

With all the movies I've seen, I still feel like I am only scratching the surface. It's hard to move forward and see new movies because of all the old ones I try to catch up on.

I did manage to rewatch on eof my favorite movies recently.

BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR - I saw this in the theater years ago and I still get chills everytime I see it. It's beautifully filmed and Bridgette Lin and Leslie Cheung give great performances. I also love the performances from Francis NG and Eddy Ko. It is the perfect romance, swordplay, fantasy film.

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#11 of 685 Lloyd White

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Posted February 19 2004 - 08:06 PM

I have a feeling this thread is going to turn into that huge anime thread where everything is a bit too positive. That's why it's so hard for me to trudge through these threads when it seems everything is liked without a real regard to quality. Thousands of movies with reviews and blurps that I just cannot trust, very frustrating. I see positive blurps about Tokyo Raiders and Bride with White Hair, both of which I hated, even if TR had one of my favorite asian actors, Tony Leung (sp?). It was all style, and no substance.

I'm willing to help myself ofcourse, but I want to start with the issue of OAR and Asian films. It seems companies like Universal and Columbia are cutting up films and changing music (like Drunken Master 2), not offering the original soundtracks to go along with the english dubbing, all of which I will not stand for. I need to know if any of those Hong Kong Legends are ok to buy or not (probably not).

So does anybody have a website that keeps track of all the cuts made to R1 releases? I have been to a very good website before that covered this but got lost in my bookmarks and cannot find it searching on the net, and thus I haven't even tried to buy an Asian film in almost a year.
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#12 of 685 Andy Sheets

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Posted February 20 2004 - 12:57 AM

Quote:
I have a feeling this thread is going to turn into that huge anime thread where everything is a bit too positive. That's why it's so hard for me to trudge through these threads when it seems everything is liked without a real regard to quality. Thousands of movies with reviews and blurps that I just cannot trust, very frustrating. I see positive blurps about Tokyo Raiders and Bride with White Hair, both of which I hated, even if TR had one of my favorite asian actors, Tony Leung (sp?). It was all style, and no substance.

Heh, I really like Bride With White Hair but I think I know what you're saying. The reactions to these movies can be even harder to gauge than usual, perhaps because someone who spends a great deal of time not only watching Asian movies but also educating themselves about the cultures has a very different frame of reference compared to someone who's just jumping in, and many in between. And that's before the usual issues with reviews, where it's just hard to find someone whose taste you trust. Personally, I can't fathom how a sane human being could give anything resembling a good review to, say, The Executioners, but I know I've read a couple Posted Image Mostly, when it comes to blindly buying films that haven't yet been distributed over here, I have to be *really* careful about picking what I'm going to try.

Quote:
I'm willing to help myself ofcourse, but I want to start with the issue of OAR and Asian films. It seems companies like Universal and Columbia are cutting up films and changing music (like Drunken Master 2), not offering the original soundtracks to go along with the english dubbing, all of which I will not stand for. I need to know if any of those Hong Kong Legends are ok to buy or not (probably not).

Miramax is by far the biggest offender. They're practically guaranteed to mutilate the films under their control. The other studios, even if they were doing badly at first, seem to be at least staggering somewhat in the right direction. I've heard lots of good things about Hong Kong Legends' work and I'm glad that Fox is working with them now.

#13 of 685 Matthew Brown

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Posted February 20 2004 - 01:23 AM

Lloyd -
Please check out this link.
http://alliance.hellninjacommando.net/

It will very soon have a very complete cut list if not already.

As far as Hong Kong Legends goes, the only cuts they have are ones madated by the BBFC. These usually include animal violence or references to rape. While lacking in extras, the Fox versions of the same movies, with the exception of NAKED KILLER, are uncut and look much better.

As with any reviews, you will need to read many to see if a movie is worth a purchase. Unless you see eye to eye with the reviewer in every case, it's good to do a little research.

Not to defend the EXECUTIONERS too much, but as a sequel to HEROIC TRIO, it almost did the job. It doesn't stand well on it's own. I think it's mesmerizing watching Anita Mui, Maggie Cheung, and Michelle Yeoh, doing anything for an hour and a half so maybe that has tainted many a review.
Posted Image

On a more serious note, Lloyd, which movies do you like? It might be easier to make reccamendations based on that. I know a lot of movies that people either love or hate.

I think another reason many give good reviews to these movies, especially web sites devoted to these films is because it's a labor of love. Since practically every movie is bought out of pocket or against ads from DVD e-tailers, a lot of research is done before a movie is even chosen for review.

Matt
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New Jersey Punk Rock
http://www.NJPUNKONLINE.COM

#14 of 685 Matthew_Brown

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Posted February 20 2004 - 01:33 AM

Matt, you say the fox releases of the HKL line look better?

As a UK resident I've been wallowing in the great HKL releases and the wealth of extras generally on offer but depending on the films I might not be adverse to double dipping for an improved picture.

Do any of the foxes have significant improvements in picture or sound quality that would make it worth a double dip in your opinion?

Regards,

The other HK film loving Matt. Posted Image

#15 of 685 Brian Thibodeau

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Posted February 20 2004 - 01:59 AM

Here's one site that lists cuts to R1 releases of Asian films.
http://alliance.hell....net/movies.htm
(EDIT: the New Jersey version of Matthew Brown beat me to the punch while I was typing this up, but I'll leave the link anyways.)
I'm sure other world cinema gets this treatment in the west, but it really seems like Asian cinema in particular gets the biggest shaft, perhaps because Western distributors try to second guess audience acceptance of this stuff, and if the often justifiably negative reaction online is any indication (to each his own, as they say; even I hate some of it), then maybe I have to think twice about their motivations to cut and rescore these films. Personally, I find the way American companies treat a lot of world cinema is truly deplorable, and it says as much about what they think of us, their consumers, as they do about preserving the original product. Either way, I'll stick to the originals whenever possible. Websites like [url=http://www.dddhouse.com[/URL] are a great source for cheap, legit Hong Kong-made DVD releases of films from Hong Kong, Korea, Japan and even Europe and the USA. Just about any big city Chinatown is a veritable goldmine of affordable Asian cinema, provided of course your nearest Big City isn’t too far away to justify the trip.

Hopefully, Lloyd’s prophecy about threads like these won’t come entirely true, as I too would hate to see this devolve into a back-and-forth parade of “I loved this show” lists without attendant qualifications. Likewise, I’ve seen a lot of somniferous dreck from Hong Kong, Korea, Japan and elsewhere and hopefully as memory sparks me, I’ll be able to toss in a few riffs on those as well.

Andy makes a good point too; sometimes people like myself who are way too far into something like this will inevitably tend towards unfailingly positive reviews, something I plan to avoid when necessary, but as this thread’s just starting up, good movies naturally come to mind over bad. I only hope I’ve given some basic reasons why I like the ones I’ve listed so far, and hope others will too, since there’s still a lot of stuff I’d like to try out. Believe me, I have a lot more fun writing about bad movies than I do about good ones. I just like to wait until a thread naturally veers in that direction.

(I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I absolutely love TOKYO RAIDERS. It was exactly what I expected it to be. I think few film cultures do pop confections like this as well as Hong Kong cinema, even though they are admittedly an acquired taste. When you’ve seen as many HK films as I have, and I’m not suggesting anyone should unless they get the bug, you begin to realize that bubblegum populist sentimentality, cuteness and overt melodrama are more the rules than the exceptions. It was also a Chinese New Year movie, which are almost always light, fluffy valentines to positivity. This may not convert those who don’t find such bouncy trifle to their liking, but it is a time-tested rule of Hong Kong cinema. It would be nice if there was a website listing just which films were New Year films, and then folks who didn’t like TOKYO RAIDERS might be better armed to avoid certain titles.)

Introducing people to HK cinema, more than just about any other form of world filmmaking, I’ve discovered, is tricky business best done in person rather than on internet forums, in that you can better guage a person’s reaction while you’re both watching it, or you can tailor the viewing experience based on what you know about that person. I once introduced a rather hyper, violent-video-game addicted co-worker - my antithesis, really - to Asian cinema via BATTLE ROYALE, VERSUS, and Wong Jing’s silly HIGH RISK and for some reason the combo worked like a charm, and soon he was asking me to run tapes of similar stuff for him. Maybe I got lucky, but I think I was able to read him well enough to know what he’d like. He and his girlfriend accompanied my girlfriend and I on a couple of trips to Toronto’s Asian Malls, where he went nuts stocking up on action DVDs sight unseen (and with a few recommendations, of course). Turned out he was pretty savvy, as he liked about 80% of the stuff he got. Mind you, he’ll probably never be as big on it as I am, but at least he was willing to appreciate the material in it’s uncut, undubbed, unadulterated form.

I only wish I could have that affect on newbies through internet forums, but such is life. I’m interested to see where this all heads nonetheless.

#16 of 685 Matthew Brown

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Posted February 20 2004 - 02:00 AM

Matt -
We have a popular name! When I got my job, there were literally 3 others. LOL!

The FOX releases looks better but it really depends on how picky you are if its worth an upgrade. The FOX releases are from different masters so that means that less was done digitally to them. They are clearer and have more detail. Again, it might not be worth the upgrade if you are happy with the HKL ones.

The sound on the FOX releases are almost always at least of equal caliber of the HKL ones but Eastern Condors is lacking in this area. No original mixes on these. Just 5.1 or DTS on some.

These are a godsend for those who don't have region free players in the US. The very low price of under $10 US also helps. There are very little extras on these so keep what you have and if you are curious on how much better the picture is, pick up one. At the low price, you can't go wrong.

Matt
Hong Kong DVD Reviews and News
http://www.loveandbullets.com

New Jersey Punk Rock
http://www.NJPUNKONLINE.COM

#17 of 685 Brian Thibodeau

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Posted February 20 2004 - 02:10 AM

I'd like to add that American consumers might have some luck finding the second wave of the FOX Hong Kong Legends releases in the $5.50 bin at Wal-mart. I found all five of the latest titles there: IN THE LINE OF UTY 4, DUEL TO THE DEATH, EASTERN CONDORS, HEART OF DRAGON and MY LUCKY STARS. Matthew's right; the picture quality beats any previous release, and these were all double-dips for me (only because of the price though, as somehow the indifferent transfers of the original Hong Kong companies kind of added to the scrappy charm of the cinema as a whole). Their only drawback is arguably necessary 5.1 audio remixes and the dubtitles, which though benefiting from improved diction, actually work against the onscreen action from time to time (although only HK junkies might really notice this).

Matthew, I couldn't agree more with your "labour of love" observation: when this stuff hits you the right way, it hits hard!

#18 of 685 Angelo.M

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Posted February 20 2004 - 02:37 AM

This thread makes me Posted Image , because a modern Chinese classic, and perhaps my very favorite film, is not available on DVD.

Please bring Raise the Red Lantern to DVD...

And a new edition of Ju Dou would be nice as well.


#19 of 685 Brian Thibodeau

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Posted February 20 2004 - 02:51 AM

Here's how it all began for me (if anyone really cares; if not feel free to skip to the next entry).

The film was ACES GO PLACES 2, although I discovered it as MAD MISSION: ACES GO PLACES in one of those big-box video releases from the 1980’s (and with that title, it would be years before I learned it was a SEQUEL!). By the time I rented it, probably around 1986 or 1987, the tape had already been around for awhile. The package gave no real indication that it was a Hong Kong film and the only “face” to be prominently featured was Joe Dimmock, the gweilo who played “Filthy Harry,” a cigar-chomping hitman who’s after Sam Hui’s King Kong character. The box art largely consisted of a helmeted guy flying in a jet pack (this would turn out to be Sam Hui in the film), crashing red Jaguar sportscars, jumpin motorcycles, and King Kong’s custom-built black supercar. I was around 16 or 17 at the time and heavily into renting non-mainstream movies, so the elements on this package made it irresistable.

Watching it, I was blown away by how fast-moving and funky it was, gleefully throwing in martial arts battles, car and motorcycle chases, gunfights, robots and slapstick comedy with unrestrained fervor. At this time of my life, I didn’t know a Tony Leung from a Tony Leung, so the cast members - including Sam Hui, Karl Maka (Mak Ka) and the delightful Sylvia Chang were all new faces to me. One thing’s for certain: up to that point, I hadn’t seen much world cinema. From that day on, I’ve probably seen more “foreign” films than I have American films, which in my opinion have become derivative and repetitive to the point of aburdity.

I always hoped the video store - called Hollywood Nights - might one day sell off their copy of this tape so I could add it to my collection. I live in a city of about 80,000 people, and Hollywood Nights opened in the mid-80’s with a stock that consisted largely of videos that were bought cheap and in bulk. This was a haven for a cult movie buff, but unfortunately, they went out of business before I could get the tape. Ironically, about 6 years later, ANOTHER video store in town got in a big shipment of out-of-print and ex-rental tapes from God-knows-where for a big “blowout sale” and, believe it or not, the exact same Mad Mission cassette was in the bin. What a score! I still have this tape to this day. It’s one of the few tapes I won’t part with as it planted the seed for my interest in Hong Kong cinema.

I had to wait a few years before finding serious ways to get my hands on HK movies in greater numbers, since my city at the time had a much smaller Chinese community than it does now, so there were no chinese video shops (still aren’t, for that matter). The nearest place was Toronto (about 3 hours away) and I was too “green” to just start walking into Chinatown video stores without knowing what I was looking for, where to find it, and how to ask for it. Nowadays, when I go to Toronto, I’m practically a fixture in those places, and I guess the sight of a tall, skinny Gweilo buying stacks of Chinese DVDs and VCDs isn’t so shocking anymore.

As they did for a lot of people, John Woo’s THE KILLER and HARD BOILED pushed my curiosity to the breaking point. I had to see more of these movies! I wrote a film review column for a daily newspaper for several years and received screening cassettes of these two just prior to when they were released in Canada. And like everyone else, I was floored by them (although the style has been ripped of so completely by Hollywood in the last decade that I’m sure to many newcomers they might seem old hat). I subsequently used my newspaper affiliation to seek out more of these wonderful films, eventually discovering a distributor in Toronto called Bravo Communications, which handled many Chinese laserdiscs and videos (including releases from Tai Seng). At that point, around 1991, they were still quite surprised with the growing number of non-Asian people who were showing an interest in these films. Luckily I was able to buy discounted laserdiscs from them, and they happily gave me copies of Tai Seng videos (HEROIC TRIO, HEART OF DRAGON, BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR and more) to give away in a movie trivia contest I was running in the newspaper at the time. I did my best to make sure other people in my community were introduced to the wild world of HK cinema, even if it was in a small way.

And it all began with ACES GO PLACES II.

So what’s your story?

#20 of 685 Max Knight

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Posted February 20 2004 - 04:47 AM

Chris,

A good friend of mine was a stuntman in Giant Monster All Out Attack! I think it was a relatively minor stunt piece, and I'm ashamed to say I've never seen the film Posted Image
Max Knight
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Lacking fins and tail
the gefilte fish swims with
great difficulty.





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