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Asian Cinema on DVD


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#41 of 685 OFFLINE   ChrisBEA

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Posted February 22 2004 - 02:04 PM

I loved Shaolin Soccer, it was m,y first exposure to Stephen Chow. Weird movie, I loved the scene in the street where they all start doing Michael Jackson's Thriller routine!

I have since gotten 1 more Chow film, God of Cookery, another enjoyable film. Are there any others anyone could recommend as worth tracking down?

Bullet in the Head seems to be an excellent movie. I've seen Hard Boiled, but not for a long time and DDDHouse's prices make it hard to say no!

I had actually gotten Tokyo Raiders thinking I was getting Storm Riders, I have no idea why? Anyway I ended up enjoying TR so it all worked out.

I watched Running Out of Time with Andy Lau, this was pretty good, the story seemed very familiar but I can't put my finger on it....
I've really started to enjoy Lau's work between this, Fulltime Killer and Infernal Affairs.

#42 of 685 OFFLINE   Brian Thibodeau

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Posted February 23 2004 - 02:25 AM

I've come to regard Andy Lau Tak-wah as a better all-around actor than Chow Yun-fat. Not an easy claim to make when one is around other Hong Kong cinema lovers, but it's true. I've got one friend in particular who really doesn't like Lau and, if he doesn't avoid them altogether, convinces himself beforehand that Lau's films are going to be unworthy. A few years ago, this actually bothered me, because I think he was strongly influenced by opinions on Lau voiced in Thomas Weisser's execrable Asian Cult Cinema book (the same book that had both of us avoiding the fantastic Stephen Chow for far longer than we should have). There's one book that deserves to be pulled off bookstore shelves for all eternity. I think Bey Logan's book was similarly dismissive of Lau's talent. After a while, I just didn't bother even discussing Andy Lau films with my pal, since I was the only one of us who seemed interested in giving them a try.

Not only has Andy Lau now officially acted in more films, he's developed into a far more versatile player than Chow Yun-fat ever was. I've come to believe that much of Chow's charisma is just that: charisma. His entry to the US market was facilitated largely on the perception of him as the "cool" Asian actor from the movies that first brought Hong Kong cinema formally to western attention (Killer, Hard Boiled, Bullet in the Head, A Better Tomorrow). He was in the right films at the right time, namely barely a couple of years before they were "dicsovered" by the early converts. Andy has done more and better and arguably "cooler" work (see Infernal Affairs) since Chow's glory days, and is one of the most bankable HK stars on the Asian market right now, but one wonders if he'll ever be given a shot at American films the way Chow was. Personally, I don't care either way, because as always, no American filmmaker has yet to top an Asian actor's work with Asian directors in their home country (e.g. Chow Yun-fat, Jackie Chan, Jet Li).

That said, I should point out that a couple of entries in Weisser's book about Lau's "blandness" or some such description made much more sense to me after I saw the films (one of which was GANGLAND ODYSSEY from 1990) within the context of Lau's other, better films from the exact same period. It's clear to me that when Andy Lau was working on projects he perhaps didn't want to make (or was forced to make, as so many actors were in those days when triads had their fingers in the moviemaking pie), he simply switched over to automatic pilot, coasting on looks and presence alone and barely even bothering to register a formal performance. Smart guy, I'd say, as some of the films built around his participation, such as GANGLAND ODYSSEY, are absolute junk made by the worst profiteers, and, as such, have a bizarre fascination in spite of their poor quality. I tend to believe that Chow Yun-fat did exactly the same thing on occasion, as witness his "OK I'm here, gimme my cheque" performance in the derivatively campy (but kinda fun) Seventh Curse.

I though Andy Lau was excellent in INFERNAL AFFAIRS, FULL-TIME KILLER, RUNNING OUT OF TIME (for which he won a HKFA best actor trophy, I believe), A FIGHTER's BLUES, LOVE ON A DIET & NEEDING YOU (both fine Johnnie To romantic comedies), ISLAND OF GREED (a fantastic Michael Mak crime epic set in Taiwan) and even some of his earlier work like Benny Chan's seminal juvenile motorcycle movie MOMENT OF ROMANCE (1990) and Derek Yee's similarly themes FULL THROTTLE (1995). Admittedly, much of his film work veers into melodrama at the drop of a hat, but after all, as I mentioned in an earlier post, that's more often the rule than the exception in HK cinema.

Andy Lau's also a pretty good singer, despite what some HK film books say about it.

On the Stephen Chow front, I'd have to recommend KING OF COMEDY (1999) a perceptive inside view of the film industry in which he plays a hapless film extra with an over-inflated sense of self-worth who teaches acting in his small village, including one classic scene in which he schools a young triad kid on how to effectively squeeze money from a music video production shooting nearby. Nice dramatic moments in this one, too, which prove beyond a doubt that the man has an innate flare for drama. This was my first Stephen Chow movie (the second was Shaolin Soccer, but that was a no-brainer) and the one that subsequently made me order many of his titles from DDDHouse's weekly cheap sale listings. I'm looking forward to watching those in the months ahead, good or bad.

#43 of 685 OFFLINE   Matthew_Brown

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Posted February 23 2004 - 02:43 AM

Just to add a word of caution (and to ensure that this doesn't become an all rave review thread. Posted Image) I'd like to mention that of all the HK specifically and Asian films in general the ones that translate least well to the novice viewer are often the comedies.

Take God of Gamblers for example. It's widely considered a classic of its type, was hugely succesful and Chow Yun Fat was nominated for best actor I believe before losing to himself. (Which is the only reason I recall that bit of trivial arcana Posted Image)

However. A friend of mine who watched it recently described it as 'the most truly dire film I have ever borrowed from your shelves' so evidently it's not for everyone.

Funnily enough, Andy Lau is in this film too, and he's great. I found him more watchable than the rest of the cast to be honest.

#44 of 685 OFFLINE   Brian Thibodeau

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Posted February 23 2004 - 03:30 AM

One area I think never gets enough attention is the “common” cinema from Asian countries. I’m not sure if that terminology describes it properly; the best way might be to remember all the advocacy that surfaced in the early to mid-90’s for Japanese films that WERE NOT made by Kurosawa and his contemporaries, the stuff the Pauline Kaels of the world weren’t able to sniff prosaic about because they simply hadn’t seen it. Not that those films weren’t worthy of their exalted status, the critics and fans said, but many of them were designed as much for export as they were for the home audience, to win awards and acclaim through the ages for the filmmakers and, by association, the originating countries. But there was a whole undiscovered world of “street-level” cinema that was being overshadowed by these perceptually bigger achievements - the cinema that included gangster dramas, juvenile youth pictures, salaryman comedies, musicals, pop-art confections (like Black Tight Killers); popular and populist stuff Japanese audiences were REALLY going to see when they went out to the movies. Now, twenty, thirty, forty, FIFTY years later, we’ve still barely scratched the surface, thanks largely to the Japanese film studios themselves feeling no great rush to release their popular cinema to the outside world, and an outside world that may not care to explore beyond the realm of Ozu, Kurosawa and their ilk (present HTF company excepted, of course!).

As Japanese cinema isn’t my area of specialty, and my collection of J-cinema only features about 125 titles so far, I’m better off commenting on the “street-level” cinema of HK, the potboilers, programmers and B-movies (many featuring future Big Names) that, in the last gasp of HK’s golden age of the late 80’s and 90’s, filled in the gaps between the latest endeavours from Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Chow Yun-fat, John Woo, Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam, Maggie Cheung, Anita Mui, Andy Lau etc, etc, ad absurdum. I could spend hours on titles like DEVIL HUNTERS, MISSION OF CONDOR, PATH OF GLORY, WOMEN ON THE RUN, and pretty much anything featuring Moon Lee Choi-fung, Sibelle Hu Wai-chung, Simon Yam Tat-wah, Ken Lo Wai-kwong, Max Mok Siu-chung, Andy Hui Chi-on, Philip Ko Fai, Kara Hui Ying-hung, Frankie Chan Fan-kei, Yukari Oshima, Miu Kiu-wai, Eddy Ko Hung, Melvin Wong Kam-sum, Lin Wai, Lilly Chung Suk-wai, Cynthia Rothrock, Randy Mang Hoi, Ridley Tsui Bo-wah, Ben Ng Ngai-cheung, not to mention many of today’s mega-stars in the movies they made to pay the rent. Look up any of the names I’ve checked on the HKMDB, and then go to their films from roughly 1987 to 1993: there’s some seriously entertaining movies from this period that you’re not likely to find on DVD (at least not yet) but if you’re able to tolerate the slightly reduced quality (and price!!) of VCD’s, there’s a veritable gold mine of fantastic low-budget filmmaking out there to be scooped up in just about any Chinatown/Asian Mall video store or gift shop.

I just recently returned to devouring HK cinema after plowing through untold piles of American and European cinema that had grown to high for comfort and man, is it good to be back. I love this stuff! Sure, some of it’s absolute crap, but when you’re paying less than $4 or $5 CDN for a VCD, it’s not too painful to write off a bad title when there are five good ones to pick up the slack.

On the list this past weekend (in between two dinner functions with my girlfriend; otherwise there would’ve been more):

T.H.E. PROFESSIONALS (1998). Competent but pointless remake of Michael Mann’s HEAT (1995) offers almost nothing new apart from jobs for great B-list actors, but does feature Elvis Tsui, Simon Lui, Ben Ng and Norman Tsui as a gang of armoured car robbers trailed to the mainland by a lightly-tanned Louis Koo. All the important scenes from HEAT are checked here: the street shootout, the pre-climactic hotel rubout, the mid-film meeting between cop Louis and gang leader Norman. Not bad at all for a case of bootleg filmmaking, and kind of fun to play spot the stolen moments. Simon Lui has a habit of turning up in such films. Just barely recommended.

DEVIL FETUS (1983). Generally overrated but well-made and atmospheric horror movie about a, er, devil fetus that wreaks havoc on a young family, then returns (or something) ten years later to inhabit the body of a surviving son, who then unleashes all sorts of nastiness (and pent-up sexual frustration) on extended family members until his older brother (Ngai Dik) - who’s conveniently a Kendo champ - is forced to punch a few clocks. Most of the effects are ridiculous but inventive in a way only a low budget can allow. Unfortunately, I watched the Ocean Shores VCD, which seems to have a few cuts here and there (mostly for nudity, I think) but there is still some choice gore on display, including a rather unpleasant head-squishing.

THE ANGELS (199??): Now here’s one to avoid like week old dumplings, unless you want to see a rare, fumbling, skinless desktop love scene featuring a visibly uncomfortable Yukari Oshima (Don't kiss me on the lips!!"). This one doesn’t turn up on many HK film websites, nor is it related to any of the fantastic action films with the word “Angel” in the title, and it’s easy to see why. It was shot on video and features Yukari as a supercop (what else?) who tries to bring down the gang that fixed her sister up on a bogus narcotics charge. Lots of constipated “I’m trying to cry but you can tell I’m not” scenes every time Yukari’s mission hits a snag. Good for a few larfs, and benefitting from some passable fight choreography, but otherwise well worth skipping.

NO REGRET NO RETURN (1993): Good little B-thriller about a hitman (Max Mok) who makes a public spectacle out of a political hit, then becomes a target himself, taking a driver (Ridley Tsui) and TV reporter (Vivian Chow) along the way. Mok’s always good at these honourable hitman roles, and in this one he’s even better at getting shot (on three different occasions if I recall correctly), making you wonder just what corrupt politico Ken Tsang saw in him in the first place. Ridley also directed the film and designed the action scenes, which are the real raison d’etre of this piece: Ridley himself does a brutal-looking spinal-bounce off the edge of an ambulance in one scene, while an end-credit outtake reveals either Max or a stuntman getting pinned between a car and a wall in a stunt gone wrong. Waaaahh! Choice highlight is a full speed one-take collision between a car and motorcycle that sends the rider limb’s-a-flailin’ all over the car in a way that reminds us why we love Hong Kong cinema in the first place.

#45 of 685 OFFLINE   PaulaJ

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Posted February 23 2004 - 08:15 AM

I adore Stephen Chow and he can pull off drama without a doubt. There is an approximately 20 minute section in the second act of King of Beggars which is entirely serious and he is wonderful, as is Ng Man Tat as his loving dad. (Their relationship in King of Beggars is one of my favorites among all the movies they've made together.)

Andy Lau is another favorite. There really isn't any kind of role he can't pull off. I can understand the accusations of blandness but I think it's more that he delves so much into his characters that you just don't see him acting. Brian, you named some of my favorite Andy Lau movies! I find his singing to be merely OK, though. Speaking of Andy... I just received all three Infernal Affairs DVDs and boy, am I looking forward to a big IA marathon. Posted Image

And now to change the subject entirely... thanks to the chat with Lee Kline, we know the Stray Dog DVD is on the way from Criterion this summer. Is there any chance we'll ever get a DVD of the first Mifune/Kurosawa collaboration, Drunken Angel? I love that film and wish I could add it to my collection.

Also, what's the deal with Zatoichi releases? Home Vision Entertainment released 1-11, and now Animeigo is releasing 16 and 20-25, and Media Blasters just released 26 (the last one). Where are nos. 12-15 and 17-19?
PaulaJ

#46 of 685 OFFLINE   Brian Thibodeau

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Posted February 23 2004 - 10:33 AM

WOW!

I just viewed the trailer linked in this thread over in the movies forum:
http://www.hometheat....hreadid=185943
and was floored.

It's a Korean movie called DRAGON WARS (or D-WARS) that looks phenomenal. Sounds like its been in development for a long time and looks to be quite a wild ride when it finally comes out. Definitely one to keep an eye out for on DVD when the time comes.

The link to download it is in the first post by Joey Gunz. I knew nothing about this film and now its at the top of my must-see list! Not too sure how the acting component of the film will hold up as the trailer looks like a gigantic effects reel, but either way, I'm truly stoked!

#47 of 685 OFFLINE   ChrisBEA

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Posted February 23 2004 - 11:37 AM

Just finished Seven Samurai for the first time. What a beautiful movie. Simply incredible......

#48 of 685 OFFLINE   Chris_Morris

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Posted February 23 2004 - 12:15 PM

Everyone who seems to love Andy Lau, will want to take note of the movie I referenced above, Shi Mian Mai Fu. The star talent in this is phenominal:
Directed by Zhang Yimou
Starring Andy Lau, Zhang Ziyi, Anita Mui(RIP), Takeshi Kaneshiro(Returner)

English Title: House of Flying Daggers, though the real literal title is Ambush from Ten Directions

Plot: "A soldier and revolutionary fall in love during their epic journey together." "A blind girl's journey through love and enmity, promise and betrayal..."

The part that got me: Zhang Yimou said Hero was just an experiement, Shi Mian Mai Fu is the real thing Posted Image

This is going to be the HK film of the year.

Chris

#49 of 685 OFFLINE   ChrisBEA

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Posted February 23 2004 - 03:08 PM

A bit tired to comment on anything else right now, I tried a thread title with no response, maybe in here....

My question concerns the running time.
I have the Criterion edition and the case indicates a running time of 203 minutes. I checked IMDB and the longest cut indicated there is 206 minutes.
But it ran for 234 minutes!
How could this be so off?

#50 of 685 OFFLINE   Andy Sheets

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Posted February 24 2004 - 02:55 AM

Quote:
Starring Andy Lau, Zhang Ziyi, Anita Mui(RIP), Takeshi Kaneshiro(Returner)

English Title: House of Flying Daggers, though the real literal title is Ambush from Ten Directions

Oh yeah, I remember reading about this one. Definitely looking forward to it Posted Image Is Anita Mui still in it, though? I thought I read that because she died so unexpectedly, Yimou had been forced to write her character out of the movie, or am I getting confused with another movie?

#51 of 685 OFFLINE   PaulaJ

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Posted February 24 2004 - 03:29 AM

I've been following the news re Shi Mian Mai Fu at www.monkeypeaches.com. In fact, there are some great new stills just posted there from the movie.

Like Hero, I'll have to wait for the HK DVD, I'm sure. No doubt Miramax will buy the U.S. rights and promptly put it on a shelf.

Also looking forward to Jackie Chan's New Police Story. And Wong Kar Wai's 2046. And Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle. And... etc. etc.
PaulaJ

#52 of 685 OFFLINE   Andy Sheets

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Posted February 24 2004 - 04:10 AM

Quote:
Like Hero, I'll have to wait for the HK DVD, I'm sure. No doubt Miramax will buy the U.S. rights and promptly put it on a shelf.

I would be very surprised if Miramax got this one simply because after the Hero debacle, Zhang Yimou basically told Weinstein to go !@#$ himself. I don't know about other Asian directors, but I don't think Zhang will be dealing with Miramax anytime soon.

#53 of 685 OFFLINE   Chris_Morris

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Posted February 24 2004 - 04:16 AM

Quote:
but I don't think Zhang will be dealing with Miramax anytime soon.


Zhang has said that he will not deal with MiramAxe after the way they screwed Hero.

Quote:
Is Anita Mui still in it, though?


Maybe as an honorary cast member, but now that I think about it, she was written out. She got to sick and was unable to film her scenes.


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#54 of 685 OFFLINE   ChrisBEA

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Posted February 24 2004 - 10:25 AM

I remember reading something about House of the Flying Daggers over at AICN. It sounds amazing. If it's half as good as Hero......Posted Image

Brian: I checked out the D-War trailer it does look prety impressive. Hopefully the acting will be able to carry the great looking visuals.

#55 of 685 OFFLINE   ChrisBEA

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Posted February 26 2004 - 02:34 PM

My DDDhouse order shipped so I should get that dose of Asia in a week or so.

Today I picked up Zatoichi 26 and actually found a B&M that had Running on Karma. I heard good things about it, but didn't expect to find it. most local stores are really hit and miss when it comes to foreign titles...

#56 of 685 OFFLINE   PaulaJ

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Posted February 27 2004 - 02:09 AM

>I would be very surprised if Miramax got this one simply because after the Hero debacle, Zhang Yimou basically told Weinstein to go !@#$ himself. I don't know about other Asian directors, but I don't think Zhang will be dealing with Miramax anytime soon.

Didn't Stephen Chow blow off Miramax for his current project, Kung Fu Hustle, because he was so unhappy with their handling of Shaolin Soccer? I recall reading that the the Asian division of Columbia is financing (at least partially) Kung Fu Hustle.

I doubt that Zhang's and Chow's refusal to do further business with Miramax will have any effect on the company's despicable treatment of Asian films, though.
PaulaJ

#57 of 685 OFFLINE   Chris_Morris

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Posted February 27 2004 - 02:21 AM

Quote:
I doubt that Zhang's and Chow's refusal to do further business with Miramax will have any effect on the company's despicable treatment of Asian films, though.


Not with their currently owned properties, but it will help cement them not getting their grubby hands on any more.


Chris

#58 of 685 OFFLINE   WillKTaylor

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Posted February 27 2004 - 01:10 PM

Update (as well as simply prolonging this string as long as possible).

Just added China Mafia War Shinjuku kuroshakai: Chaina mafia senso tonight, Miike's second (I believe) addition to the Triad Trilogy. Suppose I'll spin it up tonight, but I'm a bit behind in my unwatched pile.

Any thoughts on this title?

#59 of 685 OFFLINE   ChrisBEA

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Posted February 27 2004 - 02:27 PM

Haven't seen that one yet. I'll probably be watching Running on Karma tomorrow.
What's going on? THis seemed to be going well for awhile.... Posted Image

#60 of 685 OFFLINE   WillKTaylor

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Posted February 27 2004 - 03:17 PM

Seriously, Chris. Thank goodness the updates count for something .. even though this is more of a mature site than dvdtalk. Then again, keeping this string alive with the many new Asian additions as of late and going forward, heck, it will not die, just yet. ... there's always a noncomformist of the bunch.


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