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101 Guide to Asian Cinema


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#1 of 51 OFFLINE   Jim Long

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Posted November 25 2001 - 01:11 PM

The 101 Guide to Asian Cinema



Is this post for you?

If you’ve ever enjoyed Bruce Lee, or marveled at the action style of John Woo in films such as Face Off or Mission Impossible 2. If you wished you had brought The Killer on Criterion or loved the scope of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. If you enjoy watching something out of the ordinary, or you like seeing a real foreign film with subtitles on your local theater screen. If you’ve wondered if there’s more to Asian film than Jackie Chan or out and out action. Then this post is for you!!

For those of you that are fairly new to collecting Asian films, I thought I would put a condensed guide together from my past posts on this great area of cinema. My DVD collection of Asian cinema is now in the high 200’s, with more being added this xmas. I’ve long searched the world of the Internet for new great sites that discuss Asian Cinema, so here I share some of my knowledge. You may have become interested in the subject recently with the releases of Iron Monkey and Crouching Tiger, or you may be like me a long time Bruce Lee fan that then went on to discover directors such as John Woo, Ringo Lam and Gordon Chan.

I’ve been a collector of world cinema for many years, and really started this when I couldn’t track down readily available Hong Kong martial arts movies. Hong Kong along with India have two of the largest movie industries outside of the US. I’m going to focus on the DVD market, there are many, many more available features on VHS and VCD, but I will try to focus on quality and not quantity.

Asian film is not just about martial arts and action flicks, there is a true depth of cinematic beauty in some of the presentations. And Hong Kong like any other large film industry has its share of art, love and comedic films.

So let’s get started with some of the essentials…

Do I need a multi-region DVD player?

If you live within the US and have a region 1 player only, you will not initially need a multi-region player as many titles are coded region 0 NTSC, which basically means region free. You will however need both a multi-region capable DVD player and one that supports PAL to NTSC to fully enjoy what’s available. But to get a flavour of what’s available you are ready to go, just research the DVD’s you may be interested in and link to an online store. Or if you’re lucky and have a great DVD store near you, especially Virgin Megastore then get ready to browse the shelves equipped with a vast pool of knowledge.

Why PAL DVD?

Well if you cover both NTSC and PAL you are going to be able to enjoy the full spectrum of available titles. All HK release DVDs are in NTSC, but some special versions are to be found in Europe where PAL is common. Most importantly is the ever growing library of Hong Kong Legend titles coming out of Hitchin (my birthplace) just north of London in the UK. The PAL standard is from England but also incorporates a couple of other countries. PAL actually handles colour saturation and colour bleed better than NTSC. But that’s another topic. Believe me, if you equip yourself with a multi-region PAL-NTSC DVD player, then you are armed and dangerous!

What DVD player should I look at?

For region free and PAL, I currently use the APEX 600, but the DVD player of choice today is the Malata 996 or for just region free -Philips DVD-Q50 and Skyworth DVD-1050P. All of these do both region free, only the Malata does real PAL-NTSC and is also progressive scan using the sage chipset!


Top 10 Starter DVD’s.
    [*]Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon CTHE - this was popular because it was a great film, simply that. It encompasses some of the HK fantasy style of martial arts along with some of the culture and grace of China, along with some wonderful music. Ang Lee wanted to make a statement about the beauty of Asian cinema, and this is it![*]The Big Boss/Fists of Fury HKL/Fox – The first and my favourite Bruce Lee film. Note that UK&HK titles differ from US.[*]Police Story – Jackie Chan showcase of fast action. R0/R2[*]The Killer – John Woo masterpiece. You may not want to pay the dollars for the Criterion Release selling on eBay, I’m tempted to sell mine at those prices! But fear not, of the other 4 or so versions available I recommend the new 2 disc French Release[*]Fist of Legend – Jet Li showing his skills in this tribute to Fists of Fury/Chinese Connection. The US version has some minor cuts, but is readily available.[*]Iron Monkey(1993) – somewhat a prequel to Once Upon A Time In China, this Tsui Hark classic has seen a recent re-release in US cinemas. If you can wait avoid the Media Asia DVD, if you can do multi-region PAL then grab the HKL release[*]Shiri – Korean film that bested their countries box office record for Titanic! Take The Rock, Heat and Nikita and roll them into one action packed filmfest and Shiri is what you have. Be sure to pick up the the 2-disc Directors SE. See review[*]Project S / Supercop II – Michelle Yeoh looking sharp![*]Way of the Dragon – Classic match-up between Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris! HKL[*]God of Cookery – the humorous side of HK film with the excellent Stephen Chow.

Sites that should be bookmarked

The following sites provide either information and discussion on Asian Film, or are my personal recommendations for buying Asian DVDs.

Information and Review Sites
Discussion Forums Online DVD purchase Poster Sites
  • Twinkle – One the few that I have tried so far.
Quick Rundown of DVD studios

Mei Ah – the most common and actually the worst when it comes to quality. Search around for alternate versions of DVD, or wait. I would rarely recommend a US release over say a HK original, but not when it comes to these. Picture quality and sound leave much to be desired in this world of high quality DVD transfers.

Media Asia – improving all the time and generally much better quality than Mei Ah. Do your research and you won’t be disappointed here.

Hong Kong Legends – one of the newer companies to the fold, and somewhat a small specialist startup our of the UK. They do however take DVD seriously and try to produce the best results from the source prints that they get. As time goes on I expect there access to original transfer to become more plentiful. What they do is generally setting the standard for Asian cinema. You will need a PAL capable DVD player.

Universe Laser – one of the most consistent studio in HK. Pick their releases over any others. Good picture quality, colour saturation and excellent audio.

Mega Star – some of the best releases to come out of HK, get these in preference to other HK editions.

Of note I’m hearing that China Star and DeltaMac have good releases. I have a couple and no complaints here.

Lastly a word on New Line and Buena Vista. They do generally great transfers, but many of the HK films have been cut in some way or another, and there are many examples where the foreign release is recommended over the US edit. They are improving but if you want some of the Jet Li releases I would encourage you to check out alternates.


Hong Kong Cinema Recommendations

Action/Martial Arts
  • Hard Boiled – lavish world cinema at its best!
  • A War Named Desire – well paced and great looking action drama.
  • Gen-X Cops – Stylish modern action classic by Benny Chan. A blend of Hollywood effects and Hong Kong action make this a must see.
  • Drunken Master 2 (Thakral version) – Jackie Chan classic kung fu that has it all!
  • City on Fire – Chow Yun Fat in the inspiration to Reservoir Dogs.
  • Fulltime Killer – Andy Lau is probably second only to Chow Yun Fat in these type of movies. This one being the quintessential assassin movie and one of the newest to DVD. See review
  • The Accidental Spy – One of the best new Jackie Chan releases that bests some of his more recent efforts.
  • God of Gamblers – can’t have HK cinema and no gambling, only this is Chow Yun Fat style.
  • Time and Tide
  • Bullet in the Head – Much underrated John Woo classic, my favourite
  • Peking Opera Blues – another Tsui Hark classic
  • Game Of Death (HKL) - Awesome release of Lee's last film
  • Project A
  • Purple Storm
  • Tokyo Raiders
  • Hitman
Wire/Fantasy
  • Storm Riders – lavish cinematic production from Andrew Lau.
  • Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain – defined the genre
  • Iron Monkey(1993) – great story, wonderful martial arts!
  • Kung Fu Cult Master - classic
  • The Legend of Zu – Tsui Hark’ beautiful and breathtaking look into the fantasy genre. A must have!
  • Bride with White Hair
Old School Kung Fu
  • Fong Sai Yuk
  • Dirty Ho
  • New Legend of Shaolin
  • Five Deadly Venoms
  • Once Upon a Time in China
  • Five Fingers of Death
  • Executioners from Shaolin
  • The Buddhist Fist
Romance
  • Comrades, a love story
  • The Road Home
  • And I hate you so
  • Summer Holiday
  • Chungking Express
  • Kitchen
  • Hong Kong 1941
  • Juliet in Love
  • Anna Magdalena
Comedy
  • Shaolin Soccer – who would of thought to combine Soccer with Martial Arts? Great comedy from the legendary Stephen Chow.
  • God of Cookery
  • Royal tramp
  • F*** / Off
  • Love & Zen
Korean Films Recommendations
  • Shiri – As mentioned a kick-ass action flick that combines the best of the genre to produce a South Korean classic. The Directors SE is anamorphic and DTS.
  • Memoto Mori
  • Bichunmoo
  • Attack the Gas Station – great entertainment, action and comedy combined with style.
  • Jakarta – great action-comedy with plenty of plot twists to keep you glued.
  • Kick the Moon – The new release from Kim Sang-jin who brought you Attack the Gas Station.
Indian - Bollywood Classics
  • Kuch Kuch Hota Hai - A love triangle that captures the magic of Indian Cinema, great soundtrack!
  • Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (DEI 2 Disc)- beautiful.
  • Sholay - Epic that embodies the serious side of Indian Cinema
  • Dil To Pagal Hai
  • Border - Epic war film
  • Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai (DEI 2 Disc) - nice locations, great music.
  • Indian (Hindustani) - nice cinematography.
  • Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge - Nice story set in Europe
  • Hum Aapke Dil Mein Retha Hai
  • Mohabbatein - The current top DVD from the director of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge
  • Lagaan - 2002 Oscar nominated epic on our favourite subject: Tax. Set around a cricket match between the posted British army and the locals.
Japanese Action
  • Seven Samurai – Beautiful cinema from the legendary producer Akira Kurosawa, which was the predecessor to The Magnificent Seven.
  • Branded to Kill – Seiijun Suzuki 60’s stylish gangland thriller
  • Dead or Alive – Takashi Miike cinematic brilliance.
  • Samurai Trilogy – Criterion Editions are just captivating. No doubt that strong influences are a plenty here for the later westerns. Foreign Film Oscar awardee.
  • Yojimbo – my favourite Toshiro Mifune classic, that shows the true depth and emotion of this complex character..
  • Ran – Akira Kurosawa masterpiece
  • The Hidden Fortress – influenced George Lucas on that other film.
  • Brother – Stylish violent crime production from Takeshi Kitano.
  • In the Realm of the Senses – art house movie that keeps true to its goal.
  • City of Lost Souls – Takashi Miike in fine form.
Japanese Anime
  • Akira – The original classic now on DVD, must own!
  • Ghost in the Shell – awesome flowing story with great graphic and sound.
  • Grave of the Fireflies - Gut wrenching and jaw dropping
  • Ninja Scroll
  • Perfect Blue
  • Mononoke Hime / Princess Mononoke
  • Vampire Hunter D
  • Wings of Honneamise
  • Final Fantasy
Further Reading Jim

#2 of 51 OFFLINE   Tom Oh

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Posted November 26 2001 - 02:00 AM

Excellent post Jim!!! Posted Image Very informative and detailed. I visit quite a few of the posts you mentioned and will be enjoying many new sites. GREAT post. WOW!!

#3 of 51 OFFLINE   Matthew Brown

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Posted November 26 2001 - 02:42 AM

Jim -
Thanks for mentioning Love and Bullets!

Matt
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#4 of 51 OFFLINE   Chris Xolotl

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Posted November 26 2001 - 04:26 AM

There are some I would like to add (I will refrain though). But this a great post and agree with virtually everything there. Posted Image Posted Image

#5 of 51 OFFLINE   Michael Dehaven

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Posted November 26 2001 - 08:28 AM

essential films from China:

Farewell My Concubine
The Emperor and the Assassin
The Road Home

Essential films from Japan:

Anything from Studio Ghibli
Audition
The Ring
and many many more

.

#6 of 51 OFFLINE   Duane Robinson

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Posted November 26 2001 - 01:34 PM

Essential anime titles don't get anymore essential than the Rurouni Kenshin OVAs. I highly recommend picking this one up, but be careful, you might hurt something when your jaw drops so hard it smashes through your coffee table.
In the end only the fittest survive in this world. If you are strong you live...and if you are weak you die. I am the one who deserves to live. - Shishio Makoto

What's really gonna make your noodle limp is when you realize that Thomas Anderson is an anagram for "No Modern Asshat".
Deep... -...

#7 of 51 OFFLINE   Jim Long

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Posted November 26 2001 - 01:50 PM

Chris Xolotl, please feel free to add your suggestions. I'm not nearly the expert on this that I would like, just a fan that learns something every day. I lost much of my older posts, so some of this was from memory and many many recent visits and purchases Posted Image

All, thanks for the kudos. I want to spend a lot more time on this to really make this a helpful resource for those wanting to discover more about some of the other big film production countries out there, and their unique offerings.

Duane Robinson, I just purchased your recommendation online. Also do you have some good sources for Anime sites? I have a number that I want to add, mainly from folks that I talked to here at HTF in the past.

Michael, some fine suggestions. I'm on the fence with The Ring. But one mans poison... If you're ok I will add some of these.

Matthew, no thank you for a fine, fine site. I visit on a fairly regular basis and enjoy your reviews. In fact I went and got Magnificent Warriors, after reading your synopsis.

Thanks!

Jim

#8 of 51 OFFLINE   JohnS

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Posted December 19 2001 - 11:44 PM

WOW. I should have seen this first, before making the two other posts.

Hopefully, more people will be interested, like I just gotPosted Image

all-banner.jpg


#9 of 51 OFFLINE   Troy LaMont

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Posted February 27 2002 - 03:17 PM

Excellent post, I just discovered it...but it's never too late!

Troy
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:That's just something ugly people say.

#10 of 51 OFFLINE   Donnie Eldridge

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Posted February 27 2002 - 03:37 PM

Great post!Posted Image It's about time something like this showed up at this forum. A genre that is greatly overlooked IMHO.
Master Poe: Close your eyes. What do you hear?
Caine: I hear the water. I hear the birds.
Master Poe: Do you hear your own heart beat.
Caine: No.
Master Poe: Do you hear the grasshopper, which is at your feet.Caine: Old man, how is it that you hear these things?Master Poe: Young man, how is it...

#11 of 51 OFFLINE   Jim Long

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Posted February 28 2002 - 12:05 AM

I'm planning on some updates and more detail on this very soon.

Donnie, I did a quick browse of you DVD profile. What did you think of Audition?

Cheers,

Jim

#12 of 51 OFFLINE   Donnie Eldridge

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Posted February 28 2002 - 02:04 AM

I just picked it up this week and haven't had an opportunity to watch it yet. I plan on doing that tomorrow night along with My Wife Is A Gangster. I'll post my thoughts when I do.Posted Image
Master Poe: Close your eyes. What do you hear?
Caine: I hear the water. I hear the birds.
Master Poe: Do you hear your own heart beat.
Caine: No.
Master Poe: Do you hear the grasshopper, which is at your feet.Caine: Old man, how is it that you hear these things?Master Poe: Young man, how is it...

#13 of 51 OFFLINE   Richard Kim

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Posted February 28 2002 - 02:37 AM

Quote:
Drunken Master 2 (Thakral version) – Jackie Chan classic kung fu that has it all!

Unfortunately the Thakral version is not OAR (2.35:1 film cropped to 1.85:1! Posted Image )

#14 of 51 OFFLINE   Matthew Brown

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Posted February 28 2002 - 02:59 AM

Here's some more details about the Thakral release.
http://www.loveandbu...nkenmaster2.htm

Contrary to what most have said, I don't think Disney did a good dubbing job and the change of the music was simply not needed. They also cut out the ending.

There is no perfect version of this one on DVD. The laser disc is much better if you can still get it.

Matt
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#15 of 51 OFFLINE   Peter Kim

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Posted February 28 2002 - 04:13 AM

Jim...what a Fantastic post! It's perfect to see a consolidation of information on Asian cinema. I find myself hopping all over the web trying to glean any minutia on this genre.

2 questions:

1. Thanks for shedding light on the romance, The Kitchen. I caught a showing of this film, written by Banana Yoshimoto, at the Walker Museum in Minneapolis years ago. Unfortunately, I've searched vigorously, but in vain, for a copy of the movie. Any info on where I can find this title. An aggravating factor - apparently, there was another version filmed, a HK/Japanese collaboration. I'm interested in the Japanese version.

2. Re: the Malata 996 player...how is the build quality? And where can I find this player (reputable online dealer, or is this sold at any b&m)?

Again, many thanks on a highly informative post.
my girls rock Balenciaga & smoke mad marijuana - M.O.B.

#16 of 51 OFFLINE   Matthew Brown

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Posted February 28 2002 - 04:20 AM

AVDEALS.COM has the Malata. I love this player. It has been going strong since I purchased it in August. If you order it, you may want to ask them to double box it. There were some who reported that the power supplies got loosened during shipping.
The first firmware had minor glitches. One is that THE PHANTOM MENACE crashed after the THX logo. Not really bad, pressing play would start it up again. Also the subtitles do not appear on TPM. The player uses the same chip all those JVC models do that doesn't display them either. This is the only problem disc I have had. The new firmware fixes the crash but not the subtitles. The player ships with the latest firmware.

The PAL conversion is exacellent. You just have to change the video filter.

If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me at matt@loveandbullets.com. I have had really good luck with the player.

Matt
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http://www.loveandbullets.com

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http://www.NJPUNKONLINE.COM

#17 of 51 OFFLINE   Donnie Eldridge

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Posted March 02 2002 - 08:06 AM

I watched the Audition last night for the first time. Only one word could describe this movie "Disturbing". I'll leave it at that.

My Wife Is A Gangster was a great movie by the way.Posted Image
Master Poe: Close your eyes. What do you hear?
Caine: I hear the water. I hear the birds.
Master Poe: Do you hear your own heart beat.
Caine: No.
Master Poe: Do you hear the grasshopper, which is at your feet.Caine: Old man, how is it that you hear these things?Master Poe: Young man, how is it...

#18 of 51 OFFLINE   Raphael

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Posted March 02 2002 - 08:44 AM

I was gladdened to see Project A (not the domestic release, though!) and Tokyo Raiders on the General Recommended list. In terms of old school martial arts, may I also suggest Prodigal Son and also Magnificent Butcher, very non-wired and very clean martial arts, with more than passable story lines, too. And let's not forget Enter the Dragon, which more than any other film I believe captures Bruce Lee's philosophy of the Art.

In my opinion. Great post, by the way. Posted Image

#19 of 51 OFFLINE   Miles_W

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Posted March 02 2002 - 08:51 AM

Where were all you people when I tried to have an asian action tournment ?????? Posted Image

Jim excellent post... on my favourite type of film

Miles
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#20 of 51 OFFLINE   Peter Overduin

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Posted March 02 2002 - 09:37 AM

From a relative new-comer to this genre - thanks! There must a moderator reading this thread. First, I would hate to see this thread die, so I hope it finds its way into the archive. However, with the substantial interest in anime on the HTF, I would even suggest that it deserves it's own forum. Any chance of that?
Peter

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