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Asian Cinema on DVD

Discussion in 'DVD' started by ChrisBEA, Feb 18, 2004.

  1. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

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    Personally, I find the BETTER TOMORROW films to be overrated NOW, but certainly the importance of the first film in redefining genre and creating a whole new stylistic cottage industry post 1986 can't be understated. After Hong Kong's "new wave" (Tsui Hark, Alan Fong, Ann Hui and others) had become mainstream, a lot of very influential popular genre pictures by other people really kicked Hong Kong's Golden Age into high gear. Ricky Lau's MR. VAMPIRE (see earlier posts) and Johnny Mak's LONG ARM OF THE LAW come to mind, as well as Jackie Chan's POLICE STORY and PROJECT A, among others. Still, i have to admit that, for me A BETTER TOMORROW 1 suffers, though less so, from the same overcooked melodramatics of HEROES SHED NO TEARS. It really wasn't until THE KILLER when John Woo had his cliches in perfect working order, but I strongly prefer the added spectre of pre-1997-handover cynicism and dread that keeps HARD BOILED from becoming a histrionic male-bonding session.







    My mini-review of THE MISSION



    THE MISSION (1999) D: Johnnie To Kei-fung. Francis Ng Chun-yu, Anthony Wong Chau-sang, Jackie Lui Chung-yin, Roy Cheung Yiu-yeung, Lam Suet, SImon Yam Tat-wah, Wong Tin-lam, Eddy Ko-hung, Elaine Eca Da Silva, Sato Keiji, Ai Wai, Yau Man-shing, Cub Chin, Yee Tin-hung.

    After an unsuccessful assassination attempt, triad boss Eddy Ko, at the urging of younger brother Yam, surrounds himself with five ace gunmen (Ng, Wong, Cheung, Suet and Lui), who take on the mysterious assailants in a series of hyper-stylish, ultra-suspenseful gunfights that soon lead them to the man with the plan. But when the youngest member of the team (Lui) is accused of boinking the boss’ wife, the rules change, pieces are drawn against allies, and the clever twists pile on. Intense, edgy minimalist thriller, expertly realized by director To, is filled with surprises and a stellar cast of heavyweights digging surprisingly deep beneath the surface cool of their characters. Despite Yau Nai-hoi’s writing credit, this allegedly was largely written on-set. Francis Ng and Anthony Wong are dynamite together! Action highlight: the gunfight in the deserted mall, with our heroes barely moving but taking out reams of assassins! Johnnie To won Best Director at the 19th Hong Kong Film Awards, beating out his own Running Out of Time, among others. Supporting player and pasta casualty Wong Tin-lam is the father of HK director Wong Jing. 10.



    I have no formal mini-review of PTU, but I loved it. Similar, I think, in style to THE MISSION, some would argue it's style over substance with this one, but I've read it was shot over the course of several months when time permitted or some such thing. Very nicely drawn characters in this dark thriller. I think To's return to darker films with PTU, BREAKING NEWS and THROW DOWN after a string of successful comedies doesn't carry quite the beautifully bleak worldview that his post-handover productions (THE MISSION, EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED, WHERE A GOOD MAN GOES, A HERO NEVER DIES) but I still find these newer films are bright spots in an industry that has largely devolved into bubblegum comedies (although, I kinda like those, too!)







    The "thugs" in ATTACK THE GAS STATION have their reasons for doing what they're doing, but their backstories are filled in later in the picture (enough to make you care about them, for sure). I think the film is deliberately filmed like a social commentary on the increasing disenfranchisement of many Korean youth, which, in the context of their country's half-century forced hurdle into westernization and modernization, is a lot different than that experienced by Westerners over the last several decades and as depicted in North American films about rebels and slackers and what have you. ATTACK attempts to satirize and break down the long-held vertical relationship model that Korean society has until very recently taken as a very strict model of collective behaviour, i.e. women respect men, wife respects husband, young people respect elders, employees respect bosses regardless of right or wrong, and achievement or failure is everything (something detailed and more or less criticised in the flashbacks). It's a rigid system that defines Korean relationships, and often results in outsiders perception that love doesn't flow very freely. I think the more Korean popular cinema you see (such as many of those I reviewed in the last page or so), the more important ATTACK THE GAS STATION will seem for giving tradition a good hard kick in the slats.



    And BATTLE ROYALE is a friggin' work of art! (how's that for subtlety!)
     
  2. Matthew Brown

    Matthew Brown Supporting Actor

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    I believe HEROES SHED NO TEARS almost wasn't released. It's not great but I like to watch it every now and then. That kid cracks me up!



    That box set of The Killer and BITH is probably the best there is at the moment if you don't have an all-region player. I will have a review on my site soon. There are Hong Kong legends versions that are also good but they do not have the mono sound mixes. They do, however have a lot of extras that the Fortune Star box set doesn't.



    I think John Woo can't win in hollywood. He can't do what he wants. I am in the minority for liking Windtalkers. I still think if it came out before Saving Private Ryan it would have been seen in a different light. It reminds me of the old war movies. Most hate it as much as the 4th season of the Sopranos which I also enjoyed. LOL! Those two words mentioned in the same response could get a whole thread closed around here!



    Matt
     
  3. Miles

    Miles Second Unit

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    Hey Matt,



    I do have access to a region-free player, which also has PAL-->NTSC conversion, so if there are better options for sound/audio quality, I'm willing to look at those too.


    BTW Great site!


    Thanks
     
  4. Matthew Brown

    Matthew Brown Supporting Actor

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    Miles -

    Thanks!



    For the KILLER, the only real competition for the Fortune Star Version is the Hong Kong Legends version. Both are anamorphic. The difference in picture quality is that the HKL is slightly cropped and has been digitally enhanced which smooths out the picture a little so it looses some detail. It is also a little bright in some parts. The Fortune Star DVD has much more detail but this sometimes exagerates the grain in the film. In both cases, the print that is used is very good.



    The sound on the HKL version is a remix and some say there are missing music queues but I've seen this movie a million times and I didn't notice any. This is a remix and has extra effects added to fill out the sound field. The Fortune Star has a DTS, 5.1, and mono sound track. The mono soundtrack is slightly muffled a few times but I didn't really have a problem with it. The remixes also have sound effects added.



    One note of interest is that the HKL version probably has the most accurate subtitles of any DVD of this movie. The Fortune Star has the "Dumbo and Mickey Mouse" translation where Chow Yun Fat is called Jeffrey instead of John.



    The HKL version also has more extras where the Fortune Star has a somewhat odd feature on weapons and what they do to the body.



    As for Bullet In the Head, the Fortune Star looks beautiful. It is the best print I have seen of this movie. It is also the same cut of the film that was previoulsy available on laser disc and DVD. It really looks like a new film. The sound also has the mono track as well as teh remixes that have added sound effects.



    Hong Kong Legends also has a version of this with a ton of extras. I have not seen it but in every case so far, the Fortune Star releases have had greater detail but more grain. This I believe is the same cut as the Fortune Star DVD.



    As I aluded in one of my previous posts, Bullet in the Head may not be owned by Buena Vista for US distribution anymore. This may open the door for Fox to release it. I don't know if Buena Vista still has rights to the Killer, but it's possible they don't anymore.



    Matt
     
  5. PaulaJ

    PaulaJ Supporting Actor

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    Brian, you're at the TIFF and you didn't get a ticket for Kung Fu Hustle???!!



    I watched Breaking News last week... I'm a Johnnie To fan but I found this to be less than stellar, partly because of the cast (Kelly Chan doesn't do it for me at all, and Nicky Cheung and Richie Ren are okay but imagine Tony Leung or Lam Ching-wan as the cop and Andy Lau or Francis Ng as the gang's leader... Or heck, you could reverse the casting around with those magnificent four and it would still work...) [​IMG] The movie just didn't go far enough in examining media exploitation -- we saw it from the side of the police and the criminals but I kept wishing there was a look at the media itself, not just as a receiver of manipulated images but as a conscious purveyor of them too. I wanted to see how they colored the news themselves in search of the almighty ratings, perhaps through a TV reporter or editor character.



    Also recently watched: The Foul King. An absolutely delightful Korean comedy about a mild-mannered bank clerk bullied by his boss and his dad who decides to live out his dream and in his spare time becomes a pro wrestler. [​IMG] I'd seen lead actor Song Kang-ho in serious roles before and was really impressed not only with his comedy chops but his amazing physical ability -- high flips and all sorts of stunt work. He clearly was doing his own stunts. I loved the movie's very dry sense of humor. [​IMG]



    Fox/Fortune Star martial arts DVD question: are there going to be any more????
     
  6. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

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    Tell me about it. I only buy individual tickets for TIFF screenings (one of these years I'm gonna make a week of it and get the big pass), so by the time those go on sale, about two days before the festival, a LOT of the cool stuff has already been sold out to the people who buy full passes and special program passes. Such was the case for FLYING DAGGERS, OLD BOY, and KUNG-FU HUSTLE (have you seen the new trailer yet?). There were no tickets available when singles tickets went on sale online. OLD BOY was no big deal, since its widely available all over Toronto, but it would've been nice to see even one of the other two on the big screen. Such is life: besides, they'll both be on DVD in no time.



    Ironically, it'll probably take me a lot longer to get DVDs of the movies I DO have tickets to (provided, of course, that they don't suck).
     
  7. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

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    This reminds me of another Johnnie To/Wai Ka-fai film that attempted to examine a social issue with what I'm guessing are slighly more successful results. The film is HELP!!! (2001), a satire on the Hong Kong health care system. The film stars Ekin Cheng, Cecilian Cheung and Jordan Chan with the usual roster of Johnnie To supporting players, and actually makes a decent number of clever, salient observations about the system before veering into overwrought disaster movie territory in its second half. The closing sequence actually plays like a satire of pretentious medical dramas as opposed to the medical system itself. Ironically, the concept of an irreverant, contemporary satire on a subject like this was such a foreign concept to Hong Kong cinema tha the filmmakers added a disclaimer advising viewers (who might not get the joke) not to model themselves on the characters in the film. Recommended as long as you don't compare it to similar satires made in Britain (BRITANNIA HOSPITAL) or America (THE HOSPITAL). Hui Siu-hung and Lam Suet are standouts as aggressively unscrupulous doctors: when a patient threatens to jump off the roof of the hospital, they run outside to move their fancy cars out of his way!
     
  8. PaulaJ

    PaulaJ Supporting Actor

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    I haven't seen HELP!!! yet... I'm working my way through the Johnnie To directed (or produced) movies... The Mission is high on my to-see list. [​IMG]



    Well, I feel your pain in not seeing Kung Fu Hustle. I've seen three trailers so far, which one were you referring to? The first one was the one with the boys playing soccer, the second was Stephen versus the onion lady, and the third was Stephen and his pal versus a bespectacled clerk (played by the same actor who who played the car mechanic soccer player in Shaolin Soccer -- ya know, the guy whose tools kept dropping out of his pants...excuse me, I'm cracking up just thinking of it...) [​IMG] (No double entendres intended) :)
     
  9. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

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    The Onion Lady trailer is the one I was referring to. I think they're all great, but for some reason, that one cracks me up. I do have to admit being curious about the use of that song in these trailers. I suppose a lot of Chinese audiences wouldn't be familiar with it, so in a sense, the trailer makers could be playing off that (after all, technically these aren't the U.S. release trailers). If Chow uses it in the final film, perhaps he's playing on the same field.
     
  10. PaulaJ

    PaulaJ Supporting Actor

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    I think Chow is having one off at Miramax... I would be very surprised if "Kung Fu Fighting" showed up in the actual film. None of the reviews I've read said it was in the movie, though to be honest I've only glanced at them because I'm trying to avoid spoilers... I've already read more than I wanted to about the storyline -- so maybe I missed a mention.



    Forgot to mention I also recently watched Volcano High, which I thought was a trip and a half... really enjoyed it.
     
  11. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

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    VOLCANO HIGH is one of my all-time Korean favourites. I think Korean fantasy filmmaking, in all its various guises, is poised to become world-renowned, thanks to some very talented genre stylists. The only serious weakness in many of them tends to be scripts (as in NATURAL CITY or R U READY?). The production value, acting, and direction, as well as consistently believable (in that context) concepts have made for some very classy films, like 2009, YESTERDAY, WONDERFUL DAYS, RESURRECTION OF THE LITTLE MATCHGIRL and a few others, despite the occasional weaknesses in their screenplays.bold



    I wish they'd do a sequel to VOLCANO HIGH.



    Incidentally, over in the thread regarding the Toronto International Film Festival, there's mention that both KUNG-FU HUSTLE screenings were cancelled due to a heavily damaged print, and Stephen Chow was not allowed into the country. I mentioned over there that he's had this problem before due to his alleged connections to Triads in Hong Kong, in particular major film producer Charles Heung, whose dad founded the Sun Yee On triad.
     
  12. PaulaJ

    PaulaJ Supporting Actor

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    I really loved Volcano High -- terrific hyperactive visuals, great over-the-top or stonily stoic performances, snappy editing. Just a lot of fun. I had just watched Juliet in Love the day before and Volcano High was the perfect cure for the tear-sniffling blues induced by the plights of poor Sandra Ng and Francis Ng. [​IMG]



    I just checked that TIFF thread (hadn't read it before) and they said the Thursday screening was cancelled -- but plenty of people saw it on Tuesday. There are 5 reviews up at AICN.



    Not surprised to hear Chow was denied entry -- I'm surprised he didn't try to clear that up well in advance of the screening. Or maybe he did and they still said no and he was hoping for a last-minute reprieve. That would explain why he wasn't at the Tuesday screening.



    About his troubles with the Canadian immigration authorities -- You can read the entire transcript of his denied appeal for a visa online at http://reports.fja.gc.ca/fc/src/sht...98fc21943.shtml



    Makes for interesting reading. [​IMG]



    Maybe he should have premiered KFH at a U.S. film festival instead...



    And...uh... this being the DVD forum... I'm anxiously awaiting the Kung Fu Hustle DVD since I know that will be out in Hong Kong long before it hits theaters here. [​IMG] Right?



    By the way, if anyone is interested in the film debut of Jaycee Fong, or Fong Cho-ming -- a.k.a the son of Jackie Chan -- Twins Effect 2 aka The Huadu Chronicles: Blade of the Rose is now up for preorder at yesasia, to be released October 2. [​IMG] http://us.yesasia.com/en/PrdDept.as...section-videos/



    [​IMG]
     
  13. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for the link. I couldn't get it to work, but a search found it anyways at



    http://reports.fja.gc.ca/cgi-bin/si...l~~context=full



    Fascinating reading. The company you keep, eh? Sounds like the government must have had some pretty reliable evidence against them if showing it to him might jeopardize their informant. Not to mention the fact that many, many actors who've worked for the likes of Charles Heung come and go freely from the country. You'd be surprised how many Hong Kong actors actually live here.



    P.S. Looks like I'm not the only one who thought his name was spelled 'Chiau,' either (if you can remember back all those pages [​IMG] )
     
  14. PaulaJ

    PaulaJ Supporting Actor

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    From what I've read, he prefers "Chow." It's the same character as Chow Yun-fat's last name. [​IMG]



    I really can't imagine what harm Stephen Chow could do in Canada by going to a film festival for a few days. Seems pretty silly not to let him in.



    (Another news report says he couldn't make it because he was finishing up KFH's sound effects with Spiderman's sound effects editor!) [​IMG]



    Chow has visited the United States a number of times without incident, including making a movie in San Francisco back in 1988 (Dragon Fight, starring Jet Li) and as recently as last spring to do a few Shaolin Soccer interviews. What do the Canadians know that the U.S. authorities don't, I wonder. [​IMG]



    Speaking of Dragon Fight, I found it on VHS -- pan and scan, but in Cantonese at least. Has anyone spotted this on VCD/DVD? Pretty tame stuff but some OK fights and early in the movie Jet Li offers a wu shu performance I imagine similar to the demonstrations he performed when he was a kid and China's wu shu youth champion.
     
  15. Mark_Wilson

    Mark_Wilson Screenwriter

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    Or someone in Canada doesn't like him.
     
  16. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

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    The Chinese triads have branches in Canada. From what I understand, you can break a leg off the spider but it quickly grows back. Look at the assorted bootleg busts that have been made over the years and yet the stuff is ALWAYS available, and that's probably just the bottom end of the food chain



    If they're here, it's a good bet the cops need informants. This might have been a case of somebody earning their informant stripes by ratting out a big celebrity, but just cause he's a celebrity doesn't mean he isn't "active" so to speak. I can't imagine the Americans didn't at least have him under a teensy bit of surveillance during his trips there, but who can say for sure?
     
  17. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

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    Taking things back to the subject of Johnnie To for a moment, I just noticed www.dddhouse.com has added the excellent FULL TIME KILLER to its weekly cheap sale (as of today, Sept. 16, anyways) for only $25HK. The packaging on this is kinda cool, too, with the images printed directly onto the plastic sleeve of the case, and if I recall correctly, there are some decent extras. I saw this film at the Toronto film fest a couple years back (To, Wai, Andy Lau and Simon Yam were in attendance) and I was rather cold on it until I realized later on what To and Fai were actually doing with Yam's character, at which point I became desperate to get the DVD and, at least for me, the second time around was revelatory. Not a perfect film, but way better than it's often credited with being.



    FULLTIME KILLER (2001) D: Johnnie To Kei-fung, Wai Ka-fai. Andy Lau Tak-wah, Takashi Sorimachi, Simon Yam Tat-wah, Kelly Lin Hei-lui, Cherrie Ying Choi-yi, Lam Suet, Teddy Li.

    Enigmatic top assassin Sorimachi has his title challenged by deranged Lau, a thrill-happy fame whore who seems to be living within the action movie set in his Hollywood-corroded mind. Lin is the girl torn between them, and Yam the increasingly unbalanced Interpol agent out to put an end to their sick contest. Brawny, deliberately elusive action thriller, based on an equally clever novel “Full Time Hit Man” by Edmond Pang (and also heard previously as a radio play),uses alternating points of view, overlapping languages and multiple narration to subtly disorienting effect, particularly in final, perception-shattering shift to Yam’s character, whose work-in-progress novel may hold the key to everything that’s happened so far! Admittedly not for all tastes, in particular those who don’t appreciate excessive English dialogue polluting their Hong Kong pictures, but an otherwise rock-solid return to dark form for the writing-directing team of Johnnie To and Wai Ka-fai (the latter co-writing with U.S. scribe Joey O’Bryan) after the cotton candy diversions of Needing You and Love On A Diet. This was a big hit on its home turf, though more likely because of magastar Lau’s involvement (he also served as executive producer) than anything else. Good score by Guy Zerata and Alex Klotz is augmented with surprisingly decent English tunes. Glossy production design by Silver Cheung and Jerome Fung, richly shot by Cheng Siu-keung. Wong Chi-wai designed the films robust gun battles. Film debut of Cherrie Ying. 9.



    http://www.dddhouse.com/dddhouse/en...&productID=1738
     
  18. PaulaJ

    PaulaJ Supporting Actor

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    Full Time Killer was one of my first exposures to Andy Lau -- after Moon Warriors! (Has anyone seen the new anamorphic version of Moon Warriors from Mei Ah? I've been tempted to buy it.) I had to look twice to make sure it was the same guy. [​IMG] It was also my first Johnnie To movie. I recall thinking it was a completely insane flick... need to see it again. You can imagine my shock when I then watched some of Johnnie To's romantic comedies. The man who directed Fulltime Killer directed these adorable comedies? [​IMG] I confess I love Needing You and Love on a Diet. They're far more enjoyable than any American romantic comedies I've seen in the past few years (with one exception).



    Ivan the Terrible Hurricane hit Atlanta last night and I endured the Commute of Terror on the way home (nothing like driving through a flood! -- admittedly things are much much worse along the Gulf Coast but we do have flooding and power outages here). I soothed my frazzled nerves with the antics of Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao in the new Fox DVD of Knockabout. I had this on an old DVD but it looked like crap despite a widescreen transfer, so I'm especially grateful Knockabout was on the Fox release list. Really, Fox has outdone itself with the latest batch of martial arts classics. I really wish more were on the way from them but I haven't heard any news about future releases.
     
  19. Matthew Brown

    Matthew Brown Supporting Actor

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    Paula -



    I am trying to get a list of the next batch but my contact doesn't have one yet. I agree that Fox has really done a great job.



    Matt
     
  20. LorenzoL

    LorenzoL Second Unit

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    Real Name:
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    Watching the news coverage of the hurricane, is amazing and scary to see the power of mother nature. I'm glad that you are okay Paula.



    I'm very happy with Fox treatment of the latest wave. I have watched Knockabout and Iron Fisted Monk so far, with Knockabout being my favorite. The final fight scene at the end is excellent.



    On the other hand Iron Fisted Monk felt too long and didn't impressed me at all.



    I'll try to watch the rest of the wave, sometime this weekend.



    Matthew, if you can let us know the list of the upcoming releases, that will be great.



    I got this list from another forum, which listed the movies that Fox has rights to in Region 1 and with the release of the latest wave, the movie list looks mighty thin.



    Millionaire's Express (1986)

    Paper Marriage (1988)

    Encounter of the Spooky Kind (1981)

    The Owl and Dumbo (1984)

    Winners and Sinners (1983)

    Shanghai Shanghai (1990)

    Warriors Two (1978)

    Game of Death (1978)
     

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