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  1. Duckweed (2017) (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Duckweed (2017) (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Eddie Peng (Actor) | Deng Chao (Actor) | Zanilia Zhao (Actor) | Han Han (Director, Writer)
    The growth of Han Han
    June 9, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    When I wrote about superstar writer Han Han's directorial debut The Continent in 2015, I noted that the meandering vagabond road film employing tropes common to his novels was absolutely the film he was meant to make, but that the formula could grow old if he continued to use it for subsequent films. Two years later, his sophomore effort Duckweed came out of the competitive Chinese New Year box-office slot with a gross of over one billion yuan and strong reviews. Han Han will perhaps always write about headstrong young men on a journey of growth, discovery and destruction, but with Duckweed, he's taken that journey in another direction with a different tone. Deng Chao and Eddie Peng serve... [read more]
  2. The Inspired Island II: My City (2015) (Blu-ray + DVD + Book) (English Subtitled) (Taiwan Version) The Inspired Island II: My City (2015) (Blu-ray + DVD + Book) (English Subtitled) (Taiwan Version) Fruit Chan (Director) | Xi Xi (Author)
    The Writer and her City
    May 31, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    The Inspired Island started in 2011 as a series of documentaries about Taiwan literary luminaries directed by new-generation Taiwan filmmakers. For the series' second batch of films, the subjects expanded to include Hong Kong writers Liu Yichang, Ye Si and Xi Xi. While the first two writers are documented by screenwriter Ben Wong who, like most of his Taiwan counterparts, is not an established director, My City about Xi Xi is directed by Fruit Chan. As the only big name director of The Inspired Island series, Chan shows his experience and expertise in one of the series' most engaging and accessible entries. Unlike some other titles in the series, My City resists the limitation of being too... [read more]
  3. Creepy (2016) (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Creepy (2016) (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Nishijima Hidetoshi (Actor) | Takeuchi Yuko (Actor) | Kawaguchi Haruna (Actor) | Fujino Ryoko (Actor)
    Kurosawa Kiyoshi's return to psycho horror
    May 23, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Based on the roles he plays, Nishijima Hidetoshi has to be the unhappiest man in Japanese cinema. In Mozu, he's an anguished public security officer trying to find the truth behind his wife and daughter's mysterious deaths. In Genome Hazard, he's an anguished framed man trying to find the truth behind his wife's mysterious death. In Ryusei Wagon, he's an anguished unemployed man whose wife mysteriously leaves him. In Double Face, he's an anguished undercover officer planted in the mob. In Strawberry Nights and the currently airing Crisis as well, he's an anguished officer. The actor goes through yet more onscreen suffering in Kurosawa Kiyoshi's Creepy as anguished criminal psychology expert... [read more]
  4. Someone (Blu-ray) (Deluxe Edition) (Japan Version) Someone (Blu-ray) (Deluxe Edition) (Japan Version) Satoh Takeru | Yamada Takayuki | Suda Masaki | Arimura Kasumi
    To know you is to not know you
    May 17, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Playwright-turned-director Miura Daisuke draws from his theater background to effectively adapt Asai Ryo's 2012 Naoki Prize-winning novel Someone. The discomfiting drama uses a group of friends' deflating process of job hunting to not only capture the ambitions, insecurities and hypocrisies of young people competing for employment, but also to construct an astute study of social interactions and public identities in the age of social media. Headlined by a top-drawer young ensemble cast that pretty much sells itself, the story revolves around five college seniors of different personalities and wants who are wading through the daunting process of job hunting. Leading protagonist Takuto (Satoh... [read more]
  5. One Day (2016) (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) One Day (2016) (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Ter Chantawit Thanasewee (Actor) | Mew Nittha Jirayungyurn (Actor) | Banjong Pisanthanakun (Director)
    One Day makes all the difference
    April 28, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Director Banjong Pisanthanakun is best known for horror, with his Shutter and Pee Mak both being landmarks of the genre in Thailand. Between the horror movies, in 2010 he wrote and directed Hello Stranger, an enjoyable romantic comedy about two strangers who become travelmates by chance in Seoul. Six years later, he reunites with leading man Ter Chantavit Dhanasevi for another picturesque dose of romance abroad in the Hokkaido-set One Day. Ter Chantavit plays awkward IT geek Denchai who quite literally blends into the wall. Outfitted with glasses, permed hair and ill-fitting casualwear, Denchai is deemed cinematically unattractive, and his social skills are wanting. He has a huge crush on... [read more]
  6. Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories (2016) (Blu-ray Box) (Japan Version) Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories (2016) (Blu-ray Box) (Japan Version) Kobayashi Kaoru | Yo Kimiko | Odagiri Joe | Kobayashi Asako
    Food for thought
    April 26, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    After three seasons on TBS/MBS, late-night foodie human drama series Midnight Diner was licensed by online streaming giant Netflix in 2016 for its fourth season. Presumably to appeal to its potential international audience, an explanatory "Tokyo Stories" was harmlessly tagged on to the title, but otherwise, nothing has changed from its tried-and-true formula. Based on Abe Yaro's manga, Midnight Diner continues to be the reliable late-night watering hole of choice for viewers seeking food for thought and recipe inspirations. Like the previous three seasons, Midnight Diner's fourth season comprises of ten episodes, each titled after a comforting dish that holds deeper meaning for the patrons... [read more]
  7. Togetsukyo - Kimi Omou - (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Togetsukyo - Kimi Omou - (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Kuraki Mai
    Crimson love song
    April 21, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Kuraki Mai's two most recent singles – Togetsukyo -Kimi Omou- and Yesterday Love – are both theme songs for the Detective Conan anime franchise, but they couldn't be more different. While Yesterday Love, released in January, is a dated-sounding electronic pop song straight out of the nineties vault, her latest Togetsukyo -Kimi Omou- goes back even further in time to incorporate traditional Japanese music elements into a melodic and melancholic ballad. Aligning with the Kansai autumn setting of the movie Detective Conan: Crimson Love Letter for which the single serves as theme song, Kuraki penned a wistful love song that evokes the imagery of crimson leaves. The title and lyrics refer to the... [read more]
  8. The Next Generation -Patlabor- (Blu-ray) (Box 1: Ep. 0-6) (To Be Continued) (Hong Kong Version) The Next Generation -Patlabor- (Blu-ray) (Box 1: Ep. 0-6) (To Be Continued) (Hong Kong Version) Oshii Mamoru (Director) | Mano Erina | Fukushi Seiji | Ohta Rina
    The struggling days of Patlabor's third generation
    April 12, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Twenty-five years after the classic police mecha procedural Patlabor was first launched, the iconic franchise was rebooted in 2014 into a live-action series set years later when Labor robots have fallen out of fashion and the Patlabor police unit has been relegated to an understaffed, underfunded division in constant danger of being shut down. The Next Generation -Patlabor- still revolves around the comings and goings of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Special Vehicles Section's scruffy, motley Division 2, which is now in the hands of a third generation of officers, including Mano Erina and Fukushi Seiji as forward pilot Akira and backup Yuma, respectively. Oshii Mamoru served as the general... [read more]
  9. Shin Godzilla (2016) (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Shin Godzilla (2016) (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Ishihara Satomi (Actor) | Hasegawa Hiroki (Actor) | Takenouchi Yutaka (Actor) | Kora Kengo (Actor)
    Monster bureaucracy movie
    April 12, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    When I first learned that Anno Hideaki was directing the new Godzilla, my reaction was to question why he was doing anything other than finishing the long overdue Rebuild of Evangelion series. Now I hope he makes Godzilla films forever. Though Godzilla graced Hollywood screens fairly recently in Gareth Edwards's 2014 feature, Shin Godzilla, or Godzilla Resurgence, is the first Japanese Godzilla film in over a decade. Narratively speaking, Anno's take follows a familiar formula: an unidentified giant creature appears, warnings go unheeded, Tokyo gets trampled, humanity eventually pulls together from the burning fires of destruction to fight the monster. However, before the government can... [read more]
  10. The Taste of Youth (2016) (DVD) (Hong Kong Version) The Taste of Youth (2016) (DVD) (Hong Kong Version) King Wai Cheung (Director)
    Hong Kong's bittersweet ode to youth
    March 30, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    In 2009, King Wai Cheung rewrote the crossover potential of Hong Kong documentaries with the much-talked-about award-winning feature KJ: Music & Life, a fascinating record of one very special Hong Kong youth. Seven years later, Cheung gathers the thoughts and voices of a group of very ordinary Hong Kong youths in The Taste of Youth. From a purely cinematic standpoint, The Taste of Youth is a less engaging film than KJ, as the latter captured with depth a uniquely interesting subject over a significant timespan. However, The Taste of Youth's straightforward study offers a timely and more socially relevant look at youth in Hong Kong today, and the undertone of anxiety, discord and malaise... [read more]
  11. The Long Excuse (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version) The Long Excuse (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version) Nishikawa Miwa (Director) | Motoki Masahiro | Takehara Pistol | Horiuchi Keiko
    The long process of understanding grief and oneself
    March 20, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Out of all of Nishikawa Miwa's films thus far, The Long Excuse is the hardest to put one's finger on. Unlike the quack physician of Dear Doctor, the con artist couple of Dreams For Sale or the murder trial of Sway, The Long Excuse lacks a clear point of conflict. Instead, the audience is unceremoniously introduced into the opaque emotional world of a pretentious, vaguely unpleasant novelist who loses his wife to an accident, and then doesn't quite know what to do with himself. Even at his wife's funeral, protagonist Sachio's (Motoki Masahiro) first concern is appearance as he makes calculated displays of grief. He, however, realizes acutely that he doesn't actually feel grief – at least not... [read more]
  12. The World of Us (DVD) (Korea Version) The World of Us (DVD) (Korea Version) Yoon Ga Eun (Director) | Choi Soo In (Actor) | Seol Hye In (Actor)
    The complex world of children
    March 9, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    The World of Us is not the first Korean film to deal with the topic of school bullying. Writer-director Yoon Ga Eun's remarkable debut feature, however, may be the first to bring the audience so naturally and unassumingly close to its young protagonists. The film begins with the everyday activity of picking teams for dodgeball in gym class. The camera rests tenderly on 10-year-old Sun's (Choi Soo In) face as her expression gradually changes from hesitant anticipation to resigned disappointment. Names are called one by one until she is, once again, the last person left. This quietly impactful opening scene – and a similar scene later in the film that echoes it – is simply designed, and yet... [read more]
  13. Inochi ni Fusawashii (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Inochi ni Fusawashii (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) amazarashi
    The Light and Darkness of amazarashi
    February 27, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    amazarashi's songs often sound as epic, evocative and world-encompassing as a fantasy RPG score so the band's latest crossover with Square Enix's action-adventure game NieR: Automata fits like second skin. Frontman Akita Hiromu wrote and composed the theme song Inochi ni Fusawashii ("Deserving of Life") based on game director Taro Yoko's story about combat androids dispatched to a post-apocalyptic Earth to fight machines in a proxy war. Ever the storyteller, Akita interprets the game's world and themes into a highly lyrical and melodic musical journey about lonely souls forging a precious connection and asserting the value of life in a broken world. The story begins over dissonant beats and... [read more]
  14. Weeds on Fire (2016) (Blu-ray) (Hong Kong Version) Weeds on Fire (2016) (Blu-ray) (Hong Kong Version) Liu Kai Chi (Actor) | Tony Wu (Actor) | Sing Lam (Actor) | Poon Chan Leung (Actor)
    Solid base hit
    February 27, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    With eight Hong Kong Film Awards nominations including Best Film, Weeds on Fire is a tad over-lauded by local critics eager to celebrate a small Hong Kong drama about the Hong Kong experience. Nevertheless, Weeds on Fire is very much a notable effort in the thinning pool of purely Hong Kong films, especially considering it's from a first-time director. Steve Chan, one of the winners of CreateHK's First Film Feature Initiative in 2013, makes good use of the funding for an assured feature debut that approaches the classic coming-of-age sports drama with palpable energy from a grassroots angle. Weeds on Fire tells the obscure story of Hong Kong's first local youth baseball team and the... [read more]
  15. SUPER FLY (Japan Version) SUPER FLY (Japan Version) EXILE THE SECOND
    Super funky
    February 23, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    EXILE THE SECOND made a strong return last year with a trilogy of singles and the launch of a nationwide arena tour, and it looks like the group is carrying forth the EXILE TRIBE dance music mantle this year as well with the consecutive releases of the single Super Fly and album Born to be Wild. THE SECOND delivers a super infectious and upbeat dance jam in Super Fly. Written and co-composed by Shokichi, the exuberant song has you nodding along in no time with addictive beats and cheeky lyrics in the opening rap verse, but the real fun is in the playful funk arrangement, the brass-underlined bridge and the catchy dance-out chorus. In comparison to their forcefully cool urban EDM tracks,... [read more]
  16. The Monkey King 2 (2016) (Blu-ray) (Hong Kong Version) The Monkey King 2 (2016) (Blu-ray) (Hong Kong Version) Aaron Kwok (Actor) | Gong Li (Actor) | Xiao Shen Yang (Actor) | Fei Hsiang (Kris Phillips) (Actor)
    White Bone Demon vs. Monkey King
    February 9, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    It's hard to keep track of all the blockbuster Journey to the West movies coming out lately. In 2016, we had The Monkey King 2 and A Chinese Odyssey Part 3, and the year before that Surprise and Monkey King: Hero is Back. This Chinese New Year, Stephen Chow's Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back and Wang Baoqiang's Journey to the West-inspired Buddies in India opened the same day, while Derek Kwok's The Tales of Wukong will arrive this summer, possibly launching another movie franchise. With so many Monkey Kings flying around, the installment that I'll be measuring newer adaptations against is last year's The Monkey King 2. The first film of Soi Cheang's series, 2014's The Monkey... [read more]
  17. Godzilla Resurgence (4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray) (4-Disc Special Edition) (Japan Version) Godzilla Resurgence (4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray) (4-Disc Special Edition) (Japan Version) Anno Hideaki (Director) | Hasegawa Hiroki | Takenouchi Yutaka | Ishihara Satomi
    Monster bureaucracy movie
    January 25, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    When I first learned that Anno Hideaki was directing the new Godzilla, my reaction was to question why he was doing anything other than finishing the long overdue Rebuild of Evangelion series. Now I hope he makes Godzilla films forever. Though Godzilla graced Hollywood screens fairly recently in Gareth Edwards's 2014 feature, Shin Godzilla, or Godzilla Resurgence, is the first Japanese Godzilla film in over a decade. Narratively speaking, Anno's take follows a familiar formula: an unidentified giant creature appears, warnings go unheeded, Tokyo gets trampled, humanity eventually pulls together from the burning fires of destruction to fight the monster. However, before the government can... [read more]
  18. If Cats Disappeared from the World (2016) (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) If Cats Disappeared from the World (2016) (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Satoh Takeru (Actor) | Miyazaki Aoi (Actor) | Okuda Eiji (Actor) | Harada Mieko (Actor)
    If Movies Disappeared from the World
    January 20, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    I'm a simple person: I see cat, I watch. Nagai Akira's If Cats Disappeared from the World, however, is not about cats. Cute kitties – named Cabbage and Lettuce – do appear in the film, but the hypothetical scenario presented in the title serves to broach the not-so-cute topic of death and to reflect on the value of life. Based on Kawamura Genki's best-selling novel, the film gets into the mind of a mild-mannered postman suddenly confronted with news of his impending death. Save for the fact that he's played by Satoh Takeru, the protagonist is a remarkably common and relatable figure, an alone but not necessarily lonely young postman who quietly goes about his work, feeds his cat, watches a... [read more]
  19. Novoland: The Castle in the Sky (2016) (DVD) (Ep. 1-28) (End) (China Version) Novoland: The Castle in the Sky (2016) (DVD) (Ep. 1-28) (End) (China Version) Guan Xiao Tong (Actor) | Zhang Ruo Yun (Actor) | Liu Chang (Actor) | Chen Ruo Xuan (Actor)
    The rare China costume fantasy with good editing
    January 16, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Novoland: The Castle in the Sky was roundly ripped by Chinese netizens upon arrival for its acquired-taste aesthetics, like distracting circle lens, and for being yet another lusciously fake-looking period fantasy with archetype characters in a saturated market (it premiered the same week as Ice Fantasy). For those who stick around for a few more episodes, however, the reviews also come around, because Castle in the Sky turns out to be one of the rare examples of the genre that succeeds on tight directing and editing. Set in Novoland (an imaginary ancient China with its own universe and mythology created, shared and developed by different writers), Castle in the Sky focuses on the conflict... [read more]
  20. The Menu (2016) (Blu-ray) (Hong Kong Version) The Menu (2016) (Blu-ray) (Hong Kong Version) Catherine Chau (Actor) | Gregory Wong (Actor) | Kate Yeung (Actor) | Ng Man Tat (Actor)
    Rewriting the rules of journalism
    December 30, 2016 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    I haven't watched the HKTV series that spawned the feature film version of The Menu either, so don't let that dissuade from watching the movie. Set after the events of the TV drama, The Menu: The Movie is a sequel, but prior knowledge is not required as the investigative crime drama straightforwardly plops the viewer right into the hustling world of Hong Kong news with Smart Post's small tenacious team of journalists. We learn immediately that Smart Post's original photographer and chief editor are no longer with the team through flashbacks to the TV series, and that editor Fong Ying (Catherine Chau) is now the interim chief and writer Mallory (Kate Yeung) has switched to the photo... [read more]
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