Reviews written by numinair
Milky Way Liberation Front (DVD) (Korea Version)November 19, 2008 A Bit of Intellectual Fun
After one viewing “Milky Way Liberation Front” will seem like an intellectual type of film that would more appeal to Korean indie movie buffs, especially to people who attend regular festivals, than a mainstream audience. But saying that “MWLF” is certainly a movie with a clever script, sharp dialogue and acting with some dry humor and anecdotal satirizing about Korean film festivals and indie film making – making for a recommended and different Korean film to see.
Concerning a young upstart film director Young Jae who is dumped his girl friend at the time he’s about to make his first full length art movie about an aphasiac (needed my dictionary here!) man and also a short film for a PIFF event, ends up suffering writers block and, eh, a sort of voice loss. But being somewhat Monty Python those situations are mostly viewed as metaphorical relating to this film’s kooky satire and Young Jae’s eccentric and quirky nature relating to his life, girl friend, mother and film making. Young Jae’s film associates also have many multi-faceted ideas about how Young Jae’s ‘aphasiac man’ should turn out. Young Jae also continually gets grief and emotional problems with his ex-girl friend, due to his ex having similar grief with Young Jae’s erratic communication skills and artistic disposition. In fact communication is quite an important key element to this film. “MWLF” mainly though pokes a lot of fun at cinematic Korean idioms and politics regarding Korean indie films and festivals.
If you love intellectually challenging movies with clever wit and dialogue and can see the merit in the funny side of our kooky lives and idiosyncrasies through the eyes of a young film director as a means of redemption – you should definitely check this out. “MWLF” is funny deadpan about pursuits of stumbling inducing egotisms, and shows this as quirky parodies through the eyes of Young Jea and his endeavor to impress girls by making Korean films for art festivals. The only trouble is that the ‘restricted club’ substance could alienate a bit by the obvious self-indulgence. But that shouldn’t stop any real appreciation with the universality of this movie. So, by the cover this could seem like a cute romance movie about a filmmaker and his gf – but do expect something quite a bit different here. Overall a good film that could grow on you by continual viewings.
October 15, 2008 An Excellent Mandarin V!
For one I have found all Vincy’s albums uncannily favorable efforts all round, and this latest Mandarin CD of V's is no exception. Its real class! Vincy sings well here and not only in the vocal department, stamina, breathing and overall tonal quality stakes, but in her excellent way of mentally addressing each song type. She's spot on! Whether it be ballad, rocker or soul, Vincy will deliver vocal nuances that excellently reflect that song truthfully. And all sung in a seemingly effortless manner. By Vincy being so intricately aware of songs written for her, and of her astute and mindful approach makes Vincy one sympathetic and highly focused singer to come out of HK and she is definitely a very worthy singer to note.
Quite a few song styles here too, with a carefully selected balance of sweet ballads and full out rockers. To describe the songs though is that certainly you get another eclectic set of variations (a CD that wasn’t eclectic would be the more radical), with some songs having slight folk elements, mandarin hinted ballads and 2 great campus college rock types that should cause you to dance in the aisles pronto (surely track 2 “Lonesome Street” should be the single from this album!).
Overall, I loved this CD. I prefer the first part with tracks 1-5 and loved the latter songs a little less, but that's not to say that the album is only half as good as it should be. On the contrary, this is another fully bodied album with bags of quality as much as style with Vincy on superb intelligent singing form. Its just that I preferred Vincy’s rock tracks here the more. Duh!
Anyway, a brilliant album, that I would recommend to anyone who loves their Mandarin and Canto pop (plus Vincy of course) and not miss out with this song collection. It’s a quality gem! The DVD makes it even better! I don’t know what Vincy’s new one “Pieces of V” will be like (although I have recently ordered the CD), but by Vincy’s excellent back catalog so far – odds on it will be another one not to miss, too!
Stephilosophy (CD + Bonus DVD + Special DVD) (Special Edition)(1)June 26, 2008 Lovely Sweet & Soothing Vocals
I bought Stephy's "Stephilosophy" CD some time ago and have regularly enjoyed listening to this from time to time (even graces space on my PSP memory card.....oooh), due to mainly Stephy's sweet and calming voice. (If you feel wound up - Stephy will certainly calm you down after listening to this CD!) This album features a pleasant varied song set of evenly paced and light melodies, with some of the most sweetest vocal ballads, that you could almost relax yourself into the lightness of a cloud listening to them. Certainly chill out stuff! Stephy's voice is so gentle on your ears, that even fluffy ear muffs would be grungy in comparison - and you could pretty well drift off into space listening to her! Mainly slower and mid tempo songs, but two dance oriented tracks are also featured (one reminding me of my 80s Synth Pop listening vinyl days), that bounce you back onto your feet from the usual dream like slower songs. Certainly a quality album that grows on you with each play.
I love Stephy's lilting and light vocal style and delicate singing (her voice is good for letting the stress drop of you) and is like honey dripping into you, and the "Stephilosophy" theme here, although more ambient immediacy than cerebrally pondering, is surly to induce a calming effect. Stephy does here for me anyway! Her singing on the first 4 tracks especially, and some parts of the slower songs are eye wateringly cute! I also like the opener track with its almost melancholic film theme melody and touching refrain with its Euro synth lead, which also comes with a very interesting and vivid MV to this.
Overall, a very satisfying album. As a lot to offer a range of tastes and ages, and the quality about it comes across as very well produced CD. Good set of varied songs, and having the most caressing and calming vocals from Stephy yet. Yeah, I know - which I cannot emphasize (or empathize) enough. Certainly worth getting if you haven't tried this yet.
This Special Edition set is a replica of the previous edition (packaged with calender), but here in a box with the additional DVD (yep, I have got the two). So if you have missed that one (being OOP now), you still can get the original release version, but with this extra DVD of music videos and the "L for Love - L for Lies" film footage.
A good cool semi dance able, peace inducing listen here - that could possibly send you to Heaven. Go on - float away with Stephy with her "Stephilosophy"! Recommended.
Off Road (DVD) (Korea Version)June 20, 2008 Only An End Road
Its said by the nature of impiety all people 'need to get back to the garden', that place before the Fall where completeness began, before Life gets too drastically transformed into a distorted version of itself. "Off Road" reflects that distortion here, by the tragic and dire social circumstances of the three main protagonists, who find themselves in desperate circumstances when all become involved in stolen money from a bank theft. This movie is a character composite of the socially oppressed, dangerously erratic and pariah marginalized, where these three 'outsiders' are 'driven' together in a tightly scripted road movie plot where personal despair dictates their individual plights and choices in attempting to escape the adversities of their lives. With a stolen bag of money, these anti-hero desperadoes then 'drive' towards a cul-de-sac street of No Return, towards the inevitable and unavoidable 'car crash' that awaits them all at this movie's conclusion.
Sang Hoon (Han Cheol Jo), a 33 year old humble taxi driver finds that life is oppressing him at all angles. His father is severely sick, having suffered a bad stroke and who is nursed by Sang Hoon's fiancee. He is heavily in debt due to being forced into bad loans by the boss he previously worked for as a bank worker, and also feels he cannot continue his relationship with his pretty girlfriend, due to his struggling debts and the pressure his fiancee has by looking after his father. Sang Hoon's fiancee, however, wants them to remain together. She considers the villainous boss who had pretty well forced the bad loans onto Sang Hoon at the bank they both worked together in, and so prepares to steal and wire a large sum of money into Sang Hoon's personal bank account out of the bank's coffers. By this money, all of Sang Hoon's troubles will be over and he can then feel less guilty about marrying his fiancee. Sang Hoo, though, is deeply troubled as he sits in his taxi watching his girlfriend enter the bank on her morning shift as bank teller, and who is about to illegally transfer the money into his account. He contemplates that this theft won't be at all prosperous, but can only add to all of the burdens he already has.
Trouble soon follows as the bank is then suddenly raided by Cheol Gu (Soo Jang Baek), an armed thief who steals a large bag full of money at gun point. Cheol Gu accomplishes his theft, but gets shot in a violent gun fight with police and as to quickly jump into Sang Hoon's taxi, demanding him to drive away out of the city of Seoul pronto. Sang Hoon then finds himself a captive of this young thief. He isn't certain whether he will be shot as a witness and even asks Cheol Gu what he proposes to do with him. Cheol Gu tries to assure Sang Hoon that he only wishes to escape the police and as no intent to kill him, unless he does anything stupid. So Sang Hoon drives on, nervously learning more about his kidnapper and realizing that Cheol Gu is also a desperate young man needing to improve his lot by this drastic and desperate means - like himself and his own circumstances. Coincidence? At one point the car breaks down and Cheol Gu helps the bumbling Sang Hoon try to get the motor started again. They eventually move on, but Cheol Gu gets a sudden pain from his chest bullet wound, burning him into an agonizing sweat and pain. Sang Hoon mentions to Cheol Gu of his own military experience, and how a man had been accidentally shot in a gun practice session and had never realized a bullet had entered his body until the pain threshold had crept upon him - leaving him in similar agonizing sweat. Sang Hoon then tells Cheol Gu he needs to quickly find some water to cool the raging heat in his body. Cheol Gu spots a small lake and tells Sang Hoon to fetch water in some dampened clothing, but at no cost should he try to run away. Sang Hoon uneasily accommodates by getting out of the car and walking to the pool, knowing his every move is watched with a gun pointing at him. But when Sang Hoon finally returns he finds Cheol Gu asleep in the car. At his point Sang Hoon grabs the gun and overcomes his captor, but is quickely overcome when Cheol Gu suddenly jumps him and ends up accidentally shooting Cheol Gu in defense. Sang Hoon shocked and sorry at what had had done, then frantically tries to assure Cheol Gu that it was an accident and will try to help him. An hospital is out of the question as Cheol Gu would be caught, so Sang Hoon drives on to a motel he knows, of where he can help his captor at least rest a bit. At the motel he meets Ji Woo, a female prostitute he knows and who works at the motel as desk clerk and passion provider. Ji Soo's own situation is also not good, getting abused regularly by irate and demanding customers and also wishes to find a way out of her trapped life. She does so when she finds Cheol Gu's money bag he had stolen and steals it herslef, making a getaway with a big strapping lorry driver.
At various junctures there are flashbacks to the circumstances leading up to the whys and wherefores of these desperately troubled people. You get to understand why Sang Hoon's girlfriend decides to steal the money from the bank and of Jo Soo's need to escape her prostitute life which all seems logical. But you can never get a feasible reason 'why' Cheol Gu crazily decides to hold up a bank to steal money - screwing up his life by this mad action. Cheol Gu may have lost his job as a petrol pump attendant when his boss fires him for being constantly absent, and gets his girlfriend pregnant who is also the daughter of his ex-employer - and who would certainly get a bit furious if he found out. But although these are serious social dilemmas, they don't really seem desperate enough for him to run in a bank and steal money. Cheol Gu obtains the gun when he was in a multi story car park and had discovered a dead policeman who had shot himself in his car.
But whatever the reasoning, this all holds together as a very watchable road movie. Its fast paced, intense, well acted and at times features some additional dark humor. All the character's circumstances become interrelated and coincidental and numerous ironies happen that seem to fulfill some sort of tragic end. "Off Road" certainly is blunt in projecting these three tragic lives who have turned into social misfits and criminals, due to their own conception of having a limited self sufficiency in a demanding world. Cheol Gu cannot perceive himself to hold a normal job, so after finding the policeman's gun decides to impulsively steal money by force. Also being only 17, Cheol Gu had not experienced his compulsory military service and had no basic 'grounding' towards his life. Sang Hoon, who had completed military service, was beset by unavoidable circumstances - he couldn't avoid his father becoming ill or having a boss pushing him into a difficult situation by the bad loans. He could have left his job and reported his employer, but obviously needed money to survive and help his sick father. His past military experience could only have helped him so far in that respect. So, even though these two men were opposite in the responsibility outlooks - they were still both equally affected by the demands of social pressures. Cheol Gu certainly had an erratic and dangerous nature - he could easily get his girlfriend pregnant without much remorse (or even slight concern), and had little will power at keeping at least some job going to help support the situation he had contributed to. Instead he finds a gun and tries to run away with lots of money. Its fair to say that Cheol Gu is psychologically self motivated beyond consideration of others - than it all being the 'fault' of society and pressure alone (which in effect is 'us'). Likewise, Ji Soo as the motel prostitute is encased by situations difficult to avoid, unless having a substantial capital and independence to escape her stranglehold situation. Well, until the magic bag of money appears via Cheol Gu.
All of these three people aren't 'bad or 'unlucky' in the superficial sense, but have become sort of 'poisoned' figuratively and socially by outward elements - localized circumstances, career demands, family sickness, loneliness etc., and have allowed negative thoughts of bitterness and anger towards those pressures. At the end of the film it may seem as if Ji Soo will be 'free' and have a happy life out of this. But she's no better off than what happens to Sang Hoon and Cheol Gu. All have moved off the normal road towards a possible good future, off the beaten track into the brambles, nettles, stinging things, dark woods and uncertainties of the 'off road'. But in this case, they cannot look at it from a future angle of enrichment or experience. This is all about a strayed path into oblivion and even though they had social pressures and difficulties..their illogical conclusions erase any possible salvation in the end.
It all ends on a sudden note, too. Although it will seem that everything hasn't been fully explained, the final scene is quite revealing to how it all turned out, and is extremely sad. There's a sort of symmetry to it, too, in the way Cheol Gu had discovered the dead policeman's gun in the car park and the final reasoning of Sang Hoon, after he learns about his fiancee on the car radio news report and venting his anger towards Cheol Gu. Not 'bad' people, but desperate and messed up souls who needed a way to vent out the demands life can throw at people sometimes. Worth seeing, but as a grim and depressive conclusion.
The DVD is of the movie only and sadly has no extras.
Qia Xu Tong Xue Nian Shao (China Version)June 18, 2008 Xu Fei - Flys with R&B Rock
Like quite a number of singers and musicians in the Chinese album sections, I don't really know much about Xu Fei apart from the fact that she sings, performs acoustic guitar through this eclectically and finely balanced R&B styled album here. But what an album this is! Looking at the album cover, Xu Fei may look the proverbial elf girl with her cute bob and childlike waif appearance, but I'll assure you that some of the songs contained in this highly charged and melodic rock set of a CD, are at times far removed from little Xu Fei's image here. This is cute and rock! Xu Fei does sing sweet ballads here, but those are then suddenly followed by songs that let fly with some fast and cutting R&B sounds. The album songs ranges from indie styled rock songs, folk rock blues, a couple of beautiful melodic ballads to blistering (although light) 70s rock numbers, and overall is one fantastic album not to let slide by. For me the more upbeat rock reflections are the firm favorites, and so tracks 9, 6 and 1 top my own personal chart from this CD here. But again, this is another of those albums where the song set is varied and well balanced. Although having strong R&B leanings, this album covers most of what you can expect, and most song types are catered for. As a singer Xu Fei sings in a very youthful, and at times childlike 'punkish folk manner', and she almost shouts the vocals out in track 1. But she can settle into a more softer touch and gentler manner, with a few ballad songs (tracks 3 and 7) and lighter melodies. Xu Fei reminded me vocally a bit of Chinese singer Qia Qi She, too.
As a rundown of what to expect with the songs:-
Track 1 - The CD begins with this 1.06 intro where is heard the sound of traffic and car horns along with a bedroom unplugged acoustic guitar sound and vocal duet from Xu Fei. You then hear the heavy roar of a tube train moving, which segues into track 2.
Track 2 - This features lightly haunting electronic sounds and soft faint electric guitars stirring up ready this song, which then suddenly bursts forth into a main C/G chord melody of rhythmic guitars, band and Xu Fei's "dududu" vocal refrain. This familiar slow moody chord beat and blues vocal type carries the song, with Xu Fei singing the verses in a shouty and somewhat angsty vocal expression, in a youthful and impassioned style. At times you get some haunting and spacey electric guitars mid way, which then all returns to the main theme. Slow beat, catchy, melodic, lightly melancholic and feisty, which all ends with the haunting and quiet guitar sounds and that tube train sound again, as if everything is re-entering a large tunnel again (or coming out of one).
Track 3 - This is a light and breezy ballad that the HK Twins could easily have sung. Softer vocals from Xu Fei with a childlike melody and a cute folksy rhythm. Very sweet song. Some quick chords and vocal fragments reminded me of "Eternal Flame" by The Bangles (although only a bit of a reminder).
Track 4 - This intros with a Pink Floyd guitar type and wah wah guitar that moves into a mid tempo ballad song, with a pleasant light rock/folk sound and vocal refrain, string section. Lovely melodic song.
Track 5 - Acoustic intro that blends into a moody mid tempo French sounding folk ballad melody. A little but noir, maybe? The song also has a slight jazzy blues feel by a mid section trumpet solo, which then motions back into the moody, smoky and light melody ballad. Its also very catchy in a 60s fashion and filmic soundtrack sense, too. Nice song.
Track 6 - This is a blast! It begins with a radio being constantly re-tuned onto various stations and of fragmented songs and static being played (the songs being Xu Fei's), that then suddenly kicks in with a blistering and catchy rock number; electric guitars and funky bass with a great song refrain. Xu Fei sounds like she's in her element here! This must be based on a single cover (not certain though). Sounds a bit Transvision Vamp/Blondie in way, tinged with other 70s rock. A nice bit of Jeff Beck guitar style rocks this up, too, with some additional nifty drum work - with even a quick electric guitar and drum solo in the mix. Finishes off with a funk/disco rock rhythm variation on the main rock refrain. Fantastic!
Track 7 - This is the second of the more lighter and sweeter ballads. Complete contrast to the previous track. Piano intro with another quite childlike melody (very "Twins" type again - C and G could have sung this, too!). Catchy rhythm and even like a drama ballad song a bit.
Track 8 - Indie guitar sensibilities intro into another 90s styled light rock song. This is called "1993" which strongly rings some bells with me, and I think this is a cover song by somebody. But even so, a great song and an appropriate 90s R&B number.
Track 9 - This has just got to be the best feet raising to the floor song on the album, and an even bigger blast than track 6! Brilliant guitar intro with an instant and cutting to the chase Jeff Beck styled guitar riff, that will blow your speakers off the wall, if you have this quite loud. It all cools down, though, for a few seconds with a quick vocal intro from Xu Fei, and then moves straight into a fantastic light rock fast R&B rhythm. Its extremely infectious and vibrant with a very retro 70s and 90s rock hybrid sound. If this one doesn't get you into air guitar, blast all the stress and depression out of your system - you certainly need a mighty good song.
Track 10 - Another soft ballad song follows which calms the album down.
Track 11- This is a slow beat chanson type of song that you might hear in a romantic candle lit dinner scene from a romance drama, and features a duet piece that finishes off with strings and orchestrated finale. Quite a long one, too, at 7.00 minutes. A required taste for this one, but a song that could fit the mood when its right.
The packaging to this CD is also one of the book types. Its about 10" square with a stapled 22 page booklet inside the gate fold cover, featuring photos of Xu Fei and the lyrics in Mandarin to all the songs. The CD itself is housed in the back card cover. There is also another CD/DVD combo disk of Xu Fei's available (although I cannot comment as I haven't heard this yet), that must give some good visual elements regarding this singer/musician. Xu Fei also appears on the CD/DVD Chinese album "The Girl's Power", which showcases various popular Chinese female singers of late like Chris Li, and which is also definitely worth looking into if you want a good audio and visual sampler of such modern Chinese women singers! This album, though, is a blast! Really enjoyed this and if you like R&B, gentle ballads and indie guitar ingredients, you should be greatly rewarded here. Its great!
Youth Of China (CD + DVD) (China Version)June 10, 2008 Incredible China Pop Overview
If you want a good idea of what the impact of pop music is like in mainland China, you certainly get a good collective overview with this excellent "Youth of China" CD / DVD pack of Chris Li's here. Not only do you get her latest songs as a mini 6 track album (which are a very good set here in themselves), but a full 1 and half hour concert tour / documentary DVD of Chris Li's "Mine" tour of 2007, which is throughly involving and gives a comprehensive insight into what a modern Chinese pop singer is about today. In Chris's case maybe a Superstar modern pop singer - as that's what she seems to be here by the documentary revelations. I realize that Chris isn't the only kid on the block in the China pop world, but its what you get with this disk set that paints a good picture of the China pop mainstream. Certainly a contemporary type of music on display here. But is however a fantastic and enlightening live show experience, and totally contrasting to when I remember way back in the early 1980s seeing a TV documentary concert of French synthesizer artist Jean Michael Jarre perform his China tour.....the first ever Western artist to perform live in China then. The "Youth of China" live DVD here is certainly varied. You get over 15 live songs, some incredible fly on the wall interview and rehearsal footage with Chris and her dance troupe, promotional events, photo shoots, dance rehearsal sessions and even some raving fan adoration that you normally relate more with modern Asia singers like "Rain". Chris seems pretty much the pop idol in China at the moment. Although the DVD lacks any subtitles other than the native Mandarin, you can still benefit highly from the concert and documentary footage, and I'm sure will find this all an insightful and enjoyable experience. It all speaks for itself in a very universal visual manner, where the subtitling isn't as important here.
The "Mine" 2007 tour concerts are also very theatrical and dance oriented with a mixed bag of music and dance styles. Chinese themes, ballads, dance theatrics, a little bit of mime theatrics, western pop ditties, light rock numbers, Spanish dance and a very impressive stage and lighting set up. The tour must have been a big set of shows! The nature of Chris Li's stage show, theatrics and androgynous look certainly bought to mind David Bowie's early look in the 1970s, especially some of DB's Lindsey Kemp theatrics and facial mime type expressions Chris uses when singing, and although her shows are in complete contrast song wise to David Bowie's, she does look a bit "Ziggy Stardust" here and there (with a bit of Micheal Jackson). Or Lady Stardust, maybe. Chris Li's stage garments are a mix of spacey, military camp, too - with some Chinese themed androgenic face make up and costumes. Even Chris's stage entrance and first song straight away made me think of those early 1970s David Bowie concerts. A lot of the "Mine" live songs here, though, are also cut across two main performances, by the two different stage clothing dress types Chris wore on the shows. Chris is not only a decent singer here (she has quite a rich and deepish timbered voice on the studio album), but is also a charming and amiable girl, too, who I think will become more popular in many countries if people get to see these live recordings more. And if her repertoire expands into other interesting visual themes and song forms and her shows become even better, she could be very popular indeed. She's a pretty good role model. If you've never seen or heard Chris before (like me until I heard this) I'm sure this concert pack will win you over.
Regarding the 6 track CD, these songs vary from a Chinese thematic with track one, two lovely melodic ballads and one blistering light rock track with track 5. This set is also a large format size : approximately 190m x 275mm and features a cardboard outer slip case cover with the main digipack inside. The digipack consists of a gate fold design housing the two disks, and also comes with a booklet and "Mine" Tour fold out photographic pamphlet. The DVD is a PAL format / Region free disk, but it can be played on a computer for anyone who may not have the PAL TV setup. The DVD also features two bonus live tracks and some digital photo stills. This isn't just a mere pop album here, its an historic pop moment from one of China's popular singers of this time and a complete eye opener for what modern China is like regarding modern youth music. Its simple music maybe. But you don't want to pass this one over, and "Youth of China" is one excellent modern portrait on the ever changing face of China - and here one very positive and highly lifting experience. Its a beautiful set and utterly essential to get!
Who Is She To You (China Version)June 5, 2008 Great R&B Rock Ballads
This album is a great set of 10 mild R & B rock ballads, certainly in a more similar Canto/Western sound to numerous other similar album releases, and by having an overall good quality rock/ballad song set that is moderate, easily accessible and so repayable and gratifyingly melodic - you should be spinning this CD for quite a while if you get this. "Who is She to You" certainly is derivative R&B in construct and sound (with blends of other Canto rock fusions), but its a good quality derivative, and coming from the EEG camp here (Twins, Joey Yung etc.), it can be expected to be a little special in the production value sense. Overall, the songs are a mixture of slow intros and mid tempo ballads, with some soulful and gently emotional singing. Wu Qiong sings quite strongly here, too, albeit that she has a more milder and lighter vocal style. But this isn't any sort of angry metal rock here or the sort of rock style that would require a more vibrant and powerful voice, and so Wu Quing's voice fits nicely into this set of 10 songs here.
The 10 tracks are all mostly in the mid tempo range, that occasionally let rip here and there to a faster pace. Lots of electric guitar work, but this is also contrasted with acoustic guitar and piano intros. The slow yearning vocals and opening bars of track 1 soon burst into a great electric guitar and hard edged rock rhythm and refrain, that sets the album off nicely, making this the usual album 'rock' opener you would expect. Great song and nice single material. Track 2 is an acoustic folk rock ballad in a fashion, but again features a lovely impassioned refrain and at times a little bit soulfully Twins (what on earth is happening to those two from Twins, though!). Track 3 surprised me by the opening electric guitar bars that sound to me almost like David Gilmore's electric guitar style from rock group Pink Floyd, and with an interesting ballad that also reminded me a little of David Bowie's song "Memory of a Free Festival". Track 4 as a sweet piano and string intro which refrains into a great little pop gem - which you'll love this if you like regular sweet Canto pop. Track 5 is a great mid tempo rock ballad with a such a passionate vocal refrain from WQ, that its become a high favorite of mine here. Great! Track 6 is another mix of slow ballad vocalizing, swinging back and forth with a mid tempo rock refrain with some quite emotional impassioning from Wu Qiuong. Track 7 is another goodie and firm favorite here, starting off with a moody bass line followed by a very catchy Chinese song rhythm and melodic mid tempo vocal chorus.Track 8 is the only song here that moves away from the R&B style by it being a totally upbeat dance number with slight rap type singing and electronic funk pop, and quite a decent dance song too. Also features a nicely infectious English refrain beat. Tracks 9 and 10 are two fantastic ballads in a more romantic and anthem sense (especially track 10) where you could hold hands with someone and sing the refrains as the sun goes down. Great refrains, too, with heart lifting backing vocals on 9. I just love track 10, starting with a gentle piano intro into a lovely soulful and passioned middle section finishing off with a brilliant anthemic backing chorus behind WQ's singing and crescendoing this album off to a wonderful completion! This album ends brilliantly!
Essentially this album scores with some good anthemic and power ballad tracks, that can stay in your head for quite a while after listening to them and Wu Qiong, although not a harsh rock sounding vocalist, is just right here with her moderate power and lighter singing touch. Nicely compiled song set too. Personal favorites for me are tracks 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 - but all of the tracks are as good as each other, and its down to personal taste to which can be the preferred song favorites.
Not sure who Wu Qiong is I have to admit. I only got to hear about her through this release at Yesasia, but spotted another earlier album of WQ's on her name link - with her looking nothing like the sweet rock chick here. I did try to find out a bit more on the EEG web sites, but due to there not being any English info I couldn't find anything about her. Anyone know anything about Wu Qiong? Wu Quing certainly seems like somebody to look out more for in future, by this CD. Highly recommended album this for anyone who loves Canto pop fused into delicate and soft rock R&B sensibilities. I will certainly love to see if an HK version is released with a DVD music video to this, too. Worth getting this!
Time Between Dog and Wolf (2005) (DVD) (Korea Version)(1)Our Price: US$26.99List: US$35.99Save: US$9.00 (25%)May 30, 2008 Hopes and Fears
This can be a hard film to recommend due to its quite harsh themes, especially considering that it reflects some of the more recent major disasters that have effected our world. All about two people who try to adjust to their circumstances of personal loss, separated families and social change, this also mainly concerns displaced families relating to past times of the Korean war.
The story first concerns a film director named Mr Kim (Gil Gang Ahn), who when in the middle of a socially related documentary movie he is making in Busan, gets one of his relatives call him by telephone and asks him to return to his hometown of Sokcho, and try to locate the whereabouts of his father. Due to this director being overstretched on budget for his film and taking out loans to complete it, (also owing his fellow film workers their wages and costs relating to the usage of film editing room) - all adds up to Mr Kim being quite reluctant to leave Busan on such short notice. Nevertheless, this being an importance of being Mr Kim's own father, he decides to travel back to his home town in Sokcho on the coastal border to North Korea. Considering that he also originally came from North Korea himself, his travel plight also becomes an emotional one. On the onset of his journey, though, Mr Kim meets a young woman named Wha Young (Seon Jae Kim), who similarly is making her own way to Sokcho to find her lost little sister, and so he offers to drive and accompany there. However, due to Wha Young's melancholic nature due to her lost sister, the conversations between the two people are muted and Wha Young travels in mostly none communicative silence. Their journey is then traversed within a gloomy pensiveness of silent angst, as Mr Kim and Wha Young travel partially, sometimes alone and sometimes together, by coach and car in trying to locate their lost and displaced loved ones. And of returning to their own personal pasts, through the haziness of uncertainty and trial.
Although stark in outlook, this idyll of a meditative 'road journey' movie, portrays some quite beautiful snow filled mountainous landscapes, as Mr Kim and Wha Young travel to the coastal region of Sokcho. Certainly rarely seen in other Korean movies, and although quite sparely inhabitable and a bleak region, the snow filled scenic beauty is there, and also can be a good 'journey' movie in a cathartic sense. The cinematography is certainly one of this film's strong points. It was interesting watching the traveling aspects of this, and of how vividly it reflects the sense of movement and clarity. By the muted musical score and the silent parts of the traveling, you can sometimes 'feel' that you have taken a packed bag yourself and gone along with Mr Kim and Wha Young on this journey. Generally, due to most films having fast editing processes, the 'sense' of travel in movies can be quite dampened or difficult to feel what the sensations of travel are like, by the blur of 'noise' in that sense. But in "Time Between Dog and Wolf", travel is the main situation at hand and the perceptions and sensations of this are quite vivid. The coach journey, the car traveling all convey a heightened tactile awareness that brings feelings you would similarly experience yourself, and the meditative type pacing and naturalness of these scenes are quite beautiful and serene, albeit shrouded in somberness. A juxtaposition of scenic beauty and social pathos.
These two protagonists themselves reflect each other's plights. They both have pasts that have affected and hurt them deeply, and the cold aspects of the snowy winter journey they endure, reflects this also. Mr Kim follows Wah Young quite a bit to start with, moving away slightly from his own objective, as his own curiosity to why Wha Young prefers mostly to travel alone (she doesn't mention to Mr Kim about her lost sister straight away). Each stop off at various towns to eat and sleep, and sometimes find themselves in drunken stupors and occasional conflicts with locals. Eventually, they both reach a mountain range near Sokcho, where they sit and watch the dusk and the night creep in and where Wha Young discloses to Mr Kim how she now dislikes this serene setting, due to it being the time of day that her sister had gone missing.
This scene of evoking either serenity or displeasure is the one on the cover of the DVD, and brings to mind (for the two protagonists anyway) a mixture of beauty, uncertainty and change. This relates to the meaning of being in a psychological condition as to be uncertain about 'dog' or 'wolf' - when looking out on a dusky evening and finding it difficult to tell between one or the other. But this is a metaphor relating to the human conditions of disorientation and reality, following tragic events. To be unable to properly distinguish between dog or wolf; the haze of confusion and decisions becoming temporally difficult. Knowing who and where you truly are. In "Time Between Dog and Wolf", this reflection relates to the past of displaced people from the Korean war, that Mr Kim finds when he eventually returns to his home town. The sober human thought here, though, is recognizing the sometimes un-avoidable changes. We all lose loved ones, our worlds around us change within time, that is mostly slow, but can be sometimes dramatic and catastrophic. This film can be seen as a miniature, a realization factor of those natural requisites as memories, and a broaching towards understanding and pulling us out (sometimes) from our normal and somnambulistic everyday lives (jobs, daily concerns etc.) we lead, to face and contemplate those type of changes/challenges that address us as mortal creatures.
The two characters here in "Time Between Dog and Wolf" are essentially dealing with with personal lost loved ones in one way or another, and the challenging aspects of their social and familiar world. When Mr Kim returns to his homeland of Sokcho to locate his father, he finds that its a mixed place of past memories from the Korean war, with scattered remnants around the many ruined former homes of residents, and also the modern structures of buildings about to be built there. For an elder Korean relating to Sokcho and the past Korean war, watching the latter scenes in this would prove to be a very emotional experience, certainly in regarding that many people in the town have families who are divided across the two Koreas - North and South. Families who have never seen their loved ones in 50 years, as well as the changeability of certain towns like Sokcho that have remnants of past traditions and customs. But also moving into a more modern world from those past traditions.
Watching this film at this specific time, can vent a parallel sadness relating to modern dramatic changes in society - like China's Sichham earthquake and Burma's terrible flooding disaster, and of the tens of thousands of people losing their lives and being similarly displaced. Mr Kim's hometown of Sokcho brings to mind this overwhelming double tragedy by the nature of change he finds there. Many lost their lives in the Korean war. Tomorrow's future for China and Burma will be looked back on similarly like how Mr Kim reflects upon the past 50 years of Sokcho. Certain present survivors of the China earthquake and Burma floods, must also be in similar states of needing to differentiate between dog and wolf - hope and fear, reality and none reality. Its shows by this movie, of needing to take stock of ourselves and see that it is ourselves that are the most important parts of our lives.
In the end, maybe there could be a forwardness towards that peaceful and more positive scene on the DVD cover with Mr Kim and Wha Young gazing at the lowering sun, contemplating their individual dilemmas of lost family members, but a scene that can essentially be a peace that it silently conveys. Not a somber scene - but one of simple positive hope! The dove that could fly out of those mountains, to join together the separated perceptions of 'dog and 'wolf' (woman and man, too?) and in between spark the crucial realizations that life and death are mere aspects of a continuation towards infinity and recognition. Like the tragic events that have happened lately, this film also doesn't have a satisfying conclusion, and is certainly one of those films you need to contemplatively fill in the gaps, where our own personal experiences can only be the ones to do justice with that.
This DVD is another of the Sponge indie titles. This version unfortunately as no extras and only as the main film to offer. But this is a worthwhile work, although a hard and somber affair, but can challenge and generally be rewarding in the long run. And sometimes a necessary and relevant type of film for a specific time.
Anna and Anna (DVD) (Hong Kong Version)February 20, 2008 A Woman in Two Minds
Its quite an anticipation for me to see a new Karena Lam inclusive movie, and when I spotted this title hinting at Karena'a previous "Inner Senses" type psychological / supernatural / thriller movie - the more that anticipation excelled. But after watching this, it turned out to be neither of the three genre types above, or a film that actually made any satisfying sense by its conclusion. Cue - crying into hands with disappointment.
"Anna and Anna" is quite down to earth, really, and not the mystical or psychoanalytical film you might expect about Doppelganger mirrored doubles. This film is more to do with a woman needing to resolve past misjudgments in a failed relationship with a man after she leaves him (a.k.a. That Old Chestnut), and about the position of women within a past and modernizing China - than deep musings of psychological and paranormal thematics. The 'paranormal' aspect of Anna's other self (or Doppelganger) is muted, and used more as a vehicle to showcase Anna's split mind (although she's not schizophrenic, though), in that a 'part' of her moved away from a failed relationship with her pianist musician boyfriend in Shanghai, and another 'part' of her becoming a modern power working girl with a new nifty boyfriend in a rock band......in Singapore. But this change of circumstances is a 'splitting' of Anna, by one part of her staying behind and supporting the man she loved in Shanghai, and her other 'self' working in Singapore. But she is only one person - and in this regard, goes to Singapore but stays behind in Shanghai at the same time! It doesn't make sense, does it? But this paradox is how the story is told, and making sense of it is like trying to understand the workings of a surviving snowflake on the surface of the sun!
The film begins with a flash back of Anna as a young girl diving into a swimming pool and confronting her other self there in the water (I wondered if that was a 'joke' about synchronized swimmers?) Anna supposed to have had an accident with a stress related situation, causing her to split into two parts. But this beginning being a flash back, relates to the real issues about Anna's dilemma with her ex-boyfriend Ouyang in Shanghai, who she had eventually left due to his intense depressive illness that curbed his piano playing after their 'tragic situation', that eventually gives Anna a guilt ridden problem over leaving him. Anna in this film is presently in Singapore with a high executive job and a new boyfriend named Billy who sings in a rock band (and who Anna is also indecisive about). But, Anna suddenly needs to sort out her past with Ouyang, as guilty feelings creep upon her, when she comes across an old painting and photo relating to him. This happens in two ways, too, as 'both' Anna's confront each other in the street, bringing themselves into juxtaposition, and finding themselves making decisions to face their 'own' realities they both exist in. Past and Present. So, both Anna's switch places to rectify the past/present, by past Anna moving in with rock guitarist/singer Billy in Singapore, and present workaholic Anna going all retro with her depressed pianist boyfriend Ouyang, in Shanghai. But this as no relation to the childhood Anna. You don't get to really know why childhood Anna is seen 'split into two' (generally a kid splits into two when having to decide on a Wii or a Playstation 3), other than this recurring psychological traumatic flashback.
So by Anna moving to a new career in Singapore, changes her perceived persona (or reinventing herself) from her past with Ouyang into this new working life and situation, and partly burying Anna's past. But although Anna's 'room' changes, her memories and situations of her past don't, and only shift her senses into these new changed horizons - with the baggage of the past lurking below to pop up again. Which it does, when Anna meets her 'old' self on the streets of Shanghai. And so, Anna the Protagonist(s) split into two aspects (somewhere in the movie, but my head will go all silly if I keep thinking about it), regarding Anna's failed relationship (and a lost baby), and her need for a modern working environment away from that past.
Still, this movie doesn't quite pull itself together, and I couldn't be sure if Anna had a psychological split personality, a split dimension situation where Anna actually did separate into two people (in that case she may have needed Dr Who!), or a plain vanilla circumstance of Anna reflecting on her past boyfriend dilemma, and sorting it all out by (some oddly) reflected memories. Or ultra paradoxically - all three! Oh dear, your head could go thwpt, thinking about it all! There are definitely complex flash backs, so this indicates Anna's memory is what is being seen here. But due to both Anna's communicating with 'themselves' and other characters in one time space, and also being accepted as two distinctive 'twins' - makes it difficult to assume this is 'all in the mind' stuff.
If anything, "Anna and Anna" could be compared to the US 1998 movie "Sliding Doors" with Gwyneth Paltrow, where one woman lived out two parallel lives, in different ways. But here, you are never sure of anything, as there is no emphasis on the psychological, paranormal or even memory. Its more a social situation. You don't get solid answers to this, I'm afraid. The only way to make any sense of this film, is to view it as an allegory (and it does feature a lot of 'art' references), so that what is happening, is what 'could' happen if you were able to meet yourself from the past (like Marty McFly), and rectify anything you wanted to resolve in the past. But only in surmising the reality as metaphor, and not regarding the 'story' as literal QED actuality. To try an make full sense out of all this is futile, and could leave you needing a new brain afterwards, as you will have worn your present one out! Its like trying to work out how one hand claps!
According to the "Making Of", this film is also supposed to be in regard of how women can resolve the past and present modern working lives, regarding the 'new woman' within the ever growing China, as like Anna in the past is a country girl artist and the modern Anna, a sexy looking business woman that could tread on your sandwiches at work, if they got in the way of her personal progress. But surely this would be a bit Spongebob Square Pants to use a scenario role model platform as this. Does a girl have to split into two, to get on!
Considering all this, though, is a difficult premise to work on, and Aubrey Lam and Karena do make a good looking and visually produced film here. Cinematography is so picturesque, featuring some lovely scenic structures with careful camera angles, warm lighting effects and scenery, that is very aesthetically dreamlike in places. The acting is carefully and delicately done, too, and I thought Lu Yi preformed a good role as the depressed Ouyang and Karena is always on form, but strangely lacking somewhat here, possibly due to such a mind blowing script! She looks gorgeous, though, as the modern Anna! But the plot is over produced. There is just no solidity here, its neither a proper psychological drama or an actual unusual phenomena situation, giving any addition to the nature of split personalities as interesting subject matter. I mean, split into two, due to a stressful situation? Jenny in Korean movie "Jenny, Juno" had a stressful situation when she discovered she was having a baby as a teenager, but she didn't split into two, either metaphorically of actually (mind you, her baby might have done, if Jenny had twins!). Sigh. You cannot fit things together properly, to thumbs up the plot! Its frustrating! Especially when you like Karena a lot, like me! Still, she will be back, and hopefully her next movie will be the one we were waiting for. Definitely! Go for it, Karena! "Anna v Anna" does have positive parts, though, and it can provoke food for thought on the ideas, after the finish.
DVD set by Delta is as excellent as always. No region worries, English subtitles to everything and the quality is superb! This can be worth seeing, but don't get any great expectations or a logical and befitting ending.
Happy Birthday (Hong Kong Version)August 29, 2007 Afraid of Love?
Although Mi celebrated her birthday by hearing Nam's distanced words over the telephone, when calling to wish Mi "happy birthday" - I wondered why she didn't get worried much about Christmas and Valentine's Days. They also can be lonely times when parted from someone you, deep down, really love. Was it more Mi's 'me' time, though, than a 'we' time, as she was afraid of total commitment with Nam and Christmas and Valentine's wouldn't be on the cards I guess, those being more committed relationship days. The main important aspect I found, though, with this movie is - confidence. A trust in another (and ourselves) and in many things other than mere love. Mi, played excellently by actress Rene Liu (I'm a fan now and she also wrote the short story this is based on) finds she cannot commit to a solid relationship with Nam, due to her personal inner un-certainties, so decides to have only a 'best friend' relationship with Nam. They pretty well then become more like a brother and sister in this regard. Mi then leaves for distant shores and gets only communications from Nam on her birthday's that she so eagerly awaits. Although Mi's confidence seems fragile, interestingly she gets increasingly skilled in playing the piano and practices to perfection, which she manages to accomplish as her goal without faltering. She doesn't seem to have compete lack of self confidence with accomplishments altogether - more to do with the unpredictability of intimacy with another human being (even one she knows well in Nam) that evokes her uncertainty. When she gets slight subtle doubts of a perfect romance towards Nam, its causes her distress and the shadow doubts of romantic failure. It balks her commitment. But I thought, that Mi's piano playing was somehow, a sort of way of her accomplishing, through music, a doorway to trust in the intangible and erratic nature of romance and relationship. The conclusion doesn't really suggest this, but her music confidence here is a good contrast to the theme.
In this film Mi and Nam's relationship is also very ordinary, not a pedestal 'up there in the clouds type of archetypal romance' in film, but an illustration of commonplace human contacts. Mi and Nam have a shyness in romance that is expressed in a reflection of everyday bumblings at things (like the out of tune karaoke singing and playful meal eating), which is what anyone can be like one time or another and a sort of 'every person' portrayal at how it can be when couples are tentative, coy, afraid and sometimes extremely uneasy about relationships. Mi does seem also to be within the modes of isolation, and in a minor key, is somewhat a remote individual afraid of losing to ideal love. The one thing that struck me, though, after watching "Happy Birthday" was that Mi's fear of commitment with Nam, by the ironic conclusion to the film - pretty well validates all her inner concerns by what happens in the end (trying to be vague here to avoid a spoily woily!). I thought after, though, that maybe Mi's fear of loss could have been looked on as prophetical.
It may not be, I'm just looking at the film as it stands, but its a melodramatic and ironic closer.
Overall, this movie is an interesting venture into the fragile heart of love. The acting is very well performed and both Rene and Louis are two pleasant and likable people that you can find frustrating that they cannot come together, due to Mi's almost paranoid nature. Or is it more stubbornness? The fractured styled editing and story telling will be the one area that could make this film a little difficult. It plays out with parallel scenes and flash backs that, in this case, are a bit too swift in pacing to cover quickly the 10 years of Nam and Mi's college days to present. But its an enjoyable film.