Reviews written by numinair
The Fox With Nine Tails (DVD) (Hong Kong Version)3 people found this review helpful
September 21, 2007 A Zany Comedic Horror
A bit of a golden older this from 1994, and in certain ways reminded me of the retro Hammer Horror by its cinematography style and Gothic appeal. Although categorized as a horror, it certainly isn't restricted to that genre as it also features madcap humor and some zany special effects, especially in scenes with the droll and witty Prisoner 69 who is sent out of Hell to capture the Nine Tail Fox. Its all freaky visuals and similar to comic books and anime, like where 69 gets run down by a truck and flattened like a pancake only for him to pop back up again "Looney Tunes" style (him not being alive anyway) and where he also sprints towards a building he thinks the nine tail is staying in, and when he stops - his trainer shoes spark skid to a sudden halt, cartoon style. Its all a zany horror this!
So Young Ko is certainly beautiful as the soul stealing vixen (except when she looks like a Klingon from Star Trek), although Harah is actually as old as a great great great great great gran by the fact that she is 999 years soulless (give or take a few greats!) and can only, by attaining Hyuk's soul, be the woman she pretends to emulate. Woo Sung Jung (who is also in "The Restless") plays the part of the taxi driver Hyuk, who Harah falls in love with and, I think, is both So Young and Woo Sung's debut movie, and one of a number they have both appeared together in. The horror antics are mildly satisfying and the mystical and colorful photography is quite pleasantly errie to satisfy the appreciation of the atmos in this. But as a whole, the film is played out with its tongue firmly in its cheek. The prisoner on a mission and his girlfriend are a comedy duo to the straight and dead pan Harah and Hyuk roles, making this a blend of satirical and drama/comedy. The parts are played well, too.
Probably not one of the better earlier horror/sci-fi types from S Korea. "Ghost in Love" is certainly a much better recommendation if you haven't seen that one yet, but this is okay for a bit of fun.
Magic (DVD) (End) (English Subtitled) (SBS TV Drama) (Korea Version)(3)Our Price: US$104.99List: US$136.99Save: US$32.00 (23%)3 people found this review helpful
September 19, 2007 Magic - The Trick of Love
By "Magic", this title will automatically bring to mind the slight of hand stage craft that you get with illusory magicians and a story surrounding that, but the plot and characters here are more in the realm of romantic dramas like "Phoenix" than magic being the central theme. The opening episodes are quite action packed, introducing the plot and central characters regarding Kang Jae's gangster father, but as the drama moves on 10 years, it soon swings more towards the usual tragic bitter love stories you are used too, and the magic elements are only slight. Its all an heady mixture of plot revelation surprises regarding tragic pasts, love tryst complications, teary soliloquies, bitter jealousies, broken homes and fractured parenting. Compared to "Phoenix", though, and although this drama lends towards very emotional conclusions, its no way as tearing as that heavy weight drama. It has far more lighter moments. Hyo Jin Kim who plays Dan Young is far chirpier and happy go lucky (to an extent) than Eun Joo Lee's character was in the Fire Bird, although Hyo Jin certainly performs well the tragic moments with the latter episodes. So if you like emotional dramas, but not extremely heavy ones, this could be appropriate, or if you loved "Phoenix", this would be near to that one's pathos.
It has some humorous moments, for me, though, like when the story moves 10 years on, not one of the characters had aged one bit, and ironically that Yun Jin's mother (Eung Kyung Lee) runs a cosmetic business producing anti-aging products and creams. Surely this lot must have shopped there often in the 10 year interim. Dong Won, though, certainly performs a quite cold and complex character as Kang Jae, and you're not always sure of his motives as the drama progresses. His main compulsion is to get on and prove that he can be somebody, and not be held back by the bad influences of his father, but his endeavors are calculative (he even casually dumps a girlfriend right at the beginning) and this paves the way for his relationship downfalls with Dan Young and Yun Jin (Ji Won Uhm). It becomes a drama of divides and bitter conflicts, as Kang Jae cannot decide who he should commit to. His own past constantly haunting him and stymies any romance he could have with Dan Young, which he feels he is being punished by God for, concerning this past. In this part of the drama, though, the plot can sometimes drag. I don't mean in a bad boring sort of way, as all the characters and events make it worthwhile to watch every episode, but the constant circle of bitter conflicting events don't move it on much until the end, and the characters take very negative attitudes sometimes, even considering some of the tragic circumstances they are subject too. There is no relenting or real forgiveness coming into play in "Magic". Its like they're banging emotions against each other's defensive walls, only for when the walls are down for the forgiveness to dissipate. In fact any such forgiveness seen is pretty well an illusion. Ironically, Kang Jea's father and Dan Young's friend Mi-rae are more sensible at times, than the major characters, and the magician Dae Hee is the most amiable and admirable.
Acting in this is really good. I like Kang Won and even though his performances are a bit more on the dark side lately, he is a fine and focused actor. Jin Woo Jang is another nice good actor and is a pleasant addition to this series. He gets his feet swept away by his love for Dan Young here, too (and certainly swept away in the "Evil Twin"), and is another very likable guy. Ji Won Uhm is impressive. Her acting is focused, especially near the end and she emotes with sincere and passionate desperation. But although her character is timid, she also adds the streak of bitterness that reflects her mother's harsh nature, regarding how Kang Jae is torn between her and Dan Young, and that's a subtle tact to her character. Hyo Jin is a live wire and easily likable and possibly to be the favorite in this. (I would like to see "Ice Girl" now). Her smiles and warmth are the contrast to Kang Jae's ice man. Supporting actors are good, too, like Kang Jae's father and Sun Ho's dad. They are all good! Music is also very good and the DVD set includes a separate 16 track OST CD slim-pack. Lots of nice songs, but the killer tracks for me are "Rainbow" (track 5) and "Yongwon" (track 10). Nice. Most of this OST is song based than incidental music, like the "Phoenix" one, and doesn't include the more melancholic pieces I like the best. Still, maybe a 2-CD version sometime.
With the ending mystery? I'll try to be as cryptic as possible. Sun Ho was in the same situation as Kang Jae, and his magic act was a farewell to Dan Young, but the film makers decided to segue her 'disappearance' into one last beach meeting with Kang Jae (she must have some insight of the Magic Circle). Think of what Dan Young silently said at the table with Kang Jae. With the key swallowing bit. If Kang Jae had lobbed the key into the sea, he would have emotively finished (symbolically) any connection with Dan Young, but he swallowed it instead, and keeps the memory of her inside him, unable to relent. But what was he going to do next? Well, there are two possibilities, but most likely he would have ended up in Surgeon Bong Dal Hee's hospital having the key removed from his tummy, knowing KJ's wobbly fate. Its not a high note, and seems un-rewarding, but I think its all about lessons never learned by the power (magic?) of negative love.
Hooked On You (DVD) (Hong Kong Version)1 people found this review helpful
September 17, 2007 Delicious Romantic Comedy
This is a wonderfully made romantic comedy drama that has good funny moments, some heartfelt scenes and two strong main players. Miriam Yeung and Eason Chan are superb as the two frustrated romantics. Set in a time span from 1997 right up to 2007 reflecting the 10 year anniversary of the HK handover, it mainly traces the life of fish market trader Miu (Miriam) and her desire to better her life style, after paying off her father's debts and to find an 'up market' guy and get married before she hits 30.
The film is credited as being one of a series of Handover movies, when Hong Kong became part of Mainland China, although the change over theme is only briefly mentioned (equivalent of an actor's cameo). As the film moves along there is also the financial crash, the SARS scare, that are also similarly featured as backdrops to the excellent romantic aspects of the film. The comedy is kooky, droll and very funny, especially with the Fortune Market traders and their soap opera type shenanigans. They're all a lightly crazy, well meaning bunch with a healthy camaraderie towards one another. At one stage the traders become disillusioned when a modern Supermarket opens taking trade away from them, and so the Fortune Market traders attempt to compete by introducing comparative offers. Like bringing in shopping trolleys, giving out special offer tokens, sample try-before-you buy fish dishes and a delivery service. But, all goes terribly wrong when their regular customers, trying out all the fish samples, keep eating all the goodies but don't actually buy anything, and the market center then gets busted by the police after the shopping trolleys are found to be swiped from the Supermarkets by some of the FM traders. Also, a regular upmarket lady who always seems to inform Miu how she is living the high life, getting married and having a baby (and always annoying Miu!) demands a trader to take her two food bags home, due to the new delivery service - which he agrees to do. But as soon as he carries the bags outside the market, he flings them outside on to the pavement. The delivery service! Of courser the frustration of the traders of not quite getting the panache of the Supermarket methods is good reason, I suppose, for their lack of subtlety.
As a whole, this movie is about Miu's struggle to make ends meet, pay off her debts and find that Mr Gold at the end of the rainbow. But the film isn't just a focus on self improvements, but eventual realizations of how love and caring can be un-seen visible aspects amidst the struggles of life and the people you're with, and in hindsight, are far more valuable than that perceived rainbow. Even within the hard and competitive market trader's environment that Miu has to contend and compete with, she finds friendship and pro-offered love when Fish's affections for her are given. She cannot love Fish as a trader, as he is part of what she wants to escape from, and she desires the Upper Echelons of society trends, nullifying any possible benefit of the doubt for Fish. To say more about the touching and poignant romantic scenes would spoil things, and there are many such moments that only a 'proof of the pudding by eating' can justify. I can safely say, though, that this is one rewarding and fulfilling movie. I certainly recommend it and its wonderfully acted by Miriam and Eason. Eason's character in way reminded me of one of Bum So Lee's lovable bumpkin types, but Eason is as equally as good here. Try this one, its gentle and not at all a heavy romance and if you can handle the site of an eel getting the chop (ooh, that Mr Eel needs one good acting union official here! In fact, did they use a stunt eel actor?), you should really enjoy this. You get 4 photos, too!
Simply Actors (DVD) (Hong Kong Version)3 people found this review helpful
September 11, 2007 Quality Acting from Charlene
When I first saw Jim Chim it was as the excellent bank clerk in "Escape From Hong Kong Island" which, for me, I found to be a very funny comedy. Along with Chapman To who played the policeman constantly tailing Raymond Mak, it had some funny classic moments. This movie I was anticipating being somewhat the same, and a comedy satire it certainly is. Mainly, its all a self effacing satire about the HK movie industry in many ways. There's a vast cast of HK cameos with familiar faces throughout - Isabella Leong, Eric Tsang, Fiona Sit, DJ Sammy amongst many others (although no Gillian Chung, ironically). But this film is so raving starkers and 'out there', especially by the exaggerated character of Man Long, that you'll wonder if the title of this film should have been "Simply Loonies", after the closing credits. Its bonkers, it really is! If you ever want to be an actor, be warned, as you don't want to try what they do here at home. Not without good supervisions from a wizened mystic, anyway. I wanted to title this "Super Actors", relating to Charlene's last film (I know, that makes us Simply Fans) but its too crazy!
Jim Chin, though, performers well as an exaggerated arts performer, needing to improve his under cover police work and so gets enrolled into an acting school (exaggerating even the hand over 'face masking' procedures - sad/happy - bonkers/normal - I'm in this film/don't know if I should be - etc, etc, etc). Charlene also acts a lot more mature as a soft core skin star (ironically, considering her character type) and certainly she's more strikingly improved here. You can tell a paradigm shift in her presentation, facial expressions and presence - and maybe in an up and coming film, she could perform a very interesting part. "Diary" is still her best one to date, though. Here her acting is very good, but can only seem like a rehearsal for the next big thing by the nature of this film - as her quality cannot get enough scope here. Charlene's part is also more risque, too, not in any way tasteless, but you may be embarrassed if you decide to invite your gran around for a family video watch. At one point she appears in a skin flick, written by her aspiring manager (DJ Sammy here) called "Lord of the Drains" and plays the part of a house wife needing her plumbing fixed (stereotypically a bit like a Carry On film innuendo, but without Sid James' laugh). Man Long helps her by appearing as the plumber (due to Dani and Man Long becoming good chums at the art acting school) and visual innuendos commence. "To fit or not to fit, that is the question". Well, there is Shakespeare featured in this film and that line could have been appropriate- the mind boggles. (That was the edited version)
The most interesting part is when Man Long meets the stage janitor (Anthony Wong) and how he can more understand the art of none exaggerated performance by observing people in real life situations. By watching people faze in and out of an 'act' in everyday circumstances. Here its done with a lot of cameo actors ironically performing 'ordinary' folk and parodying cliches from other types of film events. Its all mad cap in this, though, and nothing heavily philosophical, but it leaves room for thought. That we ourselves are actors - changing our voices sometime on the telephone to impress, dressing in 'character' when you hit the town's nightlife or performing when giving speeches.
Although I'd love to recommend this and I'm sure Charlene fans will love her part in this (no doubt), I think this is only going to be a luke warm movie as a whole - and its mad, mad, mad. Lots of faces to spot. Okay, no Gillian (surprisingly) regarding the Twins Factor, but I think, this time, Gillian may hold the better card with her up and coming horror flick "Naraka 19" as this film is going to be difficult to rate approvingly. But keep yo eyes on Charlene - she is getting more sophisticated in her portrayals and could just hit a real gem in the near future.
The Peony Pavilion1 people found this review helpful
September 4, 2007 Ghost of a Dream
Although this film is based on a classic 16th century Chinese play by Tang Hsien Tsu (and I ain't clever I looked that up on the internet), this story is a modern tale of inner lost love, but relates to that great Chinese story. As this classic would take a web site to talk about, I'll stick here with the humble rendition in this movie. Featuring lightly supernatural elements, it begins with a young girl named Li Li who constantly has recurring dreams about a male scholar (a very androgynous one) who she falls deeply in love with, but when awake, finds herself unable to locate the same happiness in her dream, and yearns to find this dream love in waking reality. She confides in her school friend about her loneliness and tries to date a young man she believes could be the scholar of her dream, but it comes to no avail. As she eventually realizes that she can only find this 'ideal love' in her slumber, she gets more obsessed, isolated and withdrawn, as she tries to attain what isn't real. Eventually, she seeks religious help, but commits suicide by the pressure of not being able to live in reality with the physical love of the scholar - the idee fixe of her dream. Three years later, a singer named Yuk Mui (Rene Liu) coincidentally moves into the apartment where the young girl had lived and after moving in, begins to see Li Li's ghost in a mirror reflection. Yuk Mui, who also has emotional and romantic problems with her record producer lover, becomes likewise absorbed by the ghost's spiritual distress and begins to be possessed by Li Li's spirit, finding herself within the pavilion of her dream.
Emotively, this light supernatural tale is quite a touching and haunting tale. In certain ways, for me anyway, it brought the Korean film "Memento Mori" to mind, with the roof top suicide and hints of gender confusion with the effeminate and emotionally yearning love relationship in Li Li's dream. Based on the classic Chinese play, the abstract dream sequence is played out like a mime with the environment of the pavilion, although here could have been more empathetical and atmospheric to make more indelible the feelings Li Li had. The theatrical dream of symbols of love are representative, but not immediately haunting or as felt to give you similar feelings of what Li Li's emotions are. Its theme about a pubescent girl in distress of not finding 'true love' is universally seen by a mechanism of how a void can be filled by dreams to circumvent a feeling of loss. But although the dream is based on classic literature and theatrical mime, this film is certainly absorbing, haunting and interesting.
Rene plays a singer herself, when she eventually appears a third the way through, and performs quite a nice song as the singer Yuk Miu (even prompting me to get a couple of her albums) and showing a high talent with her acting. The film's cinematography is like an arty styled filmic version of an HD camera type, with scenes shot from long angles and in grainy mid-darkness tones to give a claustrophobic and haunting insolative feel, especially in Li Li's apartment. As a whole, it feels like a low budget edit, but nevertheless, is well made and intrigues the more you watch. The supernatural elements are more representative of sensitive issues about young love, a classic for the modern age, and by the juxtaposition of fantasy elements, classic literature and of how young people can sometimes find ideals in impossible relationships (although never say die!). Like a person falling in love with a singer or film star, the past or a 'perfect' ideal outside of reality - like a dream. The final close to this film shows this, albeit a supernatural theme involved. Food for thought this one, and worth seeing if you have never come across it before. To get more insight I believe the classic Chinese play of "The Peony Pavilion" would be worth looking at, too.
The Evil Twin (DVD) (Korea Version)2 people found this review helpful
September 3, 2007 Evil? Awe, its only Sadako
As a movie this is more a dramatization similar to a theatrical play than a Korean ghost movie you will be used to, and a majority of this film features a high percentage of dialog and soliloquy than creepy atmospherics. The cinematography, though, does portrait some interesting atmospherics near the beginning, with a misty, eerie and quite dreamlike large lake panning across the screen that stimulates an alien historical setting, and other parts of the Korean landscape feature throughout. Still, this film is more a costumed drama of a past Joseun period Korea that could similarly be put alongside related films like the Japanese "Shikoku" and "Inugami" as to what to expect thematically. Not in story, but in the landscapes, period dress and traditions about old myths with the supernatural element included. It has been said, that an historically featured Korean movie, drawing from her past traditions, would be a great idea for a ghost story (and certainly is) and this movie, historically, is well made in that respect. The period dress and traditional domestic chores that would have been performed in a royal household, are showcased well here. But, to throw a spanner into that idea, this film (again) uses the "Sadako" ghost cliche of the white gowned girl with long black hair doing her 'ringu' thang in a bath, in the woods and in barns to terrorize the various local victims, but all counter acting an idea to move away from that formula and use Korean traditional type motifs for a newer form of horror. Sadako..she just won't take that skin improving and hair replenishing holiday, will she? Or is she having a holiday here in the Joseun period?
Still, by using the Girl in White again, its more the fact that this is another vengeful ghost of a betrayed girl (again) and, here, the ghost of one of two twins. Because the ghost is of a girl from a distinguished royal household, who was to be betrothed in marriage before being drowned in an accident, the idea, here, is that the ghost was once a virtuous girl (apart from the fact that she wants revenge). She's royal and pure. So, the ideal image of purity in a girl is of virginal white bridal robed (for marriage) and the dark hair of maidenhood. So, a logical distortion of this purity is to twist it into grotesque and sinister imagery. Then, you have the bedraggled and mangy white robe as a gray shroud of hopelessness, tangled and straggly hair of insanity and revenge and a form that is bent and double jointed into multiple distortions to create this archetypal shade of evil. So, why use another depiction when you've got the creme de la creme of awfulness? You'll have to ask the directors, there, who all seem equally possessed by her. Another 'Clone from the Ring/King' of white robed horror? Well, to use a twist on that pun about 'King and the Clown/Ring and the Clone', this film is certainly nearer the KATC's time frame.
One funny bit appears near the end when the 'evil' (cough, Sadako) ghost grabs one of the male characters (performed by Jin Woo Yang and coincidentally, for me, as I'm watching him in the SBS series "Magic" at the moment) and drags him into a barn to face his fate (which I won't reveal). Yes, I did say funny, as I'm sure that, although this scene was meant to be scary, the dramatic speed he's grabbed by the ankles, pulled to the ground and the camera at nose level showing a shocked and grimaced face, will cause more mirth than gasp, shock, horror and ye Gods! I think, though, due to the cliche of such scenes, the director didn't feel that it mattered much. Overall, this is a very well made movie with highly implemented styled and quality acting (Shin Hye Park is good as the royal twins), top cinematography, but for the script and the pacing, which is okay, I still don't think this will have the wide spread appeal for audiences interested in the horror genre, who will expect more from a ghost flick like this - especially an historical Korean set one. But this film is more a period drama than horror, and if you like period dramas you may like this a lot more than the horror fan will. For a Jae Hee fan - he plays a would be husband and as husbands go, he isn't in the drama a great deal. I still feel that a horror / ghost film featuring Korea's ancient past will be made as a classic chiller, but, alas, I don't feel this is the one here.
Gangster High Special Edition (DVD) (Korea Version)
Gangster High Special Edition (DVD) (Korea Version) DVD Region 3(2)Our Price: US$19.99List: US$25.99Save: US$6.00 (23%)2 people found this review helpful
August 31, 2007 Boys of Steel
If there is a film that proves to me that vengeance is an emotion that leads to regretful tragedy, its showcased to a fine point in the finale here. About school rivalry and gang warfare set in the early Busan 90s, its an excessively violent movie and not for the gentle hearted. Brilliantly performed, excellently filmed and a palm sweating experience as you anticipate extreme confrontations by the introduction - you know its all going to get bad as one guy is banged up in prison for murder, just before the story flash backs to the events. I liked the opener, when a couple of feuding lads begin to fight on the school soccer field, only for Jae Gu (Tae Seong Lee) to step in and cool the situation as he recognizes all involved as numerous school friends in the past, and tells them to make up and be friends. They even, just after this point, sit around a quaint cafe table and sip tea together. (If you put this scene with the bloody last one, alongside each other, you would find it hard to believe they were from the same film). All these guys then decide to become the self named "Tigers", led by Sang Ho (Kyung Ho Jung - from "Herb") and a benign gang of high school chums that end up looking after each other's backs, after a none benign gang called East High, cross dangerous paths with them. A lot of the film is shot within alleyways, cafes, pool halls and outside places, than actual high school environments. Mainly, the story plot is simple - a gang of passive friends become embroiled into violence, after one of the group becomes romantically involved with the ex-girl friend of the East High leader.
The violence here is certainly very rough, not the nastiest you will have seen in film, but certainly unpleasant enough not to be for all audiences. There are two nasty fight sequences near the middle and the end that wont leave your immediate conscience after watching. These are brutal and bloody confrontations that further the ante that came with "Once Upon a Time in High School", but, here, the blood letting results in pure vengeance and the bitter taste that succumbs just doesn't have the same sublimity and equal camaraderie of that classic movie. The main group, though, have very good charismatic appeal, especially between Sang Ho and Jae Gu, and are highly convincing survivors. But the psychotic level of the East High gang leader introduces a mania to this film making the 'special magic' that came with "Once Upon a ..." very absent here. No sweet music or romance this time. Its a much more colder and ferocious affair, where the fighting is concerned. In fact near the end, I found that there is a 'situation' that happens to one of the group that becomes fatal (and instigates the final 'bloody scene') that I think was an alternative scene, so to dampen a more violent episode worser than the final one. Even the final one is also dampened, somewhat, by phases to black and white and slow motion. There is a bit of romance where Hee Jin Jang as Su Hee, and the ex-girl friend of the East High gang leader, falls for Sang Ho, but unlike "Once Upon A .." or "He's So Cool" etc., the romance is so swamped by the metal male fight club mania that any romance offered in this becomes an absolute zero. Hee Jin is a pretty actress and reminded me a lot of Ji Hyun Jeon from "My Sassy Girl"
The extras can be somewhat relieving. To watch all the contrasting humane and more familiar amiabilities that these actors have with each other, dampens and grounds your emotions after the bloody finale. A lot of the Making Of, too, is quite visual so that the subtitling omissions aren't that much of a problem. Good film, and from interesting director Ki Hyung Park who made "Whispering Corridors", but this time a more gritty and harsher viewing. Look out also, though, for Kyung Ho Jung in a romantic/supernatural film "For Eternal Hearts" coming soon where he appears with the ultra ex- school gal, Min Sun Kim (Memento Mori) which sounds good.
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.
49 Days (DTS Version) (Hong Kong Version)1 people found this review helpful
August 24, 2007 Period Drama, Comedy, Ghosts
This is another supernatural film that interested me as I used to read about the astral plane and OOB experiences, Sylvian Muldoon's 1920s OOB experiences etc., and this film reflects a lot of that in the supernatural parts here. As a film you get a serious period drama, dream wrapped around by the antics of a somewhat un-hinged comedy and the topical supernatural elements. The un-hinged bits provided by the goofish antics of Gillian and Boy'z singer Steven Chung. At the outset, its a pretty serious period drama where Lau Sing (Stephen Fung) decides to temporally leave his wife, daughter and rural home to begin working at his own pharmacy business in the big city, and whilst there, after a tragic staged fire at his premises, he is then framed (by the fire starter perpetrator Pang Sei - played well by Raymond Wong) for killing seven of his partners. Lau Sing gets jailed for manslaughter and his Judas of a partner decides to obtain the companies insurance deeds for his benefit. That's the beginning, and quite the sombre drama you can expect of its type. Its real period drama. But where the mirthful side kicks in, sort of like 'quickly taking the record needle off the serious classical music', is when Gillian enters the picture. Be very afraid here, as she's....a comedy lawyer. It has been said that as the lawyer role in this film, Gillian isn't quite cutting the mustard, but her role is more satirized, and not an attempt for her to perform a serious court drama role, and in essence, her part is meant to be another extension of her sweet comedy wit. She's supposed to be funny and a pants lawyer - not Jodie Foster. This hints strongly when Gillian first is seen in the film at her father's outdoor spiritual ceremony - he desires the necessary spiritual surroundings to be in place and un-disturbed by negative forces - but when Gillian goes off to, eh, give some flowers and grass some watering to relieve herself, she breaks the services' spiritual ambiance and evokes black crows to fly amongst the ceremony attendees - literally disturbing nature by her having a wee! (A bit "Matrix" and Clamp's anime "X", I thought, with these crows. So that's why they spook frantically like that - they cannot stand the aroma of wee!). So, Gillian puts her foot in it, as a bumbling water virgin, I mean, lawyer who hasn't solved a murder inquiry in her limited career, but is recommended by Lau Sing's prison guard (played by Boy's Steven Chung) to solve the frame up. So, by that snapshot its all a mixture of serious drama and tomfoolery antics.
The story does eventually move towards interesting supernatural bits. The fact that Gillian (the comedy lawyer) who is supposed to rescue Lau Sing at his eleventh hour, by attending his court case to reveal evidence, fails to turn up as she falls into a hole in the ground. Whilst unconscious, remaining in a a semi-coma, she then becomes aware of herself in the astral plane. Its Out of Body Experience time. Lau Sing also then enters into the realm of the 49 days (7 times 7 the repeat of his death) and try's to locate his wife and daughter he left at the village all those hours back in the beginning of the film, and to which he finds now as a desolate and errie ghost town. This part of the film, where Gillian and Lau Sing 'ghost' back into his home village, are the best parts of the movie. In the Chinese tradition the rhino horn evokes the visibility of the ghost presence when lit (or wax candles a lot in this film) and the aspect of the afterlife by the 49 days of Lau Sing finding the portal to infinity (heaven) before those days are over. Its all a supernatural oddity, never becoming any sort of court drama of questions and answers (Gillian sees to that by falling into the dodgy hole) to jail the perpetrator to the arson of Lau Sing's pharmacy business.
Although it isn't an overall bad piece of entertainment this cannot be highly recommended, as it can let down in areas where it could have excelled, and its mixture of serious drama and comical bits don't always mix well. The young actress who plays the role of Lau Sing' daughter, though, is very well played and it seems she carried on these skills well after the cameras had stopped rolling, by watching the making of. She's another little gutsy actress like the young girl in the Korean "Phone" movie. The DVD is another good one as it not only as no region problems, there are also good English subtitles for all the extras on the second disk (except for a few CNN bits) and you get a bit of insight to the traditional mysticism of the film in these extras. Interesting part about the prophetical dream the guy had. Overall,a bit of fun with serious bits that go bump in the night.
Cheaters (DVD) (Korea Version)1 people found this review helpful
August 22, 2007 Romantic's Pleasure Principals
Although this movie is a very well made farcical drama (with bits of comedy), well acted and shot etc., its not exactly a thematic I'm in love with. I really enjoyed "A Day for an Affair" movie as it included humorous contrasts by the two main couples featured and overall I found that film's self effacing slap on its own wrist, for showing such human behavior, endearing. This movie, though, is all about the nature of multiple cheating in relationships (and without any form of reservations much) with 6 charlatans cheating their way through several segmented parts (each focusing on one character) and telling fibbers to their respecitve other halves, so as to meet other fresh partners - and not to merely count the stars at night either. They cheat - they bed - they dread being caught! Obviously, this lot didn't attend "The Honest School of Relationships Indoctrinate Course" by the way their cell phones keep calling out to their third parties. Interestingly made, though, it begins with two opposite sex couples, Seok Ho and Chae Yung, venturing into a possible relationship as Seok Ho, after a drinking session, decides to call Chae Yung to begin dating. So they meet up, drive around, consider furthering the relationship (amongst Seok Ho moaning that Chae Yung wont let him have any sex) up to a point where Seok Ho discovers that the girl he is setting his heart on (don't be fooled by the sentiments though), is suddenly seeing another guy. Oooooooh! The film then reveals, as it moves into the second part, other glimpses of what you have already watched, but with this other third party character entering the picture - revealing 'cheating' elements of Chae Yung you didn't see before. This continues in this fashion with the other parts, and six characters, as they all enter the 'cheat mix' proceedings and it all gets ever more tangled and complicated as the 'relationships' continue in this...cheating fashion. Its all drama parody, loosely patterned like an Oscar Wilde farce, in a way.
But, its cleverly written this. Its very well scripted and performed with actors Choi Won Young (who was also in Sex is Zero) and for that I would certainly rate this film highly, its just I didn't fall entirely in love for its charms. I mean, its all about over riding love for fast and irresponsible relationships that burn the candle at both ends and generally go nowhere. Plus, it all reflects a cynical pattern towards mis-trust and negative pre-meditated attitudes for partnerships. It does have some charm, though, and some bits are quite funny and the nature of the cheating here is, I suppose, pretty well a set of human idiosyncrasies, that by its satire, cannot be judged entirely as reflecting what people do in real life. It shows interviews with students (although actors) at the beginning about cheating (like the film "Interview" did with romance), and people may cheat in relationships, yes, but surely not like this film. Its too comic strip to take all too seriously and as a mirror of actual reality. It also suggests that cheating in relationships and getting caught leaving egg on the face, sometimes as lessons aren't completely learned. I'm not sure these guys here take heed of the fallible out come. But, I found this cheating malarkey a bit hum drum, and after watching an entire film about this subject alone, and not just as an element, I was getting a wee bit tired by the end of it all. Its a film I think a lot will like for a bit of of titillation (it is well made!), but it all depends if you really want to chum up with Cheaters for 1 and half hours of your life. Some scenes are explicit here and there, so some viewers may be limited in watching this with certain company. Great acting, great script, very well made film - I'm probably being boring - but, its cheating, innit? And you certainly wouldn't want to leave the room in between playing a game of draughts or chess with this lot. Arf.
Kidnap (2007) (DVD) (Hong Kong Version)1 people found this review helpful
August 20, 2007 A Dynamic Acting Duo
When I recently commented on "Silk" here that Karena needed a bit more acting room with her next movie, I didn't have a clue this one was coming up and also a film directed by the man behind "Koma" and "Inner Senses" - Law Chi Leung. Blimey, that was quick! I've really anticipated seeing this now, too, as I enjoyed "Koma" as a well made film and the first time I had ever seen Karena. This film also has the fantastic talents of Rene Liu, who I have only recently discovered, and she is also one great actress!
This film is a bit unusual though - but, first and foremost, its a great action thriller and don't be put off certain aspects about it - just don't expect too much. About a cat and mouse twister of police and kidnap plots, and of how the nature of desperation in a woman can lead to unpredictable circumstances when survival and life are under threat. In this case, a child kidnapped for ransom money to provide for dance teacher Hiu Yeung's (Karena) sick husband and his expensive medical treatment. Its a double desperation, and strangely ironic, that initially you have Hiu Yeung being helped by police lady Yuen Chun (Rene), with the kidnapping of her own brother, for it to go all terribly wrong. Hiu Yeung, then, three years on, decides herself to accomplice kidnapping a rich business man's son, to provide the money for her husband's treatment. It all plays out as a series of ironic plot elements about kidnapping that, unfortunately, turns a bit farcical at the end. What interested me about this film, though, was the initial kidnap. Why Hiu Yeung's brother? Now, for me, if Hiu Yeung had a son that was kidnapped in the intro, instead of it being her brother, and that 3 years on when pursuing the kidnap plot to help her husband, it could have opened up a more logical and psychological elements; that these two blows to her life had lead her to resort to an un-natural action of obtaining what she initially loved - a child. Normally, a woman doesn't want to hurt a child emotionally or physically, but her losing a son it could have woven better into the plot. She loved her brother, but she kidnaps a child here. Nevertheless, you never really get to discover the 'inner why' of Karena's character, and her reason for kidnapping to obtain money like this. If it was to partly get back at the police lady (Rene) for failing to help in her brother's kidnapping, she could have vented by merely letting Yuen Chun's car tyres down, as the outcome to her loss wasn't the police lady's fault. So, her brother is lost at the beginning and that's it - 3 years after, the plot only thinly connects with Hiu Yeung's brother's kidnap.
Still, don't let that worry you as this film, otherwise, is very good. You will enjoy this, but don't expect an additional psychological drama. Karena plays well here and definitely, if she had more depth to her character, she would have delivered it without a problem. Rene's role is also very well performed, too, as the police lady who is embroiled in the child kidnap. She's a great actress! Her character is limited also for her to expand upon here, but her relationship with her ex-husband and at times her break down scenes (don't want to say why here) of her own dilemma, is just top quality excellence. After this, I even imagined Rene in a Lady Vengeance role (different to the police lady I guess) and could envisage her doing one incredible character.
The final scenes do get a bit farcical. If you have seen "The Matrimony" there's another abnormal CGI blooper that over does things (what fizzy pop is this CGI Dept on! Really guys!) Still, this film is well made, brilliantly acted and could have been an absolute gem. Its like the A.F.R.I.C.A. syndrome, which was the 4 girl road movie that could have been a gem, too, but being tepid and plot weak with a lopped off ending, failed to become what it should have been - so, too, is "Kidnap". The ingredients are all there for a masterpiece, and a character study for both female leads, but is only a mild action thriller that you will enjoy, but won't get a great insight from. The DVD, though, chums up nicely with your player, no matter what its region code, and also the "Making of" and "Trailer" has additional English subtitles. Also, 4 great actual photos are included (not prints! photos!) which is nice. Nice hair cut, too, Karena!
Meet Mr. Daddy (DVD) (Special Edition) (Limited Edition) (Korea Version)(1)Our Price: US$26.99List: US$35.99Save: US$9.00 (25%)1 people found this review helpful
August 14, 2007 Father Figured by Love
There seems to be a throng of Korean 'father' themed movies doing the rounds this year (2007) : "My Son", "Bunt", "The Show Must Go On" to name the main ones and this little gem here. I haven't seen the others yet (although all have been decently rated) but this is certainly another pretty good movie. Story is a mixture of family entertainment, drama, quirky humor and touching emotion and inevitably a sad melodramatic finish, but its all well acted and a solid script. Mostly its the double act of the Mr Daddy and his young daughter that steals the show in this. Expect, though, some nasty gangster bits sporadically throughout, but in the main its a movie about affectionate love of the heart and a transforming process of a man getting to redeem his criminal past by a little girl's love for him.
Call me Homer Simpson, but when I first began to watch this film it took me some time before I realized Shin Yang Park was the same actor who also performed in the two films "Indian Summer" and "The Un-invited" (probably 'cause he was minus his spectacles here) and his role as an half witted eccentric and quirky gangster stooge is far removed from those two professional career people he previously portrayed. His acting is fantastic in this, too, and his highly convincing character emerges as a mixture of the rough edged diamond who seems out of his gourd and an often humorous hard fallen gambling criminal with added compassion when he discovers he has a lost daughter from a previous relationship, after an orphanage teacher tracks him down in jail. Although reluctuant to take in the child to begin with, he eventually agrees (when the sensitive teacher gets upset) and takes his daughter into his ramshackle home that looks like a steel container from a long distance vehicle - on stilts.
Seo Shin Ae who is the little actress who plays his daughter is a gem to watch and who is so focused, receptive, expression full and adorably cute at her role that you'll naturally want to adopt her for yourself after watching this. She immediately shows so much love to Jong Dae who she wishes to live with and never seems to show disapproval at any of her father's habits (apart from when she is left with JD's friend...then she becomes a bit of a grumpy boots) or even his criminal back ground. She joins in with his kooky daily routines, too - practicing his bull fighting skills, teeth clacking exercises and a single egg breakfast. She loves him unconditionally and a key element to this film here. She also loves football and has this film is set in the 2002 Football World Cup, she wishes her father to take her to see Korea win at the finals. It must be difficult to find an actress like this with so much energy and timing and her natural finesse and sweet nature will steal your heart by the end of the film. There is a catch in the end, though, about the daughter, but I think compliments the overall message than becoming an annoying truth, and its shows how love itself is more important than a mere blood bond. This is also one of those movies where you will need the tissues and I don't want to say any more, but sad movie it is. Very recommend and heartfelt film.
The Wonder Years (DVD) (Limited Edition) (Korea Version)(1)Our Price: US$19.99List: US$25.99Save: US$6.00 (23%)1 people found this review helpful
August 13, 2007 Home is Where the Heart Is
This is a film that I can definitely recommend highly with no shadow of a doubt, as its a gem of a drama. The film production is a moderate indie HD film, not arty as such or a mainstream attractor, but such a film with fluidity and easy to get into, its like a breath of fresh air. About a young 13 year old teenage girl named Su-ah, who cannot relate or find proper happiness with friends and remote to her single mother, all due to shock after her father had died two years previous. She also believes that a top Seoul singer is her real mother, as a form of escapism from the banality of her every day teen life. Su-ah is played excellently by Se Young Lee (who has been in "Lovely Rivals") and the cast overall is on top acting performance. Sang Mi Choo as Su-ah's mother is perfectly honed as the struggling single mum and her amiable boyfriend (that Su-ah disapproves of) is also played out nicely, too. Although a budget picture shot in High Definition (like "My Scary Girl") the film's overall production quality is high and the pacing and cinematography is very comfortable to slip into giving the movie a pleasant appeal as you watch (even though its about a sad young girl) and doesn't lean to any form or documentary 'shaky camera' style or fast cut editing that sometime HD can do. Its all a sublime and gently edited movie that projects quite intimate feelings of the characters, without either becoming a sort of kitchen sink drama or putting Su-ah under a patronizing microscope and trying to assess everything about her sombre nature. The story unfolds itself by showing, through the eyes of Su-ah, her day to day life as she befriends similar circumstanced kids, but constantly tries to find happiness by believing a performance singer on TV is actually her mother. She daydreams a lot (and who hasn't done that....if there were no day dreamers there would be no movies etc..) and the film's surreal scenes of this singer appearing to Su-ah in her room, at a police station, on a girl friend's face at a sleep over, on a train journey etc., reveal the needful want and required happiness Su-ah seeks, when at times she sees this 'golden glow' of happiness, this pseudo mother/star she craves - and to make her smile.
There is quite a lot of Korean market life and intricate snap shots of their culture in this, too, that reveals a certain insight of sociability with the people in the town the girl lives in. Although this film will seem a bit humdrum and certainly somber by the sad nature of Su-ah - this movie does, in the finish, have a good positive ending in a similar fashion to Korean films like "Herb" and " I Wish I Had A Wife", although more lighter to the latter. In fact although Su-ah is sad, the ironic surroundings to her life are contrastingly up beat (her mother struggles but is positive) like with the kid who works for his father's DVD shop and her mother's boyfriend who all seem to want to help Su-ah in subtle ways.
The final premise of the movie, by the experiences of this young girl, is that sometimes we can look in far away 'places' for people or 'things' that seem like 'stars' that hold all the gold over the rainbow and could seem to fulfill utmost dreams if they were part of that dreamers own life. Yet, the main realization, by the conclusion, is that the people who really love and matter to us are most immediate, and the ones already close to us - our families, friends and loved ones. The film, though, doesn't neglect the fact that sometimes life is difficult, like with the girl Su-ah befriends at the beginning whose brother tormented her and, for her, 'home' wasn't always a peaceful haven. I really recommended this - you really have to watch this in your own way, but its certainly a film worth more than 5 stars. It may not be a movie of high romance or a feature of top 'star lites', but what you do get is a very enchanting, albeit humdrum, story. Don't miss it!
The Matrimony (DVD) (Hong Kong Version)1 people found this review helpful
August 10, 2007 Ghosts in Exquisite Rooms
If ever you wanted to see an exquisite and ornate ghost movie, I think you will find your revelation here in "The Matrimony". This is probably one of the most gorgeously decorative films I have seen and within such a lushly detailed 1930s Shanghai period setting. Shen Junchu's (Leon Lai) family mansion is so enchantingly lit by soft and vivid golden copper color hues and deep blue lighting and with the richly ornate ceiling shots of Sansan's bed room it all makes for a beautifully haunting film. Character dress is complimentary with period finery and fashionable flapper bob hair for Manli. Although this sounds more like a period drama (and it is at the beginning), the film does quickly move towards the supernatural atmosphere you would expect; Gothic mansion and crawling bats with grim sky backdrops, scary jumps and creepy music (you will certainly get into the groove right from the opening credits). But its not overplayed (cliches are once only in the main) or leaning towards a ringu overdose of white faced girls and long black hair (Manli's ghost has a bobbed hair style in this...so maybe a new trend at last!). Although the cliches are here, its more within a Chinese folk tale ambiance.
Although about ghost haunting and possession, this is essentially a tragic love story due to the fatalistic death of Manli by a car accident (and screamingly over the top CGI here!) and of her haunting love for Junchu, who she was finally to marry on that fatal day she died (Junchu couldn't make up his mind whether to marry her - all obliquely told as an intro by Manli herself at a radio station) and a year on at Junchu's family mansion, Manli's spectral format attempts to reach him through his present wife Sansan by possessing her. Junchu is blindly in love with Manli and pays little interest in his new wife by arranged marriage. One interesting (ghostly) aspect I found in this is the communique between Manli's ghost and the forlorn Sansan, as although you do get the unusual blue lit feet-descending-into-view first floating ghost and misty smoked apparition, Manli's spectral conversations in the main with Sansan are more natural and played down and she looks mostly as she did before she died (in a vamp red dress) - and by their friendliness, you could almost imagine these two women chatting about the latest fashion and eateries on the outset, but as the truer nature of Manli is revealed and her nasty objective to possess the body of Sansan so as to physically reach Junchu, you begin to get slabs of ringu vehemence by Manli's nastier side. But as mentioned, this isn't the usual Grudge or Korean horror, but more a muted periodic ghost tale. It gets more grisly at the end however.
Acting is all excellent, but due to the less richly detailed story telling has limited scope, but Rene Lui as Sansan is the centered character here and one skillful actress (cannot wait to see her now in "Kidnap" with fav of mine Karena Lam). In fact Rene looks so haunting herself in a Zhang Ziyi sort of way as Sansan, you could well imagine her performing a very errie ghost herself. Both Leon Lai and Fan Bingbing's characters are also well played, but do have limited pallets to flesh out the characters. It all a very interesting film and I read that director Teng Huatao also made a re-make of the Korean drama "Ditto" before this. The technical artistry to this film with the 1930's period props are like the needle work of Sansan (she is a seamstress) - so richly detailed. Its mansion settings are like a very expensive chocolate box. If you're going to be a ghost in the house, this is the place to be. The ending is a bit of a twister regarding the opener to the film (I won't say how or why), but I had also read it was due to the Chinese aspect of playing down the supernatural movie element. I guess, though, that to underplay the supernatural and to dampen its effect - maybe some false comic chattering teeth at the closing credits to satirize it all. Yeah, maybe not, but nevertheless do give this movie a try as its a bit different to the usual Asia ghost flicks and if you like more subtler horrors this is a definite. No extra footage on this edition though.
Ming Ming (DVD) (Hong Kong Version)1 people found this review helpful
August 7, 2007 Susie Au - Sister Video
Although I can understand why this film could so easily be rejected as off putting left field electric theater - it isn't exactly viewer friendly - there is so much high quality skillfulness in "Ming Ming's" cinematography make up and proficiently implemented acting into this abstract visual fest, that makes it difficult to just fling Ming Ming aside. It is an action drama, but don't expect this in the usual sense as it is a very different piece of story telling by radical music video styled visuals as the main pallet of communication.
Visually, if you have seen this film's trailer (or most movie trailers really) with their editing and phasing techniques of how film trailers are pieced together, this is pretty close to explaining, in a nut shell, what the whole of this movie is like. Film trailers are somewhat visual cousins of their pop video/film counterparts (or is it the other way around) and the fact that this movie is made by a cutting edge pop MV technician Susie Au, then this is what to expect. A pop art movie. Certainly you get all your senses teased (and tested) with all the electric (eclectic) cocktail of video pop sensibilities thrown at you (lots of slllooooww moottion!). Scenes and characters interchange by neutral speed to slow motion freeze stops, quick scene cuts to full face close ups that fade out to black only to re-appear and fade again, clipped conversation pieces interjected by fighting ballet sequences of light and sound that collide, merge, blur and break apart with amplified sound motifs in the back drops. Weird? Well, its sort of like that.
"Ming Ming" is also like a sort of French and Japanese comic book. The close ups and visual techniques seem to be reflecting an anime comic frame and the action scenes are a mixture of French art maverick and sci-fi anime style - loosely, a sort of Nikita meets Cowboy Be Bop. The drama's world also seems dreamily a cyberspace, as the plot unravels and with some Matrix ballet fighting references maybe its all 'within' somewhere. The character of Nana (Zhou Xun) seems like some sort of light to Ming Ming's shadow presence as Ming Ming remains in the background for most of the film pondering the loud and extrovert orange punk haired Nana as she takes the wheel of the drama - both in love with Daniel Wu's D. Two facets of one character - shadow and light? One interesting thing I personally found was the night before I had watched Hong Kong film "Just One Look" which featured scenes and characters of old Chinese movies shown at a cinema, but relating to the characters in that film, and likewise in the beginning of Ming Ming at Brother Cat's residence, there was him watching an old black and white action nior movie and parallel to characters in the action. I'm sounding weirder than this movie now, but maybe an art coincidence, and this movie is unusual. Don't get too hard on this, though, there is good credit here and it does warrant some merit. Give it a try if you like art school films and anime, and there is a fully English subtitled Making Of here, but if you are a Daniel Wu fan only - consider that sometimes, actors will do something radical and different to what you are used to, but that in itself isn't bad, just different.
Love on the Rocks1 people found this review helpful
August 3, 2007 Don't Forget the Romance
For lessons in the methods of how a guy can woo a girl correctly by the use of more feminine friendly romantic formulas, this film is quite charming and mildly amusing. Ming Wong takes his girlfriend Annie to a restaurant for a romantic Valentine's Day meal, only to break the cardinal rule by refusing to buy flowers, asking his male friend to join them and splashing out on a cheap hot pot buffet which is not exactly hot to Annie's taste. After watching Ming and his friend tuck into (lets say additional sweet meats) in an anti etiquette style, Annie decides Ming's romantic idea of Valentine's Day isn't what she had in mind and tells him they need to cool their relationship for a while. Ming doesn't seem to have the romantic panache (and telling him, Annie certainly makes a meal out of that!) Frustrated, hurt and abashed, Ming then locates a web site and a girl named Crystal who helps him to find his inner romantic. She knows all the tomes of romantic fiction from Asia to Europe and is more versed in the heart than Aphrodite and Cupid put together - and, can also tell when lovers at a dinner table will argue on cue. Ming meets and picks up with Crystal's hypnotic and adept tips on how to learn the art of the "12 Ways of the Romantic Flowers", how to get romantic in a night time candle lit mega store (with Crystal as tutor) and end up getting noticed in his pajamas when the store re-opens at 10.00 am the next morning filling up with early shoppers and without Crystal (this is where Ming probably needed a Gin on the Rocks here) and eventually tracks back his previous relationships to see what he had learned, or missed, from them.
Its all a mildly funny and quirky. Certainly nothing to get serious about, even (especially) when the film all goes melodramatic at the finish. Twins other half Gillian appears briefly as Ming's first girlfriend and looks and acts beautifully cute and sweet as a girl with a leg handicap, although a poignant finish to that ensues. Donnie Yen also later appears in an embarrassing part where he is expecting a masseur to de-stress him only at the time Annie appears to try him with some new shoes - thinking Annie as the masseuse. The pacing changes a bit in the middle, though, by Ming's past romantic exploits told to Crystal where in a flash back with two girlfriends, played by Canto singers Kathy Chow and Rain Li (lots of popsters popping up in this!), and can seem to out weigh too much for the audience, Ming's relationship with Annie. Acting is good and singer Gigi Leung as Annie is a very pleasant and charming shoe shop assistant love interest, yearning for the timeless fashioned romance Ming struggles to deliver. Lusie Koo plays a good romantic comedy part as the mild and charming boyish Ming along with his romantic(less) attempts to woo Annie (or woo Annie) and makes him somewhat the bumbling charmer. Charlene (hurray!), although only partly featured, is good as the wry full romantic wizard Crystal and with her 'I'm looking serious here, but oi, I'll nudge you in the side as I'm only kidding' looks, wins me over. Charlene is more deadpan funny here as a love intermediary trying to help Ming hone is ability to become more romantic (and falling in love with him herself ...bless) and her male role reversal in Annie's shoe shop showed an instant comic visual that gives Charlene good humerus appeal. It was a shame, in a way, that the script didn't excel here, as it could have been a classic scene. Charlene looking like a fella with a false mustache.
Overall, its another piece of romantic tomfoolery. Still, I believe in the adage that in everything there is something worthy to glean from. Certainly this film's romantic focus on what is important in a relationship is held together by the attentions we can all have for the 'romantic other', the potential soul mate to our lives, and trying to remember to work thoughtfully and considerably proactive with a relationship as best can be. To forget to do that creates an inertia that can lead to no romantic factor. In the end, too, Ming learns some crucial similar facts in a quite roundabout fashion. Done in a melodramatic finish, its funny, silly, has lots of food, but yes, its all romantic in the end. Worth a see.
Beautiful Sunday (DVD) (Limited Edition) (Korea Version)(2)Our Price: US$28.99List: US$37.99Save: US$9.00 (23%)1 people found this review helpful
August 1, 2007 Parallel Stories
The first movie I saw with Yong Woo Park (I think) was the romantic time drama "Ditto" and certainly a contrasting character he performed there as the mild and amiable Dong Hee to the recent trio of characters in "My Scary Girl", "The World of Silence" and a cop again in this film, "Beautiful Sunday". With the opener to this, its immediately evident at being a brutal and tough affair as you are thrust straight into a fighting action sequence as Detective Kang (Yong Yoo) apprehends a boat full of drug dealers and their gang boss that he had been informed about. On the outset, this gives a strong impression of all being a violent police and gangsters action drama, which it partly is, but when you learn about Kang's comatose wife and his desperate and illicit means of paying the hospital bills to keep her alive, the story abruptly changes. Suddenly, you're introduced to another young fella (Gung Min Nam) who has a liking for a young woman (Ji Hye Min) he sees pass his window. He is instantly smitten and as she unawares drops an apple to the ground from a bag, he quickly picks it up and keeps as a memento. He follows her around, discovers she already has a boyfriend and after acting oddly crestfallen at that revelation, follows her home one night and rapes her. Later, he finds her again working in a book shop (she doesn't recognize who he is from before) and they court and get married.
The film continues to alternate between this young guy and D.I. Kang who the latter contends with the retributive gangster boss he landed in jail and of also assisting a stakeout by car on a suspected rapist incident around the area. It all plays out as two parallel stories of Kang's involvement with gangsters, a mysterious rapist and his comatose wife and another of an odd fella marrying a girl he once raped, plots switching constantely from one to the other. Eventually, their paths and burning bridges meet to disclose a secret plot aspect. To disclose any more would lead to spoilers, but you do get an interesting and stylish film here that, although visited on before, has a fresh approach and a dramatic finale. The only niggle I had with this was never getting to really know 'why' a bad choice of rape is made at the beginning. Was there a traumatic past? There didn't seem to be a reason. The ending does visually reveal, though, the two scenarios clearly at the conclusion so you are not left in the dark, but in hindsight after a first viewing, I think you could watch this film again and see a more clearer perspective knowing the answers. Acting, cinematography and script are very good and another fine example of Korean film making. All three main actors are on top form! It has been suggested that 2007 to be a year for lesser standard Korean movies, but as yet I still feel that the directors and film makers skills and overall quality are well within the ambiance of something special and recommended. This, too, is definitely worth seeing. Its dark, violent and uncomfortable in places, but its mystery and tension keeps you fixed to the end. If you like PCW films also ("Oldboy" etc) this may be another film to look at.
Although (sigh) no subtitles again for the loaded disk of extras, there is much you can watch without having to understand the language. (Although I am trying to learn Korean. Have I learnt any words? Aniyo, I'm afraid, Aniyo) Visual making of the fight sequences and lots of out-takes. One bit I liked was YWP's fan meeting with a female fan and when she is interviewed by YW (I got the gist of it) his conduct and amiability makes me realize what a nice guy he is. Mind you , I still cannot help finding it funny (in a tongue in cheek sort of way) about Yong Woo in character. I mean, he looks absolutely knackered again as the detective on the stakeouts, just as he was in the stakeouts in "The World of Silence". Hmm. What did that kiss in "My Scary Girl" do to him, I wonder (the outtakes version).
The Scarlet Letter (DVD) (Special Edition) (Korea Version)(8)Our Price: US$19.99List: US$25.99Save: US$6.00 (23%)3 people found this review helpful
July 25, 2007 A Scar-let 'Car Crash'
An interesting thing I read on a web site (although I couldn't cross reference this), was that due to Eun Joo Lee having anxieties about the singing of the Corr's song "Only When I Sleep" which features in the night club scene in the movie, her close friend Bada had helped her with her interpretation of the song and even attended on set to give her solid support when she finally came to shooting the scenes - as Eun Joo was quite nervous about having the exposure of singing like this and got support from Bada. And sing well and perform excellently she did, not only with the song, but with the performance of her character as a whole. But with Bada, that was one really positive and wonderful thing to read about and shone a light on, so to speak, this unfairly merited movie, due to the tragedy regarding Eun Joo's death and this film's possible influence.
I do like Eun Joo so much and, I admit, considering her loss and this movie's relation to that loss, I could at times want to smack it, but I still think that its so unfair for this film to be thought negatively, such that it has been. Its unfair on the other people who helped make it - Daniel H. Byun, Suk Kyu Han, Hyun Ah Seong, Ji Won Eon and everybody really - and I am sure that this film isn't on its own a causation of EJL's death. Eun Joo apparently couldn't come out of her character role and, in hindsight, wasn't exactly happy with it, but her insomnia and depression wouldn't have been due to a negative character persona alone, more a commixture of stresses and frustrations of not being able focus on her career (she didn't want to enter into anything other than films, really) and couldn't feel she could move on - it was her indecision in the main.
The movie is strong and hard though. When I first saw Suk Kyu in the opening scene as the police captain driving hastily along listening to the operatic aria by Verdi (from "The Force of Destiny") and the impactive abrasion of his brittle character has as he drives angrily towards a murder scene, I anticipated all this to be one extreme ride also in a metaphorical sense, that his life and the lives of the other protagonists in "TSL" were going to 'crash' disastrously by all their actions - and with an unforgettable consequences at the finish. Its a dark thriller with a focus on highly emotional and destructively charged characters, crossing social and forbidden emotional barriers. Ki Hoon is married but as an affair with a night club singer Ka Hee (Eun Joo) and both become pregnant by him. Its all a commixture of affairs in a dark ambiance of deceit, lies, jealousies and adultery, but in ultra self destructive impassioned sexual relations. It is a police procedural drama, too, but only as a back drop to the partial character study of Ki Hoon's nature - the murder investigation isn't the main plot. (Don't have enough room to go on about Kyung Hee here) His wife, a cello performer is a docile wife who cannot give the type of love that Ki Hoon requires and his liaisons with Ka Hee (Eun Joo) is what fires his emotional desire to have an affair. Its not a romantic film in any way at all, its all negative love / needful want and lust and touches on sexual ambiguity, lesbianism as well as an adulterous affair, and the final tragedy (that 'car crash' scene) is one not to forget easily after the movie concludes.
The production values are again impeccable and the cinematography is what you would expect from Korean technical skill. Acting is well performed and this is one of Eun Joo's best performances although I do get niggles that somehow her mistress character was slightly out of field for her. I do think that Hyun Ah and Ji Won have shone better in other later movies, as their roles are much sparser than Eun Joo's and Suk Kye's, and they don't get really much scope here. They may seem robotic - but they don't get enough rope. Suk Kye is excellent and although a difficult character to appreciate, that role is well played. Overall, the characters here aren't going to be very likable, apart from maybe Su Hyun (Ji Won) as Ki Hoon's pregnant wife and the whole tragedy is a multi layered bitter pill to swallow. Its well written, but its so dark to be likened to a poisoned chalice, the apple from the garden of the fall depicted in a bunch of sordid characters representing dark emotional destitution. Well, apart from Su Hyun. If a 'car' is the correct metaphor for people here on the edge, they all crash disastrously. It could be harsher than some of Park Chan Wook's movies and certainly one of the darkest Korean movies I have seen. In a way, do I wish Eun Joo hadn't made this film?...absolutely 100% Yes. But could her Achilles heel have been something else?
Love Is Not All Around (DVD) (Hong Kong Version)2 people found this review helpful
July 23, 2007 Shines in the last half hour!
Firstly, this is definitely a younger audience's movie and although an interesting snap shot of modern romance HK style, it is really more for that demographics eyes only. Certainly for a more female audience. Still, this film certainly features a good bright young cast and with all the high octane energy in romance you would expect. Speed dating, girl talk, slapped faces (lots of red cheeks here) and some embarrassing moments in chemists. Plot wise, its all about a charade of romantic events about misconceived affairs and jealousies with 6 young people constantly finding their relationships becoming ever complicated after Wing (DJ Sammy) is spotted by Bo (Stephy Tang) seemingly having an affair with another girl. The script is routed in a solid soap opera format and could almost be a miniature version of a 16 part drama series. The pacing is very fast as all the main characters zip in and out of each other's complicated romantic lives as swift as some of the speed dating Bo gets involved in earlier in the film. I can only image that this is a reflection of the speed of HK life in the city.
On the outset this movie will seem like the archetypal 'chick flick' and for the first two thirds the way in - it is, but as the third part kicks in this film begins to hold its own as the acting shines and the revelations of all the perceived affairs fall into place, elevating it to a more respected and recommended level above similar films of its type. Acting is pretty good in this especially from Linda Chung (Sun) and Stephy Tang (Bo), but overall the entire cast all fit into place here and I can imagine firm favorites with the demographics. Its a good film (I was a bit unsure until the last half hour or so) and ends up becoming an interesting message about teen life and dating in general and should feel refreshing than the usual. The ending is satisfying although a wee but cynical around the edges, but with a decent turn towards melodrama. Surly, though, not all HK relationships are this complicated.....are they?
If you would like the extras to this movie, though, I would recommend getting the 2 disk set as this single DVD issue only features 3 music videos additional to the film. Recommended for those who love HK teen romances, TV drama romances and are within the years of youth.
Love Me Not (DVD) (Korea Version)1 people found this review helpful
July 20, 2007 Love Me Do?
Well, I'll accentuate the positive from the negative regarding the inverted 'Beatles' English title for the film here, although in this movie the nature of love is a bit cynical. I had read on various web sites quite negative opinions about this movie on its theatrical release and was expecting a bit of a damp squid when it came out on silver disk, but after watching this DVD (about March this year) have found "Love Me Not" to be a worthwhile inclusion - just don't expect lovable, cuddly characters. The story flows well, and in tone its a moderately dark plot with sudden occasional bursts of actual and vocal violence, but overall a film that can be enjoyed by most. Although I've read this, it is a terribly cynical movie and it can be hard at times to sympathize with the two main characters. Performances seem a bit theatrical, too, which maybe due to the confines of the mansion estate setting for many of the scenes, but it doesn't detract from the filmic aspects and the cinematography surrounding the estate is excellently photographed. Ju Jyuk Kim performs a good role as the shady Julian (and he don't half look young here) and along with actress Ji Won Do (who was in Korean horror "Cinderella" and dance film "Flying Boys") as the governess at Min's family estate, some of their scenes together are so electric that you could frazzle bacon on the air afterwards. Oh, they've got a chemistry here - buts its very explosive! JJ and JW should make a movie together, I think. Geum Young is certainly gifted and talented (confirmed to all by her sister in ATOTS) and her blind heiress role here is another solid worthy addition to her talent. She gives complete heart into her role and, yes, she's a lovely actress.
Although the final conclusion to this film could seem amorous and incredulous it can be possibly satisfying with an open mind. The romance elements do happen although you might wonder how by the sulky and brittle attitudes of Min and the obviously shady nature of Julian's pretense and dangerous dealings of acting as Min's brother. Or is it impossible for such characters to rise above their dire cynical lives to become new people? Surely not impossible. The 'age thing' could freak some out though (like Little Bride) with this love aspect between Julian and Min and be perceived as slightly mis-placed, as if this film should have been made 3 years on from when it was made. The music to this film is good. I quite like the OST album in its own right and have listened to it often (like the excellent "Almost Love" OST!) - some good emotive and melodic theme music along with an 80s electronica type pop ditty that reminded me of stuff I used to listen to (and still do). For younger GY fans its does have a bit of violence in places (although no more than ATOTS), as her adult years are coming to the fore now (and younger fans alike). It could be a time to anticipate more interesting GYM future roles, too, and hopefully more artistic license than only commercial ones. GY's too talented for commercial only. Worth seeing this (and you get a mega package DVD set here) but it is all a bit cold, a bit cynical and a bit loveless.