Infernal Affairs
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Infernal Affairs
Hello, you've reached Raito's movie review blog. Most of what you'll find here is reviews of Chinese movies, because that's pretty much all I watch. :'D

November 2012
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Raito [userpic]

This was an odd movie.  It was made in the PRC, but it appeared to be dubbed, even in the case of Kimi, who is Chinese, but the rest of the main stars were Hong Kong and were obviously all dubbed.  The dubbing wasn't as distracting as it often is to me, but it may have helped lend to the oddly detached quality the movie had.

The plot was fairly sparse, basically Kimi and Lam Suet are good for nothings who randomly get a will that makes Kimi in charge of his dad's hotel.  The dad is in a coma, but he's also not actually his dad.  Francis Ng is the adoptive son and/or manager.  There are some undoubtedly funny scenes as the two pretend to be upper class, but then things just get confusing.  Kimi wants to get money for his blind kinda-girlfriend and that's about it.  But he takes care of his not-dad in the meantime and when the dad wakes up, well, he's grateful.  It's really kind of an obvious, cheesy plot.  And other than Kimi and Lam, who were pretty animated, everyone else  basically seemed to be phoning in their performances.  Well, Christy Chung wasn't bad either.  Like I said, I really can't decide if the movie really was that detached or it just felt that way because of the dubbing.

Either way, it's clear that PRC can't make a decent Hong Kong comedy even if they are using Hong Kong stars, lol.

Mood blahMood blah
Tags: chinese, comedies, kimi qiao
Raito [userpic]

This was a really interesting movie.  Not the least because the descriptions and whatnot of it were very misleading.  There was also a certain amount of societal commentary in it, possibly a lot, depending on how you look at it.  The descriptions tell you it's about three friends, one a photographer, one a plastic surgeon and one a financial something or other.  However, the story mostly centers around the photographer played by Jang Hyuk who has apparently just been dumped.  The opening scene has him slicing off his own fingers to stop himself from grabbing his cellphone.  That turns out to be all in his imagination and sets the tone for the film to mess with realism, at least while the camera's on Jang.  Meanwhile, the plastic surgeon friend is introduced as someone with a womanizing problem, which later comes out as a sex addiction and his regret is eventually meted out in the form of anonymous threats and an STD fear.  The third friend doesn't get much focus, but you get the impression that he's in some kind of trouble with his firm and it eventually comes out that he's been having an affair with the plastic surgeon's wife besides.

But back to Jang's character.  He's dealing with depression over his recent breakup and spends a lot of time smoking weed and seeing things that aren't there, though he later tells a doctor that he would see things even if he wasn't high.  Throughout the film he occasionally has fantasies about killing himself and further fantasies about the news reporting how inept he is at carrying them out.  To be honest, Jang really carries this film because his portrayal of a creative type dealing with manic depression is completely convincing and relateable, assuming that you fit or have fit that description.  He even seems to believe the fake doctor when she spins him a tale of being an agent from the future.  Second, in acting terms is probably the plastic surgeon who comes across as someone who is just really confused and seems to have this childlike mentality of simply responding to his urges, unable to deal with problems and he has the same amount of dismay when he realizes the trouble it's got him into.  The funny thing is how in the closing half an hour or so of the film he becomes a far more sympathetic character than the cold financial guy who is running away from everyone and everything and taking the plastic surgeon's wife with him.  The wife, by the way, is also Jang's sister and he has known about their affair all along but can't bear losing either of them as friends and has kept it a secret.

spoil-lars )

Mood blahMood blah
Tags: drama, jang hyuk, korean, suspense
Raito [userpic]

Woman Knight of Mirror Lake (2011) - A historical film about revolutionary Qiu Jin, I liked it for the most part.  The fighting was really fantastic.  Some of the best choreographed kung-fu I've seen in awhile.  However, on the other hand, the constant fighting distracted somewhat from the story, which had its own distraction problems in the way that it was told, jumping all over the place in time.  Huang Yi did a fantastic job though.

City Under Siege (2010) - On the other hand, this movie could have used more fighting and less attempts to make an already fairly silly premise into something sillier by adding drama to it.  The story is about some people in a circus, including hapless Aaron Kwok who wants to be Flying Dagger, but sucks at it.  They dig up some random Japanese bunker and get hit with mutant powder.  For some reason, Kwok's character gets all the powers but none of the bad looks.  Then there's the recently-fired news gal, Shu Qi, whose main job is to look amazing and the buttkicking team of Zhang Jingchu and Wu Jing.  Again, if this had just been loads of fights, it would have been quite entertaining, but the attempts to make it into something more fell pretty flat.

Shaolin (2011) - Another quasi-historical piece about an arrogant general who is overthrown by the inferior that he treats like crap.  He then learns the error of his ways by falling in with the monks of Shaolin.  It's a pretty obvious redemption story, but with some fantastic scenery-chewing by Andy Lau and Nic Tse.  You could almost see the sparks when they were in the same scene together.  Jackie Chan has a sorta brief turn as a Shaolin cook and demonstrates random crazy kung-fu.  Fan Bingbing is somewhat of a flower vase, but still has some good parts.  This was actually a really riveting movie so don't let the driveby status fool you, I'm just feeling lazy right now.

Raito [userpic]

This is a remake and sadly, never gets much past that.  Louis Koo stars as a demon hunter who has a crisis of faith at some point when he befriends a female demon.  Later, that same female demon seduces a  young scholar and the two are pursued by both Koo and the Tree Demon, who is the ultimate baddie of the story.  It's not really all that funny, like previous versions, and it's not terribly scary either.  Koo plays his part with a sort of wry indifference that makes him seem almost as bored as I was watching it.

The best part of this movie was probably a couple of great sword fights and the SFX, which seem to be really improving over there.  That might impress people addicted to Hollywood, but it doesn't impress me.  I watch Chinese movies because they have great stories, but this movie and the other one I watched last night, were heavy on the visuals and thin on the story.  That's too bad, because Mural did both and did it well.

I can't really recommend this, but at the same time, it was mildly entertaining and looked good, so just have some popcorn with it or something.
  Actually what it makes me want to do is watch the old one with Tony Leung and Jacky Cheung.

Mood awakeMood awake
Tags: fantasy, louis koo
Raito [userpic]

This is your basic gilded idol vehicle starring Wu Chun, Han Geng and Barbie Hsu.  The costumes, set and soundtrack were fantastic, but overall, it wasn't enough to save the movie from mediocre acting and a thin, stretched plot.  At the start of the movie, a boy's whole family is executed in front of him.  He is spared because he sings a bit of opera and a boy apprentice asks his master to save him.

The two "brothers" are, of course, Han Geng and Wu Chun.  But first, the latter's master has his special  plaque taken from him in a duel with another master and they retreat to the mountains to learn to be "opera warriors".  When they grow up and come back to Shanghai, Barbie Hsu is the apprentice of that other master and they want to fight him to take back the plaque.  So that happens and they get all famous and stuff, then suddenly Han Geng wants to go back and kill the people responsible for his family's death.

There's really not much more to it than that, if I said more, it would give away what excuse for a plot twist there even is.  I suppose the plot was thin to accommodate the mediocre acting talents of the male leads.  Han Geng was completely unbuyable as his vengeful character and neither one of them did anything to convince me that they were as close as brothers.  So the inevitable betrayal or whatever you want to call it got no real reaction from me.  More like, an, oh, is that so.

The one bright spot was that Barbie hit it out of the park with the sad script she was handed.  Her character had a wide range of motivations and emotions and even though her story was just as thin, she actually put life into it.  That's acting, boys.

So yeah, mediocre movie.  Watch it for the stars or the pretty, but not the plot or acting.

Mood awakeMood awake
Tags: barbie hsu, historical, wu chun
Raito [userpic]

Frequently blurring the line between reality and fantasy, Mural seems to be trying to be an allegory at times, but much of the lesson is either lost in translation or confused in the fantasy-adventure.  Basically the movie starts with Deng Chao as a scholar and his servant taking refuge in a temple along with a swordsman of dubious morals.  Eric Tsang is there as the resident monk.  Deng Chao finds himself staring at a mural and it comes to life.  Eventually the three men end up in a fantastical place populated by fairy women only, oh and an eyebrowless Andy On who is a bodyguard or something for the queen.  Men are forbidden in the place, so you can kind of imagine what ensues.

The interesting thing is how it ends.  It sort of leaves it up to the viewer to decide if any of it was even real or if it was a Chronicles of Narina thing where the person comes back to the exact time they left.  The other part that was interesting to me is how the queen initially asked her subjects if either she or they were beautiful, I can't recall, but at the end, the new queen asks them if they are happy. 

It was enjoyable though.  Good fantasy sfx not just for a Chinese movie, but period. I'm looking forward to the idea of more of this type of thing in Chinese cinema.

Mood calmMood calm
Music Agitato – BUBBLE
Tags: andy on, deng chao, eric tsang, fantasy
Raito [userpic]

So here we have an amazing slice of life movie.  To me, these movies rarely work because let's be real, slice of life isn't very interesting and the only thing that makes it interesting is extremely colorful characters and that's where most of them fall short.  However, that is not the case here.  Here we have three friends, two guys and a girl who need to find a new place to live and end up renting a room from a retired Peking opera singer.  She's a lounge singer who, at the start of the film, ends up injuring an audience member and is eventually required to pay his medical bills, and she also has an alcoholic and dysfunctional family.  One of the guys has a dad who is remarrying and he is basically resentful about this, not to mention, blames his dad for his mom's death.  The other guy is extremely overweight and that seems to be the extent of his problems, lol.  Throw in the fact that he (the first guy) and she (played by Berlin Chen and Fan Bingbing respectively) have feelings for each other that they hide and the other fact that the opera lady is still grieving the loss of her son in an auto accident and hey, things are pretty interesting already.

I can't really give away much more without sort of ruining it, but the movie essentially follows these four characters through a point in time and it doesn't even have a real conclusive ending, further emphasizing the slice of life that it is.

This is one of these movies though that I felt so strongly that I have a hard time describing how good it was.  I will say though, that Fan Bingbing hit it out of the yard with her performance.  I have seen some decent stuff from her, but this movie really cemented in my mind how good of an actress she is.  The movie was both funny and affecting and easily kept my interest through the hour and forty run-time.  Highly recommended.

Mood impressedMood impressed
Tags: drama, fan bingbing, slice of life
Raito [userpic]

For those here who are following, I'm going to try and update this a lot more, including drama summaries once I finish them.  I think I said once that I wasn't going to talk about dramas, but I wasn't watching as many then lol.  Currently I'm watching Heavenly Sword and Dragon Saber, Mars and The Holy Pearl.  I also have a couple episodes of Yokai Ningen Bem left before I'm done with that as well.

I restarted my Cinflix membership and have a nice pile of 18 movies to get through before July, so like I said, I shall definitely be updating here more often.

Hum, no tag selector.  Lookit that, something that LJ has that it sucks NOT to have. Oop.

Mood coldMood cold
Music ★STAR GUiTAR – Starting Over feat. Scandi
Tags: update
Raito [userpic]

I just realized that I've posted a long line of sub-par movies.  For some reason I'm more motivated to write reviews of BAD movies, lol.  Nevertheless, here's a rundown of some other recent viewings.

A Crowd of Three (2010) - Unfortunately this movie wasn't very good either.  Three vastly unlikable characters go on a roadtrip to visit one of the characters pedo brother who's in prison.  I'm not entirely sure what they hoped to find out from him, I think the brother thought he'd break him out, but that didn't work out.  Even Matsuda Shota can't save this too-long unpleasant film.

The Great Magician (2011) - My viewing of this movie was somewhat tainted by subs that kept garbling up in probably-important places.  As great as it is to see Tony Leung on-screen again, his performance was rather bland, as though he was just trying to pick up a paycheck while waiting for Grandmasters to finally come out.  Zhou Xun was fun and Lau Ching Wan was a riot, but I really can't remember much about the plot, which admittedly, could have to do with the subs.  Oh well, it was nice to look at and the soundtrack was fantastic.

Love On Credit (2011) - Ok, now this movie I actually enjoyed.  Starring Lin Chi-Ling playing twin sisters with man problems, it was beautifully shot and had a good soundtrack as well.  It's somewhat of a romcom, as in, it was occasionally funny, but generally quirky.  What stood out most to me was Lin's excellent acting.  I see her getting ragged on quite a bit and I haven't seen her in much, but she was great in this.  I actually did not realize that both of the sisters were her until the end.  Chen Kun played one of the boyfriends and he was great as usual, but I would have liked to see him more. *cough*

Mood blahMood blah
Music 马天宇 – 那些花儿
Tags: chen kun, driveby, fantasy, jmovie, lau ching wan, lin chi-ling, romance, romcoms, tony leung, zhou xun
Raito [userpic]

A "sort of" sci-fi Korean film revolving around an alternate history plot.  I like that kind of thing, as well as Jang Dong-gun from The Promise, which is what prompted me to check it out.  The basic plot is that a pivotal assassination did not take place, thus making Japan a huge superpower with Korea still in its clutches.  So, in the future/present, a group of Korean rebels are attempting to get back and get the time back to rights.

Enter Jang's character, a police special forces kinda guy who happens to be Korean, but has a Japanese name.  His partner is actually Japanese.  They show up to stop a massacre at the Inoue Foundation at the start of the film.

Now, this could have been a good film.  However, it wallows in melodrama for most of its inflated 2 hour + running time.  Lots of slow motion shots of people getting shot and taking a long time to die and it gets pretty ridiculous.  It also has a not-so-subtle anti-Japanese rhetoric going on, as it essentially portrays them as soulless monsters where even the main guy's partner goes at one point:  "I've never thought of you as Korean", then later proceeds to do exactly that.

In spite of all the attempts to wring emotion out of you, like most films that do that, it falls pretty flat.  None of the characters are fleshed out and even the battle between the partners is never convincing or moves past thin caricature.

I haven't watched many Korean films, but I'm beginning to lose hope that there are good ones as the ones I have seen have this problem with excessive melodrama and thin plots.

Mood blahMood blah
Music 马天宇 – 天雨
Tags: korean, sci-fi
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