Popping in for a spell

Joined: Oct 24 2004, 05:57 PM

Dec 19 2017, 07:28 PM #21

I don't play video games and I'm not really familiar with the ones you're talking about, but DUNJIAP does have a certain ultra-glossy aesthetic where absolutely nothing seems real that does read as the product of a "gamer sensibility." I've seen a total of 2 Korean films this year, both by Hong Sang-soo, so I'm not the best judge of that, but it seems like every Korean film that plays the AMC circuit is a gangster film in the "heroic bloodshed" mode or a neo-noir about cops chasing serial killers, as you said. And I think MEMORIES OF MURDER is the best South Korean I've seen, after THE HOUSEMAID, but I don't really want to see 10 watered-down knock-offs of it. 
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Matt Wyatt
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Matt Wyatt
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Joined: Jan 5 2005, 04:47 PM

Dec 21 2017, 09:40 AM #22

I agree with Steve that "The Thousand Faces of Dunjia" is a disappointment. However, due to having low expectations after reading some bad reviews, I probably enjoyed it a little more than he did. The opening action sequence involving a monstrous carp was kinda nutty and fun, and the lead actress, Ni Ni, was eminently watchable as the beautiful but fierce "Dragonfly." There were some inventive plot twists and amusing character bits from Tsui Hark's script that started to give me some hope that maybe the critics missed the boat on this one.

Ultimately though, the movie does sink under the weight of far too many CGI effects. It's particularly distressing to see Yuen Woo-ping, one of cinema's greatest martial arts choreographers, reduced to directing action sequences where the combatants barely make any physical contact with each other, instead letting their CGI weaponry do most of the work. This is particularly lamentable in the film's finale, where one expects to see a spectacularly staged martial arts battle involving our heroes and instead watches as the human characters stand back from the action and gaze on as three (not particularly convincing) CGI creatures duke it out.

For Tsui Hark, who directed and produced some of the greatest Hong Kong movies of the 80's and 90's, "Dunjia" is yet another example this decade of how he seems to have immersed himself in the visual effects side of filmmaking at the expense of storytelling. These days, his passion for making movies appears to be driven primarily by his desire to see how far he can push the boundaries of CGI effects into live action cinema. His last great movie may have been the original "Detective Dee" (2010), in which the visual effects managed to enhance the storyline rather than overtake it. Thankfully, that movie is not so far off in the distance that one can embrace the hope that Tsui may still have a major comeback left in him.
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Joined: Oct 24 2004, 05:57 PM

Dec 21 2017, 03:10 PM #23

Incidentally, YOUTH is opening at a New York arthouse called the Metrograph as well as the AMC Empire 25, where it's now playing. this weekend. I plan to see it at the Metrograph Saturday. I know that the Metrograph tried to book it about 6 weeks ago, but the Chinese government had problems with the film and suddenly pulled it from distribution, even internationally. 
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Matt Wyatt
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Matt Wyatt
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Dec 22 2017, 07:50 AM #24

I have to admit, I found "Youth" ("Fang hua") to be pretty hokey. The first half of the movie introduces us to the various young women of a military dance troupe during the Cultural Revolution, including the poor but eager newcomer He Xiaoping, who desperately wants to find the camaraderie that her family couldn't provide for her. Unfortunately, she is bullied and made fun of by the other girls, finding solace mostly from the kind attention of Liu Feng, a male dancer sidelined due to injury, but helping out with whatever tasks are necessary. This half of the film is light and messy, but beautifully shot and engaging, if also clearly meant as a set-up for bigger things to come.

Those things happen in the second half of the movie, when our characters are forced to experience the horrors of war as the storyline veers into melodramatic excess. Lives are shattered, hearts are broken and violins erupt on the soundtrack to underscore the emotional profundity of it all. I'm not one to immediately dismiss a movie due to blatant sentimentality or weepy nostalgia (if I was, I wouldn't be such a huge John Woo fan), and I also quite enjoyed Feng's earlier train-bound thriller "A World Without Thieves," but much of this film's latter half is littered with tiresome war movie cliches that the impressive cast and visuals simply can't transcend. I even had to suppress a chuckle during a scene wherein a deeply withdrawn, mentally scarred character watches from the audience as her former comrades dance on stage, causing her to quietly slip away from her distracted doctor into the empty courtyard, where the doctor soon finds her gracefully dancing her heart out.

The movie's earnest script is by Yan Geling, who authored the novel "The Flowers of War," a book whose transition to the screen under the auspices of director Zhang Yimou also failed to move me in the way it was intended. But that may have been due as much to Christian Bale's lackluster performance as to the unconvincing material.
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Kim Greene
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Joined: Nov 10 2004, 10:28 PM

Dec 24 2017, 02:43 AM #25

The latest new Bollywood actioner, TIGER ZINDA HAI, featuring B-wood megastar Salman Khan as a tough, heroic intelligence agent, just opened in the Detroit area yesterday (at the local AMC.) It's based on an actual 2014 incident in which 40-some Indian nurses were held hostage by Iraqi insurgents (they were eventually let go,fortunately.) This is also the first Bollywood film I've heard of which has a plot where both Indians and Pakistanis are actually working together to fight ISIS, which makes it sound slightly more interesting than the usual B-wood actioner. Here's a funny review of it by a reviewer who thinks the film is too long---apparently he didn't know that 3 hours is basically the norm for most B-wood films,lol:

Review of TIGER ZINDA HAI





 
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Yi Lee
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Joined: Oct 19 2004, 08:15 AM

Jan 9 2018, 09:31 AM #26

Morning everybody,

 Back from a family vacation traversing the Mississippi Delta region with the moms. Mostly a southern literary thing but we did stop in at the childhood homes of Elvis in Tupelo and Jim Henson in Leland, respectively... and if one consider's Faulkner's Hollywood screenwriting gig as noteworthy, then a visit to the patrician Rowan Oak in Oxford, the college town that houses Ole Miss.

 Since I'm catching up with work I'm going to be a little scarce 'round these parts until the weekend but the first movie of the new year I caught was "Tiger Zinda Hai," which I'll write in it's own growing thread. In metro Atlanta the Regal Hollywood 24 usually specializes in Chinese imports whilst the North Dekalb Mall AMC 16 does South Asian stuff (with the Regal probably showing nearly all the Tagalog pictures and the two splitting up the commercial non-art house Spanish language cinema). The Hollywood 24 has no less than four Chinese movies showing at the moment. In contrast, the AMC 16 only has Salman Khan's Christmas outing but at times, say when fantasy epic "Baahubali 2" was making its profitable overseas run, I remember one weekend there were five South Asian movies on AMC 16 screens during the middle of summer '17.

 I hope to catch "Youth" this weekend if possible but I don't know if Regal's going to hold it over an additional week if they've got so many other Chinese films showing with more in the pipeline to come.

 Anyway, more on "Tiger" in the appropriate thread later on....
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Joined: Oct 24 2004, 05:57 PM

Jan 9 2018, 03:36 PM #27

I want to see the new Sandra Ng film, but I have to pay $17 for tickets AMC theaters in New York. I think they have matinees, but they are only before noon, and it's really hard for me to get going that early, especially because the AMC Empire 25 is a subway ride away from my apartment and I would need to get up, shower and eat breakfast beforehand. 

I know I'm getting off-topic the way I do in my exchanges with Kim in the Arthouse/World/General section, and I'm not sure what kind of music you're into, but if you want to hear music with a Southern Gothic vibe, check out the forthcoming album LIONHEART by country singer H. C. McEntire. My review of it comes out on the 18th, and I will link to it in the A/W/G section. The album itself is released on the 26th, but you can see the lyric video for the first single, "A Lamb, A Dove" on YouTube now. 
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Yi Lee
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Joined: Oct 19 2004, 08:15 AM

Jan 9 2018, 11:25 PM #28

Hey Steve (and everyone),

 Thanks for the recommendation, though to be honest with you, even though my mom's been here for three decades and I basically grew up over here, we're largely ignorant of western music. It's basically church hymns and whatever everyone latched on to as a teenager. For instance, my late father really dug Simon & Garfunkfel and The Mamas & the Papas. My mom likes Patsy Cline and Elvis. I grew up listening to David Bowie and Roy Orbison. But we also had scores of Teresa Teng, Cantopop and Mandopop albums, which formed the backbone of what was on the radio during evenings after dinner or washing up doing the dishes. Although my mom's Christmas vacation hewed pretty closely along the Mississippi Blues Trail, we didn't visit any of the important landmarks (such as the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale or the B.B. King Museum in Indianola or even the more mainstream Grammy Museum in Cleveland, MS). We used the road trip to mainly check out places connected to the authors she had read growing up; swung up to Shiloh, TN to see that horrific Civil War battlefield; and to check out what the state of Mississippi has in abundance: Indian mounds from the Woodland and Mississippian periods. Don't entirely understand my mom's fascination for these things though I suspect it's something deeply Taoist--she a penchant for visiting mountaintop temples and hidden grotto shrines when we've traveled Asia together.

 Also, those Manhattan theatre prices sound ridiculous. The Desi AMC we frequent is $4.49 before 4pm (it used to be $3.99)/$6.49 on up after whilst the Sino-Pinoy Regal is $13.25 before 4pm (it was something like $11.25 the previous year)/$15.25 after the cutoff hour. I wonder what ticket prices will look like once Regal implements its surge pricing model they've been planning to roll out on the public sometime in 2018.

 If you're a novice to the B'wood scene I really suggest you scope out some in-depth Desi reviews since it's not that usual to see up to three types of reviews for a single picture: 1) there's always the standard critical review that movie fans the world over are familiar with; 2) there's usually a soundtrack review and on the more musically thoughtful pictures such as "Rangoon," the reviewers focus on both breaking down the melodies and lyrics as they work within the movie's framework; and lastly 3) a dance choreography review, usually the most gossipy of the bunch, dishing on guest stars that show up in item song numbers or the end credits number in addition to locating a particular picture within a choreographer's larger body of film and TV work. It's a totally different way of processing a picture and a great way to see how all the moving parts come together for domestic Desi audiences. 

 My mom had a cancer scare in 2010 and during her recovery year after surgery and we ended up seeing quite a few South Asian extravaganzas since she kinda has old fashioned values in regard to wanting to see singing and dancing and mirth depicted on screen. Although there are plenty of naturalistic Desi films that don't break out into song and dance to disrupt the illusion of unfolding narrative realism, we really appreciate the synergy they've got with their entertainment and music industry and kinda bemoan how Chinese ents have broken this once critical relationship. Our stars are no longer really required to be credible singers and dancers anymore. A mutual friend's mother recently went full Buddhist on us and unloaded several hundred un-subbed VHS tapes worth of "worldly" entertainment--movies and TV serials to be sure but also filmed operas and seasonal musical specials featuring the aforementioned singing and dancing... good times, real good times. With the exception of NHK's Red and White New Year's Special (Kōhaku) for the Japanese or CCTV's Lunar New Year Gala for Greater China, it's getting harder and harder to see established stars sing and dance on screen unlike their Desi counterparts. That's mainly why we've taken to seeing so many South Asian films these past eight or so years. 
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Joined: Oct 24 2004, 05:57 PM

Jan 11 2018, 04:26 AM #29

I am going to seriously  look into buying a smartphone just so I can get MoviePass. if I get it and see only one film a month at an AMC theater, I will save $7. Their matinees are about $8, but some films don't even screen before the noon cutoff! 

If I remember correctly, TIGER ZINDA HAI just had the musical interlude between Tiger and his wife and the closing credits scene. Am I forgetting something? 
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Yi Lee
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Joined: Oct 19 2004, 08:15 AM

Jan 11 2018, 11:48 AM #30

Morning Steve (and everyone else)

 A movie soundtrack usually drops a couple weeks before the movie opens. The AMC where I go to see South Asian movies has a pretty good lobby display and wall poster game, so they'll be advertising Desi pictures a good two months or so before they arrive. It gives you time to await the soundtrack reviews before you catch it in the cinema. A great way to whet the appetite that I wish we would do here or any other major film industry for that matter.

 Below is a site I like to peruse for soundtrack reviews. I'm not writing down its name just yet because that and the url address are different. Just click on the following links, one for "Tiger" and one for "Rangoon":

http://www.firstpost.com/entertainment/ ... 55049.html
http://www.firstpost.com/entertainment/ ... 82196.html

 One reason I like this music review site more than others is because of the curated musical jukebox in each Showsha article where the songs discussed have been stitched together to form a longer interactive playlist on Youtube that you can check out after reading their take on the music. My fandom for B'wood has actually grown more from these type of reviews rather than from more familiar movie reviews that show up in newspapers, magazines and on-line. They also do print soundtrack reviews but having the "jukebox" link definitely makes this the way to go for me.
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Kim Greene
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Joined: Nov 10 2004, 10:28 PM

Jan 12 2018, 03:36 AM #31

steve:

Yeah, there were only those two musical interludes in TIGER, which, like I mentioned before, is unusual for a B-wood film----there's usually at least 3 or 4 of them in the average Bollywood flick----they usually take up a good portion of the film.

Yi:
That is some interesting news about the soundtracks,though.
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Matt Wyatt
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Matt Wyatt
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Joined: Jan 5 2005, 04:47 PM

Jan 12 2018, 03:18 PM #32

I caught a showing of the Chinese crime thriller "The Liquidator," a stylish but overly familiar battle-of-wits between a brilliant but reclusive criminal psychologist and a deranged but clever killer doling out lethal punishment to "criminals" who have managed to slip through the legal system but whom the public demands be brought to justice.

Based on a popular novel, the movie starts off like a mixture of "Saw" and "Seven," with a series of killings that are most notable for the elaborate methods the killer uses to torment and execute his victims. The slightly eccentric but extremely crafty Fang Mu (Deng Chao) is brought onto the case and quickly realizes the killer is targeting people who have committed wrongdoings but escaped justice through legal loopholes. The internet is abuzz with news of the killings and the serial killer is viewed as a hero by a general public fed up with their flawed legal system.

Fang Mu has his own demons to deal with as he is widely suspected of being behind the mysterious disappearance of a sleazebag who had victimized a young girl whom Fang later adopted. In fact, as the investigation deepens, Fang discovers that the serial killer has a personal connection to him and may have in fact been spurred to go on his current killing spree by that unsolved incident from Fang's past.

Not since the French thriller "The Crimson Rivers," has a foreign serial killer movie managed to ape the slick visual style of a big budget Hollywood movie so impressively, but, as with that Jean Reno flick, it's all for a fairly ludicrous storyline with far too many loopholes to suspend disbelief.

Still, Deng Chao and Ethan Juan (as the prime suspect) make for a compelling pair of adversaries and the plot moves from generic serial killer mechanics to an interesting if heavy handed protest against vigilante justice. The movie actually seems to draw parallels to the Japanese anime "Death Note," with the killer here hiding behind the moniker "The Light of the City," and Fang Mu looking and acting a bit like L, the quirky genius crime solver who was intent on ending the murderous vigilantism of that show's main character, Light Yagami.
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Joined: Oct 24 2004, 05:57 PM

Jan 12 2018, 03:33 PM #33

I think I am probably holding off catching Asian films at AMC theaters because the tickets cost so much till I can get MoviePass unless they sound like really major films or it's convenient for me to see a matinee. THE LIQUIDATOR does sound interesting, although the combo of SAW & SEVEN is iffy for me: I hate the former and love the latter! 
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