99 Days with the Superstar / 僕とスターの99日 [Boku to Star no 99 Nichi] (2011)
[10 episodes, approx. 45 mins each]
Directors: Masahiro Kunimoto, Tomomi Okubo
Writer: Takeda Yuki
Cast: Nishijima Hidetoshi, Kim Tae-hee
Japanese w/ English subtitles
Available to watch for free on AsianCrush (Canada & USA only)
A man who loves astronomy but works for a security company is hired as a bodyguard for a rising Korean actress who’s in Japan to shoot a drama for 99 days. However, she is also searching for someone from her past and proves to be more than a handful for the bodyguard. In spite of their numerous clashes and near non-stop bickering, a growing attraction between the two develops.
The overall story is quite predictable. The setup is also nothing particularly original. But the characters are likeable and have funny interactions. The development of their feelings is done well with a gradual buildup of moments and small selfless gestures that bring the two closer to each other bit by bit. It’s an opposites attract scenario with the underdog and the seemingly unattainable star that actually ends up being fairly believable by romcom standards.
Continue reading “J-Drama Review: Boku to Star no 99 Nichi”
10 episodes (approx. 45 mins each)
Creator: Jonathan Troppe
Cast: Andrew Koji, Olivia Cheng, Jason Tobin, Dianne Doan, Joe Taslim, Kieran Bew, Joanna Vanderham, Hoon Lee
Based on an old pitch by Bruce Lee, it’s set in 1870s San Fransisco’s Chinatown during the Tong Wars. Chinese immigrants are hated by the Caucasian majority including the police and by the Irish who are unemployed due to the cheaper wages given to Chinese workers. The main character, Ah Sahm, comes to this city, literally fresh off the boat, to find someone but ends up being entangled in the Chinese triads.
This is an entertaining show with some sharply written characters. Each with their own views and agenda with no shortage of conflict. Ally or enemy, it can change depending on the day. The first four episodes do a good job of introducing all the major characters. Episode 5 is like a filler or break episode as it is pretty self contained but then for the rest of the episodes it continues the main story.
Continue reading “Warrior – Season 1 – review [Recommended]”
So Long, My Son / 地久天长 [dìjiǔtiāncháng] (2019)
Director Wang Xiaoshuai
Screenplay A Mei, Wang Xiaoshuai
Producer Wang Hai, Han Jianv, Yang Wei, Wang Xiaoshuai, Liu Xuan
Cast Wang Jingchun, Yong Mei
The next screening of this film is on Saturday, October 19, 2019.
Two families each have a son born on the same day. Their sons become best friends but the death of one of the sons and a forced abortion before the incident due to China’s one child policy causes a rift between the two families with the pain of that tragedy lasting for decades.
At three hours long, one might hesitate to watch it but there is not a wasted frame in the entire film and it always remains engaging with good pacing. To me, It did not feel like three hours had past as I was engrossed by the story and the characters. The acting is great with lots of subtlety. This is a very naturalistic and realistic film about working class Chinese. There are a few threads that are all mostly resolved with an emotional ending although not all truths are told.
Continue reading “So Long, My Son – film review – Nouveau cinema 2019 [Recommended]”
Another edition of Nouveau cinema is fast approaching and runs from October 9-20, 2019 in various cinemas such as Cinema du Parc, Cinematheque quebecoise, Cinema du musee, and Cineplex quartier latin. A listing of screenings of notable East Asian films will be followed by trailers.
Quebec based director Ky Nam Le Duc will have the world premier of his movie, “Canada”, and he along with the cast will be in attendance for a Q&A.
Nouveau cinema also has augmented reality or virtual reality works and one intriguing one is “East of the Rockies”, an interactive narrative written by author Joy Kogawa.
There will be three screenings Chinese movie “So Long, My Son” directed by Wang XiaoShuai, an award winning director who is part of the sixth generation of Chinese directors.
Fans of old school martial arts will certainly want to see the restorations of two films by legendary wuxia director King Hu that will be screening, “The Fate of Lee Khan” (1973) and “Raining in the Mountain” (1979). The latter is a North American premiere of a brand new restored version.
Japan as usual has many entries in this festival such as the world premiere of “Videophobia” directed by Daisuke Miyazaki whom along with actress Tomona Hirota will be in attendance. “Diner” is directed by Mika Ninagawa stars Tatsuya Fujiwara and Tina Tamashiro. “They Say Nothing Stays the Same” is the first film by well known actor Jo Odagiri and makes its North American premiere. “To the Ends of the Earth” is directed by award winning Kiyoshi Kurosawa and stars Atsuko Maeda. “37 Seconds” is the first film directed by Hikari.
There are also two animated features from Japan. “Pom Poko” is a lesser known Ghibli classic directed by Isao Takahata. “Children of the Sea” is a recent movie directed by Ayumu Watanabe.
Update Oct 10: A surprise announcement was just made and “Parasite” directed by Bong Joon Ho will have a screening.
Continue reading “Festival du Nouveau Cinema – Oct 9-20, 2019”
Tokyo Ghoul ‘S’ / 東京喰種 トーキョーグール S [Tokyo Guru S ] (2019)
Director: Kazuhiko Hiramaki, Takuya Kawasaki
Writer: Chuji Mikasano
Cast: Masataka Kubota, Shota Matsuda, Maika Yamamoto
This sequel (although I doubt that’s what ‘S’ stands for) has Kaneki facing off against an uber foodie ghoul, Tsukiyama, nicknamed the “Gourmet” who becomes obsessed with Kaneki due to him being a hybrid of ghoul and human. Tsukiyama wants to eat Kaneki. Obviously Kaneki does not want to be eaten.
While I’m tempted to say the ‘S’ stands for stupid, I don’t think this sequel is all bad but it is a step backwards. Before getting to why that is, this sequel makes several references to the first movie. The main plot is simple enough that it could be understood without watching the first movie but a lot of background will be lost on those who didn’t watch the first movie or don’t remember it. I strongly suggest that you watch the first movie before this one. The first movie establishes the world and characters and the sequel assumes you’re already aware of all that.
Continue reading “Tokyo Ghoul ‘S’ – movie review – Fantasia 2019”
Twilight / 薄暮 [hakubo] (2019)
Director & Writer: Yutaka Yamamoto
Cast: Hiyori Sakurada, Seishiro Kato
A female freshman, Sachi, who likes to play the violin and a male freshman, Kijinami, who likes to paint meet at a bus stop. Sachi enjoys seeing the countryside during twilight just after the sun sets and part of the sky turns green. Kijinami likes to draw outdoor scenery and the two students strike up a friendship and potentially more.
This is apparently the third movie of a trilogy of movies that deal with the aftermath of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. It’s a short one that a bit less than an hour but it uses that time effectively to delivery a simple but endearing story.
Continue reading “Twilight – movie review – Fantasia 2019”
Kingdom / キングダム [Kingudamu] (2019)
Director: Shinsuke Sato
Writer: Tsutomu Kuroiwa, Shinsuke Sato, Yasuhisa Hara
Cast: Kento Yamazaki, Ryo Yoshizawa, Masami Nagasawa, Kanna Hashimoto, Kanata Hongo
Two slave orphans, Shin aka Xin (Kento Yamazaki) and Hyou aka Piao (Ryo Yoshizawa) and grow up and practice sword fighting because they believe this will help them escape the slave class. One day a nobleman picks Hyou to work for the emperor while leaving the other one behind. But when a gravely injured Hyou comes back to Shin, he asks Shin to protect the emperor.
This live action movie is based on a manga/anime that itself takes inspiration from real Chinese history, namely the Warring States period. I am unfamiliar with the manga/anime or the real history.
Although this is a live action, the way the characters act made it quite obvious that this is a manga/anime adaptation. It’s exaggerated in a way that tells you this isn’t meant to be taken completely seriously. In this sense, those expecting a serious movie will not find it here. The king’s plan in the end is also kind of dumb and gets resolved by a deus ex machina character. The use of flashbacks is kind of annoying and I think largely unnecessary. In fact, I find the use of flashbacks to rouse or inspire a character to be a cheap trick to elicit audience feelings. The repeated talk of dreams is meant to inspire but becomes insipid after seemingly the umpteenth time it’s mentioned.
Continue reading “Kingdom – movie review – Fantasia 2019”
Master Z: Ip Man Legacy / 葉問外傳：張天志 (2018)
Director: Yuen Woo-ping
Cast: Max Zhang aka Zhang Jin, Dave Bautista, Liu Yan, Xing Yu, Michelle Yeoh
This movie is currently available on blu-ray, dvd and digital on demand from Well Go USA.
A former martial arts master, Cheung, (Max Zhang Jin) and single father has given up martial arts and lives a humble life running a grocery store. But when he fights some gang members who targeted a couple of women, the gang later retaliates against him. He uses his martial arts to fight back and soon becomes involved in a bigger criminal organization selling drugs.
As one can guess from the title, this is a spinoff of the Donnie Yen Ip Man series. Yen only appears in a flashback taken from the third Ip Man movie to give us a brief summary of Cheung’s past and why he gave up martial arts. But you don’t need to have seen any of the previous Ip Man movies to follow this movie’s story.
The story is nothing special but has a simple theme of redemption and a character arc for Cheung as he regains some measure of pride and self respect, which he feels he lost in the past. Michelle Yeoh also appears and has a bit of her own little arc as well. The drug story line gets obviously preachy but isn’t intrusive.
Continue reading “Master Z: Ip Man Legacy – movie review”