Sunday, 22 November 2015

Sonatine Review 1993 Japan ソナチネ Takeshi Kitano

A real masterpiece. Kitano at his finest. An incredible piece of cinema!

Kitano stars as Murakawa, an extremely powerful and intimidating Yakuza. As one of the most trusted in the gang, he is sent on a mission with some of his men to Okinawa to help end a dispute between rival factions. This is no easy task as chaos erupts around them. Realising they have been had, Murakawa and his men decide to retreat and lay low at a seaside hideaway.

From the trailer and synopsis you might be lead to believe this is an action Yakuza film. But it's far from it. There is shoot outs at the beginning and end, and a few set pieces in between. But a large chunk of the film is Kitano and his men just killing time at a beach, and that's actually when the film is most interesting and entertaining.

Like his acclaimed and arguably best film Hana-Bi, Sonatine is a relatively peaceful film but with moments of extreme violence inserted in.

Some of the games the men play to kill time are a real highlight of the film. Such as shooting cans off of each others head. Or Russian roulette, with Murakawa(Kitano) joining in, you never know what to expect. And lastly, after playing a game with paper Sumo wrestlers, they decide to have a go for real. After a Sumo match, the paper Sumo game almost becomes real. While the men stand frozen like the paper wrestlers and the spectators bang the floor around them while they bounce up and down and into one another. Truly bizarre yet highly entertaining.

Another beautiful dream like soundtrack composed by the excellent Joe Hisaishi. The main theme is spectacular and sets the mood of the entire film.

Hana-Bi may be Kitano's masterpiece. But part of me will always prefer the charm and wit of Sonatine. Hidden behind all the juvenile games and humour, there is actually a deep moving story.

A truly fantastic must see film.


Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Scene At The Sea Review 1991 Japan Takeshi Kitano あの夏、いちばん静かな海。

A very deep yet extremely subtle film from Kitano which keeps you captivated without any Yakuza, guns or action.

Shigeru(Kuroudo Make) is a gloomy deaf rubbish collector whose life is changed when he stumbles across an abandoned surfboard. His dedicated girlfriend Takako(Hiroko Oshima) who also suffers from a hearing impairment, helps Shigeru on his mission to learn the sport of surfing.

A Scene At The Sea is one of Kitano’s finest works. Even though it is pretty much the polar opposite of his style and what he is known and loved for in the West. This is an example of why Takeshi Kitano really is a master of cinema.

A fantastic slice-of-life drama which doesn't feature much dialogue, yet you still deeply care for and understand the characters. There is also no fancy camera work with many long cuts and static shots but there are plenty of beautifully framed shots of the sea, beach and the lively cast.

The love story between the two leads is told beautifully. Without actually having any proper conversations between them, you still learn about their relationship and know exactly how they feel about one another. It's a real simple story, with wonderful characters, some light humour, and enough story to keep your attention but still being emotional and pure.

A Scene At The Sea also marked the first collaboration with director Kitano and composer Joe Hisaishi. Joe is renowned for his Studio Ghibli soundtracks, and in this film he delivers a stunning, sometimes haunting soundtrack which fits the film like a glove. The main theme is uplifting and catching and will be stuck in your head for days.

Third Window Films have done a tremendous job with this release. Like their other Kitano releases, this is another 2k remaster and the film looks better than ever. The tones and colours are faithful and the quality and clarity of detail looks stunning. This is a massive upgrade from the DVD release. A bonus of the TWF release is an all new audio commentary by film critic Jasper Sharp which is incredibly insightful and entertaining.

One of the most accessible Kitano films yet still quite unsual! Couldn't recommend this one enough.


Available here from Third Window Films

(Original trailer. Not remastered quality)

Monday, 16 November 2015

Boiling Point Review 1990 Japan Takeshi Kitano 3-4X10月

Boiling Point
An extremely fun early outing from cinematic genius Takeshi Kitano. Although not as polished as some of his later work, it's still a fine film and an important stepping point in Kitano’s career.

Masaki(Masahiko Ono) is a simple reserved man, who loves his motorbike and playing on his baseball team. After accidentally crossing a member of the local Yakuza, he flees to Okinawa to buy a gun to help defend himself. Upon arrival he ends up being befriended by a psychotic gangster Uehara (Takeshi Kitano) who is also looking for revenge on the Yakuza.

Boiling Point is important in many ways for Kitano, the main being it is his first film as writer. And his second as director. You can really see the charms, themes and style Kitano becomes famous for throughout this career.

One of the key surprise elements to this film is the visual comedy. Takeshi previously working as a stand up comedian which really perfected his comedy timing, and Boiling Point is full of great, sometimes disturbing comedy with real laugh out loud moments. Some of the gags including showing the setup, and the punch line, without the in between. Such as a young punk acting cocky and riding a motorbike for the first time with no license. Then later showing him sitting on the ground with his face bloody and the bike smashed. The film is full of great visual jokes like this.

Of course some would say the comedy would be used to balance out Takeshi’s other trademark, which is rampant in this film, violence. Boiling Point has plenty of slow paced violent shoot outs, people getting beaten and slapped about and even a few hints of sexual assault.

The majority of the violence is down to Kitano’s character Uehara who is a complete psychopath. He is extremely crude, disturbing and bordering on insane. But also charming and absorbing. One of the flaws of this film was how little screen-time Uehara had. Unless it was done purposely to leave you wanting more and leaving the character mysterious.

Boiling Point is a very minimal film. With long cuts, and no music. Although another Joe Hisaishi soundtrack would have been excellent, it doesn't feel needed for this film, it works on it's own and still manages to deliver emotion without any help.

A great Kitano film, not his best but a worthwhile and enjoyable effort. Still a must see for Kitano and Yakuza fans. But newcomers to the Cinema of Takeshi Kitano who lust for the gangster/violence films might want to start with ‘Violent Cop’ or ‘Sonatine’ instead.


Very unusual trailer

Spotlight on Takeshi Kitano this week!

I recently picked up the UK release Takeshi Kitano Collection featuring 6 of his classics on DVD. 
Violent Cop, Boiling Point, Getting Any?, Scene At The Sea, Kids Return and Sonatine.

Currently working my way through the boxset so over the next week I will have reviews uploaded for each film.

For those who don't know who Kitano is, or have never seen any of his films, you are in for a treat.

When I mention him to people who say they don't know who he is, I always inform them that he was the person who had the hit international show Takeshi's Castle. Which most people know about.

Or I tell them he was the teacher in Battle Royale. Which is how I discovered this wonderful actor and director. After Seeing his excellent performance in Battle Royale, I went around trying to track down any of his films I could. This eventually led me to a trilogy boxset by Tokyo Bullet featuring Violent Cop, Sonatine and Boiling Point. From then on, I was hooked!

I would now consider myself a big fan of Beat Takeshi, he is one of my all time favourite directors, and after seeing all his work I decided to revisit some of his classics with this 6 disc set.

So stay tuned and look out for the reviews which will be up every other day this week.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

'Our Times' Taiwanese film coming to cinemas worldwide on 19/20th November + Trailer!

After the release of Lost in Hong Kong and Ex-Files 2, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and USA are being treated to another Asian Cinema release on the 19/20th November; Our Times (我的少女時代)

An ordinary and unnoticeable high-school girl, Truly, has a crush on the most popular guy in school. Taiyu, a ruffian and a bully, is in love with the campus belle. By a quirk of fate, Taiyu invited Truly to enter a pack for the losers in love, an “Association of the Dumped”. Their mission is to tear the golden couple apart and helped each other to get the ones they love.
In the 90s when floppy discs is the most common way to transfer files, and Internet is connected through a dial-ups system. Truly met Taiyu. They missed, they confessed and they bid goodbye. Eighteen years later, when the trendiest things have become old memories, when Truly meets her ‘puppy love’ once again, will they be able to rekindle their friendship and relive again the good old times?

Our Times looks like a lot of fun!

For more information on this film and to check where it is being released, check out the link here

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Ex-Files 2 Review 2015 前任2:备胎反击战

(Note: This sequel is not related to the original, you can watch it on its own.)

A fun Chinese rom-com which tops the original with its humour and its story.

Yi Ze is a director's assistant working on a big talent show. On the day of the Auditions she is dumped by her boyfriend by text message. Yu Fei, a budding singer and dancer is rejected for his audition by arriving late. Yi Ze feeling sympathetic and emotional let's him on the show, and to her surprise he goes on to win the show and becomes a mega popstar.
Seven years later Yi Ze becomes the assistant of an Advert director. While shooting a commercial that stars Yu Fei, the two meet once again. Yu Fei flirts with Yi Ze and tricks her into thinking he has fallen for her so she’ll change the advert in his favour. When Zi Ye realises she has been had, she goes about seeking revenge on him with help from a mysterious love guru.

Adapted from the Korean film How To Use Guys With Secret Tips, Ex-Files 2 actually has an extremely relevant and fresh story. China is producing a bunch of hit romantic comedies, and they seem to have found a winning formula. Queue the montages!

Montages seem to be a big part of Chinese romantic comedies, with some Mando-pop hits playing while the characters fall in love, or when then break up or fall out. Ex- Files 2 possibly has a little too many montages, but they never felt unwelcome, and many of the songs were actually extremely catchy. The song featured while they cook breakfast is one I need to track down for myself now.

This film is actually extremely funny. There are many laugh out loud moments. Some sexual jokes. Some slapstick. And some great visual comedy which translates to any language. There is a long running gag throughout featuring 3 male super fans of Yu Fei which always got a laugh from the audience.

Ex-Files 2 tops the previous film with its consistency. It flows better and doesn't sag like the first one. Also, although there is melodrama near the end(hey, it's a Chinese rom-com!), it's not nearly for as long or as depressing as the original.

A fun little film which will keep you entertained by making you laugh, making you cry and overall warming your heart


Ex-Files 2 has a limited Cinema release from the 6th November in the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand. So see it quickly! Click here for more information. Or if you miss out, look for it coming to DVD/Blu-ray soon!

Monday, 9 November 2015

The Assassin Review 2015 Hou Hsiao-Hsien 刺客聶隱娘

Hou Hsiao-Hsien's The Assassin is a stunning film. With beautiful costumes, sets and exquisite fight scenes, packed with a wild original soundtrack. Unfortunately the confusing plot and lack of emotion causes the story to drag and almost feel like a chore at times.

Nie Yinniang(Shu Qi) is a deadly female assassin who has been raised and trained as a killer by a nun Jiaxin. After failing to kill her target out of sympathy during a mission, Yinniang is punished by receiving the ultimate test from Jiaxin. She is sent to Weibo to kill the military governor Lord Tian Ji'an(Chang Chen) and send the region in to chaos. This is no easy task as Yinniang was originally arranged to marry Lord Tian before her disappearance.

This sounds like a basic plot, and it should be. But with the story telling and dialogue that HHH uses in his film, the story ends up extremely muddled. Rather than flashbacks, we are treated to more dialogue of characters explaining previous events, which doesn't make the story any clearer.

If that was all the problems The Assassin had, it would be still great! But unfortunately the slow pacing is a real issue in this film. The marketing probably hasn't helped, with reviews, trailers and posters stating this is a martial arts or Kung Fu film, when it is actually quite far from it.

Yes, there are a few great fight scenes in this film. Excellently choreographed. With an interesting style which sometimes is so quick it takes you a second to release who has the upper hand or dealt the last blow.

That is the juxtaposition of The Assassin. The fight scenes are so quick and finish almost instantly, yet the pacing and story telling is so slow the film almost grinds to a halt on a couple of occasions.

Hou Hsiao-Hsien's way of film making uses lots of long cuts. Sometimes these are of wild beautiful scenery. Or of people staring without dialogue. This can be a useful tool in film making, but it feels that it's used so often in The Assassin that sometimes you might wonder if your DVD has stuck.

The Assassin was a bit of a disappointment. It's one of the most talked about and exciting films of the year and it ends up falling a little flat. The film looks gorgeous. And Shu Qi is a fantastic lead. But the film has many flaws which unfortunately ruins the experience.

This is one that I think everyone has to see for themselves and make up their own mind. Many love it. And many hate it. It won best director at Cannes! Give it a watch but just don't expect a House of Flying Daggers.


Sunday, 8 November 2015

The Cat Review 2011 South Korea 고양이: 죽음을보는 두개의눈

A South Korean horror mixed with cats surprisingly turns out to be one of the best Asian horror films I have seen in years! 

So-yeon works in a pet grooming store called Kitty N Puppy. After a Persian cat owner dies she gets stuck looking after the cat until an owner is ready for it. Everything is fine until the cat starts acting up and a mysterious little girl with green cat like eyes starts haunting her.

I can't quite place exactly what made this film work. But it is just incredibly fun.

The Cat is a good mix of Asian suspense horror with some of the more American "jump scares". This works very well with the flow of the film and is actually pretty refreshing. The film never really has time to slow down or get dull.

I love cats. I love every kind of cat. I just want to hug all of them. But I can't.

Some of the film is a little typical of Asian horrors with the creepy little girl. But mixing it with the cats is new and fresh, and it's used in a way that doesn't feel over played. The film also has a good mystery feel to it, almost like The Ring, which really draws you in to the story until the very end when you discover what has been taking place and why.

A very fun modern horror, while not essential viewing, it is fun and reminds me of the horrors Asia was releasing in the late 90s and early 2000s.


#TheCat #Horror #SouthKorea #고양이

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Shaolin Prince Review 1982 Hong Kong - Shaw Brothers

Crazy Shaw Brothers fantasy Kung Fu comedy guilty pleasure! This film is actually insane! But so entertaining.

The films starts with an evil iron fingered villain Lord 9th over throwing the monarch to take the thrown. The King's guards manage to get his 2 sons to safety, although they are separated. One makes it to the Prime Minister's house. The other makes it to the Shaolin temple where he is left in the care of 3 monks known as The Three Holy Fools. The story picks up 20 years later. The younger Prince(Derek Yee(Protégé)) has been brought up training as a master swordsman to get his revenge on Lord 9th. The Crown Prince(Ti Lung(A Better Tomorrow)) has been brought up as a Shaolin Kung Fu master, but has no idea he is the rightful King.

Shaw Brothers were struggling in the 80s and you can see their answer was to make everything bigger. More fight scenes. More sets. Lots of special effects and explosions. Crazy wire work. Technically, it isn't the best Shaw Brother's film, it doesn't have the best fight choreography, or the best story line. But it is one of the most fun. There isn't a dull moment! The film was actually ahead of it's time in many ways.

The Three Stooges meets Shaw Brothers!

This film is so crazy! The 18 Buddha's are spectacular! The Three Holy Fools are hilarious! The Magic Sword is nuts! The Demon exorcism is campy and over the top! Shaolin Prince has to be seen to be believed.

Another excellent job by Celestial with the remastering of this old title. The picture quality is crisp and new. And the audio is brilliant. This release comes with an English Mono dub or Mandarin with English subtitles. Released by FUNimation as part of their Hong Kong Connection releases.


Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Ip Man 3 is getting a cinema release in the UK, Australia and New Zealand on the 24th December!

Although the details are vague, this looks extremely likely now!

The Facebook page that made this post "I Love Asian Cinema UK" is the same people who brought Lost In Hong Kong and now Ex-Files 2 to worldwide cinemas. Their aim is to release Asian films in various countries on the same original release date. So this looks very promising! 

Here is the link to the trailer they posted. The description says UK, Australia and New Zealand cinemas on the 24th of December!

Fingers crossed for now. And when I hear any more news I will share it here!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Ex-Files 2 - Chinese Comedy gets UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand cinema release!

The same kind folk who brought Lost In Hong Kong to cinemas across the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand are doing the same with the new Chinese comedy "Ex-Files 2" on the 6th of November.

You don't need to see the first Ex-Files before you see 2. But I am going to track it down and check it out anyway before I go see Ex-Files 2 on the big screen!

For a full list of cinemas, check the link below:

Monday, 2 November 2015

The Detective Review Hong Kong 2007 C+偵探

A Hong Kong mystery thriller set in Thailand directed by Oxide Pang(The Eye/Abnormal Beauty) and starring Aaron Kwok(After This Our Exile/Cold War).

Tam(Kwok) is a private investigator living in Thailand who has been hired by a man nicknamed Fatty to track down a young woman who he believes is trying to kill him. Tam takes the job after being paid a large amount of cash and handed a photo of the woman. This could all be linked to a series of murders in the area.

Aaron Kwok delivers a stunning believable performance which really makes this film so good. Complete with a brilliant setting and style, and a captivating story, the result is one of the best Pang Brothers films in years.

Where did I leave my keys?

An intriguing story which may get a little muddled towards the end but the negatives don't out way the positives. Still a highly entertaining film with a satisfying and exciting ending. Also, the film has a fantastic soundtrack to really set the mood. That Thai pop song used in the intro is incredibly catchy.

As far as recent Hong Kong films go, this is better than most. I'd definitely recommend it to fans of the genre.