Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Secret Review 2007 Taiwan 不能說的秘密

Jay Chou’s directorial debut is an interesting and engaging drama with an original story full of twists which will leave you dumbfounded. Starring Jay Chou(Initial D) and Gwei Lun-mei(Black Coal, Thin Ice).

Yeh Hsiang-lun/Jay (Chou) is an exceptionally gifted pianist who has recently transferred to the Tan Jiang College of Arts at the behest of his father (Anthony Wong). One day, while walking through the school's soon-to-be-demolished conservatory, Yeh hears an intoxicating melody being performed by talented Lu Hsaio-yu/Rain (Guey Lun-mei).

Jay Chou rocking that school uniform

Secret is one of those films that you really can't describe too much in the synopsis or go into too much depth in discussion because that will ruin the entire point of the film. Everyone should avoid reading message boards or spoiler reviews before they see this film, it's the best way to enjoy it and get the full effect. The first hour almost plays out like a love triangle drama, then suddenly the film becomes much much more.

While Jay Chou might not be known as the greatest actor. He pulls off roles like this. Jay has the charisma and charm to make it work. Gwei Lun-mei is a stunning actress and carries the emotional side of the film, as well as making the chemistry between her and Jay believable.

Kung Fu and action scenes are replaced in Secret by intricate piano battles and compositions. Director, writer and actor Jay Chou really gets to show off his musical genius with not only the piano playing scenes but also the soundtrack, many of the songs were composed and performed by Jay himself. The title song “Secret” went on to win Best Original Song at the 44th Golden Horse Awards. The score is fantastic, offering drama to the simplest scenes, and sending the exciting scenes through the roof.

Listen to my award winning soundtrack

Anthony Wong plays a great supporting role as Jay’s father, which is the second time he's played this role, Initial D being the first. Anthony is instantly likable in this role and actually gets to exercise those acting chops in some important scenes. There is great screen chemistry between Jay and Anthony Wong, some more scenes focusing on their relationship would have been a bonus.

Visually, Secret looks fantastic. The school chosen for the story is a stunning building with wonderful interiors and green surrounding parks. Another high point of Secret is the visual effects. For a film with a relatively low budget there is some wonderful looking added special effects. This of course all looks even more spectacular on this excellent Blu-Ray release from Edko Films.

Secret is a really great film! It was probably aimed at the teen audience, but it is more complex than a standard love drama and I think it is fitting for everyone. Plus, it further cements just how creative the writer, musician, actor and director Jay Chou is.


Be wary, this disc was locked to Region A. has it listed as Region Free, so there may be various editions out there.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

The Admiral: Roaring Currents Review South Korea 2014 명량

Director Kim Han-min’s(War of The Arrows) 16th century historical epic is one of the greatest naval battle films ever made. And it now happens to be the biggest grossing South Korean film of all time. Starring Choi Min-sik(Oldboy/Lucy), Ryu Seung-ryong(Blades of Blood), Cho Jin-woong(Nameless Gangster), Jin Goo(Mother), Lee Jung-hyun(Juvenile Offender) and Kim Myung-gon(Masquerade).

South Korean war drama based on the Battle of Myeongnyang which took place in 1597. After being disgraced and demoted Yi Sun-shin (Min-sik Choi) is reinstated to Admiral and commands the last 12 ships of the Joseon Navy in a battle against the invading Japanese forces and their fleet of 200. Against the odds, can Yi lead his men to victory?

Spectacular looking film based on the true battle led by revered Admiral Yi Sun-shin. Domestic audiences are well aware of the history and facts of this legendary battle, but international audiences are in for some surprises and a real treat.

Squad Goals.

Yi was known for his strategies. Using unorthodox tactics, “turtle” ships and even the current to win battles. The story is interesting from beginning to end, but it's the battle scenes were things really get compelling and exciting. You never know exactly what Yi has up his sleeve, and some of his tactics are rather surprising.

Visually the battle scenes are spectacular and intense. A fine blend between CGI and replica ships, the scenes look extremely realistic with only a few sketchy CGI moments. The ships look fantastic, especially up close, and especially while they are being blown to pieces sending woodchips and bodies flying everywhere.

Stunning costumes in The Admiral.

The 2nd half of the film is action filled, but the first half is filled of backstories and character development. This causes some issues as there are too many side stories and characters being introduced from both sides that it gets complicated and hard to keep up.

Minor issues aside. Choi Min-sik delivers another stunning performance. A reserved but still charismatic, intimidating performance. The Japanese characters(played by Korean actors) are also extremely interesting in their methods and the costume designs are stunning with the Samurai-esque outfits,

A great war film from South Korea which is extremely different from their usual North Vs South war story. Highly recommended.


Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny Review 2016 臥虎藏龍:青冥寶劍

Arriving 16 years after the original, Sword of Destiny doesn't live up to it's predecessor as a sequel, but as a film on it's own merits it is decent, entertaining and reminiscent of 90s Kung Fu films.

Renowned warrior Yu Shu-Lien comes out of retirement to keep the legendary Green Destiny sword away from villainous warlord Hades Dai.

An extremely basic plot, but it works with the style of film. The main point that can't be emphasised enough is, do not go in to this expecting the original Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Times have changed. The budget is smaller. It has a different director, different producers, different writers and the only returning cast member is Michelle Yeoh. It can't match the original. But it is a fun Wuxia film in it's own right.

Could this be Yen's last Wuxia film?

If you are wanting some great fight scenes, then you will get your Netflix money's worth. That's one of the high praises CTHD2 has, the great Martial Art scenes. Directed by legendary Yuen Woo-ping and starring Michelle Yeoh and Donnie Yen, the fights were always going to be good. But they honestly surpassed expectations. The fights are fast, furious and vicious and all completely varied throughout. There is a fight in a tavern which has great comedy elements. There is a stunning fight on a frozen lake which was innovative. And the last fight with Yen and Jason Scott Lee is extremely well choreographed and very exciting, even if it has a little too much CGI.

Something that Sword of Destiny relies on that the original didn't is CGI. Filmed in New Zealand instead of China, CGI is used to add in backgrounds or buildings or mountains to make the film’s setting look more like China. The majority of these are used tastefully and are actually pretty to look at. However, the CGI added to the fight scenes is when it becomes a little jarring, especially the last fight when it comes across unnecessary but it never ruined the scene or made it unwatchable.

Michelle Yeoh is superb in her role as usual. And Yen always delivers. The rest of the cast all vary from acceptable to good. Jason Scott Lee is a great villain, a little over the top but all in the best way, and he looks like he is having a blast in the role. The rest of the English speaking cast do a fine job in their limited roles, some of the dialogue may sound a little cheesy but acceptable. It is pretty amusing to see a Wuxia film with Asian actors with accents varying from American to Australian to English.

The magnificent Michelle Yeoh

Yeoh playing the teacher to Snow Vase (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) is one of the most interesting dynamics. The 2 characters have great chemistry together and a relationship that should have had more screen time. These scenes were done wonderfully and another great highlight of the film.

For the purists who are going to complain about this film regardless, one of the main issues they have is that it was filmed in English. Well, an interesting option is you can change the audio language to Chinese with English subtitles. After checking this out it does add a bit of authenticity to the film, although there is no real issue with the original English language. But the option is there.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny is an interesting experiment. The name has obviously been used for marketing purposes. People who loved the original will watch it out of curiosity and people who already have Netflix will surely watch it just out of interest. I just hope that the film gets great viewing figures because Netflix is the future and I would love to see them fund more Kung Fu films or Asian films in general.