Wonder Women (Hong Kong) 2007

Gigi Leung stars as the main “Wonder Woman”, Joy Shing, a respected professional and a loving mother, who is promoted to Chief Financial Officer of her company on the very same evening that her husband To Lam (George Lam) is ousted as CEO. His replacement is the handsome, Mainland-connected Ching Bit-Chung (Nie Yuan), who has his own romantic designs on Joy. But Joy has little time for romance, with both financial and personal losses mounting. Her neighbor (Hui Siu Hung) cheats her out of millions of dollars, leading to a bitter falling out with her childhood sweetheart (Kevin Cheng). Also, her husband falls deep into debt, and the ensuing spiral of misfortune threatens to tear their family apart. But with the outbreak of SARS comes Joy’s most terrible loss of all.

Cast: Gigi Leung || Fiona Sit || George Lam || Kevin Cheng
Directed – Chun-Chun Wong
Genre – Drama
Country – Hong Kong
Audio – Cantonese
Subtitles – English [.idx/.sub]
IMDB Links – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1053898/

Blood Brothers (Taiwan | China) 2007

With the 30′s Shanghai as background, the film is a gangs story, a romance story, a brotherhood story and a simple story, with a theme portraying the lust for power against brotherhood piety. The narrative is unrestricted with plots generally linear albeit that it is told in flashback. The story embeds complex relations among characters with such relations & revenges constituting parallel narratives for similarity and contrast. The narrative is framed from the perspective of Feng (Daniel Wu) and supplemented with ancillary perspective from the other lead, Mark (Chen Chang). Director Alexi Tan attempts to make it moderately stylistic by use of freeze action (not freeze frame), complete silence and some other cinematographic devices (obviously Tan restrains it from being overdone). Though the movie comes with strong leads and their fine staging, the diegesis is relatively weak and shallow in portraying the evolution of the key antagonists’ personalities down the plots. Nevertheless, visual motif (flicking of cigarette on a cigarette box) is repeatedly used to reinforce the use of power and the desire for such. In terms of visuals, the film comes with replete elegant costumes and settings with Mckintoshes, western hats, suits and cuffed shirts’ sleeves filling the mise-en-scenes. Fine mastering of lighting and shooting angles in the presence of both diegetic and non-diegetic music delivers a moody combination of visual and acoustic amusement to the audience. The gun-pointing scenes are fairly flamboyant in mounting up tension whilst sudden fires and zigzags of characters’ motions bring occasional shocks to the audience and generate uncomfortable surprises to the audience. Yet the visual-acoustic artifice is less than sufficient to redress its shortcoming in the meek, if not weak, psychological coverage of the characters. The film is another product in which substance is subordinate to style.

Cast: Ye Liu || Daniel Wu || Chen Chang || Qi Shu
Directed – Alexi Tan
Genre – Action / Drama / Romance
Run Time – 95 min
Country – Taiwan / China
Audio – Mandarin
Subtitles – English [.srt]
IMDB Links – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0897287/

Until the Lights Come Back (2005) (Japan)


Cast: Tsuyoshi Abe || Chikage Awashima || Tomoyo Harada || Kanata Hongô
Directed – Takashi Minamoto
Genre – Drama
Run Time – 132 min
Country – Japan
Audio – English / Japanese
Subtitles – English [.srt/.idx/.sub]
IMDB Links – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0468705/

School Mystery (1998) (Japan)

Toire no Hanako san is a very scary and effective adaptation of the Japanese manga of the same name. Although many horror/suspense cliches are trotted out: the ouija board (although the Japanese version, kokkuri), whispered voices, an animated doll, and a group of kids that look like they stepped right out of a Japanese version of 90210 and always go into that darkened room when they shouldn’t, the movie worked. It was an original touch how the opening narration explaining the events was played over candid shots of the young students with black strips superimposed over their eyes so as to “protect” their identities from being linked to the events that transpire. The quick glimpses of “Hanako san” (we never really see the wholly reanimated version)build tension throughout the film a la the original Alien, and the climactic scenes in the crematorium were very unsettling. It’s possible this film might one day come to the attention of someone in the US film industry and be re-tooled and adapted for a US audience.

Cast: Hiroyuki Ariyoshi || Eri Fuse || Maya Hamaoka || Satomi Ishii
Directed – Yukihiko Tsutsumi
Genre – Horror
Run Time – 95 min
Country – Japan
Audio – Japanese
Subtitles – English [.srt]
IMDB Links – http://imdb.com/title/tt0757929/

Moonlight in Tokyo (2005) (Chinese)

Jun (Lai) is a fragile, dim-witted man callously abandoned by his family on a trip to Tokyo. He bumps into Hoi (the brilliantly funny Chapman To), a former classmate who is on the run from Yakuza loan sharks. Hoi decides to help Jun go on the “love market” as the perfect gigolo, and become Tokyo’s most sought-after Lothario to pay of Hoi’s debts. Thus the odd couple embarks on a side-splitting adventure, worming their way into the hearts of Japanese women, each willing to pay for the promise of love.

Cast: Leon Lai || Chapman To || Michelle Ye || Kuei-Mei Yang
Directed – Felix Chong || Siu Fai Mak
Genre – Comedy / Drama
Run Time – 95 min
Country – Hong Kong
Audio – Cantonese
Subtitles – English [.srt]
IMDB Links – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0490393/

The Princess Blade (2001) (Japan)

In the near future, Japan is ruled once more by a monarchy. But, rebels opposed to this rule seek to overthrow the government. The House of Takemikazuchi, a band of assassins is hired by the government to suppress the rebels. As a conspiracy from within signals the shadowy organization’s impending demise, Yuki, the last of the Takemikazuchi bloodline befriends one of the rebels and seeks revenge against the group’s leader.

Cast: Hideaki Ito || Yumiko Shaku || Shirô Sano || Yoichi Numata
Directed – Shinsuke Sato
Genre – Action / Sci-Fi
Run Time – 92 min
Country – Japan
Audio – Japanese
Subtitles – English [.idx/.srt]
IMDB Links – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0310149/