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Author Topic: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts  (Read 554649 times)

worm@work

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1510 on: November 25, 2010, 09:07:31 AM »
Yep, Last Life is pretty great and your review really makes me want to watch 6ixtynin9. Pity the DVD of The Mission was so terrible :-\.

smirnoff

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1511 on: November 25, 2010, 09:12:32 AM »
Great stuff. Loved The Mission review :D

pixote

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1512 on: December 03, 2010, 12:42:57 PM »
Round One Resurrection Forecast, Films 66 - 70


C'est la vie, mon chéri (Yee Tung-Shing, 1994)
Lost to Raise the Red Lantern (verdict by Bill Thompson)
I watched this film a little before the bracket started and wrote: "There's enough charm, enthusiasm, and earnestness in this low-budget romance to understand how it became such a sleeper success in Hong Kong upon its release. That said, there's also enough clumsiness in the film to make it a little hard to recommend.  I'm glad I watched it, but I have to wonder if this had been an American film I'd randomly picked up at Blockbuster, would I be giving it such a high grade? I have doubts. Speaking of American films, though: It's almost amazing there doesn't exist a 1995-era Hollywood remake of this starting Peter Gallagher as the slightly dour musician and Cameron Diaz as the too-effervescent-to-be-true girl who brightens up his life." Although he liked the movie a little more than I did, Bill's verdict (full review at his blog) was enough in line with my memory of the film that I didn't bother watching it again for resurrection purposes. It's the kind of film that's nice to see and enjoy in round one of a bracket, but not a film that necessarily deserve a spot in the second round.



Alan and Eric Between Hello and Goodbye (Peter Chan, 1991)
Lost to Art Museum by the Zoo (verdict by Melvil)
Like Melvil, I'd previously seen and enjoyed Comrades, Almost a Love Story, so I was expecting good things from this earlier Peter Chan film — especially given the appealing title. And, again like Melvil, I was pretty disappointed. In fact, this is probably the biggest disappointment of the bracket so far. It's really, really bad. First, there's the acting. I've previously complimented Eric Tsang on his roles in Comrades: Almost a Love Story and Metade Fumaca, but his performance here is so awkward and clumsy that I'm nearly tempted to revise my opinion of his later work. Alan Tam is even worse, mugging his way through the entire film like a background actor in an Ed Wood film. Maggie Cheung, like her co-leads, struggles to play 'young' for most of the movie, and it doesn't work at all. I felt a little like I was watching a high school play. The film itself is no better directed that its performances. I was hoping to see the same dream pop aesthetic that Chan showcased so confidently in Comrades, but that was nowhere to be found in Alan and Eric — nor any other sure-handed direction. It's not inept or anything, just not good. Writing all this, I have this nagging feeling that the film couldn't really be as bad as I'm making out, but then, imagining myself trying to watch it again, I can't help but cringe.



General's Son (Im Kwon-taek, 1990)
Lost to City of the Rising Sun (verdict by worm@work)
worm absolutely brutalized this movie in her verdict. Brutalized! While I can't really disagree with any particular thing she said, I found the movie so innocuous that I feel like I should defend it from worm's wrath. That's easier said that done, however; two days after watching the film, it had almost totally slipped my mind — to the point where I wasn't sure if I'd really watched it or not. Writing about it now, a week later, it's probably playing better in my head than it did on the screen. I definitely see the mass appeal of the film (it was a blockbuster in Korea), just in the way it melds together the martial arts and gangster genres. And the numerous fight scenes were, as even worm conceded, decently entertaining. I was pretty worried when I noticed some blatantly fake punches in the very first fight (maybe that's where the Godfather comparisons come from, worm!), but the choreography got decidedly better after that. I even enjoyed the fact that our protagonist was such an ass-kicker that none of his opponents seemed to challenge him at all. It wasn't "Can he beat this guy?" but "How easily will he beat this guy?" I didn't mind that lack of tension at all — probably because I watched a ton of Buffy this year and kept getting annoyed by how every patrol seemed to be life-or-death, with even the weakest vampire giving Buffy a fight. Anyway, worm is probably right that most everything in between the fight scenes is crap. I honestly don't remember. And coming off the crushing disappointment of Alan and Eric, I was probably extra receptive to middling entertainment. One thing I do remember, though, is the the visual style of the film called to mind something like a 1970s soap opera that was filmed and aired live. The way Im's camera moved around every scene with such restless futility was amusingly ludicrous. So, in conclusion, I didn't loathe this movie. That's as far as I'm willing to go.



Operation Scorpio (David Lai, 1991)
Lost to Madadayo (verdict by smirnoff)
Yay, I get to disagree with someone! Not vehemently, alas, but I'll take what I can get, given how often these forecasts have just been reinforcing the round one verdicts. About Operation Scorpio, smirnoff wrote, "This movie just doesn't entertain." I'm happy to report that I had the opposite reaction. I thought this movie did just enough to entertain. There are some narrative similarities to The Karate Kid — old teacher turns out to be a badass; protagonist doesn't realize that all those chores were teaching him kung fu fundamentals — but it also has that same sum-is-greater-than-its-part, sleeper-hit feel to it. It's slow-moving at times, generic, and maybe a little unfocused, but it gets the job done. Yuen Jung's Scorpion-style of fighting is really fun to watch — I'm a sucker for that kind of elongated movement — and it's great to see Liu Chia-Liang (aka Lau Kar-Leung) in action. Wires are clearly visible in a few of the fight scenes, but I didn't mind that at all. The campy homoeroticism of Frankie Chin's weightlifting crew earned a few smiles from me, as did suggestive shots like this. smirnoff, I think, viewed the movie as a failed comedy, but for me it wasn't any more a comedy than The Karate Kid. It's cartoonish, for sure, and humorous in places, but it's a martial arts movie first and foremost, and not a bad one at that. Good enough to resurrect? No, not quite.



A Quiet Life (Jûzô Itami, 1995)
Lost to Artists in Wonderland (verdict by edgar00)
Huh, I didn't realize until a second ago that this film is based on a 1990 novel by the Kenzaburô Oe, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature the year before this film came out. I'm not surprised that the book is from the tail-end of an author's career, given how old-fashioned the film adaptation is. There's a moment in the first act that's right out of I Remember Mama or Our Town or something like that. It's a long shot of the main family's house, with our protagonist, Maa-chan, standing just inside the gate. Two older woman pushing bicycles walk just in front of the gate, come to a stop, and gossip meanly about Maa-chan's mentally handicapped brother, Iiyo. They don't notice Maa-chan standing right there listening until the very end of their gossip; then they flinch and hurry off stage left. A dozen other scenes end with a group of characters all chuckling over something humorous that was just said, punctuated by a fade to black, like a sitcom going to commercial. It's all very quaint and anecdotal. Unfortunately, even the scene of a child molester holding a young girl in the bushes (and, as is made abundantly clear, trying to jerk off on her face) feels imbued with nostalgia. Definitely the worst moment in the film. There's at least one good moment to help balance the scales — when Iiyo first starts exercising in the pool — but that's about it. The way the last part of the film builds up to Iiyo's big Boo Radley moment is particularly obvious and dumb.

Up next: Spring and Chaos, Legend of the Drunken Master, Red Cherry, Angel Dust, and The Taebaek Mountains.

pixote
« Last Edit: December 03, 2010, 06:25:40 PM by pixote »
Great  |  Near Great  |  Very Good  |  Good  |  Fair  |  Mixed  |  Middling  |  Bad

Melvil

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1513 on: December 03, 2010, 12:59:44 PM »
Woohoo!

Yeah, I do not think back fondly on Alan and Eric, it was definitely a disappointment. Out of the group, I'm glad at least Operation Scorpio sounds like an entertaining time. I'm sold on the Scorpion-style kung-fu. :)

BlueVoid

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1514 on: December 03, 2010, 01:18:51 PM »
Another great round of write-ups!  Can't say any if the movies really peaked my interest, but it doesn't sound like any will get a crack at the second round anyway.  Your next batch sound like they will be a good one.
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smirnoff

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1515 on: December 03, 2010, 01:22:18 PM »
I probably exaggerated the negative aspects of Operation Scorpio (maybe a subconscious effect of trying to justify a verdict). Your review seems more level-headed.  Good job banging out another set of reviews :)

BlueVoid

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1516 on: December 12, 2010, 05:31:40 PM »
My Neighbors the Yamadas
Japan
Isao Takahata
1999

Vs.

Tonight Nobody Goes Home
Taiwan
Sylvia Chang
1996


My Neighbors the Yamadas




Bill's Round One Review


My Neighbors The Yamadas Ė A studio Ghibli film with a much different feel than most.  Where the Miyazaki films are infused with vibrant colors and beautifully imagined environments, this Takahata (the director behind the brilliant 'Grave of the Fireflies') work is barebones, with a minimalist animation style.  The film is a family comedy, stringing together a series of vignettes, but lacking any sort of cohesive plot.  The Yamadas are an average Japanese family, who have dysfunctions, but are loving none-the-less.

While there were a couple of segments that really worked and showed the strength of the family unit, on the whole I wasnít too impressed.  There was a lot of negativity shown, and most of the Yamada family seems to be pretty despicable.  I can understand that the point of showing the bad traits of the family is to emphasize that they are average people, with normal problems. There were many segments that showed one member of the family doing something bad, or mean, and rather than wrap up the segment with a moral lesson, it just let it sit.  I got the distinct impression that the family almost begrudged one another, but felt stuck with each other anyhow.  This may have been played for comedy, but it paints a bleak portrait of family values.

Having so much admiration for Studio Ghibli I was disappointed with the Yamadas. The tone of the movie left me feeling empty, and questioning what they were trying to accomplish.  The animation style and some content seemed geared for very young children, but there are themes that would be too mature for that audience.  As an adult there were too many situations and gags that played too juvenile, leaving me confused who the movie was geared towards.  While there were a few genuinely touching segments, far too many fell completely flat, as did the movie as a whole.




Tonight Nobody Goes Home




roujin's Round One Review


Nothing is stronger than family.  No matter how needy the kids are, how dull your marriage is or how strained your financial situation, the family unit is the rock on which all of these struggles break.  Or at least that is the romanticized ideal.  In this dark comedic romp, a family is put through the works from infidelity to dodging hit men, and it is a test to see if their family can persevere through these trials.

As a whole I enjoyed the movie. It twists a dark web of betrayal and deceit, yet always manages to curb the bleak tone with subtle humor.  My biggest problem is with the morals put forth.  Nearly everyone in the film makes terrible mistakes with little remorse for their actions. Itís not a good sign when the most upstanding person in the film is a male gigolo.  I have a really hard time getting behind morally bankrupt characters that show no redeeming qualities. Itís not that I canít enjoy watching flawed characters, but I struggle when they are presented in a way where there actions are portrayed as a norm.

I liked many aspects of the film, but it did meander a bit too long.  I found myself repeatedly checking how much time was left anxious to get to the next scene.  There is a lot of filler material that could have easily been lifted and it would have been a stronger film.   Perhaps if the film were funnier moment to moment, it would have been a smoother watch.  As it stands, itís a decent dark comedy, but one that left me feeling cold and empty about the strength of a family.



Verdict: This is hard.  I don't think either film deserves to be in round 3. What I'm really struggling with is that I really didn't enjoy Yamadas much at all, but I know a lot of people (like Bill) love it, and I respect Takahata and Studio Ghibli so much. I'm torn as to what to do. Do I send the film I enjoyed least forward?  I didn't like 'Tonight' much better, and don't think its a strong round 3 film, but personally I did enjoy it more.  It's hard, very hard. But, I'm stuck.  I must send through the film I feel is better.  I'm sorry all, 'Tonight Nobody Goes Home' goes forward. Honestly, I'd be shocked if either of these made it out of round 3 anyway.
« Last Edit: December 12, 2010, 05:38:49 PM by BlueVoid »
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tinyholidays

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1517 on: December 12, 2010, 06:09:44 PM »
Sounds like a tough match-up, BlueVoid! I've been intrigued by My Neighbors the Yamadas but haven't seen it. I'm sorry to hear about the mismatched tone.

Bondo

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1518 on: December 12, 2010, 06:42:56 PM »
I definitely wasn't a fan of the Yamadas so I reckon this is correct, though it's unfortunate the other wasn't anything too special either.

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1519 on: December 13, 2010, 05:25:31 AM »
A Jin de gu shi (1996, Ann Hui) aka The Stunt Woman





Michelle Yeoh is a stunt woman working in the Hong Kong film industry.  Starting off as independent, she becomes part of Sammo Hungís stunt team bonding with them as the drink, survive explosions, fight off gangsters trying to operate some sort of protection racket and perform lots and lots of wire work. 

This could have been a great little film.  Stunt workers are inherently exciting.  Weíve all seen Jackie Chanís out-takes.  Why not structure a film around them?  Thrill to the sound of bones fracturing.  Watch as safety guidelines are breached, burns are patched up and budgets are over-run.  Add in a slow burning but potentially unrequited relationship evolving between Michelle Yeohís character Ah Kam and her boss.  Thereís a lot of material in there. 

But for some reason Ann Hui clearly thought the thing that a film about stunt people really needed was a badly fractured narrative.  After 30 minutes of interesting character development and some insights in the Hong Kong film industry, the film veers sharply off at an angle, leaving all the stunt work behind and turns into a romance with a bar owner and a battle with the local gangs.  The catering industry in China is a whole lot more boring that stunt work in Hong Kong.  That plot takes 30 minutes to resolve before executing another U-turn into something akin to a traditional Hong Kong action film.  The gangsters now have comedic value, and are far larger than life, building to an underwhelming climax at a fun fair.

I was sorely disappointed by this.  Itís three different films welded into something resembling a story by the apprentice script-welder on the bossís day off.  Ann Hui can clearly direct given the first third of the film.  I honestly donít know what she was trying to do with the remainder.  It becomes directionless.  Great work from Michelle Yeoh given that her character ends up merely reacting to events rather than developing in any way, also Sammo Hung does good work as the lovelorn boss with troubles of his own.  The role of the rest of the cast appears to involve running on screen, yelling some hurried exposition before being set upon by thugs with baseball bats.


Kids Return (1996, Takeshi Kitano)



Two school dropouts idle away their hours dreaming of what they will become after leaving school in between some mid-level bullying and disrupting of maths lessons.  The lives of some other, more conscientious students are followed as a contrast.  This film is supposed to have some autobiographical elements in it and was made amid speculation that it might have been Takeshi Kitanoís last film owing to injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.

First off, possibly the best puppet Iíve seen in a movie recently.  Quality, inventive re-use of incandescent light-bulbs and a torch. 

This pair make a good double-act.  The straight, quiet one with a brash idiot to get him into enjoyable trouble.  As two of their ex-class mates become a real comedy double-act during the film, performing the same routine as the leads but from a stage and for laughs, you might expect this to be a funny film. Yes, it does have funny moments, but overall itís a downbeat, reflective work - during which the humour runs counter to the unfolding small tragedies.

I found this to be a strangely flat, dull film.  Sadly, the puppet is the most interesting thing in it.  The twin trajectories of the two leads are conventional.  You know theyíll end up exactly where they do right from the outset, just as a good artillery-man plots the paths of his shells.  Itís routine.  The most interesting part of it is the story of another of their ex-classmates and his love for the waitress at the cafe he frequents.  The small amount of screen time he occupies has more wrinkles and interest than the entire remainder of the film.  The worst offence comes right at the end, when an inappropriately upbeat tone is struck at the prospect of the entire thing being repeated from the beginning.

I saw this about three weeks ago and have been dreading writing it up as apart from the puppet and the cafe-based relationship, I canít think of a single thing that I liked about the film even if it is a well-made story of two friends trying to find a path through the world.  There are so many better examples of this out there.

Itís a tough choice between these two.  I know which one is the better film.  That happens to be the least interesting choice and I would like to put a female director through.  In the end Kids Return is progressing to the next round because The Stunt Woman is just too much of a mess.
« Last Edit: September 26, 2017, 06:56:23 AM by ProperCharlie »