The Rooftop (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
November 30, 2013 by Dennis Amith
“The Rooftop” is a film that took me by surprise. Popstar/filmmaker/actor Jay Chou has grown up a lot in these last few years and with his involvement of taking part in big budget films and also honing his skills as a director and actor are quite evident in his second directorial effort. Vibrant, mesmerizing, stylish and for Asia, refreshingly different…Jay Chou’s “The Rooftop” is highly recommended!
© 2013 Evergrande Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: The Rooftop
FILM RELEASE: 2013
DURATION: 122 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Mandarin, Subtitles: English, Chinese
COMPANY: Well go USA Entertainment
RATED: Not Rated
Release Date: December 10, 2013
Directed by Jay Chou
Written by Jay Chou
Line Producer: Maxx Tsai
Music by Jay Chou
Edited by Wenders Li
Art Director: Liang Ji Yong
Director of Photography: Mark Lee Ping Bin
Jay Chou as Gao
Xuegi Qang as Ray
Eric Tsang as Sir Po
Fan Xu as Jamine
Alan Ko as Haklen
Hsin Ai Lee as Sian
Kenny Bee as Sian’s Father
Taiwanese pop sensation Jay Chou is Wax, a cocky drifter who lives a happy but oppressed life among the rooftops of Galilee. But a chance meeting with his dream girl, Starling (Li Xinai), takes him on a thrilling journey to change his fate. Chou’s second feature film, THE ROOFTOP is a story of friendship, romance, rivalry and destiny, filled with song and dance numbers that will delight audiences for years to come.
Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou is known for his talent on the music end of the spectrum. A singer, musician, songwriter and music label owner that debuted back in 2000, he was also involved in the directing of his music videos.
And acting in the music videos would eventually lead to his interest in pursuing acting in 2005 with his debut in “Initial D”, which earned the actor his first Hong Kong Film Award and Golden Horse Award for “Best Newcomer Actor”.
But his interest in directing would lead to directing his first film “Secret” in 2007 in which he received praise as a director, not so much as an actor.
But since 2007, Jay Chou has come a long way as an actor. Starring in big budget films, working in the 2011 Hollywood film “The Green Hornet”. And these experiences have led to him acting and directing his second feature film, “The Rooftop” which was released in theaters in 2013. A film that combines fantasy, visual effects, a romantic comedy, a musical and action… something unique for Asia.
Shot in Taiwan, Beijing and Shanghai, “The Rooftop” is Chou’s most expensive film that he had directed at $8.4 million ($250,000,000 TWD).
And now “The Rooftop” will be released on Blu-ray in Dec. 2013 courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.
The film takes place in the fictional Galilee City during the ’70s and there are two types of people. Those who live on the Rooftop without much money but the love to sing and dance and enjoy life, while those who live on the ground and are affluent and powerful.
For Wax (portrayed by Jay Chou), he hangs out with his buddies Tempura (portrayed by Alan Ko), Egg & A-Lang and each night, he loves looking at the billboard of Starling (portrayed by Li Xin’ai), which his friends tend to joke with him about.
Meanwhile on the ground, Rango (portrayed by Wang Xueqi) is the leader of the City Housing Authority (which is actually a triad) and he is the most powerful person in the city as his people often collect rental from the merchants in town.
Working with Rango is Wax’s friend Tempura, who holds the job on the ground while living in the Rooftops, he discovers the lies of Big Red (portrayed by Huang Huai Chen), the leading member of Rango’s triad when it comes to collecting. And in the process, he is stripped of his duties from the triad and Rango putting more trust in Tempura because of his loyalty. Thus Big Red’s anger has led him to despite Rango and Tempura.
One day, Wax and his friends end up running into the actress starling and the popular actor William (portrayed by Darren Chiu). Seeing this as an opportunity to get to know the woman he had fallen for, Wax decides he wants to become an actor in her upcoming film. But the more he tries to get close, the more William becomes jealous and tries to use his control over his film crew to hurt Wax.
And behind-the-scenes, William is working with Big Red, who is trying to find ways of getting more power with the help of the mayor.
But when circumstances try to prevent Wax from seeing Starling, what will he do?
“The Rooftop” is presented in 1080p High Definition. This is possibly one of the most colorful films I have seen from Asia in quite some time. Because of the set design, the costume design selection and the colors used, I was amazed by the vibrant nature of the film. There is no doubt that Jay Chou, art director Liang Ji Yong and Director of Photography Mark Lee Ping Bin put an emphasis on color, but the picture quality on Blu-ray is also wonderful as close-ups show great detail on the faces of the character, details on the clothing and more!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“The Rooftop” is presented in Mandaring 5.1 DTS-HD MA and 2.0. Dialogue and music are crystal clear, with music playing a prominent role in this film. While a more center and front channel driven soundtrack, I didn’t notice surround channel usage as much but for the most part, this soundtrack is adequate for this film.
Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.
“The Rooftop” comes with a theatrical trailer.
When it comes to Asian cinema, I know that I have been a bit critical on Jay Chou.
I must preface that I have been a fan of Jay Chou’s work since he debuted and to this day, I still listen to his song “Tornado”.
And when he made his acting debut in the film “Initial D” and starred in “Curse of the Golden Flower”, I was proud to see him make the transition to the acting world. Despite a rough start and people critical of his acting in the beginning, there was no doubt that he had the fire within him to make it in films and not long after debuting, he was directing his first film in 2007, titled “Secret”.
But after that film, I no longer gave him the benefit of the doubt and wanted to see how things improved for him and unfortunately, “Kung Fu Dunk” and “The Treasure Hunter” were just bad films. While his U.S. debut “The Green Hornet” was good, while the overall film was not.
But in 2012, I saw promise in Jay Chou’s work with “The Viral Factor” and here we are now with his second directorial/screenwriting effort and a romantic film that he is also starring in titled “The Rooftop”.
And I’m sure there are people who may think of this film as a musical or a film more up Jay Chou’s alley with music videos galore. Some may also consider “The Rooftop” to be a cliche of past American films incorporating the chase film, the musical and a Taiwanese version of “West Side Story”.
I look at it as a cinema smorgasbord as the film incorporates the cool aspect of films that Chou was inspired from but gives it a twist.
Beautiful, colorful costume design with an inspiring set design full of laughter and fun when it comes to the musical scenes. While its play on 60’s-70s cinema and the film incorporates various montage of musical interpretations of Jay Chou songs that are split between something of a colorful classic musical to something modern straight out of Asian pop music videos, suffice to say, trying to create something different in Asian cinema and to be creative is not always easy and in fact, too many films have become overly banal.
But “The Rooftop” manages to be different creatively, aesthetically than any Asian film that I have seen in the last 30-years and because of its changing nature, especially for the second half of the film which becomes much more deeper and less colorful. In fact, after the film was done, I had to do a double take and ask myself, “did Jay Chou” really direct and write this film?
Because I absolutely enjoyed it and found it so refreshing, stylish and delightful.
You can tell that this film was rather expensive and I’m not sure if any other filmmaker can pull this off as Jay Chou was able to take his pop influence, his appreciation for film and music and bring it together.
The musical aspect of the film showcases wonderful choreography and is so live and energetic. The music aspect of the film tends to contain a little of that Jay Chou music video vibe but is consistent with the film. The romantic comedy is also fun and delightful to watch (until things get dark). And last, the action scenes were a bit of a surprise because it takes the film from being so lively to something dark and tragic.
And with that being said, as much as I’m praising the film, I also have to say that the film is not perfect.
There are characters that are in the film, that have much to do in the first half of the film but somewhat disappear or there roles become very limited by the second half.
The changing pace of having something so colorful, vibrant, fun and delightful and turning something from light to something so dark and tragic, may not be for everyone. The violence may be a bit of a surprise and I know some may feel it was unfortunate to see those type of scenes added into the film.
And for those who love traditional filmmaking with consistent pacing may find the film to be too erratic for their taste. While those who want something different, will applaud the film for its changing themes.
But I do respect filmmakers who are wanting to create something new, different and to go far in their career and for Jay Chou, he manages to accomplish this with efficacy. And I can only hope this continues, especially in his choice of participating in films. He’s on a role right now and I hope he doesn’t get involved in anymore bad films, considering these last two years have been going strong for him in cinema.
The Blu-ray for “The Rooftop” features wonderful picture quality and really showcases the vibrant color of the film, while it’s lossless soundtrack has crystal clear dialogue and music. Unfortunately, there are no major special features aside from the theatrical trailer. Which is a shame for a major film of this magnitude and knowing also that the Asia release of the film does come with a making of featurette, which is not available in this U.S. release.
Overall, “The Rooftop” is a film that took me by surprise. Popstar/filmmaker/actor Jay Chou has grown up a lot in these last few years and with his involvement of taking part in big budget films and also honing his skills as a director and actor are quite evident in his second directorial effort.
Vibrant, mesmerizing, stylish and for Asia, refreshingly different…Jay Chou’s “The Rooftop” is highly recommended!
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