“Nightfall” is a riveting, revenge, action film for rookie director Chow Hin Yeung Roy. Featuring a solid performance from both Simon Yam and Nick Cheung, the storyline from “Nightfall” is filled with gritty action but also many twist and turns that will keep interested from beginning to end. Recommended!
TITLE: Nightfall (Daai deoi bou)
FILM RELEASE: 2012
DURATION: 108 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9 widescreen, Cantonese/English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English
COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment
RATED: Not Rated
Release Date: May 21, 2013
Directed by Chow Hin Yeung Roy
Screenplay by Chow Hin Yeung Roy, Chi-long To
Produced by Ivy Ho, William Kong
Executive Producer: Ryuhei Chiba, William Kong, Dai Song
Music by Shigeru Umebayashi
Cinematography by Andy Lam
Edited by Ka-Fai Cheung
Production Design by Pater Wong
Simon Yam as George Lam
Nick Cheung as Wong Yuen-yeung
Kay Tse as Au-yeung Ying
Janice Man as Zoe Tsui/Eva Tsui Yiwan
Michael Wong as Han Tsui
On-on (Candice) Yu as Mrs. Tsui
Gordon Liu as Lung
Felix Lok as Yu
He is a Hong Kong celebrity – a master pianist, adored, sought after by many, an upcoming concert leaving audiences enthralled. He is dead. Found floating in the ocean, embittered and jaded detective Lam (Simon Yam) is called in to find the murderer. Lam quickly identifies a killer from the past – a brutal man just released from prison (Nick Cheung) with possible ties to the family. But what Lam surmises as a clear-cut case of revenge gets murkier, the more he investigates. Suspicion, facts, and the truth become harder, the closer he looks.What unfolds is a crime from the past. 20 years of lies, and a secret so shocking it threatens to pull the entire case down. Who is the victim and who is the killer? From the director of MURDERER and starring two of Hong Kong’s most exciting action stars comes a gritty, brutal story of love, hate and vengeance.
Director/writer Chow Hin Yeung Roy may not have a long list of films in his oeuvre just yet. With only two films under his belt and having worked as a researcher in “Lust, Caution” and an assistant producer for “Fearless”.
But all it takes is one film to capture the attention of an audience and film critics and in 2012, Roy’s gritty revenge film “Nightfall” (daai deoi bou) did just that.
Starring Simon Yam (“Ip Man”, “PTU”, “Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life”, “Election”), Nick Cheung (“Election”, “Breaking News”, “Exiled”), Michael Wong (“Thunderbolt”, “City Hunter”, “Beast Cops”), Kay Tse and Janice Man.
The film would earn director Chow Hin Yeung Roy a “Best New Director” award at the Hong Kong Film Awards and also win a “Best Sound Effects” award at the “Golden Horse Film Festival”, including “Best Actor” nominations for Nick Cheung.
And now “Nightfall” will be released in the United States in May 2013.
“Nightfall” begins with a violent attack featuring Wong Yuen-yeung (portrayed by Nick Cheung) taking on several men in a fight inside prison. We are then shown how Wong Yuen-yeung went to prison for the murder of an 18-year-old young woman named Eva (portrayed by Janice Mann).
Having served nearly 21 years in prison, Wong is released from prison.
Meanwhile, police inspector George Lam is a man who immerses himself with work. After the death of his wife who committed suicide and all the years he spent dedicated to his work and neglecting his daughter, there has been once case that has been kept inside that he has always wanted to re-open, the case of the death of Eva Tsui.
As for former convict Wong Yuen-Yeung, he is shown stalking a young woman named Zoe (also played by Janice Mann), who has a strong resemblance to Eva and he begins trying to keep surveillance on her, sneaking into her room to install a bug and listen in on her conversations and watch her from afar with a telescope.
But as Wong Yuen-Yeung spies on the female pianist, he notices her getting verbally and physically abused by her father, master pianist Han Tsui (portrayed by Michael Wong).
We see Wong Yuen-Yeung making preparations for something on a cliff near the sea and not long after, Han Tsui has been found murdered on the beach and his face has been pummeled.
Inspector George Lam is sent to investigate the incident and interview both the victim’s wife (portrayed by Candice Yu) and their daughter Zoe. As he and his investigative crew continue their investigation, George learns that Han Tsui was the father of a woman that was murdered nearly two decades ago, a case that he remembers. And how a young man that was accused of murder was being beaten during his interrogation.
Realizing that the young man is Wong Yuen-yeung who was recently released from prison. Is there a connection between Han Tsui’s death and Wong Yuen-ying being released back onto the streets?
Meanwhile, Zoe starts to receive disturbing messages and phone calls.
As Wong is brought in for questioning, George realizes that the man no longer can speak (severely injured during a brawl in prison)
“Nightfall” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio). One of the high points of the film is the use of a Red One camera which brings out amazing detail in the film. From the orange tinged fight scenes at the beginning of the film, showcasing the violent actions and closeups of a character. Outside of the opening gritty and violent fight scene, the film uses natural colors. Natural skin tones and great closeup detail, black levels are nice and deep and for the most part, the film looks great on Blu-ray!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
Unlike the Edko Asian Blu-ray release, Well Go USA Entertainment opted to use a Cantonese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio 48 kHz soundtrack instead of the 7.1 lossless track. I was a bit surprised because the highlight of the Edko Films Blu-ray release was its lossless 96 kHz 7.1 soundtrack. But for the most part, action sequences and music are utilized through the surround channels and sound crystal clear, especially during the more action-intense sequences. Also, included is a Dolby Digital 2.0 Cantonese soundtrack.
Subtitles are in English and Chinese.
“Nightfall” comes with the following special features:
- Making Of – (47:42) Featuring behind-the-scenes footage of the making of “Nightfall” and interviews with the director and cast.
- Theatrical Trailer – (:56) The theatrical trailer for “Nightfall”.
For rookie filmmaker Chow Hin Yeung Roy, “Nightfall” is a pretty satisfying revenge film with twist and turns and a solid performance from both Simon Yam and Nick Cheung that is able to make the film stand out in the plethora of other Hong Kong films with a “revenge” theme.
While Simon Yam has been featured as a supporting actor in films of late, it’s great to see him in the main lead as a detective George Lam who is dedicated to his job, yet knows that dedication has cost him his family. It’s his discovery and how he evolves throughout the film is rather fascinating.
But even more fascinating is how Nick Cheung was able to embody the character of Wong Yuen-yeung. Watching this actor evolve from Benny Chan’s 1992 film “Hua! ying xiong” to romantic comedies such as “The Teacher Without Chalk”, since “Runaway” of 2001, he is able to tap into gritty action films such as “Breaking News”, “Election” and the same can be said with his recent film “Nightfall”.
This is probably one of the best films he has acted in that he doesn’t even have to mutter one single word. It’s all about facial expressions, body movement and physicality. And with decades in cinema, Cheung doesn’t look like has aged all that much as he is able to play these physical roles with efficacy.
Let’s first talk about what I liked about the film. I liked how the film sets you up believing this film was a creepy stalker/murder film but then switches gears and then as each layer is stripped off from the main storyline, things change in a different direction and you can’t help but be fascinated by the new developments of the film. As mentioned, there are plenty of twists and turns along the way and you can’t help but remain captivated and watch how the film ends.
The acting performances by Simon Yam and Nick Cheung is a major highlight of the film and there are some beautiful scenes of cinematography.
What I didn’t like about the film? Not sure if it’s more unlike but more of it being too farfetched. You have a mute convict who has not seen society in more than 20-years, coming out to reality but yet manages to garner high end spy equipment. With what money was he able to purchase a powerful telescope, bugging device.
In one accident scene, both George and Wong take a major fall. In reality, one would find themselves in the hospital but of course in Hong Kong action cinema, falling from several feet and landing on a tree is enough as a cushion to keep one alive and well.
And no different from previous work from Michael Wong, it’s always hilarious for me to see him speak in English then to Cantonese, then to English. This is not a distraction and for some it may be a negative but for me, you have seen Michael Wong do this in so many films, you come to expect it and want to see it.
But despite some of the farfetched ideas implemented in the film, “Nightfall” is still a gritty, revenge action film that is able to stand on its own two feet and separate itself from other Hong Kong films with a similar theme.
As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good but for lossless audio, Well Go USA Entertainment opted for a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio 48 kHz soundtrack instead of the very well-received Edko Films 7.1 Dolby TrueHD 96 kHz soundtrack. But still, the film does sound amazing, especially during the more action-intense sequences.
Overall, “Nightfall” is a riveting, revenge, action film for rookie director Chow Hin Yeung Roy. Featuring a solid performance from both Simon Yam and Nick Cheung, the storyline from “Nightfall” is filled with gritty action but also many twist and turns that will keep interested from beginning to end.
“Back to 1942″ is a powerful, thought-provoking film that opens your eyes to many factors of how millions of people in Henan, China suffered and possibly millions have died back in 1942 due to the great famine and also poor decision made by the government. “Back to 1942″ is an epic film from filmmaker Feng Xiaogang that is recommended on Blu-ray!
TITLE: Back to 1942 (Yi jiu si er)
FILM RELEASE: 2012
DURATION: 151 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9 widescreen, Mandarin/English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English, Chinese
COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment
RATED: Not Rated
Release Date: May 14, 2013
Directed by Xiaogang Feng
Based on the novel by Zhenyun Liu
Produced by Sanping Han, Peter Lam, Guangquan Liu, Dai Song, Yiyang Wang, Zhongjun Wang, Albert Yeung
Co-Producer: Stephen Lamm, Shirley Lau, Chaoyang Li, Wanli Liu, Zhengwei Ni, Yu Zhang
Co-Executive Producer: Chen’an, Chengsheng Gao, Lorraine Ho, Xiang Huang, Albert Lee, Yue Ren, Wenhong Yang, Xia Yue, Danjun Zhang, Huali Zhang, Qiang Zhang, Duojia Zhao, Hai Cheng Zhao, Hongmei Zhao
Music by Jiping Zhao
Cinematography by Yue Lu
Costume Design by Timmy Yip
Tim Robbins as Father
Adrien Brody as Theodore Harold White
Daoming Chen as Chiang Kai-shek
Fan Xu as Hua Zhi
Hanyu Zhang as An Ximan
Alec Su as T.V. Soong
Guoli Zhang as Fan Dianyuan
Xuejian Li as Li Peiji
Mo Zhang as Shuan Zhu
Ziwen Wang as Xing Xing
Yihong Duan as Chen Bulei
Yuanzheng Feng as Xia Lu
Zhong Lu as Zhang Fang’s Motehr
Guoqiang Zhang as Guo Jiquao
Shaohau Zang as Xia Lu Nang
The Henan province disaster was one of the darkest moments in 20th-century Chinese history a humanitarian crisis first sparked by drought, then compounded by a combination of windstorms, government corruption, and a war with Japan. In the midst of the devastation, an American journalist (Adrian Brody) searches for answers, and slowly comes to understand that there may be a greater connection between these tragedies and his political theories than he once thought. Starring Brody, Zhang Guoli, and Tim Robbins, this tragic retelling of events is based on Liu Zhengyun’s bestselling novel Remembering 1942. Director Feng Xiaogang follows up his blockbuster real-life disaster movie AFTERSHOCK with this unflinching portrayal of one of the darkest times in China’s WWII history, resulting in a loss of at least three million people.
Throughout history, many countries have suffered from famines. Famines have destroyed cities, led to internal collapses of civilization, diseases/plagues and has led to unrest.
While one can read of great famines in Ireland, the United States, Ethiopia, India and Russia. And for China, the country has suffered many centuries of famine, where millions upon millions have died.
But during World War II, because of Japanese occupation and politics, the famine that took place in Henan, China was downplayed and even to the point of not existing, until a Time magazine journalist named Theodore H. White, who was stationed in Chungking, China’s wartime capital, was able to see and document the refugees (who were affected by the famine) and yet were being killed by the Japanese during bombing raids and turned back by their own government who did not have a solution to feed millions of people, nor to have millions stay in their city.
Unfortunately, the truth was censored by the Nationalist government of China at the time and even his editors rewrote his stories at Time Magazine. So, Theodore White went on to write his account of what he saw in China along with Annalee Jacoby, in the book “Thunder Out if China”.
For filmmaker Feng Xiaogang, it has been a challenge for him to get the novel of Zhenyu Liu, based on the famine in the Henan province to be made into a film. After several attempts, in 2010, “Back to 1942″ would eventually receive a film adaptation.
Known for his films “A World Without Thieves”, “If You Are the One”, “Cell Phone”, “The Banquet” and becoming one of China’s most successful filmmakers. “Back to 1942″ would eventually win the A.I.C. Award for “Best cinematography” and the “Golden Butterfly Award” during its premiere at the International Rome Film Festival and “Best Film of Mainland and Taiwan” at the 32nd Hong Kong Film Awards.
And now “Back to 1942″ will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.
The film is set in Henan in 1942 as Japanese occupation was taking place in China. Meanwhile, one of the wealthiest warlords in Henan, Master Fan (portrayed by Zhang Guoli) is trying to keep his family and village fed but truthfully, he has been greedy and keeping his food hidden. But one day, a large group of bandits come to ask for Fan to feed them as they are starving.
Master Fan doesn’t want his family or villagers getting killed in a war with the bandits but has one of his men, go to warn the troops that bandits are in his village.
So, as everyone including the bandits are being fed, the man he sends to contact the troops comes back with bad news that the Japanese have closed off the border and he wasn’t able to contact the troops. But since the man said it so loud, the bandits were able to hear about Fan’s plan and a war erupts within the village and bandits, villagers and also a son of Master Fan is killed. Unfortunate, his village is pillaged and also destroyed in the fire that came after the battle.
With no home to live, everyone in the village joins refugees who are searching for food and shelter. Master Fan along with his wife, his pregnant daughter-in-law Li Peiji (portrayed by Xuejian Li), his youngest daughter Lingdang (portrayed by Yao Jingyi), a family worker named Shuan Zhu (portrayed by Mo Zhang) and others travel along with the refugees, thinking that he can find shelter because he has money and he has grain hidden in his little wooden truck.
But tragedy hits the refugees as Japanese bombers start opening fire and bombing the refugees, who were walking with soldiers. And in the process, NRA soldiers end up stealing Fan’s money and food. And now, he and his family are no different from the refugees.
Meanwhile, we see on Chinese priest named An Ximan (portrayed by Hanyu Zhang) who had seen the devastation of war go back to Father Megan (portrayed by Tim Robbins) and question why would God allow terrible things happen to the Chinese people and the father responds that it’s not God but the devil.
A Time Magazine foreign journalist named Theodore Harold White (portrayed by Adrien Brody) has went to take pictures of the refugees and how badly malnourished many of them are and are in desperately need of food. He knows that the Chinese Nationalist Government must know about it, as he is starting to see cannibalism and dogs feeding from the dead.
While Theodor Harold White has taken photos of what he had seen, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek (portrayed by Daoming Chen) is more concerned of public perception and his leadership. Despite seeing the photos taken by White, he tries to have White’s work censored. Knowing that feeding the refugees is a lost battle, he feels that it’s probably best to let the Japanese deal with them.
As Henan politician Li Peiji (portrayed by Li Xuejian) tries to secure food for Henan and the refugees, he knows he has a difficult battle ahead of him because while he would get grain for the refugees, it’s only enough to feed them for 2-3 days and that is it. To make matters worse, the business people, soldiers, local officials and the police start fighting and arguing of who gets more food over the other and no one can agree. And for Li Peiji, he has seen how people have become because of the war and the famine. But to make matters worse, he knows that the government is trying to limit the official count of people dying at Henan to over a thousand, while the truth is that 3 million have died of starvation.
As for the Japanese, they see the refugees as a way to use them to fight against their government. If they kept them fed, they would use Chinese to fight alongside with them.
As for Master Fan, over a hundred miles of walking, once they get to their destination, they are turned away by their government who begins shooting at them. Powerless, he begins to see as his family members start to die one by one and making decisions that he does not want to make and wonders if life is worth living at all.
“Back to 1942″ is a film that was intentionally desaturated and given almost a greenish/brownish tinge at times. While costume design and production design are top notch, and the cinematography by Yue Lu look wonderful, I think that the choice of colors of not being natural was a bit of a surprise. Sometimes they were, sometimes they were cooler, sometimes they were warmer but for the most part, I assume this was Lu and filmmaker Feng Xiaogang’s intention.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Back to 1942″ is presented in Mandarin/English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Mandarin being the primary language spoken, while Tim Robbins and Adrien Brody’s scenes are in English. There is good use of surround usage during the more wartime scenes. From the Japanese attacks on the refugees to the attacks on Chinese cities, there is good use of the surround channels and LFE during those scenes. But the film is primarily dialogue driven and sometimes allows for use of crowd ambiance.
Subtitles are in English and Chinese.
“Back to 1942″ comes with a theatrical trailer.
“Back to 1942″ comes with a slipcover.
“Back to 1942″ is a thought-provoking film and also a war film that many filmmakers have not even tried to pursue.
In the past few years, we have seen films that dealt with Japanese occupation and the atrocities that took place, especially in Nanjing or other areas of China such as the film “City of Life and Death” and “The Children of Huang-Shi” but having taken a Chinese history class and have watched countless historical documentaries of famine that have destroyed civilizations throughout our history, “Back to 1942″ was the first film that exposed me to the famine of Henan.
China is a country that has suffered from famine for centuries, while “The Great Chinese Famine” (1958-1961) were widely reported in the press, while journalist Theodore H. White tried his best to get the Chinese Nationalist government and his own bosses to report on the starving refugees, it was not widely reported and if anything, the government downplayed the death toll as seen in the film to around over a thousand people dying, while the truth is that 300 million may have died. And unfortunately because it was downplayed, the exact figures were not ever recorded.
Why would this happen?
Journalist Theodore H. White garnered attention with what he wrote from his own personal first-person account, “Famine and flood are China’s sorrow. From time out of mind Chinese chroniclers have recorded these recurrent disasters with beating, persistent note of doom. Always in their chronicles Chinese historians have judged the great dynasties of the past by their ability to meet and master such tragic emergencies. In the concluding years of the war against Japan such a famine ravaged the north and tested the government of Chiang Kai-shek.”
Also, the government continued their trend of taxing the poor farmers who planted their grain, getting a large percentage of it and left very little for them to survive on. To make things worse, those who must meet the grain quota had to sell their animals, land and property to raise money to buy the grain from others.
Chinese independent newspapers tried to get the word out of what was happening in Henan, but the government closed down the newspaper.
“Back to 1942″ does show some of the horrors that White had written about. People eating bark from trees and also leaves, dead people left on the side of the trail to be eaten by dogs.
You would think the government would respond, but White would write, ” The Chinese government failed to foresee the famine; when it came, it failed to act until too late. As early as October (1942), reports of the situation were arriving in Chungking. In November two government inspectors visited Honan, traveled the main motor roads, and returned to say the that the crisis was desperate and something must be done immediately. The Central Government dismissed the matter by appropriating $200,000,000 –paper money–for famine relief and sending a mandate to provincial authorities to remit taxes. The banks in Chungking loaded the bales of paper currency on trucks and sent a convoy bearing paper not food, to the stricken. It would have been hopeless to try to move heavy tonnage of grain from central China over the broken, mountainous communications to northern China and Honan. Yet just across the provincial border from Honan was the province of Shensi, whose grain stores were more than ample. A vigorous government would have ordered grain from Shensi into neighboring Honan immediately to avert disaster. But cracking down on Shensi in favor of Honan would have upset the delicate balance of power the government found so essential to its functioning. Grain might also have been moved to Honan from Hupeh, but the war commander in Hupeh (Hubei) would not permit it.”
Suffice to say, as the film is an adaptation of the novel by Liu Zhenyun, who also wrote the film, the one narration at the end of how he tried to interview his grandmother, a refugee who survived the ordeal, she rather not talk about it. The fact is that millions of them were unfortunately betrayed by their own government. By greed, by politics, be the lack of decision-making and unfortunately, the war had a lot to do with it as well.
While China has moved past their ties of Nationalism to Communism and the film does provide fodder for how a Nationalistic government betrayed their own people (and in ways, also showcases Chiang Kai Shek as a poor leader), unfortunately, the tale of “Back to 1942″ can be applied in so many countries that suffered from famine and even natural disasters.
Filmmaker Feng Xiaogang is known for capturing the human emotion and spirit through disaster but also capturing intense battle sequences which are featured in this film. This latest film was his most intense yet and possibly the first major attempt to reach out to an international audience thanks to the casting of both Tim Robbins and Adrien Brody. While Tim Robbins’ scenes were probably not even needed in the film, Adrien Brody’s role as Theodore H. White is important as his article is what gained international attention.
As for the Blu-ray release, the film does take an interesting visual style, especially when it comes down to color use (some may not like the saturated green/earth-tone tinge). The film also has wonderful cinematography, costume and production design and for the most part, filmmaker Feng Xiaogang was able to create a thought-provoking, important film about the famine and the betrayal and the suffering of the Chinese refugees. The lossless audio also utilizes the surround channels when needed but dialogue is crystal clear. It is unfortunate that for a powerful film such as “Back to 1942″, not one special feature (but a theatrical trailer) was included on the Blu-ray release. I’m absolutely surprised by that and it is a bit disappointing.
Overall, “Back to 1942″ is a powerful, thought-provoking film that opens your eyes to many factors of how millions of people in Henan, China suffered and possibly millions have died back in 1942 due to the great famine and also poor decision made by the government. This is a film that showcases emotional suffering, death and enormous tragedy from an unfortunate time in China’s history that many people in this world may not even know about and will probably never know about as this tragedy was kept secret and not documented by the government of that time.
It’s a little lengthy, devoid of special features but yet, “Back to 1942″ is an epic film from filmmaker Feng Xiaogang that is recommended on Blu-ray!
“The Assassin’s Blade” is a film that may seem a bit disjointed at times, but manages to retain that Jingle Ma style of action and romantic comedy but also incorporating a tragic side as well. Featuring cool sword fight choreography, “The Assassin’s Blade” is a film worth recommending!
TITLE: The Assassin’s Blade (Mo hup leung juk)
FILM RELEASE: 2008
DURATION: 103 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9 widescreen, Cantonese Chinese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English
COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment
RATED: Not Rated
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Directed by Jingle Ma
Screenplay by Po Chun Chan, Jingle Ma, Ka-Keung Ng, Sin Ling Yeung
Produced by Catherine Hun
Music by Tsang-Hei Chiu
Cinematography by Chi Ying Chan, Jingle Ma
Edited by Chi-Leung Kwong
Art Direction by Tony Yu
Costume Design by Bruce Yu
Charlene Choi as Zhu Yanzhi
Chun Wu as Liang
Ge Hu as Ma
Li Qinqin as Zhu Yanzhi’s mother
Shao Bing as General Tie
Shaun Tam as Axe gang boss
Lung Ti as Zhu Gongyuan
Seli Xian as Yinxin
Xin Xin Xiong
Harlem Yu as Uncle Caotou
Zhu Yanzhi (Charlene Choi) is the daughter of a wealthy wine merchant (Ti Lung), sent into the mountains disguised as a man to learn martial arts with an elite clan.Once she begins her intense training, Zhu finds herself at odds with her trainer and superior, Liang (Chun Wu). But soon, a stronger connection is revealed between the two, and as their attraction grows, so does the danger of Liang discovering Zhu s real identity, Could it be that they’re destined to be together?As the two lovers dare voice their feelings, Zhu learns that her parents are in danger and she must return home immediately, in the company of a childhood friend who also happens to be an aspiring court politician. Could there be more to his intentions than she knows? From the action director of HERO and HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS, this comedy romance crackles with action, danger, hidden identities and unrequited love.
Filmmaker Jingle Ma is known for his many hit films in Hong Kong. From “Fly Me to Polaris”, “Tokyo Raiders”, “Summer Holiday”, “Seoul Raiders” to name a few, Ma is known for being able to direct films that utilize characters for action but also romantic comedies and tragic dramas.
In 2008, Jingle Ma directed “Mo hup leung juk” (“The Assassin’s Blade” and also known as “The Butterfly Lovers”) starring Charlene Choi (“Vampire Effect”, “Robin B-Hood”, “The Sorcerer and the White Snake”), Fahrenheit boy band artist now full-time actor, Wu Chun “14 Blades”, “Magic to Win”, “My Kingdom”) and Hu Ge (“1911″, “Diva”).
The film begins with an introduction of how two virgin’s (known as the Butterfly Lovers) from heaven, a man and a woman who had fallen in love, were banished to the mortal world with their punishment to last for 10 generations (each time they are reincarnated).
The film then begins with Zhu Yanzhi (portrayed by Charlene Choi) being dressed as a man and sent to the Soul Ease Clan, so she can learn how to fight and protect her family. While leaving, many clans try to attempt and attack her but she is saved by Liang Zhongshan (portrayed by Wu Chun) and later helped by her Brother Ma (portrayed by Hu Ge), a family friend who has been supportive of the family for years.
While at the Soul Ease Clan, it is evident that Zhu Yanzhi is not much of a fighter and appears to her other new brothers as quite feminine. But keeping her secret and supporting her behind the scenes is the health medic, Uncle Caoutou (portrayed by Harlem Yu).
Responsible for taking care of her is Brother Liang and because it is his responsibility to watch over her, he tries to have fun with Yanzhi by initiating her to the group (not knowing she is a female) by having the brothers throw her in the lake (because she was covered with dirt). But Yanzhi got sick and cold and Brother Liang knows he would get in deep trouble if he didn’t not take care of his new little brother.
And while he takes care of Yanzhi, she starts to become smitten with him to the point that she starts putting butterflies on his sword. Meanwhile, he tries to help Yanzhi with martial arts training.
One day, the medical healer comes up with a new experimental medicine that will make a person seem dead for three days but they will need to be fed a certain type of grass on the hills to revive them and the healer puts his trust into Yanzhi to revive him, as he will experiment on the new medicine he created on himself.
Frantic about not knowing what the healing grass is, she goes out to look for it immediately but gets hurt and sprains her ankle. Brother Liang eventually finds her and when he finds her, unresponsive, he goes to put pressure on her chest and finds out that she is actually a woman. While he manages to revive her, her secret is now known by Liang and both become attracted towards each other.
But while she hopes to spend more time with Liang, her Brother Ma comes with news that her parents were in trouble and now Yanzhi needs to come back home. But what Brother Ma sees is a Yanzhi attracted to Liang and he becomes jealous.
Liang requests for Yanzhi to accompany him real quick to a place that he had wanted to show her and what they find is a butterfly garden and both confess they have similar dreams of finding each other. Not knowing why they feel they are destined to be with each other.
While Yanzhi returns home, her mother tells her that she will be married. Thinking that she is to marry Liang, she finds out that her father has her arranged to marry Brother Ma, which she refuses. But her father is adamant that she must do what her parents say and has her locked up with a chain in her room.
So, with a marriage between Yanzhi and Brother Ma to take place, Brother Liang heads to her village, in order to meet with her. But what happens when he makes contact with Yanzhi?
“The Assassin’s Blade” is presented in 16:9 widescreen. While made in 2008, the film features wonderful detail and costume design. There are some stylistic and artistic directions that Jingle Ma utilizes in the film, for example, the butterfly garden which uses pastels and a colorful palette. One of the better scenes in the film features a sword fight between Liang and an army of men, but the red lanterns really look stylish and for the most part, the film looks visually stunning.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“The Assassin’s Blade” is presented in Cantonese DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. I have to admit that I was expecting good use of the surround channels for the film. But the main moments I recognized the lossless track being more vibrant was during the opening music sequence and Charlene Choi’s main music segment in the film. For the most part, the audio is crystal clear but is driven by a center and front channel lossless track. Not too immersive as I would hope but the overall film sounds fantastic!
Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.
“The Assassin’s Blade” comes with a trailer.
A Romeo and Juliet style of storyline that visually looks impressive but the film’s pacing from comedy to a serious drama seems out of place, especially from predictable plots and uneven acting at times.
I have had the opportunity to watch many of the films directed by Jingle Ma and also films starring Charlene Choi and he has directed some of Hong Kong’s biggest hits. From the ultimate sad storyline of “Fly Me to Polaris”, the enjoyable action film “Tokyo Raiders”, the fantastic romantic comedy “Summer Holiday” and the dance film “Para Para Sakura”, one can call Jingle Ma a filmmaker who is able to take on a variety of genres.
While Charlene Choi has been the idol pop star formerly of the Twins, who had taken on roles that were primarily romantic comedies or action films with a pop twist, may it be “The Twins Effect” films, “House of Fury” or other related films.
Fortunately, being a popular actress and still a bankable star in HK does allow for better roles and since 2009 with “Storm Warriors”, “Treasure Inn”, “The Jade and Pearl” and most notably, for the 2011 film “The Emperor and the White Snake”, Choi has established herself as one of the go to girls for martial arts films. Maybe not so much as a martial arts fighter but to utilize her comedy/drama skills and bring it to the big screen.
And this is the case with “The Assassin’s Blade”. While one who may have seen the trailer, may get a different idea that this film is about a hunter being the hunted or something deeper, “The Assassin’s Blade” is more of a romantic comedy for its first half and suddenly becomes a serious martial arts film by its second half and becomes a “Romeo and Juliet” type of storyline.
And unfortunately, just the mere mention of that will give people an idea of what to expect of this film.
While the film has wonderful visual scenes and fight choreography, one can wonder how a Charlene Choi is able to play a man, while still looking very beautiful as a young woman with makeup. Some may question, it’s quick transition from romantic comedy to a serious action film by its second half. But this is how Hong Kong cinema has always been, keeping audiences interested before delivering with action sequences for its second half.
The plot is also muddled with questionable plotlines, as the storyline involving Brother Ma as an antagonist doesn’t seem too plausible and the bad things that he does, is not strong enough for one to even dislike him.
If anything, the first half of the film is fun because we see Liang and Yanzhi getting closer, but both not knowing why they are attracted to each other and for Liang, having this unexpected feeling that he may be falling for his feminine younger brother. But by the second half, when we get to see the action take place and how Liang and Yanzhi will do whatever they can to be together, that’s when the film really begins to catch on and become more exciting.
But the film is fun for the most part, but it feels you are getting two different of stories. One created for the first half to establish the characters, while a second half becomes more serious and tragic.
As for the Blu-ray release of “The Assassin’s Blade”, the visual presentation for this 2008 film looks very good in HD but the lossless track could have been more immersive. And as for special features, I expected to see a featurette but all you get is a trailer that really tries to make the film seem like it’s something different.
While I feel this is not Jingle Ma’s best films that he has directed, I will say that this film is quite enjoyable for it’s storyline and fight scenes. Charlene Choi has always been an actress that I enjoyed for her comedy and emotion, while Wu Chun really gets the opportunity to shed his boy band image and for people to look at him as a young up-and-coming actor. Both do a very good job in this film!
Overall, “The Assassin’s Blade” is a film that may seem a bit disjointed at times, but manages to retain that Jingle Ma style of action and romantic comedy but also incorporating a tragic side as well. Featuring cool sword fight choreography, “The Assassin’s Blade” is a film worth recommending!
“Dragon” is an exciting martial arts film with amazing fight choreography! While I have seen better Peter Chan, Donnie Yen and Takeshi Kaneshiro films, there is no doubt that martial arts action film fans will enjoy “Dragon”. It’s definitely one of the better martial arts films I have seen on video released in 2013 so far!
TITLE: Dragon (Wu-xia)
FILM RELEASE: 2011
DURATION: 98 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:35:1 Aspect Ratio, Mandarin Chinese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English, Spanish
COMPANY: Radius TWC/Anchor Bay Entertainment
RATED: R (for Violence)
Release Date: April 16, 2013
Directed by Peter Chan
Written by Oi Wah Lam
Produced by Peter Chan, Yuet-Jan Hui
Co-Produced by Keyan Dong, Tao Hong, Wenbo Jiang, York Lu
Music by KWong Wing Chan, Peter Kam, Chatchai Pongprapaphan
Cinematography by Yiu-Fai Lai, Jake Pollok
Edited by Derek Hui
Production Design by Chung Man Yee
Art Direction by Li Sun
Costume Design by Dora Ng
Takeshi Kaneshiro as Xu Bai-jiu
Xiao Ran Li
Wei Tang as Ayu
Yu Wang as THe Master
Donnie Yen as Liu Jin-xi
Liu Jin-xi (Donnie Yen) is a village craftsman whose quiet life is irrevocably shattered by the arrival of two notorious gangsters in the local general store. When Liu single-handedly saves the shopkeeper’s life, he comes under investigation by detective Xu Bai-jiu (Takeshi Kaneshiro). Convinced that Liu’s martial arts mastery belies a hidden history of training by one of the region’s vicious clans, Xu doggedly pursues the shy hero — and draws the attention of China’s criminal underworld in the process.
Filmmaker Peter Chan (“The Warlords”, “Perhaps Love”, “Comrades: Almost a Love Story”) and writer Oi Wah Lam (“Purple Storm”, “Perhaps Love” and “The Warlords) are best known for their film collaborations in Hong Kong.
And the two return with their exciting, action-packed martial arts film “Dragon” (“Wu-Xia”) starring Donnie Yen (“Ip Man”, “Hero”, “Iron Monkey”), Takeshi Kaneshiro (“Chungking Express”, “House of Flying Daggers”, “Red Cliff”) and Wei Tang (“Lust, Caution”, “Man-Choo”, “Finding Mr. Right”).
The film was nominated for eleven Hong Kong Film Awards and won two awards for “Best Cinematography” and “Best Original Score” and did very well in the Chinese box office grossing over 100 million yuan on opening week. Now, the hit martial arts film will be released in the U.S. on April 16th courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.
“Dragon” is set in 1917 in early Republic China at Liu Village. One day, two bandits enter the village demanding money from the owner of a general store. Beating on the store owner and his wife, Liu Jinxi (portrayed by Donnie Yen), comes to their aid but what appears as if he is unable to fight them, he manages to evade their killer blows and manages to take both of them out in battle. Earning the praise of the villagers and his wife Ayu (portrayed by Wei Tang) and his two young children.
While praised by the villagers for being a hero and defeating the convicts, a detective named Xu Baijiu (portrayed by Takeshi Kaneshiro) is conducting an autopsy and learns that one of the bandits that had died is the notorious bandit Yan Dongsheng. Feeling that this criminal is too much of a challenge to be taken down by Liu Jinxi, Xu Baijiu feels that something is not right about the family man.
As he investigates further, he realizes that Yan Dongsheng died from a strike on the Vagus Nerve which caused brain hemorrhaging but to execute that move, must mean that Liu Jinxi must know the various points in the body and that this normal family man who is a paper worker, must be skilled in martial arts to beat this major criminal.
And as Xu Baijiu tries to get close to the family, so he can continue his investigation, we learn that Xu is a person who tries to suppress his human emotions through acupuncture after putting trust on a boy by returning him home to his family. The boy ended up killing his family with poison and Xu Baijiu barely survived. While he takes acupuncture to suppress emotion, he takes another to slow down the poison in his body.
As Xu Baijiu continues more tests which include having Liu Jinxi pushed over a bridge and falling in the waters, to striking him with a sickle, Xu Baijiu is persistent and non-apologetic for his pursuit of Liu Jinxi.
But when Liu Jinxi tells him a story about his past, Xu Baijiu’s assistant loos into it and finds out instead that Liu Jinxi may be the man known as Tang Long, the second in command of the 72 Demons. Known for brutally murdering a butcher’s family and his young children in Jingzhou ten years ago.
Believing that Liu Jinxi may be the murderer Tang Long, he seeks to find a way to have him captured. But what happens when Xu Baijiu keeps digging further into Liu Jinxi’s true past?
“Dragon” is presented in 1080p High Definition and presented in 2:35:1. While picture quality is very good, with lush surroundings and very good set design to capture China ala 1917. What captures your attention throughout the film is the choreographed fighting. Both Yiu-Fai Lai and Jake Pollock did a magnificent job of capturing the fight scenes, and the use of CG to give the feeling that the location of where the film was shot is near the cliffs and waterfall, the combination of real scenery and green screen was used effectively.
Close-ups of characters show plenty of detail and black levels are nice and deep. For the most part, picture quality is very good for the film!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Dragon” is presented in Mandarin Chinese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. While the film benefits from its action and the breaking of wood to people being thrown all over the place, the film’s lossless soundtrack can be summed up with clear dialogue, beautiful musical score from Kwong Wing Chan, Peter Kam and Chatchai Pongpraphan and crowd ambiance. For the most part, the lossless soundtrack was very good, not very immersive but yet appropriate for this film.
Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.
“Dragon” comes with the following special features:
- The Making of Dragon - (22:27) Risks and Rewards, Framing the Action, Choosing Jimmy Wang Yu, A Different Role for Takeshi Kaneshiro, The Ins and Outs of Acupuncture, Family Dynamics, Tang Wei in the Countryside, Wai Ying Hung on Working with Donnie Yen.
- Featurette with Donnie Yen - (5:40) Featuring three featurettes featuring Donnie Yen: Staging the Action, Influences and Inspiration and On Set, On Location.
- “Lost in Jianghu” Music Video – (5:14) Music video for “Lost in Jianghu”, theme of “Dragon”.
When it comes to Asian cinema, the fact is that filmmaker Peter Chan has worked on some major films from “Comrades: Almost a Love Story”, “The Warlords” and “Perhaps Love”, producers know they are getting a director who has consecutively led to box office hits.
And part of that is due to Peter Chan managing to land the top stars of Asia in his films. And with “Dragon”, it’s no different. Box office hit in China and you have two of the top Asian talents starring in the film, Donnie Yen and Takeshi Kaneshiro.
Donnie Yen is a staple of martial arts films especially in the last few years, after seeing “Ip Man”, you can’t see him doing anything less than that. And what I like about Donnie Yen’s involvement in a film is that he pushes for amazing fight choreography and does not take on martial arts films that are weak when it comes to fighting. And like his previous “Ip Man” films, “Dragon” showcases that fantastic flair of fight choreography at the highest level.
As for Takeshi Kaneshiro, you have one of the best dramatic actors. He may not be a martial arts fighter but he makes it up in the more dramatic scenes. In this case, an investigator who knows there is more to Liu Jinxi (portrayed by Donnie Yen) that meets the eye. A relentless investigator seeking out the truth, the things he does in order to prove Liu Jinxi wrong, definitely is surprising as he intentionally pushes Liu off a bridge or sticks a sickle on his shoulder.
You also get actress Wei Tang who took a risk in Ang Lee’s 2007 film “Lust, Caution” and as a result for participating in the film, she was blacklisted by the Chinese government and losing endorsement deals. Despite being 34-years of age, she still manages to look very young on camera. But she provides another dramatic angle as a wife who wants to stick by her husband and hopes he doesn’t abandon the children, when his past life is revealed.
As for the Blu-ray release, while picture quality and the lossless soundtrack are very good. You also get a good amount of special features which I’m happy to see included on this Blu-ray release (as many Asian films released in the USA tend to skimp on special features).
While I enjoyed “Dragon” for being one of the enjoyable martial arts films I have seen so far in 2013, having watched so many Peter Chan, Donnie Yen and Takeshi Kaneshiro films, it’s hard for me to say this is their best film. Enjoyable…yes. Awesome fight choreography…yes. But an engaging storyline? If anything, it was a bit more of a popcorn action martial arts film and nothing more or less than that.
The film tries to explain the deep hate that Liu Jin-xi has towards his father, but it would have been great to establish visually of why we should despite his father and helping set up this amazing confrontation between father and estranged son. Also, the film ends with somewhat of uncertainty.
Overall, “Dragon” is an exciting martial arts film with amazing fight choreography! While I have seen better Peter Chan, Donnie Yen and Takeshi Kaneshiro films, there is no doubt that martial arts action film fans will enjoy “Dragon”. It’s definitely one of the better martial arts films I have seen on video released in 2013 so far!
“Girl$” is a fascinating look at prostitution (compensated dating) in Hong Kong and showcasing the dangers that are out there for these young women. An intriguing Hong Kong film and a storyline you just don’t see that often, “Girl$” is stylish and entertaining and a film worth watching.
FILM RELEASE: 2010
DURATION: 90 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition,Cantonese 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Subtitles: English
COMPANY: Giant Ape Media/FUNimation Entertainment/Mei Ah
RATED: NR (Film contains nudity)
Release Date: April 16, 2013
Directed by Kenneth Bi
Written by Carol Cheong, Link Ling, Frankie Tam, Maria Wong
Produced by Kin Hung Ng
Edited by Kenneth Bi
Michelle Wai as Icy
Seli Xian as Ronnie
Venus Wong as Gucci
Una Lin as Lin
Kwok Cheung Tsang as Chun
Four girls – tempted by the money that can be earned in prostitution -meet men on “paid dates” in Hong Kong and enjoy the thrills and money to the fullest. However, after some time, each of them will have to learn in her own way that nothing comes without a price.
From filmmaker Kenneth Bi (director of “Rice Rhapsody” and “The Drummer”) comes a sexual drama titled “Girl$”. Written by Carol Cheong, Link Ling, Frankie Tam and Maria Wong, the film explores Hong Kong’s prostitution environment, or in politically correct terms in Hong Kong, “compensated dating” and how one’s temptation to earn money can lead them to trouble.
And now the film will be released in the USA in April courtesy of FUNimation’s Giant Ape Media.
The film begins with how these prostitutes solicit their services via the Internet on various message boards. While we see prostitute having fun, one prostitute is killed and dismembered.
The film introduces us to four women.
Icy (portrayed by Michelle Wai, “Hot Summer Days”, “Mr. & Mrs. Gambler”) is a 19-year-old woman who is responsible for “booking” working girls through the Internet. She does it to keep her boyfriend happy, an avid PC gamer who is not having much luck finding a job. But because his gaming requires expensive equipment, Icy tries to work as a procuress in order to purchase these gifts.
But trying to find women to do the sexual services without her having to do it is important for Icy as she only has Lin (portrayed by Una Lin), to go out on calls.
Icy tries to recruit the young Gucci (portrayed by Venus Wong, “High Noon”) as a prostitute, but since she’s underage and a virgin. Gucci wants to do it, so she can pay for a Gucci bag, she impulsively bid and won in an online auction. Meanwhile, Ronnie (portrayed by Bonnie Xian, “Break Up Club”, “The Moss”) is a wealthy woman who doesn’t need the money ,but for some reason, wants to be loved. So, she becomes a prostitute, but she does it and never takes the money given to her.
But as these four women try to live the good life and make money, Icy ends up having to go out on a call and doesn’t know she’s being videotaped but to make things worse, will her desire for money put her friends in danger?; Lin’s promiscuous ways leads her to trouble; Gucci starts to realize that a guy she communicates on the Internet for possible sex may be someone she knows very well and for Ronnie, her attitude on the jobs may affect the other girls’ business.
And through experience, these young women will learn that the business they work in, may lead them to trouble.
“Girl$” is presented in 1080p High Definition. The film tries to utilize pop culture with its look and music, but the film tries to capture Hong Kong city lights and street culture. There is a lot of sources for the video, with some using intentional low-source onscreen computer captures and also experimental editing. But for the most part, the film is clean and some scenes looking much better than others. Skin detail can be seen on some closeups but the film looks good, and since shot primarily indoors, lighting is good and I didn’t notice any major artifacts.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Girl$” is presented in Cantonese DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. The film is primarily dialogue and music driven. Not many instances where you would hear surround sound usage on this film as many scenes are isolated indoors. But for the most part, lossless audio is clear and English subtitles are easy to read.
“Girl$” comes with seven two-minute features that go into the actresses discussing their characters, the sex scenes and brief making of the film.
“Girl$” comes with a slipcover. Plus a DVD version of the film is included.
“Girl$” is a rather fascinating film as it delves into prostitution in Hong Kong.
Personally, I never knew that in Hong Kong, people solicit sex through online message boards and where in America, you usually think there’s a pimp behind-the-scenes, I suppose in Hong Kong, any person can be a procuress as they handle the services for these young women and try to place them with men, who they keep records on.
But there is no doubt that Kenneth Bi’s film is intended to show the dangers of prostitution to young audiences. Considering that prostitution is now not only focusing on women, but now young women under 21 years-old including teenagers.
From its opening scenes of the underworld and a young woman being murdered and dismembered, we are introduced to four young ladies who try or are working in the prostitution (compensated dating) world. I suppose in Hong Kong, the women can pick and choose which men they want to service.
For the procuress Icy, she’s a normal woman dating a nerdy gamer who can’t get a job. But she loves him and tries to make him happy by giving him the hardware he needs to be a major PC gamer. And I have read about this in various Asian newspapers of how many guys get drawn into video gaming and it becomes an obsession that they can’t escape from it. For Icy, she just feels its important for her to make money to keep their relationship strong.
The problem is, she is losing women and her last prostitute Silver (who is actually the person we see being dismembered) is nowhere to be found. So, she does all she can to make money and depend on more female participants to service these men, because she needs the money. But how far will she go? And will she care for these other women’s well-being by placing them with men.
Meanwhile, Lin is the most sexual of the women. Living this lifestyle and taking on these jobs, the thing is that her promiscuous lifestyle can lead her to major trouble.
We also see Ronnie as the wealthy woman engaged in prostitution. Sounds like a story that came out of an American newspaper, I suppose it’s possible anywhere else. Just a person enjoying the thrill, despite how wealthy she is.
But the person that represents the normal teenager is Gucci. She’s a girl who likes brand name things but when she and her friend go home to work on the computer, she catches her brother looking at porn sites. And by looking at these message boards, she learns that people solicit themselves for sex for big money and in her mind, this is possibly the way she can get the money to buy her Gucci purse.
The film is presented in a slick, stylish way and for the most part, the film is quite entertaining, but also makes you want to see if any of these girls live at the end. I wasn’t quite sure if the storyline would transition into something more darker or macabre. But “Girl$” manages to keep things real and situations featured on the film can happen to any girl who partakes in prostitution.
Since “Viva Erotica”, I don’t think I have ever seen a film that dealt with the sex, sex simulation and showcase nudity such as”Girl$”. While it’s not anything too major when compared to American films, it’s a style of film you don’t see being released in the US. And although licensed by FUNimation, the Blu-ray showcases the Giant Ape Media and Mei Ah Entertainment logo.
As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is good and there are scenes with good detail. Lossless audio is primarily dialogue and music driven and special features are numerous but quite short at around two minutes each.
Overall, “Girl$” is a fascinating look at prostitution (compensated dating) in Hong Kong and showcasing the dangers that are out there for these young women. An intriguing Hong Kong film and a storyline you just don’t see that often, “Girl$” is stylish and entertaining and a film worth watching.
“The Great Magician” is a fun, witty action fantasy film featuring wonderful performances by Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Lau Ching-wa and Zhou Xun. But with a lengthy film with frenetic pacing of its intricate plot full of twists and turns, while entertaining, some portions of the film does lose its luster due to frenetic pacing. Still enjoyable and a Hong Kong film worth watching!
TITLE: The Great Magician (Daai mo seut si)
FILM RELEASE: 2011
DURATION: 129 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition,16:9 Widescreen, Mandarin (Original) and English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Mandarin and English 2.0, Subtitles: English
COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment
Release Date: March 19, 2013
Directed by Tung-Shing Yee
Screenplay by Tin Nam Chun, Ho Leung Lau, Tung-Shing Yee
Executive Producer: Jeffery Chan, Albert Yeung, Dong Yu
Producer: Henry Fong, Mandy Law-Huang, Peggy Lee
Music by Leon Ko
Cinematography by Nobuyasu Kita
Edited by Chi-Leung Kwong
Production Design by Chung Man Yee
Tony Leung Chiu Wai as Chang Hsien
Ching Wan Lau as Bully Lei
Xun Zhou as Yin
In the early 1920 s, on the streets of Beijing, the nation s most talented performers have gathered to show off their most spectacular skills. The challenge is set: a handsome prize to whomever can reproduce a magic trick called the Eight Immortals Treat. Zhang Xian (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) appears amidst the waiting crowd and decides to give it a try. So begins a legend of pure magic. Adapted from the Zhang Haifan novel, led by award-winning director Derek Yee (ONE NITE IN MONGKOK, SHINJUKU INCIDENT) and starring the three most powerful stars in Chinese cinema Tony Leung Chiu-wai (HERO, RED CLIFF), Lau Ching-wan (MAD DETECTIVE) and Zhou Xun (CLOUD ATLAS), THE GREAT MAGICIAN is an endearing spectacle of high-spirited action and fantasy.
From director Tung-Shing Yee (a.k.a. Derek Yee, “Shinjuku Incident”, “Protege”, “One Nite in Mongkok”) comes a Hong Kong action fantasy film starring Tony Leung Chiu Wai (“Hero”, “2046″, “Infernal Affairs”, “In the Mood for Love”), Lau Ching-wa (“Mad Detective”, “Black Mask”, “Running Out of Time”) and Zhou Xun (“Painted Skin: The Resurrection”, “Flying Swords of Dragon Gate”, “Cloud Atlas”, “Suzhou River”).
The film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment in March 2013.
Set after the Revolution with the Qing Dynasty being overthrown in China, China has been broken up into fiefdoms ran by warlords who are attacking each other for prominence. But one warlord is feared by many and that is Bully Lei (portrayed by Lau Ching-wa). But it’s not that Bully is a cruel man, he has a reputation of it but in truth, it’s his lieutenant Liu Kun Shan (portrayed by Wu Gang) who uses magic to scare convicts into joining his army.
Most recently, Liu has brought new technology with cinema to use as propaganda scare tactics to get more people to join the warlord’s army. But for Bully Lei, despite having seven wives, he is more concerned for his seventh wife Liu Yin (portrayed by Zhou Xun), a girl he imprisoned who’s father is being held by Liu for some reason.
Meanwhile, we are introduced to a group of revolutionaries led by the popular magician Chang Hsien (portrayed by Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) who is working with a local businessman to use his establishment to host magic performances but in truth it’s a way for revolutionaries to kidnap Bully Lei. For Chang, his main interest is to free his former fiance Liu Yin from Bully Lei and save her father, his master, magician Liu Wan Yao.
But in order to do that, he must gain Bully Lei’s trust. But will the independent Liu Yin, want her former fiance who she has not seen for three years and has abandoned her with no contact for all this time, save her from Bully Lei, a man who has treated her with kindness?
“The Great Magician” is presented in 1080p High Definition. The film is presented in 16:9 widescreen and picture quality is very good. From close-up details and seeing the textures on the clothing, visual effects such as flames/fires and computer generated smoke look good especially outdoor scenes in which colors are vibrant. Skin tones look natural and black levels are nice and deep. Overall, picture quality is very good!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“The Great Magician” is presented in Mandarin (Original) and English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio and Mandarin and English 2.0. Both Mandarin and English lossless tracks feature good surround sound activity. Live shows inside the theater during a magic performance utilizes audience clapping through the surround channels, fireworks come alive through the surround channels as well as ambiance. Also, music is utilized through the surround channels. Dialogue is crystal clear as with the musical score by Leon Ko.
But a action fantasy film that with plenty of surround activity, especially during the action scenes towards the end of the film.
Subtitles are in English.
“The Great Magician” come with the following special features:
- Making the Magic – (37:55) The making of “The Great Magician” featuring interviews with Tung-Shing Yee and the cast. Behind-the-scenes on the making of various scenes.
- Trailer – (:59) Theatrical trailer for “The Great Magician”.
Featuring a wonderful pairing of two great HK actors Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Lau Ching-wa with elegant actress Zhou Xun , “The Great Magician” is a film that is well-acted, features plenty of humor, action and fantasy elements.
For the most part, the film is a comedy. Lau Ching-wa plays the warlord Bully who is rumored to be a tyrant, but in truth, he is kindhearted and doesn’t like to see people getting hurt. But he knows the importance of his power as a warlord and despite his lieutenant Liu wanting to exert power on the people, Bully resists. Part of the charm of Bully Lei is that he is so unlike the warlord that people think of him as.
Clumsy and naive, Lau Ching-wa is a versatile actor who knows how to get people to laugh through facial movements and his action and he achieves it in “The Great Magician”.
For Bully is mostly a man that is dedicated in growing his empire but finding a way to have his seventh wife, Liu Yin love him.
Liu Yin is an independent woman who has been kept confined by Liu Yin. A woman who just wants her father to be freed and will never submit to him or any man. Actress Zhou Xun has done a fantastic job in many films, playing the cold or somewhat emotionless characters. In “The Great Magician”, she is a woman who was left behind by her fiance Chang and now that he has returned, she is not sure if she has any love for him any more.
Typically, you don’t see to many Hong Kong films, especially one set in the 1920′s where a woman is portrayed as strong and not the typical damsel in distress role. The character is portrayed as independent and strong.
Meanwhile, the role of Chang is wonderfully performed by veteran Tony Leung Chiu-wai. A suave and confident magician, he wants to save his former fiance and her father, but realizes how much she has changed in years because it took so long for him to come back for her.
A film showcasing a love triangle, it becomes more interesting when Bully comes to the magician Chang in hopes to learn magic to woo his seventh wife Liu Yin. But since Yin’s father is a master magician and her former boyfriend is also a magician, she has seen it all.
The film does feature a storyline about corrupt Chinese working with the evil Japanese who seek to cause disruption in Bully’s land. While the Lt. Liu Kun Shan (portrayed by Wu Gang) is seen as the primary antagonist, part of the problem of the film is that it tries to be a film about a love triangle, yet tries to incorporate this behind-the-scenes planning of a coup between Liu and the Japanese. Because the film is a comedy, the antagonists action can’t be taken as anything too deep. And as a viewer, it’s not easy to care for this other side story as you are more invested on Chang and whether or not he can free his former love and her father.
For the most part, at 129 minutes, you feel that the pacing is off as too much of the plot involving the coup attempt is going too fast and feels rushed.
But as a fan of Derek Yee’s films, it’s good to see him doing something outside of crime thrillers. Not emotional, dark or deep, this is a film that is bound with humor, visual effects and is quite enjoyable as a comedy.
The film does look wonderful on Blu-ray and the visual effects on the magic used throughout the film is nicely done. Costume design is also well done and cinematography is very good. Especially the wire-work for stunts throughout the film. The lossless soundtrack is well-done and is quite immersive. I wish there were more special features but I am glad that a 38-minute featurette was included as most Asian cinema tend to only have short featurettes and a trailer.
Overall, “The Great Magician” is a fun, witty action fantasy film featuring wonderful performances by Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Lau Ching-wa and Zhou Xun. But with a lengthy film with frenetic pacing of its intricate plot full of twists and turns, while entertaining, some portions of the film does lose its luster due to frenetic pacing. Still enjoyable and a Hong Kong film worth watching!
“Sansho the Bailiff” is among the Japanese masterpiece that cineaste should own in their collection. It’s a tremendous film that captures a wide range of emotions, stellar acting, wonderful direction and cinematography a heartbreaking storyline that still manages to give viewers hope. If you are curious about Kenji Mizoguchi or a cinema fan who is starting to get into Japanese cinema, make sure that “Sansho the Bailiff” is on top of your want list, because it is a must own title! Highly recommended!
Image are courtesy of © 2013 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Sansho the Bailiff – The Criterion Collection #386
YEAR OF FILM: 1954
DURATION: 124 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Black and White, Monaural in Japanese with English Subtitles
COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION
RELEASE DATE: February 26, 2013
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi
Based on the story “Sansho dayu” by Ogai Mori
Written by Fuji Yahiro and Yoshitaka Yoda
Produced by Masaichi Nagata
Music by Fumio Haysaka, Kinshichi Kodera, Tamekichi Mochizuki
Cinematography by Kazuo Miyagawa
Edited by Mitsuzo Miyata
Production Design by Hisakazu Tsuji
Art Direction by Kisaku Ito
Set Decoration by Kosaburo Nakajima
Costume Design by Shima Yoshizane
Kinuyo Tanka as Tamaki
Yoshiaki Hanayagi as Zushio
Kyoko Kagawa as Anju
Eitaro Shindo as Sansho Dayu
Akitake Kono as Taro
Masao Shimizu as Masauji Taira
Ken Mitsuda as Prime Minister Fujiwara
Kazukimi Okuni as Norimura
Yoko Kosno as Kohagi
Kimiko Tachibana as Namiji
When an idealistic governor disobeys the reigning feudal lord, he is cast into exile, his wife and children left to fend for themselves and eventually wrenched apart by vicious slave traders. Under Kenji Mizoguchi’s dazzling direction, this classic Japanese story became one of cinema’s greatest masterpieces, a monumental, empathetic expression of human resilience in the face of evil.
A Nikkatsu silent film star turned director, Kenji Mizoguchi similar to Japanese filmmakers such as Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu, having directed many films and in his 86-film oeuvre, a number of masterpiece films that he will forever be remembered for.
As Kurosawa was known for samurai films and Ozu for family films, Mizoguchi was known for creating films that showcase the suffering of women or women sacrificing their lives for the man they care about, may it be lover or a family member.
Best known for films such as “The Life of Oharu” (1952) and his Silver Lion Award (Venice Film Festival) winning film “Ugetsu” (1953), “Sansho the Bailiff” is a jidai-geki masterpiece by Mizoguchi in which his trademark interest in freedom, poverty and the suffering of women can be seen.
Each of the three films mentioned were top award winning films at the Venice Film Festival, “Sansho the Bailiff” would receive international acclaim and to this day, continues to receive positive reviews from film critics. Beautifully shot by cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa, this heartbreaking, wonderful film will receive its debut in HD in America on Blu-ray courtesy of the Criterion Collection.
“Sansho the Bailiff” is a film that takes place during the Heian period of Feudal Japan. A governor who cares and defends the poor has been relieved of his command and to be exiled for going against the feudal lord (by supporting the poor villagers). As the former governor is exiled, his family which consists of Tamaki (portrayed by Kinuyo Tanaka), his son Zushio and youngest daughter Anju are sent to live with his brother and must leave the land they once were responsible for.
But as the family and their servant go to visit their father in far location by foot, a priestess invites them to their h0me to avoid slave traders who are in the area and are kidnapping women and children. The old woman recommends that they ride a boat and she entrusts them to ride along with men who will take them to safety.
But the family quickly learn it was a lie and Tamaki is taken by boat to the island of Sado, while the servant is killed by trying to rescue Namiji. Her two young children are taken by slave traders and sold to a cruel bailiff named Sansho (portrayed by Eitaro Shindo).
His slavery estate is protected under the Minister of the Right and no royalty can do anything for him or other slave trade owners from stopping.
Immediately, Zushio and Anju are made slaves and are forced to do hard labor. They watch as those who try to escape are then taken and for punishment, are branded on their forehead by burning hot metal.
Disgusted by his father’s treatment of the slaves, Sansho’s son Taro (portrayed by Akitake Kono) cares for Zushio and Anju and finds out their true story and learn they are not peasants but came from an aristocratic family. He hears the words from Zushio, that his father had given him and Taro is reminded of the importance of being good with people. He tells the two that they must continue to survive no matter the hardship and reunite with their mother. He also gives them the names of Matsu and Shinobu. Disgusted by his father’s treatment of slaves, Taro leaves his father and the slave trade estate for good.
Fast forward ten years later and Matsu/Zushio (portrayed by Yoshiaki Hanayagi) and Shinobu/Anju (portrayed by Kyoko Kagawa) are young adults. The two have undergone severe hardships but as Anju has kept to her father’s words of treating people kindly, Zushio on teh other hand has become desperate and in order to be on Sansho’s good side, he becomes one of the men who punishes the other slaves by branding them.
Anju tries to tell her brother that he lost his way and is doing the opposite of what he promised their father and Zushio, feeling no positive will be coming to their lives, tells her that he must do what he can to stay on Sansho’s good side.
Meanwhile, while Shinobu/Anju is helping out the workers, she hears a song being sung by a slave from Sado. She asks the young woman if she knows of a woman named Tamaki but the young woman tells her no and that the island is quite big. But when she begins singing a song, it’s a sad song about Zushio and Anju and when Shinobu asks where she had heard the song, she explains that it’s a song that is quite popular in Sado. Leading Anju to know that her mother is alive.
We then see Tamaki (now named Nakagimi) who is a slave/prostitute in Sado and she has attempted to escape several times in order to reunite with her two children. But as she tried to escape with boaters, she is captured and as punishment, the slave owner has her tendons cut off, so she will never run off again.
Not long after, we later see Tamaki being helped by slaves to the top of the cliffs overlooking the ocean and screaming her children’s names.
Meanwhile, back at Sansho’s slave estate, Matsu and Shinobu must take the sick Namiji (a woman who also had children had tried to help them when they were younger) to the mountains where she can die. As they take the older woman up to the mountains, Anju can hear her mom calling out for them and she tells Zushio that this is their opportunity to escape from Sansho and reunite with their mother.
Zushio listens to his sister after hearing the story of the song from Sado about them and also hearing the screams of their mother but Anju tells him that they can not escape together as they will be caught. He must escape and in good faith, bring Namiji with him. Anju tells her brother that she will wait for him but he fears that she will be tortured. But she tells him that Sansho can’t afford to lose a slave.
So, Zushio takes the ill Namiji and runs away to find another village. Meanwhile, the guards realize Shinobu/Anju’s deception and Sansho sends his men out to find him. And in order to find them, he gives them orders to torture Shinobu.
But rather than having them torture her and find Zushio, Shinobu makes a major decision.
Will the family be reunited or are more hardships in-store for Tamaki, Zushio and Shinobu?
“Sansho the Bailiff” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio). The film features wonderful contrast and is well-detailed even compared to its 2007 Criterion Collection DVD counterpart. Whites and grays are well-contrast, black levels are also much better. But the cinematography by Kazuo Miyagawa is artistic and if anything, there are so many memorable scenes in this film. And it’s great to see a version of the film that looks fantastic on Blu-ray. I saw no damage or flickering, if anything, the film looks magnificent on Blu-ray!
According to the Criterion Collection, this high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a 35 mm fine-grain master positive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, while Image System’s DVNR was used for small dirt, grain and noise reduction.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Sansho the Bailiff – The Criterion Collection #386″ is presented in LPCM 1.0 Japanese with English subtitles. Dialogue is clear and subtitles are easy to read. I detected no pops, crackles or terrible hiss during my viewing of the film.
According to the Criterion Collection, the original monaural soundtrack was remaster at 24-bit from two optical soundtrack prints. Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated workstation.
“Sansho the Bailiff – The Criterion Collection #386” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – Featuring a comprehensive audio commentary by Japanese-literature professor, Jeffrey Angles.
- Performance - (10:20) A feature from the original 2007 DVD. Actress Kyoko Kagawa talks about working with Kenji Mizoguchi on “Sansho the Bailiff” and playing the role of Anju.
- Production - (15:00) From the original 2007 DVD, first assistant director Tokuzo Tanaka talks about the meticulous research that was done for “Sansho the Bailiff”.
- Simplicity – (23:51) A feature from the original 2007 DVD. Japanese film critic and historian Tadao Satao talks about “Sansho the Bailiff” and about Kenji Mizoguchi.
“Sansho the Bailiff – The Criterion Collection #386” comes with an 82-page booklet with the following essay: “The Lessons of Sansho” by Mark Le Fanu, stories such as “Sansho the Steward” by Ogai Mori and “An Account of the Life of the Deity of Mount Iwaki”. Also, a slipcase is included.
No director likes to be pigeon-holed with making films of a certain commonality bu for filmmaker Kenji Mizoguchi, directing films that dealt with the suffering or sacrifice of a woman is what he would be known for.
Having grown up in poverty as his mother tried to raise the family, his older sister becoming a geisha to help the family and even during the silent era, as an actor playing female roles, Mizoguchi was probably deeply influenced by this.
And thus, his willingness to capture the emotion, the pain of a woman’s suffering as seen in “Sansho the Bailiff”.
Unlike any film that you will see from other notable filmmakers of Mizoguchi’s time, such as Kurosawa and Ozu, this 1954 film showed audiences another side to Japanese cinema. One that is not about the morality or honor of society, nor was this a film about the modern family and family dynamics, this was a film about a family being torn apart by rampant slave trading and prostitution.
The first time I watched this film, it was so profound and heartbreaking. Never in my life, considering I have studied Japanese, did I ever know about slavery in Japan. Where anyone was fair game to be captured and sold to work for slave estates without pay and were more or less treated like animals. Kenji Mizoguchi’s film not only exposed me to this but he makes one feel the emotional impact by capturing the sadness, the torment and the emotion of frustration, sadness, fear all in this film, while showing a glimpse of potential hope.
Mizoguchi’s muse, Kinuyo Tanaka, may not be the primary character of the film but each film I have saw the actress, she manages to captivate the screen with immense efficacy. From her role as Orin in Keisuke Kinoshita’s 1958 film “Ballad of Narayama” to her role in “The Life of Oharu” (1952) and “Ugetsu” (1953), she gives commanding performances. With “Sansho the Bailiff”, it’s her screams of “Zushio” or “Anju” that stings you to your core. A woman who would do anything to find her children but each time, she is captured, tortured, defeated.
As a viewer or even a parent, you can’t help but feel the pain of a mother who desperately wants to be their for her children.
Meanwhile, you watch as her two children are forced to pitiful conditions as slaves and to see them ten years later as Anju manages to keep her promise to her father by remaining compassionate, while Zushio is lost. Feeling that they are stuck and will remain as slaves as one man, who has been a slave for 50-years, must be branded on the forehead for trying to escape.
Both Yoshiaki Hanayagi and Kyoko Kagawa give awesome performances, and while we do not see so much of Hanayagi in the future, we do see Kagawa again in Akira Kurosawa’s wonderful ransom film “Tengoku to Jigoku” (High and Low) and decades later in the 1993 Kurosawa film “Madadayo”.
And in balance with the wonderful acting in the film is also the amazing cinematography by Kazuo Miyagawa coordinated with the aesthetics that were planned by Mizoguchi. May it be an opening shot of the family walking together to visit their father or Tamaki on top of a cliff yelling her children’s name or even a scene featuring Anju walking toward a lake, this film is beautiful and memorable!
As for the Blu-ray release, many will wonder if it’s worth the upgrade to Blu-ray as the original Criterion Collection 2007 DVD also had the fantastic booklet and special features that are featured on the 2013 Blu-ray release. My opinion is that if you want the definitive version of this film, then owning it on Blu-ray for the better picture and audio quality should be enough to convince one to upgrade to the HD version of Mizoguchi’s masterpiece.
The detail is so much better that you can see objects with much more clarity over its 2007 DVD counterpart. Yes, it’s definitely worth the upgrade!
Overall, “Sansho the Bailiff” is among the Japanese masterpiece that cineaste should own in their collection. It’s a tremendous film that captures a wide range of emotions, stellar acting, wonderful direction and cinematography a heartbreaking storyline that still manages to give viewers hope. If you are curious about Kenji Mizoguchi or a cinema fan who is starting to get into Japanese cinema, make sure that “Sansho the Bailiff” is on top of your want list, because it is a must own title!
If you love Thai popcorn martial arts action films with cool fight choreography, “Muay Thai Warrior” is for you!
TITLE: Muay Thai Warrior
FILM RELEASE: 2010
DURATION: 102 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition,16:9 Widescreen, Thai and Japanese 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Subtitles: English
COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment
RATED: PG-13 (For Some Sexual Situations, Language and a Brief Intense Image)
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Directed by Nopporn Watin
Executive Produced: Nopporn Watin
Music by Paphas Silp
Seiji Ozeki as Yamada Nagamasa
Kanokkorn as Jaicheun as Jumpaa
Sorapong Chatree as Phra Khruu
Winai Kraibutr as King Naresuan
Thanawut Ketsaro as Khaam
Buakhao Paw Pramuk as Ai-Seua
Betrayed and left for dead by treacherous Japanese forces, young samurai Yamada Nagamasa (Seigi Ozeki) is rescued to a remote village in Siam and nursed back to health among the acolytes in the monastery. Working tirelessly to master the art of Muay Boran (Thai boxing), fearless and brutal Yamada is selected to become a royal bodyguard to King Naresuan The Great. His greatest challenge comes on the day he’s forced to fight back against the elite Japanese warriors who left him behind. Based on actual events from the 17th century’s Ayutthaya period, YAMADA: WAY OF THE SAMURAI combines lush visuals with a cast of Olympic athletes to provide viewers some of the most stunning and realistic Muay Thai techniques ever filmed for the big screen.
From director Nopporn Watin comes the martial arts action film “Muay Thai Warrior” (also known as “Samurai Ayothaya” or “The Samurai of Ayothaya”). A film loosely based on the Japanese adventurer Yamada Nagamasa, who became influential in the Ayutthaya Kingdom (a Siamese kingdom that existed from 1351 to 1767 and known for its foreign trade and Ayutthaya was one of the wealthiest cities in the East) in the 17th Century and would become the governor of the Nakhon Si Thammarat in southern Thailand.
The film “Muay Thai Warrior” was created to celebrate 124 years of Japan and Thailand relations and now the film will be released by Well Go USA on Blu-ray and DVD in March 2013. The film would feature Japanese actor Seigi Ozeki (“The Odd Couple”), Sorapong Chatree (“Ong Bak 2 and 3″, “Beautiful Boxer”), Winai Kraibutr (“Bangkok Revenge”, “Bang Rajan”) and K1 fighter Buakhao Paw Pramuk.
“Muay Thai Warrior” takes place in the 17th century and a time when Thailand had a small Japanese community, many who were ronin (samurai warriors with no lord to serve) hired by the Ayothaya as soldiers (because Ayutthaya was being invaded by other foreign invaders) and that foreign trade was popular between Thailand and Japan. Among those working for King Ayothaya is a young soldier named Nagamasa Yamada (portrayed by Seigi Ozeki).
One day, civilians were attacked by Burmese soldiers but it is discovered that Japanese are posing as Burmese and Nagamasa is ordered to find out who is responsible.
One night after having fun with friends, Nagamasa and his friends are ambushed by these soldiers and finds out that the person responsible is the Japanese Lt. Commander. Severely wounded, Ayothaya Warriors who saw a Japanese fighting aginst the men, save his life by defending him and taking him back to a remote Siam area.
Where the people of Ayothaya heal his wounds and pretty much take him into their community. Meanwhile, to the Japanese community, the traitorous Lt. Commander soils Nagamasa’s name as being the traitor responsible for leading the group of Japanese pretending to be Ayothaya and orders Nagamasa to be found and killed.
As Nagamasa stays with the Ayothaya people, at first his thoughts are on revenge against the Lt. Commander but the more he stays with the Ayothaya people, he realizes that the area has now become his home and the place where he wants to die.
He has found people that have become his family, has learned muay thai and honed his fighting skills but what happens when the Japanese find out where Nagamasa is staying?
“Muay Thai Warrior” is presented in 1080p High Definition. Picture quality for the most part is good as the areas of Siam are shown as a colorful area. Beautiful scenic areas but on the otherside of this film is showcasing the brutality. From people getting stabbed by swords and also showing blood flying everywhere, even towards the lens of the camera. But for a martial arts film, picture quality for the most part is good. Closeups are full of detail and black levels are nice and deep. I did notice some areas where there was aliasing and artifacts. But probably for one scene where things looked a bit messy. But for the majority of the film, “Muay Thai Warrior” looked very good on Blu-ray.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Muay Thai Warrior” is presented in Thai and Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Dialogue and musical score are crystal clear. I didn’t notice a lot of use of the surround channels during my viewing but for moreso for ambiance.
Subtitles are in English.
“Muay Thai Warrior” come with a theatrical trailer.
“Muay Thai Warrior” comes with a slipcover.
When it comes to martial arts films such as “Muay Thai Warrior”, those who enjoy films such as the “Ong Bak” will love the martial arts in the film. The action sequences are pretty cool to watch and the fighting choreography was definitely impressive.
But when it comes to the actually story, it all comes down to the viewer. For one, Nagamasa Yamada is a historical figure in Siam (Thailand) history. Known for his trade activities, what we do know that in the kingdom of Ayuttthaya, around 1,500 Japanese lived in a community known as “Ban Yipun”. We know that many Japanese who converted to Christianity and also ronin samurai fled to Siam to avoid persecution from Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu. It was also known that the Thai King respected the Japanese colony because of their military expertise. And Nagamasa Yamada became the head of the Japanese colony. From the time he was in Siam to the time of his death, he was instrumental in creating trade relations between Thailand and Japan up to his death (in which he was killed in combat) in which Japan then went through a period of seclusion.
Interesting about Nagamasa Yamada is that you read the positive depictions of him in Siam but you dig a little bit more and you will also find out that he may have been a pirate in the seas who plundered Dutch Ships. Rumors continue to persist that Yamada has buried his treasure in Australia.
Fact or fiction, Nagamasa Yamada is an intriguing character that connects Japan and Thailand and to celebrate their longtime relationship, why not a joint collaboration for a film.
In the film “Muay Thai Warrior”, one should not watch the film as historical fact but to watch the film as a straight-up popcorn action film full of martial arts action scenes and awesome choreography. The film does have its cute moments as Nagamasa Yamada is being tended to by a beautiful woman and her young (comical) niece.
But for those interested in the Muay Thai fighting genre will probably be interested in how the fighting is depicted in the film, especially the use of fighting and swordfighting.
In the aspect of martial arts, the fight choreography was impressive, the story was of course farfetched, but typically when it comes to Asian cinema about a historical character that involves martial arts, more often, you’ll find that the films are 90-95% fiction.
But for a Thailand martial arts film, what I see in a film such as “Muay Thai Warrior” is an improvement in production and special effects. But still, the original “Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior” from 2003 still manages to be the film that other Muay Thai films will be compared to and its understandable as the first “Ong Bak” film, in my opinion, is still the best that I have seen so far.
As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is good, with some areas that had artifacts and aliasing issues, but the majority of the film looked very good and lossless audio was clear and subtitles were easy to read. I wish there were more special features other than the trailer.
Overall, some may feel that “Muay Thai Warrior” feels like “The Last Samurai” with Muay Thai but if you love Thai popcorn martial arts action films with cool fight choreography, “Muay Thai Warrior” is for you!
“A Simple Life” is a profound film from director Anna Hui that captures the story of the elderly, aging and frailty but also human nature. Featuring a fantastic performance by actress Deanie Ip, “A Simple Life” is a fantastic film that is worth owning on Blu-ray!
TITLE: A Simple Life
FILM RELEASE: 2011
DURATION: 118 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9 Widescreen, Cantonese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English
COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment
RATED: Not Rated
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Directed by Ann Hui
Written by Susan Chan, Yan-lam Lee
Produced by Pui-wah Chan, Ann Hui, Yan-lam Lee
Executive Produced: Andy Lau, Dai Song, Dong Yu
Associate Producer: Hong Tat Cheung, Stephen Lam, Nansun Shi
Administrative Producer: Jeffrey Chan, Simon Li, Yue Ren
Line Producer: Yeung-Ping Sze, Hao Zhang
Music by Wing-fai Law
Cinematography by Nelson Yu Lik-wai
Edited by Chi-Leung Kwong, Manda Wai
Production Design by Albert Poon
Costume Design by Boey Wong
Andy Lau as Roger
Deannie Yip as Ah Tao
Dennis Chan as Vincent
Sammo Hung as Director Hung
Chapman To as Dentist
Hark Tsui as Director Tsui
Anthony Wong Chau-Sang as Grasshopper
Roger (Andy Lau) is a successful movie producer. Ah Tao (Deanie Ip) has worked for Roger’s family as a nanny and maid over the course of four generations. When Roger comes home to find Ah Tao’s suffered a severe stroke and is unable to care for herself, he agrees to help her relocate to a nursing home.
He wants to help, but fears he’ll fail her. She needs his kindness, but doesn’t want to be a burden. As their roles reverse, he becomes her caregiver, and comes to understand how much she means to him.
One of 2012′s most heralded and treasured films, with cameo appearances from film luminaries such as Sammo Hung and Tsui Hark, A SIMPLE LIFE has garnered multiple awards for Deanie Ip (Best Actress), Andy Lau (Best Actor), Susan Chan (Best Screenplay), and Ann Hui (Best Director). A SIMPLE LIFE has also won Best Feature Film in multiple festivals and made film critics’ Top 10 lists all over the world.
Filmmaker Ann Hui as had a number of films that have resonated strongly with viewers.
Her films typically take on a subject that showcase a darker side of Hong Kong. Films such as “July Rhapsody” (teacher/student relationship), “Goddess of Mercy” (justice), “Night and Fog” (murder) and “All About Love” (single mothers, same sex marriages).
With the film “A Simple Life”, which was written by Susan Chan and Yan-lam Lee, Ann Hui takes on life and taking care of an older loved one who is sick.
One of the most recognizable things that Asian cinema fans will discover about Ann Hui’s work is her ability to find the right talent to play the role of the main characters, in this case, Andy Lau (“Infernal Affairs”, “House of Flying Daggers”, “The Warlords”) and Deannie Yip (“Dragons Forever”, “Crying Heart”).
“A Simple Life” would win the Volpi Cup for Best Actress Award for Deannie Yip and the La Navicella Award for Anna Hui at the 68th Venice International Film Festival; winner for Best Director, Best Leading Actor and Best Leading Actress at the 48th Golden Horse Awards and was included in Roger Ebert’s top 10 list for 2012.
And now “A Simple Life” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.
“A Simple Life” is a story about a woman named Ah Tao (portrayed by Deannie Ip). She was given up by her mother, not long after her father was killed during Japanese occupation and at a young age, became a servant for a family for four generations. Now in her 70s, she still takes care of Roger (portrayed by Andy Lau), a film producer who left to study in the U.S. during his 20s, returned to Hong Kong in his 30s, since he was a child, he has been taken care of by Ah Tao.
Ah Tao is a simple person, never got into technology, she’s a dedicated servant that is beloved by the family, despite many of them moving to the U.S., she lives and takes care of Roger, who suffered a heart attack several years before.
As Roger is out on business for his career, one day he came home, Ah Tao suffered a stroke. Losing some of her physical functions and speaking pattern, she is worried that she would become a burden on Roger, so she decides that it’s best if she moved to a retirement home.
Because of family obligation and because he wants to take care of her, Roger takes her to a retirement home where she can live her new life and also get the rehabilitation that she needs.
But Ah Tao sees how life is at the senior home. Despite being able to rehabilitate and get back to health, she also sees the sadness in the home. From elderly who have no family to visit them, families squabbling of who will pay for the retirement home, elderly who have dementia or hurt other elderly, she realizes that these will be the people she will be living with and she has to grow accustomed to them.
She makes friends with a woman who’s daughter tries to visit, a man who is full of energy but keeps asking people for money and even a younger girl who lives at the home because it is the cheapest place for dialysis and better care.
And no matter how busy Roger is at work, he makes sure he visits Ah Tao and takes her out and does all he can to bring her happiness as much as he can.
But he knows that he wants to cherish the time he has with Ah Tao, a woman who pretty much raised him.
“A Simple Life” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). Shot with a Red One camera, where one will see this film look incredible is through the closeups. From the facial details to overall textures of the clothing, you can see amazing detail. Colors are warm and I detected no banding or aliasing. Cinematography from Nelso Yu Lik-wai (“Still Life”, “Dream Home”) was great when either capturing human emotion or frailty, Hong Kong during Chinese New Year. If anything, this one of the most beautiful films from HK that I have seen on Blu-ray.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“A Simple Life” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0. As one would expect from a film such as “A Simple Life”, there are times that not many words are said on screen. It’s about facial expressions during the quiet settings but the film is primarily dialogue driven with the exception of a brief fireworks scene that utilizes the surround and actually sounds fantastic. But aside from that one scene, this is a dialogue driven film.
Subtitles are in English.
“A Simple Life” come with the following special features:
- Trailer – (2:14) The theatrical trailer for “A Simple Life”.
Growing up with traditional Asian values in America, it was always ingrained by my grandfather at an early age that our responsibility was to take care of the family when they get older.
Watching “A Simple Life”, the film was quite profound because it captured the essence of aging and frailty but also family.
In this case, a servant that has been with the family since a young age, taking care of four generations and as family have scattered around the world, the aging servant, Ah Tao, now stays with film producer, Roger.
Roger has been raised by Ah Tao and even at 70, she continues to cook, clean and shop for him, even take care of him and keep him healthy after having a heart attack. But now, the roles are reversed and after Ah Tao suffers a stroke and wants to live in a nursing home, Roger makes sure that she knows family is nearby. Even if it’s just him, he wants to give back to the woman who had taken care of him.
She may not be of the same blood, but he regards her as close family.
And what I enjoy about this film is the contrast of how films about elderly are shown in America versus Hong Kong. In America, we tend to see the banality of films of elderly abuse to a family disconnect and the loneliness that the elderly is facing.
While we do see that loneliness of various elderly in this film, its more of seeing things through the eyes of Ah Tao and a wonderful performance by actress Deanie Ip who communicates through eye movement and facial expression.
After suffering a stroke, Ah Tao is able to rehabilitate but while living at the senior home, it’s that feeling that this is a place you are going to die, the people around you are also going to die very soon and it’s all about time.
But unlike other seniors who suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia, Ah Tao still has quite a bit of life. She is able to make friends but she enjoys the time that she spends with Roger, because he can joke with her, eat lunch or dinner with her and he brings her along to places, including a film premiere.
But it’s the portrayal of Ah Tao that captivates the viewer. She is a woman who has lived as a good servant. Never the type to take gifts or even cash, she wants to pay things her own way and do it herself. Granted, Roger takes care of the costs at the senior home because it’s quite expensive but for Ah Tao, she is a woman who doesn’t want to be a burden to Roger or the family.
She’s a strong woman who is calling the shots of how her life is to be lived, no matter how hard it is for Roger and family who treated this woman like family to accept.
And we see that bond between Ah Tao and Roger as she spends time in the Senior home and seeing how she deals with loneliness or knowing that people around her will not be around that long.
As Deanie Ip is remarkable in this role, Andy Lau looks like a man who has never aged. At 51, he still looks like he’s 30-something. But aside from the gun or sword-toting characters or the suave playboy or businessman roles that he tends to play, Lau plays the role of a caring man, a film producer but one that doesn’t live like fame has changed him. Still wearing a backpack and coat, he is often mistaken as a taxi driver or air conditioning repair employee, suffice to say, this is the most subdued role that he plays amazingly well.
For Asian cinema fans, also intriguing are the supporting actors and guest cameos in this film. Anthony Wong, Angela Baby, Raymond Chow, Wing-Chiu Chan, Sammo Hung, Stanley Kwan, Chapman To, Hark Tsui, to name a few.
While I loved the film, there were a few scenes that probably could have been edited out as they served no true purpose (but to show more cameos), but for the most part, this is a very good film that I have found nothing negative to say about it.
The film reminds me a bit of my family who left behind servants because they moved to America but even to this day, my mother talked about the servants (the good ones) who took care of the family and how she visits or communicates with them today.
As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality is fantastic and for Asian cinema from Well Go USA Entertainment, this is the best film I have seen on Blu-ray from the company in which detail was amazingly captured via Red One but also the cinematography is well-done and lossless audio is crisp and clear. I wish there were more special features but considering many Asian cinema on Blu-ray (released in the U.S as of late.) rarely have them, at least a trailer was included.
Overall, “A Simple Life” is a profound film from director Anna Hui that captures the story of the elderly, aging and frailty but also human nature. Featuring a fantastic performance by actress Deanie Ip, “A Simple Life” is a fantastic film that is worth owning on Blu-ray!
A wonderful Chinese adaptation of the popular French novel, Hur Jin-Ho’s “Dangerous Liaisons” is sexy, captivating and a fantastic film!
TITLE: Dangerous Liaisons (Wi-heom-han gyan-gye)
FILM RELEASE: 2012
DURATION: 111 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9 Widescreen, Mandarin, English Stereo/5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English and Chinese
COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment
Release Date: February 12, 2013
Directed by Jin-ho Hur
Based on the novel by Choderlos de Lacios
Screenplay by Geling Yan
Produced by Wei Ming Chen
Executive Producer: Xia Zhang
Music by Sung-woo Jo
Cinematography by Byung-seo Kim
Edited by Na-young Nam
Costume Design by Miggy Cheng
Cecilia Cheung as Mo Jieyu
Jang Dong-gun as Xie Yifan
Zhang Ziyi as Du Fenyu
Lisa Lu as Madam Du Ruixue
Candy Weng as Bei Bei Zhu
Shawn Dou as Dai Wenzhou
Rong Rong as Mrs. Zhu
Shuli Xiao as Gui Zhen
Yun Zhang as A Wen
1930s Shanghai: the glamorous, tumultuous Paris of the East whose salons, streets and bedrooms frame this Chinese adaptation of the French novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses – into a lush new vision of DANGEROUS LIAISONS.
Aging socialite Mo Jieyu (Cecilia Cheung) still finds herself circling ex-boyfriend Xie Yifan (Jang Dong-kun). Even after years of separation, their attraction – and appetites – smolder just beneath the surface. Mo, the rich and charming widow with a taste for indulgence and sensuous pleasures, still has eyes for famous womanizer Xie, who secretly burns with love for her.
And yet, in his luxurious life, Xie’s new interest lies in chaste humanitarian Du Fenyu (Ziyi Zhang), who has captured his attention and earned his desire for conquest. Mo lures Xie into a treacherous, dangerous game of hearts: win, bed, and leave Du, proving his mettle as a rogue and impossible catch. But can Xie take the honor of such a woman, without losing his own heart, as well? As war looms in Shanghai, can Xie win Mo’s seductive game? Can he choose between these two women? Where will such a triangle lead them all? In matters of the heart, and in this city, there may be no difference between love and war.
In 1782, Choderlos de Lacios published his French epistolary novel “Les Liaisons dangeruses” (The Dangerous Liaisons). The novel would inspire several films including the 1959 Roger Vadim film, a 1988 Stephen Frears film titled “Dangerous Liaisons”, the 1989 film “Valmont” and the 1999 Roger Kumble film “Cruel Intentions”.
In Korea, the film would lead to a 2003 film titled “Untold Scandal” by E J-yong and in 2012, a Chinese film by South Korean filmmaker Hur Jin-ho.
Hur Jin-ho is known for his films about love. From his 1998 hit film “Christmas in August”, his 2001 film “One Fine Spring Day”, “April Snow” (2005), “Happiness” (2007) and “A Good Rain Knows” (2009). The latter film which would feature a Korean/China collaboration between their two main leads.
With his 2012 film “Dangerous Liaisons”, Hur Jin-ho and screenwriter Geling Yan (“Xiu Xiu The Sent-Down Girl”, “Forever Enthralled”) wanted to do a film inspired by the original French novel but with the setting taking place in Shanghai during the 1930′s. And also continuing a collaboration between Hong Kong actress Cecilia Cheung (“The Promise”, “Running on Karma”, “Shaolin Soccer”), Jang Dong-Gun (“The Promise”, “The Coast Guard”, “The Warrior’s Way”, “Tae Guk Gi: Brotherhood of War”) and Chinese actress Zhang Zi Yi (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Hero”, “House of Flying Daggers”).
The film is set in Shanghai and focuses on the lives of two powerful, wealthy people. Two friends that are attracted by lust but have never been romantic or sexually involved.
Xie Yifan (portrayed by Jang Dong-gun) is a man who is known to be a serial seducer of women, enjoying the competition of having sex with a woman, to dump them right afterward. And because of that, his reputation of a seducer is well-known in Shanghai. But the reason he is a seducer is because he has been unable to make the woman of his desires, Mou Jieyu (portrayed by Cecilia Cheung) his.
When his uncle’s grandaughter Du Fenyu (portrayed by Zhang Ziyi) and his grandmother Du Ruixue (portrayed by Lisa Lu) arrive, Xie Yifan immediately wants to conquer Fenyu.
Meanwhile, Hudong Bank chairwoman Mo Jieyu is a woman of power and gets literally everything she wants. When she finds out that a wealthy tycoon named Jin Zhihuan (portrayed by Zhang Han) is to marry a 16-year-old virgin named Beibei (portrayed by Candy Wang), immediately she wants to find ways to wreck the relationship by taking away Beibei’s virginity.
And when both Xie Yifan and Mo Jieyu see each other scheming, both decide to bet each other. If Xie Yifan can conquer Du Fenyu, she will become his woman. If he fails, he must sign a valuable piece of land to her. And Yifan, always wanting a challenge but will do anything to make Mo Jieyu his woman. Meanwhile, she tries to get Xie Yifan to have sexual contact with BeiBei but declines as he has a woman in his mind (Fenyu), that he wants to conquer.
And as Xie Yifan tries to get close to De Fenyu, he realizes that she is very difficult and that unlike other women, she is not falling for his charms.As for Mo Jieyu, she starts to learn that Beibei has fallen for her art teacher, a college student named Dai Wenzhou (portrayed by Shawn Dou). But as she tries to give Dai chances to have sexual relations with BeiBei, she also finds it a challenge to steal BeiBei’s virginity.
And as these two competitive individuals are determined to win their bet, who will become the victor?
“Dangerous Liaisons” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9 widescreen). The film looks fantastic in HD with skintones that are natural, detail on clothing, hair, vehicles that look amazing. But it’s the close-ups that look stunning, thanks to the performances and style of shots that were taken. The film looks luxurious, the costume design captures 1930′s Shanghai thanks to the amount of research done for the film and the film looks amazing on Blu-ray!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Dangerous Liaisons ” is presented in Mandarin DTS-HD 5.1. For a dramatic film with a lot of dialogue, as one can expect from this film, dialogue is crystal clear from the center/front channels. Especially the music, including Chinese performances played on stage are clear. There are moments of crowd ambiance through the surround channels but this is primarily a dialogue-driven film.
Subtitles are in English and Chinese.
“Dangerous Liaisons ” come with the following special features:
- Making of – (16:55) Interviews with the cast of “Dangerous Liaisons”
- Behind-the-Scenes – (4:57) Behind-the-scene profiles with each of the three main talents: Cecilia Cheung, Jang Dong-gun and Zhang Ziyi.
- Trailers – (6:56) Theatrical trailers for “Dangerous Liaisons”.
Featuring a spectacular performance by Jang Dong-gun, Cecilia Cheung and Zhang Ziyi, “Dangerous Liaisons” is a film in which we have never seen these talents take part in before.
While the film reunites “The Promise” (2005) talents Korean actor Jang Dong-gun and Hong Kong actress Cecilia Cheung, the two go farther than they ever have in their performance as Jang Dong-gun as Xie Yifan must make the crowd believe he is the ultimate amoral playboy that would make women’s hearts swoon and eventually conquer them.
Cecilia Cheung’s performance as Mo Jieyu must portray the role of a powerful woman who never will be conquered. An amoral woman who loves to control situations and also a woman who knows that she has control over Xie Yifan, the man who has always lusted for her.
And while there have been a good number of film adaptations based on Choderlos de Lacios’ “Les Liaisons dangeruses”, the adaptation of 1930′s Shanghai with exquisite costume design, luxurious settings is a sight to be hold. Both Jang Dong-gun and Cecilia Cheung look as if they belong in that era and they sell the audience of the characters they are portraying, even though these two speak different languages and are from different countries, they make it happen.
For actress Cecilia Cheung, known for taking on comedic, fantasy or feudal-based films, the actress goes all out in playing the vixen. Even smoking all day literally (despite quitting smoking five years ago) in order to play the role, having watched this actress for well-over a decade now, I have to say this is her finest performance yet (considering I have felt her performance on “Fly Me to Polaris” as her breakthrough drama acting role).
And as for Zhang Ziyi, she has taken on many roles in her career over the last ten years, but this role required her to be reserved and later emotional, it was a different role for her to play but she also shines in this film.
But “Dangerous Liaisons” is a fascinating film for director Hur Jin-ho to take on. Always known for his love stories, “Dangerous Liaisons” is about a man who is the ultimate playboy because he can never have the woman that he really wants, but when he engages in a bet with that woman to conquer the cautious Fenyu, he realizes that he may have discovered his one true love. But at the same time, he’s a man that has long lusted after Mo Jieyu. Which will he give into… love or lust?
And in an interesting juxtaposition, Mo Jieyu is a woman who doesn’t want to love, enjoys being lusted over by Xie Yifan but also not wanting to lose him to any woman. These characters are fascinating and the way that Hur Jin-ho had ended the film, different from other adaptations, is appropriate and it works quite well.
As for the Blu-ray release, the Blu-ray looks amazing. Detail of clothing, vehicles to close-ups of the characters are full of detail. Colors are vibrant and many scenes are well-lit and for the most part, cinematography by Byung-seo Kim is fantastic. Lossless soundtrack is primarily center and front-channel driven as one would expect from a dialogue driven film with ambiance of crowds being heard in the surrounds when needed. And as for special features, there are a few, including a making-of that really shows how challenging it was to make the film for the talents involved.
A wonderful Chinese adaptation of the popular French novel, Hur Jin-Ho’s “Dangerous Liaisons” is sexy, captivating and a fantastic film!