Archive for April 29th, 2012

As the movie begins, we see a depressed Japanese man called Kenji attempting to hang himself but being thwarted by the doorbell of his apartment going off. Kenji lives in Bangkok, Thailand and works in a library there. He doesn’t have a girlfriend and he seems to be an impeccably clean person judging by the rigid state of his apartment where all sorts of books have been stacked around in alphabetical order and the place looks spotless. A person with an OCD disorder perhaps? His brother arrives to see him because he’s in trouble which starts chain of events in Kenji’s life. Kenji murders two people in his apartment and is about to throw himself from a bridge when he sees a young Thai girl Nid in a Japanese school uniform who’s having an argument with her sister Noi. He had noticed her earlier at his workplace and was transfixed by her. When Nid is distracted by Kenji, a passing car slams into her instantly killing the young girl. This tragic incident brings Nid and Kenji together when he asks if he can crash out at her dirty apartment for a couple of days. Thus starts a peculiar romance between the two where they gradually become to depend on each other. When Nid’s gangster ex-boyfriend sticks his nose in her business once more and 3 yakuza arrive from Osaka to see Kenji, the stage is set for a collision.

What an impressive movie this was and so interesting to watch. It’s a surreal romance of sorts (not of the ordinary sort) and also a clash of two differing cultures in more ways than one. Nid being a Thai girl and such a slob, not really giving a toss about cleaning up her place in comparison to Kenji a Japanese man who’s too much of a neat freak for his own good. However the two of them together seems to work, bonded by tragedy. I guess the term ‘opposites attract’ is perfect for the situation. They find solace in each other as both are lonely. The movie is touching, entertaining, and even hilarious at times especially when the 3 yakuza characters come to Bangkok. One of them with a plaster underneath his eye goes around asking every man he comes across if he’s Kenji. The stupidity of his action usually follows with a swift slap across the head. It really is funny to see. Takashi Miike plays the head yakuza gangster by the way so that kind of explains why we see a movie poster of Ichi The Killer shown in the library where Kenji works.

The two leads are excellent. We know what Tadanobu Asano can do as he is such a remarkable actor and he excels again in this movie as Kenji. I’d never seen Sinitta Boomyasak before but she is equally as good in her role as Nid. Seeing Kenji and Nid try and communicate through broken English, a little bit of Japanese and Thai was so good as you can see the chemistry between them. Their mis-understandings of language are juxtaposed with their understandings of each other. There is nothing so clear as body language and this movie relies heavily on the physicality of the two leads. You know that both like each other but have difficulty in expressing their feelings. Their quirky relationship is a joy to watch.

Last Life In The Universe is a fantastic Thai movie which deserves to be seen more by Asian movie fans. Director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang has to be congratulated for weaving such a beautiful tale. The pacing may be too slow for some and the action (if I can call it that) is sporadic so be aware of that. Highly recommended and unmissable.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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City Of Life And Death (2010)

The movie takes place in 1937, during the height of the Second Sino-Japanese War. The Imperial Japanese Army invades the then-capital of the Republic of China, Nanjing. What followed was known as the Nanking Massacre, a period of several weeks wherein massive numbers of Chinese prisoners of war and civilians were killed.

A very powerful, harrowing and bleak movie depicting the atrocities that took place in Nanjing during the Japanese occupation of the city during WW2. It’s a documentary-like testimony to the cruelties of war. It holds nothing back. Superbly filmed in black and white, the camera seems to capturing events as they happen and the images that you witness in this movie will live with you long after the end credits has finished. It’s heartbreaking and upsetting. One such scene in particular is really gutwrenching: it’s where captured Chinese soldiers are led to a place where they will be executed, and just before getting mown down by machine guns the soldiers shout “Long live China” and “China will not die”. The movie will make you think long and hard how human beings can do such terrible to each other. As this is a Chinese production, you’re probably wondering if this just national propoganda as I’m fully aware that the Chinese people have never really forgiven the nation of Japan for what they did to them during the war. The wounds run deep and the hate for the Japanese especially among the elder population is very real. This isn’t a movie that takes sides at all. The story is told through the eyes and feelings of a few characters (Japanese and Chinese) thus giving us a point of view from the two sides. It was a good idea by the director to have a sympathetic Japanese soldier Kadokawa so that the viewer doesn’t just hate the lot of them. There is also no real character development to speak of, since most of these characters are just trying to stay sane or alive. If ever there was a movie to show us that war is hell then this is it thanks to writer-director Chuan Lu and cinematographer Yu Cao. Its as much anti-war as you can get. There is great horror shown from the normal horrors of warfare, to numerous and frequent graphic rapes, nastiness involving children and pretty much every kind of cruelty you can think of.

City Of Life Or Death is a masterpiece and a remarkable movie experience that everybody should see, telling us about a dark chapter in world history which will never be forgotten. It’s a difficult movie to watch, that there is no doubt but see this and be prepared to be moved. Outstanding.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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Two orphan girls are trained from a young age along with a boy by their foster father Fok on how to be assassins once they grow up. Fok and his ‘children’ live completely above the law doing contract hits in which both ‘sisters’ carry out with ruthless efficiency. During a mission ordered by Fok in which an ambush has been arranged, a van full of children are unfortunately killed. This traumatic incident plays on the mind of one of the sisters ‘Silver Fox’ when she begins to have nightmares about it. They are ordered to go to Bangkok, Thailand to retrieve a floppy disk which has some important information that could implicate Fok. They complete the mission but they barely escape from the Thai military. In the ensuing escape, both sisters are split up. Silver Fox is injured and bangs her head hard against a tree before losing unconsciousness after falling into a river. Meanwhile a Chinese brother and sister (Rocky and Lan) are running bar called The Cabin Pub. Lan is a former HK policewoman. Her brother Rocky is desperate to become a Thai boxer and in a bout proves how talented he is but this bring him to the attention of a gangster Mr Chin who is putting a lot of money on Rocky to win his fights. A traffic accident makes it impossible for Rocky to compete in a fight which pisses off Mr Chin and Lan tries to get him to back off from using Rocky in his gambling racket. However Mr Chin doesn’t give up easily and applies some pressure on the siblings. Into this situation comes an amnesiac Silver Fox who drops on the floor of The Cabin Pub. The siblings help her out and Rocky starts to like her. Once she’s recovered they begin to ask her questions but she has no idea who she is so they assume she’s a refugee, give her a new name ‘Gold’ and give her a job at the pub. Silver Fox’s sister is still searching for her across Bangkok and her brother comes over to help with the news that their ‘father’ isn’t happy. Mr Chin attacks the Cabin Pub with machine guns where Silver Fox once again bangs her head which makes her memory return. She takes out all of Mr Chin’s men. The other sister finally reunites with Silver Fox who does not want to go back to HK. She has been ordered to kill Silver Fox if she refuses. Her sentiment towards her sister gets her killed by her brother Scorpion. Rocky is killed as well in trying to save Silver Fox. Fok comes to Thailand to retrieve the disk for himself. The stage is set for a showdown between Ko, Scorpion and their forces against Silver Fox and Lam who want revenge for losing somebody close to them.

One of the best Moon Lee/Yukari Oshima actioners with some fine acting by not only the pair but by actress Sibelle Hu as well. The story is very well done with some interesting plot elements that combine to create a great mix. For a HK actioner, a good deal of character development which is well paced is shown. Usually in these kind of stories, the plot would just be strung together as an excuse to highlight the action set-pieces, however it’s different in this movie. The plot is equally as important as the action. If you want top notch shootouts and martial arts fights then this movie gives it to you in droves along with some great kickboxing matches. Many have complained that the matches are simply used as filler material to expand the running time. That may be the case but I enjoyed watching Rocky’s matches against his superior opponents even when the odds are heavily stacked against him.

Moon Lee gives a rather sensitive performance for a change as the flawed and guilt ridden assassin Silver Fox. She takes an extreme amount of punishment in this movie even getting shot in the leg twice and also in the arm. How she’s still standing in the end I do not know!! Yukari Oshima also delivers in what was a memorable role for her. She has a knack of showing how good an actress she is by not just speaking dialogue but from the expressions on her face which is impressive to see. Both women look gorgeous together and make a great combination. It’s easy to see why they were placed together in so many movies during the early 90’s. On saying that it’s probably Sibelle Hu’s wisecracking chainsmoking bar owner Lan that was the best character in the entire movie. In what’s quite a serious movie, her character provided just a small amount of humour to give us something to smile about. Ben Lam is also very good as the naive Rocky. I liked Hsu Hsia as Scorpion (the girls’ brother) who kills without a trace of emotion and stands out in his white outfit looking ever so cool!

Dreaming The Reality is a solid HK actioner with excellent acting by all the cast and is directed competently by Simon Yun-Ching. If you haven’t seen this yet, try and seek it out. It’s well worth watching and you will not be disappointed.

No trailer but here’s a clip from the movie to enjoy.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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