July 30, 2008

Japanese Films Rule The Asian Movie Roost At Venice Film Fest

At the recently announced lineup of films in competition for the prestigious Golden Lion at the 65th Venice Film Festival which will take place from August 27th to September 6th, Japanese films are the most represented among all the Asian movies competing this year. Three Japanese movies have made it into the list of 21 films including two of the most anticipated animated features: Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea and Ghost In The Shell director Mamoru Oshii's The Sky Crawlers. The other Japanese movie in competition is award-winning director Takeshi Kitano's Achilles and the Tortoise. Ponyo debuted in Japan recently and has already topped the box-office records there. The Sky Crawlers will debut in Japan on August 2.

Unlike the previous years' La Biennale di Venezia, where Chinese language movies (including Hong Kong and Taiwanese movies) were quite well represented and a force to be reckoned with(3 films in 2006 including Golden Lion winner Still Life and 4 films in 2007 including winner Lust, Caution), this year, only one Chinese language movie made it to the list, Hong Kong director Yu Lik Wai's Plastic City, a Chinese/Brazil/Hong Kong/Japanese co-production about a group of Asian immigrant gangsters in Brazil. Plastic City stars über-cool Japanese star Joe Odagiri and well-known Hong Kong character actor Anthony Wong.

The trailer for Ponyo can be found here and the trailer for Achilles and the Tortoise can be found at this site. And here is the trailer for The Sky Crawlers that I found on YouTube:

Good luck to all the films competing in this year's Venice Film Festival :-)

Source: http://international-animated-films.suite101.com/article.cfm/ponyo_on_a_cliff_tops_japans_box_office, http://www.animationmagazine.net/article/8674, http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2008-07/31/content_8870603.htm

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

July 14, 2008

Red Cliff - Some Random Thoughts

As expected, John Woo's Red Cliff (赤壁) , the most expensive movie in Chinese film history, has broken opening day records in mainland China and topped the box-offices in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea over the last weekend. The US$80 million historical epic has already earned US$26 million on its opening weekend across these five Asian territories* and looks set to become the highest grossing East Asian hit movie this year. This is the first of a two-parter for Asian audiences and the sequel is scheduled to be released early next year. For audiences outside Asia, a condensed 2½ hour version will be released in January 2009.

I got to watch this highly anticipated movie over the weekend and I was largely satisfied with the performances in the film. From Tony Leung's portrayal of the calm yet brilliant Zhou Yu, to Takeshi Kaneshiro's portrayal of the witty Zhuge Liang, to Chiling Lin's beauteous Xiao Qiao, every member of the cast did a satisfactory job of bringing their characters to life. I was especially impressed by Zhang Fengyi's portrayal of the dominating and ruthless Cao Cao, although he is the singular lonely villian in the story, he still looked like he could eat every member of the gang of good guys - Liu Bei and his generals, Zhuge Liang, Zhou Yu, Sun Quan, Sun Shang Xiang and Xiao Qiao, for lunch. It's one against many yet the many seem to have a real hard time dealing with the ONE (Cao Cao), who looks to be the smartest of the lot ;-)

But what impressed me the most were the battle scenes, these do not disappoint and are the best parts of the movie. I could honestly say that these are some of the best battle scenes I have ever seen in an Asian movie. John Woo is really the master of action sequences and the battle scenes in this film retain his signature style ( lots of slow motion and sweeping moves) without losing the feeling of realism. Look out especially for the exciting battle scene just before the movie's end, for this is the part where we can finally understand and experience Zhou Yu and Zhuge Liang's military genius (even though according to Wikipedia, this battle is purely fictional ;-P).

But the movie is not without faults, perhaps because of the plot, there is little human drama that is memorable. After watching the movie, except for the battle scenes, there were hardly any scenes that sticked in my mind. Lovebirds Zhou Yu and Xiao Qiao do not generate a lot of romantic sparks and Cao Cao's obsession with Xiao Qiao somehow also comes out a but strange, maybe because it is quite unbelievable that a man like Cao Cao could be so obsessed over a woman, to the extent of going to war for her... And I also feel that the soundtrack could be improved, some of the film's music just sound too modern and do not seem to fit the time period of the movie.

All in all, I think this is one of the best big-budgeted Chinese historical epic that I have seen so far, definitely much better than the too-extravagant-for-its-own-good Curse Of The Golden Flower ;-P

Tags: , , , , , , , .

Source: *http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/07/15/arts/AS-MOV-John-Woo-Red-Cliff.php,

Picture from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Cliff_(film)

July 1, 2008

New Anime By Anime Master Hayao Miyazaki is called...

Ponyo On A Cliff (崖の上のポニョ or Gake no Ue no Ponyo) and it is a story about a five-year old boy and a goldfish princess (hmmm... not sure why the goldfish princess has a human face but she sure is super cute!). This long-awaited follow-up to 2004's Howl's Moving Castle by Hayao Miyazaki will be released in Japan on July 19, 2008. And after seeing the trailer recently, I think that I have already fallen in love with the characters because honestly I have never seen anything cuter than Ponyo! Hayao Miyazaki is truly a master of his craft!

Update (July 31): Here is the trailer which has the theme song on YouTube, somehow I have a feeling that this song is going to be a huge hit ;-) Can't wait to watch this movie.

Tags: , , , , .