With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

ACF 065: "Royal Tramp" DVD coming soon

Royal Tramp / Lu ding ji
Royal Tramp II / Lu ding ji II: Zhi shen long jiao
Siu-Tung Ching and Jing Wong, Co-Directors
Hong Kong 1992 (both)

Dragon Dynasty has announced the February 12, 2008 release of the double feature DVD of Royal Tramp and its sequel Royal Tramp II. Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle) stars in both as Wei Siu Bo, "a fast-talking conman who manages to avoid death and score hot women, all the while trying to save the Ming Dynasty."

Both films include an optional feature length audio commentary by Hong Kong film authority Bey Logan, as well as original theatrical trailers. There is an interview with Wong Jing that accompnanies Royal Tramp 2.

Hopefully I'll score a screener and have an advance review for you.


Runtimes: Royal Tramp - 111 minutes; Royal Tramp II - 98 minutes

Languages: English Dolby 5.1, Cantonese Dolby 5.1

Subtitles: English, Spanish

M.S.R.P. $19.95

Monday, January 28, 2008

ACF 064: Korean-American Film Festival 2008

The 2nd Annual Korean-American Film Festival (KAFFNY) will be held on Saturday, February 9, 2008 at the Skirball Center for The Performing Arts at New York University. The one-day affair will screen nine short films beginning at 4:00 P.M. "Baby," a spotlight feature film described as "a poetic gangster story," will make its NYC theatrical premiere at 7:00 PM.

Sounds like a great opportunity to check out some works by talented Korean-Americans

For tickets and /or additional information, visit www.KAFFNY.com.

Thanks to Korean Cultural Service New York for alerting me about this, enabling me to pass it on to you ACF readers, particularly my fellow New Yorkers.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

ACF 063: Fatal Contact 2-disc DVD

Fatal Contact / Hak kuen
Written & Directed by Dennis Law
Hong kong / 2006 / 110 minutes

Fatal Contact, a Hong Kong actioner about a young man who enters the dangerous world of illegal underground boxing in Hong Kong, is set for a Tuesday, January 22, 2008 release as a 2-disc Ultimate Edition from Genuis Products and The Weinstein Company under their highly respected Dragon Dynasty label.

Kong Ko, Captain and Siu Tin in the obligatory "training scene"
that here is played to great comic effect

Kong Ko (Jacky Wu Jing), a Peking Opera performer from the Mainland, is initially reluctant to participate, but changes his mind when the lovely Siu Tin (Miki Yeung) encourages him to look into it as a way of using his wushu skills to make lots of money. Kong does well, but as the sakes -- and payouts -- increase, he enlists Captain (Ronald Cheng) to train him.

Kong takes on the last opponent in the three-on-three
fight on the deck of a large cargo ship

Overall the plot is a familiar one, but I have to give Dennis Law a lot of credit for some plot twists and developments towards the end that I didn't see coming and that made the story fresher than it would have been otherwise.

The dialog and acting are nothing to rave about, but nothing to rage about either. They're both about what you'd expect for a film featuring some relatively inexperienced newcomers (here I'm thinking primarily of the two female leads) and a limited budget.

The action sequences are another matter altogether, which they should be since this is the real reason for coming to the dance. In one of the extras, Jacky Wu says that there are ten fight scenes. I didn't count them, but that sounds about right to me. Overall, these are some of the finest action sequences I've seen in any Hong Kong film in recent years, combining realistic fighting with superb wire-work. The imagination and planning that went into these scenes are obviously considerable. In both quantity and quality, they're exceptional.

Credit for this must be shared by writer/director Dennis Law, action coordinator Nicky Li, and cinematographer Herman Yau. Fatal Contact, by the way, was director Law's first action film! (He's followed it up with Fatal Move (Duo shuai), which is set for a February 26, 2008 release in Hong Kong. In addition to Jacky Wu, this gang war tale stars Sammo Hung and Simon Yam. Here's hoping Dragon Dynasty will come through for us with that promising release not too far down the road.)

For a terrific mini-trailer that'll give you a sense of the terrific action to be found in Fatal Contact, click here.

Disc 1 features:
- Feature length audio commentary by Director Dennis Law and Honk Kong film authority Bey Logan
- Cantonese Dolby 5.1 and DTS soundtracks
- English Doby 5.1 soundtrack
- English, English SDH, and Spanish subtitles

Disc 2 Extras:
- Separate interviews with Jacky Wu, Director Dennis Law (the only one of the four in English, the others being subtitled), actress Theresa Fu (who plays Chui Chi, a friend of Tin's), and Miki Yeung
- Life is a Contact Sport - billed as a behind the scenes featurette, but basically a video of Jacky Wu's month-long training with the Free Combat Team in Beijing
- Original theatrical trailer

ACF Rating:
Film - 3 out of 4 stars (solid recommendation, but keep in mind that this is because the action is what matters here, not the acting and dialog)
Extras - 3 out of 4 stars (Dragon Dynasty has again put out a fine package that truly gives the Asian action film lover their money's worth and then some)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

ACF 062: "Talk, Talk, Talk" - International Premiere

Talk, Talk, Talk / Shaberedomo shaberedomo
Japan / 2007 / 109 minutes

ANA [All Nippon Airways] is presenting the International Premiere of the comedy Talk, Talk, Talk at the ImaginAsian in Manhattan on Wednesday, January 23, 2008 at 7:00. The film was directed by Hideyuki Hirayama, with a screenplay by Satoko Okudera based on a popular novel by Takako Sato.

Taichi Kokubun, from J-pop idol group TOKIO, plays Mitsuba, a professional comedian who's having a rough time of it. He performs Rakugo, a particular form of Japanese verbal entertainment. In dealing with his situation, he finds himself teaching three misfits how to perform Rakugo.

Linda Hoagland, Japanese film specialist and translator of this and other Japanese films, will be making a special guest appearance.

I'm looking forward to seeing the film and plan to carry a review of it here soon afterwards.

Seating is limited and by RSVP only. If you're interested in attending, email film@newyork-tokyo.com with the following information:

eMail Address:
AMC # , if you have one:

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

ACF 061: "Springtime in My Hometown" to screen at The Korea Society

Korea Society’s 2nd Season of Classic Movie Night Films
opens with
Springtime in My Hometown / Areumdawoon sheejul

On the third Thursday of each month, starting on January 24, 2008, The Korea Society will be screening Korean films from the 1960s to the 1990s in the second season of its Classic Movie Night series.

The series opens with Lee Kwang-mo’s 1998 Spring in My Hometown—the story of a tragic accident that tests a small, tightly knit village during the closing days of the Korean War.

The Korea Society is located at 950 Third Avenue, 8th Floor, New York, NY.

For further information about this screening of Springtime in My Hometown, click here.

I'm looking forward to the screening and hope to see some AsianCineFest readers there. I also hope to run a review of the film soon afterwards.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

ACF 060: Exiled - Asian Oscar Hopeful

This fine crime caper/actioner by Johnnie To, one of the former colony's best current directors, is Hong Kong's official entry for Best Foreign Language Film at this year's Oscars.

As it begins, two pairs of gunman await the return of Wo (Nick Cheung), a former gang member, to his new apartment. One pair, Blaze (Anthony Wong) and Fat (Lam Suet), has been ordered by Boss Fay (Simon Yam) to kill him. The other two, Tai (Francis Ng) and Cat (Roy Cheung), are there to protect him. All five had once belonged to Boss Fay's gang.

The first of several well-staged and -filmed set pieces is a shoot-out in Wo's nearly empty apartment. Amazingly, none of the five, nor Wo's wife or their young child, are even slightly injured. The two sides agree to a brief truce so that Wo can pull off one last job and thereby provide for his wife and child.

To anyone vaguely familiar with Hong Kong actors, it will be immediately obvious that the film has a stellar cast. Most of them also appeared in To's The Mission (1999). Indeed, the story line of Exiled is a reworking of the mini-story that emerged at the end of that film, where two pairs of gunmen face-off over the order to execute a fifth member of their group.

The film has more in common with Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns and Sam Peckinpah's works than with former Hong Konger John Woo's "bullet ballets." This is not to take anything away from Director To's considerable skills, just to provide some reference.

Exiled recently came out on DVD from Magnolia Home Entertainment. I watched the film on a DVD screener during last summer's New York Asian FIlm Festival, so at this time I can't comment on the quality of this commercial release. But it does include Making Of and Behind the Scenes featurettes, and at least makes the film accessible to those interested, which any serious reader of this blog should be.

The film did win the Hong Kong Film Critics Society's awards for best film and director. Still it's hard to say why it got picked to be H.K.'s entry for consideration as Best Foreign Language film. Maybe they thought that since The Departed, which was based on Hong Kong's Infernal Affairs, won Best Picture at last year's shindig, Exiled might have a shot as a nominee in the foreign language slot.

Sorry to say, this ain't gonna happen. Exiled is not in any way a serious contender for one of the nominee slots. Still, it is a solid film, enjoyable and entertaining. Plus, you get to see Simon Yam bitch-slap Anthony Wong! That alone is priceless!

ACF rating: 3 out of 4 stars (solid recommendation).

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

ACF 059: A Bloody Aria

Well the New Year is upon us, and I'd like to wish all Asian Cinema Fans a great 2008.

The year will be getting off to a fine start for those lucky enough to make it to a screening of A Bloody Aria (Guta-yubalja-deul) a terrific 2006 film from South Korea. (Writing that actually felt a bit redundant. I mean if it's a fine Korean film, it's gotta be from the South, right? Gonna be a long time before the Commies in the North come up with something worth watching, if ever.)

Anyway, Aria is coming to the U.S. in two limited theatrical engagements. Its U.S. debut will be in New York starting January 4, 2008 at The ImaginAsian Theater. The Los Angeles premiere will follow on January 18th at The ImaginAsian Center.

Helmed by writer/director Won Shin-yun, the film is a gripping tale of psychological and physical torture. Yeong-sun (Lee Byuong-jun), an arrogant music professor, is driving his beautiful student In-jeong (Cha Ye-ryun) back from a singing audition in his gorgeous white Mercedes. Showing off, he takes a side-road to elude a pursuing policeman named Moon Jae (Han Seok-gyu, who was in Shiri) and winds up at a dead end on a rocky area alongside a river.

There he tries to force himself on Yeong-sun, who fights off his advances and flees. While he's sitting in his car with it's darkly tinted windows, a local named O-guen (Oh Dai-su, of Oldboy fame) comes along. A veritable retard, he employs a most peculiar technique to capture birds. Soon he's joined by two friends on motorcycles who've brought along a young male student in a bag that's tied to the "sissy bar" of one of the bikes.

Meanwhile Yeong-sun has gotten a ride with Bong-yeon (Lee Mun-shik), who's promised to take her to the local train station on his motor scooter. Instead, they wind up joining the others.

So what we've got her are four locals who give strong evidence of growing up in a rural village where there's been too much inbreeding over too long a time. They take great delight in subjecting their three "companions" to sick mind games and physical violence, both threatened and actualized.

Fortunately, this is not pointless "torture porn." There are distinct characters at work here and it's compelling to watch their interactions, the psychological ones even more so than the physical. I found myself almost continuously wondering what the hell's gonna happen next.

If you can, get yourself to one of these upcoming screenings. If not, seriously look into finding A Bloody Aria on DVD. And if you do see it, pay attention to Bong-yeon's tale of the Dickhead and the Barbarian. This story will have interesting relevance later in the movie.

ACF Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars [Highly recommended]

For info about A Bloody Area screenings at The ImaginAsian Theater, click here.

For info about A Bloody Area screenings at The ImaginAsian Center, click here.