Bonjour and buenos dias, "Monty Cristo" here.
After telling Harry how much I thought we needed an Asian cinema column, he said, “Why not just revive ASIA AICN?”
Well here we are.
Some years ago, ASIA AICN was the site’s regular Asian cinema column, posted every Thursday, and with a slate of Asian spies that brought we American geeks the straight dope from the Far East. That reads like an opium joke…oh well!
ASIA AICN is going to be weekly, but not tied to a specific day of the week. That may change, may not, we'll see.
We will be looking at Asian cinema from multiple perspectives: from the movies' native shores to outsiders like me looking in. I hope that this column helps AICN inform potential distributors of the gems they should pick up, and likewise, point fans to what they should seek out.
This first go-around will be relatively light, and in general, we’re going to focus on stuff that we think is especially cool from the recent surge in live-action Asian cinema distributors in the States: Well Go USA, Funimation, China Lion, and others.
COMING TO U.S. CINEMAS
LET THE BULLETS FLY
People responded really well to the red band trailer that we posted previously. It included a "bottom in a tree". Here’s a new clip called “GUNS DRAWN”:
It played at Fantastic Fest last year, and hits US theaters next weekend. We're doing a promo screening next Tuesday here in Austin, so keep your eyes peeled for details!
COMING TO HOME VIDEO IN THE USA
This section will expand quite a bit in future installments, so bear with us for now.
ALIEN VS NINJA (21 February 2012)
The movie’s a waste of time, and so would writing about it beyond saying that it in no way lives up to the potential of its gimmicky title.
WAR OF THE ARROWS (21 February 2012)
This Korean film is one of the best action movies I missed last year. A friend rightly put it on Twitter when she said it has more action in its first 30 minutes than the remake of A BETTER TOMORROW has in its entire runtime.
A brother and sister are orphaned when their father is executed. The brother is a talented archer who grows into a master. His sister grows into a beautiful lady of the court…who can also stand up for herself in a fight and use a bow.
Just as the sister is set to be married, the second Manchurian invasion of Korea starts, and everyone gets rounded up by evil, deadly Chinese invaders. The brother manages to escape, and starts picking off bad guys. Whereas he is a uniquely gifted archer, the Chinese guys have the equivalent of armor-piercing bullets for arrows. I learned after seeing the movie that part of the deal here is the effectiveness of this historically-accurate archery technique, which is the equivalent to a curveball in baseball, essentially.
WAR OF THE ARROWS is a man on a mission movie wrapped in a populist uprising epic, and garnished with a little bit of cornball comedy and romance. You owe it to yourself to track it down.
If you watch the trailer above and comment on it, you can win some stuff from Well Go USA. Here’s the info:
It's on! Watch and comment on our WAR OF THE ARROWS trailer for THREE chances to win an iPod Touch plus a $150 iTunes Gift Card (over $450 value), framed WOTA movie posters, and other great WOTA gifts. enter now for THREE TIMES the chance to win! Prizes awarded 2/22, 3/7, and 3/21. Available on DVD and Blu-Ray Tuesday, February 21.
The Blu-ray features a few minutes of behind-the-scenes footage, and that's about it for extras. I likely won't watch them again, thought they give a little bit more insight into the historical archery techniques used in the film.
The price on the Blu-ray version is very reasonable if you see yourself rewatching it in the future (and only around three bucks more than the DVD-only). Just as reasonable is iTunes' $5 HD rental fee if you just want to watch it and not do the disc thing.
I just got my review copy of BLADE OF KINGS in the mail, a 2004 movie otherwise known as THE TWINS EFFECT 2, which stars Jackie Chan’s son Jaycee Chan and a pile of other young Chinese stars on the rise. Jackie makes a cameo appearance, as do Tony Leung and Donnie Yen (playing a character named Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon…huh, interesting). Even though I saw the first TWINS EFFECT some years ago, I never got around to this one. Fun fact: my import DVD of TWINS 1 listed the title as THE TEINS EFFECTS. I’ll have a review in next week's column. Here’s the trailer:
COMING SOON IN KOREA
Hey Monty, Seoulster here. I thought I might file my first spy report with some trailers and brief informations about these Korean movies that are opening this month.
WAR AGAINST CRIME: THE GOLDEN AGE OF BAD BOYS (literal translation)
범죄와의 전쟁: 나쁜놈들 전성시대
“Bumjuawaeu Junjang: Nabbeunnohmdeul Jhunsungsidae"
Directed by Yun Jong-bin
- At the beginning of the main trailer for "War Against Crime (aka Nameless Gangster)"
Choi Min-shik's character: "Do you know what this phone address book is? Do you know? This is the 100 million won book. 100 million." ( 1000 won = 1 USD)
Choi Min-shik's character (voice-over): "Aren't you a gangster, sir? I'm a civil servant, I say, a civil servant!"
Ha Jung-woo's character (voice-over): "They call bastards like you half-moons. You ain't no gangster but you ain't a civilian either. What the hell are you?"
According to their website, this movie's English title is "Nameless Gangster: Rules of Time." I don't know where they got them from. Anyways, it stars legendary Choi Min-shik ("I Saw the Devil," "OldBoy") as a corrupt tax official in the port city of Busan, who allies himself with a local mob boss, played by Ha Jung-woo, in an effort to profit from a burgeoning illegal drug trade. The title of the movie refers to a speech made by the South Korean president Roh Tae-woo's declaration of "War against Crime" in 1990, which basically let loose all sorts of hell. In this movie, Choi Min-shik's mastery of the particular Busan dialect is quite incredible, and the movie is getting excellent reviews in Korea, with many critics pointing out that this is how a Korean mobster movie should be made. I would say that it seems to have that particularly Korean blend of comedy, drama, and social-consciousness much like "the Host."
THE BROKEN ARROW (literal translation)
부러진 화살 "Buruhjin Hwasal"
English Title: "Unbowed"
Directed by Jung Ji-young
- Starting at the 25 second mark of the trailer for "Unbowed"
(At the jail)
Defense Lawyer: Let's begin. So you brought the bow with you.
(Cut to courtroom)
Tribunal Judge: He fired, didn't he.
Lawyer: It was unintentional.
(Back to jail)
Lawyer: And you fired.
Professor: No, I did not. I did not.
- Starting at the 40 second mark:
Professor: Mr. Park Bong-ju in his written statement said that the arrow was broken, but the prosecutor's office have brought an unbroken arrow to the court as an evidence. Someone has to be lying.
- Starting at the 55 second mark:
Lawyer: Sir, could you just please leave it to the professional?
Professor: There are no professionals in Korea. Except con-artists.
Starring yet another famous Korean actor Ahn Seung-gi ("Silimido," "Nowhere to Hide"), the film is a court drama that is based on true events. Now, the story sounds pretty crazy, so bear with me. In South Korea, the college entrance exam in the 90s and in the early 2000s was the only factor that decided any applicant's admission, and this exam made SAT and ACT look like child's play. In the movie, the college professor played by Ahn Seung-gi files a report that a math question from one of these exams (which had already been given) was wrong. He is reprimanded when his report eventually ends up in the court, and he is blacklisted. Finally, at a breaking point, the professor confronts the judge of his case by going to the judge's office (there are no juries in Korea) and threatens him with a crossbow. After a violent struggle, the judge claims that he was shot. The prosecutor's office charges the professor with terrorism, and the case begins. The movie has been getting a fantastic reviews in Korea. It is also notable for Director Jung Ji-young's return to Korean cinema after a 13 year "retirement".
Monty here again. Thanks Seoulster! I like this guy, and hope to get more reports from him soon!
We will take a look at a variety of things, including both 1911 REVOLUTION and THE BEGINNING OF THE GREAT REVIVAL, two movies that everyone (not just westerners) probably need study guides to follow. Expect some martial arts coverage, as well as advice on import versus domestic Blu-rays.
This is just the beginning, and I encourage any wannabe spies to get in touch, especially those who live in Asia.
Stick with ASIA AICN, we have a lot of cool stuff in store. Until next time...