kaigou: (1 Izumi)
[personal profile] kaigou
These were not all recommendations. In many cases, these were just... I don't know what. Boredom, maybe, or honestly mistaking the title for something else that's actually worth the time. Or maybe I didn't mistake it and just thought the movie/drama poster looked cool. Some of these, though... IDEK.

A Good Day To Have An Affair [Korea, movie, 2007]
Two bored housewives have affairs with two different men they meet in online chat rooms. As their relationships developed into offline relationships they often pass each other unwittingly in the hallways of the motels where they meet their lovers.

One day, the lady known as “Dew” is in a room with her aged college lover. Suddenly, her husband bursts through their door, along with police officers that he brought. The other lady known as “Small Bird” is in a adjacent room listening to what’s going on in the other room. Small Bird whispers to her lover to be quiet, because the police officer in the other room is her husband.

I think the reason I picked up this one is because I liked Lee Min-ki elsewhere, and because anything with an actress actually playing her age is worth it. (One of the actresses is not, for once, a mid-20-something playing a mid-30-something, but really was 37 at the time of filming.) Beyond that... I dunno. I got bored with half the story. Maybe that's because the younger married woman really needed to be slapped, but it's not like her partner was much better. Not the actors, I mean, but the roles they were given. She's annoying and too coy, he's pushy and too entitled. Bleah.

Bambino [Japan, drama, 2007]
Maybe I just have a soft spot for kitchen-dramas, not that I'll be checking out Pasta or Baker King any time soon. But I really do not have a soft spot for "arrogant but clueless male lead". Never mind!

Color Me Love [China, movie, 2010]
From ChinaDaily's review: "The plot is vaguely reminiscent of The Devil Wears Prada. The heroine is a new fashion editor who has to deal with her female boss and boyfriend, an arrogant young painter who has a chaotic past with other girls." My understanding is that in The Devil Wears Prada, the boss-lady really is a devil. Not so in this movie, where Joan Chen plays the boss, and she's also the oldest friend of the heroine's aunt. Nepotism may get Wang Xiaofei the internship, but it's her skills that get her the permanent job, and it's her charm that gets her the artist. The movie has little true viciousness (no real devil to speak of) but a lot of honesty. It lets things develop at a slower pace, but it feels just right. It's might be a date movie, but it's a gentle one that respects its characters.

Hero [Korea, drama, 2009]
I am a sucker for stories in which an unlikely band of wacky misfits and outcasts manage to topple powerful politicians or businesspeople and reveal the seamy underside against all odds. (This is also why I cheered when National Enquirer was nominated for a pulitzer, because I don't think you can get more unaccredited, discounted underdog in the newspaper world than the freaking National Enquirer.) To some degree, the kdrama does almost feel like it might've been inspired by the real-life situation; the protagonist and his fellow journalists are all employed by a low-rent tabloid that mostly publishes pictures of politicians and movie stars in compromising positions (literally and figuratively). But when they start getting too close to the truths behind a major corporation's underhanded dealings, the going gets rough... and you can guess the rest.

The problem I had was with the opposition's main protagonist, Kang Hae-Seong. His father was driven to suicide by the main bad guy's company, yet he's not just working for the newspaper owned by that company... he's also engaged to the CEO's daughter, and quickly slides into the position of the CEO's right-hand man, and nearly de facto heir. By the middle point of the story, he was involved in enough that by US law, he could've been held as accessory to murder; at the very least, as accessory to kidnapping, attempted murder, and conspiracy. The script appeared to hint that he had some kind of personal reason for his path, yet by the time you get any reveal of that sort, he's already easily in for twenty. There's taking someone down for revenge, and then there's taking them down in such a way that you'll be in the cell right next to them. Call me too pragmatic, but I find the latter to be infinitely stupid way to go about revenge. Kinda defeats the purpose.

I gave the show points for having a police captain who's a woman, though her title seemed mostly in name. Otherwise, she's treated and respected about as much as a secretary (and much of the time, dresses like a college student). Okay, she has seriously kick-ass fighting skills, which is also in contrast to Do-hyuk's cowardice (played by Lee Jun-ki, coming off several dramas/movies where he played serious fighters).

Many of the supporting cast has flashes of bringing more than cardboard to the storyline, but... it really starts to drag by about half-way through. Mostly because I could see, over and over, feasible reasons for arrest that were being dismissed. Like, say, the issue of accessory. It took me at least two episodes to get over the notion that there's a statute of limitations on murder (and even knowing that the US is unusual for not having one, I still could not comprehend ever telling a murder victim's family that we caught the murderer but can't do a think since it's been sixteen years... that's just... no, I can't even comprehend that injustice). Okay, so you can't charge the bad guys with murder, but when they compound that with additional murder, as well as abduction, conspiracy, and various other crimes, and then one of the conspirators admits this -- what the hell, script. No, the conspirator might not have been the one to give the order, but he facilitated the order being carried out. Does that count for nothing?

Dunno if it does or not, but apparently the script thought counting it would end things too soon, so up the stakes and ignore the actual/likely law. Problem is, to me, that's a big plothole, so I hung on to about ep11, and then quit.

Protégé [Hong Kong, movie, 2007]
Quin, the reigning Heroin drug lord in Hong Kong suffers from poor health and is need of a successor. He doesn’t have any sons, so he has to pick someone from his inner circle. Quin decides to go with Nick, someone that has been faithful to him for over 8 years and is one of the more intelligent persons in his inner circle. What Quin does not realize is that Nick is an undercover cop, planted by the Hong Kong police force to bring down Quin’s drug empire.

This movie should've hit all my buttons, but something in Daniel Wu's performance (as Nick) just... didn't have the charisma or force it needed. I wouldn't say wooden; it's more like he's very, very... upright. He's like the mafia version of the hardworking young man in the company: not so ambitious he makes his bosses nervous, but not a slacker, not so friendly he's suspicious, but not standoffish.

Just very... earnest, and there. Steadfast, but without much passion, and I needed to see something to have a reason to keep watching. I expected that moment/reveal when Nick is visited by his (real) boss, the police contact, who asks him about continuing the investigation (and there's mention made of the fact that Nick has been in deep cover now for like five years). That was prime moment for Nick to show a reason to want out -- like his father's ill but if Nick mentions this, it'll blow his cover, so Nick can't go near his father and wants out so he can see his father 'in the clear'... Something. Anything! I wanted to see a reason for Nick to go in this direction, or another, something that would make the movie's events personal.

But Nick just seems to take the undercover extension as par for the course, evidencing no surprise nor disappointment. Granted, undercover is a role, with its boring waiting parts like any job, but I don't want to watch someone just go through the motions of their job. I want to see someone in conflict, and when I hit the halfway point and still couldn't see a genuine conflict on Nick's part, never mind.

Sorry for the City [Korea, movie, 2009]
Also known as: The Deplorable City, Sorry City, City of Damnation... pick one, any one.
Choong-dong, a traffic officer who aspires to be a homicide detective, is recognized for his straight and honest nature and recruited into a case targeting gang leader Gwang-seop. Before long, he goes undercover as a member of Gwang-seop’s gang. Meanwhile, Joong-dae goes undercover in homicide to protect his boss Gwang-seop because he is the only member of the gang who graduated from university.

Sound like Infernal Affairs, or its knockoff Hollywood cousin, The Departed? Sure. If you were to take Infernal Affairs, throw in some of the more surreal moments from Raising Arizona with the costume changes from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and maybe sprinkle it all with some of the bizarrely crude and demented humor from your average Japanese variety show... and then you've got, well, whatever the movie's called this week.

The movie even goes so far as to tweak the noses of any yaoi-fangirls in the audience. That right there should tell you that you're in for a movie that's going in all directions and having too much fun doing it.

Sword In The Moon [Korea, movie, 2003]
I have no idea why I picked this one up. I don't even know what I think it was before I clicked on it. I watched the first ten minutes, and I don't even know what the movie's about, other than being a saeguk/historical but with the feel of, oh, a Conan movie level of historical. Then I looked up the movie's description on AsianMediaWiki... and I still don't know what the movie's about. I think a lot of people die. And there's lots of blood splatter and a fair bit of dirt for that extra historical grit, but I wasn't impressed by the choreography or the cinematography of the fight scenes, so never mind.

The Passage [Taiwan, movie, 2004]
If there's anything on this list worth watching, this would be it. From AsianMediaWiki's description:
Petite but determined Yu-ching (Guey Lun-mei) is working as a museum research assistant when a Japanese man, Tao (Yukihiko Kageyama), inquires about a piece of Chinese calligraphy entitled "The Cold Food Observance." Yu-ching sees an opportunity here both for romance and for the healing of her friendship with an emotionally repressed pal, Dong Heng (Leon Dai), as the artwork is the center point of a book Dong is writing...

That's only what the movie is about on the surface, when in fact this movie is somewhere between calligraphy itself, and a tone poem. Almost bereft of any major instrumental score, the movie exists in a sort of timeless quiet, interspersed with stories of passages.

It's a story about exile, both willful and unwanted, self-created and externally imposed, and the wish to come home against the wish to flee. The story takes its time to unfold, and in between there are delightfully child-book illustrated-style animated segments that illustrate an old man's narration. The tie-in, at first, seems evident/solely due to the story revolving around the Taiwanese National Museum, I think it is, where Yu-ching works and Dong Heng does his research. But the old man's story is about the occupation and the war, when the Taiwanese feared bombing might hit the museum and endanger priceless cultural artifacts.

That narration tells of the search for a place to hide the artwork -- where to exile the artwork, if you will -- and the journey itself in carrying the artwork safely out of Taibei. In the dark, fearing the bombers looking for truck headlights to indicate a highway, the truck convoy took the journey into the mountains where the artwork could be stored safely in a cave deep within the mountains.

In a parallel sub-plot, the young visiting Japanese man's fascination/insistence on seeing "Cold Food Observance" isn't clear until near the end, when Yu-ching gives a short presentation about the calligraphy-piece's history. It's a poem written by an illustrious thinker, who spoke once too often a little too plainly in his poetry, and was banished by the Emperor (to what is now Taiwan, which is apparently how his calligraphy ended up in Taiwanese ownership). Regretting his exile and distance, the artist spoke sadly of what he had now, and what he had lost, and his desire to return home.

The characters seem simple, at first glance, but each has a story of passage: the Taiwanese author, Dong Heng, who has exiled himself within his work, but part of his work is receiving/recording the stories of the museum's exile. Yu-ching, whose greatest wish -- to see the original caves -- is retracing the path of that exile, in ways she can't trace or follow with Dong Heng. And then there's Dong Heng's father, lost in the mountains, never to return home. There's a broken jade ornament more precious to its elderly owner than any of the masterpieces in the museum boxes... and there's a young man whose grandfather -- possibly also exiled, himself -- spent a year restoring a masterpiece of calligraphy out of a sense that his own exile and longing was shared by that artist from a thousand years before, and that neither would ever see home again.

Much of the dialogue is like older chinese calligraphy, where the artist speaks of everyday things, things you wouldn't think are worth noting. The angle of the winter sun, the dust motes, the barking of the neighbor's dog, that the porridge is cold and the tea is a little too strong. The power in such poetry comes through in the way it evokes a moment in time.

By understanding what lies around the artist, you understand how the artist feels about what he's describing, and thence to understand what the artist wants you to feel, as well. It's a rather roundabout way, all showing and no telling, with the nuances being in how you're shown -- that is, how the calligraphy itself appears on the page, in describing those simple things. A broad stroke, a playful swirl, even when the subject matter appears mundane. Understanding that is one path to understanding the elusive paths of The Passage's exiles.
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kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
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"When you make the finding yourself— even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light— you'll never forget it." —Carl Sagan

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