YesAsia Order #1

Ok, not really the first YesAsia order, but I thought it would make an interesting post to see what I’m getting and why. Also, this presents a nice change from me complaining about how Netflix has completely ruined our relationship by not having my Asian stuff!

First, let’s talk about what I’m NOT getting: the 94-episode Three Kingdoms released in 2010. Thanks, China, for not loving me. Why no subtitles in English? WHY?! Really, why make it region free (not like I care) but not have English subtitles? And I can’t do the various OTHER internet ways of accessing this (read: quasi-legal). Standards are too high when it comes to wuxia series. Can’t do parts.

So, let’s move on to what I am getting:

Reign of Assassins: You can’t be surprised by this. Michelle Yeoh and Jung Woo Sung. Co-directed by John Woo. I’ve been waiting for this, not just for the action but for the domestic story. It could be an interesting twist on the “I don’t wanna fight any more” plot, because it’s a woman saying it. Usually, we see swordsmen become beleaguered by the life of a hero. They retire to some cave, or become a monk on a mountain somewhere. Which is fine, but when it is a female lead, inevitably part of her domestic life is going to involve becoming romantically involved with a guy. Where else would the tension come from when her gang comes looking for her trying to drag her back into the life? The stakes are different for ladies, and I’m interested in how they handle this.

Shaolin: Once again, this is a given, ever since I saw the trailer for it. AND it’s not JUST because it has Andy Lau, Nicholas Tse and some guy named Jackie Chan in it. Corey Yuen does the martial arts choreography and it’s written by Benny Chan. Yeah, I know we’ve seen the destruction of the Shaolin temple many times, but I’m never opposed to revisiting it, especially if someone can bring something new. Plus, it looks like there may be some engagement with the modernization of China. At least that’s what I think of when I see cars and guns versus monks.

The Lost Bladesman: Me, absolutely giddy with delight at the prospect of seeing Donnie Yen play Guan Yu. You had me at Guan Yu. You know he’s your favorite of the Three Brothers. I want Liu Bei to be a better man than he is, and Chang Fei is just cray cray. Now, there is the potential for disappointment here, especially since it will invite comparisons to Red Cliff. You know my aim here is not to tell you what’s “good” and what’s not. I’m just telling you what I like. And I like Donnie Yen. A LOT. Plus, Guan Yu seems to have more potential for exploration as a character. I do want to see him do more than wield the blade and do that move with the beard. I’ve heard some less than stellar things about the actual plot, but hey, I’m getting it ANYWAY!

True Legend: Yes, not just because of Vincent Zhao but because of Zhao PLUS Yuen Wo Ping! Ok, I do have a thing for Zhao and it has everything to do with the emotional roller-coaster he took me on as Chu Zhaonan in the wuxia series Seven Swordsmen. STILL not over that ending! I think that he could be a viable go-to guy for action and wuxia films, but no one seems to go to him. Putting him with Yuen Wo Ping seems like it will be a treat. Yeah, I’ve heard some less than enthusiastic things about it, but hey. I’m getting it ANYWAY! I’m really looking for another treatment of the Beggar So legend than Steven Chow’s stuff.

Ok, so that seems to be a good deal of wuxia-related stuff. But that’s not all I’m getting!

Turning Point: This is has been in my saved cart for a while, and I wondered why I put it in there in the first place. Then I remembered: Michael Tse, of Young and Dangerous fame. You know how attached to Young and Dangerous I am, and I really like this guy. Plus I heard good things about the television show, EU, on which the film is based.. And it has Anthony Wong AND Francis Ng, each with crazy haircuts, which means the potential for their portrayal of off-the-chain characters is high.

Stool Pigeon: I’m always looking for a good crime drama, and given that this is directed by Dante Lam, who also directed Beast Stalker, I’m willing to give it a try.  I always love to see Nick Cheung do serious roles, because the first time I saw him was as the wise-cracking security official in Andrew Lau’s The Duel. Who knew he’d go from that to things like this? Plus it looks like Nicholas Tse isn’t as pretty as he usually is in films. I’ll deal with it.

And to round it out, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart:  Who doesn’t love Louis Koo? And I particularly like him when he’s being silly and romantic. Pair him up with Daniel Wu in a Johnnie To vehicle, and this could be great.

So that’s it. That’s what I’m getting. Once my shipment arrives, I will regale you with my opinions, because I know you are so looking forward to that.

Video Credits:

Reign of Assassins, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-i4yVbYX98I

Shaolin, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYV9thH5RhE

The Lost Bladesman, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sA2NETUFkc0

True Legend, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNzRP0ZSKzw

Turning Point, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5EMxEVFE2E

Stool Pigeon, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-6NX_ZnCLM

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yh0gGbDf6XM

Let’s Do It Again

I love a good remake.  Let me say this again: I love a GOOD remake.  I’m not down for “reimagining” somebody else’s film just because you think you can do it better (yeah, Scorsese, I’m talkin’ to you).

So I’m intrigued when hearing about some interesting Asian film remakes on the horizon.

Donnie Yen is supposed to be revising the angry young man theme in his remake of Fist of Fury. I like Donnie, so I’m looking forward to this and I’m particularly intrigued by what he plans to do with all that anti-Japanese sentiment from the original.  When Jet Li when this route, you practically forgot the Japanese were even in this movie.

Then there’s the Dragon Inn remake.  Yes, it’s supposed to star Jet Li but what I’m really interested in is who is going to reprise the roles that made me want to be Bridgette Lin and Maggie Cheung when I grow up.  Any suggestions?  Michelle Yeoh seems like an obvious choice, but I guess we’ll see.  What did Tsui Hark forget to do the first time around?  I hope this is better than his Seven Swords soiree.

But this is the most trippy of all:  the Korean version of John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow.  I found this trailer, and I don’t understand Korean, but I immediately could tell that this was A Better Tomorrow:

Now, just cause you put on a white suit and some shades and roll with a couple of guns doesn’t automatically make you Mark.  But given my penchant for Korean film, I’m willing to give it a shot. And given the tendency for Korean films to be crazy good, this may be one of those remakes I love.

Burn Baby Burn!: Red Cliff (1 and 2)

Ok, I’ve put it off long enough.  Some may be aware of my luv for Red Cliff, and now that I’ve seen the second half, I feel I can speak on it.  First, I have to re-declare my fandom for John Woo.  Let’s face it, he had us worried with those Hollywood “projects” (Face/Off, Mission Impossible 2).  Don’t get me wrong, I liked both of them, but they were no A Better Tomorrow, The Killer or (sigh), Bullet in the Head.  David Bordwell has a chapter on Woo in his book Planet Hong Kong called “Enough to Make Strong Men Weep,” and that’s what Woo did to perfection!  We know Woo is excellent with the betrayal in the brotherhood theme, but I was not convinced that  he handle the sweeping epic. So you can imagine my trepidation:  would Red Cliff mark a triumphant return of Woo to Hong Kong film, or just make me cry?

Happy to say, I welcome John Woo back with open arms!!!  I taught a class on Asian film, and had them read Three Kingdoms (I’m talking the unabridged, 2200 page version my kids don’t skimp!), and ended the class with Red Cliff 1.  I waited to watch it with them, and I did literally jump up and down at the end. (If they want to see Red Cliff 2, they have to take the class next year!)  I liked seeing the three brothers (although I still think Liu Bei is still the punkiest of the three; Chang Fei is out of control, my money is always on Gwan Yu), but I really liked seeing Zhuge Liang, played by Takeshi Kaneshiro.  In the book, yeah, the soldiers are out with the swords, but nothing beats a good advisor by your side, and I like smart, so I was down for Zhuge, especially since he seemed to bring just a little bit of very understated sass to his.  And I am very glad that Woo gave more substance to Lady Sun other that inevitable love interest of Liu Bei.

A lot of people are saying that they liked the second one better than the first (apparently, so are the box office profits in China), but I’m going to stand up for the first one.  Why?  Yeah, we expect to see some spectacular battle scenes and smack talking among generals, but what I liked about the first installment is that you got a sense of these men:  Sun Quan, who is so obviously still suffering from “not good enough” syndrome, Zhou Yu and his benevolent and honorable approach to war (doesn’t hurt that Tony Leung plays him, so easy on the eyes), Cao Cao and his shear domination and bad-assness.   

So yes, I liked this film, right down to the lovely soundtrack.

Ladies………

You know, I’m tired of the people who market Asian films to solely to men.  They act like only men, especially men in the golden demographic of 18-35, matter.  I got news, people…….women watch Asian film.  And not just the fluffy romantic comedies or coming-of age, angst-ridden teen dramas.  I’m talking serious triad and revenge-laden fare.  The recommendation for me to watch Chan-Wook Park’s Oldboy came from a Korean-American woman.  So what’s up with that?  Why do women like the genres of Asian film distributors and critics alike claim as the purview of men?

Well, I can’t speak for all the ladies, but I can tell you why I love films like Johnny To’s The Mission (See the Liang Shan Lounge this month), John Woo’s heartbreaking Bullet in the Head, and the Young and Dangerous series.  I like the idea of brotherhood, that is, I get it.  It’s not just for men.  The idea that you have someone, or a group of people, who have your back.  However, in most posse dynamics, there is always somebody who has to muck it up.  What do you do?  Well, you could whack them, or the sense of loyalty could be so strong that you are willing to overlook such, um, indiscretions.  I like that tension that occurs when loyalty is one the line.  Who do you trust?  And who are you going to have to take out?  Decisions, decisions.

Of course, there are women who just like to see people get messed up in the worst way.  Me, I’m trying to cut down on the superkinetic violence found in films directed by the likes of Takashi Miike.  But women are watching them.  Be afraid, be very afraid.