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

Two Koos for the Price of One: Accident (2009) and Overheard (2009)

Clearly, 2009 was Louis Koo’s year, appearing in two films that I recently watched in my own personal Louis Koo double feature, Accident and Overheard.

Let’s take Accident, or as I like to think of it, Look Both Ways Before Crossing the Street, which also stars  Richie Jen.  Louis Koo plays the leader of a group that stages murders to look like accidents, you know, for a fee.  I think it’s a solid film, nothing spectacular, but by no means something crappy.  Koo’s performance is good, if what we are going for is an emotionally detached character, which I think is the goal.  Sufficient twists and everything, but I was particularly impressed with the camera work. Soi Cheang really paid attention to the use of elements and light in this urban setting.

I found Overheard to be much richer in terms of narrative, tho.  Starring the trifecta of Koo, Lau Ching Wan and Daniel Wu, it took turns I did not anticipate.  Again, nice camera work by Alan Mak.  This film is about three surveillance cops presented with the opportunity to profit from overhearing a stock tip from a company they are investigating. What I like is the way the personal lives are interwoven into the professional lives of these men, which provides a depth to their motives, especially Koo’s character. Dang!  Koo really does desperate well.

What both films share is the theme of surveillance: people who look at other people, people who think others are watching them, and the impact that has on the way people live their lives and make decisions.  It seems timely, with technology invading privacy and altering the ways in which we deal with one another.

Can I just say, tho, that I’m never buying it when they try to age Koo. That man will always be forever  young to me. And can we please get him some better quality glasses if he must portray characters who wear glasses? Go back at other films and look! He always wears these not-attractive glasses!

What Girls Want

I used to wonder what a triad movie directed by a woman would be like, and I got my answer with Sylvia Chang’s Run Papa Run. I like the premise of exploring triad life from a different point of view, giving us something we haven’t seen before.  So Chang’s subject matter of the tensions between domestic and gang life, as well as her use of direct address to the camera by Louis Koo, was refreshing. In fact, I was really liking this film until I got to the part I didn’t like, namely, how despite his best efforts, the gang life continues to intrude on the domestic life.  Which would work for me as a viewer if not for the fact that this wasn’t a story where the wife didn’t know about the husband’s activities (she meets him in the police station–she’s his lawyer).  She knew what she was getting herself (and her potential family) into. What did she think was going to happen?  Then, the film seems to harp on the protagonist’s failure to reform and change his ways.

I don’t know about other girls, but this girl prefers her triad movies to not insult her intelligence in this fashion. This plays into the stereotypical behavior ascribed to women, i.e. oh, I can change that man. That man is a gangster, and either you are going to be like Andy Lau’s wife in Century of the Dragon and get with the program, or be whiny about how your man is a criminal. Either let gang life take its toll, or work out a compromise: upstanding citizen by day, triad boss by night. But don’t drain the film of its inherent qualities as a film on the triads to fulfill some expectation about what you think women want to see in a triad film.  I like triad films because they are triad films: loyalties get tested, people get shot.