I was probably drunk when I thought of the post title, but hey, I tried. Anyway, since I was craving for some Jang Hyuk on my screen post-Beautiful Mind but wasn’t ready to jump headlong into any of his long-ass sageuks, two-hour films seemed like the perfect antidote. Spoilers after the jump. Continue reading
Today’s my birthday? Really?
❤ Happy birthday, Tamaki Hiroshi! ❤
Our Chiaki senpai turns 36 today! Here’s wishing him many happy returns, and may all his dreams come true! Even though Tamaki wasn’t in a lot of dramas or films last year, I’m glad he ended 2015 strongly with Asa ga Kita, which is doing well in ratings so far. I’ve missed seeing Tamaki in solid roles and I really hope a super meaty one will land on his lap soon – the asadora is a wonderful opportunity for him, but I’d still like to see him in more primetime dramas.
Anyway, to celebrate his birthday, here’s a quick post on one of his recent films, 2014’s Bakumatsu Kokosei, otherwise known as Time Trip App. Basically, high school teacher Kawabe Mikako (Ishihara Satomi) and her students have somehow time-travelled back to 1868 Edo, where they meet imperial statesman Katsu Kaishu (Tamaki Hiroshi). These are troubled times for Edo, where a battle is about to break out between shogunate forces and those of the new government. Eager to prevent bloodshed, Katsu sends a peace envoy to the highly influential samurai Saigo Takamori (Sato Koichi). But as time ticks by, there is no response from Saigo and Mikako despairs that Katsu does not seem like he’s doing anything to rescue the situation… Continue reading
Hm, I have to confess I don’t always pay much attention to cinematography, at least not enough to say which one is the best. So I’m just going to go with some Chinese films off the top of my head.
I think film-watchers would be familiar with Chinese director Zhang Yimou, who in his earlier days had a string of critical successes that were also pretty much social commentaries on Chinese society in the 1980s and 1990s. Zhang is known for his use of colours to tell a story, and this is evident in his earlier works such as Red Sorghum, Raise the Red Lantern and Judou. In fact, he was already employing such techniques when he served as cinematographer for Chen Kaige’s 1984 film Yellow Earth, which was a very interesting film in its own right and worth a watch. I think the example most Western viewers would be familiar with would be Hero, where Zhang used five dominant colours to show different perspectives of the various assassins. It wasn’t really a wuxia film, but it was very beautifully shot by Christopher Doyle, who also shot In The Mood for Love, among other illustrious works. All the films mentioned above are recommended.
Mmm… since most villains end up as lame ducks, it’s difficult to pick one that is completely badass. But I guess I’ll go with these three since they have some potential.
Yuki Michio (MW)
The potential comes largely from the manga, where Yuki is one destructive murdering sonofabitch who doesn’t bat an eyelid whether he’s chopping up body parts or fucking people (all puns intended) and their lives. Yet, Yuki can be playful, needy, coy and nice. It’s all pretty sick, but there’s a delicious thrill in having a villain who is so diabolically fun. The film diluted Yuki to a fanatical terrorist, but still, I thought Tamaki Hiroshi did a great job with the very limited material (he just needed a much better hairstyle). The fact that Yuki survived the plane crash means he can continue his plans to end the world, which is actually kinda awesome.
Chae Do-woo (Story of a Man)
Do-woo is really only awesome for the first half of the drama, but still, Kim Kang-woo played him with such delicious understated malevolence and complexity that I ended up rooting for Do-woo rather than the hero of the drama. Again, Do-woo survives the people who were out to take him down, and the open ending makes it seem that he is actually the one who gets the last laugh. Yum.
Dongfang Bubai (Xiao Ao Jiang Hu)
For the uninitiated, he is a character from one of Jin Yong’s wuxia stories Xiao Ao Jiang Hu who practised a kind of martial arts that required castration, and thus he became an effeminate person who then set out to rule the martial arts world (and also took on a male lover). The castration and effeminate bit meant that actors both male and female have played this character (eg: Brigitte Lin in Swordsman II & The East is Red). I don’t have much love for either the story or character, but well, you’ve got to hand it to the guy who willingly sacrifices his little brother in favour of world domination. That takes some real guts.
I don’t have an outright favourite film, so I’ll just go with one (or two?) each for Japanese, Korean and Hong Kong. I think the two Nodame Cantabile films will probably count as my favourite Japanese films, haha, since they have Tamaki Hiroshi. I really love the music featured in the entire franchise, and everyone just stepped up a notch in the films, it was awesome to watch. I also really liked Kurosawa Akira’s Stray Dog (Nora Inu), which I think is very underrated since most people prefer his more famous works such as Seven Samurai and Rashomon. Stray Dog is a detective film, but pretty unusual in the way it plays out since it’s more character-driven than your usual cop films. Mifune Toshiro, a stalwart of Kurosawa films, played a detective who had his gun stolen by a pickpocket and teamed up with a more veteran colleague to hunt it down. Apparently, Stray Dog is considered a precursor to the police drama and suspense films we see now.
I am also very fond of Il Mare, which starred Lee Jung-jae and Jeon Ji-hyun. It was a beautiful and intricately crafted film, very thought-provoking and showcased some wonderful acting by Lee and Jeon (I admit, I shipped them for quite a while). Even though there were two different timelines and the actors rarely shared the same screen, one could still feel their chemistry just from their correspondence.
As for Hong Kong films… where do I start? I grew up with them and have enjoyed so many over the years, but it’s really difficult to pick a favourite. Perhaps I’ll go with these two from my childhood: the Aces Go Places spy spoof series and the original All’s Well Ends Well. I loved the original pairing of Karl Maka and Samuel Hui in Aces Go Places – the former was bumbling detective Albert, who spoke with a hilarious accent, while the latter was a master thief. Sylvia Chang was Albert’s hot-tempered wife and also their “supervisor” of sorts. The series was pretty mo lei tau and probably one of the earlier examples of the genre.
All’s Well Ends Well (the original was the 1992 version, which later spawned quite a few lame sequels) had all your usual Hong Kong stars who were by then starting to become household names: Stephen Chow, Leslie Cheung, Raymond Wong, Maggie Cheung etc. It was about three hapless brothers and their women troubles, with each brother eventually learning that love has to be gradually nurtured instead of taking it for granted. In Cantonese with all the wordplay, parodies and jokes, it was even funnier.
Writing about these films makes me want to watch them all over again!
Never thought I’d be doing one of these 30-day challenges, but I was a little inspired by mochirochi’s posts on this, so here goes – the 30-Day Drama Challenge. I was going to keep this challenge entirely on J-dramas, but that might be too limiting, so I’ll try to include a variety of dramas and also a Japanese component as far as possible.
I’ve watched many dramas since I was a wee kiddo, so I don’t rightly remember which exactly is the very first. But somehow, I’ve always vaguely remembered images of The Foundation (決戰玄武門) as one of my earliest dramas, so I’ll go with this. This is a 1984 Hong Kong drama about Li Shimin and how he became the second emperor of the Tang Dynasty. If you know your Chinese history, you’d know there was infighting between Li Shimin and his two brothers, which resulted in the Xuanwu Gate Incident, where he assassinated his brothers to eventually take control of the throne. Despite this bloody coup, Li Shimin was always regarded as one of the greatest emperors in Chinese history, and indeed during his reign, the Tang Dynasty flourished in many aspects. This drama had a star-studded cast, such as Miu Kiu Wai, Felix Wong and Barbara Yung, who were very popular back in the 80s and even till now. Story-wise it was okay, but tended to drag a little given the love triangle involved. It did have a wonderful theme song, as was the norm for wuxia dramas back then, although this wasn’t really one since it had a good deal of court politics involved.
As for my first film, I really can’t remember since I grew up on a staple of Hong Kong films, so I’ll just go with the first Japanese film that left a lasting impression on me. That would be the 1995 film Love Letter by Iwai Shunji, about a young woman, Watanabe Hiroko, who loses her fiance Fujii Itsuki in a mountain climbing accident and in her grief, writes a letter to him but unexpectedly gets a reply from a woman who shares the same name as the dead man. Nakayama Miho was excellent in the dual roles of both Hiroko and female Itsuki, and what unfolded was a beautiful, moving story of an unusual first love and coming to terms with losing a loved one. Acting was solid throughout and there was also plenty of beautiful scenery of Otaru, Hokkaido. Definitely a must-watch.
I was in a bit of a festive mood and wanted to watch something about romance during Christmas, so I went for Subete wa Kimi ni Aeta Kara, which was billed as the Japanese version of the romantic comedy Love Actually when it came out in 2013. The film was made to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Tokyo Station, which acts as the backdrop for six interconnected stories featuring 12 characters that take place just before Christmas. I generally don’t do well with short stories or omnibus films, as I always feel short-changed and that there isn’t enough development, or that people don’t know how to do brevity well. But since the film stars Tamaki Hiroshi, I just had to give it a shot.
The six interconnected stories include a company president who has lost faith in love (Eve no Koibito), a couple struggling with a long-distance relationship (Enkyori Renai), a college student afraid to confess her feelings to her senpai (Christmas no Yuki), an orphanage worker who is waiting for a new mother for one of the children (Christmas Present), a father who has to tell his son he doesn’t have long to live (Nibun no Ichi Seijinshiki), and a cake shop employee reminiscing about a 49-year-old promise (Okurete Kita Present). The stories seem more bittersweet than your usual rom-com, which was actually okay given how they played out. Continue reading
Occasionally you come across a live-action adaptation where it is better not to have read the the source material in advance, so that the adaptation has a fighting chance of standing on its own. MW is one such film – it worked fine as a standalone action film, but once you factor in the source material (the manga MW by Tezuka Osamu) and how much was left out in the adaptation, the second watching renders the film more pedestrian, even disappointing. It has some merits and pretty decent acting, but even as a standalone, it does unfortunately leave much to be desired.
Fifteen years ago on a remote Japanese island called Okino Mafune, a deadly chemical weapon called MW was released, killing all the inhabitants bar two boys who managed to escape. However, the whole incident was covered up. Now adults, Yuki Michio (Tamaki Hiroshi) has become a banker while Garai Yutaro (Yamada Takayuki) is a Catholic priest. Yuki is actually a serial killer on the hunt for those responsible for the MW incident, and Garai, tied to Yuki by their shared past, has become his reluctant accomplice… Continue reading
A quick update on Tamaki Hiroshi’s recent film adventures, which don’t seem to have had much promotion outside Japan – a pity as both offerings look pretty fun. Anyhow, the first film, Bakumatsu Kokosei, was released in the summer and features Tamaki as imperial statesman Katsu Kaishu, who in 1868 tries to avoid conflict with anti-Shogunate forces by sending a message to highly influential samurai Saigo Takamori. Katsu crosses paths with two unusual people – high-school student Masaya and history teacher Mikako (Ishihara Satomi), who have somehow slipped back in time from the future and are trying to find two other students who may have arrived ahead of them. Katsu worries about not having received a reply from Saigo, but Mikako assures him that peace talks will be successful and war would not break out in Edo. However, something unexpected happens…
I’ve seen the trailer and it’s a mix of comedy and seriousness, and seems like it’d be a fun film to watch, so I’ll definitely try to get my hands on it. Tamaki looked pretty cool in late Edo garb, although this Katsu Kaishu seems to be kinda dorky and a bit of a reluctant hero, at least in the earlier parts. He was even playing with a Rubik’s Cube, haha. In reality, Katsu was a man of progressive ideals. An expert in western military technology, he negotiated the surrender of Edo Castle to Saigo in 1868 during the Boshin War and played a key role in the transition of power in the Meiji Restoration. It’d be interesting to see the film’s take on this historical figure, and Tamaki had mentioned in an earlier interview he wanted to add something new in his interpretation of Katsu – that’s something I look forward to (especially since he already had me laughing in the trailer).
Helping to whip the country into shape was tough work, so Tamaki then takes a holiday in Bali, where he morphs into an ophthalmologist named Ryu in Kamisama wa Bali ni Iru, which is slated for release on Jan 17, 2015. Based on a novel by Kuroiwa Sho, it tells the story of Sachiko (Ono Machiko), who has failed in her business and flees to Bali shouldering a lot of debt. She runs into a multi-millionaire nicknamed “Aniki” (big brother), played by Tsutsumi Shinichi, whose self-proclaimed invigorating persona seems to have earned the trust and admiration of Ryu and a few others on the island. With Aniki’s help, Sachiko begins working her way towards becoming a successful entrepreneur. But she still has her reservations about his unconventional methods…
The trailer is pretty wacky and Tsutsumi Shinichi is more like a happy thug (of the big bear variety), while Tamaki looks healthy, tanned and incredibly hot (look at those muscles!). I’m also glad that Ono Machiko is in this film as I like her as an actress, so the cast is solid on all counts. The scene where Aniki and Ryu go “yasui!” when Sachiko reveals the amount of her debt had me cracking up. This looks like a fun ride to go on and I’ll definitely be on the lookout for it when it screens!