Tag Archives: good acting

Arang: Creepy Korean Folklore

…Not Japanese Cinema, mind you.

Now here’s a movie that stood out to me. The South Koreans did it again in this creepily well done horror movie with a great plot and ending twist to boot. Arang is based on a Korean folk tale about a young woman who was conspired to be raped and stabbed to death by her evil nanny. After succeeding, the corpse of the girl would come back to haunt the area in which she was killed. This movie, more or less, is loosely based on that. In a very similar vein to the Thai film, Shutter, this movie is a revenge/horror/thriller/detective film all in one. Let’s get it goin’.

The film starts off in a bit of the surreal, with the main detective

A haunting and surreal feel for a great thriller.

character, So-young (Song Yun-ah) encountering a salt storehouse she’s never seen before. A young girl is outside crying in the rain. Obviously this has some significance to the story right? You would be right in assuming so.

Next we move to a series of murders that appear to be the work of a vengeful ghost out to kill those who wronged her. With the help of her rookie forensics partner, Hyun-gi (Lee Dong-wook), So-young must

The dynamic duo strikes again!

discover the reason for these supernatural killings. The ending may leave you in a state of shock, and I was very happy with the way everything turned out. It’s up there with the satisfying endings of Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance trilogy (currently re-watching now).

The acting in this movie was fairly good. You can always see the American influence on South Korean films and the like (i.e. Gangnam Style being so successful here and whatnot. Particularly, I’m in love with Hyuna). The crime aspect of it and the justice behind it is very

This keeps coming up about the folklore, and I keep laughing at it.

American based, and I hate to attribute that to the Korean War. It’s a jagged pill to swallow, but Koreans just do American style dramatic films better. More than 20 films have affirmed this for me.

It was creepy, but not to the point of scaring me with any of the disturbing images or frightening scenes. This was an underrated film to find on Netflix, and, as per usual, I thank Netflix for providing me with an adequately good selection of foreign films. You can never go wrong with Tartan Extreme films either.

It has been a while since I’ve seen this one, but I do plan on re-watching/buying it. It was a worthwhile film to watch. So check it out at least once. And don’t ever be crushed to death by salt. 8.1 out of 10.

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Ip Man 2: The Grandmaster Returns

I was happy to sit down and watch the second Ip Man after having watched the first, enjoying the story with interspersed martial arts fight scenes throughout. With more of a focus on story over choreography, this one didn’t catch my attention as much as I would have liked. It wraps up like Cinderella Man and makes you feel all good inside, but I didn’t have any of those jaw dropping moments. Let’s just get to the plot, shall we?

In this one, Ip Man (Donnie Yen reprises his role) has moved to Hong Kong after beating back the Japanese years before. He has plans to start his own martial arts school, but no disciples seem to be interested. With money problems and a

Two masters goin’ at it.

suppressive British government, Ip Man must maneuver his way through life, following his principles and maintaining a happy family. But it’s not all easy going for the Ip Man.

I really was surprised how this film focused more on story rather than substance. It had all the elements of a triumph of the will story without all the fight scenes and technique. My impression of Wing Chun from this film is one of precise and calculated moves, more than the clever and wily style of other martial arts styles. There aren’t flashy kicks or the use of elbows or knees, it is all more in the quickest

Donnie Yen, as refined as ever.

way to take someone out. I do appreciate that though. Donnie Yen shows off how quick he can be in a flurry of punches I’ve never seen demonstrated in a Kung Fu movie before. I give him his due for that.

The acting is just as good in this film as in the last. But I’m talking more about the Chinese actors than the English speaking ones. Although I’m pretty sure that Brian Burrell is living my dream of being a white man from America living in an Asian country. My country of choice, though? Thailand. Gotta give it up for the Muay Thai and Thai food. (Volcano chicken all the way.) But anyways, the English speaking actors (with as few of them as there probably are in China) just took things over the top and need to work on delivery. This is a common problem though in foreign films, so I don’t blame them too much. They were better than some.

I do appreciate the message the Ip Man films send to a wider audience than just China. The oppression felt in China has

I gotta get me one of those…

been quite prevalent in the last 100 years by foreign countries and bigger world powers. It has been a triumph over the bully in the last century, and China knew how to depict that. I give props to Wilson Yip for doing a good job in that department. I feel for the Chinese in this film and the way that most people look down on Chinese martial arts. Hell, martial arts in general. But I’m pretty sure, other than stamina, that any martial arts expert could take out a boxer with the right moves. Like me and all the other martial arts enthusiasts out there, I appreciate martial arts in all its capacity. Asia will always dominate in my heart.

Dope.

In a different twist I wasn’t expecting in this film, I was touched more than inspired to do martial arts. The music was good and uplifting, the cinematography wasn’t bad, and the Wing Chun kept it brief and brutal. Not much to complain about, but I still do love the fight scenes from the first movie more. 7.4 out of 10.


Ip Man: The True Master

Ip Man, the trainer of Bruce Lee in Wing Chun martial arts style. One of the true Grandmasters that has left a legacy all martial arts film fans must appreciate. Here comes a film from Wilson Yip, a director who has brought us Donnie Yen in the forms of Dragon Tiger Gate and Flash Point. But this film has a different pace and style. More elegant than other kung fu films, this movie flows in the same Ki as Fearless with Jet Li. I think here’s a point where I’m going to list my favorite martial artists just to get it out there. Let me know what you think of this list:

1. Tony Jaa (that’s a given, he got me into martial arts)

2. Jeeja Yanin (she’s a girl who can Muay Thai kick ass)

That is a killer stare right there.

3. Donnie Yen (straight masterful ever since I saw him in Iron Monkey)

4. Jet Li (straight destructive martial artist who has made it big in American films)

5. Dan Chupong (this dude is not as well known as Tony Jaa, but his films are just as brutal as Jaa)

I want me one of those…

6. Jackie Chan (all his movies are entertaining. Me and my roommate love Rush Hour!)

7. Iko Uwais (up and comer from Thailand. He’s in the most anticipated film for me this year, The Raid: Redemption)

8. Panna Rittikrai (this guy helped teach Tony Jaa all he knows, elderly Asian master)

9. Bruce Lee (he’s gotta be on this list somewhere! He’s ballin’ hard!)

10. Kazu Patrick Tang (this dude rocked shit in Raging Phoenix and Bangkok Knockout! Most handsome Thai man in martial arts)

The single greatest scene in the film.

And there it is. Hate me for listing Bruce Lee so low, but he’s on there. And, after watching this movie, I have gained all the more respect for Ip Man and Bruce Lee and what they do and stand for.

This film is a heartfelt one, and may bring a tear to your eye. During the Sino-Japanese War, Fo Shan is a city of prosperity until the Japanese invade and take over. Ip Man (Donnie Yen) is a respected martial arts master who takes people to school on a daily basis. He and his family lose everything after the invasion and it is up to Ip Man to reclaim his honor and the honor of the Chinese people in this tale of inspiration. I can’t wait to see what they do with the next one.

Shit’s about to pop off.

There were a lot of things about this movie that surprised me. Unlike the traditional shoddy acting from the martial artists in films like this, there’s none of that. Only good acting and prideful performances. Donnie Yen always surprises me as a showman first and, well, a martial arts master also first. He can perform well and with honor and dignity (as he did in this role) and kick the shit out of people. It’s really refreshing to see an aging martial arts actor gracefully enter the older years with poise and the ability to still perform at a younger level with fire and passion.

This movie also pulls back the reins on the stylistic elements of Kung Fu films. You expect the people flying from rooftop to rooftop and kicks that send people flying, but not so much in this film. In this

Breathtaking scenery.

return to reality, Donnie Yen styles down his brutal kicks and flips to hone in on a form that is more elegant, precise, and lethal. I had a jaw dropping moment when Ip Man takes on 10 Japanese martial artists at once and probably kills about half of them with these precise little blows. You have to see it to believe it.

Get on dat destruction.

Other than that, this movie has a moving soundtrack, a strangely dubbed over audio track, and fairly accurate subtitles. It’s inspirational and humbling, informing you on one of the greatest martial artists of all time. It’s one of those films you see that makes you want to know more, and reminds you why you love to watch Kung Fu films. Ip Man all the way! 8.4 out of 10.


What Women Want: A Chinese Take

I can’t explain what it is, but the original Mel Gibson version of this film has just stuck with me for years. I loved it and loved the idea behind it. Almost like a comedians joke, it is true that men can’t think behind what women are thinking. Combine that with Mel Gibson’s attitude and apparent macho sex appeal, and you got yourself a movie with comedy, wit, and a combining of the sexes.

And the same thing goes for the Chinese version of this film. Starring Andy Lau and

Some real chemistry between two beautiful Asians.

Gong Li, these two had a chemistry on film that wasn’t present as much between Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt. The humor is all there in both films, it just comes off as more of a real feeling when watching this 2011 remake. Maybe the Chinese know something about gender relations than we do…

Basic plot. Sun Zigang (Andy Lau) is a successful and macho advertising agent. He knows sex sells to a male audience and does it in a very male oriented way. After all his success and the expectation of a promotion, along comes Li Yilong (Gong Li). She’s young, sassy and successful, and her headstrong attitude scares Sun. He must learn to work under her when she takes his sought after promotion, only to struggle against her managerial style. After taking some female products home, Sun is struck by electrocuted by a fish lamp in his bathtub.

Andy Lau as a secure male. In red heels.

That’s where everything changes. Suddenly, Sun Zigang can hear the thoughts of women. Not all people, like a useful power would, just women. And he finds out that all the women at his work hate him, even his own daughter from his newly divorced wife. With this massive hit to his ego, he must save face and do well in his job all at the same time.

I keep coming back to it, but the idea of a plot like this fascinates me. Most men in this situation would use this power to manipulate women. Andy Lau does this to an extent. But to learn that women can be just as mean to men (just not saying it) is a scary and

Gong Li really is a beautiful woman.

depressing thing. I hope this idea/ script was written by a women, or it wouldn’t be as true and enlightening and this film becomes.

I’m sure there are those people who write this off as just a romantic comedy. Why look into it any more than that? But why not? The idea that maybe being able to be honest and truthful with one another (even if we don’t know that we are) can make things better. It can improve relationships, maybe break them. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. But honesty is at the heart of this movie, and that’s what I connected so much with. Listen, I’ve not had a bunch of good luck with female friends in the past. They back stabbed me, left me, didn’t understand me, and I tried to communicate with them on a real level. Maybe that’s something a lot of people can’t handle. Unrelenting trust. That’s the kind of difficulty this movie idea tries to handle.

Ya got beat, Mel.

The acting is great, just like the original, but the chemistry and relationships seem a bit more realistic in this Chinese version. I liked the awkward Asian stereotype at play in the way that it was an ebb and flow between the characters. Nobody ever really said what they wanted to say, and that proves how hard it is to be trusting and honest, completely, with other human beings. I saw a side of China that you don’t often get to see, and it reassures me that not everywhere other than America is so unrelated to us. The music was upbeat and modern, and the comedy was nicely paced and quirky. I gotta say, Mel Gibson, you got beat by Andy Lau. 7.1 out of 10.