aka 喜欢你 2017 Written by Yuan Li and Yimeng Xu
Based on the book Finally I Get You by Lan Bai Se
Directed by Derek Hui Wang-Yu
You better eat before you sit down to watch This Is Not What I Expected, because the lavish and constant footage of the porniest of food porn is enough to send any viewer’s stomach rumbling (spoiler alert, even the main characters have growling stomachs in the final scene!) From the opening shot of a steak on the grill to the intricately timed details for the perfect instant ramen bowl, the food becomes the media the rest of the romantic comedy is built around.
Let’s just ignore the implausibility of parts of the plot (that’s par for the course in a romantic comedy!) and just focus on the chemistry of the leads, the infusion of the plot elements, and whether the male character goes into stalker creeper mode. Things do get a bit messed up later on down the line, but it is nothing an extra line or two couldn’t have fixed. This is Derek Hui’s feature debut, usually spending time as an editor (Wu Xia, Man of Tai Chi). He does a some neat sequences and montages that give it a visual edge over the average romantic comedy, but it also made me greedy for more.
Gu Shengnan (Zhou Dong-Yu – Under the Hawthorn Tree) is introduced scratching rude words into the hood of a car, revenge on her friend’s cheating boyfriend (her friend Xu Zhaodi is played by model Ming Xi) It turns out to be the wrong car, belonging to billionaire investor Lu Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro – K-20: Legend of the Mask), who after some convincing promises not to call the police if she gets the hood repaired at his preferred shop before a certain time. Her life isn’t going well, as her boss who is also her secret boyfriend dumps her, and she feels her chef job is going nowhere. Gu Shengnan is 29, while in the US there is pressure for ladies to marry before they are 30, in China it is even worse where 29 is considered by many to be so old the women are a lost cause. Continue reading →
aka 現代豪俠傳 aka Heroic Trio 2 aka Jin doi hou hap cyun aka 蓬萊之戰 1993 Story by Sandy Shaw Lai-King
Screenplay by Susan Chan Suk-Yin
Directed by Tony Ching Siu-Tung and Johnnie To Kei-Fung
While I consider The Heroic Trioone of the essential pieces of Hong Kong cinema, the follow-up, Executioners, is unfortunately a weak entry that you might be better off not knowing it exists. Displacing the optimistic heroism of the original, Executioners takes places in a future dystopia, where nuclear war has irradiated the water supply. The only clean water is controlled by a corporation run by a madman named Mr. Kim, who has aims on controlling the world. The government is little help, having become weak and despotic, factions of which ally with Mr. Kim and his world domineering goals. The worst sin of the sequel is the addition of an annoying whiny kid, who is Wonder Woman’s daughter and spends a large portion of the film crying out for her mother.
Normally I’m all cool with sequels shaking things up a notch. But Executioners bungles the execution, making even its own name ironic. The constant sense of bleak sadness as tragic thing after tragic thing happens to our heroines who overcame evil in the last installment while still having good outlooks on life is jarring. The film creates a credible dystopian world, but the characters don’t really fit into it. It’s telling that it takes so many tragedies to happen to them before they feel like they belong. Only then can they battle the one responsible for all the problems.
The light-hearted tone of the original is tried to be replicated in a few scenes, but it comes off as artificial, especially with all the dark things going on. Strangely enough, Thief Hunter seems like the character who would do the best in this world, and she’s the strongest proponent in ending it. The friendship of the three women is strained via plot devices. Ching/Invisible Woman works for the government, and due to secret orders is unable to help or even talk about certain things. Wonder Woman is sidelined by being a mother who made a promise to her husband to not become a super heroine any more. She spends a good chunk of the film in prison, which keeps her out of most of the action, but also highlights that even with minimal makeup, the late Anita Mui was strikingly beautiful.
The political allegory of the original film is now knocked on its ear, with a terrible future society that’s no longer holding together, a weak government, strong corporate control, religious leaders with influence over the populace, and conspiracies on both sides for control. The government forces wear military uniforms that feature red armbands. Both the villains and the government gun down innocents to protect themselves. Parts are pulled from Mad Max films, more from Total Recall. The quest to find water becomes similar to Quaid’s adventure with the oxygen machine on Mars.
Wonder woman/Tung/Dong Dong (Anita Mui Yim-Fong) – Former hero Wonder Woman is now retired and raising her young daughter Cindy. Despite hanging up her mask, the problems in the city demand a hero, and it’s hard for her to stay out of costume.
Invisible Girl/Sandy Ching (Michelle Yeoh) – Sandy Chine now drive medical supplies and battle bandits who try to steal thos supplies. She has a loyal flute-controlled hunchbacked masked mutant buddy named Kau as a sidekick.
Thief Catcher/Chat (Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk ) – The mercenary Thief Catcher spends her days robbing Clear Water Corporation trucks, though mostly for herself even if the water eventually ends up in the hands of the needy.
Chief Ken Lau (Damian Lau Chung-Yan) – The now very busy Chief Lau tries to hold Hong Kong together in the midst of the apocalypse, water shortages, religious cults, government coups, and vast conspiracies. He fails.
Mr. Kim (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang) – A masked villain who dresses like a member of 18th century aristocracy. Is head of the Clear Water Corporation and has his sights set on controlling the world, or at least what’s left of it. Or at least Hong Kong. Basically, he’s evil and that’s all we need to know. EVIL!
[adrotate banner=”1″]Because what movies need is a dumb and generic name! Blame Weinstein Co. for the dumb new name, but since Wuxia had a dumb name to begin with it’s more like a lateral move. Wuxia, mind you, is the obviously made with foreign distribution in mind film starring Takeshi Kaneshiro, Donnie Yen, Tang Wei, and Jimmy Wang Yu. The plot sounds similar A History of Violence, with a regular guy Jinxi (Donnie Yen) who foils a robbery from two super bandits, attracting attention from Detective Xu (Takeshi Kaneshiro), who wonders how a regular guy could do it. It’s getting okay reviews, but it will probably be more widely seen than other recent Asian films so we might as well talk about it so TarsTarkas.NET looks hip and current.
The film is brought to us by some Warlords alums, director Peter Chan Ho-sun and writer Aubrey Lam. I thought Warlords was generic and predictable, getting lost in the mess of other giant spectacle films that came out that year. Maybe Wuxia will surprise me, the praise for the script sounds like it will be at least good enough that I’ll finish the film.
And now I have to differentiate this Dragon from the Dragon from Asylum. Thanks a lot!
In a world where Japan avoided going to war with the US, the Meiji Era nobility continues to exist in 1949. This has created a huge divide between the rich and the poor in the capital city of Teito. Yes, Teito. Stay with me here. No social mobility leads to a massive poor underclass and a tiny fraction of superrich. This playland for the rich is not without costs, as a masked villain known as K-20, the Fiend with 20 Faces, drives fear in their hearts as he steals their money. K-20 is not a noble thief or a Robin Hood, he is just a jerk who robs jerks.
There are also police zeppelins that drop police gyroplanes, because that always happens in comic books.
Series creator Edogawa Rampo is a popular horror and mystery writer whose work has been turned into cinema since 1927. After WWII, most samurai and similar films were banned, and Edogawa Rampo’s vast contemporary work was quickly put on the big screen. The K-20 stories originate in a Boy Detectives series launched in 1936 that lasted 26 years. Edogawa Rampo’s character of The Fiend With Twenty Faces is a mysterious master of disguise, and Detective Kogoro Akechi is called Rampo’s alter ego. Other early Rampo films include 1946’s The Palette Knife Murder (Palette Knife no Satsujin) and 1947’s Ghost Pagoda (Yurei To) and Phantom With Twenty Faces (Kaijin Nijumenso), which is the same Phantom story that inspired the novel this film is based on.
Said novel is the 1989 work from playwright Soh Kitamura, which updates the classic Rampo Akechi tales. Kitamura’s completely new take on the tale caused much controversy among Rampo Edogawa’s fans, much like many remakes.
More about Edogawa Rampo: Yes, Edogawa Rampo is not his real name, Taro Hirai named himself after Edgar Allen Poe! His first writing successes were in 1923, his erotic horror style is called eroguro-nansensu. Other Rampo stories on film include 1969’s The Blind Beast (Moju), 1969’s The Horror of Malformed Men (Kyofu Kikei Ningen), 1976’s The Stroller in the Attic (Yaneura no Sanposha) and 1968’s Black Lizard (Kurotokage). Rampo eventually became a character in mystery films of his own, in the movie Rampo (and this film has two wildly different versions.)
Heikichi Endo (Takeshi Kaneshiro) – A poor circus acrobat finds himself framed and in the middle of a giant conspiracy involving super-criminal K20. Totally hates thieves, until he becomes one. Takeshi Kaneshiro is half-Japanese and half-Chinese, and shows up in both Japanese and Chinese films, including the recent The Warlords and Red Cliff.
Detective Kogoro Akechi (Toru Nakamura) – Baron Detective Kogoro Akechi is the nemesis of K20. Has fought him for years, but has a terrible secret. Toru Nakamura was last seen on TarsTarkas.NET in 2009: Lost Memories
Yoko Hashiba (Takako Matsu) – Duchess Yoko Hashiba is the daughter of a creator of a device based on Tesla’s work, as well as a privileged aristocrat who realizes that society is corrupt after seeing the truth. And she likes to fly gyroplanes! Takako Matsu is a hard working actress/singer/theater actress in Japan and is the only idol to never have to wear a swimsuit.
Genji (Jun Kunimura) – Circus gadget maker and thief, who pals around with theives. Helps rescue and save Heikichi, in addition to making him tools to help him get back at K20. Jun Kunimura is probably best known to western audiences as Boss Tanaka in Kill Bill or Funaki in Ichi The Killer.
Yoshio Kobayashi (Kanata Hongo) – Boy assistant to Akechi who is part of a Junior Detectives squad which is related to the original serialized stories but only make a brief cameo in the film. Can figure out insanely complicated plots with little or no clues.
Shinsuke (Yuki Imai) – kid friend of Heikichi who worked at the circus until the police destroyed it and he had to get a job being an orphan who takes care of dozens of other kids. Helped out by Yoko Hashiba once she realizes not everyone is rich.
K20 – The Fiend With Twenty Faces – Kaijin means Fiend, thus the K for K20. Or maybe he is the 20th K. Brother of Special K. A thief who steals from the rich and also from the poor, and is a jerk. Just be a Robin Hood thief like you should be, dingleberry!