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Asian films - Comments/suggestions wanted!

Old 01-14-09, 05:26 PM
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Asian films - Comments/suggestions wanted!

Ok I used to follow Asian cinema almost religiously but for the past year or two, for a number of reasons, I've completely lost touch. Now I need an asian cinema fix, but before I go on a spending spree, I'd like some comments/suggestions.

I've already done research on 2007/2008 Korean films. (*) are the ones I consider buying, the other ones I'm not sure so comments would be appreciated.

The Chaser (*) (seen it, must buy)
Forever the Moment (*)
May 18 (*)
Seven Days (*)
Secret Sunshine (*)

The Guard Post (similar to R-Point? Better? Worse?)
Rough Cut
Beautiful Sunday
The Show Must Go On
Paradise Murdered
Epitaph
Shadows in the Palace

For HK, Japan, etc... you'll have to help me out, what are your must buys?

Thanks.
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Old 01-14-09, 06:16 PM
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Re: Asian films - Comments/suggestions wanted!

I don't know if it would necessarily gel with your tastes, but Ann Hui's The Way We Are was one of my favorites from '08 and certainly the best Asian film I saw (admittedly, I did not see a huge number of them). Here's a video review.
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Old 01-14-09, 07:58 PM
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Re: Asian films - Comments/suggestions wanted!

Probably not too much help, but ....

May 18 (*) - If you can wait for a single disc rerelease (is there one available now?) I'd recommend saving your money. The story has an interesting premise (as it's a docu-drama) based on it's historical background, but I feel that it falls very short in key areas .. and it becomes extremely melodramatic - which I think actually detracts from some of the points that could have been made. A history book would be better serving. Though there is one scene that was very effective, shocking more like it.

Seven Days (*) - Here's my short take on another forum: "Seven Days was nothing more than an over-stylized mediocre suspense thriller driven solely by a seqence of plot twists - some of which were just a bit convoluted. After 2+ hours I was happy it was done." Nice to see Yun-jin back in a film again, but unfortunately it wasn't enough. Then again, some people really liked the film so it may work ...... it's a sit back and enjoy the ride type of film or ...pop two aspirin and call it a night.

The Guard Post (similar to R-Point? Better? Worse?) - Now, I really enjoyed R-Point. It's not the best movie, but there were factors that worked well .. atmosphere, a true sense of dread, interesting development, well shot, soundtrack .... as examples. The first act of GP506 was great, but rest of the film just became lost to me - thin plotting, no real atmosphere, over-reliance on flashback sequences and one real nasty insult to the viewer's intelligence to wrap it all up. I don't know, I went in really wanting to like the film and ended up disappointed. Maybe it will work for you.

The Show Must Go On
Epitaph

I actually own both of these and I've heard excellent things about Epitaph, but I have yet to watch either. I'll spin up Epitaph this weekend and get back on that one at least.

Secret Sunshine (*)

I've heard this a fairly depressing but very good film, but it's one that I don't own yet.

Korean films from the last few years have been really hit or miss for me, so I've cut back a lot due to diminishing returns for an unwavering expense. Perhaps others have had different experiences.
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Old 01-15-09, 04:11 AM
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Re: Asian films - Comments/suggestions wanted!

japan over the last couple of years, that i'd recommend :

tokyo tower : me, mum, and sometimes dad (HK disc)
strawberry shortcakes (R3 korean DVD)
zebraman (R1)
kaidan (hideo nakata's - R4 aus dvd, i think)
mizoguchi sets from MoC
shinobi no mono (R1 from animeigo)
bohachi bushido (R1)
crows zero (R1 in march from MB)
maiko haaan! (R1)
kabei (yoji yamada, R2 J - but will appear elsewhere)
gachi boy (R2 J)
watcher in the attic (R1)
big man japan / dainipponjin (R4 aus)
i just did not do it (R3 HK)
canary (R1)
neighbour no.13 (R1)
nightmare detective (R1)
flower and snake (R1)
girl who leapt through time (R1)
tekkon kinkreet (various, UK BR?)
wool 100% (R1)

as for HK / korea :

eye in the sky (R3 HK)
i'm a cyborg (various)
mad detective (R3 DVD or UK BR)
sparrow (R3 DVD or upcoming UK BR)
voice of a murderer (R3 K)
lee chang-dong collection (R3 K)
secret sunshine (R3 K)
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Old 01-15-09, 08:50 AM
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Re: Asian films - Comments/suggestions wanted!

I watched Secret Sunshine on a rental and really liked it. As a bonus, I was later able to choose the HK DVD release as a freebie on my last YesAsia order.

As mentioned above, the story itself is, well, "depressing" is a valid term, but it's not just "bad things happening" causing the viewer to be sad. It's a challenging movie b/c of the emotional complexity. The main character undergoes a complete emotional upheaval, and it is very very real. Do-yeon Jeon is, in my opinion, BY FAR the best actress in Korea right now. I've seen her in so many things and she never ceases to amaze me.

I highly recommend this film. While watching it I found myself appreciating the genuine nature of the characters' actions and reactions (especially those of Do-yeon Jeon). It was easy for me to forget that I was watching an actress play a part, she's that good. I look forward to watching it again, and expect that I will get even more out of it the second go 'round.
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Old 01-15-09, 03:27 PM
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From your initial list, SECRET SUNSHINE, THE SHOW MUST GO ON, and BEAUTIFUL SUNDAY left little impression on me. As a point of reference - useless as it may be - I thought THE CHASER was good enough but really nothing special. As to SEVEN DAYS, a lot might depend on your tolerance for overcaffeinated camerawork/editing. I found it to be one of the most off-putting visual presentations in recent memory. If I set that aside, it was a good - but again nothing special - Grisham- or Turow-esque kidnap/legal mystery thriller. As was the case with THE CHASER, I'm not sure why Hollywood would purchase re-make rights as I'd presume they would have drawers full of similar scripts. I have at least a couple of the others on your list but haven't watched them yet.

If Korean stuff like THE CHASER, SEVEN DAYS, and BEAUTIFUL SUNDAY have caught your interest then you might also read up on stuff like OUR TOWN, RAINBOW EYES, VOICE OF A MURDERER, WORLD OF SILENCE, etc....Korea's done a bunch of kidnap/serial killer/thriller type stuff recently.

Also, Kim Ki-duk's latest movie - DREAM - recently came out on DVD.

As to Japan, three I really liked are GACHI BOY, KABEI, and KURO-OBI.

As for Hong Kong, though I didn't care for it, SPARROW seems to have been well-received. Director Derek Kwok's first two films - THE PYE-DOG (2007) and THE MOSS (2008) - rate well in my book, and given how little mention I've seen of them, I'd say they are overlooked and underappreciated. Of course HK also turned out a few period/swordplay films - WARLORDS, AN EMPRESS AND THE WARRIORS, THREE KINGDOMS, RED CLIFF (Part 1), PAINTED SKIN, BUTTERFLY LOVERS. If that interests you WARLORDS and RED CLIFF are likely your best bets. What else...RUN PAPA RUN was decent enough. Director Benny Chan has scored well recently with INVISIBLE TARGET (2007) and CONNECTED (2008). CONNECTED is a re-make of the 2004 Hollywood film CELLULAR starring Kim Basinger. Featuring a runtime that is about 17 minutes longer, I thought CONNECTED clearly surpassed CELLULAR in virtually every aspect. Amusing too was the product placement in both films with CELLULAR promoting Coke and CONNECTED promoting Pepsi.
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Old 01-15-09, 03:48 PM
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Oh yeah...I also liked HANSEL & GRETEL from Korea. And if we break from convention and don't exclude India from a discussion on Asian cinema, then JODHAA AKBAR too.
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Old 01-15-09, 03:58 PM
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Re: Asian films - Comments/suggestions wanted!

flix. what were your thoughts on hansel & gretel. I can't lie, it does have me a bit intrigued. the problem is that I haven't really picked up any korean stuff from the past 2 years it seems. one because of price and two because the quality has gone down so I feel a bit like eX. I did pick up Hanbando but haven't watched it yet. I miss trigger's old posts.
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Old 01-15-09, 04:01 PM
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Umm...remembered one more...M (2007) from Korean director Lee Myung-se. I'd label it a must-buy.

Also found enjoyable enough - CYBORG SHE (2008, Japan) and MY MIGHTY PRINCESS (2008, Korea) - both from Director Kwak Jae-young (MY SASSY GIRL, CLASSIC, WINDSTRUCK). But again, I'm a big fan of WINDSTRUCK, so you might want to take that into consideration.
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Old 01-15-09, 04:23 PM
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Hey BuddhaWake, I believe HANSEL & GRETEL has now come out on a cheaper DVD release, maybe HK or Malaysia (see HKFLIX), and slated for the UK if I recall correctly. I wouldn't call it essential like OLDBOY or anything but I liked it...at least something of a departure from all the kidnapping/serial killer or early 20th century period stuff that has been coming out of Korea. Here's what I wrote in the old "what are you watching" thread:

Hansel & Gretel (2007 South Korea DVD R3 South Korea)
Another sophomore directorial effort, this time from Yim Pil-sung as a follow-up to his 2005 entry ANTARCTIC JOURNAL. This one I'd classify in the category of dark fantasy/fairytale. The thing which struck my fancy the most was the indulgence in the use of color. With many filmmakers intent on draining bright color from their films, it was nice to see someone go the other way. The set/art designer deserves a pat on the back for dreaming up the candyland look of the main set. At first I thought this movie was simply going to be a bloated take-off from THE TWILIGHT ZONE tv-series episode IT'S A GOOD LIFE. That was the one which featured child actor Billy Mumy as a twisted telepath; it was also an episode which was again re-made in the later TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE (the segment starred Kathleen Quinlan). However this movie takes things a little further, though not really anyplace you haven't seen done before (abused children, wicked Christians, and the like). Still I was pleasantly surprised by this effort, and it too would score a recommendation from me.


I watched HANBANDO but that was a while ago and I don't remember much...maybe sort of decent/average/good in my book. From what I gather about your tastes, you might like it a little less than me...just guessing.

And wouldn't you know I thought of another 2008 Korean film I liked - PUBLIC ENEMY 3 - nice mix of humor, decent action, some substance in examining the issue of gangster-worship amongst Korean youth. I know the original PUBLIC ENEMY is well-liked by most, and though the sequel didn't score well with others I liked that one too.

And a note for the original poster in regard to SEVEN DAYS, the original 3-disc Korean release went out-of-print a while back, but a Korean 2-disc version is being released within days...so you're in luck if you want to see it.
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Old 01-15-09, 05:47 PM
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Re: Asian films - Comments/suggestions wanted!

Originally Posted by flixtime View Post
Umm...remembered one more...M (2007) from Korean director Lee Myung-se. I'd label it a must-buy.

Also found enjoyable enough - CYBORG SHE (2008, Japan) and MY MIGHTY PRINCESS (2008, Korea) - both from Director Kwak Jae-young (MY SASSY GIRL, CLASSIC, WINDSTRUCK). But again, I'm a big fan of WINDSTRUCK, so you might want to take that into consideration.
I did pick up M and I'm looking forward to checking it out and thanks for the words on hansel & gretel. As for Korean stuff for eX and others. I thought epitaph was good although confusing at times and a in needs of a few more minutes of cuts but one I really enjoyed was Black House, there is a region 1 of available but i thought that was was pretty good and it reminded me a bit of sorum (atmosphere wise)
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Old 01-16-09, 04:55 AM
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Re: Asian films - Comments/suggestions wanted!

Originally Posted by eXcentris View Post
For HK, Japan, etc... you'll have to help me out, what are your must buys?
Unless you're a Moon So-Ri fan, Forever the Moment is not that great.

Bubble e Go
Hula Girls
Memories of Matsuko
Megane

As you speak french, Carlotta released 2 Kiju Yoshida boxsets and Eros + Massacre, and will release 7 more films in March.
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Old 01-16-09, 05:52 AM
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Re: Asian films - Comments/suggestions wanted!

I was looking for Voice of Murderer a few months back and it looked like the Korean editions were OOP and no HK versions available (at least at yesasia). Is it being reissued or something?
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Old 01-16-09, 03:37 PM
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Re: Asian films - Comments/suggestions wanted!

Originally Posted by visitor Q View Post
Korean films from the last few years have been really hit or miss for me, so I've cut back a lot due to diminishing returns for an unwavering expense.
That was part of my problem. I used to buy pretty much every Korean film that had a decent review, and often bought the fancy special editions as well. Over time, I realized that there were just too many average, derivative films that didn't deserve a purchase. Let's face it, there aren't too many "Memories of Murder", "Save the Green Planet", "A Tale of Two Sisters" and "OldBoy" type films out there. I'm just trying to be more selective although I do have a preference for some directors. And cheaper R3 versions now suit me just fine.

My original list was compiled after reading all the 2007-2008 reviews on koreanfilm.org

After your comments, I'm going to read some of these reviews again (and seek other ones), and check if there's an R3 available.

A few comments:

May 18 I've seen this compared to "Silmido" and "Taegugki" which I enjoyed despite the flaws and the overly melodramatic aspects. I'll check, but if there's no single disc release available, I'll wait.

Seven Days After your comments, I'll scratch that off the list. I'm tired of derivative suspense/thrillers. Plus, shaky camera + MTV style of editing = puke

I'm also tired of derivative gangster/triad films, swordplay/period films, "Sadako clones" horror films and I'm not a big fan of romantic comedies (liked "My Sassy Girl" but didn't care much about "Windstruck").

Secret Sunshine I included it because I enjoy Lee Chang-dong's work immensely.

I'll probably skip The Guard Post and re-watch JSA and R-Point.

I included Forever the Moment because it's a hand-ball film. I played, my brother coached, my sister-in-law was on the provincial team. We'll all get a kick out of it.

Voice of a Murderer That rings a bell... I'll seek out some reviews.

'M' Noted, I'll check some reviews.

Black House Is this the "10 little indians" type of whodunit? If, atmosphere-wise, it's anything like "Sorum" (great underrated horror film imho), I'm there.

Big Kim Ki-duk fan so I'll add Dream to my list. Which reminds me, I've got "Time" buried in a pile somewhere and still haven't watched it!

I'll stick to Korean films for now until I have that sorted out and then I'll start researching the HK, Japan, etc... films.

The people I expected to reply did. Funny. You guys rock.

Thanks for your comments/suggestions.

P.S. Already own "Zebraman", "I'm a Cyborg...", "Memories of Matsuko", "Neighbor #13", 'Shinobi".
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Old 01-16-09, 04:01 PM
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Re: Asian films - Comments/suggestions wanted!

Originally Posted by eXcentris View Post
That was part of my problem. I used to buy pretty much every Korean film that had a decent review, and often bought the fancy special editions as well. Over time, I realized that there were just too many average, derivative films that didn't deserve a purchase. Let's face it, there aren't too many "Memories of Murder", "Save the Green Planet", "A Tale of Two Sisters" and "OldBoy" type films out there. I'm just trying to be more selective although I do have a preference for some directors. And cheaper R3 versions now suit me just fine.

My original list was compiled after reading all the 2007-2008 reviews on koreanfilm.org
That's always a good place to start. I use twitchfilm.net a lot for reviews as well, but some reviewers tend to have wildly different opinions about the same film - good and bad. The only time I really think I've been burned by an actual review there though was the Cromartie High live action film (shouldn't have spent so much on the SE).

Still a couple Korean flicks from this past year that I would recommend - again mixed reviews from twitch -- "Our Town" and "Chaser". I enjoyed them both a great deal but I can see why others wouldn't like them nearly as much.

Really looking forward to "The Good the Bad and the Weird" - didn't think it normally took so long for a Korean flick to hit DVD, but maybe they're trying to eke an international theatrical release first.

logboy - is the R4 of "Big Man in Japan" really a better edition than the R3 HK 2 disc SE?
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Old 01-16-09, 04:22 PM
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eXcentris, since you mentioned you are a big fan of KIM Ki-duk, you might also be interested in BEAUTIFUL (2008). It is the debut directorial effort from one of KIM Ki-duk's former assistant directors. The film was both written and produced by KIM Ki-duk.

And since you've yet to watch TIME, you might also might have missed out on KIM Ki-duk's 2007 effort BREATH. Didn't care much for TIME myself, while I found BREATH okay...both fell short of 3-IRON and THE BOW in my book.
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Old 01-16-09, 04:37 PM
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Re: Asian films - Comments/suggestions wanted!

Originally Posted by Tuan Jim View Post
That's always a good place to start. I use twitchfilm.net a lot for reviews as well, but some reviewers tend to have wildly different opinions about the same film - good and bad. The only time I really think I've been burned by an actual review there though was the Cromartie High live action film (shouldn't have spent so much on the SE).

Still a couple Korean flicks from this past year that I would recommend - again mixed reviews from twitch -- "Our Town" and "Chaser". I enjoyed them both a great deal but I can see why others wouldn't like them nearly as much.

Really looking forward to "The Good the Bad and the Weird" - didn't think it normally took so long for a Korean flick to hit DVD, but maybe they're trying to eke an international theatrical release first.

logboy - is the R4 of "Big Man in Japan" really a better edition than the R3 HK 2 disc SE?
the subs on the HK disc of dainipponjin are said to be terrible. there was a UK disc set, but it doesnt seem to have appeared. the only other choice is the R4.

btw, I think "voice of a murderer" is great. "M" is probably the most pretentious drivel I've ever tried to watch.
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Old 01-16-09, 04:39 PM
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Re: Asian films - Comments/suggestions wanted!

Originally Posted by eXcentris View Post
Secret Sunshine I included it because I enjoy Lee Chang-dong's work immensely.
Probably the best choice of the pack. I've only seen three of Chang-dong's films and based on Oasis alone I would highly recommend any of his other works. It truly is an amazing and very human (layered with social commentaries) film. The interactions between the two leads, one of which is a favorite of mine, Kyung-gu, really carry the film. I'd actually go as far as calling the film more of an experience. And it too is favorite of mine.

I doubt one could go wrong with Secret Sunshine.

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Old 01-16-09, 04:51 PM
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Re: Asian films - Comments/suggestions wanted!

Originally Posted by logboy View Post
"M" is probably the most pretentious drivel I've ever tried to watch.
Heh .. that's awesome. Then again, I would assume both Watcher in the Attic and Flower and Snake could be considered the most perverted (or extreme) some have ever tried to watch .....

Don't get me wrong, I own Watcher in the Attic and would like to see the other ... but my point is different strokes my man. And no, I have not seen M yet, but I have an interest due the premise and technical aspects of the filming. But I've definitely heard mixed reviews, most being negative.
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Old 01-16-09, 09:22 PM
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Re: Asian films - Comments/suggestions wanted!

Yeah, the UK of Dai Nipponjin seems like it came and went - weird thing on the site (although it might just be amazon uk) - and the R4 is out of stock - at least on ezydvd (and a lot more expensive) so I figured on the R3 HK while I was picking up a couple others. An earlier thread says the subs on the HK edition are pretty good: http://forum.dvdtalk.com/internation...-2007-dvd.html

About "Voice of a Murderer". Yesasia says the Korea R3 was the only edition to come out and that it's out of print. If you have any other suggestions, I'm listening.
thanks.
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Old 01-16-09, 11:55 PM
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Re: Asian films - Comments/suggestions wanted!

I'm waiting for this Thai movie. It just came out on Thai DVD, but with no English subtitles. Check out the trailer to QUEEN OF LANGKASUKA:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Z18prjuvkA


I hope the acting will be decent. The problem with most Thai mainstream films is that their movies seem to star "extras" rather than real actors. Even Tony Jaa seems like an extra to me - saying his lines with no emotion and as if he's reading his lines.
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Old 01-17-09, 01:27 AM
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Re: Asian films - Comments/suggestions wanted!

Originally Posted by Tuan Jim View Post
Really looking forward to "The Good the Bad and the Weird" - didn't think it normally took so long for a Korean flick to hit DVD, but maybe they're trying to eke an international theatrical release first
It's supposedly due in April -- a bit long, but not when stacked against Host and Guest (two years), Who's That Knocking at My Door? (14 months), or Desert Dream (1 year), which all just came out recently (and which I recommend). And the list of recent films that still have no DVD release -- and no immediate prospects of one -- is shamefully long.

Rough Cut is decent "postmodern" pulp; Kim Ki-duk produced it, but it doesn't feel anything like a Kim Ki-duk film, which can only be a plus in my book. HERs is another semi-recent Korean films that impressed me -- it's all over the map tonally and narratively, which I know is what a lot of people enjoy about Korean cinema (although HERs might push past the breaking point for some folks). With a Girl of Black Soil and Crossing aren't fun watches, but they're wrenching and convincing enough as far as realist Korean dramas go.

I'll also second logboy's nomination of Eye in the Sky (my favorite latter-day Milkyway film, even better than Johnnie To's recent work IMO) and mention Herman Yau's two recent prostitute dramas (Whispers and Moans / True Women for Sale), Trivial Matters (uneven but fun), Exodus (which starts off like a derivative suspense-thriller but goes completely over the edge), and City Without Baseball (which defies description). All About Women is getting an English-subbed release next week, and while I won't praise it to the skies or anything, it's closer to the overstuffed feel of Tsui's better work than Seven Swords or Missing. The Equation of Love and Death is a good mainland micro-thriller (the crappy DVD-5 version has unadvertised English subs, but I'm not sure about the DVD-9 Yesasia is selling). Out of Control is pretty outre for a mainland film, but no English-subbed release yet.

Last edited by Dan Average; 01-17-09 at 02:30 AM.
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Old 01-17-09, 02:33 AM
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Re: Asian films - Comments/suggestions wanted!

Originally Posted by Tuan Jim View Post
Yeah, the UK of Dai Nipponjin seems like it came and went - weird thing on the site (although it might just be amazon uk) - and the R4 is out of stock - at least on ezydvd (and a lot more expensive) so I figured on the R3 HK while I was picking up a couple others. An earlier thread says the subs on the HK edition are pretty good: http://forum.dvdtalk.com/internation...-2007-dvd.html

About "Voice of a Murderer". Yesasia says the Korea R3 was the only edition to come out and that it's out of print. If you have any other suggestions, I'm listening.
thanks.
keep your eye out for it popping up again. yesasia's notifications often get you a rare copy or two that suddenly appear somewhere in their warehouse. ebay might be worth a check, but make sure you plump for the korean disc and not a bootleg, as there's no other editions out there that i've heard of, but there's certainly bootlegs already on there.
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Old 01-17-09, 04:31 AM
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Re: Asian films - Comments/suggestions wanted!

A little addition:

Originally Posted by logboy
sparrow (R3 DVD or upcoming UK BR)
Tai Seng have just given this a U.S. release, on both DVD and Blu-ray. They usually just do straight ports of HK editions and I'm not clear what if any differences exist between the U.S. and HK DVD/BD -- the Hong Kong BD had unsubbed extras, so I'd hope Tai Seng would fix that, but I've seen no confirmation. In any event, the film itself is definitely subbed.
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Old 01-17-09, 09:41 AM
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Re: Asian films - Comments/suggestions wanted!

Originally Posted by Dan Average View Post
It's supposedly due in April -- a bit long, but not when stacked against Host and Guest (two years), Who's That Knocking at My Door? (14 months), or Desert Dream (1 year), which all just came out recently (and which I recommend). And the list of recent films that still have no DVD release -- and no immediate prospects of one -- is shamefully long.

Bong Joon-Ho's "Host" came out on DVD a LOT sooner than 2 years after the theatrical release - I'm not talking about R1 though.
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