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The One and Only Asian movies reviews, comments, news, and appreciation thread

Old 06-29-24, 09:39 PM
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Re: The One and Only Asian movies reviews, comments, news, and appreciation thread

I thought DRIVE MY CAR was excellent. It’s likewise very slow and deliberate, but fully absorbing for those willing to accept it on its terms instead of bringing preconceived ‘Hollywood’ notions to it, which seems to fuel nearly all of the negative reviews at IMDB, for example. Everyone else seems to get it, and it sounds like EVIL confirms the director’s style, despite the shorter running time and the fact that it’s not based on a popular novel. If both of those register, I’d also recommend Hamaguchi’s 2021 movie WHEEL OF FORTUNE AND FANTASY, as it’s very much in the same style wheelhouse as DRIVE (as probably EVIL based on your thoughts). It’s not quite as good as DRIVE, but it’s still highly compelling. Film Movement released it on Blu and DVD in North America, and presumably streaming:
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Old 06-30-24, 08:19 AM
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Re: The One and Only Asian movies reviews, comments, news, and appreciation thread

Asako I & II is good too.
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Old 07-08-24, 04:27 PM
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Re: The One and Only Asian movies reviews, comments, news, and appreciation thread

Originally Posted by Perkinsun Dzees
, but the ubiquitous Herman Yau, whose early career was highlighted by delivering notorious Cat III movies before he evolved into an efficient helmer of mainstream blockbusters, is content to go through the motions with a competent but mostly uninspired presentation.

Watched Death Notice on Tubi w/ Francis Ng and Louis Koo and Simon Yam and this is basically a really good description of that film. It's got a nice hook (albeit a mismash of Death Note and V for Vendetta) and some nice mainstream HK stars but outside of that the film is just "there" It's neither bad or good. It's just disposable entertainment you watch once. Kind of McDonald's level filmaking. I miss the grittiness of the 80s and 90s of HK films because this one is clearly shot in modern Hollywood style.

The plot is kind of ridiculous in Death Notice. I'm not exactly sure I believed much of it.
Old 07-09-24, 02:45 AM
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Originally Posted by sleepyhead55
. . . the film is just "there" It's neither bad or good. It's just disposable entertainment you watch once. Kind of McDonald's level filmaking. I miss the grittiness of the 80s and 90s of HK films because this one is clearly shot in modern Hollywood style
I doubt we can expect much more than this from Hong Kong now in terms of ‘exportable’ action cinema. Now that the rules have changed for the worse, a lot of their ‘high profile’ action films are just . . . there, and gone equally as fast. They look good, for sure, but not much doesn’t these days now that everybody, everywhere is working with essentially the same technology. But in HK movies the grit is gone, as you say. The grit was a byproduct of much freer times, as was everything else that made Hong Kong movies so wild and plentiful. Gone for good, sadly.

There are still some interesting local pictures being made, but apparently it’s a struggle for established pros and up-and-coming filmmakers alike for one big reason: China. And while there are glimmers of hope, previous post-China glimmers fizzled out, and personally I think it’s a safe bet that HK cinema, like the city, is kinda f**ked now. It’s just there.

This article (below) from March was interesting. It covers a lot of stuff people have probably gotten tired of me groaning about in this thread over the years, but it bears repeating and obviously the industry and the press are aware of just how dire the situation really is. The article mentions a number of movies that aren’t high-profile action thriller with some combination of Louis Koo, Sean Lau, Francis Ng, Simon Yam, or Nick Cheung. As it notes, though, those films tend to get whatever international distribution there is, while the smaller, often more socially conscious novices well, they don’t. I’ve been able to find quite a few at my local library, so interested parties might check their own local branches. I add new Blu-rays or DVDs to my wishlists at the Asian sites as well, but it takes a while before enough of them drop to my budget level to justify a large order.

Anyway, good reading, if wistful . . .

- - - - - - - - - -

HONG KONG’S ONCE MIGHTY FILM INDUSTRY GRAPPLES WITH CHANGING MARKET AND POLITICAL REALITIES

https://deadline.com/2024/03/hong-ko...es-1235851011/

As Filmart gets underway, Hong Kong’s major production companies, including Edko Films, Emperor Motion Pictures (EMP), Media Asia, One Cool Group and Universe Entertainment, will be unveiling their new titles in enormous booths at the front of the trade show floor, some of which will be as elaborate as film sets.

Many of the films they are launching are big-budget Hong Kong-China co-productions, featuring top Hong Kong stars and directors, and aimed at audiences in both China and Hong Kong. EMP has Derek Kwok’s Raging Havoc, starring Andy Lau and Nicholas Tse; Mandarin Motion Pictures has The Prosecutor, starring and directed by Donnie Yen; and Media Asia is launching four new titles headed by Behind The Scene, produced by Infernal Affairs director Andrew Lau. One Cool’s slate includes a trio of action films starring Louis Koo and produced by Soi Cheang.

But behind all the glamour, stars and action, Hong Kong’s film industry has not been having the easiest time of late. For the past two decades, Hong Kong’s major market has been mainland China – in the early days Hong Kong helped to grow China’s nascent film industry – but now finds itself increasingly squeezed out as China has its own capital, production expertise and stars. While China’s box office has been recovering rapidly since the pandemic, not a single Hong Kong-China co-production made it into the country’s top 20 films in 2023.

Released at the end of last year, EMP’s The Goldfinger, reuniting Infernal Affairs stars Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Andy Lau, provided some relief taking $80M at the China box office, while Entertaining Power’s Rob N Roll grossed $32M following its release this January. But these figures pale next to China’s homegrown hits – three Chinese films released over the recent Lunar New Year holiday – YOLO, Pegasus 2and Zhang Yimou’s Article 20 – grossed more than $300M apiece.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s own box office is struggling to return to pre-pandemic levels. In 2023, total box office reached $183M, around 25% up on the previous year which had been badly hit by cinema closures, but still 25% below the pre-pandemic year of 2019. The Hong Kong Motion Picture Industry Association (MPIA) described the figures as “very unsatisfactory” and reported that box office in the recent Lunar New Year holiday period was down 24% year-on-year.

Some local films are performing well at the Hong Kong box office – but it’s not the big-budget Hong Kong-China co-productions. Last year, legal drama A Guilty Conscience became the highest-grossing local film of all time in Hong Kong, grossing $14.7m, although it was the only local film in the year-end top ten. Two other local films from emerging filmmakers, Nick Cheuk’s Time Still Turns The Pages and Lawrence Kan’s In Broad Daylight, both dealing with social issues, grossed around $3M apiece, which was considered a successful result considering the relatively small budgets of both films.

“It’s probably time we started to redefine what is commercial in this market, because expensive films are not doing well, while films made for just HK$3M [US$383,000] are returning many times their budget,” says Golden Scene sales & acquisitions manager Felix Tsang. “Audiences are responding to films that speak more directly to their personal experience.”

New generation

Golden Scene has been involved in producing and/or distributing a whole slew of films from this new generation of filmmakers, including two upcoming titles – Sasha Chuk’s Fly Me To Moon, which deals with topics including immigration, poverty and addiction, and Ray Yeung’s All Shall Be Well, about an older lesbian couple and how the surviving partner struggles to retain her home and her dignity when one of them passes away. All Shall Be Well recently premiered in Panorama at the Berlin film festival, where it won the Teddy Award, and will play as the opening film of this year’s Hong Kong International Film Festival.

Other companies that are backing emerging filmmakers include One Cool, which financed In Broad Daylight, about abuse and corruption in the care home system; Edko Films, which is launching Norris Wong’s second film The Lyricist Wannabe; while MM2 Entertainment produced Time Still Turns The Pages, which touches on suicide.

Many of these new generation films have also received funding from the Hong Kong government. The Hong Kong Film Development Council (HKFDC), under Create Hong Kong, operates the First Feature Film Initiative (FFFI), which offers grants of up to $1M (HK$8M) to films from first-time directors, as well as the Film Production Financing Scheme, which co-invests in films with budgets of up to $7.7M (HK$60M). The latter scheme co-has financed films including A Guilty Conscience, Over My Dead Body, Mama’s Affair and Social Distancing.

Yeung, a more experienced director with credits also including award-winning drama Twilight’s Kiss, says he applied for government funding for All Shall Be Well but didn’t end up using it because he’d managed to raise finance privately before the funds came through. He explains this process was a struggle, as funding sources in Hong Kong are limited, but hopes the success of recent new generation films might encourage local companies to rethink their investment strategy. “I meet a lot of local audiences who say they don’t want to take their families to see violent gangster movies, but like watching films from this younger generation because they’re a lot more meaningful,” Yeung says.

Censorship concerns

But the elephant in the room for this new generation is that Hong Kong is not operating under the same rules as it was before the pandemic. Following pro-democracy protests in 2019, Beijing introduced the National Security Law in 2020 and is currently implementing an additional piece of security legislation, Article 23, which criminalizes “treason, espionage, external interference and disclosure of state secrets”, as part of Hong Kong’s own mini-constitution.

While half a million people marched against Article 23 when it was first mooted in 2003, there’s unlikely to be much protest now, although the Hong Kong Bar Association, European Chamber of Commerce and Hong Kong Journalists Association have all raised concerns about how the law will be interpreted.

As the wording of these laws is worryingly vague, they have resulted in a much higher degree of self-censorship among Hong Kong filmmakers. It’s become difficult to tell stories that touch on political topics or question government policy in Hong Kong and mainland China. Stories that feature police or other characters in positions of authority, involved in corruption or any other form of moral ambiguity, are also tricky to tell. In fact, the irony of Leung and Lau’s recent re-teaming is that it would be almost impossible to make a film like Infernal Affairs in Hong Kong today.

Another problem this new generation faces is that their films are usually hyper-local and relatively low-budget, which makes it difficult for them to travel beyond a few international territories (although that’s not an issue only experienced by Hong Kong filmmakers). And while many first films are being made, very few of these directors are going on to make their second features. “A lot of these filmmakers can’t get funding for their second films because they can’t get their scripts past the big companies,” says Tsang. “There’s still a mismatch between what the industry is making and what the Hong Kong audience actually wants to see.”

Government support

Aware of all these issues, HKFDC has been expanding its support for Hong Kong filmmakers, with a recent focus on encouraging them to explore international markets beyond Hong Kong and China, initially through co-production and other forms of collaboration with Europe and the rest of Asia.

At the recent Berlin film festival, HKFDC announced a Hong Kong-Europe co-production funding scheme, following the launch of a Hong Kong-Asia co-production programme, as well as a streaming content development scheme, in 2022. The ‘Hong Kong-Europe-Asian Film Collaboration Funding Scheme’ will offer grants of up to $1.15M (HK$9M) to feature film projects that combine Hong Kong and European and/or Asian talent. The projects do not have to shoot in Hong Kong, and do not have to be filmed in the city’s official languages of English and Chinese, although 30% of below-the-line costs must be spent in Hong Kong.

“Looking at local production over the last few years, most Hong Kong movies focus on Hong Kong’s current stories and social problems, so we feel a scheme like this will expose our filmmakers to what is happening in the rest of the world,” says HKFDC chairman Wilfred Wong.

“Hopefully, it will also pave the way for them to enter other film markets because they can work with film people from other parts of the world, and maybe explore stories other than focusing on the situations surrounding Hong Kong.”

Hong Kong-based producer and industry consultant, Michael J. Werner, who recently produced Yeung’s All Shall Be Well, says this kind of government intervention is necessary as it’s becoming increasingly difficult to raise finance for independent feature films, not just in Hong Kong, but throughout much of the world. At the same time, up until now, the global streamers have not focused on producing Hong Kong content in the way they have in territories such as India, South Korea and Japan.

“There’s no institutional financing for films in Hong Kong, no banks that have film financing divisions, and if there are high net worth individuals financing films, they’re not doing it in a very public or coherent fashion,” says Werner, who also executive produced many Asian and international films when running Fortissimo Films. “So in Hong Kong, as in many other territories, it’s meaningful that the government is developing programmes that help bring about the creation of content.”

However, Werner adds that the new funding schemes need to be clear from the outset about their criteria and objectives: “It’s incumbent upon the FDC to make the programmes transparent and fair so that everybody really has a chance to apply and receive that funding,” Werner says.

HKFDC says that its expects to announce the first round of projects funded under the Hong Kong-Asia collaboration scheme, first unveiled in November 2022, before the end of March. Meanwhile the expanded scheme also involving Europe will be discussed at a Filmart seminar on Tuesday (March 12).

Of course, none of the challenges that Hong Kong is now facing are new. Due to the small size of the Hong Kong market, and the city’s unique geographical and political position, the local film industry has always faced this dilemma of whether to make films for the China market, with the attendant risk that they won’t work elsewhere, or to aim for international markets with all the complexity that involves.

Hong Kong’s film industry has also always been extremely resilient. But with Beijing’s increasing influence over the city, its creative industries now need to navigate a much more complex reality. Hong Kong is also facing a rising tide of competition from dynamic and much freer content industries in Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Southeast Asia. It might take more than resilience; for sure it will take a great deal of courage, partnership and experimentation, to chart a new path.
Old 07-09-24, 11:52 PM
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Re: The One and Only Asian movies reviews, comments, news, and appreciation thread

Originally Posted by dex14
New trailer. Looks fun.

Old 07-10-24, 07:45 AM
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Re: The One and Only Asian movies reviews, comments, news, and appreciation thread

Originally Posted by RocShemp
New trailer. Looks fun.


Soi Cheang is a very talented but hit-and-miss director. However, I was a big fan of his previous film Mad Fate (2023), one of the better HK movies of recent memory and a truly bonkers tale of a mismatched pair of wayward souls trying to overcome their dark destinies.

This video does a good job of analyzing the film's themes, though it is filled with spoilers:





Old 07-10-24, 08:02 AM
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Re: The One and Only Asian movies reviews, comments, news, and appreciation thread

One movie I will be checking out this weekend is Indian 2, a sequel to the 1996 Tamil smash hit Indian, both directed by Shankar (Nayak, Enthiran (aka Robot)) and starring Kamal Haasan.

The original movie ("a retired freedom fighter rebels against corruption in India, which puts him in conflict with his son who lives by corruption") was a nutty but provocative action-thriller about institutional and government corruption. It was groundbreaking for its time. Hopefully this sequel can add something new to the mix and is not just a glossy and slick retread.


Old 07-10-24, 01:36 PM
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Re: The One and Only Asian movies reviews, comments, news, and appreciation thread

Back when our International forum mattered I would buy and watch a ton of these movies.

Not sure when it started (maybe streaming) I have not really cared or "heard" about the great Asian or overseas movies anymore.

Some pop up on Netflix etc. and I may give them a go but I don't search them out anymore.

It is weird.
Old 07-10-24, 08:03 PM
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Re: The One and Only Asian movies reviews, comments, news, and appreciation thread

Originally Posted by Perkinsun Dzees
Soi Cheang is a very talented but hit-and-miss director. However, I was a big fan of his previous film Mad Fate (2023), one of the better HK movies of recent memory and a truly bonkers tale of a mismatched pair of wayward souls trying to overcome their dark destinies.
Totally agree on Soi Cheang. He did some breakout low-budget stuff in the late 90’s and early 00’s (DIAMOND HILL, NEW BLOOD, HOME SWEET HOME) mixed in with some really forgettable fare, but carved out a decent reputation with higher profile projects like ACCIDENT (a personal favourite), MOTORWAY, SPL 2, etc. His inevitable cave-in to the Mainland industry resulted in a pretty derivative MONKEY KING trilogy and, thankfully, little else. He’s been a pretty consistent stylist from early in his career, so he’s probably one key reason, among others, why TWILIGHT OF THE WARRIORS has done so well in Hong Kong, alongside a tangible, wistful nostalgia on the part of local audiences for a much more vibrant era – both culturally and cinematically – that China has effectively stamped out. As such, its success changes nothing in the article I posted earlier, sadly.

In fact, it often feels like the only way the long lamented ‘grit’ can ever be present in Hong Kong movies now is if the stories are set pre-1997, so the new censors can be more approving because to their thinking, any corruption or decay depicted is explicitly symptomatic of the British-led era and can’t be interpreted as some veiled metaphor for the corruption under China’s rule (which very much exists, albeit less outwardly).

I haven’t seen MAD FATE yet, but it’s been on my radar for a while. The only disc release so far is from Taiwan, no subs. I’ll also recommend (fairly highly, despite it having China money dictating some of its boundaries) Cheang’s previous film LIMBO. Though it was shot in black and white, it still feels a wee bit like a visual warm-up for TWILIGHT OF THE WARRIORS, as does MAD FATE somewhat, at least based on the trailers these eyes have seen. I believe LIMBO did get North American distribution as I was able to sign out the disc from the library, and it’s presently on Tubi.

Last edited by Brian T; 07-10-24 at 08:12 PM.
Old 07-12-24, 04:52 AM
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The 2015 film VETERAN is up there among the gold standards for Korean crime thrillers. Backnaround the time it came out, director Ryu Seung-wan (already a veteran himself of some of the country’s top action pictures) said he was planning on doing a sequel within the next couple of years. Took a bit longer than that, but I, THE EXECUTIONER apparently just played well at Cannes and is scheduled for a September release in Korea. Based on that timeline, I’m really hoping TIFF screens it ahead of whatever release it gets over here. The first film also played there, and CJ Entertainment released it here on disc.

Old 07-12-24, 02:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Brian T

This article (below) from March was interesting. It covers a lot of stuff people have probably gotten tired of me groaning about in this thread over the years, but it bears repeating and obviously the industry and the press are aware of just how dire the situation really is. The article mentions a number of movies that aren’t high-profile action thriller with some combination of Louis Koo, Sean Lau, Francis Ng, Simon Yam, or Nick Cheung. As it notes, though, those films tend to get whatever international distribution there is, while the smaller, often more socially conscious novices well, they don’t. I’ve been able to find quite a few at my local library, so interested parties might check their own local branches. I add new Blu-rays or DVDs to my wishlists at the Asian sites as well, but it takes a while before enough of them drop to my budget level to justify a large order.
Aside from the censorship thing (which is a huge issue), the other major issue is that I don't think the major HK cinema producers or financers understand their current "market". Look, I love those gangster/noir triad films, but they seem to be films of a byegone era and not really in line with what modern audiences want to see. And as much as I love some of those actors you listed above (add in Andy Lau, Leung Chiu Wai) but they are old. They are all 50+ and they should be pushing the younger generation . I have no idea who the hell that would be. You have finanical evidence that some of those indy films can make money and yet...they go back to the generic thrillers with old guys from the 80s-2000. It's kind of a disconnect I can't quite understand.

Also, general comment, but it seems like there are a lot less distributors/producers of films in HK than other countries (like say France) and that makes it difficult.
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Old 07-12-24, 06:45 PM
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Good points all, especially about the actors. That’s kinda what was behind my “some combination of…” remark because virtually all of the ‘big’ HK movies have the same mix of well-known faces in them, repeatedly. And these guys all in their 50’s to 60’s now, and date from the golden era which these flashy new crime thrillers keep trying to evoke under much more punishing and paranoid circumstances, something those old films and the people who made them never had to contend with.

As I mentioned there are a number of smaller local productions being made each year, with many new actors making regular appearances (and even appearing in some of the big exportable thrillers, invariably in supporting roles, though), and many of these shows are worth seeking out. But because Hong Kong cinema came to be identified over the span of decades almost exclusively by its action films, those are what keep getting exported over here because of that perceived history (which we certainly helped foster), even though smaller, more compelling, and often better films don’t get much attention outside of Hong Kong and diaspora screenings like the ones we get in select theaters here. The self-censorship, though, is surely a serious buzz-killer for the new generation of filmmakers. I mean, if countless talented new directors and writers throw in the towel after the struggle to make and distribute just one picture, as seems to be happening, I can imagine the effects of that carry over to whomever the new ‘stars’ are in the city, probably relegating a lot of them to television work, which inevitably means taking gigs in, sigh, China and pandering to that audience.

There's another bit from the article I posted that bears repeating:

For the past two decades, Hong Kong’s major market has been mainland China – in the early days Hong Kong helped to grow China’s nascent film industry – but now finds itself increasingly squeezed out as China has its own capital, production expertise and stars.
Basically, China’s film industry never would have grown, or garnered the international attention that it did, if it weren’t for Hong Kong directors and actors providing the technical expertise, marketing savvy, and the international ‘star’ recognition to move it away from the stately arthouse snooze-fests that defined it all through the 80’s, 90’s and early 00’s. I’ve often criticized Hong Kongers who “sold out” to China (including the one who bent over permanently) while underatanding that many of them felt they had no alternative because the sheer size of the untapped audience there meant easily maintaining their prominence. And it worked. For a while. But as many of us predicted a couple of decades ago, it was a slippery slope for most of them, because China eventually had no use for them (as per the quote). So where do they go? Back to Hong Kong, where their ‘names’ ensure they get to make and/or star in all the high profile (and often retrograde) action thrillers while up-and-coming talent gets a shot or two in the low-budget trenches and are basically done. What a situation.

Last edited by Brian T; 07-12-24 at 08:14 PM.
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Old 07-13-24, 05:54 PM
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Re: The One and Only Asian movies reviews, comments, news, and appreciation thread

How have triads fared under communist control? Do they even exist anymore? And if not how can they keep making films about them?

Just asking...
Old 07-13-24, 08:04 PM
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Re: The One and Only Asian movies reviews, comments, news, and appreciation thread

Originally Posted by Ash Ketchum
How have triads fared under communist control? Do they even exist anymore? And if not how can they keep making films about them?

Just asking...
Apparently they do still exist, in an out of Hong Kong (even here) but I suspect their days of high-profile ostentatiousness have been gone a while. Not many chopper-swinging street fights these days! They’ve modernized their rackets and/or have gone into legitimate businesses, too. Membership is maybe quieter now? They probably don’t make as many movies about them as they used to, and they don’t seem to glamourize the current incarnations much, if they depict them explicitly at all. I’ve noticed a few films in recent years that are conveniently set pre-1997 (like that new WALLED IN picture) so any triad decadence and corruption can be framed against British rule. It would be interesting to see how they operate within the city staying clear of the government, and how the government just kinda leaves them be.

Last edited by Brian T; 07-13-24 at 08:10 PM.

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