Currently browsing the "china" tag.

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: The Great Wall; A Cure for Wellness

This is a really great week to catch up on one (or more) of those Oscar-nominated movies that are still in theaters or available on DVD or VOD. Why? Because, comparatively speaking, the new releases are rather dismal. Granted, I didn’t have a chance to see the new Ice Cube/Charlie Day comedy Fist Fight, about a couple of high school teachers engaging in a good ol’ fashioned afterschool throw-down. But I’m going to go out on a limb and surmise that you can save that one for a rainy day or a plane ride. It’s probably mindlessly entertaining. Can’t really say the same about The Great Wall or A Cure for Wellness. But if I had to pick among those two, I’d definitely go with The Great Wall because at least it’s got Matt Damon (Jason Bourne, The Martian) — and cool views of one of the great wonders of the ancient world.

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival 2015

Film festivals are a lot of fun, but kind of exhausting, too. I headed to Durham, NC last weekend for the Full Frame Festival, one of the premier documentary festivals in the country. The program included world premieres, some big time invited docs, and some thematic selections. Now in its 18th year, I kind of wish I’d attend this festival years ago, before it got so big and popular and crowded. I was only able to fit in eleven films in four days, and a few that I really was looking forward to seeing were sold out before I even had a chance to select tickets, but I was happy I got to see most of what I did. And here are my minireviews!

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Without doubt Ai Weiwei is the most famous Chinese artist on the planet. His art is thought provoking, but his life, even more so. The documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry gives us a closeup and personal view of the man, his art and the courage he has shown in speaking truth to power, a very dangerous thing to do in China. Filmmaker Alison Klayman was fortunate to be allowed access to Ai for three years, following him as he prepared for shows around the world, and as he stood up for the young victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

The Karate Kid

The Karate Kid is best viewed through the eyes of today’s youth, as opposed to the eyes of aging fans (like me) of the original. I have a soft spot for Ralph Macchio as Daniel san and the late Pat Morita as his mentor, Mr. Miyagi. But alas, the 1980s are over, and this reboot will likely hold its own among a new generation of movie-goers. Its young star, Jaden Smith is graced with the looks and acting instincts of his parents, actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. And if he can keep his head on straight like the original Kid, Ralph Macchio (check out “Wax On, F*ck Off” at FunnyOrDie.com), then junior Smith has quite the career ahead of him.

When Ruo Ma was Seventeen

This sweet coming of age story is almost worth seeing just for the scenery alone. Shot in southern China’s Yunnan province, When Ruo Ma was Seventeen uses the beautiful landscape of terraced paddy fields as a reminder that we are not in any place we know. It is far removed from our world. But Ruo Ma has lived here all her life with her old grandma, working these terraced fields with her fellow Hani (aka Xiani.) Now 17, she goes to town to make some money selling roasted corn on the street.

Perhaps Love 如果·愛

If you’re looking for a good musical romance in Chinese, Perhaps Love is your movie. It stars Asian heart throb Takeshi Kaneshiro and Superstar singer Jacky Cheung in a love triangle with Zhou Xun. The movie opens with Lin Jiandong (Takeshi Kaneshiro) arriving in Shanghai to co-star in a musical film with his old flame Sun Na (Zhou Xun) who is in a relationship with the famous director Nie Wen (Jacky Cheung). The musical they are all making together is about a young woman who loses her memory and is taken under the wing of a circus owner who falls in love with her, but her old love comes back for her and she is torn between the two men. Meanwhile in the real world outside the film, the actor flashes back to his romance 10 years earlier with his co-star and yearns to rekindle their flame. She is initially reluctant to the point of indifference to him, but his persistence pays off and their romances both on and off screen mirror one another.

The Road Home 我的父亲母亲 (1989)

“The Road Home” is a fantastic chick flick, a 3 hankie love story set in a small village in north China sometime during the Cultural Revolution though you’d never know that from the look of the village; it could be any time. It is the edge of nowhere,  surrounded by stunning scenery, gorgeously shot by director Zhang Yimou. The film introduces the beautiful young Zhang Ziyi who lept on to stardom in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon ” and “Memoirs of a Geisha,” here playing a village girl who falls for the new school teacher who comes to her village.

Ikiru 生きる & Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles 千里走单骑

I rented two films this week that coincidentally both center on older men and fractured relationships with their grown sons. Why do so many men and their fathers have such stormy relationships? Is it a testosterone thing? Of course it makes for good drama, though I am not sure men go out of their way to see films that remind them that their machismo gets in the way of a close bond. (We’ll leave the mother-daughter thing for a later time.) Ikiru 生きる, “To Live” (1952), a classic from Kurosawa, deals with a career bureaucrat finding out that he has only 6 months to live, who when he realizes that his own son is not there for him, goes out to find meaning elsewhere. Riding Alone For Thousands of Miles 千里走单骑 (2005) by Zhang Yimou is about a Japanese fisherman finding out that his son who is dying of cancer doesn’t want to see him, so he goes to China to shoot a folk opera his son had planned on filming and ends up getting involved in another father’s and son’s relationship.