Being the Asian film fan that I am I always get disappointed when meeting other film fans whose knowledge seems to only extend to Hard Boiled, a handful of Jackie Chan films and eeeek sappy HK love stories involving some guy named Raymond who is cheating on his girlfriend with his girlfriends best friend.
Here is a list of some of those films which modern film fans should probably check out !
Master of the Flying Guillotine
Who ever tells you the best old school Kung Fu Film that ever made came from the vaults of Shaw Brothers is simply incorrect because Master of the Flying Guillotine is by far the coolest production from that era of Hong Kong film history.
The film is directed by the amazing as well as underrated Jimmy Wang Yu who also stars and whose influence on the Hong Kong film industry was immense yet sadly 98% of the current Hong Kong youth have no knowledge off him!.
See this to understand how awesome his output was, made with a low budget this independent film would go on to undoubtedly influence, tournament films, Street Fighter 2, fashion (Shanghai Tang) and many more forms of popular culture. Mr. Wang Yu I salute you, and damn do I dig that flying Guillotine !!
NOTE: Tarantino both played a part of the films soundtrack by Neu! in Kill Bill and was influenced by the Weapon, all be it in a slightly different form.
Full Time Killer
The most fun Andy Lau ever had on a movie set! (or at least it looks that way). Based on the book by Edmond Pang Ho Cheung and directed by Johnnie To and Wai Ka Fai this film is buckets of fun, action, drama, humor its got it all, plus its written well!
Watch as two competing assassins fight for the right to call themselves the best killer in Asia and to get the girl in the process.
The last full film by legendary Japanese director Kinji Fukasaku (who directed the film at the age of 70) is a high impact ultra violent energy filled rock concert of a film that never lets down and is a must see for every action fan. Takashi Kitano kicks ass as the enigmatic teacher who leads his students into a bizar last man standing tournament on an abandoned island.....that and its got Japanese school girls blowing each other away with sub machine guns! whats not to like?
Last Life in the Universe
The best Wong Kar Wai film, Wong Kar Wai never made instead Thailand's Pen Ek Ratanaruang, with the aid of Wong Kar Wai's cinematographer Chris Doyle, delivers sublime image after image in spades. Asano Tadanobu is exceptional and Takashi Miike's cameo rocks. The music will blow you away.
A showing of this film at my festival in Amsterdam left several audience members in tears. If you don't like this, you are not human.
Anthony Wong takes the entire profession of acting to school as he delivers a performance all actors should sit down, watch and learn from. Beast Cops characters are cool and the film has the kinda vibe most producers, directors etc want but rarely get.
The story of Wild Zero focuses on Ace a wannabe rocker who follows his favorite band Guitar Wolf (who were a real live Japanese Rock Band) around Japan until one day he ends up at a club where he somewhat accidentally crosses its psychotic owner simply known as "Captain". All goes insane as hell and eventually you've got hard core rock and roll, zombies, psycho's (running around in hot pants) and lots of gore to keep you amused.....AWESOME!!!
I love this movie, fun, clever and totally insane! Asano Tadanobu is cool as always, and his role as the "peeper" is only made more hilarious with the appearance of CAPTAIN BANANA!!!!
To tell more would be to spoil just watch and go "Whaaaaaat the fuuuuuuuuu...."
Beyond our Ken
I often talk to people about film and when ever they bring up the subject of young and talented directors, someone who always seems to get missed out is the brilliant Edmond Pang Ho Cheung!
A mix of Wong Kar Wai and Wilson Yip he is one of the few new school directors to have found his own style and voice. Beyond Our Ken is a good example of what he can do and while not as funny as his other works (ie. Men Suddenly in Black) it does impress. Daniel Wu (who rarely is used properly by any director) gets to show what he can do, and I personally hope they will work together more in the future.
The best Wilson Yip film, Wilson Yip ever made and even though I do partially fear Donnie Yen's rage at that comment, this Hong Kong Zombie film simply kicks total ass! Its fun, and is shot with buckets of energy and creativity, while the story isn't totally original (borrowed pretty much whole sale from Romero's Dawn of the Dead) it adds enough HK elements to make this a true Hong Kong film, plus it has a very clever ending.
Special mention also goes out to Sam Lee and Jordan Chan, for amazing acting and chemistry. The oversight of this film with major western DVD distributers is worrying (even though media blasters did do a small run of the film, and the dubbed version has somewhat of a cult following).
If you love zombie films and enjoy wilson yip's clever use of camera work and editing, this is for you!
Ghost in the Shell
If you haven't seen this cornerstone of cyber punk Anime (and probably cyber punk culture) you've missed out on a lot, spawning a TV show under the name of Stand Alone Complex and a subsequent sequel (Innocence) this is the one that started it all. It's influences can probably be traced back to the works of William Gibson (esspecially Neuromancer) and Philip K Dick but to see what it influenced after its release all you have to do is look towards films such as "The Matrix Trilogy".
Bonus Points go for the awesome soundtrack provided by Kenji Kawai.
When does a machine become a living entity? When does it become a ghost in a shell?
You can have conversations lasting for hours concerning which Johnnie To film you think is his greatest work, but in the end PTU really shows off his sense of story telling, character presentation and his amazing ability to build atmosphere.
PTU is a pitch black noir thriller, with a dark sense of humor to boot, the cinematography is excellent and it ultimately explores the Grey area in the field of police work. Simon Yam is great too (watch out for his looking into the camera and saying "you decide" concerning what is right and wrong), and the always impressive Lam Suet gets to finally play a great leading role.
I'll bet you anything a half ass'd American remake is on the way.
If you don't know Takashi Kitano, you don't know Japanese Cinema. Violent Cop is the Japanese Director/Actors first film at the helm (the original director pulled out at the last moment and he took charge) and its also a very enjoyable experience, the balance between violence and humor is perfect and its got the usual Kitano Energy.
Attack the Gas Station
Why western DVD distributes have overlooked this Korean Comedy is anyone's guess (I'll go with blatant laziness, and the desire to recycle the same old films this blog mentioned earlier) but this is one of the few films in which humor works equally with both western and Asian audiences. The simple yet original plot (5 teens attack a gas station and take it over) along with careful direction make it one to watch. Find it, get watch it, and love it. Its damn funny and clever to boot!
Dead or Alive
Cool characters, rocking cinematography, original editing and direction from the coolest director around. The ending is one of the best I've ever seen.
WKW at his best, In The Mood For Love and Chungking Express were good, but this is better and darker. More experimental and much more intense than his other works Chris Doyle and WKW dive into the night to shoot some amazing stuff.
Note that WKW and Chris Doyle's work would directly affect the work of Pen Ek Ratarang's Last Life in the Universe and Sophia Coppola's Lost in Translation
Here are a few amazing minutes from that film
Classic Anime which explores themes of Jealously, power and friendship, it also was masterfully crafted (and drawn on 50 mm cells for the geeks among you) Akira is awesome, and boasts an amazing soundtrack to boot! If you don't know this, you don't know Anime. Watch out for the Japanese obsession for mega destruction.
Witness the awesomeness of Anime.
Ichi the Killer
Dismissed by many as disgusting and marketed foolishly in the west as a horror film (including handing out sick bags at screenings) Ichi the Killer is actually a high level pitch black comedy and is with out a doubt a masterpiece. Asia's most consistent and profelic director Takashi Miike delivers in spades and so does everyone else on the project, the actors are brilliant (Asano Tadanobu, Sabu, Alien Sun and Shinya Tsukomoto are amazing), the cinematography is experimental yet perfect, the costumes and locations are quite enjoyable, the C.G.I. is so good much of the time you don't realize its there, and the editor is on top of his game, but again no one could have made something so original as Miike has. If you like movies go see this, if you don't like it, you don't understand film.
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