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Tag: Movies

The last few days have been torturous. I have a crushing work load that I have to get done soon, and it’s been incessantly noisy at home. It’s pushed me to the breaking point.
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I’ll never forget the first time I met a conversation partner in Taiwan. She said, “你看起來像電影裡面…的壞人!” Not sure whether I should take it as a compliment or not, I asked her why. She said that guys with shaved heads and goatees and darker skin are always the bad guys. At the time, I was a bit concerned my appearance could be hurting my job hunt, so I grew out my hair a bit, and shaved the goatee.

Well, now my goatee’s back, my hair’s short and I am going to be a bad guy in a movie! On Saturday night, I headed into town, met up with Poagao and friends, and they filmed me in a bit part as one of the evil madman’s private guards. They dressed me up in black pants, a shirt three sizes too small, a flack jacket and a beret. The flack jacket hid my pudge and the tight shirt showed off my fairly large upper body. I got to forcibly restrain the super-spy (before he cut his bonds with a knife he palmed without my noticing, killed one of the villains and escaped), lug around an automatic and look imposing. Yeah. I’m a 電影裡面的壞人.


The only problem is that filming went from 10PM to 5AM, and I pretty much lost coherence at 3AM. I sure hope I didn’t look like a tired evil guard. Also there’s the issue of the fact that my character failed absolutely and completely. Allowing the hero to palm a knife, cut his bonds and kill fellow bad guys sure isn’t likely to fly well with most ruthless overlords. I’m sure my character will be executed for his incompetence.

See the trailer for the movie on Poagao’s site. No, I’m not in it.

Tonight, I saw Mission Impossible III with JT. It was pretty much what I expected, but there is one thing I’ve been noticing about American movies recently. Recently, it seems like the protagonists go to China a lot more than they used to. Aside from MI3, which I just saw, quite a bit of Batman Begins was in China and even the last Star Wars movie had scenes shot in China. Part of me wonders if I’m noticing this just because the movies with some sort of Chinese element are more likely to make it to the theaters here, but it looks like I’m not the only one to notice:

[Xinhua] Chinese theme stories tend to prevail in Hollywood, and many grand-produced movies have contained a great deal of Chinese elements, attracting many viewers.  

It is reported that famous director Steven Spielberg has aimed at a traditional Chinese fairy story Journey to the West, and intended to produce a movie about it.

Since Mulan got high box office income in the US, Chinese stories have become hot subjects in the Hollywood.

I guess this is just one more sign of China’s rise. In all the old movies I used to watch from the era of Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra, they never went to China. It was invariably someplace like France. Now, I can’t remember any Hollywood hits that had much to do with France since Sabrina in 1995, and that was a remake of an old Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn movie, anyway. Ang Lee’s next movie will be a Chinese-language spy thriller set in World War II-era Shanghai. The way things are going, though, I won’t be surprised if Spiderman III is set in Shanghai, too.

20-30-4020-30-40Hosted on Zooomr

20 30 40 is the story of three women living in Táibĕi, a 20 year old (李心潔), a 30 year old (劉若英), and a 40 year old (張艾嘉). Aside from starring as the 40 year old, 張艾嘉 also wrote and directed the movie.

Each of the three women’s stories remain separate, but all three focus on their personal relationships. The 20 year old is a bright-eyed dreamer, who just arrived in the big city, The 30 year old woman is a stewardess who would give anything to settle down, and the 40 year old woman, in the process of recovering from betrayal and divorce, is a florist, sports enthusiast and enthusiastic bar-hopper. The movie was touching in a couple of moments towards the end, but I never found myself that caught up with it. Maybe that’s because I couldn’t relate that well with any of the characters. It would be good to get a woman’s review of this movie up here, too.


As far as the Chinese in the movie, it wasn’t too hard, but it wasn’t as easy as 向左走向右走 (Turn Left Turn Right). I had to read the subtitles to understand a few parts of it. My guess is that any student who’s made it through the level 5 classes at Shida (師大) and had any (Chinese) social life at all would be able to understand just about everything said in the movie.

Rating: 2/5

How many coincidences can you accept in a story? If coincidences ARE the story, is there a limit to how many you can stomach? If the answer is yes, this movie is not for you. If you can accept the implausible though, 向左走向右走 has quite a bit to offer. The music, the poetry and the scenery are beautiful. Half-Japanese heart-throb Takeshi Kaneshiro (金城武) and Hong Kong star Gigi Leung (梁詠琪), who starred together in the hit romantic film Tempting Heart (1999), are reunited for another love story. Much of the movie was carried on the strength of these two, who are able to make even the most improbable of plots beleivable. The supporting cast also did a great job adding comic relief to what would otherwise be a serious movie.

The story of this movie revolves around a musician (Takeshi), and a translator (Leung). When they meet, sparks fly, but it seems that they are fated to always be just out of each other’s reach. They are neighbors but don’t realize it. They unknowingly order food from the same restaurant, stay at the same hospital, ride the same subway trains, and even dial the same numbers, all while desperately searching for each other. Unfortunately, whatever they do, they are always just out of contact with each other. When one turns left, the other turns right.

向左走向右走 is surprisingly touching. I found myself really caring about what happened to these two characters, despite the obvious nature and down-right corniness of the plot. That said, there is a certain beauty to how much symmetry is in the story. Not only are the two main characters moving as if reflections (or in their words, “shadows”) of each other, but there is a similar kind of symmetry between the supporting characters who interact with them. The film is also worth quite a few more laughs than I expected. In terms of difficulty for a Chinese student, I think this is one of the easier films out there. I would guess that a typical student who has completed level 4 at Shida (師大), or three years Chinese in college would understand most of the movie. Even if you don’t want English subtitles for most of the movie, I still recommend getting the DVD, though. There’s a Polish poem in the movie, and you’ll want English subtitles for that. I say, if you’re studying Chinese, rent it. If not, rent it anyway.

Rating: 4.5/5

The name of this movie, 短信一月追, means “short message, chase for a month”. The first thing that I noticed about this movie is that the main character, 賦佳 (played by 古巨基) sounded just like the people in the CDs that accompany 師大’s textbooks. It’s kind of amazing. I’ve been told by literally dozens of Taiwanese people that nobody talks like the people from my old textbook (視聽華語). Well, I guess they’re all wrong. Apparently, plenty of mainlanders and Hongkongers still talk just like that. The main character from 短信一月追 isn’t some crotchety old Chinese teacher either; he’s a hip, teenage, cellphone toting pizza restaurant employee who can ride a bicycle like a bat out of hell. Oh, and he’s hopelessly in love with his best friend’s girlfriend, 雪薇 (played by 張韶涵).

The movie begins with a message from his friend, who is studying in the US. His friend says that he’s dying and needs someone to take care of his girlfriend for him, someone to make sure she doesn’t feel too lonely and hurt. From there the plot takes all kinds of ridiculous and yet somewhat plausible twists. The movie was really sappy. On the good side, though, the plot wasn’t too predictable. I can’t really say I would have chosen this movie if I weren’t trying to improve my Chinese. It was still entertaining, though.

Rating: 2.5/5

He was a writer. He thought he wrote about the future but it really was the past. In his novel, a mysterious train left for 2046 every once in a while. Everyone who went there had the same intention… recapture their lost memories. It was said that in 2046, nothing ever changed. Nobody knew for sure if it was true, because nobody who went there had ever come back- except for one. He was there. He chose to leave. He wanted to change.

Winning 6 Hong Kong Film Awards, as well as two Golden Horse Awards, 2046 finally made good on several years of waiting for Wong Kar Wai (王家衛) fans. With echoes of blade runner in a futuristic view of Hong Kong, a vivid picture of Hong Kong in the 1960’s and several sex scenes with Zhang Zi Yi (章子怡), the movie also has what it takes to reach a wider audience.

Despite the fractured nature of the movie, hopping back and forth between the future and the past, it is a simple story. It is the tale of an emotionally wrecked man, Chow Mo Wan (played by Tony Leung), and the many beautiful women whom he loves and loses. The entire movie is a stream of consciousness, a jumble of Chow’s torrid love affairs, love spats, and the ensuing heartbreaks.

Chow’s isn’t an easily likeable character due to his constant inability to be open with himself or others. It’s as if he has a mask, covering his true emotions that cannot be broken by the women who love him. Instead, it is he who breaks them. However he is an extremely real and complex character, and as a result, believable.

Another interesting thing about this movie is that in many if not most of the dialogues, the two people speaking are speaking different languages. Chow speaks Cantonese, and Cantonese only. His landlord speaks nothing but Mandarin. The landlord’s daughter is dating a Japanese man who answers her only in Japanese. Even the character in Chow’s futuristic novel is a Japanese man speaking to Mandarin-speaking robots. While the language issue is never addressed openly (i.e. nobody ever has problems understanding the other’s language), one has to wonder if this was to increase the sense of Chow’s isolation amidst all of his friends.

Chow is clearly a man capable of loving deeply. What he needs to know if his love is unrequited. And in seeking happiness, the message seems to be that there is no other way.

Rating: 4/5

This is where I’ll post reviews of all the Chinese movies I watch. I may occasionally include a non-Chinese film as well. If there’s a Chinese movie you’ve recently seen that is either particularly good or particularly bad, send your review to