DO SO LA SI FA!

zoneprositeZONE PRO SITE: THE MOVEABLE FEAST 总铺师:移动大厨 (2013)
4 out of 5 stars

Caught this movie on a whim and it really surprised me with its laughs and heart. Well, two other reasons include all the delectable food featured and Tony Yang! I just wished they could air the movie in its original Hokkien language because some of the dubbing did Tony Yang’s voice a great injustice!

Anyway, this movie revolves around the dying culture of ‘ban doh’ (辦桌) which describes mobile chefs who whip up dinner banquets featuring traditional Taiwanese dishes. Xiao Wan (Lin Mei Hsiu) hopes to recreates her father’s dishes to fulfill an old couple’s wish of a traditional banquet and take part in the ‘ban doh’ competition. There is quite a nice backstory about the legends of ‘ban doh’ and also a running gag about this lady and her legendary fried bee hoon.

Nothing makes a girl happier than laughter, food and hotties. Plus, the song that Tony Yang keeps singing is damn funny!

STAY DURING THE CREDITS FOR HILARIOUS OUTTAKES and a cameo by Rhydian Vaughan!

THE BLACKSMITH

MWTIFTHE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS (2012)
4 out of 5 stars

This genre-mashup takes place in 19th century China, where various clans are fighting each other and among themselves to get their hands on a large shipment of gold from the governor. Revenge is thrown into the mix when the leader of the Lion Clan is murdered.

Jack Knife: I always bring a gun to a knife fight.

Lucy Liu was the main draw of the movie – she absolutely kicks ass in anything and she does not disappoint in here. When you watch a martial arts film like this, there’s bound to be lots of Asian faces and you get to see them work their kungfu! I was also impressed with Byron Mann (Arrow) and Rick Yune. I also spotted Osric Chau (Supernatural) as the blacksmith’s assistant – pity he didn’t have any lines! The brothel, Pink Blossom, also serves to be more than a location of Oriental beauties with Madam Blossom (Lucy Liu) in charge.

After watching this, I realized that rap goes really well with martial arts. Now, that’s an odd combination. With Greg Nicotero (The Walking Dead) serving as the key special effects makeup supervisor, you can be guaranteed lots of awesome body parts and juices spewing in their glory.

SHARING THE PASTURE

wolfsheep1南方小羊牧场 WHEN A WOLF FALLS IN LOVE WITH A SHEEP (2012)
3 out of 5 stars

When A Wolf Falls In Love With A Sheep is a quirky story set in Nanyang Street, Taipei where students flock there to mug for their exams. Tung (Kai Ko) is looking for his (ex-)girlfriend and works in a photocopy shop to pass his time. He spots a comic about a sheep, drawn by Yang (Chien Man-shu) in one of the test papers and he responds by adding his sketch of a wolf and it becomes a hit with the students who take the test.

I won’t say this is a love story about the two leads because this film isn’t just about them. There are themes of waiting – whether it was waiting for something to end or waiting for a sign before the characters realized they need to move on. Yang counts to 100 to decide on matters before she finally moves on. It need not be a big step, because a small step counts too.

wolfsheep2

The backstory of other supporting characters are interesting too and I liked the one about the fried rice seller most. The cartoon of the sheep and the wolf actually has a life of its own and the ending, though not affirmative, is rather hopeful. I like hopeful endings.

BITTERNESS IS SELF-INFLICTED

女朋友*男朋友 GF*BF (2012)
3 and a half out of 5 stars

Three best friends experiencing life against the changing political backdrop of Taiwan. The thing is, they are in love with one another but not with each other. Aaron loves Mabel, Mabel loves Liam but Liam loves Aaron.

Gwei Lun Mei plays Mabel with a lot of gusto and I guess that’s why Aaron is in love with her. I mean, I watch her shave her head and I want to fall in love with her too. She puts herself out there and even as an adult, she’s still as strong though her choices may be questionable. And I guess, like Mabel, we know when we have to let something go.

The three characters all make questionable choices and I guess that’s life because you cannot have the best of both worlds. Love does not equate to happiness or wealth and our conscience has to pay when we want more.  This isn’t a typical love story but it was quite refreshing to see it in such a light.

HAPPINESS IS NEAR YOU

犀利人妻 最終回 THE FIERCE WIFE: FINAL EPISODE (2012)
3 and a half out of 5 stars

You know a TV show has made it big when it ends up on the big screen.

An Zhen (Sonia Sui) and Rui Fan (James Wen) were happily married until her cousin, Wei En, becomes the third party. The couple divorce and An Zhen relies on Tian Wei (Chris Wang), who helps her gain back her confidence and become an independent successful woman. Now, four years later, An Zhen is still single and yearns for love but has reservations about entering a new relationship with Tian Wei. On the other hand, her daughter wants her a complete family with Rui Fan.

So, the big question is: who will An Zhen choose?

I didn’t exactly watch the entire series but I know enough to watch the “final episode”. Well, if you look at Sonia Sui, you must be thinking Rui Fan must be off his rocker to ditch such a beautiful wife. But then, if they were still married, she wouldn’t have picked herself up and learnt the importance of being independent so that her world wouldn’t crumble if, for example, her husband left her. It’s a cruel, vicious cycle.

Filled with lots of laughs from the supporting cast, non-followers of the series can also have a good time watching!

ONE, TWO, BUCKLE MY SHOE

THE WOLF CHILDREN AME AND YUKI (2012)
4 out of 5 stars

This is a story of Hana, who meets and falls in love with a Wolf Man, who is the only surviving descendant of the Japanese wolf. They have two children, Yuki and Ame, both of whom are wolf children. After an accident that kills the Wolf Man, she moves to the countryside to raise her children.

This movie was directed by Mamoru Hosoda, the mind behind The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars. I watched it because I heard rave reviews about this plus it was shown exclusively at Filmgarde Cinemas – something about exclusivity just draws people in, doesn’t it?

First of all, Yuki and Ame are really cute! One’s more outgoing while the other’s more shy and when they lose their temper, they change into their wolf forms. One thing about these transformations is that they still keep their human speech abilities so that means they still speak Japanese!

But the main theme was whether Yuki and Ame wanted to be wolves or humans. While Yuki showed lots of potential as a wolf – she helped her mother gather a healthy harvest of crops by “marking their territory”, Ame was more introverted and preferred city life. As the movie progresses, you can decide for yourself if they want to be wolf or human. And the inner romantic in me likes the story of Yuki and Shohei!

GUARDIAN ANGELS

OSSAKHAN YEONAE (CHILLING ROMANCE/MY GIRLFRIEND CAN SEE GHOSTS) (2011)
– 3 out of 5 stars

Seriously, with a title like that, I wasn’t even planning on watching at all… until I saw Son Ye-Jin!

Son Ye-Hin plays Yeo-ri, who can see ghosts after a near-death experience and isolates herself because those close to her are terrorized by a ghost that follows her. Her quiet demeanor attracts the attention of street magician, Jo-goo, and together they create a horror magic show that is popular among the masses. Jo-goo begins to fall for Yeo-ri but he has to overcome a supernatural barrier in order to be with her. Can he survive it?

The ghosts that Yeo-ri sees aren’t actually that scary and Yeo-ri was actually helping them. But the one that follows Yeo-ri around is another story. Even so, there are many laugh-out-loud moments such as Jo-goo’s first encounter or whenever Yeo-ri gets drunk and demonstrates the power of her strong hands. Like all Korean movie, even this unconventional horror-romantic comedy, it still made me cry.

Yeo-ri: You think I’m lonely. I’m perfectly fine! It’s fine hanging out by myself. I can play online games and write tweets. I have 100 followers!

THIRTEEN FLOWERS

THE FLOWERS OF WAR (2011)
– 4 out of 5 stars

Set in Nanjing during World War I, Christian Bale stars as John Miller, an American mortician on his way to bury the priest when Japanese forces invade the city. He seeks refuge with the students at the convent and were joined by a group of prostitutes looking for shelter. Though all reluctant parties initially, Miller poses as a priest to help the ladies find a way to escape.

I think the worst thing to watch besides soldiers dying on the field were women getting raped. Literally anything that moves and is not a soldier can be a victim. The other one that touched me most was the lone soldier who brought down the entire group of Japanese soldiers even at his last breath. That was really good strategy there, and like any Zhang Yimou film, the explosion was really “colourful”.

And while you were almost certain that Miller might have a change of heart to help the students, I can’t help but be entranced by Yu Mo (Ni Ni), the English speaking prostitute, who turned Christian Bale into putty in her hands. She’s a classic Chinese beauty, and her gait is perfection. It’s little wonder she’s Zhang Yimou’s latest muse.

FINDING THE LOST APPLE

那些年,我們一起追的女孩  YOU ARE THE APPLE OF MY EYE (2011)
– 4 out of 5 stars

I’m pretty sure the whole world watched it before me (some twice) but I finally watched 那些年,我們一起追的女孩 and it reminded me of simpler, happier times.

Anyway, the movie’s based on the teenage years of Giddens Ko, who also wrote the novel and directed the movie. It tells of five friends who have a crush on the same girl during high school and the eventual bond one of them shares with this girl.

It’s weird typing all that up there and if you really want to know the plot, there’s always Wikipedia.

First of all, nudity! Thank goodness nothing full frontal but there’s enough sexual references at the start of the movie to make one expecting something more sombre blush. My colleague thinks “the butt wasn’t firm enough” though. Second of all, the textbook incident! I think I almost laugh-cried at the same time because it does exist! It stayed with me during schooling years when I had a textbook around and slowly slipped away as the years past. Only then there were two people standing. I can’t think of a time when this emoticon :’) can be used except here. Last of all, I think only a few people can make you laugh at the same time when you’re crying badly.

I miss secondary school days even though I made incredible friends in JC. I think life back then seemed easier people were less complicated. So what about teenage angst. I love teenage angst. It kick-started so many things (good and bad). Comparatively, adult angst just sucked. Some days, I have no idea why I’m so frustrated at everybody, at the world. I doubt anyone would have lent me that textbook without thinking twice if I were in JC. Think too much, think too little – what’s the difference? I’m still waiting for someone who makes me laugh and cry at the same time and vice versa. So thank you, wherever you are, and may I not avoid you in buses or trains.

STAY AFTER THE END OF THE CREDITS FOR SOME BEHIND THE SCENES FUN!

好想再回到那些年的時光
回到教室座位前後 故意討妳溫柔的罵
黑板上排列組合 妳捨得解開嗎
誰與誰坐他又愛著她

那些年錯過的大雨
那些年錯過的愛情
好想擁抱妳 擁抱錯過的勇氣
曾經想征服全世界
到最後回首才發現
這世界滴滴點點全部都是妳

GO, GO, YAMATO!

SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO (2010)
– 3 and a half out of 5 stars

This live-action adaptation of the anime TV series stars Takuya Kimura as Susumu Kodai, the tactical unit leader of the eponymous battleship. It is the year 2199 and the Earth has been under radioactive siege from an alien race known as Gamilas for the past five years. The surviving humans live underground but the end is near. Japan sends out its final space battleship, Yamato, to planet Iscandar, to acquire a device that can remove the radiation that Earth is plagued by.

Well, needless to say, the MAIN reason I watched it was Takuya Kimura! He’s still as charismatic as ever and I don’t care whatever reports are floating out there saying he’s lost his charm. Excuse me, who singlehandedly made pianists, hairstylists, hockey players, pilots, prosecutors and scientists cool again?

Anyway, I thought certain parts of the movie reminded me of Star Wars – like the space leap and the R2-D2 wannabe (Analyzer). But I really didn’t like those aliens, especially their stabbing limbs! The crew onboard were really brave, each willing to give up their life for the greater good. One character I really liked was Hajime Saitō, played by Hiroyuki Ikeuchi. On their last transmission to Earth, he was trying to put on a brave front for his mother who was really worried for him. That scene and his final scene was so sad! The ending was all right though the part regard the anti-radiation device was confusing at first. And I think the sublimal message in the film was: if Earth is ever in danger, don’t forget to procreate – especially if you are Takuya Kimura. ;)

IT’S A GREAT GREAT TIME

IT’S A GREAT GREAT WORLD (2011)
– 3 and a half out of 5 stars 

Okay, I saw It’s A Great Great World few weeks back and it’s really nice! I mean, if you’re the kind of person who dreams of going back in the past where times are much simpler – it’s definitely the show for you! If not, it’s an eye-opener to the beauty of that Great World-era.

A whole load of Mediacorp actors star in a collection of stories where their lives revolve around Great World (Tua Seh Kai). There’s plenty of laughter, charming and heartfelt moments in these little stories. What I really loved about this movie was that they all spoke in their dialects – Teochew, Hokkien, Cantonese, Hainanese and Hakka – and only some of the dialogue was in Mandarin. It makes the whole thing so charming and authentic and unique! For example, eating vegetables in Hainanese could be eating excrement in Hokkien. I enjoyed watching it and it makes me want to brush up on my own dialect too!

THE HEART NEVER FORGETS

THE GIRL WHO LEAPT THROUGH TIME (2010)
– 3 and a half out of 5 stars

This is a live-action adaptation of Toki o Kakeru Shōjo (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time).

When Kazuko Yoshiyama, a pharmaceutical researcher, gets involved in a car accident, she tells her daughter Akari to go back to February 1972 to find someone from her past, Kazuo Fukamachi, using the liquid she has formulated in her laboratory. A distraught Akari remembers the wrong date and returns to April 1974 instead. She befriends Ryota, an aspiring film-maker and science fiction geek, who helps in her search for Kazuo.

I hate those self-righteous fellows who insist on doing memory wipes in time traveller movies. There’s one in here. Arghh! As expected, Akari and Ryota fall in love, even though they both know Akari belongs to the future and even if they meet, Ryota will most likely be a father figure to her. The movie banks on the simplicity of life and relationships in the ’70s. Akari even meets her father, an absent figure in her current life. The saddest part (cue buckets of tears) of the movie happens when Akari views the 8mm movie Ryota directed, after she returns to the future, and she was crying even though she had no memory of what happened.

THE ULTIMATE REVENGE

KOKUHAKU (2010)
– 4 out of 5 stars 

Kokuhaku (Confessions) is a chilling adaptation of the novel by Minato Kanae. Takako Matsu stars as Yuko Moriguchi, a junior high teacher who announces her resignation after revealing that her four-year-old daughter was murdered by two students in her class. She adds that she injected HIV-positive blood into the milk cartons of these two students. What follows is the aftermath of her confessions, as well as those of the two student-murderers, the mother of one of the latter and a fellow classmate.

I didn’t expect there to be so much blood. Sure, the murder of a four-year-old might be gruesome, but wait till you see what goes on in the minds of these kids. But their obsession with murder and death seems to stem from the lack of parental love, friendship and companionship, which are simple pleasures that a kid yearns. The ending involves possibly the worst form of revenge that one suffers – one that lasts a lifetime.

INTO THE GUNFIRE

71: INTO THE FIRE (POHWA SOKEURU) (2010)
– 4 out of 5 stars

This is based on the true story of how 71 student soldiers defended their post in Pohang during the Korean war. A letter found from one of the 71 deceased soldiers inspired the movie.

Well, no surprise there – all 71 of the student soldiers died, which is no mean feat considering that the North Korean side has a few hundreds against them. These 71 student soldiers were forced to grow up and fight for their country even when they had a chance to surrender. Every bullet counts, even more when they kept fighting with blood spurting out of their wounds. You realize that the enemy is also being forced to fight this war and they long for their mothers too. T.O.P. from Big Bang and Kwon Sang-woo star as Jeung-bum and Gap-jo, the two soldiers who are often at loggerheads but later made up for a greater cause. Not considering the fact that I was crying almost throughout the entire movie, I thought the movie conveyed real emotions of war and I liked the part during the credits where they interviewed real war veterans who survived but wished they were with their comrades instead.

DRAGONFLIES

SANDCASTLE (2010)
– 4 out of 5 stars 

Sandcastle is a coming-of-age film about En, who, while waiting to be enlisted, experiences a series of events that may alter his life’s perspective. He learns that his father was a student activist in the 1950s, his mother starts seeing another man, he becomes closer to his grandparents and observes how his grandfather planned his life around his wife who has Alzheimer’s disease.

It seems a lot to be going for a couple of months but that’s life – when it rains, it pours. I guess the parts that touched me most were those scenes involving En and his grandparents. I guess it hit a little too close to home. I suppose En was curious about his father’s past because little has been mentioned of him and it makes you wonder how come teenagers 50 years ago seem to have more more drive and aspiration than teenagers (and maybe, young adults) nowadays. We are so engrossed in the world of technology that we ignore those not connected, and gradually lose the connections that matter. It seems a little wasted that En was disrupted by a phone call while his grandfather was telling him about the days when En’s father was a student activist. Technology can be a killer sometimes. One of my favourite scenes involves En and his childhood bolster. Awww… the smell of the childhood bolster is unbeatable.

I have a thing about coming-of-age films and I kinda like this one because there’s the Singaporean perspective involved and I’ve always liked the exploration of the grandparent-grandchildren relationship.

For more information, visit Sandcastle@Tumblr.