SWEAT, BLOOD AND TEARS

MONGA (2010)
– 5 out of 5 stars 

I watched Monga and I think it’s really nice!

YC was already asking me to watch it if it opens in Singapore back in March (she caught it when she returned to Taiwan in February) but was worried that most of the dialect vulgarities will be censored. That was one of the ‘pull’ factors because I want to know them! HAHA!

What I didn’t expect was a tale with lots of heart. And mind you, this is one of the few Mandarin films I have seen in the cinemas.

Mosquito (Mark Chao) is a new student in the town of  Monga and he was picked on because he did not pay protection money. When he stood up for himself, he finds a group of gangly gangsters waiting for him after school. A fight results and Mosquito’s retaliations (dog shit!) were being observed by Dragon (Rhydian Vaughan) and Monk (Ethan Juan). They soon induct him into their gang and form the Prince gang, consisting of five member with Dragon as their leader because his father is the leader of the Temple Front gang, the most powerful/feared in the district of Monga. The Prince gang enjoy their reign until revenge rises to the surface, and sows discord between members and rival gangs. The situation intensifies when the mainlanders try to get a piece of the profitable district and a power struggle ensues.

Like I said, the movie has a lot of heart. You empathize with Mosquito because he grew up without a father, has no friends and has finally found a sense of belonging in the gang. Naturally, he will hold on to everything that makes it possible. Monk, on the other hand, is sometimes hard to fathom though I feel he has some feelings for Dragon. He really stands out from the usual Prince Charming roles he act in idol dramas.  At the beginning, Mosquito questions where is there so much fighting and what is the meaning to it. He got his answer at the teary scene at the end of the movie. 5 out of 5 stars.

To end the post, I’d like to share this tagline from the poster:
我混的不是黑道 是友情 是义气

NOT YOUR AVERAGE CLEANER

MY GIRLFRIEND IS AN AGENT (2009)
– 3 out of 5 stars

Another Korean movie!

Soo-ji is an agent with the National Intelligence Service (NIS) but she has to hide her identity from her boyfriend, Jae-joon. Tired of her lies, Jae-joon breaks up with her and leaves Korea for three years. Three years later, they bump into each other while on a mission – in the toilet, of all places. Jae-joon is now an agent under a different department of the NIS. It’s pretty obvious they still have feelings for each other, but the lies they create to disguise their identity blows things out of proportion.

It’s a pretty funny movie, with the usual Korean charm. Jae-joon as a rookie agent is terribly clumsy and he screams like a girl! His password-encrypted laptop is super annoying since his Chief is unable to access it without him around. During an emergency, his chief has to unlock it with the password “Chief Asshole”. Oops. He even rides a donkey, while Soo-ji goes atop a racing horse, during a chase scene. A donkey? Double oops. Another funny scene was when Soo-ji was tailing her target into the Cave of Horrors. However she ends up getting herded by a group of school girls being terrified by a “ghost”. She walks out of the cave looking like one of the ghosts. Guess school girls are more terrifying than ghosts.

IT LINGERS ON

THE BLUE MANSION (2009)
– 3 out of 5 stars

Well, I haven’t been watching much movies lately and I made a point to catch The Blue Mansion!

It’s about the death of pineapple magnate, Wee Bak Chuan, who died under mysterious circumstances and the police have suspected foul play. The detectives investigate the case and discovers that the dead man’s three children seem to have an agenda, and that’s not counting the jealous relatives and businessmen he offended in his quest for power.

Well, it seems quite intriguing and the plus point is that the actors are very familiar since you’ve either seen them on TV or heard about them in theatrical productions. The movie displays the typical storms that rich families face – sibling rivalry, fighting over the family’s fortune, loveless marriages, dark secrets and pasts that haunt them for the rest of their lives.

SINGLE MOTHERS HAVE DREAMS TOO

SCANDAL MAKERS (2009)
– 4 out of 5 stars

It’s been awhile since I saw any Korean movies and Scandal Makers is good!

The story revolves around Nam Hyun-soo, who was an idol during his teens and now he earns his living being the host of a popular afternoon show on the radio. His show skyrocketed to fame because it features the letters of a single mother, Hwang Jung-nam, who writes to the show about her singing aspirations and her hopes of finding her father whom she has never met. Hyun-soo encourages her to find her father, so imagine the shock/surprise Hyun-soo gets when Jung-nam and her son, Gi-dong, arrives at his doorstep. Hyun-soo tries to keep the relationship a secret, but a nosey reporter, who specializes in scooping the dirty secrets of celebrities, is determined that he is hiding something.

I have only one thing to say: Gi-dong is so adorable! He bows every time he says “Grandfather”, is an expert at playing cards and the piano (woahh!), and even helps his grandfather go on a date with his kindergarten teacher! I have to say kindergarten love is pretty innocent and sweet – everyone is just big eyes and chubby cheeks, and the signs are much easier to read (“Do you want to play with me?”). A charming, funny show that tugs at the heartstrings.

ONE BRILLIANT MIND TO ANOTHER

SUSPECT X (2008)
– 4 out of 5 stars 

Suspect X revolves around a murder case that has almost reached its dead end and it tests the wits and logic of Physicist Yukawa and his old friend, a genius Mathematician Ishigami. In fact, the audiences were all taken for a ride right from the beginning and just when you thought you had it all thought out, Yukawa springs out from nowhere and solves Ishigami’s case.

It also makes you wonder how come they have such charismatic Physics lecturers in Japan and not in Singapore (sigh!). But Ishigami’s back story is so sad, and I could totally understand why he did what he did. I’m so going to watch Detective Galileo after my finals!

THE UTMOST DEDICATION

OKURIBITO (DEPARTURES) (2009)
– 4 and a half out of 5 stars 

Winner of Best Foreign Language Film at the recent Oscars, Departures is about preparing another for afterlife.

After the orchestra he works at disbands, Daigo returns to his hometown and finds himself stumbling onto a job “dealing with the departed”. The movie entertains you with laughs as Daigo is being put to film an ad for the business but later draws you in when you see how much dedication he puts into his work, even after his wife has left him because of his occupation.

A FISH THAT EATS HAM!

PONYO ON THE CLIFF BY THE SEA (2008)
– 3 out of 5 stars 

This is really a very cute movie!

I’m sure most of you heard its theme song. I’m most fascinated by how Ponyo ate her ham from the sandwich, and mostly, her fascination with ham itself. Overall, it’s more about a child’s innocent love towards all things and I think about how they are very receptive to all kinds of stuff (eg. magical forces, a sea goddess and many huge fishes!).

REMAINS THE SAME

THE MURDER OF THE INUGAMI CLAN (2008)
– 3 and a half out of 5 stars

Watched The Murder of the Inugami Clan today. It’s been so long since I went to the cinemas so I was kinda looking forward to it.

The story’s about how members of the Inugami family are slowly killed off due to the family fortune. Scary thing, isn’t it. I have lost count how many stories (mainly murders) revolve around inheritance issues. The methods may be a bit shocking but when it comes to telling them, it can be a bit hilarious cos the blood was too orangey. And Kindaichi is really not what I expected – at all! 

BLUE SKIES

SHINIGAMI NO SEIDO (THE ACCURACY OF DEATH/SWEET RAIN) (2008)
– 4 out of 5 stars

Tell me, what do think about death?

That’s one of the lines that’s constantly being repeated by Takeshi Kaneshiro, who plays a Grim Reaper or a Shinigami, in Sweet Rain. He appears seven days before a person dies of an unexpected death and his job is to “proceed” or “suspend” the death after his observation. There are three main characters of which their stories are interconnected; an office lady, a yakuza mob boss and a 70-year-old hairdresser. You’ll laugh at Kaneshiro’s reactions to new Japanese vocabulary, his excuse of people having iron deficiency in their blood… and my personal favourite: him falling off the chair while being tied up by the yakuza enemy.

Another interesting point to note is his obsession with music. “Music” is probably the most repeated word in the movie besides “Death”. He goes to the listening booth of a CD shop and engrosses himself in the world of music, which he claimed is “humanity’s greatest invention”. It’s funny how he meets the other Grim Reapers in the CD shop and their ultimate “collaboration” in the end.

Somehow, Japanese movies have that magical touch.

FOLLOWING THE WIND…

THE LEAP YEARS (2008)
– 3 and a half out of 5 stars 

It’s the first time I saw a local production in the cinemas and I think it’s quite good. Imagine putting your future on hold just to meet a guy you thought was The One every leap year.

Well, you really need to take a leap of faith.

I guess love comes in unexpected ways and I’m so glad that the ending is the way it is.

THE ONE AND ONLY…

HERO (2007)
–  4 out of 5 stars

This is so long overdue.

I watched HERO! It was totally worth my 2 and a half hours of time. Just observe his determination and how he cracks the case… it can almost blow you away from the seat. Somehow the case becomes tangled in a political scandal and you know, it is usually very difficult to solve at the beginning but Takuya managed to get past it all and arrive in the courtroom in his suave leather jacket. Coupled with his absolution and his insistence that his main purpose was to help the victim’s family find out the truth and not put some shamed politician to ruin was simply touching, that the guy beside me cried. Now you know how powerful Kuryu Kohei is.

I totally loved the part where Kuryu and Amamiya exchanged their conversations with Korean and Spanish! So cute! I love the ending! I love him! 

STRENGTH IN ADVERSITY

HWANG JIN YI (2007)
– 3 out of 5 stars 

It’s quite sad at the beginning after Jin Yi (Song Hye Kyo) realizes she’s not the aristocrat daughter she’s made to be and makes her way to follow her biological mother’s trade – be a gisaeng. Look out for Jin Yi’s wit and intellect as she manages to charm and, in the end, humiliate a scholar who professes to despise gisaeng. The love story between her and Nom-yi is rather tragic. But Nom-yi’s (Yoo Ji-tae) performance is quite outstanding – chivalrous and charming.

Otherwise, there’s not much of elaborate costumes or perfomances but beautiful scenery, witty dialogue and heartwrenching scenes between the actors are enough to support the movie.

IGNORE THE WORLD

不能说的秘密 SECRET (2007)
– 3 and a half out of 5 stars 

I watched Secret on Monday! Have been debating on whether to watch it or not until SZ convinced me to.

Supposedly based on an ideal version of one’s first love, its innocence is truly captivating. Jay Chou’s piano skills are amazing; long nimble fingers tapping the ivory keys is a sight for those who are not musically-inclined (that’s me). The chemistry shared between Jay Chou and Kwai Lun-Mei brings out the essence of the movie and at the end, you will be rooting for them to be together. Even the school caretaker’s understanding of this whole Secret is heartwarming.

THE SOUND OF BEAUTY

200 POUNDS BEAUTY (2007)
– 3 and a half out of 5 stars

This is another good and funny movie.

It just shows how practical/cruel the world is – if you’re fat, you don’t have much of a future. I guess God is fair afterall; what you lack is made up in other ways. Hanna has an amazing voice.

Funny parts include how the after-Hanna could get away from car accidents simply by flashing her Bambi eyes and how she realized that she “cries prettily” after the operation. The last part when Hanna makes her confession is quite touching and it must have taken great courage to do so.

THROUGH THE GEARS OF TIME

THE GIRL WHO LEAPT THROUGH TIME (2006)
– 4 out of 5 stars

After much deliberation, I decided to watch this Japanese anime The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. It’s quite good since it won the 2006 Animation of the Year in Japan! The story begins when Makoto accidentally saves her life and discovers her gift of time leaping. She does them, literally, to hilarious effects and for trivial matters such as pudding and karaoke. The entire cinema was laughing. But what are the effects of changing history? Makoto discovers that things do not always go her way and one man’s benefit is another man’s loss. And to quote the review from incinemas.com.sg,

 

What is the true cost of perfection, but the opportunity cost of the path not taken?

The movie reminds me of The Butterfly Effect, somehow but I think it’s better since the direction of this film made it feel as if I were Makoto herself. Her laughters, tears, fears and anxiety were portrayed well and connected the audience.

But if I were her, I wouldn’t know if I want to go back to change anything. As we often hear, choices make who we are today. Since I’m the type that thinks a lot about what could have/should have happened to matters sometimes, it might be of some helpbut I think for now, I should be contented.